Chapter 6 – The Practice of Meditation
Yoga Teacher – Govindas
Today was a bit of a break through. Anyone who does any kind of practice knows that it’s only the repetition of the practice do the results come. After 5 days in a row of yoga today, the sixth day, felt really good. I was able to flow in a way where my mind was purely focused on the breath and not the struggle. It certainly helped that maha-teacher Govindas cultivated such good bhav that the room was charged.
This is karma yoga in action. When the self is performing it’s duties without any hang ups about what may lie on the other side. Doing hatha yoga isn’t exactly selfless service but it is a way to take a litmus test of gauging where you’re at and what your hang ups are.
The first five chapters of the Gita talk so much about karma yoga, action and how to detach the ego by focussing on the atman. Chapter 6 is interesting and unique to The Gita because it’s the first time that Krishna is giving detailed instruction for any kind of practice. Krishna instructs Arjuna on the path of meditation and even goes so far as to tell him to sit up straight to avoid drowsiness. Krishna is becoming astutely aware that Arjuna is indeed becoming a yogi, or at least should become a yogi.
This sort of discussion is more commonly found in the Yoga Sutras when referring to eight limbed yoga (ashtanga yoga). There has been much controversy of the years as to what the word “asana” means, most say it just means “seat.” So when Patanjali is talking about this limb of yoga he could very well have been talking about mediation and not what we call asana today. In essence, Krishna is also talking about the same thing.
Chapter 6 Verse 10 “Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation.”
Of course the Self referred to here is the atman – the true eternal self. Not the projected self that lies within the ego which dances on the banks of maya.
Chapter 6 Verse 11 “Select a clean spot..then once seated, strive to still your thoughts. Make your mind one-pointed in meditation and your heart will be purified.”
The heart? Yes Krishna talks about the purification of the heart which has always lept of the page for me. This is one of the first instances where Krishna is talking about bhakti – the yoga that cultivates the heart space. It is clear that Arjuna has been in his head and hung up on a very specific trip in this journey. When it’s recommended that self realization through mediation will awaken the heart Arjuna will now be able to see what is his dhamra and what isn’t. We all say many times “the journey from the head to heart can be long.” This is evident here.
After this revelation Arjuna hits a wall and expresses doubt that he can even comprehend such a thing. Arjuna says “O Krishna, the stillness of divine union which you describe is beyond my comprehension. How can the mind, which is so restless, attain lasting peace?”
How many times have we doubted our ability to continue on the journey? With yoga alone I’ve probably done more questioning than I have embracing. Like I said in earlier posts, I constantly fall into the trap of comparison. For as long as I’ve been practicing asana (10 years) I should be much more accomplished in the physical practice than I am, right? Ahhhh…this illusion is so juicy. The essence of what is maya.
Krishna says in verse 35 “But it can be conquered Arjuna, through regular practice and detachment.”
I find that this chapter, when looked at just a little differently, is directly applicable to someone engaging on a practice of yoga. The instruction is given here. Really beautiful.