February 15, 2008
And now for a more “up close and personal” answer to Erica’s question (on the About page of this blog)…
Erica asked about my philosophy of life, and my dilemma is that I don’t really have one in terms of having a set of fixed beliefs. At the same time, it’s fair to say that I’ve spent a good deal of my life philosophizing. After taking a vocational aptitude test in college, my advisor scratched his head and said, “this indicates that you’d do best at being an armchair philosopher”. I love to think about the nature of life and look at things from all sorts of angles. I love to question things. I’ve also had a love of asking the question “why” which doesn’t really have an answer, and I suppose much of my journey has been to give up the need to know answers and to be able to embrace lovingly what is here in this incredible play of life, with all its contradictions and paradoxes, and with all its joy and pain.
So it’s difficult to say what my philosophy is, but I can say something about what’s behind my guided meditations. Behind them is a quest, a quest for greater acceptance, peace and to be more fully alive. My guided meditations are as much for me as for those who listen to them. It’s not like have a specific philosophy to share. It’s more like I see us all on a journey together. Along the way on my journey I started meditating, then teaching meditation and eventually leading guided meditations. It’s in my nature to communicate and share what I learn and experience.
When I create a guided meditation, I close my eyes and drop into a meditative state and see what comes. I am literally meditating with you, and the meditations speak to me in the same way they speak to those of you who enjoy them. What they speak about for me is trust in the natural flow of life and relaxing into that. For want of a better way to describe it, I view life as a flow of energy, much like a river. That flow is governed by the same natural laws as those that move the river along its path. Everything that we do and experience is a part of that flow. Events are a part of that flow, as are our reactions to those events and all of the thoughts and emotions that arise within us. My path has been one of developing trust in that flow. Relaxation is a reflection of that trust.
Some of the guided meditations I lead are simply about that — about relaxing into life as it naturally unfolds. The Relaxation Break, Simply Being, Effortlessness and Letting Go are examples of that kind of meditation. When I first started leading guided meditations, I thought that was all that I would do, because that is the kind of meditation I had always taught. But things evolved and I found it was useful to sometimes direct the attention in ways that helped to create balance and enhance fulfillment in life.
So there are meditations about healing, the chakras, nature, etc. I enjoy the process of creating these new meditations, and a lot of this is happening thanks to the podcast and the requests and feedback I receive. I decided not to restrict myself to just one kind of meditation. All the other meditations, however, are based on starting with a relaxed, open state of awareness. That’s why they all start out in much the same way. Then the meditations that have a specific focus will be much more effective if one starts with that non-resistant, going with the flow, state of awareness. If we are tense and fighting with what’s happening within us (or noise or something going on around us), then all our energy goes to that and we can’t direct our attention in other ways.
As for my background, it’s been very eclectic. At first I learned and taught meditation in a style from India. I was trained in a very specific technique and the essence of that technique was effortlessness. This had a great deal of influence on me. After years on one path, however, I began to study with some other teachers and learned other practices and was exposed to a number of philosophies. I also studied and taught energy healing for a number of years and that too has shaped my meditations. I also worked as a counselor in mental health and hospice, and the insights and understanding I gained from that certainly influence the meditations I create.
I’d have to say that my guided meditations today are a synthesis of all of these different influences. Of course, this synthesis is unique because I am a unique individual just as we all are. Ultimately, everything that has happened in my life contributes to the meditations, because everything in life is a teacher.
It’s interesting that people often recognize their paths in my work. Erica asked about whether I have a background in Buddhist Vapassana meditation and I don’t, although often people have found that in my work. People have also found similarities to Christian centering meditations and other traditions. I think that’s because the same principles and concepts are arrived on many different paths.
Often as I am creating a meditation, I am surprised at what comes out. It will not be quite like anything I’ve heard before. That’s part of the fun of it, and part of the reason I don’t relate too much to tradition and what’s gone before. What’s really alive is what is fresh in this moment, in the infinite creativity of the life force as it expresses itself here and now.
February 15, 2008
“Erica” asked a the following question today on the About page of this blog.
“I am wondering if your style of meditation is rooted in any specific philosophy. I have had an interest in Buddhist Vipassana meditation (Insight Meditation) for several years. I seem to hear many of the same principles in your meditations and on your website. Could you share a little more about the origins of your meditations and life outlook? Sorry, I know it’s kind of a big question… I’m just curious.”
I’ve hesitated to write much about my background and philosophy for a number of reasons. One reason is that I’m much more interested in people formulating their own philosophies and having their own unique journeys with the meditations than I am in having people focus on mine. Another reason is that I can’t really say I have a philosophy of life. I’m definitely interested in becoming more alive and more at peace, but when I try to put that journey into words, the words can be misleading. In addition, my philosophy of life, if I have one, is constantly evolving. What I might say today is not what I might say tomorrow…
As for my background, it’s something that happened in the past. True meditation is a fresh, new experience. It is influenced by everything one has done and studied before, but it’s always an opportunity for a new discovery. If I look to the past, I may limit what can happen now and my desire is to become increasingly present to the here and now. I try not to limit myself or anyone else by the past.
I also hesitate to be really specific about my background because I want to leave the door open to anyone who may resonate with the meditations I create. In truth, my background has exposed me to many teachers and teachings, but what I have discovered is that there are common elements among different teachings and those elements that are universal seem the most useful and “true”. For me the experience of meditation is what is important, not the ideas about it and philosophies. What is fascinating to me is how different people can have such different insights and results from the meditations. What we get from meditation or a teacher is based more on our own process and intentions than it is on what is put forth by the teacher.
