Over the years I have developed, experimented with and refined an array of strategies to support myself in my relationship with food and my body. This is mostly what keeps me sane. Some come naturally, like writing and talking about it with other like-minded women, while others can be a bit of a stretch. This is especially true of meditation. And yet one of the most effective ways I know to support myself is to regularly take 20 minutes to stretch my body, focus on my breath and do some visualisations. When I do this, I have less back pain and am a happier person all-round. And when I am pain free and feeling happy, I don't use food as a reward or as a pick-me-up or as an excuse to take a break. I am more in tune with myself, more in tune with my needs. And that's always a good thing.
So why is it such a challenge to do it?
Why is it so hard to ring-fence 20 minutes, to believe not only that it's OK to use those 20 minutes to stretch and breath and visualise, but really very advantageous to do so. Why do I so often let my nasty little Gremlin completely take over and collude with all those stale arguments it puts forward to dissuade me from doing it:
- You should be working
- It's not even 'proper' meditation. You made it up. It doesn't work
- Your back isn't hurting that much
- You're so selfish, you've got masses to do
- After breakfast. After lunch. After dinner. Tomorrow
- If you're not going to do it every single day, don't bother
So instead of rolling out my pink futon and giving myself 20 minutes, I move on to the next thing. I am in perpetual motion treading the intricate and laborious steps of the busyness dance. Doing, doing, doing. Never stopping, never breathing, never noticing. Day after day my pink futon stays rolled up behind the sofa.
This morning, I unrolled the futon, pulled down the blinds and set a 20 minute timer on my phone, all while keeping the Gremlin at bay by humming loudly so I wouldn't hear it.
The next 20 minutes fly by. I do some basic stretches. The same ones the osteopath showed me years ago when my back was so bad I couldn't walk. I breath, I send white, lava-like breath into my muscles. I see them lengthen and soften and repair. I thank my body: my feet for getting me places, my legs for holding me up, my backbone for keeping it all together. I relax every body part in turn, letting it melt into the futon and then covering it with a warm blanket of dazzling gold dust. I focus on my breath, pushing it into my lungs, my belly. Occasionally my mind strays and goes off to do the shopping list or my Gremlin tries to say something. For this I have a particularly effective visualization: I imagine a big broom sweeping the thoughts out of my head so that there is nothing left inside. This works surprisingly well. For just a few minutes at the end I am suspended in breath, I feel weightless and at peace.
The phone beeps and suddenly it's all over. I open my eyes feeling alive and refreshed.
This post is a note to myself, a reminder that these 20 minutes are one of the best ways I know to support myself, to stay grounded in my relationship with food and in owning my body. The next time my gremlin starts to act up and try to convince me to skip my 20 minutes I will come back to this post - and read it mantra style - until it gets the message.
How often you give yourself 5, 10 or 20 minutes to stop and just be? To do nothing, to think nothing, to feel...everything. What's your way of 'meditating'? Does it make a difference to the way you eat and feel about your body?