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practicing solo

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Practicing whole body awareness and receptiveness with one, two or three other friends was for a long time my favorite way of developing body literacy skills and energetic strength, but I eventually discovered that my relationship with life is like any other intimate relationships: it really requires one-on-one time!  And the more I make time for it, the deeper and sweeter it becomes.  Here are a few things I learned over the years about what worked for me:

  • I found it helpful to earmark certain times for ‘tuning in’ but I was never successful with adopting a strict discipline, like trying to sit cross legged with my spine straight for 30 minutes in the morning or evening.  It just did not feel particularly nourishing, nor adapted to my nomadic and spontaneous lifestyle.  It felt like efforting, and I was already doing that enough in the rest of my life, so I eventually abandoned that approach.  I discovered that tuning in did not have to be anything fancy or complicated.  It just required taking a moment to notice my inner sensations, emotions and thoughts while sitting somewhere, taking a walk, or engaging in activities that are conducive to feeling what’s happening inside such as doing yoga, watching the clouds, walking outdoors, or waiting on line.  My capacity for present moment awareness strengthened rapidly when I stopped trying to adopt a meditation posture or style, and just started noticing the settings in which tuning in came most naturally to me.  That became my new starting point.  I opted for lingering in bed for a few minutes each morning to greet life as it wakes and rises inside me.  Over time, I developed more rituals and started ‘tuning in’ while taking a shower, going for walks in nature, eating alone, or doing restorative yoga at home.
  • Tuning in is not always comfortable, especially when a particular situation brings up feelings and sensations that I have ignored or suppressed in the past.  If I’m feeling upset, tense or reactive about something, and I am having a hard time allowing and staying with what I am experiencing, I will sometimes start to narrate out loud what I am noticing, as a way of focusing my awareness on my energy and sensations and avoid ‘checking out.’  I sometimes record what I am experiencing into my phone, because I have discovered that I can sustain my attentiveness to what is unfolding within much more easily when I have a witness to the process… even if it is not human!  I just pretend that I’m talking to life, and I actually am.  If I am feeling too distressed to proceed alone, I simply dial a friend with whom I can meditate through what is arising, not to discuss it or analyze what is happening, but to have a supportive witness as I unwind the energetic knots that are presenting themselves.  When I practice silently in a social setting, like a bus or a restaurant, or a challenging conversation with someone else, I often narrate my sensations internally.  If inner sensations are strong, narrating becomes unnecessary, and can actually distract from deeper connection. When my attention is organically pulled to what is happening within, I don’t need any support to stay there.
  • Every second counts.  I practice anywhere, anytime… for a minute or an hour… while I talk, listen, walk, eat… or greet someone in the street.   I am a very big fan of one-minute meditations.  They are pretty much always do-able, no matter what is happening… and they often bring so much relief, pleasure, and  sense of connectedness, that they effortlessly turn into 2, 3, 5, 10, 30 minutes. I love this wonderful little video, called “one moment meditation,” by Martin Boronson. I recommend it to anyone who says they cannot find the time to meditate. I would love some day to create a new version of that video, where attention is not directed to any pre-determined focus (like the breath, or the heart), but simply ollows the natural flow of inner sensations moment-to-moment.

Those solo moments spent ‘tuning in” have become precious to me.  They are fulfilling opportunities to unwind tensions that arise in the course of the day, to connect with life within and around me, and to restore and build my energy. If a ‘disturbance in the force’ arise during the day, it will typically dissolve or resolve through sustained attentiveness.  I am really enjoying developing the capacity to maintain inner awareness more and more of the time, and I look forward to the day when I am able to do that effortlessly under most circumstances.  But whenever I try to fast-forward that process, it only creates stress, so I have stopped trying to control my own journey toward greater presence. I am just allowing it to unfold in its own right rhythm, and timing.