Autobiography of a Yoga Wally - Part 121 Jul 2017
Autobiography of a Yoga Wally – Several chapters on How to integrate Yoga in the western life
Chapter on Meditation
How much do I meditate? A reasonable enough question for a meditation teacher I suppose, but not one I like answering. I guess there are a couple of reasons for that, the first one I offer up is that I was advised by my meditation teacher that you should never talk about your own practice as you may inflate your ego and the benefit you end up deriving from your practice is the praise and regard of others.
However, if I am going to be honest, there is another reason. I don’t think that my practice is very inspiring, and the last thing I want to do is give people another ‘get out of meditation free’ card.
I was very lucky, I came to yoga before I had a family and life was a lot more flexible. I quit my job as an accountant (an auditor even!!) when I felt the pull towards Yoga, and was able to spend 3-7 months a year for 7 years at my yoga school in Thailand. So, in total, we are talking about nearly 3 WHOLE YEARS of intensive study and practice. Who has time for that?
The last couple of stints were mostly spent in silent retreat, somewhere around 8 hours of Self- enquiry meditation a day, sometimes for months on end. When I returned home, I stayed with a friend with Yogic aspirations and we used to spend our evenings discussing the yamas and niyamas and other Yoga wally type pursuits. I used to get up, practice asana for about an hour and meditate for about an hour. That was great, I taught yoga from other people’s studios, was single, and rented a room from a friend and disappeared off to see my meditation teacher at regular intervals. Practice in those days was full of joy and expansive peace, the radiance of the heart. There were wonderful experiences during the retreats which I still use as a reference now.
Then I met my husband (again), and decided to have a family.
Let’s just say, I don’t manage 2 hours practice each morning now.
I think I managed to survive from my previous practice for a long time, so even when I was able to snatch 10 mins here, 20 mins there, I was able to go quite deep as a result of the ground work already done. I remember clearly sitting to meditate while pregnant and simply nodding as I was so tired and for the first time since I started meditating, stopping mid practice to have a nap. Life was changing. With a baby, plus toddler, I was unable to find clarity in my foggy mind to meditate properly, so I soon surrendered and looked towards Yoga nidra and sleep (!) instead.
My meditation practice paused to very little over those early years. Then, as my second child began to sleep through the night and started walking and eating with the family, it snuck back in again. I will be forever grateful to have been a meditation teacher through the whole period, as during those blissful led sessions the stillness always came, like an act of grace, and reminded me of how important and pleasant meditation is. And watching the students who introduced a regular practice transform, always filled me with great awe for meditation and aspiration to get back to it properly.
Now, with a 2 and 5 year old, life is still busy but spaces are beginning to come. Some weeks I manage 20 – 40 mins per day even twice per day, sometimes 10 mins every few days is all. The great thing is, when opportunities arise, I grab them, and go back to practice with a feeling of gratitude. I really hope that one day I will be able to get back to 2 hours per day, it may be a few years away yet though!
There was a run of a couple of weeks when I was able to manage regular 20 and 30 min sessions once or twice a day, and I was amazed to find that the stillness and joy that I reached in long periods of silence began to return. I thought those experiences were only for that level of intense practice, but there it was, expansive joy, while walking my child to nursery along the canal next to our house. It really is possible to get the benefits here in the western busy life with regular practice.
One of the biggest changes I have noticed, is in my responses to students asking how much they should practice. In my full on Yoga wally days, I had no understanding of how time is really not your own sometimes, and would always insist that time could be found. You know the idea; if you are too busy to meditate for 10 minutes, you should sit for 20mins