Meditation: Peace is Within You

Did you know that peace is within you?

 

It is there every moment of every day.

You simply have to settle your mind

With Meditation

And reach for it.

You simply have to acknowledge

That you are out of sorts

And off of your best

You simply need to admit

That you cannot do everything.

 

It is okay

Nobody can.

 

We all have our limits

But the beauty of admitting what your limits are

Makes your brain aware

That you are okay with them

 

So smile when you are overwhelmed this week

Breathe when you are finding the stress and anxiety

We all so often talk about

Let your mind settle

And admit that you are human

 

As we all are.

 

Q+A – What Does It Feel Like When The Brain Reboots? Seizure Pt II

Moments of Enlightenment

This is the wiring diagram of a human brain. It helps me to understand the complexities of the brain and of my recoveries.

I used to describe the recovery from a seizure as a series of awakenings, as an ongoing experience that rolls out before you and continues to grow and expand as my brain reconnects itself and comes back online. But it is more than that. It is part physical, part psychological, and yes, part spiritual.

I would describe it as an expanding experience that includes a higher level of cognition which pushes beyond where my experiential limits used to be. It is as if, once opened, the pathways that were at once limited become limitless – beyond where the eye could at one time see.

I know this is as much physical as it is metaphysical. I realize much of this is a function of my brain repairing itself and my neurons re-knitting the old pathways, but I cannot help but drop the limiting thoughts that used to define me, to peek into the void beyond the horizon.

Physically, I understand that the myelin that sheathed my nerves was probably weakened during my seven weeks of radiation. [Myelin is the insulating covering of protein and fatty substances that protects the nerves of the brain, spinal cord and body. Unlike the insulation of a power cord, it is not designed to prevent electrical shocks as much as it is to hold the electrical impulses within the neurons, enabling them to transmit signals more quickly and efficiently along the neural network of cells.]

It is one reason the doctors and I think I had my seizure  in the first place. Seven weeks of radiation has a way of wearing away the myelin, leaving the nerves a bit raw.

As the myelin rebuilds, the synapses in the brain become stronger, the neurons engage and mesh together, recreating the network and the memories that I remember having. I am sure a certain level of neuroplasticity comes into play as the brain takes into account what is going on around it, enhancing the most relevant areas first, even letting go of some areas it deems less important.

In a way, I get a new brain. As this happens, it feels as if I am witnessing my memory expand at a rapid pace. The result is a hyper fast experience of watching my mind expand, not just rebuilding its old self, but often going beyond where it was, pushing past the old boundaries, and sometimes even forgetting or ignoring where they were.

In terrestrial terms, when I first left the hospital I had a very limited awareness of where I was. We often speak of being present – well, this was it. My focus was on the pavement immediately in front of my feet. I was not worried about what happened yesterday or the day before. I was not worried about what was coming up. The past and the future were not even concepts I could grasp. Mine was a very immediate and present-moment experience, all day, every day.

As my memories and my cognition came back online, I became aware of the entire block in front of me. I began to realize at some point I would reach the end of the block, and with it the concept of the future came into being. With that concept the street names beyond the block I was on became real.

I quickly learned if I went out on a ramble I would easily become lost, as in 100 feet out, I would lose my sense of direction and have to stop for a few minutes to regain my bearings. If instead I followed a set path, i.e., walking down a street I was familiar without turning down a side street, the streets in front and behind me would start to scroll as if a map was being unrolled with every step I took. Even the side streets would start to roll out and expand in every direction.

It was a fascinating experience to watch as my brain reconnected itself. I would have sudden realizations of the stores that were on this block and the next. I would not always remember their names, but I would often remember the smell of a bakery, the energy and the bustle of a coffee shop, or the emotional connection to a bookstore. The memories were not just physical, but emotional as well.

As the grid around me expanded from one block to three and to ten, I found myself having to stop on a corner, standing still and staring blankly at a sign or a tree, as my awareness and cognitive abilities caught up with my physical location and my brain’s growing network.

When I finally made it to the Hudson River – perhaps six blocks away – I practiced a walking meditation as I took in the smell of salt in the air. I removed my shoes to feel the cold planks of the boardwalk beneath my feet. I kept to the edge of the path to feel the reeds against my legs; it was the sensations I was after.

