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Life is certainly not simple now, but we humans have gotten in the habit of making it more complicated. “Do more” is the message from every quarter. The practice of meditation should not be a complication, but offer a means to simplification, a remedy instead of something more on your “to do” list. If at this time you cannot see how to practice 20 – 30 minutes each day, then you can begin with a few strategic mini-meditations. These moments of awareness, mindfulness and simply "showing up" for yourself are a great way to begin to learn to de-stress and to become more tuned in to the benefits of meditation. Remember that sometimes the greatest stress comes from the thought that we have no control or can’t change something. These are things you can choose to do.
Pick a time just before you are getting ready to change venues, a transition time between home and work for instance, or after lunch when you are going to a meeting or just after the children begin their homework.
Resist the urge to rush on to the next thing. If you are in your car, turn off the radio and the engine and take a few deep breathes. Close your eyes. Be aware of your body. Is it tense? Can you listen for a moment and feel the beating of your heart. Can you wait long enough for it to slow down? Feel the temperature around you and the air against your skin. Take a moment to be grateful for something in your life- if only for this one moment of quiet. Put all unnecessary thoughts “in your briefcase" so to speak before getting out of the car or moving on. Feel the ground under your feet as you walk with awareness toward your destination feeling whole instead of scattered, empowered instead of frantic.
Reset that frazzled brain and body circuitry, like re-booting your computer by creating your own movie. Imagine yourself in a place that you feel peaceful, happy and supported. This can be a real location that you have visited or one that you imagine. Scan the screen that you create in your mind. Hear the sounds of the place, the details of the landscape or room, the way your body feels. Try to stay in this place as long as you can mentally. If you find your mind drifting off to thoughts of problem issues, just go back to your getaway place. Relax into how it feels to be alive and aware in a place that you’ve created that has everything you need to support you.
Don’t be fooled by the implied passivity of the title, for the practice allows our whole selves to stand at ready. I learned this from Jay Dunbar, my Tai Chi teacher and Director of Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School in Chapel Hill. This is how you do it: Stand in a comfortable quiet place with your feet shoulder width apart. Try to experience all the parts of your feet on the floor: the outside, the ball of the foot, heels and the toes. This is your platform, your place of grounding. Then focus on your ankles, allowing them to remain loose and soft and connected to your feet as your attention moves upward. Relax your knees, flexing them slightly. Tilt your pelvis forward with your tailbone tucked underneath. This creates space between the lumbar vertebrae. You’ve now formed the platform for the rest of your body and your spine. Then focus on the idea of stacking each vertebra, one by one on top of the other. Move your attention to your arms, bending them slightly out from your body like a pair of parentheses. Lower your shoulders.
Next, imagine that there is a string attached to the very top of your head and that string is stretched upward. This makes space between the vertebrae of your neck and your back. Now you are completely integrated between the grounding of your feet and the attachment to the air above through your head. Now you simply continue to scan your body and notice any places that have tightened up again or have gotten out of balance. Pay attention to your feet, your knees, your pelvis -softening all the muscles around each of these bone structures and allowing yourself to be as relaxed as possible. Breathe. Relax your shoulders again. Try this for five minutes and extend the time if you can. Feel the energy within circulating freely in your body. Bring yourself to one more level of relaxation, letting go and then open your eyes.
*Originally published in the Huffington Post