I am not good at meditating. This is what I used to believe about myself. I thought that meditation required sitting still in silence with your eyes closed. While I understand the benefits of this type of meditation now, I still find it incredibly hard to do. So I found something that works for me.
Our world is set up in a way that we are always receiving messages. It's estimated that we read a few thousand words every single day, and with the rapid increase in technology over the past few years, this number keeps growing. I have been more and more interested in how to disconnect with what everything is telling me to do and how to tune into the silence.
Eckhart Tolle once wrote, “Pay attention to the gap -- the gap between two thoughts, the brief, silent space between words in a conversation, between the notes of a piano or flute, or the gap between the in-breath and out-breath. ” This idea has stuck with me and had a profound effect on my life. Essentially, what Tolle wrote is that we are not our egos. Let me repeat that: We are not our egos. Your identity- Your name, your occupation, your family, where you live, etc.- is not who you are. You aren't the thoughts that go through your head, those are just a product of our environment. If you peel back the layers and try to connect with your true essence, that is the space between the words. I think of this space as a place that nobody will truly understand, not even those people we are closest with. This gap is the space that I believe we try to connect with through meditation and “yoga”- A union of the body/mind and our true essence. We practice yoga asana (poses) nowadays to condition the body for savasana, which is a state of awareness between being completely awake and asleep. This is the gap.
Now that we're aware of the gap, what are its benefits and how can we access it?
The benefits of the gap are that we dissolve all fear and anxiety and we can feel our place in the world. It becomes a space where we can allow ourselves to be and drop all emotions and tethers that we have to the world around us.
This gap is always accessible, but you have to know how to get there. Some avenues are easier for some than others, and some people could try for years and never arrive. Don't let this discourage you. Below are some methods that work for me, though I highly encourage you to try different things for yourself. Do these as long as you want, it doesn't matter if it's for 5 minutes or 5 hours, either way still has benefits.
Find a quiet space. The dimmer, the better, as you'll have less distractions. Light a candle and place it in front of you. Stare at the fire of the candle as long as you can.
Notes: It's okay to blink. You can also do this with a campfire, bonfire, etc.
This can be done anywhere and is a great exercise when you have a panic attack. All you do is close your eyes (most of our thoughts come from our vision, so shut it off) and focus on your inhales and your exhales. Make them long and drawn out, if possible. Think the word 'inhale' as you inhale, and the word 'exhale' as you exhale.
Notes: This exercise forces us to become rooted in the present. It's an instant access to that quiet space. This is a very common exercise in western yoga classes.
For this exercise, you'll need a set of mala beads. Start with the guru bead (the funky bead near the tassel) and touch your forehead with it to begin the exercise. Use your thumb and middle finger to repeat a mantra and make your way around all 108 beads, repeating this mantra 108 times. When you have completed your round of 108, tap the guru bead to your head again to finish the exercise.
Notes: Try a mantra like 'I am ________' (fill in the blank with what you need) to start. Then you can start changing it up, perhaps using the mantra “So Hum” (I am that/that I am). Some people do not allow their index finger to touch the beads at all, as this finger is considered a “fighting finger” and brings bad luck.
You can do anything creative for this exercise, really. I believe this is why coloring books are so popular nowadays. Sit down with some art supplies and let the creativity just flow. I believe that this is the gap.
Mantra, especially kirtan, is by far my favorite exercise to access the gap. I'd recommend you look up the music of Snatum Kaur or Jai Uttal to start, and pick something simple to begin with. Just sing along with them. The mantras will follow you, become ingrained in you, and it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Notes: Atlanta hosts Chantlanta every March which is a great place to get started if you want to do this in a group. Everyone is supportive of one another and nobody is shamed for their voice. You have a place here and you matter.
You'll need someone to lead you through a yoga nidra exercise for this practice. Lucky for you, Firefly offers this a few times a week!
Notes: In nidra, you'll lay on the floor and someone will guide you through a meditation. All you have to do is listen.
All of these are a form of meditation. Tell us about which method works best for you in the comments!
Read on: I recommend reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle or The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, both of which explore similar ideas about the gap.
Katie Bush is a yoga instructor and artist living in San Diego, California. She has helped develop Firefly Yoga & Movement Center since it was an idea in owner Lana Layton's mind. She created the logo and murals for the studio, helped develop the brand identity, and currently runs the Firefly social media accounts.