Spirit Blog

Personal reflections on a spiritual journey...

Meditation

Last week I was in a funk. Everything seemed out of my control. All my thoughts teetered on full-blown pessimism.

My son wouldn't enter school in the morning without a total meltdown (his tiny face covered in tears, begging me not to let go of his hand as the school staff took him into the building), every meal with my children involved someone whining/crying/throwing tantrum (Paul only likes rice and beans, Rita won't eat beans, that kind of thing), my baby wouldn't nap (teething), both daughters were diagnosed as lactose intolerant (after months of one child with severe constipation and one having the opposite problem, trying every method to return their digestive tracks back to perfect health, and so. many. dirty. diapers.), homework time for my son was insanely tedious (just straight-up refusal to do it), my husband and I were bickering about the mundane details of our life together (you know, like who is right and who is wrong), lots of traffic, lots of tension, lots of stress...and, among other things, my IPod officially broke (after weeks of faulty function following a cracked screen incident).

In the scheme of life, none of this detailed list is all that serious, I know. In fact, it isn't what was happening, it was how I responded to what was happening.

My negative reaction to it all only perpetuated the cycle. I felt disconnected, unsupported, helpless, and alone, despite the fact that I am very connected, extremely supported, "powerful beyond measure," and never alone. 

Finally, I remembered that I have a choice. I can choose to see it all as really unfortunate and annoying and difficult OR I can choose to see it differently. I can take a few deep breaths and change the thought pattern. So I decided to return to the only method I know for solving this kind of thing, self-work, and more specifically, meditation. 

Ten short minutes, timed with a timer, mid-day in silence, eyes closed. Long deep breath. My mind wanders of course, but I gently guide it back to my inhale or a mantra. This is easily available to us all. After just a week straight, I am always amazed at how different I feel. I am more patient, more compassionate, and more positive when I incorporate meditation into my day. Everything seems so much better even if nothing has changed at all. 

How To:

1. Sit in a comfortable upright position, with a long straight spine.

2. Breathe in and out through your nostrils. Allow your belly to expand on the inhale and draw back toward your spine on your exhale. 

3. If you are using a mantra, repeat it silently.

Possible mantras:

I am love.

I am enough.

Peace begins with me.

I am a miracle.

I am surrounded by love and light.

I am supported.

4. As your mind wanders, gently guide it without judgment back to your breath or the mantra. 

5. Be kind to yourself. There is nothing to achieve in this practice but a little peace of mind. 

Namaste.

Mountain Pose

Unfaltering strength and stillness. This is what comes to mind when I think of Mountain Pose (Tadasana in Sanskrit). It is also what I wish to embody throughout my day as I often struggle to maintain serenity and poise among mundane chaos in the home of three very small children. If I find myself losing my temper I try to pause in the moment with three long deep breaths. Similarly, in my asana practice I come into Mountain Pose to embrace the stillness that is ever present as long as I remember to tap into it.

This yoga pose lets me reconnect, check-in, and center. And beside these emotional benefits, it can help to improve posture, strengthen thighs, knees, and ankles, and relieve sciatica.

Here's how to do it:

1. Stand with your feet parallel and hip width apart. Lift your toes, spread them, and then ground through the entire sole of each foot. Notice the ball and heel of each foot pressing equally into the earth.  Feel stability and strength in your feet. 

2. Engage and firm your leg muscles. Lift through your inner ankles to strengthen your inner arches. Allow your knee caps to rise and activate your thighs. 

3. Lengthen your tailbone downward as you grow tall in your spine, creating one long line of energy throughout your whole body from your toes to the crown of your head. 

4. Widen your back body by pressing your shoulder blades down, away from your ears. Lift through your sternum without pressing the front ribs out. Let the crown of your head stack over the center of your body, chin parallel to the ground. Hang your arms along the torso, palms face out.

5. Keep your eyes soft or gently closed and breath in and out through your nostrils. Hold this pose from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Feel the strength and stillness. 

Control

I am terrified of highway traffic- the stop and go. I do not present as my highest self when I am a passenger in a car driving 60 plus miles per hour. I am short of breath, jumpy, overcome with fear. I am reminded in this situation of my lack of control. I am reminded of car accidents of the past. I am faced with the reality that, especially as a passenger in a moving vehicle, I am not in charge. 

Part of me thinks that this is a physiological response to the fear-based memories of being in an accident. But also, I think it is a microcosm of a theme I have carried for a long time, maybe my whole life. 

