At the end of summer, there is lots of planning for fall that takes place. Some of this is necessary--we have to show up with a syllabus on the first day, and, as the wonderful academic guru Kerry Ann Rockquemore says, "Every Semester Needs a Plan" (http://www.facultydiversity.org/).
And yet, all of this focus on what's coming tends to stir up a lot of what people in the yoga community call "stories." They are stories, rather than truth because they are our projections onto the past ( I was hurt, I used to be good) or onto the future (I will be great, I will fail), rather than what is.
At this point in the calendar year, my stories are going. I mean roiling, boiling, churning in some kind of nasty brew. This is the time that I am thinking hard about both what I failed to do over the summer and also my great hopes and fears for fall.
It is both the perfect time and the hardest time to meditate. Meditation does not necessarily require clearing the mind, but it does require battling with the stories that come floating through the mind. And I will say, this battle is hard, and I frequently lose it.
Sitting this morning in meditation, I found that I lost my mantra and started worrying about the classroom response system (clickers) I'll be using in my fall lecture. "What will happen when the clickers don't work!" "What if the TAs don't respect me! What if every student is like that one student that one time that I didn't get along with?"...and so it goes.
This is why meditation isn't really "doing nothing." At least not for me. For me, it is a struggle, some days harder, some days easier, to control the mind.
In particular, I love the mantra "neti neti," which I first heard about from Zachary Cannady. Neti Neti, means something like, not this, not that--a way of detaching, declaring what is not real.
For me, wagering this gentle negation against the roiling stories is part of the work I do in meditation, when I sit down to do "nothing."
Though this experience can be brutal, I do think of my meditation capacity as a little muscle that I am flexing, so that when the semester begins, I can return to that feeling of detachment, even when I've left my safe space.
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