Archive for the ‘meditation’ Tag

So How Did Pregnancy Prep Stack Up to First Trimester?   Leave a comment

(Side benefit to getting my energy back – I have time to blog again!) For the last few years I’ve been preparing for pregnancy, preparing to be a good host. My goals included diet improvement, strength training, meditation, and posture improvement. Well, now that it has happened, how did I do for the start of the “race”? Better than I think and feel I did, but unfortunately what I think and feel matters regardless of whether it’s true or not. Psychologically I felt lost. Like I was alone in the middle of a lake, just floating in my in my life preserver, to tired to swim or cry or do anything but hope a current pushed me to safety. To be completely honest I’m just incredibly grateful to the universe that my blah never turned into depression, although there were days when I was very afraid. Thankfully pregnancy brings hope and excitement along with blah.

Over the last couple years improving my diet has been a huge focus. My sugar intake was already below the 5 tsp (20 grams) recommended intake, except for special occasions like birthday celebrations. How did I do in my first trimester? Just fine, thank you. I think my sugar craving has actually decreased and my chocolate cravings are fluctuating between non-existing to mild. There were a handful of splurges in the first couple of weeks as I was just desperate to get food in me and stop the hunger and nausea; and I did give in and buy the requisite saltines as emergency gut fill. Another goal was to avoid regular junk food. How’s that going? Completely derailed. Even with a nice sour cherry-pecan trail mix at my desk, a free bag of salty potato chips wins when hungry (even well knowing that the chips won’t make a dent in my stomach). This is totally a willpower check, and I’ve absolutely failed over and over again. As I feel better, though, I’m failing less often/badly.

The last big diet-related goal was the most important to me, and that was increasing my intake of fruits and vegetables. I really did get into the habit of making sure that I was eating at least one serving with every meal, and even snacks had a component. Unfortunately in my first day of nausea I made the mistake of forcing myself to eat my leftovers for lunch, and was almost unable to think about eating a non-avocado vegetable for a couple weeks. I can honestly say I felt crushed, and found it downright depressing to be consuming almost 100% carbs, fat, and protein. Isn’t that stuff supposed to be comfort food? It just left me feeling more blah then exhaustion already made me feel. It’s been a rough haul, but I’m back to vegetables (although bitter greens may have been an extremely unfortunate casualty of war). I’m not even trying to hit every meal yet, since the number of daily meals has just about doubled, but it feels good. The temporary catastrophic failure of this habit is probably the biggest contributor in my overall psychological struggles.

The attempt at restarting a regular strength training routine had already failed before I got pregnant. So being so tired that I didn’t run or do strength training for a couple months is kinda moot. Except for the fact that I love running, and when feeling blah not being able to run just contributes to more blah.

The next major thing that I did as part of my preparation was to commit to daily meditation. It was awesome, felt great, and may have been one of the best decisions that I ever made in my life. With the exception of one evening per week at my prayer group, I haven’t meditated since April. Blame the exhaustion, every evening I go from up to crash in about 5 minutes. Sometimes it’s at 9, sometimes it’s at 11, but when I start thinking about brushing my teeth and meditating my body decides it’s time to sleep NOW, and not in ten more minutes. For my own psychological state I’d really like to get my act together again. Daily meditation just felt so incredibly awesome! Luckily the calming, centering, and grounding effects have lingered so far.

My efforts at improving posture is one of the current goals, specifically focusing on lower body posture. I can proudly say that I managed to not cross my legs even as my mood dropped. Feels especially good since at my last massage my therapist found that my pelvis is significantly more level than it was a few months ago. This goal is still on track (keeping a better stance – feet shoulder width apart), and growing (keeping my back and neck straight).

Posted June 27, 2012 by mayakey in centering, goals, health, pregnancy, psychology

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Practicing Meditation vs. The Practice of Meditation   Leave a comment

For the last several months I have been working towards a goal of daily meditation. Even knowing that as my focus moves on to other things this practice will almost certainly slip a bit (especially Fridays and Saturdays), I am proud to be able to say that I meditate every day. Unfortunately, I say that with some sense that I’m not being honest because while I may be practicing meditation I have to confess that I haven’t committed to the practice of meditation.

