In yesterday’s introduction to this three-part series, I vaguely referred to a sound bite from a radio program. What a difference a day makes: Later yesterday, I again was listening to the radio, and the program was rebroadcast. The NPR show, Hidden Brain, rebroadcast the program from which the reference was plucked: “Our Mental Space, Under Attack.”
The guest interviewed was Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor, and author of the book, The Attention Merchants. What I had heard was Wu’s paraphrase of psychologist William James hypothesis: “At the end of your days, your life will have been what you paid attention to…” The context for the statement was a discussion of the history of media, specifically advertising, and its effect on our mental choices of foci. What James had yet to encounter when he theorized about attention was the existence of the internet, cable TV, or multimedia platforms. Our contemporary attention is assaulted by a barrage of visual and audio distractions: Our focus is continually challenged and frequently split.
If what one pays attention to contributes to the substance and direction of one’s life, what kind of life is one that is routinely subjected to multiple sensory selections battling for dominance? How can one see through the tumult of stimuli, in order to sense and focus on personal truths, and the truths of Life?
The following routine provides a refuge from the onslaught of distractions, and improves focus, concentration, and discernment. The chakras that will be activated and consciously directed toward the energy of discernment are the Third and Sixth chakras. The Solar Plexus Chakra fuels one’s drive and perseverance in the face of challenge; the Third Eye Chakra is the gateway to insight and intuition, both of which are needed to make conscious and spiritually informed choices.
To begin, move into a plank position: the entire body prone and parallel to the ground, held aloft by the hands and feet. This position alone activates the abdominal wall; however, to awaken the nervous system, thereby further stimulating the mind and senses, prop yourself on the fingertips and toe tips. The initial precariousness of this variation demands greater support from the muscles surrounding the Third Chakra.
In your plank, begin Breath of Fire (rapid, equal-parts inhale and exhale through the nose). Keep the head aligned with the spine, and focus your open eyes on the floor slightly in front of a direct downward gaze. Continue pumping the navel point with Breath of Fire for 1 minute.
Next, lower yourself to the floor, and push back into Baby Pose. Place the hands under your forehead, consciously connecting to the Third Eye between the brows. Close your eyes, focus on the Third Eye, and breathe deeply for 1 minute.
Now, slowly sit up, and come into Kundalini Lotus. From a seated position, left your legs off of the ground into a wide V shape; hold the big toes with the first two fingers and thumb of each hand. Find your center, balance, and begin Breath of Fire for 1 minute. The arms and legs should be straight as you sit in the V shape. If necessary, hold the ankles or behind the knees; regardless, keep the spine long and the arms straight as you balance and breathe.
After you have moved out of the Kundalini Lotus, come onto all fours. Extend the left leg behind you with the knee on the floor (or a cushion for support). Lift the torso to come into a low lunge; the top of the left foot should be on the floor, which may feel awkward at first. Extend your arms straight in front of you, bringing the palms together, with all fingers together and pointing forward. Lift the arms enough so that your hands are at the level of the Third Eye; focus your open eyes strongly on the air-space just beyond the hands. Again, begin Breath of Fire, continuing for 1 minute. Then, switch legs, and repeat for another minute.
To end, ease out of the lunge, and come into svasana. Breathe deeply as you consciously take your attention to the sensations around your upper abdomen, your eyes, and the warm energy flowing through you. Then, as you begin to settle, allow your breath to find its natural rhythm. Remain in svasana with your eyes softly closed for at least 5 minutes.