Inspiration – Accepting the Whole of our Experience

amoebas dividing

“The real reason why human life can be so utterly exasperating and frustrating is not because there are facts called death, pain, fear, or hunger.

The madness of the thing is that when such facts are present, we circle, buzz, writhe, and whirl, trying to get the “I” out of the experience. We pretend that we are amoebas, and try to protect ourselves from life by splitting in two.

Sanity, wholeness, and integration lie in the realization that we are not divided, that man and his present experience are one, and that no separate “I” or mind can be found.

To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.”

~ Alan Watts

This last line from Alan Watts really hit home. I recall sitting in meditation, and my mind telling me over and over again “I am meditating” rather than embracing the actual experience of what it is to be present.

How many times do we read something, and rather than absorbing its full meaning and the underlying feelings, we simply read words.

When we separate ourselves from the full experience and feeling, we detach ourselves from life itself, and become actors playing out our roles.

Next time, you find yourself detaching (Or splitting yourself into two like and amoeba) pause. Notice what’s  happening while its happening. Then ask “Am I aware of what I am feeling right now?”

The Power of Empathy

Enjoy this re-post about the power of empathy, especially in difficult relationships.

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One of our fundamental needs as human beings is to be heard and to be accepted as we are. Take a moment to recall a time where you were going through a hard time and someone empathized with you. How did it feel? Pretty good I expect…

When someone empathizes with us we don’t feel judged; we no longer feel alone; we feel understood; we become calmer; we usually feel better and are more able to handle a difficult  situation.

empathy babies

Empathy is a powerful tool for connecting to another person in an open loving way.  It feels good to us, yet how often do we intentionally empathize with someone else … especially when someone is angry or frustrated?
Marshall Rosenberg writes in his book “Non Violent Communication; a Language of Life“ how it can be especially difficult to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status or resources and those who are closest to us.
One of my favorite take aways is:

“Empathize, rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person.”

When we want to help we tend to jump in with a “but” and a “fix” for the other person. Yet empathy is more powerful and empowering.

He writes: “I continue to be amazed by the healing power of empathy. Time and again I have witnessed people transcending psychological pain when they have contact with someone who hears them with empathy.”

Why not increase your ability to empathize with this exercise:

Over the next few days see if you can empathize more with those people who are closest to you, colleagues at work and even your boss.frustrated man at work

Really tune in to what they might be feeling and reflect back what you are sensing they are going through.

Here are some examples of reflecting feelings statements:

It sounds like you are really frustrated about this

I can see that this is tough for you

I can’t imagine all that you are going through. It must be so hard

I’m sensing that this is scary for you

I hear that you are concerned

It sounds like this is a real challenge for you

 but in your faceIt sounds so simple, yet can be hard to do in that moment. So instead of putting your “but” and point of view in the other person’s face, empathize with their situation and reflect what they might be feeling.

Give the gift of feeling heard and understood.

 

Moving into Stillness

“Stillness is not the absence or negation of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in—when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.”

~ Erich Schiffman – Yoga the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness

I love the dynamism in this description of what stillness is. It becomes clear when yoga is a contemplative and spiritual practice, rather than a series of postures in an exercise class.

Stillness is not the same as exhaustion at the end of class when you lie in Savasana (corpse pose), perhaps filled with relief that it is over! Stillness is something that can be found throughout the practice and within each posture and transition along the way.

The best guide to see if you are moving towards stillness, is to notice if you are breathing steadily and fully throughout the practice.

Bringing awareness to our breath and the teacher’s breath reveals a lot. If the teacher can’t catch their breath to speak and guide you in a mindful way, then they aren’t moving into stillness either.

Boost Your Karma for the New Year

 

karma

Boosting your Karma is a choice. As you move towards the New Year and new possibilities, why not choose kindness and connection. Watch what happens!

This is such a cool list to share 🙂

  1. Keep your word.
  2. Show respect to everyone you encounter.
  3. Be a good friend.
  4. Look for the best in everyone.
  5. Show forgiveness.
  6. Be kind.
  7. When you make a mistake say “I’m sorry.”
  8. Pour out your love when someone asks for it.
  9. Put your children’s needs before your own.
  10. When someone is speaking to you, be fully present. Listen.
  11. Learn to love yourself a little more each day.
  12. Show your spirit.
  13. Don’t be cruel with your words.
  14. Be grateful for exactly what you have.
  15. Share your wisdom with those who ask for it.
  16. Donate what you don’t need.
  17. Help keep the Earth beautiful; don’t litter, and recycle.
  18. Look behind you, stop and hold the door open for others.
  19. Savor every moment.
  20. Smile more; frown less.
  21. Expect life to be good.
  22. Do the right thing (even when no one is watching).
  23. Give five compliments a day.
  24. Breathe. Relax. Feel. Watch. Allow.
  25. Share your inspiration when someone needs a lift.
  26. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t allow them to define who you are now.
  27. Avoid temptation when it’s calling to you.
  28. Kiss your partner every day.
  29. Share your faith.
  30. Be the beautiful you.

Looking over the list, #27 leaps out at me. We still haven’t eaten our Christmas Pudding. Its definitely calling my name 😉

Blogging has been a wonderful way for me to share good karma throughout the year.

