Contracting, Letting Go and Intimacy

The 8 Day Silent Meditation Retreat I went on over the summer with Michael Stone has provided many lessons .  It also provided the opening I needed to create an overdue shift in my daily practice.

Since returning from retreat, I have not played a game on my phone, I have sparingly listened to music on my ipod. When I ride the subway home into Brooklyn I might read a book or listen to a podcast. Rides into the city, I am only present. When I first got back I neither listened to music, nor a podcast.

This is not because the subway has teaching moments I want to be awake to –although it does.

This is not because reading provides me with insights – although it does.

This is not because technology cleanses are necessary – although they are from time to time.

Small-World-600x400This is because that is how I contract – it is what I specifically contract around – it’s where and how I make my world small, disconnect from others, leave the moment, and lose touch with my embodied self. All of which are pretty much the opposite of what I want to cultivate.  However and whenever we contract, this is what happens.

When I began to feel that I could listen to a podcast or music without contraction, I did so. Although I don’t listen to them nearly as much as before, and I go to them to learn, study and enjoy, not to tune out or avoid.

Clues for where you might contract:
1) When I’m deep in the mode of contracting – the discomfort is so strong that it can be almost painful not to contract, not to do that thing.
2) When I’m refreshed and nourished after a vacation, retreat, or deep workshop – I feel unattached, and that those things are not necessary.

When I came back from retreat, I was in just exactly that second mode.  I realized that, in fact, the whole time I thought I had been turning up the ipod in order to maintain a pleasant state in the face of the literal ugliness of the subway – I was actually avoiding being with myself.  I knew I wanted to be present, but who can be enjoyably present with the wet matted trash on the tracks? Being present isn’t being with that external object, it’s being with you, with your body, with your breath. That’s the main focus. I tune outhad been missing that point (avoiding it?) and chose to escape with audio. After the retreat, being with my breath and body was home, and I finally could see how I had been making my world small, turning not only the world out, but myself as well.

The less you contract, the more you’re able to be with your body – to embody, moment to moment to moment your practice. You can be awake with your whole body. You become the best transmitter, physically, energetically and emotionally, of what you most hope to express.

We contract around things in our practice as well – we can contract around our injuries, our desires for the class, our fellow yogis, our balance, the breath itself.  How and when do you make your world small on the mat? How and when do you make your world small in life?  Then make it easy on yourself – the next time you’re in the second mode – reflect on this and use that time to let go AND make your world expansive, connect with others, stay in the moment, and embody your life. Letting go is only ever the first step.

Kaisen said:
Even if you obliterate your meditation seat with tireless sitting (you’re really fierce), and if your conduct is immaculate (like you know how it’s done), even if you’re eloquent dharma teaching astounds heaven and earth causing flowers to rain miraculously from the blue sky, even if you annihilate all thoughts and emotions and your body is like a dry tree, even if you never loose mindfulness though confronted by disaster, even if you die while sitting zazen and appear to have gained great realization and liberation; if you’ve not reached intimacy, it is all without value   (From Dharma Talk by Koshin)

intimacy-in-relationshipsKaisen is a dharma heir of Dogen – who was really big on intimacy. Intimacy with the breath, with the moment, with oneself. And nowadays we think also of intimacy with the sangha, with the teachings, etc.  Let go and be intimate.

Earth

dirtThis summer I had the occasion to have my hands in the dirt of two amazing places in upstate New York. Each time, the dirt was so dark and rich, smelling so amazingly fresh, that I just wanted to eat it (alright, I did actually eat it one of the times).

Everything grows out of something else. A tree stump can house not only moss or mushrooms, insect larvae and beetles, but also a whole new tree.

We all grew out of this earth. The more I practice, the more I can feel this. Although it still does take me by surprise sometimes, the default understanding of the earth is hard to shake.

Sanskrit has several different terms for earth to delineate the different kinds of relationships we have with it. English just has one (and a capital letter).  Our default understanding of it is often something that we’re ON, not OF. But if you spend enough time with a forest, you watch not only the mossy fallen trees become dirt, but the hearty standing trees themselves fall, become leaf and moss covered, break down to where they feel more like carpet under foot than wood, and eventually resemble dirt more than anything else. You feel in your bones that this too, is what happens with us.

