Can You Feel Your Feet? Thinking vs. Feeling

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Many people have difficulty quieting the mind when they settle into meditation or savasana, the resting period at the end of yoga class.

     What do you mean, “watch the breath?”

Really the intention is to feel the breath.

If you have a mind that is constantly in overdrive, try noticing the difference between feeling and thinking.

Feel your body. The mind is habituated to constantly thinking. It is always commenting, analyzing and judging. Your mind is a highly specialized problem-solver and this evaluative mode of the brain is its default mode.

The problem is it doesn’t know how to turn off. Especially when you are trying to sleep. It’s ready to solve all the problems in the world!

Here’s how you turn it off – FEEL YOUR BODY.

Really all you are doing is redirecting your awareness. Instead of letting the mind run willy-nilly into the land of thinking, turn your awareness toward feeling the body.

You can start with just feeling what you are in contact with – a chair, bed, or floor. Then you can move to more subtle sensations like your eyes or forehead and temples. Feel your feet, jaw or your shoulders. You could even focus on places of discomfort, but beware judgments and analyzing. Can you just feel this area with curiosity?

And then there’s the breath. The breath is always providing some sensations. You could hold your awareness on one of the sensations of breathing and stay there, getting into the finer details of those sensations. Can you feel the coolness of the inhalations in your nostrils? Or the warmth of the exhalations? Perhaps you can even feel your nostril hairs moving with the breath.

    What?! That’s crazy.

It’s true. You can if you just focus.

The next time you find yourself with an overly busy mind, try feeling your body. You may have to bring it back over and over – that pesky thinking mind is pretty strong – but every time you bring it back to the body you are strengthening your concentration muscle and that’s what you need to control those thoughts.

Be patient. Keep feeling.

What to do with this Anxiety – Part I

I’ve been thinking about anxiety a lot lately and about how to deal with it – it can be so overpowering at times! The following are my thoughts and suggestions on how to get control of this troubling mental state.

Sometimes anxiety is just a big hairy beast that sits on your chest. Nothing will make it go away – it is too big and ominous. What to do? In this situation, the best you can do is to just accept it. It just is what it is. Get present in THIS moment and just acknowledge it. Okay, I’m anxious. This is anxiety. Fine, I’m anxious. Then breathe. Notice exactly what anxiety feels like in the body. Observe it like a scientist, without judgment. From there continue to investigate the present moment. Tune into your senses: look at your environment, notice the sounds, smell the smells, notices textures and temperatures. This is the present moment. Does your anxiety have to do with this exact moment? Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can. Try some diaphragmatic breathing which is good for these anxiety beasts. Know that before long, the situation will change. Everything changes.

Apps to support your practice

Here are some apps to to support your home practice.

This list of meditation apps is from an article by Courtney Boyd Myers published in the Daily Beast (thanks JS, for sending it along!)

1) Calm.com
The cleverly named Calm.com, a startup out of San Francisco and London, is one of the top meditation apps to launch in the last year. The app lets you begin immediately with its free “7 steps of Calm”. Each step focuses on a different part of the guided meditation practice such as “breath”, “posture” and “mindset”. After you’ve completed the beginner’s program, you can unlock yearly pro-access for $9.99 which includes dozens of guided meditations ranging from 2-20 mins with relaxing nature scenes like forest rain and an ocean beach. (Free iOS)

2) Buddhify 2
Can’t sleep? Just waking up? Taking a break from work? The UK-based Buddhify has dozens of options for nearly every life scenario. Built for busy city-dwellers with less than 10 minutes to spare at a time, Buddhify is a carefully-designed app that offers both guided meditations and solo practice. While terrific for beginners, more serious meditators might find the 10-minute meditation maximum limiting. To track your progress, the app neatly saves your weekly stats, record streaks and percentage of app content consumed. ($1.99 iOS)

3) Headspace
Once you get past the introductory animations, the popular Headspace app’s free “Take 10” offering includes a new guided meditation each day for 10 days. Once you’ve finished the intro offer, Headspace’s most popular package costs $7.99 per month for a year. While more expensive than other apps, Headspace’s co-founder Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and claims to have one of the most comprehensive packages on the market. Hot tip: You can also catch Puddicombe’s lessons for free on any Virgin Atlantic flight! (Free iOS)

4) Omvana
Founded by global wellness company MindValley, Omvana is oft-referred to as the “Spotify of meditation apps.” To get started, simply login with Facebook and browse through the eight available free tracks—some “new” and some “hot”—or check out the Omvana store and choose from thousands of tracks to add to your meditation mix. Tracks cost $1.99 and up. While this is a great app to see what’s out there in the world of meditation, the app lacks focus (pun intended) and any sort of measurement of personal progress. And with such a large library of offerings, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. (Free iOS)

5) Simply Being
A woman’s slow, calming voice eases you into relaxation with 5, 10 or 15 minute guided meditations. You can choose from voice-only or add music and nature sounds like ocean, rain and stream. Simply Being is as simple as it gets and a great free app to download if you’re just wanting to test the water. ($.99 iOS)

This one below is for the physical practice. Please stay mindful of your own limitations if you choose to explore this one.
Yoga Studio

May you care for yourself with joy and ease~

The Awareness Practice/Body Scan

In my classes I teach the Awareness Practice which involves bringing one’s attention to how the body is feeling on various levels: physical, emotional and psychological. Other teachers may call this the Witness Practice as it cultivates a sense of detached observation. A major component of this practice is the body scan – bringing detailed attention to all parts of the body in a progressive sequence. Below is a wonderful quote about the body scan from Jon Kabot-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living (p. 89).

“When practicing the body scan, the key point is to maintain awareness in every moment, a detached witnessing of your breath and your body, region by region, as you scan from your feet to the top of your head. The quality of your attention and your willingness just to feel what is there and be with it no matter what is much more important than imagining the tension leaving your body or the inbreath revitalizing your body. If you just work at getting rid of tension, you may or may not succeed, but you are not practicing mindfulness. But if you are practicing being present in each moment and at the same time you are allowing your breathing and your attention to purify the body within this context of awareness and with a willingness to accept whatever happens, then you are truly practicing mindfulness and tapping its power to heal.”

‘Just wanted to share. Keep breathing and feel your feet on the ground!