December 18, 2008
We’ve had more requests for a guided meditation for grief than anything else. It’s taken me some time to come up with something, even though I’ve been a grief counselor and experienced a lot of grief in my life. This latest podcast episode, Guided Meditation for Grief, is what came up as I reflected on my own experiences with loss.
Often the people asking for a grief meditation have lost a loved one through death, but grief is a reaction to many types of losses, large and small. Moving, losing a job or home, divorce, a change in roles — all sorts of changes can cause us to feel grief. Sometimes we even grieve lost opportunities or what “might have been”.
Losing a loved one is one of the most painful things we can ever experience. Not only is it painful, it can shake our whole world. The lyrics to Paul Simon’s Graceland say it so well:
“losing love is like a window into my heart; Everybody sees you’re blow apart…”
It can feel like your life is blown apart and your heart is going to break. Grief can bring up all sorts of emotions, not just profound sadness but anger, guilt and more. Depending on how the loss happened, it can make you question all sorts of things. You can feel confused. It can be hard to concentrate. As much as we would rather not have to experience all these things, however, the only way through grief is to experience these things all the way.
Sometimes people feel alone in their grief making it even more difficult. Some cultures and traditions support the process of mourning better than others. Often here in the US, people are expected to “move on” way before they’re ready. People are unsure of what to do and say around a grieving person and may even withdraw. And yet although no one can grieve for us, it can really help to feel others supporting us as we grieve. When my mother died, I went to a hospice support group and it made a world of difference for me.
This podcast episode is designed to help you feel supported in your loss. We hope it helps!
October 15, 2008
The idea for our latest podcast episode, Discovering Peace, came out of a discussion with our local meditation group. People were feeling agitated about the election and felt they were losing their center. One person said “I want to be able to rise above this and find peace”. Ultimately, a guided meditation much like the one we just published came out of our discussion, but first we talked about the idea of “rising above” something.
Many of us are being affected now with the turmoil in the economy and a heated election going on. In the midst of all of this we long for a sense of peace. Often people envision that as arriving at a place that’s not only peaceful but completely removed from the difficult feelings. That’s what “rising above” sounds like to me. While we can find moments of time in which there is only peace, this isn’t always possible, and, when we try to get away from the fray, that creates a conflict in and of itself. What’s more realistic and achieveable is to find the peace within that’s there even in the midst of conflict and struggle.
In many ways this new guided meditation is like the Beyond Pain meditation. Even though pain may not go away, we can still find a sense of peace with it. It has to do with stopping fighting what’s bothering us and relaxing into the difficult feelings. Even more important it has to do with discovering that peace is always with us — in the breath, in the silence of our own awareness.
Just yesterday I was out walking with lots on my mind. Thanks to all the years of meditation, or simply thanks to grace, I recognized a sense of peace that seemed to be there in the air around me — in the blue sky, the sounds of birds, colors of flowers. It was even there in the sounds of the traffic. At that moment, I could see that life could seem really, really difficult if I focused solely on the challenges in my life, but much more simple and sweet if I also acknowledged that peace. Sometimes I do that, and sometimes I don’t. And part of the process of growth on the spiritual path is letting that be OK too.
What about you? How do you find peace in your life?
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.
July 2, 2008
We’ve had several requests for a meditation having to do with coping with change, and here it is.
Just looking at my own life over the past couple months reveals a staggering amount of change. I’m sure any one of you could report the same.
Change, of course, is in the nature of life. It’s constant. Life is movement. Life is one thing morphing into another. We don’t realize how many changes we are experiencing all the time. The weather changes, our moods change as our hormones fluctuate, relationships, technology and institutions are constantly changing — it’s endless.
Change can be exciting, but it can also be challenging. Whether it’s a major life change or a myriad of other smaller changes, change is constant and change takes time and energy. What’s more is that it can be mentally and emotionally challenging. We need to develop mental clarity, emotional stability and adaptable bodies to deal with all the change.
Meditation is one of the best ways to surf the waves of change. The Flowing with Change Meditation can help with change in several ways. First, it helps us relax into the reactions that we have to change so that we can be more clear mentally and have more emotional stability. The second is that the deep relaxation of meditation helps us recharge our batteries so that we have more energy for dealing with change. And finally, the meditation helps us connect with that which doesn’t change — the unchanging nature of our own awareness which is present throughout all our experience. That awareness is wakeful and intelligent. It is unchanging and constant, and recognizing it helps us to feel anchored in the midst of change.
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.
May 28, 2008
Our latest podcast episode is about trust in life and trust in oneself. It’s about a very fundamental kind of trust. It doesn’t have to do with trusting people or things, but with a basic sense that everything is all right just as it is in each moment. Most importantly, it has to do with the sense that we are alright, just as we are. This trust allows us to relax into the flow of life and living, rather than resisting what is happening.
