June 26, 2009
Our latest podcast, Let it Be Guided Meditation, is a variation on a theme. It’s the same theme that gave birth to the Simply Being, Effortless, and Letting Go meditations. It’s a theme that can be approached from many angles and given many names, but all of the names can be misleading. All these meditations point you to experience the essence of meditation. The words — effortless, letting go, simply being — are all meant to invoke a state of being that can’t be put into words.
I also use the phrase “let yourself be” in the meditation. That’s pretty easy to relate to. Being someone who tends to be hard on myself, I need to remind myself to let myself be quite a lot! But what is letting IT be?
What does it mean to “let it be”? Are there any words that can really capture what the meditative experience is like? What did those words mean to Paul Mc Cartney when he wrote Let it Be? What does it mean to you?
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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.
May 22, 2009
We’re all creative. Life is naturally creative and so are we. And yet so often our creativity seems to be stifled. There are millions of hits on Google for “creative blocks”. Once you’ve tasted the joy of creativity flowing easily, it’s extremely frustrating to hit those blocks. And if you are an artist, writer, musician or anyone whose work requires a lot of creativity, there’s a sense of pressure to create that in itself can hamper the creative process.
When the creative juices are flowing, it’s a high. It’s effortless. In fact, artists describe the creative process as one in which something simply comes through them. There’s a sense that “I” didn’t create this, it came on its own. It feels like a gift that comes spontaneously from a source outside ourselves. In fact, it’s the bypassing of the “me” who gets involved in trying to control the creation that allows the creativity to happen. It’s the “me” with all its doubts and anxiety about outcomes that becomes the block. It’s the “me” who wants to control the creation that gets in the way.
This latest podcast episode is designed to disarm the me, to help you drop into the natural flow of creativity that’s going on all the time in your own consciousness. Life is a flow of creativity. Our own consciousness is a flow of creativity. Ideas come, things get created naturally when we get out of the way.
Hope this meditation helps get your creative juices flowing. If you wish, you can use the meditation right before you do your creative work. Just let go of any expectation of outcomes and enjoy the process!
May 20, 2009
“True prayer means not solicitation but communion. Prayer is communion in the same sense as that in true meditation there is neither a meditator nor anything meditated upon.”
When I read it, I felt a “yes!” inside. It was one of those “that-feels-so-true-but-I-can’t-say-why” moments. It seems to describe a state of oneness that could be seen as both the goal and means of both meditation and prayer. What the quote conveys to me is beyond words, and yet usually I associate prayer with words. Perhaps the deepest form of prayer is indeed beyond words.
What do you feel? What do the words “prayer” and “meditation” mean to you? Is prayer the same as meditation?
May 12, 2009
I recently had an email from someone under a great deal of stress asking which meditations to use to keep stress from making him sick and out of balance. Although anything that’s relaxing will help relieve stress, I recommended the following podcast episodes in particular:
- Mini Relaxation Break
- Breath Awareness
- Simply Being
- Effortless Meditation
- Deep Rest
- Letting Go
I recommended these particular meditations because they don’t have a specific focus or ask you to be active in any way. My sense is that they would allow for the deepest rest and therefore the most release of tension. When we are deeply relaxed, our body chemistry and muscles switch gears from the flight or fight response into a more relaxed style of functioning. The energy of the body can then go to work to release tension and recuperate.
Ultimately, though, I encourage you to try the various episodes for yourself. Try the ones whose titles and descriptions appeal most to you. That way you can see the effects of the various meditations. It just might be that a focused meditation would be most helpful with some specific types of stress. If you are grieving, for example, the Grief Meditation might be most useful.
(You can listen to our podcast on iTunes or on this page.)
May 4, 2009
We just had a comment from someone who has a hard time with visualizations in meditation. So do I! Actually, I almost never enjoy a meditation that tells you to see this and see that. The more specific the instructions are for exactly what to visualize, the worse it is for me. As I’m working to construct the tree or light or animal or whatever it is I am to see, the guide is already on to the next image. I can never catch up and I’m so busy working on coming up with the visualization that I can’t really relax and get whatever it is I am supposed to get by seeing the image.
