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Andy Elten
Soul Massage for Restless Movers

    The first 45 minutes went quite well. I squatted on a little meditation stool, knees on the mirror-like parquet, spine straight, shoulders hanging loosely, eyes closed, watching my breath. I am at a Buddhist retreat – a mixture of monastery and a comfortable sports hotel, on the American East Coast. The meditation room has been decorated with golden ornaments and dark red silk wallpaper.
     We are about 50 people, followers of the Tibetan Shogyam Trungpe Rinpoche, and laymen, like me. A melodious gong sends solemn vibrations through the room. The second round: 45 minutes of sitting and 15 minutes walking in slow motion, step by step, around the room.
     I was highly motivated, I wanted to write an article about the enlightened Tibetan one. He arrived late, so I took part in the meditation. I thought, "Meditation can't do any harm," but it was a tough job.
     At the second round my spine became tense, legs numb, the joints hurting. Behind my sweating brow there was only one thought, "How many more minutes to go?"
     Finally, again the gong: the second round over. The slow-motion walk around the room was a blessing, inspite of the concentrated focussing asked for. It wasn't without effort.
     The third round: when it finished I almost fell off the meditation chair. I went on and on.
     Lunch: Miso soup; a few spoonfuls of rice and steamed vegetables. We received it from silent monks on bamboo trays, in front of our meditation chairs. We ate with "awareness." Deep silence. After 15 minutes the trays were collected.
     The gong: round four. In the seventh round I threw in the towel and I felt like a failure.

     At that time I didn't have the slightest notion about meditation. The reporter who was used to stepping beyond his own comfort zone thought meditation bizarre, to put it mildly. Who would have thought that only a few years later I would be meditating regularly? What, at that time in the West was a whim of a few individualists, has meanwhile become a trend. Meditation is in.
     Almost everywhere people meditate – in fitness centers, in intensive workshops for cancer and heart disease, in psychotherapy workshops, in management seminars, in rehabilitation centers for drug addicts, in Buddhist retreats, in Club Med in Bali, busdrivers in Stockholm, even in Catholic monasteries.
     But mostly meditation doesn't happen because meditation is total relaxation. You can't force meditation: it either happens or it doesn't. Whenever beginners try to practice old meditation techniques like Vipassana, often under extreme conditions, it turns into quite a battle.
     At my time at the Buddhist retreat I became acquainted with Vipassana Meditation. It was a bit as if an Australian aborigine from the bush was going to drive a Porsche. He never went faster than walking pace; he didn't know what 100 kph are; he put his foot down on the accelerator and got the fright of his life! Also meditation novices, stressed and always under pressure, suffering from a multitude of fears, can't sit still for hours with straight backs, on the floor; eyes closed, attention on the tip of the nose, watching the breath, being relaxed and going in.
     All these traditional meditation techniques like Vipassana, which come from the east to us, have been developed for people who don't exist anymore. No wonder that when we use these techniques we often become unmeditative, nervous and angry.
     Two thousand five hundred years ago we had no TV, no fax, no telephone, no traffic jams, no jet noise, no hectic lifestyle. People did not sit in cars or behind desks. Their bodies had to work hard. They could sit down, close their eyes and watch their breath. We can only do that if we are totally phlegmatic or if we prepare ourselves through using modern meditation techniques.
     For restless, civilized man, there is only one traditional technique as a starter: the so-called Whirling meditation of the Sufis, a mystic order of Islam. Whirling is what the dancing Dervishes do. They turn, faster and faster, to monotonous melodies, until thinking stops and only the turning remains, until they fall down.

     Two new meditation techniques prove a good way to start, and are practiced in more and more workshops and meditation courses – Dynamic Meditation and a shaking meditation, whose esoteric name is the Kundalini Meditation (it has nothing to do with Kundalini Yoga exercises). Both meditations are like the dance of the Dervish: active meditation.
     Dynamic Meditation is physically very intense and has a cathartic stage. Kundalini uses dance and is gentler.
     So why not simply jog or go dancing in a disco if movement is so important for meditation?
     Yes, jogging and dancing can be meditative, if they include the important component of "awareness": an alert, nonjudging, relaxed, self-reflecting state. Movement in conjunction with awareness: every sport can become a meditation: skiing, tennis, roller-skating, swimming.
     The Dynamic Meditation is, you could say, the lotus posture plus disco dancing plus awareness. You simply have to do it totally, not getting distracted by thoughts – being totally herenow.
     The Dynamic Meditation lasts one hour. It consists of five stages and each stage is accompanied by music. After each phase, the music changes. It is important to wear comfortable, loose clothing.

Dynamic and Kundalini Meditations
     These two meditations are ideal to counter stress because of the physical component. That is probably the attraction...at least for people living on the verge of their psychological limits. Relationships, career worries, money problems, time pressures, job insecurity, catastrophes, allergies, loneliness, fear and so on – the pressure grows.
     Everybody wants to release stress but just going to the gym is not enough. After a good workout you can sleep better, but the problem that creates the stress doesn't go away.
     Dynamic and Kundalini go one step further.
     If we have a good workout, we sweat, and the heart is pumping strongly, we are less identified with what is happening in our heads. Yes, a workout is similar to the active meditations, but in meditation we can try to move from the symptoms to the cause of the problem.
     The method is simple but it is not so easy! Continuing to watch our thoughts and feelings, suddenly there is a distance from them: we are not victims any more, we are watchers. There is a different perspective, and we see not only what is done to us, we also see how we ourselves create our troubles.
     If we can do this, that's a quantum leap in our consciousness. In a moment of meditative clarity you might see that the problem is not the problem, but your limited awareness. This dimension goes further than just reducing stress: it is a spiritual dimension.
     Only if the mind is quiet and we are in totally relaxation can meditation happen...and maybe the state the Buddhist calls satori or nirvana, the Hindu calls moksha and which Meister Eckhart experienced as "melting into god."

     The atomic physicist, Carl Friedrich von Weizacker, said in an interview with the German magazine Stern, that a "mystical experience in India" has been one of the most important experiences of his life. Everybody who experiences satori speaks of it in different words, but all talk of a merging with existence, with the universe or with god. In this state there is no longing or hope, no future, no past, no memories, no problems but only a blissful clarity.
     Almost everybody knows such moments: everything is suddenly so easy, everything flows. In tennis the hits are precise; the skier moves effortlessly. We expand above our small egos, with no limitations, no boundaries, no routine. Life is new and exists in every moment. There is no space for negativity, impotence or hopelessness.
     We are taking our destiny in our own hands.

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