Feeling Safety: A Guided Meditation

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This is a guided meditation for when we are struggling with anxiety and negative thoughts.

 

The underlying cause of anxiety and negative thinking are false beliefs. These false beliefs are fear-based. Quite simply, we don’t feel safe in the present moment. We don’t feel safe in our bodies. We feel that, just around the corner, there is probably a menace, a terrible awful thing that is about to happen—and so we stay on guard.

 

This is where anxiety comes from. This is where worried, dark thoughts come from, as the brain tries to save itself by imagining and planning for worst-case scenarios.

 

This meditation, “Feeling Safety” is very simple. We can practice anywhere, anytime. We can do it during a meeting at work. We can do it while you’re with your children or at the grocery store. It can be done with our eyes open and while we are standing or moving.

 

The meditation brings a feeling of peace, ease, and safety because it draws our attention away from the vicious loop of negative thinking. It places our attention squarely on three simple things: hands, feet, and mantra.

 

Through this meditation, we replace the negative thinking with a positive truth that will instill confidence to return to our daily life. Understanding that we are, ultimately, safe and protected within the home of our bodies gives us a sense of ease and confidence. The fact that our bodies are firmly rooted to the Earth through our feet is a metaphor for what is true on a spiritual level: we are always connected, we are always safe.

 

As with any meditation, please make this your own. Feel free to add your own elements, and/or skip parts of this meditation that don’t make sense for you. Play with it. Feel it out. Take what works, and discard the rest.

 

Step One

Acknowledge that you are feeling anxious and having negative thoughts. In your mind say, “Okay, now I will do the Feeling Safety Meditation.”

 

Step Two

Begin to gently tap your fingertips against the palms of your hands. You can start with your left hand. Simply observe the sensation of it—the physical sensations of your fingertips tapping against the palm of your hand. Are your fingers hot? Cold? Sweaty? Sticky? Is the skin of your palm soft or rough? Are your joints flexible or stiff? Is the movement fast or slow? Are there sounds? Are your nails sharp? Simply notice, on a physical level, how it all feels. After you’ve done this with your left hand, repeat the same process with your right hand. Do this for a few minutes.

 

Step Three

In unison, with both hands simultaneously, tap your fingertips against your palms. Try to coordinate the movement so that both hands are perfectly in tune.

 

Step Four

While continuing to tap your fingertips against your palms, repeat the mantra: “I am home in my body. I am safe in my body.” If you are with others, you can say the mantra silently in your mind. If you are alone, you can say it out loud. Say this mantra as many times as you need to until you begin to feel calmer and more peaceful.

 

Step Five

Now stop tapping your fingertips against your palms. Begin to gently tap your feet against the ground. If you are in public amongst others, this can be a very subtle thing—just a very light tapping will do. If you are alone, you can tap more forcefully, if you wish. You could even stomp on the ground, feeling the vibration rise up through your leg. As you tap or stomp your feet, continue to the say the mantra “I am home in my body. I am safe in my body.” Do this as many times as you wish until you feel better and ready to continue your day.

♥♥♥

 

How did this meditation go for you, dear ones? I’ve love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

How to Deeply Rest on Your Days Off

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A day off from work is a beautiful thing. This is our time. It’s our time to play, relax, reflect, meditate and rest. It’s our chance to regain balance.

 

In my life coaching sessions, I have encountered clients who, again and again, have difficulty with fully relaxing on their days off.

 

At first glance, this might seem preposterous. Why would it be difficult to relax? Shouldn’t it be easy to rest?

 

Well … no. In our fast-paced Western culture, we have not been trained in the art of relaxation. Instead, we have been trained to work, work, work, do, do, do.

 

Our media gives us subtle (and not-so-subtle!) messages about how noble it is to stress out and overwork. It tells us how we must achieve and succeed in order to be a worthy member of society. It tells us that we must be constantly be thinking, planning and analyzing.

 

In recent years, the concept of “self-care” has become a buzzword. But, ironically, the fact that this seems like such a “new” concept is testament to how truly off-balance our culture has become.

 

So many of us are glued to our phones. We are texting at red lights. We are surfing the web during meals. We are always connected, always “on.” Our calendars are full. Busyness has become a social norm.

 

But … is this the best way to live?

 

In my experience, the happiest, most deeply fulfilled people are the ones who know how to take a break. They know how to harness the deeply healing power of rest. They are able to give themselves the gift of a full recharge. They know the power of meditation.

 

In my own life, when I began to make the transition toward prioritizing rest and meditation, a whole new world opened up. I began to heal a number of pervasive chronic illnesses. I began to value my own innate worthiness as a human being. No longer was I dependent upon notions of constant busyness or outward “success” as a benchmark of my own intrinsic value. No. Rather, I began to feel, truly feel, how I am perfect exactly the way I am.

 

I began to appreciate myself for simply being.

 

Diving into the sweet waters of rest is deeply transformative. It will change your life in innumerable ways. It will make you healthier and happier. It will help you to be a more generous and compassionate person.

 

Why?

 

Only once your own cup is overflowing, can you share with others.

 

Only once your own battery is fully recharged, can you help others plug in.

 

Indeed, rest is not optional. It is crucial for a balanced, socially-responsible, happy life.

 

In the remainder of this post, I will offer you three tips for ways you can deeply recharge on your days off. In truth, this list could have hundreds of points (I find this subject so fascinating!) … but, for now, just to get you started, we’ll begin with three. Please comment below if you’d like to see future posts on this topic, and I’d be happy to share more ideas with you.

 

  1. Enter a meditative state for the day.

This does not mean that you need to sit for three hours in the lotus position or chant mantras all day. Rather, this is simply a mindset you can adopt.

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When you wake up in the morning on your day off, set a clear intention. Set the intention to view the entire day as a time of peaceful meditation. Remind yourself that this day is for you: for your personal upliftment, for your personal healing, for your personal growth.

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In the morning, remind yourself that you intend to be as present as possible throughout the day.

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As the day unfolds, continually return, again and again, back to the now moment. Move your body slowly, with tenderness and grace.

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Notice the feeling of breath. And notice the sensory impressions:

  • What does your food taste like?
  • What are the smells wafting into your nose?
  • What are the sounds from your window?
  • How does this bath or shower feel upon your skin?
  • How does the soft fur of your dog or cat feel on your fingers?

 

When you are in a meditative state, you are the observer. You are the witness. You notice, but you don’t judge as “good” or “bad.” You don’t analyze. You simply feel. You simply witness. You are not planning for the future or thinking about the past. You are here now.

 

  1. Give yourself a rest from screens.

 

Technology and social media are beautiful tools. They help us connect. They help us collaborate.

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However, technology and social media also have a shadow side.

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We can easily become addicted to our screens, to our social media. We can become unwittingly chained to them.

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Do you find yourself checking your email or Facebook messages multiple times throughout the day? Do you find yourself looking at your phone when you’re in line at the grocery store or bank?

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Too often, continual exposure to screens can create a feeling of restlessness and agitation.

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Yet, it is possible to find balance. It is possible to harness the incredibly awesome power of screens, but also have harmony and peace in our lives.

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I invite you to try an experiment during your next day off. Flip off your phone, computers, and all communication gadgets. Unhook yourself from the demands of screen-communication. Free yourself.

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After you unhook, take your phone-less self to the park. Enjoy the movement of your legs and arms. Enjoy the sun on your face or the chill in the air. Enjoy the wildness of the birds, squirrels, deer, or whatever local animals are presenting themselves to you. Notice the flowers. Breathe deeply.

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Notice any sensations that come up within you. And then breathe deeply some more.

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My dear sweet friends, we live in an overly-stressed, overly-stimulated culture. While our screens do help us to carry out vital professional and social functions in our day-to-day lives, they can also massively stress out our nervous system.

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In my own life, I take one day per week to rest from screens. I call this my “unplug day” or my “screen-free day.” Remember in the movie The Matrix when Keanu Reeves literally unplugged himself from the cords that were feeding on his life? This idea of taking a break from technology is a similar thing.

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When we have the courage to unplug ourselves from our communication devices, even for just a few hours, we are recharging our own internal energy systems. We are giving ourselves freedom, and allowing ourselves a deep rest.

