A few years ago I joined a new yoga studio and discovered inversions, which they touted as an important part of their yoga practice.
“What’s an inversion?” I asked.
I quickly found out it’s a yoga move that purposefully puts you upside-down, and in the process positions the heart above the head. “Interesting!” I thought.
In my new yoga routine, I found myself folding forward reaching for my toes, balancing on my forearms against a wall to do a supported headstand, and now can even navigate myself into a full handstand.
The key to inversion moves is the setting up of the pose, focusing as you launch into it, trusting the grounding pull of the universe’s gravity and activation of the supporting core muscles. The result literally turns your world upside down. Once we are in the pose, the class instructor usually reminds us to “just breathe and hold the pose as long as it holds your curiosity.”
The benefits from what I call Heart Above Head are not just physical, but carry over into real life… especially in meditation and contemplative prayer. Many of us have difficulty listening to our heart instead of our head. It takes some courage to approach something from a position of unfamiliarity.
Meditation and contemplative prayer can be unfamiliar approaches for many of us because we may have been brought up learning prayer of the head. We may use words either out loud or in our mind, read from sacred text, or say prayers we learned as a child.
But meditation is enhanced with an inversion of the spirit, figuratively placing our heart and spirit above our mind and head.
The practice of meditation and contemplative prayer is traditionally prayer without words or images. As the anonymous author of A Course in Miracles describes, “The fundamental change will occur with the change of mind in the thinker.” I believe meditation is an opportunity for my mind to do an inversion pose…. and allow my heart to lead before my head.
We are all capable of meditation and contemplative prayer. With some curiosity, a little patience, and an intention to place our heart above our head, meditation can go from adequate to exceptional! It turns our prayer upside down, and there is some technique to it. It leads us out of our head space and into our heart space. It changes our mind, not only while in the practice but also when we leave that sacred space.
How do we turn our minds upside down in meditation?
- Choose a sacred space. It could be at your kitchen table or on your patio outside. Choose somewhere you feel comfortable and have reasonable solitude.
- Set yourself up – posture matters. Choose a chair or sit on a mat that keeps you upright. You should be upright but not rigid. Relax but don’t go to sleep.
- Focus. Begin by sitting still and repeating a one-word mantra or sacred word such as “Yes” or “Shanti.” Eventually you will let go of this word as you enter into silence. When you observe your chattering mind, step non-judgmentally away from it and return to your sacred word.
- Be still. Keep your body still, hands on your lap, feet on the floor. Enter into silence and then listen intently to the silence. Create more silence by focusing on the gaps of quietness within the silence.
- Trust the present moment. Be acutely aware of everything going on RIGHT NOW. The scent of your candle, the connection of your backside on the chair, the air pulsing through your nostrils, even try to feel your beating heart. Any of these can bring you into the present moment where you always have everything you need.
- Breathe. When you observe your mind becoming distracted, return your focus to your breathing. Repeat this as many times as necessary.
Continue observing, quieting, remaining still, and breathing for as long as it holds your curiosity. Start with 5-10 minutes, but eventually you will begin to experience the benefits as you extend to 20 minutes and beyond.
Don’t be discouraged if you’ve tried to meditate and feel like you just haven’t gotten the hang of it. You are not alone. There is a reason it is called a ‘”practice”! With a little practice and patience you will get the hang of it, and soon begin to see your own world turned upside down.