Who’s ever meditated before? Sitting still and being quiet with no stimulation whatsoever?! Crazy, I know. It’s growing ever more difficult for us to be without our devices, conversations, or whatever stimulation it is, for any amount of time.
I definitely struggle. After trying traditional sitting meditation for a good while and feeling really discouraged, I decided to rework my method. Baby steps, I thought. Do I have to be sitting cross legged with my hands resting on my thighs? Maybe not.
During my winter in Thailand, I visited a traditional Buddhist monastery for about five days. They opened their ‘doors’ on a donation base to visitors to learn meditation and have a comfortable place to do so with a community of like minded people. I showed up, put on my all white clothing, settled into my kuti (my meditation hut), and fell into the routines with the others.
The experience was something I’ve never done before. And the core values and methods, I’ll take with me through life forever. It was very traditional which I appreciated and learned so much from but at the same time, I didn’t like that it was traditional for women to sit in the back. Even laymen in front of nuns, it irked me. Little things like that kept from really feeling comfortable. And yes, I know, that’s my own ego in the way. Moving on.
A few weeks later, I visited a different meditation focused farming community. It was run by an ex-monk, his Japanese wife, their 3 year old daughter, and the rotating group of volunteers. We would all work on the farm, makes meals together, do yoga together, and meditate together every evening. I wrote in depth about Mindful Farm, here.
It was more casual but still a very peaceful and respectful environment. The ex-monk led evening meditation every night and finished with interesting anecdotes to teach different lessons. One of the main lessons he taught that I really appreciated though, was to not try to conform too much to meditation ‘rules.’
The point is to be mindful. The point is to be aware. The point is to, on occasion, be still, and take a break from the chaos of life. We had two different yoga teachers there during my ten days on the farm. Both were two of my favorite instructors that I’ve ever had.
One of them focused on every little movement. Slowed you down even if you didn’t want to slow down. She pushed you to new limits by encouraging just a little more, never with force or hurry. Always with patience and compassion for each of our bodies and minds. She spoke mindfully right up to Shavasana, sending us into a meditative state with ease.
The other said she liked to exhaust her body to focus her mind. And that she did, exhaust our bodies. We moved through set poses with high energy until we felt exhausted and just sunk into Shavasana. Her intention behind every move was to get us to a point of clarity that you reach when you fully put yourself into something physically until you can’t even do another sun salutation.
As I’ve been traveling since these experiences, I’ve tried meditating regularly, failed, tried again, failed again, etc. This is going to take some time but I’ve stopped being hard on myself about it. Because it doesn’t help.
The most consistent thing I’ve managed to do is headstands. Yup, just standing on my head. I don’t know what it is, but I love them. I’ll go upside down and be there for ten minutes. I become more mindful, focusing on staying still so I don’t fall, feeling the blood flow reverse towards my head, and my lower invertebrates feel some significant relief. And for now, while I’m still learning how to meditate, that has been my most successful way to accomplish clarity. (There is maybe even a full feet to head video span of me doing a headstand in a promo video at one of my favorite music festivals, hehe.)
I wonder what I would be like if I had been taught to meditate when I was a young child. Can you imagine? Learning how to sit still in a way other than what a lot of times felt like a punishment? The clarity that we could accomplish. The level headedness that we could maintain in rough situations. The mindfulness in which we would be able to carry out our days.
I plan to travel to more meditation and yoga communities to continue to develop my practice while continuing to do my simple practices now. More than, anything though, I would love to see meditation start to become prevalent in schools, community organizations, and homes in the entire world but particularly in the United States. Look to this article for a little more information about the benefits of meditation in schools, here.