It was getting messy. Stress headaches, usually reserved for the end of the day, were creeping up at noon. My body was aching, especially in the hips.
There stands the amazing space just for meditation, yet, I wasn’t using it on a regular basis. Oh, the occasional yoga session, the occasional sitting down to try to quiet the mind and body, but I wasn’t putting out the consistent effort to get with the program.
Frighteningly enough, I’d even been “caught” by a visiting psychic who asked: “The spiritual place has been built, but you have taken a spiritual vacation during the building process, why is that? You need to get going with your spiritual work.” I think, somehow, the responsibility of owning a building meant especially for meditation was really daunting. I’d even come to convince myself that my meditation practice was simply to give love to my partner and family and focus on the present moment, rather than to sit and be still.
My work with John Conley, recording his audio book companion to “Letters to My Friends” provided a positive push in the right direction as I listened to him, over and over again, discussing the benefits of just being still. Stillness — a word that came up in his recording time and again — was elusive to me. I realized I couldn’t sit still. Ever.
For a farmer and musician, sitting still is rarely required. Working outside means constant movement. Sitting at the piano to write moves me around on the keys. At this, I am adept. However, it was almost embarrassing to have to sit down with attorneys or clients to discuss something serious because I couldn’t be still. Like a little child with ants in her pants, I constantly fidgeted. I’m sure folks were starting to wonder just how fraudulent I really was, this “yoga” cowgirl. Would she even be able to complete the work at hand?
But like an oracle, the headaches started fortelling of an imminent breakdown. With all the work that lies ahead in preparing to make a video, preparing musical compositions, keeping plants alive in July and August, I could see that my life was going to become very uncomfortable if this trend continued. So, imagining that meditation might help, off to the chamber I went.
I started last week sometime, not even keeping track of the date. But I wanted to share with you the impacts of that week of forcing myself to sit in meditation. I have a nice little seat that tilts my body forward a bit. I sit in a glass building in a room with a tatami floor, surrounded by nature with the woods to the east and south, a wonderful water feature to the north, and a cabinet to lean against in the west. It’s a wonderful setting, and when I sit in that room, I am invisible to everyone who is in the house.
I have my mala beads, a gift given to me by Bhagavan Das and Dharma on the occasion of their wedding last October 10. They are crystal glass beads, and he told me he meditated with them for over a year. If that isn’t some major infusion of spiritual vibe, what is?
So, fully equipped, I began. I breathed kriya breaths — using the ujjayi breath to move air. With every inhalation, I chanted “hong,” and exhale “sau” in the technique taught by Yogananda to his disciple Shri Shelliji.
It’s the sitting in stillness part that was pretty hard. In fact, it was really hard. Hard to sit still.
Something in those mala beads, winding like handcuffs around my wrist, kept me in place. With each breath I took, my fingers slid from bead to bead, their smoothness comforting, their coolness warming to my touch. My mind wandered mercilessly, moving from concern to concern. My body wiggled, shifting from cheek to cheek, legs stretching out, legs bending, constantly moving. Perhaps the power of Baba’s infusion of energy into those beads kept me sitting through the wiggling. I sat and breathed 108 kriya breaths. I was relatively amazed that I kept going for the whole succession of counting, that I got through 108 breaths without getting up. Afterward, I did 3 sun salutations to stretch out the achy hips.
That first effort was hardly impressive. It was no yogi sitting there in the room, it was the girl with ants in her pants. But I did it. Feeling the intensity of the headache the following day dragged me out there again. Again, I wiggled, again I breathed kriya, again I sat for 108 breaths. Again, 3 sun salutations.
Again, the headache returned. I started to infuse the bead counting with a different kind of kriya, one that connects to this chant: Om namo bhagavate vasu devaya. For this kriya, on the inhalation, you chant om na mo bha ga va; exhale te va su de va ya, tracing each chakra up and down the spine as you raise and lower the breath. It requires a different kind of breathing, called the Aah-Eee breath by my teacher. I would alternate between kriya and Aah-Eee breathing. Each day, I did more Aah-Ee breaths, which take me longer to complete. Each day, I did 108 breaths. Each day, the headache moved to a later time of day.
The reason I’m writing about this now, is the headaches are gone. I’ve been meditating for a week. I noticed this morning that I sat remarkably still for the duration of my meditation. I found it amazing that this much benefit came after only one week.
Perhaps it’s the meditation, perhaps other things, but I also have noticed some improvements in my ability to maintain composure. When the children took a temple door off the hinge, I calmly explained that they will have some limits around playing in that building. They didn’t cry or feel scolded, which was a relief and a different reaction for them.
My goal is to share with you the evolution of this meditative practice. I don’t have expectations, but I promise to be a faithful and honest observer.