Mod 5: Exercises


I’ve found a convenient fact to be true: engaging in activities that are mindful often involves doing things that pamper yourself. And although I haven’t mentioned it yet, you could really use—and deserve—some pampering.

Exercise #1: Spa Day

I don’t necessarily mean you should head to your nearest day spa and order $800 worth of treatments. (Although if you want to and can, go for it!) I use the term “spa day” in a little more loose and creative way.

Traditional spa treatments like a massage, pedicure, or facial can be very mindful experiences. Nice things are happening to you physically, things that invite you to bring your attention back into your body and revel in the present moment. They don’t have to cost a thing or take up a lot of time. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a long, hot bath, with or without bubbles or wine.
  • Give yourself a foot or hand massage with your favorite scented oil or lotion.
  • Lie down for awhile listening to soothing music, maybe with cooling slices of cucumber placed over your eyelids.
  • Engage in some slow, easy yoga poses that you find soothe stress and relax you.

In fact, a spa day doesn’t have to involve traditional spa activities at all. Having any sort of deep sensory experience can do wonders, bringing you back to the present moment and pushing aside the swirling thoughts that fight for your attention. For your spa day, just think about an activity or two or three that you really enjoy. Go for things that relax you, enliven you, or make you smile. Suggestions to consider:

  • Take a nap or read in the sun, inside or outside (I do of course believe in sunscreen).
  • Watch a favorite romantic comedy, action movie, or other film you especially enjoy.
  • Engage in a creative task you love, like knitting, woodworking, painting, or scrapbooking.
  • Listen to your favorite songs with headphones while curled up in a cozy spot.
  • Do something physical that you find fun, like golfing, hiking, bicycling, or gardening.
  • Visit a place that makes you happy, like an art gallery, a dance club, or a favorite restaurant.

Whatever you choose to do, focus on the experience as much as you can. Pretend you’re a little kid doing this for the first time, just discovering how wonderful it is. Engage your senses fully. How does the sun feel? How do the colors you are painting move you? What is charming about this book or movie?

Every moment of life offers something unique. See how many of these things you can actually notice and experience, and you’ll find yourself amazingly distracted from your distractions by what is actually happening in your life.

Exercise #2: Take a nature walk

Maybe you’re not really a “nature person,” but the fact is, getting in touch with the natural world has proven abilities to reduce stress, stimulate good brain chemicals, and brighten your mood.

Even if you live in a huge city too far from a park, there are still green spaces, trees, birds and bugs, sky and open air if you go outside. Getting away even a little from the fully man-made world of your indoor environment enables you to connect with natural creation, and that is always beneficial. Plus, even if you stroll slowly (which for our purposes is probably preferable to power-walking anyway), you are getting beneficial exercise.

Whether you journey to a beautiful botanical garden in another town or simply walk around your own block or yard, there are things to be discovered. As you go, sometimes turn your attention to the sensations of your body, and just feel what it’s like to walk. Other times, observe the world around you with intention, seeing if you can’t spot something you’ve never noticed before, or something new about a very familiar place or object.

If you can’t walk or are housebound due to your physical condition, looking out a window works too. In fact, in the dead of winter it can be spiritually refreshing even to go online and look at nature photos. Why not start a Pinterest board of nature shots you especially love?

Exercise #3: Chakra meditation

What is a “chakra”? In traditional Yogic/Hindu philosophy, chakras are energy wheels or nodes in various spots in a sort of column up the center of the body. In the version most prevalent in Western thought today, there are seven of these nodes, corresponding to seven colors in the spectrum, each of which governs a different aspect of the whole person. In order to maintain total wellness, a person needs to keep each chakra clear, open and pure.

Obviously not all my readers will choose to embrace the idea of chakras as literal points of energy in the body. This is a very different way of looking at the mind-body connection than we are used to in the West. While science hasn’t really addressed chakras in great detail, the subject really transcends Western science in many respects. Many would consider belief in chakras to be a religious matter.

All this said, I do find there is value in the concepts of the chakras as a topic of meditation. Each one does correspond nicely to an aspect of the body, mind, and soul, and there is a good logic to the progression from the red Root Chakra at the perineum (base of the spine) to the violet Crown Chakra at the top of the head. Focusing on each chakra from bottom to top is a different version of the body scan, one that covers more than just physical locations in the body.

Considering each chakra is also a nice inventory of overall health and mental well-being. The exercise not only brings your attention to your body, but also helps you to be mindful of all aspects of your physical and spiritual health right now.

I love to use chakra meditation as a way to “clean house” whenever I feel like the challenges of the day have left me feeling scattered or mentally “untidy.” I derive a lot of peace of mind from knowing I’ve done a pleasant, thorough “taking of accounts.”

Here’s a little summary of traditional information about the Seven Chakras:

chakra7~7th~

Sahaswara (Thousand Petaled)

Crown

Cosmic consciousness, beingness, enlightenment, bliss, oneness with God

chakra6~6th~

Ajna (Command)

Third Eye

Intuition, imagination, clarity, inner guidance, balance of lower and higher selves

Mantra:  Om

chakra5~5th~

Vishuddha  (Especially Pure)

Throat

Communication, self-expression, clear thinking, truth

Mantra:  Ham

chakra4~4th~

Anahata  (Unstruck)

Heart

Unconditional love for self and others, release from trauma, compassion, passion, devotion

Mantra:  Yam

chakra3~3rd~

Manipura (Jewel City)

Solar plexus / Navel

Digestion, energy, vitality, calmness, power, spiritual growth, self-confidence

Mantra:  Ram

chakra2~2nd~

Svadhisthana (One’s Own Base)

Sacrum / ovaries

Emotions, sexuality, relationships, creativity, enthusiasm, abundance

Mantra:  Vam

chakra1~1st~

Muladhara  (Root Support)

Tailbone

Working on physical plane, survival instinct, security, grounding, stability

Mantra: Lam

I’m sure it won’t come as much of a surprise, my friend, that the Mod 5 Meditation is on this very subject…

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