I’ve had a bit of a busy teaching schedule this last couple months, and then last week I faced a few moderate challenges. In the midst of these times, being tired and overwhelmed, there is a part of me that wants to sleep in, or get work done, and skip my meditation. Yet there is another part of me that gently whispers: meditate.
One of this week’s challenges was going to the dentist to deal with a cracked tooth. The assistant, knowing I was a yoga teacher rather jokingly said: “just breathe.” I smiled at her wanly and thought, “yeah, right.” But I did, repeatedly, and found a degree of serenity sweep over me when I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. For some reason this surprised me. And as I felt myself calming down, something became clear to me: this is a result of my meditation practice.
Each day I sit to meditate, and in some ways it feels like not much is happening. Yet when I look closely at the rest of my life, how I relate to people, how I deal with challenges, I see a definite positive effect. The part of me that knows this whispers to me: meditate.
These days, when I don’t meditate, I feel like something in myself is “off.” It is not unlike how I feel when I’ve not eaten well. It can be subtle and hard to detect, but as I’ve been cleaning up my diet, I’ve noticed more the effect when I’ve made poor food choices. I just don’t feel well. I feel “off.” Likewise if I don’t get exercise, or miss my asana practice.
As I’ve pondered this, I’ve realized that I’ve gone to great lengths to sustain my physical body through food and exercise, with the positive effects of feeling better. Why wouldn’t it make sense that meditation is feeding and exercising a part of me that also needs nourishment, and that by doing so, I would feel the effects? The meditation practice is helping me to align and center, allowing me to function so much more effectively and easefully in my life. It has opened up a calm spacious awareness that is now more readily accessible during the challenges of my life. And it is that space that continues to whisper to me: meditate.
That whispering voice has been there for many years. As I cultivated a rigorous asana practice, and began to explore yoga philosophy, that whisper was always there: meditate. But I ignored it: I didn’t have the time, the time wasn’t right, I don’t have the resources, insert-your-excuse here. My major excuse was that I wanted a meditation teacher whose philosophy aligned with the tantric yogic path I was pursuing. That finally gave way when I heard Paul Muller-Ortega speak at a teacher training. He was talking about philosophy in a way that made so much sense, and I when I found out he taught meditation, that voice got a little louder: meditate.
From the time I received initiation from Paul, my biggest regret has been that I didn’t start sooner. Over and over, I have said to myself and to others: I am so lucky. I am so fortunate to have finally heeded the call of my inner voice and made meditation a part of my life. Not that it has been entirely easy. I have had lapses, I’ve wanted to quit. But that voice kept calling.