Yesterday, we came to know our world through our senses -- seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, tasting -- and through the knowing faculty of the mind. We did so by eating one raisin mindfully.
As I mentioned in the last blog post and in the first edition of our mindfulness meditation practice, there's another important aspect of this meditation: becoming aware of interconnectedness. It can be helpful to think of mindful awareness as a lens. Sometimes we use it in a very focused way, as we just did with the raisin, using all our senses to observe every detail of our experience. And sometimes we widen the lens of mindfulness so that our awareness expands to take in the bigger picture. We nurture both of these aspects of awareness as we practice.
In this wider, more spacious view, we become aware of the larger context of being, in which we can see how everything is interconnected. Sometimes called, "looking deeply," this aspect of practice helps us become aware of the multitude of causes and conditions that are a very real part of our experience in this very moment. If you would like to experience this more expansive view, I invite you to follow along with a second set of Raisin Meditation instructions.
So, as promised, here is the second mindfulness meditation practice from one of the books we have been working with: Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond, by Nancy Bardacke.
For this practice, you will need the following:
Reflections on the Raisin Meditation
Was this really a special raisin, or was it the quality of attention we brought to the experience, the face that we were really there for the eating of it, that made the taste so vivid?
Eating can be one of life's great joys. How many such moments of sheer delight are you missing every day because you're not really there for a bite of an apple or the taste of a peach? And how many other moments are you not fully experiencing, like the smell of the morning air as you step outside or the delicate shape of the flower in your neighbor's garden that bloomed overnight? And how many joyful moments of your pregnancy (or this moment of social isolation/solitude) are you missing because you are so busy rushing from one thing to the next?
Regardless of the physical discomforts of pregnancy -- the nausea, the backaches, the shortness of breath -- and all the uncertainties and worries you may be carrying about the future (even if you aren't pregnant), if you take a moment to really see, you will find that in this very moment you are a living, breathing miracle, with a new human being growing inside of you! And if you are missing this miracle, how many more such moments will you miss during the process of childbirth and parenting?
Perhaps taking a moment to stop and ask, "Where does the joy of living exist anyway?," you may find that it exists in the sweet taste of an orange, the sudden smile that lights up your baby's face, the warmth of a hug from your partner or a friend, or the sweet smell of your baby's skin. When we practice mindfulness we become more awake and alive in the present moment, for ourselves and for our children.
In many ways, the heart of parenting is about being fully present with our children. One way we can learn how to do this is by learning how to be fully present for and connected to ourselves in our own lives right now.
Bardacke, Nancy. Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond. HarperOne, 2012.
When I look at amniotic fluid, I am looking at rain falling on orange groves. I am looking at melon fields, potatoes in wet earth, frost on pasture grasses. The blood of cows and chickens is in this tube. The nectar gathered by bees and hummingbirds is in this tube. Whatever is inside hummingbird eggs is also inside my womb. Whatever is in the world's water is here in my hands. ~ Sandra Steingraber
We come to know the world through our senses -- seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, tasting -- and through the knowing faculty of the mind. So today, we will begin our mindfulness practice by bringing our full attention to these senses, one by one, as we experience eating one raisin mindfully.
You might find this meditation a little odd. However, from a mindfulness perspective a little novelty can serve us well, waking us from habitual ways of seeing that can come between us and our direct experience of living. Thus, we are going to experiment with bringing beginner's mind to this experience, as if you were a newborn baby and had never seen a raisin before because, in truth, you have never seen this raisin before.
So, let's begin. As promised, here is the first mindfulness meditation practice from one of the books we have been working with: Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond, by Nancy Bardacke.
For this practice, you will need the following:
If you followed the instructions above, you have just eaten one raisin mindfully, bringing focused attention to each moment, observing the three pillars of experience: body sensations, thoughts, and emotions. There is much to learn from this meditation, and after you have practiced it, please spend some time processing your experience and perhaps sharing your experience with me in the comments below.
