Category Archives: Mindfulness

Transforming Spaces

Making the world around us a better place starts with transforming our mind-based thoughts into pure consciousness.   Meditation, over time, helps to raise one’s energetic vibration and helps to protect one from absorbing and holding onto the negative vibrations of others (e.g., anger or irritation, fear, shame, chaos, etc.) via  Metta–the practice of generating kindness and goodwill towards all beings.  Compassion neutralizes negativity, because love generated within the whole being, from the sub-cellular level outward, neutralizes fear-based thoughts, actions and reactions.  Metta cleanses as it radiates.  We can carry what we learn from Metta into our daily actions and activities, thereby increasing our Mindfulness, as Mindfulness and Metta go hand-in-hand.

The Monkey Mind will often make us leave the spaces we enter into in a more chaotic state.  When we are hectic or worried or angry, the spaces we enter into carry will be affected.  When we live without Mindfulness, we may leave a room messier than when we entered it, making it less comfortable for others who enter into it.  Or, if we clean up a space in irritation at others who have left it messier for everyone else, the irritation that we feel poisons the quality of our thoughts and the quality of the energy that we bring into a room.  Have you ever walked into a room knowing without a word spoken that someone in it is irritated?  That irritation occupies space, and makes it uncomfortable for others to be in the room.

One really wonderful practical way to integrate Metta into our daily activities is to simply decide to leave each space we walk into a little cleaner and more positive.  Leaving a space in a more positive state than when one entered into it is an act of self-love and love for others.  When done with Mindfulness and love, it is an act of blessing and an act of inner purification.

  • If a room is untidy, for example, take a moment to straighten it up.  If you don’t have time to clean it fully, just mindfully replace one or two things into their rightful place and feel good about doing so. Un-cluttering a room with Mindfulness and Love increases your own vibration.
  • Or, play a little healing music for the houseplants, which are also energetic beings and flourish in positive environments.  The plants, in turn, will help purify the air you breathe in that room.
  • Organize a bookshelf in disarray.
  • Burn a little incense or sage with mindful intention.
  • Say a little wish or prayer for the well-being of all who enter this space.
  • If you practice Reiki, send distance Reiki to a space you know you will be entering (your office, for example, or your in-laws’ home).
  • Or, just send a Mindful blessing to that space,  with the intention that all who enter and leave it, including yourself, will be better off for having done so.
  • Recycle or find another home for an object rather than throwing it away.

There are so many ways in which we can attend to the spaces we enter.  Use your imagination, fueled by goodwill.  If we go around blessing the spaces we enter into, we engage pure Consciousness.  We live out compassion and love, thereby purifying our own energetic bodies and making the world around us a better place.

 

 

 

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Filed under Consciousness, Mindfulness, Sacred spaces

The Necessities (?) of Life.

A couple of weeks ago, I lamented leaving the Adirondacks on a journey through them to Montreal.   The pristine wildernesses left such an impression upon me.  Like a chance encounter between destined lovers who meet each other for the first time as they are both en route to continents in opposite hemispheres, the vision settled into my mind and took root.  It has changed me somehow, and my mind has been almost recklessly calculating how to get back there, how soon I can be there again, and what I can do to prevent us having to be separated for long stretches of time.

Luckily, my partner is an experienced back-country trekker who is more at home in a tent than she is our apartment.  And, so, it took zero art of persuasion to convince her that we should plan a week-long expedition into the heart of the West Canada Lakes Wilderness area.

Now, I’m your average car-camper.  For me, camping generally means slugging along a host of  comforts and half a cupboard of food that I can engineer into a fabulous “foodie” cooking experience using the rarely employed technology of an open fire.  Clothes for every weather, paint and canvas in case I feel like getting creative in the woods, two pairs of flip-flops (one for inside the tent; one for outside), travel scrabble set, cumfy pillow, and the ever important good coffee-making paraphernalia.

