Beginning a Meditation Practice

I tried meditating once about 7 or 8 years ago. All I remember about the experience is sitting in a candlelit room with a bunch of strangers and having the instructor softly tell us to “empty our minds” over and over again. Every time she instructed us to do this, my teeth clenched a little tighter. You see my mind was full of random thoughts that were ping-ponging all over my brain and refusing to go away, no matter how hard I fought against them. It was a very frustrating experience so I proclaimed myself “bad at meditation” and didn’t try again. Until now. I’m not sure what sparked it but I have become fascinated with meditation recently and I now know that emptying our minds is not necessary, or even necessarily recommended, for a fulfilling meditation practice.

Why have I finally started flirting with meditation? For so many reasons but I guess a few of the main ones are these:

  • The feeling that so many of us live in our heads, cut off from the signals that our bodies are valiantly trying to give us.
  • Sleepwalking through so much of my day, not feeling present and not fully experiencing my life.
  • Internet addiction. The opposite of being mindful and present. Next time  you’re out in public, on transit or just walking down the street, really observe how many people are glued to their phones, missing out on the real world around them.
  • I’ve heard it can be anti-aging (anything to keep the botox and fillers at bay!)

And I’ve been practicing on my own in my little living room. I’ve been lighting candles and playing rainforest music in the background to set the stage. Every time I meditate, I find it easier to sink into my body. Memories of old pain come up once in awhile and I sit with it and accept it and listen to what it has to tell me. Sometimes the pain comes up several times before it goes away. I’m patient and loving and stay with it until it transforms into something else (even if this takes days or weeks).

Also, I’ve recently learned how to do a Loving Kindness Meditation and I’ll like to share it with you:

Loving Kindness Meditation

This practice involves silently repeating phrases that offer good things to yourself and to others.

  1. You can start by thinking about your own goodness—remembering things you have done out of good-heartedness and celebrating the potential for goodness we all share.
  2. Silently repeat phrases that reflect what we wish most deeply for ourselves (and others). Traditional phrases are:
    • May I live in safety.
    • May I have peace and joy in my life.
    • May I have good health and freedom from pain.
    • May I live with ease.
  3. Say the phrases with enough space and silence between so they fall into a rhythm that feels natural to you.
  4. Each time you notice your attention has wandered, be kind to yourself. Notice the distraction and either let it go or realize that it is here for you to stay with and, think about. When you’re ready, come back to repeating the phrases without any judgement toward yourself.
  5. After some time, visualize yourself in the center of a circle composed of those who have been kind to you, or have inspired you because of their love and guidance. They are your circle. As you visualize yourself in the center of it, experience yourself as the recipient of their love and attention. Keep gently repeating the phrases of loving kindness for yourself.
  6. To close the session, let go of the visualization, and simply keep repeating the phrases for a few more minutes. Each time you do so, you are transforming your old, hurtful relationship to yourself, and are moving forward, to a presence full of love.

And that is it. A simple, loving-kindness meditation. If you try it, please let me know how it goes in the comment section. Namaste xo

The perfect yoga pose

A friend and I took a break in our Sunday beach run to do a few yoga stretches today. Here is one of the pics.

When I look at this photo I see a woman being goofy, maybe dancing in the rain, but what I’m actually doing is falling out of a yoga pose. A pose that I couldn’t quite master, no matter how hard or how many times I tried. I remember thinking, after failing again and again, that I had two options, get angry with myself or laugh at the situation. Clearly I chose the latter.

Thinking back to when I started practicing yoga about 15 years ago, I approached my practice with a humourless quest for perfection ~ hyper-extending my legs and frequently checking my neighbors with a sideways glance to see if I was doing better than them. I couldn’t have been more misguided if I tried. It took years for me to realize that yoga wasn’t at all about perfection or even form sometimes. It was about showing up regularly and making a commitment to starting a journey with myself. It was about relaxing into and accepting myself ~ my body, my limitations ~ and even laughing at and learning to love myself. And when I realized this, that is when my yoga practice finally opened up and became a source of joy for me. So here’s to falling out of crooked, imperfect yoga poses and loving it because every stumble is an important part of the journey. Your journey. Namaste.

Can I have a box for that please?

I’ve been engrossed in a book called Attached that is, slowly but surely, shaking up my equilibrium. It’s also become a catalyst to remembering a number of things that have been firmly lodged in my subconscious. Lodged in my subconscious but influencing my conscious choices in a myriad of ways. And, because of this book, I woke up Saturday morning with a long forgotten memory from my childhood looming large in my mind, accompanied by a huge epiphany regarding why I behave the way I do in certain relationships (ie. creating a frustrating and often painful push and pull dynamic). Whew.. This kind of realization is good work but also tough work. My memory also made me immediately pick up the phone and call my cousin to share my new found awareness. Our conversation led to this realization: It’s amazing how we live our lives in these little, self-imposed boxes that served an important purpose at one point but just don’t make sense anymore in our current reality. And that’s what a lot of us tend do. We build walls around us to keep us safe from situations but then we move on from that situation, find ourselves in a better place, but, out of fear or habit, we keep the walls. And then we wonder why we can’t really get close to other people or why we keep repeating the same mistakes and patterns over and over again, not even seeing the old barricades we’ve surrounded ourselves with.

