Written by Heather Hymas
Recently, I attended my first official meditation class.This was quite the eye-opening experience. If you believe you have any control over your body and/or your mind, I urge you to partake in a meditation class and experience this for yourself. I will go through it step-by-step so you can know what to expect.
Step One: You enter the warm candlelit yoga studio feeling calm and serene looking forward to an amazing experience of connecting with your higher self and fellow travelers on this beautiful spiritual journey.
Step Two: Sitting in an upright position, legs crossed, index finger and thumb connected, you listen to the soft gentle voice of the instructor guide you through some simple breathing exercises. Beautiful calming music is playing in the background. It dulls your senses and creates a feeling of peacefulness and ease. You focus on your breath and quieting your mind. You are told to let your thoughts go and be present in the moment. All is well.
You are asked to set an intention for what you would like to gain from the class. What would you like to accomplish here in this hour?
I think about this for a moment and then I set my intention for forgiveness. I would like to forgive a couple of people in my life that I am still harboring resentments against. I would like to not feel hurt or anger towards them anymore. So far so good. Feeling peaceful; feeling serene.
Step Three: You are told to continue breathing and to focus on your breath. Whenever a thought comes into your head, or a sensation into your body, you are to focus back on your breathing and let it go. Ok, sounds easy enough. No problem, I got this, I think to myself…
Breathe, focus on breathing…
7 minutes into class: I begin to feel my lower back. It starts screaming at me. “I hate you, I hate you!” “Why do you slump over a computer all day?” “How do you expect to have such horrible posture 16 hours out of the day and then come in here and expect me to sit up straight, legs crossed for an hour?” Breathe, focus on breathing….
I quickly begin to focus my breathe into my lower back and send it love and compassion. My lower back responds by calling me a complete idiot and tightening up even further. Breathe, focus on breathing….
I am reminded by the instructor to not judge myself or my thoughts. We are told to let them pass through without any judgement and to just take our focus back to our intention. Go inside, listen, and breathe, focus on breathing….
10 minutes into class: I am having a hard time keeping my eyes closed. They are starting to dart around inside themselves like each pupil has been given a shock treatment. I begin to feel anxiety like I’m a prisoner trapped in solitary confinement not knowing if I will ever see light or the outside world again. I need to open them. I have to open them! Are people still here? Am I still in this room, or I have been somehow transported to a secret place and I am all alone, lost and all alone?? I open them just a slit. “Whew!” I am still here. People are still here. I quickly scan the room for a sign from the others that it’s time to run, time to revolt and save each other. No signs, everyone looks pretty peaceful and serene. Breathe, focus on breathing….
13 minutes into class: Eyes closed, back numb from the muscle spasm that has now decided to just become a permanent knot, I once again return to my breathing. I focus on my intention. The people I am choosing to forgive enter my mind. I tell them I forgive them and I send them light and love… Breathe, focus on breathing….
14 minutes into class: Thoughts are coming to me now in a constant barrage of excitement. The more I try not to think, the more thoughts that come. “What did I eat for breakfast today? Did I shut down my computer before I left work? What time is that appointment I made for next week? I wonder if Hannah has any homework tonight? I’m hungry. Do we get water breaks? Did I bring water? What time is it? What’s my intention again?” Breathe, focus on breathing….
The instructor calmly reminds us, “Let the thoughts flow through you without judgement. When you have a thought, just notice it and then go back to your breath. Whenever a thought comes into your head, or a sensation into your body, focus back on your breathing and let it go.” Not thinking is exhausting.
15 minutes into class: Now I am getting mad! “SHUT-UP”, I tell myself. “Stop thinking!” How can not thinking be so hard? My breathing is becoming more labored. I begin to panic. The more I try not to think, the more thoughts that come into my head, the less I am able to breathe. I seem to be unable to inhale. I am not breathing. I don’t think there is anymore oxygen left in the room. All of this intense breathing has sucked up all the oxygen in the room. We are all now only breathing carbon dioxide. We are all going to die! I begin to feel light-headed. My forehead becomes heavy. My neck wobbles, I am unsure whether or not it is going to be able to hold my head up any longer, my head weighs 50 pounds. I open my eyes again and glance at the clock sure that it has been at least a half an hour. It glares back at me 7:18. When I see the time I am suddenly able to breathe again. I gasp, I actually gasp in air, shocked at the revelation that it has only been 18 minutes. 42 minutes to go. Breathe, focus on breathing….
19 minutes into class: Every muscle in my body wants to move. My sorry excuse of a neck is struggling to hold up my 50 pound head. My chest feels tight. My eyes burn. I have given up compassion at this point and am just fighting off thoughts like an angry hockey player on steroids smashing and bashing them one by one out of head with my imaginary hockey stick. “Pow!” “Crash!” When all of a sudden I feel an intense sharp pain that starts near my ankle and screams all the way up my calf muscle like a an angry hornet that has just spotted its prey.
I shoot my leg out in front of me and attempt to remain calm. I suck in small bursts of air like I am drowning, and I desperately try to send them compassionately to my screaming muscle. Tears come to my eyes as I try to maintain my composure. I attempt to seem nonchalant as I slowly release my other leg hoping that will somehow lessen the pain. I smile sheepishly at the instructor and shrug as if I am just needing a moment to rearrange myself. She looks back with a smile and a knowing nod, but then quickly returns into her calm relaxed meditative state. As I sit there breathing into the pain, trying to rub the charlie horse out of my leg, my 50 pound head drops in defeat. I am paralyzed. I am a prisoner. I couldn’t escape now even if I had to. If the building was on fire I would literally have to be drug out wrapped in my yoga mat. Breathe, focus on breathing….
25 minutes into class: Out of pure exhaustion and fear I simply stay seated on my mat. I begin to breathe normally again and am able to bring my head back to center. I focus on my intention and let those people know I have forgiven them. Hell, I have more than forgiven them, I have complete apathy towards them and any other human being at this point. Whatever it was they did to upset me seems completely insignificant to what has happened to me in this room tonight. I have given up on controlling my muscles or my thoughts, I just want someone to come put me in a neck brace, carry me home, and lay me gently in a pool of ben gay muscle rub. Breathe, focus on breathing….
Time is lost: Time has no meaning. I sit back up and return to the dreaded legs crossed position and begin to focus once again on my breath. Breathe, focus on breathing….
I do not think, I am unable to formulate words into coherent thoughts at this point. I just exist. I feel like a leaf swaying in the wind holding onto the branch that supports it with just a thread waiting to fall. Breathe, focus on breathing….
Suddenly, I hear the instructor’s voice coming to me slowly like light at the end of a tunnel. Her voice awakens me and I come to the realization that I am still here. I realize that I am not dead, and I have no thoughts, no feelings, my body is completely numb.
I did it! I let go. I went inside. I am completely in the present moment. All is well.
I breathe out all discomfort, all anger, and feel only the pure satisfaction that I have survived. She takes us though a few yoga poses to stretch and awaken our muscles. We breathe in compassion and love once more, now only together as a group. Everyone smiles and exchanges nods. Hands go to heart center, everyone bows and says in unison, “Namaste.”
I grab my mat and get ready to head out. The instructor catches my eye. “Great class”, I say. “See you next week!”
Heather Hymas has been a teacher in one form or another for the past 14 years. She has taught fourth grade, intermediate school, and college English, both at Dixie State University and Southern Utah University. She currently works as a teacher in a residential treatment center for troubled youth. She has a B.S. in elementary education, a master’s degree in education, and is currently working on her doctorate. She lives in St. George with her teenage daughter.