Thank you all dear readers and friends for sharing your kindness and connection, and bringing out the best in me and your readers.

What goes around comes around.

Namaste

Meditation – Finding an Anchor that Works for You

child meditating

A lot has been written in the past few years about Mindfulness Meditation.  This Buddhist based practice has become popular here in the west through the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program founded by Jon Kabat Zinn. Research clearly shows that meditating changes the neural pathways of the brain and aids in relieving stress and pain.

“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentaly”~ Jon Kabat Zinn

Initially it begins with coming into a comfortable seated position and bringing awareness and observation of bodily sensations, most often the breath. The breath is the anchor for concentrating the mind.

The tradition in Yoga however, is different. As a yoga teacher, I have also learned other methods of meditation that can be practiced. Not everyone will find Mindfulness Meditation a good fit. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up on being mindful or meditation.

The key is to find the anchor that works for you.

How we breathe is directly connected to how we are feeling emotionally. If we sit to meditate in an already anxious state, we may become stressed when we realize our breath is short and jagged, or in our upper chest. In these circumstances, using the breath as an anchor is unlikely to work initially.

In the yoga tradition of Patanjali, there are two parts in meditation before we attain the ultimate state of enlightened bliss, where we shed our mind’s conditioning and connect to the infinite oneness of the universe. (Samadhi)

It starts with concentrating and focusing the mind (Dharana).  The next part is being able to sustain uninterrupted meditation (Dhyana).

The anchor is usually something we connect to through our senses. It can be an external sound or an internal mantra repeated over and over. It can be a smell, or the feel of something in your hand, or the feel of sun on your body. It can be gazing at an object in front of you  or a meaningful image in your mind. It can be focusing on a movement, a posture, or a particular part of your body. There are so many possibilities to explore.

Its all about focusing the mind and training it to concentrate on one thing.

As the mind wanders, which is naturally will, we bring it back to the anchor, and bring our full attention there.

Meditation is not about having a blank mind, its about bringing awareness, again and again back to the anchor or object of focus. Through this practice, over time, the mind is trained to recognize and let go of thoughts.

When we let go of our thinking we create space. In this space, we become witnesses to our inner life and the world around us. We begin to feel a connection to ourselves and a sense of Oneness.

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Happiness – Alan Watts

A re-post this morning for all of us who could do with seeing a bigger perspective.

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I do admire Alan Watts and his edgy take on our awakening to what is real and what matters.

Don’t hold on too hard.

Learn to let go and let be.

Be curious, open and enjoy this lip licking life!

Turning life on its head lets us see what we all share that really matters.

 

Thoughts on Incessant Thinking

This is a re-blog of an earlier post. I dedicate it to all of us who are getting tangled up in our thinking today.

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In the highs and lows of life do you find yourself stuck in over analyzing and incessant thinking? When the mind gets tangled up?  This quote from Eckhart Tolle catch my attention and got me thinking …

“It is when we are trapped in incessant streams of compulsive thinking that the universe really disintegrates for us, and we lose the ability to sense the interconnectedness of all that exists.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

I believe our brains are build for analysis, but when we keep analyzing something that doesn’t have a clear and logical answer, then we end up with “incessant streams of compulsive thinking”. spock and data

Imagine Spock or Data  from Star Trek trying to work out if we will find our soul mate, or if our children will be happy at one college or an other, or whether we should have married Chris from Middle School instead, or what a co-worker really thinks about us, or whether the stock market will bounce back next week ……

Whenever there are factors that are out of control and we are emotionally attached to the situation, we are likely to get stuck in incessant circular thinking.

When we allow our brain to go into overdrive trying to solve insolvable problems, we not only lose our ability to feel connected, we become self absorbed and withdrawn. Our “problem” takes on a life of its own and we lose our sense of balance and place in the world.

I hope you can relate to this, and it isn’t just me who lies awake at night trying to solve problems that don’t have the answers yet ……

What can we do about it?

1. The first step is to recognize when it is happening. Over analyzing  can become so common that we think it is normal and there is no alternative. Not true. Research is showing that being mindful of the present moment is the antidote to incessant streams of compulsive thinking.

2. Get out of your head and let go of what is not solvable right now.

I like to think of it like cooking a meal. Put some things on the back burner to simmer and let them do their thing.

Let your unconscious and inner intuition work on this in the background. Stop stirring for now. Yes – STOP stirring it!stirring the pot

Your mind wants to keep stirring because that’s what it wants to do …. but you have a choice.

3. Let it be and come to your senses. Here are some suggestions to find balance once more from an earlier post.

Coming to your breathe and moving your body are essential elements here. In my own experience, yoga and meditation can make a huge difference. You may want to explore different avenues for yourself. One client of mine knows taking a shower will help them. Not so easy at work, but helpful at home!

Its often surprising when the answer shows up for you. In my experience, its usually when I wake up in the morning or when I am in the shower, of after Savasana in a yoga class.

Let your mind have a different focus and then rest it so you can access your own inner wisdom. Your mind may tell you its a waste of time, because it wants to keep stirring…. Let your inner wisdom guide you instead.

p.s. the photo is of porridge being stirred by a traditional spurtle. The spurtle is made for stirring , and like our mind with practice, we can stop it when we want to!