Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Mental Staircase

Snuggled up in her quilted floral-print comforter, little eight year old Rainey closes her eyes and starts to drift to sleep. Consciousness starts to retreat back into her mind, like water slowly spiraling down a drain. The minute space between her eyes and eyelids goes dark. And in the moment between sleep and dreaming, her minds-eye rapidly zooms outwards revealing a colorless canvas, infinite in scope.

Snap back to twenty years later, when falling asleep has become one of two things. Either an action of impatiently waiting for blackness to descend while wrestling with the insomina devil, or unexpectedly passing out on the couch in the middle of a rerun of 'The Office' (side note - I watch 'The Office' so often while sleeping on the couch that the softly jangling theme song has become almost like a personal lullaby...). That peaceful, comforting moment between sleep and dreaming has been somehow misplaced over the years, my adult mind incapable, unwilling or too taxed by adult-like stressors to take even a brief rest before escaping into unconsiousness.

I found that moment again in an unexpected place.


Yep, yoga. Okay so maybe yoga is not the most unexpected of places to find a peaceful, comforting moment, but the way it snuck up on me took me by suprise. I have been attending yoga sessions once to twice a week for the past two months, in the hopes that it would help me achieve a level of balance in my life that I felt I was missing.

Yoga is HARD man. The first hour of the sessions I attend involves a group leader instructing the group through a series of yoga poses meant to open up portions of the body and connect with the mind, surrounding world and life forces. My body struggles through most sessions, and I am so far unable to do some of the advanced poses. The day after my body usually aches in places I didn't know could ache. Like my big toe. Really, big toe? Why you gotta do me like that the day before I have to wear heels for a meeting?

Clearly, I know very little about yoga in theory or even yet in practice, but from what I understand it was developed in the long long ago for yogis to prime their bodies for long stretches of intensely deep meditation. And let me tell you, those dudes must've been in shape.

Meditation is the main reason I decided to get involved in yoga. I wanted a place where I could quiet my mind and slow my rapid and increasingly negative thoughts. The second portion of the yoga sessions I attend focuses on the practice of meditation. Our breathing slows and we are encouraged to lie on our mats and just lie in the moment in a still and quiet position.

At first I used that time to just simply enjoy the electric tingles that prickled outward from my muscles. Then I started to focus on the connection between my mind and my body, and how they almost seemed like two seperate entities, sometimes at war with one another. I would alternate between concentrating on my body and breathing patterns, and softly thinking positive thoughts in my head. I allowed that time to be whatever it was that I was experiencing at that time, and I always left the session feeling happy and energized.

But the other day during meditation, something happened. I focused on my breathing and my body, and as I did this, the world fell away. My minds eye relaxed and a fuzzy space opened up like a small pin prick in the far off distance. The space was what I could only term a 'staircase', as it simply existed in my consciousness, inviting me to view it from afar, or there for me to venture closer if I wished. For a few seconds my entire being existed of only my perspective and the staircase, wavering in open air, announcing its presence. Even though nothing actually happened, after the session I felt lighter and more confident. Yesterday was a seriously good day.

I know, I know, I sound like a new agey hippie. But in all seriousness, this mind-space felt eerily like the magical sleep/wake feeling that I used to experience as a young child. Only this time, I caught a glimpse of what it might be like to explore that space out of a dream. Maybe someday I will find my way up that staircase, but for now I feel gratified just to have opened up a part of my consciousness that I wasn't even aware existed.

I can't wait to go back and explore.


  1. Good for you!

    Personally, I'm beginning to explore Yoga myself. I've only really gotten as far as doing some online courses that give information on it, but it's a step in the right direction, I think. Anyway, I hope your sessions continue to make you feel this way... Maybe one day you will climb that staircase!

    And, for the record, I happen to like new age hippies!

  2. I've been talking about this with my therapist! Just breathing/meditating and when all the voices go away and the world quiets, who are you left with?

    That's who you are. It's really intense!

  3. I can never effectively meditate because I'm always either too tired or too distracted. The Hubby and I want to do yoga together, but so far we've only done it once. I wish we weren't so flaky!

  4. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  5. Hi Rainey, ok first of all, I'm laughing because this post is about yoga and meditation while your last post is about cow-tipping. You remind me of me. Second of all, I hope you are still doing yoga and you made it sound so awesome I want to do it to. Hope you are well. Chicken.