Though most of my meditations don’t involve visualization, I know that it can be very powerful. I do use a form of visualization in a few of the guided meditations (Intuitive Healing and Inner Child meditations are examples). I like to call what I do “intuitive visualization”. It’s what I do on my own sometimes for myself. It’s something we all do spontaneously when we daydream. I just suggest that you let something appear, such as a helper, and allow it to appear in whatever way it comes. It can be clear or vague. It may not even come as a image — it could be something felt or heard. It could come through any of the senses — touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell. Or it could just be a feeling sense. A helper, for example, could just be an energetic “presence”. This way of visualizing, which perhaps would be better called “intuiting”, works best for me and I like it in general because it allows you to draw on your own inner, creative resources to come up with just the perfect thing for you.
I know the other kind of visualization meditation, or imagery as its often called, works well for some people. What about you? What works best for you?
April 22, 2009
Our bodies are marvelous self-healing mechanisms. They are constantly busy with self-repair and working to move towards greater balance. The same is true, I feel, for our psyches. This latest podcast is designed take advantage of this by helping you tap into your intuition to promote healing. We start, as always, by relaxing into the flow of what is happening. Then we bring our attention to an area needing healing. Allowing something to be in our awareness is helpful in and of itself. Our attention is like a beam of energy and intelligence and when we direct it somewhere energy for healing is provided. The inner intelligence of the body puts that energy to good use. That’s the basis of the Relaxing into Healing guided meditation. This new meditation takes things one step further. We are more proactive, as it were, learning to direct our energy in more specific ways. We drop into our inner knowing to find just the right “flavor” of energy for the situation.
Visualization is a tool that is often used for healing. Sometimes very specific visualizations are recommended for specific problems. My experience is that it’s most effective when we allow the visualization to arise spontaneously from within. I personally find it difficult to follow guided imagery where you are supposed to follow a very particular image. I prefer to first let what needs healing to be fully in my awareness, and then see what “wants” to come, just naturally, to help the situation. I think it’s always more powerful to connect with ones own inner knowing.
As you listen to this meditation, be very easy about it. As with all our meditations, the words are just gentle suggestions for you to use as a springboard for your own experience. You don’t need to follow (or even hear) all the words. Your mind will pick up on the phrases you need for your process. As you are prompted to bring in energy, let that take whatever form comes easily. Some people may have very clear visualizations. For others, it may be something very subtle. Most importantly, it doesn’t have to be visual. You may have just a vague sense of some energy or movement. The energy may seem more auditory, like a hum, or kinesthetic, like a feeling of some texture or touch. Or you may just want to relax into the feeling of the meditation. Whatever comes easily for you is just right!
I’d love to hear what you experienced with this. This meditation was done with my local group. Everyone shared their experiences afterwards and each had a very different kind of experience.
April 9, 2009
It’s so easy to enter a meditative state while knitting. Something about the rhythmic movement back and forth between the right and left hands, something about the soothing repetition of movements. Something about it…
I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to write about knitting as a meditative art. People have tried to understand it in right brain/left brain terms. It has been compared to EMDR with its right and left eye movements. There have been lots of attempts to explain why it works, as if people need to prove its therapeutic benefits. I don’t really care why it works, it’s enough for me that it does.
I picked up knitting at a particularly stressful time in my life, not realizing that it had become a craze. Having learned it when I was young, my mind-body must have remembered the feeling of it and signaled my intuition that it was time to start knitting again. I find knitting to be so comforting and relaxing. I’ve known that it produces a meditative state, but it was just a couple days ago that I fully appreciated its power. When I was thinking about the similarity between meditation and knitting, I realized that you can’t worry and knit at the same time!
When you worry, the mind gets involved in a train of thought — a story about what might happen, what could happen, what might have happened and so on. Worrying engages the emotions in a way that creates anxiety. The use of your hands and the sight of the stitches being formed breaks that pattern. I challenge you to see if you can worry while you knit! To test this out, I knit a few rows actually trying to worry. I couldn’t do it. I could come up with worry thoughts like “what if that pain is a horrible disease” and “what if I can’t pay the bills next month”, but no matter what thought I conjured up, there was no emotional juice that came with it.
So many of the phrases I use while leading guided meditations aim to do this same thing — to disentangle the thoughts from the emotions, to allow the mind to break free of its usual patterns so that one enjoys a simple, open state of awareness. When I say things like “not minding the stories of the mind” or “let thoughts be a meaningless activity in the mind”, I am encouraging the mind to do what it does while we knit — disengage.