 

  1. Cook your meals at home.

 

At first, this advice might seem counterintuitive. Isn’t cooking work? Well, that entirely depends upon how you view it.

 

I agree with my Zen friends: cooking can be a wonderful form of meditation.

 

Cooking is a very grounding, physical activity. We are very much in our bodies when we cook: chopping, stirring, smelling, tasting. We are of the Earth. We are here now, fully present.

 

When we are cooking, it helps to release all notions of whether the final outcome will taste good or bad. (This is especially helpful advice if you are a novice cook!) Simply view the whole cooking experience as an adventure … mix a little of this, a little of that … browse a recipe or two online … ask someone you love to help out… etc. Just have fun! Play!

 

If you can view your cooking experience as a living art form that you can eat, then the energy of relaxation and meditation will enter the molecules of the food. And … who knows? You just might surprise yourself. You just might you’ve fixed yourself an amazing meal.

 

Let’s Learn Together

Dear friends, I could probably write a whole book on this topic—but for now, I hope these three tips are helpful for you. As always, if you’d like to hear more on this topic, please let me know!

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For those of my readers who already know the joy of rest, I’d love to hear from you. What relaxation strategies do you enjoy on your days off? What self-care or meditation techniques work for you? How do you heal your body and mind? How do you regain balance? Please comment below, so we can all learn together. Thanks!

Finding Peace Behind the Thoughts

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“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there, buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” —Deepak Chopra

 

What does it mean to feel peace?

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Peace is defined as the state of tranquility or quiet within a community, such as freedom from civil disturbance.

Peace has also been defined as freedom from oppressive thoughts or emotions.

 

I see the first definition as something external, something we cannot directly control. The second definition, however, is internal, that which we can control.

 

By working on yourself inwardly, you will inevitably produce results externally and those results can inspire others towards change. This is where it all starts. By looking inside first and then leading by example.

 

We can’t control our external experiences; we can’t control what other people do. But we can control our reactions to them.

 

We can be a leader for peace. We can lead by example.

 

By finding peace within ourselves, we show others the way.

 

If every person made it a priority to find a little bit more peace in their lives each day, the world would be a much different place. Instead of spreading fear, we would all be spreading love.

 

My friend and fellow yoga colleague, Erin, wrote a wonderful article about arming our future generations with the gift of peace in an effort to derail the mass shooting epidemic in schools. She thinks bringing yoga and meditation into schools will solve this problem. I think this is a brilliant idea and perhaps a way that awakening is supposed to spread.

 

Finding peace and serenity amongst your busy life can seem impossible, but all you have to do is be still. Find a comfortable seat and just be still. To protect the mind from wandering thoughts you can use a mantra or a hand mudra.


In meditation, you can connect with the peaceful space behind the thoughts … because you are the thinker and not the thought.


How do we know this? We know this because each of us is able to observe our own thoughts. In that way, there is a subject/object relationship.

 

You cannot be your thoughts because you are the one observing them.

 

The book, The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, explains this concept very well. He teaches how you are essentially stuck in your head with a roommate—a roommate that never leaves and often gives you bad advice!

 

According to Singer, most of the time we are listening to this roommate inside our head, reacting to their every word. However, he reminds us that we don’t have to react to this voice.

 

It is so liberating and empowering to observe thoughts and just let them be. Not reacting in any way gives you more awareness.

 

To find the peaceful space behind the thoughts, we must practice meditation.

 

When we sit down to meditate, we might be confronted with our monkey mind … but fear not, because if you notice your monkey mind, you are already gaining a sense of peace.

 

The act of observation ceases the fluctuations of the mind and brings us that much closer to our true self. I like to use the mantra “let go” in my meditations. As I inhale, I mentally say “let” and as I exhale, I mentally say “go”.

 

My wish for this world is that everyone learns how to access the peace within. It is simply buried behind the thoughts.

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When you find this place, please share it with others.

 

Let us paint the world with peace!

 

Michelle

Michelle Ostermyer is fascinated by introspection. She chooses to explore her life through yoga and meditation practices. Her life purpose is to teach others what she learns. Check out her website at www.belleyogi.com

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Zen and a Love Story

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By Anya Light

 

In the beginning, you are seated for meditation. Zazen. You wear a dark sweater and scarf. I notice how tall you are, how slender.

