There are many ways to bring meditation into our lives. Take time to find what works for you.
What a wonderful time of the year it is! Springtime is here, and we’ve had the privilege of watching a cardinal build a nest, lay three eggs, and now the babies have hatched. My husband and I can’t get a really good glimpse of them, as we are trying to respect the space around the nest, but every so often we poke our heads out onto our balcony and tiptoe to the edge for a quick glance at the smallest, ugliest, cutest little chicks we’ve ever seen! Amazing to me that these little creatures can survive at all, and how the two cardinals tend to them, feed them and keep them warm. Sometimes it is the simple things that mean the most—those moments that bring us out of our heads, our to-do lists, out of the past and future, and into the present moment.
Speaking of “present moment” awareness, I’ve recently started meditating in earnest. As a yoga teacher, it’s hard to admit that I’m not already an experienced meditator. Trust me, I have tried many, many times to start and maintain a meditation practice, and I have failed or given up just as many times. I had all the excuses: I don’t “sit” well, I have a monkey (puppy) mind, I don’t have time, it’s too hard, it doesn’t feel good, etc. I would sit and squirm and think and think some more, determine that I wasn’t meant for it, and stop. I reasoned to myself that I was a moving meditator. While out gardening or teaching, I could slow the endless flow of thought a lot easier. But not by just sitting—there was way too much going on in my noggin for that!
And then I took a workshop. It was not on meditation. It was on imbalances in the body. The instructor started the class by saying we would begin with a 15-minute meditation (combined with breath work). I instantly internally groaned, “NO!” My mind screamed, “not 15 whole minutes!” Talk about priming myself! But I did what he said, which was something like this: “Get into any comfortable position: standing, sitting, lying down. Relax your body but try to maintain alignment in your spine. Start a basic breathing technique to help focus your mind—like this: breathe in to the count of 4, hold for 4, then exhale to the count of 8. He said if that was too much, start with 3, 3, and 6.” With these instructions, I began what I thought would be dreadful. Inhale 2, 3, 4; hold 2, 3, 4; exhale 2, 3, 4, 5…I’m hungry…shoot, I’m thinking…inhale 2, 3, 4…and so on. But here was the cool thing. By focusing on the breath (pranayama), releasing judgment and cultivating a little compassion, I was able to continually come back to the breath (and the count). When the instructor rang the ending bell, my first thought was “Holy crap, that was 15 minutes!” It seemed shorter to me. And in that very moment, something switched in my stubborn ego brain and I realized that what we had just done wasn’t that hard. It wasn’t torture! In fact, it was rather pleasant. Now, to understand the magnitude of this revelation, you have to understand that I have in the past truly STRUGGLED with meditation, and I’ve struggled with the thought that I could be a yoga teacher and not be meditating at some level, and all the identity conflicts that this created in my poor little head…“If I am this, I should be doing that…” Ah, there is the “should” word! And it just seemed that this little turn of the switch took away the struggle part. I realized that it is what it is. It’s not too hard, it’s not particularly easy, but it is totally doable! The instructor said this too, “Instead of thinking you have to let it go, just let it be.” Just let it be. Be in this moment, whatever this moment brings.
David M. Bader said: “Be here now, be somewhere else later. Is that so complicated?”
That workshop was two months ago, and I’ve meditated at some level almost every day. I started with five minutes a day and am now up to 15 minutes a day (sometimes twice). I have let go of many of the expectations and “shoulds” regarding this blossoming practice. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not, and that has become okay with me. If I can stay present to what is, I’m less unhappy thinking about what should be different. Does that make sense?
Nick Askew (Soul Biographies) wrote a beautiful little poem about wanting things to be different:
SAID TRUTH TO A DENIER
Said truth to a denier.
You appear to spend
a great many of
your waking hours
wanting the world
to be different.
For you to be
For me to be
It must be exhausting.
As fighting so often is.’
We may not think of it as a fight, but imagine always wanting things to be different than they are. Imagine spending all of your time thinking that trees should be red instead of green, so that every time you look at a tree, you are unhappy or unsatisfied or unfulfilled. That is a struggle of epic proportions, taking up our energy and our life force. This “meditation thing” is helping me realize how much time I spend wanting things to be other than what they are. Lately, I’ve been trying to appreciate what is. I’ve been taking a lot more moments to observe, to look, to feel, to be in the space that I’m in right here and right now.
I recently read a book by Dan Harris called: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story. It is about his journey into meditation, and reading it helped me understand some of what I was going through.
There are many ways to bring meditation into our lives. Mindfulness, mantras, pauses in our day to just stop and “let be.” There was a wonderful story about a meditation teacher who tried desperately to get his mom to meditate, but she would have nothing to do with his suggestions. This went on for years. Then one day, he walked into his mother’s home and saw her sitting by the window, smoking a cigarette, and staring out into the world—so calm, so peaceful, so in the moment. And he realized that she was meditating in her own way and had been doing so all along.
Deepak Chopra said, “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there—buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”
I know it’s a bit early to tell if the meditation bug will stick, but I think this time it just might. I miss it when I don’t do it. I think about it; I look forward to it. I am confident that it has brought a little more peace into my life, a little less angst, a little more awareness of my habit patterns and endless thinking.
And if it can make me 10% happier, I’m all in.
May you continue to find your own way to a more peaceful, happy life.
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Herwork experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist.Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health andmovement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels throughawareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.