Present Moment Awareness Meditation

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!

Meditation in Motion – My Healing Hula Lesson

May 22, 2010

Sometimes I am mesmerized by my hula teacher’s hands. They move with such grace and fluidity, offering no resistance to the aloha spirit that moves through them. Although I relaxed early on into the body movements of hula, I’ve had a challenge with my hands.  Despite repeated reminders that the hands should move from the wrist, my hands would seemingly stiffen up and refuse to follow. I felt so awkward, not to mention frustrated!

At yesterday’s lesson, my teacher danced very close to me, demonstrating with her hands as I watched in awe. I wondered how anyone’s hands could move so beautifully and effortlessly. I hoped that maybe, just maybe, I would catch on through “osmosis” as she danced close to me. At one point, she held my wrist and moved my hand for me. I started to feel the right movement. My hands cooperated for a while, only to get quickly “blocked” again.

Once back home from the class, I started to practice in front of a mirror. I did an exercise of slowing waving my arms up and down at my sides, allowing my hands to follow the movement of my wrists. I then placed my arms in position for the basic kahalo step. Suddenly something clicked – a split second before I started to move, an “aha” happened in my brain. The right synapses must have started to fire, because I saw my hands in the mirror undulating like waves, effortlessly, as I started to dance! It was like a frozen river that unfroze and started to flow.

It felt so easy and natural for my hands to move that way. What on earth was stopping them before? As I tuned into the feeling of inhibition that had been in my hands, I remembered how my mother had always tried to get me to stop moving my hands. I am by nature a very expressive person. When I hear music, I can’t sit still. My mom found that trait charming when I was a baby bouncing up and down in my crib singing “hubba hubba hubba” to the music, but later she felt she needed to teach me restraint. What particularly worried her was my tendency to gesture with my hands while talking. I would be enthusiastically describing something, hands moving all around, and she’d say “Mary, stop that, stop moving your hands!” She had explained that a refined, lady-like person doesn’t do that. (Heaven forbid I should grow up to be unladylike!) This irked me no end, but I somehow took her words to heart. Although I was never able to stop moving my hands entirely, they had been quite well “tamed”.

By now the origin of my hula hands block must be obvious. Allowing my hands to move so freely wasn’t something I could easily do. It involves a kind of letting go. It’s a lot like the letting go of meditation. In meditation, we let go of resistance to what comes naturally. We learn to let go of resistance to the natural movement of the mind. In hula, it’s about the natural movement of the body. The traditional hula hand movements are natural and flowing, like the nature they depict.

My teacher has mastered hula with her whole being. Although she may give instructions, her most powerful teaching is from embodying hula. When my teacher danced right next to me, I absorbed something at a deep intuitive level about how she moved. It was as if the “aloha spirit” was being transferred from her to me.

I found a beautiful discussion of the “aloha spirit” at the Cyber Shaman’s website:

“The Aloha Spirit is a well known reference to the attitude of friendly acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are so famous. However, it also refers to a powerful way to resolve any problem, accomplish any goal, and also to achieve any state of mind or body that you desire.”

“In the Hawaiian language, aloha stands for much more than hello or goodbye or love. Its deeper meaning is the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo)”

I tell this story in honor of the aloha spirit, and my teacher, Betty Ann. For me, it is a story of healing, and it’s healing for me to share it with you. May all of us experience “the joyful sharing of life energy in the present”.

Aloha!

Accessing Intuition Guided Meditation

April 26, 2010

Meeting Richard was an amazing experience. I felt a deep recognition. I even had a vision of him playing exquisite music on a keyboard. (I had no idea at the time that he was a musician.) There was such a strong connection that I actually had the thought – “could he be the one?” My emotions rebelled, however, and I immediately brushed the thought away.

As I got to know Richard, there was a level on which I knew, absolutely knew, that I wanted to be with him. And yet, I had a carefully constructed list of all the attributes I wanted in a mate, and he just didn’t fit the bill. (I might add that the same was true for him, I was not what he had in mind either!)  We were both drawn to each other, but we struggled because of our preconceived ideas of what we thought our mate should be like. Our intuition told us one thing and our ideas and emotions told us something else.

Looking back on our years together, I see the great wisdom in the choice we made to be together. I couldn’t see it so clearly at that time. The choice came from a deeper knowing, a knowing that was within us even when our emotions protested, even when our minds didn’t really understand. Intuition contains that kind of wisdom. It’s like a computer that can process more information than we can possibly juggle with the conscious mind. Intuition mysteriously taps into the past, present and future, as well as bypassing our blind spots.

