Meditation – Part 1

Morning, Earth beings.

Two months ago, I volunteered at Camp LIFT. Their mission statement is:

“To foster optimal development in youth, by educating them on holistic principles of healthy minds, bodies and relationships. To promote fundamental values surrounding global health in order to reduce the incidence of addiction, delinquency, and school dropouts”.

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It was a seven day sleep away camp, for youths aged 14 to 17 years old. I volunteered on the first day and the last day; I picked up some of the teenagers in Montreal on the first day, drove them to the camp, stayed there to sleep the first night, came home on the morrow, returned on the last day to hang out with them, and drove three of them home the day after that.

During the first evening, we all gathered up in a circle so that the youths could hear the schedule for the week. Amongst two hours of daily sports, morning meditation, yoga, and healthy eating, there was also a 6:00 AM wake-up scheduled for every morning, not easy tasks for teenagers who do not live this lifestyle regularly.

I used to get up around 5:30-6:30 quite often in the past, because of school; however, since school finished almost two years ago, I had not been in that groove anymore. I was getting up somewhere between 7:30-10:00, and I missed being up early—I feel my most productive time of the day is between 5:00 and 11:00.

The next morning, I woke up with them at 6:00 AM, meditated, broke my fast, and then drove home. I couldn’t stay for the week because I had work.

I thought about the teenagers a lot when I got home; I had already become attached to many of them, and so I decided I would stay with them in spirit: I recorded a short video, explaining how I would get up at 6:00 every morning of the week, and meditate on my own, to support them in this endeavor.

Every morning that week, without fail, I was up at 6:00—my alarm was actually 6:01, but no one needs to know that, except my awesome readers—to go meditate at the park next to my house.

This expedition was at the beginning of August, and I have kept up with morning meditation ever since, save three days due to feeling frail and sickly. I do not get up at 6:00 every morning though; instead, I put my alarm on seven hours and 30 minutes after I get to bed. Chiefly, it varies between 6:30 and 8:00, which I largely prefer over 9:00 or 10:00, which is the loophole I had fallen into.

Excuse me. The title of this post is ‘How To Meditate’, not ‘Here Is A Personal Anecdote Of Mine’.

Picky, as always.

I am getting to that presently.

I have three different meditation routines, of which I alternate between each morning. For example: I will do meditation 1 on Monday, meditation 2 on Tuesday, meditation 3 on Wednesday, and loop around as of Thursday.

Today I shall explain one of these meditation techniques I use.

The Bubble Meditation

I discovered the bubble meditation while reading Lawrence LeShan’s book How To Meditate.

The goal of the bubble meditation is to be fully focused on your thoughts in the present moment, taking about six to ten seconds to observe each thought.

Here are the steps, described briefly:

  1. Sit down. Imagine that you are seated at the bottom of a lake. If this thought is too difficult for you, imagine you are sitting on a mountain-side, observing the environment ahead—in this case, it will not be a bubble meditation but more of a column of smoke meditation, which I shall explain very shortly.
  2. Close your eyes. Each time a thought comes to you, imagine that a bubble has formed at the bottom of the lake, in front of you, and that the thought you had is encompassed in the bubble. Then, observe the bubble as it rises higher and higher, until it is no longer visible—this should take about six to ten seconds. Do not judge, or try to understand why you are thinking of this; simply observe it. If you are imagining yourself sitting on a mountain-side, imagine a column of smoke rising instead of a bubble, with the same parameters as described previously.
  3. Do the same thing for the next thought, and so forth, always without judgement. Start with 10 minutes for several sessions, and then you can increase if you’d like, or not, it is entirely up to you.

The goal is to observe your thoughts in the present, without judging or trying to understand them.

Sometimes, the same thought will come back several times in a row. That is fine; just observe, and keep going. You might have instances where no thoughts emerge, and if that is the case, that is fine too. There are no set rules, besides observing your thoughts and doing nothing else.

I normally do this for ten to fifteen minutes. I never put a timer on at the park when I meditate, so I am ball-parking the duration. I used to put a ten minute timer on when I mediated at home several months ago, to help me not think about how long remained, and that way I could just focus on the task at hand, and nothing else—although I never managed to have a full ten minute session when my brain didn’t divagate at least several times.

There you have it.

Thank you.

Woah. A thank you. From you?

Don’t get used to it.

Next time I write about meditation I will share another method I use.

Do you meditate presently, or have you in the past? How did or does it make you feel?

Bubble-note: I’m simply observing my thought, over and over, of how I’d love for you to subscribe to my blog. And if not, that is fine; as I mentioned, I am only observing, and not judging.

 

Low Back Pain Part 1: How To Stretch Your Hamstrings

Jonathan here, again.

We sure hope so; it is your blog.

No need to be incogitant now—I’m trying to help you out with this post.

This is part 1 in a series I will be writing which aims at helping you deal with low back pain. Subscribe if you’d like to receive the next ones as they are posted in the following weeks.

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Always trying to get people to subscribe…

Yes, for sure: I’d love to make it to a double digit subscription number!

Alas, let’s get into it.

For those of you who do not know: I am an osteopath.

One of the main reasons of consultations that I see in my office is back pain—whether it be upper or lower. This series of posts will focus more on aiding those who have low back pain, although it is just as important even if you are pain-free.

There are a few important muscles that must be worked when low back pain is present. A lot of this work can be done right in your home, by yourself, for free.

