How to find stillness

 Kate Leismer is not just a fidget. She was so restless, she dreaded the lie-down at the end of her yoga class. Until…

How to find stillness

How to find stillness

Kate Leismer writes: 

Quieting the Mind. Quieting the “Me”

More than one yoga instructor has pointed out that I have the worst Savasana they have ever seen.

The yoga position should be the easiest to perform: the one where the yogi simply lies flat, supine, arms extended and open, eyes closed, and relaxed. But Savasana has proven the most difficult for me. I squirm. I fidget. My eyes twitch and my mind wanders.

Intentional stillness has the power to throw me into a thought-indulgent panic. Banished to the four corners of my own skull, I am left to ponder and worry. I rehash about things I need to do, things I haven’t done yet, a laundry list of failures and worries. As we sink into our mats, I want to yell, “No! Don’t leave me alone!”

“But it’s so loud!” Escaping the head-chatter

For people like me, the narrative-in-the-head voice is a tedious and relentless battle.

In my life, I have found countless distractions, some more healthy than others. Music. Lots of music. Television. Voracious reading. Running. Alcohol. Sleeping pills.

At night, I listen to the hum-drum of talk radio or books on tape. The voice in my head is loud, and selfish and demanding. It is restless and consumed by visions the past, ideas and plights, or hopes and fears about the future.

Yoga was intended to be a supplementary antidote to this inner-monologue, and powered some relief, until it was time for Savasana. Closing my eyes to silence, in an attempt to quiet my mind, was like jumping in a glacial lake to warm-up.

Try something new

During one session, I assumed Savasana with normal trepidation. I followed the soothing voice, as I was instructed to flat, close my eyes, and sink into a state of calm. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. This time, instead of trying to keep my mind silent, I did something I had never done before.

I started to pray. I am of the “spiritual but not religious” strata, but throwing my mind towards a “God” who I didn’t necessarily believe in, seemed like the natural thing to do.

Not having a strong rapport upstairs, I started my prayers slowly, first, offering thanks gratitude for my partner and our relationship. I then asked for our continued love and wellness. I prayed for our future children.

Nearly jolted by my sense of calm, I went on

I began to pray for my family members, immediate, then extended. I prayed for their health and happiness and their children. Then I started praying for those who I knew were ill or suffering. Acquaintances and strangers.

After five minutes of prayer, I was still flat on my mat. I was relaxed. I had stopped twitching. I was breathing, so, I continued.

Harder and bigger

I prayed for those who didn’t have enough water, or food, or who suffered from disease. I prayed for those who suffered from corruption, oppression and political crisis. I let my mind expand and focus others, which kept me still, and breathing.

After 10 minutes, I found that my anxiety had lifted. I kept my monologue focused, and I prayed to God, to something, someone, that I believed had the power, to hear me. And who was listening.

If I’m wrong, I don’t want to be right. Corrective Savasana

From what I know about yoga practice and meditation, I am not Savasana-“ing” properly. Savasana is supposed to be totally quiet, meditative, and void of thought. Eyes should rest, when thoughts enter, they should be released quickly, passing like clouds.

My corrective Savasana, is not silent or unobserved, but intentional. Focusing on prayer has the power to shift my narrative, turning attention elsewhere, turning away from “me.” My peace came when abolishing and abandoning the self-centered thoughts that can be consuming and anxiety-producing.

And the rest

Divining prayer out of Savasana has also given me the courage to practice in other times of fear, anxiety, or unrest. On the train, stressed with work, or in bouts of insomnia, turning my thoughts towards prayer and others, I release myself from responsibility and doubt. I give up my own ego and strength. My thoughts are not completely void or empty, but turning towards others gives me freedom, so that my mind and body can finally be still.