I live on a small island, off the coast of Maine, with a year-round population of roughly 10,000 people. Due to the beauty of the area and the fact that Acadia National Park is contained within our shores, we receive almost 2.5 million visitors each year - most coming within a narrow 4-month window of time. (The Long Time Sun Apparel Store in Newport, Rhode Island can relate to this concept as well, I'm sure). I love welcoming visitors and seeing our town come back to life each season, but it can be one wild ride.
I was reflecting on this today, as I was trying to wind my car through the merciless traffic of our normally quiet Main Street. When I finally made it to our grocery store (by city standards, you might call it a "market") and FINALLY found a parking spot, I could feel the agitation rising. Inside the store, tourists were blocking the aisles at every turn, looking for all things "blueberry" and "lobster." After retrieving the couple of items I needed and making a bee line for the nearest express lane, I was foiled (again) by a young couple who CLEARLY had more than 14 items in their basket. I wanted to shout and stomp my feet - TOTALLY without grace. . .my own version of a toddler freak-out.
Instead, I somehow found my breath and was able to turn to a quick Kundalini practice to shift my energy. I invite you to try one of these practices when you are short on time (or patience) and you need to shift your energy quickly.
1. FINGER FLEXING FOR NERVE CALM
I LOVE this 3-minute exercise, from Gurutej Kaur. It is meant to calm your nerves and reduce your stress level. It is so simple, yet very effective. Anyone can utilize it to shift their energy - fast! And it can totally be done in secret . . .under a table during a meeting, while you are on a phone or Skype conference call, sitting in traffic . . . Try it out and be aware in the shift of your energy and emotions.
2. THE GRATITUDE EXERCISE
In a moment of agitation or stress, begin by examining how you are standing or sitting. Consciously drop your shoulders. Close your eyes for a moment (not in traffic, please!) and roll your eyes up to your third eye point. In doing so, even for a moment, you will feel an actual physical sensation of relaxation. Focusing on the third-eye is one of the easiest and most effective ways to come back to your calm and your focus.
(Science nerd alert! Why do we feel relaxed when we focus at the third eye point? This area is the location of the pituitary gland, which is the gland that produces and regulates seratonin - the "feel-good" neurotransmitter in the body. Quite simply, focusing at the third eye stimulates seratonin production.)
After focusing on your third-eye for a few moments, inhale deeply through your nose and think for a moment of something that you grateful for. It doesn't need to large - it can be anything. . .the sun that is shining, a delicious piece of chocolate you ate last night. . .anything. Hold your breath briefly, focusing on that one thing. On the exhale (again through the nose), consciously breathe away one specific thing that you are afraid of - letting it move out of your body on your exhale. Give it up to God, even if just for a moment. For those few seconds, trust that all will be taken care of.
Next, practice the following breath pattern:
- Inhale through the nose, mentally saying "Sat"
- Exhale completely through the mouth, mentally saying "Nam"
- Inhale deeply and smoothly through the mouth, mentally saying "Sat"
- Exhale completely through the nose, mentally saying "Nam"
- Continue in this pattern, inhaling "Sat" and exhaling "Nam"
After 3-minutes, silently say "thank you" to whatever agitation or stress you began the exercise with. Transform your emotions into compassion instead, offering gratitude to the agitation or stress for giving you the opportunity to meditate!
3. 8-STROKE BREATH
Sit or stand with a straight spine, depending on your location. This is the one I did while standing in that "express" lane. ;-)
Place your hands in Gyan mudra, with your thumb pressing against your index finger, otherwise known as the Jupiter finger.
The breath: Breathe in 8 strokes or sniffs through your nose and out for 1 stroke through your nose. If this type of yogic breath is new to you, start with 4 strokes instead of 8. Breathe in 4 strokes through the nose and 1 breath out.
Even practicing this breath for 1 minute will bring noticeable results. Put this technique in your yogic "toolbox" and use it whenever stress arises. Turn to this meditation whenever you feel the need to release and restore vitality.