That which I’m experiencing as I’m going through meditation teacher training is…profound
As soon as I got back from traveling out west, my I began my coursework. Each week brings a new unit of material to study, along with the prescribed reading, writing, reflecting, and working on my meditation practice. I thought it might be fun to share with you what I’m experiencing as I’m going through meditation teacher training. I can tell you that it’s a life-changing experience.
It’s like a retreat
You may know that I work for a school three days per week. I then spend four days at home. I have arranged my schedule so that the bulk of my coursework falls on the four days that I’m at home.
Over the course of those four days, I get to practice a lot of mediation. I sit for an hour each morning, and about a half hour in the afternoons. Later, I might incorporate some walking meditation, and a little yoga (the physical exercise). I also engage in mindfulness (focusing on the breath as I go about my activities) as much as I can.
As part of that, all the reading I’m doing supports my practice. I’m reading about meditation styles, its history, techniques, and what meditation does to the brain. I then apply what I’ve learned to my meditation, or I reflect and write about it in a journal.
I am in quite a calm, blissful state as I head off to work my day job after four days of intense study. This time away from home becomes a sort of “testing ground” to apply what I’ve learned in the real world. I feel as if I’m on a meditation retreat, with a few days of regular work built in every week.
I feel connected
This connection is happening in a way I have never experienced. To those I love, I just feel more love. Gathering with family or friends just puts me into a grateful mood, even if there are differences among us (as you will inevitably have with family). I can’t help but give more hugs, smiles, and words of encouragement.
To those that I’m acquainted with, I feel more of a sense of connectedness with regard to the human experience. I sense more about people in general – what they’re feeling, what they might be going through, and where they’re going. In that way, I can decide whether they might need a hug at that point in time or just some space. I still feel compelled to send blessings to everyone I meet.
To those with whom I feel neutral or even some measure of disagreement, I feel an increased sense of compassion. There is still love there, as well. It’s just a bit different. It has become much easier to see these folks as a beating heart who needs as much love as someone I truly love. It’s easier to see that even though they may not share the path upon which I walk, I can still appreciate their humanness. It is easier to sense their hopes and desires, insecurities and doubts. Because of that, it’s easier to send them love and it helps to keep my own judgements in check (though I do not claim perfection!).
I feel more compassion – for all things
Along with that connectedness, I have an increased sense of compassion for all living things. Apart from the human connections I mentioned above, I find myself smiling at everything from squirrels to snakes, to gently blowing the occasional little black ant off my computer. I recognize that all beings have a right to live and deserve a little help now and then.
It is this sense of growing compassion that also drove me to become vegetarian a couple years ago. I desire for everything to live out its life as normally and freely as possible.
In addition, this has made me extremely aware of the needs of the planet. I want for all the trees to remain standing, the hillsides to remain uncultivated, and for there to be less humans around using resources – in the sense that we take responsibility for our exploding population. In recognizing this need, however, I also know that this is a massive issue that cannot rest solely on my shoulders. I can only do my part – whatever that looks like – to help create a better world for the next generation, and when I falter, I can strive to improve.
Compassion For Myself
Compassion for the self is incredibly important to move forward in one’s practice. One of the tenets in meditation is to “be kind to yourself.” In doing so, I am learning that I am capable of so much AND THAT I am only capable of so much. I strive to do my best, but sometimes that looks different when I’m tired or spent, versus when I’m just beginning my work. If I honor and treat my body as a temple, I am giving it a reason to maintain balance and health.
There’s also Ayurvedic medicine and body types. This ancient practice was honed 5,000 years ago and still persists today. Our ancient brothers and sisters were on to something with that knowledge. If we eat right, exercise, and do activities right for our body/mind/spirit type, we can increase the odds that our bodies will remain active and healthy until the day we no longer walk the planet.
I feel calmer
As a “side effect” to meditation, I’m finding that because I focus on breathing and “letting my thoughts go,” it becomes easier in the rest of my day to repeat that pattern. I focus on the breath and acknowledge thoughts and feelings as they come, and then I work on releasing them. This brings me right into the present.
In this habit of focusing on the breath, I know to take deeper breaths when I start to feel stressed or overwhelmed.
I engage in Pranayama, otherwise known as breathing exercises. They can help during the course of the day to help you to oxygenate the brain, or tone it back, depending on if you’d like to be more alert, or more relaxed. These also go a long way in reducing stress, and maintaining calm.
To be sure, I’m naturally a fairly bubbly person, but I am finding that my happiness and blissful states are in higher frequency, as well. Not always – I still feel the full range of emotions that we’re all programmed to feel. I still experience anger, resentment, sadness, despair, happiness, love, hope, peace, love and everything between. However, there is a more tempered feel to these emotions: I become aware of them, acknowledge them, and I am getting better at releasing them. I try not to “hold on” for too long.
I feel more mindful
I’ve already mentioned that I am more mindfully engaged in my day. But I have tried to incorporate mindful eating whenever possible, mindful writing, mindful sitting, mindful cleaning, and any other activity – everything can become a mindful activity.
I never liked baths very much. Showers were fine. I’d even say that some of my best ideas would come in the shower. Up until last week, I hadn’t taken a bath in years – at least four or five years. Reading about how my body type might benefit from a nightly bath, I decided to try it. I can tell you that I haven’t slept this well in a long time! For me, this little change works!
When I remember to go about my day focusing on my breathing. I stop thinking about other people in a judgmental way. I refrain from thinking about what’s for dinner, what I should have said (or shouldn’t have), what I want (to buy, to do, to be, to try), distant dreams. These are all things that contribute to anxiety. I just let all that mind clutter go, and move into the present. It’s a glorious feeling!
I get insights
I’ll ask a question and often the answer burns itself into the screen of my mind. Little things. Big things. It’s as if I’m learning to tap into a well of intuition that has been patiently waiting for me to draw from it my entire life!
Granted, I have already tapped into this well, but it’s almost as if it’s become a spring – a flow of steady information that allows me a sense of connectedness to myself and others.
The answers to life’s greatest questions, I’m finding, lie within. They are encrypted into our DNA and if we get still enough, silent enough, the answers will reveal themselves.
Sharing in the journey
I just wanted to share what I’m feeling and experiencing as I continue my training. After this week, I will be halfway through. It’s going fast, and well-worth the effort.