Sunday, September 30, 2007

No Regrets

When we get older we do not regret the things we have tried or have done. We regret the things we didn't do.

When a friend was considering doing something she had always wanted to do, but had not, I quoted the above saying. Another friend, looking back at things she could've done and did not do, for the most part, is glad she didn't do them because she thinks she would have regretted them.

I agree that there are many things in a person's life that they may well regret if they do them, but I believe the quote refers to those things that we do not do even though we feel we will always regret it if we don't take the risk.

I have always made my decisions on that basis. I acknowledge that the chosen path may not work out, but if I don't try, I will always regret the road not taken. I also look down both roads as far as I can, contemplate both the best and the worst that could happen, and determine if I could survive the worst. The result is never the best or worst that can happen, but will probably be somewhere in the middle. If I feel that I can deal with the worst and still feel I would regret not acting on the opportunity, I jump into the deep end and swim like he**.

As a teenager, I knew an elderly couple who had lived a very full life, with all the trials and tribulations that come with such a life. In their twilight years, in the summers, they sat on the porch in their rockers, side by side until the sun set and darkness came. They would then go into the kitchen, light a lamp and make a snack before going to bed. They were not filled with regrets and bitterness. They were content. I want to achieve that contentment while waiting for the boatman.

My greatest leaps of faith have been to divorce an abusive husband, enter into a second marriage that no one expected to last a year, and drag my family, including parents-in-law, half way across the country to begin a life that would prove to be better in every way. I have not regretted any of those decisions, and I'm sneaking up to the rocker on the front porch with few regrets.

I wish such an ending to all.

Balance-The Emotional Pillar Part 2

Of the four pillars supporting the platform of our lives, the emotional seems to be the most difficult to bring into balance. As children, we are taught to deny so much of the emotional experience that we grow up believing that strength is being able to suppress any emotion that makes others uncomfortable. Instead of accepting our selves with all our moods and feelings, we learn to suppress anger, fear, sadness, pain ……….and put a brave face on for the world to see.

We deny ourselves the tears that heal our pain in favor of denying that we feel it at all. We deny our natural fears until they become so large that we fear anything new and cannot communicate it. We deny our anger until it becomes turned inward on ourselves, causing real physical damage to our bodies. We deny our pain until it becomes the central force of our lives and we deny our sadness to the point that we can no longer feel joy.

As bad as it is for women, it is even harder for men. From the time they are small boys, they are taught to “suck it up” and take it like a man. With no acceptable outlet for fear and sadness and even anger, many men become so conflicted that they actually become violent, which was more acceptable in our society than tears or sadness. Then when they enter into an adult relationship with a woman, they are unable to express the tender feelings they have almost forgotten to even recognize. They are left with rage and violence as their only acceptable outlet. Not a very satisfactory relationship for either the man or the woman, who is at least partly in touch with her feelings. Isn’t it ironic that we as mothers, raise sons to be such conflicted partners!

It is also far too easy to blame others or life in general for our woes. It is a thing I have observed with some “self help” groups. They take things to the point of identifying the probable cause of some emotional problem, then stop there, blaming their current problems on past experiences and absolving themselves of any responsibility for their lives or the events in them. This stops emotional growth in its tracks and robs one of the chance to deal with the fears and the pain and work through it to become a more complete and happier human being.

Many years ago, I learned that the best way for me to deal with a heart break was to find a quiet, private place, preferably near running water and let the tears flow. If I allowed myself to experience the whole spectrum of emotions that come with loss, loss of a loved one, loss of a freedom, loss of health, in short, any traumatic loss, the tears would flow freely, bathing my heart and soul with their healing power.

Afterward, I would be emotionally exhausted, wrung out to the point that there were no more tears to shed. However, I would no longer be caught unaware and have to shove the pain and tears down inside where they would grow and become even more unbearable. I would be able to go on with the daily process of living while healing began. Sometimes healing took a long time and sometimes not so long at all, but without the release of the grief of loss, the healing could not begin. Alternatively, if I forced the pain back inside and hid it even from myself, it would grow and fester and come to the surface in unbearable waves, each one worse than the last and always at the most importune moment.

Recently, I have had occasion to deal with others who are going through terrible times in their lives. They tried to get by with denying any release of the emotions, forcing the pain and tears down deep inside and pretending there is nothing wrong. Any time they have found it unbearable, and tears spilled out, they would work so hard to deny the pain and tears that they became numb inside, unable to feel either pain or pleasure in their lives.

