“…when you move amidst the world of sense, free from attachment and aversion alike, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end, and you live in the wisdom of your Self .”(Easwaran, 2011, p. 96 v. 64-65).
For yoga traditionalists the need to argue why yogis should meditate is redundant and even ridiculous because meditation or enlightenment, is the goal. This post is not written for them. This post is for the asana junkies. The yogis of modern western yoga whose practice is more of a physical nature. For those who practice their meditation in motion, on the mat, and say it’s enough.
It is true that on the mat we are constantly using introspection and mental focus to practice non-attachment and non-aversion. Noticing which poses we love and which we dread and then digging a little deeper to discern why that is the case. Do we love a pose because it is easy, because it feels good, or because we do it “perfectly”? Do we dread a pose because it is hard or brings out a sense of fear (inversions, arm balances)? Confronting attachments and aversions on the mat do help us to begin to see the habitual patterns in our own lives and gives us courage to make necessary life changes. Through the physical practice we begin to notice the difference between pain and suffering, between happiness and contentment.
So what does meditation offer beyond the mat? Think of meditation like surgery. When you go into surgery, you are on the operating table and the doctor has you wide open – he’s looking for pus, inflammation, blockages, or something that is not right, like a tumor. Similarly, meditation is like open-heart surgery. You are opening up your mind and exploring your thoughts; looking for judgments, fear, negativity, habitual stories, and attachments. You’re learning to peel away the layers of the ego, to question those habitual patterns without judgment, and finally to find the true self within. Yes meditation will be at times chaotic and frustrating, but this is where the true life changes are made. This is where old habits like self-criticism and doubt can be rooted out and replanted with seeds of compassion and kindness, courage and authenticity.
Paramahamsa Nithyannda tells a story that light-heartedly brings this point home –
“in the early morning a mom is waking up her son, saying ‘come on, you should go to school."
The son says ‘nooo, all the children hate me in the school, all the teachers hate me in the school, tell me two reasons why I should go to school.’
She says, ‘One, you are 52 years old, second, you are the principle … so go to school!’ "
So how to begin a meditation practice…
Best option – find a group class nearby and join in once a week. Meditating in a group for some is the only way to start because there you are free of the usual distractions you run into at home (chores to be done, dogs to love on, kids to wrangle). Once meditating becomes familiar you can easily take the practice into your home.
I teach a meditation class on Monday nights from 7-7:30pm in the Columbia YogaWorks. Steve Haddad teaches a Vipassana (insight) meditation class on Sunday's from 12-1:30pm in the Midtown studio. And we have an internationally known teacher in the area, Tara Brach who is worth the drive down to Bethesda on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8pm.
Second best option – download the Insight Timer app. It has hundreds of guided meditations and a lot of fun tools to keep you motivated. And it’s free.
And always, ALWAYS meditate with compassion. It’s a jungle in there and you need YOU in your corner!