Archive for the ‘meditation’ Category

Dr. Kate Siner

My coach, Kate Siner.

“How good can you stand it?” is a question my business coach, Dr. Kate Siner, talks about a lot. Her premise is that we tend to easily and frequently focus on what’s negative in our life versus letting in the happy. In a blog post, Kate says we need to, “ increase our tolerance for joy, ease, and inner peace … We are just as inclined to hold ourselves back from good stuff as we are to shy away from the bad. We are naturally inclined to keep things the same. The “same,” in our primal brain, is equated with being safe. Every change introduces a level of risk—even if the change is good.”

Let’s face it; we’re a culture rife with self-judgment and criticism. We’ll even keep toxic people in our lives just so we can commiserate over shared misery. We understand struggle, challenge, and frustration. We’re familiar with what all of those things feel like, so much so, that when things ARE going well and smelling like roses, it can actually make us edgy and uncomfortable as unfamiliar sensations often do. And our frequent response to that? We do something to sabotage the positive so we’re dropped back into the sensations with which we are more familiar. I find the prospect of this disturbing and doubly so as I realize that is exactly the pattern I’ve had in my life for a very long time … but I’m also happy to report, that with some steady practice and conscious awareness, I’m changing that pattern.

Increasing Tolerance for Joy

Life IS good! And I honor that I can now say that and mean it. This doesn’t mean the last year and a half of launching and building my business while learning all sorts of new things hasn’t been challenging and sometimes a downright struggle, but I am recognizing when my habitual pattern of negative thought or self-sabotage is trying to reassert itself. This gives me an opportunity to stop, take a deep breath, and settle into the reality of the moment, which is often quite different from the chaotic maelstrom whirling about in my brain. The fact I have to will myself to stop thinking of the struggle and instead congratulate myself on learning those new things and on the amazing progress I’ve made is OK, because that IS a different and more positive response. This tolerance for joy thing takes a LOT of practice, but it’s a really necessary practice. Just recently, I realized that I am still uncomfortable with being recognized for doing great work when both participants and my colleague congratulated me on one of my day-long workshops. I had to will myself to stay put and hear it and not negate or downplay it. Glowing praise … oh not that! *rolling my eyes and laughing at myself* How good can I stand it, indeed!

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

~Neale Donald Walsch

One of the many reasons I started my own business was so that I could do what I love—knowing there’d be a learning curve even on that. I had worked unhappily so long in a corporate job that has stopped fulfilling me, that I was no longer sure of what I’d do if given the choice to do what I love. I’ve spent this last year consciously exploring all the aspects of my business to figure out what I best love to do so that I could continue to build my business around THAT. And things are starting to shift as I integrate more of what I love into my business … it feels great and exciting, and apparently scares me to death. Be happy in my work? What? BUT, unlike in the past, I have NO intention of sabotaging myself and my business just because professional happiness feels foreign.

Even in my personal life, I realize I am quick to downplay the things that make me happy, or to isolate myself rather than risk reaching out. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my romantic relationship—I’m engaged to the love of my life! And yet, when someone asks about wedding plans, I’m evasive and vague. Now granted, some of that is simply not wanting a whole lot of well-intentioned, yet frighteningly off-the-mark “suggestions”, but I have to admit there’s more to it. Subconsciously, vague evasion must be a better choice than just owning that I’m thrilled to be making official the already existing marriage of our hearts and accepting as truth that I am going to spend the rest of my life with this amazing and loving partner. But instead, I witness myself just waiting for the other shoe to drop because isn’t it, “always one thing or another?” There’s a piece of me looking at this big change and that piece doesn’t feel safe. But I want this big change and I know I deserve the happiness it’ll bring. And because there is so much love given and received—and it’s the safest place I can go—I find myself fiercely protective about us … even from my own self-sabotaging pattern. So, I find myself telling that piece of me, with compassion, to shut up and enjoy the happy. I no longer want the struggle to be my comfort zone.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Deep Breath by artist Melanie Weidner

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner (website appropriately called “Listen for Joy”) captures, for me, the concept of opening up, connecting with LIFE, and joyfully being.

I am learning to just hold the space when the negative is trying to do its dance. It’s like continuing to meditate when the mind can’t seem to hold still for more than a second. Experienced meditators know that it’s constant practice and it’s never perfect. A novice meditator can easily be thrown by how difficult it can feel at the start, but one simply must keep going. Return to the anchor and start over. Increasing my tolerance for joy is the exact same thing. Every time I think something negative, I must return to my anchor—my need and want for a joyful life—and start over because I find myself unwilling at this point in my life to accept that life is always a struggle and a challenge.

