×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga
     

Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga

4.6 29
by Katrina Kenison, Rolf Gates
 

See All Formats & Editions

365 meditations included in this book offer a way to integrate the mindfulness that yoga teaches into everyday life. As more and more people in the West pursue yoga in its various forms, whether at traditional centers, in the high-powered atmosphere of sports clubs, or on their own, they begin to realize that far from being just another exercise routine, yoga is a

Overview

365 meditations included in this book offer a way to integrate the mindfulness that yoga teaches into everyday life. As more and more people in the West pursue yoga in its various forms, whether at traditional centers, in the high-powered atmosphere of sports clubs, or on their own, they begin to realize that far from being just another exercise routine, yoga is a discipline of the body and the mind. Whether used in the morning to set the tone for the day, during yoga exercise itself, or at the end of the day, during evening reflection, the daily reflections in Meditations from the Mat will support and enhance anyone’s yoga journey.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Utterly different. . . . This is a wonderful (and inexpensive) book for people who are unhappy in their lives and are looking for a healthy way to find peace and a sense of coming home, day by day.” —USA Today

“More than just cultivating more vibrant health, yoga is an evolutionary journey. This book reflects the deepening and expansive effect of a dedicated yoga practice.” —Sifhar Jonathan Foust, President, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

“Rolf Gates is an inspiring teacher who has written an inspiring book. A must for yoga teachers and students alike, Meditations from the Mat brings yoga theory into the 21st century and into our daily lives.” —Baron Baptiste, author of Journey Into Power

“In this free-spirited journey to the heart of yoga, Rolf guides us, through daily meditations, to finding the appropriate balance between standing firm and surrendering to flow — the key to peace of mind.” —Beryl Bender Birch, author of Power Yoga and Beyond Power Yoga

USA Today
Utterly different. . . . This is a wonderful (and inexpensive) book for people who are unhappy in their lives and are looking for a healthy way to find peace and a sense of coming home, day by day.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385721547
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/03/2002
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
28,123
Product dimensions:
7.32(w) x 7.46(h) x 0.92(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

PART ONE

THE YAMAS

The Beginning

DAY 1

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.
—Sir Francis Bacon

As we move into the twenty-first century, yoga seems to be the West's new remedy. Yet this remedy is in fact over five thousand years old—far older than Islam, even older than Christianity. Today, in yoga studios throughout the West, Sanskrit, one of the oldest written languages, is used as contemporary classroom jargon. So we might ask, Why yoga? And why now?

I believe our hunger for yoga, and our eagerness to embrace yoga as a spiritual practice, are a testament to our growth and our desire for change. In the aftermath of the bloodbath that was the twentieth century, and in the presence of threats posed by more recent events, there is a pressing need for what Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman describes as a "cold revolution." We need a new paradigm, one that will replace our present attachment to imbalance. Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all living creatures; it is our home.

The flow of this book follows the course of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Written between 500 and 200 b.c., the Sutras codified a spiritual path that was already many centuries old at the time the Sutras were actually written down. Patanjali provides 196 succinct lessons on the nature of the human condition, human potential, and how that potential can be realized. Comprehensive, systematic, and remarkably precise, the Yoga Sutras organize the essence of all spiritual practices into a basic plan for living. You will find nothing in this ancient text that contradicts the precepts of any religion. Instead you will find a step-by-step guide to right living, a guide that complements the goals of any spiritual tradition.

A spiritual practice is one that brings us full circle—not to a new self but, rather, back to the essence of our true selves. Yoga is the practice of celebrating what is. At the end of the hero's journey, he finds that he did not need to go anywhere, that all he sought was inside him all along. Dorothy, having traveled across time and space to the land of Oz, and having struggled desperately to find her way back to Kansas, discovers that she could have gone home at any time. In the end, she learns that her adventures have simply brought her to the point where she can believe this. It is the aim of all spiritual seeking to bring us home, home to the understanding that we already have everything we need.

We are far now from home, and weary from our travels. The sun is setting and there is no destination in sight. Yoga is a lamp lit in the window of our home, dimly glimpsed across the spiritual wilderness in which we wander. At a time when we could not feel further from our home, yoga reminds us that we are already there, that we need simply awaken from our dream of separation, our dream of imperfection. Allow this book to awaken you, to be a light that shines in the darkness, guiding you through your days, pointing you home.

