From Distractions

Have a meditation break!

With all the research out now about the huge physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits from meditation, are you doing it every day? Meditation relieves stress, clarifies your thinking, changes your brain, helps to deal with pain, possibly lowers blood pressure, and can deeply impact your spiritual development.

I generally do some form of meditation once or twice a  day.  Here’s a very easy form of mindfulness meditation* that can be done, anytime, anywhere, even at your desk in the midst of a busy work day (one of the best times to take a short meditation break!).  No need for incense or special music:

 

 

  1. Sit up straight in your chair, with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting comfortably in your lap. Close your eyes.
  2. Focus on your breathing, taking slow, deep breaths, and exhaling fully. Place your attention right at the tip of your nose, at your nostrils, where the air comes in and goes out.
  3. As you focus on your breathing, count each inhale and each exhale, counting from 1 to 10, and then from 10 to 1. In other words, first inhale is “1”, exhale is “2,” next inhale in is “3,” exhale is “4”, and so on, up to “10.” Then count inhales and exhales in reverse, from 10 to 1.*
  4. Repeat step 3, and watch your breaths begin to become softer, and seem to merge.
  5. Stop counting after two rounds, but continue gently breathing, noticing your belly and chest rising and falling with each breath.
  6. If your mind becomes distracted, as it will, just notice that you’ve become distracted and return to focusing on your breath.  This is what the mind does – it is unruly and will take us into the past, the future, or into a daydream.  With practice, you will train this wild beast!
  7. Keep focusing on your breathing in this way for 5 or 10 minutes, or as long a time as you have. See if you can work it up to 20 – 30 minutes every day.
  8. Enjoy the refreshing calmness you feel after meditating!  You may notice how your life begins to flow easier, how you get to know yourself much better and have spontaneous insights, and how your compassion for the struggles of others begin to grow!

* Meditation counting technique taken from the wonderful book Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana.

 

 

cruel month

Once in a while, my English literature bachelors degree rears its mighty head, and I’ll think of a line from the poetry I love so much. What’s coming up for me now is a few lines from T.S. Elliot’s The Waste Land. He wrote in 1919:

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”...

Yes, the month of April is once again upon us, a bittersweet month for its one last chance to both let go of what is passed and dead, and, at the same time, welcome the renewed stirrings of our heart’s desires.   The dead growth of winter becomes washed clean by rains of rebirth — but maybe not without some pain and grieving for what was.

It’s been about 6 weeks since my shift in consciousness, and the awareness of “reality” just keeps getting stronger and stronger. No longer bound by the illusions of who I thought I was, instead, there is mainly the reality of what exists right now. Any self-delusion covering up defensiveness and projection, any excuses or judgments masquerading as victimization and projection – the gauzy layers of these illusions are getting peeled back. And as I partake in reality as never before, my heart both breaks and bursts with the fullness of this thing called life.

Seeing the choices made in previous years, the suffering that ensued, the helplessness over those choices, and yet, the Divine Hand in it all – that is the stuff of awakening and the mysterious paradox of the birth/death cycle that holds us tenderly in its grip while we have our human experience.

Like the month of April, this seeing of the paradoxes of reality is both cruel and sweet. Ultimately, the evolution of consciousness promises a synthesis of the grand illusion of duality – a rebirth, free of illusions, in which we are living in a state of bliss with an experience of Oneness. With grace, we experience the illusions of duality dying and we surrender to the letting go process that delivers us into joy.

So, letting go in order to be reborn….a timeless theme of religion, literature, nature, life.  Since I’ve been back from India, I’ve been sharing my story of embracing helplessness and the necessity of surrender in order to receive the grace of the Divine. A number of people have expressed their fear about this process…. inspiring a reminder for all of us that a crucial step in the shift from fear to surrender is cultivating faith and trust.   Without faith and trust, our minds fear we will be eaten alive by pain. Our minds feel responsible for protecting us from pain – that’s the job of the mind and it works very hard at this task.

