Monday, September 26, 2011

Meditation on Safety

"Your life is hidden with Christ in God."  These words, from the book of Colossians in the New Testament of the Bible, came to me today during a solitary morning run.  I thought about what it means to be "hidden," and how I associate comfort and safety with that word.  Through my faith I find comfort; I believe that in spite of any contrary circumstance, appearance or feeling, I am safe. 

In meditation today, I used the words "hidden" and "safe" as mantras.  Per the teachings of the venerable Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, I used this breathing meditation: "Breathing in, I am hidden.  Breathing out, I am safe."  In this way I settled into my practice.  After sitting for a while, in my mind's eye I saw a vision of Mary, holding her tiny child in her arms.  I love seeing the statues of Mary at my sons' school when I drop them off each morning.  They are a beautiful visual reminder of the safety I find in faith. 

Continuing to sit with ease and comfort, I then adapted the guided meditation on love from my last post.  Rather than receiving love and circulating that energy through the chakras, I combined today's focus on safety with the energy of each chakra.  The resulting affirmations are powerful thoughts that help to release long-held fears:
  1. 1st/root chakra: I am safely rooted.
  2. 2nd/sacral chakra: I form and maintain safe connections with others.
  3. 3rd/solar plexus chakra: I act and accomplish from a place of safety.
  4. 4th/heart chakra:  It is safe for me to feel; I safely experience my true feelings.
  5. 5th/throat chakra: It is safe for me to express myself.
  6. 6th/third eye chakra: I know that I am safe. It is safe for me to follow my intuition.
  7. 7th/crown chakra: My safety comes from the Source of All. My life is hidden in God. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guided Meditation: Moving Love Through Your Chakras

Now that preschool has started for my boys, I am able to carve out a bit of time for meditation during the day.  It is truly time well spent, as it makes the rest of the day flow with more ease and comfort.  Today I focused on the energy of love, connecting with that energy and allowing love to flow in through my crown chakra to energize each chakra up and down the spine, and the whole of my being: mind, body and spirit. 

Anyone could practice the following meditation to circulate love through the chakras.  There is no particular time requirement.  I set a timer for 24 minutes, exactly the amount of time I could meditate without distraction.  So that you can get quiet and focused, and still have time remaining to pay attention to each chakra, I would recommend a minimum of ten minutes. 
  1. Begin by sitting comfortably and closing the eyes.  I sit in sukhasana, a fancy term for criss-cross applesauce with a straight spine and the hands resting comfortably on the thighs.  Many people prefer to sit with their feet on the floor in a comfortable chair. 
  2. Bring ease to your breath by taking several soothing inhalations and exhalations.  You may breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, or if you prefer to keep the mouth closed, breathe in and out through the nose making sure to relax the jaw.  
  3. Clear your mind of habitual thoughts and restlessness by repeating the following mantra to yourself.  First, as you breathe in and out, “I am clear. I am clear. I am clear…” Then, simply, “Clear. Clear. Clear. Clear.”  Visualize the surface of a clear pond or pool, with no waves and no ripples, or envision a perfectly clear sky.
  4. Begin at your root chakra, located at the base of your spine.  As you inhale, focus on being rooted, or grounded, right where you are.  Sense your connection to the Earth, to the ground.  To light up this chakra, repeat this internal mantra, breathing in, “I am rooted,” breathing out, “I am here.” Do this several times.  This practice grounds your energy and focus for the rest of your practice.
  5. Next, connect with the energy of love that is always available to us from Source (God, the Universe).  Envision the following: in the space directly above you is an orb of golden light.  It is the light of love, flowing to you from your Higher Self, the divine within you.  You are opening up your being, from the top of your head down to the base of your spine, so that you can bring this loving energy into the whole of you. 
  6. Bring the attention back to the breath, as you will use each remaining inhalation and exhalation to circulate the energy of love through your chakras, up, and then down, continuing in a seamless cycle.  You are pulling love in and moving it up and down your chakras. 
  7. Breathing in and out, as you envision each chakra, speak the following mantras in your mind:
·         1st, or Root chakra: I am rooted in love.
·         2nd, or Sacral chakra: I connect with love.
·         3rd chakra, or Solar Plexus: I act with love.
·         4th, or Heart chakra: I feel love.
·         5th, or Throat chakra: I speak love.
·         6th chakra, or Third Eye: I know love.
·         7th, or Crown chakra: I understand love.

For additional pranayama practice (control of the breath in meditation), try to extend each inhalation so that you can go through all seven mantras and envision the chakras, so that at the beginning of your inhalation you say, “I am rooted in love,” and at the top of your breath, you finish, “I understand love.” As you exhale, you envision the golden light energy of love moving back down your spine, from the crown chakra to the root chakra, repeating each mantra in reverse order.  If you do this, the time of each complete breath cycle is 15-20 seconds. 

