Most days when I meditate, the experience is unremarkable. I sit in silence and allow my brain to defrag like a bogged down hard drive. A flurry of thoughts typically arises like a snowstorm and one by one the snowflakes … Continue reading
“‘I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next … Continue reading
Behind my brow, there’s a virtual manuscript that my mind starts to read and attach to when I’m “trying” to be still. Sometimes during those few minutes before sleep when I’m laying down with my eyes closed or when I’m sitting in silence to meditate, there’s a full editorial meeting involving checklists, drama, and fictitious scenarios at work that my mind plays out. It loves the activity, the intrigue, the thought movement. My brain can flip through the pages with vigor.
Sometimes the manuscript turns into a full fledged movie, and my brain gets sucked in like a kid in front of a television. Even as this is happening, I’m observing like a producer, and another voice sneaks in the back door and says, “hey we should be meditating here.”
Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with mind-made movies that inevitably result in anxiety, worry, fear, or guilt. As life is an ever evolving work in progress, I still experience this now and again. If I’m not careful to bring my awareness back to my breath, back to the moment, I can go down a “Watership Down” sized rabbit hole that leaves me exhausted with a headache. I have the subtle crease in my brow from years of furrowing to show for it.
What’s a yogini to do? Accept and surrender. Accept with open arms who you are, mental checklists and all, and listen. Surrender to the present moment without expectation or interpretation, and sit with the feelings that you’re experiencing. Without closing your eyes, scrunching your brow and trying to disappear and avoid the feelings and activity, be with it. Skip the Xanax, skip the escape and surrender.
If thoughts come in, imagine that they are clouds floating in and out of your mind independent of you. You are not your thoughts. You are not the manuscript.
- Your Charmed Yogi
Photo credit: Basket Case Stock
I always get a little excited and do a non-visible happy dance when a student, friend or peer asks me about meditation. I hear things like, “I know I should start meditating,” or “I don’t know how to meditate,” or “I tried meditating once and it doesn’t work for me,” all of which I’d experienced at some point in my life as well.
After I’d been practicing yoga asana for a few years, my perception naturally started to shift, and I knew I wanted to pursue more in this spiritual journey beyond physical poses. I began reading about the various types of meditation and what others had experienced.
I’d learned about guided meditation in which you’re listening to a CD or an instructor and you are walked through a type of visual experience in an effort to direct you toward your inner spaciousness and unconscious. Through visualization and imagination, you shift your active mind in a different direction. The issue with this type of meditation, for me, is that it’s still just another form of mind activity. Patanjali describes yoga as “the settling of mind into silence.” I remember thinking that I should be experiencing vivid visualizations and be transformed to a different plane of existence. But, I wasn’t going anywhere and that made me frustrated. I didn’t see any mystical creatures or fabulous lights, and I felt like a failure.
The funny thing — and I didn’t know this at the time — is that there is no goal, there is no “place go to.” In meditation, the only thing you need to do, is sit in silence.
I had dinner with a friend last night, and we were talking about how it’s not always easy to be disciplined in our meditation practice, thus the concept of discipline. She said something that really clicked. She said, “I just physically walk myself over to my meditation spot, and make myself sit down.” Genius. Whether or not you have a regular asana (yoga pose) and meditation practice, you know that even if you don’t feel like it, you always feel better after you’ve done it. It’s true. I’ve never felt worse after I’ve pushed myself to flow through my practice or meditate. Sure, I might have a cleansing cry or a flood of thoughts bombard my mind, but that’s the point of meditating — sitting still long enough for the purification to happen. Continue reading
In the first two posts of this series, I talked about the yamas or “laws of life” and the niyamas or “rules for living,” so now we come to pranayama and meditation, both of which flow through and are essential for the previous two limbs. When I was going through teacher training and we learned about each yama and niyama, I started to feel anxious thinking about all of the work I had to do to change myself. I had this mental checklist running through my head. As I began to examine the deeper meanings behind the yamas, such as violence which can be as subtle as thinking a harsh thought towards someone who is making your life difficult at work, I really started to panic.
When you really dissect all of the subtle ways we can be “in violation” of these universal moralities and personal observances, it can quickly become a challenge to stay present and not judge yourself. So, I read more and listened more and started to see that simply ‘noticing’ when I’m in a situation in which I have an opportunity to practice non-violence or moderation, my actions naturally began to shift. Add pranayama and meditation to the mix, and these qualities of living a yogic life begin to arise unconsciously; they become part of your DNA.
Imagine for a moment that you could do absolutely nothing and it would bring you peace. Now, stop imagining and realize it’s already within you. Deep silence and spaciousness reside within you. With that silence, comes stillness, and with stillness comes peace.
Patanjali says, “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.” But, yoga goes beyond the poses we flow through – sometimes disconnectedly – on our mat. When we are present in our physical practice, the mind begins to quiet. An inner stillness endeavors to take over. Don’t stop it.
There’s a beautiful quote by Eckhart Tolle that I try to remember when I feel myself becoming frantic and frantically living in the mind, “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.”
But, we can live that presence and find that stillness beyond the mat. Begin to regularly bring awareness to the silence between – the silence between yoga postures, between words in a conversation, between music notes, between raindrops, between breaths. Notice a wave of calm, if even for a brief moment, that comes over you when you experience the silence between. This is stillness coming into being.
When you witness the silence between, you witness the stillness within.
- Your Charmed Yogi