But how do you make the leap to faith and trust when you are caught in the grip of the mind, that lifeless terrain of fear? How do the lilacs get bred from the dead land in which they grow?

The answer is: The sun shines, the earth rotates, the moon and stars revolve, and weather cycles change.   Our mind can’t coerce the shift of faith to happen even as we can’t control the shining of the sun. Like the natural laws of astronomy, physics and math, faith happens naturally, but by a higher power than our mind. If you willingly open your eyes to see it, if you become conscious of a greater truth at play, then you set the stage for the natural event of grace to swoop in and transform your perceptions from fear to faith.

By observing and experiencing the phenomenon of grace in your life, the trust happens and the faith grows.   So, it’s merely about showing up and seeing what there is to see and feeling what there is to feel..

So you may be wondering, what does “showing up” involve? I can only speak from my own experience of showing up, and for me, it involves a couple of things:

One thing I’ve learned to do is to pay attention to my pain with the intention of fully experiencing it, fully seeing what it is.   By not running from the pain, by embracing its physical and emotional experience so I can know it consciously, it inevitably leads to transcendence from its limiting grip.

Pain has driven me to seek awakening. Pain has motivated me to find better ways to relate to loved ones. Pain has led me to stop projecting my judgments and blame on others and to see the truth of my own crazy beliefs.   Pain has been the number one reason my Divine has answered my calls of help. Pain is my Divine’s magical seed, implanted in me so that I can spend a lifetime searching for the bliss my heart desires.

If I were to have kept running from pain using the various coping mechanisms I have explored at various times (smoking, drinking, over-eating, over-working, blaming, resisting, hiding, lying to myself, trying to fix others, etc.), I would have still hit a bottom at some point and would have had to ultimately experience surrender.   In truth, I’ve hit numerous bottoms and I’ve learned, and continue to learn, to surrender over and over again.

The other thing I’ve done to “show up” is to seek conscious contact with my Divine. I’ve spent years doing shamanic journeying to connect with the Divine, years meditating, praying, serving, energetically clearing, and experiencing the Divine through all its beautiful forms, such as art, music, nature, poetry, love, sex, and delicious food!. For whatever karmic reasons, conscious connection with the Divine is a driving force in my life, that has brought tremendous joy and spiritual growth.

I want the bliss so badly. Even awakened, the journey of Oneness continues.   The longer the journey, the even more willing I become to leap into the transmuting fire of consciousness in order to experience the freedom of bliss – the rebirth into Oneness.

May your April be filled with the sweetness of rebirth. May your lilacs bloom with the waters of consciousness and faith! May you find your freedom in all the glorious, mysterious, complex and fantastic manifestations of the Divine!

 

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What’s the pain distracting me from?

For the past six weeks or so, I’ve had a strange, uncomfortable and atypical tightness in my lower back.  Despite the numerous efforts of my usually reliable team of practitioners to get it to go away, the darn pain has persisted. Today, another healer sent a huge amount of energy to me, and pulled some ancestral garbage out of me, and the pain went away for a short while — but, alas, returned.

Despite my own numerous efforts to meditate, visualize, and pray it be gone, I find myself with no other resources left but to contemplate my suffering.   Which, I realize now, is precisely what my Divine wants me to do.

What if I stopped resisting the pain of my aching back and contemplated what else is going on in my life.  Maybe it’s just been one big, juicy distraction. I’m realizing that the more I think about my pain and disdain it, the more I keep my focus stuck there.  That’s a lot of my attention going to one little part of my body  – especially on a part that already has enough on its platter in keeping me erect and moving in the world.

This is an excellent reminder to me that sometimes the most profound concepts are the most elusive.  Someone said it long ago:  “What you resist, persists.”

Resistance to pain is like a prison that keeps consciousness attached to one particular version of reality.  My version is that my back isn’t suppose to hurt and if it is hurting, then it better get fixed, by golly.  In focusing on that story, I suspect I’m keeping myself from noticing something else important.

I’m just wondering, what would be going on in my life or my awareness right now if I wasn’t obsessing about my back pain?   I’m going to stay with that question for now.