Sometimes the hardest thing about establishing a regular seated meditation practice is the simple act of getting started. Carving out 5, 10, or maybe 20 minutes to sit in stillness meets with many objections in the mind. "I'll do it later" or "I don't really have the time right now" are common thoughts that prevent us from establishing a routine. Often its the settling in in the first few minutes that feels like the obstacle. The first few days are great, you did it, and then...you don't really notice anything different. The same old life is there. The same emotions come up. No life-change is perceived. The "gifts" that people talk about aren't evident. Motivation wanes.
We come to our meditation with so much on our mind. The busyness of the day we have scheduled, hoping the kids don't wake up any moment, or feeling really drained or depleted. Sitting down and doing 'nothing' doesn't mean we can turn off the outside world. It's not a wasted practice if our mind has raced throughout the moments that we intended to calm us and did nothing but spend seemingly useless time stewing about the day ahead until the timer went off. Sitting and devoting your time to yourself and your internal world is never unproductive.
Often we need to sit through a few sessions of "discharging junk" before we can get into a really deep place in our mediation. Honor those sessions. There may be many. The sweeping out is actually really productive. Don't label each session. Don't judge each session. Just sit. The benefits will come in time. Some you may not notice until someone mentions to you that you seem more calm lately. Some are more apparent to you but others won't notice, like feeling more connected to others. Your internal life begins to reveal itself and it feel really, really good.
The fruits of mediation are slow to reveal, but they will come. They will magnify. And the day will come that you cannot go a day without going within. You'll feel like you are missing something if you don't keep your date with yourself. Keep with it.
Try my free five minute guided meditation starter to get you in the proper space for your meditation session. This will help you get relaxed, settled, and ready to reap the many benefits of your practice.
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Coach VanSyoc was an intense, caring, basketball coach with a booming voice. Many years ago I played offensive point on his 9th grade basketball team. (Remember when 6 on 6 girls' basketball was a thing?) Admittedly I wasn't a great player. I tended to get overwhelmed with tough defense and let emotional distress hinder my game.
One game in particular that I wanted to do well. My brother was home from college and came to watch me play. It was intense with the largest crowd I'd ever encountered, and it felt as if they were right there next to me screaming, clapping and chanting for the other team. I was intimidated and doing poorly. Probably the worst I'd ever played. After many, many missed shots and turnovers I heard my coach yell directly at me, above the noisy crowd, "Just RE-LAX ALREADY!!!" Now how on earth was I going to do THAT?! The energy of the gym, the stimulus of the crowd and my nerves and emotions overwhelmed me.
I was derailed because my energy was flying all over. The stimulation and pressure caused a major shift in my energy vibration. My friend, on the other hand, held her energy in and didn't take on any extra energy of any situation if it didn't serve her. She played on the A Team. No wonder! She had a natural ability that many of us don't. She knew how to keep her energy within and not get derailed.
That's a huge skill! That is the secret power in maintaining your composure in chaos. Keep your energy and don't take in more than what serves you. As easy as that sounds it is actually quite difficult for most of us. Do you get derailed easily or in situations where you know, if only you could keep your composure you'd perform much better?
If you're like me we have to train ourselves to maintain equanimity in these tense situations. Fortunately it can be done but it takes practice.
Here are a four ways to keep your energy and not lose your composure in emotionally tough situations.
1. Know your triggers. Keep a journal of these difficult events to get an idea of the tough situations that often cause you to lose your grip and deplete your energy sources. Is it confrontations? Public speaking? Short deadline multi-tasking? The most important part of making a change is defining what the actual problem is without muddying up the waters. Know the trigger situations specifically.
2. Practice the breathing technique that will help you maintain a state of calm. When you learn this breath technique, and practice regularly during calmer times of the day, it will become your most useful tool to create instant cool and grounding when the heat turns up. The secret to calming the body? LENGTHEN the EXHALE compared to the inhale. It's that simple. . When you're tense your breath becomes shorter and choppier. The inhale and exhale feel like short bursts of air in and out. This is stress breathing. You can reverse the stress breathing and it's tense response in the body. When you lengthen the exhale, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is the calming side of the nervous system.
3. Practice Mindfulness. Train yourself to focus all of your attention and awareness on the present moment. As you become aware of sensations, thoughts and feelings, you simply acknowledge them and them let them go without becoming attached to the awareness of that sensation, thought, or feeling. Practice mindfulness for five minutes each day, gradually working up to longer periods of sitting in stillness. Stay present in the moment and simply observe the workings and movements of the mind, riding out anything that comes to your awareness. Training yourself to stay in the present moment is helpful during times of chaos. First, you know this sensation will pass. Second, when you become aware of your trigger causing you to become anxious you can employ your calm breathing technique. These tools work together to help you keep your composure and feel more confident in the situation.
4. Practice Yoga Nidra to enhance relaxation, intensify your intentions, and heal deep pain that can lead to triggers. This guided meditation practice is more than just training your body and mind to relax, which is a useful on it's own, but it can also be a profound tool for manifesting your deepest desires for maintaining composure. During the practice of Yoga Nidra, you are asked to create a "sankalpa" or intention that you keep in your mind during your deeply relaxing guided meditation. When you are in the deepest level of mental and physical relaxation you are in a highly suggestable, self-hypnotic state which allows you to eliminate blocks that keep you from reaching your goals. Your 'sankalpa" can be directly related to your triggers. For example, if your trigger is public speaking, your sankalpa could be "I am able to courageously express my knowledge to large groups of people." Or, my desire to express my wisdom and understanding outweighs any concerns about my ability to speak to others." "I am becoming a more dynamic speaker; more and more able to express myself in front of others."
As you can see, these skills require some practice but the payoff is worth the minimal time to learn these effective techniques. The life-enhancing added benefits of short meditation, mindfulness, and breathing every day include improved brain function, increased immunity, increased levels of happiness and feelings of connection with others.
Yoga and meditation teacher since 2003, I love discovering and sharing information about natural health and the mind-body-spirit connection through yoga and mindfulness. Join me and be changed for good!