February 14, 2011
When we were looking for an icon for our Meditation Oasis podcast in the fall of 2006, we kept coming back to the face which not only became our icon, but part of our website banner. We found the picture in an image library of software we were using. The expression is so compelling. It captures meditation so perfectly. None of the other images we considered came close to the power of this image.
It’s intriguing to think about how once upon a time a young woman posed for a photo, and the picture ended up in an image library and then became the now familiar face associated with Meditation Oasis. Who is the woman who posed? Who took her picture? What was the intention of the picture? How did it end up in the image library?
Just recently someone on Facebook asked if the woman in the picture is me. When we chose the photo, we realized that some people might think that, but decided it didn’t matter. It was the expression, the feeling of the picture that mattered, not the features of the face. And besides, we have never wanted to put a lot of attention on ourselves as individuals. What we are interested in is an inner experience, a universal human experience. We are also most interested in YOUR experience, in your discovery through meditation.
Whose is the face of Meditation Oasis? The face of Meditation Oasis is all of us. The icon could easily be a picture of any one of us deep in meditation. The picture could easily be you. When we are at peace, it shines through. No matter how we look, when a person is at peace, that is what everyone sees. It’s unmistakable. It’s a gift to everyone around. We are thankful for the gift of this photo that came in such a serendipitous way. It’s been a gift to all of us who feel the peace that comes through the image.
August 19, 2010
“Present moment awareness” isn’t something that can be captured in words. It is a holistic awareness of “what is”. This short meditation is an opportunity to explore what is “here and now”.
This is a more advanced meditation in that the instructions are very subtle. The words I say in meditations are never meant as instructions to be followed precisely, and that is even more true for this meditation. Since there’s so much interest in the idea of the “present moment”, it might be easy to get caught up in concepts about it and what it is. Any idea we have about the present moment, however, is not what it is. As you listen to this meditation, listen easily. Treat it more like poetry than prose, allowing it to reveal something to you that can’t be named. Let go of the need to understand!
We’d love to hear your experiences with this meditation!
June 21, 2010
It’s the summer solstice where I live – the longest day of the year. A lover of warmth and light, I celebrate the day with a mixture of emotions. At the same time that I rejoice in the light and beginning of summer, there’s the knowledge that from now on the days will gradually shorten. The concept of Yin-Yang expresses this perfectly – in the light half resides the seed of darkness, in the dark half resides the seed of light.
It seems as I grow older, the two sides of the coin of life are more evident in every experience. When young, I would be totally happy or totally sad, and at some level there was actually a belief that life could be all one way or another. As I age, with more and more up and down waves of living under my belt, there’s a sense of the impermanence of all experiences. Love is tinged with the knowledge of loss, and life takes on an increasingly bittersweet quality. Sadness dances in happiness and joy dances in sorrow. There is an incredible aliveness in this. Life itself dancing in my heart!
Related post: Musings on the Winter Solstice six months ago — Finding Harmony in Diversity with Meditation
December 22, 2009
I’ve been finding myself deeply affected lately by a growing awareness of the tremendous diversity of our Meditation Oasis “family”. Facebook more than anything has made me aware of how different we all are and yet we are drawn together by our common human experience and the deepest aspects of our inner life which we reach through meditation.
From time to time I like to click on the faces on the Facebook page. It’s been so fulfilling to see people living in so many different countries with such different interests. Many of us could probably fall into heated discussions with each other at the drop of a hat over politics and find ourselves world’s apart in our musical tastes. Yet we can all sit together and meditate and experience a place of complete harmony.
Many of us are busy with holidays now, but some are not. We all experienced the solstice yesterday, but for some it signaled the shortest day of the year while for others it was the longest. We moved into winter where I live, but some of you are experiencing summer. Awareness of these differences has caused me to pause before sending a year end message. Yesterday instead of writing “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukah” (which most people celebrate where I live), I found myself looking for a more universal greeting. I could have sent out a “Happy Solstice” message, I suppose. We all experience the changing seasons thanks to the tilt of the earth moving around the sun. But then I remembered that for people on or near the Equator, the Solstice doesn’t mean much. All of this has brought me to this place today where I want to send a different kind of message, one that we can all relate to no matter what we all do or don’t celebrate and believe.
As I searched for the perfect holiday/non-holiday message, I remembered the message Richard and I have often used. That’s the message I’d like to send to you all today. I think it’s something we can all relate to and a desire every human being shares. And it’s something many of us move toward through meditation –
“We wish you a peaceful mind and an open heart.”
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?
**** NEW — look for Meditation Oasis on Facebook and Twitter!
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.
November 20, 2008
Discovering that today is World Philosophy Day inspired me to reflect on the relationship of meditation and philosophy. It all started when Richard showed me this BBC article by David Bain – Four Philosophical Questions to Make Your Brain Hurt. I’m not particularly fond of having my brain hurt, but I am fond of philosophy. This fondness isn’t about reading philosophy, as that can make my brain hurt. It is more about a natural tendency I have to question things. It’s about having a mind that’s always exploring the meaning and nature of things.
When I was in college, I took a vocational aptitude test. The idea was to help discover what I would be good at as a profession. When I met with my advisor to learn the results of the test, he scratched his head and looked perplexed. Poring over the results, he said that it appeared that my abilities would make me well suited to be an “armchair philosopher”. Since this didn’t offer a path to earning income, he scrambled around for another option — sales. Well, selling things has never been my forte, and I certainly haven’t earned a living through philosophizing.
What’s interesting to me is that my income is currently related to lifelong involvement with meditation. Thinking about it today, I see that meditation and philosophy go hand in hand for me. Both involve investigating the nature of things, the nature of oneself. With philosophy the exploration is intellectual, and with meditation it is experiential. And yet, there is a point where intellectual and experiential exploration meet and can’t really be separated out.
Perhaps this is most clearly seen in the case of inquiry as a path of spiritual realization. The great sage Ramana Maharishi indicated that asking oneself the question “who I am” could ultimately result in realization of the truth of ones existence. Although the question can be answered intellectually with descriptions such as “I am a woman”, “I am a doctor” and so on, taken to its final conclusion this question reveals ones nature as it exists beyond such descriptive terms.
Meditation involves a shift of attention that takes the mind out of its usual ways of perceiving and experiencing. It seems that asking philosophical questions has the potential to do the same thing.
I can’t speak as a professional philosopher, but as an armchair philosopher I can say that asking questions about things we don’t usually question has been part of my path with meditation. It jogs the mind from its usual assumptions and opens the perception to seeing things differently. At times, it’s a great recreation for my mind. It loosens the grip of tightly held assumptions and in that sense is mind-expanding in much the same way that meditation is.
In working on this post on and off throughout the day, I ended up Googling “value of philosophy” and found the following from Bertrand Russell’s Problems of Philosophy. It was fascinating to find in the last sentences a description which could just as easily have been about meditation (in bold type):
“Thus, to sum up our discussion of the value of philosophy; Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.“