It sounds as though it would be easy enough: Sit. Breathe. With a shrug, we may say to ourselves that we do this every single day, at home and in our work and play. So why for many, does meditation seem so difficult? The answer in the simplest form may be, somewhat appropriately, a koan in its own right: Meditation -isn't- a thing, it simply is the thing. We are right to think how natural sitting and breathing is to the human body, but mindful sitting or breathing? Well, not so much - and yet sitting down and thinking, "Okay, this is meditation. I am meditating now, etc. may be putting too much thought into it instead of just doing and being, in the sitting and the breathing. Does that sound like a bunch of new age hyperbole? Ah well, remember - a koan in its own right.
When you ad to this the struggles and stressors of daily life that flit in and out of our (trying to not try) meditating minds, no wonder it seems to be such a challenge! However, when we stop trying to jam meditation into a 'what it should be' box, and simply find what works for us as individuals, we may be very pleasantly surprised to discover how readily we can slip into a state of peace.
Some can do it in complete silence and some prefer music. Even with this, there is no right or wrong. Some prefer to lie down and others to sit as in the photo, or even sitting in a chair. Do what feels right to you, not what a book, video, or anything else directs. These are good resources for exploring different techniques, but find your own groove and don't expect something miraculous. Just do.
In the next few posts of this particular journal, the author will focus on a method that was not found on a website, book, video or anywhere but from within. It is called the Meditative Alphabet. Finding it hard to simply Sit.Be.Do. - The author, in trying to focus on positive IN breath, with thoughts of love, compassion and strength and OUT breaths full of compassion and radiance, began to think of each leter of the alphabet as a focus point. It worked surprisingly well, and it is the hope that should readers of this journal experiment with this, they will find it both interesting and relaxing.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
In life, we are faced with innumerable choices. Every day, every hour, we have choices to make: Some are monumental decisions, while some can be as simple as whether to go outside or stay indoors. The miracle here is that we have choices. It can often seem when faced with making a decision, that neither option is really the "right" choice, but we must remember no less, that we have the freedom to make the choice. We may wind up realizing that the choice we make isn't what we expected, but there's really no way to know that the other choice would have been better. What's important is to live life fully and be brave - make those choices! Sail away from the safe harbor and into the what if, instead of rocking gently tied to the dock of if only.
"You are joy, looking for a way to express. It's not just that your purpose is joy, it is that you are joy. You are love and joy and freedom and clarity expressing. Energy, frolicking and eager, that's who you are. And so, if you're always reaching for alignment with that, you're always on your path and your path will take you into all kinds of places" ~ Jerry Hicks
The best way to BE in alignment is to allow yourself to simply BELIEVE that it will happen. Try it! What have you got to lose?
One of the best and easiest to read books on alignment is "Being in Balance" by Wayne Dyer.
"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems". ~Rainer Maria Rilke
"Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring. "
~ William Alexander
In the time of the vernal equinox, the sunshine upon the land indeed may make it seem as if the earth knows poetry and comes to live, reciting those verses that have lain dormant through the winter months. Tender buds appear on the branches, the birds sing as if there is no tomorrow, and all of life seems renewed. Then, a day later, the wind is back to howling and the skies are gray and gloomy.
Once again, nature serves as a metaphor for our days, which may be filled with poems one day and curses the next.
Just as melted snow 'forgets its life' and the seeds regenerate in spring, so to there is balance in our lives. We must not only stop to look objectively and see the balance instead of complaining when the scale seems tipped toward the downward side of things. Even if we are feeling ungrateful or oblivious, be assured there are positives and much to be thankful for as the days and seasons pass. It is this balance which we must seek in life, and yet maybe "strive" is too strong a word to use. Perhaps instead we should think of it as seeking alignment with balance. There are many books, courses, retreats and such things to assist us, and certainly as with any endeavor, it is useful to have resources and tools. It is important however, to not let it become a job -- and instead, like the flowers that rise through the earth in spring, simply let it become.
A man of heavy proportions lamented the lack of contents in his cupboards. He was hungry for a large meal as this was his custom and habit. He moped around his home wishing he could have a plate of rich beef and gravy, potatoes and a succulent dessert.
Finally to stave off his hunger he pulled an apple from his refrigerator and grumbled as he sat down to his table. It has been some time since he had enjoyed an apple, and as he rubbed it with a cloth he thought back to a time when he was very young and had gone to an orchard with his brothers. They had picked apples from the trees and watched as cider was made. It had been a very good time in the warm autumn sun.
