Last week I was writing about ‘following your bliss’, but what happens when we do not feel in touch with our bliss, when we feel low, sad or despondent? This morning I watched the video below by Prince Ea which addresses this. He speaks of how we give less thought to our mental health than we do to our dental hygiene. We live in an age now where to brush our teeth and shower each day is the norm. After the arrival of sugar Elizabethan people were described as having black and rotten teeth. Unlike our Elizabethan ancestors who had little idea about the importance of brushing teeth to prevent decay, if you were to go a few days without brushing your teeth you would soon notice the unpleasantness of it. But we do not think to give the same attention to our mental well being. We can allow stress to build up and not take time to refresh our mind and heart every day.
Whilst we will always make time to brush our, teeth however busy our schedule may be, we can skip our meditation sessions, seeing them as the one thing in our day that is expendable.
Prince Ea references a book called Brain Rules, by John Medina. In this Medina states that to have a happy and healthy brain we need adequate levels of: sleep, exercise, nutrition and good friends. This makes sense, as when we go into a low place it is often these things that suffer. We can become erratic in sleep, or stay up late lost in endless hours of distraction, we drop our exercise routine and eat poorly.
When depressed, the brain alters how it works, so that rather than releasing chemicals to give a feeling of excitement at the thought of going out to meet friends, instead we just feel it to be too much trouble, and will make excuses to not to go out and instead stay in our room. The challenge when feeling low is to make the resolve to do the things we may not feel like doing. Returning from a night out with a friend we may well feel uplifted and so glad we went, but before going our thoughts are telling us it is too much trouble and we aren’t in the mood for it.
In addition to the other points made above for helping brain health, Prince Ea also suggests a smiling meditation to use when we are feeling under stress or in a low mood. The meditation can be done in as little as 1 minute and is based on three principles:
1. Smiling: when we smile it relaxes the face muscles and sends a signal to the brain that we feel well and happy. Meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh instructs his pupils to imagine a smile in their heart as they watch the breath, and to allow their faces to soften and to smile as they meditate.
2. Mindfulness: the act of noting thoughts without judgement, and bringing attention back to the immediate experience of our senses when the mind wanders.
3. The breath: our life force and connection to the world, taking slow deep breaths will send well oxygenated blood to the brian, helping us to feel clear headed and alert.
Set your alarm for one minute.
1. Close and relax your eyes. Now as you allow your face to soften, smile a natural relaxed smile. It may help to think of someone you feel close to smiling at you.
2. Relax your smile and begin to take deep, slow breaths.
3. As you take slow and deep breaths, focus all of your attention in your experience of this moment. Feel the smile in your heart, the gentle smile on your face, if your mind wanders gently return to the feeling of the breath moving your belly and chest.
At the end of one minute slowly let your breathing return to its regular rhythm and open your eyes
To down load a free guided version of this meditation click here