Truthfulness

Vishuddha, or the throat chakra, is the fifth primary chakra associated with the action of speaking and hearing. It is believed in the Hindu tradition of tantra that this chakra can become blocked by a sense of guilt, or the inability to speak from one’s own heart.

I sat in a throat chakra meditation session last Sunday. It was not the first time I had experienced this meditation technique, and the group discussion on truthfulness afterwards was very similar to the one my group had when I was first taught the same technique in my own teacher training. Perhaps it was the benefit of having gone through such a conversation before, this time, I felt like an outsider listening in on the things that were being said in the group, and I found myself having a rather strong viewpoint that’s different from what the rest were wrestling with.

“I’m forced to lie”

As the group talked about how many of us have to withhold truths not out of free will, but because of circumstance, I saw a pattern of how when we talk about why we lie, we always place the blame on the other person. It makes me uncomfortable, because it seems we have a problem with taking ownership of our lying. Instead of saying “he won’t be able to take the truth” or “it’s not like they will change even if I said anything”, if we frame it as “I don’t want to hurt his feelings” or “I’m too powerless to convince them to make any changes”, I feel that even though it seems we are still saying the same things, it puts the onus on ourselves. This might look trivial or perhaps look like just picking on semantics, but stay with me.

Only by first taking ownership can we even begin to find a resolution. By framing those statements with us as the subject, we find ourselves in control and being able find a position to take. From “I don’t want to hurt his feelings”, we start to find a way to break the news in a gentler way. From “I’m too powerless to convince them to make any changes”, we begin to recognise what steps we can take to make a stronger case.

I know it’s all easier said than done. In fact, one of the things that can be done is not to do anything at all. Finding peace with ourselves is also an action that can be taken. If we recognise that we are unable to change someone, a relationship or an organisation, but we can be at peace with ourselves, I think that’s a good outcome too. More often than not, we feel that we need to do something, which adds to our own suffering when we find that we are helpless.

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How I Dived Into Meditation

You can talk to me anytime about meditation, just don’t ask me to teach it. Sure, I’ve tried guiding a group or two in meditation practice before, but I don’t consider it teaching, not in the true sense of what the word really mean. For one to be able to teach meditation, I feel one needs to be well-established in multiple meditation techniques and very consistent in their own practice. For me, I’m just not there yet.

I love talking about mindfulness and meditation, though. It helps me in my own practice to be able to articulate, share and learn with other practitioners. So when I wrote “Meditation for the Non-Spiritual Types” over a year ago, all I really wanted was to share the practice of meditation with meditation beginners, or just about anyone who’s ever wanted to try meditation for the first time.

This post is not to repeat the why and how of meditation that I wrote about a year ago; this post is about the little story behind how I really started knowing meditation.

Meditation was not easy for me to get into. It took me a year of bouncing about, feeling that the practice was out of my reach, pushing on even though I felt very conflicted about what to feel about meditation. I did feel almost like a fraud to be sharing meditation techniques with other people, even though I didn’t fully understand it. That’s still very much how I feel, which explains why I don’t think I’m ready to teach.

It was not until I was to talk to a group of meditation practitioners at a local meditation group a couple of years ago that I chanced upon the wonderful “How to Meditate” series of videos by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu while researching on the topic.

The first two videos in the series threw wide open the doors of meditation for me. With his simple explanation, he talked about what meditation is truly about and how to make use of four foundations of meditation — body, feelings, thoughts and mental states. It worked for me like no other meditation techniques, and I quickly found that where other techniques distracted me from being able to focus inwards, his method was able help me to ground and centre myself easily. The fact that it’s still the only technique that I use for my personal meditation practice shows how comfortable I am with it.

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Teaching Yoga for Beginners

It used to be that before every one of my yoga classes, I’d spend up to hours to prepare detailed lesson plans. Not so much these days. It’s not that I now slight the need for lesson plans; rather, it’s because experience has taught me that sometimes lesson plans have to be thrown out the window because things don’t go as planned, so being able to adapt and think on your feet is far more important than planning out lessons in painstaking details.

Don’t get me wrong. Going into a class with nary a form of a plan is a disaster. In order to teach any class, you need to at least have a structure in mind before you step into class, a structure that serves as a guiding star towards which you want to direct the students, but just enough so that the details can be filled in as you learn how each student responds to your teaching.

Having said that, when you are new to teaching, a lesson plan is a must. Making lesson plans is the only way to really hone your planning skills. Without the experience and confidence of adapting your lesson on the spot, a good lesson plan can help you think through the important stuff before stepping into the class.

Sitting in on a yoga teacher’s training class today brought back memories of my own teacher training experience and my first time practising in a mock class giving instructions to my fellow trainees on yoga poses. Looking back, I can see how much I’ve grown in my teaching method now. I thought to myself, if I could give advice to my old self about teaching as a new teacher, what would I say?

Here are three things I think are what really matter, in my opinion, when setting up a lesson plan. I hope this may also come in useful for other budding yoga teachers in taking their first steps.

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