The Power of Meditation
To me, meditation is looking and travelling inside to my heart space or heart chakra (as with time my heart has very much visually become a shining green emerald palace full of love, non-judgement, potential and opportunity). It hasn’t always been this way though. Meditation has very much been part of my yoga journey but quite a new part and one that I became more conscious of when I did a day yoga retreat with Ruth Bush at New Forest Yoga - part of the day was a sound bath. We lay down in Savasana and listened to gongs, Tibetan bowls, crystal bowls and chimes being played in a therapeutic way. This was an amazing experience for me, although we were lying there for an hour, the time went really quickly and when the therapy stopped I felt like a massive weight had been lifted from me. I felt so much lighter and I knew there was something healing for me in meditation and it gave me a thirst to know and try more.
At the start of the six month yoga immersion course I undertook before starting my teacher training we were given an empty journal and encouraged to record our yoga journey in it and, as I am still very much on my journey, I am still writing in it. Before the immersion course I would participate in a yoga class doing the positions, but my brain would be still chattering and busy thinking about other things to the point that I would have to keep looking at the teacher to know what I was doing. I was not present in my body, I was only focused on my chattering brain. In Savasana my brain would be jumping ahead to what jobs I needed to do after my class, hanging out the washing, emptying the dishwasher etc. I would get frustrated and irritated with these thoughts and why I couldn’t manage to push them away. I felt like I was doing something wrong.
By writing in my journal I started to document this inner dialogue and became more aware of the thoughts rattling around which were repeating. I was spending a lot of time thinking about the same thoughts. I also realised that a lot of these were unhelpful and often negative thoughts. I would say this was the first stage of becoming mindful and aware of my brain and also that actually I didn’t agree with what it was saying!!
My first realization that I could give my brain a different dialogue was when we did a candle gazing meditation with a mantra attached. The method is to gaze at the candle allowing your vision to slightly blur and then focus on the breath. With the inhale you think in your head ‘inhale the light’ and I imagined the warmth and light of the candle coming into my body and giving me an internal warmth - like a hug. On the exhale you say in your head ‘exhale the power and the potential’. My visualisation is strength and the ability to do anything well - like becoming superhuman. This meditation really resonated with me at the time and I started to regularly sit down and focus on it. Nothing dramatic happened but slowly I gained more self-confidence and belief in myself and some of the negative thoughts quietened down. If they did come back in, this meditation sent them away. Also by reading back through my journal I could see the progress being made and this also made me feel better about myself.
It was at this point on the journey that I began to realise that this was about finding the person I really wanted to be and that the person was deep within my heart and not the chattering brain, which was slowly becoming silenced.
Sally Kempton in Meditation For the Love of It says ‘we meditate to know ourselves’. The theory is that if you want to know yourself, love yourself, form a happy relationship with who you are, you need to look to your heart.
The heart and the mind are separate. If you are able to, it can help to try and live in the heart and visit the mind. This can be really hard to do in practice because you have to have the awareness I mentioned earlier and you need to be brave and courageous and face the reality of what is in your heart emotionally. This will be unique to you and hard to predict. I believe this is the biggest barrier to meditation. We are all human, no one is perfect and everyone comes with some sort of baggage that they may well be hiding. There is nowhere to hide, thus the courage and acceptance that this will require will be emotionally tough but so worth it. You have to accept the condition your heart is in and start a process of healing, if required or whatever it is you desire, for this choice is yours alone to make. What you can expect is emotions when you least expect them. My reward however was like carrying a massive heartfelt warm hug with me that I can tap into when needed and the hug feels like it is being given by the Universe. Yummy. Imagine what yours could be.
The journey to the heart involves self-care, putting yourself and your intuition first, setting boundaries, saying no if needed, allowing time to do things you would like to do, your needs first. Part of that, where possible, involves discipline. Where possible I wake up before my children to do a guided meditation to calm my mind and set it on the right positive message pathway and heading into my heart space to start the day. As part of the teacher training course we were given a teachers’ self-care guided meditation by Stella Tomlinson. A bit like the candle gazing this had a profound effect on me the first time I did it. In this guided meditation Stella asks that with your hand on your heart, you think of someone you love dearly, a family member or pet, you picture them and the sensation of love in your heart and then she asks that you give yourself that same amount of love. From nowhere I just burst into tears, proper sobbing tears, because I realised I had not been loving myself as much as I loved other people. I can proudly say that I do now and a valuable lesson has been learned.
So, is there a place for meditation within yoga lessons? I would definitely say there is as this is how I have been introduced to it. In the foreword of Meditation For the Love of It, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about accidental meditation and deliberate meditation. I believe everyone meditates at times. Everyone focuses completely on one thing, you could argue, reading, running, swimming, crosswords are all forms of meditation and all of this is beneficial in helping to quieten the chattering mind. In a yoga class both the physical asanas (positions) for most people will be accidental meditation. This is still beneficial and look where it led me!
By drip feeding yoga philosophy and giving guided meditation and occasional mantras in Savasana, slowly some yoga students may gain the courage and the confidence to go on their own inner heart journey.