Saturday, November 1, 2008

Meditation 2

Quote of the month:
We can't solve problems
by using the same kind of thinking
we used when we created them.
- Albert Einstein

At the end of last month's post, I said that we would talk about how to make changes next month. Meditation, awareness or mindfulness are such an important part of making changes that it felt important to revisit it again before moving on. Meditation gives insights into change, keep one calmer during change...and provide an important perspective as changes are made.

I want to stress here again, that I am not suggesting you make any specific changes in your life, but if you have been following along each month and identified some areas of your life that are causing you stress and YOU desire to experience your life differently, than these are simply suggestions I have found to be of use.

When we were babies, we were completely caught up in the present moment. We thought we were our bodies. When we felt hunger, we would immediately cry. As a baby we "WERE" our hunger. As we get older, we realize that our hunger is a feeling and we can separate a bit from it before resorting to crying. [...though there are some adults who are still known to become quite cranky when hungry! ;) You know who you are!!!!] As a child, we learned that we could express our feeling of hunger, ask for food and resolve the feeling, hopefully, without a tantrum.

As we grew up, other things became more important to us. Perhaps getting a new bike, hitting a baseball or winning a game. At this stage, we BECAME the bike or the win. Our sense of self was caught up in identifying with the bike, the win, etc. Again, we got older, we became able to separate ourselves emotionally from whatever it was that we wanted and thought (felt) that we HAD to have.

As teens.....the list could be endless.... let's start with, we thought we were: our hair, our clothes, our friends, our car, our boyfriend or girlfriend....any of this sounding familiar to anyone? I want to make a connection to the baby crying when it is hungry and to the teen potentially acting on emotion when it comes to any of the things listed above. Maybe a teenage boy will over-react by hitting someone, if they scratch his new car. It is similar to the baby crying when he is hungry. Even though we try as parents, to teach our children to stop and think before they act, at this point, it is very difficult for a child to see beyond the car, the friends, etc. when making decisions.

Again, as we get older, wiser, more mature, we learn that we actually CAN go on if we don't get the Gloria Vanderbilt jeans or for today's crowd....the Hollister T-shirt! At this phase of life the priorities begin to shift to college, grades, maybe a career.... A few years later maybe a spouse, family, rising in your career, your house, your children, neighborhood, organizations and associations, etc....

The point is that at each phase of life there IS typically something that we identify ourselves with. Even if we are not aware of it at the time. Actually, that is the hallmark of being identified with one of these things...that you are NOT aware of it, at least until after you have moved beyond it. If the suggestion that you may currently be identified with something sounds strange to you at first, go back through the list, back to childhood, and see if you can identify some that you have moved beyond.

These types of things that we identify ourselves with are typically the things that will be most quick to upset us (like the scratch on the car), cause stress in our lives and to which we will react most quickly with emotion rather than reason.

I am not saying that having a nice car, a good job, nice clothing... are (comma) bad things, simply that if one identifies who they are with those things... then that person may often be acting from an emotional position rather than from rational thought. One has to look no further than the headlines to find ample examples. Think back to President Nixon and Watergate for an example of a politician who was very identified with his political position..and what lengths he went to, legal and illegal, to retain that identity. For an example of someone not thinking things through, and acting on emotion, look to another a politician risking his political career by soliciting a police officer in the men's room of the Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) airport. For a final example, remember hearing stories of little league fathers punching the umpire over a bad call. Such stories are numerous in our headlines today.

Here is where meditation comes in...
The advantage of practicing meditation, especially regularly, is that gradually a gap is established between this emotional side of oneself and your essential nature, which is calm, joyful, insightful and rational. Slowly, that gap becomes easier to see. As this happens, one can more simply exercise restraint and detachment in the decision making process and gradually be free of emotional reactions. This allows one to be more FREE to make a choice in a given situation, even if emotions are running high.

My suggestion this month to deepen your meditation or awareness is to try to pause your mental I-pod/tape more consistently during the day, if only for short periods of time. In August, I suggested picking a repetitive activity that you do several times a day and pause the mental I-pod each time you do that activity. Another suggestion would be to do that at the top of every hour. Some people who still wear watches have a watch that will beep on the hour. This could be a reminder. You really do have time to take one full breath, once each hour. If that seems too challenging, try it when you arrive at work or school and when you arrive home. Start with what feels right for you, and like in yoga, just try to do a little bit more each day.

  • Try to take one full aware breath in and out each time you do this.
  • Try for 5 times in one day and then slowly try to increase that each day.
  • When you pause, see if you can identify any particular thoughts going through your head at the time.
  • Attempt, just for that one breath, to allow your mind to be free of thought.

Finally, most importantly with meditation or awareness, do NOT feel that you are doing it wrong or that you can't do it. EVERYONE feels that way about least in the beginning!!!! EVERYONE! There really is no wrong way to do it.

Two additional quick thoughts about meditation. People tell me that they don’t meditate, because they pray. The difference between prayer and meditation is that prayer is talking (or thinking) and meditation is listening. Second, a friend of mine recently likened meditation to your diet. Not so much being on a diet, but just the actual things you eat. If you eat foods that are high in fat or sugar, you will feel tired and run down. If you eat foods that nourish your body, you will feel energized. Meditation is like the diet of your mind.

I will also briefly share one of my own simply methods that I am sure is not listed in any book of "How to" meditate, but it is what works for me. When I begin, I go through a mental checklist and intentionally think about all the things that might be on my kids, what I am going to make for dinner, a phone call I need to make, etc.... Then I set those things aside. In my method, I mentally set those things outside of my "head" (or awareness) and give myself permission to spend the next 15 or 20 minutes in "my time". This is what works for me. I'd love to hear what works, or doesn't work, for you!

As always, your feedback as well as any questions you may have or topics you may be interested in for the future you may place in the comments section the bottom of the post or e-mail me directly at . All newsletters will be posted and archived on my blog along with other useful information at:
Simply Spirituality or

To continue reading the next post, Change is in the Air, click here....

Until next month....
Here's hoping you keep your spirituality simple!

Picture of the month

Floating flowers, Key West, Florida, May 2000


Anonymous said...

Penelope, LOVE the analogies on the attachments!
Clothes, hair, friends, boyfriend, or car -then priorities shift to college, grades, career, then morphs into rising in career, house, spouse, a family, children. We just become them if we don't put them in perspective.

Thanks for reminding me and empowering me to believe that if you want to experience your life differently you can!xoxoxo

Penelope said...

YES! Thank you for the comment! Sometimes I call it going on auto-pilot!

That's when the mental I-pod/tape has taken over and we don't realize it! When we are moving so quickly and not really in awareness about what we are doing.

This process reminds me to check in now and then and see what I might be identifying with...and see if my decision making process is based more in emotions or rationale.

Next month's blog will concentrate a little more on the beginning steps to actual change. The only person you can really effect lasting change on, is yourself. You might be able to change a situation, or may be able convince someone that they need to change for a while….but in the end, the only person you have any real control over is yourself. That really is the good news as it opens up a world of possibilities about how you experience your life!