It is not poetic to say that sitting in the forest, it feels like the stones and water are my bones and blood, or that the layers of leaves are my skin, and the trees veins to my heart.

enso“When we feel the beauty of the river, when we are one with the water, we intuitively do it in Dogen’s way. It is our true nature to do so. But if your true nature is covered by ideas of economy or efficiency, Dogen’s way makes no sense.” Shunryu Suzuki

What is Dogen’s way? To bring a bucket to a nearby river to retrieve water.  After filling up the bucket, he would dump part of it back into the river. Not to make it the right weight to carry, but to return a bit to the river. To have that connection. To take care of the river.

This is our practice – taking care of what’s around us, what’s right in front of us, what we’re in relationship with.

Below the flights of stairs, layers of pavement, sewers, and subways, deep down there is earth that needs us to take care of it.  Deep down under your partner, child, friend, there is something that needs to be taken care of.

In the wake of the Climate March, and the climate UN meetings, remember that it is not just (and perhaps, controversially, not at all) the government and regulations that will take care of the earth.  It is us, if the same number of people who attended the march committed to 10 small acts* of environmentalism, it would make a difference. If we practice, it will make a difference.  It is not necessary to try to be better, or to aid the environment as a mission – we all naturally want to do that – we just need to really practice. So really practice.

10 Small Acts of Environmentalism You can do for the Rest of Your Life:

*Never buy another roll of paper towels. Use small rags. It creates no greater water or laundry detergent use than I’ve always used to wash my regular bathing towels. (Ditto with paper napkins)
*Use a shower head that pauses the flow, or an adapter for your current shower head.
*Never buy another conventional cleaning product. Buy ones like Meyers Brand, or make your own.
*Spend time in nature regularly. Develop a relationship with a particular place in nature.
*Never buy another plastic bottle of water. Buy one of the multitude of refillable water bottles to your weight and aesthetic needs. If you plan ahead, and accept the small inconvenience, it becomes something you don’t even think about.
*Never buy another garbage bag. Use the plastic ones from grocery stores you get when you forget to bring your reusable bag/don’t have enough with you.
*Be educated about what is currently most sustainable to buy, and buy that. For example, cork yoga blocks came on the scene as a great alternative to the foam blocks.  Then everything started to be made from cork. Then cork trees began to be endangered. Now bamboo is best. Although I hear they are cutting down regular forests in some places to build bamboo ones. Don’t get bowled under by these kinds of situations. Make the best choice possible at the time you’re making it.
*Institute the old camp favorite: If it’s yellow, let it mellow…
*Never “print something for your records again”.  Create a PDF, and file it electronically.   As a yoga teacher, I have to itemize my purchases each year for taxes. I used to print all my receipts from online purchases. I don’t print a single one anymore.  Anything I do print, I print double-sided. Anything with one side that I eventually am done with, I use the other side as note paper.
*Compost and Recycle so regularly that when you’re somewhere it isn’t possible to do, it hurts a little to put it in the trash.

Mother_Earth caitlin taylor*Bonus: Be creative – what works in your life? What are other ways? How do you care for this one and precious earth?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

samantha cross stitch

The preamble: When I was much younger, I was the proud owner of Samantha . She was a doll of the Victorian era, and as such, the make-at-home activity that came with her was a cross-stitch sampler. After much struggle (and much help from my mom), I became the doubly proud owner of a small pillow emblazoned with tiny x’s reading: Actions Speak Louder Than Words. Which I promptly gifted to my mom that Christmas.  There began the fodder for her admonishment upon my various actions of teens and twenties “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” – often with a sad downturned shake of her head.  Brutal. I hated that pillow.  I was clumsy! I was absent minded! I was young! Believe my words! I couldn’t understand her insistence.

The relevance: After 8 days of silence in community with strangers, on the morning before we were to speak again, that pillow suddenly became so clear. I got it. After a week of silent full-on interactions with others, of coordinating manual labor, meals, bathroom sharing, common area use, and many tiny other daily activities – words suddenly seemed a bit, well, unnecessary.  I had whole relationship arcs including disputes, resolutions, space and reconciliation. I deeply cared for people. I finally understood the concept of the overlay of words, and how words can be anything – but actions imbued with that much intention aren’t.

The lesson: Returning from retreat, I quickly noticed how the return of words left me using my body body_language_by_moni158-d5a4gndin relation to others in a lazy way.  The juxtaposition made it clear just how much I forgot about my body, and interacted with others from the chin up.  Of course, there is body language going on all the time at varying levels of consciousness. How to move that from being so unconscious? How to move it beyond flirting, getting a job, or detecting lying? How to make it less lazy?