We are taught that crying is a weakness and is to be avoided at all cost. This denies the release and healing that comes with allowing ourselves to work through our feelings and shed the tears that heal. It is all a part of the process of claiming our lives and our selves, being responsible for our own actions and the results of them. It is a way to allow ourselves to heal emotionally and bring the emotional pillar more into line with the other three.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Balance-The Emotional Pillar part 1

We need to interact with others, learn communication skills, share knowledge to keep the mind working well. Without this, we can not search for what will make us whole. We become stagnant, stuck in the same old rut with only vague feelings of something missing, which leads us to the emotional pillar.

If we can not identify what we are searching for, we can make unwise decisions and choices in an attempt to fill that void. We can form unhealthy relationships, fall prey to extortive cults, suffer from long term depression, even become unable to function in our world.

When looking at our emotional selves and determining how to bring that pillar into balance with the others, we often come face to face with the fact that we do not love and cherish ourselves right here, right now. Over the years, we have been subjected to a great deal of negative criticism. It slowly seeps into the center of our being, leading us to believe we are not worthy. The reasons may vary. We may have come from dysfunctional, abusive homes. We may have done poorly in school or in sports and been criticized for not excelling in everything. We may have become entangled in an abusive relationship or marriage where we have seen no way out. We may suffer from depression, either full blown clinical depression or sub-clinical depression, which may go undiagnosed for years. The reasons are as varied as the people who suffer from this low self-esteem.

The first step in reclaiming our Selves is to recognize that there is a problem. We have a right to feel good about ourselves. As it says in Desiderata “You are a child of the universe, you have a right to be here.” It may be necessary to seek out someone to talk to, a family doctor, a counselor, a minister or even a close friend or respected family member. Breaking the silence may be one of the most difficult things to do. We tend to build high walls around our hearts when we feel vulnerable. There are now many help groups, both in the community and on the Internet, aimed at providing mutual support. The most difficult part is to isolate and acknowledge the problem. Finding the help we need hinges on accepting that we need help. Until we learn to love ourselves, we can not expect others to love us. People tend to treat us in the way that we expect to be treated.

This body, this mind, this heart, this physical presence is the temple in which the spirit resides and deserves to be loved, respected and cherished. Until the temple receives the attention it needs, we can not begin to search for the questions we need to ask in order to find our proper path and begin the Journey meant for this lifetime.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Balance-The Physical Pillar

The physical is usually the best place to start as it is the one we are most familiar with, but is also the most neglected. Since the body is the temple of the soul, we need to treat it with respect, providing for it’s needs. Do we provide clean air, nutritious food, sufficient rest and medical attention when needed? Or do we eat too much of the wrong foods, or too little food? Do we pollute the air we breathe with no regard for the damage to the temple? Do we allow ourselves sufficient sleep, knowing that it is during sleep that the body can work at healing and renewing itself, or do we burn the candle at both ends, assuming that we can deprive the body of it’s needs and catch up at some future time? Do we seek medical attention when illness occurs or protect the body from those things that can make it ill?

Much of the problem we encounter with balancing the physical pillar centers around food, and why we eat the way we do. Many of us use food as an instant gratification of a poorly understood urge for comfort, for pleasure, to fill up an empty spot. As children we are given sweets to comfort a bump or a bruise, a tearful face or to distract us from something else we want. In time, we learn to reach for food as an instant cure-all for any unhappiness we experience. It is even called comfort food. Usually high fat or high sugar or both, our comfort food is not eaten for sustenance, but for consciousness altering.

The result of all this eating is a body that is over-weight, over fed and undernourished. We develop medical problems, causing us to feel bad, then we reach for another chocolate bar, another donut, for the quick fix, the sugar high that makes us feel better for a short time. The larger we get, the sicker we become., the more we eat.

To break the pattern, we need to understand what we are doing and why. We also need to teach ourselves what is healthy food, what we need to replenish our bodies and what to do to comfort ourselves instead of reaching for that comfort food.

Once we have examined the physical pillar and seen what improvements are required, we can begin to become more healthy. Keeping a journal can be very helpful while working at bringing our lives into harmony. We can record the areas we need to work on, the work we are doing and the results. Since instant results are seldom seen, the journal can help us to see results over a period of time. We must set goals that are reasonably achievable within a time frame that makes sense. We would not start taking vitamins today and expect to get a major improvement tomorrow!!! If we record each day what we are doing to achieve the goals we have set, the journal will become a useful tool to not only record our progress, but help to keep us focused as well.

