Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Gift of Meditation: Connecting with this Vibrant Life

Meditation is like medicine for the heart. It can be profoundly healing during times of stress, difficulty or when we're feeling overwhelmed. Instead of living in a world of virtual thoughts and reactions, we come back home to the vibrant life that is right here in our body, mind and heart. How do we do this? By consciously connecting with the breath and sensations in the body.

Awareness of breath is the first step towards reconnecting with life and wellbeing...

"Breathing is the bridge between mind and body, the connection between consciousness and unconsciousness, the movement of spirit in matter. Breath is the key to health and wellness, a function we can learn to regulate and develop in order to improve our physical, mental and spiritual well-being." Dr. Andrew Weil
Connecting to the breath, can be a first step towards developing awareness, about how we're relating to what to life. This conscious awareness is what helps us to notice when we're caught up in thoughts or beliefs. It helps us see, that what's happening in our lives isn't what causes suffering; it's the way we're relating to it. We can pause and shift out of reaction/thoughts/beliefs and notice how:
  • the body is reacting to pain (tightening, heart racing, defenses arising)
  • whats happening in the mind (reactive/defensive thoughts closes and contracts our ability to be open minded and our minds can feel closed and contracted i.e. narrow minded)
  • what happens in the heart (we armor our hearts to try to protect ourselves from getting hurt only to experience deeper hurt).
This pausing, to step outside the world of thoughts and into our felt experience is actually freeing. We begin to see how our reaction to life is fueled by the way we think life should/shouldn't be. We notice how our whole being is caught up in resistance and how this intensifies the pain we encounter. With this insight we can begin to shift from reaction to response. We can begin to attune and respond with compassion to what is actually happening in the present moment. Breathing in, I meet tension with a compassionate breath, breathing out I soften the tension... Just tuning into the breath can begin to soften the contraction we experience when pain arises in body, mind and heart.

Meditation as a path to waking up....

Meditation helps us reconnect with the vibrant life that is right here. Instead of being caught up in stories, worries or concerns about past or future we come into contact with what is actually happening moment to moment. There is a stream of life that flows through us and when we pause to notice we reconnect with spacious, open awareness.

Gift yourself today by pausing to practice. It may seem like you don't have time...the question is do you have time to live? Do you have time to breathe? The answer is of course yes! Your body breathes and you need the breath to take time to pause and connect with the life that's right here.

There is much more I can say about this practice. For today it's enough to know that this practice has  transformed the way I relate to others, myself and life and that is a gift!

Listen to this beautiful meditation by Jack Kornfield, a wise and wonderful teacher of mindfulness.

May you be peaceful and well

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How Self Compassion Helps us

During stressful and challenging times how do you talk to yourself? How does your body react to stress? What is your interaction like with others? Is it easier to be compassionate towards others, children, pets, a stranger than it is to feel this towards yourself?

If you notice that your self talk is loaded with criticism and judgment when life gets challenging, you're not alone. When we make mistakes or life doesn't go according to plan we tend to become judgmental, harsh, critical towards ourselves when we make a mistake. Behind this painful reaction, is a desire to stop ourselves from making future mistakes! However, mistakes are a part of being human. So, if we are prone to make mistakes does it make sense to beat ourselves up for making them? Not! So why do we do it? And how we can learn to shift from self criticism and judgment to self compassion? 

Turning towards the pain and softening defenses

Self compassion is a way of accepting ourselves and also accepting that in moments of frustration, or emotional turmoil there is pain. In that moment of acknowledging the pain, we can tap into wisdom and choose what is is the most healing way to meet this.  It is a moment where we can reconnecting with what helps us flow through the pain and also to see what needs to happen, or how to proceed so that we can take action based on what helps rather than what keeps us locked in the need to be right. And there is so much more to how this practice helps and why it's essential to our emotional well being and our need to stay open hearted and open minded.

I'd like to share with you a beautiful video by Kristin Neff, a top researcher on this subject and author of Self Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Please give yourself this gift of learning how to be kind and compassionate with yourself. It is truly a gift to you and to everyone and every living being you come into contact with.