Want to center yourself quickly and effectively? Try the "Figure 8 Breath" meditation, also known as Arohan Awarohan kriya. It may just be the thing!
Arohan Awarohan kriya meditation follows a figure 8 pattern of attention --and it mimics one possible pattern of breathing movement. I explain what and how that works in the "how to" episode, and in teaching the practice, I draw on that connection between your focus and your breathing movement.
There are many patterns of breathing that our bodies can take on. The figure 8 breathing pattern can, as an exercise, be centering, kind of like how rocking a baby (or adult!) is soothing. Not everyone will find it useful in this way (full disclosure: I'm in that "not everyone" group!), and some will find it magical. If you give it a try and discover that it's useful for you, I'd love to hear how it turned out!
Be moving, be true,
photo credit K8 found on unsplash
Sometimes, focusing on your breathing just doesn't "work" to calm, center, ground, or meditate. For one reason or another, it's not the thing for the moment. If that sounds like you, you might give this week's practice a try.
Arohan Awarohan is an ISHTA kriya technique I teach both in meditation and movement. It asks you to move your attention along a figure 8 path around the torso. And while we typically sync that attention to our breathing rhythm, you can choose whether to make your breath a primary or secondary focus. Many of my students find Arohan Awarohan an easy and soothing practice.
Once you've learned the figure 8 path, you can use Arohan Awarohan to focus inward while sitting, walking, and moving through familiar yoga shapes or sequences.
Listen to "Ep 465 - Arohan Awarohan Kriya" on Spreaker.
I'd love to know how it goes. Let me know if you like!
Esther's Everyday Meditation Podcast. Episode #404 with Arohan Awarohan kriya.
photo credit harli marten on unsplash
What’s in this episode?
I use this practice of arohan awarohan kriya to guide you explicitly to bring your awareness a little deeper in towards your center -- to shushumna nadi. If you have no idea what I'm talking about AND you're curious, well, "how to" episode #403 is for you! I get into some nitty gritty that I don't often talk about and that applies to all our kriya practices, not just arohan awarohan.
What's it good for?
Arohan awarohan is great for centering. This week's practice is a good one for when you're ready to suspend judgment and expectation. Not perfectly, necessarily, but in intention 😉
And here's that how to episode I mentioned, cuz I think it's gonna come in handy for everyone!
I hope you'll try this centering practice. And, as always, I'd love to hear about your experience. Click on the bar below to drop me a line!
What’s this episode about?
Meditation may be able to help you develop your sense of self... or perhaps it's just one sense of self.
By developing your sense of self as distinct from attachment (ragas) and aversion (dvesha) — from the monkey mind.
Because without these, we seem to be left with just JOY, PEACE, and LOVE
A decade ago, I would have scoffed at this idea. JOY, PEACE, and LOVE, pssht.
Mostly because I identified solely with my personal, internal stress, anguish, and fear (but not my internal joys).
For example, it was critically important that I not be late ever. Or that I fit in with what the other girls were wearing — and yet I never truly wanted to fit in….
I didn’t now that there was any other way, I didn’t believe that I could solve all of my problems in my head.
I thought I had to change from the outside to change what I was feeling on the inside. Classic teenage angst (and I’m really not the angsty type).
So why would I listen to suggestions otherwise? Suggestions that I could be happy if I just looked inside?
Because I was a teenager —and a stubborn one at that. I thought I had all the answers.
And that’s ok... if it wears off! And usually we do grow out of some of our lack of self awareness, but just as often teenage neuroses follow into adulthood in one way or another. By then, we don’t realize how and where we’re still acting like a foolish, stubborn teenager.
This “teenage” behavior lines up with what Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson call the “stickiness” of our “self” thoughts.
“Stickiness seems to reflect the dynamics of the emotional circuitry of the brain, including the amygdala and the nucleus acumbens*. These regions very likely underlie what traditional texts see as the root causes of suffering —attachment and aversion — where the mind becomes fixated on wanting something that seems rewarding or on getting rid of something unpleasant” (Altered Traits, p 162-163. *Brain regions. The amygdala scans for danger, among other things, and the nucleus accumbens seems to be part of our reward system.).