When doing this we need to keep in mind that we are not perfect, only the soul within is perfect. Knowing this, we need to be gentle with ourselves when we slip, and we will slip, more frequently at first, less so as we become accustomed to our new way of living. We should treat ourselves like we would a child, calmly and gently bringing our attention back to the task at hand. Even if we take three steps forward and two back, we are still making progress.


Many people search for balance in their lives without knowing where to even begin. It has been my experience that the platform of our lives is balanced on four pillars, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Because life itself is not static, we can not simply bring all into balance and forget about it.. We must constantly adjust the pillars, achieving balance for fleeting moments only. The more effort we put into bring our lives into harmony, the more frequent and longer will be the periods of being in balance. In order to know where to start, we need to look at our lives, examine each of the four pillars to see which is the most out of balance.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Enlightenment and the Path

Many people feel that when they find their right and proper path all will smooth out in front of them. They will be rich, famous and loved by all. They expect to be instantly enlightened with no work on their part.

This is not necessarily true. The things of this world, fame and riches have no real bearing on whether we are on our spiritual path. Enlightenment comes in stages as we work for it. We must learn what is required of us. We must balance the pillars of our lives. Only when we have succeeded in balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual can we claim to be a truly enlightened being,

This is the work of many lifetimes and few if any of us will achieve perfection in this lifetime. The joy must be in the journey and not only in reaching the objective or we will give up long before reaching even the first plateau.

I have spent a lifetime seeking and have achieved some success in that I am much more in control of myself, much more aware of life in general and much more in tune with my journey than I was in my youth and young adulthood. I have learned to trust the process. If I do my very best to learn and to grow, to always help when asked and try to make this world a tiny bit better for my having been here, the things of this world will look after themselves. That does not mean that life will be easy, only that I spend a lot less time worrying about it and more time learning and growing.

We seldom know why the events in our lives happen, but if we accept that there is an intelligence greater than our own earthly minds at the helm, then we must accept that there is a purpose. Each birth is chosen for the opportunities it will offer for growth, for learning and for practicing what we have learned.

Meditation brings us closer to understanding ourselves and our journey.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Later at Night

Late at night, when all is still,
My spirit walks the hallways of my mind,
Seeking solace, peace, and the will
To stay yet another day.

All I find is pain and heartache.
Then, away down the hall,
A glimmer of hope to ease the ache,
And face yet another day.

I squint and peer with all my might
Clearer with each step, I see
Glowing and growing in that little light
Courage to face the brand new day.

Clearer and clearer in that light, I see
In the swirling warmth and glow,
The love and faith surrounding me
More than enough for this new day.

Self Blame-Self Forgiveness

When something we invest in fails, we tend to internalize the failure, making it our fault and then spend time (sometimes years) punishing ourselves for it. Often we go against our true nature, our deep seated values, to try to make those relationships work. That doubles the guilt and sometimes even shame that we feel for the betrayal of ourselves as well as taking responsibility for the failures.

First, it is necessary to understand these feelings...look them right in the eye...then forgive ourselves for what we saw as failure. Life presents us with lessons, there is no success or failure as such. There is only learning and growing. Each step we make brings us closer to the goal.

There has been a great deal written about learning to forgive and to love our selves. We can not truly love another until we can love ourselves unconditionally. The negative feelings are coming from the ego. I believe that psychology refers to it as the inner child. We have to nurture that ego, that child, in order to bring it into balance with the whole. This is the emotional pillar that needs to be brought back into balance. The ego must learn that it is not the owner of the temple, therefore it is also not responsible for everything that goes wrong.

I'm not sure if we are born with this tendency to blame ourselves for everything or if it is something our parents and society teaches us when we are very young. I have seen this in operation over and over again. The child believes he caused the parents to break up and must bring them back together to rid itself of the blame. My older daughter passed on from encephalitis when she was five and my younger daughter was just three. It was not until she was grown that I found out she had always thought that she had caused her sister's demise. They had been playing in their bedroom a week or so before, and my older daughter fell and cut her lip against the corner of the dresser. That is what my younger daughter though had been the cause. That kind of self blame is so insidious because we grow up with it and are generally unaware that we are even doing it. By the time we are adults, we search for blame for everything that goes wrong. Sometimes we blame others and sometimes we blame ourselves...or both. As hard as it is, I believe it is easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ones self.

