About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Creating space

Trust the tides, but row the boat

Trust

Trust the tides, but row the boat. –Danielle and Russell Vincent of Outlaw Soaps, quoting the best business advice they received

When I came across this quote on Pinterest recently, it really spoke to me. I believe in setting intentions, and in a supportive, benevolent, abundant Universe, but sometimes what’s needed is some muscle behind those intentions.

Above is the SoulCollage card I made to represent “Trust the tides,” and below is the one I made for “Row the boat.”

Row

I’ve just finished an impromptu pruning of my largest rose bush–my dog needed to go outside and, knowing the pruning needed to be done, I grabbed my Felcos on the way out. I find this process a bit symbolic of what I’m doing in my own life right now.

When you prune, you remove deadwood, spent foliage, and the less important of crossed canes in order to create space and potential for growth, and direct the plant’s focus of its energy and resources toward its most important, freshest goals.

Just last month, I journaled about being unsure what to prioritize first, but recently, what needs to happen in my life has been speaking with a bullhorn. Intuition is hardly needed to discern my priorities.

I found out, for example, that even cast iron has its limits. My next-door neighbor’s original terra cotta drainage pipes gave out years ago (with a bang, not a whimper), and my cast iron ones apparently just recently had begun wearing through. I found out that under my pier-and-beam house, varying degrees of outgoing water were leaking at most of the major points in my plumbing system. When my plumber gave me his quote and I mentioned that I would need to check on how much I had in my account and how much I needed to transfer, he gave me to understand that the project needed to be started now, while I figured that out, not later–though we ended up having to wait for snow and ice to clear, and the plumbing supplier to re-open for business, to begin.

So this priority has been addressed this past week, and now my much-loved old house has a brand-new drainage system–more cast iron that I expect to outlast me. The first set lasted more than 80 years, so I expect this to be something I don’t have to deal with again–in this house anyway. The process was fairly painless, thanks to a good plumber–though writing the check was decidedly not! I love my old house, but as an old-house owner, you certainly do get to invest significant sums in things you can’t see or directly enjoy.

This past week, as other items indicated in various ways that they needed to be addressed now, not later, I made a fresh list of my top five most urgent tasks and goals, and prioritized them. All require varying amounts of money, perhaps for a tool I’ll need–the latest version of TurboTax so I can complete my 2014 tax return, for example. Some also require significant effort.

It feels good to have them spelled out on paper now, and ordered. Now I know exactly where I need to focus. What I’ve been doing, and plan to continue, is each day to take at least one step toward the top goal on my list, until I’ve done all I reasonably can to make it happen. If a goal is blocked, waiting for input of some kind, I’ll begin addressing the next one.

How do you determine what’s most urgent or important in your life? How do you go about accomplishing those things? Do your priorities speak with a bullhorn, or a whisper? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

 

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Ready for change

Contrast

This past week I have been positively itching for change.

Maybe you’ve been there. As this new year gets underway, perhaps you’re there right now.

I’m fully aware that I need to move on in certain areas of my life and I’m very ready to do so. I’m definitely conscious of a mismatch in the way things currently are.

Sometimes in the past when I’ve felt this way, conscious of being in the wrong place, I’ve tamped down those feelings in an effort to “make it work.” (Just for the record, that approach has yet to be successful for me. It has only ever delayed the inevitable.) This week, I found myself utterly unwilling to do that. I’m not interested in trying to achieve a one-sided compromise. I don’t want to make myself small so I can try to squeeze into someone else’s idea of what I should be. I found myself simply not up for any of that.

Which is, of course, both utterly healthy, and discomfiting at the same time.

I have set processes in motion, and I’ve seen signs of progress … but I need further cooperation and participation from others in order to fully effect the changes I want and need. And I can’t help but notice that Mercury is currently retrograde, which often seems to slow and tangle communication of all sorts. But it also offers an opportunity to create a clear vision for the future. I am clear about what I do and do not want.

