Start your meditation practice now...
For beginners, it is nice to work with a practice to cultivate a conscious breath as the first step in your meditation practice. So I invite you to CLICK HERE and read more about how to do this. Once you're comfortable with this breathing practice, you're ready to move on.
Begin to sit, preferably at the same time every day. Just sit. And breathe. And notice what comes up for you as you do this. Again... and again... and again... Sit, breathe, notice. Every day. Same time. Same place. Just do it...
Eventually… you may find the mind yearns for more quiet time. That you yearn for a period of uninterrupted time where you can rest and draw awareness inward. The nervous system benefits from the sense of calm this creates in the body/mind. The endocrine system benefits, and hormonal balance normalizes. Allow the cares of the day to melt away, if only temporarily, as you rest in this quiet space.
It is here, in this quiet space, that you move deeper. Allow yourself to simply witness all that goes on in the mind...
Begin to cultivate a sense of nonattachment. Thoughts develop. They may come and go… They may come again. Simply observe them, as if they were clouds in the sky, and let them float on by.
Now, from a detached place, allow yourself to become an observer. Notice, simply notice, how you feel as you sit in quiet reflection. Notice the quality of your mind. The quality of your breath. Continue in this role, as an observer, for as long as is comfortable. There is no need to do or fix anything...
How long can you allow yourself to rest quietly, playing the role of the observer, as you drop into a deeper sense of calm abiding?
You will know when the time is right to come back. To bring your senses back out into the world around you…
At that time, simply take a few long, slow breaths in and out. In and out again, slowly and smoothly. Allow your awareness to return to the space around you, slowly and gently.
Then take a moment to acknowledge this practice you just experienced. It’s a practice, because we can come back again and again and continue to refine our awareness of what’s going on as we move toward stillness.
This is meditation.
For further instruction, or feedback on your experience, click here to contact Yoga Therapist Sharon Harvey Alexander. Namaste.
Click here to take a stress and anxiety quiz, a gratitude quiz or another insightful quiz:
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Fear, Mind Games, and Recovery
by Sharon Harvey Alexander
It was a lovely weekend day – seasonally warm and calm. The perfect day for a bike ride.
So I headed out to meet up with a small group to ride slowly around one quadrant of Boulder for an hour or so. After gathering at the local rec center, we took off at comfortable clip, everyone falling into line according to their warmup pace. After a half mile or so, we approached a gravel parking lot that sat between the path on which we were riding and the road to which we headed. This potholed, busy area needed to be crossed in order to merge onto the main road for our ride.
As I approached the lot, I noticed what looked like a separated path framing the lot so I chose to ride on that instead of crossing directly through the busy parking lot. At first I was happy to have discovered this path, this separation from potential chaos. My mind was considering its origins –“Had I known of this path’s existence before? It must have been constructed as part of the mitigation work that followed the flooding a few years back,” I thought. “A way for pedestrians (runners) and cyclists, too, perhaps to navigate around the lot for reasons I had also chosen that day, mostly to avoid the chaos of cars backing up, dogs being released from cars, people beginning and ending their outings along the creek nearby.” My mind went on…
Eventually I noticed that the surface of the path was not very solid. Comprised of loose dirt, it was getting thicker. Then I noticed that there was a corner up ahead. A 90 degree corner. I began slowing down a bit to navigate it, which I did successfully, only to begin skidding in the thick, loose dirt as I rounded the corner. Instinctively, I reached out to grab the fence next to me so as to prevent a fall and that turned out to not be the most prudent idea!
Moving forward, and skidding, with a body that was still cold and tight in the early morning March air turned out to be the perfect storm for injury! In that moment, it was as if I could “see” right into my shoulder – a spacious, dark area beneath an umbrella of bone. And I knew that this part of my body wasn’t happy about being pulled in the way that it was. Then I fell… Slowly… to the ground. With a big THUD! Landing in the thick dirt beneath me, my bicycle came down on top of me. Darn!
I unclipped from my peddles, began to get up, and recoiled in pain. Ugh! My shoulder hurt! What to do?
Taking a few deep breaths – in and out - allowed me to stand up. I summoned all my energy to walk over to where most of the rest of the group had gathered to await the stragglers. “I’m not going to continue” was all I could get out, tears beginning to form… “Yes, you look a little crooked,” said the leader of the group. “Thanks for the feedback,” I thought to myself. And they took off to continue the ride.
