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.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Myths About Meditation

Enjoy this re-blog. Meditation never goes out of date, and we come back to it again and again.

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content man meditating

My thanks go to to Ashley Turner at Entheos Academy for sharing this wisdom. It clarifies what can get in the way between you and a regular meditation practice.

1 “In Meditation, My Mind Should Be Calm and Quiet” One of the most common myths of meditation is that it’s about “getting rid of thoughts” and experiencing a calm, quiet mind. Meditation is actually about noticing how our mind works, observing the rapid-fire thoughts neutrally and not getting caught up in them.
Meditation is a training of the mind. We train our mind to notice when we get caught up and come back to the present moment. We can still be meditating while we are in the presence of thought.

2 “I Don’t Have Enough Time to Meditate” Remember, mindfulness is a kind of meditation ­– simply being aware of what we are doing in any moment (walking the dog, doing the dishes, using our smartphone). It is building awareness in the present moment – simply being aware of the sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise. We can do this anytime, anywhere.  While the most effective way to build momentum is to sit for a regularly designated sitting meditation, however, even 5 minutes a day or pausing for 10 deep breaths is extremely helpful.

3 “It Feels Like My Mind is More ‘Crazy’ During Meditation” Once we pause and start paying attention to our mind, we begin to see how erratic and addictive it is and how little control we actually have over it. It can be disturbing to realize how unruly our mind is ­– but, remember, meditation is a practice of paying attention. So, making this observation is a sign of progress, not failure.

4 “Meditation Should Be Blissful, But If Feels Like Such Hard Work” The mind is a mirror. When we begin to meditate, we are faced with thoughts and emotions that may be painful or difficult to experience. Meditation can be difficult, tiring and uncomfortable. It is not easy to sit still with unpleasant patterns arising.  We usually see pictures and images of people meditating – sitting in a serene, blissful state. Over time, by bringing our thoughts and emotional patterns into awareness, we begin to learn how to work with them and release them. And, meditation will become easier and more blissful. meditating athlete

5 “I Don’t Think Meditation is Working For Me….I’m Not Seeing Any Results Yet” Like life, our meditation practices will unfold in it’s own time and at its own pace.
Meditation can help heal emotions, alleviate pain, change thought patterns and create more responsive, less impulsive behavior….but, it doesn’t happen overnight.

However, studies show that positive neurological changes and neural integration can occur even within the first few meditation sessions. Consistent, even small, effort is more effective than sporadic, longer, enduring sitting meditation. When we don’t notice life-changing, blissful experiences…we may get discouraged or even feel like quitting. Instead of focusing on how blissful you feel during meditation or how long you can sit, focus on any small changes in your daily life:

  •          Are you sleeping better?
  •          Are you feeling a bit more positive, motivated and upbeat about life?
  •          Are you more able to ‘let go’ of stressful thoughts or impulsive reactions?

These are signs that your meditation practice is working.

 

* Mindful Yoga, Living and Meditation

For this New Year, some of you may be considering setting the intention of meditating every day. In my experience, even with the best of intentions, many people start, and then stop with a daily sitting practice. Some will come back to it, and some will give it up completely.

So I decided to write a post about an alternative approach. I found inspiration in “Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life” by Charlotte Bell. Here, she bridges the gap between meditation, mindful living and yoga.

being mindful

“The practice of yoga in all its aspects allows us to connect with and dwell in awareness, our essential being…

Mindfulness is the thread that connects all aspects of yoga practice. When we give our full attention to what we are doing, we become that which is present in our experience…

When we live our lives  mindfully, we live in fullness; there is no leftover residue of regret for missed opportunities.

… Mindfulness is most commonly practiced in sitting and walking meditation. If you can sit quietly for even a few minutes every day watching the flow of your breath, you will begin to strengthen the power of your mind. But mindfulness practice needn’t be confined to formal meditation.

In his book “The Miracle in Mindfulness”, Thich Nhat Hanh writes about “washing the dishes to wash the dishes”, instead of washing the dishes in order to get the cup of tea you will have afterwards. Viewed with careful attention, the experience of dishwashing yields a surprising richness of sensation – the feeling of warm, sudsy water, the smoothness and weight of the plates in your hands, the movement of scrubbing and rinsing. Any activity can become a wondrous and sacred ritual if we pay attention.

… You might begin the practice of mindful living by choosing one activity that you already do everyday. Commit to be completely present  in this activity.”

mindful dishwashing

What could you commit to bringing new awareness to every day?
It could be washing the dishes, washing your hands, opening the front door, showering, taking a walk, or enjoying a cup of tea. It can be any activity that you take for granted, enjoy or perhaps even resist.
Its your choice. The activity that you choose does not matter as much as the care and respect you bring to it.

I’d like to share some of my daily rituals with you:
First thing in the morning, I wash my hands with beautiful scented lavender soap.
When I open the back door I take a deep breath and really feel the outside morning with all my senses.
I have a mindfulness app called Chakra Chime that goes off at 8am and 1pm. When it does, I stop what I am doing and take a moment to scan my thoughts, emotional state, my breath and my body.
When I stop at a red light, I pause and notice my breath (Still working on that one when I run late!)
When the light stays green as I approach it I say in my mind Thank You Universe. In class, as I come into mountain pose, I look down at my feet and say out loud Thank You Feet!

Committing to being mindful is a serious commitment to finding peace of mind, but it needn’t be serious!

Namaste

* Surfing Meditation

Surfing meditation

“When I’m out there on the ocean floating on my board, alone with the wind and the sky I’m excruciatingly aware of how small and insignificant I am in comparison to the awesome power of the water. It would be presumptuous of me to say that I surf the waves – in fact, the waves surf me!

… Well, meditation is like surfing. If you push too hard and try to control your mind, you’ll just end up feeling rigid and tight, and you’ll keep wiping out as the result of your effort. But if you hang back and exert no effort at all, you won’t have the focus or concentration necessary to hold your position as the waves of thought and emotion wash over you.”

Stephan Bodian taken from Yoga Gems edited by Georg Feuerstein

Let go of trying too hard and focusing on the outcome. Find your balance by letting yourself be and let the waves of thought and emotions wash over you.

No surfing required 🙂

* Meditation and Pranayama Class at Awaken on Sat Feb 1st at 10.30am

Thank you for asking! We’ve re-scheduled the Meditation and Yogic Breathing class at Awaken Massage and Yoga in Media. Please join me as I share my recent Kripalu experience and knowledge about bringing Pranayama and Meditation into your yoga practice. A regular balanced pranayama and meditation practice increases the flow of energy in the body, is a great way to get centered, and will make you feel more alive and well!

meditation

In this focused and calming class you will:

  • Learn yogic breathing techniques to calm the mind and energize the body.
  • Develop awareness of the subtle energy system of the body through mindful breathing.
  • Use the breath to prepare for your meditation practice.
  • Gain understanding of the different kinds of meditation – and what might work best for you.

This class is suitable for everyone, unless you have a heavy cold!

Please sign up on the Awaken Website or contact Val directly. Thank you!