June 21, 2014
Four times a year the solstices and equinoxes remind me of the cycles of change. As a lover of light, I always look forward to the long days of summer. And yet, when the solstice arrives, things are turning the corner. After this longest day, the days will get shorter as darkness increases. This, plus the fact that we have listeners from all over the world, and half of the world is experiencing the shortest day, caused me to wax philosophical. What started as a meditation to celebrate the light of summer morphed into a meditation reflecting on change and how we can relax into it. Our latest podcast – Summer Solstice Guided Meditation – is an opportunity to relax into change and view our current life situation from a broader perspective.
July 7, 2011
This latest podcast meditation came about when I became aware of how much easier it was for me to sense the right side of my body than the left. I was doing a body scan and when I noticed this difference in perception of the two sides, I began experimenting with favoring the signals coming from the left side. The result was a pleasant sense of balance and wholeness. I tried this out with my local guided meditation group and everyone loved the experience. The session had been recorded and so luckily we can share it with you. Doing this meditation, especially if you use it repeatedly, should enhance mind-body coordination, and increase mental and physical balance.
The Body Balance Meditation guides you to focus more than most of our meditations. You will be directed to put your attention on the right and left side of the body (moving from feet to head) and notice if you experience each side with equal clarity. Often it will be more difficult to sense one side than the other. When one side is less clear to you, you’ll be guided to try to sense that side more, holding the intention of experiencing both sides with equal strength. As you do this, be very easy about this focus. You don’t need to strain or concentrate hard to reach the goal of sensing each side equally. If you don’t find your perception of each side shifting, that’s fine. As with all of our meditations, any effort you make is an “effortless effort”. As you repeat this meditation over time, just naturally the balancing of the perception of the two sides will take place. Simply having that intention will gradually make this shift happen.
I’d love to hear your experience with this meditation, and, as always, am happy to answer questions.
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.
October 9, 2009
In the swirl of activity and the intense demands of life, it’s easy to lose ones center. It can be challenging to maintain a sense of stability and balance. Our latest podcast meditation is designed to help you experience stillness in the midst of busyness, and then to create a stable reference point within that stillness.
The meditation helps focus and steady the mind. I’ve had requests for a morning meditation and as well as a meditation especially for students. This meditation may be good for both purposes.
Tips for this Meditation
- This meditation is best done sitting up in order to maintain alertness. It’s not a meditation for falling asleep.
- Occasionally my guided meditations suggest some use of visualization. In this meditation, you are guided to locate stillness and then a stable balance point within it. That point then becomes the focus of the meditation. It’s important not to strain to create this point or to work at concentrating on it. Just be very easy about the whole process. If what I suggest comes easily, fine. If not, let it go. It may take several repetitions of this meditation to get the hang of it.
I’d love to hear what you experience with this meditation. All comments and questions are welcome!
August 17, 2009
Was wondering what I’d blog about this week and a trip to our sunroom screamed “decluttering” to me. I hate to say why, but I’m sure you can guess. The sunroom has become a storeroom for our business — full of boxes for things received, bubble wrap envelopes for CDs to mail, and all sorts of related stuff. Richard is great at keeping things neat. His tolerance for clutter is way lower than mine. But still sometimes we get busy and the boxes start to take over. Hence the room’s cry for help. Well, truth be told, hence the cry for help by my psyche!
As soon as I walked in the sunroom, I felt the energy of the clutter. It’s unpleasant to say the least! I’ve promised myself to take care of it by day’s end. In fact, I’m actually looking forward to doing it. I find decluttering to be a lot like meditation. It’s a kind of meditation-in-action for me. It has the same calming and grounding effect when I do it in a relaxed, non-pressured way. It has to be done in a loving way. It can feel so self-nurturing when I’m not chiding myself for what I find, for having let it get out of control. It feels good when I allow myself to be there, fully present to all the sensations, emotions and thoughts that accompany the work, and that includes being present to the self-critical part of me! If I’m present to that self-critical part, I have a chance to cut myself some slack. It feels good when I allow myself to relax into it — when I give myself “all the time in the world” to do it, not being pressured by the clock.
