Q+A – Learn to Surf Your Meditation

Q:

How do I go further in my meditation? I feel like I’m getting stuck early on and I’m becoming frustrated by my inability to go further.

A:

Where are you trying to go and why do you need to get there so quickly?

The beauty to meditation is that it is a journey to nowhere. In so many ways it is a circle within a circle. You sit, you quiet the mind, and you let go. When you arrive to that place of calm you realize you are right where you are. You have gone nowhere. You have experienced what it is to have a clear vision of nothingness; free from the need to pay attention to thoughts or the interruptions of the world around you. With practice you become aware that the distractions of your mind are really no different than the distractions of the world you live in.

You see, meditation is not a place to travel to. There is no destination or linear path to follow. There are no road signs for direction. Instead there is an endless ocean upon which to float, and within that ocean there are entirely new levels of freedom to explore once you are able to free yourself from the inner-workings of your brain and allow your mind to stretch beyond itself. When you are able to do that, you will find that you can reach beyond the world of your five senses.

I often describe meditation as a walk into the ocean.  When you first close your eyes in meditation, it is like walking into the ocean. You are buffeted by waves that push you back and knock you over.  These are the thoughts and ideas, lists and regrets, assignments and tasks that your brain distracts you with.

It is as if a cerebral surf is crashing down on you, keeping you from reaching the calm swells that rise and fall beyond the waves. You know they are out there, but you struggle to reach them. The more you struggle, the more off balance you become, and the more difficult it is to stay focused on your destination.

Once through the surf, you begin to feel the calm rise and fall of the ocean swells. In time, you will even find that you can float on top of the beautiful water, rising and falling as if floating on the ebb and flow of the tides of existence.

With practice, you may even feel yourself slipping beneath the water, safe and quiet, watching the thoughts pass above you, above the surface.  There you can rest in quiet, aware they are there, but knowing that you do not have to interact with them.  You will find that you can stay in that place for a while, until you become aware of an even calmer point that is deeper, quieter, with even less motion from the waves and the currents of the outside world.

And so your journey goes until you are resting in that null space between your thoughts and your breath.

The key to getting to that point is learning how not to fight the waves of distraction, but to surf on them.  And that requires climbing onto a metaphysical surfboard, free from attachment and from ego. It is not the same as “letting go.” Instead it means embracing the world you are in so that you can be one with the waves of your mind.

At first, don’t even worry about “meditating.”  Instead just allow yourself to drop in on your breath.

Simply be aware of the air as it flows in and out of your body.

Be aware of your lungs expanding and releasing with each inhale and exhale.

Pay attention to the quality of that breath.

Notice how cool and dry it is as it enters your nose.

Notice how warm and moist it is as it leaves.

Notice the feeling of your body as it sinks into your pillow or seat.

Gently move your awareness to the pattern of light that plays on your eyelids.

With each breath surf to another of your senses and explore what you see, hear, taste and smell.

Don’t jump, just surf through your five senses gently by moving your awareness and your attention to whatever you are experiencing.

When you are ready, return your attention to your breath.

Do not force your attention to go anywhere, simply follow it through your nostrils and own your windpipe.

Feel it enter your lungs.

Be aware of the currents that air creates as it swirls around your lungs and through your body.

Feel the energy that flows from your abdomen to your scalp, your fingertips and your toes.

Then, when you are ready, return your attention to your breathing and enjoy your meditation on the calm waves of your own ocean.

 

Be well,

 

Monday Moments: Curate Your Authentic Self, Mindfully

In so many ways Authenticity is the Art of Simplicity; both are about removing that which is not you, rather than trying to add that which is. Each is often the product of tempering a great idea – the dream of who you want to be – with modest expectations that are in line with your true self. Neither happens overnight, but is the result of time. That is not to say you will never get to be who you want to be, knowing that it takes time will help you avoid the frustrations that inevitably come when you discover that finding your authentic self rarely happens fast enough.

