Recently I subbed for one of my teacher’s meditation classes. Because I had never taught a full hour of meditation before, I did all of the Type A things - ensured I went to his class the week before, stayed after and spoke to him for quite some time on how to best approach the class, upped my own meditation practice the days leading up to teaching, practiced some physical asanas (what most of us think of as “yoga”) right before I taught (many say the physical postures of yoga are solely to help prepare the body to be able to sit in meditation) - you know, all the right things to prepare or so I thought.
I knew several of the students were newer to meditating so sitting for 60 minutes would likely be extremely daunting physically let alone mentally, so instead I planned for us to practice about 15 minutes of pranayama (breathing techniques) to begin, followed by 15 of unguided seated meditation, 5 of a walking meditation, 15 seated again, and then wrap up class with a short discussion regarding the experience.
Before we began I encouraged students to adjust props, discussed possible seating postures, and offered up a few suggestions for what they could focus on during the unguided meditation time (aka did my absolute best to set them up for success). Regardless, a few minutes into “the sit” as one of my teachers calls it, I began to feel how uncomfortable two of the students were. As a practitioner I guess I’ve learned how to tune a lot of this out but as the teacher, even with my eyes closed, I could strongly feel the discomfort.
I had taught 5 or so minutes of meditation before or after flow sequences to students in the past, but clearly I underestimated how different 5 and 15 minutes of straight silence were. As a vinyasa teacher when I see a student struggling, I can offer props, modifications, or even alternative postures. The longer we sat and the more they squirmed, the more I wracked my brain for alternatives until I finally arrived at the conclusion that there really are no modifications for sitting with yourself and meditation, like the physical postures, requires practice.
Last week as I was retelling this story to a seasoned yoga teacher, she looked at me and said, “That’s great! Now you clearly see where your work is”. I laughed as I said, “Yes”. It was as if the students held up a mirror for me to see exactly where I need practice. She agreed that there was really nothing I could have done to help ease their “suffering” in that moment and went on to say that life is often uncomfortable so we best learn how to deal with it on the mat so we can carry those skills out into our lives (off the mat) as well. I nodded my head in agreement.
She then encouraged me to teach more meditation ASAP. I looked at her like she was nuts because it had been so hard for me and in a way, I felt that I had failed my students by feeding into their energy instead allowing them to just be, accepting where they were, and returning to my own breath and meditation, which would have likely served as a way to help ground all involved. The longer we talked, the more I realized she was right; that there was really no way to get better at teaching meditation without actively practicing it.
Is there a situation in your life right now that is making you uncomfortable that you are trying to dodge or maybe like me, are you trying to “over help” someone else that is experiencing discomfort? Instead of trying to immediately ease the suffering, I encourage you to lean into the moment, sit in the discomfort, ask what it is that you are meant to learn, and began to get more comfortable being uncomfortable - a process through which growth will inevitably abound.
Meanwhile, I’ll be running around teaching meditation to all who stumble across my path as I practice getting more comfortable being uncomfortable!
Be Still. Be Love. Be You.