you might be overthinking it.
Last year I was living and teaching yoga in New York City. The city is a bustling, lively, challenging place to live. Often times the notion of teaching yoga in such a place felt ironic, with the serene grounding practice of yoga in stark contrast with the chaotic noisy flow of life in the streets.
Yoga and meditation provide refuge from the city, and in fact my practice was at it’s strongest during this time because of how needed it was. Living in the city forced me to practice so that I was able to live there, be in service there, and still maintain a sense of internal peace.
On my way to teaching one day I was sitting on the bus when an older woman boarded. Carrying a lot of things while trying to stay balanced as the bus continued to drive, and possibly not sure of where she was going, she struggled to find her metro card. I was watching her for a few moments and noticed that I was starting to feel stressed. I felt her situation as if I was experiencing it first hand.
Once I realized that focusing on this person was unhelpful, I refocused. I began to consciously and exclusively listen to the music I had on.
I shifted my awareness to rest on something specific.
This is more or less the foundation of a meditation practice. Noticing an involuntary pattern of focus, and choosing to rest your awareness with exclusivity on something else.
NOTICE THE STORY YOU’RE TELLING YOURSELF & LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS
Meditation can be a daunting word. It can generate a lot of anticipation for people and that anticipation in and of itself can stop someone from approaching meditation.
I’ve also heard students retract from the idea of meditating because they think they aren’t good at it. While understandable, this notion is almost comedic because no one is “good” at meditation naturally.
If you never trained for running a marathon, you likely also wouldn’t think you’d be good at running marathons, right?
Meditation is no different.
You don’t need to be clearheaded to meditate.
You don’t need to already be practicing yoga asana to meditate.
You don’t need to think of yourself as a calm person to meditate.
You don’t need to have a ton of free time on your hands to meditate.
To get into it, you just have to start practicing and can’t expect to be amazing at it from right off the bat.
UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE THAT YOU WILL HAVE THOUGHTS
Our minds naturally tend to follow different thoughts, get distracted and carried away, have us considering the past, and preparing for the future. Our minds are getting in the way because they’re trying to help us survive the day to day.
The intention is not to stop the thoughts or push them away. It’s to acknowledge them and then refocus again and again.
By meditating, you are simply choosing to not indulge in the thoughts that your mind generates. You acknowledge you’re thinking and then refocus your awareness. That focus could be on the continual rhythm of your breath, the feeling of your body, a word or intention, a visualization, or other possibilities.
This can be challenging because we so often identify with our thoughts and don’t want to let them go. We don’t want to lose the sense of ourselves that we’ve cultivated thus far.
But, while it might feel that way, we aren’t. Rather, we are inviting more space within ourselves, allowing distance between our sense of self and our mind, and generating a greater sense of ease and simplicity in our experience of being.
In this way, meditation becomes a tool. In refining our capacity to choose what we focus on, we can more easily detach from patterns of thinking that don’t serve us. And in effect, conscientiously choose to invest our attention in what does serve us.
JUST START SIMPLY
Set aside everything for 5 minutes, find a comfortable seat, close your eyes.
Start to notice your breath breathing involuntarily. Let your awareness rest of the breath as it moves. Realize when you’re thinking, when you’re becoming distracted, and then shift back onto the breath.
There is no goal to reach here; the value is within the process.
Natalie Mazur is a bilingual (English/Spanish) yoga instructor based in San Diego, California. She teaches private clients in their homes and online, and offers weekly group classes. Natalie has nine years of study and teaching experience combined, and has taught in the U.S. and internationally.
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