Why meditate? Great question. For anyone that has never meditated and then looked back in time and was able to identify the results, it does appear to be rather silly. Sit up straight…not so easy for some bodies…and “watch” or “observe” your breath. What the heck does that even mean? And my favorite is “watch your thoughts float by like clouds in the sky” or leaves in a stream”. What? How can I watch my thoughts when they are me? How do I get the thoughts out of my head to “watch” them?
When I first began my asana practice 17 short years ago, I resisted meditation, telling myself that my asana practice was a moving meditation and enough. I remembered when I first tried meditation (yes, I said tried). I was working for a transformational training company as operations manager and Pati, our office manager, one of our board members and a couple of our facilitators and I decided to start meditating for twenty minutes each day on our lunch break. Guided meditations and visualizations were a big part of our training, and we all had felt the immediate results, and were desiring to experience and understand the long-term benefits. So, for some time, we closed the doors at lunch time, went into the training center, turned the lights low and took a seat up against the back wall. I can’t speak for anyone else, but back then, this was excruciating for me. At the time I was also a step-aerobics instructor and personal trainer and ran or biked most evenings. My body was not ready to sit. ‘Yoga’ was a class I had failed my freshman year of university due to, well, let’s just say, it was lady’s night at the local pub where the football team hung out.
Still in a great relationship with my ego (like besties), I sat. In misery. “Noticing”, “watching”, “observing” how uncomfortable I was. I squirmed as little as possible, but the pain in my back from not having a body prepared for this made these sessions something I so wished wouldn’t be happening. I had no knowledge or guidance other than the guided meditations in the trainings, and thought that to meditate and get the results, it had to be done this way, sitting on a hard floor, back straight, lights low, in silence. Eventually this ritual of ours gave way to life, and meditation was packed away for several years, only to sneak back into my life easily and naturally.
What I have since learned and trust is that meditation is like climbing Mt. Everest. It is best done with intentional preparation, and, at least in the beginning, not alone. No one in their right mind would attempt to climb Everest without training physically, mentally and even psychologically for such a feat. Nor would anyone attempt this alone.
So, how does one prepare themselves to introduce the practice of meditation into their lives? Yoga asana is my answer. I know that there are many, many meditators out there that have not done any other yoga asana or posture other than sukasana, a comfortable cross-legged position. What I am unfamiliar with is how comfortable the beginning was for them, or if they had another means to find the ease that is necessary to sit for any length of time. So, I will share what I know, and how, through my asana practice, meditation has become a foundation of my daily practice.
As I mentioned earlier, after discovering yoga asana, I believed wholeheartedly that this was moving meditation (true) and was enough (not so much). After a couple of years of daily asana practice, I noticed that after my practice, first my savasana (ending resting pose) was becoming longer and longer and then I began to shorten my savasana again, but then come to a seated position and sit for a while. I did this naturally and without intention. What really blows my mind, in retrospect, is after this had happened for a year or two, I found that if I didn’t have much time, I would choose to sit instead of move. I also found that using a zafu, or meditation cushion, I could sit much more comfortably and for a longer period of time.
Meditation had become a safe place for me. Each time I sat, it was like coming home. It was a place I could commune with God & Goddess aka my-Self. It was just about this time when I was asked to begin teaching meditation at the wellness resort I was teaching at. This offered me the opportunity to begin the study of meditation and to expand and identify my own knowledge of meditation and how it had affected my life.
PART TWO……… Where to start? Tips and Tricks to start a meditation practice.