The Beauty of Morning Practice

Do you have a morning practice?

Why? Why not?

I’ve always been a big fan of mornings. They seem to have a clear and majestic feel to them. And, over the years, I have found that having a morning practice sets the “tone” for the day ahead.

Now, before I explain the details of my morning practice, I want to say 99.999% of humans are morning people, or “diurnal”, which is the fancy biological name for daylight creatures.

We are biologically wired to be daytime creatures – it has little to do with personality or psychology. It has everything to do with biology.

As soon as the sunlight hits our eyes and bounces around our brains, it triggers one of the most powerful glands in our system, the pineal gland, which floods our system with chemistry for awake, conscious, activated living.

These chemical systems trigger rhythms in our physiology. Our brain waves, our heart rate, and our breath respond to daylight and the lack thereof.

If you were to dig into the health of any long-term shift worker and people who stubbornly work against daylight living, I bet they have a smorgasbord of complicated health related conditions from anxiety, to insomnia to blood pressure issues and everything in-between. And most, if not all, of these health related conditions are largely contributed by their going “against the grain” of their natural biological systems.

It is ok to have a late night every now and then or have a phase when you go out of sync for a while; however, I would never advise living a night focused lifestyle for longer than a few months at a time, because after just a few months, things will usually go out of sync.

 

If one comes to be naturally waking early in the mornings, it is usually a sign of good health, good internal chemistry, and good internal biorhythms.

 

What happens to us when we sleep is another, somewhat complicated story. However, I will just summarise a few main points here. Each night when we sleep, we leave the body and enter the energetic realms. In these energetic realms, we can travel and receive insights and vast amounts of information. Many sources say we receive a “download” from our soul each night we successfully enter these energy realms.

So, when we come to wake into conscious awareness each morning, we are in a state of transferring the information and insights from the energy world into the physical world and throughout all the cells in our bodies.

Each morning when we wake, we move through an “afterglow” state as we transition from the energetic realms to the physical realms.  This “afterglow” is a similar state that every newborn baby experiences.

 

And, like a newborn baby, how would we treat it and nurture it as it enters this world?

With news reports of terrorism and homicides? With alcohol and drug use? With loud noises and arguments? Would we thrust a newborn baby into the rush hour of an urban environment first thing out of the womb?

Of course not.

Any sane person would provide a gentle, nurturing and quiet space for a newborn baby to feel safe and at ease. A safe, nurturing and quiet environment allows a new born baby to relax, play, grow and develop at their own pace.

This is the same approach we should take with ourselves each morning when we wake. Be gentle with yourself.  Slowly and caringly welcome yourself into your body and into the new day.

Listen to gentle, loving music. Take your time. Meditate, do yoga stretches, read some inspirational works, use affirmation, and even say a prayer. Treat yourself to a healthy and nutritious breakfast. When eating, eat mindfully. Minimise talking for the first hour and avoid the news or anything that may generate stress or unnecessary tension.

There is plenty of time left in the day for stress if you still crave it, so why burden your mornings with it?

 

Over the years, I have always had a morning practice that usually involves meditation and listening to music.

This is my current morning practice, which take around 10 minutes:

Current music choice: Snatnum Kaur channel on Pandora.

1. Nadi Shodhana Breathing for 5 minutes (single nostril breathing)

 

Breathing is, by far, the fastest way to adjust your chemistry and balance the nervous system. Learning to work with breath is essential for anyone interested in enhanced health and wellbeing.

2. Sound work – Chanting “A-O-M” at least 7 times.

Sound is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. A-O-M touches each of the fundamental tones that the universe resonates at. Activating these tones, helps to bring your own vibration into alignment, relaxes tissues in the body, warms up the vocal chords, and enhances the depth of breath. It is also amazing at “nulling” the mind into pure vibration.

3. Hands into prayer – 3 x Thank You

This sets up the energy field of gratitude, which is another powerful vibration to set yourself on.

  • The first thank you is for something very simple – like, thank you for the bed I slept in last night, the shelter over my head, the wind on my face, the warm clothes I have on.
  • The second thank you is for the life force that courses its way through my body and being. I become aware of the blood and energy flowing through my body and system, and I give tanks for such a gift of life.
  • The third thank you is for having such an awesome day. With this thank you, I get into the feeling of having a great day, making new friends, having a good flow of events, and being productive. I give thanks in a way that allows me to feel like it is inevitable.

