December 19, 2013

In Defense of a Loosey Goosey Meditation & Yoga Practice.

I have what you might call an “anal” personality.

(Lovely phrase, so glad it’s in common usage these days.)

More kindly, a “type A”, or ayurvedically a “pitta,” meaning fiery, driven, motivated, persistent…read: crazy.

The idea of not having a plan makes me break out in hives. I like schedules, routines, my husband would add, ruts.

So when I began to feel myself rebel a little more strongly every day against my meditation and pranayama (breath work) routine, I was confused about what was going on. After all, I am the woman who has written several articles on how to make meditation a daily practice—and the hows I advise are all about making a plan and sticking with it, working toward creating habits or reaching larger goals by knowing that you can take one step each day and those steps eventually add up to change and accomplishment.

I have used this approach with success in many other areas of my life. I wrote a book that way, I learned to cook that way and I maintain my life on the mat that way.

So why this big internal hubbub every time I tell myself it’s time to meditate or breathe?

I recently read Waylon’s thoughtful article on New Year’s resolutions and was particularly struck by number one: “Meditate two minutes a day (or more)”.

“Two minutes a day!” How could that possibly be worthwhile? That’s like doing one sun salutation and calling it a yoga practice!

But wait, if I did one sun salutation, and I did it completely mindfully, wouldn’t that be great yoga? And if that one sun salutation led me organically to want to do more sun salutations and more asanas, wouldn’t that also be great yoga?

Instead of beginning with the notion that “I must be on my mat for an hour and a half,” and doing the asanas that are calling to me rather than the ones I “should” be doing, maybe if, just once, I winged it, I would un-turn some important yogic stone.

And maybe, just maybe, if I applied that free wheeling, so not pitta approach to meditation, I could find something new there too.

So I tried it.

For the first time ever, I sat down to meditate without a timer and without a general goal beyond staying there a mere two minutes. I didn’t put pranayama on the docket at all. And I gotta tell you, it was awesome.

For me, it was like standing on the edge of a cliff on a bright day facing a strong wind with my eyes closed. Such freedom! It had the flavor of adventure rather than work, and I felt my muscles relax as that wind blew right through me.

I have no idea how long I stayed there—and I will never know—but even if it was a mere two minutes (though I suspect it was a lot longer), those were the two best spent minutes in my day.

And what do you know, when I was done I didn’t have to kick my own butt to do pranayama, I wanted to.

I often say to my students that they shouldn’t take yoga so darn seriously. I’ll look out at their faces and see drive and intensity, commitment, good intentions, but often no joy. The cool thing is, as soon as I say that, they generally break out the Pepsodent smiles and it’s like a huge psychic weight has evaporated into thin air.

This is not the first time I’ve given decent advice before I’ve taken it.

In short, I need to chill. There’s a time and a place for discipline, but there’s also a time and a place for trusting in yourself, for spontaneity and most importantly, joy.

I think the reason I was balking at my meditation schedule was because I was telling myself to do it as if I were a strict parent pointing fingers at a naughty child. If I can just remember that if the child is left alone sometimes, she will gravitate toward the right stuff, I believe I’ll have more deep spiritual moments during meditation, pranayama and asana practice.

Two easy minutes of meditation (or more) daily? That’s my new New Year’s resolution.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: crdotx/Flickr.

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