thoughts on meditation

Just wanted to pop in and share this beautiful thought on meditation practice from this interview with spiritual teacher Sally Kempton:

For many of my students, the key is to realize that when you sit for meditation, you are entering into a relationship with yourself. As in any relationship, it will sometimes feel easy and flowing, and sometimes feel challenging. If your commitment is to exploring the self, then whatever you experience in meditation is interesting, juicy. And the more you are interested in the process, the more meditation reveals itself.

Another secret is simply to give yourself time. At its core, meditation is a bandwidth in consciousness. It’s a state of presence that is always present behind and within the thoughts and emotions that normally clog the mind. If you sit for long enough, that bandwidth will naturally arise, and you’ll shift out of identifying with thoughts to being fully present in the meditative channel. Depending on how active your mind is, you might need to sit for between half an hour and one hour to fully enter into the natural state of meditation.

Finally, you need to be willing to experiment. Some of us do best with a simple breath and mindfulness practice. Others go deeper when they practice with a mantra. Some people respond to guidance, especially visual guidance. So it’s important to play with different practices, and find an approach that feels juicy to you. That helps you feel peaceful. That you enjoy. The more you enjoy it, the more likely it is that you’ll do it.

And, it’s important to read about meditation. Many great meditators have shared their personal experience. When you’ve read the teachings from the different traditions, you start to see what they have in common, and where the experience of meditators of the past can inform your own. And, if you read widely and intelligently, you begin to realize that meditation is never one size fits all, and it encourages you to experiment, which I believe is crucial.

five for friday

Random thoughts:

  1. For the past few days, the yogis in the morning classes I’ve taught have contributed incredible energy, and it’s contributed to this being one happy week! Whether I’m teaching or taking class, yoga is the best way to start my day. (Lattes, of course, are a wonderful part of the equation, too.)
  2. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” – Fred Devito. I’ve been sharing that quote in my classes recently, and it’s had me thinking about the effects of opening yourself up to change and welcoming challenge with open arms. Change and challenge are going to happen in life, and if you resist, you’ll probably be miserable. But if you meet them head on, they can become your greatest strengths and significantly improve your outlook and perspective. Love it.
  3. Chili. Cornbread. Make some now.
  4. New Girl is just brilliant lately. If you’re not watching, you really need to be. Pure awesomeness.
  5. I’m looking forward to some chill time this weekend. I really just need to enjoy some magazines, cups of tea, some chocolate, and snuggles with my honey.

one word

Well, well, hello there. It seems I forgot I had this little blog. I’ve been exploring Europe, growing my practice and my teaching, and enjoying a lot of smiles and lessons along the way. But we can talk about that another day. Today we focus on the present.

I have been starting my classes this week asking my students to share one word that describes how they would like 2013 to be. I’ve heard so many great responses: strong, bold, peaceful, happy, patience… I love doing this to learn a little more about my yogis and to offer the opportunity to inspire each other.

My word for the year is “FEARLESS!!!” Yes, caps and exclamation points included. I’ve long believed that, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” and I made some great strides with that in 2012. But I’d like to take it further. Our capacity for greatness is often far greater than we could ever imagine.

As you meditate on 2013 and the intentions you have for the year ahead, remember that you already have all that you need. It all resides in you, but sometimes needs a little mindful nudge to be unveiled. So keep showing up, keep practicing, and keep putting yourself out there… Kick some ass ;)

contentment

Reading Yoga Journal in a coffeeshop, I find myself inspired by these small words:

“Your limitations can be blessings in disguise, offering one of yoga’s greatest lessons: Contentment can be found anywhere. When a pose or life situation is challenging, you can learn to find peace with what is, exactly as it is.”

In other news, I just blogged from my phone for the first time. Hello, 21st century. Lovely to meet you.

just breathe

( Costa Rica <3 )

I bet you a million dollars that you’ve been in a yoga class before where the teacher tells you to breathe. Of course you wouldn’t take that bet. If anyone did, I just found the easiest way, ever, to get rich. And the reason why all of yoga teacher kind waxes poetic about the breath like it’s the holy grail? Well, quite simply put… Because it is.

The state of the breath quite often mimics the state of the mind and the body. A balanced breath is reflective of a body and mind in balance. The breath is also what helps you find steadiness, comfort, and depth in the most challenging of the asanas (physical postures).

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Don’t fret, I think it’s one of those things you have to feel to believe, and it comes with time and practice. Suffice it to say, the breath is important. As one of my teachers always says, “If you want to live to be 100, just keep breathing.” (Haha.) Our breath is crazy powerful, and it often sends us clues about our physical and mental situation.

Just think about the last time something scared you. As your heart rate accelerated, your breath probably became shallow and quick with that primal fight or flight response. Or think about the last time you were stressed out at work. You may have held your breath without even realizing it. Or maybe that time you were really relaxed on a beach vacation, and your inhales were deep and healing, as if you couldn’t sip in enough of that sweet, salty ocean air. Ahh, yes.

I remember when I was having a particularly difficult and stressful time at work a couple years back. I was driving over the bridge coming home one night, and even though I was sitting down and making no physical exertion, I realized that I couldn’t breathe. Like, literally, I could not complete an inhale. The stress of my day (week, month, year) had grown so palpable, it tightened through my chest and restricted the air flow into and out of my body. It scared the bejeezus out of me.

And that, my friends, is what we call a sign. A sign that I needed to chill the eff out (and probably pursue a different career path). I needed yoga in my life. So I began to focus on stilling my mind and relaxing my body. I unclenched my jaw. I loosened the white-knuckled grip I had on the steering wheel. I drew my shoulders down and back. Finally I was able to focus. I counted each inhale and exhale, and each grew longer than the last. One… Two… Twenty…

This is clearly an extreme case reflective of someone in an increasingly self-destructive life situation (and it served as an awakening and a catalyst for change). But no matter if you’re stuck in a crappy job, crappy relationship, crappy traffic, or crappy situation that is testing your patience, your breath is always there. These challenging times are the ones that really test our yoga practice.

Because at the end of the day, yoga is a mental practice. It is about connecting the mind, body, and soul, whatever that may mean to you. It really doesn’t matter one way or another if your foot touches your head in kapotasana (though that is quite impressive). Yes, the postures are a beautiful physical expression, and I believe that a strong asana practice can pave the way to meditation, but it is not all there is.

So the next time you find yourself tested, challenged, or otherwise on the verge of losing it, see what happens if you take a few moments to just breathe. <3