THIS is the Meditation!

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I LOVE the rain!!!

I grew up in Vancouver B.C. where it rained a TON. When it rains 7+ months out the year, you learn to just live with it. Schools do not close their playing fields, drivers don’t suddenly become grannies behind the wheel and having a “bad hair day” isn’t really a big deal…because your skin is amazing- not a bad tradeoff.

I now live in Southern California where rain, when it happens, is a gift from the gods. This past week we’ve been showered with gifts and most Californians are very grateful for all the wet stuff falling from the sky.

I LOVE the sound of the rain! My son and I often fall asleep together with the canned rain sound that we have been listening to his entire life. It hangs from his headboard in the form of “Lamby”.

Yesterday morning, during my 5:00 am habitual morning meditation, the rain was louder than I’ve heard in a long time. As I sat, trying to clear my thoughts, settle my mind and drop in, I kept finding myself distracted and slightly irritated by the sound of the rain pounding down on my living room roof. It sounded as though water was actually falling on the floor of my 1920’s Spanish living room. I kept opening my eyes, even getting up to check to see if it was true. I was convinced that buckets were going to be necessary, never mind a new roof perhaps. However, everything was fine, no leaks, no interior water, no buckets necessary.

After settling back into my meditation cushion, closing my eyes and attempting to meditate, it hit me:

“Just listen to the rain”THIS IS the meditation!

As I let go of my expectations of what was “suppose” to be happening, I could easily fall into the moment of what WAS happening. This is the core of meditation. Simply noticing our thoughts and letting them pass like waves lapping at the shore. It’s the moment we recognize that our mind has wandered off into it’s to-do list, plans for the day or judging the day that has just past. It’s this second of awareness, and then the bringing our mind back to the present moment- THAT is the meditation.

I love the analogy of when training a puppy, we pick the puppy up and place it on the paper to pee and it runs away. We lovingly, pick the puppy up and put it back on the paper, and again it runs away, and maybe even pees on the carpet. This game repeats over and over. We do not grab the puppy by it’s scruff, yell at it and force it to sit on the paper. Of course not, instead we keep this up until the puppy learns where to pee. Now the difference, is that the puppy learns much faster than our minds do. The point of mediation is not to finally settle the mind for good, instead it’s the continual “bringing it back” to the present moment that is the meditation. Of course with practice and experience, the time “on the pee mat”, becomes longer.

We all know (or have heard of) the benefits of meditation and that it is no longer a practice ONLY for yogis, monks or only those with a spiritual practice. ANYONE can meditate!

Here are just a few of the benefits that meditation can offer:

  • relieves pain, aids faster healing, extinguishes inflammation

  • slows aging, increases libido, extends lifespan

  • manages stress, depression and anxiety

  • benefits sleep, deep relaxation, decreases muscle tension

  • supports heart, nervous system, immune system, endocrine system health and MORE

  • helps with PMS, fertility & pregnancy

  • helps beat addiction, promotes emotional health & enhances self-awareness

There are a number of different ways to meditate so that anyone, regardless of beliefs, personality or lifestyle, can benefit. Some require deeper experience, but basically, meditation is available to everyone and anyone.

The 7 most common “styles” of meditation in a nutshell are:

  1. MINDFULNESS MEDITATION- Mindfulness is a form of meditation that urges you to just be in the moment.

  2. LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION- The loving- kindness meditation goal is to cultivate a feeling of love and kindness towards everyone, EVEN a persons enemies or greatest stressors.

  3. BODY SCAN or PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION- This meditation encourages you to scan your body for any areas of tension. The goal is to simply notice where you’re holding or blocking energy and send your breath, visualizing the tension releases.

  4. BREATH AWARENESS MEDITATION- Breath awareness is a type of mindful meditation that encourages mindful breathing.

  5. KUNDALINI YOGA- Kundalini yoga is a physically active form of meditation that blends movements with deep breathing and mantras. 

  6. ZEN MEDITATION- Zen Meditation is a form of meditation that can be part of Buddhist practice. Many Zen practitioners study under a teacher because this kind of meditation involves specific steps and postures.

  7. TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION- Transcendental Meditation is a spiritual form of meditation where practitioners remain seated and breathe slowly. The goal is to transcend or rise above the person's current state of being.

    Here are a few steps to get your MEDITATION PRACTICE rolling:

    What to do:

    The main thing to consider when preparing to meditate is carving out a chunk of time in your day where you know that you will not be disturbed. My favorite times of the day are early in the morning, as part of my morning routine, or during my “wind down” time before going to bed. When starting out, try to chose the same time of day to sit. Starting off slow and easy is the key.

    Why You Want To:

    To live empowered, you need to clear your mind and digest your experiences. Sitting purposefully in silence, you digest your thoughts, ideas, and experiences. You become available to profound insights and bigger perspectives. You gain access to inner freedom. You tap into a big-time, big-space perspective, which erases the effects of earthly stress. You subtly allow the fabric of your physiology to knit together in a subtle vibratory field, which lends itself to higher immune integration and tissue rejuvenation.

    How to Start:

    Set an alert on your smartphone to stop, drop, and sit. Then use the timer on your phone. Start with a one-minute practice. Sit with an erect spine on the edge of your chair or on a cushion. It’s preferable to close your eyes, otherwise take your gaze down and soften your eyelids. Relax. Allow your awareness to expand. Relax. Be aware. Make room for everything to be as it is, without needing to change anything. Stop, time is up. Next time, add one minute and build from there. Plan to eventually build your practice to 20 minutes or more. Put it this way, a two minute practice is better than none.

