Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Practicing Metta Meditation is a beautiful way to begin meditation practices. The affirmations give us direction and purpose, and we are less likely to have our minds wander about, jumping and frolicking, diverting our attention from the silence that meditation brings. Those affirmations begin to train our minds toward a state of “Mindfulness” where we become singly focused and aware.
At some level, ALL meditation is mindfulness. We can be sitting, Buddhist-style or Japanese Zen-style. We can be silent or reciting a mantra. We can be standing, Chinese-style Zhan Zhuang, quiet and still, standing on stakes. Walking and other moving meditations are joyful and invigorating. We can be praying, allowing ourselves to open and connect to energies beyond our own, giving thanks and offering compassion.
The heart of all of them is mindfulness. We become aware of our thoughts, emotions, reactions, the sensations in our bodies, our angers and fears, our hopes and anticipations. With practice, the mindfulness of meditation moves beyond the practice and insinuates itself into our daily lives. We begin to LIVE MINDFULLY, not just take time to PRACTICE MINDFULNESS.
As a person who enjoys moving, I love walking meditation, and have found time in my schedule to incorporate that at least 5 times each week. Early morning, sun recently arisen, quiet contemplation, and the development of a PACE helps to start my day with direction and purpose, yet without frenzy and anxiety. I find that I accomplish more, which is, of course, my goal.
Another form of moving meditation is TaiChi, or Taiji. This is beauty and grace in simplicity, not to mention a powerful martial art. The slow, graceful movements stimulate chi, or lifeforce, and promote healing and a state of relaxed calm. Nothing can throw you; nothing ruffles your feathers. Wonderful to watch, it is not learned in a few short classes. TaiChi is a series of very specific motions, done with precision and attention, strung together to comprise a Form. There are two best-known Forms – the 108-Movement and The 24-Movement. TaiChi is taught at adult education classes for a very reasonable price, and it is the beginning of the road to changing your life.
Whatever you chose, the element that will be the greatest challenge is the directed attention of the mind. The development of mindfulness, a deeper knowing and understanding, changes our energies and affects how we meet the challenges of each day. We learn to be “In The Moment.” Our attention is focused on NOW; yesterday is over and tomorrow has not arrived. Simple words to write and to say, but challenging concepts to incorporate.
I hear these dangerous two words more than any other. Working with adults and children with serious health challenges, I hear this admonishment often. The ideas coming from this exclamation are simple – how can I relax, stimulate ease and calm, sit quietly, when ALL OF THIS IS GOING ON??
It is precisely BECAUSE you are faced with these challenges that mindfulness practice is so necessary. While these struggling souls initially discount the benefits of this practice, they are ultimately the ones who benefit from it the most. Why should that be? It is because they face life-threatening situations, and they are open to trying anything that might help them cope with difficult times.
If you are practicing any type of meditation, you are including mindfulness, whether you have made that a goal, or not. To begin a practice, start with your breath. In the first place, it is always there! Readily available for concentration, your breath is a natural starting point for mindfulness. Start with 10 breaths, becoming increasingly aware with each one. Your mind will probably wander after the third breath; this is where the challenge begins. Just keep going – WITHOUT JUDGMENT – and continue breathing. After the 10 breaths, exhale a long cleansing breath.
Practicing Outside of Meditation
Here’s a good place to start – with your words. We are often very tense, and we don’t really know it. Someone says something that hits us the wrong way, and we REACT. Depending upon our mood, we might strike back verbally, or, we might withdraw, attempting to avoid any confrontation. Neither option benefits us. Sit up or stand up taller. Take a breath in. Exhale slowly. You only need ONE BREATH. Be aware of what you are thinking and feeling. Wait. Do NOTHING. Feel yourself GROUNDED. Feel your feet on the floor. Then, consider what has been said to you. You will probably be delighted to realize that there was a third option, and one that resolves the situation in a far more advantageous manner than either of the first two. Even silence – no response at all – might be what is called for. If you do chose to speak, your words will have less of an edge (if you became angry) and less of a whine (if you became upset).
Balance – Breath and Body – Take it from There