Yogi Bhajan, the founder of Kundalini yoga said; “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand it, write about it, if you want to master it, it teach it. “ So goes my study & pursuit of peace of mind. Meditation and mindfulness has been a thread my whole life—unknowingly, until my twenties, when I stumbled (a lot) and started meditating intentionally. I’ ve been blessed with unbelievable teachers. I’m in a monthly sangha with a mentor who has been a guiding light. I also participate in weekly meditation group—I feel the energy and support of being in community. I take periodic retreats. I journal. Several forty day commitments have taught me the rewards of daily early morning practice. I do that every day now. I read morning messages by Fred Buechner and Jay Sidebotham. I listen to a recorded meditation or read something by Thích Nhát Hanh, Henry Nouwen, Barbara Brown Taylor. I’ve gotten religious about it. I try to do a few minutes of breathwork and/or yoga poses, and then I get up and sit for a bit, unless my bed is extra cozy. Ideally I get 20 minutes of that each day. Often not. Mostly, I try to come back to being present thruoghout my day, observing gratitude. It’s a nice balance to the unthinkable, which we all encounter... a lot.
After hearing Admiral McCraven’s speech at UT, it changed the way I look at simple tasks like making your bed. His philosophy is that making your bed every morning teaches discipline and focus, allowing you start every morning with a completed task and growing your day from that. And if your day is complete shit, at least you have a bed that is made to come home to. I think this has a very powerful message and can correlate a lot to meditation; meditation puts you in a disciplined routine that helps teach focus. Meditating or even just sitting for 10 minutes with no distracts every day puts you in a place of calm acceptance for everything as it is. It is almost like training your brain to remain calm and not freak out. The more I meditate, the easier I find the motivation to do it. And its a snowball effect that gets you in a habit of calmly reflecting and learning about yourself.
The most significant work in my practice has involved identifying and opening around the many ways I've misused my practice itself to evade reality (instead of experience it more fully). I've learned that practice is not a panacea. It will not cure our quirks, imperfections, and limitations. A committed practice will, however, allow us to experience ourselves more completely so that we can begin to live more deliberately and love more openly. But there's a caveat: we have to show up and do the work. Talking about water will not quench your thirst.
I found guided meditation has helped me tremendously. It helped me sleep. It helped me stay calm and reduced stress. It kept me focused. It offered support. I didn’t feel so alone as I felt someone was almost going through the challenges with me by relying on a calming voice everyday. And after a month, the techniques and natural ability of getting into a routine every day of taking a 20 min break from life became engrained in my schedule. The calming techniques remain with me and have led to a higher quality and more meaningful life. They are a tremendous source of support in this highly chaotic, technology dependent world. So thankful I was able to “Breathe” through breast cancer.
What I do is yoga and other forms of regular exercise, like running and long walks with my dog Blossom to get back to center. What I’ve tried is the Headspace app, and I like it, but I am sporadic about remembering to use it. What I wish for are more quieting, focused, meditative moments/periods in my day. I have found I feel most balanced when I make time in my day to do observe these practices.
My truth is that balance in life results from a daily practice of physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual pursuits. I have found this through regular exercise, a consistent morning meditation, a consistent yoga practice, prayer and a daily devotional time of clearly setting mindful intentions!! I don’t ask myself if “I feel” like doing the above, I am motivated by the clear impact it has on my daily functioning. “To the extent we live our lives consistent with the truth in our heart we are free!! Free from anger, guilt, shame, hate, anxiety, and worry. We are free, free to enjoy this beautiful thing we call life!!!
Confucius says: “At fifteen I set my heart upon learning. At thirty, I had planted my feet firm upon the ground. At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities. At fifty, I knew what were biddings of Heaven, At sixty, I heard them with docile ear. At seventy I could follow the dictates of my own heart ; for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right” In my forties, I think I managed to be on the right path of Confucius and no longer suffer from perplexities. Growing up in Hiroshima, Japan, I think I was surrounded by this mentality of how fragile life can be. People close to me went through war, earthquake, floods, etc., and yet many of them have very peaceful minds that I still learn from and want to be around. I listen to my mind and instincts. I am trying to be open and accepting to new learning, ideas and new people, at the same time, I have learned to choose what is important for me and not. When I am stressed I rest, listen to or play music, soak in a hot tub, focus on helping others.I started doing yoga a few years ago and it helps me listening to my body. Meditation is another thing that help me clear my mind (not that I have a lot but more like organizing my mind). And my next goal is that I will be able to say, “At fifty, I knew what were biddings of Heaven, At sixty, I heard them with docile ear.”