As those came in, I begin to smell the more subtle scents along the path, I could hear the birds singing, I could even hear the wavelets along the banks of the river. I became aware of the individual sounds that make up that wonderful tapestry of white noise that we all live in.

Perhaps this is why I teach a meditation that enables my students to embrace the world around them; to acknowledge and appreciate the individual sights and sounds that make up their world without feeling the need to attach themselves to each one.

About this time I also looked across the river to see the trees and the sky and the clouds that are beyond the walls of Manhattan. I can see where the Hudson flows out into the ocean and my mind quickly puts it all into place, that yes, there is a big beautiful world out there.

This is also the moment where I let go and allow my mind to roam, not stopping it at the edges where my brain says “real” or “not real”, or separating the “physical” from the “metaphysical.” Instead I enter a playground where I allow the sensations from each to overlap.

I begin to remember what happened during my seizure. I remember feeling the overload. I remember my brain shutting down. I remember my body closing off, and I remember giving myself up to the kindness of strangers, unable to move or to respond. And it is about this time that I am reassured of the kindness of human nature. Where not once has my experience tuned into the torture scenes so often found in the movies we are forced to endure.

Instead, people have always reached out, helped, and done so with kindness. It is about this time that I find myself smiling, knowing that I am on the right path.

 

 

Monday Moments: Zen & Your Mindful Meal

Summer may be coming to a close, but we all know the beach body mindset is far from gone. Even when it’s time to wear those baggy sweaters and heavy coats, how you look affects how you feel about yourself, how you treat yourself, and how you treat the world and the people around you.

So forget about fitting into somebody else’s idea of beauty and start fitting into the body you were given – perfectly.  After all, having a great body is not about fitting into a double zero.  It’s about being happy with who you are; right here, right now.  So forget the extreme diets, forget the sweat mentality.  It’s time to find grace in the beauty that is you.

The Simple Truth is that there should be no restrictions to living your life.  After all, living life isn’t about fitting into the right outfit, it’s about creating great memories wherever you are.  This is why your diet should not be about losing, but gaining .  Gaining balance, gaining calm, gaining happiness without carrying around the weight that so many people can throw on you.  Because that is what you really carry around; not the pounds, but the guilt, the fear, and the self-loathing society created for you.

It sounds funny, but when you change your relationship with the food you eat, you don’t gain weight, you shed the angst of your old life as you gain health.  And yes, that is very, very visible no matter what season it is. It is also something that meditation and mindfulness can help you with.

Why not start your own Mindful Diet with these helpful tips that will reduce your stress and fill you with joy for the remainder of the summer, and for years to come:

Mind Before You Eat
Food is sometimes more a habit than a necessity.  We eat what we are comfortable with rather than what we really want.  So slow down before you dig in.  Stop and take three slow, deep breaths.  With each breath in, feel your body slow down.  Become comfortable with where you are and ask yourself what it is that you really want.  It will help you get rid of the stress that social occasions often create and the auto-responses we often have around lunch and dinner time. It will also help you take the emotions  out of your meal.   The result is a calmer meal that you can fully without all the extras.

Use All of Your Senses
Stop just eating and start enjoying.  Take the time to see and smell and yes even hear your food.  Don’t take a bite until you have run through all five senses and are aware of the full experience that is your meal.  You will learn to appreciate your food on a whole different level.  With all that joy flooding into your body, you will also eat less.

Slow Down & Enjoy
When your social calendar comes calling, it’s easy to rush into everything you find.  It is also easy to forget what you are eating and drinking as you try to fit it all in.  Use your meals as a chance to slow down.  The next time you feel yourself rushing through a meal, stop, breathe and give yourself thirty seconds to come up with a good answer as to why you are craving what you are craving.  It will teach you to be mindful of your meal and to enjoy it a whole lot more.

Love Your Body
Don’t just accept your body.  Don’t just appreciate your body.  LOVE YOUR BODY!  Love your curves and your freckles.  Love your hips and your stomach.  No matter what shape you were born with, LOVE IT! OWN IT!
Sure, you can lose a little here or there.  You can add some muscle tone and get in better shape.  You can even nip and tuck, if you want to go there – we all can.  But before you do  that, the next time you feel self conscious, take out two minutes to stand in a Superman pose – feet spread wide, hands on hips, chin up and shoulders back and smile.

Feel the self confidence rise up in you.  Feel your adrenaline rise and your cortisol drop – which means you will feel more confident and powerful no matter what you’re wearing.  And that helps you make the right choices whether you’re in a clam shack or the juice bar of some spa.