Becoming Aware of Interconnectedness
There's another important aspect of this meditation: becoming aware of interconnectedness. It can be helpful to think of mindful awareness as a lens. Sometimes we use it in a very focused way, as we just did with the raisin, using all our senses to observe every detail of our experience. And sometimes we widen the lens of mindfulness so that our awareness expands to take in the bigger picture. We nurture both of these aspects of awareness as we practice.
In this wider, more spacious view, we become aware of the larger context of being, in which we can see how everything is interconnected. Sometimes called, "looking deeply," this aspect of practice helps us become aware of the multitude of causes and conditions that are a very real part of our experience in this very moment. If you would like to experience this more expansive view, I invite you to follow along with a second set of Raisin Meditation instructions next time, in my next blog post. ❤ ~ Ashley
The World in a Raisin - A Mindfulness Meditation on Interconnectedness
~ IN THE MEANTIME, TAKE A LOOK AT THIS LITTLE YOGI ~
Bardacke, Nancy. Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond. HarperOne, 2012.
Do you recall how a few days ago, I wrote a bit about Pranayama: Breathing - Lesson 1, and I provided a recording with a lecture about the importance of breath awareness and deep breathing? And how I also gave the instructions to our first pranayama practice, Yogic Breathing?
I have been practicing Yogic Breathing now for a few days. It has not been easy haha. My mind really likes to wander around! So... In the following video, I chose to share this morning's pranayama experience with you in order to discuss the following issues that I have had (and perhaps you have had as well???) Am I alone here in the struggle? ;)
Anyways, if you find yourself wandering a bit or struggling too, then you're not alone! We will get through it together by practicing daily and by remembering to kindly and gently bring our attention back to the breath.
Please let me know how you are doing! Comment in solidarity haha.
In the meantime, please enjoy watching me confess my own struggles. And please consider taking advantage of the written instructions to Yogic Breathing that I've included for you below. :) Don't forget, you could also listen to the recording if you wished via the last blog post. The practice starts around 18:00, I think. OH. And if you're an email recipient of this post, you'll have to click on the link below in order to view the video. ~ Ashley
The Struggle is Real, But Temporary
Inhale slowly by allowing your abdomen to expand.
Try to breathe so slowly that little or no sound of breath can be heard.
At the end of the abdominal expansion, start to expand your chest outwards and upwards.
At the end of this movement draw your collarbone and shoulders toward your head.
This completes 1 inhalation.
The whole process should be one continuous movement, each phase of breathing merging into the next, without there being any obvious transition point.
There should be no jerks or unnecessary strain. Your breathing should be like the swell of the sea.
The rest of the body should be relaxed. Now start to exhale.
First relax your collarbone and shoulders.
Then allow your chest to move, first downwards towards the feet and then inwards.
After this allow the abdomen to contract.
Don't strain but try to empty the lungs as much as possible by drawing or pulling the abdominal wall as near as possible to the spine.
Again the whole movement should be a harmonious whole.
This completes 1 round of yogic breathing.
Hold your breath for a second or two at the end of each inhalation and exhalation.
Inhale and do another round.
Do up to 5 rounds on your first day of practice.
Every day increase your practice by 2 rounds, or as time permits.
Ten minutes yogic breathing is a reasonable length of time to eventually aim at. With enough practice you will find that the whole movement will occur naturally. No effort will be required.
It is written in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the ancient text on yoga:
"Life is the period between one breath and the next; a person who only half breathes, only half lives. He who breathes correctly, acquires control of the whole being." ~ Swami Satyananda Saraswati
In yoga it is said that each person has a fixed number of breaths allocated to him. If one breathes slowly then one will live longer, for the number of breaths is allocated for the lifetime; if one breathes rapidly the given number of breaths are used up more quickly resulting in a shorter life span. Whether you accept this idea or not, there is nevertheless a great deal of truth in it. A fast breathing rate is associated with tension, fear, worry, etc. which tends to lead to bad health, unhappiness, and of course a short life. A person who breathes slowly is relaxed, calm and happy, which is conducive to longevity.