Growing up, I often felt that life was unpredictable and that felt scary. One of the personality traits that burgeoned within me was a need to control. Whether that was a learned practice is irrelevant. It seemed like the best way to "survive." If I could control the mundane then perhaps I could manipulate the ethereal as well. I could "save" myself. I could change it all. 

Unfortunately, it took a long time to realize that this is a futile practice. It will never bring about the result I really want. That type of safety, that peace, is only found within. I am clearly still at work on this as I twitch in my car seat each time I see the brake lights ahead. But at least now I am aware that the fear is potentially debilitating and absolutely unnecessary.

I can choose to see it differently. I can attempt to let it go. I can use all the skills, the breath work,  the prayer and meditation practices, the yoga, to guide me past it. I can actively stop trying to change the world around me and only try to change the world within me. 

 

"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." -Maya Angelou 

Surrender

So it seems that my oldest child will have his first full day of public school on his fourth birthday this coming September (8 weeks from now?!) and that thought, or the reality of it, just completely rocks me to my core. It is so cliche to say that time flies so I'll just imply it. I am torn between knowing that this is a great opportunity for him and falling into fear-based thoughts that he won't be ready for this gigantic shift, tremendous change. 

In truth, it is me who is not prepared. I am grasping at the present moment, secretly hoping it won't turn into tomorrow, wishing my baby will still be my baby when instead he needs to be a boy. 

He can handle change. All he knows is change. Everything is new, fresh, exciting, different and he flows through it with grace (despite the occasional tantrum). 

I'm the one who needs to learn how to adapt, to remember that all of this is temporary. 

And the only way I can even think to do that is to surrender. To let go. To ask for help in prayer. 

"Please dissolve this fear for me. Let me be free. Thank you."

Child's Pose

Child's Pose (Balasana or Garbhasana in Sanskrit)

I used to hate this pose. I simply thought it was a waste of valuable time in my yoga practice. I wanted to move, sweat, do more.

This pose is the antithesis of all that. In fact, it embraces stillness. 

So no wonder I love it now. My life is busy. When I get on the yoga mat I want to step away from the excited energy of daily living. I want to reconnect with myself. I want to restore my inner sense of peace. 

This asana offers the great therapeutic benefit of stress relief. It calms and quiets the mind. It is relaxing. It can help with awareness and expansion of breath. And on top of all that, it is a great stretch for the hips, thighs, and ankles. 

Welcome Child's Pose!

Here's how to do it if you are new to the practice:

1. Start in a kneeling position with your feet together and sit on your heels. Separate your knees at least hip width apart.

2. Exhale and, with a long straight spine, drape your torso over your thighs until your forehead rests on the floor. Let the hips sink down toward your heels. 

3. Rest your arms alongside your torso, palms face-up, and release your shoulders down toward the floor. 

4. Allow your inhale to expand your back body, rib-cage, and spine. Use your exhale to settle and soften into this fold.

Modifications/ Variations: 

a. If your forehead doesn't easily reach the floor, place a yoga block or small pillow under your head. 

b. If it is difficult to sit on your heels in this position, a folded blanket can be placed between the back thighs and calves. 

c. You can choose to stretch the arms out in front instead of leaving them alongside your body. Press into the hands to lengthen through your back body.

Stay in this pose from 30 seconds up to a few minutes. When you are ready to release out, lengthen your spine, and inhale back up to a seated position. 

Namaste!

Talking to Myself

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."   -Ian Maclaren

No amount of meditation will ever fully stop the incessant flow of thoughts that permeate my consciousness, so the only hope for peace of mind is to change those thoughts to something positive. After a lifetime of negative self-talk, switching gears can require quite a bit of attention.

It works when I repeatedly pause to notice the language that I use. It works when I commit to awareness of the present moment and how I want to represent my authentic self. It works when I respond with, "Thank you," as oppose to attempting to discredit one's compliment. And it works when I look in the mirror, into my own eyes, and speak with love.

When I see my reflection it is imperative that the words I use are kind. No more finding fault. No more criticism. I use affirmations and I use them regardless of whether I believe that they are true. These are the statements that matter to me:

I am beautiful. (Even if I wake up feeling less than.)

I am strong. (Even when I feel exhausted.)

I am healthy. (Even if my five senses exhibit evidence to say otherwise.)

I am loved. (Even if I am hurt.)

I am supported. (Even if I feel overwhelmed.)

I am safe. (Even when I am vulnerable.)

This is how I embrace myself. This is how I check in. This is how I do yoga. 

So how do you talk to yourself?

Next time you look in the mirror take a moment to pause, to be present, to be kind.