Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Open Heart, Open Mind

Meditation and acro yoga

One of my main goals while traveling is to stretch my boundaries, expand my comfort zone. Though it hasn't always been easy (check out this post) and I have at times missed my familiar coffees and toast at home, it has been worth it. My time at the Sanctuary provided many such opportunities.

Meditation has always been something that has interested me. Be it on a spiritual level or not, the benefits I've read of behind meditation intrigue me. (Well that and Eat Pray Love... I can’t deny how much I reminisce if that book being here in Bali!) I've managed a few moments of meditative awareness on my own and through yoga, but never very seriously. So when I saw the blackboard at the Sanctuary in Haad Tien decorated with swirls and flowers boasting a six pm free meditation class, I decided this would be my shot.

From what other guests have told me, there are active and non active classes. Some are spent chanting, others sitting silently... I honestly had no idea what to expect.

I walk in, resume a savasana pose with a few others, and wait expectantly for the teacher to arrive. After a few words of welcome, he softly clarifies that we will be, along with music, spending fifteen minutes shaking, fifteen dancing, fifteen standing or sitting, and fifteen sitting or lying down.

Pardon? You want me to shake around for fifteen minutes? Just jiggle around however the energy takes me? Oh my… However as much as this may have been a surprise to me, the rest of my class is unfazed; they simply close their eyes as the calming rhythmic beats of music fill the room.  

Try as I might to let go of my inhibitions and let my body bounce around freely, I can’t help but sneak a peak at the others around me. Seeing those swaying, bouncing, jittering around me, I can’t help but want to giggle. I suppress the desire and settle for a smile instead. Tell me, why did I decide to put myself in a room full of hippies jiggling about?

Somehow that ridiculous moment frees me of my thoughts and criticism. I forget what my boyfriend, my mum, my friends would think and when the instructor chimes in that the dance portion is beginning, I let the music flow through me; however my body wants to move.

Somehow, miraculously, the dancing works for me! I hardly feel my thoughts interrupting my movements, and am actually able to calm my mind for longer than a couple minutes.  I leave feeling refreshed, centered, and much more optimistic about new ways to meditate.

I keep this newfound elation as I step into my acro yoga workshop the next day. It is literally ‘acrobatic yoga’ and involves partnering into various balancing postures. Through this has always intrigued me, I’ve never tried it; I’m not entirely comfortable upside down (especially when held by someone else) nor with someone even lifting me altogether (memories of being on of the dancers “too large to partner with” still plagues me…). Thankfully my state of mind as a result of yesterday’s meditation has quelled some of these insecurities.

Our instructor enlightens us that the two most important elements of acro yoga are  

trust and surrender. Trust your partner will carry your weight, and surrender your full body weight to them. 

Without having the time to pause and examine my apprehension over these new postures, my teacher hoists me upside down, and I’m literally dangling in front of the class. 

Breathe… breathe… breathe… 

Happily, after a few hours, our instructor has us hanging off each others feet on our hips, contorting in various bizarre postures. Very rewarding!

I read once that according to Buddhist thought, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. In the afternoon, I am chatting with an English girl about our travels and she tells me that when she steps into each country, she repeats the following mantra:

“Open heart, open mind”.

She’s so right. The challenges and misgivings I had in these classes represent new cultures for me: if you can let go of expectations, come in with an open mind, you can embrace what a country has to offer. Some aspects of these classes may have seemed strange and outlandish, but it has helped me to open my eyes and shed away the stereotypes.

Easier said than done, but I’m trying.