Now what? Tears started flowing… My arm was hurting… I didn’t want to get back on my bicycle and ride home, even though that was only a couple miles away. At the same time, visions of the long-range impacts of my incapacity began forming in my mind. Fear grew as my mind painted potential future scenarios… Fear of the unknown, of what might happen, as well as of what just happened.
I called my husband(funny thing, I had gone back inside to retrieve my phone before I took off on the ride, even though I didn’t really think there’d be a reason to have it). And I let tears flow as I waited for him to pick me up.
Afraid of what might be wrong (and not a fan of being in pain) I tensed. As I waited, my whole future seemed to flash in front of my eyes, even though I wasn’t really able to focus on anything much. Doesn’t this often happen in an accident - our life flashes in front of our eyes? My mind had visions of how this would affect my ability to work; how it would affect my fairly active lifestyle. Immediately, my mind had begun to awfulize… about this, and that, and the next thing. As a result, my breath became shallower and shallower. And the pain grew in intensity as I imagined all these terrible things… and my breath grew shorter and shorter… “When would Todd be here?” I wondered in the midst of the awfulizing.
There was nothing to do but wait. And in the silence of the moment, my body/mind remembered… As I sat quietly, my body/mind remembered what it was to sit quietly, a practice I’d cultivated years before and apply most every day just after waking. And it remembered that I had tools available to me to counteract what was happening right now. The work I do supporting others who are going through this same kind of experience came to mind. I knew what needed to be done at that moment. The answers, at least for the moment, were indeed inside me. All I needed to do was breathe… and let that lead me forward.
So I did. I let go of the mind games and took a deep breath. My chest felt tight… I did it again. My ribs didn’t want to expand... Of course, all they wanted to do was hug in and help protect me from the pain. So I told them it was o.k. by breathing slowly into them, and they relaxed. A little bit. Breath by breath I begin to relax. Breath by breath I began to remember my wholeness as my breath grew longer again, even though a part of me wasn’t feeling very good right now.
As I slowly deepened my breath, my body and mind grew calmer. As my body/mind calmed, possibilities opened up. I realized that I could take my time to evaluate the situation and decide what to do. That’s when Todd arrived. Just having him there was a relief and I let tears flow again as he loaded my bicycle, opened the car door and took me home…
The long story short of this is that I elected not to go to Urgent Care that day, but to come home and rest in order to more clearly evaluate my options in a relaxed rather than worried state of mind. Intuitively I think I knew this was more than a pulled muscle. But I wanted to take my time and treat it with love and tenderness; I wanted to begin to heal from inside out...
Day-by-day, the pain has subsided as I applied ice, essential oils and homeopathic remedies. But something just doesn’t feel quite right yet. My PA friend Claudia encouraged me to get a diagnosis. Yes, it’s true, the ultrasound shows that there is probably a tear… in a tendon, and maybe the labrum (lining of the shoulder joint). In the few days before we leave for spring break, I’m awaiting an MRI and then the results to corroborate what the ultrasound showed.
Meanwhile, when I notice thoughts about the future creeping in, or feel what remains of the pain, I take a deep breath and move toward that calm and centered place inside me that silently awaits my next visit. From there, I invite my mind to bring to the injured site a loving, nurturing attitude. And I deepen my breath, taking time to remember all the things that are going well in my life. With time, this too shall pass.
It’s so much a better place to be, for me, resting in the knowingness that all is as it should be. I’ve realized that I have a choice… and compared to that scattered, frightened, upset experience of fear that the mind had led me to immediately following the injury, I choose peace. I choose to trust that what is unfolding is happening exactly as it should.
I’d have to say that it was the aspect of my wisdom mind that guided me back to a place of peace. Even with the tears and the pain, there was peace; peace beneath that. Peace is what exists at the core of my being. Peace is what will heal this injury. With that in mind, I thank that part of myself – the wisdom mind - every morning when I begin my sitting practices. That part of my mind led me down the road toward recovery. Through calmness, healing can take place. I am reminded, through this experience, that each of us is really much more than we give ourselves credit for. That we are often stronger, more capable, and more resilient than we admit. For that reminder, I am thankful. I am thankful for the loving support of my husband and my friends, too. And while certainly something has changed as a result of this accident, and part of me may never be the same, I know I will recover.