Archive for the ‘meditation’ Category

Playing Mind Games

March 12, 2012

[ From DailyOM ]

Life should not be lived through a series of mind games, but from truth and looking deep within.

For better or worse, many people have been raised to believe that communicating in an honest and open way will not get them what they want. They have learned, instead, to play mind games or go on power trips in the service of their ego’s agenda. People stuck in this outmoded and inefficient style of communication can be trying at best and downright destructive at worst. We may get caught up in thinking we have to play the same games in order to defend ourselves, but that will only lead us deeper into confusion and conflict. The best way to handle people like this is to be clear and honest with them

As with all relationships and situations in our lives, we must look within for both the source of our difficulties and the solution. Reacting to the situation by getting upset will only entrench us more deeply in the undesirable relationship. Only by disengaging, becoming still, and going within can we begin to see what has hooked us into the mess in the first place. We will most likely find unprocessed emotions that we can finally fully feel and release into the stillness we find in meditation. The more we are able to do this, the less we will be bothered by the other person’s dramas and the more we will be free to respond in a new way. In the light of our new awareness, the situation will untangle itself and we will slowly break free.

Whenever people come into our lives, they have come for a reason, to show us something about ourselves that we have not been able to see. When unhealthy people try to hook us into their patterns with mind games and power trips, we can remind ourselves that we have something to learn here and that a part of us is calling out for healing. This takes the focus off the troubling individual and puts it back on us, giving us the opportunity to change the situation from the inside out.

The Weight of the Past

February 27, 2012

[ From DailyOM ]

Holding onto regret is like dragging the weight of the past with us everywhere we go.

It drains our energy, leaving less available for life in the present because we are constantly feeding an old issue. This attachment can cause illness the same way watering a dead plant creates decay. We know that something new and beautiful can grow in its place if we only prepare the soil and plant the right seeds. We also know that we create our lives from our thoughts, so dwelling on the past may actually recreate a situation in our lives where we are forced to make the choice again and again. We can choose to move on right now by applying what we have learned to the present and perhaps even sharing with others, transforming the energy into something that is constructive and creative for ourselves and others.

Forgiveness is the soothing balm that can heal regret. In meditation, we can imagine discussing the issue with the self of our past and offering our forgiveness for the choice. In return, we can ask for our selves’ forgiveness for keeping them locked in that space of judgment for so long. We may also want to ask forgiveness from anyone else who may have been affected and perhaps offer our forgiveness. By replaying the event in our minds, we can choose a new ending using all that we now know. Imagine that you have actually gone back into the past and made this change, and then say goodbye to it. Release your former self with a hug and bring the forgiveness and love back with you to the present. Since we are usually our harshest critics, it is amazing how powerfully healing it can be to offer ourselves love.

Keeping our minds and our energy fully in the present allows us to fuel our physical and emotional healing and well-being today. This action frees our energy to create the dreams we dream for the future. By taking responsibility and action in the present, we can release our hold on the past.

Vacations

September 17, 2011

[ From DailyOM ]

An aware traveler sees each new journey as an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of humanity.

As the technology of travel grows ever more refined, the world grows smaller. Whereas a journey of a hundred miles once took many days, we can now travel across the globe in mere hours. The four corners of the earth are accessible by plane, train, and ship, and there are few pleasures in life as soul-stirring and transformative as travel. In a new land, the simplest of joys can be profound—meditation takes on a new quality because the energy in which we are immersed is unfamiliar. Our sensory experiences are entirely novel. Yet the relative ease with which we can step out of our own culture in order to explore another means that we are ambassadors representing not only our own way of life but also the culture of the traveler. As a conscious citizen of the world, you can add value to the locales you visit while simultaneously broadening your own perspective.

A truly aware traveler sees each new journey as an opportunity to improve international relations, spread goodness, and gain a greater understanding of humanity. To immerse yourself in foreign cultures is to open your mind to fresh ways of being. Your natural curiosity can help you navigate the subtleties that define a culture. While you may not agree with all the traditions or laws of a country, abiding by them demonstrates that you understand and respect their value. Staying centered in another culture is often simply a matter of learning about your destination, being patient with yourself and others, and accepting that people may treat you as an example of your country’s attitudes. New worlds will open to you when you take part in the everyday life of a locale—the reality of a destination is in its markets, its streets, and its people.

