It's been about five years since I started practicing yoga on a somewhat regular basis. As much as I enjoy the act of doing yoga...Read More
Daily Practice: Two Easy Steps To Bliss
Leading up to Thanksgiving, I gave you some tips to make Turkey Day one of your best holidays ever. All of those tips apply to the next few weeks, too. I
challenge lovingly encourage you to make this a joyous, truly celebratory holiday season by making a little time each day to take care of yourself.
Right now, you might be trying to plan your holiday eating strategy— or you might decide to take Holly’s excellent advice and indulge/enjoy instead. (My personal plan is to eat Whole30-style from now until December 24, with a loosening of standards on December 13 and 16 for two holiday celebrations.)
But even the fabulous Hartwigs remind us in their New York Times Best Seller: it only starts with food. There’s far more to self care than what we eat.
So I’m going to offer a suggestion for how you can feed your bliss. It’s easy. It doesn’t take much time. It requires nothing from you but a 99-cent investment in an mp3, a bit of conscious thought, and some deep breathing.
I’m committing to this daily practice for the month of December. Join me!
Step 1: Bless Yourself
I’m not at all religious, but have a pretty active spiritual side. Over the last few years, I’ve been fostering a connection to things larger and deeper than just me (in spite of thinking of Krispy Kreme and drooling dogs during kundalini meditation). I have a latent teenage desire to be infused with ennui and cynicism, but to my chagrin, I’ve discovered and embraced my inner hippie this year. Whatever. I like to wear black. I like stompy boots. I like to curse. And, as it turns out, I like to get all groovy with meditation.
In class recently, our instructor Robin encouraged us to start a morning ritual of self-blessing. Even as I was internally rolling my eyes, I was also recognizing its wisdom and considering it. I mean, imagine how lovely it would be to have someone praise and love you first thing in the morning. Every morning. Then instead of putting that burden on someone else and expecting them to prop you up, you become the person who values, praises, and loves you first thing in the morning. I’ve given it a shot, and I gotta admit: It’s a pretty sweet way to kick off the day.
When you wake up, before you jump out of bed, place your hands over your heart, and then make an internal statement of gratitude and blessing. This is roughly what I’ve been saying to myself:
I bless myself, and I feel grateful for this day. I’m thankful for my tattooed feet that carry me through the day… for the calves and knees that help me run and jump… for my big, ol’ ham thighs that can squat under the barbell. I’m grateful for my belly, even the squishy parts, and the hips that like to belly dance. I’m thankful for my chest and shoulders that are broad enough to handle whatever the world throws our way, and I’m grateful for the mostly reasonable head I’ve got on my shoulders. I’m grateful for this day, whatever it brings, and I bless myself today.
Sometimes I start at my noggin and work my way down; sometimes I start at my feet and head north. But based on Robin’s recommendation, I try to hit every body part — especially the ones I “don’t like,” like my belly or sore left ankle. This takes, maximum, 20 seconds. Then I throw off the blanket and tackle the day.
WARNING: This is pretty groovy, and it can feel weird at first. But here’s the thing: If you’re murmuring inside your head, no one can hear what you say. So be super kind to yourself. Pay yourself wild compliments. Celebrate every inch of you, inside and out. You deserve to love yourself. Every bit of yourself.
Step 2: 11-Minute Meditation
For the last year, I’ve been working on developing a daily mediation practice. Thanks to kundalini yoga, I get “freebies” 2 or 3 times a week because meditation is built into class. On my own, I’ve had varying degrees of success keeping my commitment to meditate at home. It always feels good when I do it, and it doesn’t take a lot of time, but man! it can be tricky business to get myself to stop what I’m doing and sit still for a few minutes.
Holiday season is both the best and worst time to try to adopt a new self-care habit, so — of course! — I’m going to encourage you to join me in a commitment to meditation. Right now. But I’m going to make it as easy as possible by giving you a recommendation for exactly what to do.
This meditation is based on the mantra Humee Hum Brahm Hum. It’s designed to open the heart center and allow us to express creativity and our true selves. Translated, it means, We are we. We are one.” And I think that’s a really sweet sentiment, no? I mean, I like to think I’m a special, special snowflake, but it’s also lovely to recognize that we’re all in this together.
1. Download this recording of the “Humee Hum Brahm Hum” mantra. It’s 34 minutes long, but don’t worry! You won’t be meditating for that long.
2. Designate a spot in your house where you can sit quietly for 10-15 minutes undisturbed.
3. Choose a time every day (or every other day if you’re not ready for a daily meditation commitment) when you will sit in meditation. I set my iPhone alarm for 3:00 p.m every day.
4. Set yourself up with a timer of some kind; I use the stopwatch on my iPhone. You just need something to help you keep track of warmup and meditation time.
1. Start the recording of the mantra and begin to prepare yourself for meditation.
2. Sit, kneel, or lie down comfortably. I like to sit cross-legged with a few pillows under my butt so my hips are higher than my knees.
3. Close your eyes and take several long, slow, deep breaths. Let your belly and chest expand on the inhale; contract your abs and squeeze your belly back toward your spine on the exhale.
4. When you’re ready to begin, set the timer for 3 minutes. Hold your arms up like goal posts by your sides, tuck your elbows into your rib cage, cross your index and middle fingers and point them toward the sky (like when you’re a kid and you say, “I’m not lying”), and do breath of fire for 2-3 minutes. (This is a great video for learning breath of fire. If this seems to intimidating, just do 2-3 minutes of deep breathing instead.)
5. Now it’s time for the meditation. Set the timer for 11 minutes — if that seems too long for you, start with 3 minutes and work up from there). Crank up the volume on the recording and start singing along. You can sing quietly, loudly, whatever feel right to you… just give yourself over to vibrating along with the mantra. Your thoughts might wander, and that is totally OK (and totally normal). Let them go, then gently try to bring your focus back to the sound of the mantra.
According to Robin, doing this mantra every day for 18 months will change your life! I had to smile at that because of course your life will change in 18 months; your life is changing every second.
But I totally get the sentiment. Taking just a few minutes every day to breathe consciously and sidestep the overwhelming current of life does have tremendous value. At the very least, you get some good oxygen for a few minutes. At most? You might change yourself and the world.
Whatcha say? Wanna join me in the groovy?