By Megan Armstrong, 500 hour Bali yoga teacher training graduate
Megan Armstrong came to yoga after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A performance artist, Megan began to incorporate an awareness of her breath into her creative practice as well as her yoga practice. What ensued is her sand rituals, which are as much about meditation as they are about movement. During the months she was creating these moving meditations, Megan chronicled her physical symptoms as well as her mental challenges and published them, along with photographs of her sand rituals, in a book titled Still. Below isher artist's statement along with an excerpt from her book, which we find to be a poignant reminder of what a dedicated practice to being aware of oneself can change everything.
When diagnosed with an illness, the sick individual develops a higher awareness of the body. To keep a consistent healthy lifestyle for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual body, my art practice has become a healing practice. I create work that reflects the daily practice my body undergoes to stabilize my illness. This practice is inspired by the spiritual philosophies, psychologies, asanas (yogic postures), and pranayama (yogic breathing techniques) in the science of hatha and raja yoga. Through the experiments of art making, research of healing methods, and the practice of yoga meditation, the body of work is not only self-expression, but also self-alteration.
First journal entry in while
I have not done my sand performance meditations in a while, maybe a month or so. I've kept my balance by going to hatha yoga every day but the last two days have been stressful. I've let my thoughts of the future consume me. I'm overwhelmed by what needs to get done. But I am returning, finally, to the sacred place I've created for myself. Om shanti, shanti, shanti.
28 minutes later
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Sand swirling, it's dry grains running through my hands and below my feet. I feel at home. My mind empty, my lungs refreshed. I found it again, the breath.
162 days later
More open. Drawing inward, no thoughts to compete with, just breath and movement with sand. Only thinking to inhale—pull the grains in, exhale—push the grains out. Breathing to move. Moving to create. Creating to meditate. Meditating to peace. The sun is shining. The body open, the mind quiet.
48 days later
My body is tight, sore, and tired but my mind is calm—although I got pretty frustrated this morning for unnecessary parking tickets. Today will be productive. Focusing on getting back into the body. Sand meditation now and hatha yoga/pranayama later. Things are getting done, stress levels are stabilizing. Low back is sore, I'll be aware of how I move within this space of my body. Focus on the breath, the intense prana instead of the intense movement.
23 minutes later
Hold inhale—pull in
Hold inhale—pull in
Exhale—extending arms and torso
Inhale—sturdy arms to move the body
Exhale—pulling sand in
36 days later
I want my mind to stop. Stop the excessive planning, the thinking ahead, the random thoughts that mean nothing but exacerbate so much energy. I want to experience the here and now, the only time that actually exists. I want to take account of everything that is happening in this moment. Not judging what arises because who knows what's good or bad.
19 days later
Time is like a swinging door, always pushing the mind into the future or pulling it back into the past. How can the human mind not suffer when it resides in a dimension that cannot be controlled? To live in the here and now is to live in the only time that truly exists. I move against time to keep up with time, rotating counterclockwise in a pile of sand. By pushing and pulling the timeless material, the body and breath move to keep the mind still. The patterns and forms that appear create a physical record of the conscious inhalation and exhalation. This space holds no judgement for the wandering mind, it is a place of reminder to just be.