Friday, November 22, 2013

Easy Gratitude Meditation: The Gratitude Game (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #23)

Gratitude Meditation Drawing
By Tania Franco

I practiced a simple gratitude meditation for 5 minutes. I turn it into a game trying to find the smallest things that happened in the day to be grateful for. Sometimes things we take for granted really do make our life better. I try to be thankful for the parking space that was right by the store,  the warm socks I am wearing on a cold day, the lady that smiled at me and made small conversation at the coffee shop, etc.

Many times this practice reminds me that my basic needs are met and that that is not the case for a large percentage of the worlds population. So I can learn to be grateful that I am warm in my home with food to eat and not take it for granted. It gives me perspective and grounds me.

Today I found that many great things happened even though it was an ordinary day. I sometimes forget that I am really blessed and this helps me to remember.

I felt grateful for the cuddling and laughter my son and I shared, having a good cup of coffee in silence while reading a book, finding great parking spots throughout the day ( I am grateful for parking especially after becoming a mom), meal planning and how that simplifies my life, having the luxury of going to yoga and having an hour and a half of connecting with myself, etc...

Simple Gratitude Meditation:

1. Sit comfortably with your spine aligned. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, on a sofa,          anywhere for 5 minutes. I f you don't have 5 minutes, take 3 minutes.

2. Breathe. Take deep breaths.

3. Practice Gratitude. Try to think of things you feel grateful for, beginning with the most superficial things and then moving on to the deeper.

That's it! It's that easy.

Another great recommendation is to have a gratitude journal and write 5 things you feel grateful for each day, if you have more than 5, great! Don't limit yourself write more than 5. I think I learned this one from Oprah years ago while still in school. It was life changing.

Tania Franco

Mantra Meditation : Thank You (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day # 22)

Thank you notes
Image by Tania Franco

I have been attending yoga classes more often than usual since beginning my yoga teacher training. Yoga is a movement meditation. While practicing I found myself repeating "thank you" silently in my mind throughout the class. Gratitude is powerful, it has been found to reduce stress and increase a sense of contentment in individuals who consciously practice it on a regular basis.

Through the years I have kept a gratitude journal and practiced and taught a regular gratitude meditation. I have found personally that the more I look for things to be grateful for, I find more and more things that I can be grateful for.

Today I tweaked my gratitude meditation by simplifying it. I focused on the words "thank you" as my mantra and breathed deeply. As I repeated the mantra I could feel my body shifting. With each repetition I felt a deepening of my gratitude. I spent 10 minutes this way.

I ended the meditation feeling open and grateful to be alive. This is another way to meditate. try a few different meditations and see which feel better to you.

Tania Franco

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Breath Meditation: 1-2-3 Inhale 1-2-3 Exhale (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #21)

Bridge in Bankers Hill
Image by Tania Franco

I practice a breath meditation. I count 1-2-3 during the inhale and count 1-2-3 on the exhale.As soon as I begin to meditate, I tense up. Having the expectation to be relaxed feels like pressure to me.I breathe and at about the 5th breath, I become more comfortable and at ease.

I notice I feel a bit restless, shift side to side. Sitting still feels like hard work at this time.I begin to argue with myself in my mind as to which breath exercise to do. Inhale 1-2-3-4-5 Exhale 1-2-3-4-5? Inhale on 8 count  and exhale on 8 count? Should I hold my breath at the bottom of the exhale? 

I find myself thinking "come back".This reminds me to center myself again and it relaxes me. The chatter quiets and I find I can now sit still.I begin to relax with each breath, inhaling on a 3 count and exhaling on a 3 count. I begin to feel heavy and as if I am floating. It feels good.

I notice wandering thoughts. I just allow them to be and they go away. Sometimes wanting a thought to go away, makes it stay. I find that accepting it makes it easier to let go.

I notice I'm thinking about a gruesome story I read on the news today. I think "Ok, Tania..." And that reminds me to come back to my breath and to the here and now.

15 minutes whizzed by! Felt eternal at the beginning and the middle and end just passed by.

Sometimes the hardest part is the beginning. Breath is an effective way to be in the moment. Play around with different breathing techniques and find which work for you.

Tania Franco

Art Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #20)

Art Meditation "Go With The Flow" Exercise
by Tania Franco
I practiced an art meditation. I dedicated about 30 minutes to it. I find that I can be very present through art and movement. I tend to learn kinesthetically (by doing), so  I find that movement is centering and calming for me.

I painted years ago and then stopped. Inspiration just left. The truth is that I painted when I was sad and conflicted but once I began to feel content, I found that I no longer cared for it. It's as if sadness had been my muse. It just got up and left. Well... After 5 years of painting.

