Mindbodybrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Teacher Trainees, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following is a piece written by one of our newest, current trainees, Brianna Goodman, regarding a mindfulness meditation workshop with Shastri Ethan Nichtern.
As our meditation workshop came to a close this past training session, Ethan left us with a directive: “You have to deal with your mind. It accompanies you everywhere and isn’t something that you can avoid forever.” I’m paraphrasing, but it seems so obvious—of course we can’t escape our minds, as they are what guides us in and out of our daily activities. And yet, the more I thought about how I approach each task-filled day, the more I realized that I was doing a pretty good job of trying to escape the inescapable. I was ashamed to register just how much of my days I spend in complete ignorance of what’s going on inside of my own head.
In a city that moves as quickly as New York, inhabitants are expected to maintain a certain degree of momentum. Whether one is walking to the gym, entering a subway car, or waiting in line at the nearest Starbucks, we always are encouraged to keep up the pace. Standing still—particularly in the center of the sidewalk—is quite the taboo. It is easy to fall into pace with the thousands of fellow New Yorkers who are trying, as efficiently as possible, to get from point A to point B. It’s even easier to turn on the autopilot of one’s feet, the cruise control in one’s legs, and allow the mind to wander away from the present journey. What’s difficult is noticing when it’s time to hit the brakes and call upon our minds to tap into the present moment.
It is unsettling for me to realize that I’ve spent entire days so caught up in motion that I couldn’t spare a moment to register what I was experiencing. Days are so filled with thoughts of “what’s next?” that even activities that I enjoy, like taking a dance class or reading a book, become timed tasks that must be completed efficiently, in order to make way for following obligations. When was the last time that I completed an entire ballet class without looking at the clock, already mapping out the fastest way to travel across town before I’ve even traveled across the dance floor? Or how about the last time that I picked up a book, without flipping forward to see how many pages until the end?
We can’t spend forever distracting ourselves with the future. Eventually, we have to tune in with how we are in the present. It can be a scary thing, bringing our forward march to a halt in an effort to check in with the mind. Sometimes I fear that if I come to rest in stillness, that if I give myself pause to comprehend how I’m digesting a certain experience or chain of events, that I might struggle to come back into motion again. But time and time again, I have come to realize that this is not the case.
Since working with Ethan, I’ve been making a daily ten-minute meditation a higher priority. The struggle to be still is relentless, and some days I find the seemingly simple task nearly impossible. But the more time I spend focusing on the internal, the more I realize how harshly I’ve been ignoring it. Rather than presenting a challenge in getting going with the rest of my day, sitting with my breath for ten minutes actually renews my focus and allows me to continue through my schedule with a little more clarity. Stillness doesn’t have to be a liability in New York—it can, in fact, be a wonderful asset.
Our minds will always be with us, and therefore, we must take the time to listen to them. Just as ignoring a good friend has consequences, so too does ignoring ourselves. The task to tune in doesn’t have to be a daunting one—it can occur on the subway, during a lunch break, or maybe first thing in the morning before the coffee pot is turned on. Just taking a few moments to notice our breath and notice where our mind is lurking at that present moment can be beneficial. Spending our whole lives living in a future that does not exist sounds both unpleasant and impossible. Living in the present, however, seems to boast a life that is richer, and full of clarity.
- Brianna Goodman