This morning during my morning meditation it occurred to me. I’m not sure how, why or when a download from somewhere comes into the mind, but it did. I watched as the idea unfolded before me.
I’ve been studying and practicing Vipassana Meditation since my first sit in India in 2006. The experience changed my life and blew my mind. I know during that 10 days I “let go” of many things, mostly around my father.
There were around 100 of us, half Western and the other half local Indians, sitting in meditation together every day, morning till night. This is where I first practiced Anapana. During the first three days of every 10 day silent retreat the students practice it. We were instructed to focus all of our attention on the flow of breath moving in and out of the nose. So for the first two and a half days I watched my thoughts brutally assault me. It was as if every negative thought I’ve ever had came crashing into my awareness. I cried a lot but continued to return to my cushion.
By day three my mind began to soften. I felt a palpable sensation of tingling getting stronger and stronger on my upper lip until it felt like lightning crashing there. I quietly wondered if this was what was supposed to happen and if I was the only one having this crazy experience. That evening the technique of Vipassana was introduced. The awareness that we developed through Anapana was now moved from place to place across the body, head to toe and back again. After a few more days of struggling and fighting with my mind I was in Bliss, or what we call in yoga, Ananda. So, that is where my journey began with Anapana.
I started turning my students onto it when I began teaching yoga again back in America. I begin each morning sit with about 5 minutes of Anapana to help develop my Dharana (concentration) before my 30 minutes or so of Vipassana. It is such a simple way to let go of the struggle we all experience when the mind is in charge and filled with judgement, criticism and angst. By focusing ones attention on the natural flow of breath we can step into our power and take the reigns of the mind back from the ego. Deepak Chopra says the word EGO stands for Edging God Out. I find it helpful to practice at the beginning of every Yoga class as a way to open ourselves up to the possibilities of the yoga practice, since there is no way of knowing what might happen each time we step onto our mats.
The next thing I realized during my mediation this morning was the importance of Mantra. The word Mantra means, a vehicle for the mind. By inserting a positive thought into the mind we “edge out” or override the negative thoughts. While listening to the words of Oprah Winfrey during one of the 21 day free meditations she often does with her friend, Deepak Chopra, she said that when she heard the words “You are not your thoughts”, for the first time it was a huge aha moment for her. I tell this story a lot in class to help others start to see that it is true. We are not our thoughts. But most people believe that they are. Most people think that there is no way they could ever control their own thinking let alone use their thoughts to manifest what they want in life. This is a hard one.
Finally the concept of witnessing floated in. To witness is to watch something happening outside the self. Ahhh. Maybe this was the key. Witnessing thoughts to create space between who we truly are and the thoughts which we are not. Deepak says this space between the thoughts, which develops during witnessing, is called the space of infinite possibilities. Now he does not teach mediation the way I am suggesting. His form of mediation is called, Primordial Meditation, and is Mantra based. a spin off of Transcendental Meditation.
I asked my self, my higher power, to suggest a name for this style of mediation, with all of its parts. I thought about the witnessing aspect and how I sometimes call the Anapana space below the nose a watchtower for all that occurs, whether in the mind, body or outside the self. And this is where Watchtower Meditation was born. I love it! Because if we can separate ourselves from the thoughts we can take control, eventually, of the thinking. And if we can take control of the thinking we can use the Law of Attraction to manifest a life of happiness, whatever that means to the individual.
Later in the day I Googled what the word for watch tower was in Sanskrit. I was hoping for a beautiful word that flowed off the tongue and sounds like angels flapping their white feathery wings. Atta came up. I love it! I went in reverse and misspelled Atta as Atha, and it came up as meaning NOW. Wow, the funny things that happen “by accident”. As if there are any. A longer definition follows: