Special note: The audio follow-along version of today’s practice can be found at: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson
For me, recent “bad days” have emerged as a bleakness, a hollow in the belly, and a pervasive sense of foreboding. Despite the heaviness of the description, this current state should not be confused with chronic or clinical depression.
Decades ago, depression was with me for several years. The “bad days” of recent weeks feel similar; however, I can discern the ephemeral nature of this current spate. The past depression surrounded, infiltrated, and threatened my existence. These recent invasions are off-putting, but not life-threatening.
No one, though, likes to feel blue, down, scared, hopeless—ever.
My personal first step in addressing such a situation is to run a checklist.
First, “big stressors”: finances; loss; living situation; work life.
Then, “physical stuff”: food, water, alcohol, sleep, exercise.
And finally, “psycho-spiritual” state: contemplation, prayer, meditation.
In reviewing the list, I can readily determine the cause of recent “bad days.” Perhaps simply and obviously, the “big stressor” list looms large: Each sub-category is in an uncertain, unsettled state. And although I am not overcome with sadness or a deep sense of loss, certainly my mother’s passing has unleashed a host of fears with regard to the basic needs of earthly life: money, dwelling, sense of purpose.
But a Bad Day may not arise from the Large List. Perhaps a new friend proves disappointing; maybe car or house repairs seem incessant; or possibly, spiritual connection has gone adrift. Even if the culprit behind a Bad Day or Tough Times is transient, the immediate need to roust the deflating feelings is powerful.
This Silent Sunday offers a salve for the bleak moments or hours. The slow, gentle movement sequence will usher in enough light and hope to persevere through the dark. The 3-part mudra meditation then shores up inner strength and faith in divine wisdom and guidance. The practice is one for “fixable” Bad Days, and equally effective for seemingly inexplicable bouts of gray.
Begin on your belly. Bend the knees, so that the lower legs are perpendicular to the floor. With your forehead on the ground, there will be space between the upper chest/throat and the floor: Bring your hands into gentle fists, and nestle them into that space; the elbows are bent and tucked in next to the body. In this position, eyes closed with no special focus, become aware of the breath.
At this point, there is no prescribed count or technique: Simply notice the quality of the inhale and exhale through the nose. Change nothing.
After about 1 minute, let the hands open softly, sliding one over the other, palms facing the body. Turn the head to one side. Continue conscious breathing for 1 more minute. Then, turn the head to the other side, and switch which hand is on top. (Both are still underneath the body, palms facing the body.) Again, breathe naturally for 1 minute.
Now, rest the forehead on the hands: palms down, left hand on top of right. Let the legs straighten out onto the floor.
Begin to bring a count to the breath: Inhale through the nose for 4 beats; exhale through parted lips for 6-8. Infuse the exhalation with the sound, “Hoooo.” Continue for 30-60 seconds; then, switch the hands—right hand over left, palms down, forehead on the hand stack—and breathe with the same count and sound for another 30-60 seconds.
Next, roll on to the right side. Use the right arm, bent or straight, as a pillow for the head. For support, you may bend the right leg a bit. Lift the long left (top) leg a couple of inches, so that it is parallel to the floor. Visualize a shelf upon which the leg can rest: Then, begin to slide the leg forward and back along the shelf; only move a few inches in either direction.
Exert as little effort as possible. The intention is to sense support from the visualization… from the mind, from within. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
When you are ready, roll onto the left side. Repeat the movement with supportive visualization for another 30-60 seconds.
Now, return to the belly, and press slowly up into an easy Sphinx Pose: elbows under shoulders, forearms parallel to each other on the floor. Then, move the hands toward each other: Rest them on their pinky edges, and touch each fingertip to its partner on the other hand; let the palms be apart.
With eyes closed, begin tiny head circles to the right. Move slowly and with an awareness of the uppermost vertebra of the spine: Atlas and Axis.
Special note: The skull perches atop Atlas, which is the vertebra that allows the head to nod “yes.” Axis, just below, offers the ability to shake “no.” What we perceive as head circles is the alternating of Atlas’ “yes,” and Axis’ “no.” With that in mind, you are more likely to keep the “circles” small and slow: rolling around atop two small structures.
Circle 10 times to the right, and then 10 to the left.
From Sphinx, press up as if to come onto all fours: However, come onto the knees and forearms. The elbows are directly underneath the shoulders. Bring the hands together as they were in Sphinx: on the pinky edges, fingertips touching, palms apart.
Inhale to rock the body forward toward the hands; exhale to shift back toward the heels. With each exhalation, push back far enough to feel a deep stretch from the hips, through the back, and into the shoulders and armpits. Move rhythmically forward and back, for 1 minute.
Then, press up into traditional all fours: hands and knees. Begin Cat/Cow spinal movement; however, work with “reversed” breathing. As you inhale, deeply round (flex) the spine; exhale to arch (extend) into Cow. Be focused: Muscle memory may try to return the breath to the more traditional version of the movement. Inhale to round, exhale to arch: 1 minute.
From all fours, slide the left leg back along the floor. Let the body move back as the leg does: Eventually, the right buttock will come be above the right heel. Rest down, so that the right buttock sits on the heel, left leg extended back, body resting on the forearms or floor. Remain here for 5-10 deep breaths through the nose.
Then, rise up and out of the posture, returning to all fours. Slide the right leg back, so that you can come into modified Pigeon on the other side. Take 5-10 full breaths.
Once again, come out of the posture, so that you can transition into your preferred seated position for meditation.
Throughout the following sequence, the eyes are closed and gazing upward to the Third Eye.
The mantra for the meditation is: Sa Ta Na Ma, Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung. Chant each syllable at the rate of the second-hand tick of a clock: monotone, steady.
Chant silently, in a whisper, or aloud. As the mudras shift throughout the meditation, feel free to alter how you chant. Use your inner wisdom to intuit the voice you give to the mantra.
This is a chant for healing, and for invoking faith in the workings of the Universe. The mudras progressively infuse divine wisdom and healing into the subconscious and higher consciousness.
As you are seated, wrap your arms around the torso: Let the palms rest on the side ribs in this tender self-hug. Begin to chant the mantra inwardly, as a whisper, our out loud. Continue for 1-2 minutes. Remember to chant somewhat slowly: methodically, like the tick of a clock.
Then, release the body mudra, and bring the hands up to rest against the chest, on the Heart Center. Begin as if in Prayer Mudra, but interlace the fingers, overlapping the thumbs, so that the hands become as one soft fist. Continue to chant the mantra for another 1-2 minutes.
Finally, shift the hands into the last, simple mudra: Place the hands in the lap, palms up, one hand resting in the palm of the other. Touch the thumb tips together, and stay with the mantra for at least one minute, and up to 5. When you are ready, ease your way onto the back for Svasana: Rest in the soothing, affirming vibration you have created for as long as you like.