Needless to say, I’ve had to practice letting go.  We’ll be eating pre-packaged, freeze-dried meals, and packing in one extra set of ultra-lite clothing.   Instant coffee and survival gear.  Every single item that goes in our packs must be set before the judge and jury of my experienced back-packer, and it would be a grand understatement to claim that she is a vigilant guard of weight management.

At first, letting go was a little difficult: “What do you mean, I can’t pack every kind of snack I think I might have the urge to chomp on?” “What do you mean, I can’t pack four pairs of jeans?” “What do you mean I’ll not be able to eat fresh fruit and veggies for a week?”  But, as we peel away all the extras, one by one, and as I settle my mind into being comfortable with only the barest of necessities, I find myself actually becoming happier and happier.

All of these little cravings add up– so much so, that if I weren’t willing to work loose their stranglehold on me (and one or two moments certainly popped up in which my willingness evaporated), I would miss out on the opportunity to be where my soul finds absolute respite and harmony.

Thank you, Katie, for helping to free me a little bit at a time.  Adirondacks, here we come!!

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The Rising and Falling of Sensations

When my partner and I visited the tranquil and beautiful Chuang-Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY in January of this year, we picked up a copy of Mindfulness in Plain English (1991) by the Venerable H. Gunaratana Mahathera, which was printed and donated for free distribution by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation.  I picked it up this morning for the first time, having had a few minutes’ leisure to enjoy a little reading and reflective time, and this passage on noticing the rising and falling away of sensations during meditation (p. 137) struck my notice. I am grateful to be reminded today of the “delicate operation” of just noticing the full course of sensations:

You want to really see each sensation, whether it is pain, bliss, or boredom.  You want to experience that thing fully in its natural and unadulterated form. There is only one way to do this. Your timing has to be precise. Your awareness of each sensation must coordinate exactly with the arising of that sensation. If you catch it just a little bit too late, you miss the beginning.  You won’t get all of it.  If you hang on to any sensation past the time when it has faded away, then what you are holding onto is a memory.  The thing itself is gone, and by holding onto that memory, you miss the arising of the next sensation. It is a very delicate operation. You’ve got to cruise along right here in the present time, picking things up and letting things drop with no delays whatsoever.  Your relation to sensation should never be one of past or future but always of the simple and immediate now.

Just noticing the full course of each sensation and thought-formation as it arises, abides for a while, and then dissipates into something else helps one refrain from judging it and provides more evidence of the impermanence and emptiness of all sensations and thoughts.  All sensations and thoughts are empty of a separate existence, as they arise from something else and transform into something else.

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Creating A Peaceful Space

“I Stop For Suffering” recently shared a marvelous post, which offered a few simple steps on how to create a peaceful life.  Having read her post, I was inspired this morning to write a complementary piece which offers a few simple steps to creating a peaceful living space.  A peaceful environment can really help to reduce stress and make your home a sanctuary of rejuvenation. Let’s start by focusing on just one room in your house–a room that you would like to transform into a haven into which you can retreat for a few minutes of quietude, journal-writing, meditation, yoga, or some other means of self-centering.

1. Designate this room as sacred space.  Decide that from this moment forth, it will be treated by you and everyone who enters it with respect, mindfulness, and care. (Note: the comment of vpitts231 below has a really great point: perhaps it is unfair to ask others to treat the space as sacred; if doing seems unethical or unrealistic, designating it as sacred to you alone is an excellent option).

2. Care for it as if it were as dear to you as your own eyes. This advice (taken from Thich Nhat Hanh) is the key to generating Mindfulness.  Treasure everything you touch, do, and practice in this room.

3. Clean it daily. Keep it free of clutter. Sweep it (even if it doesn’t appear to need a sweeping).  Dust it (even if it doesn’t appear to need a dusting).  Imagine that as you sweep and dust, you are sweeping away the clutter, debris, and webs of thought in your own mind.  As you clean the room, you clean you.

