As a yoga teacher I spend a lot of time helping people to undo their life-long habits of standing, sitting or breathing badly. As it turns out, these are fairly easy tasks in comparison to undoing some presumptions and misconceptions about meditation.
There is an ocean of literature on meditation. There are many techniques, schools and approaches to the subject. The vastness of choice itself often makes us confused as to which route to choose.
Throughout my teaching journey I have observed that we all have a tendency to be very aware of what is holding us back, of what we cannot do. We seem to know very well what is are obstacles to our growth, expansion, movement towards change, wellness, fitness and our personal yoga and meditation practice.
One of the reasons why meditation seems so inaccessible to many of us is the lack of time we have in our stressful lives. “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour”, says a Zen proverb. On the surface, it sounds very impractical, even indulgent, but on the other hand it should inspire a reflection on our lives. At the end of the day, if we cannot offer ourselves a moment of quietude in order to be capable to become stronger, more focused, and clearer in our heads, how can we truly get on with modern life’s stressful existence without our sanity packing up one day?
The main obstacle however, and one of the biggest subjects of my “undoing” is an assumption that the mind needs to be silenced in order to meditate.
Well, just like baking cupcakes doesn’t start with icing and practice of yoga asana (postures) doesn’t begin with handstand, meditation does not begin with what is supposed to be its end result. I cannot resist to quote the greatest thought that supports this notion: “Meditation does not mean making your mind blank. The only way to do that is to ask a friend to give you a hearty blow on the head” as Sri Eknath Eswaran has famously said.
Your mind is designed to connect you with the world around you. It is meant to process your thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions and make sense of that. Well, maybe it doesn’t always do so in a healthy way, maybe you feel that your mind never stops being in fifth gear. Maybe you have come to the point of being aware of that incessant chatter of the mind and realised you are tired of that, maybe you are going through a life-changing illness and you need to pause to re-evaluate your sense of direction.
The whole point is, that in awareness (or mindfulness) meditation, your mind rather than being your enemy, becomes your friend, your ally. The flow of thoughts passing through your head becomes a vessel which encourages self-enquiry, a learning curve on workings of your mind. As a result of that, the state of the inner peace and stillness, rather than being elusive and fleeting becomes attainable, within your reach every time you practice.
Sit down, close your eyes and hear the traffic outside. After a while you no longer hear the cars passing. The sounds become a background for your thoughts. Thoughts, exactly. Pay attention to your thoughts the same way you listened to the traffic. After a while you may become aware that you no longer observe the thoughts.
What do you see?
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