Breathing technique for alleviating back pain and improving alignment
1. Start with deep breathing to become aware of the sensations in your body until you feel circulation. It is now much easier to locate your center. Sit up straight and drop your Qi down through the earth from your root chakra at the base of your spine.
2. Then picture a plumb line dropped from the base of your head, between your shoulder blades, to the base of your spine, through to the earth.
3. Imagine filling both sides of your lungs and chest evenly with air. Align your eyes and make sure they are on a horizontal plane and not tilting your head. As you focus on keeping your eye line horizontal, it guides your shoulders to rest evenly.
4. As you keep your head balanced over your root chakra, your chin up and your eyes level, your shoulders find it hard to resist the counterbalance created by the weight of your head. Imagine filling both legs evenly with a grounding sensation, focusing on feeling equally in touch with the earth through both of your feet. This tends to pull your stomach in, lengthen your core and spine while expanding your lung capacity.
5. Then feel energy equally in both arms and drop any remaining tension. Keep focusing on your center and dropping your Qi line, making sure to keep your eyes up and level. You can feel your muscles relaxing into the breath as well as their impulses to fight and return to a state of resistance.
6. As you continue the exercise you keep dropping any tension and you continue to center. Imagine the tension being brushed off at your shoulders, ribs, hips, knees and feet.
7. Afterwards, you are calm and relaxed and you feel small shifts in your lower back. They feel like tiny impulses and are pleasurable. It feels like things are subtly shifting into further alignment in a ballistic motion.
Following this healing experience with mindfulness, you come on board as a contributor to the 7 Minute Mindfulness program.
Inside 7 Minute Mindfulness, you'll be guided step-by-step through a variety of mindfulness practices that will help you improve many areas of your life.
These practices are suitable for beginners, as well as people who have practiced mindfulness and meditation before.
CLICK HERE to learn more about 7 Minute Mindfulness
Practising this form of meditation is, as I’ve said before, an effortless process, which makes it really enjoyable. And because it releases lots of endorphins, all those happy hormones will serve to put you in a really good space, both within the meditation and in your everyday life. Combined with the deep rest and relaxation you get when you do it, you’ll quickly find it a refreshing and energising way to start or end your day, and you’ll be much clearer and sharper in everything you do afterwards.
Make meditation part of your routine, the benefits will include a greater sense of connectivity (to yourself and others), an increased sense of joy in life, and the gradual unravelling and healing of past hurts and painful memories. Of course, there might be times during the day when you feel like you need a bit of a boost. Maybe it’s a job interview, or you have to do some public speaking, or you’re about to go to a tricky family gathering, or have a difficult conversation with a friend.
In those situations, do what works best for you. Say you usually meditate in the morning and evening (which is what lots of people like to do) – change it around and do your meditation when you need to be extracalm or on top form. On your way to that interview or party, or backstage before you go on to speak, find somewhere to sit down, close your eyes and repeat your sound. You don’t have to worry about mastering different techniques for different situations; simply use your personalised sound in the way that you’ve been shown, and voila!
7 minutes later, you’ll be much calmer, clearer, and ready for anything. This form of meditation is brilliant both as a strategy and as a tactic. A strategy is something you apply on a long-term and regular basis and is what ultimately delivers the biggest gains, whereas tactics are employed according to need, in order to respond to occasional demands – i.e. to help dig you out of a hole. The strategy of regular meditation means that you don’t usually need to meditate tactically.
It takes care of 95 per cent of your daily dramas by putting you in a much better place to deal with them in the first place. You’ll also find that, because you’re less cranky in general, what once would have been major problems now barely register on your radar. Sometimes, however, you need to listen to yourself. 7 minute mindfulness meditation is what you need on the day, – make it work for you.
Our inner cultivation of the mind, our meditation practice, begins with developing mental tools like single-pointed concentration, mindfulness, spaciousness, and undistracted awareness, to name just a few—we will examine these later on.
Once we have developed these mental tools, we use them to look not only at what the mind perceives—sights, sounds, tastes, scents, touch, and thoughts—but at the mind itself. This is to say that through meditation we can become intimately aware of awareness. Our attention need not be continually hijacked by distractions and taken away into endless thinking and thought loops about the past that doesn’t exist and the future that hasn’t arisen. Rather, through meditation, our awareness is allowed to manifest fully its lucid and spacious qualities.
It is said that this kind of inner cultivation of the mind leads us to a state of equanimity, balance, and deep mental wellbeing with a sense of ease, even during our hectic lives.
It is further suggested that meditation can lead toward discerning the root causes of our own dissatisfaction and suffering, and, significantly, how we might uproot those causes altogether. This is what the great meditation masters of the past tell us.
But we don’t have to take their word for it. We need to test, to experience, to inquire and see if meditation brings us any benefit at all. Even though the Buddha said that meditation was the direct path to uncovering the wisdom within us, still we must test the practices ourselves.
“Just as the wise test the purity of gold by burning, cutting and examining it by means of a piece of touchstone,” the Buddha said, “so should you accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard and reverence for me.”
So we’ll begin with meditation practices that settle and calm our body and mind. Once we’ve achieved some stability and can remain undistracted for a period of time, we’ll investigate the nature of our experience, our world, and our reality. We’ll use a focused, calm, and sharply attentive mind to look deeply into our own experience and come to very clear conclusions about those experiences.
Meditation practice is best applied progressively, day after day, with diligence, and a healthy dose of humor and joy. For the meditation practices in this book, I encourage you to spend a week or two, or more, with each chapter. Develop some proficiency with the various techniques before moving on. Repetition is one of the keys to the practice. There’s no need to rush.
Instead, become well accustomed to using different mental tools—like mindfulness, concentration, acceptance, spaciousness, and inquiry—to train your mind and deepen your meditation practice. These tools will help you hone your emotional agility, cultivate mental balance, and discern reality as it is. Knowing when and how to cultivate various aspects of the mind is a great skill—on and off the meditation cushion.
I trust that the meditative tools in this book will point you in a direction where you can come to know yourself in the deepest and innermost way. The techniques are straightforward, and the results can be profound. In seeing clearly and viscerally how our mind works, we find insights into the true source of contentedness arising quite naturally. These insights, which occur in meditation sessions and in the post-meditation period throughout the day, have far-reaching consequences, because we gain an inner strength that is based in the reality of our present experience. And liberation is found in the continual awareness of the reality of the present moment, right here, right now.
This is what I am keen to offer to you—the great freedom that results from coming to know one’s own mind. When we truly know our own mind, we can begin to work skillfully with all of the challenges in our life in a more real and grounded manner.