Meditation – Finding an Anchor that Works for You

child meditating

A lot has been written in the past few years about Mindfulness Meditation.  This Buddhist based practice has become popular here in the west through the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program founded by Jon Kabat Zinn. Research clearly shows that meditating changes the neural pathways of the brain and aids in relieving stress and pain.

“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentaly”~ Jon Kabat Zinn

Initially it begins with coming into a comfortable seated position and bringing awareness and observation of bodily sensations, most often the breath. The breath is the anchor for concentrating the mind.

The tradition in Yoga however, is different. As a yoga teacher, I have also learned other methods of meditation that can be practiced. Not everyone will find Mindfulness Meditation a good fit. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up on being mindful or meditation.

The key is to find the anchor that works for you.

How we breathe is directly connected to how we are feeling emotionally. If we sit to meditate in an already anxious state, we may become stressed when we realize our breath is short and jagged, or in our upper chest. In these circumstances, using the breath as an anchor is unlikely to work initially.

In the yoga tradition of Patanjali, there are two parts in meditation before we attain the ultimate state of enlightened bliss, where we shed our mind’s conditioning and connect to the infinite oneness of the universe. (Samadhi)

It starts with concentrating and focusing the mind (Dharana).  The next part is being able to sustain uninterrupted meditation (Dhyana).

The anchor is usually something we connect to through our senses. It can be an external sound or an internal mantra repeated over and over. It can be a smell, or the feel of something in your hand, or the feel of sun on your body. It can be gazing at an object in front of you  or a meaningful image in your mind. It can be focusing on a movement, a posture, or a particular part of your body. There are so many possibilities to explore.

Its all about focusing the mind and training it to concentrate on one thing.

As the mind wanders, which is naturally will, we bring it back to the anchor, and bring our full attention there.

Meditation is not about having a blank mind, its about bringing awareness, again and again back to the anchor or object of focus. Through this practice, over time, the mind is trained to recognize and let go of thoughts.

When we let go of our thinking we create space. In this space, we become witnesses to our inner life and the world around us. We begin to feel a connection to ourselves and a sense of Oneness.

 

 

 

 

 

* Focus May Not Be The Answer

In my yoga classes and with my coaching clients we often work on focusing the mind. Focusing on a goal or intention, or focusing on a particular part of the body or our breath.  Daniel Goleman’s new book all about it. I never really thought about the impact of using this word or the distinctions between words until my recent training experience at Kripalu.

focusWhen we focus, we bring our absolute attention to one thing. Our mind becomes one pointed. We are using strength of will to concentrate. This is sometimes great… but sometimes it may not be what you really need!

In my experience, when I focus (especially when I try hard), a contraction takes place in me. Even if its a little furrowing of the brow… as I bring attention to a particular spot, some tightness happens.  Can you recall a time when you had to focus on revising for an exam, or to get work done, or in a recent yoga practice?

When you are focusing, what is your experience? Can you detect tension or a subtle inner contraction?

For me, its almost like everything becomes alert and standing to attention.

To prevent this increase in tension, I’ve been experimenting with a new word to use…..Anchor.anchored boat

Lets try on this word and see how it feels for you when I say:

“Let your breath be your anchor.”

“Let compassion be your anchor.”

“Let doing your best be your anchor.”

“Let making healthy choices be your anchor.”

When we anchor, we are grounding ourselves. Allowing ourselves to be rooted, yet there is some flexibility.  There is strength without rigidity.

Hmmm … reminds me of what yoga is all about, and a lesson to take off our mats!

Keeping attention (without tension) and simply being with what is important to you in that moment. Allowing the experience to be anchored yet letting it develop in its own way ….

What will be your anchor today? 🙂