DAY 2

Burning zeal in practice, self-study and study of scriptures, and surrender to God are the acts of yoga.
—B. K. S. Iyengar

The Yoga Sutras outline a plan for living that flows from action to knowledge to liberation. This plan, or path, has eight limbs, which work more like spokes on a wheel than like steps on a ladder. The first four limbs are the limbs of tapas, or spirituality in action. Included here are the yamas and the niyamas, or the five moral restraints and five observances of yoga. The yamas and niyamas are akin to the Ten Commandments and are the true foundation of the yoga student's life.

The next two limbs of tapas are asana and pranayama, the postures and yogic breathing. The yamas and niyamas, asana, and pranayama all combine to form our path of action as we deepen our practice. They are actions taken or not taken with our bodies.

The yamas and niyamas bring us into right relationship with ourselves, others, and the spirit of the universe. The asana refine our bodies, deepen our awareness of the senses, and enhance our powers of concentration. In pranayama we develop control over the flow of our breath, thereby entering into a dance with our life energy. These four practices refresh the body, refine the mind, and bring peace to the heart, allowing us to meet the pressures of life with equanimity.

The next two limbs of the eight-limb path are called svadhyaya, or self-study. They are pratyahara and dharana. Pratyahara literally means turning inward—the mind withdraws from the senses of perception. In the stillness of pratyahara, dharana—or concentration—can be developed. The light of our awareness can begin to shine on our soul. The deepest form of connectedness is now possible.

Dhyana and samadhi form the final spokes of the wheel and comprise the limbs of isvara, the final frontier—the surrender of the individual self to the universal self. Dhyana is meditation, and samadhi is union with the object of meditation—the state in which meditation is no longer necessary, in which we reexperience our primal oneness, we come home.

The eight limbs are a map, but in yoga as in life, the journey is more important than the destination. In Alcoholics Anonymous they say that "we must be willing to grow along spiritual lines." And that is really all that is necessary as we undertake a yoga practice. We must simply remain open to our own spiritual potential and be willing to take action on our own behalf. As the days go by, we will examine each aspect of the eight-limb path in turn. Together we will experience the great adventure, the only adventure, the journey from darkness into light.

DAY 3

Everything all the time . . .
—The Eagles

At first glance, the eight-limb path appears to lend itself to a linear approach. It would seem to make sense: you do the first limb, then you proceed to the second, and so on. In fact, we take up all the limbs together. As the line in the Eagles song goes, we do everything all the time. It's not possible to practice the first two limbs, the yamas and the niyamas, without the support of the practices outlined by the other limbs. As we practice asana and pranayama, the postures and breath work that comprise the third and fourth limbs, we refine our relationship to our body, creating the necessary circumstances for brahmacarya, or moderation, the fourth yama. To practice living in the truth, or satya, the second yama, we must have a mind that has let go of the habit of distraction and developed the habit of concentration. Concentration is deliberately cultivated in dharana, the sixth limb. We must actually do everything all the time.

Our yoga practice makes this possible. Each time we come to the mat, we have an opportunity to work the entire path, moment by moment. As we move through the postures we are constantly enacting each aspect of the path. Our bodies, our breath, our minds, and our choices are being refined in the laboratory that is our yoga mat. As this symphony becomes established on our mats, it becomes established in our lives as well. Driving to work, mailing a letter, meeting a friend for lunch all become part of the uninterrupted flow of our yoga practice. We are doing our yoga all the time.

DAY 4

We are the ones we've been waiting for.
—Hopi elder

Now that you have a sense of how the book will flow, go with it. The Yoga Sutras will set the course as, in our travels, we explore each tributary of the eight-limb path. The daily readings that follow are an invitation to get into the canoe of your practice and flow down the river of yoga. You may go deep, into uncharted waters; you will surely encounter challenges and delights along the way. But first you must get into that canoe and let go. In class I say, Let your practice be a refuge from the need to control. And I suggest the same to you: get out of the driver's seat for a while and enjoy the scenery. Let the river of yoga take you where it will. If you hit whitewater, stay in the canoe and keep paddling. When you enter calm pools, do the same.

At a Native American gathering in Arizona for the 1999 summer solstice, a Hopi elder said: "There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves; banish the word 'struggle' from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for."

Now, go to your mat and push off from the shore.

DAY 5

When transgressions hinder, the weight of the imagination should be thrown on the other side.
—Yoga Sutras

In a reflection of the pragmatism that is at the core of all yoga teachings, Patanjali takes a moment, before he begins to outline the necessary restraints of yoga, to tell us what to do if we get into trouble along the way. Whenever we find ourselves ensnared in negative behavior, he suggests, we should increase the amount of time, thought, and energy we direct toward positive behavior. This simple, elegant notion is articulated by Marianne Williamson in her spiritual guidebook A Return to Love. "If you want to end darkness," she writes, "you cannot beat it with a baseball bat, you have to turn on a light." We do not need to enter a showdown with our self-destructive behavior, nor can we deny its existence. We must simply come to know it, and move on. We learn to focus wholeheartedly on positive behavior.

