One of the goals of yoga is to be present, to live in the moment, rather than constantly planning for the future or thinking about the past. However, this can be extremely difficult, especially in our world today; there is so much happening around us at any given time, things to do, errands to run and people to take care of, guilt to feel about that thing you said yesterday, and of course we have to plan for our future….But in between all of these thoughts and actions, we are still living in THIS moment. And in THIS moment there are so many things to notice and be grateful for, both big and small. That is what yoga is about–taking the time to stop and appreciate those things that are happening right now. It can be big things like the fact that you’re alive, or that an impending storm blew out to sea, or seemingly little things, such as beautiful flowers growing outside your door, or the fact that your favorite ice cream is on sale. These are the moments that add richness to our lives, but they’re also the moments that can be so easily overlooked as we plan for the future or dwell in the past.
Yoga teaches us that the only way to be able to fully live in the present is to maintain a constant practice of awareness, which yoga asana (poses) and meditation help us to do. That is why, after watching this Ted Talk, I committed to spending time on my yoga mat every day in August. While I already have a regular asana practice, I admit that my meditation practice has been very inconsistent. I am still fairly new to the practice, and some days it can be pretty frustrating. There is just so much going on in that brain of mine, where the heck is the off switch?? But the hope is that during these 30 days I will create a ritual that will continue through the fall and beyond.
Luckily, there are many kinds of meditation to fit people’s varying styles and needs. There is visual meditation, in which you fix your gaze on a certain point, like the flame of a candle, and focus completely on that. There is Metta meditation, in which you send thoughts of loving kindness to yourself, your family and friends, groups in need, and even people you don’t like. Even physical yoga asana can be a moving meditation when the breath and movements are fully connected and the mind is focused. However, the style of meditation that I find works for me at the moment is mantra meditation, where you repeat a mantra over and over, connecting it to your breath. The mantra can be anything that means something to you and helps you focus the mind on a singular point during your meditation.
The mantra I’ve chosen to use in my meditation is “So Hum,” which translates to “I am that” or “That I am.” (Maybe this is why I loved the book “Green Eggs and Ham” so much as a kid.) I find that it works really well with the breath, inhaling on “so” and exhaling on “hum.” It can be repeated aloud, but I say it in my head. This mantra has been really helpful to me in my meditation practice. When my thoughts begin to wander, I can acknowledge them and return to So Hum. Like this morning for example, my mind looked something like this: “So…hum…so…hum…this feels great, I should blog about meditation later…oh wait, you’re thinking….so….hum…” And so on. The mantra gives me something other than a desperate hope for enlightenment to focus on while I’m meditating.
If you’ve never tried meditation before (or you have and you were too frustrated and gave up) I highly recommend you give it a shot. As I said, there are numerous different ways that you can do it, and you may have to try out a few styles before you find the one that works for you. And even that could change over time. So be patient with yourself, and just take five minutes out of your day (or perhaps even one minute) to start. Notice how that feels, and slowly start to add a minute or two each day. You may even find that the benefits reaped from your meditation will flow into other aspects of your life. At the very least, it will give you a chance to stop and enjoy the moment.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the Dalai Lama. When asked what surprised him most about humanity, he replied, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”