Today I’m reminding myself that change is inevitable. Change is happening in every moment, and cannot be stopped–it is inexorable, unavoidable. Change has the momentum of the entire Universe behind it. It will happen.

And so I await signs of further progress, reminding myself of the beautiful inevitability of change.

This post is illustrated by my SoulCollage card Contrast.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Putting the house in order

kitchen

This week, I’ve been putting my house in order–but not, of course, in an end-of-life way, though I do sense that a new phase of my life is coming. Usually, when I feel this urge to organize and improve my surroundings, or do some serious clutter clearing, it’s because something wants to be birthed or realized in my life. I suppose it’s really a nesting instinct.

Some previous instances have involved the acquisition of a major piece of furniture to be used for storage–a linen press, a sideboard. I clearly remember seing my Prohibition-era Art Deco sideboard at the antiques shop and getting an adrenaline rush because it was, though I hadn’t known it until that moment, exactly what I wanted. I still love its beautiful curves, chevron and fruit carving, exterior and interior nickel fittings, and clean, restored silver drawer. The little liquor cabinet hidden in one side isn’t particularly useful, but adds to its charm.

I gathered dinnerware, glass, silver, and cloth and paper napkins from all over the house, and arranged them neatly in its drawers and on its shelves. I enjoy little more than organizing something well; I find this kind of thing deeply satisfying for reasons I can’t fully explain.

This week there was no new sideboard or linen press, but there was a new dishwasher–delivered and installed at last. I was loading it for its maiden voyage while my plumber was still here, and he observed that I was wasting no time. After more than a month without a working dishwasher, I’ve never been so excited about using one. This is also the first time I’ve ever had a new one. I believe in using things up and wearing them out, and that certainly happened with my 32-year-old former dishwasher, which came with my house. I can remember–and perhaps you can too–when almond was the ‘it’ color! (No one can deny that it was a huge improvement over the avocado green and harvest gold of my childhood–colors I recognized as truly hideous even at the time.)

I ordered the new dishwasher in a color meant to tone with my restored Kelvinator refrigerator called pastel turquoise. The manufacturer inadvertently added a metallic finish to the paint, which resulted in a silvery green. They said they’d make and send a new front panel in the color I ordered, but meanwhile I am thrilled to have a functioning dishwasher once again.

I’ve been hand-washing the dishes, flatware, glasses, mugs, pots, and pans I needed to have a functioning kitchen, but since I collect dinnerware and kitchenalia, I have extras of almost everything–and thus I had a backlog of dishes to do. As of this morning, I’m caught up with running the dishwasher, and my kitchen cabinets are satisfyingly full of tall stacks of plates, bowls, and the refrigerator dishes I collect and use (food keeps better in these old-fashioned containers than it does in plastic).

The electricians have been here this week as well–only painters and carpenters were missing, though they would have been welcome too! They replaced a bad pull chain over the kitchen sink, as well as various outlets that had been missed on prior visits. Best of all, they took care of a scary-looking (and live, I found out) hank of wiring and electrical tape at the back of one of my kitchen cabinets. I think it’s all that’s left of a former wall oven. The young electrician expertly (and impressively–I’ve seen experienced electricians make a mess of similar jobs) sawed a small hole in the back of the cabinet, recessed the wiring in a box, and covered the whole thing with a plate. A small thing, but quite gratifying to have something annoying so well addressed.

I also went and bought additional clear shoe boxes this week, as somehow I’d managed to accumulate more shoes than I had boxes. All are now properly housed. I also brought home another mini filing cabinet, twin to the one I already have, for those filing categories it couldn’t accommodate. I’m labeling the drawers as I remember missing categories. I also used my discount card (the large women’s shelters here raise funds in the fall by selling discount cards that can be used at many retailers for 10 days) to buy the new skillet I’ve been needing–Le Creuset this time as I have other pieces from them I love–and some Equal Exchange fair-trade coffee to give at Christmas.

