by Megan Spears
I was 17 years old when I decided to try a formal meditation class. I don’t remember if it took place on a Monday or a Sunday, at 5am or 5pm, but I do remember the smell of nag champa and the feeling of quiet reverence as I walked up the stairs to the space. I also remember, and will never forget, the first bit of advice from the meditation teacher. He said, simply and clearly, directly to me, “try less”.
“Try less?”, I thought. “What the hell?”
I immediately became both frustrated and intrigued by the concept of trying less. I was so new to this practice; I couldn’t gauge my level of effort. It boggled my mind and stayed with me for several years, coming up randomly in my mind as a grew in my yoga and meditation practice.
I eventually (five years later) became a yoga teacher and started leading both power yoga classes and meditation classes. I purposefully did not cue “try less” in my meditation classes, simply because I hadn’t unpacked that cue for myself. I guess you could say I was sitting with it.
Photo by Molly Thrasher.
A few years into my teaching, I was invited by a fellow teacher to begin a meditation training with Dr. Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine. In this training, my teachers shared the amazingly rebellious notion that neither have to try less or clear my mind in meditation.
I don’t have to clear my mind? Wait, what? Isn’t that what meditation is about?
No, ma’am. You sure don’t have to clear your mind or try less.
What I offer to you is what my teachers offered to me – the 8 Rs.
Rest. Release. Remember. Rehearse. Repair. Restore. Relax. Recharge. Remember that you’re meditating. Then Rest again.
Photo by Molly Thrasher.
Imagine this as you read along:
You settle into a seated position, or lie down. As you rest in your posture, you feel your muscles release. As you release, you might remember why your muscles were tense in the first place. As you remember why you were tense, you then commence your rehearsal of the experience that made you feel tense. You problem solve, build a list of things to do, have that discussion that you’re putting off, budget your finances – all of this happens in your rehearsal stage.
(This is traditionally where you get frustrated and think you’re not meditating. As your meditation teacher, I’m here to tell you that this is a part of the rhythm of meditation. Keep going.)
As you sense yourself in rehearsal, you might step out to jot down notes of who to call or what to do after your meditation. You might have a seriously creative moment where you finally solve that problem or think up the next best step in your business. When you come back, you will feel that you’ve repaired something – lightness ensues; you feel restored. Then you relax because you remember that you’re meditating. Sense your muscles, and the deeper layers of your awareness, rest again.
This cycle could happen 2-3 times in the span of 10 minutes. As you become aware of where you are within the 8 Rs, the time spent in each R may stretch or extend – you might find yourself in a restful state for a long time.
Now I can appreciate the cue to “try less”. Rather than pushing or over-effort, sense what happens when you rest into your meditation. With this understanding of meditation as a rhythm, we can appreciate and respect said rhythms. Play with the rhythms. You may start to look forward to your practice the same way you look forward to the first sip of your morning tea (or pourover cup of coffee, if you’re boujee like me).
I hope you feel free to meditate knowing that you don’t have to clear your mind. Rather, develop a sense for what each R feels like for you.
Rest. Release. Remember. Rehearse. Repair. Restore. Relax. Recharge. Remember that you’re meditating. Then Rest again.-Megan Spears RYT 500