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©2010 American Health, Inc. la ioasAHngi the center of your head, or tingles on your skin. You might have a feeling of expansion in the heart. Colors might appear, or visions of faces or landscapes.

These shifts are invitations to move to a more inward level, to ride the shifting energy into a deeper, more expanded inner state. When such a shift happens, see if you can just go with it and catch the meditation current, the natural energy that will take you beyond technique and into the meditative state itself. This is when your meditation stops being routine and begins to become a creative and challenging form of inner exploration.

THE ART OF BALANCE Along with your core practice, take time once or twice a week to try something different, to bring balance to your regular practice. This could be the time to explore one of those juicy practices you learned at a retreat—to sample something from the spiritual smorgasbord. Experimenting with a different practice can help you develop those parts of your being that remain unexplored or underdeveloped in your regular practice.

We know we need balance in our outer life —some sort of equilibrium between work and recreation, or social time and alone time. We don't always realize that we need balance in our inner life as well. Any core practice you do will open and expand certain aspects and qualities of your inner being but may leave others totally unexplored. If in your basic practice you're strengthening your focus, try spending time just sitting in a relaxed way, not trying to focus your attention, yet maintaining your posture and intention to meditate. If you've been doing a self-inquiry practice, or opening the third-eye center, yet noticing that your heart feels dry or closed, you'll want to find time to experiment with a heart-based practice like mantra. But if you're doing a heart-based practice that unleashes emotions or subtly invites you to associate successful practice with feeling good all the time, you'd benefit from spending time each week with a detachment-inducing witness practice —perhaps sitting nonjudgmentally with whatever arises, being the one who observes it all.

STAYING THE COURSE Sometimes you'll experience periods of great depth and excitement in your meditation practice, and at other times it will feel dry and boring, or like a struggle with thoughts. There will be weeks of peace, and weeks when sitting for meditation brings up emotions like grief, anger, and

When you sit to meditate, you are inviting an intimate encounter with your own mind and heart.

fear. Be willing to sit through boredom and resistance, and recognize that meditation is a journey that will take you through different emotional layers. This is part of the purifying effect of meditation —a process that is sometimes called "sams-karic burn-off," during which your buried tendencies come up to be released. Let them move through you without hanging on to them or trying to push them away. Layers of "stuff" are being removed from your system!

The people who get the most from meditation are the ones who welcome it in all its seasons, realizing that when you sit to meditate, you are inviting both an intimate encounter with your own mind and heart, and a deep opening to the universe itself. The field of a meditator's exploration is her own inner being. Yet the great surprise that awaits you in that journey is the recognition that by knowing your unique inner Self, you ultimately know the wholeness, the vastness, of the universal Self. Everyone knows that the drop is contained in the ocean, wrote the poet Kabir, but few know that the ocean is contained in the drop. Keep meditating, and you will. 4-

Sally Kempton is an internationally recognized teacher of meditation and yoga philosophy and the author of The Heart of Meditation. Visit her at sallvkempton.com.

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