Spring is magical. It feels like a long exhale after months of holding my breath in anticipation of warmth, new growth, and sunshine. I am filled with delight when I see buds forming on the forsythia and the tiny crocuses peeking through the still hard ground. Unexpectedly, I have experienced a similar spring-Esque magic sprouting from my meditation practice.
Make no mistake, I never saw myself as a person who could practice yoga, much less sit in meditation. At the mere suggestion that I try, my quick and adamant response was, “Running is my meditation!” Until it wasn’t.
For me, asana practice was a last-ditch effort to recover from chronic injury. It worked! And then, it started to work on me. While I could see the effects of the physical practice on my body and mood, I still doubted the efficacy of sitting on the floor and “watching my breath” as a path to “personal freedom” (whatever that means)—really? I’m too fidgety. I have too much energy, too much on my mind. I can’t stop the thoughts in my head. I don’t have time. I don’t want to lose my edge. I’m already doing 18 billion self-help programs.
Until I set my preconceptions aside and started to investigate what was with all the hype around meditation? I discovered two major principals that opened my mind and heart to the practice:
- Meditation is not about stopping or getting rid of thoughts. It’s about discovering a sane way to work with the thoughts you have.
(Ok, I can work with that.)
2. Meditation is NOT a self-improvement program. It is not an effort to change your thoughts or your behavior so that you can become a better person. It helps you realize that no matter what you might think about the circumstances that define your life, you’re already good, whole, and complete.
(I can definitely use some of that!)
Through my practice, I’ve learned that my thoughts and feelings—good, bad and neutral--are transient. Even those that feel rock solid and permanent shift, change and disappear, no matter how tightly I try to hold on or how strongly I try to push them away. Seeing this has given me access to space, and this space allows choice. I can much more readily choose how I respond to a person or situation rather than simply react out of my old patterns and conditioning. Compassion and open-mindedness (sometimes) trump jealousy, greed, frustration, and judgment.
My meditation practice has become my personal spring awakening. The seeds of joy and happiness that are the essence of our true nature have been uncovered just enough for me to nurture the right conditions for them to sprout. There are still cold, dry winds and clouds some days, but by sitting and paying attention to my breath, I can feel the onset of spring. As my teacher, Lodro Rinzler says, “I’m a mess and I’m okay!”