What happens when we establish a regular meditation practice?
On our yoga therapy professional training, we set reading assignments, practice assignments and self-reflection write ups. In this one, one of our trainees describes beautifully what can happen when a daily sitting meditation practice has been established… Here is an edited version of her assignment as she comes toward the end of the 18 month training.
She refers to Stephen Levine’s text ‘A Gradual Awakening’ which I first read on my Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Training and opened up new understanding for me about meditation, the mind and the human condition. A book that I have read again and again since and pass onto nearly everyone I meet on their health-seeking journey.
“ a general mindfulness becomes noticeable throughout the day... whatever we’re doing becomes the ground for expanding mindfulness.” Stephen Levine, A gradual Awakening
I feel that this is my experience. I wrote in my last practice log assignment that my home practice had changed, because of the very big change to my daily life. I have been very conscious that my daily 10 minutes on waking has become irregular. I worried about this a bit. But, I have found that I now have the opportunity to practice for longer, but just less regularly – or at least for the last couple of months of last year. I was feeling a little bit apprehensive about this, worrying a little that I’m letting it slip a bit maybe. I’d been doing this ‘religiously’ for years. I wrote about quality vs quantity, and thought about this a lot.
I now feel there has been some progress and see a different perspective. Rather than slipping, I see that I feel much more integrated BECAUSE of my established practice, and so rather than organising my practice to a strict regular pattern, my practice feels like it has evolved, it doesn’t feel so controlled. I haven’t ‘lost control’, I just feel that it has become more effortless, and now is more embodied in my day-to-day existence. When I’m interacting with people, when I’m cooking, cycling, running etc, I’m more mindful. I feel more ‘alive’ because of this, more present. Life has slowed down a bit. I feel less attached to stress and accomplishing a lot in my day.
I’m not rushing around as much, I’m making better choices. I’m letting go of it being a competition to be the busiest!
Paying attention, being mindful. Enjoying being rather than doing. Coming back home to balance. It’s enJOYable!
“The body can become a very sensitive diagnostic tool. It can signal what’s happening to us. It can even detect the experience of others as we pick up, on the feeling level, the mental states of those around us.” Stephen Levine, A Gradual Awakening
Whilst this has many positive benefits – I can respond to my sensations more skilfully, often sensing what I need, or noticing when certain emotions are surfacing, anger for instance. I can also respond to those around me more readily, because I can often feel what others are feeling. However, I wanted to acknowledge that I have learnt that this can be exhausting, depleting my energy even though I am seeing that slowing down and taking better care of myself has been a very positive thing.
Learning to have clear boundaries. Giving myself more space and time, I feel more connected to myself, more grounded, and this will hopefully benefit everyone else around me too. When I am sensitive to myself and the people I am interacting with, I can more experience that deep connection that is intuitive. The place where, as Levine says,
“..the separation between beings melts away and communication has less to do with words.”
“Instead of speaking aloud, we find we can send thoughts silently through the heart… It’s not the words that are communicated, it’s the intentions; it’s the state of mind that is communicated, it’s the attitude of caring.”
Difficult to put into words so this quote is beautiful!
I think this is a common experience and a great description of the journey from the worry of an irregular practice to the maturity of understanding how practice has shifted from a seated timed practice to an integrated life experience that is happening all the time!
As the course director of Yoga United Yoga Therapy professional training, it’s important to progress our trainees through a process of self-study and awakening. The intention is that a client will respond to the professional in a way that feels different; a non-judgmental and intuitive way that creates a safe environment for whatever needs to happen, whatever needs to heal.
When we work together with a therapist, guide or in a group, we create a field of loving presence which, I believe, has a deep effect on the wellbeing of every single cell in the body as well as each other.
Sending love to you wherever you are on your journey,
Judy Hirsh Sampath is the programme director of the Yoga United Yoga Therapy professional 550hour training. Her desire is to support those on their health-seeking journey, to live and love life in fullness and harmony.