“The greatest gift you can give the world is a peaceful mind.” ~my meditation teacher Swami Veda Bharati
Guiding a daily online practice has changed my life in so many ways and it is a favorite part of my day. Our system gets attuned to the habit of practice at the same time every day. Some days I’m groggy or worried or distracted but when I sit and open Zoom, that falls away and I settle in to the quiet of communal practice.
December 1, 2015 I was inspired to offer a free live online 30 day relaxation practice. Two or three regulars and myself enjoyed it and decided to continue. On December 1, 2016, we celebrated a year of continuous daily practice with a day of silence together online. This Saturday November 28th is our fifth annual silent retreat. We meet from 6AM to 6 PM Eastern, 11AM to 11PM in the UK. This is a no pressure, no guilt retreat. Participate however feels most nourishing to you, whether that is a few hours or a full day. You are welcome!
In the Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation, we have several standard shavasana or yoga nidra practices that lead us deeper into stillness and relaxation of body, breath and mind. They are systematic practices, working with the physical body, subtle body, breath, and the thought stream to settle our nervous system and experience peace. Practice is the important word. We build tension through the day, and for this 25 minutes we turn the wheel in the other direction to release some of the build up.
Regular practice gives us the opportunity to cultivate friendliness and patience, especially when our mind keeps dragging us off into compulsive thoughts. Those aren’t our favorite experiences. Yet there is a deep learning and acceptance that comes with continuing anyway. We learn about our mind and how most of the thoughts are junk mail passing through. We see what upsets us and really grips our attention, and what is a passing distraction. We become skilled at the tools of refocusing – on softening the subtle forehead muscles, of relaxing the belly to ease the breath, and letting go of clenching our teeth or shoulders. Over time, we experience a baseline of relaxation that seemed impossible at first.
This familiarity combined with our long term practice gives us a more relaxed baseline. We’re naturally less contracted and we notice sooner when something ramps us up. We experience effortless, deep stillness more often. Sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes or longer.
The other profound effect of regular practice is that we vote for ourselves. Through our actions, through showing up regularly, we keep giving ourselves a message that we are worth it. Of everything we could be focusing on, we are taking this time to get to know ourselves and to relax. Our nervous system loves it! And it goes so much deeper.
“An effect of trauma is that we disconnect from ourselves, our sense of value and the present moment.” Dr Gabor Maté
“Safety IS the treatment.” Dr Stephen Porges
Trauma is stored in our body as energy and sensations paired with associated memories. We naturally avoid being present in our body because it brings up feelings of overwhelm, powerlessness, and core deficiency beliefs. During the guided practices in our daily meditation, we ease into becoming familiar with our body. It is a sideways approach, a nibble around the edges. We aren’t focusing on traumatic memory directly. We are getting to know our body, relaxing contracted spots, and softening our belly to allow ease in our breath. We sometimes do mindfulness inquiry to highlight a particular issue, like opening our heart, or working with catastrophic thinking, but the every day focus is simple relaxation and breathing practices.
Through consistent practice of turning inward with kind attention, we get to experience a gradual and building sense of safety. We all have experiences of knowing fear. Many people live with significant anxiety, especially in 2020. This 25 minutes of direct experience of presence and safety begins to offset and overwrite earlier times. We make friends with ourselves. We see how earlier experiences of feeling unloved and unprotected led to beliefs of being unlovable and not worthy. Our experiences and beliefs are not who we are and we begin to know our basic goodness with every cell in our body.
Profound gifts from something so simple. We have formed a community through the years, that extends into Sunday workshops as well. People express gratitude for my consistency and the freshness of our practice together. We have formed an earned secure attachment with ourselves, each other and our practice. I am deeply grateful to offer and receive this profound gift.