I’ve been practicing meditation on and off (mostly off) for the last year. In the past few weeks I have tried to make it a more permanent part of my routine. I am attracted by its claims to help increase focus and bring some stability of emotion to the day. And it does. On the days when I do my yoga and meditation I feel less impulsive when it comes to acting on emotion – something that is important when working with children. I have to have patience and the ability to think through my reactions before reacting. Meditation has helped me with that.
Meditation is not easy. Sitting by yourself in a room with your eyes closed for even five minutes is difficult, especially when you have no idea what in the world you are supposed to be doing for that five minutes, because we always have to be doing something, right? We always have to be showing in some way that we are being productive. At least, that is how I have felt. But what is the quality of our productivity?
I have been in the process of writing a book. I would call it a grueling process, but so far the only grueling part about it is my inability to truly focus on what I am doing. I’ll write a little, then pick up my phone and check Facebook. Write a little more and pick up my phone and play some silly game. Write a little more… The process goes on and on. Sometimes I have wonderful productive moments when I am in flow and nothing else matters, but these sessions aren’t as common as I would like them to be. Meditation has helped me be more focused on the process of writing the book and less focused on checking to see if anything new is happening on Facebook since I checked five minutes ago. It helps me develop the ability to let go of my wonder about what is going on in the Internet realm and focus on what is truly important to me – this book.
It is amazing to me just how scattered our attention spans truly are, and how easily we get sidetracked by the most mundane things, but every story that I’ve heard from people who meditate says that meditation helps them cut back on all the noise. Just today when I was meditating, I was able to let go of my wonder about how much time I had left in the meditation! This is a huge stumbling block for me because every time I open my eyes to see how much time there is, it breaks the concentration and that inner “looking”, all because of a clock. The trick is to learn how to push that worry away and focus on something else – breathing or a mantra or whatever. And that is a hard thing to do, but meditation is a practice of learning how to do it.
Yoga has become a huge part of my life in the past several months, and yesterday a yoga practitioner posed the following question on Facebook:
Why do you do yoga?
At first I started doing yoga for stress relief. Lately it has become so much more to me. I feel much more relaxed and balanced after I practice, and doing yoga is a way for me to reconnect with myself. I have talked a lot about how teachers give so much of themselves away, and yoga has become a way for me to check in with myself and really sense how I am feeling and how I am doing. I have begun adding in some meditation as a way to really focus myself and connect with myself on a deeper level. Meditation has been hard for me to do; I hear stories about how some people meditate for thirty minutes or even an hour and I can’t even imagine doing it for that long. But this morning while I was meditating a thought struck me: if I become uncomfortable or unfocused spending just five minutes being present with myself, how will I be when I have to be present for someone else? We are with ourselves all of the time, and it would make sense that our own selves should be who we are the most comfortable with, but I have found that it takes a lot for me to be comfortable with focusing on connecting with myself for even five minutes. That last sentence is a mouthful, but that is really what it is all about. Comfort, focus, and connection. With myself. And supposedly, what you get in is what you get out. Supposedly, when I connect more with myself I am supposed to better be able to connect with others. Which makes sense. I will see in others what I focus on in myself.
Which led to my other big epiphany for the day: it is all a process. I know what it is like to want everything now, now, now. I am one of the worst when it comes to that. I want it all fixed now. I want my business to grow now. I want to know whether I have the promotion now. I want to fix everything in my classroom and have it be perfect now. I am a now person. But that, at its core, is focusing on the product. The end result. It takes a process to get there. It takes a process to fix the classroom like I want it, just as writing this book is a process. Doing yoga is a process all on its own. I can’t do all of the poses that I want to be able to do, but I am in the process of getting there. I am in the process of being comfortable enough with myself that I can spend larger amounts of time focusing on connecting with myself. I am in the process of getting that promotion. Life is a process, and it is time to slow down and enjoy the process rather than waiting and stressing about the end product. It will come, but it will never be the end. There will always be something else to want now right behind it. Life itself is one big forest, but the process are those trees that make it up.