I replaced batteries in two clocks that were running slow (bad feng shui, I know) with new lithium ones that should last for years. And my plumber replaced the curved shower curtain rod that came with the house, which had bent, with a new one fashioned from thick copper piping–very industrial chic. I couldn’t rest till I went out and bought a new fabric shower curtain liner to go with it. The plumbers also made an impromptu improvement to the flooring in the laundry room, which I truly appreciated.

The dishwasher being installed provided me with the opportunity to pull everything out from the kitchen sink cabinets, which I tend to do only when the kitchen plumbing needs attention. I cleaned, culled, and organized there, and also cleaned the dishwasher enclosure, which I suppose hadn’t seen the light of day in 32 years. Completing these and other cleaning tasks, I didn’t use quite every cleaning rag in my arsenal, but I did come close.

My new dishwasher, with its solid metal door and superior insulation, is exponentially quieter than the old one, and with its Energy Star rating, probably equally more energy-efficient. Interestingly, though, my old dishwasher cleaned just as well. While I generally like to keep my home relatively low-tech (no TV, no stereo, etc.), dishwashers will always be beautiful and essential technology to me.

Now that I’ve cleared the decks, and am well on my way to getting my house in order, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

How to receive inner guidance

lighthouse 2

You will be guided into port, out of the storm.

During a recent meditation, this sentence popped into my head. Whenever I feel as though there’s something I have to tackle alone, I find it comforting to think of the support system I have that’s invisible to me–angels, guides, ancestors, my higher self–all looking out for me, wanting the best for me.

A few days later I had lunch with a relative, who was telling me that she’d connected the dots between an optional medication and a deal-breaker side effect, and had stopped taking it. I mentioned how I like to consult my gut instinct when making decisions, and she said that she had had misgivings, but overrode them because she was determined to take the medication anyway due to other factors. I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, you gotta stop that.”

I know, because I used to approach life in just that way … and it turns out that when you’re bullheaded, when you ignore your gut, when you don’t ask questions, when you barely listen to anyone (let alone your true self), when your ego is firmly in the driver’s seat, when you go so far as to override your conscience because you’re stubbornly determined to do what you want to do no matter what, life just doesn’t go terribly well. You end up doing the wrong things. You end up doing things you regret. You end up at dead ends rather than on your right path … you end up stuck and unhappy, mired in inertia. (And of course, there are worse things than inertia–you could be headed off a cliff.) This approach is not the secret to a happy life. I know this very well.

All of this got me thinking about the usefulness of inner guidance. I truly believe that the beginning of wisdom is beginning to listen–to your higher self, to your gut instinct, to guidance, to your conscience. And to listen, you must be still. Cultivating stillness frees us from the tyranny of thought and ego, and allows us to make contact with the touchstone of truth and wisdom whenever it’s needed. And if you’re anything like me, that need is pretty constant.

Especially when I’m at work, I like to check in with my inner guidance a number of times a day. Is this the right way to respond? I might ask before sending an e-mail. Am I missing something here?

Very often when I make mistakes, I realize that I had a background awareness of something being amiss that I chose to ignore. The more I listen, the more I investigate, the more questions I ask, the fewer mistakes I make, and the less I do that I later regret doing. I don’t have many significant regrets, but I do have some, so it’s a little late to have a regret-free life. But I believe that by listening, by not rushing headlong, by taking decisions deliberately, many regrets can be avoided. In fact, it’s possible to come to the end of the day, or week, and hopefully a lifetime, and be able to say, I did well.

But first you have to be still enough so you can hear. For me, meditation has been the key to becoming still, and creating gaps in the flow of thoughts through my mind that allow wisdom and guidance to enter. To my mind, one of the most significant benefits of meditation is this space it opens up, allowing us to make better decisions in each moment, which in turn facilitates our being our best selves.

It also really helps to stop sweating the small stuff. If you’re worried about your imperfect nose, or static cling, or whatever completely insignificant “problem” du jour the advertising industry would like to create major concern about in order to move product, all of that is taking up mindspace that could simply be clear. Getting older really seems to help–and thank God for that!

