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I feel space

September 16, 2009

I don’t get meditation. I can’t even properly fall asleep most of the time without tricking my brain by keeping it up so far past its bedtime that eventually all it can do is give up, pass out, and take the rest of me, drooling, with it. But drooling, I’ve learned, is really not as acceptable in yoga class as you might think. 

Since for me the best way to approach the unknown is to get lured into it unwittingly by the promise of snacks, I started my quest for meditative enlightenment at the Jivamukti Café. So with a belly full of organic lentils, I realized I had no excuse NOT to stick around for the free meditation class. I didn’t even have to make it home for dinner.

The transition from café to connectivity with the universe turned out to be a little more difficult than just showing up. We were led into a corner in this enormous studio space where a small group of seasoned meditation veterans were already gathered. I could tell they’d been around the block a time or two because they were wearing comfortable clothes. I, on the other hand, did not get the memo and was bound in a straight-jacket wrap top and skinny jeans with legs like Chinese finger traps. As we prepared for the meditation, my clothes pulled tighter, my legs fell completely asleep, and I couldn’t tell if the vibrations I was feeling were really from my spinal antenna connecting with the power of the universe as suggested, or if my constricting clothes were just interfering with the organic lentils. This explains perhaps the popularity of robes and/or spiritual yoga diapers among ascetics.

And then we began. We were told there would be TWENTY MINUTES of sitting still and not worrying about how your top is throttling you or how both your feet are going gangrenous and will fall off if you don’t get immediate medical attention or how someone is blasting salsa music on the street below and how you love that song or how someone in class next to you is OM-ing like some kind of Gregorian monk…and when an actual timer was set for 20 minutes, I could feel my sanity slipping away. But when the timer beeped again, I had totally relaxed, managed to clear my mind a small bit, and it didn’t really feel like even 10 minutes had gone by.

There was some hope for me after all, maybe. But some major obstacles stood in my way of really getting into this particular guided meditation session. 1. I was asked to envision my guardian angel, in great enough detail such that I could see what he/she happened to be wearing (hint: Marc Jacobs does not count as an answer). 2. I was also supposed to encounter my SPIRIT ANIMAL. Yes, SPIRIT. ANIMAL. 3. My guardian angel, my sprit animal and I were to gaze at our reflections in a lake. To me, that looks like this

I decided to give myself a break from trying anything more serious than a little quickie end-of-class savasana here and there. But then the other day I was presented with well-timed opportunity to stick around after a class at ISHTA Yoga for a meditation session led by ISHTA founder Alan Finger. My one previous encounter with Finger at the studio involved my receiving the most jolly greeting ever delivered in a hallway. Like if Santa Claus were South African. And a yogi. Adorable. Plus, this time, I was already wearing stretch pants.

This was a different experience entirely. During the class we were presented with this delightful idea that the practice of yoga, the part where you do the postures, is something like step one towards erasing your mental connection to our bodies and all of the stuff that surrounds us. This is probably like Yoga 101, but I’m a yoga freshman so it’s ok that I don’t know this stuff yet. At one point we were asked to think of the space inside an atom, the fact that MOST of an atom is made up of empty space surrounding the few tiny particles of actual matter that make everything up. The notion that we can disrupt our patterns of movement and thereby disrupt our minds’ connections to the daily grind struck me as not so crazy. I was reminded of a lecture in college where a physics professor took a running leap into a wall in order to demonstrate his belief that, yes, it’s totally possible that the particles of his body and the particles of the wall could be aligned in just the right way that he might make it through. It didn’t work this time, he said, but he’d keep trying. 

The subatomic particles that started swimming around in my brain (busy, yes, but more consciously elevated than my grocery list) seemed to be asking me a very important question: Why has no one made a sci-fi yoga movie yet? But then I thought, well, cool. Science! I’m very ok with science. Rather than demand that we transcend our physical selves completely and gaze at our spirit animals’ reflections in a lake, why not acknowledge that physicality by locating a sense of freedom and transcendence within it? I, for one, am light years away from any kind of tantric trance, but am starting to appreciate the value making 20 minutes worth of effort in order to achieve even a minute and a half of calm.


Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, “I Feel Space

Meditation at Jivamukti Yoga every Thursday at 8pm with Ganesh Das. By donation.

Meditation with Alan Finger at ISHTA Yoga, info and schedule here.

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