Intuition comes from a place that’s beyond logic, analysis or even our emotions. It’s an inner knowing that is steady and clear. With intuition, you “just know”. It’s actually very natural. If we human beings weren’t such complicated creatures, the concept of intuition wouldn’t even exist. We would simply know what work to do, what to eat, who to marry. Our next step would be obvious. But, alas, our ideas and emotions can cloud our vision, and we can become quite confused about the choices, large and small, that life requires us to make.

The goal of the Accessing Intuition Guided Meditation is to help you tap into your intuition by going beyond analysis, evaluation and emotional reactions. By allowing your awareness to settle down in a way that it transcends the influence of thinking and emotions, you able to attend to the subtle messages of intuition. Hopefully the meditation will also help you to trust your intuition, by learning to recognize what it feels like. Often we have an inner knowing about something, but we’re afraid to trust it. The more we’re able to recognize intuition, the easier it will be to trust in it. Intuition feels good in your body. There is a steadiness about it, and it is uncolored by emotions and concepts.

Finding Silence in a Busy Mind

February 12, 2010

Lyn emailed me about a statement on our Difficulty Meditating website page that she found confusing. This blog post is an attempt to explain it, but I’m not sure that I can anymore than I can explain the taste of an apple to someone who has never tasted one. Here’s the statement she found confusing:

“Although meditation can be a way to experience inner silence, this comes about not by eliminating thoughts, but by becoming aware of the silence that is naturally present in the mind along with the thoughts.”

The statement refers to the experience of silence in a meditative state, and a meditative state is very difficult to describe in words. It’s about the space between words, the space between thoughts. It’s about becoming unhooked from thoughts and concepts so that the background of consciousness in which everything is experienced becomes apparent.

Trying to describe this experience is like trying to describe space. It’s easy to describe the objects in space – a tree, an apple, a human being – but how do you describe space itself to someone?  Everything exists in space – it’s that no-thing in which every “thing” is! How you put words to that?

Our awareness could be thought of as the space in which all of our experiences take place. It is an “aware space”. It is there all of the time, but we don’t put our attention on it. Our attention is focused on the experiences, rather than the awareness underlying the experiences. Meditation can bring about an awareness of awareness. And the nature of that awareness could be described as silence. As we disengage from the meaning of thoughts and they are allowed to flow through, the experience is one of silence along with thoughts. The gap between thoughts, the space in which they happen, is being noticed.

Does the statement make sense to you? How would you explain it to someone?

Winter blues? Some ideas for lifting your spirits!

January 28, 2010

Dan on Facebook asked for some thoughts on seasonal depression. A lover of the outdoors, he’s finding it challenging to spend so much time inside. Winter is a challenge for me too, even here in California where the winters are far milder and shorter than in my native New Jersey. Finding ways of getting through winter has been a big focus for me, and for the first time this year, winter’s not so hard. In fact, at times I’m even enjoying it!

Seasonal depression is quite common, and it can range from simple “winter blahs” to something much more intense. The darkness of winter, combined with the cold and the necessity to stay indoors, can all lead to feeling blue. But I think sometimes winter can also trigger a stronger depression that has to do with unresolved emotional issues that surface when winter forces us to be less active and we have less things to distract us from what lies within us. In that sense, winter can also be an opportunity to see what parts of yourself need healing and attention. For example, for most of us, there’s grief from a variety of losses in life that we’ve never fully processed. Our culture doesn’t do grief well. We get a “stay on the sunny side of the street” kind of message that causes us to avoid the painful feelings of grief. But avoiding, suppressing and distracting ourselves from feelings doesn’t make them go away. Given the more restful time of winter, these feelings can surface.

Although I’m going to share list of some things I’ve done to make winter easier, I have to start by saying that inner work I’ve done in the past has a lot to do with my good spirits this winter. Your everyday, garden-variety winter doldrums might be helped by some of the things I’ll share, but it may take more than that if the depression is more intense.  If you feel your depression is more than simple winter blahs, I’d encourage you to explore the possibility that there is more going on. You can find lots of reading online about depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It may be that winter is helping you to see that there’s some inner work to do. Attending to your depression can lead to a more fulfilling life later on. There are lots of good therapies for depression, so I hope you’ll get some help if needed.

