Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meditation by Any other Name.....

My husband and I have been taking a Buddhist meditation class at a local Buddhist center. That's on Wednesday nights. On Tuesday nights I take a yoga meditation class at a yoga studio. This just sort of happened. But, I am finding it all very interesting. When I go to my yoga meditation class on Tuesday night we have a yoga class (a discussion and then lots of poses) concluding with a 10, maybe 15 minute meditation. We learn a strategy or two for quieting our minds. For example, last week we learned that you can meditate to a constant sound. Now, that interested me. Turns out I have recently been meditating to the sound of a amazing and peaceful little river full of giant boulders that I had the pleasure of sitting and meditating on one drizzly summer day this this past July. Meditating to a sound. Who knew?

During our last Buddhist yoga meditation Wednesday, the teacher (a Buddhist-in-training, subbing for our Buddhist teacher) talks about a lot of the same things my yoga mentor talked about on Tuesday (being unattached to things in life which make our life difficult). Of course the concepts are referred to with Buddhist names, but it's surprising how similar the two philosophies are. And then, and here's a big difference, we spent 30 minutes, and at the beginning of our meeting not the end, meditating. Meditating is the thing in Buddhist philosophy. In the West, yoga poses seem to be the thing for us Westerners practicing yoga. Interestingly, most people don't know this or forget an important point about yoga. Yoga poses are a means to an end, that end being meditation and, ultimately, surrender to some God (you get to choose the God or spiritual being). There is no getting around it, yoga seems religious as you surrender to some spiritualness. In Buddhist thinking, on the other hand, there is no creator God. Actually, it's more interesting than that. The Buddha (who was a yogi early in his life) did not really comment on whether or not there was a God. Apparently, he felt that whether or not there was didn't matter to everyday people trying to figure out their lives...hmmm.

On a recent Wednesday evening, as the rain danced on the roof of a cozy little room at the top of the stairs, we sat quietly, my husband and I and about 20 other people, very still, eyes closed, sending positive thoughts out to those we love and those who drive us crazy (mettā bhāvanā meditation). Supposedly, we are meditating to reach Nirvana and the end to our suffering....

I don't know what I believe at this point. I am not a yogi. I am not a Buddhist. I am just trying to see what this all means for me. But I do know that meditating and doing yoga poses certainly seems to lead to more peace and relaxation in my life. It also reminds me to live, fully, the moments of my life, to look into the eyes of that little first grader when he struggles with his really be there for him, right in the moment of what means so much to him. And for that, I am grateful :) Oh, and, sending positive thoughts (metta in Buddhist terms) to the person who drives me crazy.....seems to ease my level of annoyance. Since that Wednesday night meditation I have seen said person-who-drives-me-crazy and I just thought...."I wish her well, I wish her well" :P

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Finding My Rhythm in the Gym

So, in a big effort to take care of my aging body I have been working out a lot in the last two years. When my gym started offering classes, I was the first to sign up for Zumba. Not 10 minutes into the first class I slipped and fell. Hmmmm. Maybe Zumba wasn't for me. The next class I thought I'd try was a fast-paced weight lifting class. OK, I was thinking to myself, I know how important lifting weights is, so I'll give this a try. The class I decided to take was packed with peppy people. Galloping up and down on those turquoise and black steps while lifting weights to the beat of the music while sharing a step....yep, I turned my left ankle and had to limp out of that class in pain. OK. I'll just use my elliptical machine at home. What's that pain in my right lower back....guess this machine somehow irritates my body. Let's try running. What's that pain in my left knee? Oh, forgot. Years ago I was diagnosed with patella-tibia kneecap is not "riding" well. What to do? Seems like every time I work out I end up in pain. Last summer I took 6 weeks to regularly spin and attend a slow-paced weights class. By the time September rolled around I couldn't bend my right knee without crying in pain. I couldn't get up from a squatting position to save my crazy-ass life. The sports medicine doctor tells me squatting with weights can cause behind-the-knee pain. Here, take 4 Aleve a day (equivalent to 12 Ibuprophins) for a week and stay off it. What am I supposed to do, I think to myself, give up and let age move in on my round body? Alas, after a lot of thought, several doctor visits, and some rest I think I've figured it out. First, I stretch every morning (yoga). Second, I don't spin every day and when I do I take it easy even though the spin instructor spins maniacally or dances around the room like a American Indian at a religious ceremony. And, I stretch lots after spin. Third, I'm done with weight lifting classes for now and will use what I've learned from class (lift until you are completely spent) to lift weights on my own. No pain and I'm feeling good...maybe I've finally found my gymnastic rhythm.