Weekly Meditation 1: Facing Resistance
Get me out of here. I distinctly remember the feeling of mild panic that overcame me on the first evening of my yoga teacher training when – with little preparation – we were instructed to meditate for thirty minutes. Thirty. Minutes. Just like that. My mind started racing. How would I be able to sit there for thirty excruciating minutes without moving? What would I think about? How would I manage the boredom? I would have squirmed my way out of there had it not been for the fifty other students sitting around me. It’s amazing what you can endure with a little peer pressure.
Before starting the course, few of the people that knew me best would describe my brain as ‘zen.’ I arrived to teacher training with a body ready for yoga but not quite with a mind ready for stillness. I started by dreading the daily sessions (twice a day, for 30-45 minutes each) but soon that turned into intimidation and then challenge. I never quite knew how things would go each time I sat down. But the key was, I tried. Everyday, twice a day, for a month, I tried.
Meditation, as it turns out, is about persistence. A little effort turned into a deeply rewarding practice: I learned that obstacles are part of the experience, that there is no way of doing it wrong, that stillness is the opposite of boredom and most of all, I felt like I finally had a handle on my mental chaos. When it comes to the rewards of meditation however, you don’t have to take my word for it. From the ancient Buddhists to the new-age spiritualists, from pop-psychology to managerial sciences – meditation and mindfulness are heralded as the golden key to well-being. The benefits of meditation are no secret.
There is an abundance of research on the mental, emotional and even physical benefits of regular meditation. The real impact however, is better understood through experience – there is something mysterious and powerful that happens when you take a few moments to become rooted firmly in the present. So why not just meditate? In theory, meditation can seem quite simple. Sit. Breathe. Be. In practice, however it can be anything but. Busy schedules, anxiety and a racing mind can make the idea of sitting still impossible. Despite the infinite techniques and philosophies at our fingertips, I’ve encountered many friends that have felt overwhelmed by it all, and needed a little help to get started. Starting any practice begins with taking a few thoughtful, small steps and this series is designed help take a few towards the habits of a regular meditation practice.
WEEK 1: OVERCOMING RESISTANCE
Despite being dedicated to yoga for over a decade, there are moments (months even) when my mat is the last place in the world I want to be. Sometimes we find ourselves mentally, physically or emotionally resisting the things that make us feel the best. This is the complicated part of life-long practices. The force of resistance that seems to come from within is daunting and it can be tempting not to face it head on. But in reality, it isn’t a static thing – it is fleeting thing that wanes if view it as something surmountable. We have to think of resistance as a muscle. When we choose not to face it – even in seemingly small or insignificant ways – it gets stronger. The key is to make a small effort – any effort — to keep it in check. When I can’t see myself doing a whole yoga class, I commit to even just 5 minutes of deep stretching. Getting started is often all you need to confront your resistance. This week’s meditation goal is to play with our power to overcome resistance, to flex a mental muscle and to see if you can create a bit of space to seed a new habit.
This week, all you need to to is find five minutes a day to sit in stillness and breathe deeply. The easiest way to do this is at the same time each day. You don’t have to worry about how you’re sitting or where you are. Just set a timer, close your eyes and breath. If five minutes seems impossible, do three. If three seems too daunting, do one. Whatever you choose, commit to it. Let us know how you’re doing, and don’t forget to come back next week for another small step to building a great meditation practice.