Even when we’re practicing meditation, we’re still doing something, and Spanda techniques help us get to the point where we stop doing anything at all, and just rest in this state of expanding consciousness.” – Caroline Hendry
Caroline Hendry teaches Spanda Meditation, an intensely relaxing meditation practice. In this video Adiba ask hers about the nature of Spanda Meditation, how meditation is different from relaxation, and how one can go about choosing which type of meditation to learn.
Tell us, what is Spanda meditation?
Spanda is a Sanskrit word meaning “vibration”. It comes from a monastic philosophy called Kashmir Shaivism and in this philosophy they describe consciousness as having a universal pulse. So the whole of the universe is conscious energy and all form in that universe is a manifestation of consciousness.
The Spanda approach to meditation is to expand consciousness, and we do this by becoming very still and feeling into this pulse.
It’s not easy to be still, so we need to learn to slow down, to learn more about ourselves, and how we think and act. When we’re able to create that space in our experience, then we gain in awareness.
Different types of meditation may be said develop different mental skills. Which mental skill would you say Spanda meditation develops?
There are different types of Spanda meditation techniques and they all provide us with different way to arrive at this state of expansion that we can reach beyond the technique. These different techniques have different purposes.
For instance we have a grounding technique where we draw our energy in and then release it. There’s another one where we draw the energy in and hold it there. There’s also a technique that helps us to balance between awareness and attention, changing our perspectives.
The benefits of working with these techniques are very similar to the benefits of working with all meditation – to help us moderate our mood, feel less anxiety, get more clarity.
We work with the techniques up to the point where we can let them go, until in effect, we are doing nothing at all. Even when we’re practicing meditation, we’re still doing something, and these Spanda techniques help us get to the point where we stop doing anything at all, and just rest in this state of expanding consciousness.
Would you say that’s the aim of all meditation…to expand consciousness?
Yes definitely. But as you said, diff meditations may be said to have different goals. For example if you want to build more empathy then working with a compassion-based mediation makes a lot of sense. If you are worried about the past and future and want to feel more anchored in the present, then a mindfulness meditation would help.
In effect, they are all coming from the same wisdom. I do believe this wisdom existed before any frameworks and any structures wrapped around them. I think we, humans, worked this stuff out a long time ago, and we have since filtered this information in different ways so that it’s relevant for different people and contexts. That’s the nature of meditation today.
I think people can always find the type of meditation that speaks directly to them, as though they were receiving that information from the ancient mystics who first came upon this wisdom and knew it was something important to share and pass down.
Your meditation classes are intensely relaxing. Some guests come into our studio and just want to relax. But meditation and relaxation are different. How do you think Spanda meditation is different from a relaxing exercise?
All meditation can be very relaxing. Becoming still in the mind and body is a wonderful feeling. Mediation brings that stillness into our lives. But the difference with other purely relaxing activities is that meditation is about working with the mind. It’s a mental exercise. So whilst it can share some of the same characteristics as other relaxing activities – for example swimming or running, where there’s repetitive action, or playing music where we have focussed attention, or even daydreaming, where you have this lovely sense of doing nothing. But they differ from meditation in that they are not working directly to explore the mind.
The Spanda meditations I teach are about taking us to the edge of expanding consciousness, and that is a very relaxing place to be.
But certainly they are different for instance from a sound bath, where you can just completely just give yourself over to the experience, you can let go of any effort completely. There still is, in Spanda meditation, a degree of effort required when focussing on the technique before we let go.
How should someone new to meditation choose which type of meditation to learn?
Meditation is such a personal thing, what resonates with one person may not with another. My recommendation is to explore some of the options that are available to see what feels right.
Generally people come to meditation because they have some underlying dissatisfaction with life. They can either have something acute going on, or it might just be a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction. So any type of meditation will help.
You may find, after meditating for a period of time in a particular style that you lose your connection to it, and it’s important at that time to look at ways to boost your current practice by adding new elements – maybe from the same tradition, or maybe from others. And if that doesn’t work, then be open to experimenting, because meditation is about having an open mind.
Once the seed is planted, once the interest in meditating and learning about the mind is there, if you’ve done enough practical work to embed that interest, I think the practice will carry on for you in some form or another. And there’s plenty out there to help you along that process.
Thank you Caroline! You can find out more about Caroline’s work on meditation here: https://www.airn.es/