It can seem like words are all we have to connect us – in fact several well respected counselors will actually tell us this. But I’d like to put forward the theory of intentional action.  And that attempting this in our regular lives allows us to be more connected to ourselves and the moment. More able to feel our feet and breath in a day. Better able to respond to situations as we might be working towards. More grounded.

For a week – can you move through your day as if you had no verbal communication (sign language or otherwise)?

“A seeker of silences am I, and what treasure have I found in silences that I may dispense with confidence?”

-Kahlil Gibran

Return from Retreat

Returning from retreat is a skill the meditator cultivates along with any other technique in their practice. As a current resident of New York City (Brooklyn to be precise) with a heart born in the country, this has been a particularly challenging skill for me.

826-new-yorkFor several years now I have taken solo retreats in upstate New York, and at first re-entry was tough. I would cross the George Washington Bridge, look out at the unnatural grey towers, and feel weighted down by the heavy frenetic energy of the city.  Turning around always seemed like the best possible option.  Leaving retreat was always and only sad.

What changed: I began to notice that when I returned from retreat the first couple days of classes would be amazing. They were rare special classes where there was less of me, and more of just passing along a space inside.  Connections with students, and my personal relationships alike held a deeper quality.  I realized that I had something pretty amazing to look forward to back in the city.  Sharing the nourishing, inspiring, beauty of the natural world I immersed myself in – while deep in my practices and studies – became this heartfelt private gift I would bring back to those waiting for me. I entered the city smiling.Basic CMYK

Last week I came back from my first 8-day silent meditation retreat with Michael Stone.  Coming home was once again buoyed by this heart filled gift I carried inside.

A few days after, I was sitting in Prospect Park, watching trees, listening to birds. Being in Brooklyn. Right in the middle of my regular life, there was a shift. A place I had only recently begun to touch on during this past retreat was suddenly there and alive.  A place I had worked to cultivate during the retreat, a place I had thought I would only know in meditation – a place meditation created. The next day, sitting at my desk, looking out past house plants to the sparse tree branches beyond the window, there the space was again.

“What is true zazen? When you become you! When you are you, then no matter what you do, that is zazen.” Shunryu Suzuki

“The message for us today is “Cultivate your own spirit.” Is means not to go seeking for something outside of yourself.” Shunryu Suzuki

il_fullxfull.338294012_originalThat place is not there because of meditation – it’s nowhere other than in me. Meditation and asana never make anything. They, like all the teachings, are arrows pointing back at us.  Our job is to let them pierce right where they need to, melt around it, let go, and trust.

And if you retreat: How are you generous with that internal space? What ideas of that space are you holding onto? Don’t go seeking for something outside yourself – let that be an arrow that sinks right into the marrow of your spirit – or turn it into a flower.

Change As A Privilege

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
– Alan Watts

icyclesI was on retreat in upstate New York this April, right when the pollen started to fall from the trees in Brooklyn.  Upstate, nothing had yet to bud at the tips of the branches. Winter takes longer to let go there – creating an additional season which feels like “Winter Letting Go Into Spring”. And for the four days I was there – things constantly changed. Pictures of the lake I took on the first day were impossible the next as it has risen a foot. Icicles that had clung to branches over the stream had melted when I woke up. The stream itself was much fuller than I see it at other times.

I might have thought the lake on the first day with less water, unblemished by the debris of the melting shoreline, was best. Or I might have liked it better with icicles raining down to the earth, or when they were still crisp and frozen. But it was all just change, and it wasn’t good or bad. It was just beautiful awesome change.

How can we be with our own changes in such a way?

Because we have this impetus, or maybe it’s just me, that change must be evolving, or at the very least for a purpose.  And if it’s not, then it’s feels like “what’s the point?”.  And I think we carry this through as a consolation in yoga – we see how everything is changing, and we think of it as evolving, or at the very least having a purpose. Generally it is, it does. But to regard change as just beautiful in its own right, without deciding about it, is a powerful practice.

How can we be with our own changes outside that need for evolution and purpose?

embersIf we feel absent of change – to know that the fire needs excellent embers in order not to extinguish easily – even if left untended for a time.

If we lean towards good or bad identification with change – can we let that go and rejoice in the change itself – the ability we have to change – the honor of it.

Doing so keeps things from being rote – you have to pay attention because at any time you can fall down or balance  in handstand.  Change allows for us to study, investigate, and work on ourselves. It keeps our beginners mind available to us, and keeps life from becoming rote.  Think how boring asana would be if there was never any change.

