Centering self, experiencing others

                Greetings, Sustainable Institutions readers!

                Last week, I wrote about how I was starting yoga practice. One move that is often incorporated into yoga practice is the anjali mudra. Personally, I like to incorporate this part of the routine before and after I begin seriously working on my other poses. The anjali mudra can also be incorporated into other poses as well.

            According to famed yoga instructor Shiva Rea, the anjali mudra is primarily concerned with finding one’s centered inner state (Rea, n.d., Of course, as Roth notes, the pose looks, to many Western eyes, like something associated with prayer (Roth, n.d., This move features the hands being held next to each other in a “straight up” position.

            Many times, when I perform this particular move, whether it be within the Sukhasanna (Easy) pose, the lotus position, or some other form, I sometimes imagine that I am bringing the world within, internalizing the world, and letting it out. In some ways, this may reflect a spiritual practice I utilize, the examen, which stems from the Jesuit order. The examen focuses on how we interact with people within our daily lives. Through the examen, an individual focuses on daily interactions, utilizing prayer and other spiritual ways to God to reflect on both individual desires and how one ought to respond to others (Martin, 2010).

            We may do well to practice such responses in our approach to the world. We each seem to have a physical, emotional, and spiritual center. We can utilize our practices to get in touch with that center, to check in with where the spirit and our bodies lead us. Through these practices, we learn more about ourselves and our responsibilities toward others. We can even break this down into smaller categories. How do we respond to others? Are there ways we can better help others through our time, our treasure, and our talents? Are we marshalling our resources in socially responsible ways? In reference to the individual, how do we respond to ourselves, not just our longings, but our needs? Are we really sure our “needs” are actually needs? Are we achieving all we can achieve? Can we be better to our bodies, our psyches, and spiritually? Are we getting enough (and appropriate kinds of sleep, food, relationships), or conversely are we getting too much sleep or food? Are our relationships strained? Are we getting too little or too much intellectual stimulation? Are we meeting our spiritual needs? How can we improve upon these things?

            Finding center takes us out of any unbalanced world and invites us to meditate on how our individual selves relate to the collective whole. Without such reflection, it is difficult to get a sense of ourselves. In many cases, it can be difficult to become either “lost” to choices made when one rebels against one’s spiritual, physical, or psychological center. Conversely, some of us may find that we may actually need to do more. We can utilize these insights in our individual (or even, if speaking about an organization, our collective) lives.

            One might “take in” the needs and concerns of the world through these practices. If doing this through the anjali mudra, especially in Sukshanna, you may find that breathing is helpful. In more Western forms of prayer/meditation, many find (being how these forms assume a divine presence) that asking for help in meditation is appropriate.

            As you take the world in, try to reflect. Be honest with yourself about your responses. Try to focus on your meditation as you do this.

            After the meditation is over, you might release the pose. While this isn’t necessarily a part of anjali mudra, one might be tempted to release one’s thoughts and actions out into the world. More Western forms of prayers might call this a response to meditation wherein active response becomes important. Some meditation forms, such as the examen, also call for an expression of thanks for insight that has been received.

            Utilizing these principles, one can release the tension of being off-center and come into a more centered presence. This presence, established within meditative reflection, may be used for better individual and collective response.

            Be at your best,

            Andrew Bennett


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