Here are another couple of breathing and meditation practices taken from my book.
Deep breathing is the foundation stone for relaxation and can be a very useful skill to employ at times of stress and anxiety. It is also the basis for more complex breathing exercises such at the complete breath and rhythmic breathing which I will talk about it future posts. I believe that practised regularly deep breathing can boost your parasympathetic nervous system, keeping you more relaxed for longer, reducing muscle tension (and consequently pain) and improving sleep.
The blue sky meditation is another tool for letting go of your thoughts and feelings and stilling the mind. The aim is to stop getting caught up in a whirlwind of galloping thoughts and overwhelming feelings; to be able to observe these experiences with the calm clarity that will allow you to hear your trustworthy inner wisdom.
I always start any meditation session with a breathing exercise to help me relax and focus my attention. 5 minutes of deep breathing followed by 5-10 minutes of blue sky meditation is an excellent evening practise. However it might be better to learn these practises when you are not so tired and better able to concentrate.
Start by sitting or lying in a comfortable position but with the spine as straight as possible. If you are lying you may want to put a cushion under your knees. If sitting try to imagine being suspended by an invisible chord at your crown, so that your spine is tall and extended and everything else is just loosely hanging from it. Your chin should feel very slightly tucked down.
Place one hand on your abdomen (your top finger covering your belly button) and the other on your chest (bottom finger on the breast bone).Take a long slow breath in and out, and follow the movements of your hands.
Now take a slow breath in, aiming to breathe deeply into the bottom of your lungs using your diaphragm. You want the hand on your abdomen to move a lot more that the hand on your chest. However the muscles of your abdomen should be relaxed it is only the downward movement of the diaphragm that causes the belly to rise. Aim to make this a slow relaxed exercise with minimal effort. Be careful not to force anything.
Breathe out slowly, letting go of any muscles you used to breathe in. The diaphragm shrinks up back towards your chest bone allowing your abdomen to sink down.
If it seems difficult to identify the movement of the diaphragm just practise long slow, relaxed breaths. Imagine your breath flowing gently deep down into your lungs, then everything letting go and collapsing down, gently pushing your breath back out. You can practise like this for a few days before refocusing on your bottom hand moving while the top stays relatively still.
Blue sky meditation
Imagine that your essential nature is like the still brightness of a clear, blue, windless sky. Your thoughts and feelings are the clouds that from time to time get blown into and out of the sky. They are just visiting, temporary occurrences and are separate from your true being.
Focus on keeping your attention in the peaceful stillness of your being (the clear blue sky). Whenever you notice yourself residing in the cloud of a thought or a feeling, move your attention back to being the sky. Observe the cloud and allow it to gently drift away. Bring your attention back to the experience of stillness, of peace.
Accept the reality that clouds will come and go but the aim is not to get stuck inside one. Whenever you notice it, let it just float away and return to the still and peaceful brightness of your being.
Remember to be kind and accepting of yourself. Don’t expect to be able to keep your attention in the stillness all the time. It takes practise to be able to find this stillness even for a couple of minutes at a time. But it does get easier and easier to find the stillness for longer and longer periods. And with practise you’ll also find yourself noticing the clouds sooner, before you get too caught up in them and it becomes easier to let them float away.
Meditation does take concentration and focus. There are days when I struggle with the concentration and focus necessary. I have learned to accept this and let go when it is too difficult. So if you find it hard don’t push it. Allow yourself time to learn this skill. Start with just 5 minutes a day and build the time up on your good days. It does become easier with practise but there will always be days when it is easier than others and there is no point in battling on the hard days.
Meditating with other people does somehow make it easier to focus. I would definitely recommend a group or a class if you have one nearby and can cope with the outing.
Take a look at my new poll about exercise. Top right.