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SALT: 4 Simple Steps to Meditation

December 20, 2021 | 4 comments

SALT: 4 Simple Steps to Meditation

SALT is a four-step, moment-to-moment practice that provides a path back to yourself at any point you need it throughout your day.

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When it comes to better self-care, so many of us are either “all in” or “all out.” It’s hard to do anything halfway. This is why for so many years, I had such an on-again, off-again relationship with my daily meditation and yoga practice. If I didn’t get a 60-minute, vigorous yoga class first thing before work, the whole day was a wash, and I gave up completely. Or if I planned to practice at night and something came up—whether it was eating something heavy and greasy at lunch or getting unbearably angry or stressed—I thought, “Oh well, I’ll try again tomorrow.”

Once I got pulled off course, it felt insurmountable to make my way back. And this approach made it nearly impossible to create a regular self-care practice that I could count on for support.

What I came to realize over the years is this: It’s what you do most of the time that matters.

(Or as writer Annie Dillard says beautifully and simply: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”) This means that committing to a few minutes of a self-care practice—like meditation, mindfulness, gentle or restorative yoga, or guided relaxation—will, in the long run, have a much more profound effect than, say, going to an hourlong yoga class once in a blue moon or even a meditation retreat once every few years.

How do you get more of what you need most of the time? The answer is “moment-to-moment” meditation practice, which provides your way back throughout the day.

I’ve heard this from so many of my meditation students over the years: “OK, so I feel connected, alive, calm, [fill-in-your-own-blank] during my once-in-a-while meditation practice. But then throughout my day, I get pulled away in so many directions. I’m in a rush. I get disappointed, frustrated, exhausted. I overreact. I get ‘hooked’ in some way, and I can’t find my way back.” The point of a practice isn’t to turn us into some fantasy version of something we’re not and never will be (calm, saintlike, unflappable, able to put our leg behind our head—whatever yoga or meditation myth seems applicable). Even better—we practice so we might bring ourselves back, every day, again and again to the truest version of ourselves. Who we actually are—before, below and beyond our reactions, our habits and our hooks. This is where SALT comes in.

SALT is a four-step, moment-to-moment practice that provides a path back to yourself at any point you need it throughout your day. It requires no equipment or special setup. You can even practice SALT in the middle of whatever situation you’re in, and the people around you won’t even know.

Similar steps are found in many meditation traditions, but I came up with this acronym from some unlikely inspiration. Stay with me here for a moment!


Check out Catherine Zack's Podcast Beyond Balance

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A few years ago, I was watching a documentary on Netflix from the delightfully talented Samin Nosrat, based on her book of the same name: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. As Nosrat waxed positively poetic about the characteristics and qualities of salt—I couldn’t help but see the parallels back to yoga and meditation.

On the one hand, salt can certainly make food taste “salty” (especially when something is excessively seasoned), just as yoga and meditation can make people seem “yoga-y” or “new age-y” or something else along those lines. But that’s not actually the point of either salt or daily practice. Salt’s primary function is to make things taste more like themselves. You salt a carrot to make it taste more like a carrot. You salt a piece of meat to bring out the essence of that particular cut. AND IN A SIMILAR WAY, WE PRACTICE MEDITATION—EVEN A LITTLE BIT EACH DAY—SO WE CAN FEEL MORE LIKE OURSELVES.

Today, the very next time you feel carried away, pulled off course, feel a burn, start to shut down, or feel like you’re closing off or tightening up, try practicing these four steps to see if you might create enough space to take yourself off the hook, choose a different response, aside from your normal, habitual reaction.

S—Stop. When you feel yourself getting hooked in a particular situation, see if there’s some way you can pause to stop yourself from going down your usual path on autopilot. A deep breath in and a deep breath out. Leave the room. Close your eyes. Relax your jaw. Do whatever you can to create a boundary between what’s happening and your habitual reaction.

A—Allow yourself to be with whatever discomfort or “not-so-good” feeling, so you can begin to recognize and remember that you have a choice about what you do next.

L—Listen to what those feelings or sensations are telling you. This is how we can begin to recognize patterns, which is the first step to choosing another way back to yourself.

T—Touch. The physical sensation of touch is an essential tool for maintaining health and well-being and connection on many levels. And it doesn’t have to come from anyone else. A simple, yet profound way to integrate any experience is a simple touch, like a hand to your heart. Or slipping off your shoes and feeling your bare feet on the earth. Or sliding a hand to a tender spot on your neck or shoulders and giving yourself some love. Touch is the last step to coming back to yourself, to resolving the situation at hand.

SALT is a tool in a moment-to-moment toolkit you can use at any time. You can practice SALT in almost any scenario, wherever you need it, as often as necessary—to bring you back to your most you-feeling you.

It’s just as simple as adding a pinch of “SALT” to any moment of your ordinary day.

Learn more from Catherine Zack in the wellness sessions she’s hosting with Share My Lesson. Join the health and wellness community to find out when new sessions become available: https://sharemylesson.com/community/groups/health-and-wellness-community

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Catherine Zack is a corporate lawyer turned meditation teacher, relaxation guide, executive mindfulness coach and wellness consultant. Zack began her career as a litigator at a white-shoe, top-tier law firm in Washington, D.C., a classic Type-A, high-achieving go-getter who checked all the right boxes and built a “successful-on-paper” legal career. But after a few years of that fast-paced, high-stakes, sleep-when-you’re done, big-law life, she finally looked up and realized that a career path toward the partnership wasn’t for her.

In 2014, she walked away from a prestigious legal practice for the practice of meditation to create welcoming, inclusive spaces of belonging, empower people with tools of self-exploration, personal development, mindfulness, and restoration to help them thrive and come alive. Since then, Zack has worked with thousands of students and clients, leading retreats, trainings, and workshops in mindfulness and meditation all over the world, helping people create a greater sense of ease and balance, redefine their own definitions of “success” and relax into their lives. And yes—she’s even returned to her former law firm to lead mindfulness programs.

Zack holds a B.A. in politics and gender and sexuality studies from New York University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She and her family live in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. You can learn more about her work at catherinezack.com.

Website: www.Catherinezack.com
IG: @cathzack
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/catherine-zack-esq-4a780b30
Podcast: www.catherinezack.com/beyondbalance

Catherine Zack
Catherine Zack is a corporate lawyer turned meditation teacher, relaxation guide, executive mindfulness coach, and wellness consultant. Catherine began her career as a litigator at a white-shoe, top-tier law firm in Washington, DC, a classic Type-A, high-achieving go-getter who checked all the... See More
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krisjans
krisjans May 17, 2022, 10:39 am

Thank you for the information. Lately I have been more focused on breathworks. Last year I attended a breathwork retreat which really helped me.

Donelle Stewart
Donelle Stewart May 23, 2022, 7:46 am

Catherine thank you for your article, it was very well written and informative. I love your style, very personal, engaging and easy to read. I love your SALT practice too, so useful. I agree that it's often hard to find a balance or being all in meditation or other practice or just not doing it at all.

aziz mahat
aziz mahat June 6, 2022, 5:48 am

Thank you for providing this data. I've been concentrating on relax my mind lately. I went to a relax my mind retreat last year, and it was quite beneficial to me.

Circle of Chi
Circle of Chi December 12, 2023, 1:58 am

Thank you for writing such a informative blog. Clear, concise, and transformative. It effortlessly demystifies meditation, making it accessible for beginners. A valuable guide for anyone seeking serenity and mindfulness.