Lately, with all the uncertainty -- and the excess fear on the planet -- I've been feeling a persistent and nagging anxiety that can really get in the way of my productivity and enjoyment of my shelter-in-place life.
I've had to ramp up my spiritual practices that help me stay grounded and shielded from energy that isn't mine, while gently reminding my lizard brain to stop running around like Chicken Little.
Some days, it seems like I'd never get off my meditation cushion if I wanted to keep the anxiety at bay!
So I've been using a few different mindfulness practices to achieve the benefits of meditating without actually sitting down and meditating.
They're helping - a lot, and I'd like to share them with you here.
Rather than send you through a long journey before you get to the good stuff, I'm going to cut to chase and share the good stuff right away.
And so, without further ado...
1. Just Breathe
I know, it sounds terribly simple; and it is. Yet we take this automatic life-sustaining function for granted. I mean, it happens all on it's own, right?
Yet how often do you stop and just breathe?
Breathing can do so much more for you than simply supply your cells with oxygen:
You can self-soothe when overwhelm threatens to overtake you.
You can quiet your mind when racing thoughts wind you up and distract you.
You can calm down on the inside when you're feeling anxious and scattered.
During these uncertain times it's even more important than ever to find ways to zoom into the automatic process of breathing to tap into your very own natural resource to self-soothe.
Here's an easy way to harness the power of the breath to support you in moments of struggle; any time (and really anywhere) you feel the need to settle things down:
Just stop, close your eyes, and take 3 slow, deep breaths through your nose.
As you breathe, focus on the sensation of your breath as it passes over your nostrils.
Give it a try right now, and notice how you feel afterwards. I promise you'll notice a difference.
How did that feel?
Try it one more time, and this time, when you exhale, imagine your awareness is dropping down into your body. On each out-breath, you drop deeper, and deeper, like you're sinking down into a favorite comfy chair.
The reason this simple act of zooming into your breathing has a calming effect is you are essentially getting your mind to work for you and giving it something else to do besides worry, fret, or overthink.
You see, much of our anxiety and overwhelm is caused by our minds. When you put your attention on your breath you are distracting your mind. You're pulling it off the hamster wheel, so to speak, and letting it rest.
So, I've left my meditation cushion and returned to this simple practice of stopping what I'm doing, closing my eyes, and taking 3 slow, deep breaths.
I use this practice often; when I can think to do it.
One thing that helps me remember to just stop and breathe is a little trick I learned from my mentor HeatherAsh Amara. It's from her book "Awaken Your Inner Fire" and she calls it Capturing the In-Between Places.
It goes like this:
Use the moments between one activity and the next to stop and take 3 breaths.
You just finished eating and are about to do the dishes.
You just sat down on the couch and you're about to turn on the TV.
You just finished getting dressed and you're about to start your day.
This is a wonderful practice whether you are dealing anxiety or not, and regardless of where you are on your journey. We can all benefit from taking a moment to quiet the mind and come back home to ourselves.
Make a game of it - see how many in-between places your can capture in your day!
This is another simple and easy practice you can do just about anytime and anywhere. There are several terms for it: noticing, observing, tracking, or stalking.
Once again you will be putting your mind to work for you instead of feeling like it's working against you.
It goes like this:
You simply cast your awareness out on a wave of curiosity and see who many things you can notice.
What sounds do you hear?
What sensations do you feel?
What scents can you smell?
You can take it to the next level by grabbing one, and expanding on it:
If you hear birds, how many different types of birdsong can you hear?
If you hear cars, how far away can you still hear them?
If you are noticing sensations, explore how those sensations make you feel.
Look for textures in the bark of the trees.
Notice the play of light and shadows as the leaves dance in the breeze.
Feel your being opening & connecting.
Have fun with this one. Get curious and explore.
This practice has a way of creating a sense of open receptivity that is both calming and soothing.
It also helps create a sense of expansiveness that counteracts the constriction created by anxious thoughts, both conscious and subconscious.
This is wonderful technique for leveling up your walks outside; there is so much to notice!
This one, I admit, I came up with myself. What started as an experiment has become a daily ritual for me, and my go to when I need a boost to my mindfulness practice.
There is some basis (both scientific and "woo") as to why it works, but I'll explain that in a minute.
Wafting is, quite simply, using your hands to direct the smoke from burning incense (or other aromatics such as herbs) towards your face with the intent of self-soothing by clearing your energetic field.
The key words here are "with the intent of..."
Many cultures view human beings to be made up of more than just a physical body. We also have a mental body (our thoughts), an emotional body (our feelings), and our energetic body (our our spirit).
It's our energetic body I want to explore with you here.
What I learned in my energy coach training is that everything is energy, and energy is everything. This includes your thoughts, feelings, this page you are reading -- even the device you are reading it on.
Energy is everywhere, and there is plenty of it to go around.
Quantum physics has proven that the only limitation with energy is our mind. Basically, if you can think something you can create it, by bringing energy to bear upon it through your thoughts and actions.
You imagine the energy, the grounding roots, the shield around your body, your energy body -- whatever you are focusing on -- and with your intent held firmly on the process and the desired outcome, the energy moves to make it happen.
Movement is a great way to shift energy: shaking a rattle, dancing around the room; even smudging your house with sage (you and the smoke being the movement). It's really all about the intent.
And now for the experiment...
I was really starting to feel that my anxiety wasn't entirely mine. I mean, for the most part I have been very fortunate to be relatively unaffected by the impact of the current pandemic.
Yet, the anxiety was overwhelming!
So I decided to do some work to clear the excess energy in my body.
I sat on my cushion in front of my altar, lit some incense, and prepared to go exploring my energy body to feel into what was needed to create the calm connection I was seeking.
As I leaned into the the cone and blew out the flame, the warm aroma of incense smoke drifted towards my face and the aroma was soothing. Leaning in a little closer, I took my hands and wafted the lovely smoke towards my face and set the intent of creating calm.
The anxiety started to ease, my body began to relax, and my mind began to quiet.
What I loved most about the moment was that the process felt effortless and playful. There's something about this playfulness that creates a spaciousness in your being. It makes you more receptive and open to the results and, to me, feels so much easier because my body is engaged in settling my mind, instead of (what feels like) using my mind to settle my mind!
To be honest, sometimes my mind works against me and the usual mindfulness practices start to feel like "work".
That's probably why this practice has become one of my favorite daily rituals. If you have some incense laying around, give it a try! The type, brand, or particular scent of incense isn't really important here. Only that you enjoy aroma!
As you work with the practices above, your brain develops new habits and neural pathways to support your outcomes. Energy work can become natural to you quickly, and with practice they can all happen in the space of a breath or two – so practice!
I hope you found this helpful!
Hi, I'm Cheryl Kane
I’m a highly intuitive spiritual life coach who helps wild-hearted women who are fiercely committed to healing their past.
Gently & clearly, I guide you on how to let go of the things that are holding you back so you can reclaim your beautiful, authentic self.
I believe that every challenge is an opportunity for learning how to be true to you, and that is the truth that will set you free.
Learn more about what we can accomplish together..