Traveling presents a wonderful opportunity to practice being open-minded and grounded. The voyages you make help cultivate a worldwide community in which we as humans can acknowledge and appreciate our differences as much as we recognize and appreciate our similarities. Though you will eventually return home, the positive impression you leave behind will remain as a testament to the respect and amicability that marked your intercultural interactions.

Quiet Please!

August 8, 2011

[ From DailyOM ]

We all have the endless chattering and noise in our head often referred to as the monkey mind.

It’s been called the monkey mind – the endless chattering in your head as you jump in your mind from thought to thought while you daydream, analyze your relationships, or worry over the future. Eventually, you start to feel like your thoughts are spinning in circles and you’re left totally confused.

One way to tame this wild creature in your head is through meditation – although the paradox is that when you clear your mind for meditation you actually invite the monkey in your mind to play. This is when you are given the opportunity to tame this mental beast by moving beyond thought – to become aware of a thought rather than thinking a thought. The difference is subtle, but significant. When you are aware of your thoughts, you can let your thoughts rise and float away without letting them pull you in different directions. Being able to concentrate is one of the tools that allows you to slow down your thought process and focus on observing your thoughts.

To develop your concentration, you may want to start by focusing on the breath while you meditate. Whenever your monkey mind starts acting up, observe your thoughts and then return your focus to your breath. Some breathing meditations call on you to focus on the rise and fall of the breath through the abdomen, while others have you concentrate on the sound of the breath. Fire can also be mesmerizing, and focusing on a candle flame is another useful tool for harnessing the mind. Keep the gaze soft and unfocused while observing the color, shape, and movement of the flame, and try not to blink. Close your eyes when you feel the need and continue watching the flame in your head. Chanting, devotional singing, and mantras also still the mind. However you choose to tame the monkey mind, do so with firm kindness. The next time the chattering arises, notice it and then allow it to go away. With practice, your monkey mind will become quiet and so will you.

In Touch with True Emotions

June 24, 2011

[ From DialyOM ]

Our bellies can be wonderful monitors of our emotional health and the truth can always be found there.

So often, emotions that we long to express get stored in our bodies instead. The space where this most often happens is in our bellies. Rather than telling people, our even ourselves, the way we truly feel, we may stuff our true feelings deep inside of us, where they take up space until we are ready to let them go. Stuffing our feelings in our bellies may feel like the “safe” response, since we then don’t really have to deal with our emotions. Yet, doing so can actually be detrimental to our emotional well-being and physical health.

One way to connect with and release your emotions is to do a focused exercise with your stomach area. Take a moment to center yourself with some deep breathing and quiet meditation, relaxing your body fully and turning off the chatter in your brain. With your right hand on your stomach, tell yourself three times: “Please reveal to me my true emotions.” Listen for the answers. Repeat the exercise as many times as you would like, allowing yourself to drop deeper into your body each time.  Notice any physical response in the stomach area, whether you have a warm, relaxed feeling in the middle of your body or if you feel tight knots in response to any emotions that do come up. You may even want to write down any answers that come to you. Remember that the body doesn’t lie.

Releasing our pent up feelings from our bellies can prevent disease and allow us to live more authentic and expressive lives. Sometimes, if too much emotional energy builds up inside of us, a blowout can result that can cause discomfort. You can help to alleviate this compression by doing the same exercise and adding sound to your emotional release. The more guttural the sounds released through your mouth, the more emotions you are likely letting go. Releasing your emotions from your belly doesn’t have to be painful and hard; rather, it can be organic and effortless. It’s important not to judge whatever comes up for you. We tend to stuff our feelings in our bellies when we are ashamed of them or not ready to express them. There is nothing wrong with having feelings, whatever they may be. You can’t help your feelings; if anything, you can help yourself by acknowledging the truth of your emotions so you can set yourself free.

