Saturday, April 16, 2011

Debunking Meditation in my Practice

Meditation has never been 'ma force' to say the least. I'm the yogini who for the first two years during savanasa (when it wasn't painful) was painfully anxious the entire time. I've now at least moved to being able to sit with my eyes closed during savasana, but let's just say I'm very vata-pita, high strung and not quite able to slow down.

I've often wondered, over the past 6 years of my yoga journey, if I should be meditating more. It's a limb on that eight fold ashtanga yoga path (I think? lol) and I'm pretty sure kinda an important aspect of a yoga practice in general. At least, that's what they tell me ('they' being intense yoga-types). Needless to say, yin has been the closest I've come to slowing down during my yoga practice. Typically a slower practice makes me anxious... which is counter-intuitive.

Last week, friends (who meditate weekly) invited me to attend a free Moksha Halifax meditation workshop. Free. I really can't pass that up. Especially after all that griping recently about how expensive yoga was.

I was fairly prepared to be extremely uncomfortable and fail miserably at the entire workshop... Sad that I walked into the studio predetermined to fail. Thank goodness the self-fulfilling prophecy (go Psych degree!) didn't pan out!

The co-owner of the studio ran the workshop. She was very sweet and open to questions. I struggled a bit with turning of my newly acquired 'yoga-cynicism' at her comments about yoga being 10 000 years old (umm... that could be contested) or how her 6 years of practicing yoga and now she co-owns a studio and has an iphone (do all yoga teachers have iphones now?) was bugging me. I was on serious cynic high gear that day. I managed to tell Ms. Cynic to shut the eff up and tune into the learning experience of the day.

We practiced four types of meditation, each 5 minutes long with a 10 minute final who-hah, let-er rip finale.

1. Guided meditation: I found this meditation-type to be the most difficult. Instead of focusing on my own breath and turning myself inward I was constantly being distracted by her voice and her suggestions. I will admit that I adore guided *relaxation*, as the goal is to help relax each muscle and not clearing my mind.

2. Mantra repetitions: I'm really not comfortable choosing a sanskrit mantra. Mostly because I always feel fake or like a weird poser repeating something that I have no cultural, historical or religious ties. Instead I decided to focus on 'inhale, exhale' which wasn't too 'fouffy'. It was interesting that she recommended we don't time our breath with our mantra as our meditation would become too breath dependent. I understand the idea, but I guess the clearing of my mind really is very closely tied to my breath. It's possible this changes with time and practice.

3. Visualization: Oh how I despised this type of meditation. I really didn't want to visualize a flame; all I could think about was how Tuvoc meditates with a flame- go Vulcans!, or try to recreate some sort of energy ball or whatever so I tried to think about the field of energy that surrounds us all (very pagan). As I kept trying to force something that purposefully became external I just became more annoyed and angry. When that little ding on her iphone went off I couldn't have been happier. Stupid energy field.

4. Passively watching our thoughts pass by: she described this technique as watching your thoughts run by like on a piece of tape (ummm) and passively accept them without judgment or attachment. She admitted that this was very difficult for her and not her favourite. I would say that the 'thoughts on tape' analogy actually got in the way of how I generally accept and let go of my thoughts during meditation. As soon as I stopped trying to see a tape, it wasn't that difficult. 

The final 10 minute meditation was on whatever technique we wanted. Which I chose to be to focus on my breath and clear my mind... and I realized immediately that I have been meditating at least once if not three or more times a week for the past six years. I have spent all this time avoiding meditation specific workshops worried that meditation would just be too difficult for me, that I needed to do something really special, when what I do during each savanasa has been meditation all along.

Me meditating during savasana in my hotel in Cape Breton. Without even knowing it!

Since I am so not a fan of relaxation in public surrounded by people, every savasana has been spent focusing my mind, my breath and grounding with the Earth's energy. I've used pagan techniques with regards to grounding for circle casting and energy clearing, yogic techniques of breathing and quieting the mind.

Holy Goddess, I am a Meditatrice!

Article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. LOL - oh how i can relate!!

    i can't ever seem to turn off my monkey-mind....even when i think i have, up pops some wise-ass commentary on the whole thing...


    a work-in-progress, i am...:D

  2. Savasana is a natural gateway to meditation practices. I think often - as your post suggests - what people think about meditation creates all sorts of baggage that gets in the way of experiencing it.

    I have done all kinds of meditation forms. Visualizations tend to fall flat on me. I, too, am often distracted by guided meditations - unless the guided part is spare on words, then it works well.

    Mantras I love. And us Zen folks do a lot of just sitting and watching what comes up. Not always fun, but it's worth it in my opinion.

  3. Ha! I, too, despise visualization meditations. Great post.

  4. Woo--it sounds like an interesting experience. I actually just lectured on this topic in class last week so it's ironic to me to see it covered in the blog world too. ;) While we didn't go in depth on them, we at least discussed them as stress reduction strategies and positive coping mechanisms--and that's in a mainstream health class (although in Portland...). ;)

    The only time I can "meditate" is when I am swimming laps. My mind stills as I repeat 1, 2, 3 for the three strokes prior to rotation/breath and everything else just fades away. When it finally dawned on me that I actually was in a sort of meditative state during those periods, it was pretty joyful too! ;)

    Hope you have a great week!

  5. I started meditating about 2 months ago, in response to my breakup. I had heard the guidance to do so countless times over the last five years, but honestly, I find it really hard sometimes to sit and shut it. I have actually succeeded in making it a priority - twice a day, no less - every single day for these two months, and want to continue to do so indefinitely.

    However, that said, I still find it really hard. I constantly struggle with monkey mind and often feel like I'm not "getting it" or doing it right. But I read somewhere that you just show up and you do it, and don't worry about doing it right - that your commitment to the practice will eventually lead you to where you want to be. So I'm hoping!

  6. @mel: i also have a monkey-mind :) love that i'm not the only wise-ass!

    @nathan: so true! i also agree that although the sitting and watching what comes up was difficult (and perhaps not ideal to try it with the whole visualization of a tape of my thoughts written out), it definitely felt different and more introspective than my regular practice.

    @Megan: thank you :)

    @Simply Auth: sounds like what Andrew describes when he runs, or a really fabulous yoga practice. :) So cool that you were just speaking on this topic!

    @A Green Spell: WOW! congratulations Y for keeping that up. that is so inspiring. I think it's key what you said about people saying that there is no 'right or wrong' way to meditate. what you're doing is fantastic. :)


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