An ongoing series of informational entries
An ongoing series of informational entries
What Meditation Isn't
What Meditation Isn't
May 20, 2019
Have you ever attended a meditation class and afterwards, found yourself more confused about what you were supposed to learn? Did you have more questions than you did when you went in? I have. It's happened more times than I'd like to admit. All too often, classes focus on the "style" or "method" of meditation and only emphasize the protocol that is meant to be followed. "This is a Meditation by OSHO, and here are the steps." To me, it is much like having a recipe that calls for certain ingredients to be mixed together in a certain order, but failing to mention whether the process will render a casserole or a cake. I need to know who OSHO is, and what is intended or expected to manifest from such a specific practice.
The other common approach to teaching meditation is centered around the seemingly impossible directive of "clearing the mind." Students are invited into a serene space, with walls painted in calming colors that "speak to healing." Fountains tinkle in the background. Blankets and herbal tea are warm and plentiful. A Stephen Halpern soundtrack from the late 80's that pays homage to the age of the instructor's own healing journey chimes softly. Don't get me wrong, I love Stephen Halpern and he is a classic new-age staple. His music is indeed healing; moreso if you understand that it isn't just a collection of pretty sounds. Much like how Meditation is far more than a collection of pretty thoughts, or in contrast, the purging of un-pretty ones. Still, you are instructed to finish your tea once the ten minute greet-and-meet comes to a close. You find a comfortable space to sit. You are told to breathe deeply and to observe silence for the hour. You are told to clear your mind. You are told that it will take a long time before you may be able to effectively master the practice.
So there you sit; trying to adjust your body quietly or not move at all. Your joints and muscles scream against the silence you are supposed to have invited into your inner space. Your thoughts race, and you desperately try to push them away like a swarm of river gnats. By the end of the hour, you feel physically exhausted and emotionally flayed. You have proven to yourself that you are completely unworthy of the practice of meditation. You assure yourself that, by not having been raised in the Himalayas, that you are genetically insufficient for studies such as this. That is, until you begin to pay attention to the chatter from the other attendees who are paying their $10 class fee and refilling their cups of chamomile and chai.
You hear a few testaments from those who are in regular attendance of the "class" that they have been coming for months but still can't clear their mind. One proud student admits that her meditation practice of five years has never fully allowed her to grow spiritually or mentally; but gradually pushing past the discomfort and teaching herself to sit on the floor has been great for opening her hip-flexors.
You see, this is what
Meditation is not about following a pre-determined template. Meditation is not the practice of copying the "masters."Meditation is not merely"clearing your mind." Meditation is not about a perfect space or a ceremonious time in which to practice. Meditation is not about external influences lulling you away into a facade of relaxation or comfort. Meditation, as I have come to understand from my own journey and a variety of teachers and experiences, is actually the opposite of all of that.
Meditation is about observing your thoughts. Meditation is learning to control how your mind interacts to stimulus at any time, or in any place. Meditation is about expansion and not restriction. I am going to say that again, just so those in the back who are fidgeting with their yoga mats or fingering quartz held by knotted hemp threads will hear me. Meditation is about expansion and not restriction. There is no master, guru, mala, crystal, mantra, mudra, magical tea or romantic room that will ever make you a master of you own mind.
Like water, your thoughts will always find the place to seep in and find level stillness, and many times, that level is higher than your shoulders. Therefore, you must adjust the elemental nature of your thoughts, and you must identify the source. Now, you wouldn't have grand stories and legendary tales about meditation masters if it were all that easy- but the most major fallacy about approaching mediation as a beginner is the concept of "clearing your mind." Try observing your mind instead. See if your practice deepens rather quickly by comparison. In order to effectively "observe your thoughts, adjust the elemental nature of your thoughts and identify their source," you will, indeed, need intervention from a teacher; whether live or in print.
If you have experienced the aforementioned scenario when attending local group classes, try the following tips to help shape a growing meditation practice that will create space and healing in your life:
1) Eat Right and Move Your Body
Did you know that the practice of Yoga was primarily designed to prepare practitioners for Meditation study? The Western concept of Yoga is like most other fitness programs; it is approached with a specific fitness goal in mind and tends to compete with the body rather than work with it. Yoga is a discipline; just like eating well. Your physical body must be given the same attention for it to better connect with your mind. If you have trouble sitting on the floor and haven't mastered "Lotus," try sitting in your favorite chair and continue to eat clean and stretch daily. You will get where you need to be in time.
2) Set a Realistic Time and Duration
Depending on your personal goals and lifestyle, you may need to determine what time of day is best for you to practice. Also, don't try to sit for an hour your first time. Try 10 minutes to start.
