For the last two weeks I had the pleasure of teaching meditation classes in the Japanese Garden, a smaller garden within City Park’s Botanical Garden. The energy was absolutely amazing! So much peace, harmony, and community in that space that I cannot wait to practice with you all again (hopefully in October). In addition to having a relaxing time meditation on boulders, we were able to raise funds specifically for the upkeep of the Japanese Garden. Thank you for those able to donate; your donations are appreciated greatly. As promised, I’ve included an overview of some of the topics covered during these past two sessions. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know through email, website message, or my social media handle FirecrackerYogi .
Of the utmost importance is learning to create space. We may never be able to create time, but we are able to create space – within our bodies to breathe, within our minds to focus, within our day to be peaceful. Once we learn how to create space, meditation is an amazing tool to find balance in our lives. Creating space can even mean creating a physical space in your home, or a place you visit frequently, where you feel a peaceful connection. Once you’ve created space, emotionally, physically or otherwise, you are ready to meditate.
Mindful Meditation is a style that allows you to meditate at any time, in any place, simply focusing on the present. Do not tell yourself not to think of anything else; thoughts remind us that we are alive. Let your thoughts come and go; acknowledge the thoughts; then let them move past. Yes, you may have a mountain of laundry to do, or you may wish the light would turn green faster, but neither of those thoughts can be handled in the present. Acknowledge those thoughts for what they are, and why you are thinking of them – once given respect, the thoughts will flow away again, to be handled in a more peaceful state after your meditation. Do not judge yourself for the time you sit, or the number of times you scratch your nose. Focus on being present, using the 7 Qualities of Mindful Meditation below. Then, with these in mind, use the meditation techniques we discussed to delve deeper in your practice during a walk, before bed, or anytime you need to create space in your life.
7 Qualities of Mindful Meditation
1) Non-judging Awareness
3) Beginner's Mind
7) Letting Go
Alignment – you can sit, stand, walk, or recline; any posture is welcome for meditation. You want your body alignment to be hips in line with shoulders in line with ears so that the torso can easily expand and contract for breathing. If you find yourself uncomfortable during the practice, or you experience discomfort in a particular part of the body, try to focus on the discomfort to truly ascertain where the body needs to be adjusted (or is it just emotion? Boredom?). Do not force yourself to sit with physical discomfort, as limbs really do go numb and joints really can react negatively to being forced into relaxing positions. Listen to your body. Ask a professional for advice if you have recurring pain in certain areas or cannot find a comfortable position to hold for more than five minutes.
Breathing in 360 – the concept that you are breathing with focus on opening the torso in all directions to create space for your lungs to intake air. Focus on breathing through the front, sides, back, top and bottom of the torso to really let as much oxygen into the lungs as possible.
Three Part Yogic Breath: inhale dropping the diaphragm to breath into the bottom of the lungs, then opening the torso to breath into the middle of the lungs, then finally lifting slightly in the chest to breath into the upper lungs – exhale releasing the chest first, then the middle torso, and finally pressing the diaphragm gently into the bottom of the lungs. There should be no restriction of breath during this practice, and though the technique is named Three Part Yogic Breath, you truly are breathing easily in one inhale and exhale. Try to keep the inhale and exhale the same length to even out the breath and relax.
Start by using the recommendations above to find a comfortable position and breathe. For the next few breaths focus on breathing as deeply as you can, but still keeping the breath relaxed. Let your mind flood with all of the thoughts and emotions of the day. Sit with the comfort or discomfort of all of the day’s energy. Inhale to take all of this in, and exhale to let it all out. Inhale, reminding yourself you are in the present. Exhale, reminding yourself you are still in the present. You are not in the past, and you are not yet in the future. Inhale the energy from now. Exhale, focus on being grounded. Begin to inhale the present, and exhale the tension.
Using a phrase, a motivational statement, or a prayer, recited over and over during the meditation. This can be used in conjunction with or separate from the visualization mediation below. This meditation is great in combination with the concept of loving kindness; sending loving kindness to yourself, those you are having difficulties with in your life, those that you feel need more love from you, and times in your life that you want to give more focus to through positive emotion. This meditation is also a great way to focus on something other than just the breath for those of us that are easily distracted. When you find your mind wondering, you focus back in on the mantra.
Focus on a goal, or a place that makes you feel peace. If you are focusing on a goal, think about how you would physically and emotionally feel having achieved your goal. Focus on being in the present moment of achieving that goal; what you felt to get to that point, what you need to do in your life now to get to that point, and maybe what you will do once you have been to that point. This type of visualization is great for realizing fears and hurdles that block us from achieving goals. If you are focusing on a place, really imagine yourself there using all five senses. Concentrate on the five senses individually. Then focus on the emotions you have while you’re in this place. Before leaving the space, breath into your emotion in a way that you can carry the emotion with you even once you’re out of your deep meditation. This is a great technique for a peaceful feeling that we learn to recall during difficult situations.
Photo credit Nonney of www.threadpaperglue.com