Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meditate To Move On ~ ESC #5

We've been talking for the past four Thursdays about Emotional Spring Cleaning.

Here in Chicago it's been Spring for all of two days so far this year. And not even two consecutive days. We had snow this past Monday night! One of the advantages of our never-ending-winter, in my opinion, is that it gives us -- me -- more time to work with these ideas and techniques before the balmy breezes start to blow consistently and we start thinking "Maybe later . . . ". "Maybe next year . . . "

In my post on Cleaning Up Negative Self-Talk I asked "Are there other ways to get there from here?". I know that the cognitive, reasoned approach isn't everyone's cup of tea. And I know that even for those of us who utilize that approach, sometimes a more direct way is needed.

The quickest, most efficient way to accomplish Emotional Spring Cleaning is to meditate.

"Meditate. Meditate. Meditate."

I first saw a placard saying just that almost 20 years ago at The Temple of Kriya Yoga, where I started my yoga and meditation journey.

I thought "Isn't that redundant?"

As they say these days, "LOL!"

Or, more accurately, "Duh!"

Meditation is always the answer.

(To the students whom I've advised "The answer is always more yoga": That too.)

Technically speaking, meditation is the place you end up in when you stop traveling and trying to get there, or somewhere, or anywhere.

It's where you rest after all the work and effort.

It is the mind at rest. The body at rest. The emotions quiet and neutralized, subsumed by a feeling state of equilibrium and equanimity. The consciousness awake, clear and luminous.

Most of what we think of or label as meditation are actually techniques or practices to bring us to that state where we then let go of all the doing, all the techniques and practices, and rest in awareness.

I'm taking pains to make that distinction because we humanoids have a tendency to get caught up in the doing and forget about the being. We can think we're meditating if we're doing something. Visualizing, candle-gazing, following the breath, chanting, holding our hands in a particular position, or, as we often do in Kundalini yoga, engaging in a certain movement for a specified length of time. But all of that is pre-meditation; techniques designed to bring us to that place where we can drop the techniques and rest in balanced, self-conscious awareness.

BUT: One of the reasons why techniques are so important and necessary, even though there's a danger of substituting the means for the end, is that most of us can't get there from here. Not on a direct flight, anyway.

If you've had any experience with meditation, you know how it goes. You sit comfortably, settle into your body, and decide you're not going to "glom onto" any distractions, internal or external. Whatever arises -- thoughts, physical sensations, outside sounds -- you're simply going to notice it and let it go. Notice it and let it go. Over and over again. As many times as it takes. And as a wise soul once said,

"If the mind wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently, and even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your mind back, your hour would be very well employed."  ~ Saint Frances de Sales

It doesn't take many hours on the cushion for most of us to realize that (1) we need some sort of focus or anchor for our attention, and (2) the same flavor or texture of thought tends to arise repeatedly in our minds once the surface noise quiets down.

I want to talk not so much about the means we can use to initially focus our attention but about the ways we can approach those more firmly established, often more troubling mind-streams.

Because we can expect that once we reach a certain level of calm and quiet, after we've waited patiently for the surface turbulence to subside, then we're going to just drop down (or rise up) to some deeper (or higher) level of bliss and tranquility. 

And what we usually get is

The mind falling into a familiar pattern of thinking, or remembering, or anticipating, which may not always be but frequently is negative. Undermining. Linked to emotional states that are unhealthy; draining and debilitating.

And there it is, every time we sit, every time we get to a certain point in our sitting, where the agitation or lethargy is gone and we're wanting, expecting even, to step into something better, and we get -- THAT CRAP. AGAIN.

That's where it's very useful to have a technique that directly addresses whatever is being raised in that habitual mind-cycle.

