Yoga and Meditation

Fear Not

Fear Not

Fear, and its many declinations, is not a favoured topic, I know. 

Scrap that. 

Fear is, culturally speaking, one of our very favourite topics. Disguised in layers of judgemental slurs, bold red letters, makeup, photoshopping (funny how this could read photo-shopping), what-will-others-think?

How do I overcome and grow? Two things have helped me.

Bhuvaneshvari: Wisdom Goddess of the Cosmos

Bhuvaneshvari: Wisdom Goddess of the Cosmos

Of all ten MahaVidyas (Great Wisdom Goddesses), Bhuvaneshvari is the most closely tied to the element of Space. When you think of Space, you may see grand valleys or open skies as seen from the top of mountains. She is bigger than big, she holds it all and beyond. Yet, you can also find her in the infinitely small.

Teacher's Savasana

Ever wonder what teachers do during your savasana? Most of the time, they don’t do savasana. They meditate, or stretch quietly, or even do a headstand, as one of my Toronto fellow teachers once said.

I typically use that time to meditate and watch over students, as if watching over their sleep. During my first teacher training, in one of the most memorable sessions, we were teamed up in pairs of two and asked to lead each other through a full restorative practice. Our teacher warned that we might be tempted to do “something else” during a long-held pose. And she insisted we sit mindfully next to our student, as if to ward off bad spirits and vampires. Basically, she wanted us to practice the most fundamental pose of all: attention, presence. It’s one thing to pay attention to your own experience, it’s another to be present for someone else’s practice.

<strong>For me, the experience was one of well-wishing</strong>, not only for the yoginii in front of me, but for everyone, no matter who they were.

There is something very profound about well-wishing for others, as a practice. Yes, you can wish well to others, in the passing, but you can also sit and intentionally explore well-wishing in silence. (My advice would be to start with a person or pet for whom it is easy for you to feel positive, and slowly make your way to people who leave you indifferent, and finally to people who upset you. You’ll be surprised how much space it might create for you.)

Like everyone, I’m not perfect. Practicing well-wishing during savasana is a way for me to keep exploring my intentions and motivations as a teacher, and to stay connected to the real reason I started teaching in the first place: inspiring transformation and empowerment. This practice leaves me fulfilled after class, and it helps me tame the critics’ voice inside me, the one that lists everything I said and did “wrong” that day. Here’s another little yoga teacher dirty secret: we encourage and empower our students to go beyond their fears and judgments, yet we are oftentimes our own worst critics. And that’s part of our learning.

So today, I taught two classes. Two sweet long savasanas, where I sat upright and guarded the room against evil spirits (in a figurative way, of course). And when I arrived home, I felt fulfilled. And really tired.

Teachers need their savasana too, after all.

There is Only One Way

There is something waiting to be born. Something wanting to be brought to life. And I keep searching. I keep trying new things, digging into another box, scripting my life away. Yet, that thing, that something that awaits won’t reveal itself. Am I not listening?

I’ve been searching with my head, jumping at every new hint. Have I been looking in all the wrong places? Have I been obscuring reality with distractions?

I’ve been ignoring all the signs. Now I know where the answers are. I know where that something is. And it’s buried safely in the darkest, scariest place. The only place I’ll avoid at all cost: me.

There is only one way: the one within. 

I’ve been making friends with stillness for some time now. It’s been cordial, sometimes sweet. I thought we could leave it at that, until I realized that stillness, immobility, really scares the hell out of me. I love movement, I crave it. I confuse movement with “being alive.” All this air and space within needs to keep moving, or else…

Or else what? I’ll vanish. Stillness takes me as close to oblivion as I will ever get, on this side of the fence anyway.

My immobility, the part of me that doesn’t change, resides in the depths, in the place of nothingness. And I have to go there to meet it. I have to meet with immobility, and love it with all I’ve got until there is no love anymore, until there is nothing left.

F*cking feels like the edge of a cliff.

Myriam Goes Nowhere

I haven’t been going places. And so it is. Myriam goes nowhere. 

In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.
— Pico Iyer

I’ve decided to face the music and share personal thoughts, discoveries, and meditation adventures, otherwise known as the cushion adventures, in this blog. I feel there is much inspiration to be drawn from raw accounts of struggles and breakthroughs in meditation, and likewise of their direct and indirect impact on daily life.

I’ve been writing online for nearly 3 years now, and I’ve been muzzling myself more often than not for a litany of reasons. (Maybe a future post?) As a result, my inspiration has dried up, I have let censorship and what-will-they-think? win. I needed to figure out a way to get my juices flowing again. Radical self-acceptance seems to be the most promising path so far. For the traveler and curiosity-driven me, admitting that I go nowhere is the most radical act of self-acceptance I can do. (Wow, did I just write that?)

Truth is, I’ve been sitting still since 2006, and somehow it doesn’t get easier. I have recently been at odds with my practice, and it made me realize that it was time for some change, both on my cushion and in my life. And the first question I need to answer is WHY? Why do I practice meditation? Why do I go nowhere instead of roaming the world and savouring its gifts? Everyone aspiring to start or continue to meditate needs to be able to answer this question, honestly.

The improvements in my quality of life largely outweigh the moments of discouragement, restlessness, and resistance I experience in meditation. In itself, this is an excellent reason to meditate. I have become more patient and connected with the people around me, more aware of my own limits, more comfortable with silence. But somehow, in the quiet of my meditation a little voice has started to whisper. And she says: “Really? Your purpose in this life is far more stellar than patience and comfort, Myriam. What’s the point? Dig deeper.” Patience and comfort are important, but they are not the end goal.

It drives me mad that I don’t yet still have an answer. (Guess I still have room for improvement on the patience thing.) I’ve been digging deeper for a while now, and I’m still left with a broken compass. Somehow, my motivation for meditating is related to my life purpose. And I feel the answers will come as a pair.

Until then, I will write about going nowhere and do my best to laugh at myself along the way.

Here’s a little bonus: Pico Iyer talks about going nowhere.