Being Projected Upon

June 23, 2011

[ From DailyOM ]

When we take ownership of our thoughts we are less likely to project our issues or disowned qualities onto others.

We all have issues, as well as undesirable qualities or traits that we don’t like about ourselves. Most of us realize that we are not perfect and that it is natural to have unpleasant thoughts, motivations, desires, or feelings. However, when a person does not acknowledge these, they may ascribe those characteristics to someone else, deeming other people instead as angry, jealous, or insecure. In psychological terms, such blaming and fault finding is called projection.

When we are the target of projections, it can be confusing and frustrating, not to mention maddening, particularly when we know that we are not the cause of another person’s distress. Even people who are well aware of their issues may find that sensitive subjects can bring up unexpected projections. They may feel insecure about a lack of funds and thus view a friend as extravagant. Or, if they really want to get in shape, they may preach the benefits of exercise to anyone and everyone.

While we can try to avoid people we know who engage in projecting their “stuff” onto others, we can’t always steer clear of such encounters. We can, however, deflect some projections through mindfulness and meditation. A useful visualization tool is to imagine wrapping ourselves in a protective light everyday. At other times, we may have to put up a protective shield when we feel a projection coming our way, reminding ourselves that someone else’s issues are not ours. Although it’s difficult not to react when we are the recipient of a projection, it is a good idea to try to remain calm and let the other person know if they are being unreasonable and disrespectful. We all know that it’s not fun to be dumped on. Likewise, we should be mindful that we don’t take our own frustrations out on others. When we take ownership of our thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings, we are less likely to project our issues or disowned qualities onto others.

Recharging Your Batteries

February 16, 2011

[ From DailyOM ]

If you are feeling run down you may find a belief or behavior pattern that is out of sync with who you really are.

Our natural state of being is vibrant, happy to be alive. Yet, there can be times when we feel run down and worn out. This does not mean that we are lazy or unfit for the tasks in our lives; it means that we need to recharge our batteries and find a way of keeping them charged. Vitamins and extra rest can be very helpful in restoring our physical bodies. And if we are willing to delve deeper, we may discover that there is an underlying cause for our exhaustion.

Whenever you are feeling run down, take an honest look at how you have been thinking, feeling and acting. You will likely find a belief, behavior pattern or even a relationship that is out of alignment with who you really are. Perhaps you believe you have to be perfect at everything or you have been bending over backwards to get people to like you. Maybe you are dealing with mild depression or simply have too much on your plate right now. There may also be people or situations in your life which are draining your energy. Once you get clear on the root cause, you can weed it out and better direct your flow of energy in the future.

In time, you might notice that the reasons you feel run down have less to do with how much you are doing and more to do with the fact that in your heart, you would rather be doing something else entirely. From now on, try and listen to what your heart really wants. It may take meditation, or just a moment of silent tuning in to gain the clarity you need, but it is well worth the effort. When you know what you truly want to do, and honor that in all situations, you will find that getting run down is a thing of the past.

Laying Our Burdens Down

February 8, 2011

[ From DailyOM ]

We weren’t meant to carry such heavy burden alone; visualize yourself laying down your burden and feel the lightness.

We all know the feeling of walking through life as if we are carrying the huge burden of our worries and stresses on our backs and shoulders, struggling to keep moving forward. There is no real way to move freely and fluidly in such a situation, and we are all longing to lay our burdens down. Just imagining that it would be possible to do such a thing can be enough to elicit a sigh of relief and a feeling of lightness.

The human imagination is a powerful tool, and we can use it to take journeys to faraway places without ever leaving our home. Because of this, we too can lay our burdens down at the feet of a divine being such as the great Mother, Buddha or a mountain. Releasing ourselves from that which we can’t handle on our own. No matter how smart we are, how capable we are, or how hard we work, no one can single-handedly cope with all the worries that we tend to take on in the course of our lives. And, we aren’t designed to do so.  Our wellbeing depends upon our ability to hand over that which we can no longer carry by ourselves.