If change didn’t throw us into actively investigating our habits and cultivating curiosity – that would truly be an “otherwise what’s the point?”

In his On Being interview with Krista Tippett, Richard Feldman spoke of change as a privilege. Which is a perspective we could all work towards sharing.

“And Detroit is really not only the epicenter of the crisis and the pain, but also, as we’ll talk later on, the epicenter of a tremendous amount of hope and rejuvenation taking place.”  In speaking about Detroit, he speaks about so many corners of our lives. In those corners can we step back from the pain, step back from the rejuvenation, and just witness the change – the privilege of change?

 

A Coincidence & A Dance

IMG_20140504_145223
I live in Park Slope – a Brooklyn neighborhood with numerous highlights, one of which is “stoop recycling”.  It is unanimously agreed upon that anyone can leave a box of books just outside their stoop and everyone else is free to take as many as they like.  These boxes are almost always empty by the end of one day. I LOVE books – so this has always been pretty exciting to me.

I used to live in Hawaii – which perhaps due to daily light rain showers, does not have this practice.  Although they have a delightful one of sharing the abundance from mango and other fruit trees that grow in their backyards.  I LOVE mango – so I was equally pleased.

While living in Hawaii, I took one of those fateful walks home along a different route.  And stumbled upon a Park Slope style box of books. I couldn’t believe it. I think I even looked around as if waiting for someone to tug on a string and pull the box back as I reached down.  Instead, I found a treasure trove of books by Ram Dass and Krishnamurti . I was early on in my yoga path, not yet even calling it a path, and had no idea who those men were. I did, however, recognize the word “yoga” and scooped them up.

only dance there is coverI chose the book with a psychedelic dancer on front (later I would learn this to be Nataraja – the dancing destroyer siva), and opened to the first page:

“Last evening…as one of the journeyers on a path, a very, very old path, the path of consciousness, I, in a sense, met with the Explorers Club to tell about the geography I had been mapping”

And so begins The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass. The book that launched my understanding of yoga as so much more than the physical practice.  In a very real way, I have been journeying on this ancient path following the maps laid out by the greats, and exploring the occasional off shoot of my own, ever since those words entered me.  Ram Dass has been an integral part of that experience, and a continual guide and inspiration.

He has written a number of remarkable books, yet this is one I return to over and over. He has a true gift with words, and shines best, in my opinion, through the recordings of the numerous talks he has given over the years (many of which are now being released on the free podcast “Here and Now”).  This book, a collection of such talks, remains my favorite.

Which is why Yoga Between the Lines – yoga book club – is reading it for May & June.  Learn more about the club, and then pick up your copy and join fellow explorers!

Missed the beginning of the book club? No worries! The format of the book is perfect for jumping in anywhere!

Pratyahara: Fully Exhausted

hibernation

To consider pratyahara in spring can seem counter intuitive. Pratyahara syncs with the mood of fall or winter – the hibernating, inward times of the year. Yet, spring can perhaps be the best time to work with pratyahara practice.

Right in the midst of the warmer rays of the sun, the coloring of nature, and the rising call of birds drawing us out and out – can we balance? Can we do all of the things we’ve been waiting to do, for what might seem like a very long snowy cold time? AND can we cultivate being exhausted from our activities out of a fullness of experience, rather than a draining one?

We’ve all experienced both of those types of exhaustion – from fullness, and from being drained.  A single hour spent with a certain person can demonstrate this easily to us.  The end of a full day of activity hinges on this.  It also directly affects our willingness to repeat the activity.  Scientific studies  have shown that the closing of an activity most directly influences how we remember the entire event.

Pratyahara as an off-the-mat practice (fueled by focused on the mat sessions), is a tool that can leave us feeling balanced at the end of the day, and ready to continue our explorations all spring/year long.

The Flying World

Be aware of how you’re expending your energy.  And not in the take-a-child’s-pose-when-you-get-tired kind of way.  In the nuanced way of the senses – how are your senses being drawn out without you even being away?  Those of you who have ever walked down 34th Street, a mall, or 5th Avenue and found yourself at the end needing several items you hadn’t even thought of at the start, have experienced how easily we are drawn out by the world around us.  Our senses are designed to interact with the world in a finely tuned manner that coordinates our every thought, movement, and breath.

