March 15, 2013
Loneliness can be a doorway to connection. Contained within the feelings of loneliness is our capacity for connection. Our podcast meditation – Guided Meditation for Loneliness – encourages you to go deep into the feelings of loneliness to connect with yourself and ultimately with others.
So often we resist emotions that we feel are threatening or unpleasant. Most of us don’t want to feel pain, but resisting our feelings alienates us from ourselves. This is especially true with loneliness. When we are lonely, we may feel deeply sad or have a strong sense of yearning. We might feel anxious, especially if we feel that there is something wrong with us for feeling they way we do. And yet going into the very heart of loneliness, experiencing it all the way, allows us to feel the most important connection of all — the connection to ourselves.
Remember — loneliness is a normal human feeling. It’s a result of your natural capacity and desire for connection. I would love to hear about your experiences with this meditation.
January 9, 2013
Ideally meditation will make us less, not more irritable, but sometimes people do find that irritability or other uncomfortable experiences come up when they begin mediation. I just answered a question from Danielle who is having this problem. The question and answer are worth posting, as it’s much easier to find articles about the benefits of meditation than about the challenges that may come along.
Q (from Danielle who recently started meditating):
“The past week I feel I’m more irritated than I usually am, mostly about other people. Is it possible that meditation makes you more sensitive to sounds, noise, etc? Have you heard it before that people become more irritated in a time where they meditate? Of course it is possible that other issues in my life attribute to this feeling. Do you have a suggestion or should I just let it be?”
A: ”There could be a number of reasons that you are feeling more irritable and you will need to experiment with and explore them to see what is happening. As you say, it could be issues in your life and not have to do with the meditation. Some people become irritable when under stress. If it is related to the meditation, I can think of three possibilities:
1 – You are coming out of meditation too quickly. If you get deep into meditation and then come out really fast, it can cause a headache or irritability. Always take time to come out of meditation slowly.
2 – Sometimes emotions that are under the surface can come up in the deep relaxation of meditation. We may become more aware of things that we are feeling. This ties in with the life issues. You may be more aware of how you are feeling about things, perhaps something that you are angry about, or it could even been some stored anger from the past. In either case, let the feeling be there in meditation, letting go if you notice resistance. When you are out of meditation, see if you can find the source of the irritation.
3 – You are straining in meditation. Ideally meditation is effortless, or you develop the habit of backing off when you realize you are trying too hard. It could make you irritable if you are making too much effort.”
I asked Danielle to keep me posted on what she discovers as she explores these possibilities. I’d love to hear from you if you have had similar experiences or challenges with meditation.
April 12, 2011
I’m so glad some of you asked for a meditation for patience. I really needed this! Whenever I’m creating a new meditation, I explore my own experience. Exploring my experience of impatience brought insights, and helped me notice when I was trying to rush things rather than relaxing into the natural rhythm of how things are unfolding in my life. This new podcast meditation was created to allow you (and me) to relax into life’s natural timing.
When we are impatient, we are in a hurry for things to be different. Whether we’re eager to finish a project, or make a change in ourselves or our circumstances, we are focussed on the future. We’re at point A, but our attention is on getting to point B. In essence, we feel that things will be better at point B, and we’re trying to get away from point A.
The fast pace of life and living in a culture that values quantity and speed feeds impatience. For many of us, it takes a strong intention and usually some sort of practice to counteract that. Meditation is certainly a great antidote to our speedy culture, and you can add to that an intention to come back to the present throughout the day. It’s a great help to be in tune with your body, because it will tell you when you are rushing.
Next time you feel impatient, check in with your body. What do you feel? Chances are you’ll feel some agitation and restlessness. Let yourself be present to that. You might then find that some other feeling emerges — sadness, anger, frustration, fear… Allow yourself to be present to that. Allow the emotions to be felt and see what happens. See what else you experience by being present to yourself and the moment. Hopefully you’ll notice the aliveness that is there, and find fulfillment in simply being present to what is.