In that clear, still space, I like to listen, to ask my question, to tune in. If I’m not sure of the right fork in the road (literally or figuratively, actually), I like to ask myself whatever the question is, and then quietly wait for the answer. If I’m still not sure–sometimes at this point I have conflicting thoughts–then I save the question for meditation later. After meditating for awhile, which creates a truly clear space for an answer to arise, I ask the question again.

Unfortunately, sometimes negative self-talk can get in the way of hearing the voice of wisdom, the voice of love. That’s where discernment comes in. This is my mantra whenever I feel that what I’m hearing may be the voice of fear, or the voice of ego …

I ask that all input be filtered through my higher self, including my own.

Of course, sometimes our inner guidance is delivering an authentic message of fear–This person cannot be trusted. You’re in danger. Get out of here now.

I don’t second-guess a message like this. There’s no harm in being somewhere else, or in taking a different elevator. And you never know when listening to your gut could save your life. Friends tell me that a mutual acquaintance makes the hair on the back of their necks stand up, gives them the creeps. I don’t get that from him–but I don’t question for a moment that they do, or try to change their minds.

For me, this is why it’s such a good idea to get generalized fears and prejudices out of your mind and heart–so that you can hear and feel clearly a specific fear when it arises. You may not be able to explain it; you probably won’t be. But it’s well worth listening to.

I like to look someone in the eyes to see if I can trust him or her, at least for the next few minutes. I do this when I see a homeless person with a sign (I keep energy bars in the car for this purpose). It’s also great for all types of interviews.

Of course, the need for true fear is rare. Far more often, all is well, and listening to the voice of love is all we truly need. As long as we’re in touch with the voice of wisdom, love, and truth, I really believe that each of us is the very best person to determine what’s truly right for us.

Do you perhaps have a burning question right now? Is there something you really need to know? Don’t be afraid to wrestle with the angel if you need to. But most of the time, in my experience, getting still and asking the question will yield the answer you need.

You are the ultimate arbiter of what’s right for you. Seek within.

How to get unstuck

winnie-the-pooh-stuck-in-rabbits-house

By chance are you feeling stuck today? Perhaps you know what you need to do, but you’re unsure of the next step. Or perhaps you know the next step, but can’t seem to take it. Maybe you just have an aimless feeling, like your sense of purpose has gone AWOL. Maybe you feel like you’ve been in a rut forever, and don’t know how to get out. Perhaps you find yourself in a liminal stage between an ending and a new beginning, and things aren’t flowing as you’d like. Whatever your level of stuckness, here are some ideas to get you moving in the right direction …

