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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, Lorena Delgado, regarding a mindfulness meditation workshop with Shastri Ethan Nichtern.
Ethan's lecture brought me back to my first class of yoga and meditation. I always thought that I was not able to meditate. I tried different methods, but I could not find meditation—not because I did not look, but perhaps because I was looking in the wrong place.
When I first started yoga, I had two primary motivations. First, I needed to work on my groundedness and weight-shifting skills as part of my dance training; second, I felt the need to get closer to myself. Although this second reason was part of my motivation, I was not very clear that yoga—or anything for that matter—would help. So I narrowed my motivation down to one.
My first yoga class was a great physical experience. The moment the teacher began the meditation, however, my struggle began. Several questions came to mind: what am I supposed to be doing? Am I doing it “right”? What images let my mind relax? Is it the ocean? Is it colors? White? How long am I supposed to be still? It was a nightmare—my monkey mind was racing, and I could not do anything about it.
At that time I had just decided to pursue a professional career in dance, which meant I had to move to another city to make my own living, to leave my family and friends, etc. A lot of things were happening: things that usually happen when you grow. Frequently, though, we do not get to know our struggles—instead we store them up so they can grow with us. Ha!
Several years have passed since that first yoga practice. Some changes have happened, but others, like meditation, are still a challenge.
During our weekend with Ethan, I was excited to give myself another opportunity to revisit the meditation practice. At the same time, though, I was afraid to fail. When the lecture started, Ethan’s calmness and honesty drove me into a new and interesting state of myself: a state that I believe has been maturing since the yoga teacher training practice began, but that I maybe couldn’t appreciate until that moment.
Just as before, some questions arose. This time, though, I was not expecting to understand theories, or find explanations for everything. Instead, I felt like an empty cup. This time I wanted to notice and breathe. I wanted to be present. Ethan told us to “admit that we are having a hard time,” and at that moment I suddenly realized: the result was not important anymore.
Preserving a daily meditation practice is tough. You would think that teaching yoga would instill a staying drive and discipline in you, but I have to say, while teaching has deepened my personal practice on the mat and sharpened my awareness off of it, I have not yet solidified a regular meditation practice for myself. But I do have a goal – to make my meditation practice a more consistent one by the time fall rolls around.
I don’t expect to sit every day, at least at the beginning of this earnest venture; for me, starting with smaller steps will more likely build a stronger foundation that I can carry forward. I’ve undergone spurts of meditative zeal in the past, but the fire always died gradually or I would become so consumed by daily life that seated quiet time just didn’t seem like it could be fit in.
Participating in Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience, with its focus on discovering and empowering personal truths and uniting our flowing life force with that of the universe, prompted me to once more recognize meditation’s power. I’ve become addicted to the twenty minutes I’ve allotted to that series every day for the last three weeks. Maintaining a steady practice for 21 days sharpened my focus and enabled me to be present more often than not, clarified the emotions and thoughts coursing through my physical and mental bodies, and strengthened the personal choices I made in that time because I felt more in tune with myself, my surroundings, and my circumstances. I love the physical practices of asana and pranayama and find that such work on the mat can rid us of the gritty residue that settles as we pass through each day, so that we are left with a stronger sense of who and where we are. That being said, I deeply appreciate and seek the balance meditation presents between controlling what we can and letting go of the rest.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve probably discovered my affinity for collecting all the pieces of inspiration that have popped into my realm of focus recently, in an effort to connect them and consequently see the myriad of ways they are guiding me and secretly – or not so secretly – interacting with each other to ground my way of being. So here are this passage’s motivating factors, pieces of my mind’s puzzle lately that have shed light on this balance that meditation puts forth:
- It’s wonderful to get up in the morning knowing you’re doing all that you can do (latest quote of the month from my bedroom’s wall calendar)
- My Lovin’ Me 365 app’s affirmation that read, ‘I focus on the essential’
- Oprah and Deepak’s suggestion (as a part of their 21-Day Meditation Experience) that we relax into existence so that grace can emerge and lead us (I just love this idea)
To focus on what is essential, what I can do, gives a certain weight, a special value to my daily decisions and actions. This notion encourages me to be present and gives credence to moving slowly, living with a diligence, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness that really could alter the fabric of a life. The idea of grace invites in a recognition of our personal lives’ relationships to the immeasurable universe; it spins an entirely different perspective on the way we arrive at choices and the ways the ripples of our actions and even our thoughts flow towards others. Growing up Catholic, I identify with the concept of grace in two distinct ways – sanctifying grace, which deals with the soul’s transformation, and actual grace, which signifies a supernatural push or encouragement. My life experience has led me to truly believe in the second of these two entities, and a sutra that was presented by Guta Hedewig in my chanting class this past week offered fresh insight into the idea:
Sutra I.20 speaks to the power of conviction in working towards a goal. I personally cannot deliberate intelligently on Samadhi and the deeper levels of wisdom the sutra names, but I have become curious and inspired by other pieces of the aphorism:
- sraddha references the development of faith that we are heading in the right direction in this experience of life; it is not a blind faith but rather, one arising from inner intuition and direct experience
- virya denotes the commitment of energy that bolsters the power behind that sense of knowing what to do
- smrti speaks to the mindfulness involved in treading this life path
I by no means am an expert on this sutra or its contents, but even in my limited research, I find much power, richness, and even comfort in this sutra’s message and the seemingly direct relationship between the stepping stones of individuals’ lives and the greater workings of the universe that it implies. Such a description of our tie to the world doesn’t seem articulate at all when you consider the ridiculous abundance of details that exist surrounding our physical bodies, mental and emotional streams, interactions with others, known and unknown aspects of our world’s arena…but what all this does relate to me is the fact that while we do have control over certain pieces of our human lives, much of what we will undergo will not be of our direct choosing. While letting go of what we can’t control can be incredibly challenging, I find a stark beauty in knowing that we can just never know why or how matters have come to be. And yet, it’s helpful to consider that our intuition, faith, and passion can carry us forward towards our goals, as big or small as they may be. I may not always be onboard for the often blind journey forward, but I do hold onto the hope that a steady meditation practice could carry me through the wild tour of life with mindfulness and awareness, so that I can continue to be as present and grateful for every moment I breathe as I can be.
- Liz Beres