Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Week 11 - Making Room for Connection

Ah, the holiday season. Hustle and bustle abounds and the weather, at least here in the Twin Cities, is getting in on the fun. We've had nearly two feet of snow in the past 10 days and are on pace to break records for the snowiest December in recorded history. Not only has work been busy and taxing, but there's still the rest of life to tend to...right now occupied mainly by shoveling and last minute holiday preparations.

I've managed to keep up with my meditations, but only marginally. I've been taking for granted the fact that I've been doing daily meditation for nearly three months and allowing a quick five minute sit mere moments before I fall into a deep exhausted sleep to count for something. At least I'm showing up, I tell myself. But how present am I being, really? Aren't I just going through the motions? Is that OK?

But the real question that plagues me when life throws me every curve ball in the book is, "In times like this, where is the room for quiet time?"

It seems that when we need it the most, our quest for silence and reconnection gets cut. It's no problem to carve out time for meditation when life is reasonable and we have some time to spare. But how do we keep the priority intact when we can barely get the laundry done so we have something to wear to work tomorrow?

I think the answer is that we find our quiet time wherever we can get it. These are the times when we put meditation to work in our ever-chaotic, endless to-do-list, daily lives. Take a few conscious breaths while stopped at the stoplight. Offer a silent wish of loving kindness to the other people in line with you at the post office. Before pulling out the cell phone to multi-task while you drive, or turning on the radio, allow yourself to drive in silence...notice the scenery, the way the snow alights on the branches, the joy in how the dog out for a walk is wagging its tail. Find peace in the in-between moments. Let the love of life come to you.

The only way we don't have room for quiet time is if we forget that it is all around us if we open to it, if we choose it. It might come in fits and starts. It might be more challenging than we can imagine to focus on our breathing in the small moments available to us rather than turning over all our energy to our minds in hopes of keeping us on task with our duties in the world. Compassion with ourselves is key. We need to remember that connection is up to us.

Am I proud of my incredibly short and scattered meditations this week? No. I'd love to be able to sit longer and give 100% of my energy and my presence to the task at hand. But what I'm realizing is that maybe I am giving 100% -- 100% of what I have to offer in that moment. And that that's enough.

Because what about all the brief moments I remembered to stop during the day to breathe, to smile at others, to enjoy the beauty of the winter wonderland that surrounds me...even if that moment occurs while shoveling? Meditation means nothing if the practice of making room for connection doesn't spill over into our daily lives.

May your holiday be filled with the moments of peace that dance along naturally with the moments of chaos. May you make room for all that means the most to you this holiday season. And I will do the same.//

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Week 10 - Feel the Way

"Ask your question. Feel the answer.
Ask, feel. Ask, feel. Ask, feel.
~The Universe

Many months ago, I signed up to receive these little daily emails from "The Universe" (via www.tut.com). They're cute, they're quirky and most of all, they're thought-provoking. The topics cover anything from the power of attraction to developing presence -- more or less the kinds of things I think we all stand to gain from regular, daily meditation. More than anything, they're good reminders to me most days to keep up with my meditations, to keep mining my own experience, and to keep seeking to connect deeply with my own inner wisdom.

In my experience, this process of discovery called meditation comes down more to questions than answers. Now I know a thing or two about the importance of embracing the questions in life -- it's like what they say about change being the only constant, only most of the time, questions are my constant. If I didn't embrace them and the act of asking the question itself, I can't imagine where I'd be...besides in a constant state of frustration. I think that's part of what meditation does for us -- gives us an opportunity to ask what is pressing on us and see what, if any, illumination comes.

This past week when I received the above message in my email from The Universe, something clicked for me. I thought a lot about how I've been asking my questions and how I've been sitting and waiting, patiently or not, for the answers. And mostly, I realized I've been focused on listening...hoping I'd hear something. Right? Listening to the heart -- I've taken this in its most literal sense.

Well, this is great for the mind...because how can you tell whether your mind came up with the answer or whether it came from intuition? I've been so caught up in the idea of asking the question and listening for the response that I realize I have missed out on something key -- the importance of feeling the response as another means of connecting with intuition.

We grow up in a society whose belief structure is traditionally based upon the idea that something exists if and only if we can see it, if we can prove it with numbers and statistics -- only this is fact. Only this is valid. Only this is real. Feelings are intangible, they're relative and worse than that, they're messy. They can't be quantified and in this "rational" way of being in the world, feelings are not to be trusted. Most of us were taught, overtly or not, not only to set our feelings aside, that they need to be contained and controlled, but even to disregard them entirely. Why wouldn't we learn that trusting our mind is a much safer bet if this is the unspoken condition to gaining the acceptance that every child craves?

