Friday, August 8, 2014

meditation practice

It is so good to be writing again. I needed an evening to myself with nothing planned so I could devote myself to writing my blog. Recently I have had some issues with my password to enter the blog which I finally figured out. I notice if I am patient and keep going and ask for help I am learning my way through basic use of technology. It takes practice.

I wasn't encouraged to problem solve about fixing things when I was growing up. My friends who were encouraged, face technical or mechanical problems with curiosity and confidence. I once asked a male friend how he figured something out that I was stymied by. He said he just kept trying things and he knew he would eventually figure it out, which he did. It takes practice, he said.
I have begun to be less timid about trusting my instincts and resisting my impulse to throw my hands up in frustration and defeat especially about technological issues. In addition I was able to figure out which position of my car light would allow it to shut off automatically and get myself to a kirtan or chanting circle without taking one wrong turn. I notice if I keep breathing and let my fear of doing things wrong just be there I seem to know what to do more easily. I have a long history of getting very lost and being really upset with myself. If I can stay present and be kind to myself I have more access to my pre-frontal cortex or the part of my brain that does reasoning.
If I clamp down in self-judgment when I am being self-critical that is a double whammy of being mean to myself about being mean to myself. The key is to practice allowing what I am feeling to be there and being kind to myself. I am continuing to practice mothering myself with love.

I am noticing the more I practice being mindful, which is awareness with acceptance, the easier it is to think clearly. That means allowing what is to be there whatever it is. That is the kind thing to do. So, what I notice about my meditation practice is that the more I practice the easier it is to be mindful in my daily life. I have been listening to an audio tape in my car called Mindfulness and the Brain. In it the anatomy of the brain is explored and the specific benefits of mindfulness meditation according to research are celebrated.
This blog is my pitch about starting or continuing a regular meditation practice.

I was introduced to meditation in my early twenties in a course I took called Silva Mind Control.  I enjoyed learning the techniques and played around with them for a while after the course was over and then stopped. 
When I first returned to meditation and starting practicing regularly, I was motivated by a challenging and destructive relationship with overeating. The intense anxiety I experienced had worsened to the point where I knew I needed attention. In the beginning my mind would go careening off hundreds of times in the few minutes I was attempting to focus on my breath. My anxiety made it hard to breathe let alone focus on my breath. I had a very scary experience with food where I knew I was threatening my life with my behavior and I let go of my relationship with the punishing God I had been brought up with and felt held  by a loving God for the first time. I cried out for help to this new loving god. I cried deeply feeling the pain of my life and I began  to feel my heart open.  In about three weeks of making myself sit every day I could sit still long enough to take a somewhat relaxing bath. This makes it sound like I was a very dirty girl until then. My apartment had only a bathtub with a sprayer. In time I learned to hang out in the tub and relax.  I had also started doing yoga poses every day that I learned from a book by Richard Hittleman.  Gradually my anxiety lessened and I could more easily follow my heart in my ongoing spiritual life journey. Yoga and meditation helped me to save my life. I will always be grateful.

During the almost 36 years since then I have practiced yoga and meditation most days. I have had many benefits. I want to share some of them with you to encourage you to allow yourself to reap these benefits or continue to reap these benefits if you already practice meditation regularly.
I am less reactive and more responsive when I am triggered by something. When I am upset it is easier to soothe myself, feel my feelings and allow them to be experienced and released.  My meditation practice has allowed me to build the muscle of bringing myself back to the present in the midst of whatever, in my daily life. Therefore it is easier to notice when I am focused on worrying about the future sooner and return to right here and right now. Underneath my worry is fear. When I can feel the sensation of the fear in my body and breathe into it mindfully, with awareness and acceptance, I can then feel calmer and ask myself "what do I need?" In this way I am learning to be curious and confident about problem solving. Meditation has given me the confidence to be more patient with myself and trust in my own pace. Therefore it is easier to learn new things.
I am so grateful for my meditation practice. It is the foundation of my life.  If you are new to meditation or to sitting regularly would you be willing to begin with one minute? Sit in a comfortable position and draw a circle around yourself in the air. This circle is a symbol of sacred space that's made sacred by you bringing yourself your own attention. It symbolizes being openhearted and having healthy boundaries at the same time.
Let your eyes close and focus on breathing into your belly for a minute.  You can use a timer or count twelve full deep breaths which is about a minute. When your mind wanders off  as minds do, kindly bring yourself back by refocusing on your breath and welcoming yourself back to your circle. The blessings of a regular meditation practice will eventually lead you to sitting longer. You don't have to push it.

If you already have a regular practice, good for you and congratulations on giving yourself this great gift. Keep up the good work even when you don't feel like it. That doesn't mean not to cut yourself some slack, it means to allow yourself to sit and be with not wanting to sit, sometimes even for a short while. That's why its called a practice because we practice. If you already have a meditation practice consider adding in a time of gratitude at the end. Acknowledge yourself for sitting and being in stillness with yourself. Let yourself feel gratefulness in your heart for whatever you feel grateful for.
Thank you for reading my blog. It is my deep pleasure to share my writing with you. Keep practicing.