Visualizing yourself carrying your burdens to the feet of someone or something much bigger than you can be a powerful daily practice. To begin, sit with your eyes closed and envision an all powerful, supremely comforting being in what ever form that takes for you, standing at the end of a road. See yourself carrying a large sack, box, or other container, imagining that all your worries are inside it. Watch as you make your way to the being of your choice, and lay your baggage down at their feet. Allow yourself to feel the lightness and relief of this action, express your gratitude, and surrender. You will be amazed by how this simple meditation can liberate you from a burden you were never meant to carry.

Mindful Walking

December 6, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

While walking, each step we take can lead us to becoming more mindful of ourselves and our feelings.

Many of us take the benefits of walking for granted. Each day we limit the steps we take by driving or sitting for long periods of time. But walking even a few blocks a day has unlimited benefits – not only for our health, but our spirit as well, for as we walk, we connect with the earth.

Even when walking on concrete, the earth is still beneath us, supporting us. Walking lets our body remember simpler times, when life was less complicated. This helps us slow down to the speed of our body and take the time to integrate the natural flow of life into our cellular tissue. Instead of running from place to place or thinking about how much more we can fit into our day, walking allows us to exist in the moment. 

Each step we take can lead us to becoming more mindful of ourselves and our feelings. Walking slows us down enough not only to pay attention to where we are in our body, but also to our breath. Taking time to simply notice our breath while we walk, through the length of our inhales and exhales, and becoming attuned to the way in which we breathe is taking a step towards mindfulness. When we become more mindful, we gradually increase our awareness of the environment around us and start to recognize that the normal flow of our thoughts and feelings are not always related to where we are in the present moment. Gradually we realize that the connection we have with the earth and the ground beneath our feet is all that is. By walking and practicing breathing mindfully we gain a sense of calm and tranquility — the problems and troubles of the day slowly fade away because we are in the ‘now’.

The simplicity and ease of a walking practice allows us to create time, space and awareness of our surroundings and of the wonders that lie within. Taking a few moments to walk each day and become more aware of our breath will in turn open the door for the beauty of the world around us to filter in.

Poems by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

October 26, 2010

Interbeing

The Sun has entered me.

The Sun has entered me together with the cloud and the river.

I myself have entered the Sun with the cloud and the river.

There has not been a moment when we do not interpenetrate.

But before the Sun entered me, the Sun was in me –

also the cloud and the river.

Before I entered the river, I was already in it.

There has not been a moment when we have not inter-been.

Therefore you know that as long as you continue to breathe,

I continue to be in you.

**************************************************

Walking Meditation

Take my hand.

We will Walk.

We will only walk.

We will enjoy our walk

without thinking of arriving anywhere.

Walk peacefully.

Walk happily.

Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn that there is no peace walk;

that peace is the walk; that happiness is the walk.

We walk for ourselves.

We walk for everyone

always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.

Walk and touch happiness every moment.

Each step brings a fresh breeze.

Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.

Kiss the earth with your feet.

Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe when we feel in us enough safety.

******************************************************

Our True Heritage

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.

I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.

Each moment you are alive is a gem,

 shinning through and containing earth and sky,

water and clouds.

It needs you to breath gently for the miracles to be displayed.

Suddenly you hear the birds singing,

the pines chanting,

see the flowers blooming,

the blue sky,

the white clouds,

the smile and the marvellous look of your beloved.

You, the richest person on Earth,

who have been going around begging for a living,

stop being the destitute child.

Come back and claim your heritage.

We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone.

Cherish this very moment.

Let go of the stream of distress

and embrace life fully in your arms.

 

Worth the Time

October 22, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

When you make time for meditation, it actually helps you get through a busier day as we are given what we need.

Ironically, when we get busy, the first thing that tends to get cut back is our meditation practice. We have less time and a lot on our plates, so it makes sense that this happens, but in the end it doesn’t really help us. Most of us know from experience that we function much better when we give ourselves time each day to sit in silence. And the more we have to do, the more we need that solitary, quiet time for the day ahead. As a result, while it may sound counterintuitive, it is during busy times that we most need to spend more time in meditation rather than less. By being quiet and listening to the universe, we will be given what we need to get through our day.

