Meditation is a practice that has so many benefits and the most significant lesson of all, is to find the courage and strength to look within. Oftentimes, as a mother, I’m planning, doing, organizing, or just working that when it comes to myself, I might feel a little drained or in need of rest. This has strayed me away from giving proper attention to replenish my spirit and energy. To be fully present with my family. Or When I decided to take the leap into yoga teacher training (YTT), I had no idea that we were going to do a full day of meditation! I probably would have still joined and taken the leap, having full faith and confidence in Lindsay and Gabby. However, what came from it and the pairing with a day of silence was comparable to the process, or changes, from participating in a full on ceremony. You know like the 4 day ceremony to suffer for the people in the summer? Or the ceremony we do at lodge? It was like that.
Let me backup a little about the silence part. One of our assignments during Yin Yoga practice, was to take a day of silence. Meaning, you were not allowed to speak or use your voice for the full 24 hrs. But you could still communicate through text, social media, paper and pen, etc. The intention coincided with the practice of Yin Yoga which is a way to make your mind, and your body slow down. Sort of a restful and edgy way to practice movement. We are conditioned to go from one thing to the next with our lists of things to get done and daily tasks, we forget how to rest and take our time. -to slow down and undo what we’ve been conditioned to do is or can be seen as radical and extreme. Yin Yoga is a way to put this into movement, so your body can do the talking and your mind can do the listening. It has many other benefits but that’s for another post!
When we pair Yin Yoga with silence, such as in this assignment, it became clear how much we often depend on the external buzz of demands, the lists of to-do’s, etc. to fill our days, mind, and body to the point that silence is uncomfortable. How much we use our voice or speak rather than listen even to our own body, is a lesson that is hard to come by. When Lindsay told us that we were going to be doing meditation the whole day, I was relieved because it was the day I chose for my day of silence. To those not in our YTT crew, this may sound or seem unnecessary and maybe triggering for various reasons. Those may be true. And this experience taught me so much about myself and opened my mind to have more compassion and listen.
Here’s what I mean by compassion and listening. Let me share my meditation day story with you!
We listened to Lindsay share her experience of meditation at a 10 day meditation camp and how she learned about Noble Silence- being so inwardly focused on your breath that you’re not really aware of the world outside of you. Our meditation day was meant to give us insight into this Noble Silence. It started with a 60 minute meditation. Read that again. 60 minute meditation. Nothing but sitting in one place, focusing on your breath, in near complete silence.
At one point it was so hard to sit still I started fidgeting and my blood pressure must have spiked, because my heart started beating fast. It was because I started to hold my breath hoping the tingling from my feet and legs falling asleep would go away. I had to find my breath, and begin again. If it wasn’t for Lindsay reminding us to come back to our breath, I might have stayed in the discomfort, attaching myself to my sleeping legs in a pretzel. It wasn’t until I settled back into my breath, that I was able to be okay with these discomforts and focus on every breath in and out. At this point I came to a realization that was very insightful. We did 3 rounds of this. We closed our meditation day with a 45 minute metta meditation, which is one of my favorites. If you’re wondering if we had breaks in between, we did! Just like in inipi, there was compassion built into this day of meditation. Each time we started a new round of meditation, I was presented with new challenges and new insights. Each time felt a little different. Did it get easier? Maybe.
Here are the insights I gained from this day of meditation.
1. Learn to let go of the attachment to expectations.
Like many people I know, I tend to set expectations. Sometimes unrealistic. Not just in this practice, but in life. I set expectations and attach myself to them. If they do not come to fruition, I get frustrated or stressed, and honestly, I get stuck with not feeling like I know what to do. I get so attached to expectations that I forget to let go of them when they aren’t met. I told myself to let go of the expectations I had set during this meditation and in life. I don’t need to attach myself to something that is going to cause me stress when it doesn’t need to be there in the first place. This practice is hard. I knew that. But I thought it wouldn’t be this hard. The expectation I had set for this was not met, and I began to get irritated and frustrated and reactive. I wanted to get out of this pose. I wanted to move my body from the discomfort because it started to become too hard. Instead, I heard Lindsay say that this is a practice of impermanence. I remembered then, that soon I will be out of this pose, away from the discomfort. And because of it, I will be forever changed.