After that, I bow and relax my posture and practice.

 

This 3-stage morning practice takes around 10 minutes. I seem to adjust my practice a little every few months as things shift, yet I rarely miss a day, and the average time for this practice can be anywhere from 10-30 minutes.

 

What does your morning practice look like?

 

 

How to do Chakra Meditation & Enhance Your Body’s Healing Ability

chakra meditation

 

The technique of chakra meditation itself is very simple

It involves placing your attention on one chakra at a time while using an internal sound on the in breath, and on the out breath.

Why do Chakra Meditation?

  • Calms the mind
  • Enhances relaxation & improves sleep
  • Enhances the bodies healing capacity
  • Assists in regulating hormone balance
  • Improves digestion
  • Calms the nervous system
  • And much more..

chakra meditation

Preparing for Chakra Meditation

Ideally, you should practice chakra meditation while seated in a comfortable position with the spine fairly straight.

Sitting on the floor in a traditional lotus-like position does enhance the practice and one’s ability to concentrate, but it is not absolutely necessary. Sitting in a comfortable, supported chair is also fine. Lying down is also an option for those who have real difficulty sitting upright, or who are bedridden due to illness or injury.

Generally, we tend to discourage lying down during meditation practices as it is very easy to fall asleep, but in cases of sickness or injury, it is fine. Just try to remain awake during the practice. If you fall asleep, don’t worry; try the practice again later when you feel more alert.

For those who have tight hips or stiff backs and are therefore unable to sit comfortably, then the practice of asanas (postures) is also recommended to help relieve the body of its stiffness, and to enable one to sit comfortably with little to no discomfort.

 

The more you cultivate the ability to concentrate, the easier it will be for you to focus on chakra meditation.

 

Some days will be easier than others to focus your attention, so don’t be too discouraged if one day you feel like you get nowhere with it. Simply try again later that day or the next day when you sit for meditation.

 

How to Practice Chakra Meditation

The actual chakra meditation practice takes about 10 minutes to complete one round. When you add the initial concentration practice of breath awareness (10 minutes), we now have a meditational practice that will be about 20 minutes in duration.

If you have the concentration and durability to go longer, then just spend more time on each of the chakras. You can expand the time into as long as you like, as there really is no time limit to it. If 20 minutes is too long to commit to, then try 5 minutes concentration with 10 minutes chakra meditation. Or, if you have difficulty with it, then just stick to concentration meditation for 10 minutes in duration.

Anything less than 10 minutes I find doesn’t really do much because it takes a good 10 minutes just for the mind just to start settling down.

For chakra meditation, we use the mantra “Huummmm Saaaaaa”, which is an easy mantra to work with and literally means “I am”.  We can use any simple mantra really, yet I have found this one to be simple and very effective. After you get established in the technique, feel free to use other mantras if you wish.

how to do chakra meditation

After sitting for the initial period and focusing on simple breath awareness, we are ready to begin chakra meditation:

 

1. Place all of your attention on the base of the torso where the base chakra resides. Another way to describe it is where you are in contact with the floor through the sitting bones and the bottom.

 

2. Keep your attention fully on the base of your torso and as you breathe in, say to yourself inside, “Huummmm”, and as you breathe out say “Saaaaaa”. Get the sense that the mantra is resonating from the base chakra.

 

3. Continue this mantra with your attention on the base chakra. This allows your breath to move easily without force or effort. The mantra will help to dissolve any thoughts or distractions as they arise. Keep coming back to the mantra with your attention on the base chakra for a few minutes, or for about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

4. Then we simply repeat this process moving up to each of the chakras. So now, move your attention up to the 2nd chakra (sacral chakra), placing all your attention just below the navel. As you breathe in you say internally “Huummmm”, and as you are breathing out you say “Saaaaaa”. Repeat for a few minutes, or about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

5. Move your attention up to the 3rd chakra (solar plexus), placing all your attention in the upper belly region. As you breathe in you say internally “Huummmm”, and as you breathe out you say “Saaaaaa”. Repeat for a few minutes, or about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

6. Move your attention up to the 4th chakra (heart), placing all your attention in the center of the chest. As you breathe in you say internally “Huummmm”, and as you breathe out you say “Saaaaaa”. Repeat for a few minutes, or about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

