Written by SYJ teacher Vicky Cook
The first 3 months of the pandemic, I was so pleased to have the cushion of time and space to really dive into my personal meditation practice. It felt like a gift to wake up to the luxury of not having to be anywhere.
I found myself lingering in my morning meditation, taking time in the afternoon for a 5- to 10-minute reset, and adding on a more formal practice at bedtime. It. Felt. Good.
I’ve spent the last few years raising my son, volunteering, and focusing on my career, so my practices were scheduled and more routine. Meditation was something I did to take care of myself, but not something that felt free and unencumbered.
I was cruising right along during lockdown until, one day, I sat down and felt uncomfortable, unbearably so.
I knew I was beginning to feel the fatigue of routine — not leaving the house, the discomfort I knew so many were feeling amidst it all, but I expected my meditation practice to somehow render me resistant to “COVID fatigue.” I mean, I was practicing more hours of meditation now than I had in many years!
I decided to sit through it. It happened day after day. I was using several techniques that always come through in a pinch (I like to refer to these as my “greatest hits”) but still, the uncomfortable feeling gave way to frustration and, ultimately, anger.
I allowed this to go on for about a week thinking it was just a phase, assuming it would pass.
Honoring my feelings
After about 10 days, tears came to my eyes when I was sitting. I got up and said aloud: enough is enough. I decided to pick up a book I was reading and spent 20 minutes escaping in it.
I felt better, giving myself permission to not meditate that morning. Later on in the day, I recalled one of the first surprising lessons I learned in my meditation teacher training: to honor my feelings, even if it means abandoning my cushion from time to time.
This lesson led me to find other ways to meditate, something I encourage my students to do. At times, we just need to explore, to be willing to switch up our practice when it is no longer working.
I found I need to get outside EVERY DAY. I need to feel the open space of the world around me. My walks became Zen-like meditations, exploring new neighborhoods, sometimes listening to audio books, sometimes enjoying music, and sometimes observing the simple sounds of the world around me.
I would wake in the morning and go outside and look at the sky or the trees. This is grounding for me. I would listen to nature and the sounds of the city waking up around me as my practice.
What’s more, I began to lay down on my yoga mat every afternoon for 10 minutes feeling the earth under my back and letting myself relax, uninterrupted. I would drive to the beach and watch the water, the birds, and the people.
I realized, after a few weeks, that creating these smaller pockets of peace throughout my day are better ways for me to meditate. They are serving the life I am experiencing, not forcing me to adhere to a rigid practice that is immobile.
I answered to the evolutionary nature of life. Meditation is meant to serve me and my life, not be my master.
Trust your inner voice
Over the past couple of months, I’ve come back to a longer, more traditional morning meditation practice and it has been like greeting an old friend I haven’t seen in a long time. It feels comfortable — something I know that knows me.
I’m not locked into one way of meditating and as the circumstances in my life and the world change, I’m open to letting my practice change as well.
If you’re exploring different ways to practice, I encourage you to embrace this process. For some it’s a walk in the woods or a hike with the dog. At times, it may be baking or simply laying in savasana.
We all need self-care. Giving ourselves time to restore decreases feelings of anxiety or stress and increases our well-being.
Honor the voice within during this time.