Take a little more time, and look around you and see what is there — the richness of experience is nothing short of a miracle. You hear sounds, touch textures, see colors and shapes, and have a huge variety of smells and tastes to feed the senses. If you find a relief in relaxing into the now, make note of that for the future. Take a moment to let that sink in, to recognize that the real fulfillment in life doesn’t have anything to do with finishing a project or changing yourself and your circumstances. It has to do with the simple experience of being alive, and the richness of that experience.
May 9, 2010
Some of us react to loss by “shutting down”. We don’t feel we can bear the pain of grief, or we don’t want to risk loving and losing someone again. Rachel, whose comment is quoted below, feels her heart has been “shut for business” since she broke up with her ex four years ago. When she experienced an emotional release in the Opening the Heart meditation, however, she felt hope that she’ll eventually be able to move on and find someone new.
“I felt a significant release with tears when trying this meditation. I split with an ex over four years ago… I haven’t been able to move on at all romantically as I haven’t been able to let go of this past relationship. My heart shut for business to anyone else. I’m really hoping this meditation will eventually help me move on and find love again.”
Rachel has every reason to be hopeful now that she’s been able to start grieving the loss of her ex. If we can grieve a loss fully, feeling the pain all the way through, it leaves us with an open heart that can make new connections. It’s said that the only way through grief is straight into the heart of it. You have to fall into it completely. An open heart is one that can grieve. We can’t really feel love and joy if our hearts are closed to feeling pain. Grief is a natural process that allows us to let go of one relationship and let in another.
Life is full of losses, large and small. Large losses, like losing a loved one, a job, moving, or falling ill, cause us to grieve. But so do smaller losses, losses that we might not even recognize as something to grieve. This really struck me yesterday as I was inhaling the wonderful fragrance of the jasmine flowers gracing my patio. Spring is my favorite season, and the return of the jasmine nourishes my being and brings me joy. But yesterday I noticed that almost all of the buds had already bloomed, and most of the lovely little flowers were on the decline. Lots of spent blossoms were at my feet. I felt as if I wanted to hold on to the jasmine forever, to never let it go. At some point I noticed a tight feeling in my heart. I felt that holding on feeling so clearly and sensed it as a tightening up against life. I felt I needed to let go and when I did, I felt grief. It was a surrender to the inevitability of loss that is part of the fabric of life. In that surrender I felt my heart relax and open. Though I felt sad, in that moment I felt fully alive. I was open to whatever might come next.
My sense is that we can’t let go and be truly open without feeling the pain of loss. What has your experience with this been?
January 5, 2010
Many of us long to have a more open heart, to be able to give and receive more freely. We want to experience more love more easily, but it can be so difficult at times. The heart chakra is the gateway to loving connection with others. At the same time, it contains pain from past hurts. This meditation gives you the opportunity to relax into whatever the heart may hold, allowing held emotions to resolve and the loving energy in the heart to be felt.
The meditation takes you through a number of steps. First you relax. Then you connect with your heart, simply being present to whatever you experience. This is followed by visualization to help you expand the energy of the heart and connect with others. As always, be creative with the visualization and use it a way that works for you.
I’ve had many requests for a meditation for compassion and forgiveness. I do think these will come about, but hopefully this meditation will speak to these themes as well. Both compassion and forgiveness require the ability to be present to pain, our own as well as that of others. Both require an open heart.
I hope the meditation serves you well, and would love to hear about your experiences with it. (Listen to it here.)
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?
June 22, 2009
I’m working on a special series of meditations, “exercises” really, for anxiety. I’m editing one right now using deep breathing. In it, the first thing I suggest is bringing attention to the anxiety. This is quite the opposite of the usual tendency to want to run away from it. Anxiety builds in a kind of vicious cycle. Anxiety is an expression of fear, and part of what creates it is the fear of the anxiety itself. We resist the anxiety, try to run away from it, and that resistance does indeed cause it to persist.
Anxiety, like any other feeling state, comes and goes. Feelings come and go like the weather, but when we get involved in them either through resisting them or ruminating about them, they tend to be prolonged. Let go of the resistance, and the feelings can “pass through”.