If you decide to knit to meditate, I think you’ll find the effect is the most powerful when you do a simple knit stitch over and over. In knitting, it’s called “garter stitch”. You just knit and knit and knit and don’t try to follow a complex pattern. It’s easy to learn, and you may find you also love handling beautifully colored yarns with various yummy textures. You might even end up with some great scarves in the process!
OK, so you’re behind the curve on the knitting craze. For all I know it’s over. Who cares? Knitting makes a great meditation. And, if you are hesitant because you are of the male gender, please know that, to borrow a book title, “real men knit”. Russell Crowe does it. Brad Pitt does it. The big, talk Ghi McBride character on Pushing Daisies does it. Just do it!
March 6, 2009
Because so many people seem to associate my guided meditations with Mindfulness, many of whom both use our CDs and listen to our podcast, I often find myself wondering exactly what Mindfulness is. I’ve often thought that my meditations have more to do with “mindlessness” than “mindfulness”, and have thought of writing a post about that. It took a really interesting blog post in the New York Times today to get me to begin to tackle that subject. Check it out — peoples’ comments are really interesting to read:
Well, I said “begin to tackle that subject” and I am literally only beginning to try to formulate by thoughts about it and don’t know if I’ll ever get past the beginning on this one. For one thing, having practiced meditation for a long time before ever hearing of Mindfulness Meditation, I’ve never really be able to relate to mindfulness instructions when I come across them, so how can I compare it with what I do?
Also, it seems like Mindfulness isn’t just a technique of meditation, but is often (if not always) associated with an intention to be a certain kind of person or to behave in a certain way — a way that is better than ones current way of being or behaving. My involvement with meditation has had to do with self-awareness and with inner peace, but I’ve never been involved in order to be a better person. If anything, my hope has been to learn to accept myself the way I am. I’m not saying that I don’t want to be a “better” person. Who doesn’t (depending on how each person defines that)? I just never saw meditation as a means to that unless it came as a welcome by-product to greater ease with myself and with life.
As I write, I am beginning to understand some possible distinctions between Mindfulness Meditation and what I do. I say “possible” because as I said I don’t really know Mindfulness Meditation. I also suspect that all Mindfulness Meditation is not alike. Certainly not every Mindfulness teacher understands and teaches it in the same way. Certainly not everyone who practices it understands it in the same way. Also, Mindfulness seems to involve more than a technique of meditation. It seems to involve a way of being in the world — something you apply outside of a period of meditation practice. While I do think meditation “my way” creates changes outside of meditation, there is no specific recommendation to try to consciously make something happen in daily life.
So why do I feel my meditations have to do with Mindlessness rather than Mindfulness? My sense is that in Mindfulness Meditation there is a kind of noting of things. There is the idea that here I am being mindful. So in Mindfulness there is a awareness of “me” sitting here “being mindful”. The difference I’d see is that in my meditations (the ones like “Simply Being” that don’t have a specific focus), there is a letting go of what is noticed. Noticing is not noting. It’s not a taking note of what you experience, or a labeling of it. It’s more of a letting go of what is noticed. We aren’t looking for anything. Noticing happens spontaneously. We are spontaneously aware of what is going on. We don’t need to try to notice something. It just comes into our awareness. Or it doesn’t. Doesn’t matter. It’s just a matter of letting go when we become aware that the mind has gotten involved, or tangled up with, what is being experienced.
As I write, I see the impossibility of conceptualizing what happens in meditation. And perhaps this is my difficulty with understanding Mindfulness Meditation. Perhaps it is the problem that is inherent when we try to put the meditative experience into words. It sounds like we mean something we don’t really mean. I can certainly see that what I was just writing in the paragraph above could sound like something other than what I mean.
So I’ll just stop. I began to try to write about Mindlessness vs Mindfulness, and I found that I can’t really. But I think you might enjoy the New York Times piece I mentioned, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this subject. So for that reason, I’ll go ahead and publish this post about what I can’t really put in writing. I think this has liberated me from any compulsion to explore how what I do is different than Mindfulness (if it is). It doesn’t really matter in the end. I’m happy with what I’m doing!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and welcome your comments.