I’m 50 years old, and consider myself a very spiritual person, however I don’t adhere to anyone’s rules or definitions of what that means. I bring meditation into every aspect of my being. I consider “being fully PRESENT” a meditation. In every thing that I do, I try to DO it fully. I try to feel every single part of each moment. I believe I fail at this more than I succeed, but when my heart and mind are focused, and I am “in the zone”, I do succeed, and that is the most gratifying feeling I know. My husband and I have a weekly sitting meditation, and we also go to group meditation with our church each Sunday. Sometimes we stay for the church service for the sense of faith and community. We go for a very long walk together and just talk. Sometimes I feel like my meditation, the sitting meditation, can be difficult or even disturbing. Those times are hard. My sitting meditations can be nothing more than thinking, and it can be really easy for me to get frustrated and beat myself up over it. But, as meditation is a PRACTICE, I just keep practicing. I try and be gentle with myself.
After a very difficult and ongoing battle with a mental illness, is when I found my way to flowers. I like to say that it was in the quiet that God led me to know that I needed to slow down life, learn to self preserve, and learn that working with flowers filled me rather than deplete me. I had NO idea that I had a gift of flower arranging. Never ever in my wildest dreams did I think I would have a flower business, let alone a successful one! I would attend church, ask god for guidance, and the strength to make it through the hopelessness. I truly believe that during that year of quiet, that I was in a way “saved” from the demons swirling around in my head. Arranging flowers is for me is a meditation too: fills my soul. I truly believe God intervened and showed me the way of light and love in the form of flowers.
My spiritual practice is eclectic and erratic. The key for me is to dedicate time in the morning to have my sit. If I don’t do it before my day begins, seldom do I come back to it. Since it’s winter and a bit chilly in the mornings now, I make a yummy cup of coffee and create a spot in front of my fireplace, with the fire on. I begin with reading the day’s reflection by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk. On Mondays, I begin by reading Monday Matters by Jay Sidebotham. I give myself time to focus on a word or phrase that resonates with me. If one doesn’t jump out on a particular morning, I go right to my meditation. I set the timer for 20 minutes. For a while now, I have used the same words to center me in my meditation. If I notice my mind wondering, I come back to those few words. Some days I’m beyond itchy and distracted. Other days, it seems my mind and body are more at ease. I try to practice observing my mind with no judgment.I try to practice no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ meditation. The only thing that’s important is to do it. For me, it’s sacred time to allow myself to be held and loved by God. To practice accepting that I’m accepted, as Paul Tillich encourages. My yoga practice and teaching are a way to come back to presence during the day. The practice of intentional breathing and moving is grounding for me. Yoga offers me a way to come back to the present moment, time and time again, as we’re encouraged to notice the mind, body and spirit both when we're moving and in stillness.
Gratitude journals are a wonderful tool to record your blessings and bring peace in your life, but you don’t have to put pen to paper to gain the benefits of being grateful. Simply take a moment to quietly say thank you for the gift of your life and the day. Take it a step further and give thanks for those people, places or things that are blessings in your life. Another way I find inner peace and happiness in today’s world doesn’t require a yoga mat, a meditation app or any aids. The beauty found in nature has incredible centering and grounding powers, and it’s free! So take a moment to look out your window, or go for a walk outside and experience the awe inspiring gifts from mother earth.
30 years ago, a group of eighth graders gave me a book which included scripture readings from the Daily Lectionary. I figured if they all gave me this gift, I should use it, so I made it my daily practice to spend 20-30 minutes at the beginning of the day, saying the confession in the Prayer Book, reading the psalm of the day and then the three readings chosen for the day. Over the years, the psalms have become old friends, and I look forward to the cycle of stories in the Bible. I’ve used a timer, now on my phone, to measure the time. Sometimes it flies by. Sometimes not. After I do these readings and try to figure out how they inform my day, I offer prayers. Right now, I go to an early morning yoga class, which has become integral to my practice. The drive to the studio is about 15 minutes. In that time, I say prayers out loud for those who are on my heart. I say thanks for gifts including my life, including food and shelter, which so many people don’t have. And I try to figure out the so-what factor in the scripture readings. This is my current practice. I suspect it will change in days ahead. But the daily aspect is key.
