I know the current topic presented may be funny/not funny. This mini article was inspired by my recent interactions with my patients through my Ayurveda Practice and based upon the proclamation that they “don’t have time to or the ability to meditate.” For whatever reason (which are numerous and equally justified by the ego and monkey mind), many people feel that they can’t do it or have what it takes. Some people want to but notice how busy their lives and mind (reflectively) are. Other people make excuses because of the trepidation associated with becoming aware of the onslaught of thoughts cascading one after another.
My first meditation teacher, Dr. Nashit from the Himalayan Institute in New York City, defined meditation as “an uninterrupted flow of awareness on one object of consciousness”. Adyashanti, states “that meditation is not something you do but something that happens as a result of the things that you’ve done in order to call meditation in.” It’s not something you can make happen or capture in a certain way, especially in the beginning. Classical yoga, according to Patanjali who created the Ashtanga Yoga (Eight limbs) Path teaches how meditation is step seven of eight and that there are “pre-requisites” to meditation to be installed before meditation is arrived at. Many of us tend to put too much stress on what meditation “should look like and be like”, rather than allow it to show up to us in the moment as we set the stage for it to unfold as deemed appropriate and individualized per person, guided by some external instruction (sometimes) and the inner wisdom. Meditation isn’t “suppose to” be a stressful experience BUT can bring up perceived stressors as we become aware of the storm of thoughts present and colliding seemingly endlessly with one another. When we endure the painful assault of thoughts, which eventually subsides, we become witness to the return to silence and how silence becomes our friend. When we can put aside what our expectations of meditation should look like we will have better results and these results will have a multitude of effects.
It is crucial to our mental health, as there is physical exercise for the body’s health, that there is also exercise for the mind. This involves breathing techniques that act as a bridge between body and mind, and body/mind with spirit. Breathing is the conduit that nurtures the physical cells and DNA of the body, the thoughts of the mind and the anchor for spirit. The body energizes with oxygen, through breathing; the mind and thoughts are either activated or disengaged through breathing; and the spirit comes through the breath. Additionally and importantly, mantra which involve sacred words/prayers (but not necessarily for the purpose of this article) and meditation are the exercises for mind.
In the Ayurvedic-yogic literature, we can say that meditative practices can fall under the categories and possess a tamasic quality (grounding, heavy), rajasic quality (stimulating, uplifting) or sattvic quality (balancing, enlightening). With that, Ayurveda uses these qualities and carefully constructs “protocols” based on the individual mental constitutions of each person known as ‘Manas Prakruti.’ This becomes an easier tool that can present some hopefulness for people that are “too busy or skeptical” about what mediation is. As we lay out the groundwork that encourages the mind to decompress and de-clutter we can invite in the opportunity for deeper healing and a reorganization of the chaos that is happening in our bodies by creating space for it to happen. Lives and lifestyles can seem so frantic and chaotic that it almost seems impossible to slow down. It’s up to us to start somewhere.
I feel that it has to start with the first baby step, fueled by intention, and utilization of time efficiency until a more structured ideal time is set in place. I remember learning many years ago in one of my New York nutritional trainings that “90% of life’s most important decisions are made on the toilet.” Concordantly and in light of this, one simple technique I feel would be helpful in encouraging a calmer mind and nervous system, along with a break from the days’ insanity is the ‘One Minute Potty Meditation’.
We all have to make it to the toilet at some point of he day and during that time, ranging and on average from 3-10 minutes, we have time to sit there and not be preoccupied by worldly distractions, which means PUT DOWN the book, magazine and cell phone and focus on a very important function of the body…the bowel movement. Actually, according to Ayurveda and Yoga, it is contraindicated for many reasons to sit on the bowl and be distracted during that time. Additionally, it is important to note that not everyone has a regular/daily routine of releasing the stools. Some people, more than you think, more than you’d like to admit and more than you may understand, may actually go once or infrequently every few days to even once a week. Imagine??!! (If this is you, please contact me or find a local Ayurvedic Practitioner so that we can get the motor running and get your poop popping out regularly and healthily, so that you’re happier and your body thanks you.) Who knows? You may actually become more regular as you apply this practice to your sitting time on the toilet. Every little bit helps. A calm mind, focused and less stressed mind can cause the colon to be more relaxed and do its duty.
Here goes, as you’re sitting there implement this meditative practice. (short and sweet)
1- Sit with your spine erect and your palms on your knees face down, with your index finger and thumb gently connecting.
2- Close your eyes gently and focus your gaze in towards your eye brows or down towards your heart center.
3- Take a deep full breath in that begins in the abdomen and rises up to the chest.
4- Gently hold the breath from 6-12-18 seconds or until you start to notice a struggle with the breath or just before the swallowing reflex wants to engage. (This retention is called Antar Kumbhaka, as there are 4 parts of the breath that serve a specific function in the physiology and psychology)
5- Exhale deeply and fully, from the belly first (this is important!) and allow the rest of the rib cage and upper chest to decompress.
6- Repeat this a few times over a minute.
Note that if you feel courageous and inspired enough, as you get into a groove with it, you can go longer than a minute and as long as you’re still pooping. It’s a simple meditative practice and not meant to replace a more defined way of sitting down to meditate but it is meant to supplement until you’re able to get things more organized in life that creates the space.
Making time for you is important. Using this time is an example that fortifies your well-being because you’ll feel a shift. Taking these deep full breaths serves the heart by massaging it and engages the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve. The retention helps with centering the nervous system, strengthening the digestive system and respiratory system. Through this, vital parts and systems of the body are being stimulated. You may feel more energized as you’re calmer. You may more still and focused. You may feel all sorts of sensations and experiences…just feel. Just observe them and continue with your intention of creating a space where you can recharge throughout the day.
We all need time to reset. Vacation resets us. If we’re able to, sleep at night resets us from the day. When we meditate it’s the ultimate reset for our body-mind-spirit. Be diligent with this practice. Be hopeful with this practice. Be light with this practice. It’s simple, easy and guaranteed to go where you go and that you’ll have at least have a couple times a day where you can practice, until you actually set up your own time in your schedule to do so otherwise.
Start here…just start somewhere and here’s a basic technique to help. Everyone can do it. If you’re already finding time during the day to meditate, then adding this in wouldn’t hurt you. It will just connect more of the day together and encourage a regular practice of meditation. Ultimately, one of the benefits of meditating more and more is that you’ll be more present to the moment, in each moment. Hence, “an interrupted flow of awareness on one object of consciousness.”
Enjoy! (and Happy Pooping!)