By Subhadra Fleming, June, 2007

According to Swami Satchidananda, yoga and meditation are one and the same, practiced with the goal of calming the mind. That’s why it can be said that all of yoga is based on the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” Which means, the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.

The mind thinks it’s responsible for creating our happiness. But anyone who tries – and haven’t we all – knows you can’t think your way to happiness. But the good news is that happiness already vibrates inside us. We don’t even need to amplify it. We simply need to quiet the noise that keeps us from experiencing it. Quieting the noise is nirodhah. That doesn’t mean forcing the mind to stop thinking. Nirodhah is really a flow. Like the smell of a beautiful flower that keeps drawing you toward it. The focus of meditation should be uplifting and beautiful, like the sound Om, or the breath. We let the mind think its thoughts. It’s only doing its job, after all. But over and over, we gently guide the awareness back to the focus of meditation.
Vritti, the mind stuff, is like whirling activity. It creates a web that gets more complicated and dense with each new thought. Focusing on the object of meditation slows down the activity. The web begins to unwind and glimpses of light begin to show through. The awareness becomes aligned with that current of grace that flows through all things. We drop into that place that knows not because it has more information, but simply because it knows.

It’s important that we don’t take ourselves too seriously in the practice. Drama won’t bring us closer to stillness. Steady, simple practice is the key. It’s better to make a small effort every day than to do an intense devoted practice every once in a while. With simple daily effort, the rhythm of our practice begins to permeate our lives. And then, when we least expect it, we feel the fruits of our efforts. Just like when we lie on the sand after swimming, we sometimes still feel the movement of the ocean, when meditation practice is steady, the awareness naturally begins to remember nirodhah. Then detachment kicks in, and we experience self-mastery. Things that hooked us in the past don’t bother us and we retain our peace even in spite of chaos around us.

The simple practice of meditation is a gift to the world. In the words of Yeats, “We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”

May your journey toward the silence to which everything is moving be a beautiful one. Om shantih, shantih, shantih, Subhadra

Subhadra Fleming

After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1991, Bridget worked for ten years as an assistant district attorney to Robert Morgenthau in Manhattan. As Assistant D.A., she was Chief of the office's Welfare Fraud Unit, which prevented, investigated, and prosecuted fraud in public programs. She is currently a councilwoman for the town of Southampton, N.Y. Back in the day, she taught yoga to kids at Yoga Shanti Sag Harbor.

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