About what matters

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Tag: calm

Six reasons to meditate

Meditation

Every so often, I’ll be listening to a recitation of problems and I’ll say, “You know, I think meditation could really help with that.” And then I’ll get a list of reasons why the person I’m talking to can’t possibly meditate. (These are all real reasons.)

  • Their dog has dementia and wants to go outside every five minutes. (A five-minute meditation practice is perfectly valid.)
  • The apartment’s too noisy–someone’s car alarm is always going off. (It’s completely possible to meditate no matter the background noise–leaf blowers, fireworks, a thunderstorm. I do try to choose a quieter time if I can. No doubt every apartment complex, dorm, or other communal living space has its quieter times.)
  • Physical issues make sitting in the ‘proper’ position too painful. (My view is that the proper position is the one that allows you to meditate comfortably for the amount of time that yields the benefit you’re looking for. Insight meditation also recommends being comfortable. I once attended a day-long meditation retreat, and found that the grouchy monk running the retreat and I had different views on this. As I made myself comfortable, he shot me looks, and finally explained how wrong it was to do so–that if a fly, for example, lands on your nose while you’re meditating, you should simply allow it to sit there for as long as it likes. I was very comfortable with never returning to that meditation center. I believe a real spiritual leader won’t judge you, and neither should you judge yourself, if you decide that being comfortable while you meditate is right for you.)
  • They’ve tried it, but clearly have no talent for meditation, as they just can’t stop thinking no matter how hard they try. (There are a lucky few who have a natural talent for meditation–the rest of us get to get good at it the hard way, which starts off in exactly this way. As someone to whom a few things have come easily, I think it’s a salutary experience to keep working at something worthwhile despite no immediate signs of genius. I have read–and I believe this–that meditating with your mind running 100 miles an hour is still practice.)

So there are the excuses. If you haven’t yet committed to a meditation practice, here are a few reasons to meditate based on my own experience, that I hope will speak to you.

  1. Meditation is great for releasing what’s bothering you. When I’m feeling upset, I often try to make time to meditate ahead of schedule (typically after breakfast and before my shower in the morning, and before bed at night). Inevitably anything I’m upset or excited about will cross my mind as I meditate. When it does, I visualize packing several symbols of whatever it is into a helium balloon, and cutting the string.
  2. Meditation is also great practice for releasing judgment of yourself and the need to be perfect. It soon becomes apparent that thoughts enter your mind, that’s what they do, and it’s OK. Perfection, whatever that might be, isn’t possible, but awareness and recognition of what’s happening is. You simply recognize the thoughts, release them, and move on–nothing else is necessary. This works in real life, too–you notice something has gone off the rails a bit, take corrective action, and just keep moving.
  3. Once you’ve meditated for awhile, not only does ‘monkey mind’ rarely happen during meditation, but my experience has been that it fades considerably all the rest of the time too. I used to actually try to drum up thoughts in quiet moments, asking myself, ‘OK, what’s next?’ I don’t do that anymore, and there are nice quiet spaces in my mind pretty much all the time. Peace, in other words. Calm. Serenity.
  4. I find that meditating before bed generally puts me in the perfect frame of mind for sleep. Good sleep is pretty much impossible to overvalue.
  5. When I meditate, I’ve found that I’m much more patient and tolerant. It’s not unusual now for people to thank me for my patience. I’m not sure that happened even once in all the years I didn’t meditate.
  6. Studies have shown that violent crime decreases in the surrounding area when people meditate regularly. I love that a practice intended to benefit me and my own life, in combination with the practice of others I both know and don’t know, raises the vibration of our neighborhoods and cities such that harmful violence is prevented, and lives that could have been painfully disrupted or even ended, never are. Together, we can bring that about.

If you meditate, what benefits have you experienced?

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Meditation.

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

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Crawling out of my skin

snake

More than most, I prize calm and serenity–more so the older I get. My home and the hours of the day and week that belong to me are organized to cultivate calm. But this past week, calm and serenity were elusive.

Yesterday as I stood at the kitchen counter making breakfast I thought, “This week I have really felt like crawling out of my skin.”

Aha! At that moment I realized that for someone about to shed a skin–or make major life changes, for those of us who aren’t actually reptilian–that feeling would be completely natural.

Today my calm and serenity are back–and I also am truly looking forward to shedding a skin or two.

Bath nirvana

I just took this bath last night after a stressful week at work, and–combined with a repeat session of the grounding exercise I do in the mornings–it really did the trick! My current formula is 6 small scoops of Epsom salts, and 18 drops of Aveda Lavender Fleurs Oil. Guaranteed relaxation.

