From time to time, I feel a shift in my yoga practice. Last January, I had completed two years of daily, committed practice, but I felt a deep shift in my life and in my relationship with yoga.
One of my biggest goals in life is to evolve as a whole. For a long time in my life, I looked for purification. I wanted to diminish my ego, my shadow and my lower self and expand the better part of myself.
Now, I long to love and embrace the ugly parts in me, too. It took me many years to get here, and I could never have reached this new way of thinking without amazing teachers I was blessed to find in my path.
I want to evolve as a whole. I want to embrace everything. I want to love myself unconditionally. I want to call my shadow my potential, my ugly parts my original beauty, my ego my unique personality, and I want to cherish and hold it all like a baby in my arms.
To help me do this incredibly difficult task, I discovered that I had to invest more time in being alone and quiet with myself, to be inside my inner world and to hang out there getting to know me more.
I started chanting mantras for more than 2 hours. The first times I tried it, it was ugly. I seemed to be possessed. My body hurt, and I started to sweat. Inside my head, it was anything but peaceful. But in the end, at last, I felt the peace I was looking for. Then, I tried again and again.
I remembered a video about Vipassana meditation being practiced in Indian jails. The prisoners went through 10 days of intense meditation, and their transformation was remarkable. They would meditate for hours during the morning and afternoon without interruption and in a short period of time could transform their lives forever.
I’m a beginner also in meditation, and usually meditate for 15 minutes in the morning, after pranayama and before sun salutations, and for 30-40 minutes in the afternoon before or after my asana practice during sunset. So, when I decided to meditate for 2 hours and see how I could benefit from it, it was a challenge. If the prisoners could meditate for 4 hours or longer at a time, I could honor them and try to do it, too, even if only for 2 hours.
It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I noticed that there are phases. In the beginning, I felt excited and confident, full of optimistic thoughts. Then, my daily worries started to infiltrate in my mind and diminish my enthusiasm. Then, my most dreadful thoughts, horrible memories and most terrible fears invaded my mind in waves. It took me a long while to understand that I wasn’t going insane; it was what some call resistance. So, I imagine the dreadful thoughts, fears and memories to be a huge wave, like a tsunami, and I felt the anxiety growing inside me. Then, I imagined myself getting bigger, taller and taller, like a giant, and walking over the tsunami that had now become a tiny little wave, just the sea caressing my feet.
I kept doing this with the incoming waves, even when I was flooded by good feelings and euphoria, and had urges to stop the meditation. Then bad and good feelings became one. I continued growing bigger and bigger, taller and taller, until I reached a phase of boredom, just plain boredom. And it hurt more than the previous phase. I preferred the thoughts and fears because they at least meant I was alive.
But I decided to feel the boredom, to stay by its side, to embody it. Then, something happened. I visualized a very dear yoga teacher by my side, meditating with me, and a sadhu in front of me, instructing me. I felt such a wave of gratitude that my eyes became teary. I felt inspired:
— When the emotions take you over during meditation and you can’t hold back the tears, remember the mudra. Remember the sound. OM. And remember that you’re not alone.
— Come back to the breath, to the center.
— When you don’t know how to put it into words, draw. When you can’t draw, move your body. Put yourself in a posture. Dance.
— When feeling alone and misunderstood, create space to the other person’s truth.
— When you feel overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings during your practice, remember other practitioners around the world and throughout history. Visualize them with their own struggles and notice that you’re not alone. Each one of us supports the other in our practice. It’s one practice, one heart with many paths.
After some long breaths, I felt the boredom again. I looked to my timer, and I was surprised to see that I had meditated for 1 hour and 20 minutes with only 40 minutes to go.
I stretched, looked to my timer and wished I had succeeded as a journalist instead of trying to be a yogini. But I stayed. And at the end, I said to myself, “Hey, you can stay 2 hours in meditation.”
I can, even if there is noise, inside and outside, even if there is pain in my body and in my mind, even if inside me is havoc. Inside me is a storm. I know that it will get clearer after my second, third and fourth time. It’s a practice.
I go inside and stay with me and discover that it’s not that bad. It ain’t bad at all. It’s actually good and feels like home. And it’s like a house that has many floors, like a huge library, and it has many landscapes. And even the dark ones that feel alien to me can be cool, too. Once I walk there with a lamp in my hand, I discover that it’s not that bad, that scary and that cold there in the grottos and caves of my inner self.
It’s not bad at all. I bless myself and all beings, and I bless this world and creation. I put one hand over my heart and the other over my womb (women have two hearts!).
My timer beeped. The two hours were over. I smiled and lifted my right arm high in the air as if I had won a marathon. I’m a spiritual athlete. I can stay 2 hours in meditation.
What else can I do?