Monday, September 17

Four Elements Meditation | Living Yoga Center

It wasn't until Sunday morning that it sunk in—I signed up for six hours of meditation. Six hours! But as my partner kindly reminded me as he pushed me out the door, "This will make you much more happy than sitting on the couch and watching TV." He, as usual, was right.  
LOCATION & STUDIO: Hosted at my home studio in Urbana, IL, Living Yoga Center
CLASS DESCRIPTION: An introduction to meditation and the four elements: achieve greater focus and concentration, enhance your creativity and presence, experience reduced stress and anziety, improve your health and well-being, see the elments present in yourself, others, and the world around you.
INSTRUCTOR: Robert Johnson's years of meditation, coupled with his engaging sense of humor, high level of integrity and heart-centered manner, have made him a much sought after meditation teacher, guide, and presenter in the greater Chicago area through Windy City Meditation. He is a representative of the Sufi Order, appointed by Pir Zia Inaya Khan and is affiliated with the Light-Hearted Center of SOI in Forest Park, IL. Robert has studied and practiced meditation for over 20 years and also has extensive training in energy medicine. He is a healing conductor and active member of the Sufi Healing Order.
CONTACT: Windy City Meditation

OK, a bit of an exaggeration at the beginning, it wasn't six hours straight of meditation. The truth is, I've tried doing just 2-3 minutes of meditation every morning off and on for the past year. It's horrible. Which is exactly why I signed up for this seminar and at the same time feared it like I fear snakes (which is a lot).

I walked in to see the regular practice space set up with folding chairs in a semi-circle. Once we were all settled there were 12 of us, plus Robert, our guide. Lucky 13! Robert chatted about himself and then we went around the room talking about ourselves. I usually hate this group activity, but today was more personal. I learned one thing quickly—we're all in transition. Some are avoiding it, some are forcing it (that may be me), and some aren't even aware of it. But, the science of life alone tells you we're always in transition. What was beautiful about the group was learning the unique ways everyone was transitioning—and recognizing how we could all benefit from some meditation.

Robert was a delightful guide in his calm demeanor, his quick sense of humor, and his open heart. He chatted a little bit about how he came to sufism and about sufism in general. And then quickly took us into practicing meditation. I would say we did possibly five phases of meditation practice, each time practicing 2-3 times: the first time was just to focus on the basics (connection to the ground, posture, breath), then we added in counting breath work and recognizing our patterns, followed by counting the breath with our heartbeat, then we talked about balancing the elements inside of us with different types of breath in your meditation, and lastly he left us with an easy 2-3 minute meditation practice.

I found with each level of meditation I was always frustrated—my inhales are shorter than my exhales, I can't find my pulse, what do I want to make for dinner? crap! let it go!, my butt hurts, breathe into the tension, relax, wait, am i still breathing?—but the more I focused on the technique the less I had the overwhelming thoughts in my head. After we introduced the pulse into our counting was the break through for me. Robert brought us out of meditation, and even though I was frustrated during the whole process when I came out of meditation it was like waking up. I was confused as to why I was at Living Yoga Center and the people sitting around me. And just like waking up from a dream, it's a quick transition but you're aware of a difference. That was when I realized I could forgive my shortcomings because you can still meditate through it—and with that I could believe I could improve along the way. Hooray! We're not even at the lunch break and I've learned more than I, well, expected.

After lunch, Robert talked more about the four elements: air, fire, water, earth. We contain all four in our personality, but one is usually stronger. And knowing this information about yourself can help you balance it better with different breath work, and it opened my eyes to some of my closer relationships too. I, oh so quickly, learned I'm fire. Which has lovely qualities: powerful, goal-oriented, intense, courageous. But we all know too much fire is scary: abusive, fanatic, frenetic, and self-destructive. I quickly realized the people I consider closest to me—my dear friend is earth: peaceful, disciplined, willful, responsible. I think my boyfriend is water—open, trusting, loyal. Water is the element that can sooth fire—and he definitely knows how to bring me back to balance. The instructor said if fire is a tree, then water is its roots. I, of course, love that. Interestingly, I didn't see a relationship in my life that would fall under air—and that makes sense as far as what I feel like I'm lacking in my life. I don't know—it was nothing ground-shaking to learn, but it definitely helped me recognize the importance of the people you surround yourself with and honoring the balance within.

At the beginning of class we wrote down a distortion we wanted to let go of (mine was fear of loss), were asked to fold up the piece of paper, and put it in a bowl Robert provided. At the end of class we went outside and set those lil papers on fire. It was a wonderful way to end the class, and am very grateful for the group I bonded with after a day of discovery. Thank you, Robert, for bringing us all together and taking us each steps closer to awakening. Namaste.

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