“The moving world flies toward this sensitive instrument from all directions.” Stephen Batchelor

And without us being aware of this – it flies off with us.  To remain grounded cultivate an awareness of how often your eyes move from object to object (at the ocean for example, try to either follow one wave the whole way in, or take in the entire panorama of ocean before you, instead of jumping from wave to wave), take note of how often smell dictates your eating or destination choices, be aware of how much temperature affects your mental activity and mood – and the energy expended to mediate it, can you choose what you listen to as carefully as you choose what to wear or how you decorate your home?  Really dig into how you are consciously using your senses.

panorama

Stephen Batchelor continues:

“As soon as it makes contact, it resonates inside you with an ineffable but distinctive tone. The experience of the world is colored with a rich range of feelings and moods which we cannot help having. Each experience registers somewhere along a spectrum between ecstasy and agony. Pay attention to this tonal quality, observing how it permeates both body and mind – but is singularly difficult to pin down.”

Buds-TreeWhat the trees know

Trees are excellent examples. They have stored energy all winter – remaining inward.  Then spring arrives and they bud, bloom, branch, root, and grow at phenomenal rates. They are drawing in sun and water with great vigor. They bloom for an entire season, but never wilt at the end of the day. Can we do that?

Cross Pollination

bee_pollen_macro

David Montgomery, a geomorphologist (a geologist that specializes in the study of changing topography over time), was recently in conversation with Krista Tippett for her radio show, On Being. Among many insightful thoughts, David shared his interest in promoting cross pollination between science and religion.  His recent book specifically works towards bridging what he has often experienced as a rather contentious relationship between the two.

My teacher, Michael Stone, recently co-led a retreat working on bringing together Judaism and Buddhism study and practices. Not in an attempt to Frankenstein the practices together, but to engage in dialogue.

“Religion is a long conversation going on for thousands of year about what’s important, by people struggling with figuring out what’s important, and how to open up to what’s important with each other.”

The ability to open up that conversation between religions allows us to see our particular perspective’s blind spots. I believe that if we’re very honest we would agree, without loss of faith or love, our own particular religion is not perfect.

We would similarly, without loss of faith or love, duly agree we are not perfect. This idea of cross-pollination is just what we need more of in our practice.  Reading yoga books alone only gets us so far. Meditation and introspection alone only get us so far.  Practicing asana without feedback or guidance only gets us so far.

When I engage in conversation with my fellow explorers, their conversations come back to me over the weeks to come – snippets and threads that inspire me, move me pass blocks, or just point out blind spots I had no inkling to even look for.

1) Thank you to my fellow explorers – you have impacted who I am more than you know.  Be grateful to your own – let them know.Yarn and knitting needles_1

2) Be willing to cross-pollinate.  Engage in conversation with other yogis – but also with Buddhist, Christians, Atheists, Scientists, Artists, Lovers, Poets, Athletes – anyone who has a passion and exploratory spirit is ready with insights to share, even if they don’t know it.  Ram Dass was giving a lecture and noticed an old lady in the front row. He knew there was no way she way there to hear about all the drugs and alternate realities and yoga practices and gurus and such. And yet everytime he went a step deeper, he looked over to see the lady nodding – totally on board and getting it. At the end they spoke, and she said how he was so right on. He asked what her practice was. She told him it was knitting.

3) Join us for Yoga Between the Lines and Satsang: Meditation & Dharma Discussion for some cross pollinating in Brooklyn!

Yoga Between the Lines starts a new book: The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass in May

Satsang meets this Thursday: 7:30pm at Mala Yoga – $15

 

 

Pratyahara: Withdraw to Interact

In the first pratyahara blog, the traditional translation of “withdrawal of the senses” was discussed.  Like many yoga practices – it can seem as if we’re being led in, and consequently away, from the world.  Away from the lives we’re actually motivated to live more fully, more awake with the present moment. i-think-you-are-shirt

Michael Stone once encouraged students to “withdraw your idea of others and the self” – as opposed to withdrawing from society or the natural world. I love the practice of withdrawing my ideas of who someone is, especially those I am closest to.  A practice I invite you try out today, if you have yet to do so.

In the cyclical intertwined nature of the sutras, this practice of cultivating sensory equanimity, actually fuels our ability to more readily and adeptly interact with others and live into the preceding sutras.  The more we’re aware of the interaction between our sense organs and sense objects – the more we’re able to watch the thoughts, perceptions, and reactions that result.  From there, we’re able to see more clearly what is happening right now. Or as Bernie Glassman says, it’s “the ability to approach a situation without superimposing what you know.”

