Loneliness as a doorway to connection – guided meditation

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.

Is meditation making me irritable?

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.

 

A Gift of Acceptance and Self-Love

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.

Pregnancy Meditation — Connecting with your Baby

April 25, 2012

Deepening your connection to your baby during pregnancy is not only fulfilling in itself, but has benefits for both mother and baby. This new podcast meditation helps you to relax deeply, tune into your body and connect with the baby in your womb.

When deeply relaxed, everything flows more easily in your body, circulating blood with its nutrients and oxygen to nourish both you and your child. Your breathing becomes deeper and more regular. The physical benefits of this for both you and your baby are obvious. Mentally your mind becomes more settled and open and you are able to focus on your baby. Emotionally, you are more available to bond with your child and tune into your child’s presence and energy. Being more tuned in will automatically guide you in your eating and lifestyle choices.

As you continue to use the meditation, your connection will deepen. You may also want to share the meditation with the baby’s father. When the guidance is to become aware of the baby “inside you”, he can also connect with the baby inside you. Listening together will enhance your connection with each other, harmonize your intentions, and help you bond with each other as you bond with your baby.

This meditation was born of many requests by pregnant women over the years. Most of them have had their babies by now, but they did help birth this meditation. I would love to hear about your experiences with the meditation!

All about meditation and sleep!

March 19, 2012

Will meditation help me sleep? I’m falling asleep during meditation, am I doing something wrong? Is it OK to meditate at bedtime?

“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!

Non-resistance in Meditation

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!

Celebrating 5 years of our podcast

November 7, 2011

On November 7, 2006 we published our first Meditation Oasis podcast episode. We had no idea that 5 years later, there would be over 8 million downloads and that people all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds, would become listeners. Our podcast meditations have been used in ways and in places we would never have imagined. Everyday we hear from people through emails, Facebook, Twitter, website comments about how they are benefitting from the meditations. At times we are moved to tears — both awed and humbled, knowing that these reports are a testimony to the power of meditation and the tremendous capacity we have as humans to grow.

Our meditations have been used both by people wanting to enrich their experience of life and by people overcoming all sorts of challenges. Counselors and psychotherapists use them for their clients; women have used them in childbirth; they have been used in clinics and human resource departments, recovery programs, hospitals, and by troops in Afghanistan. We hear from people who are grieving or facing medical problems and surgery. Artists and musicians tell us how meditation has helped them create. And we also hear from people who simply say that life is easier, more rich and fulfilling and that they have more inner peace.

Our work has developed and expanded because of what we hear from listeners. Many of the podcast meditations came about because of listeners’ requests. The podcast has been a launching pad for our online meditation course, anxiety relief program, as well as our smartphone applications. Much of Richard’s music has been inspired by the podcast meditations.

This has been an incredibly fulfilling five years, and it’s all because of of our listeners’ openness. Richard and I feel grateful to all of you who have opened your minds and hearts to be on this journey with us.

Whose is the face of Meditation Oasis?

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.

Guided Meditation for Anger

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.

Labyrinth Walking Meditation

August 31, 2010

Walking a labyrinth can be a profound experience. In our town, we have a simple labyrinth, marked on the earth with stones in a circle of redwoods. I love to walk it, using it as a moving meditation.

There are many ways to walk a labyrinth. You can find very specific instructions for what to do as you walk one – even eHow has a page on how to walk one.

I like to approach labyrinth walking more casually, without a set procedure. Sometimes I set an intention, but more often I simply start to walk and see what experiences it brings. It always takes me out of linearity. We are so accustomed to seeing life – our hours, days, years – as a line that progresses from one place to another. The latter place is usually a goal. We try to find the straightest way to the goal. We measure the distance in our minds. If it’s a car trip, we watch our progress on a map. But getting to the center of a labyrinth is like the “long and winding road”. You come closer to the center and your mind may start to try to measure how close you are to the “end”. Just then, you find yourself taking a turn that leads you back out toward the edge.

For me, the labyrinth mirrors life, which isn’t really linear. Walking it is a great way to relax into the twists and turns of life, to let go of the constant focus on future goals and the tendency to try to see how everything leads to something else. It’s a way of being in the Now. Martha Cuffy, who is seen in the photo walking a labyrinth with friends, expressed similar sentiments in a lovely post with a perfect title – Walk your Life in a Labyrinth.

I was inspired to write this post by Eleanor, a seminary student in Hong Kong, who left a beautiful comment on the website about her experience walking the labyrinth. It’s moving and inspiring to read how she uses her walk in the labyrinth to process emotions and gain insights into herself and her life. She has quite an inner journey, and comes out of it with beautiful observations on the nature of silence. This is a beautiful example of the power of walking the labyrinth. Not every walk will be this profound – one needs to let go of expectations and see what special gifts the labyrinth holds each time it is walked.

Have you walked a labyrinth? What was the experience like for you?

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