Tag Archives: balance

The ‘magic’ of meditation

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It’s often said that, if you can find the words to describe your meditation, then you weren’t really meditating. That is certainly the case. In the very deepest meditation, there are no words. Just feeling. Just peace. Afterwards, the meditator is left with the feeling of calm, but the experience itself cannot be fully conveyed to someone else. A meditation practice is deeply personal, and deeply transformational.

Which makes it all the harder to explain why meditation makes such a difference to daily life. If you can’t put into words how you feel, what that elusive ‘bliss’ feels like, then how can you explain why it’s so important? The only way to know is to experience it for yourself. But how do you know if you even want to experience it if you don’t know what to expect?

But, what you can describe is how you feel as you enter the state of meditation. The word ‘meditation’ is often used to represent the whole event, the act of meditation  – sitting down in your meditation posture, getting comfortable, focusing on the breath, slowing down from your busy day. But it can also refer specifically to the state of meditation, the moments of utter peace and ‘bliss’ which may make up a much smaller proportion of the total sitting time. You may sit for 10 minutes some days before there’s even a hint of the state of meditation. Maybe longer. Maybe much less. It varies from day to day.

So at this stage of the act of meditating, there are still words. There are thoughts (usually too many!), there are feelings, there are impressions. There are sounds, smells, all manner of physical sensations. There may be the sound of a buzzing insect, birds outside, rain on the roof, children playing, a lawnmower…… There may be the smell of coffee, or baking bread, or dinner being prepared….. There may be an ache in your ankle, your back, your shoulders….. There may be thoughts racing around, a shopping list, yesterday’s argument, a dream you woke up from this morning, what to cook for dinner, how long have you been sitting here for, is this really what meditating is supposed to be like?

But then, something starts to change.  All these things are still there. But there’s a distance. A space starts to open up. They all seem further away. They no longer grip your awareness. There’s something else, deeper, more profound. The body may feel like it’s letting go, sinking deeper, whilst at the same time feeling like it’s lifting taller. You may feel both heavier and lighter at the same time. The thoughts are there but there’s a detachment now, they don’t have the same power over you. There’s not the same emotional involvement. There’s not as much narrative going on.

There’s a sense of relief, of rest, of space, of peace. Before words are no longer there.

At least, that’s how it is for me. You’ll have to try it for yourself!

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Alison x

Finding balance

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Some yoga students find balance postures easy.  But many, many more find them difficult.  And even once we master a particular asana, on some days they may still prove more challenging than others.

I think balance is like this.  We can be drifting along, happily centred and relaxed with the way things are in our lives, and then something happens, maybe even something quite small, which rocks us and knocks us off balance.  A little irritation, a cross word, an unexpected traffic jam, anything which interrupts the natural flow of our day can throw us off course and make us lose our balance.  Imagine that you are walking along a nice, smooth path, which you’ve walked many times before, and then – bam! – you land on the ground.  You’d never noticed that patch of uneven ground before.

Maybe we weren’t ‘in the moment’.  Perhaps we were concerned with other things than the here and now.  Maybe that’s what tripped us up.

We can be ‘tripped up’ in our yoga practice, too.  We can think yes, the tree is a cinch, I really get it!  And then comes the day when it’s just too much to concentrate, to focus, and it’s not so easy.  The tree is wobbly, it’s a real effort.  It’s harder to stay grounded through the foot while reaching up with the arms than it should be, than it normally is.

Maybe what we tried to do was to set a moment in stone, instead of noticing the flow of our life.  ‘I can do this posture, it’s easy, now I will be able to do it forever’.  And then we can’t!  Instead of getting irritated with ourselves, and getting even further from our centre, we could remember that everything is changing, and practice acceptance of where we are today, in this moment, in this class, right now.  Not last week, certainly not last month or last year.  And when we do master that posture again, to try to relax into it, not to grasp after that success, not to cast it in stone, but to live in this moment, the here and now.

Sometimes, we can take our practice away from our normal environment.  Practicing in nature, maybe on the grass or on the beach, can add in the challenge of uneven ground.  Then we need to step up our mindfulness, and ease up on the need for perfection.  We can feel the movement in our body as we try to find equilibrium, without leaning into any wobbles and making them worse.  In our lives, when we encounter those irritations that disturb our peace of mind, we can learn to stay in our centre, rather than lean into the wobbles of our mind, and worsen things by our unhelpful reactions. We take the lesson from our yoga on the mat, and use them in our lives when we are off the mat.