I’ve been attending a weekly mindfulness meditation session by Lynette Walker who runs the Yoga Center of Cape Cod http://ccyogacenter.com/ and I’ve learned about two meaningful and fun practices. The first one is called Five Tibetan Rites, which is a set of 5 exercises that supposedly provide significant health benefits. You start by doing 5 reps of each movement, then increase the number of reps each day up to a max of 18 or wherever you care to stop.
I stopped at 10 and have been trying to do them each day, unless I have a yoga or cardio class that day. It is fun and provides a nice quick workout, perfect to start your day or equally nice for a mid-day break.
I found a great article on it here Wikipedia Link , which includes these helpful animations.
In her weekly sessions, Lynette has also guided me through several iterations of Mindful Walking. A key component of mindful walking is your breathing pattern, which can be visualized as a square or rectangle. You also choose the number of steps that will correspond to your breathing pattern as long as it is an odd number: 3, 5, 7 and so on.
I prefer the square breathing pattern using 5 steps, which would look like the following diagram when visualized. The rectangular pattern would show the breath being held for a different number of steps than the inhalation and exhalation.
You don’t actually walk in a square or a rectangle, although I suppose you could. We walked in a straight line starting with the instructions for 1, followed by 2, 3, 4 then repeated. The large room allowed me to run through the 20 steps required, twice before turning around.
The first time I tried this in class I found it quite easy to maintain a sustained a mindful experience for the entire period, which was about 20 minutes. I suspect this was because I had to remain focused on my breathing for five steps at a time. This focus no doubt kept my mind from roaming free, thereby helping me to remain mindful.
I noticed a similar thing when I tried mindful walking on the nature trails of the conservation land in Barnstable near my house the other day. I found I was able to count my steps and remember to inhale, exhale or hold, while still mindfully taking in the unfolding scenery. I felt a deep state as I did this, which was heightened for me, because of being in nature. I think I sustained this practice for about 10 minutes.
Then, I tried it while walking on the boardwalk in Sandwich.
Walking on the Sandwich boardwalk, you can find a nice rhythm as your feet slap the wood. When I walk on this structure, I generally find myself wanting to coast along on autopilot and lose myself in the moment because of the expansiveness of the wide open marsh that overtakes my vision. But the lack of railings and a 10-foot drop in some places forces me to remain alert and keep my focus narrow.
So, I tried the 5 step square breathing pattern while walking the boardwalk today. It was enjoyable and allowed me to go deep, but I still felt like I was straddling the liminal zone; that space between the contrasting sensory experiences of going deep vs. remaining vigilant.
This tug between competing influences is something we are all familiar with from an early age, referred to as the Yin and Yang by the Chinese. Here are two useful explanations of this dualistic philosophy.
The principle of Yin and Yang is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young. Excerpted from: https://www.ancient.eu/Yin_and_Yang/
Yin and yang is a concept of dualism in ancient Chinese philosophy, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Excerpted from:
I’m glad I found these descriptions because I noticed that while the first definition highlights the contrast between Yin and Yang, the latter emphasizes their complementary nature in the natural world, a concept that feels more authentic to me.
Being in your presence, knowing you, and reading your magnificent writing are brilliant lights in my life. Thank you for sharing your gifts.
I look forward to new explorations of art, nature, writing and meditation with a dear friend.
Wow, thank you my friend, for such a heartfelt and thoughtful comment. I too have been influenced and moved by our friendship; your insightful writing, your commitment to a Buddhist way of living and your positive, adventurous spirit.