Why Mindfulness Doesn’t Always Lead Directly to Calmness

After a rough weekend, I needed a bit more self-care to be ready for the Monday. Following several bouts of meditation and feeling aligned with The All, I sat and read an inspirational post that quickly “got to me.” Yes, this inspirational post ticked me off greatly! Out of the blue, a wave of envy washed over me: “It must be nice for her to be able to do all of that. She must have a lot of free-time! Otherwise, how could she possibly…?”

In allowing the envious emotion to rise and crest, I began to see where I have felt envious if someone else were to have anything better than me. Hmpfh! Guess I’m not so humble after all… In reflecting on this further, one of my spiritual coaches recently explained to me that we begin to hear our subconscious minds more clearly when our conscious mind feels safe; I’d add to that, “and clear.”

While I understood her at the time, I can now see this more clearly in my mind’s eye. The subconscious mind is constantly sending out ripples of thoughts and beliefs that are much like the ripples seen after throwing a pebble into a calm pond. However, the ripples are easily camouflaged when we our conscious minds are feeling anxious (or anything other than calm); much like the ripples from a pebble thrown into the ocean during a storm would be virtually unseen; yet still present.

As such, I am bringing awareness to this part of myself that I’ve been pushing down and ignoring.  The energy and feelings of envy serve only to build more resistance and push away from me the very things I’d like to create in this life. These feelings no longer serve me, and today I choose differently.

In our mindfulness, may we each see another element that blocks our inner peace, so that we can choose differently. In our mindfulness, may we know that we are exactly where we need to be, being and doing exactly what we need to be doing with what we have. May we see the ease with which others move through life as an inspiration for our own experience to be of greater ease, peace and joy. 

No mud, no lotus.

Namaste

Allowing Joy

We often focus on the lack of what we don’t have more than enjoying the presence of what we do have. When we live this way, we block our ability to feel joy and happiness. We put our stock in our future happiness, and deplete ourselves of the joy that is in our lives in the here and now.

To bridge the gap, it is imperative to more fully see and experience the joy that is in our day-to-day and moment-to-moment lives. In seeking only “big” joyful moments, we miss the subtle opportunities to enjoy life as it is right now.  The more we can appreciate all the joys we have now, the more life brings us things for which to be grateful.

May we each see and more fully experience the joy and happiness that is in our lives right now. May we choose to be filled with the bliss of the present moment; this brings us more of which to enjoy and be grateful. 

Namaste

“Enjoy life’s little luxuries. Spend quiet time alone.” 9 of Earth

Seizing the Moment

How often do we miss fully immersing ourselves in the beauty of the present moment because our minds or our bodies are elsewhere?

Today, I am literally composing this post while my toes are dipping into the calm waters near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, my mind is dwelling on the past or looking to the future. While I am more present now in my mind and body than I have ever been, I see where I’m holding tension in areas such as my neck and solar plexus.

Allowing this tension the space to breathe, I see where I fear being fully present. Somewhere I’ve told myself that being alive and being right here, right now, is unsafe. I block my gut with my muscles as if to armor up against the “other shoe dropping.” I concern myself with silly things such as trying to be sure I have the right saying.

This awareness brings a new softening. As it is in allowing the fears to have light shed upon them that they begin to abate. Once we see that what we’ve been thinking subconsciously is not the truth then we set ourselves free. We are free to enjoy life the way it is meant to be: more and more fully.

So I’ll sit here for a few moments more as the waves lick at my feet, taking away what is no longer meant to be…and bringing to me exactly what I need in this moment: a new sense of peace.

May we each find more of the gifts meant for us by being more fully present. May we shed the old beliefs which no longer serve us so that we may more fully receive exactly what we’re meant to receive: joy, peace and abundance beyond our wildest dreams.

Namaste

The Heart’s Desire for Connection

We run away from it. We chase it. We deny it. We make fun of it and we deny or destroy it. Yet underneath all of the layers, what we really long for is connection with ourselves, with others, and with Our Higher Power.

Connection scares us. It leaves us vulnerable to our basic fears: abandonment, rejection, being misunderstood and on and on.

Yet we are social beings. Spiritually, we are connected to everyone and everything; whether we want to admit it or not.

It is in facing each of our fears, head on, that we are able to see these are just beliefs formed when we were young and that we’ve carried forward; beliefs that cannot hold weight when the light of our awareness shines down upon them.