Learn to enjoy your meals mindfully and live life fully.  After all, this is your life.  It’s time to life it YOUR way!

Jeff Cannon
Simple Truth Project

Monday Moments: Love, Security, Recognition – Balance Your Happiness

Why do you do what you do? Why does anyone?

Is it for Love, to find “the one” who will fill your life with joy and happiness?  Is it for a better job and a higher salary that will give you a greater sense of Security?  Or is it to have a title that will give you the respect and theRecognition you deserve? Stop and think for a moment. Because it is important. Having the right mix of these things are what drive you to do, whatever it is that you do.

If you want to break of out your self-defeating patterns, take a moment and think about why you are doing what you are doing. It’s may even warrant a step back from time to time to look at your actions from an outside point of view in order to find the Simple Truth behind your actions. If you are honest with yourself it will not take long to realize that everything you do is driven by your need for Love, Security andRecognition

If the answer you see shocks you, don’t worry, it’s not just you. These three needs are the drivers behind everyone’s life. Just look at the people around you. Ask yourself whythey are doing what they are doing. You will quickly see that the need for Love,Security, or Recognition are what motivates everyone to act the way they do in life – for better or for worse.  If you do not see the answers visually, just listen to the way they speak and the words they use.

·       Love – the person that speaks about their friends, their family, the passions in their life has Love as a priority for them.

·       Recognition – the person that speaks about their job title, the size of their home, the toys they have collected, their latest accomplishment, or even the accomplishments of others has recognition high on their list of needs in life.

·       Security – someone who constantly talks about their investments, their salary, their retirement fund or their safety is basing their happiness on Security.

Oh, and a quick tip on the side, if you want this person to listen to you more fully, see what happens when you weave the terms they use into your own lexicon. A person who holds Love as a priority will respond more deeply when you start to speak about the people in your own life. Recognition? See what happens when you give them the respect and recognition they want. And security? Mirror the words they use to give them a sense of the security that is possible with you. You may be surprised at how well it works. Just make sure your words are authentic, or there will be consequences to pay from misleading them later on.

I hope this helps you on your journey, and if you want to learn more about balancing theLove, Security and Recognition in your life

Modern Meditation Profile – Shalini Bahl

Shalini Bahl – “…what was left, was the most profound silence I had ever experienced.”

In many ways, Shalini Bah, the founder of The Mindful Universe, is like myself. She is like so many of you. She pursued a conventional path until she faced an awakening of sorts; within a shaman’s circle in the jungles of Costa Rica.

It was, as she put it, “a pivotal point in my life. It is where I started breaking down my barriers and discovered my true calling.”

Shalini grew up in a very loving space, and a very comfortable environment in Kuwait. She got married and started on the path that was expected of her, but not one she necessarily chose for herself. Her marriage was not what she thought it should be, and increasingly dissatisfied with the life before her, she asked for a divorce – something a woman in India simply did not do.

After her divorce she began to question what she had grown to accept in her world. It was at that time that she, by her own admission, came out of a very dark place in her life. She moved to the United States to pursue a PhD. It wasn’t until several pauses occurred in her life, that she began to reflect upon all that she had gone through.

She remarried and began following a traditional path, when she had an opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with her second husband and son to take part in a Shamanic ritual. Upon arrival there they were explained that the ritual involved drinking Ayahuasca and would last all night long.

As someone who grew up in a culture where alcohol was shunned, let alone hallucinogenics, she was skeptical about trying it. Her husband decided not to participate. She remembers thinking that she “should not” drink a hallucinogenics when a small voice in her asked, “says who?” She felt that she was there for a reason and had to go through it, even though it was the most frightening thing she had done in her life – sitting with 100 strangers in the middle of the forest for an all-night ceremony that involved drinking Ayahuasca.

The first time she joined the Shaman’s circle and drank the Ayahuasca, she felt her senses open up for the first time. It was enough of a taste that she decided to attend the second ceremony. On the second night she received a larger amount and within minutes could feel the energy being pulled out of her body. She felt like she was being asked to jump off into the unknown at the end of a dark roller coaster ride. As she put it, “I could hear my very academic voice, my parental voice, giving advice that this was not real, but the fear was real. I could feel my fear of death, my fear of life, echo within me. I resisted all night and eventually in the early morning hours I gave in and surrendered to it. What was left was the most profound silence I had ever experienced.”

