Using Earth Meditations to Stay Calm during Troubled Times
These days it seems anyone whose last name isn’t Hilton is having difficulty staying afloat. Now, most us are so busy trying to survive that we don’t have time to devote a few hours, heck, even half an hour to meditate; so let’s look at a method for quickly changing our mental state from one of fear and anxiety, to one that promotes a strong, peaceful approach to dealing with a world that has gone slightly mad. I won’t be requiring you to chant out loud, bend yourself in pretzel, or wear an orange robe for this, so it can be performed safely and discreetly anywhere you choose. You can do this in a couple of minutes, or extend it to fifteen or twenty.
The basic Earth posture is one that promotes a strong, but relaxed frame of mind. Find a comfortable seat (my favorite meditation spot is in an old rocking chair in a back room of my house). Sit up as straight as you can, keep the shoulders back and down and let your hands fall where they may, or if you want, touch the tips of your pinkies to your thumbs. This is not quite military ram-rod straight, but you do want the spine lined up like a stack of teacups. Imagine yourself as a benevolent King or Queen, sitting on a throne and exhibiting quiet confidence. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind the front two teeth.
Slow down your breathing. For maximum results use deep belly breathing (also known baby breathing or the Buddha’s Breath): inhale and push the lower stomach out. You want to aim for the general area of the lower intestines, just below the belly button. Exhale, and gently pull the stomach in as you were trying to wrap your intestines around your spine. Your breathing should be slow and silent, pushing down and out on inhale, down and in on the exhale. Play with it and see how long you can make a cycle last without strain. Shoot for 4-6 breaths a minute. Breathing in this manner by itself can keep you calm during stressful times.
High chest breathing (the way most adults breath these days) is associated with panic attacks, anxiety, heart trouble, muscular tension, headaches, stress, hypertension, fatigue, insomnia and a host of negative physical and mental ailments while deep belly breathing is associated with relieving those same problems. Remember to keep your spine straight; don’t allow the deep breathing to alter your posture much. It is acceptable to allow the ribcage to lift and collapse a bit to allow for a deeper breath, just make sure the movement is slight.
There are 4 keywords that will allow you to start feeling the stabilizing influence of the Earth element in your body: calm, peace, strength and power. You can use the words by themselves, or in any short phrase of your choosing. The key is to place them in a positive and present frame. Don’t say, for example, “I want to be calm”, say, “I am calm”. The idea is that you’re not trying to become calm; you’re focusing your intent on being calm, right here and right now. Don’t say the words out loud, just think them, and synchronize with the breath.
Deep Inhale: “I am Calm”
Deep Exhale: “I am Powerful”
Deep Inhale: “I am Strong”
Deep Exhale: “I am Peaceful”
These affirmations train the mind to equate strength with peacefulness. The attitude of the Earth element is one of being strong enough to protect the ones you care about. The person who has truly internalized the Earth attitude is a mountain, calmly allowing the storms to pass over them, knowing they never last; clear skies will come again if you’re patient. You do not attack or try to intimidate, but you will retaliate in an appropriate manner if necessary.
Close your eyes while you’re doing these affirmations and keep your focus between the eyebrows. If you get colors in the phosphenes, pay attention to them and try to make them brighter.
There are many different kinds of meditation; most people are only familiar with typical Zen routine: sitting passively and trying to keep the mind quiet. That method obviously works and some people find incredible peace utilizing it. It does, however, require a bit of a commitment in order to be effective. It’s usually taught as a beginner’s exercise, but I tend to think of as more of an advanced technique, especially for people used to the constant stimulation of Western society. I prefer to teach a more active approach so people can reap some immediate benefits. Traditional meditation methods are a product of the cultures that created them. I’ve spent many years studying and playing with various techniques. The exercises I present are one’s I’ve found to work, both on myself and those I’ve taught them to. I try to avoid utilizing Eastern terminology as I believe that sometimes clouds the issue, and complicates what are otherwise fairly easy to learn techniques.
The basic Earth meditation is an ego-driven exercise. What I mean is that it plays to the ego’s need to balance out the sometimes unrealistic altruism of the super-ego and the childish desires of the id. We’re often taught that we should suppress the ego, but often times that results in tremendous fear, guilt and anxiety as people try to live up to the perfection espoused by the super-ego, only to eventually give in to the wild impulses of the id. Strengthening the ego allows us to operate in the real world; we can choose where and when to indulge our pleasure-seeking tendencies and do so in a way that doesn’t conflict with our higher moral code.
If you’re feeling dizzy while doing the deep belly breathing, back off and try again later (not while you’re driving a car!). Placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth will help keep too much hot energy from building up in the head, a problem experienced by some Yoga practitioners. The push/pull motion of the stomach can also act to give your internal organs a little massage which can lead to a bit of nausea and/or an upset stomach if your diet includes lots of greasy and starchy foods. This should pass fairly quickly. If you’re good at visualization, imagine a pinkish red energy flowing up the back of the body on the inhale and down the front on the exhale. If you can’t, don’t worry it; I’ll cover basic energy work in a future column.