“Gradually, over time, we open on all levels.” – Shiva Rea.
The word “recovery” brings to mind an alcoholic or a substance abuser. It also brings to mind the idea that I am able to survive and go on with a tweaked life after trauma.
One of the ways I’ve been coping with my malaise is to practice yoga again. I like the way my body feels once I have completed that day’s session, and it’s a way to carve out a small amount of time for myself. So far I have worked toward my goal of doing Chattaranga Dadasana with little to no pain.
Lately, my mind has began to stray while I’m in seated meditation. The cats, who I normally just incorporate into the poses, are distracting, and if it’s a choice between tweeting or doing my evening routine, I can more often than not be found tweeting.
My body also refuses to cooperate. Part of it is that I practice too close to a meal. The other is that I am forcing myself. Yoga is supposed to be about the flow of breath, reaching your intelligent (or limit) edge, and mindfulness.
The practice of mindfulness brings many benefits to emotional and physical health. It’s an amazing tool for stress management, and in my case, helps me be a more conscientious driver. I don’t text at stop lights or check my email when I’m driving. The idea of mindfulness was a foreign concept, but research led me to see the many benefits. It’s an awesome stress management tool, and once I allow myself to accept this change into my life, I see the benefits almost immediately.
I found the following guide on About dot com to make mindfulness a part of my life.
Mindfulness Exercise #1: Meditation
When I meditate, I use two phrases: “So Hum” and “Om” I also have begun to repeat the Serenity Prayer and Psalm 51:10 (Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a faithful spirit within me.” By repeating these words or phrases over and over, I am focused on the words. Meditation is usually five to ten minutes although I have made it to twenty. Over and over as I sit in seated meditation. It’s difficult to sit still in the beginning, but once I begin to focus on the words, I saw the benefit of being still and quiet.
Mindfulness Exercise #2: Deep Breathing
Counting to ten as I take deep breaths have kept me off of the kids’ ass on more than one occasion. When I am feeling especially tense, I like to play an ocean wave track that is metered. It controls my inhales and exhales and once again, I focus solely on breathing. I breathe in to the beat of the waves and breathe out to the beat of the waves. The sound of the waves cresting take me back to the days when I was a kid and we seemed to LIVE at Wildwood Crest. Queenie would sneak us onto the beach after dark and we would sit and listen to the calming effects of the waves. By focusing on breathing, I am able to bring myself back to wherever I had zoned off. Again, this helps with driving and people who are intent on pissing me off.
Mindfulness Exercise #3: Listening to Music
As much as I love music, this should have been a no brainer. I love musical soundtracks because there is a opening, middle, and solution set to music. I also like classical music because at one time I wanted to play for The Philadelphia Orchestra. I like to play music based on my mood: Amy Winehouse when I’m feeling angry, Jill Scott when I’m feeling sassy, The Hits of the Eighties because my life then consisted of Barbies, Sweet Valley High books, and being a kid. I have a power list when I dress in the morning, my inspirational songs when I get scared, and songs that I like because a note or lyric just touches me so.
Mindfulness Exercise #4: Cleaning House
Right from About.com: The term “cleaning house” has a literal meaning (cleaning up your actual house) as well as a figurative one (getting rid of “emotional baggage,” letting go of things that non longer serve you), and both can be great stress relievers!
When my house looks like a tornado has hit it, I can’t get it together. When I can’t stand it anymore, I start with the papers and the socks that the cat brings from the laundry as a “present” and go from there. Once everything is put away, neat and semi tidy, I can relax. The same with my bedroom. I don’t sleep well at all when I lose at closet lotto. I’m constantly misplacing my things, and I have had to shoo the cat OUT of my purse because it was on the floor. Mental clutter is just as bad. Missed appointments, lost ideas, missing phone numbers. I have a smart phone and a Mom Agenda that were just used for games and to brag I had one. Then I learned about blog editorial calendars, had to listen to The Boy kvetch about detention because I forgot to buy a book sock and suffer through eye rolls from the Teen because I forgot she asked for a ride. I accept that I need to write things down, use the calendars that I download, use the to do apps I paid for and stick to it. I had to come to an understanding that schedules and structure don’t take away from the carefree attitude I am trying to cultivate. I can still say eff it, let’s head to dinner (not Ms Tootsie’s though) but I don’t have to gobble my meal because I need to be back across the city in 30 minutes. I can enjoy time with old friends, start to work on new relationships. I can also have company at my house without feeling like I’m playing Hide and Seek with my junk.
Mindfulness Exercise #5: Observing Your Thoughts
This is a tough one. I have an inner critic who is a bytch. She tells me my cooking sucks, my knitting is crooked, I don’t deserve (fill in the blank…), I yell too much, I curse too much, I smoke too much. Some of it is true (my kids tell me I curse in every sentence), however, looking back through my blog, Facebook post, and the wonderful app Momento, I see that I may not have statues or monuments in my honor, but I have touched others and I live a pretty full life.
I’m trying to adopt an attitude of : will it matter in a year, don’t sweat the small stuff, it is what it is, and IDGAF (take a minute to figure that one out). Thoughts are powerful. As much as I think that positive affirmations are a BS, but it’s true. What you feel on the inside reflects on the outside. When I’m feeling like I can conquer the world and I am Woman, Hear me ROAR the feeling is contagious. The days when Delores (my inner critic’s name) is jawwing, I look and feel haggard. I make those around me miserable and I lose sleep. Watching what I think, and even more, what I say is powerful. The tongue can be a weapon used for good or for evil.
Mindfulness Exercise #6: Create Your Own!
These are other things I do to create an higher level in mindfulness:
- The five senses: take the cats. In my cats I have their purring (hearing) their soft fur as I pet them (touch), the way they run to me when they hear my car beep (seeing) their breath leaves something to be desired (smell) and I can’t quite find a way to be on their level with taste. But you get my drift.
- Journaling is also a great way to keep my thoughts contained. I can reflect in the moment or just vent in a safe place.
- Drawing is a way for me to practice mindfulness. I listen to The Moth Podcast once a week to hear the story of Tricia Rose Burt. Her story about her transformation from a corporate bee to an artist is one I use for inspiration when I get discouraged about where I am in life.
- Living with intention. Not that every moment has to have a purpose, but LIVE life. STOP existing. And learn to just be in the present.
- Acknowledge that there is something to be grateful for each day. I never understood when people use to celebrate little things like tying shoes or getting dressed, but I get it now. Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bird.
- Last, but not least, SMILE. A smile doesn’t cost a thing, and it is a conscious movement. Besides you never know who you touched with that small but powerful gesture.
*This is the sixth in a series of post I am writing about learning to let go of old habits and form new ones. The old me was spiraling way out of control. I am working on being a better me.