Heal Anxiety with this Question Mantra

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The mind is beautiful.

Our capacity to strategize, plot, and plan, is what allows us to build cities, invent amazing technologies, and coordinate vast interactions across the network we call the Internet. The human mind is indeed amazing.

And, yet, it is also true that the human mind can be obsessed with its job. It’s like a workaholic—one who doesn’t want to take downtime or weekends off.

The mind wants to keep on calculating and planning even when we lay down our heads at night. It wants to plan our to-do lists while we make love or watch a sunset.

Rather than enjoying our lives and being in the present moment, the brain steps in and tries to control, strategize, and predict future outcomes—it can seriously get in the way of life!

Truly, this is an exhausting way to live.

I speak of these things from personal experience: I am in the process of healing from PTSD, and I have come to realize that my brain has especially adapted to worrying, as it is a highly-attuned and impeccable danger-sensor.

Most of us, regardless of whether we have dealt with trauma or not, struggle with some amount of anxiety and stress.

Many of us have turned to meditation or yoga as a path to freedom. We sit motionless on a cushion or we move our bodies on a yoga mat, and we come into present moment awareness. We breathe in and out; we remind our minds to calm down.

Yet, for so many of us, when we return again to our lives, when we stand up from the cushion or put away our mat, we are confused on how we stay with the feeling of presence—the feeling of peace. How do we remain in the relaxed state?

Last week, I began the process of applying for a teaching position that I very much want. I sat down at my computer, fresh from a beautiful night’s sleep, ready to begin the process. I felt excited and good.

First, I began to write an application letter—all was well, I was smiling. But then I encountered a snag: as I scanned the application materials list, I realized I needed to submit student evaluations from my previous years of teaching. My breath became shallower, as I searched my home in vain, only to confirm the sinking feeling that yes, indeed, all the documents I needed had been lost when I’d moved the previous year.

I began to panic, my palms began to sweat, and my heart began to race. Minute by minute, moment by moment, my sense of well-being disappeared, and I began to feel my body tighten, and my breath contract. The inner critic began her relentless tirade: Why are you such an idiot, Anya? Why aren’t you more organized? Why are you so sloppy? What the hell’s the matter with you?

At this point, I was way too triggered to take the time to roll out my yoga mat or find my meditation cushion. No way. I had to do something—now.

So, I tried a new method I’ve been practicing, which, lately, has been a real life-saver for me. I closed my computer, remained seated right there at my desk, and asked myself a simple question: “What is happening right now?”

I took a few slow breaths and then repeated the question.

“What is happening right now?”

Then, slowly, I began to talk to myself, aloud, “Well, I am a woman who is 33 years old, and I’m sitting in a chair. I am a woman who is wearing blue jeans. A woman who has a roof over her head and food in the refrigerator. I am a woman who is unable to find some documents. That is what is happening right now.”

In asking and answering the simple question mantra—what is happening right now?—I was able to move my brain out of past and future mode—out of overwhelmed, panic mode. I moved a bit closer to a calmer, observation mode, and a bit closer to inner peace.

Asking yourself a question mantra, such as “What is happening right now?” or “What is the reality of this moment?” (or something along those lines) can help you detach from the swirl of mind-stress, and help you enter the reality of the actual present moment, aside from any emotions and the stories the brain likes to tell.

Even if the outward conditions of your life seem to be crashing down around you—you are still alive, you are still breathing, and you still have blessings to count.

When you take a few moments to ask, the answer to your question “What is happening now?” can always be: I am here in this body, breathing, and alive on planet Earth.

While I was living in Puerto Rico a few years ago, I once got lost in the jungle and I was totally alone. My water was running out, my cell phone had no signal, and daylight was running short.

After screaming, “Help!” at the top of my lungs for about an hour or so, I sank down in the dirt, exhausted, and utterly panicked.

Then I took a breath. Then another shaky breath. And then I asked myself the question:

“What is happening now?”

“What is happening now?”

“What is happening now?”

In that moment, my eyes were instantly drawn to a purple patch of flowers a few feet away—they were gorgeous! They were delicate, with yellow centers and petals that looked like clouds. Next, my eyes were drawn upwards, up the trunk of a majestic palm tree.

