Breathing: heavy

Vibrating by candlelight

A couple months ago I had a consultation with a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist – the excellent Lisa Bracken. Her main advice for me, after about 30 minutes of discussing my habits and struggles this fall, was to get back into a regular meditation practice.

As much as I wanted to say and believe I’d been holding strong, it’d been a rough week and I was feeling overwhelmed. Looking back, I was to have rougher days, so I’m glad I got started, soon thereafter.

On top of the hot pandemic mess of a start to the 3rd decade of this century, I opted this May to add the glitter bomb of a puppy to the ingredient list of 2021. That is still a net win, of course! But puppy bladder wins, then sleep catchup wins, and well, that’s the morning before I need to shift to work activities.

There have been times in the last few years that I have established a good rhythm with a morning mediation. My first practice was simply time, sitting. Sitting up in bed! Hips propped up on a pillow. Setting a timer with my iPad…3 minutes, 5, 10, up to 20. Maybe using a technique like “in your mind, throw water balloons at every idea that marches in to your consciousness. Keep doing that.” And sometimes I had a few moments of no ideas, memories of plans to whollop with water balloons. (Or laser guns, arrows, balls of fire, depending on how the week was treating me and what sort of ammo would be most satisfying.)

For a while I used the Headspace app. It is super accessible and was particularly handy when I couldn’t fit in the 5 minutes before leaving the house. Once I’d parked my car at work, I could turn on the audio in my car and follow it for 5 minutes before heading in to the office.

Later, it was mantra. A specific one, For 40 days!

Then, a different one. The impact changes, or the sounds or even the inspiration behind the mantra resonate differently.

For about a year now I’ve been taking weekly chanting classes, from one of my advanced training course teachers, Kevin Kortan. Remotely. Live, recorded for when the 2pm weekday slot doesn’t play nice with my work tetris schedule. I sheepishly admit to signing up for them initially as I mainly needed the comfort of a familiar face, voice and person, though I wanted to learn, too.

In these weekday 75 minute sessions, we chiefly work though the sounds and pronunciation, though we also discuss the meaning, as well. We’ve worked though 4 or 5 different specific texts/songs, spending between 1 to 12 weekly sessions on it. These included:

  • Gayatri
  • Chants of Light/ Ārogya Mantraḥ
  • Laghu Nyāsa (above)

(It is interesting that they are difficult to find online! Lends credence to the “learn mantras from your guru” bit from teacher training.)

These mantras often have many lines! The art and science of learning them is particular, though it always demands listening and repetition. The image at the top of this post is one of the sheets from our study of the Laghunyasa, this fall.

I’m not surprised, as a designer and lover of poetry and words, to discover that I enjoy learning the notation, rhythm and melodies of these lines.

What I’m finding to be more new and intriguing is the daily navigation of my often wobbly 4-5:30am voice into the notes and vibrations and then also the sensations open leaving the mantra when finished with the class or practice session. Especially during the learning sessions, I am super focused, just like in a school class, or while rock climbing or swimming.

Immersed. Leaving other things in other places. Buzzing, vibrating upon return, wondering how and when that vibrating is going to impact me in other ways. I’m usually smiling.

It takes some breath, to make these sounds and so it’s a little tiring!

Also taking some breath: the daily zoomies of my Standard Poodle pup, Rollo. This photo is blurry for a reason! He’s moving, a lot. Super stimulated. And panting, fast. At eye level, if he can manage it.

I’ve found in these many weeks since Lisa gave that advice, that the practice extends (or sometimes even preserves!) the “me time” in the mornings, before switching over to work, dog, house responsibilities.

The practice is also helping me get better at noticing and acknowledging when I am not tackling just one thing at a time. That’s progress toward only doing one thing at a time, right? Those “things” are sometimes intangibles like worrying and planning, as well as more tactile and provable things like listening to my partner, playing with the dog or getting a yoga newsletter out.

Every tool in the kit, Steve says. Use them; it’s a tough year!