We’re stuck — in our minds — to our own attachments and aversions. Attachments and aversions themselves aren’t a problem. They don’t create suffering. Being stuck creates an experience of suffering.
And eventually, I sought or stumbled onto a different way of thinking about and doing things — a way to get a little less stuck in my own “self” thoughts.
Meditation has been a big part of my path away from stickiness.
Well, my teachers didn’t draw me in by saying “Here: To be happy, simply abandon everything you’ve ever relied on to make sense of your experience in the world.” That’s for sure.
I never would have shown up for the first class!
Instead, they said “Try to visualize a light and focus on it… and then on “nothing” if you can.”
That’s it. Furthermore they added: “If focusing is hard, that’s OK. It’s 100% OK. When your mind wanders, just nudge your attention back, gently and without judgment.”
Those last two elements were key for me. No judgment?! No “I’m doing this wrong, I suck”?! I just gotta show up and try a little?!
I was kinda hooked — I loved this thing I couldn’t fail at!
And then the brain started changing. Changes that made it possible to pause and reflect and “step outside” myself.
“Such a step outside of the self, technically speaking, suggests weakening activation of the default circuitry that binds together the mosaic of memories, thoughts, impulses, and other semi-independent mental processes into the cohesive sense of 'me' and 'mine’” (Altered Traits, p 154-155).
There is very little research looking at this particular effect from meditation, so the guys that know more than I are offering a possible interpretation of what evidence they do have, rather than drawing a conclusion. But I assume that what they suggest happens generally with meditation, happened to me, too.
And those are just the changes that happened pretty much automatically! They laid the groundwork for active reflection and deciding what to do with what you observe and learn about yourself.
The joyous thing for me is that it’s not a process you need to rush —in fact, I think that would get in the way. You just show up, meditate, and trust that the rest will unfold in the time it should. You could be a little more proactive about it, simply by making reflection a part of your meditation process, but more than that really depends on you and what kind of learner you are.
For some it helps having a structure like yoga or mindfulness to steer you in your reflection, but it doesn’t seem necessary to change your brain and feel the effects. Take for example, Dan Harris, the news anchor who started meditating after a breakdown and when it changed his life, he wrote a book about it: 10% Happier, in which he chronicles his initial journey into meditation. Adding meditation into his day seemed to initiate some big changes in his mind, which led to positive changes in his actions and interactions. And greater ability to act from principle rather than fear. If I recall correctly, he didn’t actively seek out change other than to add meditation. That’s often the way the story goes.
See, meditation, gives us a stronger sense of the “I” that feels JOY, PEACE, and LOVE.
And next I’ll walk through some of the brain changes we know about that might help explain what happens when this JOY, PEACE, and LOVE “I" is strong, and the nagging, agonizing “I” fades away — or at least learns to take a back seat when asked.
Below is the week's "full practice" episode. Click here to listen to the "how to practice" instructions.
I'd love to hear about your experience -- and help out with any questions you have.
Practicing with you,
What’s this episode about?
Meditation and how to calm stress in the short term.
Can you tell me more now?
Yup. I dive in to the reality of dealing with stress on the fly.
Can you meditate and create stress reducing brain changes when you're in the middle of chaos? I talk about why we need to set ourselves up with physiological changes that can help lessen stress in the moment, and then make it easier to meditate and make those lasting brain changes.
What can I do with that?
This week's meditation practice (listen below!) is also a stress reduction aid - no meditating required!
I explain how it works and give you just a little taste of the practice.
I hope you’ll give it a listen!
Ready to practice the meditation? Here's the week's "full practice" episode. Click here to listen to the "how to practice" walk through!
I'd love to hear about your experience -- and help out with any questions you have. You can reach me via the comment box below.
Practicing with you,