Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rituals- A Prayer

Lately I have been thinking about the importance of rituals in providing meaningful structure along a spiritual path. I find it very satisfying to create rituals for myself and others.
Today I'd like to share a prayer with you. My daughter and I created it as a bedtime prayer when she was about 10. We said it together every night for many years. When she started thinking it was lame, I continued to say it. I began to call the prayer my water prayer because I would stop at the water when I was out walking along Cherry Creek and say my prayer. Later my daughter revised the prayer with my grandson and they now say their prayer every night before bed.
I continued to pray the original prayer. Last month my partner added a line and we started saying the prayer together when we hike. This week while I was out walking some new lines came to me to replace some of the old ones. Here is the newest version:

Thank you for my wonderful life.
I trust in peace and joy and love.
I am enough.
Let the light be the source of the healing.
I love myself enough to do what feels right.
I am the light of the universe.
You are the light of the universe.
We are the light of the universe.
All there is is the light of the universe.
May all beings open to all that we are
  in body, mind, life and spirit.
May all beings embrace the love in our own hearts
  and in each other's hearts
 in our bodies, on this earth, in this moment.

Feel free to practice this prayer. I offer it for the healing of all beings everywhere. You could also use it to inspire yourself to create your own prayer or ritual.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

meditation practice

This blog is about meditation. I am currently participating in a training for yoga teachers that is called a meditation intensive. We practice daily together as a group from 6-8am for all the weekdays for two weeks. A daylong meditation practice is also included. I am learning so much about deepening my meditation practice. Each day one person leads the meditation, sharing a practice that is meaningful to them. I noticed the first day I was lost in resistance. I didn't want to do anything except my own meditation practice. I was critical because I wanted more stillness. I used the stillness that was provided to feed my fear of not getting what I wanted. The second day I shared my meditation. Afterwards the person who had led the previous day's meditation shared how challenging it was for her to practice my meditation because she wanted what was familiar to her. Recognizing her resistance, she surrendered to practicing the meditation form I offered and embraced it as part of a new learning adventure. That day I saw this quote- Courage is letting go of the familiar. I was inspired by the participants comments and the quote. The third day I set aside my expectations and entered into the experience of the meditation practice that was offered. I imagined this new practice as nurturing my wish to grow. I had a deep, positive and joyful experience opening to a practice I hadn't done before.
What I have realized is that all the paths lead to the same place. We are all honoring the deeper awareness that is the creative energy that runs the universe. It is called by many names. Our choice is to react in fear and aversion to what feels unfamiliar and push it away or to open to the experience of resistance and embrace the newness with curiosity.  I ask for help in opening and growing both to accept my fear of what is different and to acknowledge the stretching it takes to be curious and learn from someone else's differences. I wish for myself and for all beings to learn this lesson.
Also in the training we've learned several practices from the Shambavananda tradition. I'd like to share two of them with you. If you'd like to try one or both the beginning instructions are the same.
Find a comfortable seat, on the floor or in a chair. Be aware of your body and notice any tension and breathe into the tension. Let your spine be straight. If you'd like to set an intention for meditation, it can be helpful. Ask yourself, what do I want for myself out of this meditation?
Meditation on Om
Chanting Om  is a sacred sound. You can inhale with a deep breath and chant or say Om  as you exhale. Om is said to be the primordial sound or seed sound of the universe. Chanting Om has been very powerful for me because it is simple and occupies my mind. When I notice I am lost in thought in a meditation I can return to chanting Om either out loud or silently. The sound imbues me with positive energy and chanting Om in a group is especially uplifting for me.
Ham Sa Meditation
Ham Sa is Sanskrit and in English it means I am that. I am that pure awareness and light that is the source of all there is. Ham Sa is also said to be the sound of the natural breath. When you inhale say to yourself silently Ham. When you exhale say to yourself silently Sa. Ham Sa. When your mind wanders notice the wandering and return to ham on the inhalation and Sa on the exhalation.
This meditation helps me because focusing on the breath calms and soothes my mind and helps my body to relax. The mantra or sacred sound Ham Sa opens my heart to all that I am.
Meditation has been and continues to be a source of great healing and growth for me. I have become less reactive and more willing to be present with what is. I am so grateful to have my practice as a beam of light in my world illuminating what needs to grow and strengthening my connection to spirit.
Thank you for listening.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Celebrating writing

I have begun two blog posts tonight and erased both of them. Am I just being self-critical and no matter what I write won't feel good enough? Is it a message that tonight it is a better idea to go to bed than to write a blog? What if I write for a little while and use the writing to tune into my intuition about what feels right?
I notice I have to go the bathroom and I'm writing this instead of listening. I'll be right back. Sitting on the toilet has always been a good time for me to be quiet and tune into myself. As a child it was the only time I got the privacy to be alone. I would retreat to the bathroom as a sanctuary where I could find calm and peace in the midst of the chaos of growing up in my family. Just now in my bathroom sanctuary, I got clear that I'll write for half an hour and see what happens. I love to write and I rarely give myself the opportunity to write my blog. My partner went to sleep early and I have some lovely alone time. When I first started writing my blog many years ago I was very disciplined and wrote every few days. Then I realized writing felt like a should and decided to write once a week. Over the years I began to write less and less and eventually I gave myself permission to write only when I want to. It's part of my intention to trust in the expression of creativity to be organic rather than forced. So, I notice when I make myself write, I write more and when I don't make myself write I hardly write at all. Maybe hardly at all is good enough. Maybe the idea of hardly at all is based on some standard of enoughness that is part of thinking I'm never quite enough. What if what I write and when I write are all OK? What if the critical messages I give to myself about my writing are an opportunity to notice the tendency of my mind ( and human minds) to focus on the negative? What if writing at all whenever and whatever I write about are all an expression of who I am and acceptable?What if the inner mean voice is only a call for love? What if I could celebrate the opportunity to recognize being down on myself about my writing as an opportunity to love myself for writing at all? What if I could celebrate myself for being vulnerable and authentic and brave for writing a blog?  Good job, Andrea!
Is there something you could celebrate yourself for doing just because you do it?
I appreciate sharing who I am with you in this blog. Thanks for listening. I love to write and am grateful for the chance to be myself through my writing in this perfectly imperfect way.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Love loves to love love

This has been such an intense week. Fear,anger,sadness,curiosity, acceptance, disbelief, and confusion, seep through the shock and numbness and sweep through me in waves.
On Friday early in the morning I was paralyzed with fear and despair unable to get out of bed. I was thinking about turning 70 while Donald Trump is president and imagining all the horrible things the future could bring.
Then I remembered I still had 12 bulging trash bags filled with leaves on my front lawn. I knew if they sat on the grass for too long they would kill my already neglected lawn. It was around 7am and trash pickup would be happening momentarily. My trash can was filled to overflowing with three bags and my compost can with the contents of three more.
 I bounded out of bed, threw on some clothes and shoes and began to walk around in the chilly morning checking my neighbors trash cans for room for a bag of leaves. I found a place for three bags and felt grateful I could lift them and shlep them around by myself. In the distance I could now see the garbage truck was on the way down my street.
I stood by my trash can feeling really cold waiting for the truck. The driver was driving on the passenger side next to where I was standing. My plan was to ask him if I could put three more bags in my emptied can and go across the street with my can when he came the other way and then do that all again the following Friday. I was feeling good about asking and doubtful about any of it happening. My faith in humanity was definitely shaken by the election results.
I breathed deeply and gathered my courage and respectfully asked to dump another load. Instead of blowing me off and saying he was too busy and driving on, he smiled and said " sure will you buy me a steak.?" I laughed and said I would buy him a virtual steak. I put three more bags in and watched happily as the truck gobbled them up. Then he said " go ahead" and motioned for me to keep going. He waited while I, as fast as I could and taking a while to lift all the heavy bags, put two more loads of three bags in my can as the automatic arm lifted them gracefully into the truck. I thanked him for his kindness and felt a wave of human connection energy with him. I was moved to tears at the ray of hope in a bleak time. Like the Lone Ranger he drove off. He left me with a warm smile saying" Remember me at Christmas".
I watched as he moved up my street. My neighbor forgot to put her can out and my new hero waited while she ran it out to the street.  My neighbor and I met in the middle of our yards to share our good fortune and to marvel at the random acts of kindness we had witnessed in an intensely challenging time. I like her and we've spent almost no time together. We continued to talk and she invited me over for coffee and I went. We spent 2 hours together supporting each other about the election and sharing about our lives. This morning that had started out in despair ended in connection and hope.
So It is my intention that in the next fours years, I will embrace my feelings and be kind to myself and I will focus on noticing the kindness of others and being kind to others.
The Dali Lama said, "There is always time to be kind."
Today the peace quote I get every day was Love loves to love love by James Joyce. What a lovely idea that I want to remember every day. As I focus on the love that connects us all that loves creates more love and that loves loves loving. If love is really all there is I ask for the awareness of that love that is the foundation of all we rest on holding us in love in the midst of it all. That inner safety that is created by being held in love is inside of each one of us even when outer safety feels tenuous. I ask to be able to embrace my fear with self-compassion and let it release so that I have the space to trust in that love. I ask that for all of us.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Communing with a deer

