Friday, August 23, 2013

Introduction to Mudras

Mudras are often thought of as stylized positioning of hands and fingers for the purpose of affecting the vital energy or enhancing mood but a particular mudra may involve the whole body.
The most well-known mudras are probably the ones used in meditation. Many people sitting in meditation with crossed legs will place the hands on the knees, with the tips of the thumbs and index fingers touching. 

Another common mudra is placing the hands in the lap with the fingers of one hand resting on the palm of the other. The Indian “Namaste” greeting with hands held in front of the chest, palms touching is familiar to most of us. And the Christian practice of interlacing the fingers of both hands in prayer is yet another common mudra. The Christian gesture draws the attention within, while opening the heart.

The Indian gestures puts one into a mood of respect.

There is at least one mudras performed spontaneously by many people. It is called the Hakini mudra, where the tips of all fingers of the right hand touch the fingertips of the left. This mudra helps to focus the attention.

Hakini Mudra
Hakini mudra

Using Mudras
The Indian Namaste and the Buddhist whatever are usually performed for a few seconds when used in greeting or to show respect. Still, in most settings it's recommended that a mudra be held for at least a couple of minutes or longer. 
Hold the finger-positions with both hands, at the same time. This will have a more powerful effect than doing a mudra with just one hand. Using mudras in meditation is a particularly effective way to focus the attention and establish intent. 

Mudras may be quite simple like the set of four used to balance vital energy in the body or they may be more elaborate such as these meditation mudras.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Three Simple Meditation Exercises

Exercise 1: One Minute of Mindfulness

For the next 60 seconds your task is to focus all your attention on nothing. That's right, nothing. For one minute, sit comfortably with your hands placed in your lap or on your thighs. Take a few breaths and release any tension in your body, especially the neck and shoulders. Gaze at a spot on the floor a few feet in front of you with soft focus--you look at it but you aren't really seeing it. Allow the eyelids to close half way. 
Don't focus your attention, just sit there and do nothing. Breathe normally. If you mind wanders, notice that you are having thoughts and then let them dissolve and then allow the mind to empty again.
This exercise is simply for practice. It's not a personal challenge. Don't try to accomplish anything, just allow yourself the freedom to be whatever you are in the moment.
This exercise can be used often to calm the mind and restore clarity. You can gradually extend the duration of the exercise into longer periods.

Exercise 2: Conscious Observation

Pick up an object that you have lying around. Any everyday object that you can easily hold in your hand will do. Allow your attention to become slowly and fully absorbed by the object. Just observe it as it is. Don’t critique it or try to imagine how it was formed our how it came to be in your possession. Just notice it's shape, it's color, it's hardness, it's weight, all it's properties without judgment or analysis.

You may feel a heightened sense of awareness or "being awake" during this exercise. Conscious observation is a subtle but very powerful form of meditation.

Exercise 3: Mindfulness Triggers

In this exercise you pay attention to nothing or to your breath. It doesn't matter if your mind wanders because you will hear a bell at regular intervals that will remind you to drop the thinking and refocus. 
This exercise was designed for one of my classes and I was ringing the bell but you can use this technique during the day by choosing any environment trigger you like. I know one guy who has chosen to use traffic lights to remind him to pay attention to the moment. You might choose to become mindful every time you look in the mirror or wash your hands. I'm practicing becoming mindful every time I hear the words, "You ought to...."
Mindfulness triggers is an excellent technique designed to snap you out of the unconscious “autopilot” state of mind.