When first learning to meditate, choosing the practice of “mindful meditation” is the one that I suggest. As you become more familiar with the practice, you can then begin to explore the others that I listed above.

Of course learning to meditate from a book is not ideal, but the best instruction I’ve received in years of meditation training is to “relax and pay attention”. Pay attention to your power of attention. Attend to attention itself. Let go. Be aware. As you let go, your awareness shifts inward. Presence has a levity and a gravity. Allow yourself to be pulled into the natural gravity of deep presence, wholeness, and fulfillment.

In this meditation, I find it very helpful also to repeat a word, a sound, a prayer or a short phrase called a mantra. For instance, “RELAX” or any other word that resonates with you re: inner peace, effortless, compassion, love, one, calm, or gentle, or any short combination of those words.

Let’s try that together for one minute.

Do you feel more relaxed? If not, be nice to yourself, it’s called a practice for a reason. If meditation makes you anxious, return again and again to the “relax” instruction. Allow your breath to breathe you.

During meditation, you make consistent micro-choices on increasingly subtle realms while in a deeply relaxed state and safe space. This is how the decision making part of your brain grows while the impulsive part of your brain shrinks. They may sound something like this.

Should I scratch that itch? Can I relax more? Should I stop day- dreaming? Should I stop early to send that email?

At first, you start to see your thoughts, emotions, and feelings from a distance as they come and go without effort. Then after a minute or so, silently inside, start thinking your mantra in the same simple, effortless way as other thoughts came during that first minute. For me, listening to the rain was my mantra- it was the WHAT that I had chosen to put my attention on. As you repeat thinking your mantra (or bringing your attention to the sound of the rain, the wind, your humming furnace or your breath) thoughts will come and that’s okay; having thoughts during meditation is natural. When thoughts do come, gently return to thinking your mantra in the same simple, effortless way as thoughts come. 

During meditation it is important that you not TRY to meditate or make anything happen. Instead you must always relax into effortlessness and let the mantra come in the same simple, effortless way as thoughts come. When you "try to make meditation happen" that will diminish the benefits of meditating.

By making the choice to relax and pay attention, again and again, moment by moment, you generate friction, similar to rubbing the genie out of the lamp. The result? You release your inner genie, which grants you expanded consciousness, upgraded awareness, more brain cells, more sensitivity and creativity. And, while you meditate, your body experiences deep rest and tissue repair.

Tips for Sitting in Silence

• If you resist meditation, start with a one-minute deep breathing practice.

• If you want to begin meditating, start with one minute. Bring 100% of your awareness to a one-minute practice. Try one minute before sleep and one minute during your morning routine.

• Sit in the same place at the same time each day. Very early morning is the best time for most people. Bring in ritual.

• Use an audio recording, if desired, for instruction. ( headspace, glo.com, calm, insight timer, the breathing app).

• Set the timer on your phone.

• When the timer goes off, stop—even if you want to keep going. Potent, regular practice is better than sporadic, longer practice.

• Gradually increase the length of practice. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making your sit time too long. Work your way up, first to five minutes, then gradually to ten. Increase by five-minute increments until you’re happy with your results. While thirty minutes twice a day works great for many serious meditators, remember the practice needs to work for you right now in your life. Use kaizen to make meditation an effortless daily routine, building your meditation muscle consistently.

• If you used to meditate and you’ve strayed, try restarting with five, ten, or fifteen minutes— whichever you can commit to daily during this phase of your life.

Here are a few signs that your MEDITATION is working:

“Am I doing it right?” This is the most common question from beginners and experienced meditators alike. One way to know is how you feel after, not during, your practice.

• You notice more detail, including the sky and the trees.
• You don’t feel as rushed.
• You may feel calm and at ease.
• You experience more gratitude and less fear.
• Your field of compassion expands and empathy deepens.
• Your attention is less self-absorbed.
• Your perspective is widening.
• You are becoming more open-minded.
• You listen deeply.
• You experience clarity.
• You are happier, positive, and uplifted.
• When you feel stressed or out of balance you stop, drop and sit.

When this practice becomes a part of who we are and what we do, the benefits we experience are endless. Ask someone you know who has an established practice what benefits they have received and see them light up. Meditation teacher, Craig Hamilton, when asked what meditation has taught him, says: “I’ve learned to free fall backward, unknowing and without fear, through my day-to-day life.

“To know the self, we must go beyond the mind,” is a common Eastern mystical teaching. After a meditation practice we can see our thoughts and emotions for what they are. We can choose to plug into them or let them go. We can choose to engage or disengage. You can choose to intentionally create and direct our mind and thoughts to that which is life- enhancing or get swept away into old and outdated thoughts, beliefs and emotional patterns that keep us stuck.

Now, pick the best time where you know you will be undisturbed. This may mean making an effort to carve out time in your busy schedule or get up earlier, put the kids to bed earlier and ask the people you live with to support you, or all of the above. Set up a quiet, comfortable space. Commit to your chosen time and give it a whirl.

If you think that you don’t have time to meditate, it actually means that you don’t have time to NOT mediate!!!

*In this article I’ve referenced “Body Thrive” by Cate Stillman as a main source of inspiration.

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