Breathing is a process that we rarely give any thought to. It occurs automatically without our awareness, yet at the same time it is often something that most people do incorrectly. If breathing is a spontaneous function of the body, how is it possible to do it incorrectly? The answer lies with our respiratory muscles which become lazy over time and cease to give optimum inhalation and exhalation (23).
How can we change the way we breathe in order to feel more relaxed, calm and happy in our day-to-day lives?
Let's continue with our journey into Kriya Yoga
To update our new readers (Hi Hannah!), over the last many blogs, we have been reading and working through two books. "A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya" by Satyananda Saraswati and another book titled, “Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond" by Nancy Bardacke. In the last couple posts, we have mostly focused on building a healthy pre-meditation routine via the first yoga asana program found within the Kriya book. One (time) option for the program looks like this:
So far, I have also provided a presentation that includes photos of each individual asana/pose listed above (except for Naukasana - I'll explain that pose soon). Then I followed those items up with a brief demonstration of the poses as well as a quick Q&A regarding it. (Jala Neti information can be found here).
Let's review the breathing/pranayama portion of our Kriya Yoga program before we move on to the second lesson! :) I'm amazed at the progress I've made so far with this book. I literally feel like I am participating in my own yoga training. How do you feel about it? Feel free to comment and let me know :)
Below, you will find either a link (for email subscribers) or an audio tool (for web viewers). The audio includes our first pranayama practice! In the first half (1:00-18:00) of the recording, I take a moment to read the portion of the chapter that discusses the following important pieces of information:
Then lastly, I lead an exploration into what it means to really breathe. We break down what it means to experience abdominal breathing, middle breathing, upper breathing and finally, yogic breathing. Please feel free to skip the first half if you like, but once you get to the descriptions of the different methods of breathing, I suggest a careful listen. Sometimes these lectures have so much wonderful information and context, so if you do happen to skip the first part but are left wondering if you missed something, then perhaps give it a full listen.
A few minutes of yogic breathing daily can work wonders. It will make you much less susceptible to illness, and you will acquire more power, vitality and calmness in your daily activities. Your thinking and clarity of thought will improve.
The deep systematic yogic breathing will tend to retrain breathing nerve reflexes that may have ceased to be active by lack of use. In other words, at present you might be breathing only from the chest, hardly using the abdomen at all. Yogic breathing will start to make you breathe abdominally, intercostally and clavicularly during the day, and therefore, allow you to inhale the full amount of air that your body requires for nourishment and good health.
To develop the yogic breathing as an automatic and normal function of the body, try to develop the habit of consciously breathing yogically for a few seconds or minutes. If you feel tired or angry, sit down, or if possible lie down, and practice yogic breathing. If you can breathe slowly then your mind will become calm and revitalized.
Please, let me know if you practiced the recommended five Yogic breaths to start and how it made you feel. And don't forget, tomorrow, add two more breaths and so on. ~ Ashley
What Are We Going to Do Next?
The World in a Raisin: A Mindfulness Meditation
Saraswati, Satyananda. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Yoga Publications Trust, 2013.
Since I began this re-journey into Kriya Yoga via the amazing book, “A Systematic Course in the Ancient and Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya” by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, I have seen a remarkable difference in my hips, back, and overall psyche. I have also had a number of questions come up. For example, I wondered:
I’ve answered some of those ponderings down below in this first video. And, in the second sped up video, I’ve demonstrated the asana portion of the practice in its entirety.
I WAS THINKING... if you have time now in your quarantine routine, and if maybe you would like to catch up and do the practice together, please reach out to me! I’m happy to walk you through the whole program from lesson one of our book. :)
Hi! Long Time, No See
If you happen to be a subscriber to my little blog, then you are probably receiving this in your email box instead of say, viewing it from my website. If that's the case, then most likely these videos don't actually appear in your email. That's because Mailchimp (the company I use to send out this blog via email) doesn't like the formatting of this video. I have no idea how to change that. What I do know is another solution. Click on the Links/Buttons below :) ~ Ashley
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley
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