The Monkey Brain Struggle of a Meditation Initiate.
What exactly is meditation? When I Googled the word meditation, the definition that came up was “the action or practice of meditating.” Well that was incredibly helpful. Not! I was still clueless as to what the “practice or action” consisted of. What I did know, however, was that it had something to do with clearing my mind and focusing on my breathing, and that, most importantly, it would help me find inner peace. So, in my desperation to feel peace in an often chaotic world, I decided to figure out what the practice and action of meditating really was and to implement it in my life.
It all started in the shower. As a meditation noob, I knew I needed to find a quiet place where I could try to focus on my breathing with as little distraction as possible. So, where can one go in her own home and be least likely to be disturbed by outside noises, or interrupting children and family members? The shower.
I would sit in the tub, close my eyes, listen to the water run and think “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out…I need to pay my credit card bill…this water smells like chlorine…I wonder if I should change shampoos…my hair is kinda dry…dammit, I’m supposed to be clearing my mind! Breathe in, breathe out…”
I didn’t feel very meditative or relaxed, nor did I feel any more peaceful. Mostly, I just felt frustrated at my mind for being so talkative. Inner peace still seemed very appealing, however, and since I had to take a shower every day anyway, I kept practicing. And every time, my mind would pause for a little longer.
Then one day, I decided to try yoga. Yoga seemed all peaceful and whatnot; I figured it could possibly improve my meditation practice, might limber me up and maybe even sculpt my ass! What wasn’t to love? I knew I didn’t want my first yoga experience to be in a gym with some bubbly blonde instructor telling me how fabulous plank pose was for my core. I wanted real yoga! Yoga with purpose!Photo: Amanda Roberts
Fortunately, a friend of mine told me about a place where there were yoga classes held in a gazebo surrounded by nature. After one class, I was hooked. I quickly discovered that the practice of yoga is incredibly well-suited to self-observation and introspection, and the key to mastering meditation. I started going every Sunday.
The gazebo was my sanctuary—the congregation, made up of my fellow yogis, and the charismatic instructor, our minister. Yoga church, baby! “The practice of yoga,” our instructor taught us, “is simply preparation for meditation.”
Through yoga, I learned techniques to control my breathing and how to stay focused. At the end of each class, our instructor would guide us into a different meditation, and have us set an intention for the session. It was in these sessions that I began to learn what meditation really felt like. I felt quietly, comfortably energized and connected to everything around me. It was beautiful!
So I got my hands on a Namaste Bench Kit, got out of the shower, and meditated at every opportunity. I was progressing rapidly, feeling inspired, and I thought, “Go me! I got this down!” Then, suddenly, I didn’t. I struggled, and it seemed the more I practiced, the more frustrated I would get. Now I thought, “Shit! That’s my karma for getting a little cocky!”
Meditation is an incredible tool for self-observation, increasing awareness and focus, and generally making us better people. I am just now learning that it is all about the practice itself. I am again having some incredible meditations, and have realized that sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. You just have to keep working at it and trying different methods, whether visual, audible, or just sitting quietly until it comes back—and it always does.
Practicing yoga helps me to stay focused and find that meditative state more easily, while having a helpful and knowledgeable teacher has been paramount. Under the guidance of an excellent instructor, I have discovered the connection between the breath and spiritual growth. Just because we’re born knowing how to breathe doesn’t mean we know how to do it in the most efficient and effective way.
Cara Corr is a wellness activist, dedicated yogini, perpetual student of Eastern philosophy and theology and an aspiring organic chef. She is an imperfect and devoted mom, passionate about balancing silliness and mindful living. She is a jack of all trades, medical professional, backyard mechanic, ex-slacker on a mission to change the world through living consciously. When she’s not OM-ing her way to serenity, she serves as muse and support staff for Namaste Bench Co. You can find her creative input at NamasteBench.com.
Editor: Thandiwe Ogbonna