“Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.” Rumi
If I could point to one single thing that has been my greatest guide, teacher, healer and solace in the past few years it would be developing a meditation practice. For quite some time I had read about the benefits of meditation to overall physical and mental health and would think to myself “gosh I should really learn how to do that.” Somehow it seemed like it must be really difficult. Shouldn’t I have a guru? And sitting in that lotus position for more than 3 minutes made me dead from the waist down, legs completely asleep.
But then life happened and things got pretty intense. I had struggled with minor anxiety for many years, occasionally having bouts of panic attacks, but had always been able to muscle through them without any medical intervention. When things got real and I found myself in the throws of some pretty major PTSD I decided that I would give meditation a shot. From what I had read meditation was shown to help cure all manner of ailments, like asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, insomnia, and praise the good Lord, anxiety. Time to give this a try. What did I have to lose?
I began reading about techniques and was soon adrift in a sea of terms I had never heard before. Kundalini, chakra, blue pearl, third eye, etc. It all sounded very foreign and scary to me. I almost gave up before I started, but the panic attacks had begun to rule my life, so I persevered. Happily, I found these things called Podcasts on iTunes and there were a whole bunch of free guided meditations to choose from. I found a few I liked and began what has become a daily necessity for me. Twice daily that is.
My tips for anyone wanting to start a meditation practice are pretty simple. I even wrote a list for you. Here they are.
1. Start slowly. 5 – 10 minutes every morning listen to a nice guided meditation. After you get comfortable with that you can increase the time to whatever length best suits you. I do about 1/2 hour morning and night and that seems perfect for me.
2. Sit or lay down or walk or do whatever feels best in your body. I don’t do well sitting cross legged on a cushion because I end up spending the whole time concentrating on how uncomfortable I am. So in the mornings I sit on my couch with a cushion at my back to keep my spine straight. My hands rest in my lap. In the evenings I lay in bed on my back with my hands on my hips. Both positions allow me to just forget about my body and turn inward.
3. Once you are getting the hang of things try switching it up from the guided meditation to some binaural beats, or simple meditation music. I have a couple I like on my iPhone and they are 1/2 hour each, so I don’t have to worry about setting a timer. Once you are comfortable with the process you may find that you don’t need to use anything anymore. I now prefer silence for my meditations, but sometimes I will listen to the IAM Wishes Fulfilled Meditation by Dr. Wayne Dyer and James F. Twyman. The binaural beats are subtle and the music is very soothing.
4. Follow your breath. Focusing on your intake and exhale allows you to centre yourself and not be carried along by your thoughts. Personally, I have never had my thoughts stop completely, but now when I realize I have jumped on a train of thought I just gently move my focus back to my breath and let that train carry on without me on board.
5. Be kind to yourself. It is a learning process and there is no right or wrong to it. Some days I never get past the monkey mind and other days I get a glimpse of that perfect, beautiful stillness that is always there waiting for me in the space between my thoughts. That is what makes it all worthwhile.
I began to meditate specifically to help heal from a trauma. I continue to meditate because during the silence and stillness I can finally sense that I am so much more than this human existence. Where prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening. I have moments when I feel the oneness of all that is and am filled with a bliss words can’t describe. Those are the magic moments. Those are the glimpse of eternity.
Meditation has taken away my panic attacks completely, and the added benefits to my health and physical, emotional and spiritual well being are endless. I have much less stress. I very rarely feel ill or get colds, flu, or bugs that are going around. My immune system feels stellar most of the time. Plus I sleep like a baby, which is something new for me, too.
If you haven’t tried meditating yet, I highly recommend you do. You never know… It may just change your whole life like it did for me.
“You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?” Rumi
A year ago in January I attended a workshop in Maui on Divine Love. It was led by Dr. Wayne Dyer and turned out to be a life changer for me. I am not surprised that this happened, afterall a couple of my life changing moments happened as a direct result of this incredible man.