Coconuts were hanging from every branch, and tears of joy began rolling down my face. It was in that moment that I woke up, and realized the sheer beauty of my surroundings. I realized the beauty of life. Whether I would die that day was unknown. What was known was exactly what was happening in that moment. Such beauty—such wonder.

Just a few hours later, I was able to find my way out of the jungle. By bringing myself into the present moment, I was able to, when the time was right, rise up from the dirt, take a deep determined breath, and move forward, renewed. My intuition felt stronger, calm, connected, and I was able to sense how to get out.

As you say your question mantra in times of trouble, allow yourself to see what is really happening in that moment. Allow yourself to see, feel, and perceive. Allow yourself to relax and trust.

And you will see—time and time again—that all is well. All is beautiful. There is nothing wrong and nothing to fix. You are you—and you are alive. So beautifully alive!

There is so much to be thankful for.


 

Many thanks to the awesome folks at elephant journal, who also published this article.

Entering the Moment, Entering the Universe

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When my brother Terry was twelve years old, he began an apprenticeship with my dad, an apprenticeship in plastering. When Terry was in his fifties, I asked him to do some plastering in my house. He obliged. At this stage, he’d been plastering for forty years.

Watching him plaster the wall was like watching someone do T’ai Chi, and I asked myself: Is this his meditation practice? I’d been meditating for about seven years, and knew the look: the soft shine in his eyes, the half-smile on his lips, his face glowing – the look of simple joy. Terry, wall, the flow of hands, tools, and plaster, all formed a totality, a time of pure being. So, was this his meditation practice or was meditation something else?

Prior to this, I had been meditating with the Western Buddhist Order. My teacher’s teacher Sangharakshita had described T’ai Chi, yoga, dance, and painting as indirect methods of meditation, as indirectly working on the mind, whereas meditation proper was directly working on the mind. I was sure that Terry, and practitioners of other arts, achieved meditative states, but if I’d have asked Terry whether he was meditating, I’m sure he would have said no, just plastering a wall.

In direct methods of meditation,  you set about to deliberately change, transform, improve, and refine the functioning of the mind. However, meditation is not simply just mechanical technique: like Terry’s plastering, it becomes an art.

On one hand, Terry was not meditating; on the other, he was.

One way around this puzzle is to reflect on the state achieved: a state of absorption. When we are meditating, we become absorbed in the object of concentration. This absorption arises naturally from following a meditation technique, but it may also follow from any of the indirect methods, such as dance or painting or plastering.

One Buddhist meditation technique for cultivating absorption is the Anna Panna Satti—or awareness (Satti) of ingoing breath (Anna) and outgoing breath (Panna), usually translated as the Mindfulness of Breathing. Bringing our awareness or attention to an object, observing how we are distracted from it, and figuring out how to sabotage the distracting tendency.

Another absorption technique in Buddhism is the Metta Bhavana—or cultivation/development (Bhavana) of loving kindness (Metta). Bhavana also means becoming, so becoming loving kindness. This technique also has an object of concentration, our emotional response, and the aim is to strengthen our warm, positive emotional responsiveness.

For over twenty years I’ve been practicing Zen meditation. I was drawn to it because of its sublime simplicity: one practice covers everything. The essence of this style of meditation is simply the art of being present. Somehow we know that to be present is enough, so we give ourselves fully to the practice of being present.

Perhaps Zen meditation best falls into the category of indirect methods, but there is something direct about it too—the effort to be present. This can lead to absorption and to insight. But in Soto Zen (the Zen school in which I teach), even insight is not the point. When you are fully you, fully present, everything has been set right, you have found your place, you have entered the universe, the universe has entered you. There is nowhere else.

It is wonderful to come to this awareness…and with it, I’d say yes: Terry was meditating.

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Ingen is a Soto Zen priest and teacher in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, having received ordination and dharma transmission (2000 and 2009) from Zoketsu Norman Fischer. He was Shuso at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in 2002 with then Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman. Ingen has been practicing Buddhism for over 25 years and lived in community for about 14 years. He has led sesshin and retreats in England, Sweden, Italy, Ireland and California, and is a member of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of America. He now lives in his home temple, ‘Ingen-ji‘, in Co. Clare, Ireland. 

