When I decided to enroll in the Awakened Life School of Yoga for my 200 Hr teaching certification this summer, I had no idea the drastic impact this school would have on my outlook towards life. Once I made the first deposit, I was sent pre-work for the course that consisted of six modules. There were several books to read, questions to answer, I even had to stand naked in front of a mirror and journal about what that was like for me. While all of the pre-work was truly interesting and inspiring, I think what I enjoyed most was starting a mediation practice. Prior to Bali, I had only meditated once and now, I can’t see my life functioning properly without it.
For those of you who have never tried meditation before, I highly recommend you give it a shot. In quoting one of my instructors from Bali, “Meditation- body & mind; same place, same time.” It really is that simple of a concept. Although much harder to execute, meditation is a practice; this means that it is something that you will forever be improving. Some days will be harder than others, some easier than others, but the idea is that you keep on practicing!
There are three elements of mediation:
1. Your seat
2. The object, which is your breath
3. How to work with the object, so when you notice yourself thinking, practice coming back
The first time I attempted mediation, I really had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I was going to try to clear my mind. What I didn’t understand though was that if and when a thought did pop up, it was okay. The practice is to acknowledge the thought and then to let it go, returning to your breath. Over time, this practice will allow you to recognize your thought patterns, analyze your fears and even calm you down. For me, that has been the most beneficial part of meditation. The clarity I gain, the stillness I experience and the time to myself are all so sacred.
The world we live in today is so busy and so jam packed from the time we rise until the time we go to bed. This is where mediation comes in handy! Allowing ourselves time each day to calm the chaos in our minds is truly such a gift. It’s insane to think that saving just twenty minutes for ourselves a day is sometimes impossible. There are days when I struggle to find the time to get to my mat. However, each time I do get in those twenty minutes, I gain something from the experience.
The thing I love most about meditation, I think, is the fact that it forces you to stay present. Much like an asana practice. Often, our anxieties stem from living in the future or dwelling in the past. I know mine do. Without alcohol to numb those anxieties, meditation really does the trick! Staying present on my mat also allows me to stay present off of the mat, which makes my life just a little bit easier!
I’d like to share with you all an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote after a specific mediation practice I had. To tie in with my previous post about what I learned from a year without alcohol, this mediation practice occurred on my ten months of sobriety. It reads as followed:
"Day 31: Meditation 10/25/15
Today has been a struggle in more ways than one. My body is sore from working out & achy from whatever cold I seem to have caught. My throat hurts & I am just not feeling myself. As much as I just want to crawl into bed, I did get in my 20 minutes today. Surprisingly enough, I think it just brought me back to neutral.
Today also marked my tenth months of sobriety. I think the biggest thing to acknowledge here is not necessarily how well my practice goes, but that I in fact do it. Two years ago, I couldn’t stand to be alone & sober with myself. Fast-forward to now & I enjoy giving myself 20 minutes a day for just me. My lifestyle has truly done a 180…”
So, as you can see, not all days are perfect, but each practice benefits you in one way or another. And to be honest, sitting alone with your thoughts is a scary thing! However it’s only once we do it that we are then able to discern what is reality & begin to detach from our thoughts. When that occurs, the inner peace is extraordinary. I’ll share with you one more journal entry from a particularly good practice.
“Day 11: Meditation 9/25/15
Today’s 20-minute mediation practice on the screened-in porch was most definitely the stillest & most comfortable I’ve ever sat. I engaged in contemplative meditation wit the idea of appreciation for the beauty of [Mother] Nature. It was so easy to get lost in the symphony of animal sounds that were surrounding me. Beauty was everywhere.
I didn’t do much thinking or rather, didn’t have many distractions. However, having just finished the Sutras, I did try to apply some of those concepts. Like the deck upon which I sat was not really a deck, but in fact wood that was purchased to build a structure & at first was a tree; nature; a seed. I was sitting upon beauty & I felt at one with it.
I also felt a sense of community; the thousands of insects chirping, the different birds singing & the one calling out directly above my head. We are all creatures of the Earth, functioning separately & yet all together. I could feel how big the Earth is & just how small I really am. It was humbling.
Again, I focused on my third eye & when I did, I had an out of body experience. Being able to see myself sitting on the screened-in porch amidst all of the nature just brought my contemplative meditation practice full circle. I am left feeling a sense of calmness & peace. I feel lighter & can’t help but smile. As the sun begins to go down & all of the insects are waking up, beauty & appreciation continue.”
So again, each practice is different. Some are extremely difficult, while others are quite beautiful. If you can find the time this week, I challenge you to find a comfortable seat & to engage in a twenty-minute meditation practice. If you can’t do twenty minutes, do ten. If you can’t do ten, do five. If you can’t do five, do one. Just get the ball rolling & see if it makes a difference in your day. I’m off to meditate myself! Until next time…