Self blame feeds depression and vice versa...a real catch 22. We need to break the cycle, to accept ourselves and own our actions and to see ourselves as worthy of love. A tall order, but it can be done. Sometimes it helps to sit down with a notebook and pen and try to identify why you are feeling bad about yourself, then look behind those reasons to see the root of the problem. Identifying the problem is at least 50% of the cure. With some idea of the dynamic it is possible to tailor a meditation to work with it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Forgiveness is very hard to do, it is right up there with I'm sorry. In fact I think it may be harder to forgive than to apologize, but it can be done. It has to be learned if we do not want to go through life with a heart full of bitterness and anger. It does not mean that we forget totally. The open wound does heal and become a scar. The scar is always there but it no longer hurts. Many things wound us over the years, and we must learn to let those wounds heal, for our own benefit if not for others.

Again, meditation can be of great benefit when we are clearing out the old pains and angers. In order to be healthy, we have to be aware of our emotions and work through the negative ones, replacing them with understanding and forgiveness.

Below is an article that I saved some time ago which I believe is useful..

Why Should I Forgive?

Think of forgiveness as a gift that you give to yourself. It is not something you do for the person who hurt you. It is a gift to yourself because it enables you to stop feeling painful feelings and pushing others away. Forgiveness frees you from anger and allows you to restore your ability to have close and satisfying relationships with others.

Anger is a poisonous emotion that comes from being hurt. When you are consumed with anger and bitterness, it hurts you at least as much as it hurts the person who has harmed you. It is as if you are filled with poison. If these feelings are not resolved, they can begin to eat you up inside. You have two choices: to stay connected to the person who hurt you by keeping these poisonous feelings alive, or to let the feelings go and forgive the person who harmed you. When you withhold forgiveness, think about who is actually being hurt. It is more than likely that the person who is filled with anger and anxiety is you, not the other person.

What Forgiveness Is Not

Forgiving another does not mean you will never again feel the pain or remember the thing that hurt you. The hurtful experience will be in your memory forever. By forgiving, you are not pretending the hurtful behavior never happened. It did happen. The important thing is to learn from it while letting go of the painful feelings.

Forgiveness is not about right or wrong. It doesn’t mean that the person’s behavior was okay. You are not excusing their behavior or giving permission for the behavior to be repeated or continued.

When you forgive another, it does not mean you wish to continue your relationship with them. This is a separate decision. You can forgive a person and live your life apart from them.

Forgiveness can only take place because we have the ability to make choices. This ability is a gift that we can use it whenever we wish. We have the choice to forgive or not to forgive. No other person can force us to do either.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gaia's Garden

It is over two years since I was able to do anything in my outdoor paradise. Gaia has continued to look after this lovely spot which I cherish for the peace it offers me.
These pictures include the well garden area, my mysterious shrub enhanced area, a Maple moth, a new rose that grew from seed from other roses, a sunset and what the astilibe does after nightfall.

The Journey

When we choose to grow, at first we may not know the reason for doing something, it is just an impulse. As we begin to follow our path, the view ahead becomes clearer and clearer. We also begin to find tools along our way that will help us continue our journey. One of those tools is meditation, which can benefit us in both the secular and spiritual realms.

I often refer to the path as leading up the mountain because there are so many parallels that can be drawn. Initially we are blinded by the trees on the lower slopes, in fact we often "can not see the forest for the trees", as they say. If we have the courage to shrug off the baggage we carry, and begin our ascent, we come to where the trees are thinner and we can see much farther along our path. The first thing we notice is that there are many paths. as far as we can see in any direction, and we accept that there are other paths that we can not see. Suddenly someone comes into sight on a nearby path....if we accept that there are many paths up the mountain and all lead to the same thing, the summit, we will have achieved tolerance. We will also be rewarded with the companionship of the other person until your paths diverge or one of you disappears in the distance.