4. Place a plant in the room and care for it daily.  Be careful to acknowledge and provide its light, watering, and feeding requirements.  Talk to it gently. Play music for it. Love it and care for it as if it were as dear to you as your own eyes.  It will help to purify the air in your sacred room, so give it lots of love.  Just a little attention every day goes a long way to making a plant flourish.

5.Create a focal point for your self-centering practices.I have a little altar with a statue of Buddha in my sacred space.  I meditate daily here, and spend a little time each day tending to my altar.  As I tend to my altar, I engage in Mindfulness practice.  I place a bowl of freshly cut flower-buds in water on it every few days.  I light a Reiki-charged candle before the Buddha every morning just prior to my meditation, and I let it burn all day long.  When I see the candle later in the day, I am reminded of the moment of quiet and stillness that I offered to myself that morning, and am often rejuvenated just by the remembrance of it.  My partner just placed a list of wonderful affirmations before the base of the statue.  I read these affirmations and take their wonderful energy into my meditations.

6. Open the windows. For a little time each day, open the windows and allow a little bit of fresh air to circulate.  This will help to sweep away any stagnant energy.

7. Smudge the Room. Every once in a while–perhaps once a week–smudge your room with sage and/or sweetgrass. I take a few leaves of sage and place them in a seashell that I picked up from the beach on a very special day with my stepdad, Roger.  I light them and let the smoke waft up from the seashell as I walk through the room. I allow the smoke to clear any residual negative energy, concentrating particularly on corners, doors, and windows.  I like to smudge myself, to0, as part of my Mindfulness practice; it feels like a warm energy bath, cleansing away toxic thoughts and residue from interacting with the world outside my sanctuary.

Photo Credit and lovely article on smudging, by “Way of the Wild Rose”.

8. Place a crystal somewhere in the room and cleanse it once a month or more. Crystals come from deep within the earth, and they emit high energetic vibrations.  Having a crystal in your room will help to keep your room energetically clean.  For more on crystals, see a really nice series of posts by Cauldrons and Cupcakes.

9.  Play classical or tranquil music in your room, even when you are not in it!  Sound vibrations also help to clear out rooms of stagnant energy.  Your plant will love it, and your crystal(s) will amplify the positive vibrations of the music.  You’ll be amazed at how wonderful your room feels when you enter it, even if your music has finished playing.  Two of my favorites:

10. Just Be. Enjoy your sanctuary.  You will feel good in it. And, when you feel good, when you feel centered, when you feel relaxed, when you feel Mindful, you will be much better equipped to deal with the world outside it.

Peace, Everyone!!

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Sydney, the Three-Legged Mindfulness Ambassador

I would like to introduce you to one of my greatest Mindfulness teachers.

Sydney lost one of his hind legs when he was perhaps 4 months old.  He was left overnight (tied to a post) in the parking lot of a local animal shelter with his left rear ankle missing and ligature marks just above the wound.  He was undernourished, and he had probably been tied up and entangled somewhere for so long that his entangled ankle became necrotic.  We’re not sure how it happened, but our vet thinks that he may have saved his own life by chewing off his own ankle.

The wonderful folks at the Richmond Animal Care and Control  secured funding and veterinary assistance through Helping Hands, and within hours, they were able to successfully amputate his leg and put him on a course of antibiotics that saved his life.

He was taken very good care of by the staffers at RACC during his recovery, until my partner rescued him less than a week later.  It took him a little while to recover, but in just a few weeks, he was playing, running, and, of course, jumping up onto the couch when he hadn’t been invited.

Despite all that this amazing dog has been through, he is the happiest entity I have ever known.  He can be tranquil and quiet for long stretches of time, qualities which make him an excellent meditation assistant.

He practices the art of balance better than anyone I know.

He takes good care of the temple of his body, eating healthy foods.

His expressive eyes share that he is absolutely present for every encounter that we have with him.

