Elements Mindful Deep Breathing
Bringing our attention to points of contact:
So often we look to thoughts for our sense of safety/security. If we are going to make a relationship with the present moment (as opposed to going to thought) we must know that the present moment is safe.
When we bring our attention to where our body meets the ground and invite our attention to linger on these areas, the nervous system gets the message “We’re safe, we’re on steady ground, we can relax.”
We invite our posture to be upright and relaxed. Sitting upright to practice invites the mind to be wakeful and clear (as opposed to sluggish or sleepy).
We bring our attention to the breath because the breath is always happening in the present moment. It is an anchor for our attention. Training our attention to connect and stay present with the breath (through the entirety of the in-breath and the entirety of the out-breath), we cultivate our ability to remain present with life at large.
The vagus nerve runs along the back of the throat from the roof of the mouth all the way to the diaphragm at the base of the lungs. When “stimulated” (by breathing slowly, gently and deeply to the abdomen, and slowing down our exhale) releases serotonin. Serotonin is nicknamed the “happy hormone”, because it improves mood and invites the body to relax. The vagus nerve also shifts the body from it’s fight/flight/freeze stress reaction to its rest/digest mode of operation. It relaxes our body and mind simultaneously. The analogy I give is that if the stress reaction is the gas pedal, practicing mindful deep breathing is like stepping on the brake.
Our thinking mind is super into tasks. It just loves having a job. When we begin counting during the practice, we are inviting the thinking mind to “help” our practice, so to speak.
How to Make a Meditation Practice “Stick”
1) Practice for short periods (2-5 minutes) throughout the day.
When learning to meditate it is most effective to practice for short periods, many times. Familiarizing yourself with the practice in this way, you learn how to “let go” of stress/anxiety/tension quickly. This also invites you to let go of stress throughout the day — and is practical for people with busy schedules (like yourselves!).
2) Practice at the same time in the same place.
Our brain is built to notice and respond to patterning. If you sit in the same place at the same time each day and do the same “activity” (in this case, meditating) you will notice that just entering the room, your body/mind will attune to the situation, and begin to let go of stress.
3) On the days that you don’t want to meditate, remember your “why”.
What motivated you to attend tonight’s class? How can this meditation practice going to serve you? Recalling this consciously helps us to overcome the resistance to practicing that many new meditators encounter.
4) Allow yourself to be a beginner.
Learning to meditate, you are creating a habit. Any new habit takes time to “click”. No one is grading you. No one is judging you. This practice is for your own benefit — it’s to cultivate your own peace of mind, and balance within your being. Let it be a nourishing practice, not a means to measure/judge yourself.