by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
Sequence Meditation by Marcus Antebi
Quotable moment -
I dedicated one hour of yoga practice to figuring out how to be a humble teacher and how to be a smart attentive student at the same time. Sometimes I have to flap my mouth And sometimes I have to listen. -Marcus Antebi
A person who is trying to take control over anxiety and emotions experienced from day to day has to realize something: Many of our problems happen because we don’t sequence the events of our lives in an orderly fashion. We’re so distracted that we don’t perceive all of the patterns; we can’t see the things that we do that exacerbate our anxieties.
Nothing taught me more about sequencing than Skydiving. I watched parachutes open over my head a couple of thousand times. I watched them open in videos a few thousand more times. I understood the mechanical operation of how a parachute goes from being packed away in a tiny backpack, being released into a turbulent wind stream, and inflating perfectly into an aerodynamic wing. I took that lesson for 15 years. And I wove that into other practices of my life, but I was still unconscious. I wasn’t paying enough attention because the things that I was doing were really fun, extreme, and adrenaline-pumping.
Then I was able to bring my concentration and focus to the sequence of a yoga practice. Forget about any of the four Indian cultures, forget about Sanskrit, forget about spiritual teachings. Those things are highly valuable and one day should be respected. They should be respected the way any great ancient teachings should be respected, especially the ones that help a person restore balance to the mind and body.
The sequence in the yoga classroom for me begins at home when I’m packing my bag with my yoga accoutrements. If I stay focused on the present moment then I won’t forget my towel, I won’t forget my mat, I won’t forget my shorts, and I won’t forget my water. I know all of the things that I’ll need for the next two or three hours. I know I’ll need my keys, my wallet, and my mobile phone. When I get to the car I need to remind myself that I need to stay focused for 15 minutes while driving.
I need to find a good parking spot. Then I need to collect my things, lock my car, walk across the street, come into the school, and greet people graciously. I need to have my temperature taken (while the Covid virus precautions are in place). I need to set up my mat, and I need to make sure that I am ready to practice.
The sequence in the class then begins. As the teacher comes into the classroom, I’m standing up straight on my mat and I’m ready to listen to the teacher’s instruction. I take a look at myself in the mirror and criticize myself for about two breath cycles, and then I cease the criticism.
I now need to get myself to be grateful, to be happy that I’m here practicing yoga. So many things could have prevented me from getting to the classroom, but I made it here and I’m grateful that I did. Now it’s time for me to practice.
During the postures I have many things that bring me back into the concentration and focus of the practice, which is exactly where I need to be. One is to direct my attention toward the teacher’s words, because she’s telling me that I’m here and making it clear exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
A good yoga practice doesn’t only teach the proper mechanics of movement. It teaches a person to find their concentration on the deepest breathing that they can do. and as proper posturing in the exercises as well. The breath can provide us with all the energy we need within reason. You probably cannot hold a posture for 48 hours on your breath alone unless you get some glucose into your system. You’d also need calories and rest in such a situation. But for the short duration that we hold these postures, proper breathing is essential.
When we lose our breath we should think about why that happened. Did we lose concentration? Did we think about something else? Did we become afraid? Did we start comparing or judging ourselves in the mirror? Did we start hating on something? Did we start thinking about our dinner? In any case, we lost the sequence.
The sequence entails being here in the moment; that is the true reality. You are here now; that is the one true reality to focus on. Everything else is a story. Every other story can be distracting.
By the time the class is over, my body feels great and I’m still in a sequence. I have to leave the classroom and I have to collect my things. I have to put my sweatpants back on and then I have to cross a busy, dangerous street.
Now I’m in my car and I feel some relief as I look at a full, beautiful sunset. I love the smell of these trees, and I want to be close to nature. I’m getting distracted again. I’m thinking about all these things but I’m not right here in my car right now turning on the engine and looking over my shoulder to see if cars are coming. It’s so difficult to stay in the moment and not drift.
The balance in life is to know when it’s important to be able to drift away from the moment to be able to plan things. In order for us to sequence things for the next day, we’ve got to plan a little bit. And we need to be in the present moment as we do this planning. We have to concentrate on whatever we’re doing in a given moment or time period. This includes planning: If we’re mentally focused on planning while we’re doing something else, then we’re likely to slip, bump our heads, or close car doors on our hands.
Yoga is just one great way to stay in the moment to practice observing the sequence. And there are many ways to accomplish that. For example, good carpenters sequence at a job site. They know how to arrange their tools, where to lay out their building materials, and where to begin a complex project. They know when to take a break; they know that if they overwork themselves their work quality will suffer. And good carpenters clean as they go in the same way that a chef does.
Hopefully you understand the point. In any activity you are engaged in, it’s very important that you sequence the steps. After you do that, then you can “be in the moment” as you participate in that activity. This is the case in meditation as well as in day-to-day undertakings. Whatever you do, you will do it better and with enhanced peace of mind and awareness if you sequence the steps of it.