Meditation—Just Do It

Do you know what I believe to be the best meditation practice? The one that works for you.

That’s it.

As I go deeper into my personal meditation practices I have been reflecting on my own meditation journey. I know with certainty that I had to start small and start easy. That’s what worked for me.

Perhaps, another method will work for you. That’s awesome. Embrace whatever works.

If however, you are like me and think small and easy is the answer I invite you to try meditating for just one minute a day. Give this a try for a day, or a week, or a month. Then reassess and see. Are you content staying at one minute? Or would you like to try a little longer?

I started my meditation journey with just one minute a day. It wasn’t long before I tried 2 minutes, then 5….

Over the years I have experimented with various types of meditation from guided to breath work, body scans, mantras, and recently have even been exploring death meditations.

In the beginning guided meditation is what worked for me.

I am a huge fan of the free app Insight Timer. You can easily use filters to find meditations based on length of time. You can also narrow searches to specific themes.

One of my favourite teachers is Robin Rice. She currently has 14 one-minute meditations to get you started.

https://insighttimer.com/robinrice/guided-meditations/1-minute-meditation-indulge-in-self-care

Another early option I tried was short mantra meditations. It can be a challenge for me to get out of my head. Focusing on the words of a mantra has been a great tool for me.

This is one of my favourites and just six minutes long

https://insighttimer.com/gordonburnham/guided-meditations/om-mani-padme-hum-buddhist-mantra-slash-kirtan

If you prefer silence, simply setting a timer and focusing on your inhales and exhales is a fabulous option.

Next week I will share some of the benefits of meditation, but this week if you are willing, I invite you to just be curious and explore some meditation. Embark on a little experiment and see what feels right for you.

Namaste

How Well-Resourced Are You?(and how we can work on that this weekend)

How well-resourced are you? I love this question. This is a question I first heard while working through a course led by Mark Walsh.

Often our society celebrates the ‘work hard, play hard’, ‘go big or go home’, ‘all or nothing’ type attitude. But does that ethos help or hurt?

By Mark asking participants in his courses how well-resourced they are, it allows people to really stop and think. Some days on a scale of 1-10 you might be an 8, while other days you might be a 3.

Neither answer is right or wrong. It just is what it is. Any place you fall on the scale is part of our human experience.

Things that might contribute to us not feeling well-resourced could be—not getting enough sleep, working overtime, feeling ill, relationship stress, or financial worries.

Sometimes the things that keep us from feeling well-resourced can be big, such as trauma. Some of the things can be out of our control, such as a loved one facing a serious health issue.

When we look at how well-resourced we are and apply it to fitness expectations (or even life expectations), is it reasonable to always expect 100%?

If you are feeling a 2 on the well-resourced scale, is a power yoga class really the answer? Maybe for you yes it is, but maybe not. Maybe a gentle practice will actually be of more benefit. Maybe skipping a class and getting some sleep would be even better.

The good news is that by starting to think in terms of how well-resourced we are we bring self-awareness to our ever-changing situation. We can also start to collect information on the things that help us feel more well-resourced and try to incorporate them into our days.

For me, it is the simple things that help me feel well-resourced including

-getting outside in nature

-tuning off the TV earlier and getting more sleep

-eating more fruit

-staying hydrated

-putting on some music and dancing

-making time for meditation

When I take the time to make these things part of my day I feel better, no matter what else might be going on in my life.

I have found that thinking about how well-resourced I am also helps to foster self-compassion. If I am a 3, I can lower the expectations I have for myself, be kinder and gentler with myself, and spend some time on activities that nurture and nourish me.

This weekend I encourage you to think about how well-resourced you are. Then, make a list of the things that contribute to you feeling well-resourced. Finally, see if you can add one or two of these soul nurturing things into your days.

Make a great weekend

Namaste

Learning & Sharing

Recently, I have found some inspiring mentors and embarked on a six month course to help me in my own movement practices as well as bring new tools and ideas to you.

I am of the belief there is no one perfect way to move the body and no perfect movement practice. During different times in our lives we may need different practices. It seems to me the important thing is to be in touch with our bodies so we can learn to know and honour what our bodies need.

The first three and a half months of this course is a lot of internal work where the work is focused on the self. During this time I am very excited to be exploring a variety of movement practices. Some are ones I have always wanted to try, while others are ones I have never heard of. Some are ones that might become part of my routine, while others I might try once then never again.

Last week I did my first class in Feldenkrais. I am still reflecting on what I thought of the practice. I have decided to try the practice one more time, then I will share some thoughts on it.

As I go through different practices and find interesting instructors from around the world I will share my discoveries with you. Maybe one of these practices is exactly what your body needs.

What is Yin?

Yin is a yoga practice where we are applying healthy stress to connective tissue of the joints- tendons, ligaments, and fascia. We are not trying to stretch or strengthen the joints.

During a yin practice we hold poses longer than we do in other yoga classes. Generally, we will hold poses from 1-5 minutes.Because we are holding poses longer, slow, safe opening of the connective tissue is encouraged within the body.

Throughout a yin practice I will often remind you to round, release and relax. We want to work as far as we can go, but not further. We want to gain benefit, but not injure. As we move into a pose we want to find a place where we can stay.

Most poses in yin are done from a kneeling, seated or lying position. Many of the poses are similar to those we do in other classes. However, our focus is different as we hold these poses longer. Moving into the poses we want to come to an appropriate edge where the body naturally stops. We will then allow the body to find stillness. Throughout a pose we may check in with the body. As the body begins to open we may find we can naturally release a little deeper into a pose. Sometimes though, we might notice that we need to back off a little. Learning to listen to your own body and respect its needs is an important goal in any yoga practice.

