The most common difficulty people face when trying to start a meditation practice is that it’s really hard to “stop thinking”. Lots of people give up because they assume meditation is not for them or that they are not “good at it” (ah… the grown ups’ habit of always having to be good at things!).

I’ve learned a couple of things about meditation during my teacher training, and also through reading, lectures and workshops I’ve attended. I believe it is a wonderful tool to strengthen the mind and keep us emotionally healthy and balanced.

But I am one of the people who have tried meditation, many, many times, always with the best of intentions, only to drop it a few weeks later.

My latest attempted started about 4 weeks ago. I am still going. But before that, right after we went into lockdown, my anxiety level was through the roof, and someone suggested a 21-day series by Deepak Chopra. At the time, I was mostly concerned about finances, not sure the studio would make it, and this series was centered on abundance. There was a little talk and then a few minutes of meditation. I really enjoyed it. I believe I did it twice, with the firm intention of continuing with some kind of meditation practice after the series ended, but a few months went by before I started over.

This time around, Mr. Chopra was at the center of it again. I received an invitation to join yet another 21-day series, this one centered on relationships. I am not particularly concerned about my relationships, but I needed an entryway… so I started again.

This time, however, I set up a whole routine. I felt like I needed a morning ritual that would be meaningful and would set up the tone of my day.

During the Summer, I had also started doing stretches for my hips for 15 minutes every morning (which I did for probably 2 months and stopped). And, completely unrelated, I had recently purchased an inversion table, with the promise that if I spent money on it, I had to use it.

So I put all of that plus some together and every morning, before breakfast, I go up to my attic, spend 5-6 minutes upside down, then do the hip stretches, some foam roller massage, some stuff for my shoulders and then 15-20 minutes of meditation.

I started with Mr. Chopra’s series, but after 2 weeks, I moved on to meditation with music from Snatam Kaur, one of my favorite spiritual singers of all times. Her voice has the power of melting whatever resistance I may have in my brain and heart, and helps me to (at least for a few seconds) put me in a deep state of relaxation and ease.

Meditation is not easy for anyone, don’t be fooled. The whole practice consists of coming back to whatever you choose to focus your attention on (a mantra, a song, your breath, whatever). Your mind WILL wonder. You WILL think both pleasant and unpleasant thoughts. Worries will pop up. And the practice is to gently move away from all that mind noise, and get back to your breath or your mantra – in other words: the present moment.

Staying present is not easy. We fool ourselves into thinking we are present just because our bodies are here and we are doing this or that. But our minds may be miles away. Just observe how many times you drive somewhere and has no recollection whatsoever of the trip there. Or when you put down your keys so absent mindedly that you cannot find them later? All these are instances of not being present.

But the worse, in my opinion, is how much our ‘not being present’ affects our relationships. How many meaningful conversations with loved ones may have gotten lost because we were deep in our own thoughts, just nodding our heads, but not fully present? How many kind gestures we may have dismissed because we were busy scrolling through our phones? How many meals we didn’t even taste (our relationship with food is important too!) because we were preoccupied with something else, or watching TV while eating?

So, back to the meditation cushion (or mat, in my case, I am trying to sit less these days) we go… what is my mantra, you may ask? NOT NOW. This is it. When I realize I am thinking (and, full disclosure, it sometimes takes a while before I realize it), I gently tell myself NOT NOW, and focus on my breath and the sweetness of Snatam’s voice.

Bonus: my cat Gracie joins me every morning for meditation practice and she does her best to “keep me grounded” by laying on top of me. It’s lovely, it’s warm, it’s grounding – and it works to remind me of how blessed I truly am.

Gracie keeping me grounded, literally

I’d love to hear what your experience with meditation has been like. Drop me a note! Happy OM!

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!