The Machinations of Meditation

Hola Travellers,

It’s Friday and I feel so obligated to share something with you from our morning walk…I’ve never seen anything quite like this and I was barely off the front lawn to take the photo…

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It’s like a weird wall of light. I find it rather spectacular. Look at that line of sunshine. So fabulously weird, isn’t it? This planet is awesome, isn’t it?

And this photo is completely unfiltered and unedited…Truly, the sunrise this morning just made me want pull out a lawn chair, get some popcorn, sit down and watch for awhile…SO AMAZING!!!! I just want to take everyone with me on mornings like these to show you the joy.

I was talking last time about meditation and an idea I have and rather than just jump out of the plane I realized we need to have a little educational quid pro quo. All you have to do is just read along and give it some thought, perhaps some effort…here we go..

If you take a quick swim lap around the internet and you will see a variety of apps and YouTube videos about meditation. Mostly featuring sleepy voiced humans who systematically help you relax yourself. There’s also ASMR which is fascinating and many people find very effective as well for easing mental distress/ finding a chunk of peace. And then there are the visualization type meditations or guided meditation, where you are on a journey down a path, into the flame, or rain etc. All valid options, because remember, bio-individualism. We are all different, what works for one person more than likely may not work for the next.

Which brings me to something I feel is very important, the idea of being an “expert” or what I call the “ONE ANSWER”. I always offer any advice with something like, “In my experiences, this works for me…” and “One of things we all need to do is sort out what we need for ourselves versus what your bestie/neighbor/lover/mother needs..” For some reason humans are like lemmings when it comes to health and fitness. Witness the Keto diet or fasting, seems to be a lot of both going on right now. Everyone is jumping on those band wagons without a lot of consideration for their own health and the long term effects. And so many people are always searching for the “One diet” ‘One work out” “One movement” “One way” and there isn’t one…never has been, never will be…there is no one answer.

There’s just good advice and good ideas. And I tend to think the word “expert” gets thrown around to sell things. In truth, experience for me is what speaks loudest, experience is education in action. Have you personally road tested what you are espousing? ..And I like people who are always willing to learn from others, constantly learning, not just selling a cure… As someone who’s been working out for 17 years and has prior teaching experience, I can tell you things change, you find new movement, advance your movement, change your movement because the education and science around movement is constantly expanding, so you have to keep up. And as your body adapts, you have to provide new challenges and stimulus. Same for diet. That’s what I’ve always loved, health is an ever expansive journey, just like life…funny how that works out.

Let’s talk about some things I’ve learned that help with meditation. Really meditation is just learning to cultivate awareness. Awareness of self. It’s learning to let your thoughts pass through you instead of sticking like chewing gum to the soles of your shoes. It’s a “SHhhhh”ing of the mind.  It’s learning to develop behaviors that in turn create new neural pathways. Those are the little roads in your brain made of nerves and their messages travel along them. You want to pave new roads that help serve your peace of mind. And I think something I would like to offer is a way to access them when needed. An on demand kind of meditation situation if that makes sense.

I feel like mediation is something people do in the morning or in the evening right before bed. I think most people believe it’s difficult or it’s just one more thing on the list of stuff they don’t have time for each day. There is big science and numerous studies that support the power of meditation just like exercise and a healthy diet. This isn’t a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Meditation helps people live more present which in turn reduces mental noise, chaotic thinking and improves mental health. All in all, even in tiny doses, it can make your life better.

Let’s start with some basic things that I like to explain to people when I’m guiding movement that I also choose to apply to meditation. Again, this is what works for me, you can give it a try, and if it doesn’t work, keep seeking.  Usually all meditation and  movement begins with the breath. Why? Because it is a concrete way to bring yourself to the here and now. It’s familiar. Everyone breathes. It’s something you do without thinking generally, but when you focus on the action itself, it’s a very powerful grounding mechanism.

I like to use something I call a grounding breath. I actually learned this from yoga practice because Pranayama is one of the 8 limbs of yoga. Pranayama is the formal practice of learning to control your breath. Prana means life force, and let’s be honest, we cannot live without breathing.  I usually practice Ujjayi with my yoga and even working out at times. I like the energy of that breath. It feels like I’m containing my energy or moving it around in my body versus expending it. There are several other breath patterns you may want to investigate for meditation, this is just the one I really like.

Are you familiar with the solar plexus? There’s a link there with more information. It’s actually one of the chakras in the body. It’s a nerve bundle in the mid torso of the body. When I think about the breath moving thru the body, it’s like the rise and fall of mercury in a thermometer. You have a top point, which to me is in the crown/head area and an end point, which is the solar plexus, that’s located between the bottom of the sternum and the navel. The inhale moves the breath up to the crown, the exhale takes the breath into the solar plexus. Again, I like Ujjayi because I feel like it fires up the solar plexus, like a little engine or furnace and contains the energizing effect of this breath pattern. I like it with meditation because I feel like it compliments the inward journey of the mind.

I have a rather non-traditional piece of advice for learning Ujjayi. If you will fill your mouth up with water and then inhale deeply, feel the breath rise, then exhale, moving the breath to belly, your mouth has to stay closed because it’s full of water. You are rolling the breath in the throat giving it a sort of ocean sound. And it takes practice…

As a species, I feel like humans are largely mouth breathers. Many of us have airway issues/restrictions due to allergies, asthma, sinus problems or lung disease, so you may or may not be able to do Ujjayi. In that case, the exhale is mouth open but lightly exhale while thinking about a sort of downward internal sensation of breath movement like the mercury moving down a thermometer. Does that make sense?

When you begin any mediation, I like 10-12 of those breaths. Or as many as I need to get myself present. Because you gotta pull yourself to here and now. Get in your body and out of your thoughts. Just think about the breathing. Think about the sensations it create in the body, the path, the openness. Humans always talk about time travel like it’s science fiction, but we time travel everyday in our minds. I do it, I bet you do it, I’m not sure it’s helpful. All we have is here and now, right? So, close your eyes and try the breathing…you can even visualize it rippling thru the rest of the body.

Speaking of visualization. Can you create pictures in your mind? I have found over the years from talking to people, we don’t all have the same capacity for creating images in our mind. Some people aren’t as imaginative as others, and that’s okay. It’s like how some people read books and just have the story, whereas other people have a movie in their heads that fit the words on the page. Remember, we are all different and that’s a good thing. If you’ve never been able to clearly visualize in meditation, then this idea should really work for you.

For tonight, I’d like you to tuck all this information into your brain. Try it out, play with your breath especially if you’ve never worked on conscious present breathwork. I think we take many simple things in this life for granted and breathing is one of them.

I’ll be back in the morning with the meditation…prepare yourself…

 

 

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