“I realized the noise of my mind, a noise I had relied upon my entire life, that everything I had prided myself on was meaningless. I realized how so many of the conversations that we have are there to show how smart we are. I was always an “A” student, and suddenly here I was in a place where a lot of that was without importance. As were a lot of my ideals – right or wrong.”

It left her feeling shaky and ungrounded. She knew her experience was not real, but then she began to ask, if that was not real, then what is?

When she returned to the United States and to U Mass, she used her experience as a subject for her dissertation. It was during the writing that she realized what the various voices were. They were the same voices we all have, that compete for our attention.

The title of her dissertation was; Multiple Selves and The Meanings They Give to Consumptions

Her dissertation was published in a top marketing journal. It led to a job on the faculty of a well known university. All was going well, but her changed perspective on her experience kept coming back to her.

She was somehow changed by her experience in a way that others began to notice. Even her son, at one point, commented on her new ability to remain open and say “that’s interesting. Let’s explore that,” instead of shooting a new idea down.

“When things are going fine, you don’t ask. It is only when things begin to turn upside down that you begin to explore the source of your suffering and very often you are the source.”

It was not long before her second divorce was finalized, “when I wondered what I should do, I realized it was not my husband, it was me who had changed. I was not trying to be a rebel, but realized that the choices I had made in the past lacked awareness of who I was and what I wanted in a relationship,” she recalls.

“I was stuck on a track I had been set on by society and by my family. Never once did I ask what I wanted in life. It was only after leaving my job as a tenure track professor to marry and this time with more awareness, did I ask myself, if I could do anything, what would it be and the answer was clear, it was to teach mindfulness.”

Because of her academic training and business experience she chose to bring mindfulness to business and academia and started to look for a training that would be secular and accessible to these audiences. “The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program was ideal for what I had in mind and was only 45 minutes away from where I lived, so I underwent my training there. I remember the first time trying the choiceless awareness meditation and finding it so clinical and boring. Immediately something within me realized that all along I had used my practice to find bliss and get into a particular state rather than be ok and fully present with what ever is arising. In that moment I was able to see my striving even in my practice.” It opened a new door – a level of peace and calm, away from all the striving – and allowed her to just feel what was.

Earlier on she had explored Zen and different forms of Meditations. Neither really fit her life or her style. Neither aligned with her views, or her need for a less dogmatic approach. After leaving such a formal growing up, she did not want to be tied to any specific doctrine. Like many of us, she wanted a touch of spirituality but she also needed to fulfill the scientific approach she had grown with, to create a solid foundation from which to launch. The mindfulness meditation gave her the freedom to explore each experience for what it is with curiosity and compassion and has been her practice of choice since then.

“When I feel that I am tight, I can contemplate what is going on around me and understand how that relates to what is within me. Once I identify the dominant thought in my life, I can then choose what I want to do with that thought instead of the thought dictating my actions on autopilot.”

Today, it is these times of mindfulness that bring her back to a sense of balance. It affords her a point of balance with which to calm herself and enhance the quality of her awareness. Creating the quality of her awareness so that she can understand what she needs in that moment.

She laughs, “I still get triggered in certain situations, but I find I now step back to pause, so that I can return to a state of objectivity. This can happen before sending an email or enjoying a true dialogue. I find that I bring my practice of non-judgment and of curiosity so I can respond more skillfully to the world and the people around me. It is amazing to see the mind – and realize how you still cannot be objective.

“I realized at one point, that you can live your life without seeing past the blind spots, without even seeing the blind spots. They are blind spots, so by definition you cannot see them. But with the training of meditation we can confirm our own experiences. So when an experience triggers the wrong response, we can create a change in the actions that we take while being kind to ourselves.”

“Only 5% of decisions are made consciously. The rest are made based by our subconscious mind, which is very often in a fight or flight mode, which can lead you down the wrong path, to make the wrong decisions. But this is nothing to be afraid of. In the end we can be relieved to know that we all make mistakes. We are all human. It is how we learn.”

This is one of the lessons found within her new project and her new website – The Mindful Universe.

 

[learn_more caption=”Click to See The Full Interview”]

What drew you to yoga and meditation?

