Yesterday during my 5:30pm yoga class, which was filled with accomplished adults with refined practices, a young curly-haired boy stared into the window, gazing in awe at the shapes we our bodies made. Probably about 3 years old, and he looked on in complete wonder. I mused that one day, 30 years from now he'd be in a yoga class and a very strange memory of this moment would arise, and the we all laughed. We continued to flow, and I encouraged my students to practice with that child-like sense of curiosity, exploring movement unhindered by preconceived ideas about our range, tension, flexibility, or lack thereof.
All day long our senses are taking in so much information, more than ever. Our brain chemistry and structure is changing to adapt to the stimuli, attempting to process, organize, and assimilate new information. It's an incredibly amazing time to be alive, and at the same time it's often overwhelming.
Finding space and quiet time to process what we take in is a luxury. Many of my students, curious about meditation, complain that when they sit with their thoughts, the steady stream of thoughts won't stop. It's chaos in there, and people are looking for a way to reorganize.
Meditation is an intimidating word, and misinformation has led many students to try and fail at the practice, assuming they are supposed to close their eyes, immediately clear their minds, and reach nirvana. Rather than strive for instant enlightenment, I like to start with observation. Observation is different than rationally organizing. In observation, we aren't looking for patterns or meaning, we are simply taking in information without judgement or discernment.
I think the word judgement gets a bad rap. I hear people say to completely let go of judgement, but good judgement can be extremely helpful in discerning potentially harmful circumstances, or recognizing that it's safe to take a risk, even if it's scary. It's not that judgement is inherently bad, it's just inhibiting when we can't shut it off. Practicing simple observations helps us to build the skill of watching, touching, hearing, smelling, tasting, moving, or breathing, as if it were the first time.
Right now, look away from the screen and look at your hand. See something that you've seen a million times. This time, look at it as if you've never seen it before. Stare on in awe at the magic that is your own hand. Observe the lines, the colors, the shape and size. Notice how you immediately label or critique, and then go back to gazing. Be curious. See something in a new way. Then go do that with someone you love, with someone you hate, observe yourself observing. Watch and absorb.