7. Move your attention up to the 5th chakra (throat), placing all your attention at the front of the throat. As you breathe in you say internally “Huummmm”, and as you breathe out you say “Saaaaaa”. Repeat for a few minutes, or about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

8. Move your attention up to the 6th chakra (third eye), placing all your attention between the eyebrows. As you breathe in you say internally “Huummmm”, and as you breathe out you say “Saaaaaa”. Repeat for a few minutes, or about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

9. Move your attention up to the 7th chakra (crown), placing all your attention at the top of the head. As you breathe in you say internally “Huummmm”, and as you breathe out you say “Saaaaaa”. Repeat for a few minutes, or about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

10. To finish off, it is best to repeat one of the lower chakras to ground the energy down. Move your attention up to the 2nd chakra (sacral chakra), placing all your attention just below the navel. As you breathe in you say internally “Huummmm”, and as you breathe out you say “Saaaaaa”. Repeat for a few minutes, or about 10 inhales and exhales.

 

11. When you feel you are ready to come out, simply start to open the eyes and relax your posture. Take your time getting up, and be sure to have a drink of water at the end.

 

That’s it! 🙂

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share.

 

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Meditation Can Be Messy – Let’s Talk About It

These days, it seems that everywhere you look meditation is being sold as “the silver bullet” that will fix all our problems.

However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Real meditation can be messy and no one’s really talking about it.

So, let’s talk about the messy stuff.

This information is not to discourage you towards the practice of meditation, but to forewarn you that it can be a rocky path, and to help support you through those messy patches that you may encounter. The good news is, “the messy stuff” is actually A GOOD SIGN because it’s a sign of progress.

 

3 things you will likely experience when you go deeper into the practice of meditation.

1. You will become more sensitive

This occurs because the mind becomes more “subtle.” We will start to notice how our bodies react to certain things like images, movies, music, people and places. We may start to have a stronger negative reaction to those things, whereas before, it wouldn’t have “shaken” us as much.

 

2. You will start to withdraw

There will be a tendency to withdraw from the usual situations. As you become more sensitive, things will start to feel different to you like music, people, places, food and so on. This is also a period when you will start to question everything and re-asses your behaviour and your lifestyle.

This is usually the messiest phase we experience.

A lot is going on here as we begin to naturally re-asses, process and then start to re-align ourselves to those things that are more in sync with your new way of seeing and feeling. A large component of this phase is the “clearing out” of the backlog of suppressed emotions, feelings and attachments through the “letting go” practice that is always a part of any real meditation.

How long will this phase last?

Everyone is different – yet the general principle seems to be that the more you have avoided and suppressed your previous emotions, traumas, events and life experiences, the more there is to process and therefore the longer it will take. For a rough estimate, it will take 1000 days of practice.

 

3. Your vibration will become clearer & more steady

After a good amount of time in the “withdraw” phase, your vibration, the feeling inside, will start to become a lot more clearer, cleaner and steadier as you align towards those things that feel more true, worthwhile and authentic to you. As you begin to gain this clarity, the world won’t “shake” you like it used too and you may even find your personality is quite different. You will feel much more clearer and more grounded in your life direction.

From here, you will likely be drawn back into the world with a new sense of energy and clarity. Because of your steadier state of being, work won’t stress you out so easily, you won’t get so affected by the world and you will become more playful and fun with it.

This is a great phase and will likely last for the rest of your days. It is assured to continue if you persist with the practice of any meditation or life practice that assists you in the art of “letting go.”

 

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Japanese Oki-Do Yoga: A Story of Joy and Discovery

“To be natural in all we do is vital. Yoga seeks to raise vitality to the highest level in order to give full, joyful expression to the life force.” ~ Masahiro Oki

When I was about 20 years old, my journey into the yogas really began. I went it alone as none of my friends at the time expressed any sincere interest in exploring it. But I was okay with that because deep down, I knew that to venture into any new world, I would probably have to go it alone.