After getting engaged in October, I wrote about wanting authentic joy in my life on a daily basis—and I meant it. But feeling good takes nurturance. Increasing one’s tolerance for joy doesn’t happen overnight, but rather in every single moment dedicated to cultivating joy. It takes time to explore and discover the things, people, and circumstances we need to bring joy into our lives. For me, this entire past year has been learning that self-care is an integral piece of practicing being happy—taking time for a yoga class or a walk in the woods, preparing and feeding us organic whole foods, prioritizing sleep, meditating, or chanting along with Krishna Das in the car. Feeling well cared for seems to be a key to increasing my tolerance for joy. I have to consciously choose to lift my heart up, throw my arms wide open and accept that life is a magical, mystical adventure. It’ll never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also full of happy surprises and rich, satisfying and soul filling experiences.

Do you have a familiar pattern that keeps you from being fully happy? How do you combat negative thoughts and patterns to bring joy more fully into your life?

“Coping” doesn’t seem like a word one would need or use when talking about positive change, right? Well, interestingly enough, it seems that many, myself included, are thrown by change and it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s positive or negative. All it takes is one internet search to find tons of psychological and professional study commentaries, not to mention, lots of trendy blogs on the subject. Change dictionary viewHumans resist change, and I’m no exception to that particular rule.

I’m experiencing—and have been experiencing over this past year and a half—an amazing amount of transition and change. I am self-aware enough to know that my back going out on me three times this past year is directly related to that: leaving my safe, well-paid 4-weeks’ vacation job and launching a business was huge. And I’m starting to work on shifting the direction of my business and feeling the pressure of a big To Do list to make it all happen. (It’s early days with lots more planning/work to do so I’ll leave what’s coming for another day.) And last, but not least, I’m now engaged to the best man I know. These are ALL positive, wonderful changes, but it doesn’t stop me from constantly catching myself doing what I do when faced with big change: I go into avoidance mode. I always know when it’s happening because I’m either obsessively reading a book and neglecting all other things around me (it’s a fine line in identifying this … I am an avid reader after all) or I become very, VERY busy. I’ll find as many projects as possible or even one biggie and tackle it like lives depend on my successfully completing it. Either way, I’m super busy but getting nothing done toward the actual thing that needs doing.

Change your thoughts, change your world. As I catch myself, once again, doing the avoidance dance, I realize that I’m just experiencing a normal, human reaction to change. And knowing that makes me think of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, specifically the concept of vairagya, or non-attachment. Practicing vairagya is to face something—even something positive—and not identify with it. The idea is to not become attached in order to avoid it coming to be part of the way you see or define yourself.  All these changes I’m facing are positive, but they don’t define who I am … and remembering that is an important key to living through the changes with a sense of balance and equanimity. If I continue to identify with the changes, then I’m always reacting, in my case, avoiding. However, if I allow myself to enjoy the realizations and moments, but remember that they are only moments and I cannot hold them without inviting suffering, then I can have a larger view and bring myself back to center. It’s no different than practicing a difficult pose. We start out on the mat and our mind tells us we can’t. A couple breaths later, we realize we ARE.

Whatever the changes we face, all we ever need to do is to lovingly bring our attention back to what needs our focus. When I do that, I remember that everything I’m doing, everything I’m working on is all to help improve my life, my fiancé’s life, and ultimately, the life of my community. It may require a lot of effort, but it’s all good. It also requires my attention and presence, which in turn calls for some will power and a whole lot of love and compassion. To this end, I’ve been increasingly committed to my mantra and compassion meditation practice. I’m finding it’s a great, simple, and loving way to bring my attention back without beating myself up for my first reaction of avoidance. I simply acknowledge where I am and what I’m doing and forgive myself. Lord Ganesha and Om Gam Ganapataye NamahaI then either recite Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha a few times in my head (or the 108 if I’ve time to sit with my mala beads) or I practice Metta or Karuna meditation for 5, 10, or 20 minutes as the day allows. This provides a way to detach from my overwhelmed sensation and reaction to the prospect of change and gives me a way to refocus my mind.

