Many moods of meditation   

Not everyone is a fan of conventional mindfulness practices, which is why off-beat methods offering the same benefits are gathering steam

Just hours before the first hearing of her divorce proceedings, social media influencer Ragini Chopra’s (name changed) stomach was in knots and her heart pounded uncontrollably. As her friend watched her struggle to even get dressed, she suggested Chopra mirror-gazing meditation that she had benefitted from while battling clinical depression. Chopra, who had never meditated before, propped herself on cushions in front of a full-length mirror in her bedroom.

“It was as though I was seeing somebody else. I felt exposed. The direct focus on myself made me awkward, but after a few minutes, I couldn’t hold back my tears as I felt a rush of self-compassion,” she says.

Regret and resentment bubbled up soon after. Then 10 minutes later she cried, opening the gates for an emotional deluge. “After letting it all out, I was numb. Soon, I felt light, there was a cool tingle in my fingers, my neck relaxed, shoulders opened up and my chest felt less rigid. I felt uncannily settled and ready to take on the difficult day ahead,” says Chopra.

Modality of mirror gazing

Pursuing peace and personal growth has become everybody’s priority, which is why more Indians are meditating today than ever, according to a 2021 survey by the mindfulness app, But not everybody can sit in one place and look fixedly at a candle flame or simply breathe in and out. That’s why unconventional meditation practices such as mirror gazing have struck a chord. “Mirror gazing is an off-the-wall approach, but effective as it helps you experience the rawness of your emotions. Vulnerability spews out as you laugh, cry, scream, groan and grieve. It’s the most cathartic experience,” says Mumbai-based life coach, Sheetal Shaparia, adding, “It’s therapeutic for those going through a major life event or battling a chronic mental health condition.” 

How to do it
● Find a quiet place with natural light and sit in front of a mirror on a chair or the floor.
● Take a few full breaths. Look at your reflection intently and try not to blink too much. Slowly scan your entire face.
● Don’t hold back emotions that arise. Be curious about where they are coming from. Try not to problem-solve, but simply breathe and imagine the feelings dissipate. 
Note: Start it as a five-minute practice, as it has the potential to stir intense emotions 

Go the vipassana way
Delhi-based kindergarten teacher, Prapti Nagarajan, hung by a thread in her early years of marriage. Unsupported by her family, she struggled to balance work and home. “I felt isolated and couldn’t stop ruminating on negative thoughts. It affected my capacity to think and cope, eventually manifesting as bowel syndrome a year and a half later. Finally, my gastroenterologist suggested I try vipassana along with medications,” says Nagarajan. Immediately, she enrolled in an online class, where she learned to accept things one cannot change.

A 2019 study published in Elsevier found vipassana to influence brain waves, thus improving cognitive processing. “The meditation trains the brain to focus on the present and accept things without judgement or resistance. It’s a practice to strengthen brain areas responsible for self-control, memory and learning. Done regularly, it can lower activity in the brain’s frontal lobes and reduce the manic pace at which our brain processes information, which leaves us exhausted,” says Dr Anuradha HK, consultant, neurology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru. 

How to do it
● Sit cross-legged on the ground with your hands on the knees.
● Breathe normally while focusing on the belly. Notice as it expands and contracts.
● Observe the thoughts that come up and label them. Then, put them on an imaginary leaf, place them on an imaginary river’s surface, and let every thought flow away from you. Watch it leave your sight. Do this for 15 minutes, gradually increasing the time.
Note: It’s advised to remain silent for at least 30 minutes post this meditation to cultivate solitude

Make the most of moon gazing

At first, it sounds like mumbo jumbo, but Shaparia cautions against writing off the practice. “Exposure to moonlight relieves stress and anxiety. It also regulates the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, which maintains several bodily functions,” says the life coach.

Dr Sruthy VR, a Jhansi-based meditation coach at Shatam Jeeva, seconds Shaparia: “Yat pinde tat brahmande (whatever is in this body is in the cosmos too). Just as the moon’s gravitational pull makes the tides rise and fall, moon bathing or gazing affects the ebb and flow of human emotions as the body 
is made of two-thirds water. That’s why one may feel melancholic on new moon days and charged up 
on full moon days.”

Sruthi adds that the moon’s various phases can channel lunar power to bring emotional balance, improve sleep and enhance concentration. “The moon’s energy also regulates rasa dhatu, the first of seven tissues that comprise plasma, lymph and white blood cells, the byproduct of which is menstrual blood, and regulated by the moon,” she says.

How to do it
● Sit comfortably facing the moon (best done outdoors). Ensure your arms and legs are not crossed, which may restrict the energy flow. Focus on the moon and stabilise 
your breathing.
● Close your eyes and imagine the coolness of the celestial body filling you up. Do this for 
a few minutes.
● Open your eyes and look at the moon again, intentionally letting go of things that don’t serve you anymore. Do this for 15 minutes every day.

Many moods of meditation 

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