This week I would like to invite you to try a meditation/visualization practice. After the birth of my daughter, 14 years ago, ( wow, really), I went through a period of my life with high anxiety. This anxiety was keeping me from doing fun things around others and hurting my marriage. I started seeing a psychiatrist that was more open to talk therapy, yoga and meditation. In a session, she invited me to close my eyes and visualize a place where I felt most peaceful and joyful. The first place that came to mind was a beautiful rose park in our town, (I wrote a previous post about this beautiful park https://yogaandinspiration.com/2012/06/). She took me through this park with my senses. I found this practice so helpful and accessible to do on my own when I started feeling overwhelmed. I often used this meditation/visualization while going to sleep which helped me drop into a deeper more restful state of sleep. I invite you to read through this and then sit or lay down and try for yourself. What is your most peaceful place?
See all the colors around you.
Notice any sounds you hear.
Notice the textures around you and, feel the warm sun on your skin or a soft gentle breeze blowing through your hair.
Notice any pleasant aromas in the air.
Observe how calm and peaceful you feel in this favorite place.
Find a place to sit or lay down and rest in this favorite place feeling so relaxed and safe.
May you find comfort with this practice.
The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.
– James Allen
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Mindfulness: Bringing ones complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, (according to Wikipedia).
My word for 2014 is presence, which to me is being mindful and fully present to each moment of my day as it unfolds. I still find myself worrying about things in the future. However, as I keep bringing my attention back to my intention of being present, I realize that I’m worrying about something that has not happened and may not even happen. Instead of getting carried away by the anxiety and feeling overwhelmed which, has an ill effect on my overall health, I, am retraining my brain to come back to the moment. This retraining creates new neural pathways, (this a whole other blog post). Even if this moment is not a “pleasant” moment I can deal with it much more effectively when I’m present. With presence, I can enjoy my meals, my afternoon tea and cuddling with my children with full attention. With presence I can really see and hear people. Think about it, when was the last time you really felt heard and seen by someone or, really listened and saw someone?
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Here we are at week 2 of our Meditation/Mindfulness Journey. This week’s practice is Loving Kindness Meditation or Metta Meditation. Typically with Loving Kindness Meditation we start with offering loving kindness to ourselves followed by our loved ones and then, to persons that are neutral, for example, the grocery store clerk a stranger on the street, finally, we offer loving kindness to people we find it difficult to be around. You could spend a month or more offering loving kindness to yourself if you feel the need or desire. After all, we need to love and accept ourselves truly before we can love others.
How: Find a comfortable position and settle in. Becoming aware of sensations in the body and then noticing your breath. Bring your awareness into your heart, maybe placing your hands on your heart. Silently repeating these phrases or, any that feel more comfortable to you, 2-3 times. As you are ready you can progress to loved ones and so on:
May I be healthy in body and mind
May I be happy
May I live with ease and in peace
According to Jack Kornfield in Meditation for Beginners, Mahatma Gandhi said, “I believe in the essential unity of all beings, and so I understand deeply that if one person gains spiritually, the whole world gains. If one person falls, the whole world falls to that extent.” Kornfield contines, “thus to wish others well or to send loving thoughts and prayers to another is not simply a rote or automatic activity. The practice is based on the effect our thoughts and feelings and actions have on the world around us.”
“When you plant lovingkindess in the garden of your heart and continue to regularly nourish and fertilize it, it will begin to spread and grow.” Jack Kornfield
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“When we take time to quiet ourselves, we can all sense that our lives could be lived with greater compassion and greater wakefulness.” Jack Kornfield
Meditation and mindfulness is spoken of everywhere now. There are multiple studies being conducted on its effects in the corporate world, education, the health care system and the military. Technology is and can be a wonderful tool to communicate world wide and get things done faster. However, it can also lead to higher stress, heavier workloads and disconnection. Meditation and mindfulness offers a tool for living in the present moment. In turn, lowering stress levels and increasing awareness and compassion for self and others.
I invite you to join me and my yoga students on this 28 day journey. I will post a meditation/mindfulness practice each week. We will start with 10 minutes of meditation. I invite you to journal the effects and experiences of your meditation practice. You are welcome to post comments in order to create a community of support.
How? It is ideal to pick a particular time of day but if that does not work for you, choose a time that will. Turn off phones and set a timer for 10 minutes. You can sit or lay down if necessary. Sit on a comfortable seat, either in a chair or on the floor. I encourage you to sit with support under your buttocks to elevate the hips higher than the knees. This posture invites the spine to rest in its natural curves and allows the body to be open for optimal breath space. Once you are comfortable, close your eyes or let the gaze release down, keeping your head in a neutral position with your ears balanced above your shoulders. Notice sounds, then bring your awareness to sensations of your body and the parts of the body that are in contact with your chair or the floor. Then bring your awareness to your breath, not changing the breath.
First Week Theme: “Simply” watch the breath. I say simply as it is not really simple. You will find that your mind wanders and many thoughts often arise. That is okay and normal. Let your thoughts become like clouds passing by in the bright blue vastness of the mind, not becoming attached or getting carried away by them. Keep coming back to the breath and the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose and inside the body. You could notice the temperature, the texture or maybe the length of the breath. That’s it!
I invite you to notice how this practice begins to affect the rest of your day and your interactions with others. I noticed how my meditation practice allowed me to respond instead of react to my son’s behavior which helped him to calm down more quickly. I also noticed a decrease in my anxiety levels as well.
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