The Practice of Arriving
I’ve experienced the deep bone-weary tension of walking into a studio or temple after a full day of “doing” and feeling like I have to wrestle a boa constrictor before I can relax into my practice.
It took time for me to recognize the insidious pressures and misconceptions that arise with contemplative practices like meditation and yoga; especially, when we encounter hardcore folk — teachers and students alike — who translate noble silence and the noble postures into perfect control and transcendence of bodily realities (neglecting to acknowledge or offer accommodations for ability, injuries, illnesses). So grows the ill-formed notion that the moment our butts touch the cushion or we stretch into our first pose, we will instantly be filled with peace and relief…Oh! and be infused with the superpower of levitation.
As a teacher, I’ve witnessed the struggle in practitioners who then expressed frustration at not being able to get things “right.” After observing the cues of many students who would walk in early, immediately drop from exhaustion on their mats, close their eyes, and beg for restorative poses, I shifted my approach and started each class with deep relaxation. For my sake and theirs, it was essential to honor the fact that our brains and bodies need ample time to spin down and transition from one activity to the next. Reclaiming the space to transition from the rhythm of striving to the rhythm of relaxing and finding refuge enabled us to bring our biological, emotional, psychological, and energetic layers into alignment. We gave ourselves time to catch up in body, mind and heart in the present moment.
I drew upon the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (the core of my personal practice) and began guiding practitioners through an embodied self-awareness sequence that supported our capacity to cross the threshold of any room and allow ourselves to fully arrive. Breath by breath, inch by inch, we learned to first unravel the tensions in body, heart, and mind in order to relax completely. Once we felt relaxed, we could awaken and inhabit our bodies with full awareness.
Listening deeply, seeing clearly, responding skillfully
to whatever showed up.
Greeting and acknowledging our sensations, thoughts, emotions and perceptions with compassion.
Taking refuge in the rhythm of our breath, we could gently align body, heart, and mind and then joyfully abide in this state when we transitioned from the privilege of an intuition-led practice back into the world around us (whether a casual gathering with friends, a family celebration, or an office meeting).
Arriving is the first of four guided meditations in my series, Embodied Self-Compassion: The Four Energies of Mindfulness.
I shared this practice during the healing session I taught at the Allied Media Conference in June and, afterward, had the honor of being interviewed about it for MIT’s CoLab Radio: How to Awaken Self-Compassion Through Meditation.
A 3 Jewels Yoga + Ari Chillman Production.
Recorded June 2016 at Sherwood Forest Live.