Two Meditation Teachers and An Anti-Gravity Chair
Three years ago, Kep and I took two meditation classes, taught by two different teachers, at the swanky Phoenician Wellness Center & Spa in Phoenix, AZ.
The meditation classes were held in ‘The Relaxation Room’ – a room with a huge water fountain, a ceiling made of glass, and about 20 anti-gravity chairs lining the walls.
I was excited to meditate in those cushy anti-gravity chairs.
Here’s what happened and something I learned about meditating:
“There are lots of ways to meditate,” said the teacher, a woman in her 60s.
She shared that her favorite meditation is called Surrender Meditation, and that before the spa ordered the anti-gravity chairs, she’d been guiding people to meditate laying on the floor for years.
“Keeping the spine straight in sitting meditation simply takes many people out of the deep meditative experience! It is a barrier. Take advantage of these chairs! Let your knees be higher than your chest. Allow your muscles to relax. NOW you can let go and go deep. Do you really think it matters if your spine is straight vertically versus straight horizontally, as long as it’s straight? I don’t think so! The only issue is falling asleep, but I’m going to teach you rhythmic breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth) so that sleeping is much harder.”
She then put on soft, rhythmic music and took us through a guided meditation, which I can’t quite remember because I was super focused on my breath.
- A few times I noticed more spaciousness inside me, as if my lungs were larger. This body sensation felt incredible.
- I let go and went deep – which is rare for me in a class setting (or otherwise, actually). I surrendered to the teacher’s easy nature, her priority on comfort, and her reminder that music can deeply enhance meditation. (This teacher was a true sensual!)
- imagined myself doing surrender meditation at home – laying on my bedroom floor, spa music in my ears, lower legs elevated on the soft, tiger-print vanity seat.
“There are as many ways to meditate as there are grains of sand,” said the second mediation teacher, also a woman in her 60s.
Her favorite is walking meditation.
As she talked, Kep and I adjusted ourselves in our anti-gravity chairs, leaning WAY back, excited to experience deep relaxation again.
Until she asked us to return our chairs to the upright position. !!!!
I told her what we learned in yesterday’s Surrender Meditation – rhythmic breathing while leaning back.
She said the problem with reclining is people often end up snoring and disturbing their neighbor, and if that happens, she’d have to come over and tap us.
She reiterated that these chairs are not conducive to meditating when set all the way back, and if we were at an ashram, they would never allow us to be in these chairs.
I assured her we’d stay awake.
I felt rebellious and unwilling to “follow the rules” after Friday’s extraordinary experience.
Kep and I leaned our chairs back, and she proceeded with a guided meditation.
- I was anxious about falling asleep, so needless to say, there was no dropping in and going deep. Plus, I panicked that Kep would fall asleep, snore loudly, and make us look like idiots!
- My breath was shallow and in my chest and I felt miles away from the transformative rhythmic breathing from the day before.
- I was annoyed and frustrated with the guided meditation. We walked to a waterfall. She told us we’d see animals. She guided us to see a rainbow and explained the meaning of each color. She said our guide would appear and to listen to what they had to say to us. They would put a gift in our hands. (Ugghh!!! Did a deer appear, or did I insert a deer because I panicked about not seeing any animals? Where’s my guide? When will this meditation end?)
I was reminded of the truth that each teacher stated in the beginning of her class: there are many ways to meditate.
And though the aim of in-this-moment awareness is the same, the ways we get there can look and feel quite different. Opposite, even.
The surrender meditation that resonated with me is too passive for some, and the guided meditation that frustrated me takes others to incredible depths.
We get to discover for ourselves how we best quiet our mind, open our heart, and be present in our body so we can feel the aliveness of the moment.
Over the past 8 years, I’ve explored and practiced many meditation methods: transcendental meditation, loving kindness meditation, walking meditation, Vipassana meditation…
Outside of a daily writing practice, none of these mindfulness practices have stuck for more than a few months.
And though I take slow, deep belly-breaths throughout the day when my nervous system needs it and I still love surrender mediation, from time to time, I get down on myself for not having a regular sitting meditation practice -- until I remember what a renowned astrologer told me during a birthday reading when I asked him about meditating:
Your mind is very active. Not only are you ruled by Mercury, the planet that rules the mind, but your Mercury sits next to Jupiter, which makes everything bigger. The effect is that your Mercury energy is on steroids. You’re mental, mental, mental. Sitting meditation is not for you. For you, getting lost in an activity that involves your hands is important – playing an instrument. Gardening. Needlework. Writing.
Sitting meditation is not for me!!!
I have permission to cultivate my attention and my ability to feel in other ways.
We ALL do! Find YOUR unique meditation practice.
If it's sitting meditation, do you prefer music, guided meditation, or silence? Chair, cushion, laying flat on the floor, or reclining with legs elevated? Is your focus a mantra? Your breath? Mudras?
And if writing meditation is your way ‘In and Down,’ or part of your mindfulness mix, what are the rituals and rhythms that work for you?
- Do you prefer to write at home, in a busy café, or in nature?
- Do you prefer to write in the morning or at night, like Stevie Nicks?
- Do you prefer to write with a pen or a pencil or on the computer?
- Do you prefer to write to prompts or no prompts?
- Timed or untimed?
- Short sessions or long sessions?
You and only you know.
Others, including me, have preferences to share, experiences to draw on, and tips (like the tendency for beautiful, expensive journals to activate, versus quiet, the inner critic in many people). But YOUR JOB is to accept or reject the suggestions, based on your experience and what works for you.
Happy exploring and discovery, fellow mindfulness seekers!
Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:
quiet mind, open heart, awake body
Write whatever arises in your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Don’t stop to think or edit - keep your pen moving.
Accept ALL that you write - the pretty & ugly; absurd & boring. Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...