It's fine to read all about getting into the zone, but how do you actually get there? By cultivating mindful awareness and focus.
Do not sit awkwardly during meditation. Sitting slumped over with a crooked spine, or sitting in a position too advanced for you, can cause injury to your body, as well as frustration. It's impossible to relax deeply into your meditation if your body is strained or in pain. So stay within your physical limits while meditating and concentrate on your mind instead.
Would you like to try it? Let's take a basic yoga pose, called the cobra pose (Bhujan-gasana, in Sanskrit), and practice getting into and out of it. Look at the following picture of the pose and read through the step-by-step instructions before you try it. Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes that don't constrict your movement. Place a towel, blanket, or mat on the floor.
1. Let's sit for a moment. Sit comfortably on the floor and breathe. Don't worry about breathing deeply. Just notice your breath. Give your breath your full attention. You can probably "hear" lots of thoughts rattling around in your mind, somewhere behind the sound of your breathing. Note them, but don't let them engage you. Back to the breath.
2. After you've been sitting for a minute or two with your mind focused on your breath, move into a lying-down position on your stomach. But don't just move thoughtlessly. As you move, really pay attention. Keep your mind centered on how you feel, on how your body moves, on which parts are going where as you come down to the floor. Your body is all that matters right now, and a great yoga pose like this deserves all your concentration. With every step of this pose, keep pulling your focus back to your body; the way the pose feels; the way you move and breathe as you get into, hold, and get out of the pose. You are practicing mindfulness. You are in flow training.
The cobra pose.
a. Lie on your stomach, flat on the floor, with your heels and toes together. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your chest. Your face should be resting against the floor.
b. Inhale, and lift your forehead, then chin, then shoulders, and then chest off the floor. Keep your hips pressed against the floor and your elbows bent, shoulders down and away from your ears.
c. Look upward and take a few slow, deep breaths. Then try sticking out your tongue and opening your mouth wide, to help release your face. Finally, slowly come back down and return to the starting position.
d. To test the strength of your spine, lift your palms off the floor, as you see in the lower figure in the drawing. See how much of your body comes down—if it's a lot, your arms are doing too much of the work. Focus on the spine instead. The emphasis of cobra pose is to strengthen the spine.
e. Now, slowly push yourself out of cobra by pushing up with your hands and sitting back on your heels. Rest your forehead on the floor and relax, giving your spine a chance to stretch in the opposite direction. This position is called child's pose.
How was it? Did you stay focused on your body, your movements, how the pose felt? Are you still focused on your body? As you rest in this ending position, let your body feel the aftereffects of the cobra pose. What do you notice? How does your mind feel? At any point during the process, do all those clattering thoughts in the back of your mind recede? Do they stop clattering altogether?
Maybe you got a little taste of flow during this exercise. Maybe you didn't. But if you practice yoga every day with this kind of attention, eventually you'll experience flow. You have it in you.
Practicing yoga poses is a kind of meditation itself. With this approach, you can train your mind to be flow-ready. It will happen more and more. You'll finally know what it's like to be yourself!
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