Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 2)

Five Reasons Why Meditation Is So Hard

meditation (1)“I’m really bad at meditation.” I’ve heard this from many yoga students, and I’ve said it myself. I blogged about my meditation challenge here in fact. But what are the reasons why sitting still in meditation is so hard?

  1. It seems to go against everything we’ve been brought up to believe, in terms of striving for goals and taking action. You can read all the scientific studies you like about the benefits of meditation (and there are plenty of them – try this article for starters) but it still seems counter-intuitive that to enjoy all these lovely benefits you have to sit still and be quiet.
    2. It’s not actually just sitting there. If you come to meditation believing that it will be an easy, relaxing experience, you won’t be prepared for the sheer effort it requires. It takes focus, concentration and discipline to meditate. And that can be hard. The main feeling I used to experience on hearing the bell to mark the end of meditation was relief that it was over, and that I could stop trying to focus. This is normal, and it has lessened with time.
    3. Most people don’t understand the real purpose of meditation. The point of meditation is not to relax. Although meditation can, and does, help you feel relaxed, contrary to popular belief, that’s actually not the intended purpose behind it. The actual purpose of meditation is to understand the nature of the mind. Through that understanding, you gain the potential to harness the power of your mind, rather than being at its mercy.
    4. It’s said that your ego does not like this, which is why you experience such resistance to meditation. When you meditate, you recognise the way that thoughts and feelings arise, seemingly from nowhere, and fall away. And you realise that you are not those thoughts and feelings. You are the observer or the witness of the thoughts and feelings – a much deeper state of consciousness that’s completely unaffected by the events that happen to you. This brings the realisation that so much of what you think matters really doesn’t. Your ego doesn’t like this, so it resists.
    5. Being alone with your thoughts can be difficult. Sometimes they’re negative, disturbing, or (a lot of the time!) just plain boring. Meditation is so hard because your mind doesn’t want you to be doing it. It craves stimulation and distraction, and will try any number of things to get you to stop.

So what can you do about it?

There’s so much information out there about how to start meditating – a Google search returns 1,790,000 hits. The most crucial thing though is deciding that you want to meditate, and that you want to enough to put the effort into overcoming the challenges. It’s worth asking yourself – do you want to understand the nature of your mind? Do you want the potential to master your mind, rather than being enslaved by the random thoughts and feelings that pop into your head for the rest of your life? And if the answer is yes, meditation is probably a good place to start.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Jade xxx

P.S. All credit for my latest learning about meditation goes to my wonderful teacher Vidya at Frog Lotus Yoga.

 

 

Put down your damn phone and be present

phoneI was at a gig the other night. Unusually cool for me, I know. I have my little brother to thank for that. Left to my own devices I’d have spent Saturday night eating tofu stir-fry and watching Strictly Come Dancing. Anyway, I was struck by the number of people who had their phones out filming it. Their whole view was reduced to the size of their phone screen. I could understand filming a little bit to share with friends, or to play back later, but the entire thing? Really? Is having a pale imitation of the gig to keep worth diminishing the actual experience of being there?

To be clear, I am the last person to be able judge someone for being on their phone and not being fully present, as the photo with this blog testifies. Smartphones are mesmerising things. At your fingertips, you have access to everyone you’ve ever met (or at least everyone who’s been foolish enough to pass on their phone number), the whole of Facebook, all the awe-inspiring images of Instagram, and the entire world wide web. This is a beautiful, crazy, incredible phenomenon. It’s also distracting as hell.

Even for me, to experience the whole gig through a mobile phone screen seemed like a lost opportunity. The band picked up on this too. At one point the singer asked whether people would put their phones down for one song. He spoke about the value of connection, and how he wanted fans to just be present for a few minutes. Most people did, but a few couldn’t even manage that. And at the end of the song, the relief as people were “allowed” to pick up their phones again was palpable.

And so, conscious of the fact that my experience of the world can be far more expansive and interesting when it’s not lived through the tiny screen in my palm, I’m working on putting my phone down a lot more. I blogged here about how I’d started to schedule time for communicating with people and the rest of the time remaining present with the people I’m with. While I’ve not stuck rigidly to that, I have learned that I often have the best times when I leave my phone alone, or even better, leave it behind. I’m more engaged in conversations, and more mentally present. I’m even finding it’s not necessary while you’re waiting for people to “look busy”. It’s kind of ok just to sit there.