2. Sitting in stillness can truly teach you to find peace, from within.
As I listened to the story that Lindsay told about a river in the second round, and how the current is still flowing, I had to let go of the control I was trying to hold onto. It was a beautiful story that allowed my mind to release what I was trying to keep. That worked for maybe 30 minutes or what seemed like 30 minutes. After minutes of silence and sitting with all of the thoughts of doubt, Lindsay shared some words of wisdom that stuck with me and came back to me in the third round of meditation. She mentioned how this is a practice of the future, in that it helps us to learn to observe discomfort or uncomfortable situations such as pressure or stress. We don’t react because we have learned to nourish the strength of our mind by breathing and finding equanimity- peace. It may seem harsh or unrealistic to those not in this training or practice. However, going through this day of meditation and all of the other bits of knowledge we learned in YTT, I am a firm believer that meditation strengthens our minds. Instead of reacting, we are able to find calm, peace of the mind, and make decisions from a good place.
3. Meditation gives you space to look inward for alignment and clarity.
Each time I found myself trying to fight the discomfort in my hips and knees from sitting in half bound lotus in the third round, I kept coming back to the words Lindsay shared about this practice, that this is impermanent, and to strive for being equanimous. When I actually let go of the pain, I may have fallen asleep for a quick moment and realized how calm my mind and body had been. The hard part of equanimity- making peace with where you are- is getting there. Meditation gives you no option but to look inward. Giving you nothing but time and space to do this. The only things you are left with are your thoughts, your breath, your energy. How you nourish and strengthen them, or how you react and push away the discomfort, is how you tend to do this in other areas of life. This was a moment of clarity for me to get to the root of some of my not-so-random frustrations in life. Now that I’ve named and identified the root, I can work on pulling it out- nirodha. This, as with all things in healing, will take time and practice.
4. Love and kindness can release tears of joy and pain.
The final round was metta meditation. The practice of happy people- love and kindness. At this point in the meditation day, I knew what was coming. I knew to remind myself of compassion and impermanence. I actually had spent most of metta meditation very slowly letting out tears. They were salty. And stung each time they crawled down my cheeks. I remember letting go of so many things in this round. And being so grateful, from the bottom of my heart, for everything that had brought me to that moment. Forgiveness set in hard. Pretty sure I was ugly crying at one point. The challenges and struggles I endured as a little brown girl in a white world. The f*cked up relationship I was in back in college. The sweet and healing relationships that came after. The people who called themselves friends but turned their backs when I needed help the most. The people who were not just friends, but became my family. All of the wonderful mentors and teachers in my life. My life companion- and my furry companion. This space. The people I am sharing it with. There was so much release in this part of the meditation day. I remember trying to write in my journal and not being able to see clearly because tears were still falling.
These were my experiences with meditation and I am still learning. Because of these insights, I continue to practice meditation daily. Even if I get so busy or my body needs more rest so I miss getting up for my morning meditation, I still give myself time to meditate. Every. Single. Day. These experiences and insights are instilled within me. And I feel better, do better, know better, because of them. And this is how I know and understand the power of meditation. The power of our breath. Our sacred breath that calls us back to our spiritual self and grounds us.
Meditation can be extremely healing. Dear friends, find at least 5-10 minutes in your daily routine to focus on solely on your breath. Your mind, body, and spirit- will thank you. Find your sacred breath and begin to feel the transformation from within.
You can join me for morning meditation and journaling on weekdays at 7am-7:30am CST.See Yoga classes to save your spot or go to Class Bundles to save $!