As we continue to climb, the view becomes clearer and clearer except for boulders, cliffs, valleys, all the formations one expects to see on a mountainside. It is necessary to carry a light to illuminate the path at our feet so that we do not stumble or take a wrong turn, and both give and receive help to others struggling up the mountain as well. The mirror we carry helps us to reflect the truths we all carry within. The summit is wreathed in mist and mystery, so we carry on with faith and the sure knowledge within our soul that this is our path, and we must travel it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Keeping a Journal

There are a lot of benefits associated with keeping a journal –– mental, emotional, and even physical. Many of us now keep blogs, which are actually a form of journal, which we choose to share with others, or not.
Studies have found that, when people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings in a journal, it helps to reduce stress, moderate depressive symptoms, and even enhance the immune system functioning. And this is besides the mental and emotional benefits of writing about your feelings and any problems, crises, or the joys that occur in your life.
When you keep a journal, you have the chance to sort out your thoughts and feelings about conditions, issues, and people in your life. Writing helps to clarify your ideas and get your problem-solving juices flowing. And when you look back on your journals, you can more easily see any patterns that you may have fallen into, or keep track of your progress in your goals. And most of all, you get to know the "real" you.

With learning to meditate, keeping a journal can help to keep track of progress as well as experiments that may not have worked. It can be used to jot down experiences or questions that you may wish to share in the group or make note of changes you may make in your ritual.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Prayer and Petition

Someone asked me what the difference between prayer and petitioning in meditation is. I don’t believe there is a fundamental difference. In both, we seek to commune with the Cosmic All, regardless of what we picture it to be. The technique is the same as is the tendency not to let go of a prayer or petition once it has been articulated. If one does not let go of one's prayers, it is the same as writing a letter, then not posting it.

In meditation, it is possible to visualize one's self entering an auditorium, with the stage lit, but the audience in darkness. Walk onto the stage and address the audience, explaining your problem and ask for strength and guidance to overcome it. When done, leave the stage, knowing that your petition has been heard and a way will be opened for you to solve your problem.
The only caveat I would warn against is telling the Creator how you want your problem solved. For instance, many people will pray for money in order to ease a particular problem. We have to have faith that the Creator knows what we need and will provide us with a way to solve our problem ourselves. Do not expect a miracle of gigantic proportion, with the Creator stepping in and fixing everything you think is wrong with your life. I pray to the Creator for strength and guidance, and for other people, but it never felt right to try to tell The Creator how to do his job.
I have known people who have attempted to pursue a spiritual path in the mistaken belief that the Creator will provide them with the winning lottery numbers, or some equally far fetched thing. To my knowledge, those who do so have little or no success.

There is an old story I would share here about an elderly woman caught in a flood.

When there was a real and immediate danger, Fire Department vehicles came around to pick up people and take them to a safe place. She would not go with them, telling them that G*d would protect her. Once the water reached about 2 feet, they came in a boat to evacuate her. She still would not go as she said that G*d would keep her safe. As the water got higher she ended up on the roof of her house, grasping the chimney. A helicopter spotted her and a rescuer came down a ladder to help her into the plane and to safety. Once he was standing on the roof, she said she would not go as G*d would keep her safe.

As the water started to lap at her feet, she looked up and shouted "G*d why have you forsaken me. I am a devout believer and have served you faithfully all my life!" And a voice thundered out of the clouds, " I sent you a bus, I sent you a boat, I even sent you a plane and you refused each of my attempts to help you. What more do you want, woman?"

I never wanted to be that woman, so I have tried to keep my senses alert to help that is offered, but only ask for strength and guidance, which is all that any of us can expect.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beyond Basics-Healing

This healing meditation is one that should be done for 20 minutes twice a day for optimum results. You need a quiet place with dim lighting, a comfortable chair or bed and try not to be interrupted.

I do this after my morning coffee and before going to sleep at night and have done so for many years. It helps me to stay focused and energized, as well as helping my body to heal. If you fall asleep during this exercise, that is OK too as your body will take what it needs when the mind is otherwise occupied. My family doctor says that the doctor's job is to keep the patient amused while the body heals itself. There have been many documented miraculous recoveries.
OK! Now sit or lie in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor or stretched out. Don't cross your legs. Let your hands rest comfortably in your lap or on your chest. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply for a few minutes, noticing how it feels to have the air going in your nose and out your mouth. Picture the air you breathe in full of healing energy and the air you breathe out as spent, used up and full of the negative things in your blood or body. ("In with the good air, out with the bad" :-)

