I haven’t met many meditation fence sitters. It would seem that it’s either an activity you think you should be doing more often or one you just have no interest in. For those who have no interest, it fascinates me that you aren’t interested in a quiet mind. Those of you who who feel like you should be meditating more often, please release the guilt! It seems that giving ourselves permission to create a peaceful mind doesn’t always make top priority. I’ve taught both Yoga and Meditation classes and have observed that participants are far more dedicated to their Yoga practice. As I watched the Meditation attendance wane, I tried to understand why the difference. I think it has to do with tangible results. I’ve spoken to many people who have tried Meditation, but just don’t feel like they’re doing it right. So I’m going to offer my two cents on the topic with knowledge from my Yoga training and life experience.
Firstly, some benefits of a regular Meditation practice include: emotional and mental stability, clarity in decision making, freeing-up creative energy, and peace of mind that will influence communications and relationships. The mind, though incredibly beautiful, can be so challenging to bear. Meditation is releasing the body and mind from its busy functions in order to restore authenticity. You are at your truest self when you have the time to be. Been awhile since you’ve made the acquaintance of your truest self? Maybe it’s time to check in.
So, a fellow named Patanjali is known as the grandfather of Yoga. He created an eight-limbed yoga path referred to as Ashtanga. Each limb builds upon the one before it, eventually revealing total bliss. Patangali is said to have created Ashtanga to help people better cope with the human condition. The beginning of the path is morals and observances, basically a positive way of interacting with yourself and others, like releasing ego, being honest, and choosing non-violence. Next up we have yoga postures to keep the body feeling well. After that is something called Pranayama which is intentional breathing. Pratyahara is sense withdrawal, which helps to turn a practitioner inward. Dharana focuses on concentration to still the mind. Dhyana is meditation and is the last place on the path in which you are conscious of your efforts. Samadhi is the ultimate goal of bliss and connection with all things.
Samadhi sounds like an amazing place to be. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been there. I may have grazed it subtly. As you can see, there is a lead up to that and they’re important limbs of a path, not just a check list. Did yoga postures, check. Deep breathing, check. Stopped listening to clock ticking, check. On my way to bliss; shouldn’t take long now! So, I encourage you to take small manageable steps on this path. To expect that the mind can go from multitasking genius to calm yogi in a snap is a tall order!
I’ve had some truly amazing, life affirming, experiences with meditation. I also know how frustrating it can be to feel like you’re not doing it right. Just lying there with nothing happening besides your mind swirling with constant nonsense. Here’s how I would recommend viewing this eight-limbed path as something you could take on as your own:
- Look up yama and niyama online. These are the morals and observances to cultivate our highest self. Choose one each week to observe and consider. When you’re living in accordance with your morals, you’ll likely have less to fret about when you’re trying to meditate.
- Do something that calms you before committing to Meditating. It could be Yoga, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe moving in a different way? Taking a shower, reading, tidying some surfaces are also nice winding down options.
- When you’re ready to settle in to Meditating, whether it be in a class or at home, ensure that you’re comfortable. Consider pillows for propping behind your head and/or beneath your knees. A blanket is a good idea because your heart rate will likely slow which can make you a little chilly. Then, release expectations. Relax the body. Then we try for the Pranayama limb, focusing on our breath. You’ll be guided through this if you’re in a class or listening to a meditation at home. For the first little while, make this your only goal: relaxing and breathing. If you happen to move inward and leave behind the happenings of your environment, great! But don’t expect it.
Buddha and a few Hindu gods have been depicted seated at the center of a lotus blossom. This is symbolic of their dedication and patience with the process towards self actualization and bliss. The lotus blossom has its roots in the swamp. It needed to be patient as it grew towards the light through the discomfort of the swamp. Eventually it grows taller than the swamp’s murkiness and its petals open into its beautiful self.
By Nikki Lafrance. Nikki is a certified 200hr Yoga Alliance Instructor. Body Design offers Personal Training, Nutrition, Yoga and Group Fitness Classes to assist individuals achieve their fitness and weight loss goals.