Meditation made easy(ier): 7 tips for making it happen

I’d love to have a penny for every person whose told me that they wish they could meditate, but… (insert an excuse here).  I get it.  As simple as meditation is on the surface, it is a very difficult thing to do in this fast paced world.  The picture above is a lovely stereotype for how meditation looks and feels…However, when we first start meditating, it’s easy to feel like a failure because we don’t attain the above ideal.  It has taken me years and years of trying to actually develop a regular practice.  And honestly, I still fall off the wagon sometimes.  Here are some things I’ve learned along the way to help me get back on. Set a reasonable, do-able amount of time.  5 minutes?  10?  You can always go longer if you feel like it.  But if the amount of time feels daunting to you, you will find excuses not to do it. Set a timer so that you don’t have to think about the time.  Often you will be surprised at how quickly time goes by. Make sure you are sitting comfortably.  It is fine to use a chair or sit against a wall, but maintain good posture so you don’t get sleepy.  Experiment with different configurations such as pillows, blankets, meditation stools, etc. Meditate first thing in the morning.  If it’s the first thing you do, you won’t get distracted.  Don’t allow yourself to do anything else first (except maybe pee). Meditate every time you get a chance.  Waiting for a friend, in line at the bank, stuck in traffic.  The more you do...
Grace

Grace

I bought my daughter her first pair of roller skates today. She is absolutely entranced with roller skating. I sit on the round carpet covered bench with too-loud music playing as I watch her make her way around the rink. She sticks to the center tonight. Saturday nights are kind of wild at the roller rink. Very sexy, very young girls careen wildly in pairs and groups of four, many of them in matching outfits. I can’t tell how old they are, they could be anywhere from 11 to 15. All I can tell is that they are very young, very sexy, and very graceful. I’m sure that my daughter will be one of them before I can blink. Last time we went was on a Thursday night. They’re a much mellower crowd. In fact, that night was so mellow that the rink was closing early. They let my daughter in for the last 20 minutes without a charge. She determinedly made her way around the rink again and again. She’s very present in her body and picks up physical skills easily, but is still awkward and uncertain on skates. There was a couple figure skating – laughing, twirling, dipping, playing. Watching them, skating looked like the most exhilarating activity in the world. We talked to them after the lights came up and the music stopped. As skates were removed and street shoes gathered we found out that they had both skated professionally at one point in their lives and had met at the roller rink. I asked them what bit of advice they would give to an enthusiastic...

Taking off the Armour

Lately, I’ve been enjoying listening to Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes. In them, he condenses wisdom literature both old and new into their essential messages. He sent me to authentichappiness.com to take a test to discover my current top strengths. This is no vanity fair quiz; it’s 240 questions designed by professionals to unearth your greatest strengths. To my surprise, none of my top 5 were things I felt like came naturally to me. Many of them were virtues I had cultivated purposefully under the influence of yoga! As a child, I was angry, defensive, and unhappy. I felt like it was me against the rest of the world. I had the sense that in order to be loved and accepted, I needed to be perfect. So I built a wall against the world. A shell to hide how imperfect I really was. I responded in anger when I was hurt. In sarcasm, when I felt dumb. Never, never show weakness. In college, I majored in theatre. Originally, I had the intention of focusing on acting, but I soon learned that unlike in community theatre, here they expected us to be vulnerable on stage. No way. I remember a specific assignment my Freshman year… to write monologue that shows a part of ourselves that we normally keep hidden. Mine was about how there was no way in hell that I was going to reveal myself on stage like that. I didn’t get a very good grade on that assignment. And I began to gravitate towards directing and stage management. There, I could pretend to be perfect. I could be safe....

Will you be my guru?

My friend Kristin has a talent for finding and savoring the joy in life. No matter what circumstances she is under, she seems to be able to find something to be grateful for. Recently she stayed with me for 5 months along with her two kids and hyperactive dog. It wasn’t unusual for me to come home to find her in the bath. “How’s it going?” I might say. “Wonderful!” was almost always the reply, with a dreamy smile and shining eyes. This is a woman who appreciates a good bath as if it were the greatest gift in the world. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t experience darkness. As a single mom with minimal support who has been through several painful breakups in the past two years, she doesn’t have what anyone would call an easy life. But she moves through the darkness by experiencing it fully all the while trusting that it is bringing her into deeper and deeper connection with the light. Kristin is one of my gurus. The two literal translations of guru are “the disperser of darkness” and “the weighty one”. I prefer the former, older, translation from the Upanishads. The syllable gu means shadows The syllable ru, he who disperses them, Because of the power to disperse darkness the guru is thus named. – Advayataraka Upanishad 14—18, verse 5 In my experience, many people have negative associations with the term guru. This is because we tend to associate it with “cult leader” and the abuses of power by people in recent history who have called themselves gurus. As Westerners, we are highly...

2 key ingredients for lasting change

With the new year comes the promise of new beginnings and the potential for change. Being a yoga teacher, it is easy to become jaded to the cult of self improvement that becomes the rage for just a month or so each year. Accommodating so many beginners who often come to classes that they aren’t ready for can be exhausting and takes away from the experience of those students who are there through thick and thin. Yet, there is a small portion of those people who start in January and actually develop life long habits. So I treat each new student as a potentially life-long student. We all deserve the benefit of the doubt. But what makes the people who stick with their new habits different from the ones who start strong and appear so passionate, only to drop off within a few weeks or months? I don’t beleive it is a lack of discipline or defect of any kind. I say this because I have managed to develop quite a lot of healthy lifestyle habits and I don’t beleive that I am particularly disciplined. Upon reflection, I have come up with two ingredients that I believe are essential for lasting change. 1. You have to be truly convinced of the benefit of your new habit. Changing for someone else never works because you will always rebel consciously or unconsciously. The change has to be for yourself and it has to have results you desire strongly. Sometimes this desire takes time to develop. Just because you tried to quit smoking three years in a row doesn’t mean that you...

To respond or to react?

This time of year…the commitments of the holidays, spending more time with our families, even the cold and inclement weather can put us on edge. We find ourselves feeling out of control… our lives are pushed this way and that way by the weather, by the expectations of others and even more by our own expectations of ourselves. When find ourselves in circumstance we deem negative, we react, we get whipped around and around, our way of being constantly fluctuating according to our circumstances. This has the experience of being very harsh. However, when we create a neutral space for ourselves, just a moment to step away from judging our circumstances as negative or positive, we can flow with the fluctuations of life with grace and more ease. It’s like the difference between an expert paddler using the currents of the river to move her forward and a novice being pummeled by the whitewater. You’re not actually in control in either situation, but the expert uses the currents to their advantage rather than being a victim to them. The less we resist, the easier it is… The less we resist, the more connected we become to the bigger energy. So we use these practices called yoga to a kinesthetic reservoir of spaciousness that we can eventually learn to tap into. When we are in that state, we are able to respond to the situation appropriately rather than react. From the neutral ground of being, we can choose the good, we can choose love. If we don’t come to neutral first, we very often forget that we have a choice....