What drew me to meditation was my suffering. There were personal transitions in my life in India that I didn’t take the time to process at the time. Once I moved to the US I found myself in a new country without my usual support system – family and friends – that left me feeling empty and void. This feeling of emptiness was the start of my search for answers to questions I didn’t have. I naturally fell upon meditation as a way of quieting my mind to access answers that were beyond my usual thinking mind.

Soon after I experienced my first spiritual breakthrough at a shamanic journey in Costa Rica, where I experienced complete silence of the mind after going through a night of near death experience. That broke away many beliefs I had held all my life as reality and opened me up to experiencing life in an entirely new way. I came back from that looking for a formal meditation practice and teacher. This was way back in 2002 and have been meditating since then, albeit more regularly in the past 8 years.

How have they changed your life?

Mindfulness practice has touched every aspect of my life.

The most important discovery for me has been to see the limits of my thinking mind and how mindfulness – a curious and compassionate attention to what is – helps me expand my lens to get a bigger perspective and choose more skillful responses even in challenging situations. And when I fail, this training has taught me to learn from my failures and be kind to myself.

Being an academic and researcher by training I love the inquiry based framework it offers to view my experiences with open curiosity and kindness so I continue to learn each day about places I am still stuck in autopilot, very often without my conscious knowing. It is such an aha moment every time to see that – I had no idea that I was living that aspect of my life in a limited and reactive way. We are blind to our blind spots and this practice is helping me see my blind spots.

The other thing I am working with is how can I have impact while living with ease. I am finding that once I have clarity around what it is I truly value then all I have to do is align myself with that vision and get out of my own way. Breaking away from dogmatic principles and practices.

How should a practice make someone feel?

Mindfulness meditation is an exploration into what is going on for you in this moment. When we explore with an open, gently and curious mind we reconnect with our mind, body and emotions with clarity. With this clear seeing we have access to more information about us and can make more skillful choices indtead of running on autopilot. The practice is a little counter intuitive in that we come closer to even the negative sensations and discomfort without trying to push it away. In learning to be with whatever is arising, we see our own reactivity and how we might choose differently to be a little kinder, a little more aware, toward ourselves and others.

There are times when you want to retreat to your own comfort zone, but the practice is there to see if there are any attachments you are holding onto or striving for, that can hold you back, or push you away.

People often talk about whether they are a good or bad meditator.  How does this resonate with you?

There is no wrong way to meditate. Just your intention to sit is the practice. That will help you develop the tools to be more present, more curious, more kind. You should always ask yourself if you can be more kind, more gentle, more quiet. It is okay if your mind is racing, and when you notice that you come back with kindness again and again. It is all about coming back to the present with the quality of compassion and equanimity.

The practice is about showing up each day. At a macro level, mindfulness is not a panacea for all of our problems. However, it offers a foundation for exploration in all sectors of our society. It is a broader lens for people to see the bigger picture and interconnectedness of all our actions so we may work toward finding solutions to make this a better world for everybody.

At what point did you decide to teach others?

This was a natural happening. It is not something I thought of doing but was natural to who I am in that situation. I was an assistant professor of marketing at a business school and ended up speaking with many stressed out students. At some point it became inevitable bringing in what I know about meditation and started organizing the Science of Breath seminars on campus and helped introduce the Art of Living classes on campus and in the community. Interestingly, at the time I was told by my colleagues it wasn’t my job to teach mindfulness or worry about the students’ stress and now it is my full time job. I changed my career from being a full time academic to part time and my main focus now is in bringing mindfulness to business, academia, and my community.

What do you find most rewarding about working with others?

Every time I teach I am touched by the experience of our shared humanity. It is in these moments I see how we are all one and the same no matter where we come from and what our personal history is. It has made me more empathetic in how I see people now. It is a rewarding feeling that no matter how challenging my day was, when I go in and let go of my strivings, which is an essential aspect of teaching, we all come out of the class feeling just a little more open or compassionate, in very small and big ways the difference it makes in our lives when we do this work together. It is humbling and empowering.

The other aspect of this work that energizes me is bringing mindfulness into corporate and academic settings because that’s where the rubber meets the road. Now we are not just talking about finding inner calm but how that inner calm can help us make better decisions. Exploring and seeing how mindfulness opens people up to finding their potential when they were feeling stuck or making decisions with more empathy and clarity to come up with creative solutions that maximize the well being of all stakeholders is very encouraging. It gives me hope that we can bring empathy and wisdom to make more skillful choices in education and business and now even in politics and other sectors of society.

