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Monday, November 29, 2010

Question of the week: How to have better meditations at home

Q- Why can't I meditate at home like I do in a class setting?

A-  That's a great question, and one that I get frequently.  The answer is actually pretty simple.  When you go to a class, or go to a guided meditation, or any other function where you know you are going to do a group meditation, you put your mind in a position to concentrate on what you are there for.  Because you are leaving your house, driving to a location, and then looking forward to the event once you get there, your mind is already looking forward to the meditation to come.  When you are at home, you have a plethora of other things on your mind, if you're like most people on this earth.  When to pick up the kids, what to make for dinner, do you have time to run to the grocery store, and when you think about meditation, you are trying to "squeeze it in" in your mind.  Unfortunately, the mind fits this in with all the other "chores" that you have to do, and your meditation will suffer.

Remember, meditation is actually great concentration.  If your mind is believing that this is something that you have to fit into your day, then the meditation does not have your full, undivided, attention.  When you go out to do a meditation, your mind is only focused on that; going to do a meditation.  The kids have been picked up, you went to the grocery store, and now the only thing you want to do is go and do this meditation.  You are focused.  And, since then you enter the proper environment to meditate (usually group meditations are filled with beautiful energy, and the place where the meditation is going to be held is set up in Zen fashion.), your mind and body are focused and ready.

So, the answer to your question is easy.  You must create your meditation space.  Find a place in your house that you can set up a small area.  It doesn't have to be very large, but put some of your spiritual items in here.  Set the stage for your small spiritual space.  Cleanse it, feel it, and breathe it in.  Create and feel the sense of peace you have in your new meditation space.  This is the first step.  You may also use incense, candles, and even music in your space.  Be careful not to make the music too loud, as you are not supposed to be focused on the music, but it should blend in the background of the ambiance.

Once you have your space, the next step is to find time to meditate.  Try to find a time where you can do your meditation everyday.  Whether it's first thing in the morning, or the last thing you do before bed, having a specific time to do your meditation helps, because you get into a routine.  Once in a routine, if you break the routine, you feel a bit weird about it.  This will keep you on track, and continue your meditation practice.  This does not need to be the ONLY time of the day that you meditate, but it is the minimum required work.  My teacher always said that you must meditate for 40 days without missing a day before you can be in the habit of meditation.  Once in the habit, it is very difficult to break.  If on the 38th day you forget, or skip it, the 40 days starts all over.  Also, do not set a time limit on how long you are going to meditate.  As long as you do it at the same time every day, if it lasts 5 minutes or 65 minutes, it is fine.  Quality of meditation is much better than quantity of meditation.  Sitting in your thoughts for 25 minutes isn't going to help the process, but 5 minutes in a good, healthy meditation will do quite a bit for you.

Lastly, get yourself comfortable.  I HIGHLY recommend the use of a zafu.  A zafu is a pillow of sorts, usually made out of buckwheat, or kapok, that you sit on during meditation.  I find the buckwheat hulls are the best for me, but every one's taste varies.  What a zafu does, is it raises the hips above the level of the knees, which opens up your spine, and with that, your energy pathways.  You can see what I mean by

clicking here.

 Notice that his knees are quite a bit below the level of his hips. When you sit on the bare floor, you actually start to close your energy centers and spine.  You can do this on a chair to feel the difference.  Sit on a chair with your feet on the ground in front of you.  Your knees are bent, and your feet are flush to the floor.  Now, move your feet back behind the chair, letting your knees drop, and feel the difference on your back.  Feel your energy centers open up, and your spine come into alignment.  The zafu does the same thing, plus, it will be much more comfortable on longer meditations.

This should get you on your way to better meditations at home!  It really is only a change in the thought process.  When you realize that you are in charge of your meditations, you will be able to start to meditate anywhere, even in the most distracting of environments!  Good luck!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Entitled Society

Sorry for my hiatus. I've been meditating about a lot of things lately, and the same thing keeps popping up into my head, on TV, in the papers, and on the streets. There is such an amazing sense of entitlement in the world today. With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, and people giving thanks for the things they have in their lives, it seems like the time to call out to the world to stop the idea of entitlement.

You are not entitled to anything on this planet. You are not entitled to anything at work, in the financial markets, in housing or education, or anything else this world has to offer. What this means, is that no matter what you have, you should be grateful for it, even if it's just a small studio apartment with barely any furniture in it. You are not entitled to more; do not think you are.