But what if our body and how it feels has more information to share with us than we realize? We sometimes forget that we are whole beings made up of a body, mind and spirit -- shouldn't we allow ourselves to be informed through all of these aspects of ourselves? If we continue to distance ourselves from our bodies and their wisdom, what is the result? Respect the mind, certainly...but not at the expense of our feeling heart.

In most of my posts I write to varying degrees about the continual discovery of what meditation is and isn't for me. It seems that the concept of feeling for the answers eluded me. What I've learned is that developing a connection with our intuition isn't only about listening. It's also about being able to sense and feel what's right for us in given situations, and to trust those feelings. I know I've spent most of my life learning to put all my trust in my mind -- through meditation, I hope to re-learn how to feel as well. And to trust the wisdom of those feelings.

So in my meditations this past week I've been practicing not only listening for the answers, but bringing my awareness to how I feel in response to particular questions. Still, the answers may or may not come. Or more accurately, the answers will come in their own time, in their own way -- in a way that is unique to me.

We all have our own way of connecting with our intuition, the universal wisdom within is. Our job then is to show up and notice how we each best take in information and open ourselves to receiving information in those ways. For me, remembering how to feel my way to the answers seems promising. I guess only time will tell...//

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Week 9 - Setting Myself Free

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
~Mary Oliver (excerpt from Wild Geese)

I missed meditating one day this past week and wasn't quite sure how to handle it. This Journey of the Heart project is about the impact of 40 straight weeks of daily meditation -- not eight-and-a-half weeks, minus a day, and then thirty-one-and-a-half more. It never occured to me I might have to deal with this.

Immediately upon waking the next day, I noticed something was missing. It wasn't that I knew it was the meditation at first, but I could feel that something wasn't quite right. Like how it feels to wake up and realize you forgot to floss your teeth the night before. Meditation has become that kind of a daily habit for me, something I do almost without thinking -- that part is good. But what to do when a day slips by and I forget? If it were just flossing my teeth, I'd just pick up where I left off the next day...just start again. But this is different, isn't it? To me, this project is a big deal. It's important.

In the past, I would have seen missing a day of any sort of commitment as a failure. Perhaps I would have panicked, gotten all whipped up about what I thought missing a day "meant" about me, about the commitment as a whole and my inability to keep it and seriously considered throwing the whole project -- the "baby" if you will -- out with the bathwater.

This time around, I found it interesting. I wondered if maybe there might be something to learn from it -- this is a journey of discovery, after all. How was it that I went through a whole day without carving out the time as I had successfully done every day for more than eight weeks? What made this particular day so different?

What I recognized was that this is the first holiday season for as long as I can remember that I'm actually engaged. I don't feel overwhelmed. I'm not bracing myself in rapt anticipation of the next few weeks being over so I can get on with my life. As it is, the tree is decorated, the presents wrapped, the cookies baked -- not because I have to, as in years past, but because I want to.

Something is different, and it doesn't seem to be anything I've done. Other than meditate every day for the past "almost" nine weeks. I have the energy to be out in the world without feeling the need to sequester myself later in order to recharge from it. It's as if I am now equipped with an inner buffer, a layer of insulation that is helping me maintain my focus, patience and a connection with a level of peacefulness that allows me to be satisfied more with the way of things and stressed-out less.

The truth is, I don't know why I missed my meditation that day -- other than the fact that I was engrossed in an uninterrupted day with my family settling into the holiday spirit, decorating our home, and taking the time to enjoy it. Sure, I could have had half a mind off wondering when I was going to steal away and get my meditation in. But perhaps being single-mindedly focused on the present moment is a bit of meditation in action. Or maybe it just slipped my mind.

I'll admit, it feels like a fine line. Is meditation something I now only need to do when I feel like it? When I think of it? Or worse, is it a "should" just because of this project? Of course not. But do I need to be militant about it? What good does it do to come from the mindset of "I made a commitment to meditate every day and I failed to hold up my end of the bargain. How will I make up for it?" What about the days when I meditate more than once? Do I get extra credit for those days? No. And yet when I miss a day I have to scratch eight weeks of progress and start over?

More than ever, I'm sure this project isn't about developing discipline or learning to be better about following the rules or making good on my commitments. In fact, it has become painfully clear to me how ruled my life has been by rules -- self-imposed as much as anything -- and that I am not here to repent. Or be good. Or be perfect.

What I'm realizing through my daily meditation -- and in this case, without it -- is what I am here for: to take myself lighter, to laugh more, and to allow myself the softness and ease to love what I love...and am tickled to find the item on the top of that list of loves gets to be me. I have to believe this is why we're all here.

So, I missed a day. The world will not end. The sun will rise again tomorrow. And my project of self-discovery will happily, and more joyfully, go on.//