I Won’t Meditate

I won’t meditate. How can a yoga teacher trained over 20 years ago, long before yoga was the ubiquitous activity it is today say something as blasphemous as this?

Yes, that’s me. The yoga teacher and anti-meditator. Makes no sense, does it? Why not mediate? Especially when the benefits of meditation have been scientifically proven through research, and when my medical doctor in fact recommends it.

When I say, “I won’t meditate,” what I’m actually saying is that I won’t confine myself to the rigid ideas that so many of us, including myself, have when it comes to meditation. What do you think of when you hear the word “meditate”? I know what pops into my head –sitting alone in a room in total stillness, on an ugly cushion with my back so straight my spine aches just imagining it, trying to be calm, when a zillion thoughts are swirling through my middle aged, neurotic, Jewish mind.

That’s why I’ve given up on the word “meditation.” While many would argue that I do actually meditate, I had to let go of the m-word along with all of my preconceived notions about it, so that I could truly engage in a mindful practice and open myself to the healing benefits of contemplative self-observation.

What do I call this practice? Listening. What does it entail for me?  Here’s a brief description.

  1. Location –Inside or outside; both are fine.
  2. Position –Sometimes I like to lie down, other times sit, or stand.
  3. Motion –Gentle stillness, rolling around the floor, or quiet walking outside all work equally well.
  4. Sound –Silence is peaceful and most often a welcome preference, though singing or chanting mantra are beautiful alternatives that I enjoy on rare occasions.
  5. Awareness –In this process that I prefer to call “listening,” rather than “meditation,” I am simply stay present with myself and whatever is.

Many of you may be wondering, what does she actually do?! Well, my non-mediation of choice is gentle stretching. I like to lie down on the ground (I’ve usually been on my feet most of the day cooking, cleaning, and taking pictures for this website) and I want to recharge my adrenals (lying down helps with this).

During this practice I watch my thoughts float through my head like clouds in the sky. Sometimes this actually happens. At other times, my thoughts are less like clouds and more like children shouting for attention. It can get really loud in my head. Thankfully, hanging out with this cacophony for a few of minutes calms down the veritable storm of ideas, feelings and sensations that run through me. When I slow down and listen, I can hear what’s going on inside. Listening to myself, and being heard allows my mind to come into neutral, and that is when I begin to sink into my body and feel the bliss of true relaxation.

There’s a look into my daily relaxation practice! What do you do each day to nurture your body, mind and spirit?


71 responses to “I Won’t Meditate”

  1. Elana, your lovely post reminds me of a favorite quote reflective of my own walking-mediation experiences. I hope you all enjoy it:

    You do not need to leave your room.
    Remain sitting at your table and listen.
    Do not even listen, simply wait,
    be quiet still and solitary.
    The world will freely offer itself
    to you to be unmasked,
    it has no choice.
    It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

    Franz Kafka

  2. ….’a zillion thoughts are swirling through my middle aged, neurotic, Jewish mind’ as a fellow middle aged Jew, I could not have said it better. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  3. I’ve always said my husband meditates. He puts on music, sits in his comfy chair, and closes his eyes to truly listen and concentrate on the music. Now and then he “conducts” but mostly it’s just him and his music.

  4. I understand completely. I always had the same ideas on meditation. Recently my husband and I were involved in some very stressful situations, and he convinced me to take a Transcendental Meditation class, and I am hooked. I have gone from refusing to meditate to refusing to quit meditating. You might want to check it out!

  5. Like you, I don’t meditate – in the traditional way anyway. Although I spent a good many years trying to search out a quiet place and time in an busy active life, and trying to calm the never-ending chatter of my voracious mind, I regularly found it more frustrating than relaxing. I finally discovered my own form of meditation. I play my fiddle. Sometimes I play a beloved tune like An Eireann Ni Nessfainn or Ashokan Farewell. Sometimes I just play a scale very slowly. Nothing shushes that noisy mind quicker, or is more relaxing. Its not Jewish :) but it works for me!

    Slainte, Delanie

  6. For me mediation happens in the quiet moments I can squeeze out of my busy, kid- filled day. I am happy to take even a few tiny moments of quiet with my eyes closed to recharge my batteries and gather energy to power through the rest of the day.

  7. Thank you, Elena. How can we separate what we practice from what we believe? Yoga is part and parcel of an ancient belief, alive and well. For me, there is nothing to compare with meditating on Psalm 23 among the many other “songs” (also of an ancient and eternal belief) that express hope over despair. “Choose this day who you will serve.” And do with your whole being.

  8. I loved reading this post. We really are too hard on ourselves be it about career, parenthood or even spiritually. I too feel confined by the rigidity of some yoga practices and this post is a definite breath of fresh air. I’m looking forward to more posts like this.

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