Updates on Feat #5: Meditating

6 Feb

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

For the original FEAT #5 blog entry, click here.

DAY 7 (Sunday):

I hate to say this, but I almost feel like this week was a cheat.  For some reason, the week I picked to do meditation to ease my jangled mind was the most relaxing week I’ve had in months.

And maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I really don’t think it was relaxing because of the meditation – we had several snow days this week, my husband was home, school was canceled, and we couldn’t go anywhere.  And it seemed like everything just slowed way down, to a nice, peaceful snowbound crawl.  I stayed in my jammies most days.  We played lots of games together as a family.  We watched movies and did crafts, and just hung out together.  And of course, we played in the snow.  It felt like a vacation!

So I almost wish that my meditation Feat had come at a different, more stressful time, but as the annoying saying goes, “It is what it is.”

Every day, my meditation was nice, peaceful, and calm.  I didn’t do much blogging about it, because there wasn’t much to tell.  I didn’t really feel like I was working through any issues, or anything deeper than just sitting quietly.  Even the constant music in my head stopped.

But I did enjoy meditating, even if I didn’t “need” it this week.  I can see how it would be useful during stressful times in a person’s life, and I look forward to trying it out when times are tough.

And I did finally learn about the hands in the picture!  The different ways of holding your hands while meditating are called mudras.  There are a few variations, each of which provide different functions for deepening your meditative connection.

I chose one tonight to end my Feat called “Gyan Mudra,” which helps to clear the mind, improve alertness, and increase clarity.  (I desperately need that right now, because it’s 10:30 on Sunday night, and I have no idea what my next Feat will be – though it starts tomorrow.  And this one also happens to be the mudra in the picture!)

To do this mudra, you join your index finger and thumb together in a circle, and relax the other fingers.  In this way, it symbolizes your unity with the cosmos.  Here I go.  Let’s hope it takes me straight to Feat #6.

DAY 4 (Thursday):

Tonight was definitely an important lesson for me in the futility of trying to plan things.

I was sitting at the kitchen table, researching various methods of meditation.  I thought I would have a restful evening after yet another lazy snow day – some research, some meditation, some blogging.

All of a sudden, my 3-year-old daughter (who had a little bit of a cough today) started coughing so hard in her sleep that it sounded like she couldn’t breathe.  I raced in there, with my husband hot on my heels.

After getting her up and calmed down, we gave her honey, put Vick’s on her chest, took her outside into the cold, and then took her into a steamy bathroom.  Her coughing subsided, but not enough for her to go back to sleep, so the lucky girl got to sit in the office with her dad and watch TV.  I knew we were headed for a long and sleepless night.

And then I got mad about something (not important what it is) – so mad I thought I would burst at the seams.  And I thought, “Hmmmm…maybe this is the perfect time to meditate.  I’m worried about my daughter, I’m afraid no one will be getting any sleep tonight, and I’m super freaking ticked off.  My mind probably couldn’t be racing any more than this.”

So I plopped down in front of the fire and focused on untangling the ugly jumble of thoughts in my head.  I feel like I’ve already gotten better at meditating – I suppose it’s a skill that you can learn with practice.  I didn’t do any of the new kinds I had just learned about from the Mayo Clinic website (guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, qi gong or tai chi!) – I just stuck with my own standard interpretation, my “freestyle” method.

I breathed, I relaxed, I tried to clear my mind.  It really is happening much more quickly now.

I also tried to think positive thoughts about the evening.  My daughter will be OK, we’ll get over this, things will work out fine and I won’t be mad anymore.  I sent positive thoughts to someone who had heart surgery today, a neighbor who slipped on the ice and hit his head, and a friend who lost a family member.  Focusing on those other people was a sure-fire way for me to forget my own troubles.  In no time, I felt calm and ready to call it a day.

Right now I’m typing this as my daughter is attempting to sleep next to me.  She’s exhausted, but her cough keeps waking her up.  Her round, rosy cheeks and stinky Vick’s smell are heavenly.  Tonight didn’t work out the way I planned it, but I’m enjoying it anyway.

DAY 2 (Tuesday):

I remembered to meditate twice today, although since it wasn’t a stressful day, it’s not liked I needed meditation to relax me.

It was a snow day – I couldn’t go anywhere with the kids (which can be a drag), but my husband stayed home from work, so we all just hung out and played games, played in the snow, and read books.  And with my husband here, I was able to get some work done and even take a nap.  Yay me!!

I got a suggestion on guided meditation from my fellow MtM writer (and dear friend) Lori.  She found this particular method in Yoga Journal magazine, in which you lay on the ground and scan each body part in your mind, bringing awareness and gratitude to that part.  All the way from your head to your toes.  It sounded nice and relaxing, so I gave it a shot.

