Each of us on the Women Together team draws on different practices and approaches in keeping ourselves healthy and wise. We’re always sharing them with each other and felt inspired to also share them with you — it’s always nice to adopt, adapt, or experiment with new ways to be mindful.
What tools and resources do you use to support yourself in meditation and/or mindfulness practice — and why do you practice at all?
I have a meditation cushion, a diffuser with my favorite oils, and a chime that I brought back from a trip to India. I have a little area for meditation with a vision board/collage that I update every six months or so. These more tangible tools remind me to get centered on a regular basis — even if it’s just for a few minutes. When I’m on the road, I often use the Insight Timer app, which offers good guided meditations and a chime to start and end my meditation.
Why do I practice at all? Today I had a meeting and, as usual, it was woven in to the end of another meeting. I was trying to get all my thoughts together from the previous meeting AND, in the meantime, had spilled hot sauce on my white sweater. So in addition to my scattered thoughts, I was concerned about showing up in my bare bones outfit (sans my white sweater which was now laden with stain remover). As we sat down to start the second meeting, I found it impossible to be clear and focused on the new task at hand. It was exactly in that moment that someone pulled out a chime and we took a moment of pause — which we do at the start of most of our meetings.
Immediately my mind began to focus in on my breath, the jumble of thoughts quieted down, and, as I came back to center I was able to access clarity, ease, and focus for the next bit.
Sometimes for me, mindfulness is a moment in between. Sometimes it’s a morning moment to start the day fresh, or an evening moment to let the day go. Coming back to the practice gives me a sense of newness, and the reminder that each moment can be a chance to start again and move forward.
I do a few things to ensure I stay mindful throughout my day:
- When I meditate, I use my iphone timer to help me stay in place — I can relax about the long to-do list because I know it will all be waiting for me when the allotted time to sit ends.
- I keep my yoga mat in a handy location, close to where I usually sit to meditate.
- As I go through my day, I make a point to stop, and with intention I stretch and take conscious breaths — at my desk, standing at the gas pump, waiting at the kitchen counter for the water to boil, etc.
I practice with the desire to maintain and increase a feeling of calm, of heightened observation, of connectedness to myself and the people around me, and of equanimity as I place myself in the context of the larger world.
I have an essential oil diffuser that I use each morning to set the mood. It is a lamp as well and the soft light through the mist eases me into the day. We also have a selenite, or salt lamp, to light the space, depending on the time of the year. Sometimes I track my sitting time with the Insight Timer app, or I’ll just use the timer on my phone. Other times the freedom of not timing my practice feels more spacious and nourishing.
I practice for self-care. It isn’t always easy for me to slow down as a full-time working mom but when I carve out the time for even five minutes of quiet it fills the well.
I began my current yoga practice over six years ago as I was leaving my last 9-to-5 job. I had also been helping my husband as he recovered from a serious health crisis and my mother-in-law during the final months of her life as cancer took her from us. The stress I’d absorbed from that time, and from years of daily confinement to an office, had left my body and emotions stiff as I braced myself to manage these challenges.
I cannot overstate the benefits that both the physical practice and meditation practice brought to my life — within the first year I noticed that I had greater range of movement and my mind was much more settled.
Regular practice since then has brought more elasticity, both in my body and in my ability to meet stressful situations with equanimity. While I may attend only two classes per week, my yoga community lives inside of me. Wherever I am I can call up the wisdom of my teacher’s guidance and the support of a group of students with whom I share this journey of inquiry and commitment to authenticity and well-being.
I practice pausing. By pausing my impulse to respond quickly, by pausing my assumptions, I am able to ask those clarifying questions that emerge instead of assuming. I try to practice because it allows me to tap into my compassion — compassion toward myself and hopefully toward others. It also brings a quality of tolerance into my being.
Either in the morning, or in the evening, sometimes both, I sit in my bed facing my window that frames the sky (orienting physically toward open space feels right).
I set a timer for 10 minutes (my smartphone works just fine for this). I might do a listening meditation by resting my focus on the sounds happening around me (refrigerator, air conditioner, the recycling trucks outside), or follow my breath, or consciously visualize scenes or images that help me feel lighter and more optimistic. Sometimes I keep my notebook right next to me to jot down any ideas that might come to me. Sometimes I pray.
I don’t do well with strict routine, so the flexibility works for me. When I can relax my mind — even for just a minute or two or three — on a regular basis, I make smarter decisions throughout the day, am better at problem solving, and feel generally calmer and more positive.
It’s true in this case that a little really does go a long way. When I sit still and focus on sound or breath or image, any fears or worries I had when I started become much more manageable and right-sized.
I like to use the Muse headband to meditate. It’s a wearable device that measures your brain activity using EEG sensors, and provides active auditory feedback that let’s me know if I’m “in the zone.” The companion app includes helpful guided meditations as well. I also enjoy using an app called Shine which offers short, wonderful pep talks first thing in the morning (via text, email, or FaceBook messenger). And, of course, I can’t leave out my Fitbit tracker, which reminds me to tend to my body during the day by getting exercise and a good night’s sleep.