Tuesday, December 4, 2012

This blog has moved! Please visit it at: Quiet Winds

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How often do you let yourself relax?

Not sleeping but actually relaxing?
Are you constantly compelled to go, go, go?
Are you stressed upon waking? Midday? Evening?

Although I have no desire to go through it again my period with Chronic Fatigue taught me many things. There are far too many to list but one of the most compelling lessons was that my body needed space and time to reset.  Since that time, no matter how overwhelmed, no matter how teeth-grindingly stressed I may be, I afford myself time to sit still, breathe deep, and let myself come to center.  
We all need time to reset.  While we are designed to go full tilt for short periods of time we are not designed to go at mock speed all of the time.  In the 70’s Henry Benson a Harvard Cardiologist began, much to the chagrin of his colleagues, to research the physiological affects of meditation. In his first studies he focused specifically on the practice of transcendental meditation (repetition of a word or mantra) and its affects on hypertension (high blood pressure).
What doctor Benson ascertained from his studies was that through meditative techniques the body has an innate ability to move to a state of relaxation.  In this state there are observable physiological symptoms: decreased heart rate, slowed breathing, and lowered blood pressure. He poetically titled it the “Relaxation Response.”  In other words Benson found that the body is innately programmed to be able to reset.  

The technique utilized to trigger the “Relaxation Response” is incredibly simple. Though it can be done in a secular fashion, it is also a technique that is interwoven into all major religious traditions.  To activate this response for ten minutes:
  • Focus on and repeat a sound, word or phrase.
  • Passively disregard other thoughts.
In Hinduism this would be considered Mantra, in Catholicism it would be thought of as prayer, in the secular world it can be titled focus.   
So my little zoom-zoom, can you give yourself a time out?
  • Set a ten-minute timer
  • Sit quietly.
  • Focus on and repeat a beautiful phrase (I am love, Om Shanti (Peace), the Our Father) in all actuality use whatever you like, whatever you connect to.
  • Let other thoughts rise up and fall away, rise up and fall away.
  • When the mind wanders simply draw it back to the phrase.
  • Take time everyday to let yourself reset.

To read more about Henry Benson’s important work check out:
The Relaxation Response

Bibliography and Abstracts, US National Library of Medicine

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why be still?

Stillness is an action. It requires effort. It requires focus. It requires a willingness to be present in order to remember to be still. 
Stillness is important to many aspects of the practice. In postures stillness can generate strength in the more active poses and aid relaxation in the more quieted ones.  If stillness is coupled with breath awareness a powerful entrance point to meditation is activated. Keep thinking about it and the power of stillness will keep expanding.
In my classes when stillness is requested most of my students will become mostly “still”. Many will continue to actively wipe and wiggle, blink, and adjust. Sometimes these movers and shakers send off electrical firestorms inspiring bursts of movement by their neighbors.  

Lately I have been using guilt to make my students be still.  Admittedly, I feel a little guilty about it but it is surprisingly effective.  And maybe, in this one instance my Mom’s logic is right. Maybe “I am not guilting, so much as reminding them" that our actions impact others.
Next time you are moving through your personal practice in a community space and stillness is requested of you - put forth some focused effort - try to be honestly still and offer that energy out to the healing of your neighbor.