Last week I was teaching a Flow 1 class and a woman who is new to yoga came up to talk to me after class. She saw a workshop on the board called “Hoops and Meditation”. She liked the idea of trying hula hoop movement but wasn’t sure if she could meditate. I smiled and asked her what she thought she was doing lately? Unaware she was practicing meditation the past few weeks, she was able to laugh and surprise herself.
The word meditation is a broad term, much like yoga, that has different techniques designed to promote relaxation, develop awareness, compassion, patience, generosity and forgiveness. While we may understand that there are many health benefits from meditating, it is doing it that we often stop short. We will try a new sport over observing our thoughts. If I call it “quiet time; self examination or introspection” many are inclined to give it a try.
Last year I had a mini-stroke and found myself using many different meditation tools to help me in the hospital and rehab. From MRI’s, blood-work, headaches, and even physical therapy where I was learning to walk again – I used different meditation tools. They aided me in the restoration, pain management and observing moments that will pass.
The practice of meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. There are many different styles, traditions and beliefs. Often many of us know it as the internal effort to self-regulate the mind. We may have had an expectation of how we would look, feel and then we quickly get disturbed and give up. But don’t. It is right there that I suggest it is normal; tell yourself there is nothing wrong with it. Stop trying so hard, finding excuses and start over. As you keep doing it over and over you’ll see change. Notice I didn’t say improvement though. We think of improvement as an upward scale. Instead of forcing the focus on improvement start to let that go. See it right now as it is.
Additionally I have seen those who have practiced one style of meditation for years come up after class and tell me that they just can’t do anything else. I smile as they too had an expectation that they allowed to stop them. They thought that their ‘true self’ stopped right there and couldn’t see any other way. This isn’t real though. Just as in nature, we are all changing. What works today will change tomorrow. There will be days where meditation can be easy or hard. Point is to notice it, smile and stop beating yourself up. One minute of meditation is better than tossing it aside and giving up.
There are many kinds of tools that can also be used in meditation. Prayer beads, sounds (mantra), mudras, concentration, sitting, standing, laying down, walking etc; these are various styles used with meditation. These tools are there to keep track, remind or draw the person back to the focus. So much more than sleep – you are witnessing the moment and thoughts. Sometimes before settling into a meditation you are talked thru a visualization; either of the physical body or a place/scene.
In the Yoga Sutras, meditation is one of the eight steps. I’m sensitive to various prejudices against the word though so I don’t call it meditation while teaching it. Instead I like to have the person do various styles and start to witness the moment; sometimes this is done with movement and sometimes being still. Not always knowing the trauma someone may have had I like to offer various tools that may make them feel more comfortable; Eyes open or shut for example. Eyes open may seem unusual but for many just starting, it allows them to focus less on the physical body which they may need to concentrate. For those who have had a trauma shutting the eyes may be a scary place. I find open eyed meditation is a great tool that allows that person to heal themselves. Not touching or adjusting them during this process.
The perception for someone who wants to start a meditation practice is that they will wait to start – waiting till they have ‘learned it’; read up on it, get a video and learn it completely. Really the hardest part to meditation is doing it. You can’t give up on it. With practice you’ll start to witness each moment more, stop and pause. Nothing wrong with sitting in the car, bus or waiting room at doctors office and doing meditation. We all find excuses that stop us. “I’ll meditate when I have a quiet place.” Then we get there and find another excuse.
In June I head to Kripalu for my 500 hour teacher training (part 2 of 4) which is 9 days of Pranayama and Meditation. I can’t wait to spend time in this area as I find there are so many teacher trainings on asana and anatomy of the physical body. I’ll continue to share my yoga journey and what I learn as I go along. There have been some amazing responses from those that are following my blog from different parts of the world. Many who aren’t yogi’s yet they have a desire to improve their health.
I hope this helps and that you find a moment today to stop, find a point and sit still for a minute. Count your inhale and exhale. Start there, not worrying if you are doing it right. Instead ask yourself after – how do I feel? There is no right or wrong answer. It just is. Enjoy!