Living in the Breath: A Meditation of Divine Consciousness

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About the Practice

All is one. Each of us is a unique embodiment of One Consciousness which is the first cause and from which all of creation flows. The dance and dancer are not separate, just diverse expressions of the whole. The wave and ocean are not separate or divided, but both aspects of the same fluid essence.

Within the absolute, there is no division and no separation. Within the realm of the absolute all is one, all is whole and all is united. The essence of infinite pure being, pure awareness, pure presence, pure consciousness in expression constitutes the whole of un-manifested and manifested creation.

Non-existence or non-being is not an experience which can be known or realized. Therefore, it doesn’t exist except within the perceived absence of awareness. There is no such existence that all-encompassing consciousness truly isn’t, so the concept of actual death is merely an illusion we’ve temporarily bought into. How can we come to know our self completely until we’ve perceived what is seemingly not-self? All experiences in our life form the journey to know and express our authentic self.

Going inward, we’ll find presence, awareness, pure being. When we look for and seek this treasure outside of our self we may temporarily feel comfortable but always end up feeling emotionally chaotic, agonized, pained, and like life is a struggle. We can never be truly separate, but sometimes it may feel that way when we are, seemingly, looking in the wrong direction. Seeking the greatest treasure outside of our self creates pain and struggle, while going within brings peace and harmony.

Aligning with our authentic whole self regularly until the point of becoming one with pure being, pure presence, absolute awareness as a constant state, is what is commonly called enlightenment or self-realization.

When we awaken to our infinite nature that resides within we have access to the force that breathes life into all of creation. By giving birth to our authentic self, we allow our physical form innate connection to infinite divinity expression. To express from our inherently divine nature each moment is what the mystics term self-actualization. We each have a connection to the force that creates worlds within our very own being. When we allow that alignment and express from that awareness, we will start to create a life beyond our wildest dreams!

How to do the Practice

Part One

Close your eyes, breathe deeply, having all the attention of your focus on your breathing; focus only on the movement of energy flowing in and out.

Allow all thoughts to come and go, but always bring your focus back to here and now, completely following your every breath.

When breathing in, allow your focus to follow the energy and breath coming into your being. Then on the out-breath allow your focus to follow the energy outward, allowing yourself to relax and surrendering your whole being, your body and mind to this very experience.

With each breath, allow your being to be more and more relaxed.

Each breath is a perfect expression of both yin and yang, allowing all naturally. Any forcing, trying or effort occurring should be relaxed by the focus of your out-breath. It is a natural flow, not an efforting practice.

The energetic aspects of this practice are allowing, being, surrendering, flowing, easing, relaxing and contentment. All thoughts within the mind should be allowed, but come back to your breath each time you realize you are thinking or following a train of thought.

Allow all the attention of your focus to be on breathing, relaxing your whole being and slowing your mind and thoughts.

 Part Two

When the thoughts have slowed completely down to the point of dissolving and you are very relaxed, release all focus entirely and just reside within the expansion of pure creative potentiality; allowing yourself to be the observer of all, attached to none.

Letting go of all control, force, and focus, we surrender to the expansive space of pure presence.

By not consciously directing our focus, we allow it to expand. No longer direct your awareness, just completely allow it its own direction.

Just be, not dictating anything, letting go of all.

You are no longer your body, but your body is the physical vessel contained within you. You are no longer the thinker of the thoughts, but thoughts are allowed and observed through this space of presence that is the essence of who you really are. It is no longer the processes of your being that you identify as, but the infinitely creative essence, the peace and the eternal awareness beyond all form, which you really are.

The pure presence of absolute awareness is the complete consciousness that you really exist as. Be that. Allow that. Honor that. Enjoy that.

Part Three

Now bring that awareness and pure presence of your authentic being fully into your physical vessel, as you live your daily life.

Feel your body. Feel through your senses. Experience what your sight shows you in your current view.

