Meditation skills

Meditation. Difficult. I’d rather spend an hour practicing yoga as most people know it in the West, a series of poses followed by a very short rest. I had a teacher say once that meditation is like going to the gym for your brain. The only time it isn’t a “workout” for me is in sound healings. Something about laying in savasana, listening, allows my mind to focus. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “the primary purpose of meditation is to become conscious of, and familiar with, our inner life.” He doesn’t mean our past or our future. He means the right now, this very minute, because that’s the only minute we have guaranteed to us. He adds, “the ultimate purpose is to reach the source of life and consciousness.” And that’s what I learned in yoga teacher training, yoga for thousands of years actually only referred to meditation. All those poses we do in class have only come about in the last couple of hundred years.

Up till now I have tried unsuccessfully to meditate. What I’ve found is that sitting still is far more difficult than attempting a physically challenging yoga pose. I’ve read a lot about it and learned that it holds out a promise for something that I want, peace. Meditation isn’t a total blank of the mind where there are no thoughts. It is rarely peaceful. And for those times when a person does achieve that peaceful state, it isn’t permanent. However, once someone achieves that state it becomes easier and easier to return to it.

So far I have only been successful in meditation during sound healings. Something about sound allows me to constantly bring my focus back from wherever my thoughts have wandered. I find it useful to interrupt my thoughts by asking myself, “what am I hearing now.” I don’t actually want to know, what I want is to bring myself back to the present moment. Sound has a language that is unique in that it can manipulate emotions without using words. With a skilled sound healer emotions are not the goal, tapping into the subconscious is, and that is part of the meditation process.

Since I can’t attend sound healings every day, and it doesn’t work if I’m the one making the sound, I decided to try a class in meditation. I wanted one where I have control. I’m not locked into a course and I feel “safe.” I’m allowed to not be good at it, I’m allowed to express this, and I’m allowed to be silent about my experience. Knowing Izzy’s dedication to personal growth also helps. She is always evolving. Both in how she teaches yoga and how she teaches the spiritual side of it. So she has this class where it’s a cross between yoga sutra study and meditation. I went.

Right now Izzy is on the sutra 2:12 which is about the inner workings of the mind. (Please remember, this is my take away from her class, another person’s or her intent might be very different) What I focused on and therefore heard is the idea “as you think so you become.” Izzy talked about the kleishas which pretty much means mental afflictions. Also samskara which she defined in writing as habitual cognitive behavioral complex but when she was talking she said, “old stuff has deep roots,” which I liked better.

We did our meditation. I wiggled, I moved, my back kept screaming at me that a nerve is pinched, I opened my eyes, yep everyone else’s eyes are closed, I considered laying down but I was trying really really hard to be silent. Clearly meditation is not my forte. What had she been talking about before we all got quiet? Samakara? klieshas? What did those words mean again? Did I write it down? I can’t look everyone will hear me open my journal.

Meditation it turns out, is something we practice. It’s a practice because sitting still takes discipline. Constantly corralling the thoughts takes discipline. Getting to that point of sattva or harmony with the world takes practice. I understand why we admire people with self-discipline, it isn’t easy and that’s exactly what Izzy was talking about, the behaviors that have deep roots in us, the ones that say practice isn’t necessary let’s do something else, are ingrained.

As we think so we become. Thoughts are powerful. Where our attention lands and what thoughts are watered matters. My yoga journey is a very slow one. I’m not in any hurry to be enlightened because it takes time to change old habits and ingrain new ones. Each practice be it meditation or asana brings me closer to harmony with my self and others. What I seek from yoga is to find the peace within me that radiates into others. Not the peace where I walk around with my head in the clouds, the peace where I understand that my emotions are not who I am, and I can set them aside so as to be able to open my heart to others.

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