If you will recall from the September 25 post, Step 1, of generic technique to meditating, asked us to choose a focus word or short phrase that is deeply rooted in our belief system. It can be either religious or secular, and is the equivalent of a mantra.
Relax. Therapists tell me that all the time, but I just didn't know how. When told to relax, my muscles just spasticize. Ever since I learned to say the word, spasticity, I have been using it or thinking about it regularly. Spasticity is an involuntary stiffening of muscles, commonly occurring with brain injury survivors.
So when I found this book with the great title, The Relaxation Response, I knew there was hope to help me relax the tone in my right arm and right leg. My muscles attack one another instead of harmonizing and cooperating. It's a war with biceps versus tricep, quads versus hamstrings. As I said before, the book explains how and why meditation works. It really gives R&R a different meaning. I can use this knowledge to hopefully spread it around the rest of my body, mainly my right side.
Breathe. As newborn babies fresh out of the womb, we took our first gasping breath and then exhaled with a curdling cry. The mechanics of breathing have not changed much since then. As adults, our breathing has gotten more sophisticated and we can control our breaths in amazing ways. For instance, we do not always have to leave our mouth open for the inhale/exhale as some youngsters do.
In preparation for meditation, we should try to create a breathing rhythm. Begin inhaling by taking a deep breath up through the nostrils, while contracting the diaphragm, and filling the belly, lungs, and chest with air.
Then exhale by releasing the breath out through the nose, and squeezing air from the stomach and lungs by sucking in the belly up against the spine. Establish a rhythm in your breathing.
Inhale.......... exhale........... inhale.......... exhale............ Inhale............. exhale..
A little less than two seconds for each in and ex.
Who thought that we would ever have to pay attention to our breathing? It's a naturally occurring thing, right? It should be on automatic. You'd be surprised at how many of us limit ourselves by taking shallow breaths, the ones that don't go any deeper than our chest.
Back to the word, short phrase or prayer. This should be firmly established in your belief system. A Mantra, for lack of a better word, means generally the same thing as an object of focus. The purpose of the mantra is to keep you from getting distracted by other thoughts that will inevitably try to disrupt your meditation. By focusing on one word, phrase, or prayer, a person can achieve a passive attitude. Which is another requirement of the generic technique. This expression should be said in your mind on the exhale.
For example, Love, can be repeated as a focus word on each exhale. Close your eyes and repeat it on each exhale. I generally lose focus of my word, at one point or another, because other thoughts begin creeping in. And this is where the passiveness comes in, because there is no need for panic when the mind gets overrun by random thoughts. Just continue breathing normally and get back to working on slipping the focus word into the exhale.
Try to maintain the meditation state for at least 10 minutes. I usually check my watch before I sit down, then try to gauge the time as best I can. Usually, I can guess it between 10 and 15 minutes.
But I have to say, the relaxation response generic technique is new to me. I like to follow a different method that I learned earlier. It requires no mantra. To find out more get the app at
www.shivarudrabalayogi.com. This describes another technique by which the practitioner may achieve the relaxation response.
Until next time when I talk more about the breath.