One of these aforementioned muscle groups are the posterior thigh muscles, called the hamstrings.

A blurb of anatomy:

The hamstrings consists of three muscles: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and bicep femoris. They attach from the pelvic bone’s ischial tuberosity—that bony lump you sit on, right in the middle of the bum—to the knee joint—that knee joint, the one you have two of. These three muscles run along the posterior surface of your thigh.

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Now, for the stretching: first and foremost, do not do the hamstring stretches standing up, where you bend over and try and touch your toes, or the one where you are seated, bending your entire back, trying to bring your head to your toes. These put a lot of stress on the back, and can actually accentuate and worsen your pain and prognosis.

Here are two ways to stretch your hamstrings, which are much safer for your low back:

1. Lie on your back, on a comfy surface, such as a yoga mat. Take a towel or band, and loop it around the underside of your foot. With the leg relaxed and extended, gently pull the towel or band towards you, until you feel tension in the posterior surface of your thigh. Your other leg can stay straight—as shown in the picture below—or can be bent at 90 degrees, with your foot planted firmly on the ground. The bent knee will diminish the tension in your low back.

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2. Stand in front of a couch, chair, or anything that is around or slightly lower than the height of your hips. Keep the leg straight, and gently bend forward at the hips; keep your back straight! An easy way to do this is to imagine that you are approaching your navel—belly-button—to your toe. If you do this, your back should stay straight. There isn’t much movement required for you to feel the stretching in the posterior surface of your thigh.

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Different beliefs exist on the amount of time that stretches should be held. I generally tell my patients to hold the position for about 30-45 seconds, 3 times per leg, several times a week or every day. The tension during the exercise should feel no more than 2 or 3 on a scale of 10, where 0 is no tension and 10 is maximal tension. If for any reason you feel numbness during the stretch, slightly lower the amount of tension that you are applying to your hamstrings.

There you have it: two safe hamstrings stretches to help with low back pain.

More to come in future posts!

What do you normally do to help with low back pain?

Lumbar-note: plugging semimembranosus in a sentence always gives you a nimbus of awesomeness.

Sources: all images taken through the Google search engine.

Have You Ever Been To A Video Game Music Concert?

Yesterday, after having recorded my weekly podcast, my friend Francis and I were sitting down, chatting, and browsing the interweb—yes, that word exists!

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On my Facebook feed, Francis noticed an upcoming Ghibli show in Montreal. He screamed in excitement. I stared in confusion. I, for one, had no idea what Ghibli was. So I asked him. And he explained. Simple, right?

Now explain it to us.

My pleasure.

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation film studio. The performers in Montreal will be playing scores from Studio Ghibli, heard in movies such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke—movies which I have yet to see but have heard of on numerous occasions.

While scrolling through the OVMF website, I saw a concert titled “NES Concert”. This drew my attention right away. I clicked on the link, read the description, and my heart-race increased: there is an NES Concert this October, in Montreal. Scores will be performed from games such as Kirby, Final Fantasy, Super Mario, Metroid, and more.

I asked Francis if he wanted to go, and he said yes. We will be buying our tickets in the coming days hopefully.

I have heard of many people who went to video game concerts in the past, but I have never gone to one. I am very excited for this NES Concert. Being able to hear an orchestra perform hits from classic video games is sure to send shivers down my spine—all the way to my coccyx.

Have you ever been to a video game music concert?

Chant-note: DO not REply; it is MIne, this FAcetious SOng that LAnguishes the TIp of the human DOgma.

What’s Your Go-To Meal?

It’s Thursday night. You’ve had a long day. You forgot your umbrella on your way to work this morning—hair and clothes soaked. There was a truck stalled on your way home. The traffic added 43 minutes to your usual 27 minute return itinerary. You finally park your car in the driveway. Saving grace; you walk to your doorstep. But you still don’t have that umbrella.

thai-style-vegetables-in-coconut-milk.jpgOh, and now I need to make supper?

Hmm…

What will I make?

Nothing?

No. I need to eat something at least.

So what will it be?

(At least 15 seconds pass—your brain isn’t quite in an optimal functioning state, credit to the aforementioned described day).

Ah, I know! I will make my favorite go-to meal—in my case a vegetable stir-fry in coconut milk!

20 minutes later you are sitting on the couch watching some TV—or browsing a social media platform—and life feels better.

I’m sure you can relate to a day such as the one described above; one of those days where everything seems pitted against you, urging you to get angry, tugging and grudging to deplete your patience reserve, gnawing ever so slightly but persistently.

Ok, maybe I put a little much there, but you get the point.

When I have a difficult day—or even good days, because it is my go-to meal, and I think I deserve the satisfaction regardless of the day—I’ll have a tendency to cook up a hearty meal that satisfies me. Recently for me that has been a vegetable stir-fry cooked in coconut oil, coconut milk and toasted sesame oil.

Speaking of which, I just finished my last bite of supper, which was…

You guessed it!

I cook this meal frequently regardless of the circumstance; however, I tend to cook it even more on lengthy, challenging, and time-deprived days. It always raises my spirits and makes my stomach smile—yes, a stomach can smile, trust me!

Over time, my go-to meal does change—as I’m sure it does for everyone—, but for the past few months this has been my uncontested #1 favorite meal. I am already eager for tomorrow since I’m sure I will be making it for at least one of my meals, as I have been for the past month almost everyday without fail (**Insert stomach smile**).

What is your go-to meal? When do you make it most often? And how does it make you feel?