And now, as someone who has always dreaded the coming of winter, here are the things I’ve found that are making a big difference for me:

  • I bring more light into my home – light candles, have some pretty lamps lit. If I had a fireplace, I’d make lots of fires. It’s amazing though, how much even one lit candle can mean in winter. Whenever possible, I spend a least a few minutes in the sun, really soaking it in. Full spectrum lighting can help as well.
  • Exercise. Exercise helps with depression, and part of the blahs may come from being more sedentary in winter. I used to rely a lot on walking and when it was too cold to go out in winter, I was at a loss. A few things have made all the difference — an elliptical machine, a bodybar and the hula.
  • I do whatever it takes to stay warm. Lots of layers of clothes, especially yummy wool sweaters with beautiful colors that lift my spirits. I use an electric mattress pad to warm my bed before I get in. If I feel chilled, I’ll even warm my clothes in a dryer and put them on. I can’t tell you how good the heat feels. I have no shame when it comes to keeping warm. People joke about it when I wear two wool hats, one on top of the other, but my comfort comes first!
  • Find enjoyable indoor activities. For me, lately, it’s been the hula. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. Find something that really lifts your spirits and do it!
  • Bring nature indoors. If you, like me, are a lover of nature, having plants indoors can really help. Taking care of them, seeing them grow brings a bit of spring and summer into your home. Forcing bulbs in winter is also wonderful. How about some lovely, fragrant narcissus or hyacinth? The Nature Attunement Meditation is perfect for this as well!
  • Attitude. Oh yes, lest I forget, that all important ingredient. Cognitive therapy is effective in depression, and I think of an attitude adjustment as being just that. If I focus on how long and dreary winter is and how much I want it over with, it does seem incredibly long and dreary. Instead I’m learning to focus on the positive side of winter — the opportunity to be more restful and go within. It’s a time to hibernate and meditate. It’s a time to contemplate.
  • Surrender. Finally, perhaps the most important ingredient is surrendering to the melancholy when it’s present. We’re conditioned to fight it and resist it, to feel it’s bad or wrong. It’s a natural part of life. So often our suffering comes from feeling we should be different than we are (as in always happy and upbeat). Life as we know it couldn’t exist without the poles of opposites – joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Let it be OK to feel blue.

Perhaps some of these things will be useful for you. Or you may have some other strategies to share. I’d love to know what works for you!

Winter as Meditation

January 15, 2010

A friend just shared a beautiful poem she wrote about winter. Although the title of the poem is Winter’s Resurgence, I titled this post “Winter as Meditation”, because for me winter is a season of meditation. It brings an invitation to go within.

In the dormancy of winter, all sorts of things are going on underground and these underground stirrings are the foundation of the blossoming of spring. In the same way, the deep rest of meditation is a foundation for creativity and productivity when meditation is finished.

Here is K’s poem. It spoke to me on so many levels and in so many different ways, but I’ll be quiet now, like winter, and let the poem reveal its special meaning for you. I’d love to hear what it means to you…

Winter’s Resurgence

Winter has come upon us with her
majestic stillness and fierce storms
Blanketing us in her winter’s lair
Beckoning us to breath in rhythm

And it is here that I speak my prayer:

‘Take a part of me deep into your forested womb
Keep me there, giving me rest, away from worldly
desires and despairs
Cover me with your insight and love
Hold me like there is no where else to go, nothing
more to become
Heal me of my tired and disenchanted ways
Let me be still inside, my belly connected with yours
like the dormant snake of winter lying securely in you’

And when your mists begins to lift, may your
nurturing womb flow me out and birth me new

K. McCauley A.
Winter’s Resurgence 12/20/08~1/13/10
kmac@iscweb.com
dedicated to Sarah Dole, teacher and friend

Opening the Heart Guided Meditation

January 5, 2010

Many of us long to have a more open heart, to be able to give and receive more freely. We want to experience more love more easily, but it can be so difficult at times. The heart chakra is the gateway to loving connection with others. At the same time, it contains pain from past hurts. This meditation gives you the opportunity to relax into whatever the heart may hold, allowing held emotions to resolve and the loving energy in the heart to be felt.

The meditation takes you through a number of steps. First you relax. Then you connect with your heart, simply being present to whatever you experience. This is followed by visualization to help you expand the energy of the heart and connect with others. As always, be creative with the visualization and use it a way that works for you.

I’ve had many requests for a meditation for compassion and forgiveness. I do think these will come about, but hopefully this meditation will speak to these themes as well. Both compassion and forgiveness require the ability to be present to pain, our own as well as that of others. Both require an open heart.

I hope the meditation serves you well, and would love to hear about your experiences with it. (Listen to it here.)

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.”

