I have now completed two weeks of daily walking meditation plus 45 minutes of either guided sitting meditation or standing yoga.
Rather than walking mindfully through the woods (as I’ve been doing for many months on an almost daily basis), I mostly did the walking meditation in a low-stimulus environment: walking up and down and up and down my bedroom. Strict monotony is great for practicing mindfulness.
Day by day, I switched my attention from my toes to my feet to my legs to my torso to my overall gait to my toes to my feet… The more awareness I devoted to my gait, the more graceful it became—more fluid, more poised, more confident. After a while, I found myself strutting almost like the “Notorious,” Conor McGregor:
Although my movement was a little more subtle than his, with not quite as much arm-waving, it is interesting that that is what my gait turned into—completely unintentionally, as a sole effect of walking with total presence.
Similarly prominent in their effect were the standing yoga poses, which made for a very different experience than the seated ones. In addition to the deep yet energized relaxation after phases of discomfort, they made me feel secure, powerful, and really good about myself.
It is widely known that yoga has not only numerous physical health benefits, but also improves psychological well-being by enhancing positive emotions, subjective feeling of energy, and affirmatory self-view.
In a recent study, de Zavala and colleagues (2017) compared standing yoga poses to traditionally dominant power poses and found that solely the yoga poses improved the performers’ state self-esteem significantly. After just 2 minutes of yoga, they felt more in control, more energetic, and more powerful, whereas the power posing was ineffective.
If you have never done yoga before, I encourage you to try it. But brace yourself for some maddening discomfort. Depending on how hard you go, yoga can be quite tough and difficult.
Nothing, however, beats the challenge of 45 minutes of sitting breathing meditation.
Even though I am very used to 25-minute seated meditation sessions, 45 minutes can be fucking brutal. Especially when I am still in work mode with yet some important stuff to accomplish or some new ideas to think through. Then the demands on my mental toughness are as insane as the plain task to sit still and breathe mindfully drives me to be.
Yet I shall never surrender to the weakness of my mind trying to charge me with laziness! Fuck no. I must accept the time I take to meditate as a time of absolute unproductivity, no matter how hard I have to struggle with it.
45 minutes of powerlifting, of muay thai, of jiu-jitsu, or of yoga are nothing compared to 45 minutes of sitting in stillness to observe one’s breath when there is still other important stuff that needs to be done. I would have never imagined that a simple increase in duration would make such a difference, but well, this is exactly why I started the MBSR mindfulness challenge.
If you are interested in doing this challenge yourself, you can get the CDs I am using on Amazon: Guided Mindfulness Meditation. To learn more about this program and mindfulness in general, read Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- Golec de Zavala A, Lantos D and Bowden D (2017). Yoga poses increase subjective energy and state self-esteem in comparison to ‘power poses’. Frontiers in Psychology 8(752), doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00752.