breathing

Cultivate Your Inner Calm: Hangout with me on 9.17

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A free, live Google Hangout on 9.17.14

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Life is busy and full.

Kids. Jobs. Dishes. School. Family. Laundry. Pets. Cleaning. Meal-planning. Errands.

On top of #allthethings of daily life, add on major life changes and it's enough to send you over the edge (if you weren't already there). I constantly hear people say things like:

"I'll  _______ when things slow down a bit."

"I can't do ______, because I'm too busy."

"Life is so stressful right now, I just need ______."

As much as we wish life would slow down a bit so we can collect our thoughts, it doesn't.

We have to make the calm happen. It doesn't just happen overnight. We have to build our capacity to create a sense of peace and balance in the midst of chaos. We have to cultivate our inner calm.

As someone who has battled anxiety for most of my life, I can say that this is no easy feat. It takes intentionality and practice but the benefits are really worth it. I've learned that it is possible to find your center and feel calm, no matter what's happening around you.

Tune into this free hangout on September 17th to learn:

-essential breathing techniques for your health and inner stillness -the mindset makeover you need to cultivate calm from the inside-out -three things you're already doing right now that are helping you -a technique you can practice anytime, anywhere to feel better fast

I'll be hosting this Google Hangout and share some tips, some laughs and offer some live coaching with participants!

Sign up below and you'll also receive my free audio download, HELP! How To Handle Hard Times.

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How Bliss Feels

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I surround myself with a lot of folks who are into health, wellness and spirituality so I see a lot of people talk about bliss. They mention being "blissed out" or "in the flow".

I've known bliss a few times in my life. It is fleeting, not the kind of thing that is a permanent feeling. I don't know that humans can achieve a constant state of bliss--maybe it's possible, but I haven't had it happen to me. But it is pretty awesome when it does happen.

Now that I've experienced it more often recently, I want to tell you how bliss feels. Or how it feels to me.

You may have read my post about meeting Pema Chödrön last year. It was a life-changing moment for me, one of those, "I can die happy now" experiences. Sitting in the same room with her was already cool enough but I actually got to stand at the microphone and engage in conversation with her. Truly extraordinary. And I have it recorded on DVD to watch whenever I want to remind myself of that moment! If you want to buy that retreat on MP3 or DVD, you can click here.

Well, I decided to return to the Pema Osel Do Ngak Choling in Vershire, VT, this year for some much-needed time away. It wasn't enough time, I can tell you that much, but it was valuable for what it was.

I got to see people I had met last year and felt the feelings of overwhelm and pure gratitude when they recognized me. It was equally weird and comforting. I have this weird story in my head that I move through the world relatively invisible--and if I wasn't already addressing the origins of that silly myth, I am doing so more deliberately now. These people remembered me as much as I remembered them. It was intimate and beautiful.

We were led in teaching and conversation by the Buddhist author and teacher, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel on the topic of the Middle Way. We began the instruction each day by sitting for 30 minutes in silent meditation. I was really looking forward to this because I have hard time making time for this each day in my own life--I find it easier when people structure it for me.

I can't speak about the sitting part without talking about my hips. Of late, I've noticed a growing tension and inflexibility in my hips and legs. I desperately need to address it because it is affecting movement and sitting for meditation. I've tried stretching but need to do more of it more often, I think. Is there an area on your body causing this sort of experience for you?

After the second painful sitting experience, I moved to a chair. I was tired, no doubt about it. I've been burning the candle at both ends and it was catching up to me as I sat there. My eyes began to get very heavy but rather than fight and try to keep my eyes open, I let the sleepy be a part of my sitting. It was part of it, not wrong or unwelcome or bad but just there.

But I didn't fall asleep. I sort of dozed or drifted in and out. I wasn't blaming myself or feeling  badly about my eyes being closed. I was present to those thoughts but didn't get consumed by them.

And then, I decided to open my eyes for a second.

It felt like someone poured soothing hot water through my veins. Every muscle was relaxed. My stomach, which is often clenched, was soft. My throat was loose. I could feel every muscle in my face had softened. My heart was beating slowly, but my mind was clear and then I had this thought, "oh my goodness. This feels sublime."

I don't do drugs--is this maybe what it feels like? I'm not sure. But if I can achieve that with nothing but my own breathing and mindfulness and some sleepiness--sign me up for more!

