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Cultivating Your Inner Zen



I know that meditation is difficult, it is also the most important practice that you will ever undertake and well worth the effort to achieve peace within.


So what to do if you are not yet ready to undertake this amazing practice? Perhaps become more mindful throughout your day?


You may be surprised how these simple practices can impact your life and pave a path to a stronger meditation practice, both sitting and walking.



Here are 7 helpful practices to guide your journey within. Remember that you may also do any of these while going about your day, so the idea that you don't have enough time actually does not apply here!


1. Bring Awareness to Your Spine


It makes such a difference when you honor the precious moments of your own practice by sitting tall in your body as you meditate. In class, I always refer to the spine as the shushumna. This is your energetic spinal column. A tall free-balanced spine opens you to mindful awareness with the energy of dedication. It signals to your higher centers that you are open to listening with depth and to receive the subtler streams of information that flow through your body and being, on the breath. If you struggle with lengthening the spine due to back issues, make yourself comfortable with cushions, bolsters, or a chair, and simply visualize the spine becoming aligned, long, and open.


I use the image of a tree, which stands tall and has its roots reaching into the earth as its branches reach to the sky. When we see this we understand how important it is to be so tall and strong, at the same time if we saw a tree sidewise, bent over, slumped over you would know that something is wrong with it and that it is not as strong and its life may be limited. There is no difference with us and it is the simplest visual to understand that the shushumna is the highway that prana (vital life force energy) flows through it bringing healing energy to all parts of your body.


So sit tall, walk tall, visualize this lengthening, even if you don't always achieve it.


2. Watch as Prana Flows Throughout Your Body.


Increasingly in my own practice, I perceive the need to connect my mind, body and spirit awareness with the prana, vital life force energy. You can do this simply and at your own pace by taking natural breaths with awareness to each of the chakras in turn: Root (at the base of your spine), Sacral (just below the naval), Solar Plexus(below the breast bone), Heart(center of the chest), Throat (center of the throat), Third Eye (between eyebrows or behind the physical eyes), Crown (just above your physical head). As you breathe, imagine the energy of the breath traveling to each of the energy centers and simply observe your perceptions. Remember that wherever your awareness goes prana will follow. Next, while breathing with a natural breath, bring your awareness all the way through the energy body to the hands, feet, and head. Include all the extremities. Notice the sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts that arise. Try to remain as still as possible.


3. Try to Enjoy It


As I sit to meditate, sometimes I notice a thought pattern arise that wants me to rush through practice so I can just tick it off – it feels like I’m back at school and I’m trying to act like the ‘good girl, but underneath it all, I don’t really want to do it. When that happens, I try to name what is occurring and explore what aspect of my practice I am resisting. I remind myself that mindfulness is about savoring, the very antidote to rushing. The best way I know how to move from rushing to savoring is to open my heart to the practice, give myself full permission to be curious about what comes, and allow the thoughts and emotions to move past myself as if on a cloud and float away. With those aspects in place, whether I am meditating for 5 mins or 50 minutes, I am free to drop in, explore, and savor. Give it a try!


4. Open Up to Your Intuition


Mindfulness is a practice of embodiment by which we invite the warmth of awareness in and through the body. In doing so, we make contact with the inner reality in a profoundly authentic and revealing way. While stillness is often the most harmonic holding for the body, occasionally allow intuitive movement to accompany your practice. When I do this, I find myself brushing the body, holding the body, moving in tune with my breath, and experiencing the warmth of making contact. In some of the wilder streams, I find myself in touch with the harmony of body, mind, and spirit in new and expansive ways. Explore! But stay in stillness!


5. Look for the Edge of Your Awareness


I was listening to a lecture one day and was told to “Have a look for the edge of your awareness: I don’t think you’re going to find it.” It is a great mindfulness inspiration – try it for yourself. The way to do this is to open the mind, you can visualize this happening and allow yourself to float to that edge, and remain there in stillness. What did you discover? The window of mindfulness opens!


6. Take a Course


One of the things that we have all realized through the pandemic is how learning can be so successfully offered online. Thankfully we will be offering an introductory course in meditation to help you along your path! Look for it in the near future! Meanwhile you are welcome to join us in our weekly online classes or log into the Members Only Page of our site for various different meditations to guide your practice.


7. Forgive Yourself Often


Finally, remember that even experienced meditators fall out of their practice sometimes. Do not treat this as a failure when life inevitably sweeps you up in another direction. Simply notice the call of the cushion, forgive yourself immediately for the time away from practice, and reclaim your seat. Your body and being will thank you!


Om Shanti Shanti Shanti


Namaste





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