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practicing solo

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.


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practicing with others

Research has shown that we learn 90% of what we teach and only 10% of what we are taught.  This basically means that the most effective way to learn anything is to share and practice it with others! 

I love to practice receptive presence with friends, usually one or two them, three at most.  It can be done with a lot more people, of course, but the introvert that I am prefers more intimate settings, and bringing larger numbers of people together can easily create logistical challenges that can deter from regular practice, or move us out of spontaneity and self-organization, and into strategy and control.  The whole point of practicing with others who are interested to do that intentionally, is to get better at being fully present with people who are not drawn or able to do that.  That’s often the case when we are having challenging conversations with strangers or family members.  Good days are when I remember to seize these difficult moments as opportunities to notice what sensations are being triggered in my body, and let myself fully feel them, rather than react.

So, to build these kinds of muscles, here is what I do, wherever I happen to be in the world…

  • I look for one or two people with whom I can practice regularly.  Just one person makes e a huge difference.  They do not actually need to be located in the same physical space as I am, just a compatible time zone!  I meditate regularly via phone or skype with friends who are all around the world: France, England, Thailand, Bali, Egypt, Sweden, Norway, and the United States.
  •  I invite whomever is open to ‘tuning in’ with me to settle in a comfortable receptive position.  I personally love to lie down on the floor because it’s the position that supports me to be most receptive.  Other people sometimes prefer to sit.  I also enjoy meditating while walking, but it’s harder to notice subtle sensations when one moves.  If we meditate while lying down in the same physical space, I usually suggest bringing our heads closer to each other because it is easier to hear one another without straining our voice.  Cozy, intimate spaces that facilitate deep listening work best, though with time, it becomes possible to practice it in any kind of space, including airports and conferences.
  • Then we tune in, and take spontaneous turn sharing what comes to our awareness.  We don’t have to speak.  Silence is perfectly ok, but speech can help keep us present and connected.  I try to speak only as fast as I am able to feel (in my body) whatever I am noticing and describing.  That often requires slowing down.  We stay focused on our bodily sensations and inner experience as we listen to each other.  The rules of ‘regular conversations’ are suspended.  There is usually no need to respond to each other unless we feel prompted from within to do so.  We are simply focused on allowing ourselves to receive what seeks our individual and collective awareness.
  • We watch that the ‘conversational’ space remains spacious and that we all stay anchored in our bodies.  If the conversation becomes overly busy or feels disconnected from direct in the moment experience, we invite silence or slowing down, and tuning back into the body.

 


practicing solo

Practicing whole body awareness and receptiveness with one, two or three other friends...
article post

practicing with others

Research has shown that we learn 90% of what we teach and only 10% of what we are...
article post