And then we begin to bow. I don’t know this ritual yet, and so I find my eyes drawn to you, as you make the movements. I dip my head reverently to the wooden floor, which represents the Earth. I dip my head and rise my palms for Buddha. (Not in worship—but in Yes!)

Yes, quiet meditation hall. Evening. England. This bowing. And there is no difference, now, between those who are bowing and those who are sitting or moving in this room in other ways. We all Are. I have Buddha nature, and so do you. I bow, watching you. You are always two seconds ahead, to my right. I can’t stop looking.

The story really begins with a headache. My headache. I cannot yet face them: the crowds, the rooms of expectant people, here to hear about my book. I am tired of talking.

Just ten minutes in the Zendo, I tell myself. Just ten minutes of meditation: that’s all I need. So, I rise from the bed, shuffle downstairs, and push open the wide wooden door.

It is you! You are there! You are already seated, on the old wooden floor. My heart is made of firecrackers. My heart is made of chocolate. I burn and melt. In total surprise, I say: You!?

We smile and agree to sit together. At the end of ten minutes, you ring the bell. I don’t remember what we talk about, after we sit, but it’s something that flows beautifully. A few minutes pass, and suddenly we remember other people and clocks exist. We say we are both reluctant to join them, but we do.

And then the story, well, it really begins with my question to you, after the reading: Would you like to take a walk with me? …And then, out in the open evening air, a few streets later, my question: May I kiss you? Your mouth is dry and you laughingly complain. We look around. There’s so much, and suddenly. The moon is big and the river is near. It’s August, the end of summer. We stand in the market town of Hebden Bridge. I don’t live here, but you do. You show the way.

We walk. When we reach the bridge, we hold hands. I remember resting my head in your lap. Your hands upon my head, so gently, so gently.

I tell you I’m a healer, a shaman, that I walk between worlds. I tell you everything. No secrets are between us, already. We talk of magic. We talk of love, mystery, sex. After awhile, we walk a bit more, back toward the house.

Back at the drafty old house, later, you kneel to write your number on a scrap of paper. Time has stopped a long time ago. While writing, you look up at me. I’m in the chair, close to you, legs crossed. You shake your head, disbelievingly, almost like a confused, giddy child. You say: I don’t know you, but I love you.

We are writing a love story, my love. It includes more things. Letters, packages, emails. Visits. Six-hour Skype calls. Orgasms and dances across space and time and all that seems real. You and I in the forest, that afternoon. You and I on the islands, those evenings, when we camped. The whale leaping from the waters.

How your laugh surprises me still.

How crickets can signal not the end but the beginning of a summer.

 

The Secret to Inner Peace? Turn Off Your Phone and Take a Walk

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By Anya Light

 

We live in an age of paradox. On the one hand, we have at our fingertips more information than ever before. We are connected through social media. We have the power to spread our message to the far ends of the globe with a single click of a key. Wow! So incredible!

 

And yet…we are also more disconnected than ever before. When you observe people walking down the street, what do you see? Most likely, you will see many people with their eyes cast downward at their phone. When you stand in line at a grocery store, what do you see? People on their tablets and smartphones. People not speaking with each other. People not noticing their surroundings. Each person in their own little private bubble.

 

OUR PHYSICAL BODIES ARE AWESOME!

 

For a few years now, I have wondered if I was a curmudgeon. I have noticed these changes in people, and it makes me sad. I’ve often asked myself: Do I hate technology?

 

The answer is no, however. It is simply that part of my life’s work, my healing work with humanity, is to encourage people bring awareness back into their sacred body. I am a kind of counterbalance to the intense mania our society is experiencing with regards to technology. I am the voice of harmony. A whisper to peace.

 

People often ask me: What is the secret of happiness? What is the secret of inner peace? While I by no means claim to dwell in these states 24/7, I will say that I have done some very persistent and often challenging work to understand and occupy these states quite intimately. In my life now there are more peaceful days than stressful days. There are more happy days than sad.

 

In my healing work, I’m continually reminding people about our basic human needs for hugs, touch, tactile sensation, deep expression of emotion, quality verbal communication, and the infinite spiritual growth that can be perceived through our physical vessel. Our bodies are awesome!