I believe in the power of prayer. I pray all day some days. My power praying began when I was pregnant. How was a gal like me who didn’t even like to babysit going to be responsible for a baby and be a good mom?! When I became a mom, I prayed for patience. I have so much patience. I pray that my boys make good choices. I pray for healthy bodies and healthy minds. God gives me strength. One of my favorite “official” prayers is called Ordinary Time Prayer. I love this name because I love the gift of an ordinary day. Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us with us. So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen. About 15 years ago, I took my first yoga class with 3 of my best friends from college. We all knew we needed something to help us from losing our minds. I tried so hard not to think about my grocery list. Yoga is a practice which I need in my weekly routine. Most days, I practice at 6am with a wonderful community of early morning yogis. My favorite class includes a 20-minute nidra mediation at the end. About the same time I began my yoga practice, my family got our first puppy, Babe Ruth. Babe was the best dog ever and we walked and walked and walked for over 12 years. I needed to walk when my boys were 4, 6, 8 and 10 to get out of the house. I need to walk now when they are 18, 20, 22 and 24. I walk with our new puppy, Roy Hobbs, now. I need to be outside in the fresh air and in nature.
What are we in search of when we feel the innate need to do things to quiet our minds or to be more mindful? For me, it’s to get closer to my true, best self and to be at peace with my purpose in life. Finding purpose or meaning in one’s life is a universal need, conscious or not, and there are many ways to catalyze growth in this direction, but the underlying motivation and answers are different for each of us, because there’s no one else like us in the universe. For me the search for answers begins with questions. What do I truly value? What am I being call to do? What are my priorities in life? What’s most important to me? Do I live into this or am I just pretending to? When do I feel the most at peace with who I am? Is it after exercise, worship, engaged in an activity, working, etc? The answers to these questions will be different for all of us. Self reflection, experimentation, and patience with oneself are essential. Sitting quietly and thinking about this or meditating can be helpful. Regular exercise, yoga, walking outside, and small service and kind words to others are helpful to me. It’s also been very helpful for me to stop doing the things that I believe stop me from being my true, best self. The goal is to understand who our best, true self is and to then unlock the sets of activities that increase the likelihood of that person emerging on a consistent basis over time.
I believe world is filled with people who meditate yet who neither use the label “meditation” or think of it as a spiritual practice. Oftentimes, it is when we perform rituals and acts that don’t always require 100%of our brain power that we have meditative experiences. Relaxing in a hot tub. Mowing the lawn. Painting. Cleaning. Gardening. Some athletes such as cyclists, runners, and swimmers offer that training provides many of the benefits associated with meditation such a singular, centered focus. My own meditation practice is found increasingly in the form of what is traditionally considered to be meditation, as age has seemed to still my racing mind a bit and made it more possible for me to transition from the busyness of a work day to the stillness of meditative practice. For much of my adult life, though, getting behind the wheel of my truck away from stoplights and multi-tasking drivers has been where I have found peace – even though I’ve never thought of it as meditation. I believe there are meditative practices in many of our lives that go far beyond the traditional forms of meditation. Ways that we find balance in our lives. After all, given the level of activity most of us have, can we be balanced and healthy if we do not have stillness, as well?
Meditation has provided me luxurious moments in time. Although it is hard to stay in the moment at times, the simple idea of reverting back to the breath has been a great place to start. I have learned not to feel guilty or frustrated when my mind drifts off, but to notice, acknowledge and return back to the breathe. I have found that time and time again, my mind aligns with my body to stay in the moment of time. This has been a gift of relaxation and self preservation. As I reflect on what meditation has done for me, I have learned that connecting the mind and body is where you have to begin. Once your mind and body are connected in a moment of time, you can channel your mind to heal your body, through positive thoughts and imagery. For example; I reconstruct my lungs through imagery and positive meditation to rid the cancer away. Its a discipline and practice.
Only we can control our response to life and what comes our way. Only we can cultivate the qualities of heart, mind, and vision that allow us to see trouble coming and help us work with it deftly. We are all in the classroom right now. We see the damage an untrained mind wreaks. We live and have always lived in troubling times with instability, change, fragility, and madness. I have been through some serious things in life, and it is because of my faith and my meditation practice that I have not lost my mind.
