I’m a recovering perfectionist. I know I’m not the only one. It seems that it’s never really gone, no matter how hard you try to get rid of it or how often you claim that you’re done trying to be perfect. It sneaks up me, and gets into my head before I even know it’s there. Often someone else needs to point it out to me before I even know I’m doing it again.
Meditation is one of those things that has knocked at my door a few times over the years. I peeked through the door once or twice, thought it looked boring or difficult, and closed it again. Recently I opened the door and let it in, and now I'm beginning to get to know this new addition.
Part of my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) was a private practice to be done every day. Mine was based on jnana yoga - the study of yourself. I was supposed to do nothing for 15 minutes every day. Sounds easy right? Not for me. I have never done nothing. I can read for 15 minutes, I can talk for 15 minutes. I can even drive for 15 minutes! But to stare into space and do nothing was a challenge.
My jnana practice will get it's own blog post eventually, but it connects to this one because I sometimes meditated instead of doing nothing. I guess that's how meditation got through the door - I was doing nothing and it slipped in. Even though my jnana practice and meditation seem very similar, the "action" of meditation is focusing on breath, and trying to focus on nothing else. It gave me a goal that doing nothing didn't provide. There's the advertisement for you: "Meditation - better than doing nothing!"
My YTT is ending soon, and when my teacher offered an eight-week yoga workshop, I signed up. It's only an hour and 15 minutes once a week, so it's easy. The trick is that I need to do my homework, which is to meditate every day.
The first few days after the first workshop session, I couldn't seem to get out of my own way. This morning, Monday, I turned over a new leaf. When my first cup of coffee was done, I turned on the timer, got comfortable, closed my eyes, and meditated for 10 minutes. And that's when I had my a-ha moment.
Here's what came to me this morning. Just as yoga is a practice, so is meditation. If I expect that I am going to sit down, clear my mind, and think about nothing for 10 minutes, I'm going to be disappointed. I'm going to assume I can't meditate. But it doesn't work like that. What I need to start telling myself is that I'm practicing meditation. If I close my eyes, and out of 10 minutes I manage to focus on just my breath for 30 seconds, that's my meditation for that day. Eventually if I keep practicing, I'll get better. Even just closing my eyes and allowing my mind to roam is better than being constantly active and always "doing". If I sit still and get a little bit of actual meditation, that's a bonus.
It seems like a simple concept, but until today, I thought that meditation was something that you could either do or not do. I wanted to give myself a pass or a fail - no grades in between. Now I realize that meditation is just like yoga - some days you feel like you've finally mastered it, and other days you wonder why you bother. I'm excited to see what this practice brings in the days to come.
At the beginning of 2016, I set my theme as "Growth". I should have set the word "Transformation" because that's what was always in my mind, but that word seemed very radical. I was afraid to call that word into my life because I didn't think I was ready for the type of change that it might bring. But as the months went by, Transformation became my only thought. Against my will, I started to transform.
I remember telling someone in mid-2016 that I'd gotten everything I ever wanted, and now I didn't want it anymore. And that kind of ungrateful attitude seemed like inviting bad karma. I had a great job - great title, lots of responsibility, high profile, and a nice pay cheque. And yet I was chafing against the job. I started finding it hard to bounce out of bed in the morning. I really had to struggle to care about the big and small issues of my work. I knew that I couldn't continue on much longer without becoming one of those people who is dragging down the whole team.
And yet, what would I do next? There weren't that many jobs available, and the ones that appeared just seemed to be carbon copies of the one I was already doing. And maybe worse - who knew? Better the devil you know.
Partway through the year I made a plan. I wrote it down. It became the main thing I wanted to think about. I executed the plan - I quit my job. Yikes. People were shocked, disappointed. People were gossiping about me. I honestly and truly didn't care. Not in an angry or negative way, just with detachment. I didn't want to go away mad, I just wanted to go away.
I had no idea how tired I'd been. I spent the first few weeks resting, napping, catching up. Then I started to panic. What would I do next? Being a stay-at-home mother to one well-organized teenage boy is a fun gig, but it doesn't pay much.
I made another plan. I had already started to execute it, and it felt so right. I'm in the middle of the plan now. I chafe against the transition, the waiting, and the wondering if the vision I have will come true. The burning platform is my own desire for success, and for the type of life that I know I want to live. The word "Transformation" got me here, and the word "Believe" will keep me moving forward.
Going on a retreat takes you out of your routine and changes your perspective. Ideally it will also present a bit of challenge to you. That might be trying something new, doing something all by yourself, or going somewhere you’ve never been before. It might be as simple as challenging your usual ways of thinking.