There was a time in my life when the thought of laying in Shavasana at the end of a yoga class was so unpleasant that I wouldn't cross the threshold of a yoga studio. It conjured up feelings that were born of my only experience with meditation in which I was told to clear my mind. My instructor seemed so Zen. All of the people seated around me, on the floor with their legs crossed, looked Zen too. I wanted that. If only I could get "there". Unfortunately, as soon as she uttered her instruction, my mind exploded with the slideshow of all slideshows, one image after the other in rapid succession, from a flower, to riding my bike down a twisty road, to chicken wings, yes the kind that are deep fried and delicious to some, to family members, to friends and so on and so on. Layered onto the slideshow was frustration that quickly built to a deep sense of failure. Why couldn't I do this thing that everyone else seemed to be doing so easily? I got up, left and decided that meditation wasn't for me. Period. End of story.
Years later, I stumbled upon an interview that planted the seed for my practice today. It was with a Buddhist Nun who had been meditating for decades. The interviewer asked her, "When will I get to the place where I clear my mind?" She laughed and said "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we will all get there eventually. The bad news is that we will be dead". She went on to say that the notion of the "clear mind" is largely a myth, that meditation is really a practice of guiding the mind back to a focal point over and over again as the mind wanders off, and it will. She stated that by times, her own practice could be deeply relaxing and at other times, she struggled with guiding her mind back. She shared
that this myth is one of the biggest roadblocks for people, stopping many before they even get to the starting line. This information began to open the door for me to consider meditation from a new perspective. I didn't have to clear my mind, I just had to give myself permission to believe that I might be able to practice the art of guiding my attention to one thing, over and over again, without judgement or criticism.
Since then I have learned that: an active mind is a human mind; we don't have to sit completely still, or on the floor for that matter; the breath is just one of many focal points and that we can meditate while moving if that feels best for us. All that is required is a little patience, curiosity and a sense of humour. With those basic ingredients, we can give ourselves the opportunity to see if meditation makes sense for us in our lives.