This is definitely an example of the importance of commitment. For as much as I value meditation for its calming properties for mind, body, and spirit, I’ve never been able to sustain daily meditation long term. I think the biggest problem was that I never truly tried. When I would set myself a goal to meditate, it was “nearly daily” as I assumed that I wouldn’t manage it on Friday and Saturday, that it would feel silly on Sunday after being in Mass for an hour, and that I would have a good “reason” for not meditating occasionally. Doomed to failure with that built-in lack of commitment. And it always failed; I never even made it to the 6 month mark and my goal reward. This time around I made a commitment for every day. Sometimes it’s a timed seated meditation, sometimes a decade or two of the rosary, and sometimes I just lay for a few minutes in the corpse pose or legs-up-the-wall corpse pose and focus on my breathing, but the point is I did it.

Daily meditation feels so good, too! Usually I build my goals as a “two steps forward, one step back” progression, knowing myself well enough to know that once my focus eases even good habits that I enjoy slack off a bit. So I’m aware that I’ll probably start missing days, but in this case I think it’ll be less dramatic than usual because I am really feeling the benefits of this practice and I really want to continue it. I am definitely more calm, have a much much easier time centering during the day, and have improved body awareness.

But for all these benefits, honestly I’m only going through the motions; imagine how awesome it will be if I can get myself to commit to the practice. What I mean by these ticky-tack words is that while I’m sitting quietly, I have been utterly unsuccessful at getting my mind to wander less. There was a time in my life when that was easy, then I became an adult with responsibilities that are always on my mind. Now the timer may be set for 10 minutes, but I’m probably lucky to get 30 seconds of actual inner peace. My commitment was getting me to the game, but it isn’t helping me play. So I think the next commitment needs to be to actually practice daily meditation and not just go through the motions.

Posted August 22, 2011 by mayakey in centering, goals, spiritual practices

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Meditation While Weeding?   Leave a comment

I’ve heard people say that they find doing housework to be somewhat meditative. I’ve never really believed them. Sure, sometimes my mind wanders in la-la land while doing chores and thus gets a nice relaxing moment while my body is laboring, but I wouldn’t consider that meditation. If I try to really focus on the task at hand my stress level goes up, which I would not consider an indication of a meditative state. Besides, most of the time I’m trying for quality and speed together, so it’s the analytical mind that takes over. And that is definitely not a form of meditation.

So it was a pleasant surprise this past weekend when I settled down to work on the really annoying weed patches in the lawn, and found myself so engrossed in the task that my mind went blank for long stretches of time. (Then I would become aware that I needed to move to a new plot of grass.) My eyes and fingers didn’t really need an active brain to dictate what to pull since I’m pulling piles and piles of one specific plant (filaree, which is really easy to spot). And being out in nature, feeling dirt between my fingers and the sun on my back, and smelling the sent of damp turf also encouraged meditation. I can almost understand why my dad kept his “digging grass” project going for as long as I can remember. I personally do not want this to turn into a long term project, but at least now I can maybe understand what previously baffled me.

Or I started to understand until I realized that my mouth and throat were dry (especially bad on the morning of a 4-hour singing event), and tried to stand up. I had been weeding for an hour and a half, and my body HURT! So my recommendation to my self and anyone who plans to do some gardening/yardwork meditation: bring a timer or make sure that your spouse hears you ask them to call you in at a specific time.

Posted April 25, 2011 by mayakey in gardening, spiritual practices

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Meditation in a Rose Garden   Leave a comment

Meditation can, of course, be done anywhere. But there is just so much extra energy that can be found in a nature meditation. Not to mention the sensuality. Meditation in nature leaves me with a unique peace and invigoration.

Instead of focusing inward, in nature there are countless external foci: the smell of grass or loam or flowers, the patterns formed by ripples in a pond or fluttering leaves, the feel of the breeze, the feel of flower petals or moss or leaves, the sound of birds or insects or rustling leaves, or the overall sensation of being immersed in nature. Nature meditations are done while sitting, laying down, walking, running, floating, and even working in the garden. Sometimes any nature will do including gardens, yards, parks, or any open space. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if there’s a nearby train or the nature spot is next to a busy road. Sometimes it does matter and only isolation deep in the natural world with no reminder of human technologies will feel right.

If it helps, there have been many studies done that find benefits to experiencing nature, even briefly. Just looking out the window at the leaves blowing in the wind or watching fish in an aquarium for a few minutes is enough to relax the mind and reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Maybe it’s the feeling of being part of something big. Maybe it’s the beauty. I’ve heard the theory that it is the randomness of nature (the unpredictability of the swimming fish, or the ripples on the lake) that helps our minds to relax,. All I know and care, really, is that it works.

Posted June 8, 2010 by mayakey in spiritual practices

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Centering vs. Anxiety   1 comment

Centering and meditation are pretty much the best medicine for anxiety; but anxiety is one of the strongest meditation interferences. Which one wins out? It depends on the level of commitment.