Reading Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, I came to understand that my own "What's in it for me?" attitude—however subtle or well disguised—was blocking me professionally. Chopra suggests that one of the simplest ways to access grace in any situation is to ask, "How can I be helpful?" Once I saw that my typical M.O. is to ask, "What's in it for me?" I did not enter into a protracted struggle to obliterate the question from my psyche. Instead, I simply embarked on the magnificent journey that begins with the question "How can I be helpful?" As soon as I began to direct my energy and attention to a new question, the old one fell away. The Yoga Sutras suggest that we deliberately turn away from the choice for death and embrace the choice for life.

DAY 6

If you do what you did, you get what you got.
—Anonymous

The Yoga Sutras lay out two aspects of spiritual practice: abhyasa, practice, and vairagya, nonattachment or renunciation. Over two thousand years later, the notions of practice and renunciation are reflected in the twelve-step adage "If you do what you did, you get what you got." Renunciation on its own has no staying power. You can renounce bananas all you like, but if you continue to live in your banana home on your banana street, if you keep your job at the banana warehouse and hang out with your banana-gobbling friends, you'll be eating bananas before you know it. Practice is doing the work. It is following up your intention with action.

Many of us attend a few yoga classes and find that we like the glimpse of another way of life that yoga offers. We are delighted by the way we feel after class and we are pleasantly surprised as certain behaviors start to fall away. Perhaps we no longer need coffee in the morning; or staying out late at night becomes less attractive; or we find ourselves calmer and more compassionate. Suddenly we're convinced that we've hit upon a painless way to solve all our problems. Sadly, this is not the case. Practice is not a substitute for the difficult work of renunciation. The postures and breath work that you do in a typical yoga class will change your life. These practices—asana and pranayama—suffuse us with the energy we need to take on the hard choices and to endure the inevitable highs and lows. What yoga practice will not do, however, is take the place of the hard lessons each of us has to learn in order to mature spiritually. Renunciation is the acid test; it is walking the walk.

A number of my students come to yoga with issues concerning food and body image. Some binge, some starve, some purge; some do all of the above; some just obsess to the point that it blocks their personal growth. In each case there needs to be an ending and a new beginning. The old behavior must be faced and renounced. Yoga practice is not a substitute for that all-important process, but it does support us as we make a commitment to change. Once we take the first step of renunciation, our practice nourishes and sustains us as we are reborn. Practice without renunciation is avoidance. Renunciation without practice is not long-lived. Together, practice and renunciation make all our dreams possible.

DAY 7

Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, "Grow, grow."
—The Talmud

Many of us have spent years trying to ameliorate the world's suffering without first confronting our own. The belief that it is possible to heal the world without healing ourselves first is what the Yoga Sutras call a lack of true knowledge. The truth is, when we are happy we spread happiness, and when we are in pain we spread suffering. If our aim is to alleviate the world's suffering, we must begin with our own minds and bodies. We must do yoga. Each action taken in compliance with the eight-limb path brings with it an increase in our own peace and happiness—and our happiness is welcomed by the universe. We do not need to fear the steps we are about to take. In fact, we will experience each right action, no matter how small or insignificant, as a pleasure and a relief. With each step we take toward the light, the universe rejoices. When we let go of our suffering, we participate in the salvation of all living beings.

What People are Saying About This

Baron Baptiste
olf Gates is an inspiring teacher who has written an inspiring book. A must for yoga teachers and students alike, Meditations from the Mat brings yoga theory into the 21st century and into our daily lives.
— author of Journey Into Power
Foust, Sifhar
More than just cultivating more vibrant health, yoga is an evolutionary journey. This book reflects the deepening and expansive effect of a dedicated yoga practice.
— President, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
Beryl Bender Birch
In this free-spirited journey to the heart of yoga, Rolf guides us, through daily meditations, to finding the appropriate balance between standing firm and surrendering to flow -- the key to peace of mind.
— author of Power Yoga and Beyond Power Yoga

Meet the Author

Rolf Gates, author of two acclaimed books on yogic philosophy, Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga and Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness, and Compassion, conducts yoga workshops, retreats, teacher trainings, and coaching and mentorship programs throughout the U.S. and abroad—and online. Rolf and his work have been featured in numerous media, including Yoga Journal, ORGINS, Natural Health, People Magazine, and Travel and Leisure’s 25 Top Yoga Studios in the World. Rolf is the co-founder of the Yoga, Meditation and Recovery Conference at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts and a teacher at Spirit Rock Insight Meditation Center in Northern California.  He is also on the Advisory Board for the Yoga Service Council and the Veterans Yoga Project.  A former addictions counselor and U.S. Army Airborne Ranger who has practiced meditation for over twenty-five years, Rolf brings his eclectic background to his practice and his teachings.  Rolf and his wife, Mariam Gates, author of Good Night Yoga: A Pose by Pose Bedtime Story, live in Santa Cruz, California with their two children.

