"When we take the time to be still, to meditate on our relationship with our physical being and the air around us, we make a greater connection to our true heart."
Mornings can be a very busy time in our house, and I’m sure yours, too. Waking up happens with a loud noise, or alarm, reminding us of all that lies ahead; kids, lunches, partners, work. It’s almost as if the ringing of the alarm bell requires us to think about everything all at once. This is the best time of day to bring awareness to the moment. It’s a time to remind ourselves “we are here”. A new day is upon us, a fresh moment, take a few breaths each morning and embrace that. That simple start can set the stage for a day of living in the present moment, appreciating each experience individually for what it is. This alone can also bring about a feeling of joy and help alleviate any stress or depression we may be feeling for something coming up that we are not especially looking forward to.
Something amazing happens when we find a standing position with our arms relaxing at our sides, feet planted under the hips (Tadasana/Mountain pose) and our eyes closed. We start to feel gravity, the gentle way the earth takes control of our body, and we sway subconsciously. These little movements go undetected all day long, often leaving us unconnected to anything larger than ourselves. When we take the time to be still, to meditate on our relationship with our physical being and the air around us, we make a greater connection to our true heart. The term “meditate” can be deceiving. So many of us are under the impression that in order to properly meditate we must let go of thinking anything and remove ourselves from the moment. This is actually not true. As we meditate, we connect. If we are seated, we feel all the parts of our body that are connected to the earth. We listen. We become aware of the background sounds we can’t hear when our minds are busy with preparation, to-do lists, and worry of what might happen. We connect with our breath, our life source, and we take control of the travels of our inhales and exhales, intentionally drawing our breath to our muscles, limbs, and organs.
Daily meditation has many proven benefits. Stress has a number of ways it can rob us of our health and wellness. From addiction and eating disorders, to chronic skin-conditions and auto-immune disorders, stress is one of the greatest causes of sickness in our culture. As Americans, we work too many hours, spend too much money, and don’t take nearly enough meaningful vacations. Daily meditation, even 10 minutes a day, has been proven to reduce stress by reducing the body’s production of stress-producing chemicals. It also lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Other great benefits of meditation include reducing anxiety, reduce the chronic pain associated with headaches and backaches, and helping improve quality sleep.
Another powerful way to stay connected with ourselves is to keep a journal. With so many experiences every day, sorting them out on paper and creating a record of how we react to our activities keeps us connected to how we are feeling. This is not only another tool to being more mindful, but it also has many benefits to our mind, body and soul. I’ve decided to choose a word each day that I want to explore my thoughts on. Sometimes this will be a word directly relating to something that happened that day, or just a word that comes to mind in the moment. For example, I recently realized how feeling more at peace and “in the moment” was affecting my communication style. My husband and I got in a disagreement about something emotionally charged only a couple of weeks ago. Under normal stress, I would have become defensive and insistent that things be done my way. Instead, in this instant, I felt it easier to stop, think about where he was coming from, and let the issue lie until I was sure we were both calmer and further away from our emotions in that moment. The resolution was very positive, and the whole experience was enlightening. Journaling about “communication” brought closer to me how important it is to have effective, well-thought out conversation, and how mindfulness has made a big impact on my actions in a short amount of time.
While the idea of doing a “head cleanse” wasn’t about food or nutrition, becoming mindful in my daily tasks has spilled over into my eating and exercise habits, as well. I find I am more mindful about each time I put food into my mouth, taking a moment to acknowledge what I am eating, the purpose it plays in my life, whether it be for good health or enjoyment. Preferably it plays both roles. I spent much of the last couple of months of 2018 in such a frenzy about getting things done, maximizing sales, worrying about my loved ones, getting involved in my community, and keeping my household running that many days I wouldn’t set aside time to prepare a proper lunch, and, if I ate at all, it was something I could unwrap or quickly heat and inhale standing up. Being more mindful has brought me back to one of the core values that brought me to rural life…food. Fresh food, homemade food, clean food. When I actually stop to prepare it and sit down to enjoy it, I feel a connection to the importance of eating well. Taking time for food has been a great side effect of being more mindful in daily life.
Since becoming a fitness instructor and trainer, one of my favorite activities, yoga, has, at times, felt a whole lot like work. Even trying to have my own practice led to note-taking, class prep, and even thoughts of “is this sequence good enough?”, even if it was only supposed to be for me. I have made a very conscious decision to make yoga part of my daily meditation, using it as it was originally intended, as body preparation for sitting. As I move through the poses, I take time to engage in what each body part is feeling and think about the ways it is helping me prepare for stillness. I have also taken it upon myself to no longer see my teaching, crafting, and administrative roles in my company as individual, but have created a new business mindset to encompass all of the aspects of health and wellness that inspire me.
The Power of Aroma & Sound
Thanks to a sweet new friend, I was recently gifted incense in the form of White Sage and Palo Santo. These smoky, earthy scents are natural head cleansers for me, along with my favorite resinous essential oil. Each morning I cleanse my studio with the smoke from these two natural elements, and dab my wrists with Frankincense. The use of aromatherapy in mindful meditation can allow one to breathe deeper and obtain greater focus. There are many great essential oils for meditation (which I will touch on in a later post), but Frankincense, Lavender, and Cedarwood are some of my favorites for bringing about a greater sense of peace, and a connection to one’s true heart.
There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to combining meditation and music. Some say music gets in the way of truly connecting deeply with the mind. Some say only relaxing music should be listened to. Others would say listen to music only on headphones to get the full, undistracted exposure. In my experience, I like to listen to soft, instrumental music for a couple of reasons. First, I find it very relaxing and enjoyable. Also, there have been many times in the past I have tried to meditate, but found it difficult to sit for 10 minutes because I didn’t know how long 10 minutes was. I would get restless and wonder if it was time to get up. So much for relaxing the mind, it actually created more anxiety about meditation. I decided going into this cleanse I would use music to set the stage for the amount of time I would sit that day. I made a playlist of songs that last about 10 minutes and I can listen to the music, as well as the other sounds around me, and when the music is done, I know I can either continue to sit, getting up when I am ready, or open my eyes, smile, and move on with my day.
I am becoming increasingly appreciative of this cleanse every day. I feel more at ease with my daily activities, more confident in my choices about how I spend my time, and more aware of moments that I am feeling stress. I am able to address this stress with a mindset of “is this stress necessary, and do I need to be feeling it”? Each moment has become more important to me, and my attention to it is important, too. I am more focused on my tasks, choosing them wisely and with purpose. I have a greater sense of accomplishment over what I am able to do each day, rather that focusing on what didn’t get done. Life has become more about enjoying the journey and remembering why I do what I do each and every day.