Quotes that have stuck with me over the years of developing my practice ... “Put your ass on the cushion and take what you get” (Jack Kornfield) meaning just do it. Some days are easy, some are hard, all are slowly awakening you to your authentic self. Another favorite quote relating to my practice, I call life: “If you can’t get out of it, you might as well get into it.” Instead of wasting so much energy avoiding and resisting conflict and emotion, step into the moment and be surprised/curious about the beautiful gift this awareness can bring.
What I do: infrequent meditation (5-20 minutes in the morning), journaling, therapy, yoga, running,. I don't do: art. I Believe: that people are good at their core, that there is something bigger - spirit, God, universe - at play Find hard: the emotional ups and downs of daily life, PMS, pre-menstrual depression, relationship struggles, guilt of what I "should" be doing with my life I have tried: daily meditation, Headspace app, 30 days of yoga, drinking water every morning. I have friends who have tried ayahuasca. I have no judgment, we are all are seekers.
Emphasizing it is a practice and to start over and over as many times as is necessary has always helped me to stay committed. Sometimes it feels easier to sit when I think "I got this" because the mind is fresh, and then other times the mind feels as though it is completely out of control and this is when it is most important to strap in for the ride. It is always easier to have a community of like-minded individuals participating. There's something about the collective energy that feeds and nourishes our inner souls. But the mind is so powerful that it will make up stories and find excuses to backtrack to its familiar pattern. I notice when this happens and try not to react or judge what is happening in the moment. Appreciating and accepting all facets of who we are is the beginning of change. Breathe. Follow the in and out breath, and when the mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to the breath.
I meditate quietly every day. I get up every morning at 4 a.m. First, I say thanks. Then I ask for HIS presence. I say I am here, Holy Spirit, please come in, I am looking for you. Then I close my eyes and my body is very relaxed and I quietly listen.
My whole approach to teaching meditation is to make it easy. I teach Primordial Sound Meditation (personal mantra meditation) and guided meditation and how to create it as a habit. Any habit is something you do without thinking - you just get it done. It's a commitment to your health. I just want everyone to know how easy it is and how much it can change your life. You learn from meditation how happy you can be and how the universe has your back, even if it doesn't look that way. There is no fixing or changing. Through meditation you stop looking outside for happiness and realize happiness and contentment are already there.
I've been meditating for 35 years, since early recovery and that it's been an integral part of my life and work. I've done various methods with various teachers and found the method of 'presence practice' doesn't really matter. The willingness, the intention to simply be in the here and now is the key. Watching thoughts, questioning thoughts, practicing self-inquiry~ daily reflection, recognizing our own truth~ in whatever way works for each person. Byron Katie is the master. I started writing haiku many years ago as a present moment practice. That in itself has been a great gift.
I have read so much recently about meditation. How it focuses and calms the mind. How it silences the negative voices. Having grown up in the Quaker faith, I recognized this as Meeting. We gather on Sunday morning. I settle, think about what I need to pick up at the grocery store when Meeting is over, look at my nails in horror and resolve to do something about them, remember a bill that has gone unpaid, and then, slowly, like sinking into a hot bath, I shift my mind to a higher calling. God. My marriage. My children. How grateful I am. How I want to better myself. It is so peaceful, so out-of-body. So restorative. When I moved to the mountains of Idaho, I found myself without a Meeting for the first time in my life. I had always dragged myself to Meeting in Connecticut, at Duke, in New York and London out of a sense of religious obligation. In Idaho, with no Meeting to go to, I realized that I hadn't really been dragging myself. I had been nurturing my inner self. In the mountains, I have learned to find my Meeting in nature. The endless permutations of glistening snow on a backcountry ski. The deep blue of the sky. The warmth of an orange sunset on a snowy mountain peak. I savor and stop at these moments, focus my mind, and take it in. Really take it in. And then, for that moment, the grocery list is forgotten and the soul is fortified.
Many of the great sages have pointed us to the place of silent stillness. The community of spiritual practice that I am a part of celebrates the darkest night of the year on December 21st. Most of us have been taught to fear the dark, to stay huddled around the campfire where we can clearly see and be encouraged by the company and comfort of others. This camaraderie and safety has its place. But for those on the contemplative journey it is necessary to step out into the dark silence. After only a short time, one’s eyes begin to adjust and the glowing embers faintly smoldering at the center of our being can be seen. Some call these glowing embers God. If we have the courage to do so we can stay in the dark stillness and gently blow on the embers and watch as the flames grow. But we must be willing to go into the still darkness.