Find Transformational Energy by Chanting Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
I find this particular mantra, Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha, a powerful one. Essentially, it’s calling to our Root Chakra (Muladhara) energy so we can move through the obstacles in life. The muladhara chakra is the principal origin from which the manifesting energy of Shakti resides within each of us. When we awaken that energy, it helps us move through the Chakras with ease to activate a strong sense of self, express Divine love, communicate clearly, and connect with our intuition. Importantly, we are also calling upon the powerful energy of Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity, who is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and the Lord of Beginnings. Makes sense to chant to him in the middle of large transitions, doesn’t it?

Change is guaranteed to be constant. Ignoring it or becoming attached to the sensations or drama around change doesn’t serve us in any way and can sometimes be harmful to us, either mentally, emotionally, or even physically if we’re prone to behavior or habit that is more harmful than helpful.  So, as I task myself to be loving and find compassionate ways to cope with change, I invite you to so as well. There’s no one way, but we all must find some means of coping with change that best serves our higher selves. Or else how are we to get through this change-fraught life?

How do you cope with change, either positive or negative?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.The quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is often attributed to Einstein, Franklin, or Twain, but none of them seem to be the originator of the pithy phrase. Regardless of who said it, it’s running through my head quite a bit because I once again spent a pain-filled week on the floor. Yup, my back went out AGAIN. This time in the middle of the mundane act of putting on a pair of cute lace-up boots … an act that is apparently much more dangerous than I ever thought it could be.

I’ll admit it; I didn’t handle it well. First, because it really, really hurt … A LOT. And then secondly, because I dove headlong into the pit of despair and took frustration, disbelief, and self-pity along with me. All I could think through the tears was, “Why me? Why again?! What did I do wrong?” which, of course, is never helpful AND it’s looking at the situation from a really destructive viewpoint—as if making any mistakes in life makes you deserving of pain and suffering. That’s just complete and utter bullshit, to put it bluntly. Thank the Gods that I have such a loving, caring, and supportive partner in Mike and have a few amazing friends who can help ground me when I’m spinning my way into a spectacular pity party.

Nest on the floor

Heating pad and legs up on the ottoman again provides respite for my back.

It became clear (with their help) that I need to focus on the positive and to recognize that for whatever reason, this seems to be part of my process in transforming my life and transitioning into a period of greater expansion and growth.  Would I like this process to be less physically painful? Oh YEAH. (I’ve entered into negotiations with The Universe for just that.) And this is where the quote comes in.

What do I have to do that’s different than what I’ve been doing? What isn’t working? Or what is it that’s getting in my way? Part of the problem, I think, is my tendency to only focus on my lack, or what’s wrong in my life. I’ve got a LONG habit of doing that … I am my worst critic. Much better if I look and acknowledge all the many things that I’m doing that are RIGHT for me RIGHT NOW. For instance, I’ve got my business and marketing plans and I’m doing the tasks necessary. When I’m not lying on the floor alternating between icing and heating my back, I’m steadily adding in the physical activities to help regain strength, flexibility, and endurance. I’m eating the way that seems to nurture my body best. I’m learning to ask for help—and be open to receiving it. I am dancing with patience in a way I never have—but then I really have no choice. It’s find patience or spend every minute of dealing with my back cursing and beating my head against the proverbial wall. And that doesn’t seem like a smart plan. Why add more pain?

I also have to realize that I don’t have all the answers right now and I don’t have to. All I really have to do is listen to my inner voice and pay attention—it’s never lied to me. I need to believe that I can manifest what it is I’m working toward. Decisions need to be made based on how both my mind AND my heart feel around any choice. Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.I’m the one who decides how my life and world unfold. My mind set is key to how I perceive my life. I can view it from a place of darkness and suffering or I can view every moment as an opportunity to give and receive compassion, kindness, and love, as well as an opportunity for learning and growth.

As I write this blog post (on the floor with the laptop propped on a pillow on my belly), I don’t know yet exactly what I need to do differently. I clearly need some meditation/contemplation time to try and figure that out. There’s always a solution, but one must understand the problem first … I’ll figure out what’s blocking my progress in time. I’ve worked with chiropractic, massage, and physical therapy, but another type of bodywork and/or energy work will likely prove helpful, along with some serious self-contemplation time. In the meantime, it seems like I must actively work on cultivating patience, self-compassion, and self-care … all things with which I struggle. So, I guess you could say that if I manage those things, I’m doing something pretty different. But, I’m willing to give it a go as I’m not fond of the idea of fitting the aforementioned definition of insanity. *Deep breath* Let’s see how it goes.

