Before I take a break from weekly meditation teaching to retreat further into my own practice, I’d like to share what I’ve learnt so far. I had taught yoga before but when I started my meditation classes in Colac four years ago I was still new in town. People came along with an open mind and became regulars, others tried the classes for a while and moved on and a few made inquiries but never quite got there. To each one of you I am so grateful as you all helped convince me of the following…
Something unique happens when people gather for meaning-making. Being a bit of an introvert and independent doer, it took me quite some time to really understand the power of groups but in a meditation class there might be a range of people quite different from you (hopefully) and yet everyone can sit or lie in the space and work to let go of the many distractions and challenges that affect peace of mind or way of life. When we sit together we often hear each other’s restlessness and other whispers from the soul. In these moments we are most genuine and reminded of our common humanity and shared need to rest, heal and flourish. Where people gather and let go of masks or performances, compassion shines.
We learn something new, maybe even something we don’t like. The great thing about coming to classes is exploring new techniques. I have my own favourite ways to get into the meditation zone, but when facilitating classes I usually offer a range of techniques since different things work for people for a range of reasons, including people’s learning styles and personalities. Practising new and uncomfortable styles is a gateway to develop the witness, and whatever technique we use, meditation is about Witnessing. Although not always easy, it is great to step out of the comfort zone and this is one of the best ways to establish our own home meditation practice. After being introduced to new practices in class we can then return with more clarity to what works best for us at home and also integrate new aspects to advance our practice.
We find the discipline to actually meditate. While offering the classes myself, I have needed to keep my own meditation practice regular. Perhaps without this commitment to teaching weekly classes, my own practice might have dropped off or wavered. We can all fool ourselves into delegating things to an I-will-do-it-tomorrow-wish-list or even think we’ve done some meditation when it really was the week before last that we actually sat down and watched our breath. When we do watch our breath it often isn’t for very long and longer classes or sessions can provide the framework to strengthen this capacity.
Can you be too tired to meditate? People sometimes share that they don’t come to class or meditate if they feel too tired and yet I think this is absolutely the perfect time to meditate and rest the adrenalin system in a much more efficient way than screen time or wine o’clock at home. We can sit or lie down for meditation and when we externalise and end the practice we usually feel more refreshed.
Meditation can be about so much more than mindfulness. Mindfulness is great (really great) – don’t we all want a clear, calm and non-reactive mind? But the search for mindfulness can also be a trap into attaching one’s self to superficial needs and unrealistic expectations. When someone or something close to us inevitably dies or we face rejection, physical pain and other difficulties, posting sticky notes of affirmation all around the house will not usually change the circumstances, but sitting with deep feelings can bring acceptance and a lighter way of being. When we acknowledge and integrate our own suffering and joy, we can build a compassion based on our shared vulnerabilities and strengths. Sometimes, often times, we humans are brave. We can also be our own worst critics. I certainly know I am. Through sitting still and bringing our attention to our moment to moment experiences we can soften in places, allow for our imperfections and even feel a sense of homecoming. Meditation is love, or at the very least, a practice of meaning making. It does not guarantee expected outcomes (despite much of the mindfulness-based marketing hype out there) but it always provides an entry point into ourselves, if we are brave and honest enough to sit with our shadows.
Meditation can be spiritual. Moments of stillness can and often do lead us into spiritual or surprising places. I’ve always been reluctant to use the word spiritual in my classes as I think it can be such a deeply personal thing at best and spiritual talk can also be elitist and narcissistic. Drawing the occasional mandala in a meditative state, chanting aloud, wearing certain uniforms, or even loudly proclaiming how meditation works for you is not a humble or quick route to being any better than another person. But if we can fight off inner and outer noise and attachment by engaging in meditative practices a route to meaning making and spirituality becomes established. Our values can be most tested by what we do when no one is looking and in meditation not only is no one else looking, but the veil of what we hide from ourselves is blown away and we can sit with truths.
Right now, I don’t know where my own meditation practice will lead me but I continue to try (and often fail) to make peace with processes of change, non-attachment and letting go. I do know my meditation practice has continued to evolve, in a large part thanks to the people who have shared the journey and discipline with me, asked many questions and provided feedback about their own experiences. I feel touched and honoured to have had the opportunities so far to facilitate the different techniques we have explored and I hope to be in touch in the new year to continue further conversations about meditation and meaning making.
With love, Suzanne
© Suzanne Frydman / Relax Communications