A Journal Entry about Teaching Meditation
My journal entries have been private until now. Brynn and I try to journal for 30 minutes every day. I miss some days and am working to be more disciplined with it, since I've found out a lot about myself since starting.
Below is a journal entry I just wrote focused on teaching meditation. I had 15 minutes left and wanted to use that time to write out what I'm going to teach to beginning meditators at our yoga teacher training group tonight at Elemental Yoga. I wanted to share it with you to show you my process. Enjoy!
Tonight, I teach meditation for 30 minutes in the YTT. What will I teach? I think I will start off with the importance of the physical body in meditation. The importance of a supple body and my own struggles at first with it since I did not have a supple body. I was more forceful with myself, which has proved a tendency for some time now.
I will then go the importance of being gentle with the self, starting out by following the breath in, and following the breath out. We can start this out as a physical journey: aches, pains, and itches will come up and these will distract our meditation. A supple body is not necessary in order to meditate. I need to make this clear. But it certainly helps.Then emotion comes up. Emotions are present all of the time. They are driven by what we desire and what we are repulsed by. A person, place, or thing can generate this, as well as memory and imagination. Situations also perpetuate emotion. Not only that, there is an emotional field in everything, a way that our brain interacts when we type on a computer, when we meet a particular person, when we’re driving, when we’re in nature, etc.
The next level of this is the mental. This is where thought is generated. There are many layers to thought. Some are conscious and most are unconscious or in our subconscious. When we go to sleep at night, we try to process our day’s experiences, what was on our mind, and how we interpreted it. Then there is memory and imagination. Things that stimulated us in desire or repulsion tend to leave bigger imprints, or samskaras, on our mind. These we store as a bigger chunk of memory and they come up when the right situation presents itself.
When we sit down to meditate, we are trying to still our mind. This means more than ever our conscious mind is, when we begin meditation and long into practicing, presented with all these thoughts, hidden and unhidden, emotions, and physical comforts and discomforts at the same time. Our mind tries to process the information all at once at first, like a chaotic dream that changes scene after scene.
As we breath through the thoughts, as we rest our attention on the inhale and exhale of the breath, the thoughts start to slow. This is usually after a while of disciplined, daily practice. At first, it will seem as if you turned the volume up on the thoughts, emotions, and aches in your mind and body. If the body is not used to being still, the mind will revolt. The ego doesn’t like change. It wants to keep things the same. This is where it’s comfort lies.
However, in order to reach our true spiritual nature, sadhana (spiritual practice) must be developed. The will of the person must engage itself in battle against the revolting nature of the ego. It is an inner battle, one taking place in the mind. On one side lies the ego and its allies. On the other lies the soul and its allies. Entering into this battle is no easy decision, as it not only affects your inner landscape, but also affects your outer. Friends may change, you may feel awkward or misunderstood for some time, your emotions may be joyous one day and depressed the next. This is a part of the purification process. In order for the soul to know the Self, many old habits, characteristics, thoughts, and actions will need to change.
This is not to fret. There are many people that can and will help. They can listen to what you’re experiencing and share their own experiences. Many people are searching for something deeper than the mundane. And in the mundane is where we often find Spirit.
As we develop the ability for one-pointed concentration in the mind, the senses begin to turn inward, and it becomes easier to sit for longer. I describe it as a magnetic pull to turn the attention inwards to better understand the mind. And a meditation state is a prolonged period of one-pointed concentration on something of your choice, be it breath, a mantra, an object, a picture, etc. Whatever resonates with you [give examples of my own here]. After a period of time, the mind merges with your something of choice. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali references this as samadhi (absorption or super-conscious trance). This is a major step in yoga (union with God).
So sit with the loud monkeys in your mind. Continue to return your attention from your itchy and achy body, “good” and “bad” emotions, and entertaining thoughts to the breath. Inhale. Exhale. That’s all. And your Self with guide you with the rest.
Also, you can reference the Bhagavad Gita for more information on the inner battle.