I’ve had a few conversations going lately about doing or not doing practices and they’ve had me thinking about why I feel so strongly about regularly doing spiritual practices of some sort. This is one of those posts that became long and complex as I worked on it so I’m dividing it into parts. Today I’m exploring the general benefits of doing practices and in Part 2 I’ll discuss how they help in creating new patterns, new neural nets, etc.
As mentioned in older posts, I’ve practiced yoga pretty steadily since 1986. Though the type of yoga and the specific asanas have changed periodically it’s the one practice I’ve kept steadily in my life. But I’ve also been faithful in cycles of varying length (weeks to years) to guided meditations, vipassana meditation, the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites, Flying Crane Chi Gung, metta practice (the lovingkindness chant), singing chants, pranayama and more.
You’ll note most of that list involves ancient practices. I particularly appreciate the legacy of old traditions because they were so adept at creating practices that balance, open, deepen, clear, etc. Most of them operate on more than one level and have powerful impacts.
Because of the current popularity of vipassana-style meditation, I think “mindfulness” is often associated solely with those sitting meditations in which you work on emptying your mind. But I think most ancient practices can become tools for greater ability to focus the mind in the moment.
I also think most of the ancients brilliantly offered breathing exercises, moving exercises, meditations, spoken chants, and singing chants in order to allow people of different temperaments and propensities to choose the practice(s) best suited to them.
Some examples of how I think you can become more mindful:
- Any moving practice I’ve done, whether Flying Crane or Korean Zen walking meditation or Tai Chi walking meditation, etc.involved careful attention to each movement and had a particular pattern to the breath. It’s a challenge to focus your mind enough to be aware only of the movement and the breaths in each moment but the attempt to hold that focus helps to train your mind to stay quiet.
- Chants, whether spoken or sung, require keeping your mind from wandering away from the words of the chant. When I keep bringing my awareness to only the chant, my mind slowly clears and becomes deeply attuned and focused.
- Guided meditations require you to follow the instructions. If you work on paying attention and staying with the relaxation or the visions or the feelings you’re being told to move through, you focus your mind. I make it a point when I do a guided meditation, to keep releasing thoughts and bringing my attention back to hearing and following the instructions without letting my mind wander.
I’ve never met any practice that hasn’t affected my energy in some way. Many of them are specifically designed to balance chakras or energy. Many are designed to open energy pathways (nadis). Often they raise vital force energy (prana, chi).
Chanting practices often use words that specifically affect one or more specific chakras and some chanting practices have you actually focus on moving energy from one chakra to another as you chant. The impact ignites the chakras on which you’re focused and generally raises your general energy level.
Many movement practices open joints and key places to help energy flow more freely. In Flying Crane, you not only open major joints but you continually build energy at the sea of chi (center) and move it through your body and from heaven down to earth and earth up to heaven.
Open, balanced, flowing energy is a key component to living in the bigness of your Divine Self, so I see such practices as crucial – no matter which one(s) you choose, just choose one or more.
In part because of the way these practices move energy through your body and in part because of the way some of these practices have you move your body and use your muscles, your body winds up in a lovely place of balance – or at least more balance than what you started with.
I find the build up of energy causes the increased flow to push up against knotted places, sometimes enough to open some knot or create a slightly greater passageway so many of them also help to open my body.
CREATING NEW GROOVES
The most important thing for me about the ongoing effect of doing practices is that they’ve helped me to create new grooves, patterns, mindsets. Part 2 is going to go into more depth about how practices help you transform.