Using Meditation, Yoga and Breathing…
You can Anchor your Choice Making
A key outcome of serious practice is that you now reduce auto-pilot reactivity to people, places, things, emotions, sensations, craving, and memories and at the same time notice your mind CAN BE in charge of your brain-body reactions. Yes, regular daily mindfulness practice allows you more mind-power to make decisions on how to respond to unhelpful events in life. You notice that you are less apt to react impulsively (with habits of anger, anxiety, depression, avoidance, aggression, self-medication, etc.) and more apt to respond thoughtfully, even compassionately. To enhance these changes in HOW you live your life, how your mindful-mind helps you to respond constructively to challenges, I will suggest several regular practices below.
In 1995 T. K. V. Desikachar noted that having the capacity to intentionally direct one’s mind is a fundamentally important core mindfulness skill. I have often reminded my own secular meditation students that “You are not your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, sensations, or memories. You are beyond, more than, these random firings of brain cells.” True, all these experiences may shape us in both positive and negative ways, and if unhelpful they may cause higher levels of stress, angst, and despair. However, mind training via regular meditation or yoga practice allows your mind to slow the impulsive reactions and to THINK about (contemplate) what an appropriate response might be. As you become more wise-mind skilled, your repeated and improved responses eventually compete with habitual impulsive reactions – thereby creating helpful brain plasticity for a calmer and happier life. These changes take time to normalize in our mind and body. It is very wise to use selective attention – paying more attention to neutral and positive/helpful experiences than to negative/unhelpful experiences. Do not avoid corrective changes you may need to make, but do not focus attention on unhelpful events and realities.
The practice of Samatha or calm abiding meditation, in which your single pointed concentration is on more positive/helpful thoughts, emotions, and memories may be helpful here. Likewise practicing various meditation and yoga breathing patterns will help calm your reactive body and center you mind’s attention. Often an effective mantra can be helpful: when I notice the arising of unhelpful energy in my mind or body I often say to myself “be calm, be kind.” What mantra self-talk might be helpful to you? Sometimes bringing your focus of attention to your soft heart energy can help. Many major spiritual traditions practice contemplating/imagining white or golden-white light coming from the heart area. It may help to gently place both hands over your heart. Try this, and allow the healing light to soothe you. Other helpful practices that reduce your suffering and may increase your joy are: thinking radical acceptance regarding things you cannot change; finding more personal meaning in your life; being more self-compassionate; practicing slow, full-body body scans; doing spiritual rituals; and, resting in shavasana (lying resting pose) or yoga nidra may comfort you.
Try some of these practices. on a regular basis.
See what improvements you notice.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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For more information refer to Nurries Stearns, M. and Nurries Stearns, R. (2013). Yoga for Emotional Trauma: Meditations and Practices for Healing Pain and Suffering. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, pp. 170-191. See also Miller, R. (2005). Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep relaxation and Healing. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.