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From Meditation to Silent Sitting

This blog post is part of a guest writing series for the Pranakriya School of Healing Arts. You can see the original post here.

I’ve been flirting with a consistent meditation practice for quite a while now. Right after college, I had friends that would meditate together occasionally. We didn’t practice a specific technique; just being quiet together for five minutes and letting thoughts come and go. Something about being with people, but also being quiet was a huge relief. A more anxious, younger self felt the need to keep conversations going and it felt good to have the permission to be quiet. This led me to explore both a Buddhist temple and a meditation center and I was both fascinated and slightly intimidated by their practices.

Years later, when I started practicing Pranakriya Yoga, the idea of a moving meditation appealed to me because I’d still yet to land on any sitting meditation that I really identified with. The focus on breath and sensation paired with movement allowed me to quiet my mind without trying so hard. I could move out of my thinking mind and into my observing mind with much less effort than when I was sitting still. It felt like a little bit of success.

In teacher training, we would still practice a short seated meditation after the movement and before savasana, and I always felt mildly annoyed that I couldn’t jump right to sweet relaxation. I didn’t feel like I did the seated meditation as “well” as I did the moving meditation and my ego bumped up against that perceived failure.

Right after my daughter was born, I felt drawn to seated meditation again, mostly because I was too tired to practice much yoga asana. It was the self-care I needed without the physical exertion I just didn’t have the energy for. I started exploring mindful meditation with the support of an app and eventually let the app go and guided myself.

I heard a teacher once say that it’s helpful to re-frame “tired energy” as “meditative energy.” Waking up every few hours to nurse a baby, I had plenty of meditative energy. Now that she’s a toddler, I’m getting more sleep, but I’m also chasing her around. A nice long, quiet seated mediation finally sounds really good. I still bump up against “doing it wrong” and struggle once I get to a certain length of time.

It’s been helpful to re-frame my goal as not “to meditate” but to sit silently. If in that silent sitting, I happen to get into a meditative state of mind, then wonderful. If not, that’s okay too. I still notice benefits, a sense of clarity and calm that comes from sitting silently even if I never fully drop into “meditation.” In letting go of the specific goal of doing it right, I finally feel drawn to practice nearly every day and to increase the length of my silent sitting.

I know it’s not a new idea or wildly profound lesson that when you stop trying so hard, what you were aiming for in the first place will get easier. But it is a good idea and it is a lesson that I seem to need to learn over and over again.

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