The first time I had any experience with meditation was a one-day Vipassana course. This was nearing my A Level exams which was a stressful period, and I was recommended by a family member to attend. I was open-minded but wasn’t sure whether what I was going to learn would be helpful in my daily life. The one-day ‘retreat’ was open to those between the ages of 6-21 (a wide range, indeed). I ended up being the oldest at 18 years old, with the second oldest at 10 years old. At first, I thought it would be strange to be stuck with kids for an entire day. However, most of them were ‘regulars’ and have been practising meditation with the guidance of their parents. Seeing how focused they were in their meditation, and how I was unable to sit through longer meditations without drifting in thought or feeling a strong urge to just stand up and walk around, I soon discovered from a young friend that there was one thing they were concentrating on: their breath.
So, I tried it. I focused on how the breath felt around my nostrils – every detail and sensation. My breath was something that I had never really paid attention to because it seemed like a ‘given’; something that just happens naturally in our bodily system. Yet, breathing maintains the functioning of our brains and keeps our bodies alive, despite most of us taking our breaths for granted. With time and practice, I began to find it natural to shift my attention to my breath whenever I was in a state of mental distress, and in most cases, I would feel a greater sense of stability and awareness. All the mental noise would slowly drown out, and what was out of sight would soon become clearer.
During my YTT course, I was once again reminded by Master Sree of the significance of paying mindful attention to the things in life that we often take for granted – breathing, walking, chewing, and even sleeping – as we learned about the functions and mechanisms of these ‘simple’ processes. When these mundane things are done in different techniques or variations as taught in Yoga (for example, Pranayama techniques that can help to cool the body, warm the throat, alongside many other benefits for the body and mind), we can even elevate our mental and physical health naturally. Overall, thinking about the wonderful things that my body is capable of doing has increased my trust in my body, and I hope to incorporate this sense of appreciation for the ‘mundane’ into my practice of Yoga, and life in general.