Katrina Kenison has been the annual editor of The Best American Short Stories since 1990. In 1999 she was coeditor, with John Updike, of the national best-seller The Best American Short Stories of the Century. She coedited the anthology Mothers: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood and is the author of Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry. Her essays and articles have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, where she has been a contributing editor, and in Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, and Family Life. Kenison lives outside Boston with her husband, Steven Lewers and their two sons. She began practicing yoga with Rolf Gates in 2000.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This very square book is awesome. I think the most valuable information I take from it is the practice of taking my yoga practice out into my daily life. I am humbled by the process and the author's make real world connections for me to relate to. If I had this as an eBook, I would carry it with me-I may repurchase soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read this book and you will begin to understand why yoga is steadily sweeping across America. In simple inspiring prose, Gates has created a treasure trove of spiritual gems designed to daily lead us down Patanjali's 8-limb path of yoga. If you've every been confused or overwhelmed by the Yoga Sutras or even if you've never heard of a yoga sutra, this book will make you nod and say the big A-Ha! Rolf's own story, interwoven into these essays,is frought with pitfalls and struggle. Through his journey we see the promise of faith, the strength of the human spirit, the power of love. And we can know these truths as our own. Simply put, this book will make you feel good. You have the opportunity here to see beyond the poses on your mat to the stances you take in your life. Gates challenges us to wake up and live our lives fully without excuses, fear, or denial. In essence we are asked to meet ourselves head on and deal with what we come smack up against. It's not always pretty but it's all there truly is. Today I'm reading the essay for Day 33 (out of 365) and already I'm seeing my practice in a new light, my life's work open to new possibilities. Gates shows us that going down this path of self-discovery can be lonesome and bitter but when you get those glimpses of light on the other side, the journey becomes a blessed ride driven by grace. "All you need is the willingness to make a beginning, to turn yoga from theory into action." So wake up. Read Day 1. Then wake up tomorrow and read Day 2. Do this for a year and I guarantee you will enrich your soul and come to "experience a visceral sense of belonging in a universe held together by love."
Fl_Ironman More than 1 year ago
I am enjoying the daily journey through this book. I helps provide inspiration during my daily meditation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for myself and after reading part one, I bought 6 more as gifts. This book is truly a gift to anyone who reads it. Make it a part of your day ...everyday. It is for yogis and non-yogis alike. Words of inspiration, strength, courage and hope for everyone who reads it. Gates uses quotations from Albert Einstein to U2 to Marianne Williamson then through his own words expands on their meanings. It's so hard to stop after one "reflection", but I've found that if I read the same reflection a few times throughout the day, I end up integrating the thoughts/actions into my daily life. Give this gift to yourself and anyone else who is searching for more meaning in their life.
DHCLP More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVE this book. I use it everyday as part of my devotional practice prior to meditation and yoga. I have learned so much about the limbs of yoga as well as enjoying the valuable insight to apply yoga to daily living. I received my copy as a Christmas gift and have since purchased two copies as gifts for friends. I know I'll purchase a couple more as gifts in the next couple of months. I want to share it with everyone. This is truly a valuable tool for daily life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is my introduction to musings about yoga. I bought it as an experiment and wasn't sure what I'd think of it. I started attending yoga classes to rehabilitate an injured knee, but the more I practiced, the more I wanted to know about yoga philosophy. This book has been perfect for me. Witness the fact that it sits beside my bed and I read from it almost every night. The book is structured to provide a thought for each day. Each entry starts with a quotation from a range of sources such as Bhagavad Gita, the Psalms, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kahil Gibran, and every day yoga students. Gates then provides a commentary on the quotation which links it to our lives. The most compelling recommendation for this book is that not only do I value it, but a friend who has been involved with yoga for over thirty years decided he wants a copy also after borrowing my copy for a while.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I began yoga with no knowledge or idea why. I found this book at my local yoga studio and later found my instructer reading it herself. This was a very down time in my life, it somehow eased it all. I thank you, Mr. Gates, with all of my Heart! Be Well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago