When we begin a yoga or meditation program we want to jump straight to the “meat:” how and when will this practice create peace of mind? If after two sessions we have not achieved at least a semblance of calm we label ourselves a failure. We can’t help it.
Traditional meditation training involved little instruction and relied on the arising of tranquility and insight. In his book “Diamond Mind: a Psychology of Meditation,” master teacher Rob Nairn notes that Western meditators often don’t come as easily to the natural arising of insight and will often use the practice of meditation to suppress psychological process instead of promoting it. So Nair’s approach is to emphasize making “friends” with the mind and developing an attitude of playfulness towards practice.
Meditation is a process that balances concentration with letting go. We practice over and over again allowing ourselves to be fully present in each arising moment. Why? Because it’s only in the present moment that a new understanding can arise. Everything but the present is ruled by either memory of the past or imagination of the future. This is a very important point for those of us who are trying to conceive. That journey can be so encumbered by past disappointments and future fears and hopes that the present is almost completely obscured. Together, though, with the help of breath and awareness we can begin to carve out a moment of “now” in which peace can arise and deep healing can occur.
For today, let’s try to sit in the now. Don’t freak out if you feel like your mind is a Niagara Falls of emotions and thoughts. This is NOT failure, it’s success! You have become aware of your mind. As you continue to practice this awareness will grow and mature until you learn that you are actually a peaceful, content being experiencing a roller-coaster ride of experiences. Here’s a very simple technique for staying present:
Sit quietly, either in a comfortable cross-legged position or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight. Close your eyes and place one hand on your lower abdomen. Inhale deeply through the nose and feel the breath move down into the belly, expanding and moving the hand outward as if you’re filling up a balloon in your tummy. Exhale through the nose, feel the belly begin to deflate as you softly count the number “10.” Inhale again, and with the exhale softly say to yourself “9.” Inhale, exhale 8…and so on down to “1.” As you count down from 10 to 1, feel as if you are consciously unwinding the forward momentum of your mind. Feel as if you are a car exiting the highway and slowing down to a country road where you have time to look at the beautiful scenery and be present. Once you begin to practice this technique daily you may find that after you’ve counted down your ten breaths you’re happy to sit a bit in peace. Enjoy! That’s the present moment.
If the exercise above was challenging, don’t despair! Pulling Down the Moon will be offering a Mindfulness for Fertility class in conjunction with the psychologists of Fertility Centers of Illinois starting April 28. Stay tuned for registration info and details…