Maybe it's a memory, or a handful or memories, that are truly haunting. Harrowing. Full of sadness, regret, anguish. Maybe it's an anticipation of what might happen in the future that is connected to anxiety, worry or fear.  Maybe it's an awareness of a particular habit, behavior, way of speaking, personality tendency, obsession, addiction, fault, flaw, that doesn't serve us, that isn't who we want to be, and yet seems to define us almost to the exclusion of everything else. It has a hold on us, and even though we see it, and we want to move beyond it, we feel powerless in its grip. Unable to extricate ourselves. And there's an accompanying emotion of frustration, or failure, or shame. Or despair.

If you're looking to use a meditation technique to Move On beyond that, whatever it is, the practices of Kundalini yoga are designed to do just that.

It's a very practical yoga in that way.

You see the problem. You find the corresponding solution. You apply it. Consistently. Over time. And -- change happens.

You don't have to research, read and understand all the reasons why it works. You just have to do it and it works.

Some Kundalini yoga meditations involve breath-work. Some involve chanting. Many are very active in the sense of using the body, moving the body, to produce specific effects on the nervous system and glandular system, which in turn affect -- everything else. Including those places in your brain, in your mind, where that loop keeps playing over and over again, spewing out the thoughts that project out the actions that create the character that builds a life. Your life.

You can do Kundalini yoga for

  ~ Glandular balance
  ~ Cleansing the kidneys
  ~ Strengthening the nervous system
  ~ Keeping the spine flexible
  ~ Firing up the metabolism
  ~ Massaging the lymphatic system
  ~ Adjusting the brain and increasing intelligence
  ~ Overcoming childhood anger
  ~ Cultivating a calm heart
  ~ Opening the heart
  ~ Healing addictions
  ~ Attracting prosperity
  ~ Fighting brain fatigue
  ~ Seeing the unseen
  ~ Making the impossible possible
  ~ Understanding your innate goodness
  ~ Developing the power to win
  ~ Creating self-love
  ~ Removing fear of the future
  ~ Achieving a comfortable, happy sleep
  ~ Knowing what to do
  ~ Protection from negativity
  ~ Solving communication problems
  ~ Connecting physical and heavenly reality

Regular practice produces results:

You experience benefits if you practice for as little as 3 minutes a day, but you can also challenge yourself to go further:
  ~ 3 minutes of meditation affects the electromagnetic field, circulation, and the  stability of the blood.
  ~ 11 minutes of meditation begins to change the nerves and the glandular system.
  ~ 22 minutes of meditation balances the three minds (positive, negative and neutral), and they begin to work together.
  ~ 31 minutes of meditation allows the glands, breath and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body and all layers of the mind's projections.
  ~ 62 minutes of meditation changes the gray matter in the brain.  The subconscious "shadow mind" and the outer projection are integrated.
  ~ 2 and 1/2 hours of meditation changes the psyche in its co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding universal mind.

Consistent practice over time produces lasting results:

  ~ It takes 40 days to change a habit.
  ~ It takes 90 days to confirm the habit.
  ~ In 120 days, the new habit is who you are.
  ~ In 1,000 days, you have mastered the new habit.

Does it work? Yes.

Has it worked for me? Yes.

Will it work for you? Yes.

It's that simple.

Not always easy. But simple.

Find a Kundalini yoga class. Find a Kundalini yoga teacher and have a conversation about beginning a meditation practice that will enable you to do some serious emotional spring cleaning so that you can get on with the life that is waiting for you. Meditate to Move On.

Here's a "Meditation to Release the Past: Especially Childhood Emotions"

Sit in Easy Pose or in a chair with your spine straight.   

Extend your arms out to the sides parallel to the ground, and keep them straight.  Use your thumbs to lock down the little (Mercury) and ring (Sun) fingers of both hands, and extend the index (Jupiter) and middle (Saturn) fingers straight.  The palms face forward and the fingers point out to the sides.

Close your eyes and focus on the Third Eye point (the place in the center of your forehead where your eyebrows would meet if they grew together).

Inhale deeply by pulling air through your closed teeth and exhale through your nose.  Keep your jaw relaxed.

Continue for 3 to 11 minutes.

