July 25, 2013

The Pressures of Meditation. ~ Kimberly Nania

I began regularly practicing yoga when my boyfriend of three and a half years broke up with me.

I was devastated and fell into a seemingly endless spiral of anxiety and depression.

During this time, I lost all sense of identity or purpose. I went through a month where I did not care about myself at all—all I wanted to do was talk to my ex. Somehow, the one thing that I did force myself to do was yoga.

Yoga didn’t free me from my depression in the way that I had originally thought it was “supposed to.” When I began practicing yoga I believed that it would bring me an almost instant sense of inner peace and calmness.

However, when I got onto my mat, I experienced the total opposite of what I expected. During yoga I would fight with myself, I would lie to myself, have flashbacks of old relationships, and get stuck in my own self-pity.

After a few months went by, I was almost healed from my break up, but not completely. I would still find myself strenuously reaching into the past and constantly replaying situations in my head; as if I could go back in time and change the outcome of things.

At this point I wasn’t really sure what to do. Coincidently, around the same time that this was all going on I had joined a new yoga studio. This studio offered guided meditation classes on Friday afternoons.

At the time I had similar judgments of meditation as I originally did with yoga. I concluded that all who practiced meditation were a part of a seemingly unreachable clan of calm and happy people. I envisioned them all going through their day in a perpetual state of bliss; the type of people who never got angry at anyone and were always trusting of the universe’s decisions. I had no idea if I could join this clique of scarily happy people.

Even so, I decided to sign up for the meditation class. When I got to the studio I was relieved to find that my instructor was more than willing to accommodate a newbie into his class. He explained to me that during meditation it was inevitable that “things” would come up and that we should acknowledge these thoughts and then let them go. He also told me that the main idea was to focus on your breath, because it will bring stillness to the mind.

We soon began our first breathing exercise. This exercise was called Nadi Shodhan, or alternate nostril breathing. During this exercise a lot of emotions began to come up for me, most of which had to do with my ex.

As I sat there I realized how much I hated the fact that I was thinking about him so long after our break up (and while I was dating a new perfect guy by the way.)

I was so sick of defining myself by him and our failed relationship. Out of complete disgust for my own inability to move on I decided to return to my breath, in the hopes that my mind would calm itself.

I began to breathe fluidly out of each nostril. Closing the right nostril, inhaling out of the left, exhaling, closing the left nostril and inhaling out of the right.

This relaxation did not last long. I began to worry about a number of things. One being if I should put my hoodie on. It was getting awfully cold in there and what if my coldness interfered with my ability to relax? I thought, “I must put my hoodie on now, or else I will not be able to meditate properly.”  With my eyes shut I reached around on the floor, found my hoodie and shoved it over my head. I thought, “Okay now we are good, my real meditation can begin.”

Unfortunately, about a minute after I put on my hoodie the AC stopped blasting. Man, was I getting hot. Now I was too hot for meditating. I quickly squinted one eye open; I wanted to make sure that my fidgety nature was not disturbing anyone. To both my happiness and disappointment every one besides me appeared to be in a peaceful state of inner discovery

After I took the hoodie off I settled back into my crossed legged position and my breath (we had moved onto a new exercise in which you inhale and exhale deeply while paying attention to the air passing on the tip of your nose).

As I began to focus on my breath, I began to wonder, “Did I eat enough before class? What if I am too hungry to meditate? What the heck is wrong with me?WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH ME?” 

Somehow I was finally able to settle into my breath. I don’t know how it happened but I could feel myself slipping away from the physical room. I remember seeing a white light and then envisioning myself sitting in the middle of some tropical rainforest paradise (which is hilarious and cliché in itself.) Soon this vision disappeared and all that remained was a radiating white light.

During this meditation my thoughts, worries, and fears were all still racked up in my head somewhere. However, they mattered less — a lot less. A wave of calmness came over me and I felt as if everything in the world was as it should be. I also had a sense of the oneness of the universe. For a second I acknowledged, believed, and understood the idea that we are all one and that everything is connected.

When I acknowledged that I was in this state of euphoria, I panicked. I’m not really sure what it was, but it was almost as if my acknowledgement of this state pushed me out of it. I wanted to go further into this meditation, but I couldn’t. For some reason I got scared and I started to slip out. When I noticed that I was falling out of my meditation, I desperately tried to return to the state of peace I had found. However, the more I tried to stay, the more my mind pushed me away from that peaceful white light. Before I knew it my body had dropped back onto the cold wooden floor of the yoga studio.

Although this was the end of my own transcendent experience for the day, the class still wasn’t over. If I had to estimate I would guess that there was probably twenty minutes left of the class when my mind and body returned to earth. Twenty very long, very boring minutes.

During this time our instructor said that if we felt so inclined we could lay on the floor. I laid on the ground and tried my hardest to relax and focus on my breath. However, as much as I tried I could not focus my mind. I started to grow impatient and went through the lists of chores and concerns I perpetually have in my head.

The instructor soon began to play the gong and I could feel the vibrations passing through my body. It felt amazing, but all I could think was, “If only I could relax right now this would be perfect.” Unfortunately, I did not relax again. I spent the last twenty minutes of the class wishing there was a clock in the room so I would know how much time was left.

My meditation practice was less than perfect, but it was still extremely beneficial to me.

The few minutes of clarity and peace that I had experienced were more than enough to make me feel as if I had gained something from the class. In addition, the class made me realize that meditation isn’t a skill, which is only open to the most polished yogis. If we can remove the stigma and prejudices that many of us have surrounding meditation, more people might confidently enjoy the practice and receive its benefits.

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Assist. Ed: Jade Belzberg/Ed: Bryonie Wise


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Kimberly Nania