by Amy Leonard-King
I was sitting in a large, basic studio space with 70 other aspiring yogis in the heat of Summer in Australia, waiting on our teacher for the weekend’s immersion to arrive. 9am came around and in walked a woman dressed in a combination of athletic + floaty white clothing. Long hair tied back in a plait, an enviable tan, and reading glasses covering kind eyes and a soft, smiling face. She guided us to:
1) Find a comfortable seat
2) Sit still + close down the eyes, and
3) Focus our minds attention on the breath. On the inhale silently repeating the word ‘Let’, and on the exhale ‘Go’.
Not another word was uttered for the next 30 minutes…
As I sat in varying degrees of discomfort in both my body and my mind, I thought: ‘How long were we going to be sitting there? Who is this woman? What have I gotten myself into? Is my leg going to fall off if I don’t move it to release the pain and pins + needles? I feel dizzy. I feel nauseous. I’m bored.’
The mind is a master at what it does…
Flash forward 6 years and meditation is a non-negotiable part of my daily practice, my daily life. I’ve recently had a baby, and thus my days are no longer a luxurious expanse of endless self-serving possibilities(!) and I don’t always get the chance to complete a full 60 minute studio class, or 90 minute home practice on my beautiful new yoga mat from the heroes at Melbourne-based Yogangstar. But no matter what has taken place, I always have time to sit in meditation for at least 5 minutes. It’s potent, powerful, and necessary for me to come back to a place of peace, calm, connection with myself, and a remembering of what all of this (life) is about. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So how did I get from there, struggling to sit in stillness, to loving and cherishing the opportunity such that I make room for it every single day? Practice. And commitment. I know it sounds boring, and you might rather hear of some esoteric magical trick or a new-age quick-fix solution to how to be ‘good’ at meditating, but it just ain’t going to happen without you really wanting it to.
A great teacher, author and Yogi Rolf Gates says when asked how often you should meditate:
“You should meditate every day until you want to meditate every day. Then you should do what you want.”
I love this quote in so many ways, and it makes me do that secret smiley face, cause you really have to want to do it. It’s about commitment, and trusting the process.
So first you have to ask yourself – do I really want peace, happiness + bliss in my life? Or am I cool where I am now. If the answer is leaning towards wanting a bit more of that clarity, groundedness + blissful purpose, then you’ve got to dive right in and do the work.
But it doesn’t have to be hard. Start simple with 5 minutes a day. I suggest either first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, depending on what fits better in your day, but once you’ve chosen a time, stick to it, otherwise the mind will go about making up all sorts of excuses to get around it, push it out, say ‘it’s OK, I’ll do it tomorrow’…until 5 weeks later you realise you had been wanting to do something about making those changes in your life but you got too ‘busy’.
There’s an old Zen saying that you may have heard before, but rings so true, especially in these busy, fast-paced, modern times:
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
So choose your time of day, start with an accessible amount of time like 5 minutes, and either take a simple approach of the 3 step Jivamukti Yoga meditation practice described above by my teacher Yogeswari (Who by the way is coming to Melbourne in December + teaching exclusively at Yoga Corner, so make sure to look out for her classes on our Events page!), + setting a timer; or listen to a guided meditation online (try my 5 minutes of stillness meditation here) or on one of the many apps available these days, like Apple’s Calm.
Without a set structure to your practice, especially to begin with, you’re likely to come up against some resistance (the mind!). Even many, many years into my own practice of meditation (I began learning techniques in my teens) I still experience that same resistance. The only difference now is that as I have had more exposure to meditation. I know the signs of my busy mind better now, I know resistance will come up and that other things will seem more important. However, I can also now remember more quickly the feeling of peace that surfaces through the practice of mindful stillness, and can drop more quickly into this place, on most occasions as soon as I sit, close my eyes, and focus on my breath.
Life is busy, and stress is a too-common word in our world. Meditation is such an accessible practice, something we can actually do anywhere, any time, and on our own without guidance (in time). It requires only your commitment and dedication, something that is fuelled by a deep + burning desire to make a positive change to the way you experience every part of your life.
Meditation brings me a sense of peace, deeper connection to both myself + the flow of everything around me, and allows me to sit in the present moment experiencing exactly what is here right now, feeling gratitude for it all. I have no shadow of doubt that the practice will bring you all that you are looking for too, and more.