Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tips for emptying your mind
By: Marissa Anteby
Even the most well-adjusted people can use a break from themselves every now and then; a little time to turn off their internal computer and veg out. Maybe that's how they get to be so stable in the first place, they know when to stop and take a breather. Unfortunately, the majority of us wait to try and schedule in some downtime in order to step away from the office, ditch the carpool duties, or forgo our incessant social networking for an hour. The antidote to constantly being "on" is finding ways to lose yourself no matter where you are. Any reduction in stimuli or brief decompression in which your mind has an opportunity to slow down, can do your psyche good. The following do-it-yourself relaxation exercise can be practiced anywhere, for as long or as short as you like.
First, clear your mind. Awww, that sounded so easy, right? Of course, the instant you try 'not thinking', a barrage of information comes flooding in. So instead of grappling with holding back this deluge, just be still and observe what's going on inside. Watch how your attention drifts from one idea to another. Don't attempt to suppress your internal chatter, but don't get caught up in actively following one train of thought through from beginning to end, either. See if you can let concepts come in to focus and gradually fade on their own. Like they somehow get fuzzier, blending into one another softly.
Gently close your eyelids (you can open them in a moment to read what to do next, but first enjoy a few seconds with your eyes shut, not having to do anything.) With your eyes closed, feel the meeting points between your upper and lower lashes. Relax your eyes, like you're allowing the inner corners of your eyes to drop deeper in to your head.
Slowly, shift your awareness from your eyes to your nose. Notice how an inhale arrives through your nostrils and fills your body with air, puffing you up, bigger and bigger. The exhale originates from your feet, and glides all the way up your body and right back out through your nose, taking with it every last bit of air. Follow this full body breathing in and out for a few cycles.
Then settle your attention in your feet. Maybe this is the first time you are solely thinking of your feet and how they feel. What are the sensations in your feet? Is there any tightness or fatigue? Is there space and ease? What do your feet feel like today? Spend time here with your eyes closed, sitting perfectly still, as you concentrate on the energy flowing in the bottoms of your feet; the heels, arches, balls of the feet, and the backs of the toes. Then transition to the tops of your feet; your metatarsals, skin, veins, and ankles.
Move your mind to your legs. Get a sense of your shins, calves, muscles, bones, and blood flow. Watch as your consciousness floats around your knees, feeling the joints, cartilage, connecting ligaments, tendons, etc. Let your breath saturate the fronts, backs, insides, and outsides of your knees.
Invite your calming breath to slide up your legs, infusing your thighs; inner, outer, fronts, backs. Like a slow paced energy is soothing your legs from the inside out. This energy encircles your hips and traces your pelvis. Notice if you're gripping your buttocks. Let your gluteus minimus, medius, and maximus all release towards the ground.
Visualize your breath rising through your trunk and low back, evenly filling your rib cage and lifting your torso. Do you have any discomfort in your low back or spine? How about your stomach or chest? Are there places of mobility and freedom? What's going on in your shoulder girdles today? What do this inside rims of your shoulder blades and collar bones feel like? Can you wander around in there, letting your breath be your guide?
Send your sensitivity down your arms, to your triceps, biceps, upper arms, elbows, lower arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. Are your arms heavy? Light? Explore each finger, going one by one. Then follow the passage of air back up towards your head.
What does your neck feel like? Is there an ache or tension? How about in your jaw? Are you clenching it? Or are your teeth slightly parted, and your tongue peacefully resting at the roof of your mouth?
Let your breath seep into your cheeks, forehead, face, ears, and skull. Are your facial muscles taut or are they softening with each breath? Rest your ear canals. Without straining to hear, drop in to the silence within.
Which body part could use a little more of your attention? Perhaps there's some excess energy being stored in one particular zone. Are your muscles squeezing in somewhere? Mental and emotional stress has a way of infiltrating the body and manifesting itself physically. To undo such unwanted pressure, continue to send your warming breath to the parts of you that need it most.
Now that you've identified where tension is lurking, it's time to figure out what the source is? What issues or events are you storing in your body? The answers may be closer to the surface than you realize.
Imagine that you can make a box and put all your unresolved arguments, troubles, etc. in this box. See yourself designing the box to your liking; selecting materials, colors, textures, fasteners, and all the supplies you'll need. Close your eyes and pretend that you can fill this box with everything that is cluttering your mind and body; other people and their problems, negative attitudes, unmet expectations, unpleasant memories, destructive words, and loathsome images.
Say to yourself, "My mind will be roomier if I don't harbor thoughts about..." and complete the sentence over and over, as each person, attitude, expectation, memory, word, and image appears and is placed in the box. Don't try to rationalize or explain who or what you're placing in the box, just concentrate on clearing everything out as you fill in the sentence and the box. Keep repeating, "My mind will be roomier if I don't harbor thoughts about..."
When you feel that you've made space for yourself, make believe that you are putting the lid on the box and tossing it in the garbage. Everything that is in the box, is no longer part of you (even if it's just a few minutes until you acquiesce to the urge of reclaiming your box,) enjoy this time breathing in to your now very spacious body.
Were you able to make room inside of yourself for you? Did you unload issues that take up time and energy without any substantial benefit to your life? Hopefully each time you return to this exercise you'll have less and less items to fill your box, or at least they will be different each time!