Last night in our Exploring Meditation class (#5 in the six week program) we looked at Mindfulness .. practices including Mindfulness of Movement, Listening and Eating.
Being mindful of our body is something that many of us are not very good at (some might say however that we are a little over-active on being mindful of how our body looks!) .. but we don't often take the time to check-in with our body, listen to its needs and requests, pay loving attention to where we are holding our tension and emotions - do you know where you 'hold' anger or sadness in your body?
Last night we explored some Mindfulness of Movement exercises designed to ignite, balance and reconnect with our body. One of the practices that I always enjoy sharing is the Standing Meditation, an adaptation of the Qigong Standing Meditation where our body becomes like a human antenna, channeling life energy or qi from the earth below us.
It might seem contradictory that wellness can occur when standing still, but quite quickly in this practice you will notice that a certain amount of stamina is required to hold this position (even for a few minutes). The practice encourages the body to stretch and relax, increasing strength and flexibility; and also shifts our awareness inward with a focus on quiet contemplation that calms and clears the mind.
In this exercise we hold our physical body still and slowly our awareness builds on the more subtle aspects of our Being. We become aware of the flow of qi ~ the balance between doing and being ~ and the balance (physically and mentally) between holding and letting go.
• Remove shoes and socks. Stand with your feet parallel and about shoulder’s width apart (standing on natural ground is best if you can)
• Take a couple of deeper and longer breaths, saying “ahhh” (aloud or to yourself) as you exhale
• More your awareness inward by following your breath, noticing where your breath moves your body and sensing the breath moving all the way down to your feet, connecting you deeply into the earth
• Bend your knees just slightly – enough to feel a softness at the back of the knees and your sacrum/tailbone to dip towards the earth
• Gradually lengthen your spine, feeling as though your head is holding up the sky
• Let your arms hang down next to your sides (palms facing back) so your thumbs are gently touching your outer thighs
• Separate and extend your fingers downward, straight but not rigid with a space between each of the fingers
• Hold this posture for a moment or two. Just noticing (with interest) your posture, the tallness of your spine, the softness of your knees .. and the movement of your breath
• Now float your hands directly forward so they are hovering just in front of you (in front of your lower abdomen) with your palms facing each other - as though you had caught and were holding a large ball between your hands. This should create a feeling of hollowness at your armpits, and a softness at the elbows
• Take a couple of deep and complete breaths, checking your posture so that you are comfortable and still, like a mountain
• Select a gazing point, eight or ten feet in front of you, and rest your eyes very softly on that place (or you can close your eyes if you feel stable); relaxing your jaw and allowing a space between your upper and lower teeth
• Breath slowly and deeply, drawing the breath all the way down into your lower belly. As you exhale release any mental or physical tension
• Hold this position ‘gently’ for a few minutes.
You can try this exercise for about 5-10 minutes (adept practitioners work all the way up to 60 minutes) and see what occurs. If you feel warmth, or tingling in your arms or hands – this is said to be a healthy sign of our qi (life energy) flowing.