Despite our fears, the longing to connect, to share, to be part of something greater than ourselves persists. To reconnect to your truth, give to your fear what it really seeks: comforting, acknowledgment, gratitude, love, acceptance, or whatever else comes up. It is in allowing the fear, seeing what it needs and giving it just that, allows us to see it was just a blip on our radar – and not the truth of who we are.

May we each give ourselves what we need, so that we can build stronger connections with others, allowing our hearts to be free. For with each disconnection we reconnect, we all become brighter and better for it.

Namaste

Race for Peace

Have you ever found yourself rushing to get to your peaceful place? Maybe driving faster or rushing to get out of the office to go home so you can relax? Or do you find yourself thinking things such as, “if only this were not here, I would be okay”? I only ask these questions because I must confess that I have lived them each this week.

Just the other day, I was upset about being late because it cut down on my “relaxation” time before work. It meant less time walking with my bare feet in the sand. It meant less “me time” before show time at work.

Then I looked further back and saw how, at times, I’ve been more easily agitated after a good relaxing meditation?! Because I was not at peace with the “chaos” of that moment. It’s easy to be relaxed when we’re in our happy places, not so much so in the day-to-day.

How can we carry the peace from our yoga mats, from our meditations into our daily lives? Daily life is a practice. In giving ourselves the loving grace both in and outside of our happy places, we begin to see that we are being and doing the best that we can be and do in that moment.

Racing after peace means we are never peaceful. (Much like the pursuit of happiness.) Peace is a state of being. At any given moment we have the choice to be at peace or at war with the present moment. And what we resist, persists. We carry it forward with us into the next moment, days, years, decades, etc. Best to practice being at peace with the present. How can we be at peace when we are at war with the present, with who we are or where we are?

May we each rediscover the peace within that is waiting to be seen, releasing the need to fight against ourselves or to use our stories to keep us embattled. 

Namaste

Stress Detox & Breathing Easily

In downshifting this past week and being diligent in self-care to detox, I began to notice how much I was struggling to catch my breath. No cold, not an asthma attack, just every breath seemed labored. Remembering comments from a friend and fellow blogger, I began to look into “air hunger.” This lead to the book Self-Help for Hyperventilation Syndrome: Recognizing and Correcting Your Breathing-Pattern Disorder by Dinah Bradley. Since then, I’ve been relearning to breathe easily.

Most of us think of hyperventilating as something that is acute and requires a paper bag to cure (use caution with this, and avoid if having an asthma attack). However, in the book, Bradley discusses at length how hyperventilation can also become a less dramatic and chronic breathing pattern that can cause some potentially serious, or at the least some very bothersome health problems.

Examples of symptoms include: fatigue, anxiety, lethargy, depression, muscle aches, muscle tension, chest pain, numbness/tingling, and shortness of breath. When examined by a physician, having tests performed, and blood drawn patients were left without any answers as to the cause of their suffering.  In the book, Bradley explains the physiology behind hyperventilation syndrome leading to the symptoms. Please seek immediate medical attention if you are having chest pains and/or shortness of breath! It’s better to get any emergency medical conditions ruled out. 

When we breath through our mouths or quickly through our nostrils, it activates the stress response which then reinforces the breathing pattern; one which then becomes difficult to break. Frequent yawning, sighing or feeling like you cannot catch your breath are signs that you may have a hyperventilation breathing pattern. Breath retraining and making some lifestyle changes may be helpful.

Wear clothing that does not restrict your body, particularly your belly and chest from moving. Sitting upright with good posture also supports better breathing, as slouching impairs the movements of respiration. Focus on the exhale, more than breathing in. Be sure to keep your mouth closed, if your nostrils are not congested, with most of your non-exertion activities. Try to make the exhale “low and slow” while slightly pulling in at your belly and keep the breath as quiet as it can be. At the end of the exhale, pause slightly and then allow your belly to relax with the inhale. Keep the muscles of your neck and throat relaxed while you breathe in.

I highly recommend the book, it has many suggestions for ways to help support breathing more easily. There is no need to struggle to breathe.

May we all breathe easier and enjoy life more deeply today and everyday.  

Namaste.

Shifting Out of Survival Mode: Week 1

While the kettle heats the water for my morning coffee, I light candles and holy wood and I focus on the soles of my feet and where they kiss the floor. The sound of the electric kettle “firing up” is comforting for me; it is familiar and a mainstay in my morning routine. Today, instead of bustling around to get the coffee press set, I pass the smoke from the burning ember of the holy wood in swirling paths around my body, giving extra nurturing and attention to areas of tension, discomfort or distress. This is just one part of the shift I’m making to get myself out of what feels like a life-long pattern of existing in survival mode.

