I want to write about this before the bliss of the day's events completely leave... :-)
I woke up yesterday morning and did a little meditation first thing. I got out of bed around 8 and made myself a big huge green smoothie:
(I actually made enough for 4 people)
3 medium bananas
local frozen blueberries
rice protein powder
I added quite a lot of kale so it was very dark green. It was pretty yummy, though and I felt pimped out for the day. I got dressed and met a friend for our mother's day treat to ourselves.
We went to Stowe, VT to a place called Stoweflake. There's a spa and resort there. It's a beautiful spot. My friend Linda and I drove there and got caught up on a slew of things that are good, bad, stressful and otherwise in our lives and when we opened the doors for the spa, there was an almost immediate sense of dropping everything and taking a big luxurious pause. Linda treated me to this day, which was very surprising. I didn't plan on that at all and I started to cry. For years and years now, if I want to celebrate and honor anything for myself and my family, I have to do it myself. I have for years bought my own gifts and planned things for various holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It's just rote now. So Linda and I planned on getting a massage and she told me about this thing at Stoweflake where you can do a spa day for about the same money and have access to the whole spa and have lunch, etc. Her treating me to this was so unexpected and sweet and I just welled up and thanked her with a BIG BIG hug.
We selected our lunch and then went to the back room where we were given plush robes and slippers. Linda showed me around to the place where the cushy lounge chairs are, the pools, saunas and locker room and showers are. We got dressed into bathing suits and then went to the mineral pool. It is 101 degrees of sheer pleasure. We sat in there and floated around until we got good and warm and then went to the waterfall pool. It was awesome to have the waterfall beating down on my head, neck, shoulders and back for I don't know how many minutes. Then it was time to go back to the mineral pool until all tension and stiffness went away.
We sat in the lounge for a minute and drank the cucumber water that was delicious. Why don't I drink this all the time?! Then we went into the steam sauna for a few minutes. That was interesting. I had never been in a hot steamy humid sauna before - only dry ones. It took some getting used to and I couldn't stay in there longer than about 5 minutes. Afterwards, a shower with beautiful smelling products and then back in our plush robes to meander about. We walked down the hall in slippers and robes and ate lunch at their cafe. (We actually sat outside near the closed pool but wanted to get some fresh air.)
Linda remarked how nice it would be if this was more standard for our culture: things like turkish baths and the custom of communally caring for ourselves. It was great to see people of all shapes and sizes just taking care of themselves. It was wonderful to see the standard uniform of women walking around our private sanctuary in robes and slippers languishing in a few hours of peace. Even better to see was when the women came back from their massages with their complimentary bottle of water and the blissed out, relaxed facial expressions. Just wonderful.
After lunch, we laid out on the lounge chairs and waited peacefully for our massages. My body felt weighty in a very good way. I had no plan for these hours other than to nourish myself in this peaceful way. We talked sometimes and other times just closed our eyes and got ourselves into a deeper place of peace. My body was very very happy for this experience and it caused a deep sense of peace in my mind, too. AHHH, I really needed this and I shouldn't wait another year to do it again. With any luck, I won't.
It was a magical 5 hours at the spa. I had a glorious massage and then we rested for another hour and a half on that lounge chair, drinking cucumber water. I brought a piece of chocolate to share with Linda. It was very difficult to get up. Who would want to leave this paradise?!
We drove home on a beautiful VT country rode during beautiful weather. The magic never ends sometimes. We were remarking about how wonderful and good we feel when we get out of our heads and into our bodies. I think that's when we are open to real magic in our lives. It was great to see the difference in our speech and body language after the day of relaxation. We had so little to say in comparison that was processing and more of gratitude and sharing in all the beauty around us. We also did a bit of dreaming for future field trips here and there. :-)
The evening was spent with my children. We went to montpelier for dinner - there was only like 1 restaurant open on mother's day! What a crazy town! It was nice. Afterwards, I took the kids to get some shorts and things for upcoming trips and just because they are growing so tall now that they need the stuff.