Is this sounding at all like meditation to you? It does to me. It’s the same art. Meditation is all about the art of living, the art of how we do things. How we do something is totally about how we handle our inner world — how we handle our thoughts, emotions and the experiences that come our way. We can make decluttering a meditative experience. Instead of starting out with a logical plan, I like to just dive in. I enter the room or area that needs to be cleared and organized and just start — taking one step at a time as my intuition guides me. It’s so much more relaxing that way.
I read an article with all sorts of tips about decluttering — practical things to do. It sounded so intelligent, logical, effective. But I balked at the idea of following some rules, of having to things set up and plan in advance. That’s the way that person decluttered — it worked for them, but I can guarantee you that they didn’t start out with that list. That’s just how it developed as they did it and then they said — wow, that worked — now I can tell someone else how. I much prefer to get in there and discover how I do it. Like meditation, it’s an exploration that reveals my own path to me. If I start out with a instruction manual, then I think there’s a right and wrong way to do it. I start getting awkward and ignoring my own intuition and inclinations. What’s more it becomes work when it can be play!
It’s like writing this post. I had no idea when I started where it would take me. I just started writing and discovered where it took me. Just like meditation. Just like life.
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.
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.
April 21, 2008
I’ve heard from a number of people about how much they’ve enjoyed the Nature Attunement Meditation. After hearing the meditation, freelance writer Amanda Wegner interviewed me for an article she is writing. It’s about how adults can examine their relationship with nature and reconnect with and better appreciate the great outdoors, whether it’s a national forest, city park or their own back yard.
I really enjoyed this interview and wanted to share it with you. You can read the interview below. (Excerpts from the interview will be published in the summer 2008 issue of Successful Living magazine.)
Amanda: What benefits does nature bring to our lives? Why is an appreciation (or, more basically, a recognition) of nature important?
Mary: We speak of nature as if it is something separate from ourselves. Your ask “what benefits does nature bring to our lives”, and I often find myself saying “I love to be out in nature.” It’s interesting that we speak this way when we ourselves are part of nature. The same life force that moves the planets around the sun circulates our blood through our veins, and yet because of the way we experience ourselves as separate from each other and life, we lose touch with our essential nature. When we spend time outdoors and experience the sights, smells and sounds of the natural world, we are awakened to ourselves. Nature is like a mirror in which we see our own reflection and remember who we are. Spending time in nature attunes us to our own life force and rhythms. It helps us to feel more alive.
Amanda: Obviously, some people are much more in tune with nature than others. Do you think it’s important for people to examine their attitudes toward nature? How might one go about this? What questions should they ask of themselves?
Mary: It can be valuable for people to explore their relationship with nature, as well as their attitudes. As we become more intimate with nature, we become more intimate with ourselves. I feel that as we feel our connection with the earth more strongly, we naturally take better care of the earth. There’s no difference between caring for the earth and caring for ourselves. It’s all the same thing. We’re not separate!
One way to explore ones feelings about nature is to spend time outdoors. See what happens when you are in a natural setting. Be aware of how you feel. Let yourself connect with things more than you have been. Listen carefully to the sounds, with you full attention. Notice the smells. Let yourself drink in the sights. Notice how these experiences affect you. You can also try bringing more of nature into your home. Have some plants and form a relationship with them. Find out what makes them happy and helps them to thrive.
As far as questions, you might ask yourself how important nature is to you, and why. Examine your habits about recycling, and if you garden, how you go about it. Do you recycle because it’s “in”? Do you recycle out of guilt? Or do you find your actions motivated by a sense of love for this amazing planet we live on? Watch a bee nestling into a flower and see how you feel about that experience. Observe things closely, noticing how you feel, and ask yourself if it reminds you of how you feel in other parts of your life. You may start to notice that a bird’s song is your own voice speaking its sorrows and joys.