Once you are quieted down, your heart beat and breathing will naturally slow and your mind will quit racing and become much more tranquil. Now is the time to begin the exercise itself. As you breathe in, visualize yourself massaging your feet and directing the healing energy from your breathing to the feet. As your feet relax, gradually move up to your ankles and then your calves and knees, all the time directing the healing energies to the part of the body you are massaging with your mind. If any area feels hot or tingly it simply means it requires extra massage and directed energy. When you get up as far as your lower body, you may find areas that will resonate with the massage and healing energy. These are the Chakras, the energy centers in the body and will be replenished when you massage and direct energy to them. When you reach a damaged area in your massage, it will feel hot or some other sensation different from the normal sensations. Just stay relaxed and spend extra time on those areas that need it. When you get to your chest and up to your neck, go to the tips of your fingers and up your arms to your neck again, then up through the throat, the head, eyes, ears, forehead, crown and as you arrive at the crown, continue to feel the poisons leaving your body with your exhalations and the energy of The Creator entering with each breath in.

When finished, sit or lie quietly for a few minutes before continuing with your day or going to sleep. As I said before don't worry if you fall asleep during this exercise as the body will take what it needs and if it needs healing sleep, you will have one of the best sleeps you have ever had. As you work through the exercise, if your mind wanders, just go gently back to the exercise when you realize it has wandered. There is no need to force your mind, in fact, it is counter-productive to try too hard. It needs to be a gentle exercise, not involving any strain or heroic effort.

Some people find it beneficial to record the exercise and play it back to themselves as they perform the meditation. This can be an excelent way to keep focused without effort.

Smudging and Meditation

Someone has asked me what I thought about smudging before meditating.
Here is my reply.

Although I do not "smudge" before meditation, I am aware of the practice and have participated in rituals with an Oneida friend who used Indian Tobacco for that purpose. She also gave me some seeds and I grew it as well. I believe the ritual of preparation adds to the unworldly state. There is no reason not to use smudging as preparation for meditation as long as the ritual has meaning for the person.

Ritual is tailored to each meditator in that the items and procedures should have meaning to that person. I would not feel at all uncomfortable sharing another's preparation and meditation. I personally use long white tapers set in glass holders because white symbolizes purity to me. I use a stone incense holder and moss rose incense. The holder symbolizes the element earth to me and the rose is so interwoven into my identity that it instantly signals my mind that it is time to meditate. My only suggestion would be to stay away from colors or odors that have a negative or very worldly connotation for the meditator.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stilling the Restless Mind

In the beginning it is not easy to still the restless mind. As soon as it feels the leash, it often rebels by dragging up every possible thought from the depths of memory to the what ifs of the future. Even after all these years, there are times I can not still my mind and reach deep within. Particularly if I am worrying away at an idea or project, my mind like a bulldog will simply not let go. Those times, I console myself that benefit is being accrued even when I do not think I have earned it. Should I give up and not meditate at those times, the ego would feel it has won and be that much harder to quiet the next time.

If a mantra meditation is not working, perhaps one could try a breathing meditation. When comfortable, simply put all of your awareness at the tip of your nose and pay attention to the sensation of the breath going in and out. When the mind drifts, simply bring it back to the breath entering and leaving the nose. If you are a mouth breather like me, you may need to pay attention to the air moving through the mouth as well.

I believe the trick is not to think in a linear fashion but to not think at all. I discovered that when it comes to the computer, I am a power user. I always have a number of things on the go at the same time, but I do that in life as well. Once having successfully emptied my mind the first time, I was hooked. The level of refreshment was on a par with a good night's sleep. I came back from meditation with a clear and highly functioning mind for the rest of the day.

So maybe the trick is to persevere until success comes the first time. It is easily recognized and leaves one wanting more. As with bio-feedback, the benefits to the mind and body are felt very quickly. Had I never progressed beyond that point, I would have continued meditating for the stress release and physical balance alone.

When I began meditating all those years ago, I had to take it on faith that I would succeed in quieting my mind and achieve that still pool surface that I was aiming for. Since I learned to meditate at first directly from another meditator, he was able to keep me from being discouraged as time after time, I felt I had achieved nothing. He kept reassuring me that even when I felt that I had failed, I had in fact not failed at all. He said I was training my mind, and like with a small child, the training must be both gentle and consistent. Just when I was sure it would never happen, it did!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When you spend time in a garden, weeding and caring for plants, what is your mind doing? When we were able to plant a garden for the first time since I was a child, I leaned something I had never suspected. As a child I saw gardening as a chore that I had to do because my mother told me to. As an adult, sitting between the rows of carrots, weeding, I found my conscious mind saying "carrot, not carrot" as I pulled each weed and admired each little carrot top. Meanwhile, I was in a state of such total relation that I looked forward to the next weeding trip. Beets were a bit more difficult to incorporate into a meditation as the beet seeds sprout two or more little plants and all but the strongest one has to be sacrificed so the one will grow big and strong. Since then I have found other repetitive tasks that perform the same function.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Meditation vs Machines