This is only one small piece of the approach I am using for anxiety, but it is an important one. I’ll write more when I’ve finished my Anxiety Solutions project.
June 2010 Update — It’s almost exactly a year since I wrote this post and we’ve just finished our anxiety program. What was going to be a series of meditations evolved into a program with meditations, suggested daily exercises and journaling. You can read about it here.
June 5, 2009
Unfortunately I have to disagree with Mae West who said “too much of a good thing is wonderful”. When it comes to meditation, as well as almost every other “good thing” in life, there can be too much. Food, water, sunshine, exercise, rest — everything in life — needs to be in balance. As wonderful as good as meditation may seem, too much is not wonderful at all, but may cause discomfort and interfere with our functioning.
LoraC left a comment today saying that since starting meditation, she finds herself crying more easily and also has become clumsy and has been tripping and even fell. She loves the relaxation of meditation, but these things concern her. Of course, I didn’t have enough information to know for sure what is happening with her, but it is certainly possible that she is meditating too much.
Too much meditation can make you “spacey” and ungrounded. It can weaken your mind-body coordination. This could be why LoraC is feeling clumsy and tripping. As for her crying more readily, it’s just possible that some emotions are being released as a result of the deep relaxation in the meditation. Usually emotional releases would happen during meditation time and not create any concern. But if there starts to be a lot of release or intense emotional processing outside of meditation, it could be that too much is happening too fast. Since these things seem to have started after LoraC began “meditating in earnest”, an easy way to find out if it’s from meditation is to stop meditating for awhile or cut back on the meditation time or frequency. If the clumsiness and crying go away, then clearly too much meditation is the culprit and the time and frequency of meditation can be adjusted accordingly.
What is the right amount of meditation? How often and how long should you meditate? The answer is it depends. It depends on you — your constitution, lifestyle, goals for meditation and many other factors. It also depends on the type of meditation. For most people and most meditation styles, usually once or twice a day for 15 – 30 minutes, would work well. Unless you have the personal guidance of a teacher, you will need to experiment and find out what works best for you.
If meditation is enhancing your life, you’ve found a good balance. If it seems to be creating problems, it may be that you are meditating too much or that you might need to be doing a different kind of meditation. LoraC might find that if she does the grounding meditation or body awareness meditation, she would feel less clumsy as these meditations can help strengthen mind-body coordination.
September 6, 2008
I’ve had more requests for an inner child meditation than anything else. I haven’t done inner child work in any formal way as part of my path, and can’t be sure exactly what people were asking for when they made these requests. Nevertheless, the concept of the inner child speaks to me and I really enjoyed exploring it as I created this latest podcast.
The term “inner child” has different meanings to different people. Not everyone relates to this concept, but for those who do it can be a very useful concept for growth and healing. If you’re interested in the history of this term and how it’s been used in the past, check out Wikipedia. When I use the term, it relates purely to how it resonates with me and my experience.
As I’ve said before, when I record a guided meditation I am meditating with you. I go into a meditative space and a meditation happens which is just as much for me as for you. In creating the inner child meditation, I discovered a bit about what the inner child means to me.
As I meditated with you, I experienced some feelings which are very familiar, but most of the time are lingering under the surface. My adult becomes very busy with her life and often ignores these feelings which are inconvenient. To pay attention to what may seem like childish needs and hurts, and even the wish to express the unbridled joy which is also there under the surface, would take time away from all the things which seem so important in my day. And yet what is more important than attending to our deepest needs and feelings or allowing ourselves to cry those unshed tears that have been waiting for expression for years? What is more important than expressing childlike exuberance? I love to pretend I have on my tapping shoes and dance around just for fun. We don’t just find our unmet needs and past hurts when we connect with the inner child, we also find the source of our joy.
I have done lots of inner work, through meditation, therapy, and various healing modalities, yet the ethic of productivity and achievement have a strong momentum. I am not always as attentive as I’d like to be to my needs. Our culture prods us on to do, but doesn’t honor our need to be. Our culture doesn’t place a priority on nourishing the inner life. I’m thankful to all of you who requested this meditation. It caused me to take time to connect with some of the longings of my deeper self.
