Autumn is the time when all of Nature begins to simplify, separating what is summer’s finery from what is needed to survive the winter. Our meditation practice can be simplified as well, giving us little sips of mental nourishment to sustain us.
At the beginning of my journey with yoga, my teacher did two things in class that I found so nourishing I carried them into my own classes when I began teaching. One was to read Mary Oliver’s poetry during Savasana; the other was guiding us in The Ten Breaths as described by Thich Naht Hahn. She told us that this technique is often used to teach meditation to young boys entering the monastic life. If it’s simple and effective enough to momentarily tame 10-year-old boys, it has real power.
Take time to settle yourself into a comfortable seated or reclining position. Use pillows and rolled blankets to prop and bolster knees, neck, and any other areas that need support. Cover yourself warmly, eliminating physical discomforts as much as you can, then accepting any leftover minor discomforts in a friendly fashion. “Hey, uncomfortable shoulder. Let’s try to relax together, shall we?”
If you haven’t the time to settle in this way, the breath work will still be valuable- at your desk, waiting in a carpool line, etc.
The following statements may not ring true, but we’ll say them anyway by way of setting our intention, affirming what is possible. I indicates what our mind says silently when inhaling; E, what it says silently when exhaling. It’s common to lose track, find that thoughts have interrupted your flow- but you can pick back up anytime. It’s your practice, there is no right or wrong, you get an infinite number of do-overs.
I I know that I’m inhaling
E I know that I’m exhaling
I I know that I breathe deeply
E I know that I breathe slowly
I I breathe calmness into my body (imagine Calm as a substance in the air)
E I breathe with ease
I I smile to my body (a soft smile releases facial tension)
E I release all tension (the rest of the body can learn from the face)
I I dwell in the present moment
E I know this is a wonderful moment
I Present moment
E Wonderful moment
Sometimes having something for the mind to “say” helps override the other chatter in our heads, and we can begin reaping the benefits of meditation.
Melissa Peet, practice manager