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.
September 6, 2012
Our new podcast meditation is designed to help you visualize a healthy body. Many people have requested this, each with a different angle. Many wanted to visualize a specific goal. While I allowed time at the beginning of the meditation for people to set a goal, I created a meditation focused on the health of the body as a whole. This is like watering the root of a plant to benefit the whole plant, rather than focusing on any one part.
This Healthy Body Guided Meditation targets the core systems of the body which bring oxygen, nutrition and energy to the cells — the heart, lungs, and digestive systems. Strengthening those supports the health of all of the other parts of the body and can help the body with healing. Simply putting your attention on your body brings energy to it. You can use this meditation to enjoy a sense of well-being and enliven your body.
As with all of my meditations which involve visualization, be easy about the process. You don’t need to follow every word or see everything clearly. You can simply sense something in a vague way. The important thing is not to strain to follow the meditation. Let it unfold in a way that is natural for you. Whatever comes to mind as you try to visualize or sense something is just the right thing for you at that time.
Of course, simply visualizing good health and healing is not enough. For a healthy body, we need a healthy diet, exercise, enough sleep and so on. For healing, it may be necessary to see a health care provider and use appropriate therapies. But visualization can play a big role in moving the body toward health, partly by helping us tune in to our body, listen to its needs and do what is needed to be healthy.
To learn more about visualization, read Dr. Andrew Weil’s article on Guided Imagery – http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00468/Guided-Imagery-Therapy-Dr-Weil.html
For more on my approach to visualization, read this blog post – Intuitive Visualization in Meditation
June 2, 2012
A visit from a friend the other day brought an unexpected gift. One of the greatest things a friend can do is to help us to love and appreciate ourselves more, and that’s exactly what my friend did when she visited my home. My friend, also named Mary, is a beautiful woman, beautiful inside and out. She is always beautifully dressed, her hair perfect, and you could drop into her home at any time to find a picture perfect, lovely and orderly environment. We share a love of nature, and I have always admired her meticulously cared for, orderly (and weedless) garden and yard.
Mary always makes me feel special and loved, yet despite this I felt a bit intimidated about having her visit me at my home for the first time. I am not a perfect housekeeper. My garden, as filled as it is with beautiful things, is never weed-free and certainly not symmetrical or planned with any sort of special arrangement in mind. You could say that these things, as well as how I dress, is “casual”. As I ushered her along the patio to the door, she immediately remarked on how beautiful my yard is. I was really struck by this. While I was seeing the weeds that need to be pulled, plants that need to be replaced and spots where something needs to be planted, all she saw was the beauty of the flowers and shrubs. Her appreciation was genuine, and what I saw as a “deficiency” in my gardening, she saw as delightful. She was enjoying the casualness and spontaneity of it, which mirrors nature itself.
Mary helped me see things, myself included, with new eyes. This continued once we were inside and she commented on the peacefulness and quiet in our home — that was what she noticed, not the details of the furnishings. I showed her a painting of wisteria by my mother. I have always enjoyed it as I love wisteria and the painting seems to capture it in a charming way. Mary said she liked it because of the way the wisteria is casually presented — not contained neatly inside the picture in a symmetrical way. There is a certain sense of abandon in it. Now when I look at the painting, I see it as a reflection of my garden and some of the traits my mother passed on to me.
Mary’s visit left me with a greater acceptance, and even appreciation, of myself. My experience of my garden and yard is different. I see it with new eyes, and appreciate it more everyday. As I thought of sharing this story with you, I couldn’t help but see the connection with the style of meditation I’ve embraced. It’s one of acceptance of what is, including acceptance of oneself. I hope our visits together in the meditations bring you the same gift Mary’s visit brought me.
March 19, 2012
“It depends…” is often the answer to these common questions. It depends on what kind of meditation you are doing. It depends on your unique nervous system and physiology. It depends on why you are meditating in the first place, what your goal is. That being said, I’ll share a few thoughts on these questions from the perspective of our meditation style.
Will meditation help me sleep? Our approach is above all to promote naturalness and ease in living. We’re all about trust — trust in life, trust in oneself. Ultimately, it’s about relaxation — letting go of the tension that comes when we try too hard, resist what is happening, or are in conflict with ourselves. It’s about relaxing into the flow of life and living. This approach to meditation, or any other meditation style that promotes deep relaxation, should certainly improve the quality of sleep. Sleep comes about as we relax and let go of the concerns of the day.