Not all habits are bad. Happiness is a habit too. Thict Naht HanhI just received the November issue of Shambhala Sun magazine in the mail. On the cover is, “Get off the Wheel of Habit.” This issue has arrived not a moment too late. I’m at a true place of transition and growth and feeling my way into making more conscious decisions about what I want and need in my daily life, my social life, my professional life, my home, and my health. I assess and see I’ve made some incredible strides forward and can feel a sense of pleasure in the accomplishments. I also see where I am struggling. This magazine’s focus offers a lot of insight and techniques for shifting habits … and helps me recognize some spots I’ve been refusing to really address. Habits can be comfortable after all, so changing or creating them takes a bit of planning.

From Vegetarian to Paleo
Given the health issues with which I’ve struggled in the last few years, I’ve had to make some major changes to heal my digestive system, hormonal system, and the resulting low energy levels. I’m not done yet, but I’ve come a long way, baby! My current Primal/Paleo diet is completely different from the conventional ADA approved food pyramid diet of five years ago, and it’s extraordinarily different from the decade of vegetarianism I adopted when I moved back from Germany and discovered American meat made me vomit. (Seriously, that WILL put off even the most avid carnivores!) It wasn’t until my body started shutting down and demanding the nutrients only meat provided that I caved in (I literally dreamed of meat … and yes, I know, eating meat is very unusual in the yoga world!) It also helped that by that time, the option to buy local, organic, and grass-fed/free-range meat was available. But eating whole, unprocessed foods TAKES A LOT OF WORK … well, certainly more work than someone who got very used to the convenience of the microwave, Whole Foods prepared food counter, and the delicious indulgence of Chinese take-out. But, there aren’t any shortcuts for me now—there certainly can’t be any take-out!—and if I hadn’t developed a few habits to help me with it, I’m not so sure I would have made it.

Helpful Food Habit: I plan the menu and shop for the entire week and cook/prep several meals on the weekend in order to save time during the week. AND … I created a closed group on Facebook made up of friends who are also striving to find the right balance in healthy paleo/primal type diets. Having support and a way to exchange ideas and recipes makes eating this way a whole lot easier.

The Grizzly Bear is Alive and Well
The change in my diet has affected a lot of healing, but my stressed-out adrenal glands still haven’t figured out that I’m not actually being chased by a grizzly bear. They’re still pretty sure I’m in mortal danger on a regular basis. Angry grizzly bear13+ years of corporate stress took its toll and finding the patience to heal this issue has NOT been easy and it’s the last big health hurdle I need to get over. It’s impact is felt in almost all facets of my life because sleep continues to be an issue for me, and quite frankly, without adequate sleep, the rest will never be as effective as it could be.

There are foods (primarily sugar) and beverages (primarily caffeine and alcohol) which I need to eliminate in order to give my adrenals as much rest as possible. I’ve cut back on both these things, but I’m Irish and oh me oh my, how I LOVE a good strong cup or two of tea in the morning! However, even I must admit that having a racing heart and shaky hands is probably not something I want to continue to experience. So, I’m going to have to establish a new morning ritual (aka “habit”) to make my mornings feel good. And I need to consciously avoid sugar and alcohol when I’m out with friends or when I’m inclined to indulge because, ‘it’s the weekend!’ That’s a habit that I share with many of my fellow Americans and it’s been strongly established for a long time. If I want to fully heal my adrenals it’s long past time for that habit to shift into something else. I also need to add in certain foods/supplements (sodium is a big one. My levels are low … what happens when you eliminate processed foods!) I know all of this will take time, practice, and a whole lot of compassionate patience. My adrenals have been over-stressed for years. One year away from the stress-filled corporate job isn’t enough time to get them feeling like they belong to a zen monk.

Helpful morning habit: Find or make an herbal tea or chai that I find DELICIOUS to make my morning tea ritual feel good.

Helpful weekend habit: Envision a truly relaxing evening/weekend and determine what that looks like. Decide what activities will support my need to feel indulgent and relaxed while still serving my main goal of healing my adrenals.

The Need to Slow Down
One of the habits I’m trying to bring back is regular exercise, but I’m learning I need to redefine what that means for me. I spent many of my early years running and doing things like push-ups and crunches to maintain physical health, but I’m finding that my body just can’t manage running right now. Yoga is the journey of the self through the self to the self. When I discovered yoga, I *loved* it, but it always supported my other activities. Now, I’m finding that yoga needs to be my primary activity because among many of its great benefits, it doesn’t stress my adrenal glands while I do it (the grizzly is NOT welcome on my yoga mat!) My body, my mind, and my heart want a lot more regular yoga and some low-key hikes (4000 footers are on hold for now). But my need for positive habit creation is running smack into my wall of impatience; going slower feels so … odd. It’s exactly what I need, however, so now I plan my week’s exercise, too. I need to put my activity in my calendar. And just labeling a chunk of time, “exercise”, doesn’t work. I need to put down what I’m doing: yoga class, or hike in Lincoln Woods, yoga at home, or walk w/Lisa. (YES, wrangling a friend into planned physical activity is a grand way to get it to happen!)