Expanding our morning meditation by just 10 minutes can make a big difference, as can the addition of short meditations into our daily schedule. The truth is, no matter how busy we are, unless we are in the midst of a crisis we always have five or 10 minutes to spare. The key is convincing ourselves that spending that time in meditation is the most fruitful choice. We could be getting our dishes done or heading into work earlier instead, so it’s important that we come to value the importance of meditation in the context of all the other things competing for attention in our lives. All we have to do to discover whether it works to meditate more when we are busy is to try it.

We can start by creating more time in the morning, either by getting up earlier or by preparing breakfast the night before and using the extra time for meditation. We can also add short meditation breaks into our schedule, from five minutes before or after lunch to a meditation at night before we go to sleep. When we come from a place of centered calm, we are more effective in handling our busy schedules and more able to keep it all in perspective. If more time in meditation means less time feeling anxious, panicky, and overwhelmed, then it’s certainly worth the extra time.

Breathing In, Breathing Out

September 23, 2010

 [ By Plum Village ]

Breathing in, breathing out,
Breathing in, breathing out,
I am blooming as a flower,
I am fresh as the dew.

I am solid as a mountain,
I am firm as the earth,
I am free.

Breathing in, breathing out,
Breathing in, breathing out,
I am water reflecting,
What is real, what is true.

And I feel there is space,
Deep inside of me,
I am free, I am free, I am free.

〈吸进来,呼出去〉

吸进来,呼出去;吸进来,呼出去;

好似盛开一朵蓮花,

我清凉如一滴露,

一如高山 屹立不移,

像大地一般稳厚,我自在。

吸进来,呼出去;吸进来,呼出去;

我是净水反照著,

什么是真,什么是实,

在我觉得心里深处,

空间满溢在其中,

我自在,我放下,我自在。

Seeing Inside

September 16, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Sight is the ability to see the physical world while vision is the gift of seeing beyond it.

Sight is the ability to see the physical world while vision is the gift of seeing beyond it. Sight enables us to take the physical world in so we can participate in it with knowledge. It brings us pleasure through our eyes, which perceive the colors and shapes of all the myriad expressions of nature and human beings. It helps us feel in control, allowing us to see what is coming toward us, which way we are going, and exactly where we are standing at a given moment. We are able to read signs and books, navigate the interiors of buildings with ease, sense and perceive how a person is feeling by the expressions that cross her face.

As anyone who has lost their eyesight can tell you, though, there are things that are clearer when you cannot see the world through your eyes. One of the reasons many meditation instructors advise sitting with the eyes closed is because we automatically become more in touch with our inner world when we are not distracted by the outer world. It is in this state that vision becomes our mode of seeing. Vision comes from within and shows us how to navigate the realms of thought, feeling, and emotion. It enables us to see things that aren’t yet manifested in the world of form, and it also connects us to that part of ourselves that exists separately from the world of form.

As we age, even those of us with perfect eyesight will generally lose some of our acuity, but this loss is usually replaced with inner vision. This is the time of life when we are meant to turn inside and take what are sometimes the very first steps of a journey that cannot be traced on a map. We call upon intuition and feel our way along a path that ultimately carries us beyond the realm we can see with our eyes and into the land of spirit.

Creating Space In The Body

June 12, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

When our minds are cluttered with too many thoughts and information, our bodies respond by trying to take action.

Our minds and bodies are interconnected, and the condition of one affects the condition of the other. This is why meditation is such a powerful tool for healing the body, as powerful as physical therapies. When our minds are cluttered with thoughts, information, and plans, our bodies respond by trying to take action. When the body has a clear directive from the mind, it knows what to do, but a cluttered, unfocused mind creates a confused, tense body. Our muscles tighten up, our breath shortens, and we find ourselves feeling constricted without necessarily knowing why.

