I don’t know how many times I have done yoga. Three in the last 10 days. Thats the most in a short span of time I have ever done. The other 20 or 30 times I have done it spread a span of about 10 years. On average then, 2 or 3 times a year since I started. For my life average, less than once a year.
I am even less experienced at conscious breathing and meditation. I have heard these words on and off through the years, with various reactions. If I am cocky and confident, I make fun of them. [Don’t lose the laughter.] When I have been in a more open place, I have tried them. Guided meditations that come in a cassette tape (yes it was long ago) with a blue sky dotted with calming white clouds. They have swooshing noises and a soft spoken lady that sounds like she has just smoked a bag.
And somewhere in one of these twice yearly yoga classes and cassette tapes, I have heard breath speak. Admittedly, it has helped me. But helped in supporting the mantra that we must always have laughter in our lives. Not in the way it was meant to be. Breathe into your stomach. Breathe in good karma, breathe out the negative. Think only of your breath and you will have life. I mean, seriously. I am so overloaded that why would I put all my concentration into something that will happen whether I think of it or not?
”To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.” ~Pema Chodrun
I read this quote in the comments section of Lindsey’s blog a few weeks ago and it has stuck with me. I am working on “getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic.”
One of the many nuggets Dani Shapiro offered at a Kripalu workshop was on meditation. She offered some simple affirmations that we should concentrate on while we were practicing our breathing. Since the workshop was on writing, I started to ask if I could have a partial refund, but, since I was in a safe, unfrenzied place, I thought I would give it a try.
I am always looking for an out, an escape. I always know where the closest exit is located. I was well positioned in the back of the room. I knew I could just pretend, disengage, or even get up to go to the bathroom if I became too uncomfortable. My flight response responded to the high alert. I guess I should disclose that this entire exercise was less than five minutes, and I was well aware of how long it would last before I started. Dani introduced the exercise in her calming but confident and unimpaired from substances voice. In other words, this was a perfectly rational , even inspirational person asking me to try this. FOR ABOUT FIVE MINUTES. Because I was feeling generous and open minded, I told myself I would try it for half the time. This is an insight into how resistant I was to trying the breathing/meditation thing again.
So, it was with these parameters and escapes in place that I attempted her meditation. She started with telling us to feel our connection, feel where our sits bone connected to the ground. Here was when I started to not like it. Yes, the first sentence. Most people were on the floor and I was in a chair so I already thought I was doing it wrong because I was not connected to the ground. I started thinking my butt was on the chair and the chair was connected to the ground by four legs. Foot bone connected to the ankle bone, Ankle bone connected to the leg bone. And my mind goes to the familiar children's song. So, hey, anyway, does this really count if I am not sitting on the ground?
But, I stuck with it. She said a few more calming words and then went to the phrases: May I be safe, May I live with ease, May I be happy, May I be strong. I could have these in the wrong order but in the spirit of meditation I’m not sure that matters.
I could not believe it when she offered an out before I even thought about stopping. She said, “If your mind starts to wander, then just come back to the phrase, or the breath, or whatever.” Again, I missed the details but I clung to the message I was hearing. You don’t have to be perfect, your mind will wander, everyone’s mind wanders. So you come back. Just like that. Try again.
And there it was. With that one little rule added, I could do it. This amendment to my definition of meditating changed the game. Two minutes? And I could start over as many times as I wanted without getting points taken off? This is definitely something my attention deficit, lack of focus mind can wrap itself around.
I have used this meditation a few times in the two weeks I have been home. Not for as long as I did there. I can’t do the whole five minutes yet without the support of someone leading it. And I haven’t done it sitting down focusing all my attention on it. Mostly I use it when I find myself getting mad or frustrated. I stop and take a deep breath. Then I recite the words to myself. Usually I am not even focusing on the words, but using the mantra of the words to calm my body down. Like one of the ritualistic prayers I learned growing up, like the Lord’s prayer or the Nicene Creed.
As I strive to make changes in my life, I look to those who have gone before me. Most of the time, this helps. Each person’s knowledge and experience can help push me along. But sometimes, I get so intimidated. I feel like I am so far behind. I feel so small around those so great. I start listening to the voice in my head that says you will never do that, be that, go there.
So, I want to record this time. This moment. I want to remember my courage in trying when I am far from being the expert, far away from any confidence, far away from being experienced. I am embracing the infancy of my new seed. It may or may not grow. It is working now.
Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. I like this slightly different interpretation of the common quote.
"Even the longest journey must begin where you stand."