Meditation is not necessarilywhat you might think.
Yes, it may include Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga, martial arts, or Zhan Zhang (the Chinese art of standing like a post).
It also may include sitting meditation with breath, mantra, chanting, visualizations, guiding and movement exercises like in Kundalini (a yoga all to itself).
But, and here is the big BUT, it also is how you live your life. How the thoughts move around inside your head and are expressed in your emotions and actions.
It is where you find peace, quiet and a sense of balance.
That may be while walking, eating, playing with your children, your dog or cat, riding a horse, sitting in a park, being by a body of water, reading a book or perhaps just sitting alone in silence.
It’s how you deal with external stimuli, irritants, confrontation and disruptions.
Meditation is the BIG and the small picture.
It is at the height of an argument with your parent, sibling, partner, spouse, colleague or boss and how you deal with it. It is when you are just passing time or zoning out.
That has been MY meditation for the last week on dealing with an interminably difficult family member. Someone I can’t just walk away from. Someone who won’t change and has always suffered from a personality disorder.
My conclusion? Teacher teach thyself.
Meditation is available in innumerable forms all the time, you just need to access it.
Taking three deep breaths (yes, you have heard about this a zillion
times AND it works), staring out a window at the trees and the birds in a park, sipping a cup of tea while savoring the fragrance, the warmth and the subtle notes in taste.
You say you don’t have time?
Bull! Everyone has time for these quick and easy moments. And that is exactly what they are — moments. Many of them simply things we do in daily life, we just need to be conscious of them.
Daily life CAN be a meditation if you choose to make it so.
I’m not a broken record recommending that you sit quietly in a room, for 15 to 60 minutes, with your eyes closed, while focusing on your breathing, no thoughts and listening to some Zen-like music.
Although that REALLY works when and if you carve out the time to do it.
I’m talking about (here comes a slightly overused phrase these days) life hacks. Make meditation an integral part of your day. A mind set almost as easy and effortless as breathing.
It IS a mindset just like the mind sets of “I don’t have enough time. I’m too frazzled. I just can’t focus. I’m overextended, overwhelmed, overburdened.”
Here are three simple exercises you can do, in addition to what I mentioned above.
When you take a break from your work to have your breakfast, lunch, or dinner commit to being quiet. Say nothing or as little as possible for that half an hour or hour. Just observe, listen, and hear. It can be a challenge, especially if you have a very active mind.
If you listen and observe that helps quell the internal monologue. It also can be a huge relief to spend time not speaking. I love to sit quietly and watch water reflect on a surface. The shapes are fascinating.
If you are already a quiet person who doesn’t speak very much use this time to heighten your senses.
Can you be aware of sight and smell at the same time? What about sight, smell and touch? Try sight, smell, touch and taste. Finally focus on sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound.
This is a powerful exercise and not as easy as it sounds. Try one sense at a time and then when you have that mastered add another sense and so on.
I referred to Zhan Zhang earlier. What is that and how do you do it?
In Chinese philosophy, Qigong and Tai Chi, it’s typically referred to as standing like a post. It is exactly what it says it is.
You can do it while staring out of a window, standing in an elevator, standing in the park, in your yard, in your bedroom, living room, and so many other places.
I have done it while standing waiting in line, AND when I really needed to center myself, in an airplane bathroom (but not for very long, because, well, you know - airplane bathroom!).
Here is how you do the first position called Wuji (state of emptiness):
Standing with your feet hips width distance apart, knees slightly bent, hips tucked under slightly (you don’t want to push your hips back or have a sway back), your arms are hanging at your sides and slightly away from your sides.
I imagine there is air flowing between my body and underarms and arms. Look straight ahead and gently focus on a place on the wall, or whatever is in front of you. Let your eyes have a relaxed focus. You can also close your eyes for a deeper experience but do that ONLY after you know you have your balance. Breath naturally, gently, easily, effortlessly in and out of your nose.
AND THAT’S IT.
Do it for as long as you can.
You may feel some aches here and there, you may get restless, or your brain may protest, but stick with it.
Breathe into it. Adjust your limbs slightly to increase your comfort.
You can also sway slightly side to side or make tiny circles with your body to relieve any body tension.
Start with 5 minutes and work up from there.
You will be very surprised that this seemingly simple exercise can be very powerful physically, mentally and emotionally.
Try these many ways to meditate as part of your daily life.
Let me know how it goes.
As always, thanks for reading.
See you next time.
Yep, this short meditation practice is E-Z, P-Z!
Sit in a quiet place without distractions for a few minutes.
This can be in a chair, on a couch, on a cushion, or upright in bed.
Check that you have good, erect but not forced posture.
Focus on your breath - your natural, easy, effortless breath in and out of your nose.
Close your eyes or lower your gaze.
Release the need for any goal or personal benefit.
By focusing on your in and out breath you naturally quiet your mind and release other thoughts.
You are simply following what the Buddha did!
Repeat until you feel more relaxed and calm or content.
See, I told you it would be E-Z, P-Z!
As always, thanks or reading.
See you next time!
You can achieve a meditative state nearly anywhere.
The only caveat is you need to be somewhere that's safe to reach a state of relaxation.
OR bring yourself to that state of simple calm instead of being out in the stratosphere.
Many people want to transcend reality through meditation and Qigong.
Often I use it to achieve a peaceful state and to relieve tension. Not always to take an other-worldly trip!
I have used these exercises in places like the New York City Subway (Although, I don't close my eyes!!), the Rome train station (busy, chaotic, and a wonderful crash course for my stilted Italian), near the roaring Hawaiian surf,
in line at the grocery store. (Sometimes you REALLY need it there!).
Since the death of a friend recently I certainly have been digging down into my bag of meditation and Qigong goodies!
Without further ado:
HERE WE GO!!
As with the exercises in my last post read through them first then do your best to replicate them. Reading while doing doesn't achieve the best results.
1) Smile Exercise:
With your eyes closed, sit still and do your natural breathing in and out of your nose. Curl the edges of your mouth up in a little smile or grin. Breathe slowly and naturally. Think of the Mona Lisa, the Buddha. or someone with a peaceful, content smile. This releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin. A perfect time to do this is before bed, or when you wake up, or in the middle of the day. Actually ANYTIME! Continue with this exercise until you feel a natural conclusion.
2) Hallway Visualization:
(Read this through once so you have an idea of where you are going with it.)
Close Your Eyes and take 3 deep breaths.
Don’t heave your chest, just do it naturally in through the nose and out through the nose.
You are standing at the end of a VERY long hallway. It appears as you picture it. It may be light or dark.
There may be candles, windows, flowers, birds, trees, paintings, a fish tank, photographs – this is however YOU see it.
Begin by picturing yourself walking slowly down the hall noticing everything along the way.
Take your time, there is no need to rush.
Enjoy the walk.
When you reach the end of the hallway, there is a door.
You really want to open the door because there is something important behind it.
Only you know.
Open the door and walk through.
Take a few moments to experience what is past the door.
You may see yourself in a life dream you have.
...a new home, a new pet, a new or current relationship, traveling, swimming.
You name it.
This is YOUR visualization.
Enjoy the experience.
Stay there as long as you like.
When you are ready open your eyes and come back to the room. Wiggle your fingers and your toes.
Take a few deep breaths.
Allow your body to assimilate the experience.
3) Energizing breath:
(Also known as Breath of Fire in Kundalini Yoga)
This breath is done in and out of the nose.
Inhale, expand your stomach or diaphragm. When you exhale pump your stomach inward pulling your belly button towards your spine. Start slowly then increase the speed.
Because we are shallow breathers you may feel a bit light headed or tingly. That is common.
It is actually very energizing and exhilarating.
If you feel dizzy, stop the exercise and come back to your natural breath.
Repeat the breath until you feel you have maximized its benefits.
Slow down, then stop and normalize your breathing.
Return to your natural breath.
Whenever you need energy or to wake up, this breath is very effective.
4) Happy Person’s Stance:
Stand up, hands on the hips, one foot in front of the other.
You are grounded in the now and also have one foot ahead of you in the future OR whatever is coming next.
It’s a confident stance that you can do at any time.
Hold it for a moment.
Breathe naturally, then take a few deep breaths.
Add a smile or grin.
Look OUT THERE.
Stand there until you feel that wave of confidence. (You may feel a little like Wonder Woman or Superman.)
Again, you release those feel good hormones.
When you are done and feeling happier, more positive or confident, rub your hands together, quickly, for a minute or two, breathing in and out deeply.
Now shake your hands and arms.
Breathe in deeply and exhale with force shaking down your hands and arms.
Return to the room.
AND THAT'S IT!!
Enjoy the feeling!
As always, thanks for reading.
See you next week.
Instead of writing on my travel blog about meditation and Qigong (some of the best energy, relaxation, stress-relief, and awareness work you can do), I've decided to dedicate an entire blog to them.
Meditation and mindfulness are new, old buzz words.
Everyone is meditating or trying to meditate or taking meditation classes or watching meditation videos.
I say, GOOD FOR YOU!
I've been meditating for 27 years and teaching for 24 years.
I have been doing Qigong (a form of moving meditation) for over 10 years and teaching for 4 years.
I 've tried all sorts of styles and techniques.
When I get away from meditation and Qigong I'm less calm, and allow less to roll off of my back.
What works for YOU, works for you.
Here are some recommendations.
I use these exercises on the road, and have taught them in class. They feature various techniques .
Take what works, and leave the rest.
*Always remember that these techniques are NOT a substitute for medical care or medical advise. They are some of many tools for your health and well-being. Please see your doctor if you are experiencing any emotional or physical challenges that remain with you or come on suddenly.*
Meditation and Qigong have a myriad of reactions in the body and mind.
You may feel relaxed, fall asleep, laugh, cry or simply feel content. It is all normal and there is no need to judge your experience.
Those who are participating in these energy modalities are part of a growing population tired of feeling tired or stressed.
You don't have to believe anything or NOT believe anything. Apply what works for YOUR life.
Welcome new ways to relax.. Who doesn’t want to relax? Or need to relax? By relax I mean doing something more than watching tv, having a drink(s) or scarfing down big plates of nachos.
The term "Mindfulness" is used often in business and in professional sports.
YES! Your favorite athletes are most likely practicing mindfulness, Qigong, Tai Chi, visualization, and more..
Call it what you like You can call it paddling up the Mississippi for all I care. As long as you are taking the time to DO IT is all that matters!
A lot of my teaching focuses on the breath.
That sounds pretty simple, right?
And it is.
If you are alive you are breathing.
What do you expect to get from these techniques?
What would you LIKE to get out of these exercises?
If you've been curious, and have never done anything like this before, you might feel a little awkward at first.
In meditation I don't insist you sit in any formal position. Staying upright is best. If you lie down make sure you stay awake. Your hands don't need to be in particular mudras (positions). I may recommend some but it's up to you. They work for me to keep the energy circulating.
Qigong has stances and ways of sitting to enhance the flow of energy. I'll always walk you through them. Generally they're pretty simple.
Some breathing exercises may seem weird, but they all have a point.
Just go with it.
We are in this together, and no one is watching.
“How long do I need to do these exercises?"
That question may be an indication that your brain is resisting.
You need to go with it and release control. Do one exercise until you feel you are ready to go on to the next exercise.
If you work with customers, and sometimes challenging or irate customers, certain types of breathing will get you through tough situations and help you keep your cool.
If you travel (and we all know travel can be REALLY stressful) keeping a cool head will go a long way with the flight attendants, the check-in staff and the counter staff at the gate. Plus, it might even get you a decent upgrade!!
One artist I worked with came to see me in a terrible panic about his upcoming concert. He knew that I did breath and relaxation work. I gave him a simple counting breath and body relaxations exercises.
His anxiety was greatly decreased by the time he left my office.
Constantly we all come in contact with all sorts of people. Knowing what calms you down translates calm to others. When you are calm, those you encounter may become calmer, too.
When you do some of the exercises below you may feel a bit light-headed and that is perfectly normal.
If you feel dizzy, stop what you are doing and return to your natural breathing.
We are getting a lot more oxygen into our bodies and our cells with these breathing exercises.
Our bodies aren't used to that unless we have been practicing for a while. We talk quickly, take shallow breaths, run around during the day, not to mention that the body is used to quick inhalations.
Keep this in mind.
When you are consciously breathing your mind cannot run amok. It's very hard to focus on two opposing things at once. Your mind will try to pull you away from what you are doing. It will struggle, argue, tell you that you are bored and you aren’t getting anything from this.
BUT if you continue, you WILL feel a difference.
Make sure you put your phasers to stun. (Turn off your phones for non-Star Trek fans)
Place yourself in a comfortable position making sure you can stay awake and engaged.
Read through the exercises FIRST then do your best to duplicate them with your eyes closed. Move from exercise to exercise at your own pace. Asking yourself "does that exercise feel complete?" before you move on.
You may do these exercises with your eyes open or closed. I find I get more from them with my eyes closed.
Here we go!!!
1) Put your attention in your feet. Relax your feet. Moving up relax your legs, relax your hips, relax your torso, relax your chest, relax your shoulders, relax your arms, relax your hands, relax your neck, relax your jaw. Breath through this for a few minutes.
2) Breath naturally in and out through the nose. REALLY focus on the breath. Stay here for a few minutes.
3) Put your hands on your rib cage. When you breathe, in you expand your ribcage, when you breathe out you release your ribcage. Repeat.
4) Breath in the through the nose and out through the mouth. SLOWLY. Repeat.
5) Ocean breath – breathe in through the nose. Open the mouth and breathe out from the back of throat. It sounds a bit like water rushing out to sea and then coming back to shoe,. or like air rushing through a cave. Repeat.
You can take a break here or continue.
6) Take deep breaths through your nose for a slow count of 5. Then exhale through your mouth for a slow count of 5. Repeat.
7) Breath to the beat: Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, pause for a count of 4, breathe out through the mouth for a count of 4, pause for a count of 4. Repeat.
8) Cannon Ball Breath or Cooling Breath – form your mouth in an small O. Draw air in through your mouth slowly then release keeping the lips pursed. Repeat.
You can take a break here or continue.
OR do the next exercises at another time.
These breath exercises originated in Qigong. They have been shown to be effective in different parts of the brain where particular emotions reside.
Do each exercise for a few minutes OR one at a time to relieve impatience, worry, sadness or depression, fear and anger.
All these breath exercises start with inhaling through the nose. Each breath is released SLOWLY.
9) To Release Impatience – Inhale through the nose, open your mouth and exhale as if you were going to say HAWWWW. Release the breath without vocalization.
10) To Release Worry - Inhale through the nose and form the word WHO. Release the breath as if saying WHO without sound.
11) To Release Sadness or Depression – Inhale through the nose and exhale forming SSSSSSSS - like steam escaping through the mouth.
12) To Release Fear – Inhale through the nose and exhale as if blowing out a candle with a long exhale. Note: this is different than #10.
13) To Release Anger – Inhale through the nose and release the breath while similulating SHHHHHHH through the mouth.
Return to your natural breath.
Open your eyes slowly.
Come back into the room.
I hope you can use some, many or all of these exercises in long, medium or short sessions.
They can be done anywhere inside or outside but do not do them while driving or operating machinery.
As always thanks for reading.
See you next time!