The only other time I felt this way was when I fell in love for the first time. I don't think my feet touched the ground for a few weeks back then.

This time it was a minute of total bliss, physically and then mentally once I was aware of it. And just like that, in one second, it was gone. I tried to cling to it and make it last and then closed my eyes again because I realized I was grasping.

I drifted in and out like this a few more times to recapture that mellow, blissed-out feeling. It worked and amazed me.

And it's powerful and wonderful to know I can achieve it anytime I want!

You can listen to more about how to get to this state ("shamatha") by clicking here.

More and more I am finding I can achieve moments of bliss off the cushion, too. I find it harder to do now than when I was younger. Life stressors have increased and self-consciousness is more present some days more than others, but I know it's possible. I find that same feeling of bliss in the company of friends, doing work I love and those precious moments when I am about to fall asleep after a long, amazing day.

 

Is this something you want to try or experience? Is it something you know well?

Share your thoughts below. :)

 

 

 

Meditation in the Morning

Two weeks ago, I met with one of my grad school classes. On Wednesday afternoons, we meet and talk about "life". We call them salons and I love them to bits--the people and the talks. I'm a people person and a talker and these meetings brings those loves together.

One of my colleagues is a Sikh yogi and he shared his morning routine of sitting and meditating before sunrise. He said it's an extremely magical experience to be up that early and awake and meditating when it's so quiet as the sun begins to rise. When I first heard this, I scoffed (silently to myself, of course). Get up that early to sit and meditate? The beauty of his experience was lost in my own intimidation and fear of applying myself to something requiring such discipline.

Then, once his words sank in a little more, I realized two things. One, it's incredibly beautiful that he does this and two,  I've been waking up at 5:46 am for about 2 months solid. On my own. No alarm. I know it's because my upstairs neighbor wakes up at that hour to get ready for her day as a schoolteacher. She makes so much noise that I wake up, too. I've resented it so much. Truly. I was allowing myself to become really frustrated by how much noise she manages to make.

I'm up anyway, and annoyed. What better time to practice meditation?

So, I did. I've done it a few times, now. And it's pretty great.

I first learned how to meditate from my friend, Amy Glenn. It was about 10 years ago, and it changed my life forever. I've also attended a few guided, seated meditation sessions in Brookline, MA and Cambridge, MA. Those experiences were ok. Sort of "meh". But, they did teach me a lot and, combined with what I've learned from Pema Chödrön, I feel like I have exactly what I need to know to sit by myself.

And sit, I do.

I notice that my jaw is clenched really tight, even at 6:00am. I've just woken up! Imagine what it's doing all day to my teeth and gums? And my neck and jaw muscles? And my general well-being? Hmm. Breathing into that one.

I notice my monkey mind. That's Buddhist-ese for "active brain chatter", when one's thoughts are hopping and bouncing about like a... monkey, I guess. Welcome to being me. Contrary to what most people think, meditation isn't there to help us relax. When someone said that in a workshop I was at a few weeks ago, I wanted to jump out of my seat. It's meant for us to get present with whatever is on our minds. Not to shove it away and pretend it's not happening. The idea of meditation is that we do that enough already, the stuffing down and pushing away. Meditation is the chance to not do that. And just sit with whatever comes up, pleasant or unpleasant. Agreeable or disagreeable. Pretty or not.

Bring it on.

Even though I'm not someone who sits and meditates every day (or hardly at all), I have been doing the sitting with my thoughts each and every moment of each and every day for many years. The sitting still on a cushion is different. And I really like it. It allows for a clarity that surpasses just my normal everyday awareness. I never noticed the jaw thing during the day.

The endless string of mental assessments? Yep, I hear them all the time.

The to-do list? Yep.

The doubts, fears and anxieties? Oh, yeah.

 

And the alarm sounds on my phone. It's been 30 minutes. And the sun is up.

Despite being up so early, I feel incredibly energized and more emotionally ready to welcome the day, whatever it's going to bring me. And man, does it make me tired and ready for an early bedtime! I also sleep soundly through the night. I am really enjoying that part, especially since my sleep the past few winters has been pitiful.

I can't wait to see my colleague tomorrow to tell him how much he inspired me, and what I've been able to create and notice, as a result of him sharing his morning meditation routine.