As much as I love Meditation, and have personally experienced profound benefit from the practice, it’s not a one stop shop. It’s not a magic pill that makes all the bad things in our life go away; all our “negative” character traits disappear. It doesn’t solve all our problems.
We still have to take responsibility for how we live our lives. We still have to do the work. Meditation can only take you so far- it can help quicken the change; ease the transformation… but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
If we truly want to grow, we have to stop rolling in the mud. What do I mean by that? As I’ve said in trainings many times, meditation (to be clear, any automatic self transcending method like Heart Based Meditation- the other types do not do this to the same extent and take much longer to “work”) is a lot like taking a shower. It helps cleanse away impurities, wash away dysfunction, and allows us to see our way more clearly. It’s very much like going to a drive through carwash. We park the vehicle (our physical bodies), and then let the carwash do its thing… trusting that it’s getting rid of all the dirt and grime both where can see it and where it’s not so visible (like the undercarriage/our subconscious).
However, how much good does that do us if we spend all our days getting “unclean”? Going off-roading in the muck, so to speak. Eating foods that aren’t good for us. Spending time with toxic people. Watching newscast after newscast telling us the world is going to pot. Spending our days fostering anger towards others… perhaps understandable anger, but anger nonetheless (that’s a whole newsletter for another time). Not exercising. Ruminating on all the things we wish we were and hate we’re not. This is how we roll in the mud- this is how we negate any gains we make by meditating.
So even if you’re meditating twice a day religiously, that’s only 40 minutes (at most!) out of the 1,440 in a day. That’s a such a small percentage of your day spent using a tool to help you find a new way of being, with the rest spent running in the same hamster wheel you’ve always been on. That car you’re driving would still be dirty the majority of the time- one brief moment of shining clean as it drives away from the carwash, and then into the hills filled with muck.
The good news is that there are many simple, easy, small ways to work towards spending less time in the mud. You don’t have to all of a sudden start exercising for an hour every day… maybe just go for a ten minute walk after one meal. You don’t have to throw out all of your junk food… maybe just add in one seriously good for you snack or meal a day. You don’t have to stop watching the news altogether… but maybe limit it to one hour a day and have that hour be in the morning (not right before bed when you know it’s going to get you all riled up). Speaking of which- maybe you make it a priority to get at least seven hours of sleep every night, which is the absolute minimum every single person needs (according to many, many studies that show less than this can be seriously detrimental to your overall health).
And more importantly than anything else- cultivate Love. It sounds insipid, I know. And there’s a small part of me that still cringes to stay something so mushy (decades of fearing vulnerability will do that to you)… but never was it more needed and true than right now. Remember that this doesn’t need to be the Love you have for a person. It could be Gratitude for things big and small. It could be the Passion you experience when talking about something you believe in (though please note there is an important difference between Passion and righteousness, one comes from the heart; the other from our mind- a whole other newsletter!). It could be Compassion for those less fortunate. It could be the Joy you feel when doing something like gardening. It could be the Peace you feel when having your coffee every morning listening to the birds sing.
Heart Centered Living combined with meditation WILL change your life. I have yet to find anything more powerful than being guided by my heart instead of my mind. I didn’t believe this to be true when I started meditating, but six years in to shifting to this way of operating I can tell you that I know it to be so. And even though I still have times of stress, anger, frustration, sadness, etc…. my way back to clarity and peace is exponentially faster than I ever thought it could be, and I can honestly say the majority of the time I find myself incredibly grateful and full of- dare I say it- bliss. And I’m not the only one.
Now, I stumbled my way to this taking the long way around and going through many ups and downs- so don’t think it’s been easy or like a switch being turned on. That said, there is support available if this way of being sounds appealing to you. The suggestions I listed above will all help, and below are a few more ideas. I encourage you to explore what resonates with you at this time.
And if this newsletter made you uncomfortable or turned you off? That’s ok, too. You can just meditate- it is still very worth it. You don’t have to want to be a body builder to do bicep curls. You don’t have to want to create systemic change in your life to want to find the stress alleviation that meditation brings. We all come to Meditation for different reasons, and get out of what we need…end of story.