I’m falling asleep during meditation, am I doing something wrong? In the deep relaxation of meditation, the body takes what it needs. If you are not getting enough sleep, the body will naturally fall asleep. So many of us are not getting enough rest, so when sleep comes in meditation it’s a blessing, even if it’s an unplanned afternoon nap! Practicing meditation in the style we teach should lead to greater alertness and clarity. But that doesn’t mean we have to be alert and clear during meditation. (After all, we are not alert and clear during sleep, but a good night’s sleep results in greater clarity and alertness during the day.) If you were totally rested, your experience during meditation would probably be one of enhanced wakefulness and energy, but if that isn’t what is happening, that’s fine. Whatever happens is what needs to happen at the time. So we recommend not resisting sleep when it comes. The sleep you get in meditation will be particularly deep and refreshing to the system.
Is it OK to meditate at bedtime? There is no hard and fast rule about this. If meditation makes you more alert and energized, you wouldn’t want to meditate right before bed. If meditation is mainly relaxing and you slip easily into sleep while meditating, then by all means meditate before bed. The ideal would be to have another meditation earlier in the day as well. Sitting up and meditating during the day will make it more likely you’ll stay awake, and different benefits can be derived from that. If you can do it, make twice daily meditation part of your routine!
On guided meditation. As those of you know who listen to our podcast meditations or use our apps, guided meditations guide you in meditation. They can be designed to simply help you achieve a meditative state, or they can have a specific focus and take you on a journey with a particular theme. We have both kinds of meditations. Some will be conducive to falling asleep, while others will be more stimulating and may not work well right before bed. You will need to try the different meditations to see what works for you.
Our new iSleep Easy app. The guided meditations on our new app are specifically designed for bedtime, and one is even designed for when you wake up in the middle of the night. All of the meditations are designed to help you let go and relax, much like our other meditations, but they are more focused on falling asleep and promoting a sound sleep. The app also gives you the ability to create a Playlist with several meditations in a row. Currently the app is available on iPhone — you can read about it in the iTunes store. If you get the app, let us know how it works for you!
January 22, 2012
Compassion, like gratitude, is something we love to feel. Even though compassion arises as we witness and empathize with another’s pain, it is satisfying to feel this response in our hearts. It feeds our hearts. Hopefully, this new podcast meditation will help strengthen and develop your capacity for compassion, not only for others, but more importantly for yourself.
I recorded this meditation with my local group. You’ll notice voices in the background in one part. I thought about editing that section out, but I had incorporated the noise into the meditation and thought you might enjoy that. When we hear noise as we meditate, the key is to let go of resistance to it and attempts to push it out. Although it’s more pleasant to meditate in a quiet place, we can experience inner silence even in the midst of noise.
Let me know what you experience with this meditation. Hope it serves you well!
November 18, 2011
Comment from Kathy — “I have trouble meditating in general. I can relax completely but then the slightest things disturb me. Things like my eyelids fluttering or an itch. My limbs become restless. Can you advise any strategy to help deal with that so I can stay in that relaxed state?”
11-19-2011 — Meant to add my comments before publishing this post yesterday. So here they are now — better late than never!
The obstacle to staying in a relaxed state is TRYING to stay in a relaxed state. You can feel restless and have fluttering eyelids and still be relaxed. The key to remaining relaxed is non-resistance. Let it be OK if you feel restless or your eyelids flutter. Go ahead and scratch an itch. Although some meditation styles may require that you stay perfectly still, we don’t subscribe to that approach. Naturalness is the key. Learning to let go of resistance to what is happening is the essence of the practice. Take it as it comes, and when you find your are resisting that, let it go. Even the resistance when it comes up, is part of the process. In our approach to meditation, you can’t make a mistake. Everything is part of the process of meditation!
August 16, 2011
The Cheers theme song has been playing in my head today ever since meeting a podcast listener while doing my grocery shopping today.
“You wanna go where people know, people are all the same, You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
When you have an online presence, or people hear your voice on a podcast or CD, they can imagine all sorts of things about you. The person I met today thought of me as a “celebrity”, “movie star of the meditation set”, someone larger than life. I’m sure that that all changed in our meeting! It was the most delightful, funny coming together of two people, and I wanted to share it with you.
I called out hello to Karen who studies hula with me. She said “Mary, do you have a minute? I have someone for you to meet.” I said I had a little minute, but it stretched out to many enjoyable minutes. I was introduced to Carol who has been listening to the podcast for over a year. She immediately held up her hands and said “Mary Maddux, I think of you as way up here, a movie start of meditation!” All three of us were soon laughing as Carol recounted how she had assumed I lived in New York or LA, and was amazed when Karen told her that I live in the same small town with her. Apparently yesterday, Karen spotted me walking on a local bike path and called Carol to say “You want to see Mary Maddux, move quickly — she’s walking on the bike path in pink!” Carol lamented that she was in another town and missed the great opportunity . The whole situation was so heart-warming and fun, we were soon laughing and hugging near the checkout aisles. I suppose for Carol this was an unusual “celebrity sighting”, in which it was revealed that the celebrity was woman much like herself. Hence the “people are all the same” line going in my mind.