Helpful Exercise Habit: Plan each activity for the week and put it in the calendar. Make plans with a friend and have a back-up plan if weather doesn’t cooperate.

What it all comes down to is we’ve got habits, good, bad, or otherwise. We enjoy and reap the benefits of some and struggle with others. Negative habits can continue to erode our visions for ourselves and impact our health, while positive habits can help us live healthier, more fulfilled lives or simply help our day feel less chaotic. I think shifting, eliminating, and creating habits becomes most successful when we apply a mindful quality to the endeavor. Breath by breath, step by step is really the only way to do it. And, of course, cultivating an attitude of compassionate gentleness during the entire process. Creating more stress by beating yourself up doesn’t help. I’ll make mistakes, you’ll make mistakes and it’s ok. In truth, your intention and effort is what counts. Keep starting over, keep putting forth effort and you will effect change.

“On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed; even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow.” ~Bhagavad Gita (2.40)

I’d love to hear how you support yourself when trying to change or establish a habit.
Namaste.

Deb

Two weeks ago, my back went out and I found myself in constant pain and discomfort and on the floor alternating between laying on ice or a heating pad. AGAIN. Funny enough, one week after launching my business full time in August 2013 (yes, one year ago almost exactly), my back went out in a severely painful way. I was literally on the floor most of the month of August and struggling to manage the most basic of tasks, so my business was put on hold until Sept. It was the perfect storm made up of my fear of going out on my own meeting the Universe’s desire to see me STOP pushing so hard for a little while after 13+ years of doing nothing but pushing. It wasn’t fun; instead, it was agony, frustration, and feeling utterly betrayed by my body. But in truth, what it really was, was an amazing situation that began to teach me how to ask for help because I simply had no other choice.

Nest on the floor

Legs up an ottoman aka the respite-providing nest on the floor.

This time around, I’m grateful to say the situation isn’t quite so acute (not quite past it yet.) That being said, it’s not comfy, either. I had to slow down again, re-make friends with my nest on the floor, accept that the progress I’d made rebuilding strength was taking a hit, and acknowledge I had to start looking at what my body was trying to tell me. Instinctively, I knew I couldn’t accept that my back going out (in my sleep, mind you!) was merely a coincidence. First, it was the one year anniversary of launching my business and I had been doing a lot of contemplating about how that was going (and judging myself harshly) and second, I was beginning to reach out and re-seek a spiritual community after having an integral part of my spiritual practice ripped away … I was no longer willing to lie to myself that the disconnection I’d experienced over the last couple years was ok. So, I concluded that although there are physiological issues that need attending to (chiropractic, massage, and PT visits help with that), there’s clearly an energetic/emotional/spiritual element that was trying so very hard to tell me … something.

In the past, I’ve prided myself on the fact that I would often get “intuitive flashes” of what I needed to do, hear, or accept. This time? Yikes. I just couldn’t get it. I felt almost as if my subconscious had willfully put on blinders in order to NOT look at whatever it was that was throwing my first and second chakras into a painful tailspin (literally! My tailbone wouldn’t stay put, LOL!) And because I’d recently been in this position and I’ve learned a little bit about asking for help in this first year of business, I knew that’s exactly what I needed … what I still need.

Muladhara or root chakra

Muladhara Chakra (Root Chakra) Mantra I need to visit a LOT: I am safe. I trust more; I fear less. I am balanced, connected, and grounded.

My partner was right on the front lines, thankfully. He reminded me to stop and let him help. Seeking some clarity and understanding, I pulled out my much-neglected tarot cards. (Great tool for glimpsing and understanding our subconscious motivations.) BUT, I only understood some of it, so I went with my gut and asked a dear friend within my spiritual circle for help understanding the message. A couple days later, when I found myself losing my shit one late afternoon, unable to stop weeping because of frustration, pain, and complete overwhelm over everything on my plate, another loving friend offered an ear, a shoulder, and some insightful advice—be compassionate with myself and ask for help. On her advice, rather than “toughing it out” as I would have in the past, I let my mentor know the situation and she provided a nurturing way for me to still participate in her two-day business mastermind while providing space and the means to still care for my back. Because I allowed others to help me in large and small ways, and I let go of my self-reliant resisting, I rapidly got the message over, and over, and over again from different sources in slightly different ways.

