We’ve heard for some time now that meditation is good for us. We’ve heard stories of peace-loving masters and blissed-out yogis. For many of us, such an ease-filled state of mind seems impossible because of the clamorous nature of our thoughts. More times than I can count I’ve heard someone say, “No matter how hard I try, I just can’t meditate.”
On the surface, this statement may seem true. It may feel like hard work to quiet our mind, but only if we’ve made it so. It doesn’t have to be so difficult. What if we could adopt a gentler, more realistic approach to meditation? What if meditation were no more than a period of focused attention? A kind time of being present with ourselves as we are by experiencing our breath? That’s all!
Often we begin to meditate holding the energy of struggle. We’ve heard about “monkey mind” or how thoughts are like wild horses that must be corralled. Immediately, this creates an attitude of aversion. What if you thought about your mind and meditation differently? Here is how yogic teacher Ram Dass explains it: “Imagine a flower. The center is called your primary object of meditation. And the petals are all the thoughts that keep coming out from that center. The primary object of our meditation is our breath. We focus on our breath going in and our breath coming out.”
In other words, meditation is nothing more than focusing on your flower center. The thoughts that will naturally interrupt your focus are not clamorous monkeys at all, but mere extensions of you. Petals. Thoughts. Some are lovely, some are tainted; mostly, they’re just distracting.
Invite yourself to peaceful inner space by focusing your attention on the breath moving into your body in the solar plexus (lower abdomen), feeling it rising and falling. Or, focus at the base of the nostrils and feel “the whisper of the breath,” as Ram Dass describes it, entering on the in-breath, and another whisper of breath on the out-breath. The point of meditation is to hold your conscious awareness on that experience as best you can. And if you can’t (and you won’t, because your thoughts will wander away), you simply return your attention to the art of breathing.
This is beginning meditation, and despite what you’ve been told, it can be as simple as breathing and staying; staying long enough for a sparkle of serenity to be seen. As you continue to sit kindly, over time, you will feel more comfortable and confident in your experience. Glimmers of grace—inner peace—will steal in on little cat’s feet and sit down beside you. Breath by breath by breath.
Adapted from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy ©2015.
"There is a beautiful truth deep within you. It has been your truth since before time began and will remain your truth through eternity."
Do you know what this truth is?
I had the privilege of exploring this truth with a dear friend, a wise spiritual guide, Kenny Brixey, while talking about his new book Discovering the Divine Within.
Discovering the Divine Within is an inspiring and informative resource for anyone on a spiritual path, anyone who wishes to deepen their connection with the Sacred as they understand it. Inter-spiritual in scope and flavor, Kenny presents essays, guided meditations and affirmations for stepping into the truth of your being—the Love that you are by birthright and destiny.
(The interview is 25 min.)
Or download here for later listening.
About Kenny Brixey
Kenny Brixey is the Spiritual Director for Divine Connection-Center for Spiritual Awareness; a New Thought community in Van Alstyne, Texas. He is an author, an experiential speaker and creator/host of "Life's Tool Box" radio show on Empower Radio. He also serves as a coach and facilitator for individuals, couples and organizations that desire to reach their full potential by realizing their own infinite greatness.
You can learn more about Kenny at his website:
Discovering the Divine Within can be purchased through Amazon or Create Space.
This morning I was reading from Jack Kornfield's wonderful book, Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are. I've been focusing on the chapter titled," Spiritual Maturity." In it he writes:
"Fruit falls from a tree naturally when ripe. After due time in spiritual life, the heart, like fruit, begins to mature and sweeten. Our practice shifts from the green hard growth of seeking, developing, and improving ourselves to a resting in mystery. It shifts from reliance on form to a resting in the heart."
This is precisely where I find myself these days. To me, the world feels unstable and what's happening in it (caused by my fellow humans, of course) beyond comprehension. And Kornfield's words also give voice to where I find myself in terms of my spiritual life. I desire more than anything to live in the landscape of the heart. I pursued spiritual practice as a means of self-improvement for many years; to be more this or that. Today, spiritual practice for me is not much more than a sweet roadhouse, a place of awareness to drop into that promises no cure or answers, just rest.
Resting, as Kornfield affirms, not struggling. Not caught in fear and worry. Not lost in sadness or anger. Not imprisoned by apathy or hopelessness. Resting in the "heart-mind" as my teacher Ram Dass calls it allows the world to be its crazy self, but frees me from feeling crazy too.
