10 Minutes of Meditation per Day
I try my best throughout the day to be mindful of how I feel both physically and mentally. Occasionally I do "checkins" where I scan my body from head to toe to touch base with how I'm feeling. I was driving to class one day last week and decided to do a quick checkin in the car when I found something quite different from my usual checkins... I felt really calm! There's almost always somewhere that feels a bit tight physically or some kind of anxiety present emotionally. It was such a different sensation for me that it actually took about 2 full minutes for me to identify how I was feeling. I kept scanning a couple times, almost worried that I was feeling numb somehow. I'm so used to having anxiety running the show in the background that I was really thrown off!
Once I realized I was actually in a state of complete calm - no overly negative or positive feelings - I had a really nice drive the rest of the way to class!
Of course, my brain did manage to work up some anxiety after that. (What if this good feeling goes away? Should I turn the radio down to focus in on the moment a bit more? What if I hit a traffic jam, will I be able to keep this amazing sense of calm?) That same old story, but I was at least able to keep those thoughts turned down low and bask in the calmness that I haven't felt in a very long time.
So, what's the deal?
I honestly think I was able to reconnect with that strong sense of calm because my meditation practice has been so consistent lately. Over the past 2 weeks, I've been meditating at least twice per day. Generally, my meditations have been about 15 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. In addition, often before teaching a yoga class I'll do a quick 1-3 minute meditation in the car before going inside.
I don't think it's necessary to meditate for that amount of time to make a difference, but I do think having a consistent meditation practice of some length is important. I suggest trying it out first thing in the morning after you've written your morning pages. Feel free to explore around and try either guided or unguided meditations to see what works for you.
PS: I just created a 10 minute basic guided meditation that you can listen to here!
Doing the body & mind scan.
One of the most helpful practices I've found while meditating is doing a detailed body scan. As you're meditating, slowly scan your body from your head down through your toes. Take as much time as you'd like - anywhere from 30 seconds to 10+ minutes.
Notice any areas of physical heaviness or lightness, but also notice what your mood is in that present moment. How do you feel emotionally? I'd say about 50% of the time that I do this exercise, there's an underlying emotion that I wasn't expecting. Sometimes I actually feel really good that day, but my thoughts were masking everything. On the days I'm not feeling so great emotionally, it always seems to soften when I notice what I'm dealing with for the day. If I realize that I'm feeling irritated or anxious, it makes my actions less reactive and more thoughtful because I know I'm being affected emotionally.
In addition to practicing the body & mind scan while meditating, try to check in with yourself in that way briefly throughout the day. You could do this either with your eyes closed or open, whichever is more convenient.
Be more present.
The next time you're in the car, try turning your radio, podcast or music off (gasp!). See what it's like to drive while fully present and taking away any distractions. Just notice what your mind does with the silence, and try using that time to touch base with your body & mind.
Take the time to appreciate the beauty of the world around you and be totally present whenever possible. Begin to notice how often you "check out" during the day with music, TV, social media, etc. It's so natural for our brains to always want to be in control. Sometimes, just being aware of ourselves and the environment around us makes all the difference!