I am currently experiencing the worst anxiety of my life, including flirting with anxiety-induced depression for the first time. At the same time, part of my pre-pre-pregnancy lifestyle changes include committing to centering as a way to bring peace into my life. It is either a perfect storm (anxiety preventing meditation and centering), or a perfect opportunity (learning to meditate through anything and using centering to combat anxiety), and the difference is my level of commitment to internal peace.

One would think that a commitment to internal peace is a no brainer, right? Not for us “modern” humans! We feel the need to brag about our discomfort and dramatize our voluntarily adrenaline-packed lives. We are really good at finding internal peace, and then throwing it away. We insist on doing what feels “good” rather than what feels GOOD. It is a real challenge to stop every once and a while, take a deep breath, and just BE. It is a real challenge to silence the voices in our heads long enough to FEEL who we are at our cores, to FEEL what grounds us, and to FEEL our inner strengths. But when we do, it works; it works really well!

Feel an anxiety attack coming? Stop and take a deep breath. Empty your mind for just a moment as you feel the breath filling your body and then rushing away to leave you standing/sitting a little bit taller and a little bit stronger. Find a visual that helps you. My visual is a tree. A tree has a deep and wide root network, and when the wind blows, the top of the tree is flexible and bends. As a result a storm does not move or break the tree, and it will still be standing when the storm is gone. Taking these centering breaks regularly throughout the day, and whenever I feel a surge of anxiety, has really helped to keep the anxiety in check. I have only had one anxiety attack in weeks, and that one was related to my failure to consistently block out the anxiety while meditating.

So the score is tied: Anxiety 1 (for affecting meditation), Centering 1 (for reducing anxiety)

Centering Practice   1 comment

Right now one of the things that I am working on is centering. My new 6 month spiritual goal is to  habitually center myself periodically throughout the day. I really crave the peace of being centered during ordinary life, and yet I haven’t been able to it. I kept procrastinating, unable to make the commitment. The noise of “being busy” was too seductive. It is amazing how much of a trap busy-ness and stress are. Just think about how often people complain (brag) about  how late they were up working last night, or the all-nighter they had to pull, or the extra hours at work, or how much housework had to be done. In high school I actually kept a log of what time, to the minute, I went to bed and woke up so that I wouldn’t just be telling fish tales but substantiated stories about how little sleep I got. I keep the log as I reminder of my craziness. Plus it is one of those things that will make my kids roll their eyes, I hope. Our society is so focused on doing more in less time, and doing it louder and brighter. As my life circumstance change, I know that I need to break out of that cycle of busy – brainless – busy – brainless. And the only way to slow down, is to slow down. Centering is part of that for me.

I center on my breath. I tried centering prayer back in college (where you meditate using a specific word, and then at any time in your day you can think that word and re-center) but it didn’t work very well for me. The part where you regularly practice meditating using the specific word is where I got hung up, since I could never settle on a single word or phrase. I’ve also tried walking meditations but I’ve yet to figure out how that is supposed to work.

My basic breath meditation evolved from the counting meditation where you repeatedly count 10 breaths. If your mind wanders, you start counting at one again. In college I was able to do the counting meditation without my mind wandering. And then things changed. At some point I got fed up with never getting past “4” and decided to just think “inhale” and “exhale”. I figured that I could concentrate long enough for one breath at at time and I wouldn’t feel like a dunce when my mind wandered. That evolved quickly into not necessarily thinking “inhale” and “exhale” and just feeling them instead. I feel the breath come in my nose, fill my lungs, and lift up my entire body; and then I feel my lungs empty and my body relax. Mentally, on the exhale I go down through the first chakra (base chakra, located at the base of the spine) into the ground and into the spiritual body that connects us all, which brings me back up and into my center. At first it seemed weird to have to connect to the universe first in order to connect with myself, but now it actually makes sense. Since I’ve been practicing this for a while, it almost automatic when I think of it.

That is what my goal relates to. Not so much the meditating and centering at night, but throughout the day. Just meditating at night is great, but I felt almost like I had two separate lives. Now I want to have mini-meditations consisting of one or two breaths throughout the day. At work I have a Task in my Outlook that used to be titled “Move” to remind me to get up and stretch every 30 minutes (I just keep hitting the button for 30-minute snooze). Now I am using that to remind myself to take a short mental break and take a breath. Two weeks of focusing on nightly meditation, Mountain pose and Sun Salutation in the the morning, and periodic centering breaks during the day are already making a difference. Nothing else about life has changed, but I already feel much more at peace.