Tag Archives: meditation

Be Free Where You Are by Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m supposed to be gearing up for a spiritual year according to sundry esoteric readings and such. I entertain these mostly for fun, but when the idea reappeared to me in multiple venues, I thought, okay, I’m listening. I’m not particularly excited by the prospect of a spiritual year, but recognize that it’s a part of being. And, there’s no time like the present.

So, the other day on a friend’s table, I saw a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Be Free Where You Are, which is a little pocket-sized book based on a lecture he have to a group of prisoners a few decades ago. “Take it,” she said. So, I slipped it into my purse and read it the other night. It is a very quick read. I read half of it, then decided to read the rest of it, and then read the Q&A after that—all in one sitting. I chose to read and reread a few key sections  slowly to try to really absorb his potential meanings.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s been on my radar after a respected mentor mentioned that his work had valid philosophical and scholarly potential. After reading this short book, I can’t say that I agree. Of course, it’s way too soon to make a definitive statement either way. But, he spoke about things like being in your heart and being positive, and while I can make a lot of assumptions about what that might mean, I’m not sure that means much. Or, maybe it means everything. The book is full of these kinds of assertions, and I can only hope that his longer works offer more depth.

Thich Nhat Hanh said that understanding is crucial for forgiveness.

He said to think about each bite of food and where it came from with gratitude.

He said to meditate always, while walking and washing dishes. While inhaling and exhaling. He encourages his audience to be present. Describing this, he wrote, “Here I am.” I read it a few times:  “Here I am.” I walked over to my full-length bedroom mirror and tore away the tens of sticky notes upon which I had scribbled affirmations in permanent marker, affirmations that I had written months earlier as they occurred to me. I threw the tiny stack of words into the recycling, got out a new sticky note and wrote, “Here I am.” I placed it alone on the mirror. Here I am.

I thought about an eye-gazing meditation I did recently that was either good or meaningless, and I thought, “Here I am. Here I am.”

meditation and the new year

I’ve practiced yoga since around 2005. I was curious about it and loved it immediately when I started practicing. I’ve also been teaching yoga since 2008, which I absolutely love. After I first began teaching yoga, I also started teaching a 30-minute meditation class that started right after my hour-long yoga class. I jumped at the opportunity because I’ve always enjoyed the meditative aspects of yoga. I ended up teaching meditation for a few years, but haven’t had the chance to start up again since moving to Utah.

image by Alesa Dam

Now, it is said that all good yogis have their own personal practice, but that has never really been true for me. I prefer to practice yoga in a group, whether that be at a gym, Bikram yoga, in an Iyengar or Yogafit training, or even in the classes that I teach. While it is easier to be accountable when you’re meeting with another group of people to practice, on some sort of metaphysical level, I also appreciate moving through the asanas with others. Intangible and indescribable as it sometimes seems, I draw strength and connection that I crave when I practice yoga with other people.

That said, I’ve also never really had my own meditation practice either. I know that Transcendental Meditation (TM) is all the rage, but I have to admit that I recently heard an interview about TM that sort of made my hair stand on end (in a good way). It was the kind of energetic response that makes me take notice. Turns out, there are some TM practitioners around here, and I’m looking in to possible taking an intro class with them. In the meantime, I’ve decided to use the New Year to start meditating on my own.

Let me be honest, the thought of meditating sort of makes my skin crawl. It seems irritating, agitating. It seems like an epic, annoying waste of time. However, yoga has taught me that because I have such a strong response, it’s probably something that I really need. In yoga, I tend to hate poses that I need the most (i.e. camel pose/ustrasana).

So, I’m using the New year to implement meditation. I’m not sure what I’ll get out of it, but I’m going to meditate for 10 minutes every morning and 20 minutes every evening, and I might eventually up that to 20 minutes in the morning. I’m going to do if for 31 days–the entire month of January. I hope that the practice will help me use my time more wisely and purposefully. Of course, I also hope I’ll gain some deeper insight about my life’s path. More than anything, this is an experiment. I have no idea what it will be like, and that’s why I’m going to give it a try.