While holding a pose we’ll try to be conscious of our attention. I will encourage you to note what is going on in the body. I will invite you to notice what you might be feeling. We will also focus on being aware of the breath. We’ll also try to notice if the mind wanders. If it does, no judgement, just gently bringing the attention back to body or breath.

When ready to come out of a pose I will cue you to gently return to a neutral position. Of course, one is always encouraged to come out of the pose earlier if needed.

Yin is very different from many other yoga practices. Though slower than some other practices it can be more challenging to some people. I had no interest in practicing yin for many years. My thought was that if I was going to be doing yoga that I wanted to be working hard, having challenge and working up a sweat. For me the idea of being so still for minutes at a time sounded horrible. However, when I eventually tried yin I found myself enjoying it. Additionally, I found my body benefitting it.

When in my studio I often offer yin as the last class of the evening. With the lights off and the flicker of candlelight it is a fabulous way to end the day. We use several props in this practice including bolsters, blocks and pillows. Many people bring blankets or eye masks to use throughout our practice and in final Savasana. I am often told that people sleep very well after some evening yin. I invite you to try a yin class soon and see if it might just be something you also enjoy.

Finding My Way to Meditation

I just can’t meditate” is something I used to say. Since becoming a yoga teacher it seems that is not an uncommon belief amongst the beginners or those unfamiliar with the practice of meditation that I encounter.

For many years the closest I could come to what seemed to be a meditative state was hiking through the woods along the Bruce Trail on the Niagara escarpment. But was that meditation?

I have come to believe that yes, that is absolutely meditation. As humans we sometimes have a tendency to like to complicate things more than they need to be.

Quick-after you read this sentence take a full deep breath in, hold for a pause then slowly exhale completely.

Congratulations! You just meditated.

Maybe not for long, but so what-you did do it. As you practice you can learn to focus your awareness even longer.

What I have learned about meditation

-It is a practice. You wouldn’t put on a pair of skates for the first time and expect to excel as a hockey player. Meditation is the same. The more you do it, the better you become. However, it does take practice.

-To me, meditation means quieting the mind, coming into an awareness of the here and now. It means stopping the thoughts about the past and the future and just being present.  Perhaps we are focusing on our breath. Perhaps we are focusing on something such as gratitude or love. Perhaps we are using a mantra to help focus our attention. Perhaps we are completely immersed in the present moment and the sights, sounds, smells around us.

It is for this reason I would say that my days hiking in the woods aware only of the birdsong, the smell of damp earth, the way the sunlight filtered through the canopy of trees was absolutely a type of meditation. My mind was completely focused on that distinct moment in time. I wasn’t worried about what I would be cooking for dinner later, or an argument I may have had with someone earlier.

How I learned to meditate

Through my yoga teacher training we worked on meditation modules. This helped me separate fact from fiction on what meditation really is. No, you don’t need to sit in complete silence for over an hour to be meditating. (Good thing-as that is not me)

Perhaps the weekend in mid October focused completely on meditation during the teacher training was the seed that was planted for me. Seeds however need care-they need water and sunlight to grow.

Despite enjoying all I had learned I suspect I still made excuses in my head in the days and weeks following the training “I get it in theory-but I’m not really sure where to begin” “I don’t have time” “I’m too busy to sit still”

That summer I had purchased my first fitness tracker, a Bellabeat. One of the features that made me choose this option was it came with a variety of guided meditations. Eventually, scanning through the meditations available on the Bellabeat I was thrilled to see there was one that was 1 minute in length. It’s easy to tell ourselves we don’t have 10 minutes to meditate, but come on-we just can’t tell ourselves that we don’t have 1 minute.

So I started. One minute was pretty easy. I bet I could do 3 or even 5. Soon 10 minutes was no problem. I enjoyed scrolling through the different topics offered and picked one that suited my mood for the day. Eventually though, I wanted something more.

Exploring through a variety of meditation apps I finally found Insight Timer 

While there is lots of great apps out there and everybody has their favourite there are several things I like about Insight Timer

  1. It is a free app to download and most of it’s content is free
  2. There is over 14,000 free guided meditations, talks, courses and music tracks
  3. You can search to find a meditation on a certain topic or theme (for example-anxiety, motivation, kid’s sleep)
  4. You can also search based on the length of time you want for your meditation from 0-5 minutes to 30+ minutes
  5. The app has an option to track your progress and gives you little ‘rewards’ as you reach milestones (it may be silly but this is a motivator for me)
  6. There is a timer app for those who prefer a silent meditation with bells to signal timing
  7. You can choose to engage with some of the other almost 6 million people who use the app. You can join groups such as Beginner’s Mind, Daily Gratitude or Poetry and Meditation. Depending on your privacy settings you can get messages from others such as ‘thank you for meditating with me today’ you can also send these message to others. It’s a little thing, but I like seeing these messages come in from around the globe. I also like sending out a little message of kindness to others.

Slowly my meditation practice has developed and grown. I still get distracted during meditations. I still sometimes make excuses and may find a week or two has passed since I last took the time to meditate. I will never be perfect in my meditation. However, I have found that when I do take a little time each day for some meditation I truly feel healthier-body, mind and spirit. I find greater contentment as I move through my days when meditation is a tiny part of the routine.

Perhaps you will give a minute or two of meditation a try. Remember to be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself and that it is a journey.

Namaste

Photo by Fabian Reitmeier from Pexels