In hindsight, it seems simplistic. But personal growth and development never feels that way. I had created a maelstrom of unrealistic expectations and married them to my fears and feelings of inadequacy, wrapped it up in a bow of low self-worth, and stuffed it all down deep so I wouldn’t have to look at any of it. The problem with that however, is that stuff never stays buried. And believe me, you launch a business and you will meet your crap … in Technicolor. I was so busy protecting that ridiculous package, I couldn’t hear or see anything good, nor could I hear praise. If I let in any of the compliments commending my work, skills, talent, or know-how—in all arenas, physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—I shut it down and kept on going. But then I was shut down. In that moment, I knew there was nothing to be done but surrender.

What it all comes down to is that I matter and I have much to offer my business, personal, and spiritual communities. What I think, say, and do matters. WE ALL MATTER. I wrote recently about working with a self-compassion meditation and this latest drama tells me that particular meditation is something I need to hold close and work with for quite some time to come. When I let my defensive stance drop, when I let go of fear of rejection and dismissal and instead remember my own divine roots connecting myself to Spirit, it allows me to start listening to what others are saying to me … and it’s revelatory. Unless I want to start calling everyone I respect and love a liar, I’m going to have to start receiving what they’re offering: love, compassion, respect, empathy, understanding, support, and help. It’s no less than what I try to offer others (as much as this learning spirit in human form can), so why do I question when others want to offer the same? Life is challenging, exciting, and full of painful ups and downs. But it offers us gifts large and small if we are open to receiving them. And when we’re not sure we can do that, we must remember to ask for help because truly we can get by with a little help from our friends.

Somehow it’s August already. (I’m honestly not sure how that happened, but time does seem to turn much more quickly now than it ever did when I was a young child.) The advent of August also brings (to those of us who celebrate and note it) Lughnasadh (or Lammas).  This holiday is a lush one, abundant and full. It has us celebrating with profound gratitude the things we’ve achieved, the gifts we’ve received, the experiences we’ve had, the talents we’ve developed, and the things we’ve learned… It’s time to begin to reap what we’ve literally and figuratively sown.

Historically, Lughnasadh is a Gaelic seasonal festival that marks the first harvest—the sun is high, the gardens are lush and growing well and we begin to harvest what were seeds just a few months ago. Although few of us truly depend on our own agricultural skills beyond perhaps a small vegetable garden plot, the concept of reaping and sowing is one we can apply to all our lives.  We can ask, where in my life do I feel abundant? Where are my efforts yielding fruit?

At this time of the year, it’s great to celebrate accomplishments and honor the efforts that went into the achievements, but it’s also a good time to check in and see what perhaps is being neglected. We all make our resolutions and set goals for ourselves at the beginning of the year, and now’s the time to ask if those goals and resolutions still serve you and if so, where are you in meeting them?

For me, this year has been an exciting year full of ups and downs. I set a number of goals for both my business and my personal life. And when I look at those goals, I realize that some are in very good shape, and others … well, not so much. It’s time for me to really look at what I expected to do this year. Some of it makes a whole lotta sense, some goals were good but perhaps a bit unrealistic, and others were made from an ego place that really isn’t serving me anymore.  So, what to do? Well, I’m not going to beat myself up. With all the meditation and self-compassion work and talk I’ve been doing lately, that doesn’t seem like anything I ought to do. No, instead, I’m going to re-energize myself around the goals that make sense and will help me continue to move forward. I’m going to let go of what isn’t working and see if there are better ways (or goals!) to pursue.

I'm grateful to whomever created this beautiful image. Sadly, I'm unable to find a name and give proper credit.

This year, my harvest doesn’t come without some difficulties (first year in business after all), but I’m so proud of the work I’m doing and the work I’ll continue to do that I’m just allowing myself to tip my face up to the sun and feel the joy of the season. I got my hands in the dirt, I planted the seeds, and now I can see the growth and my future harvest.  I can say that I am utterly grateful for the effort I put in daily to build my business. I’m beyond-words grateful to my partner, Mike, for supporting me in this endeavor. I bow in gratitude to all those who support, guide, teach, remind, prod, and brainstorm with and for me. I’m grateful for my crazy, loving, and fun family. I’m grateful for you who are reading this right now. I could write all night the things for which I’m grateful … but I’ll stop. 🙂

The point is, gratitude makes it so much easier to notice where there’s abundance in our lives. Otherwise, we habitually take note instead of the problems, the discomforts, and the challenges. So, take a few moments right now and be grateful for all the blessings in your life. Take time to relish the places in which abundance shows up. And if you are loved, you are abundant!

