Mindfulness – in the Prison and elsewhere…

prison yoga mindfulness water drop

attention - right here - right now

                    

Local psychologist and yoga practitioner Sasha Loring will have a talk and book signing regarding her new book Eating with Fierce Kindness: A Mindful and Compassionate Guide to Losing Weight. It will be held at the Durham Southwest Branch Library, 3605 Shannon Rd, 27707, from 6-7:30 on Monday evening November 29. Bring friends!

mindfulness book

Eating With Fierce Kindness

Sasha Loring, M.Ed., LCSW, is a meditation teacher and psychotherapist in Durham, NC. She has developed and taught meditation, mindful eating, and weight management courses for Duke Diet and Fitness Center and Duke Integrative Medicine. She is creator of the program and CD The Wisdom Path for Changing Your Relationship with Food and coauthor of The Mindfulness Manual for Bariatric Surgery. Loring leads meditation retreats and educational programs nationwide. Visit her online at www.sashaloring.com.

 

 

Zen practice happened for me either by chance or by long preparation.  I learned to meditate many years ago from the Transcendental Meditation people.  Their guru was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who was a teacher to the Beatles.  I had also read a bunch of books about Zen but sort of had the idea that a person would have to go to Japan perhaps to experience Zen.  I didn’t know about practice groups or teachers nearer than that.  My practice of TM was very sporadic.  It offered me tremendous peace and relaxation when I did it but I did not do it daily or take further training.

One day I found myself at an afternoon with Zen Teacher Cheri Huber from California. A friend had told me about her and we had come for some inspiration.   It was held in the sanctuary of a historic downtown Raleigh church that houses a Unity congregation now.  The church is located on the northeast corner of a park where the homeless gather to be fed by a local mission and where many cultural events are staged.

I went with no real fixed expectations.  Curiosity was driving me.  I had a fresh new composition book to take notes and a pillow to sit on.  Cheri took us through some exercises and answered questions.  She talked on many topics and it was a wonderful experience.  The most amazing thing happened that literally “opened my eyes.” 

All those years meditating with eyes closed had made me think that having eyes closed was part of the deal.  I had had experiences of extreme calm and concentration with my eyes open but they were spontaneous and I had not had a practice of creating this state.  Cheri was talking about mindfulness and establishing a predetermined trigger to remind us during the day to return to the breath, attend the breath and become present to the moment; to this very spot in space and time.

She had worked us through meditating with eyes open, focusing on the breath and counting the breath.  She had mentioned putting a rubber band on the wrist or a piece of masking tape on a watch band or some other reminder and then using that reminder to in her words, “STOP and become present.”  I had been breathing, focusing on my breath and counting my breath.  As soon as she said the word “STOP” though, some sort of shift occurred.  All of a sudden the whole world was stopped in the present moment.  My eyes were open.  I could feel awareness of my surroundings.  I was inside the church but could feel awareness that the sun was shining outside.  I could feel awareness that the park was outside and could feel awareness of  the sounds of the things that were going on in the park.  I could feel awareness of insects that were buzzing in the warm weather.  I could feel awareness of the people in the park.  I could feel awareness of all the people in the church.  I could feel awareness of the whole universe centered in that single moment.  It was a very special moment and then it was gone. 

The next morning, I was walking my dog down to the end of the street and thinking about the previous day and the experience and I saw a stop sign at the end of the street and I thought well maybe it would be a good trigger for becoming present.  I thought, “What if every time I see a stop sign I STOP and become present.”  And there I was again.  The voice I heard saying “STOP” in my mind was Cheri’s voice.  I was right there in the moment again.  I was realizing that this state was available to me at any time, day or night.  It was sort of like having an additional position available on the gear shift in a car.  Drive, park, reverse, 1, 2, 3, 4, and now the “present moment” gear.  Just kick the shifter into the present moment and enjoy the “everything’s okay” gear.  I started doing this all the time. 

Practice:

Tie a string around your finger or put a piece of masking tape on your finger, wrist, sleeve, shirt pocket or anywhere you think you might see it during the day.  Or pick a color and resolve that any time you see it for the next hour you will:

  • Focus on your breath.  Feel it drawing in and out.  Focus either on the point just at the nostrils where the air goes in and out or on your diaphragm which moves up and down with the inflow and outflow of breath.
  • Draw a breath in.  Exhale.  Count one and wait in anticipation of the next in breath.  Draw a breath in.  Exhale.  Count two and so on up to ten.
  • Keep your attention on the breath and the current moment for a few minutes.

 

Practice:

Pick an external cue like mealtime, brushing teeth, driving in the car or riding the bus.  Resolve that any time today when this happens you will:

  • Focus on your breath.  Feel it drawing in and out.  Focus either on the point just at the nostrils where the air goes in and out or on your diaphragm which moves up and down with the inflow and outflow of breath.
  • Draw a breath in.  Exhale.  Count one and wait in anticipation of the next in breath.  Draw a breath in.  Exhale.  Count two and so on up to ten.
  • Keep your attention on the breath and the current moment for a few minutes.

 

Practice:  The next time something upsetting or angering is happening:.

Focus on your breath.  Feel it drawing in and out.  Focus either on the point just at the nostrils where the air goes in and out or on your diaphragm which moves up and down with the inflow and outflow of breath.

  • Then name your emotion, out loud or mentally.  Say, “I am angry.”  Or you might say, “I am frustrated.” 
  • Allow yourself to feel where the emotion rests in the body.  What feels tight?  What feels loose or tired?  Are the eyes watering or nose stuffy or running?  Do you feel pain? 
  • Feel it and let it pass through.  Let it go.

If the exercises seem to be difficult or to do nothing for you, put your concerns aside and move on.  As your attention and awareness grow, it will be easier to name your feelings and let go.

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About sordog1

Shiva Steve Ordog is a Yoga Instructor certified by Yoga Alliance - RYT 200, a Thought Field Therapy Practitioner (TFT-Algo) and a Zen practitioner. He is the author of a book on meditation, mindfulness, and yoga called "Hey, Yoga Man!: Yoga Practices for Everyday Life from a Prison Yoga Practice"
This entry was posted in Buddhism, meditation, mindfulness, nc, prison, Raleigh, yoga, Zen. Bookmark the permalink.

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