Today’s post brings you to something very personal, near and dear to my heart. It’s something that I have been thinking about writing about and sharing with you for days now. It’s something that I have been practicing for over a month and it has led to some subtle shifts that are creating a profound impact on my everyday life.
I have known for many years that my yoga practice was not entirely complete. While I have been practicing the asanas for over a decade I was missing some vital components of the true essence of what yoga really is and what it hopes to bring into our lives. I think many of us think that yoga is just postures, movement and breath work, and in essence, it is. The asanas keep us flexible, ground us to the earth and let us feel as if we are opening up to the universe, but asanas only get us so far…
In early December, for the first time in my life, inspired by a good friend, I committed to starting a meditation practice. As I am learning the true power of yoga includes both asana and meditation.
40 minutes a day, every day… regardless of what time it is or where I might be. Starting during the holidays was the true test of whether or not I would be able to stick to the practice. I meditated every day, sometimes on planes, in cars, and in hotel rooms… sometimes at 5am because that was the only time I could find when the room was quiet and the kids were asleep.
Let me start by saying that I have never found myself more committed to anything. Yes, I practice the asanas a few times a week. Yes, I eat mostly healthy. Yes, I exercise semi-regularly. But I have never found myself more committed to something as much as meditation. Since I started, I have not missed a day.
If you’re sitting there thinking, man this girl is really disciplined, I promise you that is NOT it!
The reason I have not missed a day is because meditating leaves me feeling absolutely amazing. I find it to be so pleasurable from the moment I close my eyes, through the entire time I sit in silence. And when I open my eyes, I notice that my perception shifts. I feel more grounded, more at peace, more whole, more connected, more healed…
I have learned that meditation is not about the absence of thought and it’s not about having some esoteric spiritual experience. The body is very much involved in the meditation practice. In meditation, no matter what type you are practicing, if you start by sitting still and begin to quiet the mind then the physiology of your body also begins to quiet down and move into deeper states of metabolic rest. It is in this deep state of metabolic rest that the body’s natural inclination to reorganize itself, repair itself, and restore balance begins. This action of repair and restoration, in turn, stimulates the nervous system, stimulates the body, and stimulates the mind, and it’s here that all the healing occurs. Through my own intelligence, my body knows exactly what to do.
As I meditate more and more I can feel the stress start to dissipate, my body starts to exude a natural calmness. It’s hard to describe but just go with me here… When I am deep in meditation I feel as if I am asleep while also being fully awake. My mind is abuzz but also completely relaxed. I am deep within myself but also looking at myself from the outside. It’s like nothing I have ever experienced before.
There are moments in my mediation when the mind transcends into a pure conscious state and lets go of all thoughts. This is a very sweet and juicy space. There is no other way to describe it. I have only experienced this a few times in my meditations. I have heard that this state of no thought, pure consciousness, gets more prevalent with time, and eventually, with long term meditators, it is carried out beyond the meditation and into the non-meditating state.
And while I have yet to experience pure pure consciousness, (I expect that will take some time.) I realize that it is not the only point of mediation. Over the past month I can see subtle shifts in my perceptions, my disposition, my ability to react (or not react) to situations and outside stimuli. I am more peaceful, more grounded, more unattached to things, and more open and able to deepen my relationship with myself and those I love.
I truly believe that meditation has been the single most powerful thing that is slowly and subtly transforming the way I look at the world and at myself. I have learned that meditation is not about withdrawing from life but learning how to access that space within ourselves where we are able to enjoy the experience of life without being overwhelmed or consumed by it.
Patanjali says that when people seek out yoga, hoping to find that inner peace which is so evasive, they find that it was theirs all along. In a sense, yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at our own inner self. Only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and eventually transcend them both.