  1. Write down some intentions about what you want your life to look like. Get out your journal–or, if you don’t have one, take a quick trip to the bookstore and treat yourself to a lovely new one in a favorite color. Then open your journal to a blank page, and let your intuition guide you as you write a title. It could be “My intentions for …” or “What I want my life to look like.” Your title could relate to how you feel stuck, or it could relate to something seemingly different. Thoughts about your list may come to you over a few days. Fine-tune it until it really expresses what you want (you may want to copy it out again once you’re done), and then read through it every so often. I like to read through mine before I meditate.
  2. Check your energy flow, and correct it if necessary.
  3. If you’re feeling stuck, you might not be grounded.
  4. Fix something that’s bugging you. WD-40 the creaky door. Pull the weeds you’ve been eyeing. Is a tree seedling or some noxious weed (devil vine is the bane of my existence) sprouting from a seam in your driveway or sidewalk? Boil the teakettle and put a stop to that. (Sometimes it takes more than once, but boiling water always wins.) Kick something ugly to the curb. Say no to something you’ve been asked to do that doesn’t feel right for you. (Don’t you feel better already?)
  5. Clear some clutter. This is a fantastic way to power through a barrier. You’ll get the biggest bang from clearing old and/or negative clutter (i.e., clutter with negative associations for you). Bonus points for clearing clutter directly related to an area where you feel stuck. You may want to identify an area where you can make a significant impact in a reasonable amount of time–an area where you’ve already made a decision about what needs to happen, or where you can make that decision right now.
  6. Try something new today–and if you don’t try new things regularly, begin to make it a habit. (This one step can easily change your whole outlook on life.) Have lunch or dinner at a new restaurant that’s getting good reviews. Try a food or cuisine you’ve never tried before, or a new recipe. Call a friend and have an impromptu picnic, or take a walk, in a park or public garden that’s new to you. Stop in a store that’s caught your eye. Go see that museum exhibit that looks so interesting. Take a weekend road trip to someplace you’ve never been. Take a workshop and learn how to do something you’ve never done before. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, take that first step today. Always wanted to play the piano? Find a teacher and book a lesson. If you’re deciding whether or not to do something, and the no feels like unjustified fear–say yes.
  7. Look around your home for things that belong to someone you used to be. Are there textbooks from the student you used to be? (You’ll never need to know more about the accounting methods of 20 years ago.) Shelves of novels when you’ve stopped reading fiction? Magazines about hobbies you don’t do anymore? A whole wardrobe? Love letters (or hate letters)? What baggage could you release today in order to create space for the you you’re becoming?
  8. Look around your office at work. What’s out of date? What project is every bit as extinct as the dinosaur, but you still have all the paperwork? (Maybe you can let go of all the files for Project Dinosaur, if there’s no company policy that mandates keeping them.) Do you see any paper that’s actually yellowed? This may be a clue.
  9. Add something to your life that will guarantee change, like a new friend, or a new pet.
  10. Slough off your old skin quite literally. Go shopping for a body scrub that smells wonderful, and use it. (Fresh has some lovely products.) Get a pedicure, facial, or massage. Get a haircut. Get your teeth cleaned (it’s good feng shui!).
  11. What do you have that’s expired, past its use-by date? Check the cupboards and medicine cabinet. Find a prescription take-back program (your city or pharmacy may have one), and take advantage of it.
  12. If you’re still not sure what your next step is, ask yourself the question, and go to sleep. See if you don’t wake up with new insight.

 

How not to judge

Willing

A couple of experiences yesterday clearly reminded me how little I like being judged. You know how when you’re on a diet, you start noticing foods that are unnecessarily caloric? I think it may be similar when you’ve released a lot of negativity and judgment … when you run into it, it really starts to stand out in stark relief. It makes you uncomfortable, and it’s clear that it has no value or really, useful purpose.

I was on my way to a friend’s alumni association crawfish boil, stopped at a light, when a woman gestured to me to roll down my window. Generally when people do this, it’s to convey some kind of useful or at least well-intentioned information, like that one of my tires is low.

This time was a bit different. Based on my bumper stickers (“Hope, not fear”) left from the 2008 election cycle, she inquired about my support for the President, and then yelled, “I just wanted to see what stupid looked like!” She then closed her window quite promptly, clearly uninterested in (or perhaps afraid of) my thoughts on her thoughts. I shook my head and muttered to myself that I hadn’t wanted to see what ignorant looked like.

When I arrived at the event, even before I could park my car, I immediately noticed great enthusiasm for wearing the school colors of purple and gold. My friend hadn’t said anything about this, but since purple is one of my favorite colors, I happened to be wearing purple shoes, eyeshadow, lipgloss, and (known only to myself–and now you!) purple underwear. This, it turned out, was insufficient, and others at the table (also alumni of other schools, but unlike me, forewarned) let me know of their superiority in wearing the school colors. Ah, joy.

In the back of my mind for probably months now, I’ve been thinking about how I want to renew my own commitment to eliminating judgment from my life. These experiences were catalysts in helping me decide that the time to do that is now.

I grew up in a family and a church that absolutely prized judgment of others. Though my family read the Bible through each year, Jesus’s words “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1) seemed to register with no one. I remember puzzling over them, trying to imagine what that meant, how that would work.

