The third pillar of my practice — meditation

I never thought of meditation as being pivotal to my taking up yoga and pranayama. I wanted the benefits that yogic breathing gave. Meditation seemed like a non-essential frill. None of my yoga or AOL instructors seemed too keen on pushing me in that direction. I was pretty clueless even though I was closer than I had ever thought.

Actually, I had been laboring at meditation without even realizing it. I had Jon Kabat-Zinn’s CDs about mindfulness meditation, but it seemed like such hard work to do the exercises. In December I started doing the gentle yoga exercises. I could not focus my mind on the meditations. I’d go through the motions, and scratch my head about what I was doing wrong.

But after I started getting more serious about my yoga practice and started seeing the benefits of my AOL kriya, I suddenly got the knack. The key lay in my breath — once my breath was let free, unfettered, expansive, it was a much bigger target for my mind to focus on. I could focus either on my belly moving up and down or the air going through my nostrils or the sound of my breath. They all worked.

Once I tasted the release of meditation, I was a convert. Just one session turned into a daily practice. Now I practice meditation for about 10-30 minutes every night. I never really had a problem with time — I started out at 30 minutes and only drop down the time when I’m really tired. Meditation slows down my brain and stills my body. I usually find myself going to bed earlier because I take my meditation time and then go straight to bed. I usually hit my pillow and am out like a light — I used to toss and turn in bed for hours.

I also find myself grabbing short sessions during the day — riding the Metro, after lunch in a quiet room at the OAS, waiting to pick up my daughter.

I am looking for a chance to approach meditation more systematically. I will take some classes at the Insight Meditation Center or the Shambhala Center, both of Washington. Of course, with the Web, there is lots of help online to get you pointed in the right direction. Have a look at my resource gateway.