Life's purpose when life is pulling you
It may be bizarre to you to read this, but I have found meditation easier than living with awareness. In other words, finding my true state of bliss when seating in lotus pose while meditating has been much easier over the years than carrying that state of bliss into my day-to-day life. I find myself being disappointed when I lose my cool with my kids or my husband, furthering the state of "uncoolness" when I almost immediately experience the hangover of my reactions -- feeling not only disappointed but also guilty and ashamed. Oh, good times! Being a yogatherapist who has mediated continuously for 23 years now does not make me exempt from emotions, not even from the least desired emotional responses. Even after meditating for long, we still are bound to experience the full range of human emotion. So, you might ask, what CAN we expect? The growing body of medical studies surfacing in the last decade or so has proven tangible benefits of meditation, from thickening of the brain cortex though brain plasticity to improved cholesterol, sleep, anxiety... the list goes on. My writing mind still wants to explore the transfer of these benefits to our thoughts, behaviors, and relationships beyond just the physiological gains.
This can be divided into two fronts of the PRACTICAL BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
1. The lessening of the disparity of emotional intensity: in other words, if the emotions are deepening too steeply or climbing too highly, they become more sustainable as they are more completely and more quickly acknowledged and experienced. One of my students used to cry every day because of small, medium and big matters. Over time, as we gave those emotions healthy expression though yoga/meditation, the crying started to lessen to the point that he became able to take stress in without identifying himself with it, roll with it without becoming it, and let it go faster and faster.
2. Recovery becomes faster and more efficient: instead of the shame, guilt, or whatever has been hunting you lingering around, it can be turned around and processed quicker. Once we stop simply indulging in or avoiding emotions -- both potentially toxic ways of dealing with them -- and learn to see the emotions as they are, we can bounce back and find equanimity faster and faster. Emotions are passing states; but often they bear very important messages. As I train my students to interpret these messages, they learn to return to their new default mode of harmony and clarity.
So, sure, meditators do lose their cool; I know I do. However, we learn to do it less and less as we go, and to return to a healthy default mode quicker. The image that comes to mind is the role-poly toy that has such a strong center of gravity that it returns gracefully to equilibrium after each punch from any direction.
My teaching is very intuitive. I don't often plan out sessions with my private students; I tune in to my essence and to their essence in turn. From that place, I let myself be led through session. This morning I was working with a student and this beautiful practice came to us:
1. Priming the mind. ANAPANA is a simple and very effective mind priming tool, in preparation for deeper techniques.
Sit in a comfortable position with eyes closed.
Narrow your attention to a small triangular zone with the base as the area above the upper lips and top as the space in between the eyebrows.
Notice the feeling of the air moving in and out of the inner walls of your nostrils.
Continue for 20 breaths.
If the mind goes elsewhere, simply bring it back to the task at hand, without retaliation. Your task is simply TO OBSERVE the incoming and outgoing breath as if your life depended on it. (OK, maybe not that intensely!)
2.Bring your mind awareness to the center of your chest now.
Start feeling and visualizing your sternum as if it was moving outwards with every inhalation and inwards with every exhalation.
Do this for 10 deep breaths. Begin to allow the breath to flow through the center of the chest as if there was a window there and a gentle, spring breeze was entering, airing out the chest cavity and bringing in new oxygen, new energy, new life.
Copy and paste a small image of yourself at the center of your chest.
Allow that breeze to bathe your whole body.
Visualize your day, from waking to falling asleep at night, as if it were a slideshow. Don't dwell on any event you have planned; it's a quick overview.
As each scene receives the spring breeze, feel that this breeze is emanating from your essence, from your soul, blessing yourself in every slide.
When you reach bedtime, return to gentle observing of the breath passing through the center of the chest for another 10 deep breaths.
TAKE A STEP FURTHER: practice this for 40 days straight with no interruption, so you can impact and create behavior change. Journal your experience on daily basis.
What did you experience when you were practicing this? Let me know in the comments or you can send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org