Since beginning the teacher training program at Avalon Yoga Studio in Palo Alto last September I’ve heard this phrase repeated again and again: start where you are.
Start where you are is simple level-headed advice that we should remember when we’re beginning anything new, whether it’s the yoga we’ve always wanted to try, the novel we’ve wanted to write or the song we’ve wanted to learn on our guitar.
Don’t argue, don’t procrastinate and don’t wait for conditions to be perfect. Start where you are.
The advice is particularly useful when contemplating a meditation practice. Do you want to meditate? Start where you are.
Read this blog back far enough and you’ll find a post about my two weeks of Yin Training in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Paul and Suzee Grilley the summer of 2009. We began each morning with thirty minutes of meditation. I was determined to continue the practice once I returned home.
It didn’t happen.
I used every excuse imaginable from being too tired to crawl out of bed to convincing myself I’d practice later in the day but of course I never did.
Why? Because I felt fraudulent. No one gave me a list of instructions (and we know how I like my lists). I didn’t understand the steps. I couldn’t possibly be meditating correctly. And so I didn’t meditate at all.
The truth is, there are no list of instructions, no easy steps. And there’s very little you can do short of strapping on headphones and cranking Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit to eleven that would ruin the experience.
Because we start where we are. We find five minutes and we sit still. And then we find ten minutes to sit still and to listen to the breath. Soon we’re sitting for twenty minutes and the breath may become a mantra. Or not.
There are plenty of books that offer techniques. I’m reading one now, Eknath Easwaran’s Passage Meditation. The book is a basic primer the offers suggestions and teaches the reader why meditation is life enhancing.
And there are groups you can join. A friend of mine and I recently dropped in on a local Daoist Meditation Group. And you know what? The Daoist technique was deeply different to my personal practice. Does that mean I’m wrong? Of course not. And neither are they.
We start where we are. We find our way. We choose our path. And there is no wrong. We start where we are.