 

An overuse of technology, however, is causing many to increasingly lose touch with their inner body-awareness and with their face-to-face social skills. Recent studies have shown, for example, an increase in social anxiety among plugged-in students and adolescents.

 

In my own life, I have witnessed an increase over the years of colleagues, family, and friends seemingly losing their social skills. For example, when they attempt to initiate in-depth, highly emotional conversations via text message. These are situations that are, in my opinion, totally inappropriate to the flat medium of text messaging. For example, a new potential lover broaches the topic of whether we will take our relationship to the next level via text. What?? Seriously?? In order to have a conversation about a significant “big” matter, we need to be able to have all the tools at our disposal, a range of bodily input: we both need to see body language, the emotion in the eyes, and we need to have the possibility of a hug or an encouraging pat on the hand available. Using a flat screen to communicate is a severely limited medium.

 

SOME TIPS FOR REGAINING BALANCE

 

No, I’m not a luddite. In fact, I love technology! I adore and treasure my Macbook. I appreciate my GPS. I am grateful for the power of Google to answer any factual question I dream up. I appreciate the fact that the blog you are reading right now is an amazing tool that helps me spread my words to folks in Pakistan, Romania, Poland, Finland, Mexico, England, China. I love the fact that I have friends and colleagues all over the world. However, I temper that appreciation by making sure I have a balance of plugged-in and unplugged time. I don’t go overboard.

 

Here are three of examples of how I maintain this balance in my life.

 

The ringer on my phone is perpetually set to “off.” Some people think this is insane, but I think it’s the one of the things keeping me sane! The only exception to this rule is that I will leave my phone on if I know in advance that I am going to receive a call at a specific time.

Keeping my ringer off allows me to gain focus and concentration throughout my day. If my eyes and ears were continually drawn to my phone with every beep and whistle, how could I sustain any sort of momentum or flow in my daily tasks?

 

I take at least one day per week to be totally unplugged. On these days, I put my laptop away in the closet. I turn off my phone and put it in a drawer. Out of sight, out of mind.

During these unplugged days, I focus on embodied tasks: cleaning my home, flossing, exercising, inviting a friend over for tea, preparing an intricate dinner with my own two hands, baking bread. I dance in my living room. I bend into yoga shapes. I breathe. I take a walk out in my neighborhood and smile at my neighbors. I make conversation and eye contact. I breathe. I look at the sky. I look at the birds. I feel the precious Earth under my feet.

 

I make sure to exercise every day. On the days when I am plugged in, I make sure to move my body as much as possible, and I limit the time I spend sitting at my desk staring at my monitor. As an Aries with an abundance of fire energy, this is vitally important to my wellbeing—however, any person can benefit from this, whether you have fire in your astrological chart or not.

If we sit motionless for too long and stare at screens all day, there are life force energies inside our bodies that become stagnant. This breeds stress, anxiety, and illness. We need to remember to move our bodies to keep the energy flowing. With a flowing energy, we are open to life, and we can more easily perceive the sacredness of each moment. We can feel peace.

 

MEDITATION AS DAILY LIFE

 

Meditation means to be present in the actions of everyday life. It means to feel our breath. It means to feel the movement in our limbs and the sensations in our face. Sometimes it means laughing and sometimes it means crying. It means having an awareness of the pains and discomforts we sometimes feel. It means feeling the sheer joy of being alive, of being contained as consciousness within this beautiful physical vessel.

 

Meditation comes in so many different forms. Yes, seated meditation is wonderful, but equally wonderful is movement meditation. Yoga is a powerful form of this, but there are so many other ways we can do it that don’t necessarily involve a teacher or having to pay money.

 

What is a secret to peace? It’s as simple as making the conscious choice to bring a balance between enjoying our screens and enjoying our bodies and the physical world around us.

 

Dear friend, make the choice to unhook yourself—at least a little bit every day—from the persuasive pull of technology. Come back into your beautiful body and come back into communion with the beautiful physical world. Put your phone down. Go outside and take a walk. Say “good morning” to your neighbor. Ask them about their day. Stop and smile at a squirrel. Be in your body. Be in your beautiful life.