Even with the daily meditation practice, journaling and blogging, life coaching and counseling over the years, I have still been stuck in fight-or-flight mode. Good quality sleep is elusive more nights than not. My muscles may relax for a day or two after a good massage, then they spring back into pre-massage mode – even with stretching, magnesium supplements and frequent Epsom Salt soaks. Behind my calm exterior there has lived a girl who feels constantly on guard, waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop.

The key that unlocked my understanding? Answering 4 pages of questions about my body’s responses to different circumstances; a questionnaire assigned to me by my naturopath (a wholistic physician). After tallying up the scores for each system, she graphed a grid that showed more than 80% of my systems were in need of “high priority” attention. “This looks like PTSD; everything is hyper-sensitive,” she said calmly. Somehow, this was not a shock and instead was a bit of relief.

We developed a plan of more intensive self-care for the next 2 weeks. At first, I was resistant to the intensity – resistance has been my way as it’s hard to accept change when you already feel overwhelmed by most days.

An important change is taking a more detached or “observation” approach to my emotions. Instead of “diving into them,” which is something I have blogged about ad nauseum, it is important that I stay above my emotions and observe them which is also differentiated from staying above my emotions and ignoring them.

When I notice an emotion that is uncomfortable, I am to observe it to understand what the emotion itself may be. Then I am to give that part of myself that is hurting what it needs. If part of me is feeling lonely, then I am to give that part of myself the attention, love and nurturing it needs. Really, I would encourage you to try it, it is SO much faster and effective than what I have explained in the past.

It turns out that by diving into the emotion, I find comfort in the pain – and then I am reinforcing the pattern. It has been easier for me to feel pain than joy; for to feel joy, I have believed, means it can just as easily be taken away. Turns out I’ve been stuck in survival and victim mode! Yes, it’s way past time to shift this… 

While she did not diagnose me with PTSD, it’s clear that I’ve been stuck in survival mode. There was some freedom in hearing this. Looking back now I see that happiness, joy and feeling-at-ease have been fleeting and generally have been delivered by external circumstances.

Here are some of the survival mode patterns that I’ve noticed:

  • Frequent insomnia or restless sleep unless “everything is perfect”
  • Most externally driven changes are a challenge to accept. My first response: resistance
  • Difficulty connecting with others intimately
  • A near constant struggle to be present – even when things are going well
  • Feeling that I’m treading water and just one big wave from drowning
  • Being more “at ease” when things are uncomfortable than when things are going well. Again, just waiting for the other shoe to drop
  • Dampening of any strong emotional response due to the fear of becoming overwhelmed
  • Consistent and significant muscle tension
  • Spending a lot of energy on appearing and radiating a sense of calm!

Usually I would have waited until the end of the 2 weeks to give a retrospective account of what has happened. This, however, seemed too important to wait so long. It is also fitting that today is the Equinox, a good time to choose to shift and make changes.

May we each discover what it is that the hurting parts of us need – and then apply that salve internally, instead of seeking external fixes to our internal issues. May we each shift from a mode of surviving to one of thriving. 

Namaste

Happy Equinox!

When Pain Becomes a Companion

Recently it became apparent to me that I’d rather hold onto the pain of my past than to allow for something better, and to prevent from feeling lonely. It was something I did not realize that I was doing, thinking nor believing. In some ways, this recognition still seems somewhat surreal to me: who the heck would hold onto their pain? (well, me, that’s who…for starters).

In speaking with my creative life coach, Sam, I told her that I still felt there was something in the way of a fuller expression of my creativity. She had me sit back, take a few deep breaths and then she asked me for what I “saw” (as in visualized) when I went within the part of me that felt something was in the way. Immediately, I saw myself standing on a catwalk over a huge dam. The water was spilling over the top, yet there was still much of the river being held back.

Next, Sam asked me to allow the river to flow more readily in a way that was comfortable for me. The dam wall then began to retract downwards and the water was fully released. In fact, it was released to the point that I sat in a dried up river bed looking up at an empty expanse of “nothing.”

It really bothered me to be in this vacuity. It was not a complete vacuum, yet the space was immense and left me feeling utterly lonely. Almost immediately, I was looking up at the walls of the canyon, wanting to climb out. She asked me to stay and reluctantly, I did so. Eventually, I began to feel at peace in this inner landscape of my own making.