Here's a wish for more mindful times spent in our bodies, in our lives and an openness for magical moments.
lots of love,
morning meditation and visualization
more mindfulness in pain
it was such a full week last week, stressful and difficult. My time was fractured and I barely had time to do very simple tasks for myself some days (like make a smoothie!) It's amazing how that can happen sometimes. There's a lot going on in my life but these past couple/few weeks, it has been exponentially greater. Still, I usually have and take the time to care for my body. I work hard to make sure that I take care of myself throughout all the daily chores, needs, requirements of the house, the dogs, the kids, my work, my classes. It's taken years to develop this habit and it's essential for me to sleep well and function the best that I can.
This past week, however, I didn't do very much in the way of my normal exercise routine. I walked the dogs each day but that was only at most a 3 mile walk each day. I typically ride the stationary bike for 10 miles a day and I have to get in yoga each week. The minimum is 1 full yoga practice each week with stretching every day or every other day. This past week, I didn't get anything more than short walks in and what happens to me is stiffness that accumulates to the point of inflammation and then spasming if I don't get to exercise and stretching routinely.
I had 6 papers to write last week plus another 1200-1600 paper to hand in as a writing example some place else. I managed that PLUS ended up writing another 8 page paper for yet another commitment I have. This means that I was at the computer a lot. Each time I get up, it feels like my body just gets stuck in the seated position. My body is really slow to move and I have to ease myself into movement. I always wonder if this is what it feels like for mildly arthritic folks...
For the past 3 years, I've been standing mostly at the cafe and that has its own pain associated with it but at least I was always moving, hardly sat. That came with it's own host of side effects for my legs and hips but it's always better for me to keep moving.
Since January of this year, I've been having a numbness/pins and needles kind of experience in my foot. It happens when I sit, when I stand, when I walk. Something seems to be pinching a nerve down my leg and into my foot. I have visited the chiropractor and have had massage to help move whatever but it's still present. I want to look into this more deeply. Maybe it is time for some structural integration? An MRI? I don't know.
Today I can feel the numbness/tingling in my foot as I write this. I can also feel a band of low-level pain all around the bones of my pelvis. This typically means that my pelvis/sacrum are not in good alignment. My hips, too, have been talking to me - I've been needing to put a pillow in between my knees at night again. Exercise really does help me to keep a modicum of flexibility to my daily life. Even when I don't do this stuff for a week, my body really starts talking back in a major way.
Today I plan on doing yoga because the stretching is so essential for my piroformis and psoas muscles (These are terribly tight and stiff all the time.) It helps my groin muscles and hamstrings that get so tight they start to experience charlie horses. It helps my hips and pelvis and sacrum that has been so twisted since the kids were born... maybe sooner but the pain really began after Emily was born. SO that's 12 years of some variety and intensity of pain. I have such a high pain tolerance now that it's silly for me to fill out pain forms.
On this day, I have to begin again. NO MATTER how many papers there are, no matter what is happening in my life. My body speaks to me all the time and I listen as best as I can. I do the best I can and when I know better, I do better. My practice today is to not just listen to my body but to actually begin again with my routine after one week off and hope that my body's stiffness, tightness and pain softens quickly.
I probably will be doing my final paper on Meditation for Pain Management since it is something that I have been doing for 12 years. Maybe this is good that this week off from my usual daily exercise program happened because I was wondering what I'd do my final paper on. :-)
more middle of the night thoughts, imaginings & meditations
5 am meditation and sometimes you just gotta listen...
This morning I woke up around 5 am. I felt exhausted still but suddenly my mind became very active. I hate when this happens. I put my attention in my body and really let myself relax and fall into the bed, to feel weighty and it did have a calming effect. Still, each time I felt myself drift off, my mind went into a repetitive thought. I had had a meeting on Monday afternoon and there were a couple issues that suddenly came to mind of great importance. I acknowledged the thoughts. I said that I would get to them as soon as I got more sleep. I even said that I'd be in a better place to function with more sleep. It was like I was trying to beg to a young child that I would be a better parent if I had more sleep to function better... I kept trying to let my body drift back to sleep but these thoughts kept chiming in so loudly. After about 30 minutes, I decided to go pee and then come back to do a meditation practice.
