3 Simple Steps: SIT-WALK-SWEAT
STEP ONE = 20 MINUTES OF SITTING MEDITATION
MAP Training My Brain™ begins with 20 minutes of mental training with sitting meditation. In traditional circles, the type of meditation we practice is most similar to Zen meditation. To begin, just sit down straight up, either cross-legged on the floor or in a straight-back chair. It might seem uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it (a bit!). Now just put your hands in your lap with the palms of hands facing up. Put the right hand on the bottom of your left hand and let your thumbs loosely touch. Hold your arms slightly away from the body but loosely at your side. You can either close your eyes or leave them half-open and focused three feet in front of your legs. The idea is to be somewhat comfortable but nonetheless not so comfortable that you go to sleep. The idea is to be “awake.”
Begin STEP ONE by beginning to focus your attention on your breathing. Funny how you often don’t notice that you are breathing. This is why most meditation practices start with the breath. The breath is always with us and always changing and yet we rarely pay attention to it. Now start to notice how the air goes in and out. Do you notice that little space in time between the out-breath and the in-breath? This tiny space is often called the “little death.” Focus on this space and just count that space as "one." Watch another breath come and go and then count the next empty space as "two." See if you can get to a thousand! If you lose count, just go back to one.
Don’t chastise yourself when you lose count because you will – everyone does. Just notice when you lose count, let the thought go, whatever it was and get back to the breath. After you practice like this a few times, you will get to know your mind – the types of thoughts that occupy your mind and brain day after day and perhaps even get a peek into the person you are between all the thoughts. As Socrates was known to say – “If I don’t take time to know my own mind, who will?”
Just sit in silence for 20 minutes. It is tough and hard to do. It is effortful. But it is a desirable difficulty! You are brain is changing, no doubt.
Once the bell or timer rings, STEP ONE is over and it is time to stretch out your legs in front of you and even rub your feet a bit to get some blood flowing. Don’t worry if they are asleep or feel tingly. I have it on good authority they will not fall off. Just slowly stand up, again in silence.
STEP TWO = 10 MINUTES OF SLOW WALKING MEDITATION
Now we are going to do some walking meditation - only 10 minutes. To do this type of meditation, just stand up and begin to walk VERY SLOWLY. You can walk anywhere but if you are in a group, it is best to walk in a big circle. If you are alone, you might walk in a straight line back and forth across the room.
The idea is to move your attention from your breath into your feet. To do this, place your hands behind your back in a light clasp and start to really feel your feet. Pay attention to the weight in your feet and feel the transfer of weight from the ball of your foot to the heel of the next foot as the weight shifts to the other side of your body. We walk all the time but rarely think about it. So think about it.
When you stop thinking about your feet, notice it and simply bring your attention back to your feet. It may seem silly but remember that you are learning a skill – a brain skill that you can use all the time in your everyday life. But you have to train your brain in order to learn this new skill. Just be patient and don’t be in a hurry. After all, this is the only moment that exists.
STEP THREE = 30 MINUTES OF AEROBIC EXERCISE
Now for the physical training. This part of MAP Training depends on aerobic exercise and so we have to get the heart rate up to move the blood into the brain. For most of our studies, people chose to run on a treadmill or an elliptical machine but you could also go running outside or spinning inside or out. The point is to engage fully in an exercise activity that will get your heart rate up a lot. This is absolutely necessary!
But before you begin, warm up for about five minutes. This will help slowly increase your heart rate, and is better for your heart. It is also extremely important to stay hydrated throughout. You could also listen to music or something else to keep you moving and excited about moving!
Heart rate should be maintained at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. Maximum heart rate is roughly calculated as 220 - (your age). Keep track of your heart rate either with a heart rate monitor or by taking your pulse on the side of your neck (near your carotid artery) with your index and middle finger. Count your pulse for 10 seconds, and multiply that number by 6, to get an good approximation of your heart rate (in beats per minute). Complete 30 minutes of exercise around 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.
After 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, cool down for another 5 minutes and then you are done. You can now reap the benefits of MAP Training!
Try to do one session twice a week. Pay attention to how different you feel after you are done and then use this memory to help you do it again…and again…and again, until it becomes a habit. MAP Training is a learning experience – so keep it new, make it effortful and stay with it!
This part is easy to remember: SIT - WALK - SWEAT