For the first time, Lama Christie McNally has agreed to answer a few questions regarding her extraordinary life and her new book The Tibetan Book of Meditation. Each week we will be sharing her answers to some very direct questions.
6) Isn’t meditation just about clearing your mind and watching your breath?
Clearing your mind and watching the breath is the first step you should take in any meditation. This brings the mind out of its busy-world mentality, and into a calm, neutral state. But just getting your mind calm is not the goal of meditation. That is merely a platform, a jumping-off point. The real goal of meditation is to transform your mind completely, which you cannot do simply by watching the breath. You must teach your mind about the true nature of things, and you must teach your heart how to love. And the Tibetans have very wonderful and specific meditations to help us reach both those goals.
7) Tell us about your yoga practice: how does it relate to the practice of meditation?
I love yoga; at this point, I can’t imagine what life would be like without it. We do yoga every single day, just after our meditation, for at least an hour and a half. This can be quite a challenge while traveling, but you can see us pulling out our yoga mats in various airports all over the world. I am getting used to the stares!
There is a practice of yoga in Tibet, and it is quite similar to that found in the Indian lineages. In the Tibetan tradition, yoga asanas were regarded as extremely high secret practices, and were not given to a student until they had been studying for something like 15 years. This is because, to the Tibetans, the asana practice is not simply a physical exercise, but a very deep method of affecting our inner body—the inner winds and channels. And it is through these subtle inner winds that we can so deeply affect our mind. For, where the winds go, so the thoughts follow, and vice versa. So we say that yoga is the outer method of taming the mind, while meditation is the inner. Both are necessary. When you are doing your yoga practice right, it should be very much like a moving meditation, like a meditation dance, where you are deeply absorbed in your object of focus as you move through a flow of poses.