Spring Cleaning the Mind
Here you are in the last month of spring, you may have heard me talking in class about spring cleaning our houses (our bodies) via asana which help to boost the lymphatic system. You may have been there when I touched on how to clean out with juices and clean living, I mostly cover this at Retreats and private sessions, although conversations do arise during and after class. Some of you have heard the discussion on the shatkarmas and how they help to sort out sinus problems and also gut problems (that is another whole subject for future investigation).
So lets talk about spring cleaning the mind. For the last couple of months I have been helping you to focus on your thinking and how that effects you, every day. You may remember in meditation and relaxation that lovely healthy reminder that ‘we are only ever one thought away from here’ (Ram Dass). You may also have heard ‘we are only ever one breath away from here.’ These one liners remind you how quickly the mind takes you on a journey away from what you are doing in ‘this moment’.
You may journey into your past, often wishing for something different, trying to justify or reconcile yours and others decisions and actions. Or you may worry about the future, creating scenarios that cause you stress and take you on a rollercoaster ride that result in you not feeling joyful or part of what you are living ‘right now’.
Sure you think about lovely things in your past and plan for great things in the future. That is the beauty of the gift of thinking, memory and imagination, yay and gratitude for that.
In saying that, how often do you notice yourself going down a rabbit hole when life throws a curve ball. Or even at times when everything is fabulous you start to think of what could go wrong, this is what Kris Carr (of ‘Crazy Sexy’ fame) calls ‘stinking thinking’ and I say lets move that along. Lets make room in your head for creating the life you want, make room for the wisdom that is innately yours, when you clear out the dross. Lets wise up about your life and your health and not just stay in the haze and busy-ness of a mind unleashed and crazy with superfluous thoughts you can do nothing with or about.
Move over stinking thinking here comes the spacious mind, the calm mind, the creative mind, the mind that holds us in the moment, each moment....so you don’t miss the ride.
And so how do you do this? Apart from looking at what you’re putting in and on your body, yoga has some little pearls that can help, big time.....
Firstly, I think it is important to notice your thoughts, watch them.
Basic Thought Observation -
Take 5 mins regularly, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Be still and steady and just let your thoughts go where they want and observe. Try not to analyse, notice the thought trains, how one thought leads to another and another and another, how did I get here? Hop onto another thought and follow that train.....there is a huge advantage of knowing what you think about, what is your mind most attracted to?
Deepak Chopra says in his book Quantum Healing that we have 65K thoughts a day, 95% of them we had yesterday. Starting to get the idea, you will be thinking a lot of the same things over and over, same thoughts, same results, same same same.....
Secondly, it is important to notice how you breath.
Basic Breath Awareness -
Take 5 mins regularly, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Be still and steady and let your breath finds its own rhythm. Notice what your breath pattern is like, notice how it changes...notice how when you actually take the time to watch your breath, you may want to control it.
Notice the intricate parts of each breath; inhaling, pausing, exhaling, pausing again.........
Try to just let the breath ‘BE’ and observe, like you would watching a sleeping child. Thoughts will come in and try to distract you, so when you notice that you are thinking, let go of the thoughts and come back to the breath.
Watch and experience each breath, one breath at a time.
Thirdly, it is important to let wisdom emerge.
Letting Wisdom Emerge -
Take 10-15 minutes regularly, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Be still and steady. Begin by focusing on your physical body and relaxing, take your mind on a journey around the body. Start at the head, relax and release as you go,(dialogue this internally eg the crown of my head, my forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, chin, throat, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers etc) and work your way down to your toes and then all the way back up to your head.
Focus on your whole body at a glimpse. Still and quiet, calm and steady.
Bring your focus to your breath now and follow the natural rhythm and let the breath become slow and smooth and quiet, this might take a couple of minutes. Notice how when the breath becomes steady your mind begins to quieten....
Stay with the breath and begin to expand it gently, giving equal time to the in breath and the out breath...and let the thoughts go...over and over...
Try not to form words in your mind and each time you come to some mental space just settle into it.
Let wisdom emerge from within. Let it emanate out of each cell, from your heart, your head, your whole being and just relaxxxxxxxx and BE................
So above are just some very simple but effective practices that help you to ‘spring clean’ your mind.
There are many pranayama practices that help also, which I have found valuable. Equal Breathing was one of the first pranayama practices that I learnt and still remains a ‘go to’ if I’m a bit would up, it entails equalising the in breath and the out breath so you may begin by breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds, you might have experienced this in class. Once you feel comfortable with counting and equalising the breath you can expand the breath and make it deeper and longer. Expand on the out breath and take a minimum of 2 full breaths (inhalation/exhalation) on a count before expanding any further.
Kapalabati, is one of my favourite brain changers, Brahmari is also a nice way to calm the fluctuations of the mind. Ujjayi breath is a wonderful way to keep the mind actively attending to the breath, at the same time deepening the breath and quietening the mind. Over the coming weeks I will place instructions for these practises up on my website for you to download. You may have already practiced these with me in class, so if you feel confident then add about 5 minutes of any of these practices before Let Wisdom Emerge.
It is so very valuable to become aware of your mental activities and know that you do have some control over what you are thinking. Thoughts can be so much more than just internal white noise that disturbs your peace. It is also valuable to gain control over your breath, so that you can help to change the patterns of breath and mind. My teacher Maaida, used to say that ‘the breath is the gateway into the mind’. If you want to change your thoughts you have to expand and steady your breath.
Thanks Terri for the inspiration for this blog :) mjx