So the first 2 weeks of meditating twice a day has been like taking cover under a warm blanket when your body needs to sigh out the cold, that heaviness in the bones. I know, I’m supposed to detach from ego cravings here, but it really has been a treat to carve time and do this for myself. And you know, studies have found that positive physical changes in the brain can occur with a sustained practice. By focusing and relaxing, we actually have the power to create new pathways and cells for ourselves. This explains why memory, stress, emotional intelligence, and learning can be strengthened after 60 days (magic number for forming a habit!) And, for those with PTSD, this really strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing one to shy away from being in fight-or-flight in the sympathetic nervous system.
Someone may want to tell cats that!
Anyway, if you’re still skeptical with meditating, that’s ok. I have come and gone with what works for me. I’ve loved meditating on my own, but in class, I’ve been on the edge of my seat because I jump at everything. So it wasn’t that I didn’t want to meditate, I just needed to find where and how was right for me. Like being a writer at a mobile work station, I need to find out how I can be a mobile meditator.
I really look forward to getting up 15-20 minutes early, and doing some slight stretches on the yoga mat to prepare my spine for sitting still. This is what yoga is intended for: Yoga has been known to warm the body up for hours and days of meditation. The gentle flow of mine begins before 6 a.m. This is when I explore spinal twists, pelvic tilts with Cat/Cow pose, and open my back with either Child or Embryo pose. I try to remember, though not always, to do legs up the wall. This is great to reverse blood circulation, especially if you’re sitting all day. This is also helpful for varicose veins and blood clots in the legs if either run in the family or you have a history of it. Check with a doctor if you think it’s something you want to try.
I’ll stretch the calves after seated forward fold prior to meditating. After my 8-10 minutes of meditating, I’ll march in place to re-ground myself and visit standing forward fold. This brings in some yang yoga. For those of you who are not familiar with the yin and yang styles of yoga, Yang is the more active practice of yoga where Yin Yoga is more sedentary. So, in the morning, I am sure to move my spine, shoulders, and legs. I wake up as much of myself as I can before heading out the door. I sit all day so to have any movement is greatly appreciated.
When sitting on my bolster just seconds before dropping into my meditation I’ve been getting more and more used to neck stretching and exercising the muscles in my eyes. Huh? Exercising the eyes? Yup! I do this by imagining an analog clock and following each number around with my eyes- clockwise two times and counterclockwise two times. While I set my timer on the phone for 10 minutes, I will admit that sometimes I do open my eyes or begin to come out of it just a minute or two before my timer dings its melody.
The first morning of my new habit, my focus was not on my belly breath at all, but instead on my shoulders that were rising up and down. Later that day, after belly dancing, I dropped into my evening meditation and I was much more focused on my belly breath. Since then, I’ve been remembering my core breath more and more. For the first few seconds each time, I will stay there and then usually melt into the mantra So Ham. The Hindu translation is “I am He/I am that.” I don’t have any real connection with this mantra so in the future I plan to explore more phrases, possible mudras ( hand gestures), and even yoga shapes to meditate with.
Sometimes visual thoughts pop up and catch my attention like a cat noticing subtle movement from a hidden place. I re-focus my breath from the beginning of an inhale. I don’t necessarily need to match my inhale to “So” and exhale to “Ham” but I find myself doing that because I simply like it. Dialogs will randomly show up, too. Whether it’s a dialog that has been had or will be had. Again, I re-focus on my breath and find the So…then the Ham….
No, I am not “perfectly still” and will admit this truth, too. I try to sit with tightness in my shoulders but occasionally I will twist the slightest bit to see if anything cracks. My eyelids and jaw tighten almost immediately upon sitting so I’ve made it a habit of checking in with those features. If I notice anything else that’s held in tension I just start a breath over. There’s no score chart. It’s just me and my breath. When I give up trying to perfect any tension or breath pattern, I just exhale a bit harder and sink into relaxing. I give up, sort of speak, but by giving up on “trying” here, I give up and give in. And guess what? I welcome the health benefits into my body and brain!