What are you working toward? What brings you joy now? Where does abundance show up in your life?

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.  It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I’m hitting the end of week 6 of my meditation study and I think I’m finally experiencing a bit of traction in my practice. (I was so excited about the meditation techniques we learned, I haven’t been tempted to skip at all!)  This past week’s class taught us a variety of new meditations, or rather, new anchors on which to focus since the objective is the same with all the meditations—calm the mind and train it to not be so reactive to thoughts, emotions, and situations. We’re being taught so many different paths/techniques because everyone will “click” with something different and the point is to walk away with something we want to continue for the rest of our lives.

Forgiveness is an act of Compassion and loveThis week, among other meditations, we learned a couple heart- and mantra-based meditations (Karuna and Metta). These have proven profound. I’ve worked many times with Metta before and I always love returning to it. It allows such a softening of the heart toward oneself and others. (And worthy of its own blog post so that’s all I say about it for now!) But it was the Karuna practice that surprised me. Karuna is self-compassion, cultivating a tenderness with the intention to heal suffering.  We were given a few suggested phrases with which to work (but you could create your own if you resonate with something else):

I allow myself to be imperfect.
I allow myself to make mistakes.
I allow myself to be a learner in life.
I forgive myself.
May I be free from suffering.

Similar to Metta, the idea is to work with yourself first, cultivating self-compassion because otherwise, we just fall back into the all-too-prevalent pattern of always giving until we’re depleted and there’s nothing left to give. Instead, this works to shore you up, create an inner strength based on compassion before sending compassion out to others. When you’re ready, you turn the phrases toward those who might be challenging to you.

These simple phrases can have profound results. We all joke these days about being our own worst critics, but it’s really not funny because it’s TRUE. So many of us mentally and emotionally beat ourselves up all the time over the smallest things, and in turn, we start to judge others the same way creating tension, stress, disconnection, and suffering—and I’m no exception. (Catch me while driving the car sometimes … I’m not thinking nice thoughts!)

To give oneself permission to be imperfect, to make mistakes, to be human is powerful. Forgiving ourselves can become one of the most important things we ever do. Because if we do, then we give ourselves permission to be authentic, to expressly be who we truly are … the masks come off, and the chains that bind us begin to unwind. We can begin to feel, to be vulnerable, to be present to life and to those in our lives. The reality is life is messy and imperfect and when we try to pretend otherwise, it usually hurts.

Forgiving ourselves can become one of the most things we ever do.When I started the Karuna practice, repeating the self-compassion phrases felt like having my Mother rub my back when I was ill as a child; it was lovely and comforting, and I did so for quite a bit of time. I then decided to try focusing those compassion phrases on a few others in my life and it was like a dam finally being broken—it provided such a release of old hurts that I found myself sobbing while a well of love was opening up in my heart. The combined forces of compassion and forgiveness gave me a gift I couldn’t have anticipated.

I will keep working with both Karuna and Metta because these meditations will help me remember one doesn’t grow and learn when everything is perfect. The lessons and growth come from mistakes, from picking oneself up off the ground, brushing off the muck, bandaging up the wounds, and then figuring out how to keep on going in a way that better serves. If we’re present and willing to show ourselves compassion, then we’re not as likely to make the same mistakes. Instead, we grow and move forward.

How much better would our lives be if we could regularly view ourselves and others through the window of compassion? How much easier to learn those lessons without the internal resistance and berating of ourselves? How much more rich could our lives be? How much more authentic?  How much more loving?

Have you practiced a heart-based meditation? What was your experience?

Namaste,

Deb

“I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.” ~Walt Whitman

I recently was accepted into a Meditation Study through Brown University in Providence, RI. I saw the notice hanging on the Whole Foods bulletin board and couldn’t stop myself from picking it up. All I could think was, ‘maybe THIS could make meditation stick for me.’

For years I’ve used meditation as a way of judging myself. Sounds odd, right? But as much as I practiced yoga, I have had the most difficult time getting a meditation practice to STICK and a small part of me judged that in a very negative way, like somehow I was failing as a “good” person/yogini if I didn’t sit every day for 30 or 60 minutes. PUH-LEEZE. Seems silly to me now, but that’s what I did.

