Today’s post is a guest blog from my yoga instructor and friend, Nicole Traum. I love the honesty and practicality of what Nicole shares. She also recorded a guided meditation for us, which is at the bottom of her piece.
I can remember the days when I first ‘learned’ to meditate. I use the term meditate loosely, because it was usually for the last five or 10 minutes of a yoga class that I had rushed to in traffic-induced road rage. After moving my body for an hour or so, I would calm down just enough to listen to the teacher’s smooth voice as it broke through the noise of my own inner dialog. Those few minutes led to sitting at home for 30+ minutes to even attending workshops where there were meditations that lasted hours.
Those times were instrumental to me becoming a yoga teacher, because for the first time, I realized that I didn’t have to live enslaved to the constant, mostly negative, droll that pulsed through my mind 24/7. My anxiety started to decline, and I felt pretty amazing, albeit a little withdrawn from society. At that time, however, I was in my early 20’s and didn’t have a relationship or children to think about. Even though I thought life was really difficult, I had no idea how challenging it could become.
Fast forward almost 20 years and here I am: a wife, a mother to a 4 year old, a yoga teacher, and business owner. I teach about 12 yoga classes a week which is a lot of energy to be putting out there, and one of the ways that I recharge is by meditating. People say things like, ‘you are so calming’, or ‘you must have an amazing meditation practice!’ Sometimes, I just feel like a complete phony and at those times I have to remind myself that it’s all about finding balance. Things aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago. I would love to have an hour to sit and breathe, but I usually don’t.
In Buddhism, there is a distinction between a Monk who is devoted to a meditation practice and what is called a Householder, that’s you and me for the most part. Householders are people who are non-monastic and have other obligations. As Householders, our practice is to find the beauty in what we take for granted, the familiar and not to become complacent or caught up in the everyday cycle. Super easy, right? This is why it’s called a practice.
These days, I get up early before my family awakes and go to a fast-paced, high intensity gym complete with loud music and trainers on mics. I get home to a still quiet house and have my breakfast and coffee. I take a few minutes to breathe and observe the lake out my kitchen window and try to set the tone for my day. That is my meditation. I do similar things throughout the day, and occasionally, I can steal away 15 minutes to do a more traditional meditation or listen to a guided one. Sometimes, I feel bad about it. Sometimes, I know it is all I can give. For me, balance is key and that has to start with my expectations. I’m not giving myself a get out of jail free card or anything, but I also can’t expect to do all the things my daily life requires and mediate for six hours. Sorry, just being honest.
In my years of teaching yoga, I’ve noticed how un-aware people are. I am sure my first teachers saw this same attribute in me and probably still do. There are times when I will say, ‘bring your right foot forward’, and students will do something completely different or nothing at all. So much of this is that we are not practiced in awareness.
How can you expect to sit for 10 or 20 minutes when you barely let yourself be aware in everyday life? So, our meditation starts in small bites of awareness and will slowly grow.
I taught a yoga class to a grade school a few years back and the class ended with them having their snack. It cut into my yoga time which irritated me a bit so I made it part of our practice. We called it, ‘Eat Like a Yogi’. During snack we would slow down just enough and hone our awareness skills. We would look at our snack, smell it, notice the flavor and texture of the food in our mouths. It was incredible to see how much these kids chilled out and focused.
I’ve applied this theory to my own life practices and meditation time and it has calmed me down considerably. I take time to actually taste my food, to savor my coffee, to notice the depth of my breath or even to feel the sensation of my clothes on my body. I may not have a ton of time to completely empty my mind, but the more I practice this awareness, the more it creeps into other areas of my life. I know it’s not profound but I realized how much of my down time was spent on Facebook and through that awareness I turned off the messages notifications. I also started to listen to guided meditations instead of reading or watching news and getting depressed. The thing is, there is time… we just need to find the balance.