This week, it rained in Austin, Texas, and one morning, while I was teaching my yoga class, it rained really hard. Even in the yoga room the air was moist, the smell was so nice, and the sound was soothing. We did a meditation on nourishing rain that went along with it beautifully. As I led the meditation, I got really into it and even after class my mind was very focused and still. I walked out of the building in a dreamy state. Partly because of the rain and partly from my practice, all the colors around me were vivid, I was intensely aware of the temperature on my skin, and the smells in the air were so good, I wanted to eat them with my nose. Did you know there’s a name for that delicious smell of rain on dry earth and rocks? Petrichor. Excellent. word.
I followed the sidewalk around the building and there I encountered something even more amazing than the colors and smells. The air that floated there in front of me was filled with this beautiful storm of tiny flying insects. There were thousands of them. I’m not even kidding. Maybe the rain brought them out or all their eggs hatched at once or they were having a flying insect convention. Thousands. Wow. They had iridescent wings that were about the size and shape of a teardrop and their bodies were so small, like someone made a dash and a dot with a felt-tip pen and then it grew wings and it flew off the page. They were so delicate and they were everywhere. If they had been menacing or had stingers or fangs it would have been a plague. But they didn’t. They just fluttered around not seeming to know which direction to go. So as I walked through curtains and curtains of these flying insects, I imagined I was getting little eyelash kisses all over my neck and arms. I tried to catch some to see them up close, but if I swept my hand through the air, the little puff of wind in front of my hand pushed these wisps of insects on their way. I never did catch one. It really was like a dream with all the smells and the quiet that comes with rain-heavy air and the clouds of glimmering wings. I walked slowly and couldn’t believe the beauty of the experience. Eventually, I made it across the parking lot.
I’ve been feeling this way since the weekend– alert and sensitive and so amazed by all the things my body is able to notice. This probably has a lot to do with the meditation workshop I attended with my teacher, Chase Bossart, and the classroom full of great yogis. We did a lot of pranayama and meditation in the class and that jazzed up my home practice, so I’ve been really getting into it. All of this study and practice has left me in a bit of an altered state. I move more slowly. It took a while, but eventually I made it to my car. I unlocked my door and took one last look at the insects and a had a big sniff of the delicious air. I opened the door and went to get in but, somehow, my head didn’t clear the car and I hit my head… hard. It wasn’t like I barely hit it, either. I hit across my temple. That means I miscalculated by something like eight inches as I went to sit down in the car seat that I’ve sat in thousands of times before. It was so crazy…and funny… and painful. And it was a good reminder that just because I can focus on nature’s beauty, sometimes it will be more appropriate to focus on getting into the car safely. One thing at a time.
I managed to make it through the rest of the day and as I was getting ready for bed, I remembered that when I first started my daily meditation practice a couple of years ago, I also had this hyper-awareness AND I had the same thing with hitting my head. Colors and smells, people that I’d encounter, feelings, they were all really loud. At the beginning of my meditating, I was so sensitive, I found it sort of difficult to be in the world. I cried a lot. It was a little like I had zoomed in on everything and it was all really close up. This effect was good and unpleasant at the same time, but I was pretty sure the “good” was going to win out so I kept with it. I knew all of that stuff was going on but I didn’t realize that hitting my head might also be related to meditation. There were at least 3 times when I closed yoga class with a serene “Namaste” and as I took the forward bow down toward the floor, I actually banged my forehead ON THE FLOOR. I’m not kidding. Once I did it so hard that I’m sure everyone in class heard. It was so crazy. And awesome. Meditation and hitting my head. I didn’t put it together until the insect swarm/car-door incident. I guess this is something I have to look out for.
Even with the head thing, I feel like I’m finally beginning to understand something: Meditation isn’t about being able to be still while you are sitting on your mat. We don’t meditate to be a yoga-bad ass or practice pranayama as some penance that real yogis must do. Doing a breath practice changes how our system feels—our body has to be still enough and our mind able to focus so we can count and follow the breath. It’s really a sweet thing. Then the meditation, when we are able to find it, gives us another experience of tuning in and listening. We keep our attention on one thing—the thing we are choosing to meditate on. It might be a mountain, or a river or the moon. It might be a concept, like love. It might be a place in the body. As we are able to hold our attention there, all of this interesting stuff starts to come up. Things that are usually quietly operating inside of us get some space to come to the surface and with this quiet and attentive mind, we can start to see things about ourselves, or about the object or concept or place in the body, that might go along unnoticed the rest of the time. We start a daily meditation practice because it can have a big impact on how we are in the world, how we see the things that go on around us and how we respond to the things that happen in our lives. We can use the tool of meditation to be able to focus and with that focus comes the ability to see things more clearly. Meditation is so cool. It is worth the effort that it takes to find a teacher, make the time in the day and practice regularly. It really is powerful and it has made my life better and way more interesting. I’m going to see if I can stop hitting my head so much and then it will be even more fantastic.
If you’d like to give this stuff a try, I’d be happy to help. Check out private yoga or send me an email. I do skype appointments if you don’t live in Austin. Chase Bossart also has an online meditation class that meets Wednesday mornings at 7:30am PST (10:00 Eastern). They are excellent. CLICK HERE to learn more.