We've all been facing challenging circumstances this year and it looks like this may continue for some time.
Entering lockdown with all our classes being forced to close was a massive change we hadn't been prepared for. Thankfully we found the Zoom platform ( like many of us) easy and fun to use working online, making continuing to share our love of yoga a possibility.
We were all loving having wee S about more and with no formal school hours we'd settled into a more relaxed routine. How can we make the most of this situation ? The idea to begin a 40 Day Meditation was planted whilst doing my astrology research. It seems tough times were ahead, lots of high energy with Eclipses on the horizon, Venus going Retrograde and so much more. Everyone was writing about it.
The astrologer writer who had the greatest influence on me was Dana Gerhardt. On reading Dana's post about Venus retrograde and the possibility to use this as a chance for transformation and setting ourselves a daily challenge the idea for morning meditations began.
So with this in mind I last minute emailed those who'd already joined us online to see if they'd be interested in joining me for 40 Days of Morning meditations. One of the toughest bits of this was the early rise, we were going to be meeting online at 6.15am. Since lockdown I'd gotten used to my lazy lie ins and not having to set an alarm clock with no school run. Was rising early going to be a realistic challenge for 40 Days. However, we would ever get an opportunity like this again ?
Too late now.....the emails had been sent and surprisingly to me people were saying yes. And not just one of them - initially 20 said yes!!! I was astounded and pleasantly surprised.
So we began on May 12th - I was so excited the night before I hardly slept. It was an amazing group of women and the mediation online worked really well. We were off to a great start.
Over the first 1-3 weeks I was going through lots of pain barriers at various times of day. Sometimes I'd sit down to rest and before I knew it I'd have zonked out. Thankfully, my family around me were fully supportive of this commitment and were there to help out with my son when required. The group number settled at 18 quite early and the 18 women remained with the commitment as far as they could. Most days there would be 15 of us online each morning. It became something to look forward to, a gathering place each morning to share with like minded others and a focus to my days which I was very grateful for.
The goal of the 40 Day commitment for me was to try and recapture some of what I'd experienced in India during my teacher training way back in 2009, and to see if I could create this for the others.
During our 40 days we practised a variety of breathing tools and gradually extended our time on pranayama and meditation. One of the goals was to improve our lung strength and to increase our body strength enabling us to sit comfortable for longer. I feel we achieved both. The need to strengthen our lungs seemed highly significant with the global situation of so many people being effected by respiratory problems.
The idea of it being hard to get up passed for me and I was dedicated to making sure I went to bed early enough to ensure a good nights sleep. Before we knew it we were half way through and then the end of June seemed to arrive so quickly. As a result of my 40 Days I feel refreshed, calm and at peace.
During the month of June I lost my father in law. His passing wasn't a surprise, he'd been losing strength for a long time, however with lockdown my husband hadn't been able to travel home to India to be with his father at the end. This had created an extra emotional strain we were all feeling. As tough as it was on some days I kept going and it helped me to cope with everything I was experiencing at that time.
There were two other people in the group who also lost close family members within our 40 days and they both felt the mornings had been helpful too.
As we began to approach the end of the 40 Days I knew I wanted to carry on and so put the idea out to the group. As before I was surprised at how many of the 18 were keen to continue. The beautiful ending to the 40 Days is that we are still meeting each other online each morning, when it suits, for what I feel is the best way to start your day, especially in these uncertain times. 40 days has turned out to be 80 days and that is something I would never have imagined possible or enjoyable before we started. A very welcome surprise.
One of the group has a Fitbit and as a result of the meditations her resting heartbeat has never been so low, and despite not sleeping as long the length of time, because of the early rise, the quality of her sleep has increased. I was quite amazed by this and had wished I'd monitored my own BP, heartbeat etc before the meditations began.
I may not have a measuring device but my breathing feels much easier, my lungs feel great - and I'm able to take a longer fuller inhale, my body feels stronger as a result of the seated practise. Overall my energy level has balanced itself, I'm more focused and the need to have an afternoon nap has passed. It has been such a positive outcome of living in isolation, something I would never have imagined possible at the start of those worrying days in March. Someday when we're all able to physically be in the same place and meditate together is something I really look forward to.
I'm so proud of those who joined me. They each had big challenges to face during this time. Personal growth was our big aim and it happened without forcing it to, developing self-acceptance, coping with losing family members, living alone or living with a full house, unable to see family/friends, health issues, key workers - carer, nurse and doctor - all going out to work after the sessions, and for many of us rediscovering the long term benefits of a regular practise - calmer minds, feeling at peace and noticing that our day head is much better for ourselves and those around us if we begin with meditation. For me personally it feels like I'm filling myself up with positive energy and therefore giving to others throughout the day is much easier.
I hope this will inspire you to give it a go. Find a class time that suits your schedule or commit to a self-practise and go for it. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Hearing how much everyone has benefitted from meditation has encouraged me to offer more sessions for those who wish to learn breathing tools and get started on a regular practise.
Instead of charging for managing the mediations sessions I had instead asked the group to make a donation to the Orphanage in Kerala we like to support. As a result of their generosity and Suthesh's fundraising class on June 21st we have raised £1420 which will allow 9 children to be fully funded for a year at Thannal, smashing our target of £1280. We will round it up to £1600 making it 10 children. I'm so happy to be giving back to India at this time as I know the lockdown restrictions in India have reduced the donations they normally receive. Hopefully this will show the children and women at Thannal that although we're unable to visit at this time we certainly haven't forgotten about them.
Another blessing from this situation is the kinship amongst our group. If we are sadly faced with another lockdown I know that the possibility to start each day in great company is there for us all.
Here is a brief summary of how the group felt about their 40 days in their own words. It was not easy to sum it up in 3 words but they've given the following:
“ transforming, peace and calm”
“ tranquility, healing, enlightenment.”
“ tranquil, healed and blessed”
“ a unique opportunity”
“ a truly wonderful experience “
“ awareness ( of mind and body) motivating and inner stillness
“ calm, peaceful, heart-centred”
“so worth it”
“energy, focus, inspiration”
“what matters most”
“grounding, calming, re-set”
“ still, peaceful, oneness”
“enlightening, moving and encouraging”
“energizing, awakening, confidence”
“finding inner peace”
“ expansion, uplifting and peace”
“ enlightening, rewarding, inspiring”
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the women involved who chose very bravely to commit to a morning practice at a very uncertain time. It would not have been the same without you all, getting up to practice on my own during lockdown would have felt lonely and instead it was the opposite. Soul warming, supportive and a really positive start to the day. Here's to a proper celebration of everyone being together when possible.
Also I need to thank Dana Gerhardt whose writing has inspired me for a long time. The seed idea of a 40 Day challenge is something we all benefitted from and helped to turn our time at home into something so worthwhile we can't really put it into words. Thank you so much for being that inspiration. You can read more about Dana by visiting her website.
Finally my family, Mum, Dad, Suthesh and wee S for their enduring patience with my need to be quiet in the morning, my sensitive nature when too tired and for supporting me to achieve this challenge throughout the 40 Days and now beyond. I hope my calmer presence has been worth it for you all.