July 27, 2009
Although many people have reported stress relief from our meditations, we’ve still had requests for a special meditation for stress. This inspired me to create this latest podcast — a meditation that goes further and helps to root out the stress at a deeper level.
Like all the guided meditations I create, I am meditating as I speak. I am literally meditating with you. Since I was feeling a lot of pressure on the day I recorded this meditation, I found myself sinking deeply into my own experience and talking my way through it. I actually felt a lot better after I finished the recording! I hope your experience is the same.
Acting under a sense of pressure doesn’t help us accomplish what we need to do. In fact, the feeling of pressure can interfere. Our energy is actually being dissipated and our attention scattered as we are in an over-stimulated state. In reality, we are able to accomplish a lot more when we are relaxed. Our minds are clearer and all of our energy can go toward the task at hand rather than into pressuring ourselves. And of course, it’s extremely unpleasant to feel pressured.
Relaxation is the antidote to that pressured state. It’s an antidote for stress. It’s so difficult, though, to relax once we’re feeling that kind of pressure. We feel as if we have to meet its demands! We hesitate to take the time to relax. So it’s important understand that taking the time to relax will actually help us accomplish more.
Also, it can be challenging to sit still with that feeling of pressure. It may be accompanied by unpleasant feelings such as anxiety, irritability and so on. Continuing to be focused on a task keeps us from feeling the inner discomfort that is propelling us. To allow deep relaxation to happen, we need to be able to be present to the emotions and bodily sensations associated with the stress and pressure. Being able to sit with those feelings and and sensations and experience them completely helps them to resolve. It allows the tensions to unwind.
Using this meditation regularly should help develop a habit of noticing when a sense of pressure is present and then backing off. The more we respond the the pressure, the more pressured we feel. Our muscles tighten and our emotions escalate in their intensity. This meditation can help you develop new ways of responding to stress, ways which help create more balance and ease.
At the end of the meditation, you have the option of continuing on your own with the music. Be creative — use the various strategies that were used during the meditation in the way that works best for you. Some of the things mentioned were noticing the breath, feeling what the pressure feels like, being fully present to the emotions, noticing tension in the body and letting it go. Let your intuition guide you. You can learn to relieve the stress and pressure using your own inner knowing. You just need to take the time to listen.
July 20, 2009
It’s always a surprise to me. Every single time. I record a guided meditation, do some editing and pass it on to Richard. And then before I know it, he’s added some music and voila — it’s done. Just like that, he listens to the meditation at his keyboard and the music seems to get composed effortlessly. And I always love it. It always feels just right for the meditation. And I’m always in awe. How did that happen? How is it that every single time, on the spot, the music comes?
Even though I’ve experienced how effortlessly things can get created, I’m still amazed. And yet, when something new does come into existence, it is by nature a spontaneous, effortless event. If it’s new, it’s never been seen, touched, heard, known before. How could that come with effort? When we make an effort, we are working at something. We have an end in mind — we draw on everything we know and have experienced before; we use our logic; we try to connect the dots. But something completely new can’t be found in what we have heretofore experienced and known. It comes from the source of all of that, and the functioning of the source lies outside the functioning of our own will and actions, even though it influences them. So “true creativity” can only be effortless. While we may work at shaping an inspiration once it arises, we cannot force the inspiration to come.
While that explains to me the effortlessness of Richard’s composing, it doesn’t explain the consistency of it. And here I turn to my understanding of meditation for answers. Meditation can align us with the source of all creation (and hence creativity). The mind shifts into a more open, intuitive mode, beyond intellect and logic. Composers have to “get out of the way” for their music to come into being. Meditation in its most essential form gets us out of our own way.
Richard gets into a meditative state to compose. After all the years of meditation, it’s easy for him to do that. So Richard gets out of the way and the music comes. I should understand that — it’s how my meditations come. It’s how everything I’ve ever accomplished creatively has come. And yet it still surprises me when it happens. It is always a wonderful, awe-inspiring mystery. It is always a gift.
Richard’s beautiful, meditative music is available on our Pure Light album (a compilation of background music from our podcast and CDs.)
July 11, 2009
More and more it’s the “little things” that make my day — the taste of a plum from our tree, the sight of a hummingbird on the orange trumpet vine — even the feeling of a spoon as I dry it after washing. Sounds odd maybe, but the smooth texture of the spoon, the warmth, the weight of it in my hand are all somehow satisfying. So is the experience of my body breathing, and the growing richness of my emotional life. As someone who once upon a time was very much “in my head”, the increasing awareness of my body brings great satisfaction. I’ve come to enjoy how my body feels as it moves and the rich variety of physical sensations present in any moment. Things like the feeling of the water when I shower and then the towel on my skin, the warmth of the sun, a cool breeze — bring so much richness and satisfaction.
Being alive is fulfilling in and of itself when we open more to what is happening in the “present moment”. But opening to the present moment isn’t just about “smelling the roses”, it’s also about the willingness to feel pain. In our culture, we try to avoid feeling pain. Whether the pain is physical or emotional, we’ll do anything to not feel it, from popping pills to distracting ourselves by keeping busy. And yet, when we repress or avoid feeling something, we restrict the flow of life energy. Our awareness becomes restricted and our capacity to feel is dulled. We can’t be fully alive without experiencing it all — pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow. The same meditative path that has allowed me to derive so much satisfaction from the small pleasures of life has required that I also feel pain more acutely.
How does meditation create such a shift in experience? How can it help us feel more fully alive? Meditation involves what we do with our attention. So often our attention is caught up in thoughts, so that we miss the experiences coming through our senses. Most meditation styles encourage letting go of thoughts and shifting the attention to the breath or the body or to simply experiencing the ongoing succession of experiences that occur from moment to moment. Thus we develop the habit of letting go of thoughts and paying attention to the sensation of breathing, bodily sensations, emotions, sensory input.
Meditation also involves letting go of the attempt to manipulate our experience. We let go of resistance to what is and stop trying to change what we think and feel.
Just a few minutes ago I was making the bed. My mind was caught up in writing this blog post and then there was a shift. My attention came back to the bed making. No longer caught up in thoughts, I was seeing the color of the sheets, feeling their texture in my hands, hearing the rustling sound as I pulled the pillowcase over the pillow. Thanks to writing this post, I noticed the satisfaction inherent in this simple experience. Meditation can also encourage us to accept the ever-changing flow of emotions. As I made the bed, there were a number of feelings present. Not resisting certain feelings or trying to make myself feel otherwise left my attention undivided. This too contributed to being fully present to the experience of making the bed. Meditation can free our attention from preoccupation with thoughts of past and future or of how we think things should be. The attention, left free, naturally experiences what is happening moment to moment.
The motivation to meditate may be the immediate relaxation and relief it provides, but there’s a lot more going on. Regular meditation can make a radical change in how we experience our lives. What changes have you noticed from meditation? Do you appreciate the little things more? Do you feel more fully alive?
July 6, 2009
What I am really asking is — am I cut out for Twitter? “Do twitter and meditation mix” just sounded like a good title. Meditation mixes with anything — meditation can be a part of any lifestyle. But for someone like me who was drawn to meditation partly because of my “twitter mind”, Twitter can be a challenge.
My twitter mind is a lot like the Buddhist “monkey mind” — jumping from thought to thought like a monkey from tree to tree. Some of us are more that way than others. In Ayurveda, my mind has a lot of vata energy. For those conversant with Ayurveda, I’d say Twitter would aggravate vata, pacify kapha and be neutral for pitta. But that’s a whole ‘post in the making…
Noticing anything about this post — does it seem to be jumping around? Too much time spent learning the Twitter ropes got my mind going. The energy there is incredibly frenetic for someone like me. It’s also exciting. My mind tends to go off on tangents and free associates. It’s great for creativity, but it has to be tamed. I’m sure that’s what lead me to the style of meditation I learned and the style I teach.
In my guided meditations, I consistently encourage letting go of thoughts — not following the train of thought. This allows the mind to detach and settle down. Not only does this allow for deep rest, but it allows for the discovery of what lies beneath our thoughts. When we meditate, we experience the quality of awareness itself — the silence and stability within. We call it getting centered. It is the opposite of having a scattered attention. The attention becomes one-pointed, anchored.
Twitter could easily scatter ones attention as you jump from tweet to tweet, clicking on links wandering here and there through blog posts, videos, and more. It’s all a matter of balance — finding the right mix of activities that keep us balanced and grounded. The “right mix” isn’t the same for everyone. What we need to learn is what works for us.
As I said, for me Twitter is a challenge. It’s a fun challenge — I love the interconnectivity and especially the opportunity to connect with more of our podcast listeners. But because of the way I’m wired, I can’t spend a lot of time on Twitter. (And that’s a good thing — I have so many projects to work on!) I have to find a way to make Twitter work for me. I need to tweet my way, and how that will look is just beginning to evolve.
For now, if you follow us on Twitter, you will receive updates of new blog posts, podcast episodes and other news. I’ll try to follow you back if you look like a podcast listener. Let me know if I miss you, and suggestions are welcomed!
Thanks to Vincent Abry for the great Twitter button.