In the early stages of the United States, when the colonists came, it was a dual edged sword. They thought they were entitled to the land here, even though it was already occupied by the American Indians. On the other hand, they (as well as the Indians) built strong communities based on what the needs of the community were, not on the needs of the individual. If you did not help build your shelter, then you had no shelter. You were not entitled to shelter just because you were there. If you did not go out and look for food, hunt for food, or work in the fields to cultivate food, then you ate no food. You were not entitled to it. The idea was, you either work for it, or you don't get it. That idea in the USA is long gone.

If you want more, then you have to go out and get more. Not by stealing, not by begging, and certainly not by expecting others to get it for you. You need to go out there and work for it. You are entitled to nothing on this earth. Instead of thinking how you always want more, you should be aware that you could always have less. What a difference in thinking that is, to realize that all that you have now, may be the most you ever have, and while you're out there telling everyone how much more you deserve, what would happen if you lost what you already have?

Gratitude is not in wanting. It is only in what is here and now. I've seen cancer patients, who undergo horrible treatment, making them so very weak and ill, just to be able to spend a few more weeks with their loved ones, and they are grateful for the time. Imagine, all that you want right now, and somewhere someone is hoping just for a few more days with their spouse, their child, or their friend. Gratitude is the present moment. It must lie within us, and must be one of our highest priorities. How many of you have said thank you recently just for the ability to read this? For your eyesight, your hearing, the ability to see the sunset, or hear a child's laughter? To be able to touch the face of your loved one, and have the fingers and hands to do that with?

The world is becoming such a reactionary and greedy society. The idea of "me" at all costs, no matter who it hurts. I have a great deal of compassion for those individuals out there so blind to the ways of the world, so blind to their own responsibilities on this world, those creating unwanted Karma in this world, instead of erasing it. It is with much compassion that I write this, calling out to the world to awaken. You are not entitled to anything. And when you are truly grateful for what you have, and I mean heartfelt gratitude for what you have, you will realize that you don't need anything else. One of the first questions that I ask people when I work with them is, "If your life never changes from what it is right now; your relationship status, job status, living status would never change, would you be happy?" And nearly 100% of the time the answer is "no". Well, this just may be the pinnacle of your life. You may look back at this time in the future and wish you had what you have now. So, if your answer is "no", then your job is to find a way to be happy inside with where you are now. Because you are not entitled to anything else, and there's no guarantee that you'll have tomorrow what you have today.

It's time to wake up. It's time we help the world wake up. It is up to us on the path to bring peace and joy to the world, and awaken it to a new way to see things. I am committed to this act. So, this Thanksgiving, take some time to reevaluate where you are, and what is important to you. Go a step beyond giving thanks for your food (knowing that the food you throw away is more than what 60% of the world eats), and to really, truly look inside yourself and say "thank you", for being here, for breathing (without difficulty), and for being open to all the amazing possibilities that the Universe can offer you. And know, that your happiness does not come from anything outside yourself. It is all within you.

Peace and Love to all my readers. Thank you for reading, and thank you for being patient in my absence.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Question of the week- How can I fight off desperation?

Q- How do you keep up positive thoughts when things appear desperate?

A- First off, I want to say that if you truly feel your situation is desperate, then please, reach out and get some one on one help. Whether with a clinical psychologist, or a spiritual teacher, it is of the upmost importance that you talk more about this other than through a blog site. I am available if you would like to work with me, but again, find someone and open up.

Now, to your question. Usually when things get desperate, it is because we have been going down the wrong path for a while. We have been shown our lesson, and our path, but have decided to continue going down the path that we want to go down. It then becomes like walking against the current of a river. The key to turning this around, (and also turning yourself around), is by creating a different thought process. And the main thought process, is stop asking yourself "why", and start asking yourself "what" and "how". Instead of asking why this is happening to you, and creating the victim mentality, start asking yourself what you can do to move out of this situation, or how can you make things better. Remember, even if something bad happens to you, you are only a victim for the instant that happens. Every action of yours after that is something you have control over. But if you chose to stay in the victim role, you will not be able to move forward. Also, instead of focusing on what you don't have, start taking a hard look at what you do have. Again, this is just reprogramming your mind to stop focusing on the negative, and turning your thoughts to the positive. Even if there is only the smallest bit of something positive around you, focus solely on that then, instead of the negative. You'll find that you can see many positive things in your life if you choose to look in that direction.

