I’ve been flirting with a consistent meditation practice for quite a while now. Right after college, I had friends that would meditate together occasionally. We didn’t practice a specific technique; just being quiet together for five minutes and letting thoughts come and go. Something about being with people, but also being quiet was a huge relief. A more anxious, younger self felt the need to keep conversations going and it felt good to have the permission to be quiet. This led me to explore both a Buddhist temple and a meditation center and I was both fascinated and slightly intimidated by their practices.
Years later, when I started practicing Pranakriya Yoga, the idea of a moving meditation appealed to me because I’d still yet to land on any sitting meditation that I really identified with. The focus on breath and sensation paired with movement allowed me to quiet my mind without trying so hard. I could move out of my thinking mind and into my observing mind with much less effort than when I was sitting still. It felt like a little bit of success.
In teacher training, we would still practice a short seated meditation after the movement and before savasana, and I always felt mildly annoyed that I couldn’t jump right to sweet relaxation. I didn’t feel like I did the seated meditation as “well” as I did the moving meditation and my ego bumped up against that perceived failure.
Right after my daughter was born, I felt drawn to seated meditation again, mostly because I was too tired to practice much yoga asana. It was the self-care I needed without the physical exertion I just didn’t have the energy for. I started exploring mindful meditation with the support of an app and eventually let the app go and guided myself.
I heard a teacher once say that it’s helpful to reframe “tired energy” as “meditative energy.” Waking up every few hours to nurse a baby, I had plenty of meditative energy. Now that she’s a toddler, I’m getting more sleep, but I’m also chasing her around. A nice long, quiet seated mediation finally sounds really good. I still bump up against “doing it wrong” and struggle once I get to a certain length of time.
It’s been helpful to reframe my goal as not “to meditate” but to sit silently. If in that silent sitting, I happen to get into a meditative state of mind, then wonderful. If not, that’s okay too. I still notice benefits, a sense of clarity and calm that comes from sitting silently even if I never fully drop into “meditation.” In letting go of the specific goal of doing it right, I finally feel drawn to practice nearly every day and to increase the length of my silent sitting.
I know it’s not a new idea or wildly profound less that when you stop trying so hard, what you were aiming for in the first place will get easier. But it is a good idea and it is a lesson that I seem to need to learn over and over again.
Catherine currently teaches at Victory Power Yoga in Clayton, NC. You can find out more about her practice and teaching at www.catherinestriegel.com.