I have been thinking about writing for a long time. My movement from the thinking stage to the doing stage can take a long time as evidenced that I haven't written in 6 months.
Yesterday I had an experience that moved me to share it here.
My partner Marc and I got up early to go hiking because the temperature was predicted to be in the nineties. We wanted to get to Evergreen before it got uncomfortably hot. We arrived just as a trail running race was starting with hundreds of runners on a nearby trail. We could see them beginning in a solid line away from us as we crossed the road to get to our trail. About half way up the mountain the first runner with his placard of 125 on his chest was running up the trail behind us. We realized the trail run included all of them running up and down the trail we were on.  After our initial surprise and disgruntledness we were able to take the runners presence in our stride with equanimity and curiosity. We moved over to the right in single file and continued our hike.  It was remarkably unobtrusive to have the runners sharing our hiking trail. They were sweaty and determined and I admired them all. We had a sweet sense of camaraderie with each other.
 What I was surprised I didn't feel was envy. I was a runner for over 30 years. Several times I hurt my back, took a long or a short break and then the envy of other people running would draw me back to running again myself. I love the euphoric feeling of finishing a run and the efficiency of exercising for a shorter time than walking. I loved thinking of myself as a runner and feeling like part of a fit somewhat fanatic tribe. Each time I stopped running I asked for a sign that it was time to take a break. Usually my back or pelvis went out or one of my knees began to bother me persistently. The last time I stopped running it was only because I was tired of running. Although I had been walking on and off all through my running career, I began to prefer the ease and the pace of walking over running and that made my body smile. I didn't make any proclamations this time about not running anymore as I had in the past. I simply walked and noticed how I felt about running within myself and when I saw other people running by me. I walked on dirt in pretty places and found walking suited my noticing my surroundings and being more present. It wasn't as important to finish as it was to be on my journey. I gave myself permission to run if I wanted to. Once I ran for a few miles for a few days before returning to walking. Most recently I ran for about 10 minutes. It was exhilarating to be able to run and I was very glad when it was over. So glad that I haven't felt moved to quicken my daily walk into a run since. I noticed the other day walking around Cheesman Park that other people were running. I was grateful to be walking. I curiously noted the runners and silently cheered them on with out regret.
I think this is part of graceful aging. Although there are plenty of avid runners my age and even much older, my body wants a slower and more sustainable exercise practice. As I age it has become more and more important to stretch before I exercise also.
Hiking has become a consistent practice and so helpful and satisfying to get out of the city into the mountains with my partner once a week.
That brings me back to our hike and the trail run happening around us. It was a tribute to my gentle letting go process that allowed me to be in the middle of a trail run with self acceptance for my choice to be walking up the mountain and an honoring of the runners choices. That peaceful coexistence was joyful for me.
Although it worked to share the trail with the runners at one point there were a lot of them and we decided to leave the trail and go into the woods to meditate. We were picky about finding our sanctuary. We wanted it to be shady and comfortable and far from the trail. We searched for quite a while til I noticed a deer sitting down in front of some rocks. Marc wanted to meditate near her.  I thought she was injured and Marc thought she was just waiting out the run as we were. We sat maybe 50 feet from her for 20 minutes and she let us be there with her. From where I was sitting I was looking into her eyes. I felt a deep sense of communion with her and strong gratitude for her for sharing herself and her space with me. My sense of communicating with her without words was really strong as if our connection across species united us as one. When we were done I felt a deeper sense of inner calm which felt like the gift of her presence now living in my body. Graceful aging also brought me to the slowed down place of being open to hanging out with my deer friend in a way I might have been moving too fast to bother with in the past.
One of my intentions is to be curious and open to my aging process and to surrender to it as my teacher even though it isn't always comfortable.
I really enjoy sharing my journey with you.  Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

the humility of self-love

   For the last few days my desire to write my blog has been growing. Today I realized I don't have to have a neatly packaged plan of what I want to write about. Whatever I share needn't be perfect or profound. Expressing myself creatively feeds my soul. In nourishing myself I hope this blog also contributes to you.
   I have recently been working the twelve steps with a sponsor. One of the steps is about looking at my strengths and weaknesses and asking for spiritual support in embracing myself with all of who I am. I read a quote the other day about the arrogance of self-criticism. It really struck me that being mean to myself with unkind words is really arrogant. Since we are all children of the universe or God or higher power or energy,  hating ourselves is arrogantly going against the knowing that we are enough as we are and worthy of love. Maybe the awareness and acceptance of this arrogance is the first step toward loving all of who I am.
   This quote has helped me to be less hard on myself. Maybe the flip side of the quote would be the humility of self love. I humbly ask to know that my self-hate is worthy of loving. I can include loving myself for hating myself in allowing all of who I am to be embraced and accepted.
   Another quote today was: change doesn't come from doing it comes from accepting. What If allowing and accepting what is, in ourselves, including the parts of ourselves we hate, would create more love?
   I have noticed as I work the twelve steps with the help of my sponsor I am becoming more forgiving of myself and others. What if we are all doing the best we can in our own imperfect way?
What if progress not perfection is my intention? What if we could focus on acknowledging our progress every night rather than what we didn't cross off of our to do list perfectly?
   I am going to list five things that I feel good about from my day today before I go to bed and one thing I wish I had done better. I think a five to one ratio will help to shift the neural brain rut of self criticism toward self-love.  Then I will say something I feel grateful for. Maybe you'd like to do this practice too. I bet we'll all sleep better. Sweet dreams!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Being with is letting go

What if as we learn to be with whatever arises in our thoughts and feelings with curiosity and kindness, those same thoughts and feelings can dissolve in the light of our compassionate awareness?
A long time ago I remember Ram Dass saying to invite your uncomfortable feelings in for tea. It seems to me that embracing whatever arises in our experience allows the space for us to let go. We aren't talking about working hard to analyze why we are having these particular thoughts or this specific feeling.
Being with means witnessing rather than judging. For example, my daughter and grandson were staying at my house for two weeks. It was a sweet visit and I got to spend a lot of quality time with both of them. Since they left last week I have been feeling deeply sad. This sadness lives in my body and has been so strong at times that it feels hard to breathe. When this sadness arises I have been practicing breathing deeply into the sadness and saying "of course" to myself and allowing the sadness to be. Being with this sadness feels like a sensation of tightness around my heart and pressure behind my eyes. When I be with it lovingly without giving into judging myself harshly, the sadness deepens and I might cry and then it lets go and releases. Then I feel a deeper sense of connection to my loved ones. Then I can ask myself ," what do you need right now?" and deeply listen.
 I think I have always felt it was wimpy to miss anyone. Like missing another person means there is something missing in me. I have avoided the achy emptiness of missing the people I love by attempting to rationalize it away. Like, I will see that person soon or missing someone is wasted energy.
Loving my grandson with a sweet purity of love that is different than my previous experience of loving has taught me so much. My love for him has no expectations at all of how he needs to be for me to love him. Hanging out with him, it doesn't matter what we do. Sure it is challenging to keep up with him. I can see why it is a good idea for younger people to have children.  I can play and be silly and be completely present with my grandson and then I can return him to my daughter and rest. This boundless unlimited loving is nourishing and healing for me and has expanded my heart immeasurably. So when they left I felt its absence very strongly. I also was relieved to have my house back to myself and to resume the routines of my life. So, I have been honoring the sadness and longing with the power of my attention. It is my intention to respect this longing as a tribute to the new found depth of my ability to love. As I be with the sadness, it deepens and then lets go into sweetness. I am learning to remember when the sadness arises that lovingly holding myself and asking for spiritual support for being with the pain allows it to be experienced and released. I am grateful to be learning about being with and letting go and that they are the same thing.
What would you like to explore allowing to arise with curiosity and kindness? How would you like to experiment or continue to experiment with knowing that being with and letting go are the same thing?