Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thoughts On Meditation - from someone totally unqualified

My friend Samantha of SamaSutra signed me up for a meditation class at the Himalayan Institute, a yoga studio where she teaches and volunteers.  I've practiced yoga here and there and on and off (mostly off) for years.  Through all of those experiences the relaxation part at the end was the exercise that intrigued me the most.  It wasn't always my favorite part of the class, but it seemed the most important.

Ancient or Eastern practices such as meditation and yoga have never whole-heartedly pulled me in, but I also never doubted the experiences were beneficial and healthy and important to anyone who studied them.  Samantha and I have talked a lot about her practice and concepts such as being present and mindful and things and stuff like that.  

I've dabbled in my own relaxation, breathing and some self-guided meditation (I have a book, k?). I realize this doesn't make me an expert or practiced or enlightened or even qualified to blog about it. These internal self-realizing things are so personal and my experiences or Samantha's experiences or the author of the book's experiences are never going to replace your own experience with something like this.

The teacher asked why we were taking the class. Oooh!  I had lots of answers.  (It's hard to be zen and mindful if you already have lots of answers - but that's me, not very zen - yet!)  Here's my list:

  1. I want to conquer my performance anxiety.  This goes for both playing violin or viola and for giving speeches or presentations at work
  2. Clearness when practicing viola.  I'm usually a little amped up when I start practicing.  I rush through the scales and etudes and through the tough stuff and get frustrated pretty easily.  When I'm really good at practicing every day this gets better.  Sometimes I miss a few days and have to start over and I start right in with this "catch up" mentality. I think if I can calm down and be present in these times I can practice more productively.
  3. Dealing with difficult or emotional situations - especially at work.  When I come across conflict or bad news or criticism the only thing I have control of is my reaction.  And I barely have any control over that.  

My list remind me of topics I've come across when reading or researching performance anxiety;  which is just another byproduct of mishandled stress, so I say.  Physical symptoms of stress include increased heart rate and body temperature, shallow breathing and tensed muscles.  Learning how to control these functions through your breath and awareness seem like a great defense to the effects stress can have on any situation - performing, practicing or reacting.

So - if you are calm and centralized and can breathe with awareness and responsibility you can keep some composure when stress comes along... because through meditation you've practiced handling stress from the inside, right?!  This is what I hope to get out of the class.

Well, here now I have to admit that I feel like my beginners meditation class is a little s l o w.  That's a ridiculous thing to say, right?  Hello!  It's supposed to be slow. This is why I'm taking the class -because I don't do enough of the slow.  Also it's about practice, especially between classes, which I'm not really doing... I've got all kinds of excuses.  Nothing new here...

I keep toying with the idea of taking 1 night a week to turn off.  Turn off the computer and the phone and the Netflix.  Sounds easy enough!  Why can't I commit to it?  Hi, I'm Molly and I'm addicted to constant digital stimulation.  Slow down already!  Take a meditation class.  Practice more viola.  Stop writing this post.  Facebook and gmail and reader and blogger can wait.  

So Tuesday morning, to this end, I declared Tuesday night my unplugged night.  I got so anxious driving home from meditation class about not writing this post and not responding to a couple of emails and not taking care of some other home business that I decided I needed to start the "unplugged experiment" a lot more slowly (this word "slow" keeps coming up).  My newest decree is that I won't play games on my phone in bed - I'll read or relax instead.  That's a good start, right?  Yikes. Addictions are tough* and blogging about them is even tougher.

How do you reel in your internet addictions?  I'm sure you've got a little bit in there and I'm not the only one struggling to turn off out here!

* I have no intention of trivializing any addiction and I hope that's not how this post reads to anyone.  

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