Meditation is about relaxing the mind and the body, so that you can tune in to what is going on internally by tuning out the external stimuli of the outside world. Breath and your internal energy flow through the body like water through a garden hose. It is this flow that allows the body to heal and generate internal power. Kink the hose in any section and you reduce or potentially shut down the flow.
There are many methods and areas of focus for meditation, all with tons of detail to explore. For the purposes of this blog, I would like to explore some basic meditation principles. Then in subsequent blogs we will look at how to incorporate these principles into our Aikido training.
Here is a basic exercise you can do to help tune in to the central channel of your body. Running from the crown of the head down the spine to the tanda (energy centre) two inches below your navel. The central channel is the core of balance and awareness and is the source from which all other energy channels derive.
Let’s begin in a chair with your back straight, your feet flat on the floor and your hands placed on your lap. Close your mouth and eyes and breathe in through your nose. Follow the breath down your throat and let it fill your belly like a balloon. Let your stomach expand, but don’t hold your breath. Once the air feels like it should exhale, let it go back up your spine and out your nose. Continue this in and out process for a few breaths just working to have a nice even in and out rhythm.
Now, the first place people build tension when breathing is in their chest (your first kink in the hose!). On your next inhale, take one hand and place it on your chest and the other on your stomach. Just notice as you inhale and you follow the breath down into the belly, does your chest move. Ideally, your chest should remain still. Spend the next few breaths in and out, relaxing your chest as you breathe. Just let the chest relax and feel heavy as your breathe in and out.
Once you can breathe easily with a relaxed chest, follow your breath in through your nose and down your body towards your belly, and just take notice of any smaller areas that might be holding tension. As you breathe in, is your neck tense? If it is, let the breath relax your neck. Are you holding tension in your shoulder blades? Let them relax and round away from the spine. Continue this process down your spine to your hips, just scanning for any places you might find tension. Slowing removing the kinks from the hose, and letting the blood flow more openly through the body.
Now let’s observe the breath as it returns up from the stomach. Follow your breath down as before, and now as the breath begins to flow back up the spine follow the flow up to the crown of your head and let the breath wash over your head towards your forehead. Then down and out your nose. This flow will create a circuit of energy that you can follow along with your breath. Through the nose, down the throat, relaxing the chest and into the stomach. Then filling the belly and returning up the spine, relaxing the shoulder blades, up to the crown of the head and over the head to return out the nose. Practicing relaxing your breath and body through this circuit will help to open your central channel, from which all other energy channels of the body are fed.
The benefits of meditation can be realized at any age. Becoming aware of your breath gives the mind a much needed reprieve from the busyness of our day to day worlds. In an age where we are all inundated with screens and external demands, taking time to reflect on what is going on inside is critical. I believe, this process is an essential step to bringing our martial arts training to the next level, which we will explore in the next article.
This article was written by Sensei Jason Moore, Aikido Durham
For more from this author, visit: aikidodurham.ca.