And, he never misses an opportunity to engage in life’s most meaningful pleasures.

He is happy wherever he goes, whatever he does, and with whomever he happens to be. He is confident, joyous, curious, loving, compassionate, and extraordinarily kind.

He is now fully healed, and he has a full life. He plays with other dogs almost every day, he goes hiking and camping with my partner, and he relaxes like a lapdog champ–all 70+ pounds of him.

I sometimes wonder what he must have gone through, and my imaginative empathy is carried away to events no one should have to imagine.  I have, on more than one occasion, filled with rage that anyone could do such a terrible thing to so beautiful a being.

But, Sydney himself reminds me that no pain is permanent, and that joy, love, and happiness can come from the most unlikely places.  He reminds me to have compassion for those who harm others, for they have surely been harmed themselves.  And, he reminds me that  Love is expressed in its highest possible resonance by Being Fully Present in the Moment.

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The Words We Say, Part III

One of the great lessons of practicing Mindfulness is that time expands when we allow ourselves to experience the fullness of exactly what we are doing in each moment.  This life is to be lived, to be fully experienced, and to be enjoyed.  When we feel rushed or overwhelmed by our massive “to-do” lists, we cannot be in the moment, and we permit external factors to dictate how we feel about the time we have to spend in this brief life.   When one says, “I don’t have time…,” one negates not only the possibility of that for which one proclaims one doesn’t have time (self-care, meditation, yoga, exercise, fun, whatever…), but also the present moment in which one is living.  In all likelihood, the words “I don’t have time… ” are uttered in a state of anxiousness.  The words “I don’t have time” shrink one’s perception of what is possible. When our minds feel hectic, running this way and that, we are typically not even fully present for that which we hold up as the reason for which we “have no time.”  And, we certainly diminish the potential for enjoyment of it.

Most everyone perceives time differently in different moments. Our perception of time is far from consistently linear, although we tend to view it as such.  When we are experiencing complete enjoyment, we luxuriate in a feeling of timelessness. When we experience boredom, time feels oppressive. When we believe we have to rush through this moment in order to get to something we believe is beyond this moment, time seems to narrow and diminish just when we believe we need it most.   Our experience of time is anchored in our perception of it. Change the perception, and you change the experience.

If you find yourself saying “I don’t have time…,” it is helpful to check in with your breath.  Long, slow, deep breaths taken in full awareness  are like a deep reset button, facilitating a calming response in the body.  When we are in a calm state of mind, time feels different. It feels expansive. When we are in a calm state of mind, we do in full awareness and control.  A practice of meditation helps greatly, because it trains the mind to be aware of its state.  As soon as one feels hectic, one notices.  When a practitioner of meditation utters the words, “I don’t have time,” he will probably notice how restrictive and anxious those words feel.  Noticing helps, because the sooner down the road of anxiety that one can start calming the body/mind via the breath, the lesser degree of anxiety that wells up.

An affirmation that I have found particularly helpful is “Time is expansive and abundant. I allow time to expand.”  When I say those words, I feel more in control of my life and my choices. I allow myself to breathe and to experience time afresh.  I feel more fully located in this moment. And, I feel more empowered to spend my precious time in this life in activities that result in my highest good, the highest good of others, the greatest creativity, and the most enjoyment.

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The Words We Say Without Thinking, Part II

Many of us had some kind of negative childhood experience which taught us that being noticed by others is a dangerous thing.  I can think of so many moments in my own childhood in which being called upon in class resulted in being washed over with embarrassment.  So, the subconscious mind will often operate in very sneaky ways to prevent encountering the danger of being noticed. Feeling vital, optimally healthful, and  full of creativity and energy are sure ways to be noticed, because the person who is vibrant attracts attention through her presence, words, and actions.  Negative affirmations provide  opportunities for the subconscious mind to sap one of vitality that is notice-able.

