Option 1: Don't Fight your biology
How can you come to a place of calm and clarity, when you're in a state of stress and duress? How can you declutter your mind, when your thoughts are racing?
The neurotransmitters circulating in your blood during these times have your heart racing, your belly tight and your muscles tense, ready to move into fight or flight. We call this the sympathetic response of your autonomic nervous system.
You've tried to sit still, close your eyes and stop your thoughts, but about 44 seconds in you can't stand it anymore. You have too much to do and can't take time to give this 'do nothing' business a try. That's coming from a place of stress and duress.
The key is to work with your biology, don't fight it.
Myth: Sit still to achieve stillness
Sitting still, closing your eyes and stilling your thoughts is only one form of many ways to meditate. Don’t limit yourself by reimagining yourself as a monk sitting in stillness. Instead, work with your biology, not against it, to shift to a state of calm more easily. (In bodywork circles, we call this ‘working in the direction of ease.’)
So what does that look like? I call it Moving Meditation.
Work with your current autonomic state of fight/flight and move. Engage in rhythmic movement that couples your breath to the movement. If you want to go ‘fast’, choose walking, hiking, running, swimming. If you want to go ‘slow’, find a qigong or tai chi group in your area or online.
If you’re on your own, be sure to unplug from your devices. Notice and connect with the environment you’re in. Be with your surroundings, be with yourself as you walk or jog along. For this is really what meditation is about: being in the moment and staying connected to the present. Set a timer for 12 minutes. Then set free any agenda, just move with your your rhythm. Let your breath come alive.
Stay tuned for Option 2: Engage your Social Engagement for easier meditation
5 myths of Meditation
Weed out these myths and enjoy Meditating with Ease.
The following list is a sampling of what I’ve learned works and what doesn’t work when it comes to establishing a regular meditation routine.
see below for more descriptions about these myths.
Myth 1: You have to meditate for an hour
I used to think meditation wasn’t worth doing unless you could do it for an hour or so. Oftentimes you see a weekly meditation class advertised as 60” or 90.” Thus it’s easy to think you’ll go and sit on a paisley floor pillow for an hour. I find that intimidating.
But I’ve found in establishing my own daily meditation practice, meditation needn’t be anywhere near an hour. I rarely even hit 20.” And I still get the benefits.
What is more important is preferencing regularity over quantity. That way, you continue cultivating your wellbeing everyday. Also, by committing to short but regular sessions, you are implicitly telling yourself, “I care about myself and my well-being.” This is a positive reprogramming of your behavior.
Myth 2: Sitting in Stillness
Maintaining Stillness - The classic meditation image is of someone sitting, legs crossed and eyes closed. Examples are the Buddha under a tree, or a guru in lotus position on a cushion.
But I’ve learned meditation doesn’t have to by sitting still. My first experience with meditation was in my 20s when I was training for a marathon. I realized my regular running practice was a regular meditation practice.
I made a point every time I went out for exercise to unplug from all devices. I also made a point of connecting with the outside world: fresh air, clouds, rain, stars, sun, wind, snow, etc.
Meditation can be on the move, just put aside your books, ipods, devices and reconnect with the rhythms of your body and of nature.
Myth 3: Keep your eyes closed
Another Meditation myth is, “You have to keep your eyes closed.” Nope, you can have them open. Your eyes can take in a candle flame, for instance, or watch smoke from incense.
I like gazing at a mandala. I’m not thinking about anything, just letting my eyes drink in the details. Sometimes I work my way in from out, sometimes I go out to in. If I want insight, clarity and one-pointed focus, then I move my eyes from out to in. If I want to increase my perspective, see the big picture or connect to the greater world around me, then I start in the center of the mandala and follow it outwards.
Myth #4: Meditate in Silence
The Myth of Silence in meditation is common. But did you know you can make all kinds of noise and still be enjoying the benefits of a regular meditation practice.
You can chant, say a mantra, hum or tone. And the mantra needn’t be in Sanskrit to be useful to you. You can saying any empowering mantra that truly means something to you.
When I hum or tone, I get a bit of a workout too. As well, the small vibrations from humming or toning result in me feeling invigorated and aline.
An example of ad-hoc toning is to imagine the base of my spine and make a low sound. Then I imagine the next section up from there and make a higher pitched sound, one by one until I’m at my head. If you’re familiar with Chakras, you can imagine them as you tone or hum.
Myth 5: The Way
The Way - Another myth is following someone else’s idea of ‘this way is the only way.’ And that includes the myth of keeping to only one form of meditation. There are many forms and I’ve found it most beneficial to personal my meditation to what I need in the moment.
In the 12-18 minutes that I meditate, I may focus on my breathing for 8 minutes, gaze softly at a mandala for 4 minutes and finally sit quietly for another couple of minutes, eyes opend or closed. The point it, when you make it yours, it’s more likely to be enjoyable and adaptive to your current needs. You may need to move or vibrate your body as you meditate, or you may feel more drawn to still forms of meditation.
These 5 myths are helpful to keep in mind as you explore ways to make regular meditation something that is absolutely doable and enjoyable for you as you commit to your wellbeing.
Has this ever happened to you? Imagine if. . . .
A kind, quiet lady used to live next door, Ms. Whatsername. Occasionally her tree would dump leaves into your yard, but otherwise, you had a quiet and happy relationship and really, you didn’t pay her much attention. Then, one morning you woke up, and Ms. Whatsername was gone. The new neighbor wasted no time introducing herself. Her name is Ima Payne.
Ima Payne is very different than Ms. Whatshername. Ima Payne likes to be center of your attention, she is always making noise, always letting you know she is there. She keeps you up at night. Sometimes she even keeps you from doing the things you really want to be doing in life, she might even get in the way of your relationships. Usually popping some pills will keep her noise from bothering you so much, but now even that’s not enough.
You decide to call on the pros: Mr. Surgeon, has a drastic solution, “Let’s cut her out”. You decided to listen to Mr. Pharma who gives you a shot and some stronger pills.” But the shot hasn’t helped and the pills make you drowsy. You try exercise, but Ima Payne follows you to the gym and yoga class, noisy as ever. She’s persistent and isn’t taking Stop! for an answer. You finally say to yourself, ‘this isn’t working, I have to try something different.’
In looking for “something different” you found this article written by Kate Dennington, LMT, who offers a different kind of approach to dealing with Ima Payne.
Kate says: “We're not trying getting rid of or suppress your annoying neighbor. We will work to calm things down between the two of you and tend to your needs with compassion. We are looking to establish a healthy relationship with you and a part of your body that is causing you discomfort and trouble.”
The work is easy and gentle: All you have to do is put on some comfortable clothes and lie down on my massage table. You get to relax, and I’ll work to create peace between you and Ima Payne. Often, when you face your troubles in a supportive environment, you find or create your own solutions and pain and discomfort are resolved in an effective and gentle way.
If you can relate to this article, and are looking to find a gentle solution to pain you are experiencing in your body, aka your “Ima Payne”, I invite you to learn more about the gentle, hands-on approach I use to help activate your body’s own healing mechanisms, all while relaxing on a comfortable massage table.
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