NS: What meditation practises do you recommend for beginners, where do we start?
PT: Start with counting the breath, as described above. Then, move onto resting the attention lightly on the breath, but without forcing it into and out of the body (like with counting). You breathe naturally, without any thought. So, the idea here is to let the body take over, and simply let the mind observe the action of the breath as it moves into and out of the body. You can focus the attention on the tip of the nose, where you feel the sensation of the air entering and exiting your body. Or, focus on the belly as it expands and contracts to accommodate the breath. You can ground your attention even more by placing a hand on your belly as it rises and falls, to connect more sensorially with the breath. The idea is to hold the mind anchored on the observation of the breath, so it doesn’t run off on thoughts and other stressors.
NS: Can you talk us through breathing techniques that we can take time out to do during the day?
PT: This can be done very simply. Take a seat in a chair, bringing the spinal column forward so you’re not slouching or leaning into the chair back. Plant the feet firmly on the floor and relax the shoulders. Pull the chin slightly down and back, so it is directly in line with the rest of the spine. You can close your eyes, or, if you prefer, keep the eyes open and the gaze soft, lowered about 45 degrees in front of you. Turn inward and bring your focus to the breath. Slowly inhale for a count of 4. Hold for two counts, and then breath out for a count of 6. Repeat this 5-10 times, or as long as you like to feel the calming benefits.
NS: What other daily elements can you incorporate into a routine to continue the harmony released from meditation/breathing i.e. drinks / oils / nutrition?
PT: Great question, as nutrition is an extremely important complement to these practices. A healthy body is a healthy mind, and vice-versa. Drinking plenty of water is key to vibrant and well-functioning cells. Healthy oils like olive enhances brain functions and keep plaques and other toxins out of the body. Tea helps with meditation, coffee inhibits it. Generally, a plant-based diet is an important complement to meditation, whereas diets heavy in animal products and fats, and other processed foods, work counter to spiritual practices. Fluoride is said to inhibit the pineal gland, which is our “third eye” access point to spiritual elevation. This is found in our water, and most toothpaste, so consider getting a filter for your tap that removes fluoride and buying toothpaste that is fluoride-free.