guest post by Ojas teacher, James Ryder
This triplet of yoga, writing and meditation, while distinct in ways, I see as three notes perceived by the listening body. It’s the common ground that most concerns me here. Hatha yoga at its core offers the yogin “templates of discernment,” as one teacher I currently study with says so eloquently. In the sweep of practice, we contact recurring opportunities, some conscious, some less so, to choose thoughts and actions that are wholesome for ourselves, and for others. You might suspect that when I say “practice,” I am referring to our daily lives, relationships and the invitations we extend to the world. Ultimately, there is nothing outside of practice. That could well frighten you (it does me) or, even better, it may wake you up.
Meditation begins in developing the capacity to gather the attention and steady it where desired. In 2000, I undertook the hero’s journey of an S.N. Goenka retreat: nine and a half days of silence, no eye contact and long days of sitting, receiving instruction and chanting. This was my introduction to Vipassana, or Insight meditation. It was difficult, and a remarkable threshold, akin to many things I now value. While hatha yoga clears and tempers the body, meditation can cast light on the patterns of thinking. The training is to watch the movements of mind with a kind, caring attention and, ultimately, without identification. Finding a margin between habituated thoughts and reactions, we step closer to the possibility of choice. The training calls for us to stay, even when the territory is difficult.
People write for all sorts of reasons. I intend to publish my first book of poetry a year after I graduate (stay tuned!). Part of what’s remarkable about writing is its versatility. Though your intention may not be to be read by others, writing does not surrender its power of recollection and insight; words are always a palette we can call on to dream. There is a natural synthesis generated among writing and meditation and yoga. In each discipline, we are learning to listen; learning to recognize and discard the non-essential; and perhaps most promising, learning to hear the song of our heart’s desire, possibly for the first time.
James has been teaching at Ojas for 6 years, offering Strong Hatha Yoga on Friday mornings from 9:30-11:00 a.m. preceded at 9:00 a.m. by a 20 minute Silent Meditation (by donation).
James Michael Ryder is a dedicated student and teacher of hatha yoga and insight meditation. These potent technologies restore us to native embodied wisdom and an undefended heart. Yoga provides excellent tools (awareness practices, postures, extended breath, cleansing, energetic bonds, concentration and meditation) to refine attention, body and breath and, ultimately, the qualities of mind. As we grow steady, even faced with difficulties, we can begin to recognize the filters that obscure clear seeing of self and the world around us. This freedom, then, is the essential fruit of yoga practice. Come find out for yourself! www.jamesryderyoga.com