Resting in this place of love and peace allows me to hold myself compassionately when I am shocked, saddened and frustrated by world events (or even the "unwanted" events that have presented themselves in my own little life). It enables me to hold others in my loosely mended heart so that I stay in touch with the suffering of others, yet not paralyzed by such hardship.
How do you get to the place of being able to rest in the heart-mind or "spiritual heart" even in the midst of adversity? You practice. And you dedicate yourself to intentional periods of practice, to Sadhanas, as often as you can.
The Sadhana I propose for this purpose looks like this: You sit, you breathe, you listen to all that arises, but then you set those thoughts and feelings aside briefly, just for a few moments, so you can remember your true nature (goodness, peace, calm, love); so you can get beyond ego-based living and the limited confines of your personality; so you can hold the drama of the world differently and, ultimately, be of good use in the repair of world.
You do a Sadhana like this as often as you can for as many days as you can until it becomes a habit. You do it anytime, anywhere. You may do it around certain themes, like compassion, love, or peace. In time, with dedicated effort, you'll begin to feel the events of the world roll out at your feet and discover that you're able handle whatever has shown up with grace.
Why is having even a short, 5-minute a day spiritual practice non-negotiable? Because it provides a path for you to follow when you're struggling to stay steady. A Sadhana is one very good way to stay sane amidst the chaos and craziness of life.
©2015, Janice L. Lundy
Join me for 31-days of inter-spiritual practice beginning Friday, January 1. "Holding the Light," a dedicated period of Sadhana will guide and companion you as you go deeper into your own spiritual heart. Learn how you can stay steady amidst the chaos of life in as little as 5-minutes a day. Harness your inner good for the good of all beings everywhere this January. Here's how.
This morning I heard the school bus go by for the first time in months. I was in bed, slowly awakening from a less-than-restful night's sleep, and after hearing the bus roar up the hill, I thought to myself, "Time for me to get back to school, too."
Though the school I had in mind for myself was not a traditional one, a building with walls and windows, but the landscape of my heart. A space of potential quiet, characterized by inner exploration and discovery. For me, school is a purple, buckwheat-filled, meditation cushion.
It's been a busy, loosey-goosey summer here. My husband "semi-retired" in early July so he is home with me now much of the time. Home is where I work and practice. It's been wonderful to spend early mornings together, sipping coffee, enjoying the quiet having gentle conversation, but I've missed my "practice"—a more formal time of being alone with myself and All-That-Is.
So, this morning, I dusted off my meditation cushion and sat. It was difficult, to say the least. My thoughts behaved like untamed horses. After a few moments of inner struggle, I chose to listen to a recording of crystal bowl playing to help me crawl back to center.
I enjoyed my process, though I wouldn't say that the practice itself was great. But then, that's what a meditation practice is all about: noticing when you want to label it, judge it (and yourself), especially when it feels less than idyllic.
This is good for me. Meditation is one of the kindest, most compassionate things I can do for myself because it allows me to meet myself where I am with gentleness. My "best" meditation practice is when I am aware enough of whatever I encounter within myself to be quite alright with all of it. Even thoughts that behave like wild horses have their own interesting cadence and insights.
Just before I meditated, I was reading from Ram Dass' book, Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart. Synchronistically, I'd left off with the chapter on spiritual practice. This passage in particular spoke to my heart:
"It's delicate, because you have to practice from the place of really remembering why you're doing it, with some joy and appreciation. If you go into it with, "Oh, I gotta do my practice," the practice will eventually clear that resistance out of you, but I don't necessarily feel that's a good thing. That's what happens to people when they have to go to church every Sunday. I would rather push you away from spiritual practices until you're so hungry for them that you really want to do a practice, rather than give you a sense that you ought to do the practice or that you're a bad person if you don't do it, because you will end up hating the whole business. In the long run, I don't think it will be good for you. Spiritual practice is wonderful if you want to do it. And if you don't, don't."
This morning I woke up hungry. And grateful. Grateful that I knew of a way to sate the spiritual hunger I was feeling. Pull the purple cushion out of the closet, de-lint it and sit down. To me, doing so felt much like it used to when I'd climb aboard the big yellow bus as a kid on the first day of school.
Today, may you welcome yourself home in similar fashion doing whatever works, using whatever practice gets you back to you. We begin again. It's back-to-school time, back-to-self time. May you enjoy the ride.
My newest essay, posted at my online magazine, "Meditate Like a Girl."
This morning, I experienced "meditation" in this way. It was through a potentially disturbing event and, thankfully, I was able to take some meditative time to illuminate it so I did not have to get more upset or suffer needlessly.
My husband and I had spent the most wonderful day together. The lovely energy we shared began to fade in the evening, however, when we watched a movie I'd chosen ...
Read the article here
I know you know I write. But you might not know that nearly every week I write a column for the online "magazine" and community I founded, "Meditate Like a Girl."
If this blog sometimes seems a bit vacant, you might want to visit me over there because I am quite present, happily writing away.
Here are a few of my most recent MLAG articles. I hope you find them useful for your life path. En-JOY!
Meditating with Mourning Doves and What They Taught Me
I Have the Wildest Mind, Do You?
(How to corral wild mind for greater peace)
Heal Yourself with Walking Meditation
"We walk slowly, in a relaxed way, keeping a light smile on our lips. When we practice this way, we feel deeply at ease, and our steps are those of the most secure person on Earth. All our sorrows and anxieties drop away, and peace and joy fill our hearts. Anyone can do it. It takes only a little time, a little mindfulness, and the wish to be happy."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
If you ask me, we can never be reminded too often to stop— just stop.
I have to say this to myself quite often, "Just stop, will you? Take a breath, sit, be with yourself in a kind way. Right now."
The mind works to keep us ever moving. Its constant mantra is, "What's next?" All this emphasis on forward movement can weary us—not just physically, but emotionally.
Today, I'd like to offer you a gentle reminder to stop, just stop. Sit down. Breathe. Stop the forward motion and stay ... in a gentle way. Like a caring friend, a wise compassion, a gentle lover who says, "Be with me." Use this reflection to guide you deeper.
Sit. Take a few deep breaths to still yourself—to relax your body and slow your thoughts. Let stillness wash over you. Breathe in this moment, this very special, present moment. Allow yourself to relax. To be still and know. To be ...
After stopping, breathing and being, what do you hear?
What is Inner Wisdom saying to you today?
As the founder and editor of "Meditate Like a Girl," a dynamic and oh, so fun blogazine, I love to share my thoughts on contemplative practices and what works to keep me calm, clear and wise—no matter what!
I post 2-3 times a month there; content different than what you might find here on this blog.
I just posted a reflection I call, "Just Breathe," which explains, despite my trying on dozens of contemplative practices and meditation forms for size, I always come back to my breath. Breath is my salvation—literally and metaphorically.
I invite you to take a sacred pause and learn how your breath can be your saving grace in day-to-day life too!
"Create Sacred Space in Your Home and In Your Heart," one of 4 Sacred Living tele-seminars I'll be offering this year, is this week.
Wednesday, April 2. 7-9:00 p.m. ET.
Cultivate new ways of seeing, as well as practices for connecting with the Holy in the ordinary, all within the four walls of your home. Learn how to turn your current "mundane" space into sacred space; to make the space you live in one that nourishes you—body, mind, heart and soul. Learn more and register.
And if you can't join me "Live" on Wednesday, enroll anyway! You'll receive all the materials (MP3, handouts, step-by-step instructions, and Guided Meditations) to use at your leisure when you're ready for transformation!
The countdown has begun. The final shopping days of this holiday season are at hand. If you're feeling frantic and flustered, consider this thought by Stephanie Kaza, from her article, “Ego in the Shopping Cart,” from Tricycle Magazine.
"Spiritual experience and goods can certainly reinforce a consuming mind, too, and it is no surprise to see this happening in a consumer culture. Marketers are successfully targeting spiritual consumers as a market niche and figuring out exactly what fulfills their self-centered yearnings. How many of these products are necessary for spiritual enlightenment? Probably not one."
I believe what she says is absolutely true. The marketers have our number. They know how to grab our attention if we're "on a spiritual path."
However, I also believe that when we are newly spiritual awakened or are "stumbling toward enlightenment" as Geri Larkin would say, there are certain things that help. Sometimes, having the right props or motivational items around us do guide us toward the meditation cushion or onto our seat of compassion.
This is why I've featured some of "my favorite things" here because sometimes I know I need a gentle shove toward my meditation seat. Or a whisper from a trusted teacher whose voice on a CD urges me to keep my heart open and free of enmity. So, in that spirit, I'm completing my list of My Favorite Things—just for fun—and also because these really are the things that legitimately help me stay "on the path."
