I dreaded the part of a yoga class if it began or ended with meditation. I felt like a student who had not studied for a test and would sit there not knowing what to do. Don't get me wrong. I like the idea of meditation—sitting peacefully, looking Zen. My friends who meditated swore by its benefits and would talk about their regular home practice which began at 4:45 am every morning. A few had done 10 day retreats with up to 6 hours of sitting a day, which quite frankly, would give the best couch potatoes a run for their money.
But to me, it was like the Holy Grail. How do I get it? How do I find it? Promises of reaching nirvana, enlightenment or an altered state of consciousness without caffeine— it was like a spiritual lottery ticket that I kept trying my luck at. I attended numerous meditation workshops, read books on how to meditate, and even went on a few 3 day meditation retreats. I kept waiting for something to happen, but no, nothing. I felt like a failure every single time.
The instructors all said the same thing. "Allow the thoughts to rise. Just notice. Tune into the breath." While sitting, I shifted, dozed, shifted, made lists in my head, shifted, held conversations with my self, shifted, glanced at my watch, shifted, peeked at the others in the room going inward, and shifted. When time was up (finally!), the instructor would blink his eyes open and look as if he has just finished eating a lovely piece of chocolate cake. At times, members of the group would say things such as, "Ohhhh. That meditation was soooo gooood." Seriously, people can be so insensitive.
My resistance towards meditation was as strong as my desire. The three year old in me wanted to move around, explore and interact with the world. Oh, but where was my gold star for being able to sit still like a good yogi? My readiness level was not meeting expectations. (Yes, that's the teacher in me talking.) My ego was not happy with this, yet I accepted that it was all part of the process.
Over time, I realized that meditation was not waiting for something to happen. Meditation is sitting and being in non-action. You see, I am a do-er, and carpe diem is my motto in life. I can multi-task my brain off, and my travels are far from relaxing. I had thought non-action meant boredom, as well as wasting time when there was so much to see, learn and experience. To do nothing and be fully present is one of the most difficult things I've had to do.
My last meditation was a turning point. Even though the instructions were the same, it made more sense to me this time. While sitting, I allowed myself to be free from distractions. I felt myself relax into the moment and the stillness. Cautiously, I approached that invisible boundary that we carry within ourselves and gently stepped inward. Like entering a warm bath, I first dipped my toes in to check the temperature, then my legs, my torso, up to my neck and my whole head. My brain then waited off to the side with the robe and towel, reassuring me that it will be there whenever I was done, but please, take your time. You're already there, right? Might as well make the most of it. Whoosh. My heart and sensations plunged into high definition, and let me just tell you that it was better than chocolate cake.
I remember the first time I tried yoga. I was living in Thailand in 2001. A friend had talked me into going to a yoga workshop led by Paul Dallaghan, and I was happily indifferent. Open to the idea, but thinking more about what I would eat for lunch afterwards. I can't remember which pose I went into, but there was a moment of several seconds where something shifted inside of me. The feeling was not unlike Bruce Banner transforming into the Incredible Hulk, except without the angst and green overtones. I had stepped out of my own skin, and my mind, body, heart and energy burst forth. Yes, that became the hook into yoga. However, my couch potato ways often interfered with the discipline I longed for with yoga. It took years for me to cultivate a regular practice and to undo negative self-talk. "I'm too lazy. I could never do a yoga teacher training; it sounds too hard. I wouldn't be able to learn the sanskrit. I'm not that good at yoga." What I FINALLY learned was this. I don't need to look a certain way to do yoga or teach yoga. That was all in my head. There were parts that I had overlooked which counted much more than being able to do a handstand. Can I offer my time and the space for people to have self-care? Can I get people to connect with their body, mind and spirit? Can I create a community? Can I make yoga accessible to every body? My training at White Lotus Foundation further confirmed my values. Out of the 30 of us, we were a medley of ages 18 to 65, different body types, backgrounds and experiences. We were a demographic of people who simply love yoga and who wanted to offer the benefits of it to others. And that is why I teach yoga.
Tammy is a location independent yogi.