I became really interested in releasing judgment from my life about 7 years ago when I read Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention (published in 2004). He mentions briefly the work of the late Dr. David R. Hawkins, who measured various vibrations, such as those of documents, books, people, and so on. Dr Hawkins’ work indicated that higher vibrations are very powerful, and that one person vibrating at a higher level can balance the negativity of many lower-vibrating people. I found this idea quite exciting, but there was just one problem. I knew I didn’t meet the criteria for the first level. This is what I read …

    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of optimism and a willingness to be nonjudgmental of others will counterbalance the negativity of  90,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower weakening levels [which basically consist of fear and lack of integrity].
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of pure love and reverence for all of life will counterbalance the negativity of 750,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower weakening levels.
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of illumination, bliss, and infinite peace will counterbalance the negativity of 10 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels (approximately 22 such sages are alive today).
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of grace, pure spirit beyond the body, in a world of nonduality or complete oneness, will counterbalance the negativity of 70 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels (approximately 10 such sages are alive today).

Here are two compelling statistics offered by Dr. Hawkins in his 29-year study of the hidden determinants of human behavior:

    1. One single avatar living at the highest level of consciousness in this period of history to whom the title Lord is appropriate, such as Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha, and Lord Jesus Christ, would counterbalance the collective negativity of all of mankind in today’s world.
    2. The negativity of the entire human population would self-destruct were it not for the counteracting effects of these higher energy fields.

As I read this, I felt I was doing fairly well on the optimism front, but I knew very well I wasn’t nonjudgmental. But I was willing to try.

I started writing in my journal every day my intention to be willing to be in non-judgment of others. I found that this really made a profound difference in my life.

I really love the “willing” part of this statement, by the way. It seems to open up a space where–just like thoughts during meditation–judgment may come up, and then you can meet it with the willingness to release it and be in non-judgment. And as with thoughts during meditation, with practice, judgments become much less frequent.

In my view, releasing judgment doesn’t mean that you’re not aware of what’s really happening … that you don’t understand it, that you don’t know when you’re dealing with someone who’s as trustworthy as a rattlesnake. My interpretation of non-judgment is that you do notice all of these things, and act accordingly–you just don’t feel the need to judge them. Two common responses of mine when judgment comes up is, “We’re all doing our best” (which is so often true) and “No one asked me to judge.” This is also quite true. No one with any moral authority has invited me to judge anyone else–nor will they.

Now I want to take this practice to the next level. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’m going to do that, but I’ve decided that when judgment comes up, I’m going to reiterate my intention then and there …

I want to be willing to be in non-judgment of others.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Willingness to be in non-judgment + personal Witness. This could probably also be considered a Waterbearer card. The water and water jug are meant to represent the life-giving nature of creating a higher vibration.

The heart space meditation

Endurance

As I was looking through an older magazine tonight as part of my ongoing clutter-clearing effort, I came across this meditation. I immediately tried it and loved it and really did feel rested after a short time. I think you’ll love it too. This is Loch Kelly’s meditation, mentioned in Sara Reistad-Long’s “Rest Cures” in the January 2008 issue of O Magazine. Enjoy.

Kelly suggests deciding ahead of time how long you can allow yourself to rest [I set a timer when I meditate]–people usually do it from one to 20 minutes, but you may want to go longer. To prepare, take a big inhalation, filling your stomach from the bottom to the top like a water pitcher. Exhale as you normally would. Next, look up and allow your peripheral vision to expand, a gesture intended to keep you engaged with your surroundings. Smile to tell yourself that you’re doing something you enjoy.

On the left side of your chest is your heart. Imagine, on the right side, an open space–your heart space. Gently close your eyes, and as you do, bring your awareness in from outside, feeling it centered around your eyes or forehead [I used my third-eye chakra] and allowing it to drift down like a feather, through your jaw, through your throat, down the right side of your chest to the area where your heart isn’t–a soft, embracing, velvet space. Let the awareness of your whole being enter the heart space and remain there as if returning home after a long journey. Rest in this safe, velvet peace, and visualize your body’s cells drinking in the calm, enjoying the deep silence for as long as you need. When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes as though you’re waking from a wonderfully restorative sleep.

Illustrating this post is a SoulCollage card I made last year, Endurance + Staying on the path.

How to meditate

meditation

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. –Deepak Chopra

When you have pain in your body, when all sorts of thoughts are going through your mind, you train again and again in acknowledging them openheartedly and open-mindedly, but not making them such a big deal. –Pema Chodron, in How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind

Before I started meditating, some years ago now, I resisted doing so for a long time. The instructions all seemed inane–“Just focus on your breath. It couldn’t be simpler.”

When meditation is difficult for me now, my favorite method is to focus intently on the sounds around me. The clock’s pendulum, back and forth. The barking dog outside. A dog breathing at my feet. Leaves being raked. Whatever’s happening–there’s always something.

A common misperception is that you need quiet in order to meditate. People often tell me that they have to wait for more perfect circumstances to start meditating. The apartments where they live are too noisy, or their dog has dementia and wants to go outside every five minutes.

The bad news, and the good news, is that life never gets perfect. You should also know that someone, somewhere, is always using a leafblower. You must simply begin.

Meditation is a way to create peace and quiet in a noisy and imperfect world, not to mention a noisy and imperfect mind. When I describe to people what meditation is, sometimes they’ll tell me there is never a break in their stream of thoughts.

If you meditate, though, there will be.

I remember being dismayed when I started meditating that it seemed I wasn’t very good at it. There’s still the occasional day when that seems true. If you find that you’re not either, remember that the beauty of meditation is that you don’t have to be good at it to reap its benefits. And, you will get better.

Key to the whole process, I believe, is dropping judgment about having thoughts. There seems to be a belief that meditation involves turning off your thoughts. It does not.

It involves becoming aware of your thoughts, and gently releasing them. As this process continues over time, more space opens up between your thoughts.

When I become aware during meditation that I’m thinking, I let the thought go, like cutting the string to a helium balloon, or releasing a bubble to the surface of water. There is less than no point in thinking, “Oh damn, thinking again,” because that is creating more of what you don’t want. So release any judgment along with the thought.

Thinking is what everyone is doing, even during meditation. However, those who meditate are having fewer useless thoughts, even when they’re not meditating. The habit of creating mind space (as well as of dropping judgment) carries over into real life. Thank goodness.

Besides creating calm, peace, and tranquility, a major point of meditation is to create space for guidance and wisdom to come to you. If the noise of your busy life is preventing you from hearing your inner wisdom, meditation clears space to allow it to come through loud and clear.

I typically meditate 15-20 minutes (I set a timer), both morning and evening. If work is really pushing my buttons, sometimes I’ll take 10-20 minutes to meditate at lunch as well. I keep Doreen Virtue’s Archangels and Ascended Masters on my coffee table, and often ask for the help of an angel or ascended master as I meditate. I also keep a journal nearby, so that when guidance comes to me I can write it down. It’s encouraging to flip back through my journal and read so many positive and encouraging words.

I find that meditation really centers me in the morning, preparing me for my day, and calms me at night, preparing me to sleep.

I’ve just recently started a 40-day x 40-minute meditation challenge. I’m still meditating 2-3 times a day, but extending one of my meditation sessions to 40 minutes. So far I’m finding the 40 minutes quite long, but I also have a sense that the extra time is benefiting me in ways I don’t fully understand.

If you aren’t yet meditating, I encourage you to simply begin! Even 5 minutes a day will benefit you. And if you’d like to meditate longer, please feel free to join the challenge!

Ashes of roses

incense-burner

As I sit in my home office tonight, Gracie warm in my lap, the pleasant scent of rose incense still lingers.

Typically I feel the energy in my home is very good, but I noticed recently while doing a couple of guided meditations in my home office (for proximity to my laptop) that the energy there could be much better.

I attributed the energy issues to the chair where I was sitting, a family hand-me-down, as well as to one of my dogs, who tends to be fearful and nervous, spending a lot of time in my office. It may also be that stressful energy associated with my job (I sometimes do work at my desk) has accumulated there. And all the electronics are probably doing the energy no favors either.

This morning, I knew I’d be doing another guided meditation here as part of a teleclass I’m taking, so I burned a stick of incense on a table right next to the chair where I’d be sitting. This afternoon, I was able to meditate there easily.

A few weeks ago, I burned some incense on my desk, and I was amazed by the clear, clean, pure atmosphere I felt there afterward.

I’ve found that a lot of incense can be too strong and intense for me, but I really like the Maroma Encens d’Auroville fair-trade rose incense I’ve been using. I think I’ll burn another stick on my desk tonight …

Unplugged

The collective disease of humanity is that people are so engrossed in what happens, so hypnotized by the world of fluctuating forms, so absorbed in the content of their lives, they have forgotten the essence, that which is beyond content, beyond form, beyond thought. –Eckhart Tolle, in Oneness with all Life

I haven’t watched TV at home since the Clinton administration. And really, I have Bill to thank for the whole thing.

I remember well what was being featured on the news when I last watched it. The existence of Monica’s blue dress, purportedly complete with DNA, was making headlines and being discussed at the top of the hour, every hour.

A news junkie at the time, I was thoroughly disgusted with just about everything I was hearing, so when my cable went out (I needed it to get decent reception of even basic channels), I took it as a sign. I decided to cancel my cable service and swear off TV till the next inauguration. And by the time the next President was sworn in, I felt no need to watch news of his administration either.

It’s not just television news I don’t watch … at this point, I have a news blackout. I don’t read the newspaper, listen to news on the radio, or read news online (except during major election cycles). I’ve learned that when something important happens, people will tell you. One of my former coworkers actually delighted in telling me what everyone else already knew.

But even with my all-but-permanent news fast, I still manage to score quite well on current events quizzes–far better than most people who are actually keeping up with the news. The people who e-mail me the quizzes seem quite disgusted to hear my scores.

I don’t know how to explain this. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps our national politics are like a soap opera–even if you watch only every four years, you can still keep up with the plot.

I find that it’s nice to take a step back from the world, and it’s really nice to have a peaceful, quiet home that’s a true haven.

On 9/11, I heard the shocking news on NPR after the second plane hit. I watched TV pretty much all day at work that day, but afterwards I saw no more coverage of the attack. It’s been documented that how traumatized we were was directly proportional to the number of replays we watched. I found myself far less affected than most other Americans. Maybe it’s because I’d had a wake-up call in my life less than a year prior that caused me to re-evaluate my priorities and choices, and make time and resources available for what was truly important to me. Or maybe it’s that I wasn’t watching TV at the time.

When I tell people I don’t watch TV, they often ask what I do with myself instead–and isn’t that revealing? When I watched TV, I planned my life around it (think back to when you had to program a VCR if you couldn’t be there to watch a show), like it was a living being I needed to consider. I got home, turned it on, and watched unpleasant news up until the moment I turned everything off to (try to) go to sleep.

Now I have time to read, meditate, do needlework if I’m in the mood, cook for both people and dogs, write, spend time with friends, garden, shop, try new restaurants, sleep well … many of which lots of people say they don’t have time to do. Yet virtually everyone has time for TV.

Now I find that I have fewer thoughts and worries running through my mind. It’s not that I don’t have them, but the ones I do have are actually mine, not the whole world’s. I also have far less to feel angry about. This extra mind space allows me the inner quiet to hear my own guidance and higher wisdom, which I need to hear on a daily (hourly) basis.

Back in my storage room, I still have the first, and only, TV I ever bought. I remember what a necessity it seemed like at the time. I suppose it’s clutter, but when people say, “Heather doesn’t have a TV,” it amuses me to say that in fact I do have one–but it’s unplugged.

I gather analog TVs no longer work without an adapter. I’m cool with that. Unplugged is exactly how I like my TV–and my life.

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