A decade or more ago I painted something I loved and was very proud of it but then felt afraid of my next painting not being good enough. So I didn't paint for months. In order to get back on the horse, I decided to paint a "fun" painting where my task would solely be to enjoy the process and not be so invested in the outcome. I made a painting that I love and it hangs on my bedroom wall. It isn't the most beautiful but it reminds me of the experience I had making it.

As I mentioned, I had not painted in 10 years. So my meditation was to enjoy the process of creating something. I used oil pastels for the first time and immersed myself in combining colors and  being present with creating.I felt thrilled that I was allowing myself to go to this place that feels inspiring and nurturing.

Art is a great tool for expressing and releasing emotions, a way to go within and know ourselves better and create greater mind-body-spirit wellness. Channeling our creativity is another way to meditate. 

Tania Franco

It's Okay (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day#19)

"It's Okay" Mantra on my Mug
Image by Tania Franco

I sat down to meditate and checked in with my body. I try to do quick body scans throughout the day to see how I am feeling. I notice that I am a little bit anxious, so I decide to practice a mantra meditation combined with deep breathing.

Throughout the years my go to mantra has been "it's okay". I focus on this mantra for my meditation. As soon as I repeat these words silently in my head I automatically smile. It's as if we are good friends. My body calms down and shifts into a more relaxed state.

I find that intuitive answers found deep within are simple, when the answer is too complicated, it's the mind trying to give a rational answer.

In deep inner work "it's okay" comes up as my healing phrase and part of me wishes it was something a little more sophisticated. But it's not.

I dedicate 10 minutes to my mantra. Thoughts arise and "it's okay" helps accept my various thoughts and return once again to the practice. Breathing through each moment.

Mantras/affirmations can be used in daily life as a way to calm and center ourselves. I recommend that you find a mantra that feels good in your body and to repeat it often to yourself throughout the day.

Check in with your body's sensations. If you notice tension in your body, say your mantra to yourself silently a few times and notice what happens. Does the tension shift?

Mantras/Affirmations are wonderful ways of managing stress and another effective way to meditate.

Tania Franco

Friday, November 1, 2013

Holding Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #18)

Love for Teacher Rita
Image by Tania Franco

When I originally began meditating I bought a round jute mat and I sat in it each time, imagining that it was infused with a peaceful energy due to my practice. As my practice grew, I felt calmer just sitting there. My mat fell apart after many years and I never found another mat like it. This year I purchased a papasan, a round chair, with the intention of meditating on it. It's shape makes the person who sits in it feel like their being held.

I was meditating on the papasan practicing a body scan and breathing deeply. As I breathe I notice that my breath isn't as shallow as when I'm stressed but not as deep as when I am relaxed. While I am meditating, my son walks into the room and crawls into my lap. Immediately I notice that my abdomen relaxes and that my breath deepens.

I meditate for 10 minutes this way checking in with my body's sensations and breathing deeply, thankful that my son can hold very still especially for a 4 year old. My body feels warm and heavy, I could easily take a nap.

Embracing my son or husband deeply relaxes me. I am particularly curious about hugging and holding because one of the most healing things I have practiced is holding as a form of therapy to heal hurt and sadness. I even dedicated a year and a half to studying it and it has been an important part of our household. I dedicated a lot of time to baby wearing when my son was an infant and now we dedicate a lot of time to cuddling.

When studying Psychology I was intrigued and disturbed  by research conducted in the mid 20th century where affection was withheld from infants and how many of them died due to the lack of touch. I was also fascinated with research conducted in the late 20th century with premature infants and how being held for long periods of time and massaged supported their health and growth.

I will write more in depth about ways to meditate by practicing holding but I will briefly mention them here:

1. Cuddling a pet, a dog or cat, while practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Pet therapy has been studied in the last decades, enough so that hospitals and homes for the elder incorporate it as another way to help their patients relax.

2. Cuddling an infant while breathing deeply.

3. With a partner. Laying on top of each other connecting your chakras breathing deeply without caressing or massaging. Breathing together and synchronizing your energies.

4. With a partner. Partner sitting upright against a wall with legs open, you sitting with your bottom between their legs facing towards the side in a fetal position with your head resting on their heart-space. Breathing deeply.

5. Alone, practicing child's pose (balasana). Child's pose is a way to feel held even when you are alone. I organically arrived at the use of this yoga pose with my individual clients and then later read research where it was identified as one of the best postures for managing a panic or anxiety attack while breathing deeply.

Holding or being held can be another way to meditate.

Tania Franco