When you practice asana next be aware of the sense(s) you most dwell in – where are you most distracted? Can you use the breath to tune into all the senses equally, and so not be drawn out from the present moment by any one?

“How do we live a balanced life in an unbalanced time? How does our practice help us to maintain the sensory equanimity we need to participate effectively in our families and communites?” Michael Stone

“Only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being.” Rilke

Pratyahara: A matter of sense (the 5th limb)

sva-viṣayāsamprayoge ćittasya sva-rūpānukāra ivendriyāṇāṁ pratyāhāraḥ

When consciousness interiorizes by uncoupling from external objects, the senses do likewise; this is called withdrawal of the senses. PYS II.54

Tatah parama vasyata indriyanam 

Then comes the spontaneous, complete and natural mastery over all the senses, that is to say, the natural self-discipline to hold on to I-AM. PYS II.55

turtle in shellWithdrawal of the senses is the traditional translation of pratyahara. Often described as a turtle withdrawing its limbs into its shell, pratyahara can seem a bit esoteric and unattainable outside of a sensory deprivation tank or sleep.

Added to that is science’s ever growing understanding that 1) Our senses are limited in perceiving the true nature of reality (think quantum mechanics and how the computer you’re reading this on is more space than solid) 2) Our senses are intrinsic and vital to our evolution and survival as humans – and therefore are automatic and embedded in the brain:

“The goal of every living brain, no matter what its level of neurological sophistication, from the tiny knots of nerve cells that govern insect behavior on up to the intricate complexity of the human neocortex, has been to enhance the organism’s chances of survival by reacting to raw sensory date and translating it into a negotiable rendition of a world…brain

None of [our] quintessentially human accomplishments would have been possible without the brain’s ability to generate rich, effective, and meaningful perceptions of the world.”
– Andrew Newberg, M.D. (Why God Won’t Go Away)

Yet yoga philosophy insists that pratyahara is not only attainable, but vastly possible.  Science philosophy suggests doing so might allow us to peer closer into the nature of reality. The good news is that both asana and meditation offer concrete ways to encourage* pratyahara.

Asana:
1) Dristhi – Every yoga pose and transition has a corresponding gaze point (dristhi).  When the breath, dristhi, and intention are connected pratyahara arises.  The tendency and desire of the various senses to search off your yoga mat fade. You become located right in the center of your breath – as if you were looking out with breath, instead of your eyes. As if you were practicing in a breath body, instead of one of touch.  Key to the dristhi practice is an experience of dristhi as a field of vision, rather than a single point.  Dristhi uses a single focusing point to allow the gaze to actually widen – to take in the whole panorama before you.

2) Savasana strings – After your body settles into the pose, tune into your senses. Notice how the world has hundreds of invisible strings that pull at you, even lying still in a yoga studio. Mentally imagine scissors gently snipping the threads circling your body – and they just drop away.  No need to push or shut out or harden around “distractions”. There are no distractions, just strings that continue to exist, no longer tugging on you.

Meditation:
1) Body – Almost every meditation begins with the body. It’s important to set your seat as comfortable as possible, with as much attention to alignment as possible.  Creating ease in the body allows us to settle our minds around it. If you find your foot falling asleep every time you meditate, seek a teacher’s guidance to modify how you sit.  Fine tuning aspects such as relaxing the tongue in the jaw, and letting the eyes release deep in their sockets cue further release of the sense organs.

2) Focus – Sound meditation is one of the best ways to release the ears’ insistence on reaching out to the world.  There are several techniques such as playing intentionally vague sounds in order to “short circuit” the ear into letting go, or working intimately with mind and ear to release the constant chatter between the two that goes into instantaneous naming of sounds.

perception

A few final tips:
*Practice asana without music every once in awhile
*If you live in a city, spend time outside of it. Even the quietest block is filled with over- stimulation.
*Spend an entire evening at home without the TV on, the computer on, or music on
*Walk slowly, fidget less – allow the body to settle more
*Refine all the input to your senses you have direct control over: what you listen to on the TV/computer/ipod/in relationship, what you see around your home, what you place on your body, what you buy and prepare to eat, and what you cultivate to smell.

*There are thought-camps around whether pratyahara is something that can be practiced, or if it just occurs when the conditions are right, like sleep. Whether the tips presented can be thought of as practices or setting up conditions is not the focus of this article.