Posts-July 2012

Start meditating TODAY!

We’ve all heard about meditation – we’ve read about it, talked to people who do it, had it recommended to us by our doctor, and we even have a feeling that meditation can help us (who doesn’t want to feel less stressed?!) – but how many of us have actually committed to a daily meditative practice? What prevents us from doing this thing that promises so much in the way of relief from the daily tension and anxiety that has become a regular fixture of our busy, modern-day lives?

For many, it’s not knowing where to start. We’ve heard that meditation is about “clearing your mind,” or “not thinking,” and this simply sounds like a daunting task. “How can I possibly clear my mind? There’s so much to think about – so much to do,” we say to ourselves. And so we skip the attempt at meditation –“sitting still is impossible anyway, I’m just too anxious!” we think. And it’s true that clearing our mind by trying to stop our thoughts is difficult, if not impossible. Thinking about not thinking is just another layer of thought, right?

So to start, we need a technique. We need a method of practice that allows us to cultivate stillness in our mind. A great technique to start with is the practice of watching the breath at the tip of the nose. Sitting in comfortable position, bring your awareness to the feeling of sitting in this spot, the feeling of your feet on the ground, the feeling of the chair or cushion beneath you. Allow your body to relax as you begin to pay close attention to the breath at the tip of the nose. Feel the coolness of the out-breath, the slight warmth of the in-breath – see how close you can be with the breath.

As we attach to our attention to the breath in this way, the thoughts begin to subside. The space between thoughts begins to get larger, more pronounced. See if you can rest in this space between thoughts. And any time that thoughts come up, just come back to the feeling of the breath at the tip of the nose. Even if your mind wanders 100 times, simply come back to the breath.

And by sitting and breathing in this way, every day for 10 minutes or more, it gets easier to allow our thoughts to fall away, easier to let go of the tension that is associated with these thoughts.

Posts-July 2012

Life isn’t the struggle you think it is

Each day, we wake up and go through our morning routine. We brush our teeth, bathe, get dressed, have breakfast and head to work. We get there and do our time. Maybe it was a good day, maybe it wasn’t, maybe we don’t even know, don’t care – it just was. And then we get home, greet the family, make dinner, watch some TV, go to bed, get up the next day and do it all over again.

As we go about these daily activities, sometimes we’re met with a feeling of exhaustion: That despite everything we do, we still aren’t any closer to achieving our goals or attaining that next thing we’re shooting for. There may even be a sense of claustrophobia as we consider the possibility that this is it. That all we have to look forward to is this same thing, over and again, until we retire. And this feeling can be particularly stifling if we know, beyond a doubt, that the work we do, the way we spend more of our days, is simply not in alignment with our dreams. “What am I doing here?” we might even ask ourselves.

This claustrophobia starts as a subtle feeling of general discontent – a static that runs in the background of every aspect of our lives. We might not even be aware of it at first. There’s just something that prevents us from sitting still. If we DO try to sit for a moment, we start to feel a little crazy. How many of us are always moving in some way, even when we think we’re sitting still? Maybe you’re tapping your foot right now…

We have to keep ourselves busy – cleaning the house; planning a vacation; shopping; eating; eating AND watching TV; eating, watching TV AND thinking about what we’re going to do next. We pursue the next job, the next girlfriend, the next beautiful view, the next fun thing to do. The static of discontent fuels these pursuits, creating within us a hunger that can never truly be satisfied. We can’t sit still, but we don’t even know why. We gravitate towards things that we think will help us feel better. Feel better about what? About being ourselves. Grasping for anything, how surprised can we be when things don’t work out?

Over time (or sometimes quite suddenly), we become aware of the static and our unsuccessful attempts at pacifying that “something-just-doesn’t-feel-right” feeling. We see the struggle that we are engaged in, the struggle to be something we’re not. Whether it’s the job, the relationship, our friends, the place we live – when we become aware of the specific something that isn’t right, we are presented with an opportunity.

Not an opportunity to act. Not yet, anyway. This is simply an opportunity to rest in this space of awareness. Where we once weren’t sure of anything, we are now sure of what’s not working. There is power in this clarity. Once we know what’s wrong, the answer presents itself. So what’s next?

What would happen if we just surrendered? What if we just let ourselves fall into the moment, and allowed this moment to present us with whatever inspiration is needed for the next move?
This notion is scary at first. We’re so used to being in action. And now, when we’re the most fidgety, the most anxious and ready to DO SOMETHING, we just have to sit here? Yes. Sit and breathe.

As our mind swirls, we just sit and watch the thoughts, feeling the breath at the tip of the nose. Noticing the in-breath, feeling the out-breath. Being very close to the breath as it enters the nose, feeling its slight coolness, and being very close with the breath as you exhale, feeling its slight warmth on the out-breath. Slowly the thoughts begin to subside. Slowly our tension begins to melt. The shoulders might drop, you might feel yourself sinking slightly into your chair. Just notice. We are feeling into the moment. Feeling the sensations of being in this body, right here, right now.

Breathing in this way, the struggle that was our life, the struggle that was so convincing, begins to subside. Through the spaciousness that the breath provides, we begin to see another way. This “other way” does not arrive as a thought, a plan or another agenda for us to pursue. It arrives as a feeling, as a knowing. And the more we practice breathing in this way, the more the answers come.

When we take the time to simply sit and breathe, to rest in the unconditioned space of the present moment, we create the space for a new way of being to come through.

It is the way of gentleness. It is a path of non-aggression. It is a life beyond the struggle. And once we open to the possibility that it exists, the breath is the gateway.

Stress is Optional Kick the Habit