What is your advice for someone just starting on their journey?

I know there are many self help books and programs but I recommend finding a teacher and a class that resonates with the person when they are starting out and then using the books to compliment and deepen their learning. This work and knowledge is subtle and many nuances can be missed when trying it on your own. It can leave people disillusioned or with the wrong impression that this is not for them simply because they didn’t know that what they are experiencing is normal and expected. So having a teacher who can guide through these misconceptions and the rich experience of learning from others in class and sharing in an open, authentic way is as important as the practice itself.

What should someone look for in a studio or an instructor?

I recommend trusting your intuition if the teacher’s style resonates with you. Try a free intro class with the teacher and see if it is the right fit. I would also add that humor, ease, and authenticity in the teacher typically are telling of the teacher’s embodiment of the practice. When checking out a teacher you may want to see where they got their training from since I am finding many people starting to teach mindfulness without sufficiently immersing themselves in the work. A final thing to look out for in a teacher is if they hold the interests of the participants up front or are their behaviors self-serving.

What does the term Modern Meditation mean to you?

To me modern meditation means a practice that is neither dogmatic nor prescriptive but works for every individual taking into account where they are and their personal needs. There is personal discipline involved even within modern meditation but the approach is fundamentally kind and flexible to accommodate the needs of the individual. The important question to hold gently is if the meditation is making you a little kinder, a little less reactive, and more aware in your life.

How have you adapted traditional meditation and yoga in your life outside the studio?

My formal practice of attending to the present moment with the attitude of kindness and curiosity is what I bring into life outside of the practice. It is not a striving kind of focus but a gentle awareness and presence that I remind myself to bring in my work, interactions and all activities.

How has expanding and deepening your practice, improved your life?

I lived the first half of my life without this practice and know that I lacked self awareness and agency to create a meaningful life. I ended up hurting others and myself, even when I didn’t mean to, because of my lack of awareness. This practice has changed my life and I cannot imagine living without it.

Research tell us that 99% of our DNA is shared. How can we use this concept to further humanity and the world?

The science of genetics and evolution is useful to remind us of our shared humanity. But I am always blown away with the authenticity of the connection that we feel when we come together to practice together. We all tend to judge, but at the end of an eight-week class we realize that we are all the same, we have all experienced the same emotions and want the same thing in life, to be happy.

There is an exercise I use all the time. It is to look into each other’s eyes, to acknowledge that this person across from me is just like me. They have suffered just like me. They have laughed and cried, just like me.

When I see people participate in this exercise, it is common to find people break down their barriers and cry, being moved by this person across from them. It is worth trying it. We call it Just Like Me.  It can be a very profound experience to bring out the natural state of empathy and compassion within everyone in addition to the intellectual knowing that we are connected.

What is your Simple Truth?

My simple truth is to live with open awareness, gentle curiosity and compassion. This reminder helps me to stay open to what is and notice where in my mind, body and thoughts am I holding on or resisting. What can I let go of so I may access the wisdom in this moment to choose skillful actions for the highest good of all involved? [/learn_more]

Summer Camp Meditation for Kids & Parents

Do your children and yourself a favor this summer. Give both of you a meditation break without even breathing. Have them leave their cell phones at home during summer camp and even sleep aways.

Summer camp and summer sleepaways are about the finding their independence. They are about giving yourself the chance to do the same.

Give everyone a break this summer and allow everyone in the family to experience summer and be filled with experiences, not ringtones, that you can all share when you all get back together at the dinner table.

Yes, remember that? The dinner table? And how much you have complained how little family together time you have had?

I know, your old brain probably uses the reasoning that you have to check in to make sure they are okay. But they are. Otherwise you would not have given them permission to head off on their own in the first place.

LOL – so let it go. Let the mobile phone go and learn patience this summer instead. It will do everyone good.

Be well, smile and breathe – knowing they are enjoying their growing experience as kids – almost as much as you are as parents…

 

 

Signature in Blue

 

Q + A – People Can Change For One Another.

Several weeks ago a student came to me and said, “people don’t really change do they?” I did not respond at first, formulating my thoughts.  “I mean, not unless they are faced with an absolute necessity. They don’t really make the change they need to, do they?”