One such negative affirmation that  I often hear and used to say quite often myself without thinking is “I’m sick and tired… “  This is an unfortunately effective affirmation which only serves to sap one of energy, vitality, and confidence.  While the conscious mind may have an external target in mind (“I’m sick and tired of my job,” for example), the subconscious mind records and affirms exactly what  is being said– “I AM sick and tired.”  What a terrible thing to say to and about one’s self:  because neurons that fire together wire together, repeated affirmations like this persuade the mind and body that one actually feels sick and tired.

The first step to eliminating negative affirmations is to awaken mindfulness of one’s inner thoughts and spoken words without judgement.  Notice the quality of thoughts and words–do they resonate positively or negatively? Just notice without judgement. Then, if they resonate negatively,  reach for a better feeling–the OPPOSITE feeling.  Affirm that –even if the rest  of you wants to revolt against the idea of feeling GOOD.  As they say, “fake it until you make it”–  the more you affirm feeling vital and healthful instead of sick and tired, the more you will gradually move your body and mind into healthfulness, creativity, and vitality.

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The Words We Say Without Thinking

A year or so ago, I believe I was called to take the first step upon what would come to be a profoundly transformative personal and spiritual journey.  I was deeply depressed and anxious, and my thoughts and emotions resonated in the focal vibration of despair.  Perhaps everyone experiences a ‘dark night of the soul’ sometime in his or her life, and the shadow-period often serves as a kind of initiation rite, through which an individual can break out of thoughts and emotions that no longer serve her highest interest  and enter into a new stage of personal evolution.

One of the first things that I had to learn how to do (and meditation was the vehicle…) was to pay close attention to the words and phrases that I was telling myself without even realizing it.  These mental formations had become habits of thinking that kept me locked into a dark spiritual space and into old patterns of behavior which ultimately originated from childhood traumata.  Negative thought patterns limited the possibility of living a life of happiness, freedom, and abundance.  I began paying closer attention to them, and made specific intentions to alter negative affirmations to positive ones.  Now that positive affirmations have become a daily part of my spiritual practice, I have noticed how often I hear negative affirmations from others in my environment–words and phrases that are commonly spoken without much attention to the energetic value of them.  In this and future blog posts, I will be offering my thoughts about specific words/phrases that I myself have often used without thought, and which I hear daily from folks around me.

“I’m sorry“:  I have personally found that expressing an apology with the words “I’m sorry” is actually a negative affirmation.  Sorry expresses regret, which often arises out of blame, shame, and embarrassment–some of the most toxic human emotions. “I’m sorry” carries a resonance of self-abnegation.  When we affirm shame and regret, we actually further ingrain those old patterns of behavior that lead to further suffering for ourselves and those with whom we interact.  Furthermore, in our culture, we often use the word “sorry” as a derogatory adjective (ex.: that’s a sorry excuse).  All real compassion toward others  originates from compassion towards the self; when we err, it is important that we acknowledge that error, learn from it, and try to make amends.  As an alternative to “I’m sorry,” “I apologize” affirms exactly that–“I understand that I have erred, and I acknowledge that here and now.”

“Apology” comes from the ancient Greek word, “apologia.”  The Greek word “logos” is embedded within the word “apology”; “logos” in Greek means “reasoning,” “awareness,” “speech.”  The preposition “apo” in Greek means “originating from.” Thus, an apology expresses that your speech comes from your awareness, from your deep understanding.  When someone asks for an apology, what they generally wish to hear from the other person is a deep acknowledgement of the effect his actions or words had on others.

“I apologize” affirms deep understanding and, equally importantly, the opportunity to learn from what has been deeply acknowledged and understood.  I truly believe that every single interaction with other people provides an opportunity for personal evolution.  Error often provides the pathway to learning some of life’s most profound lessons.  It is possible to take responsibility for one’s words and actions while affirming one’s natural right to personal evolution through deeper understanding.

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