Reading Chandra, Tok and Rumi's posts, I'd like to add a few observations regarding meditation.
For me, meditation has been a life saver. I was introduced to meditation in 1973, and began a daily practice that has supported me through many truly challenging times.
In terms of working with meditation, I base my work in stress management on established programs such as those offered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. (see book Full Catastrophe Living), Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. (Minding the Body, Mending the Mind), Nishala Joy Devi (The Healing Path of Yoga), and Dean Ornish, MD (various books on addressing coronary artery disease and stress using meditation, yoga, pranayama, relaxation, and vegetarian diet). I have found the meditation component to be of great value in helping students become more stress-hardy.
However, I have observed that with many Type-A students, asking them to "Stop doing and just sit there and BE" is too much to ask, especially in the beginning. They can't and won't do it. Even the gentle yoga practice that Nishala Joy Devi recommends to reduce stress is too gentle for these students; they are too hyperactive and can't settle down to do gentle yoga and meditation.
I've come up with a different formula that seems to work better for many of these students: They sit and center very briefly, or simply share what's happening in their lives -- they may need to talk a bit. Then I guide them through an active yoga asana practice that keeps them completely engaged physically and mentally. This is followed by relaxation, meditation and pranayama and, for those who are open, spiritual discussion and/or chanting. It seems that these types of students must first burn off some energy before they can meditate.
When they first start working with me, I keep their meditation time short. Over time, using daily homework assignments which require practicing what they've learned in their sessions, I gradually increase their meditation time - in their sessions at the studio, and in their homework.
Joseph LePage (Integrative Yoga Therapy) uses this general rule of thumb: 'Give them a lot of what they are, and a little of what they need ... then slowly shift the balance.' That's basically what I try to do.
Also, for some students, non-sitting meditation methods may be more effective: walking, coloring in mandalas, using mala beads, using mantras / affirmations / breath counting / tratak, sewing, or working with plants.
What works for us may not work for our students. What works for one student may be all wrong for another. We need to let go of our assumptions about "what to do," and even "what works." We need to throw away the rule book (thank you, Mukunda, for this wonderful advice!) and explore instead what this one student sitting in front of us needs. As yoga teachers, we can best serve our students if we let our students teach us how to teach them. This is a concept that Muktananda shared with Mukunda, and Mukunda shared with me a few years ago. I remain forever grateful for this simple, elegant, intelligent suggestion; it serves me and my students well every single day.
Integative Yoga Strategies
198 The Plaza
Teaneck, NJ 07666
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Hamsa on 2002-05-19 16:11 ]</font>