Still Your Mind in the Midst of a Storm.
We’re all on lockdown and I truly have this urge to share what was never clear to me in the beginning of my meditation journey. Steps I wish I knew back then and the same ones that will guarantee you a really smooth journey into Zen. A mix of mundane and metaphysical techniques that will help you wipe out the states of fear, panic and sheer anxiety. Overlooked but majestic in their powers to help you reach the zen state of silence. Bypassing these steps is why most never manage to meditate. This is my personal take and my simplest method, so you can walk right through the racing thoughts of the fleeting mind, ease into the complaining body and get them both to co operate!
The attempt to sit still, expecting the mind to shut down from its usual undisciplined chatter, especially during anxious states, is unrealistic. The mind wants to jump fleet and offer you all its enticing games within its playground. That is its duty, and yours is to master it.
During moments of panic, anxiety, fear, anticipation or dwelling on what might be and what could have been, the mind mastery.
In the way you never get caught up in its drama but to tame your own attachment to its offers.
In a whirlwind the mind can fuck you over.
It is next to never in the present moment and will not for the love of life allow you to be one with yourself.
The Self that is unmoved by the mind.
So that’s a little bit of philosophy. Now to the down and dirty and to rising above the density.
Before I go straight in with the steps, I want to give you the version (there are many others, but since this is lockdown time, I will give you the only one that you can do during social distancing) of meditation that you could be embarking on everyday all day until you build your way up to Zen mastery.
I call it the eyes-wide-open meditation, aka one-pointed focus, aka training the brain and mind away from multitasking.
And this is it:
You take one task — chopping onions, eating a meal, washing dishes, cleaning your closet, sweeping the floor, de-cluttering the house — and you do it with your full intent, dedication, energy and focus. Eyes, breath and focus only on that job.
Nothing else but that onion.
Nothing else but those dishes, that clutter, that floor.
Nothing else but eating that meal and looking at every mouthful move from the plate to your mouth.
No other task
Just that one.
And the nothing else happens when you keep bringing the breath, the focus and the intent back to the job. The mind will come in with its usual format of disruption, oh it will, over and over and over again, because it wants your attention, whilst you move through its barrage of noise and return to that one task.
A very gentle form of meditation.
Eyes-wide-open commitment and dedication to that task until it’s done and pristinely polished.
Continuous commitment to bringing your focus back to where it’s needed.
No stopping the mind.
No forcing anything.
Simply pivoting back to what you’re doing and allowing the mind to wander all it wants.
This version of meditation trains you how to allow and move through which is basically the management of self during times of stress.
Yes the storm is still taking place, the chaos is still there, but you are simply insisting on focusing on something more stable.
The task, the breath the focus and the now.
Now to the breath!
This is where most get it wrong.
A lot of people think that they can just like that, out of the blue, after years of not breathing properly or deeply enough, or never having been in a cross-legged position, they can just sit, close their eyes, chant a few Oms and see the light.
It simply won’t work and it is more distressing than calming, so hear me out.
There is no meditation without the mastery of your breath!
And if we had to go all the way back, hasn’t it always been about the breath?
If the majestic contractions during childbirth are tackled through the breath and mama is given constant instructions to breathe through her pain, then it must apply to all or any other real-life stress-inducing contractions.
Anxiety, depression, mental agitation, fear of the unknown — these are all beasts that can easily be tamed through a very disciplined format of breathwork.
Breathwork is the backbone for meditation.
It is the prerequisite.
The foundation that steadies you in the shitstorm.
We are born knowing how to breathe, and as we move along, we also fall into habits of not breathing properly.
Breathing is automatic and we all know how to do it, of course, it’s the thing that is keeping us alive, but managing the inner breath is a tad different and this is what I’m building up to.
It’s the potent yogic form of breathing that is going to launch you into an anxiety-free, stable and very still and highly acclaimed meditative state — the zen state which has been scientifically proven to harmonize the heart, calm the emotions and break bondages of anxiety, fear and instability.
It even goes as far as relieving chronic addictive habits.
It has the power to do all that but it needs to be done well, and normal regular human breathing is where it starts.
Awareness of breath is first.
Being aware that there is an inhale and an exhale taking place.
Hearing the in and the out taking place.
Then the extension.
Filling the belly and making it rise as high as it can during inhalation and then expelling it all out till the last drop on the exhalation.
A little like it’s your first ever breath.
This is the belly-breathing we do when we’re born.
Have you ever seen a baby sleeping and breathing?
It’s the perfect rise and fall.
The perfect rhythm.
