Silent Sundays: S-U-F-I Grinds, Part Two–Clear and Correct

In yesterday’s preamble to today’s practice, I described the recent discovery that an emotional response pattern thought long-abandoned still lurked within. It can be disappointing to realize that despite disciplined introspection, contemplation, and spiritual devotion, human flaws and foibles remain in need of attention. Yet “disappointment” need not be the abiding feeling: Rather, if one regards the ongoing pursuit and expulsion of unwanted, unnecessary traits as an integral part of a spiritually conscious life, then each recognition of ‘work to be done” becomes a boon—an opportunity for personal growth. With this continual self-monitoring and reckoning comes spiritual stamina, neutral-minded perspective, and deepened insight.

To aid in your evolution, this Silent Sunday sets forth a movement and meditation routine to clear out emotional and psychological remnants that seem to trip you up repeatedly; and then actively draws in specified beneficial energies. The key ingredient for this practice is Sufi Grinds. This is a churning, cleansing action whose appearance in any kundalini kriya or related routine signals clearing and elimination: As such, Sufi Grinds also can come to the rescue of many digestive issues.

Special note: While one typically thinks of digestion as a physical process, it also connotes the ability to ponder and then assimilate or reject thoughts and feelings. The stomach is home to many nerves: Some yogis think of the stomach is the second brain. Thus, when tending to physical digestion via exercises such as Sufi Grinds, one also calms and stabilizes emotions.

The following practice unleashes optimal movement throughout the spine. Working in increments, the entire spine and its supportive muscles receive the nourishment of spinal fluid and warmth, respectively. This section-by-section approach lays the foundation for the most fulfilling, effective Sufi Grinds.

To begin, sit on a chair, or on the floor with legs crossed or extended straight together in front of you. Use whatever bolsters you need to ensure that the spine is long, upright, aligned, and at ease. Take a few long, slow breaths as you take stock: What is it that you wish to delete from your mind and heart; and what elusive positive quality would you like to integrate?

When you have a goal to which you may dedicate this practice, you are ready to move. Start by isolating the pelvis: Inhale to tip the pelvis forward (which will create a slight arch in the low back); exhale to rock it back (which gently rounds the lumbar region). 

Special note: If you have any difficulty honing in on this movement, place your fingers on the front of the pelvic rim, with the thumbs on the back of the rim (iliac crest). As you inhale, use the thumbs to press the pelvis forward, as the fingers direct it a bit downward. Then, upon exhale, press the fingers into the pelvic rim to tip it back, as the thumbs press in and down to tilt the pelvis back and down.

Once the fingers release from their initial aid of the move (if you found it necessary), rest the hands—palms down—on the thighs as you rock and roll, tilting the pelvis forward and back. Continue for 3 minutes, increasing the speed as you see fit. Make the breath deep and powerful, and sense the awakening of the entire low back and belly.

Now, come to standing. Moving from the pelvis into the waist, begin large torso circles. For the purpose of today’s practice, these standing circles serve as a circulatory exercise: However, I also include them to highlight the difference between circling the torso and eventual Sufi grinding. As you circle the entire upper body (hands on hips), the pelvis remains fairly stationary: The focus of the torso circles is to warm up throughout the entire waist circumference, while encouraging deep breathing and blood flow. Circle clockwise for 1 minute, then reverse the circles for another minute.

Still standing, use your arms to clear the auric space (magnetic field) around you. By doing so, the path is cleared for both the removal and intake of old and new energies, respectively. Standing strong, inhale, and criss-cross the arms in front of you, moving upward from about the waist to directly overhead. Complete this rise in 4 crosses of the arms. 

Then, without stopping, touch each thumb to the palm-side base of its pinky finger: Curl the other fingers around the thumb to form a fist on each hand. Exhale to circle the arms with fisted hands out and down to the sides: Circle 4 times to lower the arms all the way, making circles of about 4-6 inches. Both arms make outward circles, i.e, the right arm circles clockwise as the left circles counter-clockwise. Continue the crosses up and the circles down for 1 minute.

Now, return to the floor, and come to all fours. Here, take 1 minute to engage fully with Cat/Cow spinal flexes. The lower spine and upper body have been warmed up, so move deeply and at a good clip as you inhale to extend (arch) the spine, and exhale to flex (round). 

Next, find your way into a seated crossed-leg position. (Although you may sit on a chair or with legs extended straight, the full benefit of Sufi Grind is experienced most easily in Easy Pose.) Place the hands on the knees: You will use your hands to help encourage and direct the rotational movement of Sufi Grinds. Keeping the arms actively engaged, inhale to tilt the pelvis forward and allow the spine to arch naturally, opening the front body. As the breath continues to flow in, circle the body to the right: Use the right hand on the knee to pull you to the right, as the left hand pushes against the left knee to further aid the movement.

Then, as you exhale to circle into the back space, tilt the pelvis back and under; the spine will respond naturally into a flexed (rounded) shape. Continue to exhale as you circle around to the left: The left hand pulls, as the right hand pushes. As you approach the front space and your start position, the exhale completes. You are thus ready to inhale and begin the clockwise “grind” again. To reap the deep-cleaning and eliminative benefit of Sufi Grinding, accentuate each part of the movement: However, do so seamlessly; the move should feel luxuriously thorough and fluid.

Circle clockwise for 2 minutes, then reverse, and circle to the left for an additional 2 minutes. Move at a pace that allows complete breaths and total fulfillment of each phase of the move, and that also actively creates warmth. You may speed up as you grow more comfortable with the movement.