The path to authenticity is a journey of baby-steps; gently placing your foot out and testing the terra firma beneath you, before placing your weight and lifting your other leg from the ground.

When you simplify your life you do more than quiet the noise and distractions that can undermine your growth. You open those around you to the idea of change, and that can be a very scary thing. Especially when they see you leave the nest they are still in.

So take your time and relax. There is an inevitability to your growth that others may not be so comfortable with. Learn to test the combination of friends and food and art and clothes that are all around you. Learn to cultivate the people and the objects in your life in a way that will bring you and your dreams together. At the same time, learn to gently let those things that do not support you go. As you do, you will learn the pleasures that come from living a life that is both simple and authentic at the same time. One that is true to your Simple Truth.

Living a simple life does not need to be boring. It simply needs to be true to your needs, cultivating those things that bring you joy.

The concept of living a simple life is one reason I teach meditation. Unlike what many think, meditation is not an end unto itself. It is a tool to remove the distractions from your life, so that you can create a community of people around you with whom you can share the same ideals.

You see, family and friends should always be more than a random selection of stragglers you end up with. They are the people who acknowledge the joy that can be found within your subtle nuances. They touch the same notes of music you enjoy and smile.  They savor the same sights and the smells that are a part of who you are.

It is why curating your life is about so much more than just letting go of the bad. It is about replacing the not-so-good with the good.  It is about creating a path to the joy that you should find in every article of clothing you own, in every candle you light, in every window you open, and in every meal you enjoy. Clearing the clutter from your life is about peeling back the layers that have prevented you from being your authentic self and opening yourself up to an enlightened life.

Do not be afraid of being your authentic self. It is who you are, and will sooner or later find its way out in the end.
The next time you hesitate to be you, smile and ask yourself, “what am I waiting for?”

After all, it is your life. It is time to start living it your way.

Learn more about living an authentic life by clicking here and discovering what we call The Strategy for Happiness. You may be surprised how easy it can be…

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

Are You a When I?

Are you a When-I?

You know, the person who refuses to be happy, or even satisfied, until they reach some future accomplishment? They can be found saying things like, “I will be happy when I get a million dollars,” or “When I find that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, then I will be happy,” or “I will not be satisfied until I get that promotion”, or “…a new car,” or “…a new title on my business card.”

I call these “when-I’s.”

It is that person, and we have all been there from time to time, who keeps pushing themselves to reach that next step, that next stage, that next place of accomplishment. Some people even chase that sense of achievement into the afterlife; thinking that whatever misery they endure or and sacrifice they make now, will be satisfied with a higher appointment in the ever-after. Some even try to speed the process along, thinking that their happiness will be found once they escape this world. Sadly, they realize, all too late, that happiness, contentment and satisfaction was right here all along. In this moment.

You see, happiness and satisfaction do not come in reaching some destination, or in acquiring an object. It is found in the journey. It is found in appreciating the adventure you are on and enjoying the human experience in all its failures and glories. 

All those titles and trophies are wonderful marks of achievement, but they are not what this is about.  

I will never forget, years ago, when a student asked our Hapkido instructor, Grand Master Bong Soo Han, when he could test for his black belt. Now, Grand Master Bong Soo Han was a man who grew up in occupied Korea after World War II. He was a man who learned martial arts under Japanese occupation. He was also the man who brought the art of Hapkido to the United States. He was slight in stature, but so quick and powerful. He was also very, very wise.

He looked at this student and smiled. “The test for a black belt is a formality. It is an event. It marks what we already know to be. We know when we invite you to test that you are already a black belt. We watch how you carry yourself, how you act. So, do not worry about being invited to test. Worry about living your life, every day.”

No, that student was not invited to test that day or that quarter. But we all noticed a change in him. As a red belt, he began acting as if he were a black belt. He began to approach his exercises with newfound sense of humility and a sense of focus on the moment. He changed from being a When-I, to being an I-Am.

Which are you?