3) Keep a Notebook Nearby
At first, you may not be able to remember all of the things you find yourself wanting to keep track of by the time your session ends. While some may argue that opening the eyes and focusing on writing would break the brainwave activity specific to certain stages of meditation, as a beginner, stop and write things down. If you feel that you can remember everything you would like to, try to make it to the end of your session before jotting it down.
4) If you are Spiritual, Invite a Spiritual Anchor
Meditation is not a religious practice; nor does it require spiritual focus. Meditation is a practice for all people, regardless of personal religious or spiritual affiliation. At the same time, if you are a spiritual person or subscribe to a particular religion, let your practice reflect that. Did you know that Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, found the in the KJV Bible, 8:26 says "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." Greek is the original language of this Scripture and the phonetically spelled transliteration of word for "Pray" is "Proseuchomai." The prefix "Pros" means "to come before, or be in advantage of." "Euchomai" means "To ask or to wish." Therefore, "Proseuchomai" more specifically means "Before we ask," or "Before the Asking." Effectively, if you wish to apply a Christian perspective, meditation is actually the practice of prayer. By observing the word "pray" with the all of the nuances from the original language, "prayer" seems to be intended to first understand our petitions to God; therefore rendering us more open to listen and receive God's response. No matter your spiritual affiliation, this is a universal concept. We have only in modern times, reduced "prayer" into mere petitioning.
At any rate, whether you are a devout Christian, Muslim, Jew or find yourself devoid of spiritual affiliation, it is wise to create an anchor. As a "Believer" in Lord Jesus, I invite Him to my practice. I envision his presence with me, and I ask that anything untrue or negative be filtered by His Grace. The same concept can greatly help a beginning student of meditation who may be atheist or agnostic. For instance, a positive anchor could be "Love." When you set a word or theme for your practice, let your thoughts be filtered by your anchor. If the thought doesn't resonate with your anchor, let it pass by without further attachment or introspection.
5) Don't have expectations
It is common to hear people excitedly share about their amazing experiences in meditation; especially within certain styles such as Transcendental Meditation, made famous by the iconic Rock and Roll Band, The Beatles. Meditation is not about seeking outward or having visions, nor should you set a goal to "see" or "understand" anything in particular. The psychedelic and out of body experiences reported by practitioners of this style have never been of interest to me. However, many eyes have widened upon my mention of this.
It is common to hear stories from practitioners about their personal achievements or experiences. While it can be a mutually beautiful and expansive exchange, do not set goals based on the shared experiences of others. Do not have expectations for your practice. As with many self-actualizing practices, concepts of "reality" can easily be challenged and the acknowledgment of such can be very exciting. However, if you find yourself interested in Meditation for any reason other than building a healthier life through developing self-disciplines, you may need to explore your curiosities before starting a practice. Speak with a teacher or experienced practitioner who can assist you with your questions.
If you have specific questions about what Meditation IS or ISN'T, I hope that you will find me to be a comfortable and helpful resource.
Don't Blame It On the Juice
Don't Blame It On the Juice
January 8, 2021
Healing can be tough.
But it can also be fun!
Turn your "restrictions" into opportunities to find alternatives, and actually expand your allowances. Changing your body is all about changing your mind; from limitation to growth.
What is something that you say you "can't have" on your current eating plan? For me, I would say "fruit juice." But I would also state that, "I can eat anything I want , but fruit juice is something that I'm not currently choosing." Then, I would seek an alternative. I've learned to do this after many failed diets and ultimately feeling deprived and restricted.
So for all of you who are avoiding juices in your diet, consider the dried hibiscus flower. Easily purchased locally, when steeped like a tea, hibiscus flower renders a ruby red potion! It is rich in vitamin C. If you add a couple drops of monkfruit extract, it tastes pretty close to cranberry cocktail.
If you steep it with your favorite green tea, you are contributing to the bioavailability of the vitamin C with bioflavonoids and antioxidants.
Try it iced like a juice, or add a cinnamon stick and some cloves to your mug and drink it hot.Add lemon and add a whimsical straw. Pour it into your favorite LaCroix. Give it a fun name and celebrate making a good choice for your body.
Straight fruit Juice isn’t such a good option for most of us who need to watch sugars and calories. This gives you the feel and taste of enjoying a delicious juice, without compromising your goals.
Remember- shift your restrictions into opportunities.
Celebrate choices rather than lamenting over deprivation.
Your overall well-being will soon reflect your efforts and there is no bliss greater than optimal health!
January 28, 2021
God sometimes shows us things that cause us to first wonder,
“Why did I deserve this? I am a good person. Why would God allow this to be my reality?”
