MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS; Tools for Successfully Navigating Pond Draining and other Challenging Events
Many of us have gotten knocked around in the past two weeks and have experienced deep fear, shock, and high anxiety about what is to come. It is a time of Fear and Loathing in the words of Hunter S. Thompson.
This is a time that many of us are waking up. But we must manage ourselves so we can rest and restore, and operate from a place of thoughtful calm, rather than fiery reaction and panic. A Meditation and Mindfulness practice will get you there, will soothe your crackly synapses and smooth out fury and indignation in your heart.
New Yoga students come to me and tell me they aren’t flexible enough to do Yoga. New Meditation students tell me that they can’t meditate because they can’t stop thinking.
Pish Posh, Grasshopper. With a little practice you’ll be meditating like a Boss.
First, it’s helpful to understand the job of that gray matter in your skull cavity.
Your brain is a tool meant to solve problems and figure out puzzles. When you’re trying to enjoy a cup of tea with a childhood friend, your brain may feel happy to splash about for a while in happy memories. Then it may become bored and wander off and you suddenly have trouble staying focused on the conversation at hand. Suddenly, you’re making shopping lists and trying to remember how much time you have on the meter. It’s unproductive. It’s distracting. Your tool, your brain, has gone off on its own walk-a-bout.
It’s called Chitta Vritti – or Monkey Mind. Chatter. Chitta Vritti is a meaningless cacophony of thoughts and noise in a brain that needs to be taken, like a wiggly overtired toddler, and shown how to sit quietly for a while. Remember all the times you’ve driven to work without paying attention? What about staring out the window at school? 30 minutes, an hour passes. Your mind took a chill pill and went on autopilot while it performed a repetitive task that it has performed a hundred times before. You meditated yourself to work or through class. (Just so I’ve said it, please don’t meditate in the car unless someone else is driving).
There are many types of meditation, and it’s worth experimenting until you find a method that resonates with you. I find that when people understand that their brain simply needs a little training and discipline to learn how to be still, that seems to open up the potential that yes, we can all meditate.
I’m going to mention Mindfulness here as well. Both are different, but very useful in settling your fiery systems down. Mediation and Mindfulness are both being used very successfully in treating Vets with PTSD. Recently, the military also started using these techniques to help soldiers that are repeatedly deployed so they can function. This stuff works.
An important place stepping off place for either a Mindfulness or Meditation practice is the knowledge that in this moment, right now, in this unburdened moment we are fine. It’s true. You may internally combust in the next three seconds, in six hours you could get hit by a bus, but right here, right now, we all are just fine. Right now, all is cool, cool, cool.
So with that in mind, this moment, and then this moment, and then this moment, we are safe. We are well. We are breathing. We are not in flames.
Mindfulness can be done at any time, and in the most simplest of terms it’s about paying attention. This is particularly helpful for me around mealtime. I eat like a Velociraptor. A mindful meal would involve taking a bite, noticing the taste of the food, the texture, chew, and swallow. Sit and enjoy. Take a second, take another bite. Plug in, pay attention, be mindful.
Walks are also good opportunities to be Mindful. Feel the air on your skin. Is it cold? Warm? Do you smell water? Pine needles, or snow? What about time with your kids? Are you present when you are with them? Do you see them? Hear them? Are you listening?
Meditation is different. Meditation is time to sit (or lay down, as long as you don’t fall asleep), and put your brain on a single image or thought, a mantra to follow, maybe you’re looking at a candle flame. The brain will focus after some repetition. When it rambles off, and it will, remind it gently to come back and get back on task. As time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to keep your brain focused on a word, breath, or image.
A popular mantra, or phrase that is easy to remember is So Hum, which means “I am”. You close your eyes (if sitting on the floor isn’t comfortable, sit in a chair). Close your eyes, inhale through the nose and say the word “So” to yourself. Exhale through your nose and say “Hum”. That’s it. Done and dusted. Some people find it easier to count the inhales and exhales up to 20 and start again. The simpler the better.
There are apps galore that will help you build a meditation practice. Find one you like. Shoot for 5 minutes in the morning. Tell your family this is your mandatory quiet time, make a sign for your door telling cats, dogs, partners, and kids to stay out. Gradually extend the time, maybe up to twenty minutes. Once you get the hang of it, your life magically becomes more manageable. Relationships become easier. You may be less reactive, less angry, less depressed. Meditation fights inflammation in the body, helps regulate hormonal imbalances. There are many ways to kiss the sky; find which way works for you. Meditation resets your fight or flight mechanism, and naturally triggers the body’s relaxation response. It can feel like a chore. So can brushing your teeth, but you’ve gotta’ do it.
There are endless physical, emotional, and mental benefits, but science has also found that a regular Meditation practice adds grooves to the brain. A happy healthy brain is very wrinkly, so relax your groovy mind and Om, baby Om.
This is Meditation and Mindfulness in broad strokes, but it’s enough to get you started. You can take classes, or buy a book, follow a You Tube, download an app. I would suggest you don’t invest a large amount of money in meditation training until you’ve done some research. It’s like learning to cook or do yoga, or practice martial arts, there are different techniques that will speak to you and others that won’t. Instruction is widely available for free or close to free.
And I’m here, if you want, always happy to get my Om on or discuss how to with you. In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me. I have to meditate so I don’t beat anyone up today.
Om Shanti, People. Peace Out.
Art Credit – The Beautiful Gilda Hall