For some people, focusing on the breath or the passage of thoughts can be an effective way to calm the mind. But for others, meditation is a more individual and creative endeavor.
Such has been the case for one of my yoga clients. Every morning, when she sits down to meditate, she visualizes her body as a Chinese lantern.
Inspired by a favorite painting of hers, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent, she came up with the image one day when she felt “flat and deflated,” she says.
She began by imagining herself as one of the lanterns in the painting. She drew in a breath slowly and deeply, felt her spine lengthen, and let the breath go, feeling her body relax. With each inhalation, she pictured herself filling up with creative energy. With each exhalation she softened. As she continued to breathe in and out she seemed to grow taller, more spacious, and brighter. After just a few minutes of this practice, she felt more vibrant.
Today, she says, this Chinese lantern meditation has become a daily ritual for reconnecting with her inner radiance, even on her darkest days.
As it turns out, the painting that prompted her practice has an interesting story behind it. The artist, healing from emotional wounds of his own, was obsessed with capturing the light and mood as he saw it (as opposed to what he thought or wanted to see). He enlisted the help of his artist community ““ including a friend’s two daughters who served as models ““ and painted for just a few minutes every evening at twilight.
It took him two years to finish the painting.
Today the artwork is considered to be one of his greatest masterpieces. And it is one whose magic could not have been achieved in any easier, less painstaking way.
This story, like my client’s ritual, suggests that meditation can take a variety of forms. Equally, the painting serves as a reminder of the cumulative power of small actions — especially when undertaken within the context of a larger faith and community.
Do you have a ritual that keeps you going? We’d love to hear about it.
ABOUT NATALIE ENGLER, RYT
Natalie Engler, RYT is a National Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher who offers private yoga and small group classes to women at all stages of the fertility process. Her approach synthesizes ongoing studies in Iyengar-influenced and Vinyasa yoga with immersion in Restorative Yoga, which she learned as part of her 200-hour yoga teacher certification with Bo Forbes, PsyD, creator of Integrative Yoga Therapeutics.
Natalie has been an avid yoga practitioner for 20 years and a yoga teacher for six years. Through a dedicated personal practice and experience teaching individuals and groups, Natalie has witnessed the potent effects of Restorative Yoga on a wide range of issues. She is honored to be able to share this practice with women at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health.
In addition teaching yoga, Natalie is a wellness coach and health writer who has written for Harvard Medical International, Reuters Health, the Massachusetts Medical Society and Harvard Health Publications. She has been quoted in the Boston Globe, Yoga Journal, Parents Magazine, and Conceive Magazine.