As most of you yogis already know, asana (poses) is only one of the traditional eight limbs of yoga laid out by our main dude Patanjali in his seminal text. Asana and Pranayama (breathwork) are pretty familiar: we practice them in the studio and even at home. Some of them are a bit abstract - like bliss and self-study. Some make more sense but don't seem sustainable. Yes, Pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses): I am looking at you.
Then there's one that's kind of a bridge between the physical and the spiritual. But it's the one I have been foot-dragging on for my entire life.
You know what I'm talking about: Dyana -- meditation.
Meditation. That super mysterious, mystical, really-hard-to-start habit that people gush about. "It will change your life!" "It's the best I have ever felt." Sound familiar? It's that thing you're supposed to be doing at the beginning and end of yoga class. It's that thing that you don't know if you are doing right, because nobody can tell you exactly how it feels.
People have been recommending I meditate for years. But I really didn't know where to start. I tried setting a timer and clearing my mind. You can imagine how that went. Basically, I had two big roadblocks. First, I didn't know "how" to meditate. Second, I wasn't mentally or emotionally open for business. I just didn't want to delve into the internal world. Who knows what's in there?!
I wish I had a cool story about some transcendent mountaintop experience or an out of body vision quest. In reality, I finally tried meditation in 2014 because I was running out of ideas. I was ready to try anything and everything to see what would stick. But I had no clue where I could start.
My dietician recommended once that I try a mindfulness app - she told me about one I could put on my phone, that wouldn't cost anything, and that would teach me what I needed to know. Additionally, its trial period involved a 10-day "challenge" with built in alarms and reminders for accountability.
For the first couple of days, I was pretty discouraged. I felt like I couldn't concentrate for more than a nanosecond. The initial guided meditations were pretty short - what was going to happen if I had to meditate for (gasp) 15 minutes?!
I was pleasantly surprised that by day 8 or 9 I was really looking forward to the increasingly long meditation recordings. I found myself mesmerized by patterns of darkness within my closed eyelids. I was meditating! This was what it was all about!
After the tenth day, the free trial period ended and I was faced with a choice: carry on alone or spend $100 to buy the full app. Predictably, I didn't renew. I figured I had learned it and could "just do it on my own." Famous last words, guys.
I decided I just needed to try mala beads - that way, I could just pick a mantra or word, count beads, and I'd be all set! That lasted...not long. I had noble intentions - I just didn't work hard enough to establish a regular habit. But I really, really wanted to meditate, dang it! I just needed somebody walking me through it and keeping me on the straight and narrow!
Fortunately, there are lots of options. Many cities have free or donation-based meditation classes (such as at YogaWorks Midtown on Saturday and Sunday mornings.) And for days when a 90-minute class isn't available or feasible, there is this wonderful thing called Youtube. It has a ton of free, really good meditation resources such as guided meditation videos, meditation music, and talks on meditation techniques and tips. It's portable and there are thousands of free options. I've been using Jason Stephenson's guided meditations as a supplement to going to meditation class, and it's now become something I look forward to every day.
What is your favorite guided meditation resource?