By Jennie Hastings Stancu
This article is from the Autumn 2013 issue of Body Sense magazine.
Meditation feels like a warm, gentle current spreading from the middle of my chest up into my smile and flowing down my hips and the backs of my legs. When I give myself the time and space to be completely still, turn off my thoughts, and focus on nothing but my breath, my day always improves.
We constantly receive a bombardment of information in day-to-day life. When we sit, close our eyes, and disengage from activity in the world, we are afforded a chance to catch up on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual processes.
I usually try to meditate in the morning as part of my sacred moment with myself. My ritual includes putting my yoga mat on the floor, covering it with a thick wool blanket, and adding my special blue meditation cushion. I set my timer for however many minutes I want to meditate. Usually, I go for 12 minutes at a time.
While I meditate, I focus on my breath. I listen to my inhale and to my exhale. I may count each round of breath up to 10, then start over again. I try to do this until the timer goes off. If my mind starts to wander, I forgive myself and bring it back to my breath as soon as I notice.
When you decide to start a meditation practice, I suggest you find a timer that you can easily find and set. I use a regular kitchen timer, but you might have a timer on your phone, or even a special meditation timer you may want to use. You need only start with one minute, then try two, three, and go up from there. Eventually, you will find yourself able to concentrate and be still for 20 minutes or more.
I am blessed that my massage business is located across the hall from the Shambhala Meditation Center in Portland, Maine. It is an exquisitely beautiful space, where a small group of people meet regularly for meditation practice and classes. I knew from the moment I stepped into the driveway of my building that I wanted to work there. I can feel the gracious vibrations emanating from all the beautiful practice at the Shambhala Center.
I love it when the Buddhists are meditating with the door open. It is so good for my clients (and me!) to walk out the door and see four or five people perched on bright red cushions with their eyes closed, peacefully breathing. It’s such a nice way to extend the tranquility of the massage. I think it is educational as well. I often suggest meditation to my clients as a method of stress relief to try at home.
Sometimes I think sitting in meditation is the only way to truly relax some muscles. As a massage therapist, I have access to most muscles palpable from the outside of the body. But what about all those deep muscles where I can’t reach? Meditation and breathing help create the space and awareness needed to release deep, clenched muscles. Sometimes when I am sitting, concentrating on my breath, I will feel something gently unfold, like a flower blossoming toward the sun, creating relief in a spot otherwise impossible to touch.
The wonderful thing about meditation is that there is no right way to do it. Whether you pray in church, sit on a couch cushion at home, or go for long walks in the woods, finding a way to release all unnecessary thoughts from your awareness, even just for a few minutes, will bring you peace in the present moment that reflects throughout your day. Be still, and let innate intelligence heal you.