Saturday, April 16, 2011

Get Your Tush to the Cush

Last night was my final series of friday night yoga TT (teacher training).  I attended 7 months of alternating friday night classes, half of were yoga philosophy and then meditation.  I have interests in both, and have intentions on continuing my research and development in those areas.  However, I'd like to comment on meditation since it's still fresh on my mind.  I learned a set of skills called BFIT (body, mind, image, talk).  Basically, you find a place to sit and meditate (preferably without distractions).  Try to sit in an erect position; something that is comfortable and yet keeps you alert.  Your eyes can be open or closed. I have been meditating with my eyes open lately, because I have been so tired that if I close them I will start to nod off.  This leads into things you don't want to do doing while meditating-'dozing,' 'frozen,' and 'pose-in-'which means if your sleeping, white knuckling, and pretending that you are meditating-get up and do something else!  Perhaps you need to sit for a shorter period then-because you will not have any benefits from sitting with frustration or exhaustion.    Anyway, back to sitting with your eyes open.  We learned a technique called full field focus.  My understanding of it, is that you take in your environment and its details in an almost hypersensitive manner, but then soften your gaze (dristi for us yogis).  I keep my gaze on one spot and don't allow it to move all over the place to distract me. 

When we have been meditating in class, we've usually started by listening to the sounds of a bell the teacher has brought in.  We focus on the ringing, and try to pick out distinct tones.  Then we begin to bring our awareness to our bodies and do a mental check like savasana in a way.  Sometimes I will bring my inner gaze to parts of my body.  We learned to mentally follow our body like a figure 8, starting with our right hip and moving up and to the left.  This helps your focus and keeps your mind off of (what's for dinner-when is this over-I feel gasy etc...).  We also brought our awareness to what was called breath home base and focused our mind on the centre of our chests, and then our nostrils.

Now enters the mind.  I always think of this as a contradiction.  Meditation doesn't necessarily ask you to think of nothing.  But it does ask you to acknowledge what's going on in your head, and then let those thoughts go.  The BFIT technique invites you to label your thoughts, so for example when you start to think about what to make for dinner, it might take you a few seconds to remember that your shouldn't be dwelling on those thoughts, so then you label it in your head 'talk.'  If you have a still moment in your head, you can label that 'quiet,' and if you have any images (usually if you are meditating with your eyes closed), you can label them 'image.'

Anyway, I have to admit I struggled with these techniques for that past few weeks (and still do).  I have learned another meditation technique called IAM, which is much more direct in timing, thoughts, breath, and movement, and found that I did resonate with that more because it gave me something to do.  However, why should we always be concerned about doing something?  I think this is a result of our fast paced, media bombarded, consumer world where we no longer know how to just sit.  So, not that the IAM technique is bad (I still really like its concepts), but its helping me realize why I struggle with BFIT and I acknowledge that these struggles are good for me.

Meditation is so beneficial, because it makes us mindful in our everyday lives.  It helps us recover from emotional hijacks faster, makes us more empathetic to people, lessens our emotional or physical pain ...  The list is long!  I'm really only scrapping the surface on both how to meditate, and what it can do for you (and the people around you).  But I wanted to share to others that it is very beneficial to your mental and physical health.  Even now, I have had moments (driving for instance) when I previously would react harsher and dwell on something longer-but I find myself softer.

My instructor suggested that a mindful meditation practice of 20 minutes for 4 times a week would significantly make a difference in our lives and relationships within a year from now.  I am not too sure if that goal is too unrealistic for me, but I think I am going to set a goal for myself that looks like this:  4 days a week X 20 minutes meditation, and 3 days a week primary yoga sequence (mostly individual practice and not led).  

Mindful Meditation

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