Erica did ask me to share something about my background and philosophy, however, and we do learn something from hearing each others’ journeys and experiences. So now that I’ve told you some of the reasons I like to avoid talking about these things, I think I’ll go ahead with Part 2 of this post and get a bit more “up close and personal”. Thanks for asking, Erica!
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.)
November 12, 2007
Our attention is like a beam of energy. When we direct our awareness to some area of the body, it brings energy to it. Our new podcast episode, Chakra Meditation, uses this principle to enliven the chakras, creating a better flow of energy throughout the body. (If you are not familiar with the chakras, or “energy centers” of the body, you can read about them here.)
As you listen to this chakra meditation, you may notice differences in how you feel as you focus on the different chakras. It may be that emotions come up, especially at the lower chakras and heart chakra, or that you notice subtle shifts in energy. Just be aware of how you feel, not trying to change or manipulate anything. Simply having your awareness on the chakra will wake up the intelligence in that chakra so that automatically things will shift in the direction of greater balance.
You may find that some chakras are easier for you to focus on. Some may seem very faint or slip away from your attention and others may be sensed more easily. If you continue to use this meditation, your experience of the chakras will become more clear over time. If you don’t notice anything in particular with you attention on the chakras, doesn’t matter. You will still be getting the benefit of the meditation.
Using this meditation regularly should help to bring balance to life, as each chakra is associated with different parts of the body and aspects of living. Let me know how it works for you!
– Thanks to Barry Stevens for the beautiful chakra image on this post.
October 12, 2007
We’ve just published our latest podcast episode, Beyond Pain. It was hard to come up with the right title for this one. The experience of pain is so complex. If we are speaking of physical pain, the pain itself is just a sensation in the body. Unless you are someone who enjoys pain, and there are some people who do, pain is much more than “just a sensation in the body”. It can create enormous suffering.
What makes the sensation of pain so difficult? Besides the fact that it can be so strong that it grabs our attention totally, making it difficult to focus on anything else, there are many ways that we suffer with pain. Much of the suffering comes from the thoughts and emotional reactions that we have along with the pain. It may trigger fear, sadness, anger, or frustration depending on our past experiences and beliefs. We may start to wonder how long it will go on, what it means, where it will go, and whether or not we’ll be able to endure it.
There may be some underlying feelings about the pain that are very subtle and not so obvious, like the sense that it is a punishment or due to our failings. It can bring up a sense of abandonment or betrayal. Pain can bring up all sorts of feelings. Next time you are experiencing pain, you can investigate what comes along with it and also whether the suffering you are experiencing with the pain is from the pain itself or everything else that it brings up.
The purpose of the Beyond Pain meditation is to bring about a greater sense of ease with the presence of pain. We may tend to tighten up and resist pain which in fact makes it worse. The meditation encourages you to relax into the pain, and to let go of the involvement with all the mind’s stories about the pain and the emotional reactions to it. It can help you come to a place of peace in spite of pain. Whether or not the feeling of pain becomes less, the suffering that comes with pain can be released.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with this meditation and invite you to comment!
September 11, 2007
True meditation is by its nature effortless. A meditative state is a state without effort. The basic nature of life itself, actually, is effortless. So what is trying in meditation all about? That’s something worth investigating!
Of course, we can’t become effortless by trying. Hopefully our latest Effortless Meditation podcast will support you in being effortless.
Much of what I wrote about the Letting Go meditation applies here. This is simply another angle on the same theme that runs through all of my meditations and blog posts, and yet I truly feel the less said on this the better!
August 10, 2007
Someone found this blog by searching on “letting go meditation”. Letting go is an essential element of all of our meditations. While many of them have a focus, such as the breath or awareness of the body, the focus always occurs on a background of letting go, so it made sense to do a meditation with this theme. Even though it’s a variation on other themes I’ve used, such as “simply being”, each theme gives us a slightly different angle and allows us to refine our meditation experience.
Letting go has to do with allowing whatever happens to happen. It has to do with not resisting thoughts, noise, emotions, sensations — not resisting anything. It gets tricky, though, when we try to allow things to happen. If we are in meditation with the intention to allow, chances are we will be manipulating our experience in some way. Everything will be buffered through the filter of the idea of allowing. It’s more a matter of noticing when we are resisting what is happening or trying to manipulate our experience in some way. When resistance or manipulation is noticed, it can be let go of quite naturally.
The value of guided meditation is that it can allow us to let go more, because we don’t so much have the sense that we are steering the process. It can allow us to relax more into the meditative state. Of course, guided meditations can have many different styles and approaches, so I am speaking about my own. Hopefully once you’ve used these meditations for awhile, you will be able to enter into a similar process on your own. If you are meditating on your own, you can always go back to the guided meditations anytime if meditation has become difficult and you need a refresher.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with meditation. Please feel free to comment on the blog!
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?
June 13, 2007
We’ve just added the Breath in the Heart meditation to our podcast. It’s a variation on meditations in which you follow your breath. In this case, you maintain awareness of the breath and the heart area at the same time. This helps open and enliven the heart chakra. The heart is the seat of love and connection. Attention on the heart helps to awaken the energy of love. This meditation can be especially soothing as you connect into the energy of the heart. At the same time, it can bring our awareness to any emotional pain which is present in the heart chakra. The pain may be from past hurts or from our current situation. If we are grieving, bringing attention to the heart will help facilitate the feelings of grief. By allowing these feelings to be present, they can move through and resolve.