I still love my phone (yes, it’s actual love), but as with any relationship, I’m learning that dependence is a bad thing. I want to be present, and I want to value being with the people I’m with. Who’s joining me?

 

Returning to yin: my first yoga love

Yin YangI’m beginning my yoga blogging a little closer to home, with the class that started my yoga obsession. Perhaps surprisingly for someone who enjoys exercising to the point of sweaty, scarlet-faced, endorphin-fuelled exhaustion, my first consistent yoga practice was yin yoga. Shortly after I moved back to Nottingham in 2008, I went along to one of Mike Morris’ yin yoga classes, and from that point onwards I was hooked.  I went every week, and (sometimes!) even remembered to practise in between.

Yin yoga is a slow and mindful practice, where you hold postures for much longer periods of time than in most forms of hatha yoga, typically 3-5 minutes. Rather than muscular effort, you use gravity and your own body weight to go deeper into the postures. This allows access to the fascia and connective tissue, which in the Taoist tradition are thought of as the “yin” tissues of the body.

I loved it. The stillness, the calm, the letting go, and even the discomfort.  Because for all its deceptive gentleness, yin yoga can be really damned uncomfortable.  While you may not be holding the postures through muscular exertion, you still feel it. Trust me on this one. Five minutes of “allowing gravity to do the work” while you lie in sleeping swan with your leg tucked beneath you and your thigh externally rotating from the hip, and you really know about it. Gravity might be doing the work, but it’s certainly not going to take the discomfort for you too.

Yin yoga became my touchstone though.  That class every week was the closest I could get at the time to practising meditation.  I learnt to sit with my body, sit with the postures, sit with the sensations and not fight them. The idea of accepting and even exploring discomfort taught me more than months of therapy could have done.

I’ve since moved to Birmingham, where I haven’t found a yin yoga class yet, so it was with genuine excitement that on a trip back to Nottingham this month I was able to go back to Mike’s class.  Returning to the practice felt like coming home.  The discomfort, which my memory had dulled, was horribly and beautifully intense.  Moving into each posture was fascinating. I felt the difference in my joints that the last three months of daily yoga practice have made – more openness in some places, and new aches, tender points and restrictions elsewhere. It was like checking in with myself again.

If you are interested in learning more about yin yoga, check out the videos here and Mike’s website here. Let me know how you get on!

Around the world in 80 yoga classes

Valencia yogaOr why I’m leaving my perfectly good job to travel around the world doing yoga…

Just over a year ago, I went from teaching English in a secondary school to working as a leadership coach for an education charity. I moved city for the role and effectively started a new life. This was a good move. It gave me the opportunity to work with some incredible, inspiring teachers, and it allowed me time to reflect on what I value.

After moving, a lot of the new people I met would ask me what I did in my free time, which was pretty embarrassing. Having spent the last 5 years teaching, my honest answer was, “Erm… marking?” But gradually I realised that there are a few things I love doing. Yoga, teaching, travelling and writing. And the thing about coaching other people is that it’s hard to avoid turning the questions back on yourself sometimes. I was forced to question why I wasn’t doing more of the things I love. What was stopping me?

Mainly fear.  Fear that if I uprooted the comfortable, happy life I have now then I might not find something as good again. I compared myself to other people my age and worried that I wasn’t “progressing” enough.  Shouldn’t I be climbing the career ladder and earning more money? Shouldn’t I be buying a house and settling down?  My friends are working for promotions, getting mortgages and having babies.  I wouldn’t trust myself with a pet goldfish right now.

And the thing is that’s not what I want at the moment (cute as goldfish are). I’m lucky enough to have the freedom to choose what I want to do right now. So I decided to go for it. I handed in my notice and booked my first flights.

My plan is still very open. I’ll leave my job at the end of February and set off for Spain.  I’ll complete my yoga teacher training in Valencia, then spend the next few months travelling and doing as much yoga as I physically can, writing about my experiences and sharing what I learn.  I’m so far out of my comfort zone it hurts, and so excited that I can hardly sleep.

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