Monday, September 20, 2010

marathon meditations

i ran a marathon yesterday. i was feeling good, proud, happy, achieved, ...and a little stiff today. i talked to my sister this morning during our weekly skype yoga session about the race, and she told me that she feels like she runs a marathon everyday. she teaches preschool.

we all run marathons every day, don't we? whether it's working long hours on a project; racing against a deadline; or just feeling the pressure to achieve something that seems impossible. i practiced a million methods of positive thoughts while running the marathon, from "i can do anything!" to "my shoes are magic and have a special force that propel me forward!" to "if i finish this in under 4 hours, i never have to run another one!" and, of course, "i'm wearing my sister-superhero sash; i can just fly to the finish line!"

i talked to my sister about these things, and about a lovingkindness meditation, to offer that kindness back to herself and to help in her feelings of compassion and happiness. at the end of our practice this morning, we practiced a lovingkindness meditation from this month's Yoga Journal that says "friendliness toward those who are happy; compassion toward those who are not; equanimity toward all."

all day i thought about the meditation we shared, and tried to keep practicing it throughout my day. on the train on my way to teach yoga tonight, i began reflecting back on what got me through the race, and how i can use those same techniques in life.

i took these thoughts with me to the yoga class i taught tonight. i used the example of my sister's "marathon" and my own as the struggles we encounter every day to set an intention for mindfulness for the class: mindfulness we could use off the mat to combat stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. we began class by practicing mindfulness, and i offered gentle encouragement to return to these thoughts throughout class. amazingly, i saw my class learning and listening today. at one point, we were on our bellies resting after a reminder of mindfulness, and i offered the 45 students an opportunity to kick it up--to take an optional vinyasa if they were feeling it. not a soul moved. there was peace, rest, and beautiful stillness. i was in awe at the energy, focus, and mindfulness we had created during our practice.

at the end of class, i used the mindfulness meditation from Yoga Journal this month that focused on the stability of the individual through swirling thoughts: a mountain surrounded by clouds and storms. upon breathing in, we meditated on being the mountain; upon exhaling, we meditated on the stability we possessed. i felt the synchronicity and harmony of a class in tune with themselves and each other as we meditated and closed. it was beautiful!

on the way home from my yoga teaching tonight, i was posting about and reading all the nice wishes on my wall related to my marathon--heartwarming and truly an example of others showing "friendliness toward those who are happy." i felt blessed to have friends that can give such beautiful offerings. seeing this outpouring of "likes" and comments on my status updates set a great example for me.

my day full of reflections on marathons, meditation practice, experiencing beauty and accepting it from friends, ...and making it through a marathon of a day of my own... prove to me that marathons are constantly thrown at us. and that we can probably meditate our way through any of them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Balancing Change

The world is constantly changing. Nothing is the same as it was last year, or even as this morning. This is one of those things that is true, whether or not I want it to be, whether or not I admit it on most days.

I like to be in control. I plan what minute I’m going to wake up, how many minutes it takes me to shower and pack my bag, how many minutes to walk to get coffee on the way to the train station, and, as soon as I’m at the station, I start planning the tasks I’ll cross off my list at work that day. I rarely leave things to chance. Sometimes it’s easier for me to pretend like I’m in control and that I can dictate what will happen in my life, and when. But, when things go off-plan, which happens every day, it is hard to deal with the disruption if I am trying to control everything.

In yoga, I often prefer my own practice or teaching to another’s class, because I’m in control of what we’re doing and at what pace. I’ve been learning, though, through my yoga, to accept what is. When I think I have the energy or the strength to do something, and I can’t (for whatever reason), I’ve learned to let go of my control, my preconceived expectations, and roll with it. I try to attend other classes at least once a week, to force myself to practice the discomfort of being in a class led by someone else: out of control.

Dealing with this in my yoga practice has significantly affected the way I deal with hang-ups in my life. I’m much more able to accept unexpected events than I was before I began a daily practice. Delving further into yogic teachings and readings, I find myself comforted by the idea of constant change. Even though things are changing, there is some continuity—things are CONSTANTLY changing.

Our breath is constantly flowing. Our blood is constantly moving. Our life force is constantly pulsating. Without these constant changes, we wouldn’t be alive.

If we need change so much, and if it is constantly surrounding us, then why is it so hard when we experience a schedule change, a body change, a haircut? Meditating on the constant change we’re surrounded by has begun to help me accept these sometimes seemingly radical changes in my day-to-day life. Gradually, I’m noticing the acceptance become easier. I felt really sad on Sunday, though I didn’t really know why. Even though I felt really low, I found myself experiencing it and accepting it for what it was, knowing it would pass. Even though I didn’t feel good, I knew that my experiences and feelings would change. I’ll feel better, and then I might not; it will continue to change.

After writing notes on this blog on the train, but before typing it out, I read an article in Yoga Journal online about balancing control and lack-of-control in our yoga practice. As has so often happened to me this past year, I felt a moment of awe. The article was dealing with the same thing I was writing about, was offering ideas similar to mine, and I felt a strong sense of connection to the rest of the world. A gorgeous example of some out-of-control beauty falling into my controlling lap. I’ll smile and go with it. For now, until it changes again.