Negative thoughts in meditation

December 9, 2009

Someone taking our online course asked about negative thoughts in meditation. His concern was whether letting them go would release them into the universe and bring negative results back to him. My answer was absolutely not! When I say “let thoughts be a meaningless activity in the mind”, that includes all thoughts, positive or negative. To allow the mind to expand and relax in meditation, we have to release it from its usual focus. During meditation we give the mind a break. We let go of the need to understand, analyze, evaluate and so on. We don’t need to pay attention to what our thoughts are about. The type of thoughts we have doesn’t matter. It’s not necessary to monitor our thoughts in any way and weed out the “wrong kind”. All thoughts are equal in meditation!

How we handle thoughts in meditation and outside of meditation is different. Outside of meditation the meaning of our thoughts is important, but even then I feel people become overly concerned about “negative” thoughts. So often people people struggle with them. They fear that negative thoughts or angry feelings will bring them harm and this can cause a lot of suffering. I’ve seen people become tense and afraid when negative thoughts come, trying hard to replace them with something positive. It becomes a war within.

From my perspective, it’s not only frustrating to try to eliminate negative thoughts, it’s futile! Life is a mixture of positive and negative. We are a mixture of positive and negative. Trying to change that is trying to change the basic structure of things. Can you get rid of one side of a coin or one pole of a magnet?

I don’t mean to say that how we think isn’t important. Of course, we’d rather have a positive, uplifting perspective on things, and our attitudes and perspectives definitely do affect us. There can be a value in becoming more aware of our mental patterns, particularly our underlying beliefs and attitudes toward life. When we start to see ourselves more clearly, we are sometimes able to bring about shifts in our way of being and seeing things. But bringing about positive changes goes much deeper than simply trying to stop negative thoughts. It involves the ability to relax into who we are and accept ourselves as we are now — the positive and the negative. It’s a kind of paradox that when we can truly accept ourselves all the way just as we are now, we may very well morph into more compassionate people. That is the natural result of self-acceptance.

How does how we meditate relate to how we live life?

December 1, 2009

Is the purpose of meditation to create a frame of mind that continues outside of meditation? “Paul” asked some great questions related to this in an email. Here’s what Paul wrote:

“The meditations seem to follow a similar format applied to different themes. I enjoy listening to them. They are relaxing. Is the frequent use of “easily bring your mind back…” or “doesn’t matter” etc by design? Is it intended to get the listener in that frame of mind even when out of meditation? Does it have some other purpose?”

Paul’s observation that the meditations follow a similar format applied to different themes is absolutely true The way I think of it is that there are core meditations like Simply Being and Letting Go that embody the essence of meditation. They help the mind let go of its usual outer-directed focus and expand into an easy, open state. Other meditations, like the Nature, Inner Child and Grief meditations, are more effective if that relaxed and open state is achieved before doing any visualizing or imagining. That’s why all the meditations start in pretty much the same way.

The frequently used phrases that Paul mentions help the mind and body to relax. In particular, they help us to let go of the habit of straining and working at things, so that we can experience a state of effortlessness. They help us to relax into the natural flow of things. That seems pretty obvious, but what has really had me thinking is whether or not the purpose of these phrases is to get us into that frame of mind when we are no longer meditating. The answer I’ve come up with is —-  (drum roll)—– “yes and no”!

The answer is yes in the sense that what we practice in the meditations — letting go of resistance to what is happening, relaxing into our emotions, and being more present in the moment and so on — will hopefully carry over into our activity. In a way, we call meditation a “practice” because it is practicing certain skills that become applied in our lives. So it could be said that the things I frequently say are meant to get us into that frame of mind outside of meditation, except that it’s not exactly the same frame of mind. Only some of the elements of meditation are meant to be carried into our activities. That brings us to the “no” part of my answer.

The answer is no in the sense that in meditation we are letting go of the evaluating, analyzing, accomplishing aspects of the mind. We are allowing the mind to let go of its focus on doing. When we return to our activity, we have to focus on things. The analytical aspect of the mind is important in our daily functioning. In meditation we let go of thoughts, whereas in activity we sometimes need to pursue a train of thought when we are problem-solving. So in this sense, the purpose of these phrases isn’t to get us to be in exactly the same “frame of mind” in and out of meditation. The frame of mind while meditating isn’t appropriate for most of our time outside of meditation.

Bringing meditation into our lives definitely changes how we experience life outside of meditation. That’s one reason we do it. We can certainly live our lives in a more meditative way, but how we apply the principles of meditation during meditation and outside of meditation is different. I’ve been thinking more and more about how we can approach daily living as meditation. Our new Walking Meditation album is a “step” in that direction. We’ll see where that step leads!

What has your experience been? How has your life changed with meditation? How do you think the changes are related to the practice of meditation?

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