This time around it was a simple sentence that seemed to resonate in my whole body. A great big A-Ha moment that left me ruminating with it for quite some time, wondering how to begin to live it. The words were a paraphrase of a Herman Melville quote and are at the root of a lot of Dr. Dyer’s teachings, but for some reason these words more than any others did the trick for me. They were:
Beware the half lived life.
I am a linear thinker, for the most part. I love writing lists of things to do then checking them off. Sometimes I even add stuff to the list I’ve already done so that I can have the pleasure of checking them off as “done”. So I thought, what better way to begin to truly live intentionally than to write myself a list? So here goes. My 5 steps to the fully lived life.
1. Stop Numbing
There are certain activities in my day that put me into a zombie-like state. I stare transfixed, and yet completely disengaged. My eyes glaze over. My jaw hangs slack, mouth agape. I am in a coma of soothing non-being. For me this usually happens when I think I am just going to “quickly check Facebook”. I open the site and begin to scroll and when I finally look up again I see that hours and hours have passed and wow, is that drool on my chin? And what valuable life lessons, entertainment or worthy knowledge did I gain in all of that time? Usually nothing. Someone just ate spaghetti for lunch, and someone else has a great recipe for gluten free cardboard bites, and somebody else has a hella-cute grandbaby and that a friend of a friend went to Mexico for vacation. Also there is typically a dump truck load of inspirational memes, most of which are pure unadulterated crap. (I mean really people, if you are going to take the time to go to meme-generator and create some inspirational quote, against a dancing silhouette at sunset on the beach, please, please, please, I’m begging you, check your spelling. If I read one more “Lif begins at the end or your comfort zone” my head just very well may explode).
And so my decision to deactivate Facebook for the month of July seemed the best and most productive step in my journey toward engaging back into life. Some people numb themselves with alcohol, drugs, or binge watching tv series on Netflix. For me, Facebook was my drug of choice and so it was time to pull the plug… at least for July.
I live in one of the prettiest places on the planet. Surrounded by mountains, forests and glacier fed lakes, and with the most sunshine hours in all of British Columbia (so “they” say). Cranbrook is pretty close to being paradise, and yet I find that my senses have become dulled to it all. My monkey mind has me everywhere but here. I worry about what is coming, I rue what has been, I have fake conversations with people, coming up with all sorts of issues and problems and scenarios that only exist in the madness of my rampant thoughts.
Luckily, because I’ve read Deepak and Eckart I know about the present moment. The elusive NOW. I meditate twice a day, so I have times when I skirt around it pretty nicely and I’ve even had a few spectacular instances where I was really there, in the NOW. When it happened I immediately had the thought arise, “oh wow this is the NOW” and with that realization was of course thrust back into the world of thought.
So my plan to be more mindful brings me to write a sub-list (I get tingly just saying that). To be more mindful I will:
2a. Follow my breath. Whenever I think about mindfulness, just stop, drop, and follow my breath. Here is goes in. Annnnnnd, here it goes out. Ahhh.
2b. Pay attention. Practice using all of my senses to experience where I am and what is happening around me. See the way the light changes as it dapples through the leaves. Listen to the wind and the migrating birds and the leaf blower down the block. Feel the air around my skin. What do my toes feel like, right now? Smell that perfect, autumn mix of cool crisp air, falling leaves and distant frost. Taste the pumpkin spiced latte. No I mean really taste it. Experience it all, with my senses and try very hard not to judge any of it. Just BE with it.
2c. Meditate. Duh.
2d. Let music take me away. For me a good, loud Billy Joel song, or maybe some old Joni Mitchell making ice cream castles in the air, or even Mozart in a pinch, will set my mind to rest and allow me to just feel. Loud music, played through real speakers is the only thing that works. Forget the tinny shit that comes from the laptop speakers. Just no.
Ahh you blessed sub-list. You complete me.
3. Live on Purpose
How easy it is to slip into the redundant, mediocrity of just moving mindlessly through the days and weeks. It is so easy to fall into the rut of daily living, and years can slip by while we check the tv schedule and plan how to spend time living vicariously through fake people. Each morning I write a list (yay!) of my intentions for the day.