I sat with the thoughts and acknowledged that they kept coming up. I realized I wanted to remember these items of importance because I want to advocate for myself and my family. I scanned down into my body and relaxed all the way down to my feet and back up to my head. I can't tell you how different these thoughts were than other thoughts in the (not so distant) past. They were so strong and powerful and I actually yelled loudly to myself in thought, "PLEASE!! STOP! I HEAR YOU! I LOVE YOU! I HEAR YOU!" (I thought this was kind of funny. It reminded me a little bit of what I read years ago in Eat, Pray, Love, when Elizabeth Gilbert was yelling at herself in meditation.) The pervasive thoughts stopped only briefly but then kept streaming in in the same succession, in the same order. So I just said, "Ok, fine! I'll write this down so I can get back to sleep!" It was like I was bargaining with myself.
I wrote down all the things on my mind. I listed it out and read it and edited and read it again. I did this until every issue and need was listed out. I asked myself if this seemed good and the answer was yes. I put down the computer and I laid back down. The thoughts that kept going in my head after that is, "I love you. I love you. I love you," and I drifted back to sleep finally.
We are reading a Course in Miracles this week and the main points are that thoughts, feelings, things are all illusions and the lesson is to practice to not attach to them, to view them with non-judgement and with curiosity. It was an interesting thing that happened to me. My brain wouldn't let go of these items until I wrote them down and then it was almost too easy to fall back asleep. I had the impression that my mind and body were working in cahoots or something! Maybe sometimes, some thoughts are more worth paying attention to than others. I don't know what meditation masters would say but I was just happy to get my requests down and get my body back to bed. I suppose according to the Course in Miracles, I would need lots of training to realize that these thoughts were nothing... I do wonder, though about the creative spirit that chimes in sometimes and says, "Listen." I'm not sure if this was the creative spirit but this was a very repetitive thought telling me to "Listen and do what I say." I was trying to use all these tools and they worked only briefly... Sometimes, maybe, you just gotta listen and do...
monday's meditation with my dog
I woke up pretty early yesterday morning and I dashed downstairs because I heard the dog whimpering. I didn't know what was wrong and was happy to find out that he was just whimpering at matt to get on the bed with him. I sat in the kitchen and my dog came with me. I sat in the chair and decided to meditate. The dog sat on my lap and we settled in. I have to say it was much easier to follow the breathing of my dog than my own breathing. Why is that? I don't really know for sure. It was cute and sweet and very fun to listen to his breathing turn to sleeping breaths. I was smiling and at some point I decided to open my eyes and continue on with the meditation with my eyes open.
I looked at the dogs hair. He's mostly a black dog, with white on his chin and a small bit on his chest but he's kind of a rainbow because there's gray, black, brown, auburn and white in his hair. His hair is so much longer than when we brought them home in December. What a cutie. I watched his belly move as he was breathing. I just observed his body curled in a little u-shape. I felt the weight of his small body on my lap. It was a really sweet observation. I do it all the time but this felt extra special.
An interesting thing to note. Mister Noah (my dog) and I were doing this little meditation and Matt decided to bring Noah's brother in the room (Cooper.) As soon as he put Cooper near us, Noah made a tiny little half-hearted growl. What was that all about? Was he saying, "This is my time with this lady! Leave us alone!"? I can't say but it made me chuckle.
early morning meditation
This morning's meditation came at around 4 am. This was unintentional! I was not trying to be monk-like! I woke up around 3 something and my thoughts started churning immediately. I kept trying to catch them - "Stop! please! I don't want to start thinking now. I want to get to bed! I'm not getting enough sleep as it is!" I kept putting the focus back to my belly and breathing and it was amazing how thoughts kept getting pulled to a conversation I had that day and the imagining a future conversation that I will have next week. I was processing and thinking and analyzing at 3 something in the morning! AACK! I don't want to do this. I want to sleep!
Each time I thought that I was doing a good job of focusing on my body and my breathing - the conversation would just start again. So I said, "Forget it - time to get serious." And I sat up and started meditating. I might as well, I thought. I sat and bowed to the thoughts that kept streaming in. I gave myself a lot of kindness and understanding as to why I was doing this. I was trying to understand what had gone wrong in my conversation and what I could do to ensure that I was going to be understood. I was trying to foresee a future conversation and what I might say the next time. I saw this with great kindness and then it was easy to shift out of it. It was as if the trial of pushing the thoughts away was not enough at this time (sometimes it is.) I needed to give a little light and understanding to why they kept presenting themselves... Like a child having a little fit. It's possible to ignore, to not give it much value but it's something more for the parent and the child when the parent acknowledges whatever pain or confusion the child might be feeling that is causing the behavior and then watch the behavior change much more quickly thereafter.
