29 Aug 2018

Baby steps in meditation.

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My friend Laurie Curtin gave me a mala made of jade beads about 5 years ago; she selected the beads with me in mind. I was grateful, and liked the muted green colors, and wore it sometimes. I did not know that the mala was also a tool that could be used in meditation, until last night’s class with Michelle Synnestvedt.  https://www.michellesynnestvedt.com/

I have had beginner’s luck with meditation. Two months ago, Michelle taught one class about it in my basic yoga teacher training course. We students were brought into a deep state of relaxation, and then we were asked to ask ourselves, “what is my mind doing?” My mind was stunned by this question, and stopped completely, for a moment. I never before realized that my mind was its own thing, and not me.

The next day, in a quiet moment of reflection and intention setting before beginning asana practice, I asked myself again, “What is my mind doing?” and had the powerful and total comprehension that I am NOT my thoughts.

Well then, who am I?  For the rest of my life, this will be my question.

In class last night, Michelle gave each student a mala, and taught us how to use them, along with a mantra. For the first part of the practice, I burned, dripping sweat.

I noticed how much easier it is for me to get to a deep place inside me when I am surrounded by others doing the same thing. Hmmm….that’s interesting. I also learned that the hot flash is a normal part of the practice, as what is not needed is burned away.

This morning, I used the jade mala to sit quietly in my studio and imagined sitting by the precious lake at one of my favorite places in the world, as I inhaled on the OM and exhaled on the Nameh Shivaya, for every bead. When I reached the 109th bed, I sat in silenced and noticed again that the “eternal chatter of a relentless mind” had stilled, briefly.

My mind is so busy, and it runs in layers, where the top layer is working in meditation practice and lower layers are churning through topics of “I have to send some documents to that reviewer” and “oh, I want to write about this so I hope I remember this particular thought” and “the new shower stall will be nice”.  One layer brought a flash of memory, of me at age 14,  practicing Hanon finger exercises on the piano and hating every single minute, and learning how to set my fingers going so my parents would know I was practicing, while I simultaneously took myself to a happier place with fantasies. That exercise was one of disconnection. This was one more way I trained my mind to work in layers, to distract while appearing “normal” on the surface.

For most of my life, my mind has been like a movie theater with 9 screens of movies playing continually. I am learning how to walk out of the theater through meditation, moving towards a quiet mind and peace.   I can notice gossipy and judgemental thoughts and sweep them out of me, because I am learning to choose my thoughts, as I would choose what to wear. This is my new practice, far from perfect.

I never dreamed I would be interested in such things; I can still hear my father’s derisive voice, talking about “sitting and contemplating your navel” when yoga appeared as a new topic in the 50s and 60s.  Sorry, Daddy (actually not sorry), I am being drawn to this new practice. There is more than one way to be. There are more ways of taking care of myself than brushing and flossing and eating well; I can learn to calm my mind.



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