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Meditation Matters

The two most important elements of practice are consistency and reverence, or ritual. These days I am fortunate to have a room in my home that is solely dedicated to yoga and meditation. I enter it around the same time every day—about 5:30 a.m.—just as I have been doing for nearly 30 years. The teachings have long praised these quiet hours before sunrise as the most productive time to practice. It’s also the time when my household is still asleep, which means no worldly duties will call or interrupt my process of remembering deep and abiding peace. The two most important elements of practice are consistency and reverence, or ritual. The first thing I do upon entering the room is light a flame and pay homage to it. The flame connects me to the source of life and the teachings. I think of my teachers and the teachings, and offer them my gratitude before I “do” anything. Once I establish that connection, I turn my awareness to my inner teacher to guide me as I move into postures and the rest of my practice. If I’m not home, I begin my practice by invoking that flame mentally. Within a few seconds I feel anchored in it. This is how consistency becomes its own reward. For the past 10 years, teaching has led me to do a lot of traveling—as many as 120 to 130 days a year. With my surroundings constantly changing, it’s vital to my teaching and my well-being that I am able to access a place that feels like home. Clarity, strength, wisdom, and the sense of being guided are never far away. This extraordinary gift is revealed each time I practice. It is supported by my years of consistent effort and reverence for the teachings and my teachers. These are the times when I renew the connection to the best of myself. Cause and Effect The body and mind are

constantly changing, affected by environmental circumstances, diet, and thoughts. Spirit remains constant—a boundless and mighty treasure. Physical and mental needs change; spiritual needs do not. For that reason, the parts of my practice that address the physical and mental realms (asana and pranayama) change day to day in response to my needs. The changes in my daily practice come spontaneously (in response to my inner teacher) and are informed by my knowledge of the principles of practice (vinyasa krama), as delineated in the traditions of yoga, ayurveda, and tantra. On the road I may focus on more restorative or stabilizing practices, such as supported postures, longer holds, and retention after inhalation. At home I often focus on techniques that are deeper and/or more challenging. On those days, my routine includes techniques for cultivating subtle energy, such as bandha, mudras, and laya yoga practices.Whether I’m at home or traveling, my japa practice remains the same. In order to describe my personal practice, I’ve made distinctions between asana, pranayama, and meditation. But in the larger view, they are part of a seamless tapestry. Together, all three serve the higher intent of enabling me to remain mindful of the greater meaning and purpose of my life and enlivening the forces that allow me to embody it. The great sage Patanjali wrote that flawless perception and self-mastery can be ours when we distinguish between the true nature of soul and the highest states of mind. According to him, this ascendant plateau can only be attained, yogically, through meditation. Meditation is the heart of my practice. It has been—and continues to be—my most cherished ally in the journey that is my life. – Rod Stryker

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