I still vividly remember that controversial coconut stand, positioned at the center of a busy intersection in Mysore, India. My sanksrit teacher, Lakshmish, was terrified of me getting pulled into the gossiping, socializing, non-working world of the locals hanging out at the coconut stand. I had travelled to Mysore to practice at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute; a rite of passage for many yogis wishing to connect with the Guru; to directly experience the transmitting of his teachings and to immerse deeply into the yoga practice. Every morning, after my yoga practice and before Lakshmish started teaching me the sutras or lessons from the Bhagavad Gita, he would warn, “I want you to stay away from the coconut stand. Those people are not your friends.” I would tell him that I didn’t even like coconuts and I promised to not hang out with the coconut eating people. Then, he would remind me, “You are here as a spiritual seeker and to improve as a yoga teacher. You know the truth is simple. Work hard and focus. There were will be people at the coconut stand who will tell you they know a great meditation teacher for you, don’t believe it. You know how to meditate, it has been working for you. Stick with it. Keep it simple.”
The yogis who travelled to Mysore would practice ashtanga together for two hours at the shala in the morning from 4:30am-6:30am, then meet for breakfast to make the day’s plans. Everyday, we visited different meditation teachers. At the first visit, the various meditation teachers would offer their guidance for free. BUT. After the free meditation lesson was over (nothing ever struck me as different or profound in any of those ‘fancier’ meditations), they would then pull you aside and offer to teach a “secret” mantra that would be privy only to you, and this mantra would blow your mind. They would say, “come back tonight, I’ll give you your mantra. And oh yes, bring $1,000”. I saw an entire cross-section of students falling prey to this tactic. Yogis, famous movie stars, business moguls, highly regarded surgeons, and lawyers. They would return and spend hours of the day meditating with them, giving them tons of money. It didn’t feel legit to me. I think I would have gone back or been convinced — if I had seen changes in their behavior or if they were much more calmer and less agitated. No change. And often, after several sessions, they would quit the teacher because the method was too complicated and unsustainable.
Here’s the deal. I have been meditating for over a decade now, and I use a simple meditation practice. It was taught to me for free, it has only 3 steps and it works. It has carried me through the most stressful moments of my life. When things start to go craaazy, I stop, sit down and do this method. The accessibility of it makes the practice easy to incorporate in every day life. This method was taught to me by my teachers, David Life and Sharon Gannon; co-founders of Jivamukti Yoga. At the end of every Jivamukti class, we teach this meditation. Additionally, we offer a meditation class every day at the Jivamukti Yoga School in Manhattan — and we don’t have any hidden back end agenda. It is a free, simple meditation.
Take 5 minutes of your day, and practice these 3 steps:
- Choose your seat
- Be still
- Focus your precious faculty of attention on your breath. Observe your thoughts, remove any labels. Use this simple mantra with your breath: Inhale Let – Exhale Go
Training the mind is crucial if we want to refine and sharpen our attention. A focused mind will help develop emotional balance, inner peace, and wisdom. Ultimately, through this balance, we will cultivate dedication to the welfare of others. We develop these skills by training. Perseverance and enthusiasm.
On the last of my stay in Mysore, I went to say good bye to Lakshmish. He told me, “Truth is simple. Complicating things is an effective way of clouding the truth and hiding from a real experience. Don’t believe what people tell you because they say the are the expert teacher of spiritual studies — ask questions, and trust your instinct.”
Keep it simple. Meditation, life, your coffee order…simplicity is clarity. And save your hard earned $1,000.