We can learn this kind of trust in meditation as we learn to relax into whatever comes up in our experience. You may notice that at times you resist what is happening. You may feel your mind shouldn’t be filled with thoughts, and a resistance comes up. Or you might try to push out a particular emotion. You may also find there are times when you try to be a certain way. Often people feel that since they are meditating, they should feel peaceful. There can be an attempt to try to feel peaceful. A kind of struggle comes up, a struggle with ourselves and with life. This struggle comes from a lack of trust.
Everything that we experience is an expression of the natural flow of life. The energy of life flows as thoughts, emotions, sensations in the body, sounds around us. As we meditate, we can learn to let that flow happen without interference. We can develop a basic sense of trust in life as we learn to trust what happens within ourselves.
March 25, 2008
I’m calling our latest podcast episode “advanced” because to experience the love that the meditation points to requires that your mind be settled enough to notice some subtle experiences. The meditation prompts you to become aware of tendencies to resist what is happening in your thoughts and emotions, and even further to the feeling that underlies those tendencies — a sense of things being not quite right. It’s a sense of not being alright as you are. It’s a sense of life not being alright. It’s at the core of the suffering which is part of the human condition.
Of course, we all like some feelings and experiences more than others. That’s natural. But suffering results when we feel that things should be different, that we should be different — that we should feel differently than we do. When we are able to let go of the resistance to how we feel and stop trying to make ourselves be or feel something else, then what is left is love.
I’m not talking about love in the way we usually think of it. When we say love, we are usually referring to a sentiment or feeling. The feeling of love can be mixed with affection, respect, gratitude, infatuation, passion, all sorts of things. What we usually identify as love is something we feel in response to someone or some thing. The love I am talking about is not an emotion, and it is not dependent on anything. It is the very essence of our existence and reveals itself when we let go of resistance and attempts to manipulate our experience. It is the natural state of our own awareness, of our “beingness”, which is always there in the background but is largely ignored. My hope is that with this meditation, you will be able to recognize and enjoy it.
You may need to use this meditation a number of times before this love is clearly experienced. If you are new to meditation, it might help to try the podcast episode one (Relaxation Break) or the Breath Awareness Meditation until you are able to settle down enough for this meditation.
I’d love to hear your experiences with this meditation. The feedback we’ve received here and at the meditationoasis.com website has been really helpful. And, as always, we welcome your questions.
February 22, 2008
Gratitude is the highest, most fulfilling, emotion we can feel. Yet so often we’re focused on what we don’t have, what we want to be different, what we think is wrong rather than on what we can be grateful for. There’s nothing wrong with that — it’s human nature — it happens to all of us. Yet most of us would certainly prefer to feel grateful.
When feeling grateful is so rewarding, what can we do to feel it more often? We can’t manufacture gratitude. It comes on its own. But we can give it more opportunity to appear in our lives, simply by taking time to focus on what is good in our lives, to “count our blessings”.
I feel it’s important, however, not to get caught up in the feeling that we should be grateful. There’s nothing we should feel. Gratitude has become a hot topic among spiritual seekers and often when something is seen to be spiritual, it starts to get associated with being virtuous, or being a good person. I’m not interested in gratitude because it somehow makes one a good person, or because I feel we need to learn to feel only positive emotions. I’m interested in gratitude because it uplifts our spirits and feeds our hearts.
I make this point because when I led a gratitude meditation with my local guided meditation group, it wasn’t until I gave them permission not to feel grateful that they were able to relax and have a genuine experience of gratitude arise. As you listen to the Gratitude Guided Meditation podcast episode, be easy with it. If you don’t feel grateful at times while you are listening, let that be OK. Don’t try to make yourself feel anything. Next time you listen, the experience will be different, or you might find that feelings of gratitude surprise you later on during the day. The meditation is simply designed to give you an opportunity to feel gratitude by taking the time to focus on the things in your life you are thankful for. We’re just giving gratitude a chance to come up naturally. Chances are you will at least feel moments of gratitude during the meditation, and when you do, let yourself sink into that feeling. Notice the details of the experience of gratitude — how it feels in your body, how your energy feels. Let it permeate your whole being when it comes up.
We hope you enjoy this meditation, and would love to hear about your experience with the meditation and with gratitude in your lives.
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.
December 19, 2007
When I hear the word “aliveness”, it evokes something for me. There’s a recognition of something intangible that is always there in the background of my awareness. It’s always with us, and yet we miss it as our attention is usually focused on things and events. Aliveness is what can make life fulfilling, regardless of anything else. To be able to sense aliveness itself is a great gift.
In many ways all of our meditations are about aliveness — they’re about being more fully alive. I’m much more aware of the sense of aliveness thanks to the process of creating this meditation. I hope you enjoy this latest podcast as much as I enjoyed creating it! (Listen to the Aliveness Meditation.)