Meditation: Teachers’ reflections on their practices

It’s no secret that meditation can dramatically change your life.  People have known for millennia and those who have committed to the practice can attest to its benefits in all areas of daily life.

Scientific studies are now proving this and the topic is gaining mainstream attention and in publications like Time and the New York Times, which is covers it in depth.

Meditation symbol

But all the articles and studies in the world aren’t as good as first-hand experience, so here we bring you thoughts on meditation from Dancing Crow’s very own teachers.  You’ll notice a variety in approaches and suggestions.  The common thread is this: do whatever works for YOU.  Read on for their wisdom:

Stacey Hughes:
With 4 kids it’s hard to find the time, but I use my shower time to meditate. It is one of the only places and times of day where I rarely get interrupted so I try to practice meditating in the shower by singling out something like the sensation of the water, or to practice just clearing my mind…for the moments that nobody is asking me to get them things, lol.  I feel like it is similar to a walking meditation.  It’s obviously more active than sitting but I have an easier time meditating with something like a walking meditation or a yin posture going on anyway. I try once a day to take an active resting position like lying on my back, knees bent & together and arms crossed over chest, or legs up the wall for a few minutes.

Kim Dwyer:
I meditate every morning for 24 minutes. If I can’t do 24 I will do 12 minutes. When on vacation I may only sit for 6 minutes. The benefits are so subtle and very gradual. It may feel like no progress is made at all and it is so easy to get discouraged but it takes faith and trust to stay with it. I once read that all holy people meditate! They do not meditate because they are holy, they are holy because they meditate! I am not crazy about the word holy. It brings up visions for me of the church lady in SNL or of sacrificing all joyfully experiences but that is not it at all. For me it is about awareness and acceptance. The Buddha, Jesus, Saint Teresa, all had the gift of acceptance. This can begin on the mat. Accepting ourselves and our limitations and being OK with that. When we accept ourselves we will have an easier time with others.

Kate Krumsiek:
My mediation practice is somewhat sporadic but hugely helpful for me. It helps me to be less reactive to the constant state of flux that surrounds me in life and truthfully, probably helps those around me as much as it helps me! What a gift.

Katherine Rossmoore:
I have a daily meditation practice, after “trying” unsuccessfully for many years, thinking I had to either clear my thoughts to do it, or to even “sit” a certain way.  Now I either sit in a chair or on the floor (it makes no difference) with an InsightMeditation timer (an app on my Iphone) and all I have to do is sit and breathe in and breathe out.  12 minutes for now, sometimes 9. If you use a timer on your  phone, make sure you put in in airplane mode first so you don’t get interrupted.  But, just know that even if you do get interrupted, you can still sit and be and breathe and it so helps everything! My biggest breakthrough was deciding to let go of prayers and mantras and practices and just breathe in love and breathe out love.

Ashleyann Gosselin:
My asana practice is my meditation. The physical practice allows me to quite my mind of my daily activities. I cannot think of anything besides my bodily movement as I flow from one pose to another. I must concentrate on my posture, my form, my core and strength which leaves me no time to think of anything else. My mind is quiet during this time as my “concentration” is somatic and comes from muscle memory rather than thinking through each posture. I have found that this type of meditation comes with extensive practice and familiarity with each asana. 

Fay Sutherland:
Yes, I’ve been meditating on and off for the past 20 plus years. There have been stretches of time since I first started meditating when I fell out of my daily practice so I’ve been able to contrast the experience of a daily practice vs no practice or irregular practice.   To put it simply, I am just MUCH happier with a daily mediation practice!  My mind is calmer, I am less reactive and more aware of the emotions, reactions and thoughts that I do have.  I am more compassionate towards myself and to others and I feel a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for my life.

I have experienced profound joy, deep peace and stillness both in and out of meditation.  But its certainly not all like that.  Some days I just have to park myself on my cushion and watch my mind do somersaults.  There are many types of meditation: breath awareness, visualizations, focusing on a mantra, bare attention.  My recommendations:  same time every day — morning is easiest — and every day no matter how you feel, like brushing your teeth.

Start with a simple practice such as following the breath for short increments and work up to longer periods.  Use a timer and stick with the same practice for at least a month.  Most importantly, please don’t feel that your mind has to stop thinking in order to meditate!  Your AWARENESS of your mind thinking is the important thing.  

Mid Walsh:
My mind is normally about as quiet as a chicken pen.  The usual mindfulness meditation techniques only made the chickens cluck more, and so I had pretty much given up.  Then about 10 years ago I discovered pranayama [editor’s note: Mid is leading a pranayama workshop Monday, March 9 at 7 pm),  a collection of breathing techniques, and I found that doing these exercises sometimes did slow my thoughts. Even when it didn’t calm them, the same chattering ideas somehow felt better in my skull, in ways I still can’t put in to words.  Since then I have practiced consistently – about 5 days every week, about 1/2 hour at a spell. I keep doing it because on a fairly consistent basis, the practice puts me in touch with dimensions of myself that I don’t experience in any other way.  This has immeasurably deepened my experience of life, no kidding. And guess what…now I actually *can* do mindfulness meditation!  

Stacey Urdang:
Looking back as a young girl I think my first meditation practice came in the form of prayer in my local temple.  During services I looked forward to the quiet time to reflect. As I got older,  walking the beach alone in thought, sitting in a quiet spot in the out of doors is, I believe another form ofmeditation without consciously knowing.

Now as an adult, a grown woman who practices and teaches yoga,  meditation is part of my Yoga practice.  Asana (movement) and (pranayama) breath prepare my body so my mind is able to have awareness (of whatever..).  I know the importance of meditation for balance,  well-being and clarity.  Meditation helps me with physical pain and distraction, it grounds me. I have a calm energy, a more peaceful relationship with myself and others.

When teaching meditation, I suggest sitting with good alignment (tall) and a timer,  if need be for two to five  minutes.  Adjust yourself so your feet are flat on the floor (or place something under your feet).  Your eyes are shut or focused on one none moving object like a candle or a picture on your wall.  If your eyes move around so is your mind..  and breathe, just breathe.





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