This practice brought me such sweetness, joy and comfort…in under half an hour.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Good in Goodbye

My yoga class today was exceptionally enlightening and uplifting, to the point that I feel compelled to share the lesson.  My teacher shared with us the experience of taking her second son to college last week.  She was absent from our classes when she drove him to school.  She had spoken to us of her trepidation surrounding this major step in her life.  Today, at the beginning of class, she shared her struggle with us, in tears.  She said that like everything in life, “this too shall pass,” and “the only thing we can truly expect in this life is change.”  What really stood out in her words today was this: we all have to let go of experiences, stages, and even people we love.  While it is often easy to let go of what seems bad, we also have to let of go things in our lives that are good, when the time comes; and this prepares us to receive new blessings. 

Letting go of the good in our lives…that is tough to accept!  One man in the class had also dropped his daughter off at college last week, and he said, “What we are letting go of is our parental role of being their constant protector.  My daughter was sick when I took her to college, and it was hard for me to leave because I just wanted to stay there and take care of her.  But now she is taking care of herself and that role for me has ended, for the most part.  Now it’s time for something else.”  An elderly woman chimed in, “when one door closes, another door always opens.” 

My teacher’s open sharing of her sadness touched my heart.  She said that during the past few weeks the sorrow of letting go had continued to surface for her, but she pushed it down repeatedly to appear strong for her husband and children.  She said that the feelings were there, and the tears would rise up to her throat but she would push them back down into the area of her heart and chest, which made her literally sick.  Now she is letting it out and modeling that freedom for her students.  I loved that she spoke about learning to let go of the good things that come into our lives, blessings and experiences that we wish to hold onto. 

My children are still little, only 3 and 4 years of age.  So I have a long time before I have to let them spread their wings and fly away from home.  But I also have a few good things in my life that need to fly away, free.  In class today, I shed a few tears when that realization fully dawned.  I have also been holding on when I need to let go and open up to new experiences.  When my family moved last Spring, I began the process of saying goodbye to some well-loved and familiar faces and places.  I had to let go of the wonderful preschool where my eldest son was nurtured for two years.  Now he will start a new school.  Letting go of the local column I wrote when I moved to a new town was a sort of personal loss that I mourned.  These are two of many examples. 

Letting go of good relationships that either disappear entirely or take on a new dynamic; this is the particular challenge my yoga teacher is facing with her college-aged son.  I am also facing that challenge with a very special person who was in my life for nearly a year.  He is a teacher and coach that I met when I was writing my former column.  I interviewed him in connection with some exciting work he was doing.  I was so impressed with him that I decided to sign on as one of his clients.  He is a stress relief coach, and as a Mom of toddlers, I was feeling a little stressed.  Little did I know that not only would he help me with my job as a Mom, but he would also help me rediscover my purpose outside of motherhood, and ultimately connect me with my higher self and spirituality in a way that would open me up to a world of new experiences.  I truly cherished the connection I had with him, to the point that I dreaded losing it.  When it came time for the relationship to end, I signed on for more coaching.   I did this because I was afraid of letting go of something good.  I was not sure what other sorts of people and experiences would come into my life to fill the void.  Like my yoga teacher, when I felt sad about letting go of that relationship, I pushed the sadness back down.  I still haven’t fully let go of the wonderful teacher/student dynamic I had with him, even though I know it is time for me to spread my wings. 

Already, I have amazing new people and experiences at my very doorstep.  It is time for me to let them in.  I am in a new church environment in my new hometown, with a wonderful pastor and congregation.  I am happy to be actively involved in the church organization with my husband.  My pastor is an invaluable teacher and source of support.  My interfaith seminary program begins this fall, and I can’t contain my excitement about interacting with the other students and teachers traveling this path with me.  Even my yoga class with such a gifted teacher is relatively new for me.  I had to stop attending my regular number of classes at my old studio in order to allow this new one to come into my life.  My favorite yoga teacher at my old studio: don’t even get me started on her!  There is no way I am letting her go anytime soon.  I drive out of my way half an hour to maintain that connection, even though I have fantastic yoga options where I live now!  With some things, it’s “never say die.” 

Putting our focus on the new good makes it easier to release the old good.  Hope and optimism help us persevere in the face of change.  That spoonful of new beginnings helps us swallow the bitter pill of saying goodbye.  One thought occurred to me after class today: the word “goodbye” contains the word “good”!  There must be a good reason for that.