The Nature Attunement Meditation is a great way for people to connect (or reconnect) to nature. For someone who uses meditation, what might be some other ways (if they don’t have an iPod handy) to meditate in nature?
Listen and observe carefully with your full attention. If you’ve been listening to the meditations in our podcasts or CDs, you can treat your experience in nature the same way you treat the experience in meditation. Let the sights and sounds of nature be the focus of your meditation. Don’t strain on it, but if you find yourself getting “into your head” and caught up in your thoughts, gently bring your attention back to nature. Even though all sorts of thoughts and feelings may be going on, you can “favor” the experience of nature and notice how that makes you feel. As you observe nature, let go of the tendency to label and name things, simply experience them directly. You can close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the birds or a running brook. Anything can be a focus for your meditation.
For someone who isn’t “into” meditation, what other suggestions might you offer to even the most urban people to get out and enjoy their natural environment? How can people better “tune in” to their natural surroundings?
I’ve already spoken about ways to “tune in” to natural surroundings. Even in an urban environment, you can find something natural. There’s always the sun to feel and the sky. Clouds are a great focus of meditation. Sit down on a patch of grass somewhere. Feel the grass and earth with your hands. You can also bring nature indoors. Create a natural sanctuary on a patio or balcony, or even inside your home. Plants, small trees are an easy way to start. Construct a fountain with stones you find. Listen to the water in the fountain. Visit the beach or a forest and bring some of it home with you. Grow some bulbs indoors. There is always a way to connect. And when all else fails, you always have your breath. Attending to the flow of your breath brings you in tune with the natural rhythms of life!
January 16, 2008
Why is time spent in nature so revitalizing and nourishing? Why does it make us feel so alive? Is there more to it than just taking a break and getting away from it all? My sense is that nature is like a tuning fork fork that attunes us to our life force, to our very being. Nature is like a mirror that reflects back to us the qualities that make up our bodies, minds, emotions and spirit. Depending on the kind of work we do and how we spend our time, we may become disconnected from those qualities and life can become somewhat dry and flat. Time spent in nature wakes us up, makes us feel more alive.
The Nature Attunement Meditation is meant to bring much of the benefit of time spent in nature to us wherever we may be. This meditation focuses on the earth itself, creating an experience of grounding and strengthening. Water, sun and moon light, and plants also play a part in the meditation, as we attune to the essential elements that make up our lives and imbibe the energy and life of the vegetation of the earth.
This meditation is quite different from any of the previous ones on the podcast. It was a new experience for me to create it and I really enjoyed it. It will be interesting to hear how some of you respond to it.
July 12, 2007
When I hear my husband saying “earth to Mary”, it’s a sure sign I’m not grounded. It’s such a perfect phrase — “earth to…”. Being grounded has to do with our connection to the earth and to our own physical existence. When we are grounded our attention is focused on the here and now. Our minds are coordinated with our bodies. We are more balanced, less likely to make mistakes and have accidents.
There are lots of ways to get grounded. If you’ve become ungrounded because your are over-stimulated and your mind is scattered from multi-tasking and the general fast place of life, unplugging from your computer, TV, cell phone can help. Spending some time in silence helps the mind settle down and brings you back into your body. Time in nature paying attention to the sensations, sights and sounds also helps reconnect us to our bodies and the earth.
For those who are ungrounded because of too much meditation (which makes you feel “spacey”), focused activity can be a great antidote. Doing sudoku or crossword puzzles or something that requires that kind of mental concentration can quickly make the mind more focused. Doing some physical work or household tasks carefully and with full attention also helps.
There are many kinds of grounding meditations and visualizations. One very common one involves imagining your feet growing roots into the earth. Another involves visualizing a line dropping from your tailbone (or root chakra or tan tien in the lower abdomen) straight down into the earth and anchoring it.
We’ve just added a podcast episode which helps you ground by focusing your awareness on the lower body, feet and sensing your connection to the earth. Once you’ve done this process a number of times, you will be able to repeat the process automatically when needed.
What helps you to ground?