Stillness in the midst

The word “yoga” means to yoke or unite; to pull seemingly unrelated, chaotic elements together and watch as they become a beautiful whole.

One of the eight limbs of yoga is meditation, or dhyana. In yogic terms, meditation is the point at which we are fully immersed in the moment – when you’re “in the zone” or “in the flow.” Most of us have an area or two of our lives where we experience this. Usually, it’s directly linked to what we’re most passionate about: teaching, building, creating, moving our bodies. Yoga practitioners often report feeling this type of immersion after or during an asana (movement) practice.

If you think on it, you will surely find an area where you are consistently so wrapped up in what your body and mind are up to that your particular assortment of cyclical thoughts fades away and you feel fully knit together.

Our culture uses the word “meditation” in a slightly different way, referring to focused concentration on a point (maybe the breath, or an image, or word, or observation of thoughts). In yoga, this is its own limb called dharana.

Lately, I’ve seen many news articles referencing the benefits of yoga (referring to asana, or movement practices) and meditation (dharana). It’s making a difference in the lives of breast cancer patients and breast cancer survivors, as well as those living with chronic pain, arthritis, stress/anxiety, and many other challenges.

The busyness and uncertainty of our world at the moment, on top of regular life happenings, may be feeling like a bit much. It can feel as though it’s ridiculous, impossible, or ludicrous to take a break from what feels imminently pressing and even, sometimes, threatening.

I find myself breathing around a tight knot in my chest every time I scan the news or try to balance a baby in a car seat with the three bags required to get us both out of the house. Late winter gray and icy sidewalks don’t help anything.

I’m taking refuge in a simple meditation practice. I’ve come to appreciate the support of a little app called “Calm” that offers both guided and silent timed meditations. It’s a great one that I highly recommend (Gray Bird is not in any way affiliated – I just find it very helpful). Simple, always with you (assuming your phone is as attached to you as mine is), and well laid out. Pull up a chair or cushion, start up the app, and enjoy a little respite from the world.

That respite is in no way frivolous or irresponsible. We all have a shadow side that consistently tugs us away from the things that help us grow and ground. No need to listen to it. In fact, the most productive, change-making folks tend to have strong prayer, meditation, or other contemplative practices. Ghandi famously said, “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”

While I don’t imagine any of us will jump into two hours of meditation, I think the sentiment is clear and brilliantly true. The days when we think we’re least ready are the days we are most ready.

If you’re not feeling the self-starter energy these days, maybe a sangha, or supportive community, is the way to begin. Connection with fellow journeyers can be the most vital ingredient for maintaining a steady practice of yoga or meditation (or any other easily-swept-aside routine). The simple knowledge that you are not alone is worth volumes.

I’m in process of assembling small groups of folks seeking to start (or resume, or build on) a simple, short-and-sweet, customizable meditation practice.

If you’d like to connect with other Gray Bird readers and yogis via in-person meet ups or internet streaming, contact me at meg@graybirdyoga.com for more information.

As always, the option for individual sessions is also available.