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Thursday, April 25, 2013

What do meditating and partying have in common?

"Meditation is painful in the beginning but it bestows immortal bliss and supreme joy in the end." –Swami Sivananda

What do meditating and partying have in common? Absolutely freaking nothing, but it makes for a great title right??

Seriously though, a good friend of mine messaged me today to ask some advice about stepping up his meditation game. I am absolutely no expert (in fact I'm barely a beginner) but sometimes hearing it explained by someone who is light years beyond you in their practice can be a bit too intimidating to be helpful. As someone who has tried and failed, started and stopped, loved and hated meditating over the course of the past 7 years, I think my opinion could actually be helpful. It took becoming a yoga teacher for me to establish a steady, enjoyable meditation practice so clearly I am not a natural...In other words, if I can do it YOU can do it!

Back to partying! I was blessed to receive an entire day of meditation training during my Yoga Teacher Training this fall and it really helped me develop a personal daily practice. The inspiring Zoe Anna  led us through various meditation techniques including Japa, Loving Kindness, and TM or Transcendental Meditation. This may sound complicated but when Zoe broke them down, each form seemed completely accessible. I felt like I learned and grew so much that day but there was one particular thing Zoe said that stuck with me, and I contemplate italmost every day before I sit down to meditate.

Imagine you're at a crowded party with one of your best friends. You know a lot of people there and recognize them, but don't really want to talk to them. As you're in the middle of an intense conversation with your friend, an annoying former classmate walks by and you accidentally make eye contact. You can't pretend you didn't see them at this point and go right back into your convo, so what do you do? You acknowledge them, give them that "I'm saying hey, but don't want to have a whole interaction with you right now" look and go right back to your BFF.

You can apply that same party trick to your meditation practice! When you meditate, it's good to pick one single point to focus on. It can be a mantra (saying "let" on the inhale and "go" on the exhale silently in your mind is an easy and popular one), it can be the sound of om, or perhaps a tranquil ocean scene. Whatever this one thing is, pretend it's your BEST FRIEND. You and this thought are at a party just chilling then boom, suddenly you're thinking about the first meeting you have today and how you need to mail in your rent check and how you hope you Freshdirect doesn't ring the buzzer while you're meditating or any other random thought that could pop into your mind.

Those random thoughts are the annoying classmate! You can't ignore them and pretend they aren't there. You can't beat yourself up about interrupting your convo/meditation because then you're thinking about what a shitty meditator you are instead of paying attention to your BFF/single point of focus. So you use your party trick: acknowledge the thought, throw up deuces at it (this means putting up 2 fingers as if to say "peace out" for those of you over 35 reading), then go right back to meditating. I often found myself getting derailed by my overactive brain and giving up in years past. Now, instead of quitting when my brain starts to get chatty, I pause and gently redirect my mind to the focus point.

Here's my whole process: I set my alarm for 30 minutes before I need to get up. Go to the bathroom (you cannot meditate when you gotta go). Set my alarm for the time I need to be done meditating with a really peaceful wave sound (you do NOT want to be jolted out of a meditative state with a standard alarm). Sit up on my yoga bolster and wrap my cozy blankie (thanks Natasha Zina Cohen) around my shoulders (you can't meditate when you're shivering). I sit in siddhasana (but really any comfortable seated position will do). I place my hands gently facing down on my knees to feel grounded because I'm a spas (but if you are more sluggish or lethargic then face your palms up in a gesture of receptivity). I choose my thought and do my best to gently focus on it for the next 20-28 minutes. 

Recently I've been into using "sat nam," a popular Kundalini meditation that is so simple yet so complex, you could think about it forever and never get tired of it. The short definition would be something like "I am truth" or "I bow to the essence of being" "I'm real"...no wait, that last one is a J. Lo song. Click here a few more eloquent interpretations of the phrase: Sat Nam.

I like it because it fits well with a slow inhale exhale pattern and sometimes multi-word mantras complicate things too much for me. It's also just a beautiful phrase to contemplate. And yes, I do this pretty much every day these days. I kind of can't resist doing it. Once meditation becomes habitual, it's like exercise. You crave it and feel crappy when you miss a day. Not physically, but energetically. You have a strange cloudy headache that only meditation can cure. Then again like exercise once you stop, it's really easy to fall off the meditative wagon so you must commit to a regular daily practice. I promise it gets easier. 

You might be thinking "Why should I meditate anyway??" but I'll save that for another post. Namaste humans. 

"When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place."
-Bhagavad Gita