In the past, I’ve never reblogged my own posts, but I’ve decided to begin doing this sometimes in order to free up some blocks of time to work on a goal that’s both important and urgent. As soon as it’s accomplished, I’ll be back to all new content. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy a relaxing bath on me!

About what matters

Lavender fields

Recently I put together a few simple elements that I thought resulted in the most relaxing bath ever–so of course I wanted to share!

It all started when I came across a magazine article about magnesium, “the relaxation mineral.” Magnesium fights stress, improves sleep, and not having a magnesium deficiency makes you only half as likely to die as other people. Sounds good to me! If you’ve noticed twitching around one or both of your eyes when you get stressed, that’s a symptom of magnesium deficiency, as are insomnia, high blood pressure, sensitivity to loud noises, and–you may have noticed others suffering from this!–irritability.

I have some magnesium malate tablets (horse pills if I’m honest) that I take occasionally. (It’s difficult to get the timing right for optimal absorption, I find.) But then the article I was reading mentioned that I could simply take a bath with epsom…

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How to demonstrate grace under fire

Grace

Last weekend, as I prepared to write this post, I had a couple of ideas in mind. Although this is my 100th post, and also my birthday post, my ideas weren’t ambitious. I knew I’d be out celebrating my birthday most of the weekend, and wouldn’t have much time to write or collage.

But when I sat down to meditate and ask for inspiration (as I almost always do before writing), the Muse clearly had other ideas.

The topic had something to do with my birthday–but what? “What you’ve learned, what you’ve accomplished.”

I wasn’t sure what that might be … but looking back at the year, it did seem the most significant event was that whole mess that started in January …

Great difficulty–handled with grace, the most ever. Outclassed [those who created the difficulty and the others involved].

So, it seemed I had a topic–one I wasn’t terribly sure how to start writing about. I decided to start by making a SoulCollage card on the topic, to help focus my thoughts–and here you see the results. This took me a few days. When I completed the card and read it, this is what it said …

 I am the one who is under pressure–and yet I am calm. Joyful, even. I am vulnerable, and yet I am very, very strong.

In the eye of the storm, I am calm. Why not?

Should you find yourself in great difficulty–and unfortunately I suppose it does come to us all eventually–here are a few ideas that I hope will help you handle it with grace and dignity …

  1. Remaining calm is a truly excellent idea. It allows you to process what’s happening and perceive it clearly without a bunch of upset getting in the way. And it feels (and looks) much better than wigging out. “Keep calm and carry on,” says the mug on my desk. (It’s an unused piece of British WWII propaganda–held in reserve for a serious emergency, and then never used.)
  2. Never let ’em see you sweat. You will no doubt need to vent in private, but remaining calm has the additional benefit of giving less than no satisfaction to anyone who may be attempting to create difficulty for you.
  3. When people come out of the shadows and attack you, they’re giving you a lot of information about who they are. This gives you a kind of power. And you should never forget what you’ve learned.
  4. Don’t allow the noxious weed of resentment to take root in your garden. Justified? Perhaps. But this is your health and wellbeing we’re talking about, not anyone else’s. So the resentment absolutely has to go.
  5. I find it helpful to remember that there are no exceptions to karma. It comes to everyone, no matter how apparently powerful or well-positioned. If someone is treating you unfairly or unjustly, it will most certainly come back to them. I’ve read that this cycle typically occurs in a 5-year timeframe, and my own experience bears that out.
  6. If you’re being wronged, don’t hesitate to defend yourself. Calmly, professionally, inexorably.
  7. When doing so, bear your audience in mind. Some may respond more to a reasoned argument, others more to an honest expression of your feelings.
  8. Be honest, and at the same time, hold something in reserve. You don’t need to tell everything you know or feel. Communicate enough to make your point; what you’ve reserved may come in handy for a rebuttal.
  9. It’s very reasonable to be angry when you’re being treated unfairly. But do yourself the honor of channeling your anger into effective action that furthers your cause, rather than allowing your anger to ineffectively blow up, thus setting you back.
  10. No one else gets to dictate how you feel and what you’re stressed about. That choice is yours.
  11. While you are vulnerable in this world, it’s good to remember when under attack or duress that there are many things you possess that are inalienable and cannot be touched, no matter how dismal another person’s intentions may be. Your eternal soul, and its purpose and accomplishments. All the love you’ve given and received. All the joy you’ve experienced and have yet to experience. The truth of the situation. All of your many choices. All these things are yours.
  12. Take good care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting sleep, good, healthy food, physical activity–all that your body needs. Feed your mind and spirit too. Keep all aspects of your strength up–this is key.
  13. Don’t forget to have fun and do all the things you enjoy.
  14. Take advantage of all of your support systems–your partner if you have one, friends, family, supportive coworkers. And don’t forget your ancestors and all the angels standing by, just waiting to be asked to help.
  15. Strike an effective balance between being high-profile (making your voice heard) and low-profile (flying under the radar).
  16. If you already have your ego in check, you’re at a tremendous advantage in almost any situation over those who don’t–and that’s especially true now.
  17. Every person, and every difficult situation, is different. Please consider these elements potential ingredients in your personal recipe for grace and calm.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made this past week, Grace under pressure.