Setting intentions, for me is similar to goal-setting, but with a slight, very important difference. Setting a goal is like saying I want to arrive at this destination (the goal) and to get there I need to take this highway, turn left at this juncture and follow the road to the intersection of this and that, then arrive at said goal on this date at this time. Logical, linear, brain thinking action plans.
Setting an intention is figuring out where you want to go, imagining how that will feel, then really feeling it. But here comes the tricky part… that is when you hand it over to the great universal mind to figure out the hows and whens. You still jump into the car and you still head toward the destination, but you trust that the Divine has the wheel and will know the best shortcuts and routes to take to get there. It’s all about letting go of the outcome. Sounds easy in principal, but for one such as I, great lover of lists and plans, it is more challenging that you think.
Who me, control issues? What?
4. Follow Bliss
Have you ever watched a little kid when they are playing outside, all by themselves? They talk and laugh and have conversations with the invisible people who live in their imagination. They find bugs and make shadows and run just to feel their hair move in the wind. They watch clouds. They live life. I have watched my daughter in the throes of delicious that I describe. Heck I even remember way back to the olden days when I was like that, standing on an old stump, singing Black Velvet Band at the top of my lungs, imagining that I was on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans. Guileless.
Life happened and I find myself now trying to separate the “shoulds” from the “coulds”. What makes me happy? And why is that such a difficult question to answer?
In an attempt to regain my own sense of blissful wonder, I look back to the times in my life that I felt the happiest. And I turn to the theatre. I have recently volunteered to shadow Terry, a locally famous director of community theatre. I run, fetch, sew, glue and do whatever needs doing, and in the process I learn all about directing and producing plays. I remember, even back when I was performing, how cool it seemed to be the director. It is like creating a piece of art with the stage as the canvas and the talented willing people as the paint. How stupendously cool is that?
Also, writing. Time disappears when I write. Worlds are created, people live and die, and I am in control of it all. I laugh and I cry. I look frustration and apathy in the face and sometimes I win. And lots of times Facebook wins. (see number 1). It’s a process…
And then there is the Book Club. Moving back to Cranbrook offered me lots of surprises, good and not so good, but the greatest so far has been my adoption into the Book Club. We had our meeting last week to talk about The Signature of All Things. We range in age from fabulous to extraordinary, five intelligent women who love to read, raise families, travel, cook, laugh and commiserate. Bliss achieved.
I have set only one rule for this step. It is simply this: If it feels good, do it.
To be thankful for what I have is the secret to my happy life. I figured this one out a few years ago after reading the Secret. I originally read the book because I heard it was a how-to guide on getting free stuff from the Universe. It was my first real introduction to the law of attraction and I went a little bit crazy with it. I manifested a new computer, car and house all within the course of a few months. But then I felt like something was missing in the process. I got all of these things that I was sure would fulfill me then found out that they didn’t fulfill me at all. It was disenchanting. I realized then that the important things in life aren’t things and that was the second best lesson I took away from that book.
The greatest lesson I learned from the Secret was about gratitude. I had put my heart and soul into the gratitude exercises. I would sit and appreciate the heck out of stuff until I would have tears of happiness streaming down my face. It was during one of these sessions that I understood (a-HA) that gratitude is its own reward. Being in a state of pure appreciation means that nothing is missing. And if nothing is missing, then I have everything and that is all anyone could ask for. Just everything.
I kept a gratitude journal for a long time. Every day I listed (don’t you just love lists??) five things that happened that day for which I was truly grateful. The process of journaling the things I appreciated instilled a mindset that I still have today. I look for things to be grateful for. It is a constant process of finding stuff to appreciate. If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it. I swear it will change your whole life.
So everyday is thanksgiving day, sans the turkey dinner. And today I am grateful for:
5a. Inspiration, that invisible muse
5b. Meditation and the elusive NOW
5c. Silky, glorious, abundant words
5d. Life in all of its messy glory
And now that my lists are written, I surrender the intention to the universe to guide me through this beautiful fall and into winter, living on purpose, with intention and fully, completely engaged in my life.