It just so happens that tomorrow is our local guided meditation, and they will both join us. It feels like a coming full circle. My journey with teaching meditation and leading guided meditations was an “in-person” on for years. Reaching people through our podcast, CDs and apps has been an amazing and wonderful experience, but sometimes I miss the in-person part. This will be the second podcast listener to join our monthly meditation. At a time when our reach is growing so much that I have to cut back on answering emails, Facebook comments and so on, it’s wonderful to have this personal contact. It’s wonderful to be in a “place where everybody knows your name”.
January 19, 2011
Getting me to bed was a long routine for my mother. She’d have me all tucked in and start to leave my room and then I’d say, “Mommy, I want some water”. Off she’d go for water, and once I’d had that, she’d be on her way again. My next ploy for keeping her near was — “leave a crack in the door”. She’d leave the door a little open and I’d say “bigger”, and she’d open it a bit further and start to step away. “It’s too big, make it smaller”, I’d say. You can see where this is going! I’m not sure how she would finally make an exit, but I do remember what was going on inside me. I was anxious!
I haven’t thought about this for years, not until I started recording this new podcast (Sleep Meditation for Children). I wanted to go back and remember and get into my child world. What would have helped me if I could have had a guided meditation back then? I tried to speak to the child that I was, and this new podcast offering is what resulted. It is designed to help a child settle into bed and relax into sleep. For children who are fearful at bedtime, there is an added element of a “make believe friend” to help them feel reassured.
Please listen to the meditation first and see if you feel it will be suitable for your child. It’s for fairly young children. I’m sure you’ll check to see if your child liked it after the first time they hear it, and see if he or she has a question about what something means. Like all guided meditations, this will work for some and not others. I do hope, though, that it will send lots of children off to sleepyland feeling relaxed, safe and loved.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with it here. And it’s fine if you use it as an adult. We’ve all still got the child we were within us!
November 19, 2010
Is anger a difficult emotion for you? If yes, why?
In my family, anger simply wasn’t expressed. Being angry wasn’t allowed, the obvious conclusion being that it was a bad thing to feel. I wasn’t a child who could say “I hate you mommy!”, a perfectly normal thing for a young child to say. It’s taken a long, long time for me to find a healthy relationship with anger.
For others, the challenge with anger may be a different one, but I’ve had so many requests for a meditation for anger, that I know it’s a challenge for many people. I do hope this latest podcast meditation will help with some of the issues with anger, and would love to hear about your experience with it. I’ve thought about some reasons why anger can be so challenging and am sharing some of my thoughts as a background for the meditation.
Anger can be a very useful emotion. It can show us where we need to take action and gives us energy to do so. If the barking of a neighborhood dog or someone’s loud music is disturbing your sleep night after night, anger is a natural response. As part of the fight of flight response, it gets you to take action. Hopefully you can find a constructive way to confront the situation and resolve it.
Like every emotion anger is a natural flow of life energy. When allowed to flow freely, it passes through us. All too often, however, anger gets suppressed and doesn’t get released. That energy will then express itself in other ways, or lead to chronically tight muscles and other problems. What you resist persists, and suppressing anger actually keeps it around.
Another way of keeping anger going is to hold onto it by running stories in our minds about whatever it is that makes us angry. We may play something that happened over and over in our minds, thus extending the anger and not allowing it to resolve. Both strategies, suppressing anger and getting mentally involved with it, can cause it to continue longer than it needs to. It’s the ability to allow the anger to be felt fully that allows it to release.
Why would we hang onto anger? Sometimes anger is a reaction to another emotion, and covers up the original emotion. For example, if you feel hurt by someone, it may seem easier to feel the anger than the hurt. But unless you feel the underlying hurt, the anger will never resolve.
Anger can be difficult when it is accompanied by destructive thoughts. The thoughts themselves may seem unacceptable, or there may be a fear that they will be translated into action. The more we can feel the anger fully and allow whatever thought comes to come, the more choice we actually have about when and how to act. The ability to stay centered in ourselves as the observer of our anger gives us greater mastery over our behavior.
When to get help: Sometimes, of course, it’s important to get help with anger. If we are very angry a lot of the time or angry way out of proportion to the situation, counseling can help us work on unresolved issues causing the anger. And certainly if our expression of anger is interfering with our relationships, daily functioning or is destructive to others, professional help is needed.
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with anger and what you’ve learned. I’d also love to hear about your experiences with this meditation.