And, what are we supposed to do if we realize we’re trapped in a box from the past? How do we get out? A good place to start is to ask yourself a few questions and write down the answers, paying close attention to the emotions that surface and any tension that forms in your body.

Here a few to get you started:

  1. Were you bullied as a child
  2. Did your parents have a difficult relationship or were they abusive to you?
  3. Did you lose a family member at a young age?

If you answered yes to any of these, write about how remembering the situations/incidents makes you feel. If, during this time, you need a good cry or to talk things out with someone, go for it. It’s part of the process of moving that energy out of your body to make room for something new. A new realization, a new self-concept, maybe forgiveness…

Do this as often as you need to until you feel that there is no emotion left around the memory.
And, just like that, you start to de-construct the walls of any metaphorical box that may be surrounding you and move one step close to freedom.

Gentle

My word for 2017: Gentleness

Dictionary definition: “Gentleness is the quality of being kind and careful. Your gentleness with a frightened stray dog will eventually convince her to let you feed and pet her. The noun gentleness is perfect for describing the way someone acts when they are soft and calm and sweet to other people.”

We are all in this world together, doing the best we can and often our best isn’t all that great. We mess up, hurt each other (hopefully accidentally) and are just in general perfectly imperfect.

Imagine if we practiced more compassion and gave each other the benefit of the doubt more often. Imagine how we could transform the world if enough of us did that. So 2017 is my year of learning how to be gentle, with myself and with everyone around me. 

I think it’s going to be a good year 💖

Bathing in Beauty

Have you ever heard of forest bathing? And did you know that hanging out in a forest can help detoxify you, de-stress you and boost your immune system?

When we breathe in fresh, forest air, we also breathe in things called phytoncides. What exactly are phytoncides? They’re essential oils that trees give off to protect themselves from insects. They’re also full of antibacterial particles that help trees fight disease. How amazing is nature?

tree

Breathing in these essential oils help our bodies fight disease too. They increase the number of white blood cells called natural killer cells (NK for short). And the main job of NK is helping us to destroy unhealthy virus-infected cells in our bodies. Studies in Japan have shown that increased NK activity from a three day hiking trip lasted for more than 30 days! This stat blows me away and makes me question why exactly I’m living in a city sometimes.

So spending time around trees lowers blood pressure, stress hormones and, in a nutshell, makes you happier. People who regularly hike or walk in the forest also have decreased levels of anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue.

Amazing benefits from getting out of town and into the woods. I’m gonna go now and hug some trees.

treehugger

Shhh…Listen to This

Listening to your body isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially if you’ve spent a lifetime becoming quite skilled at not listening to your body.

And, when I finally do listen, I’m starting to get the message that my body is a maybe a bit pissed off. My teeth are clenched more than seems normal. My shoulders are, how you say, the opposite of relaxed, my digestive system gets upset on a pretty regular basis, my skin is broken out in little red bumps on my cheeks and I have a deep frown line (or two) on my forehead. I think it’s pretty safe to say that now may be a really good time to start listening to what my body is trying to tell me.

ll listen 2

How did this avoidance of my body’s signals begin? Well, I remember growing up feeling that the only comfort from my chaotic family life was food. Lots and lots of food (with a big can of coke and big bag of BBQ chips being my fave snack). And that was the start of my love of emotional eating and my war against my (ever expanding) body. I also remember my mother never being happy with herself and always being on some kind of diet or weight watchers eating plan and looking at herself in the mirror and frowning a lot. Since my out of control eating was already affecting my weight as a young child, I followed closely in her footsteps. I started to ping pong back and forth between emotional eating and compulsive dieting until my relationship with food became one big, long, frustrating struggle that lasted decades.

I’ve been on countless diets, far too many to list. I’ve been anorexic, bulimic, binged eaten until I was 30 pounds overweight. I’ve obsessed about my body’s shape and what and when and how much I was going to eat for years. And I’m getting weary of this. I don’t want to live my entire life classifying every single piece of food that passes my lips as “good” or “bad”. I don’t want to dine on lettuce when what I’m really craving is a slice of hot, delicious, mushroom pizza that I won’t let myself have. I don’t want my body to be my enemy and I don’t want some stranger who wrote a random diet book dictating what I put in it anymore.

What I do want is to actually listen to what my body wants. I want to eat food that I’m craving, even if it is cheesy mushroom pizza or a rich, dark chocolate bar. I don’t want to eat a ton of lettuce every day, only because it’s good for me. It’s not good for me if I’m resentful eating it. And, more than anything, I want to finally learn how to make peace with my body.

This is my motivation for my experiment with intuitive eating. Learning how to trust myself and listen to my internal cues and finally be able to sink into myself. A pretty radical concept in the ever changing world of Paleo, South Beach, low carb, high fat, low fat, “Eat like a French person” world.

So, here we go…

ll listen (2)

Things of Nature

cherry blossom

Many times it is the things of nature that are the most healing, especially the very accessible and the very simple ones. The medicines of nature are powerful and straightforward: a ladybug on the green rind of a watermelon, a rainbow in a glass shard in the street, a shooting star, even a flower. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves