Today, I am graduating from Yoga Teacher Training. The last two months have included well over 200 hours of yoga practice. So instead of giving you a specific project, idea, ritual or practice for living sustainably on this Sunday, I am going to share with you my final paper, which I feel is an approachable anecdote to sustainability through the practice of meditation and yoga.

In Yoga Beyond Belief Ganga White states, “Your entire life is meditation, all other specific forms of meditation are secondary.” In order to lead a fulfilled life, we have ideals for how we must interact with the world. We have life partners, we maintain relationships, we raise children, we work. According to Ganga White, these day-to-day activities are all “entire life” meditations.

What is the difference then, between entire life meditation and specific practice meditation? I have always felt that the benefits of my specific meditation practice come not in the act of sitting, but instead reveal themselves later in ordinary everyday interactions. When I fall out of my specific meditation practice, although I am still “meditating” in everyday life encounters, I am not reaping the benefits from sitting quietly with myself. As White says, “…all other specific forms of meditation are secondary.” However, in my opinion, bringing in a specific meditation practice will transform your entire life.

Because I sometimes choose to fall slightly away from my meditation practice, I am able to more closely examine my body physically, mentally as well as physiologically to process the differences when I am regularly meditating and when I am not.  The most specific example I can give for the benefits of regularly meditating is having a language. When I am practicing twice a day for twenty minutes everyday, I reach access to a library of words I cannot find easily when I am out of practice. I am able to hear words flow out of my mouth without thinking about how I want to say them or what order to say them in. It’s as if I am one step ahead of myself, saying exactly what it is I meant to say, yet being amazed by what comes out.

White says in reference to a seated meditation practice, “How can we escape mental pressure through yet another form of effort and control?” I respectfully disagree. Yes, It does take effort and control to have a regular specific meditation practice. For me, it’s a few half sun salutations before sitting and sometimes fighting the urge to burst up and get on with my day. Effort. Control. As I often say, the hardest part about meditating is actually sitting down to do it. Effort. Control. But my specific meditation practice greatly increases my chance to “escape mental pressure.” My regular practice is actually my tool for escaping mental pressure. It has become an organization mechanism in my mind. Seated Meditation allows me to categorize my actions, thoughts, my reactions and my emotions without thinking about each one of them independently.

Where is that space we are going to? What great plethora of “stuff” am I accessing and bathing in when I dive deep? This “stuff” reveals itself in multiple areas of my life, one example is my yoga practice. I have been practicing yoga for less than half the time I have been meditating. My meditation has deeply informed my yoga practice. Additionally I would say that my yoga practice has deeply informed my “entire life meditation”. It has created a space for desire to live a healthy life. It engages me with my community. It makes me want to live in a more sustainable way so that I may be actively involved in helping reduce the damage we consistently do to mother earth. Combining my meditation practice with my yoga practice allows me to resurface from inside my mind with fresh, creative, healthy ideas. These ideas, present themselves to me as if they are separate from me. Ideas that may resonate with other people. Ideas I’d like to share.

I have always been a teacher. When I was seven, living in Oregon as an only child, I remember educating the neighborhood kids on the different trees and bushes and bugs in my backyard. When I was fourteen I would collect a list of all the animals we would see on the way to the bus stop. I would read encyclopedias with intent to teach my friends about the calls of the species we would hear. I would talk about why they are native to our area, what they eat, when they mate. Similarly, as a twenty five year old, I adhere to the practice of yoga. Attaching myself to a lineage right away, knowing what I need from this experience early in the game. The seven and fourteen year old me emerge in my approach to diving deep into the subject, in order to bring the knowledge to others.

Starting Tuning the Student Mind was my attempt to invoke this spirit in others who are my age. As cliché as it sounds, we ARE the future. It is our duty to lead grounded, healthy, sustainable lifestyles. Because yoga and meditation create the space for desire to do those things, we need to bring yoga and meditation to students. Creating academic classes structured around practices that invoke spiritual awakening is no easier than moving a graveyard down the street. But this organization is one of my “entire life meditations”, an idea sparked by the act of meditating itself. And it has transformed in infinite, undeniable ways through of the act of practicing yoga.

It must be then, that your entire life is yoga. Every other specific yoga practice is secondary. I don’t know if Ganga White would agree but this, to me, is the meaning of bringing yoga off your mat. Be it yoga or meditation, both have been deeply seeded in my being for my entire life. Off my mat, in everyday life, on my mat, seated…all of these reach the “stuff” in some way or another. They just all access it and process it differently.

Our entire lives are one full meditation from start to finish. By practicing seated meditation and living our yoga on and off the mat, we learn about our mind, how it works, what it prefers, what it distastes. By bringing the “stuff” out and into our everyday lives, we learn about our full self, how to interact with others, what they prefer, what they distaste. When we are able to analyze both perspectives of meditation – “entire life” meditation and specific practice meditation – and unite them with one another, we are ready to progress, work together, be compassionate, learn, adjust, center and continuously advance.

Chelsea Richer