If anything else, remember this: You are alive. You are here, and you are a beautiful, intricate part of the divine order. And today is a day where anything can happen. Fear is just us focusing on what could happen, instead of what we want to happen, so start focusing on what you want to happen, as long as it's from your highest self. In other words, don't want something bad to happen to someone else, because those thoughts will only come back on us tenfold. Your highest self does not think in terms of greed, revenge, or materialistic things. Our highest self only concerns itself with peace, love, joy, and equanimity. If you want to see love in your world, then bring love into your world. Everything can change, but it has to start with you. If you want a different outcome, you must do something different yourself.

This is obviously a difficult time in your life, but remember that it is only temporary. Things can get better starting today, but look for the change you seek inside yourself first. If you change what is inside, you will begin to see the change on the outside as well. And again, please, find some help. Talk to someone that can help you work through this stage you are in. Writing a question to me is a good first step, but having someone to work with on a regular basis can increase the speed of healing. If I can do anything, please contact me and I will do whatever I can to help. Love and light to you, you wonderful spiritual being!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Controlling stress with breath work

Ah, the holidays are upon us. For many, this time of year creates a lot of stress in their lives. As my readers know, nothing exterior can cause an internal reaction unless you let it. So, what is stress? Stress is an emotional reaction within to an external circumstance. In other words, it doesn't exist. You cannot take a can and go capture stress. It is within us, based on our reactions to a situation. And since we control our reactions, then we can control stress. But, needless to say, many people still do not do this. So, how can you start getting a peaceful reaction to your surroundings and eliminate stress? The very first rule seems simple, but it is always overlooked. Don't forget to breathe!! Our respiration controls our body systems. If we increase our respiratory rate, our heart rate will increase, along with our blood pressure, and if we keep increasing the rate, eventually your hands will cramp up and you will pass out. It's called hyperventilation syndrome, and once it starts, it is very hard to control. On the other hand, when we breathe rhythmically with controlled deep breaths, we lower both our heart rates and blood pressure, and we can create a sense of peace.

When people get stressed, they tend to hold it in a particular area; their foreheads, chest, legs, and some even start moving their feet or hands to combat the stress. It is important to identify where you hold your stress, so you can work on releasing it. The other thing that happens, is we lose track of our respiration. The pattern that develops is small, shallow breaths, usually with a period of holding that breath in between. If you consider 100% a good, full, deep breath, then the situation above would be about 33% of a normal, controlled breath. This is subconscious in nature, but it actually adds to the anxiety of the stress. The body knows something is wrong, even though consciously, you are not aware that your breathing pattern has changed. So now, you can start seeing a pattern in my teaching. As always, the first thing you need to do to be able to change your respiratory pattern, and change the stressful reaction, is to be aware that you are holding stress, and breathing improperly. Only when you are aware can you change your environment. (Have you heard that before?) Once you are aware, then simply exhale, and exhale fully, relaxing your body along the way. When you do this, it will feel really good! The tension is suddenly gone, and the body relaxes. Now you can take control of your breathing.

There are many different breath exercises to do, but this one is one of my favorites, and it is by far the easiest to teach, and easiest for the student to do. Breathe in through your nose for about 4 seconds, counting the seconds in your head. (you can use one, one thousand, two, one thousand, etc as a guide). You can shorten this or lengthen the time if you need to, but 4 seconds is a good time period. Then, hold your breath for 4 seconds, then exhale through your mouth, controlled for 4 seconds, and finally, don't inhale for 4 seconds after you fully exhale. This end part is the most important part of the exercise, as the body is in its most still position. Notice the feeling that you have when you have exhaled fully. After a few times, you will notice that you do not need to take a breath in right away. That's good. Just sit in the emptiness. Feel it. Experience it. This is where you will find your calm, and alleviate your stress. Do not pay attention to any thoughts that pop into your head. If thoughts come in, start breathing again, concentrating on the counting of the seconds. That is why we do that, to concentrate on something other than the runaway thoughts in your brain. After a while, you will notice that you are not counting anymore, yet you are not thinking of anything. Welcome to a meditative state! This is a great exercise to do on a regular basis, but it also is something simple you can do anytime you feel stressed. Combine this with relaxing your muscles when you exhale, and you will feel a calm, relaxed state. Stay here for a while, and then continue with your activities.

When you control your breathing, you control your body systems, and you will find a calm place inside of you. When you are calm on the inside, nothing outside can create the "stress" within you, since that place is already filled with calm. Remember, an external situation only effects you if you let it. If you approach the situation with calm from deep within you, then your reaction to the situation will be calm. If you react from an emotional or egotistical place, then your reaction will be filled with stress and dis-comfort. Know that you have a choice. Practicing good breath work will continuously keep you in a calm place.
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