Whether you are already working with the inner child as part of recovery or healing or simply want to explore your inner life, I hope this meditation supports you. I would love to hear about your experiences with this meditation or any other work you’ve done with the inner child. What does the inner child mean to you? What experiences have you had with him or her?
NOTE: We’re so sorry — we originally uploaded our Inner Child Meditation with outtakes. If you are among the 12,000 people who have downloaded the first version, please check back for the correct version which is now available here and on iTunes.
June 16, 2008
I am responding to a question from a listener who experienced emotional pain while using the Chakra Meditation. Here is his email:
I was today listening to the Chakra meditation podcast, but felt it was necesarry to turn it off at the Heart Chakra. I found that I became overwhelmed by a feeling of great emotional pain in my heart… I thought I would e-mail you to see if you knew what might be causing this, and how to find the solution.
It’s not unusual to become more aware of our emotions during meditation, and even to have strong emotions or emotional pain come up. I will write about that in general in another post (or talk about it in another podcast), but for now I’ll talk specifically about having this happen during the Chakra Meditation.
During the chakra meditation, we put our attention on the various chakras. The chakras, or energy centers of the body, are like doorways to different aspects of ourselves. They process the energy for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual functioning. When we put our attention on a chakra, we become more aware of what is going on in the part of our life that the chakra represents. Not only do we become more aware, but the energy in the chakra is enlivened by our attention.
Our attention is a beam of energy and intelligence and, like a laser beam, it affects whatever it is directed toward. With your awareness on your heart chakra, you may get in touch with something going on in your heart area. It’s like shining a light into a dark room — what has been hidden becomes revealed.
In this case, you felt great emotional pain. This could be pain associated with something going on in your life now that you’ve been ignoring, or it could be some pain “releasing” from the past. The heart chakra has to do with our relationships and connections with others. If there has been some loss or hurt in relationships, it is felt in the heart area. The loss or hurt could even be associated with things and events, such as moving or losing a job. If the feeling of hurt (or perhaps grief) isn’t fully “processed”, the energy of the feeling gets “stuck” in the heart chakra. When we put our attention on the heart chakra, we may feel what is waiting there to be processed. It’s the job of the heart chakra to process certain emotions, and when we relax in meditation and allow our attention to go there, the heart chakra gains the energy to do its job. While no one likes to experience emotional pain, it is a part of healing and recovering from an emotional trauma.
Very often we have grief that hasn’t been fully resolved in our lives. Some cultures are better than others in supporting people through grief. In many of our Western cultures, we’ve learned to suppress grief. But our mind and body will always move toward greater balance and emotional well-being given the opportunity. While meditating, things that have been under the surface can come up to be felt.
When something comes up that makes you feel too uncomfortable, you can always do what you did and stop the meditation. It would be good if that happens to lie down and rest a bit to let things settle down. There are some other ways of dealing with strong emotions as well, and for something like this an experienced meditation guide could help. The advice the guide would give would depend on some one-on-one exchange with you.
After responding to the person who asked this question, he emailed back that indeed he had recently experienced a sort of emotional trauma and had been feeling quite numb until listening to the meditation. Based on that, I also want to add that it is quite normal to feel numb after a traumatic event like the death of a loved one, breakup of a relationship and any other intense loss or change. It’s a healthy response of the body and psyche to protect itself from overload and allow us to continue functioning. Usually that phase passes and we begin to feel our emotional reactions. Sometimes, however, those reactions are buried and may surface again after a long period of time. It’s not always possible to know where a strong emotion in meditation is coming from — it could be an emotion from a recent event or left over from something long ago. In any case, part of healing is experiencing that emotion and meditation can sometimes facilitate that.
Usually an emotional release will in meditation will not take too long to resolve and won’t cause undue discomfort. Occasionally, however, meditation can open us up to some feelings that are so difficult for us that we would benefit from help from a trained counselor or therapist. Be kind to yourself and get support if needed.