As a young adult in my 20s, I scheduled every moment of my day. I lived in New York City, teaching swimming and pursuing a modern dance career. I bought roller blades because the subways didn’t get me where I needed to go fast or reliably enough, and I needed every part of my day planned to the minute. You might call me a bit Type A, and you would be right. From the moment I woke up until the moment my head hit the pillow again, I kept moving. Stillness had no place in my life. This busyness was exciting, but also a defense mechanism. It prevented me from feeling anything.
I graduated from college, elated at finally living on my own. Yet I had many feelings that I avoided, a lot from my childhood, that perhaps I wasn’t yet ready to face. As long as I stayed busy, I wasn’t still long enough to let those thoughts or feelings creep in.
At age 23 I discovered yoga, and went all in (as you can imagine). Like with everything else, I worked really hard at it. I took classes 6-8 times per week, rollerblading all over the city. I felt strong, flexible, and a sense of unfamiliar but intriguing calm. The more I practiced, the better I felt. I felt relaxed, in control, and free. At first I wasn’t sure what the freedom was (aside from my parents), but practicing yoga freed up something inside me that ached to come out.
Later I realized that yoga released the real me. I could be myself in class, no mask, no pretending, I could show up as me.
I started teaching yoga when I was 26 and delved deeper into different styles of yoga, and dipped my toe into meditation. At first I thought it was a waste of time to sit still and “do nothing” when I could spend my time exercising. When my 30s hit and early motherhood overwhelmed me, stillness seemed much more appealing.
I attended weekly meditation classes where I began to understand all that I had been avoiding within myself for the last 3 decades. The tears came, the wisdom rose, I understood myself more and more. It wasn’t the philosophy or dharma talks, although those definitely helped. What helped most was simply the practice of being still. Clearing the clutter of movement, and just sitting still.
My mind had been a churning ocean and now it was a still pond. As the water settled, I saw clear to the bottom. My own inner wisdom bubbled to the surface, easy to see because there was nothing else in the way. No thoughts, no beliefs, no stories, only what lived in my heart.
Letting wisdom rise
My experience isn’t unique, this is the experience of having a regular meditation practice, even once a week. Sitting still and getting quiet takes practice, like anything else. I started out with a racing mind, struggling to sit still, but I learned that this is normal. The mind likes to wander. It creates stories that may or may not be true; usually they are lies that we believe are true. Meditation and getting quiet allows us to hear these stories as stories. When you let go of your attachment to your thoughts, you can look at them objectively, rather than getting sucked into their drama.
You observe your thoughts, you are not your thoughts. Thoughts happen, and you notice. You start to learn what is driving your behavior, often a belief that you internalized along the way. Pausing gives you the opportunity to look at what you think and decide whether you want to continue on or change course.
So many times when I struggle with something, I sit with a question. I am not trying to figure it out, I just pose it to myself and then sit and watch my breath. When I get very still, the answer comes to me. Some people may see this as a higher power speaking to them, but to me it feels like my inner wisdom. Becoming still helps me find that inner quiet which allows my own knowledge to bubble to the surface.
If you believe you can’t meditate, read my free eBook, “3 Myths About Meditation and Why it’s Easier Than You Think!” We believe all sorts of things about ourselves that aren’t actually true. Click here to read!
Come to my free webinar “Embrace, Express, Empower: Exploring Your Emotions and What is Holding You Back!” Join me Wednesday, August 16 at 11am EDT, or Tuesday, August 29 at 11am EDT. If you can’t make it live, a replay will be available. Click here to save your spot!
I teach Movement and Meditation online every Monday, 8-8:40am EDT. You can join me online live or on demand! We do 20 minutes of gentle yoga movement followed by 20 minutes of guided and silent meditation. This class is for all levels, from novice to experienced!