He thought about the day he had walked to his local grocer to buy the apple he now held in his hand, and how it too had grown in sunshine and rain and likely traveled a long way to reach the shelves. How nice it had been to get his paycheck that day and stroll along the few short blocks from his home to the store. Then, when he had collected all of his supplies and arrived back home, he had kicked off his shoes and happily put away the small sum of goods. The man smiled to himself with these thoughts, raised the apple and took a deep bite. Life, like his apple, was delicious.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
“(Some people) have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” ~ A.H. Maslow
At times, the challenges of our days make it seem impossible to find a reason to be grateful. If we examine our day from point A to point B, however, we will find reasons, and usually more than one. It's an interesting exercise that often leads us to feel that though our day may have been rough, it wasn't so very bad as we might have thought overall.
When we look at Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, for example, we can appreciate when our most basic needs are met and go from there.
Some days it's enough to be grateful that we arrived at our destinations safely, or that we have a warm place to go home to at the end of a hard day. Hell, on some days, it's enough to be grateful that we have a chair to sit in and a remote control for our television!
The point is, there's always something for which you can express thanks, and again, it's an exercise that often turns a frown upside-down as they say and has us laughing in the end. Be grateful for silly things! It will almost certainly lead you to realize the truth of higher appreciation in your world.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)
For those who are lucky enough to experience the change of seasons, contemplation may be found in the metaphors they offer. In autumn, the leaves depart from the tall branches and drift to the ground. They have fufilled their summer purpose and though they may appear dead and useless, they are anything but: As they decay they reincarnate as they become part of the soil which will feed the grasses and flowers in the spring and summer months. When the snow begins to fall, covering the land, the grasses and earth beneath the ice and snow quietly receive nourishment from the snow and protection from the harsh winter winds.
So too, the human spirit can receive winter as a time to slow down and insulate against abrasiveness and gain spiritual nourishment. We can use the long, seemingly "cooped up" months of winter to stock our internal cellar of compassion and gentle wisdom, even as we draw from it. We can incorporate winter in our meditations as we think of that pure whiteness that lines the branches and coats the landscape as though we lived among the clouds. If we think of what lies under the coldness, we may find a higher truth that under our bodily exterior, there is a wellspring of joyous life that others may not visibly observe. For now perhaps, in this winter, it is a secret we can enjoy as it incubates. We can say to ourselves, "What a thing I have found here under the snow", and know that it is always there within us, just as the earth lies still, yet alive, beneath any weather in any season.
While we look forward to spring and the re-emergence of the grasses and flowers, so too can we look forward to sharing our light with others in that time and indeed, through all the seasons of our life both real and metaphorical. We must remember that even though we may not experience sunlit days, there is an abundance of it just waiting to be had if only we allow it to arise and shine forth. When we radiate this toward ourselves AND others, we become the positive warming energy that winter winds sweep away.
Mistakes are the portals of discovery ~Writer James Joyce (1882 - 1941)
When you make a mistake, don't look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power. ~ Hugh White US politician (1773 - 1840)
As spiritual beings having a human experience, we are destined to make what we perceive as mistakes. From the stumble-fumble days of toddlerhood into the elderly years when we'd like to think we're old enough to know better, we falter and err. Some mistakes will be seen as minor, and some we may cause us to feel regret until the end of our days, but regardless of magnitude, you can count on those mistakes to occur. If there is truth in the fact that at heart we are all enlightened beings, we might wonder why mistakes occur. We might wonder why we aren't zen when we should be or most wish we could find that inner peace instead of giving way to our anger and base emotions. While at times, anger can certainly be justifiable, it is not usually an exclusive emotion. Our frustrations with others, with the world and indeed with our own perceived failures and shortcomings create a latent, rippling current of anger that will ignite with the right provocation.
In simple terms, it is merely one aspect of our humanity. We'll have "one of those days" or extended periods of time when we are inexplicably irritable, hostile, disagreeable and unsettled. Our thoughts and actions feed on one another until we take it upon ourselves to step in and put an end to the buffet.
When this happens: When we fall off the wagon so to speak, in terms of tranquility, we need to "take the reason of the thing into our mind", as Hugh White suggests, and examine the full texture. It is probably not a wise idea to interrupt someone in the middle of their anger and suggest to them a greater examination of their emotions and feelings; so it is that we should not necessarily expect this of ourselves when we are in the midst of a meltdown. Perhaps in time, we can learn to "stop, look & listen" as the saying goes, but in the meantime what do we do?
We live with these shortcomings: We accept that they have, do and will continue to happen in our lives. We yell, we cry, we throw things, and we maybe cry some more. We allow, and with allowance in our lives we recognize once again, the concept of impermanance. Our anger - or whatever emotion du-jour we're experiencing will dissipate sooner or later. The clock keeps ticking. Situtations change and soon enough what once seemed insurmountable or enraging is held in comparison to any other situation that arises in our lives. This does not mean we become indifferent and adopt an attitude that we're going to get angry and other people just need to deal with it. It does not mean that we forget about finding greater skill in managing our responses to anger-inducing situations. What it means is embracing the anger and again, examining the texture. In this way, we are allowing the anger to be... as well as become.We are transforming it into a portal to discovery.