Monday Moment – A Productive Mindset with Meditation

There is more to a productive mindset than being focused at your desk, because there is more to your work than the time you spend at your desk. Having a productive mindset is about creating a flow that connects your work, your play, you waking and your sleeping hours together.

Having a productive mindset is about a balance between your up-time and your downtime so that your subconscious brain continues to produce the aha moments in your life when you least expect them. And that does not happen if you are filled with anxiety, stressed, or worried about your life; personally or professionally.

Those seemingly random ideas that end up being the aha moments of brilliant breakthroughs you wait for? They do not come out of nowhere. They are not sitting on a cloud that you wander into. They come, like anything, out of the hard work of your subconscious mind, and that subconscious mind only works when the noise and distractions that so often clutter it are gone. so learn to let go, not just to relax, but to open your mind up to all the wonderful possibilities waiting.

Years ago, when I was producing or ran my own agency, I found that I separated my work into several categories. The hours I actively worked on a project – perhaps two hours a day – were the only ones that “really counted,” or so I told myself. The hours I spent researching, thinking, and developing creative solutions for my client’s issues somehow did not really count as “real work.” Oh, and those hours I spent pondering in bed or during my commute – it was as if those did not even exist.

Looking back, I remember the stress and the anxiety. I also remember how there were never enough hours in the day for all the work I had to do. I remember how my anxiety often prevented me from coming up with the kind of solutions my clients so badly wanted.

Oh, how wrong I was. For it was in those seemingly wasted moments that my brain was actually free to work in its own way. It never occurred to me that the flashes of brilliance that came while listlessly staring out at the ocean on a weekend, or while feeling the water splash on my face while in the shower, only came when I felt calm and balanced and open. Rarely did they appear when I was at my desk, in my mind, “actually working” the few hours each day that I actually gave myself credit for.

It is funny, in a way, that is wasn’t until I was able to step away from my desk that I was able to see the solution that was there all along, waiting for me.

To fixate the results that end up on your desk to the time you spend at your desk is to dismiss the real work you put in all along the way. And, I equate that mindset to the post-war, industrial world most of us grew up in.

Yes, when we were an industrial nation, work was a much more physical task. The time that mattered was the time you actually spent farming, or fishing, or building. But this is the 21st Century, and your physical labor is often not what drives your results. The decisions you make at home and at play, with friends and family all influence your frame of mind, no matter what your occupation. And if your mind is filled with anxiety and distracted by the noise of your life, then there is no way that you will be able to come up with the solutions that equate to success in today’s world.

If instead, you are calm and rested, the solutions will come to you whether you are at the office every day or not. So learn to balance the different aspects of your life; both personal and professional. That includes finding a thread between work and play, health and finances, family and love and spirituality, even with your own sense-of-self. It is there waiting for you, if you know what to look for.

Only when those elements are in balance, will you be free enough to truly deliver the kind of results that you can be proud of. Only then will you be truly productive, feel accomplished, and satisfied every day and every week.

Remember that having a Productive Mindset is about more than being productive at your desk.  It is about creating a thread throughout your life in a calm and focused way.

So breathe, smile and remember to give yourself a break from time to time.  That is what will create a focused sense of calm across all of your efforts; at work or play, with family or friends, or even when you are all by yourself.

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Modern Meditation Profile – Alan Muskat

Alan Muskat – PhilosoForager: Looking Without Seeking

Alan Muskat is a naturalist in the tradition of Muir and Thoreau. He has brought the art of foraging to new light, both as a meditator and a philosopher. As someone who is stepping into Modern Meditation, he calls his approach that of a philosoforager.

Alan pursued the martial arts in middle school, before studying Daoism while in college. He entered the Back to the Land movement in the 1990s; a precursor to today’s Slow Food and Locavore movements. For him, it was simply an idea that resonated. Eventually he began to simplify his life, and soon enough, to simplify everything he did. He found each step returned him to a more natural state of being, and he liked what he was experiencing.