So that is the initial warm-up step before you attempt to meditate and before you go into a higher aspects of pranayama aka yogic breath, starting with the awareness of human unconscious breath that smoothly leads to belly-breathing — the belly and the breath in one task.
You can do it by closing your eyes, placing both hands on the belly and following the journey of the inhale as it causes the belly to rise and the exhale as the belly falls. Then extending and holding the inhale for a longer second, allowing an expansion of belly, diaphragm and chest, and then letting it all collapse on the exhale and expelling a little more than the previous time.
And you go on focusing only on the breath and the belly.
Now to pranayama.
The regulation (yama) of inner life force (prana), achieved once the regular human unconscious breath is regulated, noticed and brought to harmonious perfection. A yogic form of breathing that wipes out whatever the mind keeps bringing to the surface and trances you back into your inner unmoved being.
It puts you in control of your own unseen life force.
It goes beyond oxygen levels.
Mastering prana is mastering your mind.
It regulates the speed of thoughts and puts you in that state of present tense trance.
Now see it this way.
Just like veins carry our blood, energy cells (nadis) carry our life force (prana).
And like blocked arteries impede the flow of blood, toxic thoughts block and stagnate the energy cells (nadis) impacting both physical and emotional well-being.
Pranayama is the Marie Kondo wipe-out cleanser that purifies the brain so the mind can be a healthier byproduct of that organ.
Your mind gets a shower, your thoughts slow down.
You are entering meditative states with no force.
And voila, you are meditating.
Let me clarify again.
I am talking a series of sets until the toxicity starts to clear, and the whole system starts to adjust, and the belly and the brain and the heart get in on it, and then, Boom! You’re zenning like a master monk!
Disclaimer: These yogic techniques are not ones you want to just ’try’ and play with at home alone if you are a total beginner. They are honorable techniques that require the guidance of an expert teacher to see you through until your system gets used to the immense flush and until the pent-up toxins start to shift. I speak from my own experience as I went into advanced yoga practice with a very intoxicated and undisciplined mind, and I ended up having to tackle extreme nausea, lightheadedness and what that foreign feeling of being detoxed from my own drainage brought to the surface. So if you’re a beginner, go deep into belly-breathing only for now, as that won’t cause the system any further tremors.
That’s the breath.
Now the body.
The body needs work.
If the mind is disturbed, then the body is too.
Those disturbances can show up as aches and pains as you try and sit still. The spine protesting from all the sitting up straight, the hips and knees screaming for being wide open, and the legs numbing out with no blood flow are all complaints.
There is no way you will be allowed to meditate in peace unless that body of yours is well-oiled, warmed up, moved, released and pristinely poised for a sit-down session of stillness.
A little nook in the positioning of the spine could actually be the cause of why the mind won’t be still and the self can’t meditate.
You see, the spine is like a straw in a smoothie. Bend that straw and try to suck in the drink. It’s blocked, so no smoothie cometh.
Same with the spine.
It’s the portal that transports oxygen, blood and prana to all the vital organs, so if you’re humped over with your nipples facing the ground or you’re sinking deep into your lumbar spine, then your system is blocked from receiving prana and your mind is back doing its thing.
It is why there is a whole yoga practice before meditation.
Asanas, so you move, maneuver and align the body to the point of regal stillness. The blood flows, the oxygen moves, and prana floods every bone and muscle and joint of your being. The spine is supremely poised and then both mind and body collaborate, leaving you in peace to practice.
Focus on those two for today: the breath and the body.
There is more you need to manage like the gut, digestion, elimination and the connection of the digestive tract and the brain. The core and how you connect to your own essence when the going gets tough. Your foundation so you stand your ground no matter what is crumbling outside of your control. But that’s a whole other chapter on chakras. You got enough tips to start the setup.
So go and chop those onions, listen to the journey through the nostrils, sun salute and belly-breathe like there’s no tomorrow and take it from there.
Janet Vella, this raw and real female, comes in with stories of courage, resilience and determination. She’s one hell of a wild one in the way she wants to use the mess she left behind as medicine for another woman to rise. She catwalks this earthly plane with years of dance in her feet, yoga in her soul and an infinite sack of wisdom that’s come from dealing with suicidal depression, a childhood that formed no roots, a pelvic injury that pulled her out of the dance studio into an Indian ashram, a series of dead-end relationships that took the wind out of her sails, and a life so majestic, she wears it as her crown. She is savage in the way she teaches her tribe of extraordinary women to return to their wildest strands of soul. Her work is part-Buddha part-boudoir, and she stands behind her vision and creation I AM WOMAN. She can be found vagabonding and story telling daily on Facebook and sharing further on her website.