When we slow down, whether it be through meditation or simply and often far more wonderfully, chatting with a trusted friend, we find that space to breathe and really get to the heart of what's bothering us. We can more objectively re-visualize our behavior and ask, "Do I like acting that way? Does it make me feel good? Do I like what I see when I look again at this mind-movie of myself in that situation?" We can do this with the hope that in the future, when we find ourselves headed in that direction on the road of life, we can find a more peaceable detour. We can align our thoughts to a more positive outcome and know that while we are fallible, we are in a far greater sense, compassionately capable of a higher, truer state of being if we only allow ourselves to hear the answers and guidance that is infinite within our hearts.
The "Surrender and Allow" meditation
Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C
The fundamental principle of Buddhism is that life is suffering both of an internal and external nature. It is referred to as Dukha, and it is surely no coincidence that the name sounds similar to something most unpleasant you've stepped in along your way and can't seem to remove from your shoe.
While we encounter inconvenience and what we may perceive to be "suffering" on a daily basis, we must stop and assess whether it is really suffering or just a passing irritation at one thing or another. However, this is not to say that an individual who feels as if their situation is suffering should be dismissed. There are some instances where those irritations, stressors, inconveniences and setbacks in life seem to demand the label of suffering, and it may well be true that for any individual, that is the path they've been given to walk in the present moment. Why? Sometimes there are lessons to be learned and yet, when someone cries, "But I have learned! Can't life give me a break?" The answer is that sometimes there are no apparent reasons and life is simply, as it is from one moment to another, for better or worse. Perhaps we are on a path that includes this real or perceived suffering because along that path, we will be put into the path of others we are meant to meet without knowing it in advance, when otherwise our paths would not intersect. Einstein said the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. Tell that to someone who has "suffered" (an affliction, a hardship etc.) for years, and I bet they'd beg to differ. How then can we find temporary solice from such suffering in life?
Compassionate Meditation Changes The Brain
Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.
In our world, we are subject every day to immense negativity. It can become difficult to remain mindful of compassion, which along with gratitude is one of the best practices you can do not only for the world but for yourself. Supposedly it has been scientifically shown that those people who practice compassion produce 100% more of a stress relieving hormone called DHEA. This is great for us, but what matters significantly more is to put forth compassion into the world. Between the media onslaught, social networking, peer pressure and everyday stress this is not as easy as one might first believe.
It is simple enough to say to ourselves, "Just Be Nice!" and on a topical level we can readily apply this practice. Simply holding a door for someone or saying "Have a great day" with a smile is enough to make a vibrational difference but the secret behind truly implementing compassion (and gratitude as well), is sincerity. How many times have you gone to a restaurant and the worker tells you to "Have a nice day" and you can tell by their face that it is anything but sincere; Employees are trained to say this phrase - not to actually mean it.
We must change this ambivalence and become invested in our words and actions in order to affect change.
A Guide to Cultivating Compassion
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature you meet.
To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud word, but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
Thank you Stephanie - for everything :)
To which we are awake.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Every day we awaken. Sometimes we have the luxury of lying in bed and leisurely thinking over the details we have planned for the day ahead. On other days, those details call us to 'hit the ground running' and leave little time for appreciation of the fact that another day has come at all.
Regardless of the stressors in life, regardless of the appointments and obligations we perceive, we must allow a brief pause, a few minutes to mentally sweep away the cobwebs and understand that with each new day comes a brand new opportunity: A blank canvas. While it's true that all the same burdens may be present, the same hassles and challenges, we have an opportunity to change the way we process and perceive them. The day has not yet been painted and we, lying there in bed or pausing as our feet touch the floor, hold the palette and brush.
With the strife of the world and personal issues, this is not always easy to believe, let alone put into practice - but practice is the key. Try it. What do you have to lose? Take a moment right now to think of all the times you have had cause to look back upon your day and find what surprising turns came about. It happens all the time! Did you plan on this or that as you hurried out the door? No? That's the point. You don't know. What will happen, will happen. The key is taking that moment before you begin the day to acknowledge another day has arrived and great things might happen. In fact, the more you believe great things will happen - the more you'll find them happening. Try it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Take that moment to be grateful for the day and open your eyes, literally, to the potential of the next 24 hours. Don't waste time on complaints and lamentations over what if or yeah but - they serve no purpose, and purpose is momentum that fuels our infinite potential.
Shake dreams from your hair
My pretty child, my sweet one.
Choose the day and choose the sign of your day
The day's divinity...
- ~ From "An American Prayer"
Poet/Songwriter James Douglas Morrison
"How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state? "
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