Every morning, I’m trying this new thing. Before I get in the shower, I start a tea kettle full of water. After my shower, I squeeze half a lemon into a mug, add the boiling water, and head to my living room, where I sit on a cushion and light a candle and sit quietly in the dark.
It feels really weird to do it, let alone type it. Throughout my yoga journey, I’ve rallied really hard against the “yogi stereotype” of those breathy women with sinewy bodies who talk about their chi and passionately share about their meditation practice.
I don’t write this post to brag about how zen I am (I am still not a zen being who beams light and love 24/7) or how evolved I am. I am still the same opinionated firecracker who is way too agitated for her own good. I haven’t abandoned my liberal use of swear words. I still freak out, daily.
And yet there’s no denying that these few minutes in the morning are changing my days.
No one is more surprised than me.
Growing up, I firmly believed that meditation was evil. Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that meditation was a time for you to sit and invite some sort of “spirit guide” into your mind, and go down some freaky road directly into hell where Satan lives.
Sadly, that is not the weirdest thing I believed as a child.
Anyways, last April, when I started my 40 Day Yoga Challenge, part of our homework was to meditate every day. I gave it a few half-hearted tries before giving up. It seemed like an epic waste of time.
Then my yoga teacher started working seated meditation into our practice. It pissed me off. Here I was, paying GOOD MONEY to WORK OUT and I WAS JUST SITTING ON A MAT. It made me angry.
One day, I decided to just try it. To watch my breath and settle down and see what happened. It wasn’t that bad. Slowly, I started to look forward to these silent times on my mat.
I decided to try it at home.
Most of the time, I sit down, set my timer and am immediately stunned by just how crazy I am. I think about weird things (REALLY WEIRD THINGS), or mentally make a grocery list, or re-hash a conversation. I like to let it happen. Sometimes, I write things down so I don’t forget.
After a few minutes of letting my crazy brain run wild, I settle myself down.
Sometimes, I use a mantra to do it (I am enough/I have enough). Sometimes, I inhale calm and exhale, thinking of something I want to let go of (I want to let go of my anger/anxiety/frustration). Other times, I try to just focus on my breath.
It’s not perfect. I think about other things. Someone once advised me to see those thoughts as clouds in the sky, just floating by. Instead of internally chastising myself for re-hashing a conversation that took place a week ago, I simply say, “Wow, there’s that conversation again!” and let it pass.
When I’m finally quiet enough, I just listen. I listen to my breath, and to that tiny quiet voice that’s so easy to forget amidst the busy-ness of my days and life.
I’m finding that the more I make space for that tiny internal voice, the more I find it easier to hear. As I’ve written before, my goal this year is to let my self and my life be enough, and when I have this quiet time, I’m able to hear the things and feelings that really matter to me. Anxieties and concerns that used to plague me are now resolved in these quiet moments instead of through a flurry of conversations and angry words. I’m able to see areas where I need to soften and change, but instead of feeling harsh and judging myself, it feels more like a gentle nudge within to be kinder to myself and others.
When my timer goes off, I usually set some sort of intention for the day: that I will be nicer to someone, that I will be quiet instead of getting frustrated, that I will be more patient. Sometimes, it goes off and I’m the happiest, because I can get back to DOING THINGS and stop wasting my time.
Some people will read this post and dismiss it as weird or against their religious beliefs or just plain crazy. But here’s the thing: I think that so many of us, myself so very much included, undervalue having a few minutes of quiet every single day, to meditate, think, pray, whatever. To sit with ourselves alone and shut down.
I’m not an expert (though experts do seem to agree), but those few minutes in the morning, the ones that are just mine, are becoming one of the best parts of my day, and I thought you should know.
It turns out that so many of the things I’ve been looking for have been waiting for me all along, in the quiet.
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing
in the dense forest of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.