“You got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” Rodgers and Hammerstein
Don’t you just love all of the inspirational quotes about following your dreams? “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. Preach it, Eleanor Roosevelt! Or what about our buddy Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it”. And since I have reached that 1/2 century marker, C.S. Lewis has become my new BFF with this one: “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream”. Makes me want to take up embroidery so that I can put that on a pillow.
I have found that the problem with growing older is that my freedom and capacity to dream seems to have diminished. When I was young I could look toward the future and know that anything was possible. Everything I wished for could actually come true. Life was expectant and exciting and I hadn’t learned to temper my dreams with logic or reality. What a wonderful, breathless time that was.
But life set in and before I knew it I was paying a mortgage, raising a child, building a career and taking care of everyone else. I made sure to cultivate my daughter’s dreams, signing her up for classes and driving her here and there, excited to see her so vividly open to her own beautiful future. I was busy, never having a moment to myself, but that really didn’t seem to matter.
And then one day somebody asked me a question. It was a simple question, but one I hadn’t thought about in a very long time. The question made me pause, and by pausing I finally understood how very out of touch with myself I had become. Why was it so hard to answer?
“What are my dreams?”
I honestly couldn’t answer. Dumbfounded and flummoxed I did what I always do in situations like this one. I googled. My searching brought me to a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer, called Inspiration, Your Ultimate Calling. I recognized his name from PBS specials my Dad liked to watch and decided to give it a try. I ran down to the local bookstore and picked it up. It was my first book by Dr. Wayne and I was captivated almost at once. My family and I were headed to St. George to visit my parents and I ended up reading the whole thing on the way there. Every word, every new chapter was another AHA! AHA! AHA!
Wayne’s words were like water to my thirsty soul: “There’s a voice in the universe calling each of us to remember our purpose; our reason for being here now, in this world of impermanence.” Yes, Wayne! Yes there is! ” The voice whispers, shouts, and sings to us that this experience of being in form, in space and time, knowing life and death, has meaning. The voice is that of inspiration, which is within each and every one of us.” YES! It IS within me!
I could have danced with joy had the airplane aisles been just a smidge wider.
This beautiful book began me on my journey to finding my inner bliss, my purpose and my calling. I began to really pay attention to what excited me. And once I finally figured out what my dreams were, I made efforts, even if they were just baby steps, in the direction of those dreams. Baby steps to personal fulfillment. Baby steps to divine enlightenment. Baby steps to Bliss.
In these subsequent years I have learned a few things about being a Dream Catcher. Perhaps a list is in order?
1. Dream big, then grow into it. There is no sense in attaching limitations to our dreams. Shoot for the stars and wait for the Universe to build you a rocket ship.
2. Be specific. Clarify what you want so that you can easily visualize it. Write it down and remind yourself as often as possible so that you stay focused on the Dream.
3. Ask for help. Call in your celestial team for a meeting and delegate the tasks to your angelic helpers and spirit guides. In other words, pray. .. whatever that means for you.
4. Believe. Trust that your Dreams will come true and they will. You become what you believe. Simple as that.
5. Let go. The hows and the whens will be sorted out by the Universe. Don’t try to micro-manage the celestial team, because that is just likely to slow things down or trip things up. They know what they are doing a whole lot better than you do.
6. Take a few steps. With every moment of every day take those baby steps as you are guided. The path will show itself and you will be guided in the perfect way and at the perfect time to your Dream destination.
Your life is yours to live. Dream big, and believe that those dreams will come true.
When you wish upon a star Makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires Will come to you.
If your heart is in your dream No request is too extreme When you wish upon a star As dreamers do.
Fate is kind She brings to those who love The sweet fulfillment of Their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue Suddenly it comes in view. When you wish upon a star Your dreams come true
When a star is born They possess a gift or two. One of them is this They have the power to make a wish come true.
When you wish upon a star Makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires Will come to you,
If your heart is in your dream No request is too extreme When you wish upon a star As dreamers do.
Fate is kind She brings to those who love The sweet fulfillment of Their secret longing.
Like a bolt out of the blue Suddenly it comes in view. When you wish upon a star Your dreams come true. ~Jiminy Cricket~