 

 

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Meditation is a Practice of Dying

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Meditation is a practice of dying.

When we close our eyes to meditate, we drop our lives. We drop our names, our wants, our goals, our to do lists. We drop relationships, work, play; we drop it all. We drop.

When we sit down on a cushion to meditate, we chart a bold new path—into the unknown.

Meditation is not simply a way to relax or de-stress (although these reasons may have initially driven us to the practice); rather, meditation is a way to meet and experience Divinity.

Whether we were raised in a religious family or not, the path to Divinity, to Source, to God, to All That Is (whatever term you want to call it is fine; the label does not matter), is a path that comes when we have grown weary of the material world’s false promises. Maybe we have tasted fame, fortune, success, or even deep love in a marriage. And yet…and yet…there is this thing inside, this craving that is never fully satisfied.

What is this thing? This thing is the longing for God.

When we sit down to meditate, we say goodbye to our lives as they have been, and we invite the unknown. We invite Divinity to enter us.

When we sit down to meditate, we drop it all, for a few minutes, and we enter into a state where the mind is allowed to dissolve.

People fear death, because it is the conclusion of the mind’s accumulation of facts and figures of one particular lifetime. People tend to believe that what the mind has stored, all the facts and figures and stories and moods and memories is what makes up a “life.” Thus, when the mind ends at the time of death, people are often terrified. What happens when we lose the mind and the body that has defined our very existence? Is there life after life? Do we just cease to be? Indeed, the death process is terrifying to most people.

Ultimately, people fear meditation and are reluctant to try it because they fear death.

Death is an unravelling of the mind.

Meditation is also an unravelling of the mind.

Even though meditation is not yet mainstream on our planet, more and more people are waking up to the need for meditation in their daily lives. They are starting small: with five minutes every day, and then gradually devoting more and more time to the practice. They are beginning to taste grand moments of peace, and even happiness or bliss.

Meditation is the practice of dying. We die to all that we have known and all that we thought was real. We put down our identities, and we allow ourselves to be swept into the unknown.

Through this brave act of dying, day after day, we move into the light. We move towards the purest kind of freedom. It is the freedom of pure Consciousness—the knowing, the experience, the absolute certainty that all is One. That there is, in fact, no death at all.

Releasing into Trust: A Guided Meditation with Anya Light

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The following meditation, called the Triple R Meditation, was spontaneously developed in the spring of 2017 by Anya Light.

There are three steps to this meditation: Retreat, Re-emerge, and Release. Ultimately, the aim of this meditation is to relax and to feel what it feels like to trust the Universe.

Please feel free to explore, bend, and adapt this practice for your own purposes… have fun with it!

And, if you feel this practice resonates with you, please share it with others.

 

STEP ONE:

The first step of this meditation is called Retreat.

Find a place you are unlikely to be disturbed by others. If you live in a city, this will then probably be a place indoors, in the privacy of your home. Set a timer for thirty minutes, so you can drop fully into the meditation and not have to worry about checking the clock. The timer helps us relax.

Find a comfortable seated position. You do not need to sit on a meditation cushion or anything special. Just make sure you’re sitting up straight, in a comfortable way.

Close your eyes. As you close our eyes, you retreat from the busy, noisy world and enter a space of stillness, silence, and peaceful darkness.

Begin to bring your attention to your breath. Simply observe how your breath feels coming in and out of your body. Observe the physical sensations without judging anything as good or bad, right or wrong. Simply feel. Enjoy feeling.

If you find that your mind gets distracted from your observations and begins its usual thought processes or worries, that’s totally okay. Once you notice that you’ve been thinking, gently bring yourself back to noticing your breath. It is key that you try to do this gently. Remember that it was quite easy for you to move from observing your breath to thinking. Make it your aim to make it just as easy to move back in the opposite direction. No need to judge yourself for thinking or make it a huge effort. Simply and gently bring your attention back, as light as a feather and as smooth as silk.

As you rest in this dark, calm space, in your own personal luxurious retreat from the world, you will find that your nervous system relaxes. You find that you begin to feel some peace.

