Monday, 24 May 2010

Meditative mantra

A serendipitous coincidence occurred in the two minutes I had to wait for the bus.

I wandered over to the shop front of a charity store as they keep their bric-a-brac in the window, and I'm always hopeful of spotting a nice vase. I've not yet struck lucky in charity shops as their usual fare is bland, twee, or both, whereas my tastes lean more towards the abstract in form and texture.

Anyway, what caught my eye was a boxed 'stepping stone' that had the word "calm" etched into the stone. This was the serendipitous coincidence. I had just been writing about my need to regain control, and there in the charity shop was my solution engraved in stone.


It was a timely reminder of one of the coping strategies that I've been neglecting recently. It's a cobbled together invention of mine which has got me through some tough times.

Meditative mantra

▪ Find a comfy position preferably in a quiet spot
▪ Relax your facial muscles
▪ Start a regular rhythm of breathing, deeper than normal, but not extreme
▪ You're looking for a number of single words that describe how you want to be
▪ I usually start with "calm"

On the in-breath decide on your first word
On the out-breath say the word in your head, and let your facial expression show it

On each subsequent in-breath think of your next word, and say it to yourself on the out-breath.

Don't be concerned if you can't think of your next word, simply repeat the last one, allowing yourself another in-breath to decide on your next word.

My choices typically include :

calm, strong, relaxed, positive, humorous, kind, forgiving, tolerant, happy, joyous, satisfied, accepting, optimistic, innovative, thoughtful, creative, observant, insightful, determined, independent, capable, reliable, healthy, well, complimentary, understanding, respectful, sensible, realistic, resourceful, persistent, resilient

As you can see, some of my choices reflect how I want to be towards other people, the rest are characteristics I want to reinforce in my approach towards my own challenges. It always seems quite difficult at the beginning, and I often repeat calm, strong and relaxed a few times before the other words start jostling for attention on my in-breaths.

The important thing is to totally focus on your chosen word during the out-breath, and as much as is possible let the word show in your face. If you're struggling to understand what I mean - think 'cute baby' - notice how your eyes and forehead relax and your mouth and cheeks get a little smiley. Ok, maybe that doesn't do it for you, but you get the point?

There is no set formula to my meditative technique. You can reinforce just a couple of words in a few moments, or spend a bit longer exhausting your mental thesaurus. It's up to you.

I particularly like that you don't have to 'clear your mind' - as if that is possible? The brain can't process negatives. Do not picture a pink elephant. See? It's just not possible. That's also the reason why the words are all aspirational in a positive way. Unworried and fearless aren't good because they reference the very thing you are trying to overcome. Confident and bold are much better choices. Restricting yourself to one word is also important - it forces you to keep it simple, and makes it easier to stay away from negatives. If you are frightened and you don't want to be - then it is better to use "courageous" than "not scared" where the brain dwells on scared rather too much.

It also doesn't require any complicated relaxation procedure where you work through the whole body relaxing every separate bit. I always fall asleep if I attempt that, which is nice, but...

So that is my 'meditative mantra' coping mechanism. Perhaps I should go back to the charity store when it is open and buy that stepping stone - lest we forget.


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