Meditation can be very challenging to start. Most people like to keep busy so they never have to face their feelings. They surround themselves with a flurry of activity, exercise, and work to stave off boredom, while trying to remain proactive in order to get that big promotion at work, or make more money to buy the house of their dreams. As soon as a desire is fulfilled, a new objective comes to take its place and the cycle begins anew, again and again. We asked exercise physiologist Kristina Macias of Primal Coding (check out link below) about ways to get into meditation, beyond the usual breathing exercises, and she shared some of her wisdom with us. So, if you’ve tried breathing meditations before and they didn’t work for you, or if you simply want to discover new exercises, this article is for you.
“With all the technology, the dating apps, and the fast lifestyle of today’s culture,” Kristina said, “we have forgotten what is is like to feel, the good and the bad. It is all just a spectrum of experience, and sometimes these feeling are trapped in our body, our muscles. Body scans connect us to feeling the skin on the top of our left pinky finger, or the skin just underneath our knee…all the small places that usually never receive any thought.”
There isn’t a single correct way to do a body scan. You’ll make it your own, and it will probably change along the years. As a guideline, here is what Kristina recommends. Feel free to make any adjustments you might like.
Shake your body. Beginners might have a hard time lying completely still, so it’s good to start with a full-body shake. “It will definitely be uncomfortable,” Kristina told us. “You may think you have run out of ways to shake, or think ‘What the hell am I doing?’ but the edge of our comfort zone is the only place where change can occur.” Keep at it for 2-3 minutes.
Let your body settle. After the 3 minutes are up, try being completely still for about as long. “It is like shaking up a snow globe and then watching all the snow settle to the bottom.” You will feel this change immediately.
Notice the feelings in your body. They could be tingly sensations, feelings of cold or warmth, or even emotions that you stirred up. There might be different sensations in your legs and in your shoulders, try to pay attention to your body parts one at a time.
Repeat as long as you like. Every time will be different. Once you’re more comfortable with stillness, you can try breathing into specific areas. Use your imagination to see air filling your lungs, travelling to your thighs, your toes, your fingers.
When’s the last time you ate a meal and enjoyed every bite? When did you last just eat out of pure pleasure? We can’t always make time for that: sometimes a big project comes in and we have to eat a sandwich at our desk, some days we get home and feel like leaving the cooking to the microwave. And yet, most of us eat 3 times a day. Eating is such a huge part of our daily lives that it seems criminal to be forced to treat it as nothing more than a necessity. Mindful eating is not always compatible with the pressures of modern life, but even trying it out a few times a week can be very rewarding. What is it? Exactly what it sounds like. Take your time to eat and engage all your senses. The type of food doesn’t matter; it could be a raisin, a Twix, or a chicken nugget. Just pick something you know you like.
Look at your food. Before you do anything else, hold it in your hand in front of you, and observe it. Once you get past the initial silliness of it all, you’ll start noticing all kinds of things. Maybe the color is uneven. Maybe you can spot ridges, holes, bumps, or a weird shape!
Touch it. You’ve already been holding it between your fingers, but really get into the tactile aspect of it now. Is it soft? Hard? Is the texture anything like what you expected from looking at it? Try applying a bit of pressure, see how it reacts.
Smell the food. Bring it closer to your nose if you need. Concentrate on the smell, or maybe the mix of different scents. What do you think it will taste like? How does the smell compare with the expected taste?
Taste it. Finally. You’ve probably already started salivating and imagining how this was going to feel. Well, is it everything you expected? A little different? Take it slow. Feel around with your tongue, chew for a long time. Can you still smell it?
This was probably the best raisin, Twix, or chicken nugget you’ve ever had. And even if it wasn’t, keep practicing. The next time you’re stuck eating in front of your computer screen or getting fast-food on the highway, give yourself 60 seconds to enjoy at least one mindful bite.
If you enjoyed this article, you can find more of Kristina’s wisdom over at Primal Coding. She’s got great breathing lessons and guided meditations right here: www.primalcoding.com
Want to see Mindful Eating in action? Check out Bob Stahl’s Raisin Meditation on YouTube: