The Fine Art of Meditation for Americans.
Meditation is supposed to make us calm and peaceful—right?
If you’ve read or seen Eat, Pray, Love, you might remember the scene where poor Elizabeth is meditating in the ashram, desperately trying to calm her mind. Instead, she has the strong urge to run screaming from the room.
Anyone who has tried to meditate can likely identify with this level of frustration. I know I can.
Believe me, doing headstand on a SUP doesn’t necessarily mean I have a quiet mind! The physical practice of yoga is a very small part of the greater whole. All that bending and balancing has a purpose—and the purpose isn’t to bend and balance.
Supposedly, I do all this bending and balancing to still my noisy body so I can sit in one place long enough to calm my mind. So I can meditate—something I’m absolutely terrible at. Why do Americans love the physical practice of yoga more than the sitting practice of meditation?
Because nobody has a noisier mind than an American.
Over the years I’ve had an intermittent meditation practice. The last time I tried to adopt a meditation practice, I sat for 20 minutes every day. For a year. In lotus position. Not one of my better ideas; my knees are still in recovery—typical ambitious American knucklehead having no idea what “moderation” means. Thankfully, there are people we can turn to who get this.
Listen to your teacher.
Swami Satchidananda—that cool hippie-yogi who led the opening chant at Woodstock and built an ashram in central Virginia—is one of my favorite sources of wisdom. I read somewhere in one of his many gems that yoga should not cause pain and it should never be forced. When my knees began to hurt, his words came to mind.
It made me realize that meditation would come when I was good and ready—when I didn’t have to force it. My inner teacher would let me know when. Did you know Jane Fonda learned to meditate at age 70? Apparently it’s never too late to learn. But, no matter when you learn, it’ll be all about the journey (if my noisy, spoiled brat of a mind would only shut up long enough).
Back to the drawing board…er, yoga mat.
I backed off from the intense sitting posture and re-tuned into my asana (physical posture) practice, something long overdue, because my practice had actually become quite lazy and stale. I was on “asana autopilot.” This means I’d become adept at some fancy postures and got cocky.
Postures without intent = not okay. Utterly worthless. Yes, it happens to yoga people, too!
Then, three days ago, I felt an actual compulsion to meditate. So I did—and it was easy. Then, the next day was difficult. And today, was even more difficult, which is part of the journey.
Not always easy, but never dull. Just pay attention to it.
Mel Johnson: As a student of some fabulously—and sometimes brutally—honest girlfriends, world travel, my awesome adviser, various yogis and yoginis, yogic philosophy runs through my veins and lungs. I am a graduate teaching assistant at George Mason University, teacher of critical thinking and writing, yoga entrepreneur, paddleboarder, hiker, Buddhaphile, oenophile and smartass.
Editor: Nikki Di Virgilio
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