Get out of your head!
Contributed By: Cailin Kless
Two years ago, a friend was asking me about yoga practice. “Can you do all those crazy gymnastic-type poses?” she wanted to know. “Like, can you do a headstand?”
I said “No.” At the time, this was true. But since she was interested in working towards the pose herself, I offered to show her my headstand prep— and all of a sudden found myself perfectly stacked, heels over head. I was so surprised I almost fell out of it.
It wasn’t until later that I realized why this pose I had been working on for months suddenly became “easy”— there was absolutely no pressure. I wasn’t promising any results, to my friend or to myself. I was just practicing yoga.
It took even longer before I realized where I truly needed to apply this no-pressure philosophy— my meditation practice. In addition to my difficulty getting physically comfortable to sit, I was frequently frustrated that I never “got results”— some magical peace and transcendence I was supposed to feel. My thoughts never seemed to quiet, and became increasingly self-critical. My meditation sessions became a time to think about how much of a failure I was at not-thinking.
And just like with my headstand, my experience of that transcendent calm I desired came to me almost by accident. It was a Christmas party, and even though I was having fun with people I love, I found myself suddenly overwhelmed by all the people, the food, and the energy crash that followed weeks of frantic holiday prep finally drawing to a close. My chest tightened and I thought I might burst into tears when, completely unbidden, my body drew itself into the full, steady breath I had been practicing in all my “failed” meditation sessions. I became absorbed by the sight of my own belly expanding and contracting, without any real need for my input. I don’t know if my head was “perfectly clear,” whatever that means, but the only thing I can remember thinking for those few minutes is, Wow, breathing feels really good!
Nowadays, it’s still hit-or-miss whether I can “get into” meditation on any given day, but the experience has become a lot more pleasant as I seek to bring the unhurried spirit of my first headstand to my sessions. I can’t always promise myself “results,” but I can always practice yoga.