“You are either Nowhere or You are Now Here!”
I can hear Baron Baptiste saying this in my head as I stretch and attempt to restart my meditation practice. It is always the hardest and easiest moment of my day. Getting past the excuses of why I don’t have time (which generally take more time then meditating), and the unreasonable goals (45 minutes a day, c’mon why not just go for an hour?), and the lack of a perfectly quiet meditation spot (I imagine the sounds of my kids and suburban noise pollution are really not that different from the wind whipping my face if I was sitting at the entrance to some cave on a mountain in Nepal).
There is no perfect scenario, there is only today and your ability to create a moment of peace within the chaos of life.
Sometimes I sit up and create a semi-comfortable perfect posture with my shoulders back, head high and my hands in the “smoke a joint mudra,” resting gently on my knees. Sometimes I lay in bed and practice shavasana. I have never had a great or even remotely good meditation while meditating in bed, but I have managed to relax and even go to sleep when I felt like I was too stressed to do anything but stare at a TV.
Don’t get too caught up in the rules and techniques; meditation is fun and can change everything happening in your day, week, month, year and life. It starts with you.
My meditation practice is pretty simple. I sit in a cross-legged position with my eyes closed and my hands resting in a comfortable position. I do a quick body scan, starting at the top of my head and working through each zone of my body checking for tension or discomfort. It is not unusual for my legs or hips to have a stinging pain or numbness almost immediately. Sometimes a block helps or a blanket, pillow or even that book you haven’t finished yet. Avoid using anything like your laptop or iPad as the screen will crack and you will probably never meditate again.
As soon as I am done with my body scan, I focus on my breathing. Counting the length of my breath in and matching the breath out is a basic yet highly effective technique. One of my teachers, Marni Task, incorporates this breathing technique at the start of her yoga classes and somehow in a 75 minute class, it is almost always what drifts back into my mind later in the day. This simple breathing exercise sets my mind off on a wild goose chase. Almost immediately a “list” of everything I have to do starts floating through my head. Game over? No! Game On!
I acknowledge the list of items and mentally “check them off.” Letting each item on the list have a little bit of space, then gently but firmly moving it. Randomly the list stops appearing and with it comes a surge of space and energy. Almost like getting off of the train station in Harry Potter, you have to leap into this space.
That said, sometimes the slightest shift in your body will open up this space. When you see or feel your third eye opening, you have to let your energy flow into that space. Energy rises into my forehead, starting as a small, almost abstract star like form. Spreading through my entire forehead, a brilliant orange—sometimes blue mass flowing out my third eye. If that doesn’t sound wacky enough, I never remember anything that happens from there on.
Does every meditation go like this? No. Sometimes I never get past the check-lists running through my head. Other times, I can’t stop fidgeting. Sometimes I see scenes from my life on repeat; they are visual and frustrating. The hardest part is sitting down. If you know how to sit down, you are ready to meditate.
Recently, I have been frustrated with meditation, equating the results to the apathy that comes from smoking pot. Non-reactiveness is a normal out-come of meditation. When you are relaxed it is harder for people to push your buttons/pull your trigger/set you off.
I was reminded the other night over dinner that non-reactiveness is very different than apathy, which is really a feeling of helplessness. One of my favorite stoner bumper stickers is, “If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.” To me, this is a strong reminder to stoners to avoid apathy and participate in society. I haven’t reconciled this with non-reactiveness, but when I meditate I feel stronger, more capable of handling anything the day may bring.
As I bring meditation into my life more, I am setting a goal of creating social action out of my meditation. Using my practice to empower me to participate in change as it happens locally and globally. We often “practice change” like the “Africa Yoga Project” does in our yoga community, using our asana practice to inspire and support non-profit organizations and take our practice “Off The Mat,” as Seane Corn’s team does.
How can our meditation practice lead to social action or help create change? It may start with a donation based class, or even a sit-in as Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. would have led. Maybe it is organizing a meditation practice with a group of friends? Whether meditation is the strongest part of your yoga practice or something you are working on like it is for me, try taking your meditation practice to a group setting. Start talking with people about your meditations and listening to the people you meditate with—truly hear their experience. This may be the most valuable part of most teacher training programs, you can bring this into your life now!
As Noam Chomsky said, “Discovery is the ability to be puzzled by simple things.”
When we meditate, life becomes simple. We have to have this simplicity to create the process of discovery and empower ourselves to be agents of social change. When we create inner peace, we “become the change we wish to see in the world,” as Gandhi said. Meditation doesn’t mean you won’t give the finger to the person who cut you off or drives to fast in the school zone, but you will be able to smile and say, “Namaste Mother F*cker,” maybe even flipping them “the double bird” with eagle arms. Start meditating now.
Editor: Brianna Bemel