I drifted back to sleep. I had many lucid dreams for about 3 1/2 more hours and then the dogs woke me up with their barking. I was grateful to have done that in the middle of the night. I have experience of not doing that and the result is hours and hours of a very active brain in the middle of the night...
"Human beings act out of their conditioning. Conditioned by culture, upbringing, to think/feel/behave in certain ways. When you see how you create suffering for yourself and others, you move out of the conditioning. Don't equate the conditioned mind with who you are. "I did that therefore I'm bad." Don't be the role, be the awareness. Guilt keeps you trapped in a very narrow sense of self. (Human unconsciousness is the narrow sense of self)
"Thought forms that arise, emotion forms that arise are not the awareness. They are the conditioned pattern. Don't live in that conflict of mind that has a good person telling the other part of self that he/she is bad. Are you present to internal and external reality of now? The good thought and the bad thought are just thoughts.
"Polarities of good/bad and high/low are in thought patterns. Allow yourself the imperfections. If you fight them, you make them stronger. Don't look for yourself from any thought that comes into your head. You don't have to follow every thought when you are aware. The thought drifts out and the awareness remains. Find a spacious relationship with your thoughts.
"Thought is not a problem. Be there as the witness to what goes on inside you and then change happens by itself. The mind will always have good/bad, up/down and you don't have to act on any of those things. Act from aware presence.
"Awareness is not needy - it doesn't use a person or situation for an end result. Conditioned mind uses everything and every moment/person as a means to an end. When you act out of awareness you do not want anything. True love does not want anything. It is selfless."
I've experienced a lot of guilt in this relationship and I take responsibility for what I chose to believe as good or bad in myself based on things said and experienced, etc. When I heard Tolle talking about how we live in conflict when we listen to the mind as it says some aspect is good and some is bad about ourselves, it really spoke to me and propels me to move past that. I'm ready to change the record, dance a new dance, sing a new song, etc.
I'm holding myself and Matt in a clear space right now. I pray that from this moment onward, we can move past our filters and translations and get into clear communication, seeing the goodness and the Divine in each other and move past this really difficult spot right now.
the week of Eckhart Tolle
wednesday morning reflections...
it's been a roller coaster of life lately. so much going on. my own way of thinking of things also puts me into places that can be utterly pleasant or terrible, depending on how my mind wanders... I had one rough moment yesterday afternoon. I suppose the best way I can put it is that I'm aware of all that I manage and oversee and for some reason, it is feeling like it is too much these days. I am seeking help and support but not really getting it and so something has to give.
I shut off all electronics last night and went to bed at 10 pm. It felt good for me to cease and desist all computer work and mindless FB chatting. In bed, my mind immediately went to a beautiful image of some future place and state that I want to be in. I drifted off into sleep.
In the morning just before awakening, I had a dream about an old boyfriend. One that I hadn't thought of in years and years. I don't know why he decided to show up in my dream but my reflection after waking was on the ways in which I gave a bit of myself over to him. I was very immature back then and had not had much relationship experience back then. I was a lot stronger, too, in many ways, and that was also good to reflect on. It turned out to be a very good reflection... I went into a place of meditation after that. Acknowledging the thoughts and reflections and then letting them be. No need to analyze further.
More thoughts and reflections came in and they went about their way, too.
In my rough moments yesterday, I want to acknowledge that I did some tonglen around them, too. There was a moment when the pain I was feeling (emotional pain) was so great that it felt like I couldn't breathe for a few seconds. I breathed into and out of that space for myself and for countless others that could possibly be feeling that right then, too. I suppose it helped me to do this act for myself and others because that pain was big enough to fool me into thinking I was alone in that thought/feeling.
This morning I made a loose plan for how I wanted the day to go to day. I'm doing all things for me right now. OBLIGATION was the word that kept popping up as the action to avoid in my life from now on. :-) It feels good to make that claim. I also figured on what I was going to eat today since eating has been so strange for me since late January. (No worries on this.) The phrase that popped in to replace obligation was CARING AS A WANT FOR SELF/OTHERS - in other words: CHOICE. It's a much better place in my heart (with lots of space around it) when I ask myself, "what do I choose to do today?"
