My son fell asleep today during meditation … and so did I. When we woke up, we looked at each other quickly to see if the other had noticed, and then we laughed. It was a beautiful moment of levity and connection. And to me, that’s what meditation is designed to produce in our lives.
A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a link to a meditation music website that he wanted to share with me. As I scrolled through the web page I noticed there was a comment forum at the bottom of the page. “How nice,” I thought. “People coming together to share and support each other around meditation.” Not exactly. The forum can be summarized by one of the comments I read, which went something like this
“This music IS NOT meditation music. It is relaxation music. I have been practicing yogic meditation techniques for 30 years and meditation requires specific posture, a perfectly straight spine, and the flow of pranic energy from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. I know this is not meditation music because in the description it says ‘lay back and enjoy this music.’ Laying back is not meditation.”
Thirty years of meditation practice, eh? How’s that working out for ya?
When I first introduced my daughter to Guru Singh, I invited her to one of his public yoga classes. We met at Yoga West at 9:00 a.m. and waited with the other students. Guru Singh is not known for his punctuality. “You can’t rush spirituality,” he likes to say, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and his signature ear-to-ear, toothy grin.
This day, however, he didn’t show up. After waiting 15 minutes or so, a very kind young woman came into the yoga room. “Guru Singh has not arrived and we haven’t been able to reach him,” she said. “We hope he is okay and we sincerely apologize. I know this is an inconvenience, and so I will be at the front lobby to give you a pass for two free classes and to listen to you if you need to share your frustration.”
Wow. It may have been one of the most sincere apologies I’d ever heard, exactly what I expected from the representative of an awakened organization like Yoga West. My admiration was not shared by all in the room, however. One woman in particular was very upset. She stood up and said, “This is really unacceptable. I drove an hour to get here and have been waiting around for this call to start for 15 minutes. That’s a long time. I am an important woman and I just don’t waste time like this.”
After which my daughter turned to me and said, “Dad, I don’t think these classes are working for that lady very well. Maybe she needs to pay more attention to Guru Singh’s teachings.”
Like I said above, “How’s that working out for ya?”
That brings me to my point — all of these self-improvement programs in which we engage are designed to do one thing: bring us more joy in our lives. If we turn them into one more competitive thing that we must do perfectly, according to someone else’s rules, at a specific time, in a certain way, or else … we have accomplished nothing more than adding another difficult layer onto our already difficult lives. The point is joy … DAMN IT!
This isn’t limited to yoga and meditation; it applies equally to our diet, exercise, and therapy — all of the areas where we are looking to improve our life.
I was at a health conference once watching a famous author give a talk on diet. She was talking about juicing and she said, “By the way, I hope no one is still juicing carrots. I hope we have moved beyond that. The sugar will kill you.”
I walked out.
The truth is that the sugar in a carrot will not kill you. Relaxing into a nice meditation without having your spine perfectly straight won’t either. Nor will waiting at the yoga studio for an hour. What kills us is disease. We give it many names and labels that we diagnose with expensive lab tests, but at the end of the day its name says it all … DIS-EASE, or the absence of ease in the body caused by stressing out about things like juicing a carrot or how to sit properly in meditation or the million other things our minds obsess about during the course of a day.
We all come to this spiritual path looking for a little more joy and ease. We are sick of feeling run down, stressed out, sick, overweight, and scared … which precedes being scared to death, literally. So we pick up a book on health, we attend a yoga class, we sit down and breathe, we visit a therapist — whatever it is, we’re looking for a break, and we’re looking for more joy.
So in the course of that seeking, if we turn this path of joy into the same bullshit from which we’re looking to escape, if we judge ourselves and others, if we create such narrow rules for success that only the most ardent devotee can succeed, if we make this journey the flip side of the dog-eat-dog world coin — then why do it? Why not just stay on the other side and have a Coke and a smile?
On my journey, I’ve found only one rule, truly, only one worth obeying. And that is follow your JOY. So if your green juice tastes sour and bitter and you don’t like that, then add some orange or apple or even, gasp, a carrot or two to sweeten it. If you wake up tired and lying down would make your meditation more enjoyable, then relax away; and if a walk would be easier on your body today than a run, then walk and whistle a tune of joy while you do it.
On my journey, I’ve found only one rule, truly, only one worth obeying. And that is follow your JOY.
Give yourself a break today with the loving understanding that you deserve to be happy. We are all doing our best. We all want to be good boys and girls and we all just want to be loved. Start with yourself today, whatever you’re doing, and ask, “Does this bring me joy?” And don’t stop asking that question until you find a big, loving, joyful — YES.
Big hugs of love,