When you're read to end, inhale deeply, and gently hold the breath in for 10 to 20 seconds. Exhale.  Repeat two more times, then relax.

This meditation is designed to help dispel old wounds, fears, and anger from the past, especially your childhood, that you may still harbor in your body.  It can change you inside and out and help you to live in the present, magical moment.


To read the first post in this series on Emotional Spring Cleaning, click HERE.

I'll be posting my last Emotional Spring Cleaning suggestion next Thursday: The Ultimate ESC Technique!  

AND my good friend, sister yogini and holistic health/lifestyle coach Balprem Kaur/Laura Kalinski will also be posting at The Nourishing Soul on Spring Cleaning from a physical health point of view. Read us in tandem for practical ways to bring Spring into your body and soul. Balprem's fourth post today is "Get Moving and get Outside" -- click HERE to read it.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I Will Tell You Why

"Bless the beasts and the children.
For in this world they have no voice.
They have no choice."

I will tell you why, on my Facebook page, I post links to the pages and websites of animal welfare organizations such as Mercy for Animals, Animals Australia, Veganism Worldwide and Farm Sanctuary.

I will tell you why I ask my FB friends to sign petitions outlawing what is now perfectly legal animal cruelty, perpetuated by corporations and national governments, on scales of such magnitude as to be almost incomprehensible, even though I know that on their news feed they might see my "Sign the Petition" and "Ban Live Export" posts sandwiched between the happy place updates from Abraham and Yogis Anonymous.

I will tell you why I steel myself to read accounts of how other sentient beings are manipulated, exploited, born, bred, raised, sold, slaughtered for the sole purpose of human consumption and usage, even though there are details that I cannot take in word-by-word and accompanying videos that I am unable to watch. 

I could tell you the facts and figures associated with the tremendous cost of raising creatures for human consumption vs the much lower, more manageable and more sustainable expense of cultivating crops in support of a vegetarian diet. That would be a "why".

I could tell you about global warming and the rain forests and gas emissions. That would be a "why".

I could tell you about the carbon footprints of factory farms with their resultant pollutants that ruin air and water and earth and the lives and health of ordinary people like you and me who are unfortunate enough to live in their vicinity -- who lived where they live for years, decades, generations before FF were built, and are now being pushed out as the area becomes unlivable. That would be another "why".

I could tell you lots of information, data, about this issue. And you could disagree with it. With me. And we could go round and round, one-upping each other, carefully aiming our well-chosen ammunition, attempting to respectfully debate one another while scoring points for "our side". And this is how it would be, how it would go, in that realm of fruitless, endless conversations that don't accomplish much more than wasting time and energy. Maybe one of us would get a bit hot under the collar, as they say. A little emotional. A little perturbed with the other. Maybe our relationship would become tense, or awkward as a result. Maybe we wouldn't even HAVE a relationship anymore, if the flames were fanned too high, if we allowed our differences about this issue to color the totality of our connection. If we measured the value of our friendship by the similarity of our thinking. If one of us drew a line in the sand and said, "That's IT!" 

So: I won't tell you much that I could tell you.

But I WILL tell you why. 

For me.


Because once, I was a child.

Because once, I had no voice.

Because once, I had no choice.

Because now, I am no longer a child.

Because now, I have a voice.

Because now, I have a choice.


And When I Die

Engaged in a fascinating activity: Writing my own obituary.

NOT the kind that will appear in print after I die; at least, not like those I typically see in newspapers.

Rather: What I would say about my life, looking back over the years, if I had to wrap it all up tomorrow. How I would summarize its grand themes. What it seems like, from this vantage point, I came here to wrestle with. How "successful" I was at it. What I repeatedly fell into. And was delivered from. How I changed my karma. How my karma changed me. What I remember, from all that there is to remember. What I've carried with me, always, especially those rocks and rubies that no one else has ever seen. What I've cried over, year after year. What I've longed for. Lived without. And how genuinely I've enfolded all of that into my being. To what extent I've come to experience Grace. And Goodness. And if, unable to rest in either, to what extent I believe in their existence anyway. What I once thought was important. What I still do. What I now do, that I didn't before.

