Sunday, October 4, 2015

Meditation, Mindfulness and Manifestation

Stillness comes and goes. Thoughts come and go. Dreams come and go. It’s the nature of life in time and space.

Ever the student as well as the research librarian, I’ve read about meditation and tried various practices for years but it has always been rather hit and miss, I just couldn’t get into a regular groove. There was always so much to do, there was no time to practice!  But in the words of Lao Tzu, “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” What I think this means is that from stillness comes action, right action. So I decided I wanted to take right action.

We can read and read and read but if we don’t put our “knowledge” into practice, have we really learned anything? I believe we learn as we do.  So several months ago, I set out to devote myself to practice meditation, even if just for a few minutes every day. In the past I had been looking for the mystical and the magical and I never did discover it, not yet anyway. What I have found though, is there is mindfulness in the mundane.  Just sitting for a few moments and being mindful of your thoughts, watching them come and go; being mindful of the body and what it is feeling, brings infinite wisdom.

The most impressive lesson I’ve learned is the importance of what we think and feel. Our thoughts are the stories we tell ourselves, they effect how we feel about the events of our lives. By changing our thoughts, we can change our lives. Thoughts become things!  Since thoughts become things it must be important to be mindful of what we are thinking. Once we are aware of our thoughts, becoming mindful of our words is the next reasonable step. From here we take action and as we all know actions are more powerful than words.  Our thoughts, words, and actions create our lives. This is how it’d done, this is how we manifest our dreams.

There are so many meditation methods to choose from. Give a few a try until you find one that works for you. The following are a few books I enjoyed immensely, may they get you started on your adventure into meditation, mindfulness, and manifestation.

                A Woman’s Book of Meditation written by Kundalini Yoga and meditation teacher Hari Kaur Khalsa. She gives basic steps to tune in and create a space in which to meditate, focusing on the ancient method of chanting as a way to develop inner wisdom.

                The Last Best Cure by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, is a personal memoir filled with mindful practices. The author has a chronic illness and through scientific studies and experiences of mindful practices found better health, peace and joy. She encourages us to practice three mindful things every day. An inspiration!

                Moving Into Meditation by Anne Cushmann, is a twelve week guide for exploring body based meditation practices. She gives us the time, space and freedom to open our mind, body and spirit. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Swamp Cat tastes Bitter and Sweet

Several moons have come and gone since Swamp Cat has been this way. Into her lair, in the bottomland woods, she has brought the aged one. He is still strong in many ways yet he is weak. Life as he knows it has changed and life as Swamp Cat knows it has changed as well. Change …the only constant in life.  

Great wisdom tells us that all things are in constant motion and therefore impermanent. We are encouraged to meet all of life’s events with equanimity.   We can learn to accept rather than fear change by realizing things are just what they are, they come and they go.  If we don’t judge them as good or bad but are grateful for everything we learn about impermanence.  As we become aware of our perceptions about things and how they make us feel we can begin to accept and adjust. This is yoga, being aware of what you are thinking and feeling in any particular moment and making adjustments. We gain power in accepting. Without rejecting the bitter we can let it go and we can savor the sweetness without clinging. For all things are in constant motion, all things are impermanent.

Caring for the aged one has been all consuming. Pondering life’s choices, the bitter and the sweet, Swamp Cat must make decisions. She searches for wisdom and unity. She pauses. She breathes. She knows where the answers can be found. She approaches the seven gates. Withdrawing from the outside world she moves inward.  She steps forward and finds darkness. Sounds diminish and the air flows unhurriedly. Swamp Cat remembers this place. She sits in stillness without fear or dread. In this present moment place she welcomes what comes.

Meditation is a simple practice where one can cultivate present moment awareness. In the present moment place of mindful awareness we don’t brood about the past or worry about the future.  Here we can mindfully think about past events and the infinite possibilities of the future.

Feeling better, Swamp Cat returns to the old silver fox. It is twilight now and they walk side by side. The beauty of the late spring garden blooms before them. Both the sun and the showers have nourished the bottom land woods where Swamp Cat lives and loves and she is grateful for the adventure.
The Seven Gates Mudra

Sit in a meditation posture that is comfortable for you; easy pose, half lotus or full lotus or even upright on the edge of a chair. Focus your attention inward. With your elbows out to the side, close your ears with your thumbs, your eyes with your index fingers, your nostrils with your middle fingers and your mouth by placing your ring fingers above your mouth and your pinkie fingers below. These are the seven gates of the senses. The breath should be slow and deep. Inhale and close the nostrils gently with your middle fingers, retain the breath momentarily then release the pressure and slowly exhale. Notice any subtle sounds that may arise while retaining the breath. Notice any light, color or pattern you may see. Practice for 5-10 minutes. The senses are drawn inward to a state of withdrawal/ pratyahara, leading you into meditation.

Then gently release the hands and blink before opening your eyes. Benefits; this practice calms the mind and nervous system and can be helpful in reducing anxiety.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Shark God

A Tale of Compassion

This month’s story comes to us from the great island of Hawaii. Here is a brief summary, I don't want to give away the whole story as  it has a special aspect one should experience when hearing/reading it in its entirety.  You can find several versions online, the book we used for our adaptation is by Rafe Martin.

North Regional Yogis
Side angle pose/descending the cliff

Imaginative paintings

Our Story begins with two brothers who have been taught by their father, a temple caretaker, to respect and care for the people, plants, and animals that live upon the earth. One day they discover a shark tangled in a net and courageously set about freeing it. 

Thrilled with their accomplishment they rush to the village filled with revelry and begin beating on the High Chief’s drums. In their excitement the boys forget that the drums are forbidden to be touch by anyone other than the High Chief. The Chief has the boys captured and imprisoned. Their father hears of their fate and rushes to beg forgiveness, but the Chief is an intolerant man and refuses. He leaves the compound disheartened and begins seeking counsel from wise men but no one is willing to help. Exhausted he eventually enters the cave of the fearsome Shark God to ask for assistance. This is his last hope. The Shark God listens. Compassion arises in the Shark God and a plan is set in motion. Days past and suddenly a wicked storm descends upon the valley flooding the prison. The boys are freed and swim to a floating gate where a shark begins guiding them to shore. There they find their father waiting with open arms at the temple that has been untouched by the storm.
South Regional Yogis
Chair pose/ becoming lightning

Compassion is the sacred energy that flows through us to each and every living thing in the universe. Compassion allows us to feel a sense of oneness with all of life. It is cultivated by our personal experience through physical, mental, and emotional hardships. The hardships of life are meant to soften us. With an open heart we can perceive the suffering of others. Compassion is the ability to relate to others on a level where we make connections. We each have our own challenges and struggles, our stories, and it is easy to forget we are connected one to another.  

The Yoga Sutra 1:33 roughly says, “The mind become peaceful as one radiates friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity toward all things, whether pleasant or painful.”

Compassion is the emotional, feeling side of our nature. Compassion is made up of two words, ‘co’ meaning together and ‘passion’ meaning strong feeling. When we can see someone in distress and feel their pain as our own, this is compassion.

Here are a few poses to cultivate compassion when working with this story. 

warrior II – boys courage to show compassion
high lunge- father begs the High Chief to be compassionate
goddess- compassion naturally arises in the Shark God
gate pose- shark compassionately guides the gate

Namaste and may compassion flow through you.

Moving Tale; Kathe and Melanie, tandem yoga storytellers