I’ve not learned yoga meditation directly from a teacher in the past 18 years. Then, Gregor Maehle published his fourth book: Yoga Meditation in 2003.
This is by far my favorite book of his, not only because it is well written and easy-to-understand, but also because I had never found all the information in one place.
Vipassana Meditation Drove Me Crazy
I’ve tried Vipassana, and on my first 10-day course I felt like I was going insane. Some of us are not ready to sit with unprepared minds for 9+ hours a day. I am no longer enthusiastic about Vipassana, because, for example and among other things:
- The Teachers don’t speak, instead, a recorded voice of Goenka (the founder) plays for hour-long stretches. He says: “Feel the breath as it comes in and out. Is it cold? Is it hot, is it humid? Is it dry?” Then repeats that a lot, every day.
- On the last day an unnerving recording repeats: “maaaayyyyy aaaaalll beeeeiiiiings beee haaaapyyyyy”. By the time he repeated this fifteen to twenty times I wanted to run.
- Skipping a session is not allowed. The retreat owns you, and someone will find and bring you back.
- I have yet to meet someone who has kept the suggested schedule of 2-hours of meditation per day after leaving the retreat. It doesn’t add up in the real world.
Vipassana Can Be Dangerous
For people with a mental disease, either in denial or not yet aware of it, who sit that long with a troubled mind can experience what psychiatrists call tunnel vision, which leads to suicide.This happened to a friend of mine. She was depressed, and she killed herself by jumping off a bridge after leaving a course.
Note that I am neither endorsing nor shaming this school, I am sure it works for some people, it just hasn’t worked for me.
Back to Yoga Meditation:
Kundalini: The First Word in the Book that Made Me Feel ‘Uneasy’
The problem with the word kundalini is that it has been corrupted just as words like: god, guru, or even meditation have. But because of the way the book explains kundalini everything comes together clearly, and any serious person who might want to experience mystical states can follow.
There is a lot of visualization practices that include sounds shapes and lotuses. These are used, says Gregor, not only to still the mind, which ‘always needs something to do’ as Richard Freeman says in his latest book The Art of Vinyasa, but also, and this is new to me, to access and release the subconscious, which could never be done by just observing the breath.
Gregor draws from many modern texts, including:
Victor Frankl ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ which Frankl wrote after surviving the holocaust, and
Joel Fuhrman ‘Eat to Live’, which comes up when Gregor is discussing the positive effect of fasting for advancing in the practice.
What About the Missing Limbs of Yoga?
If you’ve followed my work you might remember I did a book-club around his book on Panayama (yoga breathing), the fourth limb. you may then wonder where are the missing limbs, meaning:
Meditation is the 7th limb, but sense withdrawal is the fifth and concentration the sixth. Where are they?
They are also in this book. For example:
The directions for sense withdrawal include things like burning sandalwood incense to appease the sense of smell, which goes along the first chakra. A suggestion for withdrawing the sense of touch is Jnana Mudra. And there are suggestions for concentration too. This is fascinating to me.
Here is What I’m Doing
- I am starting to practice with the book in a systematic way.
- I’m also beginning a book club. Because as I read this for the second time, and many years after my first read, I am ready.
- Gregor says it’s always good to start practicing meditation right away and not to wait. I am not waiting any more.
- If you are interested in following me along you can get a copy of the book and start reading with me. I promise you wont be disappointed, especially on the very last chapter.
P.S.: Here is The Yoga Podcast with an interview with Gregor about “Yoga Meditation”