Class meditation for 27th June 2016

Ending words

May all beings be happy and free
And may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life
Contribute in some way
To the happiness and freedom for all IMG_0471

Hi everyone

It’s been a long time since I wrote on here but one of my students last night reminded me of why I set it up in the first place: she asked me if I could put the readings I do at the end of class on line so she could read them again (Thank you, Marty, for the reminder!). I’d also intended putting the meditations etc up too so you can practice them in your own time. So I will try and update this blog weekly in future with things from class.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer: The Dance

Last night we did a meditation from the above book which I’ve been reading this week. It’s about finding ways of letting our essential nature guide our choices and actions in life. OMD says it’s based on a “tonglen” Buddhist meditation that Pema Chodron teaches. It’s about focusing on receiving and sitting with those feelings we usually try to get rid of, and giving away – or sharing with others – the feelings we try to hang on to, and doing this first for yourself, then for another and finally for the world.

Do your usual settling and grounding to start.

 

Meditation for Being With Yourself

Take 3 deep breaths in through your nose, breathing out through your mouth. On each exhale, inwardly tell yourself gently to “let go”. Let your shoulders fall a little, let your weight drop down into your hips and legs. With each exhale, let go a little more. Feel your body rise and fall with your breath. Breathe into any place in your body where there is tension or tiredness and as you exhale breathe this into the ground.

Keep following your breath and be aware of yourself and your surroundings. Be aware of any sensations you feel. Notice how your body feels, what sounds or smells or colours are around you. Neither resist nor focus on these sensations, simply notice them. When thoughts come, notice them and let them go, gently bringing your attention back to your breath. Just be fully present with yourself.

Now let your mind review the events of the day – your interactions with others, your activities – lightly calling to mind how you have spent your day. Notice what feelings are evoked by these memories. let yourself stay with these feelings, breathing them in, getting a little closer to the depth and breadth and colour of each feeling. Notice which feelings you want to stay with and which you want to push away. Stay with 1 feeling that is uncomfortable: not overwhelmingly painful. Be aware of any sense of wanting to pull away from this feeling. Breath into any places in your body or heart that resist this feeling and let them soften a little in their resistance. Notice what happens.

As you breathe in a feeling you would normal want to get away from, breathe out a feeling you would usually want to hang onto, sharing it with others in the world.

Spend some time simply following the inhale and exhale, sitting closer with a feeling you have found uncomfortable and sending out into the world a feeling you have tried to hang onto. As thoughts come, simply notice them and let them go. Notice without judgement what happens.

 

Bronchial mudra – for asthma and inner strength

Bronchial mudra

I love mudras, as anyone who comes to my yoga class will know! These, put simply, are the hand gestures used in yoga and meditation. They can be used to focus the mind while meditating (most people are familiar with chin mudra, most often seen in people meditating – index finger and thumb touching, other 3 fingers straight – see pic below.)

chin mudra

The mudras work on similar pressure points to those found in the feet in reflexology. They can stimulate physical parts of the body, but also stimulate emotional/mental states. You usually have a visualisation and affirmation linked to the mudra.

Last night in class we did the bronchial mudra.

Both hands as above, little finger at base of thumb, ring finger on first joint, middle finger pressing pad of thumb, index finger straight. Do this for 5 minutes 5 times a day. In an acute attack of asthma, use this for 4-6 minutes, then the asthma mudra (can be found on line too).

Interestingly my book says people with respiratory problems often suffer from loneliness and isolation – too much detachment from the outer world or find it difficult to set boundaries. They find themselves plagued by other people’s duties and problems. This leads to stress so these poeple are pressed for time and out of breath. A general physical weakness is caused by this shallow breathing. When strength is reduced, weakness occurs on the mental-emotional level as well as the physical level.

Do any yoga breathing exercise to strengthen the lungs.

Visualisation

Do this while holding the mudra:
Direct your awareness to your pelvic floor.
Inhaling, count to 7 and take your awareness from your pelvic floor slowly to the crown of the head (you may visualise the chakras as you do so, if you wish
Hold your breath for 5 seconds at the top of the inhalation.
Exhaling, take your awareness back down the body, counting from 7 to 1. Pause before breathing in again.
The pauses are very important after each inhalation/exhalation.

Affirmation

Every breath gives me strength. It strengthens my body, mind and soul.

 

Enjoy and let me know if it helps!

 

(Thanks to Girtrud Hirschi and her amazing book of mudras!)

 

Pema Chodron: Joy

The Wisdom of No Escape

At the end of this week’s class I read an excerpt from Pema Chodron’s lovely book. It is from Chapter 6 and is about Joy.

The Navajo teach their children that every morning when the sun comes up, it’s a brand-new sun. It’s born each morning, it lives for the duration of one day, and in the evening it passes on, never to return again. As soon as the children are old enough to understand, the adults take them out at dawn and they say, “The sun has only one day. You must live this day in a good way, so that the sun won’t have wasted precious time.” Acknowledging the preciousness of each day is a good way to live, a good way to reconnect with our basic joy.

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The whole chapter expands this theme and is well worth reading. She tells a story of a woman runnign away from tigers and she climbs down a cliff, and the tigers are above and below, waiting for her to fall. A mouse is nibbling away at the vine she is clinign on to. She also sees a bunch of strawberries near her. She takes a strawberry, eats it and enjoys it thoroughly. Pema Chodron says,

“Tigers above, tigers below. This is the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

This is the message we read over and over in different forms: enjoy each moment as if it were your last. You never know what is in the future. It is hard to put this into action. Yoga and meditation help, but modern life is always driving us forwards, to achieve more and more, and not just smell the roses. So today, think about what your strawberry moment is and savour it!