Who has been kind to me.

What I'm grateful for.

It's proving to be a very insightful exercise. I highly recommend it. 


Monday, April 14, 2014

Work Is Not Always Required

In our Friday morning meditation classes at Mather's More Than a Cafe, we've been learning about and practicing mindfulness, as meditation and as a way of life.

We spent some time discussing "Doing Mind" and "Being Mind" in this context, acknowledging that Doing Mind has an appropriate role to play in our lives but that all too often it becomes our dominant mind, our default position, our only way of approaching ourselves and our world. The cultivation of mindfulness involves consciously operating out of Being Mind, which can be a pushback against the norms and demands of our culture and society, as expressed in Brene Brown's quote above. We contrasted and compared Doing and Being Minds in seven different ways, the last of which is "Depleting vs Nourishing Activities".

"When you're locked into Doing mode, it's not just autopilot that drives you.  You also tend to get caught up in important career and life goals and such demanding projects as home-making, childcare and looking after elderly relatives.  These goals are often worthwhile in themselves, but they can be so demanding that it's tempting to focus on them to the exclusion of everything else, including your own health and well-being.  At first you might tell yourself that such busyness is temporary and that you are, therefore, willing to forego the hobbies and pastimes that nourish your soul.  But giving these things up can gradually deplete your inner resources and eventually leave you feeling drained, listless and exhausted.

"Being mode restores the balance by helping you sense more clearly the things that nourish you and those that deplete your inner resources.  It helps you sense the need for time to nourish your soul and gives you the space and the courage to do so.  It also helps you deal more skillfully with those unavoidable aspects of life that can drain away your energy and innate happiness."

At first you might tell yourself that such busyness is temporary . . . but -- "it's always something", right? And "suddenly", "before you know it", "just like that" -- you're 80 years old, looking back at the life you've lived and asking yourself, "Where did the time go?" And maybe, "Why didn't I make more time to do the things I really wanted to do?" Or "Why didn't I take better care of myself so that I'd be in a better place right now?"

When you meditate regularly, you start asking those questions at the other end of the timeline (or in the middle, for some of us), and you're able to hear the answers from the voice of your soul. When you apply the practice of mindfulness to your everyday life, you do sense the need to take care of yourself, you can figure out or intuit how to do that, and you will have the courage to take steps in that direction.

Dr. Siri Atma Singh Khalsa, in his teaching on "Listening To the Voice of the Soul", suggests remembering what you did as a child to nourish yourself. Where did you go, what did you do, what environments called you and spoke to you? What did you love doing? Left to yourself, what could you spend hours engaged in, captivated by, with no sense of the passing of time? What did you never want to come to an end?

Do those things.

If it's not possible to do those exact things, find their siblings. Or their cousins. What's like that? What gives you the same feelings? 

So: What are you doing to nourish yourself and your soul? Where can you make a beginning, however small? What can you build into your schedule for an hour once a week, or 20 minutes three times a week, that revitalizes you? That feeds you? That will sustain you?

People occasionally ask me, "How do you find the time to go the beach one day a week all summer long?" Some folks genuinely want to know how I practically arrange that. Some folks have bought into, or are stuck in, the exhaustion as status symbol/productivity as self-worth paradigm, and they don't really want to know. Their question is a (thinly) veiled judgment/accusation/condemnation. I hold to the thought that underneath all of that is a soul longing to be nourished, wanting so much for the rest of the person to see it, to affirm it, and to get about the business of honoring it and strengthening it.

How do I find the time? I don't. I make it.

I may leave work undone, not just dirty dishes in the sink but work that is meaningful to me, work that makes a difference in the lives of other people and that I enjoy and find tremendous satisfaction in doing.

But the doing is not the being.  And I need the being. 

I think we all do.