On Monday I disclosed how difficult it was for me to learn how to meditate. Today I reveal the journey that helped me work through the challenges I faced. Once I understood that regular meditation practice would be beneficial in helping me manage my health and well-being, I was ready and open to achieve successful outcomes. Needless to say, although I had a better attitude about this practice, the transformation did not occur overnight. I had to approach this as I did when learning any new behavior, like reading music or playing an instrument. In other words, it was going to take some work, because for me, meditating did not come naturally.
In my family, we were taught and conditioned to pray regularly. The closest I came then to quieting the mind as a child was when I went inward for prayer. I did not grow up in a culture that taught us how to be still, look inward, and reflect. It was quite the opposite in fact. The environment I grew up in kept us engaged and active. Our caretakers had limited education and wanted a different life for us. As a result, we were kept engaged a variety of activities, in and out of the home. While most kids were out playing with friends, we were given tasks and required to complete them all before we were rewarded with any free time. This included daily school work, Greek lessons, a physical fitness program, plus domestic cleaning and yard work. By the time we were done with our responsibilities, it was time for bed.
We were equally active at church too and joined many organizations to help out. In short, in my family, we were supported and encouraged to keep our bodies and our minds active. I am appreciative of these rewarding experiences because they helped enrich my life in so many ways. What was equally significant, however, was that although I didn’t always appreciate them at the time, many of these activities filled my heart with joy and provided me a sense of accomplishment.
Once I enrolled at the university to pursue a bachelor’s degree that same level of commitment and dedication to my family and the Greek Community was now driven by the passion of my academic pursuits. In other words, my life didn’t slow down. My lifestyle supported a state of being that kept me active and engaged. This explained why I had such a difficult time quieting the mind to meditate. I lacked experience! The closest I came was in prayer, but even then, I was silently reciting words, so I was never really in a complete state of silence.
The reality was, I could not quiet my mind and focus on the present moment because I was conditioned to keep my mind in an active state. The voice in my head was in constant chatter. In other words, it was natural for my inner voice to remind me how uncomfortable the pillow was in class because it always behaved this way. It was normal that my legs were tickling me now that they had fallen asleep because that’s what happens to my body when I sit crossed-legged for extended periods time. Of course my head got itchy and needed scratching, this was an automatic response. What was not normal was my becoming still to observe it all. In other words, I never slowed down long enough to observe my own behavior. This was new territory!
The more I focused on keeping quiet, the louder the voice sang, danced, and did everything it could to distract me. My mistake at the time was in keeping silent about how difficult the experience was. Yogi John’s class however, was not a beginner’s class, so many assumed I had experience in this practice. Why else would I have attended? Furthermore, the meditation sessions after yoga class were optional. They were offered as bonus relaxation tools and were not a requirement. The truth of the matter was that a close friend, also a teacher in Yogi John’s classes, invited me to attend. Had this been a beginner’s meditation session, I would have asked for more assistance. The instructors would have offered more guidance and assured me that everything I was experiencing was actually a normal part of the learning process. I discovered this later when I actually attended beginning classes in a small community located in central Virginia called Yogaville. Where better to become more educated about yoga and meditation?
On Friday, I will conclude this discussion before I recess for a short summer break. Until then … stay organized!
“Happiness is part of who we are. Joy is the feeling.” —Tony DeLiso