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?
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.
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.
May 15, 2008
While I was recording my latest podcast episode, I found my attention drawn to a fountain outside my window. A fairly large fountain, it’s water shoots several feet straight up. It captivated me with its grace and beauty and as I was talking, I found myself being drawn into a meditative state. That experience got spontaneously incorporated into what I was talking about and became an example of two ways of meditating — one is “contemplation” and the other is what I’ll call, for want of a better word, “diving”.
Had I wanted to stop recording, I could have used the experience of watching the fountain in a number of ways to meditate. If I were to use it for contemplation, I would have found meaning in the way the water moved, the shapes the water takes, the whole phenomenon of the existence of the fountain. I could have thought about how the fountain was a reflection of life or how it mirrored my emotions and inner world. I could have found all sorts of meanings in the patterns of the water. Contemplation involves the exploration of meaning. Traditional contemplative practices might start with a brief reading followed by time spent exploring the meaning.
The other type of meditation, the one which I was drawn into, doesn’t involve meaning. Rather than thinking about the fountain and what it might symbolize and mean, I was simply watching the movement and patterns of the water. In such a meditation, meaning is left behind. The object of attention is viewed without meaning. Meaning keeps the mind actively engaged and when we let go of meaning, the mind can “detach” and go within. This allows for a deeply restful and rejuvenating experience.
Meditation always involves a shift in attention. When we meditate, we use our attention in specific ways to achieve specific effects. In this case the focus of attention was the fountain, and I could have used that focus in a number of different ways. Another effect of watching the fountain, or anything in nature, in this way is that you take in the qualities of what you see. Everything we see, hear, touch, taste or smell has an effect. It’s as if our nervous system is a complex tuning fork that resonates in different ways depending on where we put our attention. Allowing in the impressions of the patterns of nature realigns us with our own life force. As I remember the experience with the fountain now, I can feel the energy and vitality of life as it is expressed in flowing water.
Spontaneous meditations happen all of the time. Usually we’re in too much of a rush to take advantage of these moments. The next time you step outside and the sound of a bird, sight of a flower or light of the moon captivates you, pause for a bit to drink in the experience. Notice those times during the day when your attention naturally shifts in a way that is nourishing and brings peace. It could be something as simple as a smile from a co-worker or an image on the web. Take advantage of those shifts by slowing down a bit and giving yourself time to sink into them.
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.
October 18, 2007
This morning I spoke with a man who called from London (UK) to express his gratitude for my guided meditations. Our local meditation group had just left and I was already feeling quite mellow, but the phone call brought me to a deep state of love and gratitude that has remained with me all day. I was so deeply touched as he related how much our podcast and CDs have helped him. As he spoke, I felt such gratitude that this is happening in my life, that in some mysterious way people receive the same grace from me that I have received from so many teachers and others through the years. It could just as easily have been me thanking him for how much he has enriched my life.
When I sit with my meditation group or to record a meditation, I enter into a meditative state and speak from that place. It seems that those who resonate with my meditations are somehow brought into that state with me. Today on the phone, it felt as if the gratitude my caller was expressing was my own. What a gift to be brought into that state of gratitude! Gratitude is said to be the “highest” possible emotion we can experience. To me, it is an experience of love — not the emotion of love but of the very essence of life itself. There’s no way to describe or understand intellectually what gratitude is, but when we have the good fortune to feel it, it’s good to dwell in it and allow it to nourish our spirits.
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!