The warmer weather has me wanting to move more. Maybe it's the deeply rooted sense of school's- almost-out-and-I-want-to-play habit that I picked up from my school days but the warmer weather as Spring turns to Summer never fails to inspire me to move and play. It's no wonder, then, that this desire to play has exerted itself upon my meditation practice
My relationship with meditation has been a bit like any long-term relationship – filled with ups and downs, sometimes infused with passion, while at other times lacking a spark, and an understanding that the commitment to the relationship must take priority. And like any other long-term relationship, the giddy beginnings of my meditation practice (days when I'd return from a meditation retreat all fired-up and sit for 1 hour twice a day) have deepened, over time, into a sometimes complex but beautiful and sustaining lasting practice.
For a long time, I believed there was a “right” way to meditate. For me, that involved sitting still on a meditation cushion. It wasn't until I took a class in which the meditation included movement, that I started to rethink my definition of “right.” These days, my meditation practice is a bit of a hybrid – it combines movement with stillness. Interestingly enough, my practice tended towards more stillness during the Winter months and now I'm adding movement back in and loving it. There's nothing like reinvigorating one's meditation practice and making it new again by adding a little twist.
If you'd like to broaden your meditation horizon, try this brief meditation that includes a little something for everyone:
Start standing with feet a little wider than hip distance apart, knees soft. Gently start to bounce, vibrate, and shake your body. After about 30 seconds, get your voice into it – take 3 deep inhales through the nose and exhale with a big AHHHHHHHH out the mouth. After the third AHHHHH, return to breathing regularly or breathing in a way that feels right to you (often I alternate regular breathing with a more rapid Breath of Fire type of breath). Move and make sounds for about 3 minutes and then come to stillness.
Bring your feet a bit closer together, about hip width apart. Inhale your left arm front the front up over your head to the count of three (by the time you're at the top of the inhale at the count of three, your arm should be fully extended towards the ceiling) and then exhale into a forward bend to the count of three (the right arm stays by your side the whole time). Inhale up this time raising your right hand towards the ceiling to the count of three and exhale down to the count of three. Continue raising alternate arms/coming into forward bend to the count of three until you've completed 6 arm raises on each side.
Come to a comfortable seated position (this can be on a cushion, on the floor – with bolsters if necessary – or in a chair. Simply sit for a minute or two and notice how your body is feeling.
Now imagine that your mind is a blue sky and that your bottom is rooted to the earth. Feel the ground supporting you while at the same time feeling a sense of expansiveness up towards the sky. When a thought arises, see it as a cloud that is drifting by in the blue sky of your mind. Don't hold onto the thought or judge it – let it move through the blue sky. Continue sitting this way for about 5 minutes.
Now inhale through puckered lips, raising your chin towards the ceiling and bring your palms up to gently cover the eyes. Exhale through the nose while bringing your hands back down to your lap and lowering your chin towards your chest. Do this breath 11 more times.
Now take a deep inhale through the nose and exhale out the mouth with a big AHHHHHH.
After you're done with this 15-minute (approximately) meditation, notice how you feel. Was it different than or similar to other types of meditation that you've tried in the past? Did this feel harder or easier than other forms of meditation that you've tried? Did you enjoy some parts more than others? What worked for you and what didn't?
Personally, I've found that mixing movement and stillness and pranayama really works for me. There's still a little part of me – the part that was a good little student during my many yoga trainings – that chides me about this not being the “right” way to meditate (somehow I doubt that The Enlightenment Police are watching and grading my meditation form like judges in some Olympic competition). Despite the voice, I've decided to treat myself like I treat my yoga students – I encourage them to adapt the practice to their bodies and their needs rather than the other way around. Luckily, I've learned over the years that there is no right way – there's only your way.