Connecting meditation and language learning
I come to you almost two weeks after finishing my first meditation retreat. This was for a technique called Vipassana, which is one of the most ancient forms of meditation from India. Until about a year ago I had never heard of it, and until about two weeks ago I knew nothing about it. I had tried several meditation techniques, never getting real direction and only getting frustrated in the process. Maybe you relate. Like everyone who starts, I was trying to stop my mind, but how can you do that really? And especially when you have a mind that will never seem to stop running? They say “mente a mil” in Spanish, literally the idea of your mind being at “speed one thousand.”
I am no expert and am pretty young in the meditation world honestly, but I now understand the point and have experienced some real results of my own. Meditation can be practiced in many forms: in cleaning, drawing, focusing on breath, counting breath, scanning the body for sensations, the list goes on. You are simply learning to observe your mind rather than stopping it, and each technique has a different approach on how to do it. By observing, you become aware, and awareness is the first step to any kind of change.
Now I want to talk about language learning, and of course since this is a language blog! A wise woman once taught me about this thing that happens when acquiring language. First you become aware of a mistake you are making either on your own or with a teacher´s help. Then you get repeated correction from a teacher (and realize just how much you are making that mistake.) Thirdly, you start to correct yourself, and finally, the error is no longer an error and has been converted, corrected, transformed…however you want to call it. There is something in linguistics called “fossilization” which is an error that has happened so much or was never learned correctly to begin with that it has “hardened” so to speak, leaving an imprint as a fossil does. It´s a mistake that a student has made so many times that it has become part of their natural speech, for example. In the world of meditation, you could call it taking root.
As I worked to find my bliss at the Vipassana retreat, I realized it wasn´t bliss at all really. It was hard work sitting up for hours at a time and trying to focus. I had some moments of bliss but there is nothing like the bliss of seeing some change in your life. I “scanned my body” (and for anyone who has done it, you know what I mean) and throughout the week thoughts came to me, things I hadn´t thought about in years and others that came around and around again. Some of these thought patterns we all have seem impossible to change, just like a fossilized mistake!
So I´m back to the real world, the hectic world that it is. Those ten days in silence enjoying nature, finding inner peace, and searching for the right meditation position were blissful now that I compare it to the city noise. Maybe it is just that I´m back to the typical routine, and it feels intense because I had never calmed my mind like that before? Why do we meditate really? To find peace, tranquility…equanimity… equanimity… equanimity. We do it to change our minds and to evolve, because you can evolve past the broken record that goes on and on in your head. Awareness is the key to any kind of freedom, even freedom from language mistakes. You too can correct and evolve past fossilized mistakes. It just takes some work.
I had many days to sit and meditate and admittedly think about other things too. One thing I thought about was this blog post in fact and the connection to fossilized mistakes and roots in our mind. These things can change… it just takes some work.