Try This: Mini-Meditations

IMG_1613Once a day, or whenever you’d like to live with a bit more grace and ease, try taking a mini-meditation break. It’s very simple, takes only a few moments and can completely change your entire day.

I like to set a 2-5 minute timer on my iPhone, sit down on the floor if I can, close my eyes and just breathe. In and out. Watching the rhythm, and giving myself a short break from whatever life is throwing my way. I place my hands on my knees, palms down if I feel I could use some grounding, palms up if I could use some energy or insight. That’s all it takes, and it never fails to bring me a touch of peace.

With so many things in life, we assume that we need big solutions, big changes, extreme measures. And often we do need to do something, change something–but that something may not be as daunting as we think.  A moment of quiet breathing may be all it takes. If you meditate regularly, these short sessions are an added treat, and a way to weave your mediation practice more fully into your day. If you’re a new or (like many of us) an inconsistent meditator, these mini-sessions offer a convenient opening into mindfulness. Without the pressure of meditating for sustained amounts of time, you may find yourself going deeper more quickly and easily.

I invite you to stop, sit and breathe. Just for a moment. Just for one, precious moment. Notice how precious it is. Notice again. And then let it go.

Journey Into Stillness: Beginnings & Endings

It has been 40 days since the beginning of our journey into stillness.  Whether you sat beneath a bodhi tree, welcomed the dawn with a favorite mantra, or simply contemplated the idea of meditation, you are welcome here, at the place where one ending and a new beginning meet.

We are surrounded by endings and beginnings, some obvious, some not.  In a world that is constantly shifting, constantly changing, constantly evolving, it is important to mark the transitions, to notice when the gate swings open and we walk into a new life, a new day, or simply a new moment in time.

Breathe into the changes.  Find your sea legs; let yourself bend with the curves.  It is all a dance, and you were born to be a dancer.

Wherever you find yourself in your own journey to stillness, I hope it brings you joy and peace.  As for me, I will continue practicing the ways of stillness.  I will continue watching how one ending flows into a new beginning.  I will continue to fall deeper in love with the moments that hold me, and to share with you what I find along the way.

Namaste.

Journey Into Stillness: Books On Meditation

“[M]editation is like any other intimate relationship:  it requires patience, commitment, and deep tolerance.  Just as our encounters with others can be baffling, scary, and even irritating, our encounters with the self have their own moods and flavors.  Like any other relationship, this one changes over time.  And it is best undertaken with love.”  -Sally Kempton

My 40 day journey into stillness begins today.  Have you decided to join me?  Are you still not sure?  There is no right answer and no right way to do this.  Start now or catch up later–the path will always be there, waiting for you to explore it.  Try it now or try it later, but know always that the journey is your own.

Whether you are committed to your practice or only mildly intrigued, you may be looking for more guidance about how to begin.  I gave you some of my ideas about meditation here; here are a few of my favorite books on meditation:

Meditation Made Easy, by Lorin Roche.  This is “come as you are” meditation.  It is an excellent introduction to the simplicity of meditation, and demonstrates how easy and enjoyable it can be.

Meditation Secrets for Women: Discovering Your Passion, Pleasure, and Inner Peace, by Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche.  Roche teamed up with his wife, Camille Maurine, to write a book specifically geared towards women.  Throughout history, most formal meditation practices have been practiced and taught by men, to men.  This book takes a unique approach to meditation from a feminine perspective.

Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  A landmark book on meditation.  Kabat-Zinn discussed different meditative practices in small, poetically written chapters.  This book is both clear and inspirational.

Meditation for the Love of It: Enjoying Your Own Deepest Experience, by Sally Kempton.  Sally Kempton is a frequent contributor to Yoga Journal.  When you are ready to dive deeper into the many facets of meditation, particularly those arising from yogic wisdom, this is a lovely place to go.

The finger that points at the moon is not the moon, Zen and Buddhist sages tell us.  To understand meditation and, more importantly, ourselves, we must not only think and study–we must also practice.  We must explore.  And we must be patient with the process, for meditation is a path different from that of our daily lives.  Going inward is foreign territory for most of us.  The roads are not always clear; our journeys are not always what we expect.

Although no one can take the journey for us, we can learn from those who have gone before.  May you find the teachers you need, but always remember that your best teacher lives within your own heart.

“Give up to grace.  The ocean takes care of each wave ‘til it gets to shore.  You need more help than you know.”  ~Rumi

Journey Into Stillness: An Introduction To Meditation

In anticipation of 40 days of meditation beginning on May 15th, here are a few guidelines for developing your own practice:

(1)  Follow your own inner rhythms.  Your meditation practice should be as unique as you are, as personal as your connection with the Divine.  Trust what calls to you.  Trust what feels right to you.  If you feel peaceful, expansive, open, then you’re doing it right, whether you’re sitting, lying down or dancing.