This morning I made a kickass slam dunk green smoothie for myself and my kids:
1 local small apple
a head of lettuce
rice protein powder
I sucked down 3/4 of it and will have the rest later. Since January I have been at a loss for what to eat. Don't ask me why. I decided today that I will have a smoothie in the morning and a nori wrap this afternoon if I'm hungry. Dinner is always easy to figure out.
So that's all that's on my mind thus far. I'm off to see about getting another paper written and posted for school. Thank you to anyone that is reading my thoughts and mind wanderings... all love, Linda
giving tonglen a whirl...
May I be well and happy Free from harm and change May any obstacle to my spiritual, emotional, or physical well-being be removed May I reach/be enlightenment in this lifetime. This was a prayer given to me by my friend Ani when I took Buddhist vows nearly 12 years ago. That prayer starts with me and then moves to my loved ones, then to acquaintances, then to "enemies", then to anyone/everyone in the world and universe. It can take a LONG time to do the prayer. I hold the person's face in my mind as I recite the prayer for them. It has helped me to forgive and forget a multitude of things in myself and in others. I read about tonglen for class this week and described it in a paper I wrote yesterday:
Tonglen is a transformational meditation practice that helps to change the atmosphere in our relationships (with self and all other sentient beings.) Tonglen has four stages: Stage 1 reminds us of any of the five mind training slogans from absolute bodhichitta (i.e. “regard all dharma as dreams;” “examine the nature of unborn insight;” “self-liberation is no antidote;” “rest in the nature of alaya;” and/or “in the post meditation experience, one should remain as a child of illusion;” from Pema Chodron's “Awakening Compassion” video.) Stage 2 of Tonglen is to breathe in the dark and heavy thoughts/emotions that arise and then breathe out whatever feels cool and light. Stage 3 is to think of whatever unresolved issue is present and alive in oneself and breathe in the dark, heaviness of it and then breathe out something that feels peaceful or helpful in some way. The idea is to open space up in one’s mind and heart in both the darkness and the lightness, which is the nature of the giving/receiving aspects of Tonglen. Stage 4 asks us to universalize this experience by visualizing all being who are sharing this dark experience that we are having in this present moment and breathing out images or thoughts of peace for all; this helps to help us to feel less sense of separation in our darkest moments.It is a lovely variation on the theme of loving kindness and compassion towards self and others. It seems to help heal suffering in relationships and can be done even for folks that you don't know. Chodron gave the example of seeing a father speak harshly to a child in a store - she said that the breathing in could be for the anger/frustration the father feels and breathing out of peace for him. Likewise, we could breathe in the pain and humiliation the child feels and breathe out an image of a flower or something that might be of some use to him/her. I wrote yesterday about the various monkey wrenches in my day. I noticed that what got triggered in me was not only frustration, but self-doubt. I can write a lot about this and tell you the why's and the how's of this story but the real meat of it was that I got to a very familiar place of self-doubt that I don't frankly treat as an old friend. Lately when I experience self-doubt, it is accompanied with low level anxiety. I realize this is because I want to trust my thoughts, words and deeds in this body and in this lifetime. Not doing so, can feel almost crippling. I noticed the thoughts and stories and was really ok to drop them. Still, I had the feelings that were unpleasant - unwanted. I decided to take a few minutes and breathe in the space of self-doubt and accompanied anxiety. I breathed in all its murky twistedness. I fucking hate this feeling and want to resist it with every ounce of my being. But this time, I invited it in. I held it for a few minutes and then breathed out an image of the beach with the ocean waves washing this feeling through and out. then the fun part began. I breathed in and thought about all the millions of people that might be feeling this same sense of self-doubt and anxiety right at this moment. This really helped to open up space inside me - a space of realization that I'm not alone in this. Probability-wise, there must be quite a number of people who feel this exact thing at this exact moment. Who is to say not? I breathed out images of expansive ocean waves washing this away. It was much easier to do this for others than for myself. I repeated the process because I want to feel the easy kindness I had to send out to others and give it to myself, too. I'd love feedback on personal experience of these loving-kindness meditations. do you do them? Do you find them helpful? do you have insights into understand that might help me too? thank you.