Dear Homegrown Yogis,
Last month I shared with you that I had recently made a 40 day commitment to meditation. Now on day 46 of a daily meditation practice (I’m keeping it going!), I think I’ve come to understand why I avoided meditation in my own yogic path for so long: I’ve avoided it because I didn’t think I could live up to what it was asking of me. My belief was that meditation was a practice of quieting my mind – a time to stop the chattering of my thoughts, drop my worries and give myself the gift of stillness. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Maybe that is what my meditation practice will be some day, but it is certainly not what it is now. And that expectation was what had made me believe that meditation didn’t and couldn’t work for me.
Glennon Doyle – a writer, speaker and activist – talked about how often people seem to abandon their friends during hard times. When the hard time passes, the friend reappears with some version of this apology: “I just didn’t know what to say to you so I didn’t want to call.” “I didn’t know how to fix your problem so I thought it best to leave you alone.” Glennon Doyle says it’s not that we are bad people or even bad friends – it’s that we have the wrong expectation of what we need to do as a friend. She says that friendship isn’t about fixing or even about helping each other during suffering – it’s simply about sitting alongside and together and staying awake and present through it. After 46 days, that is my new definition of meditation – this practice is about me sitting alongside and with myself, awake and present through it all. In doing this, I haven’t quieted my mind much, but I have begun to observe things about myself that have changed my day-to-day life dramatically:
First – when my mind wanders, it goes to work. As I sat in meditation and simply watched where my mind went, I realized that every time I wandered off or dropped out of presence, my mind went to the very same place – the studio, teaching and teacher training. Why this is interesting is because I also observed how every time I feel lonely, anxious, bored (insert any uncomfortable feeling) in my daily life, I focus on my work. I log into Mindbody to check on class numbers; I look at our social media; I start coming up with new programming. Working isn’t a bad thing, AND I notice that I use work as my escape. Now when I pick up my phone to check my email or log onto Instagram, I check in with myself to see if I’m doing this because I’m choosing to work or because it’s my go-to when I feel like I need an out.
Second – surprisingly my “worst”meditation days have turned out to be my “best” days of growth and discovery. Debbie Ford writes, “Our pain can be our greatest teacher,” and I’m most certainly finding that true in meditation. On many (if not most days), I sit down to meditate and the first sensations that come up are impatience and resistance. What I’m finding is that if I invite those feelings in rather than run away or try to squash them, they can teach me an immense amount about myself.
If expectations and definitions have been keeping you from doing something – whether that’s yoga, reaching out to a friend or taking on a new project – I invite you to see what a shift in perception might do. For me, giving up an outcome and instead observing with full presence has given me a gift far beyond what I could have ever expected.