An important question to ask yourself is ‘does my mind rule me, or do I rule my mind?’ Many people are constantly thinking, and these thoughts dominate their day. Whether the thoughts are analytical or emotional, we tend to get caught in thought loops. Once a thought becomes repetitive, it becomes habitual. Learning how to take charge of your thoughts is an important step towards self-management, and one of the key elements in meditation.
I am going to ask you to do something different. Get comfortable and prepare to read this chapter slowly, or perhaps someone could read it out loud. Learning of these skills involves participation and practice.
You are going to increase your awareness of your mind and how it works. Though we often don’t apply the discipline, we are directly in control of our thoughts. By choosing where to focus our awareness, we can affect our environment and our emotions. I call this process ‘checking in’.
Begin by evaluating yourself at this very moment. How do you feel? Is your posture comfortable? Sit in a position where both feet are placed on the floor. Much of your balance depends on being properly grounded. Having both feet on the floor also has the effect of straightening your posture.
Make sure that your spine is straight and your shoulders back. Much of the back pain and shoulder tension we experience is enhanced by bad posture, and we can begin to alleviate that tension just by changing position. As you read this sentence, align your body into a comfortable position. Sit straight and proud, and be aware of how your body feels. Is it different from moments ago?
Become aware of your breath. Try to breath only through your nostrils. Take in a deep breath to the count of four, and then hold for two seconds. Exhale slowly, again to the count of four, and again hold for two seconds. Repeat the process.
As you breathe, be aware of how you feel when you breathe in and out slowly. Do you find it relaxing? The more that you practice this breathing technique, the deeper you will breathe. Try to completely fill your lungs with fresh life-giving oxygen. For a few moments, close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Without moving, determine how each part of your body feels. Begin by identifying which area of your body carries the most tension. Is it your shoulders, your jaw, your stomach? Check in with your body and determine its current state.
Now begin to focus your awareness on various parts of your body. Start with your feet. How do they feel right at this moment? Wiggle your toes and get the blood circulating. If you are wearing shoes, you may want to take them off for the remainder of this article. Shoes bind our feet and separate them from the ground.
Next, move your attention to your legs. Become aware of your shins, your knees, your thighs. Can you feel the material of your clothing? Lift your toes off the ground and feel how the muscles tense in your legs. Push down with your feet and feel how your thighs tense up.
Now proceed to your torso. Are your stomach muscles tense? Take a couple of deep breaths and allow your stomach to expand. It’s okay; no one is looking. Become aware of the feeling within your stomach area. Does everything feel in balance, or does your increased awareness identify any areas that may require attention.
Rest your palms on your stomach, and press the heels of your hands into your sides. Give your stomach a light massage, starting just below the rib cage and continuing to the waist. This area is known as the hara, and contains most of the body’s vital organs. Regular massage in this area is very health inducing.
The area where many people carry their tension is in the neck and shoulders. Slowly bend your head forward and stretch your neck. Reach back and rub your muscles where there is tension. If there is a lot of tension, squeeze your fingers into the muscle and help it relax. Then, while sitting or standing, raise your shoulders in a shrugging position, and then allow your shoulders to drop. Do this two or three times.
Now move your awareness to your head. Focus on the muscles of your face and allow any tension to dissipate. Your mouth should be closed as you breath through your nostrils, but your teeth should be apart within your mouth. Relax your jaw.
While you have been reading this article, I have asked you to focus your awareness on various aspects of your physical being. This required you to live only in the moment. Any thoughts that were not directly in line with the text were thoughts created by you. Did you feel anxiety when you focused on certain areas? Did your concentration wane as you thought about what else you had to do? Was your mind occupied with worries?
Living for the moment involves stopping the mind chatter. Unless you are in a crisis situation, postponing worries for ten minutes makes things better, not worse. Learning how to manage your thoughts can change your life. Free your mind for a few moments each day, and begin to appreciate yourself and your surroundings.
1. How did you feel before doing the routine?
2. Follow the routine exactly as described.
3. How do you feel after doing the routine?
4. Which parts were easy, and which parts were difficult?
5. Set an alarm clock or timer for twenty minutes. When the timer goes off, ‘check in’ with yourself and write down how you feel. Do this a few times in a row.
6. Practice ‘checking in’ every day and learn how to stop mind chatter.
Excerpted from Soulwork 101: A New Age Guide to Personal Transformation by Glenn Stewart Coles
©Copyright 2009, 2015 Glenn Stewart Coles