For the next twenty years, as Alan recalls, he continued to chase after material things until he found, as many of us have, that he was living in fear: the fear of not Forest Meditationhaving enough. It was with this understanding that he came to the realization that the only way to remove fear from his life was to stop collecting those things that he simply did not need.

You see, a forager is not a farmer. He or she does not put down roots. He does not store the crops he has raised. Instead, a forager is endlessly wandering, searching without looking for anything in particular.

“What many people don’t realize is that foraging is not about intention. It is about letting go,” as Alan puts it. “I try not to go into the woods with the idea of finding something specific. I never know what I will find. I can look for something, but I may not find it.” He smiles, “In April everyone wants morels.  But to seek them sets you up for frustration and disappointment. It really is a practice of non-attachment.”

Today, when Alan wanders into the woods, alone or as a guide, he finds himself reminding those Slide3who wander with him to “look without seeking.” When people seek him out, most are not looking for the philosophy behind the foraging. Usually, they just want to know how to get the food.

But it’s not that simple. “This is not about making nature into a grocery. Some of the prettiest things can be the most poisonous, while some of the tastiest can be the least attractive. All the while, we are fed by beauty and the sounds of nature. Even if you don’t find anything to eat, you are continually being fed.”

For Alan, this is how foraging can be a walking meditation.

“When I am sitting, I get distracted. But when I am in the forest, nature takes my attention.  Like Krishnamurti says, ‘meditation is like the breeze that comes in when you leave the window open.’ I can’t easily find the beauty in life, outside of my thoughts, when I’m sitting in a room.”

For Alan, as it is for me, going into the woods is a wonderful context for meditation. But then, it was like that for John Muir and Henry David Thoreau too. May it be the same for you.

 

[learn_more caption=”See The Full Interview Here”]

There’s a love that’s divine

And it’s yours and it’s mine

Like the sun

Van Morrison

 

What drew you to yoga and meditation?

Well, I was mostly forced into it. I have adrenal fatigue and other stress-related conditions. For me, it was a matter of necessity.

How have they changed your life?

I’m slowly developing better habits. Basically, in stressful situations, I go into my body instead of into my head. It greatly reduces my stress and provides me with a wonderful sense of calm no matter where I am.

At what point did you decide to teach others?

I teach something as soon as I learn it. Or rather, I argue for the importance of it, based on my own experience and reflection. There hasn’t been a “point” at which I began to teach yoga or meditation because, for the most part, that’s not what I teach, at least ostensibly. But I have been slowly integrating more of both into my work as a nature guide.

What do you find most rewarding about working with others?

I like making friends with others, finding common ground. If I can get past superficialities, I always learn something. I also pick up simpler ways to express my teaching when people reflect it back to me.

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

Probably just to “be in your body.” Most everything else important comes out of that.

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

I think of flexibility, like you are promoting. Someone you can relate with, and v.v., who bridges the gap between “teacher” and “student.”

What does the term Modern Meditation mean to you?

I’d like it to mean something integrated with daily life, a way of walking any path, rather than a technique to take time out to do. Mindfulness, I guess.

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

I have not developed the discipline to do a regular practice on my own. I am starting to remember to use these tools when the need is flagrant, like first aid.

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

Probably my deepest practice is self-forgiveness. For example, ‘if I don’t meditate, that’s OK.’  I fall into my workaholism and fritter my time away again and again. Harping on myself doesn’t help. It’s where I’m at, and if this “plant” is going to grow, I need to water it, not yank on it.

What is your Simple Truth?

I adhere to Advaita (non dualism). I would sum that up by saying that life is a dream and the challenge is to stay awake in it. To be awake in the dream of life is not to believe that “nothing matters” but to recognize that the best way to alleviate suffering in the world is to find and/or maintain a peaceful, open heart in the midst of it. Simply put, “all we need is love.” Foraging helps me to see that with love, everything else comes easily.

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