It was phrased as a question, but it was really a statement. I smiled, knowing where she was going with this. She was having trouble with her marriage, and did not want to be the one left behind. She knew where it was going, but afraid to admit it, even to herself.

I smiled, as I often do. I knew that she thought she knew the answer. It was why she was phrasing it as a question.

“Everyone can change,” I replied. “But they have to want to change if they are to do so. We can push them to change as much as we want to, but unless they truly want the change, it will never happen. That is why sometimes, some people will discover that it is not change that is needed, but a rephrasing of the question.”

We spoke a while longer. On the idea that the first question that enters our minds is rarely the question we actually need to ask, but a way for our minds to explore the situation we face, to drill down until we find the question we need to find.

She smiled back at me. We bowed our heads, feeling our foreheads touch, sharing the moment and the energy between us. She smiled and thanked me before leaving.

As she neared the edge of the rug her pillow rested upon, I stopped her. “You do know that nothing you can do can make him want to change, other than to be yourself. If he wants you, then it must be you he wants. Not some vision you create for him.”

I could see a tear in her eye form as she smiled and nodded.

We both knew the inevitability of the situation before her. In so many ways, the outcome was set. But how long it would take to arrive there was the question. Would she cling to the safety of the present, knowing it was wrong? Or would she stay true to her own convictions and her authentic self, and let the winds of the universe sort it out, as it inevitably does?

Two days ago I saw her again. This time she was smiling. After our meditation she paused. “You know, I think he really cares for me, for who I am.”

“It was inevitable,” I said.

I am not sure she even heard me.

“Neither of us had to change. But our life sure did. We just had to remember that part of who we were is who we still are.”

 

Monday Moments: Meditation & Doodling

By definition, a doodle is “a drawing made absentmindedly.”
Interesting.

Perhaps it is time to update the dictionary.

Now that we know what is going on in the mind of the doodler, or at least in some of the minds…

In fact, research is tells us that the mind of a doodler, either absent minded or not, is active.  Very much so.

For some, the act of doodling helps them visualize the problems and issues that the subconscious is working on. For others, it is a way to free up the subconscious to enable it to explore unchartered areas.

Recent research in neuroscience and psychology shows that doodling can actually help people stay more focused, understand new concepts and retain information more readily. A blank page can serve as an extended playing field for the brain, allowing you to refine and improve on creative thoughts and ideas.

In fact, according to a 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology, people who were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read were able to remember 29% more of the information on a surprise quiz later, than those who did not.

If you’ve never doodled before, or you are not sure how, I want to introduce you to a classic exercise called Blind Contour Drawing. It is a classic intro-to-art exercise that involves drawing an object without looking at your paper while you do so.

No, you should not expect your drawing to look like a Monet or to win any awards, but you may be surprised at how alive it actually is. As some have said, “It is a way to see, without seeing.” Better still, it is a way to truly see the object before you, free from your own interpretations that might hold you back from your own creativity and from drawing what is truly there.

If at first this is uncomfortable for you, try taking a moment to find your seat and your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply as you fix your gaze upon an object in front of you. In time to your breath and without looking at your paper, reach out and pick up your pen or pencil. Clear your mind and begin to draw without look at your paper. If you do, simply smile, blink a few times, and begin again.

Refrain from looking at your pen or your paper. Instead, notice the lines and the angles of the object before you. See the curves  and the shadows, and allow your hand to flow freely.

Allow yourself to let go as you let your hand float for a few minutes. Do not worry, your mind will not allow you to go too long. It will bring you back; and when it does feel free to look down at what you have drawn.

At first you may laugh. But as you continue to look from paper to object, you will begin to see points of connection. You will begin to see where you hand took a turn that mimicked a turn in your object. That is your cue to smile. That is the point of connection between the object, your mind and the paper before you.

It is okay to set your drawing aside. It is okay to toss it in the bin. It is also okay to remember this exercise when you need to let go of the noise in your head so that you can focus on the task before you, as we all do from time to time.

Be well, and enjoy your Blind Contour Drawing.

A sort of doodling all on its own.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, sign up and have more Monday Moments  just like this emailed to you every Monday morning.

Simply use the registration form to the right of this post. It is free and provides you with a link to your Waking Buddha Breath Guided Meditation.

Monday Moments: Meditation & Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful tool.  As a not-so-simple man said eons ago, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

In those simple words I am constantly reminded that forgiveness is not just an essential part of being human, forgiveness is a very powerful tool for letting go.

