fitness · habits

Training for stamina and resilience in a crisis

On Saturday I did a zoom yoga teacher training workshop on “Teaching in Uncertain Times”. It focused on how to teach and incorporate meditation into yoga classes. I don’t teach yoga and I’m not training to become a yoga teacher. But, I teach philosophy students who are suffering mightily right now. They are afraid, confused, out of sync, frustrated with themselves and with the situation they’re in, and really in need of help. I turned to this workshop in the hopes of finding something to give them, something to help their suffering and unhappiness.

Here was my pre-workshop idea: I’ve done meditation in yoga classes and often found it promoted greater clarity and feelings of peacefulness. Maybe I can run some optional online meditation classes for my students. Also, there’s a contemplative pedagogy group on my campus that’s working on scheduling weekly meditations classes for my university community. I should help them by pitching in and running a class. How hard can it be?

Yeah. that’s a good question. I was about to get the answer.

In the first five minutes of the workshop, teacher Alex (from my local studio Artemis) told us that meditation is about building emotional stamina and resilience. It’s true that we experience peace and relaxation sometimes from meditation, but that’s not what it’s for. Meditation helps us fortify and stabilize ourselves by building stamina and resilience.

Oh. So meditation is a training program that develops and requires strength and endurance. Yes, that makes sense. And it changes everything, at least relative to my pre-workshop idea.

It means that, if I want to teach meditation to my students, I need to get in meditation shape first. I’ve got to get my meditation training program going, and develop some stamina and familiarity and endurance and perspective about this practice. And I’m nowhere near that place with respect to my own meditation right now. Okay then.

But I learned something else from the workshop (which had lots more guidance in the ensuing 55 minutes).

I learned that I already know something about building strength and endurance from training in cycling and writing a dissertation. I’ve spent a lot of time developing stamina and resilience in movement. This is very familiar to me, and it’s very familiar to you as well, dear readers. We can all draw on the resources we’ve got from our devotion, our struggles, our dabbling, and our daily encounters with the movements and physical activities we love (and don’t).

For me, applying those resources to strategies and plans and practices for moving through this pandemic period (which will end, as everything does) involves putting in place a meditation training program, as it were. Training programs aren’t glamorous, and they aren’t even necessarily fun (although the experiences of doing them can include some fun). That’s not what they’re for.

Training helps us develop the skills and strength and stamina to get through big events, long runs, and endurance races. It also helps us get out of bed, make breakfast, be a resource for others, and keep going.

I’m working on my own meditation practice for now, in preparation for helping my students experience what it’s like to sit and focus on the present.

This week, our bloggers will be sharing some of their insights and lessons learned from their own endurance and strength training activities in a group post. Stay tuned.

What sorts of practices are you developing now to help you with strength and endurance during these times? I’d love to hear from you.

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