At first I was so determined to be a good meditator (whatever that is!) I mean I’m not aiming to be a monk, but I am working hard to stay in the present moment and allow it to be what it is. I’ve spent much of my life as an avoider, an avoider of pain and conflict (except for family where I tend to me an instigator.) I was raised to suppress difficult emotions and just plug on. I know many of us were and I’m not alone. The more I ignored my body, the more stress built within me. After my second health scare I officially embarked on this journey of learning to be present and listen to my body as much as I listened to my brain. I use the Headspace App, I walk in nature, walking without my phone and my dog can be a great reset, paying attention to my breath when at a stoplight, I turn off all electronics and radio in the car and drive in silence and try to just pay attention. Driving is also a great way to practice not being reactive. I always find the slow person when I’m running late. I flip it and tell myself how grateful I am that this person has slowed me down, maybe I noticed an animal, the light of the sky or better yet avoid a ticket as a cop is around the corner. I just assume there is purpose to slowing down and surrender to it. No matter what path you take, be curious and open yourself to experience more joy & connectedness to the world around you.
First thing in morning I do brief mindfulness exercise, washing hands, brushing teeth, then onto yoga asanas followed by a 20 minute CP meditation with the “surrender vs. attention or awareness meditation.” Throughout the day I bring in mindfulness exercises and Welcoming Practice. Recently I have become aware of how often “I am NOT present and off in thought” and how often I am reactive from the “lower self” this is a newer understanding for me. I am working on being more present and loving/caring/compassionate/courageous embracing meditation/mindfulness/prayer in activities like pour over coffee, walk in ravine, paddle tennis/tennis ....... and in daily interactions I try to hit the “pause” button and respond from heart. Typical part of my day/practice includes some type of exercise and reading books by Thich Nhat Hanh and my KidsUganda work. Also weekly support and connection with family, sports teams and periodic hospitality. A teacher helped me appreciate that we all have a “practice” and our practice manifests in how we experience life. My vision is: “Embrace life’s inside out journey from me to we.”
There’s only one place in my weekly routine where my mind completely settles. The focus sharpens. The mental gymnastics of life’s worries, the tug-o’-war of pressing work to-do’s and parental / spousal “am I doing enough?”s wash away when I step across the black line and on to basketball court. It’s 7 a.m. on Sunday morning and my mental refuge takes place in a basketball complex aptly named Joy of the Game. My brain seems to have found its balance beam. The free radical atoms that are normally firing in seemingly random fashion pong-ing off the innards of my cranium rest. Or at least simplify. For two hours, I race up and down a court with a singular focus – winning a game. The game within the game is a constant mental challenge with a labyrinth of micro decisions, but they are relaxingly linear. Despite our middle-aged bodies, we perform a ballet of basketball movement – extraneous thoughts are blocked out. From the sidelines, the game likely looks rugged. Participating in it feels like a fluid experience that is indescribable and a mental flossing offset by extreme physical exertion. And then, it’s over. Crossing that end line concluding each week’s session feels like a Field of Dreams moment. Tasks, times of events and fleeting thoughts of work stresses fire off and the mental synapses remind us of the imbalances we left at the door. The bag is packed, the ginger walk begins and it’s exit Joy of the Game time.
Every day I do some version of sitting, moving and nature immersion. I have a 3 gratitudes and 3 affirmations I practice at the tail end of the mediation and movement. My routine is simple on purpose; I can get easily overwhelmed or psyched out with the prospect of a long practice. I encourage my clients to keep theirs as simple as possible too. 10 minutes of yoga / QiGong in my practice space. 5-10 minutes of formal sitting. I maintain presence as I make my bullet-proof coffee (cold press, ghee and coconut oil). And I try to get out in nature every day and walk in the woods (forest medicine). In my work with clients with PTSD, Anxiety or Depression (some in recovery) we look at how we are living in our own nervous systems. I meet them where they are. We do body centered work. And breathe, and witness sensation/feeling. There are many indicators when someone dissociates or is activated. (Held breath, tension, eye darting, fidgeting etc...) It is important to know how we are living in our own bodies.