It was later in the week that I saw the pattern emerging that I was also more comfortable holding onto scraps than allowing myself to wait for something better. Again, pain was my companion.

Now when I feel that I’m hoarding my emotions, or my emotional responses to something, I am sitting with it and imagining the whole dam(n) wall retracting into the ground. All of the emotions are then able to move freely. Sometimes I am left at the bottom of the riverbed, other times I grow out of the canyon.

What I’m seeing is that in allowing the emotions to run their course internally I can then see things differently. I no longer need to hold onto my pain to avoid feeling lonely… pain no longer needs to be my companion.

May we each find peace with our pain, allowing it all to flow so that we can each live more fully again.

Namaste

Return to Innocence

There was something inside that I wanted to hide. The true name of what it was that caused my shame was unknown to me. I could see some of the situations from my childhood in which it seemed to be rooted. And I had spent nearly a decade tugging up various “weeds” to get to the root of my shame problem. Yet, the deep rooted shame was still there.

Last week, I started the process of using EFT or emotional freedom technique to systematically begin to return to innocence through the process of forgiveness. Within just a day, I began to feel my shame load lighten. It was even more amazing after five! (The book is Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything by Iyanla Vanzant.)

Then, while at a party to celebrate my birthday something happened. Well after dark, while surrounded by friends on an outdoor patio of a local bar, a young boy about 7 years old walked up to me and was trying to solicit something. He spoke so softly and the crowd was so loud that I could not here him. My mind, intoxicated by the celebration – not bourbon – was unable to fully process what was happening! He held up a piece of paper in front of his chest with printed lettering, something apparently given to him by an adult to legitimize his solicitation. In my confusion over the juxtaposition, I gently yet firmly said to him, “No thank you.” I turned to my friends and commented how surreal that was for me. Then I quickly moved on. I didn’t even turn around to see if he had left.

Later that night the memory flooded back in. The next morning, the heaviness of guilt-ridden emotions followed. Why had I not done something more? How could I dismiss this child instead of protecting him and asking questions such as where was his parent/guardian? I was absolutely disgusted with myself!

I meditated, breathed into the physical and emotional pains and also used EFT that day on several elements: anger, sadness, and guilt. I sat through the emotional storms and rode some mighty waves. I even did a constellation on the incident (I’ll need another post to explain what this meant!) and sent a prayer request to a friend for myself and the boy. I also sent prayers to his “guardians.” I even tried to talk it out to get it off my chest and also asked a trusted friend who was at the party about the incident.

While each use of a modality helped to move me through something more, there were still some lingering pangs of guilt. The next day, I told a retired social worker about the incident; as if she could grant me absolution. Tears came to my eyes and I still got choked up. It was apparent that I still felt guilty for not doing more. It was also apparent to me at some point that the boy, due to his estimated age, also reminded me of my own son. In some way, I had “taken” responsibility for this boy as if I were his parent!

Through continued mindfulness while allowing the upwelling of all of the emotions, I finally saw the keys to unlock my cage of guilt. One key was that I recognized I was angry with myself for not protecting and honoring his innocence, as I would for my own son. And the skeleton key was seeing how my own childhood innocence had not been protected nor honored by adults who “should have” done so. After this recognition, the tears no longer flowed. The light bulb was now lit: I needed to see, honor and protect my own innocence.

That evening I attended a mini constellation therapy session in which my intention was to replace shame with innocence. Through my ancestors, I was able to receive further support in transmuting the lifelong shame I had felt back into innocence.

While there are still some areas to work through, I feel that a significant amount of shame and its emotional burden has been relieved. I share this story to illustrate that emotional freedom can seem elusive when we are moving through any upwellings. It is unlocked through persisting at allowing the emotions to become our teachers, in spite of what we may be feeling. Had I dismissed my feelings about this incident, as I had the boy in the bar, I would have missed an opportunity to reclaim my own innocence; my own freedom from shame.

Letting go now has a new meaning for me. It wasn’t about letting go of the story, my feelings nor the boy, it was letting go of control of it all to rediscover the innocence I had been missing.

May we each find the roots behind the story, so that we may each be free of our suffering in new ways. We all become more free, even if just by degrees, by each root that is disentangled. This is not just about individual suffering as we each suffer with one another, at least on some level, both directly and indirectly.

Namaste

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