though it may improve your sex-life….or, you might have more clarity and intention in regards to with whom and how you share intimacy. but, no. what i will be writing about in this blog post is just not sexy. in fact, the words that i will be using, like: discipline, routine, challenging, stillness -may conjure up images and feelings that we have an aversion to. so….here goes: i want to offer you some insight into the journey of creating a daily ritual or practice for yourself, or you and your partner, or you and your family members. notice, the key word here is: you! for i have found that my daily practice has enriched my life so much that i want to shout from the rooftops, “hey world, let’s do this!”
so, i just made a pot of tea for myself and as i drink up, i plan to share with you some tools and support for the establishment of a consistent daily practice.
first off, what do i mean when i say “the practice?” my practice involves yoga asana (poses), pranayama (breath control), meditation and intention-setting. this formula works for me. will it work the same for you? probably not…..you must discover for yourself, your own unique way of expressing connection to your body, mind and spirit.
for some, “the practice” may involve forms of mindful movement other than yoga (like tai chi or walking meditation). mindful movement is different than exercise. the intent is not to build strength, or increase the heart rate. if these occur during the practice – great! but, mindful movement is something other than a workout. for you are putting your complete attention on each breath, each transition, each movement – attempting to be fully present….without listening to music, or having a conversation or zoning out. these are the parameters for a daily mindful movement practice.
i believe that a vibrant breathing practice is one of the staple ingredients of a healthy, holistic lifestyle. the breath. aaaahhhh (exhale with me now) – it comes. it goes – on average, 20,000 times a day, everyday, from birth to death. it happens whether we are conscious of it or not. so, why should we bother to learn and implement techniques to direct or control the breath? well….most of us use only a very small percentage of our actual lung capacity when we breathe. we breathe shallow breaths all day long – except for that one big yawn at the end of the day, or the audible “sigh” that creeps up on us, and may startle us with its depth and resonance. we must befriend the breath. we must be willing to notice its subtlety and its grandeur. for the breath creates a connection or a bridge between our physical experience and our spiritual experience.
when it comes to creating a daily breathing practice for yourself, i suggest that you begin gently and easily by simply dedicating time each day to notice your breath – where you feel it, where you don’t, how is it moving? then, once you have gained an insight into your breathing patterns, you can very slowly begin to add specific breathing techniques into your practice. you can learn these techniques from a wise yoga or meditation teacher. there are also many books, cds and dvds available to help us safely practice breathing exercises.
meditation: simple, straightforward, not easy.
the two previous guidelines for a daily practice (mindful movement and breath-control) have been primarily focused on nourishing the physical body. meditation helps us nourish our easily distracted, often living an illusion mind. a meditation practice can be the greatest gift we give to ourselves.
again, there are lots of great resources for learning more about “how to meditate.” there are dozens of different techniques and approaches; and you may have to do some experimentation to figure out what will work best for you. basically, you want to be in a comfortable (ideally) seated position….though you can meditate while laying down (you might fall asleep). choose a quiet space in your home, or outside. set a timer for the amount of time you plan to dedicate to meditation. how long is long enough? you decide – 5 minutes, 10, 20 minutes, more…..keep your eyes open, or closed. allow your awareness to follow your breath. when thoughts come into your awareness, acknowledge the thought, then let it go. begin again. follow your breath. notice the pause between breaths – a state of suspension and stillness. be with the expansiveness of a big sky. thoughts and emotions are like the clouds that dot or sometimes cover the sky. yet, the sky remains. your mind is like the sky. breathe into the spaciousness of the big sky.
obviously, this is my interpretation of meditation in a very small “nut shell.” just a little taste of the plethora of meditation information. seek out a meditation class. i know a good teacher 🙂 (brett offers a meditation class at flourish yoga in fishers, indiana – sunday nights from 6-7pm). meditation classes are often offered “by donation” or free. so, try it out. let me know whatcha think/whatcha feel. and finally…..traumatic experiences, grief, sickness and traveling can make meditation infinitely more challenging….and valuable. but, persevere dear ones! seek out people who have a meditation practice. ask questions.
i finish my daily practice by expressing gratitude, prayer and intention-setting. it only takes a few minutes, but it provides a beautiful center from which my day begins.
oh! one more thing….do your daily practice at the same time every day. it takes discipline. you may find many excuses and events to sabotage your commitment. i’ve chosen 6am as my practice time; and my body, my mind….and my cats 🙂 know it. at that time every morning, even if it’s difficult to get out of my warm bed, i feel pulled toward the practice. and so, i begin. another day. another opportunity to live with intention and gratitude.