As always, I’m here if you have questions, and I hope you are well.
Love & Light,
I love lists. Always have. I mean, how else are you supposed to know what you need to do? And is there anything more satisfying than crossing something off the list; showing that you have accomplished what you set out to do?!?
Here’s the problem: When I get stressed, I cope by making lists. It’s how I try to regain control. It’s my particular method for making sense out of the senseless. The problem is that my lists tend to get a little out of control. The more stressed I get, the more I add to the list. So you might be able to imagine the size of the list I started creating at the beginning of the month. It felt like all of the uncertainty I had been managing in a very healthy way since February all of a sudden was unsurmountable. It all built and built until I was one miserable, stressed out, cranky mess who had a list a mile long and absolutely zero chance of checking everything off in the amount of time I had deemed was appropriate.
My poor, poor husband. His normally very calm, very even keeled wife turned into an absolute bear to be around. Mind you, he didn’t say this (he’s not stupid)… but I’m also self aware enough to know that if I didn’t want to be around me, he problem didn’t, either. So we sat down and talked about what was going on with me and he basically said (for the millionth time), that I put too much on myself and it might be helpful to just cut the list in two and save some for later, or prioritize it, or… something. Can’t it all wait?
My immediate response was “NO!” It’s all important! It’s all stuff that needs to get done! If I don’t do it, who will?!?
However, the next day after meditation, I had this thought hit in a way it never had… “What if there was no list?”
And it felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. And it got me thinking about coping mechanisms.
At what point do they become more harmful than helpful? At what point do they perpetuate the underlying problem? When do they shift from being healthy to being the thing that just keeps us too busy or preoccupied or numb to deal with what’s actually going on? And when we let ourselves dive too deeply into these coping strategies, what do we lose?
So, I’m doing an experiment. I’m only going to check my list once a week for the rest of the year. Even writing that makes my stomach knot up. But I’ve forgotten something I learned after a couple years of meditating- that when I trust my instincts, trust my gut about what feels like the right thing to do in any given moment, I’m so much happier and my days flow so smoothly. Instead of being anxious and feeling like I’m letting everyone down, I somehow get more done than I ever thought I could. I know this is because of meditation- of getting very in tune with my higher self and learning how to listen to that still voice within. But when I get stressed, that voice gets muffled by all the angry, scared, and confused other voices that we all have within us. So I’m going to try to get back to listening to the wiser voice underneath all the chatter. It’s not going to be easy, and I’m going to have to be diligent with my meditation practice if I have any hope of succeeding, but I’m going to try now that I’ve realized how destructive my list writing coping strategy has become.
What I want to suggest to all of you is to take a hard look at whatever you are doing to cope with the stress that exists in your life. Whatever it is- look at it, even those things that might be considered positive. Exercise is good, right? Not if you’re doing it for two hours every single day and feel like you NEED it in order to be ok. Watching TV isn’t that bad for you…unless you are binge watching show after show after show… what are you avoiding thinking about? Eating is a common one- either eating super duper healthy (worried about every morsel of sugar or carb you might ingest) or throwing caution to the culinary wind (i.e. eating every bag of potato chips in sight).
Just take a moment to really look at what you’re doing to get through these times. What’s working? What’s not? You don’t have to give up your coping mechanism entirely, just make sure it’s truly helping, not just enabling you to gloss over and avoid, or letting you funnel your anxiety elsewhere (as in my case). And remember- you’re not in this alone. When in doubt, reach out. Talk to a friend, a loved one, a counselor. So often when we feel like we have no where to go, it’s because we’ve forgotten that there are always helpers out there, just waiting for us to seek them out.
Love & Light,
Uncertainty is hard. As a general rule of thumb, we humans hate it. We want to KNOW. We want a timeline, facts- most of us crave the black and white. And never has this been more difficult to discern than right now. Everything is up in the air. Even though restrictions are lifting, the amount of variation is staggering. And regardless of what you are being told is ok…which also varies greatly… how do you individually feel? Are you ready to not wear a mask? To dine in a restaurant? To go to a party? If not now, when will you be ready? There is no single, easy, straight forward answer to these questions.
One of my personal challenges has always been a deep and abiding need for control. I had absolutely none during my childhood, so as soon as I was able, I decided that the way to keep myself safe was to control every aspect of my life. The only problem is that this is impossible! So I spent many years at war with life itself. Trying to control the uncontrollable, and constantly being knocked off kilter when the inevitable happened and unwanted change occurred.
And then, I found meditation. I don’t talk about it a lot in these newsletters- of course I always mention the group meditation meetings, but as I think of it now I’m realizing that it’s been a while since I’ve talked about why meditation is such an important part of my life. One of the many reasons it’s a constant non-negotiable is that it has allowed me to let go (mostly) of this need for control. Through meditation, I’ve been able to relax into the uncertainty and accept change with more grace.
This isn’t something I “learned” to do. There was no guidebook, no “how to”, no directions to follow in order to release this trait… it just happened as I developed and grew my awareness through meditation. It used to be that I handled a change of plans very poorly- if someone altered things on me last minute it would send me off into a bad mood for days…to the point where dear friends of mine were afraid of how upset I would get if they needed to cancel a get together! Spontaneity was absolutely unacceptable. Life needed structure and a routine in order to be safe- and heaven help the person who messed with my idea of what that looked like.
And then one day a few months after I had begun meditating, a friend needed to reschedule lunch and I realized it only took me a day to get over it. And then it was a few hours. And then it was just a few minutes. And all of a sudden a few months ago, Chuck made a last minute suggestion for us to go to the zoo… while we were in the car already and heading somewhere else, no less… and I responded immediately “Let’s do it!”. He later commented “Way to not be yourself”… which sounds snarky but is actually his very loving way of complementing me on my new found ability to pivot so quickly!
This ability to loosen the reins, to let go of this need for control, stems out of the faith I have developed through meditation. I don’t speak of this in a religious context, but a spiritual one. I now trust that things will be ok, even if they don’t go exactly as I planned. I trust that life is happening for me, not to me. I trust that there is a divine order that I’m not necessarily privy to.
The quote that I used at the beginning of this newsletter comes from an article written by Richard Rohr, whom I have come to admire and respect. You can read the full article here. From his perspective as a Franciscan priest, he talks about connecting to the unified field of consciousness- the place from which sages and physicists alike agree everything arises. Connection to this source enables us to connect to faith- as Thomas Merton writes “This is the contemplative’s unique access point: knowing by union with a thing, where we can enjoy an intuitive grasp of wholeness, a truth beyond words, beyond any need or capacity to prove anything right or wrong.” Let me be clear that I’m not pushing any religious perspective or belief system, but I found this particular writing resonated deeply with me, and obliquely explains why meditation can create such profound growth. If you would be interested in diving deeper into this topic of how meditation can help a person develop faith and trust in the unknown, please let me know as I’m thinking of running a workshop on it in the near future.
I’ve never been more grateful for this part of my personal growth and this faith I have developed than I am now, as we’ve lived in this continued place of unknowing for weeks on end.
Let me be clear- I’m tired of it, too. I want cold hard facts, too. I want to know when it will be “over”; I want to know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s “safe”. I want all of those things, and some days I am so very, very, frustrated by all the gray. Black and white, PLEASE!
But most of the time, it’s ok. Most of the time, I’m able to roll with it. And every single day I get my meditations in because nothing in this world helps me find peace more quickly or to such depths as this practice.
And so, I wanted to use this newsletter to urge you to meditate. Many of you have already learned Heart Based Meditation, but some of you have not. Now is a great time to start! I wanted to also let you all know that the structure for learning Heart Based Meditation has changed, and encourage those of you who have already participated in the training to do so again because of these changes.
The training is now spread out over four days (instead of two) and woven throughout are more integration and enhancement techniques, as well as more detailed information regarding consciousness and why meditating with this form of meditation is so transformative. Some of this I typically include in the “Deepening Your Practice” workshop that I’ve previously run, however there is new material that would make it worthwhile for those who have taken the training previously. The founder of this method of meditation, Dr. Paul Dugliss, has long taught the training over four consecutive weeks, however I’ve resisted up until now because I know how busy our lives can be and how challenging it is to set aside time this way. That said, at a recent continuing ed class I was convinced that, while it may be more of a challenge, overall the benefits of having continued support during the entire first month of incorporating Meditation into your daily life far outweighs the disadvantages.
The four days are structured like so:
- Day 1 will cover the Why and How of Heart Based Meditation.
- Day 2 will give you a refinement to the practice and cover Experiences in and out of Meditation.
- Day 3 will go over in more detail how consciousness works, and give you additional integration and enhancement techniques.
- Day 4 will give you a vision of the possibilities of systemic life change you can expect with continued and consistent meditation.
You MUST take Days 1 and 2 a week apart- you are not fully trained until you’ve had these two days. If you must wait until the next session to take Days 3 and 4, you can, but I discourage it and strongly suggest you keep going with the training four weeks in a row. The month of support will give you the highest chance of success feeling confident in the method and will help you stick with it while you establish this new habit. I frequently say how lucky I feel that I came to meditation through becoming an Ayurvedic practitioner- I was required to meditate for 200 hours in order to graduate my program! If it weren’t for that, I can’t imagine how long it would have taken me to be consistent with my practice, and I am continuously grateful that I had such a strong reason to keep going.
Let me also reiterate that this would be excellent for anyone who has already taken the course. I cover so much in those two days, and I find that as time passes it can be a little like telephone- are you actually remembering the nuances of the method correctly?
The next Heart Based Meditation training begins this Saturday at 9am. To find more details and to register, click here.
If you can’t make it this time around, don’t worry- I’m sure to offer it again. I would love feedback on what day and time would work better for you if Saturday mornings don’t. Weeknight? Sunday afternoon? Weekday morning? Let me know your thoughts!
Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope you are all doing well and look forward to seeing some of you next weekend!
Sending you all so much Love & Light,
I love this time of year largely because of spring cleaning. Opening the windows and letting the fresh air in always makes me feel like it’s time to begin anew. Spring also means that we are about a quarter of the way through the year already, so it’s time to take stock:
Have I been following through on my New Year’s intention?
Have I been living up to what I said I was going to do?
Am I living the life I want to lead?
This year, my intention was to put into action everything I learned from 2020. So far, I’ve been giving it a good effort. But old habits, old patterns, have snuck in again as they often do. I spent this past weekend at a meditation retreat led by my mentor where the focus was on acceptance. And what came to me most clearly as I contemplated intentions, acceptance, and taking stock, is the important difference between acceptance and complacency.
We can accept ourselves for where we are at, but we don’t have to be complacent. We don’t have to say “I’m OK with it”. We can say “I accept it” AND ALSO “I want to do better”. And the most important thing about doing better, is knowing what that looks like. It’s taking time, like I did this weekend, to take hard look about what’s working, what’s not, and make concrete plans to correct course.
So that’s what I want to invite you to do. Take time today, this week, or next weekend- sometime before the end of the month- to sit down and really assess:
What’s working in your life?
What is lighting you up?
What is filling you with joy?
And what’s not?
What is dragging you down?
What is stopping you from living your best life?
What do you know you are doing that is out of alignment with your true self?
Once you know the answers to those questions you have all you need to be able to start making plans to help realize your best life.
So often we forget that change is a choice. We stay so long at the cross roads that we forget that cross roads by nature provide us with multiple different directions that we can go. The only one who is in control of your life is you. YOU are the only one who can make the change. Only you can choose a different way of being.
Now there may be constraints. There might be financial considerations, or familial responsibilities, or other variables that have to play a role. Making a choice to change doesn’t mean that you just get to do whatever you want. And in fact, that’s one of the other most important pieces of this- being realistic. What can you actually make happen?
Take my perfect day for instance. I sat down this weekend and listed out how much time I want to spend on things every day- i.e. four hours of working with clients, an hour for exercise, time with Charlie, etc. And do you know how many hours it added up to? 33! That’s not going to work.
So while it’s important to have the dream, it’s also important to honestly asses what’s possible at this point in your life.
As you know, I run a morning meditation group every weekday at 9:30am. Today we started a five week focus on getting really clear on what living a life truly aligned with our authentic self looks like. What would it be like if you answered those earlier questions: “Almost everything in my life is working; my whole life lights me up and fills me with joy! I’ve let go of all things holding me back and wake up each morning grateful to be living the life I’ve always dreamed of!”
My hope is that by the end of the five weeks, everyone who chooses to go on this exploration with me has a vision of what this looks like for themselves – not necessarily that we’ve all achieved this way of being because that’s a lot to ask of five weeks! But that everyone has greater clarity on who they are and what they want. You do not have to come to every session (though that would be ideal) and you do not have to stay for the group meditation (though group meditations are the best!). If you want to join, just go to this page and click on the zoom link for the Five Week Focus on Alignment every morning at 9:30am EST. Every day we will discuss the topic from 9:30-9:45 before beginning the group Heart Based Meditation. (I know I’m sending this blast out after the first session, so many of you will miss the first day- don’t worry about it- just come tomorrow! The goal is for every day to have some nugget to help carry you forward that is standalone, so feel free to drop in whenever).
Regardless of whether you join the morning group, I encourage you to take stock, create the dream, and then make it workable. You’re a quarter of the way through the 2021. Just because you set an intention for the year and now realize you haven’t really done much about it yet does not mean this time was wasted. It means you now have more information to better inform you as you move forward. How well we do something is not the parameter by which we want to judge it. How we take the information gained from the experience and use it to do better next time is the measuring stick. So get curious, get honest with yourself, and adjust your sails.
Love & Light,
Eight weeks into self isolation and I’m experiencing a bit of quarantine fatigue… you?
I don’t normally struggle to write these newsletters, but I’ve found myself having difficulty coming up with what I want to say. It might be the groundhog day nature of life right now. Every day just some slight variation of the day before. From my routine with Charlie, to what’s being said on the news, to the feeling of quiet desperation creeping in.
At first, it was easy to see the benefit of this time. It was easy to talk about how this is our opportunity to slow down, to adapt, to reconnect. But for how long? At some point, haven’t we slowed and adapted and reconnected as much as we possibly can before going quietly insane?
I talk a lot about this with my one on one spiritual counseling clients. How we can experience what I call soul fatigue… there’s only so much internal work we can do at one time before we become exhausted from all the change. This can happen in many facets of life, actually. Whether it’s putting in 90 hour work weeks, or only taking care of others and never practicing self care, or constantly looking for a way to better ourselves. There’s a limit to how long we can do any of this before we simply need a break.
From my conversations with friends and family and clients, I think this is the point many of us are hitting now. The point where we’ve all realized what we want to get rid of and keep once we get back to our “normal” lives. So can’t we just get back to it already?
Some are. Some are choosing to slowly, carefully, enter back into society. Others view this as irresponsible- as being a selfish choice.
I want to take this newsletter to remind you to give yourself and others a little grace. We are all under stress, all struggling to figure out which media outlet to listen to. Which doctor knows best. Which family member has it right. Which mentor can properly show us the way. And we are all doing our best as we make our choices based on these factors and countless more- like whether or not we can afford to stay isolated. Whether our mental health can withstand yet another week of solitude or only our immediate family for companionship.
I’m here to tell you it’s ok. Whatever you’re feeling, however you are handling this, it’s ok. Probably my favorite of the articles I included below is the one regarding the risks of motivational pressure right now. You do not have to Marie Kondo your entire life for this time to be useful. You do not have to read every book, or listen to every podcast you’ve been meaning to for the past ten years. If you do these things, wonderful. But we all have enough pressure on us as it is to simply survive- so if you don’t do this, or if you decide to take a week off and just binge on the most recent Top Ten on Netflix- it’s ok.
I don’t know when this will end; I’m not even sure there is going to be a clear cut “end”. It will probably be a gradual reemergence, just as our decent into isolation was a gradual process. What I do know is that we all need to remember to give ourselves, and others, some grace right now, as we all navigate this experience to the best of our abilities.
Sending you all so much Love & Light,