by Lizzie and Carl Emery, May 2018
Audio version here:
The meditations to which this is an introduction are by Keith ap Owen, President of the Sunbury Yoga Society. Keith has been practising Yoga meditation for some 50 years and we, the authors of this introduction, met him five years ago. To us, and no doubt to many others, he has become a guru, though he kindly but firmly rejects this description.
We are a married couple, Lizzie and Carl. Three months before we met Keith in 2012 we had celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. A couple of months later Lizzie had been diagnosed with what the doctors told her was a terminal disease. This is an experience which many people have to endure but the depth of one's anguish is not the less for that.
With loving-kindness, Keith showed us a way out of darkness and into the light: today, Lizzie is once again full of health and vigour. Here we give a glimpse of that 'way' whose following has helped us so much and which is manifested in Keith's meditations.
The Yoga which Keith practises in and through the meditations is a gentle discipline which relaxes the body and quietens the mind, leading to consciousness of oneself in the presence of consciousness itself.
One may or may not possess that "sense of the divine" which will lead one to characterise 'consciousness itself' as 'God'. But Keith's meditation is focused fundamentally upon the spiritual, not the material. That being the case, 'consciousness itself', from our human perspective, must be conceived of as conscious intelligent being or spirit which pre-exists the material universe and in some basic way underpins it.
The following may help to situate the listener at the beginning of each meditation, which is how the members of the Sunbury Yoga Society will have prepared themselves by the time you begin to listen in to their weekly session at the Riverside Arts Centre:
We choose our position, either lying or sitting, close our eyes and begin by concentrating on our abdominal breathing. Or rather, we 'watch our body being breathed'; under no circumstances should we attempt to control the breath, but simply observe it becoming effortless, slowing into a gentle, steady rhythm. Then we go through what is known as the Golden Triune, the aim of which is to unify all our energies into one point of consciousness – concentrating on the parts of the body which are in direct contact with the ground or on a chair, stool or cushion – feeling the whole of the outer surface of the skin – then the warm fluidity of the interior of our bodies. We visualise ourselves from outside our bodies and affirm: 'I am the observer and not the observed' – this is to try to feel ourselves in the context of the universe or, as some would say, to see ourselves through the eyes of God. If our attention wanders at any time, we gently direct it back to our breathing centred on the rhythmic movement of the abdomen. Anything significant arising within consciousness, we simply observe.
Here are a number of key features of Keith's approach which can be observed in all the meditations:
'Think, feel, will' – the Golden Triune, just mentioned: think of the body in contact with the ground or chair etc.; feel the body, from without and within; will to be the observers of what we think and feel. Keith uses this three-fold focus as a way of transcending the inertias of the mind into a freer state of consciousness which he seeks to achieve.
'Let go; let go; let go some more' is a mantra which Keith uses often and which many find to be a source of profound comfort and help in meditation.
'Doing the work'. Keith insists that he practises, not teaches, Yoga meditation. His Sunbury Yoga Society meditations are part of his practice which he shares with others.
'Simple but not easy' is another focus of Keith's approach. To achieve consciousness of oneself in the presence of consciousness itself, does not require great learning or great technical skills of any kind. But it requires a faithful and constant following of 'the way' of meditation which Keith offers to share.
The ad lib narratives you are about to hear are not the results of highly prepared talks, but are known as ‘speaking from the field’. Keith, along with a group of fellow meditators, enters into a meditative state and allows ‘the field’ to speak through him. Keith believes that the contents of the narratives are much influenced and contributed to by all those present. He also encourages his fellow meditators to adopt this technique within their own personal meditational practices.
The Golden Triune audio here:
Pipe Breathing audio here: