Today's Daily Tip
The Call of the Current
As my experience of the 28-day program nears its end, I feel palpable but subtle benefits: heightened compassion, more objectivity, a greater sense of happiness and calm. When I am patient with my children as they get into their fourth argument of the morning, when I sit down at my desk and my mind focuses instead of racing, I can't help thinking that I have meditation to thank. Still, I haven't experienced any cymbal clashes or grand epiphanies. Meditation hasn't stopped me from repeatedly checking my email, or from arguing with the cop who pulls me over for speeding. I wonder if I've somehow come up short.
Kempton reminds me that a final key to establishing a meditation practice is finding joy in it. That I am feeling happier and more at ease means that I am off to a good start, and I can expect these small joys to snowball—over the sessions and days, months, and years—into bigger ones. The final days of the program speed by as I truly savor each practice. Twenty-eight days in, I realize I'm closing the habit loop. Meditation has become an unquestionably rewarding part of my life.
And then, just days after I finish the program, I skip my practice to take a bike ride. The next morning I oversleep. On the third morning, I have to wake up early to get the kids ready for the day. I wonder if meditating hasn't stuck after all, if I've lost whatever toehold I found in the meditation world. But on the fourth morning, the urge to meditate wakes me up before the alarm clock. I want what sitting gives me. In the darkness before dawn, I move quietly toward the room where my meditation perch awaits.
Andrew Tilin is a writer in Austin, Texas, and the author of The Doper Next Door.
Get a Good Seat
Proper posture is crucial for meditation, but you don't have to sit in a classic yogic pose. The only absolute rule is that your back must be upright—straight but not rigid—to allow the breath and energy to flow freely. Beyond that, steadiness and comfort are key; you should be in a stable position that you can maintain comfortably for at least 20 minutes. Here are three options to get you started.
Once you're seated comfortably, place your hands on your knees, palms up or down, with the thumb and forefinger touching. This completes an energetic circuit that allows the energy to expand and rise in the body.
In a Chair: Sit upright in a straight-backed chair with a flat seat, rather than one that tilts backward. (If you don't have a chair with a flat seat, place a folded blanket under-neath your sitting bones, as shown, to tilt your pelvis forward.) Place both feet flat on the floor, and use pillows or bolsters behind your lower back, if necessary, to keep your back upright.
Simple Crossed Legs: Sit on the floor in Sukhasana (Easy Pose). If you're on a hard floor, sitting on a rug or a folded blanket will cushion your ankles. Your hips should be two to four inches higher than your knees. If they aren't, elevate your hips and buttocks with a firm cushion, a wedge, or two or three folded blankets under your sitting bones. This support will keep your posture erect and protect your psoas and the muscles of your lower back.
Begin With the Breath
This breath-awareness meditation is the first audio practice you'll receive after signing up for the Meditation Revolution at yogajournal.com/meditationrevolution. When you want to establish a foundation for turning the mind inward, it's important to work with a single core practice daily until it becomes a habit.
Against a Wall: If you find it difficult to sit upright on the floor, you can sit against a wall in Easy Pose and place soft pillows behind your lower back (keep the pillows behind the lumbar spine, rather than behind the middle back). Use as many as you need to support your spine and put you in an upright posture.
Sit in a comfortable posture with your spine easily erect. Inhale, letting the hips, thighs, and sitting bones become heavy as they sink into the floor. Exhale, feeling that the breath gently lifts the spinal column up through the crown of the head. Inhale, letting the chest lift and open. Exhale, allowing the shoulder blades to release down the back.
Inhale, and imagine that the sides of your ears move back just enough so that your head and neck feel aligned with your shoulders. Your chin should tilt slightly downward. Place your hands in Chin Mudra, thumb and forefinger touching, palms down on your thighs. Let your tongue rest on the floor of your mouth. Close your eyes.
Notice as your awareness comes gently to the flow of the breath. As the breath flows in and out, notice the sensations in your body. Let the inhalation bring your attention to any places in the body that feel tense or tight, and then, with the exhalation, release any holding there. Let the breath bring your attention to your shoulders, and with the exhalation, feel them releasing. Let the breath bring your attention to your chest and belly, and with the exhalation, release any holding in those areas. Inhale with the sense of allowing the breath to touch any places in your body that still feel tight, and exhale with the sense that your whole body softens and releases.
Allow the breath to flow at a natural rhythm. Notice how the breath flows into the nostrils with a feeling of coolness. It flows in and down the throat, perhaps coming to rest in the chest, and then flows out slightly warm as it passes up through the throat and out the nostrils.
Notice the gentle touch of your breath as your attention gradually becomes more and more settled in the flow of the breath. If thoughts arise, note them with the awareness "Thinking," and bring your attention back to the breath.
As the breath flows in and out, you might sense that the breath is flowing in with particles of very subtle and peaceful light and energy. They flow in with the breath, down into your body, and out with the exhalation. You may visualize these light particles as white or blue or pink. Or you may simply sense them as waves and particles of energy.
Sense the enlivening caress of the breath, perhaps being aware of the breath filling your body with light particles, perhaps feeling the touch of the breath as it flows in through your nostrils, moves down through your throat and into your heart center, and then gently flows out.
To come out of the meditation, take a deep breath in and gently let it out. Notice how your body feels, how your mind feels, the quality of your energy. When you are ready, take up your journal and write what you remember about this meditation.
Sally Kempton is an internationally recognized teacher of meditation and yoga philosophy and the author of Meditation for the Love of It.
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