Randomly, here there are ...
(I receive no renumeration from these suppliers. I simply believe in what they do and the quality of their products.)
Brush Dance Journals
The best for jotting down thoughts and being inspired to keep doing so. Many are spiral bound for ease of writing; great quality paper and themes that nourish your spirit. On the back of one product line of journals you'll read this passage: "The Brush Dance is a Yurok Indian healing ritual where being true to yourself means giving your best to help a person in need. Being true to yourself is the one and only Yurok Indian law." I agree. www.BrushDance.com
Cards and Prayer Cards by Ministry of the Arts
Ministry of the Arts is a nonprofit ministry sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph., LaGrange, IL. Their vision: "Through the arts we contemplate and express the unity and holiness of all creation, and the heights and depths of the human heart in response to the great mysteries of existence. We affirm the power and prophecy of the arts and believe the arts to be an important ministry for hope and healing in a critical moment of world transformation." My personal favorites are their greeting cards and unique Prayer Cards, perfect for tucking into a note for a friend who needs encouragement. www.ministryofthearts.org
Sounds True Audio Programs
Exceptional audio programs, books, and events featuring today's spiritual luminaries. Interspiritual in focus, Sounds True, embraces the vision of "Many voices, one journey." A quick browse of their online catalogue demonstrates founder Tami Simon's passion for personal and spiritual growth; teachers from all spiritual traditions are honored and showcased. Exceptional audio quality and, very simply, the best value around cost-wise on audio (and downloadable) learning programs. Great sales! www.soundstrue.com
Soundings of the Planet - Music
I've listened to the creations of Dean and Dudley Evenson (and consort) for years. Their company, founded in 1979, is based on the vision of "Peace through Music." Their CDs are Ideal for meditation, healing, and, for me, background for writing. The Evensons were some of the first musicians to combine nature sounds with music to create a completely ambient listening experience. Their recordings are unique and original; each infused with the Earth Resonance Frequency for deep grounding. Any of their albums is exceptional! www.soundings.com
Ingrid Goff-Maidoff - Books and Gifts
This gifted artistan and poet from Martha's Vineyard specializes in beautiful books, cards and gifts to nourish spirited, soul-sacred, love-centered living. I love everything Ingrid creates and enjoy gifting her things to friends, especially tucking her "Fortunes" or "Joy Cards" into personal correspondence. Her book, The Joy Book, literally turned my life around at a time when I was feeling quite joy-less. The "Sanctuary Store" on her website is a soul shopper's delight. You can't go wrong with any item you choose; each item conveys the energy of love and bliss. www.tendingjoy.com. I am blessed that Ingrid is my soul-sister-friend.
Perhaps my musings will help make your holiday gift shopping a bit easier. And don't forget to give generously to yourself, too. Favorite Things like these can create a greater sense of calm, clarity, and wisdom within us by their use— and we can definitely use more of that—especially during the Holiday Season!
Everything we need to know for life is right here.
All the divine revelations we may travel far and wide to seek
are right here, just outside the window.
The wisdom of the ages
lies in the sage advice offered by nature.
All the heavenly wisdom we need can be found
in the bounty of this Sacred Universe.
Open your eyes, ears, and heart.
Immerse yourself in the beauty that surrounds you.
Listen and it will teach you.*
*Excerpted from Awakening the Spirit Within
One of my favorite spiritual practices is to connect with nature to plug into my sacred knowing. Grab a pen and paper and I will show you how to do this.
Take yourself out into the natural world—a wooded path, beside a stream or at the shore's edge—or simply sit beneath a tree.
Calm and center yourself. Feel your body in this wonderful place. Be fully in your body, aware of your breath, aware of all your senses. Listen intently. Look deeply.
And when you are suitably relaxed and connected, select a specific something (a bird, a tree, a flower) to be the purveyor of guidance.
Focusing on your choice, connect yourself with it through breath and heartfulness. Then ask it a question:
What would you like me to know right now?
And wait for the answer to come. It will.
Record the answer in your journal and then relax into the process of receiving and writing, allowing yourself to receive more insights and to scribe them.
When you are done scribing, sit back, rest into what has been revealed to you. Know that you have been given good guidance. Give thanks for what you have received.
Nature's bounty extends to its willingness to serve as a guide for out soul ...
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we are meant to live.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.