There are some days when I am completed depleted of my energy by the time the clock strikes 9 am. Listening to the news with the morning coffee, waking kids up, making breakfast and lunches, then drudging through traffic to get them to school can make a girl crazy before noon. Being a writer, a yoga instructor, meditation teacher, daughter, friend, and girlfriend leaves little time for me to become a Zen monk. I enjoy living in the real world at times, but sometimes need to make like someone who lives in a monastery just to survive everyday life. If you are like me and need quick fixes to an exhausted mind, then do not fret. I have created a list of 5 simple ways you can count to 10 and turn Zen.
Japa Manasika meditation is characterized by deep breathing paired with visualizing mantras (words) being spelled out in your mind. This meditative practice calms the mind through focus, eventually clouding the incessant chatter that constantly streams through the typical human brain. For this particular themed article, we will use counting to 10 as our mantra. Sit in a comfortable position, relax your shoulders, close your eyes and start to breathe very deeply in and out of your nose. Begin with spelling out the number one. Slowly visualize the letter “O” streaming across your conscious mind; allow the “O” to disappear from view and move on to seeing the letter “N”; give it a moment to sit in your mind’s eye and then move on to the letter “E”. Clear your mind to a blank screen, still breathing deeply, and move on to the word “TWO.” Continue through the entire numbering to ten and notice how serene spelling your numbers can be.
When life gets hectic, we tend to lose awareness of many things. This leaves us vulnerable to injury, misunderstandings, drama, and illness. However, when we slow down long enough to pay attention to something as simple as how it feels to have a human body, we can quickly recover from any of the above misfortunes. For this technique, all you need is your hands, your mind, and the blood flowing through your veins. Sit comfortably and place your hands face up on top of your legs. Make very tight fists with both hands and count to ten slowly. With your eyes closed, open up your hands and feel the wonderful sensation of the blood rushing into them. This will not only cause you to relax but also reinstate your connection to the body. This is easy to do in almost any environment. So take some time out and spend it with your hands.
You know the saying, “Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?” Well, this technique is specifically for that. Often times when we are stressed, we scrunch our shoulders up to our ears for long periods of time. Most of the time we are unaware that we even do this. The only time we notice is at the end of the day when we have two boulder-like muscles sitting right next to our neck. This technique will give you the blissful feeling of letting go. Close your eyes and as you take a deep breath in through your nose, imagine all the things that are stressing you out. Go ahead and pull your shoulders up toward your ears as if you are carrying those stressful things on them. As you take a deep exhale, open your mouth and let the air out, while also dropping your shoulders down. Let go of those stressful thoughts like you’re letting go of the breath and shoulders. Do this 10 times and notice how relaxed you feel afterward. This practice may also make you more aware of when you are tensing up around the neck and shoulders. It will decrease the amount of time you hold the weight of your world there.
Since the neck and shoulders are the part of our bodies that take on the predominant part of our stress, here is one more technique made for them. Sit comfortably in an upright posture. Starting with your head at a neutral position, drop the chin to the chest and inhale the right ear toward the right shoulder. Next, exhale and roll the left ear toward the left shoulder. Do this rolling back and forth motion for the length of 10 breaths. Next move to your shoulders. Begin rolling them up toward your ears, pull them toward your back, drop them down and roll them forward. Pulling shoulders in backward rolling motions for 10 counts and then pulling shoulders in forward rolling motions for 10 counts. As your neck and shoulders soften, so will your frazzled body and mind.
The sound of waves flowing to and from the shore can be such a calming experience. Did you know that the ocean is as close as your inhale and exhale? It’s true! Close your eyes, sit upright and begin to breathe in and out of your nose. Create a subtle constriction in the back of your throat (similar to the constriction you would make if you were trying to sound like Darth Vader). When you breathe in with the throat slightly tightened, you will hear the sound of a wave coming into your body. When you breathe out with that constriction, you will hear the sound of waves pouring out of your body. Take 10 deep breaths like this and be pleasantly surprised how you were able to create an ocean inside of you. Remind yourself of your internal ocean at any point in the day when you need to escape the chaos of the real world!
I am fully aware that we all live busy lives. Expecting everyone to carve out a whole hour or two each day to calm down may be unreasonable. But who can’t spare the time it takes to count to 10? Take 10 and see how quickly you can turn zen! Your brain and body will thank you.