It’s not that I didn’t have activities in my life that contained meditative qualities, I did. Benefits of MeditationI love chanting in the car, taking yoga classes, and hiking mountains (let’s face it, if you don’t stay aware and in the present moment while hiking injuries can and do happen … meditation is built in by default.) Simply sitting on my deck and listening to the wind in the trees is a favorite, too. But, I didn’t necessarily do those activities every day. And there were plenty of days in which I chose less than meditative activities to de-stress—watching tv or movies, reading novels, having a couple cocktails out with friends. All these activities themselves certainly provide some brief respite from the stresses of the day, and they’re genuinely fun, but none of them offered me true mental space and rarely did they offer the opportunity for personal insight. I’d stop watching tv, or finish my novel, or come home after drinks and dinner out and I’d still have all the stress-causing thoughts running through my head and messing up my sleep.

So, when I saw that notice, I wanted to take advantage. I *know* I don’t want my life as a business owner to run the way my life as a corporate employee ran.  So far, I’m having fun, but it’s not stress-free. I don’t have a steady paycheck; I have to work hard to find, cultivate, and nurture my clients so I can build the business I want and need. I know there are so many proven physical, mental, and emotional benefits to meditating. And because I’m learning an awful lot about asking for help, this study showing up seemed like one more step on that journey.  I contacted the coordinator and after a phone interview and a two-hour in-person assessment which also disclosed the requirements to participate (not small!), I was accepted into the eight-week study.

Four Weeks … The Start of a Lifetime’s Practice?

I’m four weeks in and find myself still challenged to “fit it in.” It’s sooo easy to fall back on the habit of putting myself last and always needing to do one more thing, take care of one more thing, or just fit one more task into the day instead of doing my daily meditation, which thus far, has been everything from learning which “anchor” is the one I most like to use (in our case, hands, feet, and nose, chest, and belly breath), 3-minute breathing practices, cultivating certain mindfulness qualities, and even various moving meditations ranging from 35-45 minutes. Via daily reports, all the participants have to be accountable. We made the commitment to participate, and we have to own it when we don’t … and it just never feels good to admit that I just blew off meditation for a day or two.

Wellness Scribe, if busy, meditate an hourI will happily admit that I am beginning to see improvement in my sleep. And I don’t seem to be having quite as many adrenaline rushes as I used to experience (adrenal fatigue being just one of the chronic stress-induced issues with which I’m still dealing.) And I also must admit that if I do blow off a day or two … I MISS it. I feel like my mind is beginning to have a little more space. And honestly, last week was one of the most creative and productive weeks I’ve had in a while and I suspect that’s due to having a little more of that mental space.

Meditation is clearly a life-long endeavor and practice. Eight weeks won’t have me turned into Jack Kornfield by a long shot. BUT, I’m hoping that by the end of the eight weeks I’ll have a hard time seeing my life without meditation. I’m hoping that the benefits will be shiny enough to hold my attention and I’ll continue to practice. I’m glad I pursued the study opportunity because it does help to have a weekly class and required daily practice and reporting, but that being said, I’m not going to project, or judge, or make absolute statements about what my meditation practice will look like in a month, or two, or three. I’m simply going to take it one day at a time … and maybe join a meditation class or gathering so I’m not going it alone. And on that note, it’s time for me to meditate. 🙂

MeditationSo, you think you’re the only one who struggles with meditation?  Trust me, you’re not!  And to help reassure you of that fact, I thought I’d share a typical meditation moment. The one that occurs after I’ve dimmed the lights, shut off the computer, turned off the phone ringer (I use the Zen Timer on my phone to time my meditation), arranged my meditation cushions, settled in, closed my eyes and started to focus inward seeking the peace, quiet and serenity, only to find the reality of practice.

Inhale. Exhale. Oh, I must shift, I’m not comfortable, I’ll never be able to sit for 30 minutes.  Ok. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale … Are my sit bones even? Focus! Back to the breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Did I remember to put bread on the grocery list? Iggy’s bread would be good, wonder if there’ll be any left? Darn it! Focus! Inhale. Exhale. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m a fairly recent convert to the world of smart phones. I acquired an Android this past year and for the most part, have managed to use only a very small fraction of it’s capabilities. I’m getting better, but I find that taking the time to learn HOW to do this or that is somewhat overwhelming. BUT, I have found an app that is actually a very handy tool for a practicing Yogini — The Zen Timer! Read the rest of this entry »