(2)  Allow change.  No two days are quite the same; no two meditations are quite the same.  Some days you may feel blissful, other days it will be a struggle to sit still.  Embrace the changes.  Experience it all.  If something doesn’t feel right, try something else.

(3)  Be open.  To where you are, who you are and all that is.  Give yourself to the moment you are in, including how you feel, the noises around you, even the so-called interruptions.  They are all part of the practice.  Don’t expect to silence your thoughts, just let them be.  When you find yourself dwelling on your thoughts (and you will), just let them float away and return to your practice, again and again.

(4)  Go slowly.  Meditation is a practice, not a race.  Take your time building a practice.  As you begin your 40-day practice, if you are new to meditation, commit only to spending at least 30 seconds in meditation.  That is enough.  Over time, 30 seconds may become 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 20.  There is no reward for more time spent, and it is far more important that you focus on connecting with yourself than it is that you check off how many minutes you spent each day.  Two minutes in true stillness are far more valuable to peace and happiness than an hour spent watching the clock and worrying over tasks waiting to be done.  Remember, the path of stillness is a journey, not a destination.

(5)  Explore.  There is a kaleidoscope of different meditation techniques available to you.  Try many; use whatever sounds the most appealing, the most delightful.  A few suggestions:

Focus on your breath as it flows in and out of your body.

Focus on the feel of your heartbeat–feel the pulse of your life.

Use a mantra.  This can be a sacred Sanskrit word, such as Om (the sound of the universe), Sat Nam (“truth is my name”) or So Hum (“That I am”).  It could also be an affirmation that inspires you, such as “Love,” “I am peaceful,” or “I am at ease with myself and others.”  Use one that resonates with you.  Experiment.

Use music or guided meditations, especially when you are beginning, to lead you into meditation.  I sometimes meditate to Aine Minogue’s Celtic Meditation Music; I also like Gabrielle Bernstein Meditations and Spirit Junkie Guided Meditations.  (Gabrielle Bernstein also has free meditations available on iTunes–they don’t have the beautiful music of her cds, but are still a lovely guide into stillness.)  The yoga teacher, Janet Stone, recently released a new iPhone App (Yoga with Janet Stone) which includes some beautiful, guided meditations in addition to yoga practices.  The iChakra App is another good resource if you’re interested in Kundalini mantra meditation.

Sometimes the path to stillness involves movement.  Try a walking meditation, or do an activity you love, such as knitting or baking, with gentleness and presence.  Or lie down if that feels best to you.  Don’t worry about falling asleep–if you do, it only means you needed that more than anything else.  And meditation is all about supporting the parts of you that need support and finding your own manner of peace.

(6)  Bring all of yourself into your meditation–your fears, your anxieties, your sadness.  This is your chance to be whole, to embrace everything you are, the beautiful, the brave, the fragile, the rebellious.  Your feelings will not hurt you.  Explore them.

(7)  Just listen.  Tune into what your body is whispering, to what your heart is telling you.  When you listen closely enough, you may find yourself awakened to Truth, able to translate the voice of Love.  Write it down.  Share your discoveries.

(8)  Watch for magic.  Time spent in meditation always finds its way back to you.  When you open to the magic of the moment, it grows around you.  You have more energy, more patience, more love to give.  You find the right action arising naturally; you flow with your life rather than against it.

If you have questions or suggestions of your own, I would love to hear them.  What ways have you found to cultivate peace?  When are you called to silence, and what have you found there?

However you choose to journey into stillness, may it bring you home to yourself.

Namaste.

A Journey Into Stillness

I went into the desert because I wanted to live, as Thoreau said, “deliberately.”  I wanted to hear with the ears of a poet, see with the eyes of an artist, feel with the heart of a lover.  I did not want to dream about such things; I especially did not want to worry or grieve over them.  Those roads had never led me anywhere before.

So tell me, I said to my heart, what is it that you desire?  What is it that you are trying to tell me, and that I am not hearing over the roar of my daily life?

I don’t usually speak in words, came the soft but surprisingly clear answer.

That’s all right, I answered.  I’ll learn to translate.

We learn to listen by opening to stillness.  By greeting the entirety of the moment before us, all of ourselves, all that surrounds us.  When you open to the fullness of the moment you are in, you touch eternity.  You feel, you know, that you are surrounded by Love.

Will you journey with me?

On May 15th, I am going to begin a 40 day journey into stillness.  40 days is considered a sacred number in many traditions–for example, it was after meditating under a bodhi tree for 40 days that the Buddha obtained enlightenment.  Although I meditate regularly–usually for at least 5 or 10 minutes a day–for these 40 days I am committing to a more devoted practice.

Later this week, I will write about the various forms of meditation I have practiced, resources that have guided me, and the ways I have discovered to form a practice that can connect you to yourself, to the Divine, to the presence of Love.  I hope that it will inspire you to join me on this journey.  Whether you take it in silence, or choose to share your path with others below, on Facebook or on Twitter, we will journey together.

Breathe in stillness.

Breathe out love.

Namaste.

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