I don’t believe in a God that tests us or wagers with the devil about how much faith we can extol in circumstances that challenge us. And while we are extended Grace, it is not enough to merely seem “graceful” as we move through life.
Testifying your faith takes a lot more than a good face and a happy countenance. Testifying your faith requires you to be humble; to admit your wrongs and to repent.
I had some things I had failed to recognize that I needed to repent; and I never would have realized some of the weight of my previous actions had I not experienced all these things over the last two years. I couldn’t have truly understood my own value, and I wouldn’t have ever had the capacity for self-accountability if I hadn’t experienced some of the pain I was forced to experience. It isn’t merely a story about finding the strength in victimhood. It is about taking an inventory of yourself and realizing, “Now I have a deeper empathy for victims like myself. I can also now acknowledge how I may have inadvertently hurt others with my previous ignorance in past experiences. Perhaps I was the one creating a victim and failed to recognize it.”
I’ve had life experiences that are marvelous and miraculous, and very unique; from much of the privilege I was given in childhood, to the chapters in my adult life I’ve written as a result from a very fortunate foundation and a personal spirit that thrives on adventure, creativity and freedom. At the same time, there are many crucial pieces of life experience that were missing from my story. In ways, I was starving despite my abundant provision. There were many pieces that life failed to render; some that many take for granted- big pieces; corner pieces. I can say that at 44, I’m finding some pieces of my puzzle that I didn’t even know were lost or missing.
I think that’s how it is with life. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes when we put the middle together and can see the pretty scene, and when everyone that walks by our table can see it too, we stop. We work feverishly at first, in big stretches with intense focus that would cause us to abandon any sense of time. Then, when we have enough put together to see the scene, we let it sit out, and when we have time, we “kill time” by completing what seems mundane.
Sometimes those puzzle boards sit in the basement for years; because some of them are elaborate and have lots of pieces. The table gets moved, things get stacked on top of it, some pieces fall into the floor vent.The puzzle of my life seemed fairly complete; even though the picture I was seeing looked like a Dali painting. I love Dali. But there is hidden pain and mystery; perversion, inverted realities, struggle, strife....at the same time, bold colors that render beauty that shakes your soul. But I wanted less mystery and perversion. So I started looking for the missing pieces.Some of the missing pieces seemed obvious, and as I prayed, I felt as though God was hearing and delivering what I needed, right in His time. My puzzle was nearing completion.
I cleaned the vents and searched the floor. I could have settled for what looked like an interesting picture of my life. I could have stayed there; looking upon what seemed like I could proudly say was my destiny. But then, I saw where someone had come along and had taken a few pieces from an old box that held its own complicated puzzle, and scattered them around for me to find. They were dropped like breadcrumbs that would ultimately would lead to a premeditated destruction of all the good that God had built up in me. I had to face that. I had to lift up so many pieces that brought the joy of love to my life and a sense of wholeness to my being, and stand there and say, “as beautiful as this seems, none of this fits.”
I broke apart the pieces that didn’t belong. I had holes all over the board. Some of the beauty I had cherished and long-time longed for disappeared into negative space. I circled back around to filling those voids with self-medication as the shadows of self-doubt hung thick around me. This triggered a haunting from all of the other ghosts of my past. Thankfully, It didn’t last long.
The reason? I know a God that keeps whispering to me that it isn’t my job to complete what looks good to my satisfaction. It is only my job to keep searching for pieces, and taking apart the pieces I fused together in haste, ignorance, greed, and ultimately, through false paradigms. Life will have you believe so many lies about yourself, and the definition of ignorance is a lack of knowledge. We honestly don’t know what we don’t know until God shows us. We cannot take our pain and paint a pretty picture around it, with pieces that don’t fit. Pieces that aren’t Divinely guided; but instead prove to be wickedly engineered.
God doesn’t pain us. He doesn’t burden us. He doesn’t make deals with the enemy to prove Himself. He makes deals with you so that you can know true love, and it requires you to look at your own ugliness, if you are willing to let go of the beauty you felt so proud of creating.
THAT is meekness. And if you are still reading, you are likely also numb to a lot of spiritual rhetoric and scriptural quotes. No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, go back to the puzzle board.
You aren’t done yet.
Don’t believe that your life owes you a perfect, pretty picture. Nor believe that you must exist to solely battle with perversity and strife. Just be willing to sit at the table and do the work; with God's Love and Grace as your guide. You will see beautiful things. Your eyes will sometimes get tired, and they will blur and squint in confusion at times. Your hands will sometimes need to rest. You will sometimes find yourself wondering if what comes together will be worth all of your effort. It always will be if your goal is to see through the lens of Divine Design.