When we sit down to meditate, we let our bodies know that it is okay to be still and rest. This is a clear directive from the mind, and the body knows exactly how to respond. Thus, at the very beginning, we have created a sense of clarity for the body and the mind. As we move deeper into meditation, the state of our mind reveals itself, and we have the opportunity to consciously decide to settle it. A meditation teacher pointed out that if you put a cow in a small pen, she acts up and pushes against the boundaries, whereas if you provide her with a large, open space, she will peacefully graze in one spot. In the same way, our thoughts settle down peacefully if we provide them with enough space, and our bodies follow suit.

When we settle down to examine and experience our consciousness, we discover that there are no hard, definable edges. It is a vast, open space in which our thoughts can come and go without making waves, as long as we let them by neither attaching to them nor repressing them. As we see our thoughts come and go, we begin to breathe deeper and more easily, finding that our body is more open to the breath as it relaxes along with the mind. In this way, the space we recognize through meditation creates space in our bodies, allowing for a feeling of lightness and rightness with the world.

Contemplating Death While Creating Life

February 18, 2010

[Posted by Kiri Westby, Change-maker/Rule-Breaker/Story-teller]

This week I nearly lost a family member, albeit a four-legged one. And in the midst of dealing with urgent care doctors, IVs and exorbitant bills, I shed a lot of tears and thought a lot about the end of life…how quickly it arises and how little control we actually have over it.

At four months pregnant, the last thing I imagined being preoccupied with while creating life was death. But it keeps coming up again and again. This little person in my womb, barely 5 inches long now, will die someday (hopefully long after me). Perhaps it seems strange to be thinking about my baby’s death, when it has not yet had its birth, but I feel it is important.

I like to picture myself becoming a non-controlling mother, one who allows her child to roam free, realizing their dreams uninhibited by my fears and expectations. But my fierce instinct to keep our cat alive this week and my fears of letting him leave the house (now that he is home recovering) have brought to light just how difficult this state of motherhood may be.

How do we balance our parental instinct to protect and nurture with the tendency to become overprotective, fear-based parents who raise fearful, reticent children?

In these moments, I think of my mother and all that I have put her through, testing the limits of her sanity (you too dad!).

When I was 18, I entered my first war zone in Cambodia and ventured far West into the territory of the brutal Khmer Rouge Dictator Pol Pot…just to see what I could see. When I emerged unharmed a week later in Vietnam, I forgot to call home on the agreed upon date and my poor mom spent several days distraught, waiting by the phone, refusing to leave the house (at that time we had no e-mail, no Facebook, just expensive calling booths).

When I was 30, I was arrested by the Chinese Military for staging a Free Tibet protest at Mount Everest and subsequently disappeared for three days before any government could confirm I was still alive. And believe me, in the twelve years between those two events I gave my mom’s heart several reasons to stop beating. At the time, I thought little of it.

Now, on the precipice of becoming a mother myself, I often wonder how she handled it all? The only thing I can come up with is that she spent a lot of time contemplating death and becoming friends with it…hers and mine. An avid meditation practitioner, she set me loose upon the world, working through her fears and desires to control me and refused to stand in the way of my path.

When we try to control life and pretend that death is not awaiting us, then we exist in an illusory world of make believe, convincing ourselves that everything is safe and predictable. Then, when the reality of death does strike, it is much more brutal and unfamiliar and we are that much more unprepared. But we all know that there is no avoiding death, no matter how safe we feel, no matter how much insurance we purchase. As we saw last month in Haiti, and as I witnessed over and over again in my years working in war zones, disaster can strike anytime and our only weapon against it is to know it, to expect it, to befriend it.

There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “Death comes without warning, this body will be a corpse…at that time the Dharma is my only help, I shall practice it with exertion.”

Or as the poet Mary Oliver puts it, “when death comes, like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?”

So as an expecting mom, one who wants my kid to grow up fearless and believing they can accomplish anything, I am already practicing by contemplating my unborn child’s death and coming to terms with it.

For many, contemplating death is considered morbid and to be avoided. But for me, embracing death is the only way to live.

Truthfully,
Kiri Westby