And so, that’s what I did. For the next 8-12 months, I started rocking up to a variety of yoga classes, practicing different yoga styles, attending different studios, and had lots of different teachers to learn from. Most of the classes were good experiences and I felt great from the yoga practice, but nothing really “clicked” for me. There was something missing, I just couldn’t work out what it was at the time. From this limited experience, the impression I was getting is that yoga was a pretty serious physical practice, steeped in Hinduism and esoteric-like practices. Another thing I noticed at the time was that in most cases, the students in class seemed to leave the space as quickly as they had come and therefore, no real connections or friendships were made in that initial exploratory phase. Knowing there was more to it, I stuck at it and after about 8-12 months of trying out lots of different classes, I came across a very humble looking black and white photocopied flyer advertising Oki-Do Japanese yoga. It read: A unique combination of hatha yoga, zen Buddhism, and Taoism.

“Where and when?” was my first thought.

The very next day, I rocked up to the studio called zen central in the suburb of West End in Brisbane, Australia for a taste of Oki-Do Japanese yoga.

It was one of the most opening and joyous yoga classes of my life. What I noticed first of all was that there were thin futons on the floor instead of yoga mats and the futons were all placed into a circle instead of lines. The floor at the studio was also carpeted, giving it a soft and cozy feeling. I was then warmly welcomed and directed to a futon, where everyone shared gentle smiles, and we began the class lying down. We rolled, slid, and wobbled our bodies on these futons, the teacher often giving permission and encouragement for people to make noises and sounds as a way to release their bodies. Large “aaaaaahhhhhhhsss” came out of some of the students as we rolled on our futons with giggles often following. What ensued was a mix between moving hatha yoga postures, animal movements, expressive sounds, shiatsu massage partner work, and stillness meditations. We moved from the thin futons, to yoga mats, to moving freestyle around the room. Time felt altered, like we were all in a different place and in a different world. When the class had concluded with the palms in prayer and a gentle bow coupled with a Japanese “Arigato Goziamas” (thankyou), people lingered in the space, drinking cups of green tea and having chats. After the class, my body felt like it was buzzing from head to toe. I felt a great sense of inner peace and relaxation without a need or want in the world. I was hooked.

 

What was this practice?

What does Oki-Do mean and where does it come from?

 

This was really the beginning of yoga for me and its practices and teachings are now a part of who I am and are thoroughly ingrained in my own approach to teaching yoga and I feel blessed because of it. The founder of Oki-Do yoga was Masahiro Oki (1921 – 1972), a Japanese monk during the 2nd world war who travelled extensively through China and as far the Middle East, spending time with learned monks, saints, and desert nomads. From his worldly and spiritual experiences, he brought together what he had learned and built a yoga studio, or dojo as it is called in Japanese, where he opened his doors to all. At his dojo he offered “life training”, not just yoga training as he taught all of life was yoga. He housed and worked with many people whom were diagnosed as mentally ill and showered them with love, some experiencing miraculous recoveries. Although his teaching methods were not always logical (zen style), they did always have a purpose. Throughout the ongoing years of practice, I began uncovering the underlying philosophy and approach to this yoga.

Masahiro Oki focused on 9 primary principles of yoga:

1. Positive mind

2. Gratitude

3. Hara (centre of energy just under the belly button/core/stability)

4. Smile – laugh

5. Oneness

6. Mindfulness

7. Wholeheartedness

8. Love

9. Service

Oki-Do yoga does not heavily emphasize correct alignment in asanas, or the aim of achieving advanced yoga postures but instead, places more importance on the quality of mind of the practitioner. Oki-Do yoga also gives the practitioners time and space to find their own way into many of the postures, which allows room for creativity and individual expression. Its primary focus is on establishing strength and awareness in the Hara, or core center. It is from this strengthened Hara that we can then extend our energy and awareness out to the limbs and to the other aspects of our mind and body. Another important aspect of Oki-Do yoga is to mindfully adjust our yoga practices, our diet, and our mental energies to be aligned with the cyclic nature of the seasons.

I have found that some yoga styles and practices can become a little bogged down in the seriousness of “the practice” and the original joy is dampened out, but with Oki-do yoga, it is a joy that just keeps giving. Oki-Do yoga is a great contribution to the world of yoga, bringing in more laughter, joy, wisdom and Hara core stability.

Currently, there are Oki-do yoga studios and dojos in Tokyo, Netherlands, the UK, and in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, Australia. Yoga life teacher trainings are run by Peter Masters in Australia and there is also a 4 year teacher training program in the Netherlands. I would encourage anyone who is looking for a unique Oriental vibe to their yoga practice, which also offers a lot of laughter, to be sure to attend an Oki-Do class or workshop when you can. It might just blow your heart and mind wide open as it did with me.