Forgiveness plays a part in every major religion out there. It is also a crucial part of the human condition. But we must also remember, forgiving others is just one step along the path of humanity. The next step lies in your ability to forgive yourself.

The dictionary definition of forgiveness is the complete and unabsolved release of past transgressions without any expectation of payment in return.

It is an interesting definition; but it leaves out two key elements that are important in the modern world. First, it fails to include the act of self-forgiving, and second, it fails to account for transgressions that may happen in the future.

After all, forgiving yourself is a key part of getting rid of the regret and remorse you most likely carry with you from the past. Forgiveness is also an important part of starting over and starting anew. If you are always thinking about something someone did in the past, how are you going to trust them in the future?

The answer to both lies in your ability to forgive…

“You ripped my heart out, but I forgive you” “you cheated on me, but I forgive you” “you hurt me, but I forgive you.” Do these sound familiar? At what point will you say, “I forgive you, but enough is enough, and this time we are going to do things differently.”

How many times have you found yourself berating yourself with words like, “I am so stupid, I can’t believe I just did that””, or “I am so out of my league, what am I even doing here? We are going to fail miserably.” As versus how many times have you heard yourself say, “Okay, so I messed up. What happened, happened and there is no way to get it back. So, I forgive myself, let’s let it go and move on.”

The truth is, no matter how much you forgive publicly, you still harbor some guilt or shame or resentment on the inside. Until you forgive yourself and those around you completely, your words will  never have the power they should. And in the end it will sound more like “I forgive you, but you’re still kind of wrong,” or, “Okay, I forgive myself, but I’m still an idiot for not seeing the truth.”

Either way, it is still okay. Forgiveness is such a powerful part of who you are, that even partial forgiveness will help to clear the air. Just do not forget to act on it.

If you truly want to get ahead of the game, learn to forgive unabashedly and completely; and yes, even for things that have yet to occur.

You know what your own faults are. You also have a pretty good idea about the faults of those around you. Why carry them around? Why not forgive them in advance and let it go? You might be surprised at how good it feels, freed from the weight of anticipation.

Starting now, forgive yourself of the inevitable. While you are at it, forgive those around you.

That does not mean you have to accept things as they are, you simply have to welcome them as a very real part of being human, and focus your energy on fixing them, rather than holding blame.

With forgiveness, you will quickly find how much easier life can become.

When you stop anticipating what others might or might not do, and just let it happen, your temper will flair up less. When you forgive yourself for whatever slips may occur, you will find that voice of doubt will take its leave.

Learn to acknowledge life as it is for all its faults, and it will simply begin to flow.

And isn’t that what you want?

Be well this week, and forgive.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, sign up and have more Monday Moments  just like this emailed to you every Monday morning.

Simply use the registration form to the right of this post. It is free and provides you with a link to your Waking Buddha Breath Guided Meditation.

Monday Moments: Art of Listening

There is more to listening than simply turning your ear in the right direction.

To truly listen is to turn down the volume on your own thoughts. To stop anticipating what is to come, and to just allow whatever song or conversation is happening to simply unfold on its own.

There is a saying that I often heard an old teacher of mine say in class, “before you can sip, you must first empty your cup.”

It is deceptively simply, but not so easy. For to empty your cup, you must lower your defenses, let go of your ego, and prevent the auto-responses that our old brain puts up to protect you.

If you are not sure what that sounds like, just wait until you start hearing that loop in your head play back to you. Yes, that loop that wakes you up at four a.m., or that interrupts your thoughts when you least expect them. Listen to it for a moment before you allow it to grow in volume. then gently place your attention on a sound, a sight, or upon your own breath as you let that though go.

That thought, and others like it are the interruptions that prevent you from truly listening to what is going on around you. When you free yourself from your own opinions and your own ego, you prevent yourself from discoloring whatever it is that is being said.

Free from that bias, you can prevent yourself from being misled by your own mind, so that you can truly hear what is going on around you. Free to hear a voice that can spark an idea or cause you to miss an opportunity for something truly wonderful; and why would you ever want to do that?

After all, it is YOUR life.

Why not live it YOUR way?

Thank you in advance and be well.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, sign up and have more Monday Moments  just like this emailed to you every Monday morning.

Simply use the registration form to the right of this post. It is free and provides you with a link to our Waking Buddha Breath Guided Meditation.