Meditation is like mental martial arts! You notice that the mind is making an assault and with minimal effort you step out of the way by returning to whatever the object of your concentration is. Little by little, you build up the mental muscles of awareness and letting go. This is a slow, gentle process.
A meditation, during which there are many thoughts and many attempts to bring the mind back to focus, is a great training session. During the day you will gradually find that you have better concentration and are less prone to rumination. You are on your way to cultivating a peaceful heart and a powerful mind.
Abdominal breathing is associated with lower heart-rate, reduced blood pressure, increased energy and feelings of peacefulness, clarity, relaxation and creativity.
- Put one hand on your abdomen and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose and expel it slowly and completely through your mouth. You will feel your belly flatten. Let the next breath (and all subsequent breaths) come in through your nose. Can you feel your abdomen expand? If you can’t just imagine that a balloon is inflating your belly when you breathe in and deflating when you breathe out. The outbreath is longer than the inbreath, like a gentle sigh of relief.
- For a fast, mini-relaxation break any time during the day, take a deep breath and release it slowly – a letting go breath. Try breathing back from ten to one… one number on each outbreath. By the time you get to one, you will notice that your breath is much slower and more regular and that your body mind system is relaxing. When thoughts come, passively disregard them and just return to the repetition. With a little practice, you will form the habit of breathing from your diaphragm most of the time.
Mindful Walking : Mindfulness means to be present to what is, rather than allowing ourselves in thoughts of what is no longer, or what has not yet come. Mindfulness is an awakening to life, a non-judgmental awareness of the wonder of the present moment. As you prepare to walk slowly, mindfully, regulating the cadence of your steps to diaphragmatic breathing, you might enjoy repeating one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s (Buddhist peace worker and monk) meditative poems :
- Breathing in I calm body and mind (inbreath)
- Breathing out I smile (long outbreath)
- Dwelling in the present moment (inbreath)
- I know this is the only moment (long outbreath)
- Become aware of the rhythm of your body and breathing. How many steps?
- Sit in your seat (or recline as you feel comfortable) with great dignity, back straight and feet on the floor, eyes closed, arms relaxed. Become aware of your breathing – how breath comes in and fills your belly and how breath moves out into space. Keep about 25% of your attention on breathing and the other 75% on the feeling of spacious mindfulness. You may become aware of sounds, sensations, thoughts. Just let them all come and go, passing across the spacious sky of your mind like clouds.
The Egg of Light Healing Exercise
One of the most ancient forms of healing and concentration consists of imaging yourself in the centre of an egg of Divine Light. Sit quietly with eyes closed and imagine a great star of loving, living light above you. Feel streams of light washing over you and invite it to enter the top of your head and wash down through your body like a river, washed through the sand on its bottom, carrying away any fatigue, fear, dis-ease or negativity. As all the darkness washes out of the bottoms of your feet, imagine that it is taken in by Mother Earth and turned to compost. Spend a little extra time washing any part of the body where there is tension, pain or disease (stomach/gastritis)
Let the light wash clean the boundaries of your heart, revealing the inner light which is your own true essence. Let that heart-light shine more and more brightly, filling your cells and tissues and extending beyond your body – three feet above and below you and on all sides until you feel as if you are sitting in an egg of healing, protective light.
Affirm that all positive thoughts and prayers from others will penetrate the egg and reach you, but all negative influences will bounce back off the egg and as a blessing be returned to their sender. Affirm that all your own positive thoughts will reach through to others and all negative thoughts will bounce back off the inner shell of the egg and a blessing of compassion will return to awaken your heart to love.
Tension Release – Letting Go Exercise
As you read this, take a deep breath and as you exhale, allow all the tension to leave your body.
- Let your scalp and your forehead and your face relax. Your head does not need to be tense in order for you to read.
- Let your tongue and your throat and your shoulders relax
- You can hold a book with relaxed arms and hands. Do that now.
- Let your back and your abdomen and your pelvis relax
- Let your breathing be at peace as you relax your legs and feet.
- Is there a big change in your body since you began?
- Notice how much you hold on. If you are doing it with your body, then you are doing it with your mind.
- In this relaxed and comfortable position, say to yourself “I am willing to let go. I release. I let go. I release all tension. I release all fear. I release all anger. I release all guilt. I release all sadness. I let go of all old limitations. I let go and I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with the process of life. I am safe.”