Where do you live?
How did you come to meditation?
Wow. I think I first started meditating when I was a little girl. I’m using the term a bit loosely here, compared to what meditation is to me now. But I was having very terrible nightmares as a child. My father taught me how to direct my thoughts so that I could make my dreams turn into good ones. That was when I was 3. I’ve been doing that since.
Then, as a teenager and adult, I used meditation in acting classes. We would use guided meditation regularly. It was something that came quite naturally to me. As I continued my studies for acting, and teaching voice/movement/and speech, I continued to use meditation to help me deepen in the exercises. It was somewhere around high school that I began using meditation from cassette tapes. I did that with my mother to support her as she was going through a difficult time. It helped me, too, of course.
I honestly can’t remember when the first time I did a meditation more in the traditional way we think of it – following the breath, focus on a candle, etc. My journey has always been very fluid. Huh. I’m glad you asked me this question. I’m realizing it has always been a part of my life, to meditate.
I first found Kelly Lindsey, and Dakini Meditative, 8 years ago when I first moved to Austin. I am very picky with whom I consider my yoga teacher. She qualified instantly. So the first time I sat with Kelly was around 8 years ago. I guess, to answer your question, that I have always been directed to meditation as a way of healing, a way of using mind over matter, a way of directing the mind, connecting mind/body/spirit, and a way of expanding my awareness beyond what the eyes can see.
What inspires you to meditate?
The depth, feeling of being grounded, and clarity it brings me. It helps me to remain clear even in the midst of chaos. I stay connected to myself and my goals. I feel that I move from a place of greater ease in my life when I have meditated. And I feel a strong pull from my heart and soul to touch back quite regularly to the depth I feel when meditating. Life inspires me to meditate. The evolution of my soul inspires me. My heart guides me to come back to it again and again.
What does your meditation practice look like?
Ha! Great question. My meditation practice is varied. I will meditate (shamatha or vipassana) 20-30 minutes a day during the morning, typically. But I’ve been known to sit up in meditation for an hour or two at night. In fact, it is my favorite way to bring in the new year; in meditation. I celebrate many special days (solstice, equinox, new and full moon) with lengthened meditations. I always meditate before teaching any class, even if I can only squeeze in 5 minutes. And I always meditate before working on a new client, even if I can only spare 2 minutes.
Additional methods I use, besides shamatha and vipassana meditation, include Yoga Nidra, movement (somatic movement and yoga), sound (playing drum, bowl, or binaural beats), walking, and contemplative meditation. I use meditation when receiving acupuncture, craniosacral, and chiropractic treatments to deepen the healing. I use a meditation from Pranic Healing, called Twin Hearts, to help facilitate my own healing and the healing of the world. My practice is varied. But every day I sit for at least 30 minutes. Every day I do that.
Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?
I light candles and incense. It helps me keep the moment sacred. I turn off the ringer on my phone; I want no distractions. Simple movement loosens my spine and opens my torso. I get comfortable. And I always start by using vision, then sound, then sensation to help me settle my attention to the present moment. I have picked up different techniques from different teachers.
One that I particularly like was to rotate the eyes in the sockets so that they point to the forehead point, just above the third eye. The instruction given while doing this was “Just watch!” Just watch. The teacher said to keep your focus here and let the thoughts pass by. Keep your focus on the point on the forehead. “Just watch,” he said. It works! Really helps me deepen and focus.
I notice my inner knowing craving meditation in the morning the most. There is an inner pull that brings me to my zafu (seated cushion). The pull is accompanied by a sense of excitement and joy.
I also go to classes regularly. It helps to connect with fellow meditators to keep the practice fresh and new. At a meditation I recently attended the facilitator stated, “Every meditation is a group meditation.” It is so true. And going to class helps me reconnect with the truth of that. So, every meditation is a way for me to connect to people and beings all over the world. For someone who lives alone, this is a very big thing. It will keep you coming back, for sure!
How is your life different because of meditation?
Goodness. It is richer. Every moment is full of opportunity for delight. When I go through difficult times, I am able to sit with the feelings with compassion. That allows me to grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. My life is richer. And, honestly, I have meditation to thank for still being here in this life. Things have gotten tough in life. My ability to meditate is the biggest thing that has gotten me through. I know for certain that I would not be where I am without it. I would not be able to have the level of trust in life, the feeling of bliss, gratitude, and compassion were it not for meditation. It is empowering.
What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?
Doubt that I was doing it “right”. Judgement that having thoughts meant I was failing. Fear of what I found during meditation. Lack of self care including placing others needs and agendas above my own. I would make excuses to avoid sitting for too long. Sometimes I would see things that I didn’t want to see and run away. Or I would work non-stop and not take time to recharge.
I recently had a concussion. That was challenging, for sure. It was no small concussion. It took me out of work for almost 2 months straight. I tried meditating 3 days after… uhm… no. That didn’t work. I couldn’t do it. It simply wasn’t possible. I had to find another way. So I used guided meditation to begin. Then I moved onto binaural beats, listening to them as I went to sleep. And I utilized Yoga Nidra to help me rest. Meditation became my primary healing tool from concussion. But it didn’t come easily and I had to use a lot of outside support.
What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?
Sit. Come back. Initially you may want to use a lot of support. Find a teacher that resonates with you. This is essential. If you don’t like one teacher, one method, keep trying. There are so many ways to meditate. And there are many different teachers. I would also say to eradicate the notion that meditation is about not thinking. It is no such thing.
Most people stop themselves for two reasons, I think. One is that they think they can not get their brain to stop thinking so they are not good at it. No, that’s not the case. The mind will think. What we are doing is training the mind and that is NOT EASY. We are directing the mind where we want it to go. You’ve not failed if it wanders off. You’ve noticed it! Yay! That’s already success because most of us don’t notice it. So, bring it back. That is meditation.
Additionally, I think people stop because they get antsy “just sitting”. If that is the case, I would suggest to move a good bit before sitting. If your nervous system is saying “MOVE!” and you try to get the body to sit still it will be maddening. Move to begin. Satiate the body’s desire to move. Move any old way you please; go for a run, a walk, play basketball, swim, do yoga, dance around your living room, stand up and shake your whole body. Whatever you do, let it please you. Then take your seat.
Also, I recommend starting with a shortened time to begin. First try two minutes. Then ten. Then more. Go gradually. You’ve got a lifetime to get this down. There is no rush. The journey is the point. The work is in the process.
What does your heart most long for?
Love. Peace. To be seen and heard. To be held safely. Connection. To be free. To help others do the same.
Melissa Grogan is currently participating in the Dakini Meditative 300-Hour Meditation Teacher Training. To learn more about her work, see her bio here or check out her business website:
[Photography by Theo Love]