As part of yoga teacher training, I get an unlimited amount of classes during the eight-month school period. So, in addition to being encouraged to do so, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as possible and experience different types of yoga. Last night I took on meditation.
I've kind of sort of tried this before, but my brain moves a million miles a minute and I'm always thinking about the 46 other things I could/should be doing as I sit and try to be present. I generally do not make it through whatever meditation I'm trying because I'm too busy wondering if I remembered my keys, did I dust under the table, are my plants well watered...? Going into this class I knew it would be a challenge. I was certainly correct.
I'm not sure how long the actual meditation piece of the class was. I'm guessing about ten minutes. We were instructed to say, "Now," to ourselves if our minds wandered from our breath. I've gotten different instruction for this before: a sort of Spartan "you will focus on the breath and only the breath" command, guidance to acknowledge a thought as it comes up, but do not engage with it—like watching a parade go by in your mind, as well as a path somewhere between the two. I think last night fell into that middle ground. We were told not to move, do not scratch an itch, and barring pain or a high level of discomfort, just sit still. (My interpretation of what we were told anyways.)
I was getting a little chilly so before I ventured into these strange new waters, I threw on my hoodie. Sitting in half lotus, I felt I was ready to go. It didn't take long before I was repeating, "Now," to myself...a lot. Shortly after that my entire body started to reject the whole process. I began sweating and felt like I was on fire. How was I cold a minute ago and now I'm sweating and I haven't even moved? This lead to further turmoil in my mind. NOW. Oh my God I'm so hot I may get sick. NOW. Is my foot falling asleep? NOW.
At some point my body relaxed itself and I returned to normal human temperature. A couple of times it seemed like my mind had even gone blank when I heard the teacher reminding us to stay present. Stay in the room. Stay with our bodies. Breathe. NOW. Once I was reminded to be there in that room, I realized, yes, my foot—and entire leg—was falling asleep. NOW I was uncomfortable. I started to wonder if I could move NOW. How about NOW?
By the end of what seemed like an eternity, we were talked through coming out of the meditation—shortly after I was pretty much just repeatedly yelling NOW at myself. Probably not the gentle loving kindness I'm supposed to be showing myself. Just when I was thinking, "Ok, well I tried it. This isn't for me," the teacher gave a retching example of why we should all learn how to be more present.
She spoke of when her father was ill and how she struggled with feeling like she was under a black cloud and everything seemed to be falling apart. She had to consciously make the decision to stay present, to be with him, because she had no idea how much time was left. As I sat in the back of the room listening, I found tears welling up in my eyes because that was exactly what I had gone through with Grams. Fighting with myself to stay in that room, to take in every moment I could because these were the last. After all the years of wondering how much longer we had her, that question was being answered with hours and minutes. If ever there's an example of needing to stay in the present moment, those times are it. Sometimes I wonder if I ever really left that room.
By the end of the night I knew that I would be returning, and although it will be a struggle, it's one worth having. We don't need to be thrown into life-changing events to make us realize that what we have in front of us is the most important, and perhaps even all, we will ever have. So we need to breathe in, breathe out, and thank whoever or whatever you believe in that we get to be on this crazy ride at all. And if that seems like too much, we can at least start by trying.