I am trying to work out how best to guide the meditation class this Sunday. It’s different from yoga. There are more opportunities for distraction in yoga with all the poses and shapes we make with our bodies. It’s much more about doing: stretching, pushing, opening, lengthening. And after we’ve done all those poses that we need to do, the thought of a few minutes resting in meditation aint no thing. With a 60-minute meditation session it’s trickier. There’s really nothing as such to do. And because of that non-doing, it becomes much more confronting and agonizing and frustrating. It’s tiring to sit still for a period of time. Your back, hips, shoulders, neck inevitably starts hurting. And it can be frustrating because these aches and pains in your body feel like they take you away from the experience or the ability to find peace. If you take the sitting part out of it and lie down, then it’s hard not to just doze off and use the time as an opportunity to catch up on some Zs. Which maybe isn’t that bad but do you get what you want or need? So why, if it’s so hard, so scary, do we want to do it? What do we want to get out of this space, this stillness?
I really find it so hard to be still. I love doing things, getting stuff done, being productive. I’ve been struggling all week with some kind of cold and/or flu and have had to forgo swimming, some yoga classes and most energetic movements beyond standing (more like leaning) at a coffee machine and lying in a bed thinking about my bloody life. I’ve never before looked at runners in the morning with such envy. They aren’t stopping they are go-go-going and I want to join them and run as fast as I can from whatever this sick feeling and the emotion accompanying it is all about.
When we slow down and sit with ourselves, whether out of choice in meditation or out of necessity when you are feeling unwell, it’s harder to block or ignore how we really feel. All kinds of stuff suddenly seems to come up: our fears, insecurities, feelings of anger, sadness, despair. Let’s be honest, it can be a bit of a shit show. It can be hard not to think all is lost. Or we’re totally screwed. And convince ourselves, that there is something really, deeply, wrong with who we are.
So why do it? Why slow down? I think part of the benefit of being still is to allow yourself to be there for yourself. To tune into your inner space and be aware of what’s there. To acknowledge yourself, how you are, what’s going on for you. It’s easy to rely on other people to do that for you but I think it’s important also to be able to give that to yourself. On a physical level, sometimes we just need to slow down, to find ways to rest, to give your body a break. Life seems to be about balance so if you intend to go fast, you will likely need to balance that by also learning to be slow and to let go of the need to constantly be pushing, forcing and doing all the time.
But beyond all these and other obvious benefits of meditating (deeper breathes, clearer heads etc), I think the most important thing we get from the practice or slowing down and generally being still, is learning to realise that who we are is actually ok. That those feelings that come up are just feelings. They don’t mean that there are awful or hideous things about us but just sensations that come and go. That we can experience but also detach from them. That there is nothing to be scared about, no monsters hiding deep within us to uncover and nothing to feel ashamed of.
There is some opportunity or benefit that also comes from meditating in a group. Maybe feeling each other in the room spurs us to keep going, to keep clearing out our heads, to keep letting go. I think too it allows us to realise that on some deep level, we are all the same. We all get frustrated, all get scared, all get distracted and all want peace. And underneath it all, the tight hips, the frustration of a wandering mind, the panic of how much time there is left, of what we are going to find out about ourselves; there is nothing wrong with any of us. By learning and knowing it for ourselves we can feel it and know it for each other.