Tuesday, March 10, 2015

sitting alone in a room

Here's one thing about relaxation: no one else can do it for you. You can learn about it, you can read about it, you can think about it, but until you do it you'll never reap any benefits. Here is wisdom from one of my favorite wise guys:
You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.                        - Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
Recommended sitting pose

For me, the most important part of this process is that my body calms down. Constant pain causes our "fight or flight" mechanisms to fire all the time! Our adrenal glands get overloaded, cortisol comes to live in our cells, and our nervous systems never get a break. Even at night, sleeping is still pain-filled, and therefore not as restorative as it could me. I discovered that I hold my breath at night as I prepare to roll over. I do this because it hurts to roll over, and holding my breath helps me 'brace' against the pain. And, it's all done when I'm asleep! (I have been able to catch myself doing it while I'm a little awake, and so I know it's true. My dentist has told me for years that I grind my teeth, and I confess now that this is also true... because I can sometimes catch myself doing it.)

Sitting alone in a room is something that most of us seldom do. We are constantly surrounded by people, activities, noise, and "things to do." Even when we have some "alone time," we tend to fill it up with watching TV, reading, housework, and other "things to do." Back to my earlier post ("why don't we relax"), meditation is about BEING and not about DOING. In fact, it is a purposeful NON-STRIVING. Intentionally, I sit or lie down, alone, quiet, calm.... doing nothing and being me. I use Dr. Kabat-Zinn's technique (from "mindfulness") of focusing on the breath and nothing else. When thoughts, feelings, desires, sensations, or plans come to mind... I acknowledge them as thoughts (and therefore not permanent things) and escort my attention back to my breath. I do this over and over again, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, every time I can (I wish I could say 'every day'), until my mind begins to calm down. My body calms down. My thoughts no longer rule my waking life. I can think more clearly, be more "present" and "in the moment," and worry less about the future.

But here's great news: the things that we practice while we're awake will become part of the "norm" for our bodies, and will continue as we sleep. So, if we practice deep, slow breathing during the day - our bodies will begin to breathe deeply and slowly as we sleep. If we practice calming our minds during the day, our minds will be calmer when we sleep. This should lead us to more restorative sleep, as well as calmer (and hopefully easier) days!

Try it, and let me know what you think!

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