The Lab with Leo LaPorte recently featured a device that measures your breath rate then helps you to reduce it to 10 respirations per minute or lower, what they called a therapeutic range. I believe they were putting this device forward as an aid to reduce blood pressure and better regulate heart rate. The device attaches to a belt around one’s chest or abdomen, whichever one breathes from, and measures the rate and volume of the respirations before chiming a series of notes. For this, you will pay well in excess of $300. and you can carry it around as you go about your daily business.

For the total of $0.00 one can set aside ten to twenty minutes twice a day to meditate. In meditation, as one relaxes, the breathing naturally slows to less than ten respirations per minute. It has the benefit of stress relief in addition to the positive effect on blood pressure and heart rate. No special formula or ritual is necessary to obtain these results.

It was nice that the show did not promote the device, just reported on it and kept mentioning meditation while doing so.

Symbolism in Meditation Part 2

The dimmed light is to reduce extreme stimuli, which would make it more difficult to still the mind. If the ambient noise can not be blocked, relaxing and uplifting music may be played to shut it out. In fact, such music may well be part of your ritual whether needed or not. If you find it conducive to meditation, there is no reason not to play it quietly in the background. My only suggestion there is that the music should be pure and without voice or words. The mind will latch on to the words and instead of meditating, will sing along with the songs.
There are some visualizations that the mind tends to gravitate to when meditating. You could visualize rising on an escalator into the light and beauty of the universe. Or you could visualize the surface of the mind as the surface of a pond. When a thought bubbles up, it will cause a ripple on the surface, but that is quickly returned to the state of stillness. There are other visualizations that go with other meditations, but in general, whatever visualization represents the blossoming of the higher self is quite appropriate. Personally, I do not consciously visualize with a mantra meditation. I focus all of my attention on the mantra and treat visualizations as bubbles coming to the surface, to be noted and dismissed.
All of this is to say that meditation is a very personal thing, some methods work for some, others for others. As a preliminary to meditation, it might be interesting to obtain a "mood ring" or other item made of the same material. While holding it, attempt to turn it the most beautiful shade of blue that you can imagine. The first thing you will note is that the very act of trying will prevent the stone from changing as you have not relaxed and stilled your mind. You have actually added another stress to a system carrying too much stress already.

Symbolism in Ritual Part 1

A ritual is most effective if it incorporates symbols with positive meaning to the meditator. I previously shared symbols that can be used, and some meanings for each. There are deeper meanings in these symbols, but I believe that each meditator may find these meanings for themselves.
Most of us can not dedicate a whole room, but we can set aside smaller area in a room which can be used consistently for meditation. It is possible to include setting up your space in your opening ritual.
The reason for sitting is to keep the mind alert and avoid falling asleep. The table top holds the symbols you are using. It can also be used as a special area for reading and writing about spiritual growth. If you keep a pen and paper near, it is helpful to jot down your experience or question or comment and perhaps come back to the group and share it. We all learn from each other, we are all teachers and we are all students. I have not met anyone that I have not learned from.
The mirror represents the search for the truths which are within us all. It has been my experience that when I discover a truth, I know it immediately as there is no doubt in my mind as to it's veracity.
I use two candles as they represent the search for illumination as well as the element "fire". They are also plain white tapers, also for the symbolism, a personal choice. It would also be appropriate to carry a small candle, perhaps a lit tea lite into your meditation area and light your candles from it. They would form the points of a triangle. The number three and the triangle are meaningful in most of the worlds religions and philosophies.
The incense symbolizes thought floating upward and out into the Cosmos as well as the element "air". I use a stone burner to represent the element "earth" as well as my firm determination to seek spiritual growth.
The bowl of water represents the fourth element "water" and suggests nourishing my thirst for knowledge. It also nourishes the rose. As the rose opens in beauty with the shining of the sun, the soul blooms in the illumination I seek. When I can, I float a rose in the bowl of water, but if I do not have one, I simply devote some thought to the thirst for enlightenment and the slaking of this thirst with the water of life.