How’s August going for you so far? Since its yearly karmic-cleansing opportunities can make it the most difficult month of the year, here are some helpful hints to bring a little balance, which can make all the difference in difficult times.
The best way I know of achieving balance, even if it’s just to get you through the next minutes, hours or days, is to meditate. It doesn’t have to be really intense with lots of prep and zoning out for 30 minutes at a time. It can be quick, sometimes taking just five minutes. It can recharge and center us better than a power nap.
Three Meditations That Take Five Minutes:
With feet flat on the floor, sitting straight in a comfortable chair, stare at a candle flame for two minutes without looking away. Time it (count if you have to). Even though the flame is small, let it become your whole world. This causes no damage to the retina, it just temporarily burns the image of the flame into it.
Trick 1: It will be hard to stare without blinking for two minutes, so don’t worry about it. Blink when you need to but keep your eye on the flame. Trick 2: Concentrate on the blue within the flame instead of the flame itself.
After staring at the flame for the full two minutes, close your eyes, place the palms of your hands over your eyes to make it really dark. Try to hold onto the image of the flame for as long as you can. The goal is to hold it for two minutes, but until you get used to doing this, you’ll probably lose it after the first 30 seconds. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that your concentration and vision is occupied in different space than what is around you.
Normally, we absorb the world around us first by sight. This meditation gives your sight and mind a small break and stops the flow of daily nonsense, even if for just a few minutes.
With feet flat on the floor, sitting straight in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Without trying to control the breath, feel the air as it comes in your nostrils or mouth. Feel it move into your lungs. Feel your lungs expand, front, sides and back. Feel your diaphragm pull down at the bottom of your lungs. Then feel it release and be aware of the air leaving your lungs and coming out of your mouth. Feel your breath as it moves across your lips. Be aware of the moment of rest before your body takes in another breath.
Once you’ve paid attention to the normal process your body goes through to breathe, work on controlling your breathing by slow-counting to three for each of these actions:
- Breath in (on one, two, three)
- Hold the breath in (for one, two, three)
- Release the breath (on one, two, three)
- Hold the emptiness (for one, two, three)
Do that several times, conscious of the muscles used to control the breath. Always be aware of the breath flowing past your lips. Try to breath through completely relaxed lips. Forming them into an “Oh” on the exhale brings stress into a stress-releasing exercise.
After several times, it will become evident how breathing by count is much harder than it seems. Work on breathing by count for up to five minutes. When done, take one deep cleansing breath in through the nose and release it through relaxed lips. Return to being aware of your normal breathing pattern. Open your eyes and get on with your day.
Sit straight in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Take a deep cleansing breath in through the nose, out through the mouth with relaxed lips. Chant the sacred syllable “Om” in a long, drawn out intonation. Try for a comfortably deep sound – it doesn’t have to be loud – so the vibration of it will be more pronounced throughout your body.
Feel the vibration of the sound in your throat. Then concentrate on feeling the vibration throughout your body – the end of your toes, behind your knees, the small of your back, the center of your belly, the palms of your hands, the tip of your nose, the top of your head.
Sometimes you’ll be able to recognize the feel of the vibration easier in its absence, as when you stop to breathe for another Om. Then it’s easier to recognize how it feels when you make the sound again.
Do this for five minutes. If you really concentrate on the sound and how its vibrations feel within you, five minutes will fly by. When you’re done, take a deep cleansing breath in through the nose and out through relaxed lips, then get on with your day.
And Three Avaunt-Gard Meditations (That Take Longer Than Five Minutes):
Play a Puzzle Game:
Whether it’s a crossword puzzle, match-three on the computer, or Tetris, any kind of puzzle game engages the problem-solving part of the brain so there is a not only relief from the day-to-day chatter in your brain, but a satisfaction of accomplishment. Make sure the puzzle you play is solvable. For this purpose, it’s not cheating to play something you’ve played before and know how to solve. The act of doing the puzzle and getting to a conclusion is the point.
Why do you think kids get so into their video games? It’s not only an escape, it engages their imagination and makes them feel good about themselves by solving problems – a feeling they might not get in going to today’s stress-filled education system. It works for adults, too. Only stick with puzzles – the character, long-running story games are a completely different subject.
Get a book of maze puzzles and work them backwards (from inside to out). I’ve mentioned this before – it’s a version of the ages-old labyrinth walking and a current psychological tool to solve problems. By starting in the center of the puzzle and working your way out, you tweek your subconscious into solving problems for you.
For meditation purposes, concentrating on getting out from the center gives your everyday thought process a vacation. And there’s that puzzle-solving sense of accomplishment that helps adults in a stressful work situation the same way it helps kids in their stressful school situation.
Go to The Movies:
Go alone, preferably when it’s not too crowded. Make sure your cell phone is turned off – not on mute or vibrate – otherwise your “answer me” conditioning automatically pulls at your attention (and annoys others). Pick a film that has good color and some activity (avoiding dismal, gray, slice-of-life films). Let yourself be filled with the alternate reality the film offers.
Sitting in a dark theater imposes a level of peace: it’s acceptable to just sit and observe with nothing expected of you. Allowing the movie to take you somewhere else disengages the logical left hemisphere of your brain while your right hemisphere absorbs and is recharged by the creativity and energy of those who made the film.
Hope these work for you and help, even if just a little. Survive August (and release the burdens of completed karma). September brings fresh energy.
Much love and gratitude…