I’ll never forget the first time I “got” meditation. It was a startling realization that took place during an impulse-driven visit to an ashram upstate. Despite almost a decade of practicing yoga, experimenting with my perception, and a couple of college classes on Buddhism, I always assumed meditation was something I’d never get. Having been accused of living “in my head” my entire life, I found the whole concept daunting.
Thanks to some magic combination of the teacher, setting, and guidance, it happened. I recall being guided to focus on my breath and posture, then more or less “came to” after the practice. A spark of insight revealed patterns about my inner world that understood intellectually hadn't experienced with such clarity. The contents of my mind could be looked at as something of a pie chart: 40% was spent mentally reviewing past instances, another 35% imagining future scenarios and all the various (often anxiety-ridden) ways these might play out, and the rest was probably focused on snacks… and other stuff that’s pretty low on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.
The power of meditation began trickling into every aspect of my life. It reached the point where I knew I had to start sharing the practice. I guided friends casually, but there was a bit of “you’ll never actually teach” chatter in my head. I quickly discarded those thoughts and signed up for meditation teacher training with Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, The Path, and Pure Yoga.
From the opening retreat day to our upcoming third class I’ve felt a bit like the nerdy student I was in high school. I look forward to the homework (hint, it involves meditating). Though we’re just two classes into the program at the time of this writing, the results are already startling.
A theme that arises is that of experience trumps just about everything. One cannot substitute intellectual knowledge of the practice for an experience. The aforementioned homework, which includes journaling about the experience, has become a ritual in daily self-care. Having accountability to others helps so much in staying disciplined, something we rarely experience outside of professional life in adulthood.
Along with decades of teaching experience, our teachers from Nalanda Institute have shown up with such compassion. It sets a palpable vibe in the room, one that boils down to feeling like our class is not only a way to learn, but also a safe space to be vulnerable. Who would think so many adult New Yorkers would be open to sharing their stories while sitting cross-legged on a floor on the Upper East Side?
My practice has already begun to deepen, my heart feels softer, and I’m better at remembering how to return to a perspective influenced by compassion. I personally believe we have the power to shift our perspective in every moment. Teacher training has only reinforced this belief and given me hope that I can share it widely, oh so soon.