When finished, sit quietly for a few breaths, allowing the body’s natural rhythms to return. Then, remind yourself of whatever quality or habit you wish to eject from your being. With that in mind, create a cross of both hands in Ardachandra Mudra: Each hand is palm-open, fingers together and straight, with the thumb reaching out to the side. Place the right hand in front of the Heart Center, palm facing out, fingers pointing up. The left palm, facing toward you, covers the right; left fingers point right. 

Special note: As stated in Mudras of India (Carroll, Carroll, p. 68), “This mudra represents destruction of one’s ignorance and realization of one’s true nature.”

With eyes closed and focused on the Third Eye, inhale through the nose; exhale forcefully and quickly through a wide-open mouth, tongue extended out and down. Feel free to make any sounds than naturally want to accompany the purifying exhale. Breathe in and out in this manner 10 times.

Finally, focus on the perspective or behavior with which you wish to fortify your inner adjustment. To support this commitment to change, place the left hand on the Heart Center. The right arm is bent at the elbow, resting against your side, as if taking an oath. Form a gentle fist of the right hand, palm forward, with the index finger extending straight up. The right hand of the gesture forms an antenna through which the wisdom of the Universe enters and meets your intention; the left hand ensures that your Heart and its inherent wisdom oversee the new energy. Breathe through the nose, deeply and slowly, with eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye. Continue for 3-11 minutes, and then release into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday… 

S-U-F-I Grinds: Part One– Backstory

Today’s piece serves as prologue to tomorrow’s Silent Sunday practice. The backstory and subsequent routine offer a stern dose of self-reflection and -correction, with a dollop of psycho-spiritual progress. To honor the adage of “business before pleasure,” today addresses a course correction after a jolt of self-awareness; Silent Sunday will put forth the lighter side, and how to get there.

It all began this morning, although arguably the road to insight was paved a few days prior. As with many tasks during these past months of surgical rehab, I needed help. My intrepid neighbor and friend has been the primary source of “in-house” aid: taking out garbage and recycling; bringing in mail; doing laundry, etc. I have made my gratitude well known, and of course have been of help to her in the past. We are friends: That is what we do.

My buddy is a helper and a wonderful shoulder for many. As such, she frequently struggles with how to salvage her own mental and physical strength; all too often, she subsumes her own needs to those of others. That clearly is part of her karmic journey, of which she is aware and continually addressing. As you may imagine, I am conscious of depleting her energies further with my own requests for help. But again, as true friends, we have found a balance in the ways in which respect each other’s quest to be of aid, and also to be left alone.

This past week has been an especially rough ride for my pal. With her own chronic health issues (both muscular and immune system-related), the week’s stressors wore her down quickly. (In sum, her mother is in a nursing home; the home has faltered frequently since COVID; her two brothers are not active participants in their mother’s care; and, in a stunning turn of events, a dead mouse was discovered in her mother’s bed three days ago.)

My friend had had it.

Because of the emotional and advocative rigors of her week, “MJ” let me know each day that she would take care of my laundry the next day. With a get=away planned to begin tomorrow, there was a deadline: Of course, for MJ, this meant another pressure in her already about-to-burst Help bubble. I encouraged her need to rest, and to put my laundry at the bottom of her priority list, certain that she would get to it eventually.

This morning, however, I received an email: MJ’s immune system had responded to the accumulated stress—her stomach was rebelling, and she had a fever of 100F. 

My mixed reaction, and the one that spurred today’s writing? Part dismay for my friend; part annoyance that my laundry had been put off; part shock at my selfishness; and part determination to reset my attitude—pronto!

First, I rallied rational thought: If I could not hoist a bag of laundry down and up 50 steps—twice—without damaging my recovering hip and aching leg, it could wait. Or, I could round up another friend after this holiday weekend; or, I could hand wash the most-needed items. Plenty of options to remind me: 1) that I remain capable, despite some incapabilities; and 2) that someone else (a dear friend, to boot) had greater needs than my own.

A bit anxiously, but nonetheless determined, I proceeded to do laundry. Yes, the multiple trips to the basement with a pillowcase full of clothing (the winnowed-down version of what ultimately needs to be washed) put my body through its own wringer. As I plodded away, however, I recognized that my physical strength and my hip’s endurance was greater than I had expected.

As it turned out, MJ delivered yet another gift: that of my renewed optimism and self-confidence.

And this is where the foul discovery of a dead mouse in MJ’s mom’s bed entered my mind. After the initial disgust, MJ had identified a hidden blessing: One of her brother’s— who typically is absent in every way concerning their mother—had been with MJ during the “mouse visit.” With MJ leaving town for a week, “Jaime” would be on duty with regard to their mother and the nursing home, and had come along to get the lay of the land.

As MJ put it, “It is a good thing he saw the mouse. Now he is more apt to keep track of Mom, and to stay in touch with the social worker.” Blessing recognized, table turned.

My own version of a dead mouse came in the form of being pushed to test my physical abilities; fortunately, the result was positive. Alongside that came the awareness of the aforementioned inner foe: a selfish anger that arises when “betrayed.” I choose quotation marks, as this certainly was no true betrayal: Rather, my friend was at her wit’s and body’s end, and she needed a break.  

But my initial response of a perceived “betrayal” roused those emotional scoundrels that I thought had long ago been chased from my inner sanctum. Selfish and Angry once again showed their faces; however, I quickly called in the troops to oust them yet again. To my aid? Sufi Grinds.

Or, as I think of them in this context: S-U-F-I Grinds. They form the crux of a practice designed to jettison the remains of yesteryear’s emotional habits; and to draw in new vibrational patterns of mental energy. S-U-F-I: Turn Selfishness into Understanding (of self and others); and transform Frustration into Insight. 

In tomorrow’s Silent Sunday: The Practice—S-U-F-I Grinds to Clear and Correct