We live in tense times. We already listen for possible Red Alerts. We are poised for phone messages from our Council Security Team about current dangers. We watch the skies for balloons bearing explosives. We need a time-out. Therefore, every Friday, I come early to the Open Center in Kibbutz Nir Oz to arrange the space, adjust the room temperature, and align my mind with my intention: to offer a safe space.
With every session, I’m learning more about timing, attention span and interests of the people who come to practice mindfulness.
With the new group of over -60s in the Blue Kindergarten, I have seen that starting the session with qigong helps circulation and ability to focus on breathing. One woman is a little hyper and finds it hard to sit, another has poor circulation and a third holds her own, enjoying the challenges. Rather than turn up the thermostat in the room, it’s preferable to turn up the body’s thermostat, so we engage in basic warm-ups and then some breathing, movement sets.
With the Friday morning group, I vary the theme according to the weather, the feeling in the room and the particular outer and inner environment. The past week has seen threats from many explosive-laden balloons and we are always aware that Trump’s Deal of the Century is going to bring angry responses. It’s never-ending and we must be highly diligent all the time. This is why our times together are sacred – a chance to breathe and check our physical condition, emotional and mental states.
Today, I began with some lilting music called Restore, published by the Insight Timer application. We gently circled our upper bodies, crossed legs our anchor on the floor. Our heads and necks extensions of our spinal chord, we moved with awareness 10 times counter-clockwise, with a pause to scan our sensations, and 10 times clockwise.
We then did a body scan from head to toe and back up to our pelvis. Each station was a slow four-breath pause before I moved on. Pauses for more inclusive breathing included head, upper body and lower body, before we allowed the whole body to breathe – out breath from head to toe, inbreath from toe up to head and we followed 10 of these cycles. Afterwards, we took time to allow the body to breathe while we listened to the sounds of the room. These included the hum of the air conditioner and the birds and gentle music and watersounds of the Secret Garden (Insight Timer).
The body scan was about 22 minutes long. We unwound, taking time to stretch out our hands, fingers, arms, shoulders, shaking them, dancing with them. Then we addressed our legs, rotating our ankles 10 times each direction and stretching our spines by reaching up to the ceiling and then bending slowly towards our toes, unimportant how far we reach, just the reaching is what’s beneficial. Three times center, 3 times to the left of our legs, back to center, then 3 times to the right of our legs. We reached up to the sky, stretching the upper part of our bodies and again reached down to stretch our spines – center, left of the legs, right of the legs. Then again shaking it out, and noticing our sensations.
We bridged into la qi or ‘pulling energy’. We warmed up our hands, creating electricity, rubbing our hands till we could each feel the energy. Then from playing with that ball of energy, rotating the ball, getting to know it, we allowed our hands to part and come close together – inhaling with their parting, exhaling when they came together. We reformed the ball of energy and then felt a small rod of energy between our hands, a constant distance and took it to the right side, right hand on top, left hand on bottom we brought it across to the left side and reversed hands. The movement was kept central, not going past the knee, sensing our crossed legs as anchors.
We reformed the ball and gently pressed it into our lower bellies to recharge our energy reservoirs (dan tian).
Right hand travelled up to our heart, left hand on the dan tian, we began a Metta meditation, (meditation for lovingkindness) wishing ourselves, health, happiness and relaxation. We brought to our imaginations someone who inspires us, brings a smile to our faces and wished for them the same things. We next brought to mind someone in need of energy and wished for them the same things. We then thought of someone with whom we have difficulty and knowing that they also want what we want, we wished them the same. To reward ourselves, we completed the cycle by returning to wish ourselves these good things.
The singing bowl signaled a transition. It was a time for gentle full belly breaths, inhaling filling up our abdomens and – exhaling in turn: ‘aah’, ‘ohh’, ‘mmm’ and ‘ohm’ which brought us to a self-hug, offering ourselves love.
We gave ourselves a Dry Shower to pat in all the energy. Thanking ourselves for being present and wishing ourselves a good day, we parted.
Then H told me of a family trip they’d taken out of the country. When on the road, in the car, A decided to lead everyone through a dry shower. He was quite sure of himself and illustrated exactly how it was done, guiding his family to do it correctly.
In another incident on the trip, he had felt ill, vomited and to quiet himself, set himself to focus on breathing. Before long, he’d fallen asleep. His delighted grandmother was eager to report that A had internalized our methods and was quite naturally using them when required.
I felt, my work is done! I can pack away my sign on the door, hand over the keys and sit back!
Now, however, I have a lesson with A and H, so till next time.
Shalom Sangha readers.