Well, I got down to my lungs, and I just couldn’t finish.  A song popped into my head, grabbed hold, and wouldn’t leave me alone.  “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons.

And that’s what happened yesterday, too – my inner iPod just started blasting.  Both times I kept trying to push the song out of my head, but maybe I shouldn’t.  Music really recharges me.  Maybe sitting quietly and listening to a song is just what I need.

Lori said that there’s no right way to meditate, nor is there anything I “should” do – it should just be what feels right for me.

So maybe I’ve just made an important realization – meditation isn’t one-size-fits-all because YOU have to decide what you want to get out of it.  Do you want to relax?  Do you want to connect with something spiritual?  Do you want to project your desires into the universe?  Do you want to feel energized?  Your approach to it depends on what you need from it.

My meditation practice may be unique to me because what I want to get from it is personal and unique as well.

On to day 3 – I may try yet another approach.  Still haven’t figured out those hands in the picture, but I will!

DAY 1 (Monday):

Well, I screwed up this Feat already, because I forgot to meditate this morning.  But I think it would be very un-zenlike to beat myself up over it, so I’ll move on.

I was on a rampage today, once again tackling a huge to-do list.  When the kids were finally in bed, my head was buzzing with all the things I needed to do tonight.  Proofread an article.  Vacuum the bedroom.  Blog.  Put a list of interview questions together.  Fold laundry.  I was so wound up, I don’t think I would have noticed a school of fish swimming through my living room.

And then all of a sudden I remembered – oh yeah!  I have to meditate!  I had so much to do, but I actually relished the thought of just stopping for a few minutes.

I closed the bedroom door and sat down on the floor next to my bed.  One lamp lit a small pool of light around me.  I closed my eyes and got started.

Tonight my intent was just to try and sit quietly, calming any thoughts that came into my head.  I was determined not to quit until I got to that point.  (Although maybe forcing that goal on myself was also very un-zenlike!)  It was really tough, but I persisted.  Every time I started thinking about doing something else, I just tried to direct my thoughts back to sitting simply.

I also started by doing some loud ocean-like yoga breathing, but then I decided that was too distracting.  I ended up being silent and just listening to the night sounds around me.  It’s amazing how many different things you can hear if you just shut up and listen.

I tried not to think about things I had to do or decisions I have to make.  And I tried really hard not to think about blogging about what I was doing.  Over and over, my mind kept wandering, but I just tried to keep it still.  At one point, I imagined getting a brain massage – hands actually inside my skull massaging my brain.  Is that weird?

After several minutes, I moved to a simple yoga pose called Legs Up the Wall.  Yes, it’s just like it sounds, and it’s supposed to have great healing properties.  You lay on your back, put your butt up against the wall, and let your legs go up the wall.  It’s a simple, restorative pose that makes all the blood move up to your torso and head.  It’s so easy, and it feels really good.

By that point, I was uber-relaxed and my mind felt nice and calm. (The only thing I couldn’t seem to quiet was the song that had been stuck in my head all day – “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People, if you’re curious!)

Afterwards, I don’t know how to describe how I felt.  It’s not that I was indifferent to my to-do list, it’s just that I felt like, “Well, things will get done one way or another.”  Nothing felt so earth-shattering anymore, but I did end up getting a lot done anyway.

In tonight’s meditation, I didn’t try to focus on anything, didn’t ask for anything or try to figure anything out.   Tomorrow I plan to research some meditation methods, to see if there’s something else I could (or should) be doing.  Maybe I’ll figure out what the heck is up with those hands in the picture…

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One Response to “Updates on Feat #5: Meditating”

  1. Lori February 2, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    The only thing you “should” be doing with regard to meditation is whatever feels right to you! I was reading my Yoga Journal this morning and came across this guided meditation and thought of you. I’ll post it here in case you, or anyone else wants to give it a try!

    “Lie on the floor or sit in a comfortable chair. Take 3 deep breaths and let your entire body relax. Acknowledge yourself for taking the time to be with yourself in a loving way.

    Then, begin with a body scan, systematically bringing compassionate awareness to each part of the body- starting with the top of your head and working your way down to your toes. As you bring attention to each part of your body, what sensations arise? Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, without judgment. If any tension, pain or discomfort is present, imagine soothing it with your awareness and acceptance.

    Next, acknowledge what each part of the body does for you (For example, when you focus on the throat, feel gratitude for how the throat allows you to express yourself through words or song.) When you get to the heart center, acknowledge it as the seat of your emotions, including both the tenderness of self-doubt or fear, and the desire to care for yourself and others. Allow yourself to feel appreciation for both the vulnerability and compassion that arise from the heart. Then continue the body scan down to your toes.

    Finish the practice by resting in a sense of self-appreciation, and wish yourself happiness, health, and freedom from suffering.”

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