 

STEP TWO:

After you have lingered in the Retreat step of the meditation for a while, you can then move on to the next when it feels right. There is no set recommended time for when to transition. Simply move to the next step when you feel you want to.

Thus, because of this flexibility with time, the Triple R Meditation will feel (sometimes vastly) different each time you do it. Although it is recommend to allow yourself a full thirty minutes for this meditation, it is also true that you need not even progress past the first step in some instances. If you are having a particularly stressful day, then it may feel totally good and right for you to simply linger in the first step for the full thirty minutes. This meditation truly has a lot of flexibility built into it. How and when you progress to each stage is up to how you’re feeling that particular day.

If you feel that you are ready to move forward, then you can gently open your eyes. Now, you enter the Re-emerge phase.

It is here that you have your visual sight available to you again. You partially enter the busy world again. Yet, you remain still. Choose a point on the floor a few feet in front of you, and gently keep your gaze at that point. Keep your eyes fully open (as you normally would in daily life), and if you find your eyelids drooping in sleepiness, do your best to keep them open.

Continue to observe your breathing, just as you did in step one. Watch your breath moving in and out. Watch without comment or analysis. Simply watch, simply feel. Be with the breath. Simplicity.

During this step, with your eyes open, you mind find now that your mind wants to become a bit more active. Your thinking mind might really want to return and take over the show. Just as in phase one, if you notice you are thinking, that’s okay, simply return your awareness easily and effortlessly to your breath, without comment or judgment. Try be as a light as a feather in your mental movements. Be as sweet and clean as the crisp spring air.

 

STEP THREE

Once you come to a place within yourself where it feels good to move forward, then you spontaneously move into the step three, which is known as Release.

Again, depending on the day you’re having and where your consciousness is at, you may not reach this step on some days, which is totally okay. The goal is not to dutifully complete each step like a robot. Rather, the goal is to simply trust yourself enough to know what you need each day. Maybe on some days you need to linger in retreat mode for the full thirty minutes—if so, that’s fine! Maybe some days you enjoy ten minutes in phase two, and that’s enough. On other days, you may experience the full cycle. Whatever you feel is right.

This final phase is known as Release, and, in some ways, it is paradoxically the most advanced as well as the simplest of the three stages.

Here, you remain seated, yet you begin to allow your eyes to drift where they feel compelled to move and you allow your consciousness to release sole focus on the breath. Your eyes may gently move about the room. You may allow yourself to notice sounds in the room, different sensations, and whatever calls to you in that moment. You may move or stretch your body a little. You release into an effortless awareness, where there is no goal except to be present with what your consciousness naturally is drawn to.

This is the phase of trust.

If thinking arises, simply notice it and let it go. The point of this phase is not to think our usual thoughts, but to allow our brains to revel in simply observing and noticing what they want to observe and notice. We may, at times, naturally want to return to focusing on the breath—because that’s what feels good. If so, go for it! Indeed, in this third phase, the key is to simply do what feels good, free from our normal thinking patterns.

The first two phases are about resting, detoxing, and de-stressing. This third phase is about entering the world again. We have our sight back, and it can go where it wants. We have released sole focus on our breath, so we again have the full power to direct our consciousness to what it finds most interesting or curious in the realm of sensory perception.

In summary, this third phase most directly trains us to live our daily lives within a constant state of meditation. As we Release, we allow our thinking minds to move into the background, we allow our egos to dissolve, and we live and enjoy the world around us in a very basic and beautiful way. This step takes enormous trust, as this is not how we have been conditioned by our society to live or be. This step takes daring, boldness, dedication.

We allow our separate self to die to the beauty of the Self of Spirit. We allow our Divine Essence to move into the foreground—which can only happen if we allow our separate-mind-self to move into the background.

Allow yourself to enjoy this final step. Even if you’ve found many meditation techniques to be boring or a chore, you may even find that when the timer rings, you want to keep sitting, because it feels so good!

 

CLOSING

When you are ready to end the meditation, bring your hands together in front of your heart in gratitude.

Say a few words of thanks—to yourself, the Universe, your angels, God, or whatever feels right for you. End the meditation in a feeling of gratitude.

 

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Contact Anya today to book your personal spiritual guidance session

 

 

 

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