Free + Open Meditation Circle: Building Community
All of these thoughts are my own - I ask that you trust your common sense + intuition to do what is right for you and your body always!
Moving to Portland, I knew that I needed to practice building community in a way that I hadn’t in the past. When you move for school, you have required community built in with dorms, classes, activities on campus, etc. When you move for work, you have a responsibility to show up on time; you are around people who become a community for you ideally and connect you to other people in your new home. However when you move for life, life says, “you do you!” and sometimes that means forging your own community or risk feeling isolated on your own.
I love being at home. I am an introvert with social anxiety and a short attention span at times; if you know what a highly sensitive person is: bingo, that’s me. I have always been terrified of public speaking. I also love connecting with friends both new + old, sharing stories, wisdom, + moments of failure with people who love me, while growing as a human being. So as difficult as it was to accept, I knew I could either push away the discomfort and be a safe, but lonely lump of myself at home wrapped in a blanket all day and all night, OR I could to move toward that discomfort and embrace opportunities for growth. I highly recommend the latter.
I have been leading a free + open weekly meditation circle at The Grinning Yogi - PDX for about a month now and it has been an awesome experience! Every week I feel anxious and every week I show up to a group of beautiful, smiling faces who tell me that our time together improves their sleep, helps them relax, fills them with love and gratitude, and inspires them to start something new + bold of their own creation. Each week that passes, I notice the anxiety lessens and my confidence and courage builds. I am disproving my fear that if I am vulnerable, I will regret it. I am proving to myself that I am more powerful and beautiful than I can possibly imagine right now.
Meditation has helped me understand that my thoughts are not who I am. I am able to observe my thoughts without clinging to them.
Our mind works like this:
You have thoughts come up and you follow them without much consideration - “I’m hungry, hmm, what could I eat? Oh I love eating pizza, I’m going to order a pizza. Remember when you had pizza with your friend, Sam? That was so much fun! I wonder how he is. I should reach out to him. Ugh, I never reach out to friends often enough.” Now you are feeling guilty, hungry, sad, happy, who knows what else and you aren’t really sure why you’re thinking about being alone when just a bit ago you were thinking about pizza. Minutes if not hours have passed.
You feel so overwhelmed by thinking and feeling that you are unable to be present in the moment because you are stuck living in the past and the future, so there is no time for right now. When you are with friends, you think about being somewhere else. When you are alone, you think about being with friends. Do you see the cycle?
You realize you never have enough time, but when you look at your schedule you feel confused. “I had hours and hours of free time this week, but I felt busy the entire time. What did I accomplish? Why do I feel so tired and out of control?” All this thinking has now produced even more thinking. You are thinking about thinking about thinking. No wonder you are exhausted. Now you are confused, too. You go to bed. Maybe it feels challenging to get up and start the process over again. It makes sense that you would feel that way, right?
Meditation works like this:
You sit down and begin to connect with your body + your breath. How do you feel? Listen without judgement. “I feel distracted, busy, tired, angry, etc.”
Say to yourself, “Thank you for your clarity and for being open to loving yourself in a new way. I’m proud of you for showing up today to be here.”
Notice your thoughts and you say, “Thank you, I see you, but I’m staying present right now.” Return to your breath. Feel the air flow in and out of your lungs, feel your muscles and bones supporting you, feel the environment around you supporting you with oxygen. Thank your body for supporting you even when you are hard on yourself. Thank your mind for being willing to change, even though it is challenging.
Imagine you are the sky and your thoughts are airplanes passing by. When a new thought-plane comes into view, you may feel giddy, like you need to grab it and see where it’s going. This is your curiosity talking.
Resist the urge to cling and remember that of course there are airplanes in the sky. You have seen many before and you will see many more. By passing up an opportunity to cling, you are gaining an opportunity to be still + spacious as the sky.
See how long you can stay in the stillness. Notice the thought-planes come and go. This gets easier with practice.
When you do cling to a thought-plane, simply come back to your awareness and say, “oops, I am practicing being the sky right now.” Come back to your breath and let the thought-planes pass by undisturbed. This is the hardest part.
You may hear a voice show up that says, “This is stupid, you suck, this sucks, I hate this!” Know that this is not YOU. This is your mind experiencing the discomfort of change and using all of its fail safes to get you back to the ease of overwhelm. When we practice overwhelm daily, it is actually easier than stillness. If you hear these voices, that really means that you are getting closer and closer to the edge of your comfort zone and soon you will break through to a new reality. How exciting!
Can you pause right now and breathe? Notice 5 things around you that you haven’t been focused on, take 5 deep breaths, and ask yourself: How do I feel?
Thank you for being here now. Welcome back.