Allow your self to be aware of your experience without analyzing it; without thinking about it or dissecting it. Just allow it to be without judgment.

Experience the physical sensations you are currently feeling on or within your body. What sensations do you feel through touch? Maybe a whispering tickle on your head or something within your hands or on your fingers? Don’t think about or label everything, just allow it to be as it is. Just experience it, just feel it; feeling it purely without analyzing any of it.

Allow yourself to listen to the sounds you hear. Experience the sounds within this moment. Experience all the smells and tastes. Purely feel all the bodily sensations; allowing all sensations to really captivate your now moment experience.

Living fully is to experience without analyzing, labeling, judging and dissecting. It is what’s termed as living in the moment; divinity expressing in physicality.

We are bridging the gap between our meditative state and our everyday life, which is usually called walking or waking meditation. By embracing each and every moment fully, we truly live life as it’s meant to be.

Being present means we are fully aware and embrace our physical experience, but that we are not identifying with our thoughts. There is no psychological attachment to that which our mind perceives. We are purely living; we are thriving. We are living purely by feeling through our heart and feeling through our body’s senses.

Focusing on our breath, relaxing into now and letting everything go; letting everything just be, completely content as things are, in the still quiet space within, surrendering all focus, control and force, allowing our awareness to expand exponentially to encompass the all-pervasive energy of being, and residing within this infinitely creative space is to align with absolute awareness.

When we allow that space to be where we reside while engaging in life, we are expressing as pure presence and are fully ‘in the moment’. When we commune with nature we are connecting to this same essence, which is the foundation of all.

Being fully in the moment is to live in alignment with the realm of infinite wisdom. There is no question here, no doubt, fear, analyzing, labels, or identification with our mind and thoughts.

When we are seeing from the perspective of our inner heart space, we’re seeing from the perspective of divine consciousness.

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Anna Horst is Creator, Energetic Empress, Psycho-Spiritual Consultant, & Empowerment Adviser at ConsciousManifesting.com

Welcome to AWAKENING WITH!

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Dear friends,

Welcome!

The call to begin this blog was like a bolt of lightning.

It was magic.

We are compelled to share what has been gifted from the Universe to our hearts. We must do it. The lightning has struck. It is time.

Our intention for AWAKENING WITH is to share articles about a variety of practices and paths for spiritual awakening, such as Yoga, Meditation, Reiki, Tarot, Tantra, Herbalism, and more.

Through the words that are channeled through us, it is our intention to offer you courage, comfort, insight, joy, and love. Our purpose is to excite you! Our purpose is to inspire you! We want to embrace you and shine a light for your path.

Dear friends, as we walk together on this planet, supported by each other, embraced by each other, we come to realize that Reiki is more than a healing method and Yoga is more than a way to exercise the body. Meditation is more than a way to lower our blood pressure and Tarot is more than a way of predicting the future. These things, rather, are ways of waking up. Of enlightenment.

The spiritual paths we will discuss in this blog are vibrations. They are specific frequencies, into which we have the power to consciously tune. In the beginning, we tune to these frequencies in times of struggle and suffering. At first, they are our safety net: a way to momentarily escape or soften suffering. Eventually, however, these vibrations become who we are. (Not sure how everything has a vibrational frequency? Keep reading AWAKENING WITH…there is more on that to come!)

When a Reiki session becomes as typical as brushing our teeth, when a Tarot reading feels as normal as laying our head down on the pillow at night, when unrolling a Yoga mat feels as simple and sweet as eating a meal, we begin to taste our Buddha nature. We begin to relax into higher vibrations. And the distinction between “practice” and “the rest of life” simply melts away.

As we awaken in consciousness, these expanded, higher vibrational states are recorded daily into every cell of our bodies, effortlessly melting away every fear, pain, and trauma that has been encoded there since childhood.

Ultimately, awakening is not some wacky supernatural thing that happens to some lucky few. Rather, it is a natural, evolutionary process. One that happens to all of us, eventually.

Dear friends, we welcome you to the AWAKENING WITH blog! Thank you for being here.

May we be a blessing unto your heart and a light unto your path.

 

Love,

Anya Light

& the AWAKENING WITH writers


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