The lovingkindness meditation

Hope

The limits of our goodwill form the ultimate boundaries of our peace of mind, for we cannot achieve peace while aversion is present. –Josh Korda

The lovingkindness meditation is a beautiful–and challenging–practice in which you offer lovingkindness first to yourself, and then to others … those who love you unconditionally, your loved ones, beloved pets, acquaintances, strangers, all sentient beings, relatives, and those who annoy you greatly. (These last two categories can overlap. OK, these last two categories do overlap.) I find it especially easy to offer lovingkindness to those who are now on the other side, as they are now even more purely loving than they were when they were here.

I’ve found in the past that serious resistance can arise to offering lovingkindness to those who seem to be doing their utmost to make my life difficult, or to those who’ve seemed to do so in the past. That’s why I’ve really enjoyed following Beth Terrence’s May is for Metta, which really eases into the lovingkindness practice, and helps build a strong foundation for it–to get in touch with your loving heart energy before you begin.

These are my favorite phrases to use during the meditation …

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be at ease.

May I be peaceful.

May I be healthy and strong.

May I have a calm, clear mind, and a peaceful, loving heart.

May I experience love, joy, and wonder in this life just as it is.

And today may you experience love, joy, and wonder in this life–just as it is.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made to represent my 4th chakra companion, a joyful bird, and also to celebrate Hope, that thing with feathers.

Time to go … or is it?

Time to go

Lately I’ve been feeling tremendous willingness for change in one area of my life–namely my work situation. I made this SoulCollage card this past week as a subtle hint to the Universe … it’s called ‘Time to go.’ When I read the card, though, its message was a little different …

The owl says:

I am one who is wise. I am one who is above it all–above the fray. I will watch over you–I will be with you. You are capable of loving even while all this is going on.

The woman says:

I am one who sees clearly. I am one who is preternaturally calm–like you.

The card says:

What I have to say to you about your current situation is: Be patient. The time is not yet. Good things are coming, but they are not here yet.

Time is of the essence, and also truly irrelevant.

There is more work to be done. You are a witness–an important one. A protector of the weak and helpless. You are not helpless–and therefore you are important.

Reflections on a wild week

rollercoaster

This past Sunday as I made breakfast, I observed myself muttering about my situation at work, and noted that it would be one of my tasks for the day to get myself centered in preparation for the week ahead.

As I mentioned in my last post, when I wondered what I could or should do to create change, my inner guidance was, “Wait and see.” I accepted this guidance, and decided to anchor it by making a SoulCollage card to represent the concept. I spent meditative, creative time doing so that afternoon. When I finished the card, I felt satisfied … I think the card is one of my most artistic, and it’s also been one of the most immediately helpful. I felt completed grounded in and committed to waiting and seeing what would happen next, and really felt at peace with this approach. A 180 since breakfast.

On Monday morning, the wild ride began almost immediately, as meetings were called to discuss changes in executive management. Later in the day, I couldn’t help but hear a loud altercation taking place behind a closed door. Despite all the drama, I felt calm all day.

I didn’t learn about everything that had happened until Tuesday, but what happened that day as it affects me directly is that, in two separate actions, the two people who’ve done the most to make my work life “challenging” (euphemism alert) over the past several years are no longer with the company. Someone passed me a note on a company-logoed Post-it that summed it all up rather well–“Justice … finally!”

Wow. I guess that counts as a twist and a turn. Not to mention a surprise.

As my life now includes one less narcissist, I may be in a bit of danger of losing my expert status on that topic. I can totally live with that.

My sense is that the changes and surprises aren’t finished yet … that there’s more to come. I’m buckled up for the wild ride. I’m completely on board with this wait and see approach.

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!

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