I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt

Love is Letting Go of Fear

This  is a great little book that has been sitting on my book shelf unread for years. It’s by Gerald G Jampolsky MD. (Great name!)

It’s another of the many books that seem to have flourished in the 1980s around the theme of healing and being happy. Others of this era, who I’ve previously mentioned, include Bernie Siegel, Louise Hay and Elizabeth Kubler Ross. This book apparently follows the themes of the Course in Miracles but massively simplified (fortunately, as it is a huge bible of a book that I’ve only managed to read 2 pages of so far!) For anyone with a short attention span, it has very short chapters and lots of cartoons! Bite sized chunks of wisdom.

Buddha in my garden!

Buddha in my garden!

I wanted to share one of the chapters I’ve just read:

I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt

“That free will and choice are inherent attributes of the mind is something that most of us tend to forget. We have all had the experience of feeling trapped in a situation where there seemed to be no escape.

Here is a suggestion that may prove helpful under such circumstances. You can use active imagination to find a way out. Picture a wall and let it represent your problem. On this wall paint a door and hang a red exit sign above it. Imagine yourself opening the door, walking through it and shutting it firmly behind you. Your problem is no longer with you since you have left it behind. Experience your new found freedom by imagining yourself in a place where you have no worries and there is nothing to do other than what you would enjoy. When you are ready to leave your happy retreat, bring with you this newly found sense of  release from past problem-solving attempts. In the freshness of your new perception, solutions previously unavailable to you will now occur.”

Meditation on Kindness

Kindness

Following on from the end of my last post where I reminded about attempting to be kind in thought, word and deed all week, I thought I’d post a meditation on kindness today. It’s really simple and can be adapted to whatever quality you want to encourage into your life now.

The Meditation

Sit comfortably, cross legged, kneeling or on a chair, as long as you are comfortable. Place your left hand on your heart and your right hand just below your belly button. Women can place their hand on their womb. Take some deep breaths, focusing your breath into your heart and womb/abdomen/hara. This brings the focus into the body and down from the mind. You may find that you become aware of how you feel emotionally. Sit with any emotions that come up – don’t suppress them, allow them to be there. You may find you want to cry – that’s fine, acknowledge the emotion and let it go. Don’t suppress it. You may also feel a warm sense of love. Whatever it is, embrace it don’t suppress it.

Visualisation of kindness

When you are ready, start to visualise kindness flowing into your heart. (If you wish, you can visualise it flowing from God, Mother Earth, The Universal Energy, whatever works for you.) Or just focus on kindness itself. You can imagine it any way you wish, or just imagine a sense of warmth. Stay with any emotions that arise. If your thoughts wander, gently bring your awareness back to the sense of kindness. Continue for as long as you feel comfortable.

This may be enough for you. If you are doing this meditation for the first time maybe leave it here. However, you could also have a sense of sending the kindness out from you. Imagine it flowing out into the world/universe every time you exhale. Or you may wish to send it out to particular people – friends, relatives, anyone you think might benefit from it. If you are ready, you could also send kindness to people that you are having difficulties with. (This is very much like the Buddhist Metta Bhavana meditation). But this might be difficult if you are new to meditating and it might be kinder to yourself (!) to just bring kindness to your own heart for now. As we all know, you can’t love anyone else until you really love yourself. In the same way you can’t really genuinely send kindness out without being able to be kind to yourself first.

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My own practice

Personally, I incorporate this into my daily meditation. I have a timer app on my phone which divides 20 minutes into 5 minute segments. One of these segments is always this meditation.

Visualisation

The Power of Visualisation

Anyone who knows me well, will know I love visualisation. I particularly loved teaching it in my yoga classes as I saw the dramatic effect it could have on people. As usual, though, I found it harder to do for myself. But I am now visualising love and kindness flowing into me when I meditate every day.

Bernie Siegel describes in “Love, Medicine and Miracles” how his cancer patients would have their own personal visualisation for white blood cells destroying their tumour: for some it was like a Space Invaders game, for others something more gentle – one child saw his cancer as cat food and the white blood cells as white pussycats. This is obviously quite a dramatic use of visualisation, but all of us can use it it create a life we love.

You may wish to start the day visualising all of the things you know you are going to do and imagining them going really well. Visualising in bright colour, with sunshine and positive outcomes really helps. So rather than waking up grumpy and then having a bad day, you can choose to have a great day. Or you can incorporate it into your daily life: if you suffer from anxiety then when you go for a walk, imagine the breeze blowing it away. When you are washing up, imagine it being washed away. You can try this  with anything and be creative!

Yoga

Enhance gentle yoga practice with mudras

Your gentle yoga practice need only be sitting cross legged and concentrating on rhythmic breathing. Or you could add an extra dimension by using a mudra – the most well known is Chin Mudra, where you hold the index finger and thumb together and keep the other 3 fingers stretched out. This is how you see the hands in the traditional meditation posture. Rest the backs of your hand on your knees.

chin mudra

One of my favourite mudras is Apan Mudra, or “rabbit ears” as I call it. You may see this mudra used in a variety of yoga postures, particularly those based on the Hindu gods, such as Krishna playing his flute in Natavarasana.

apan mudra

Apan mudra relates to springtime, cleansing the body: it helps to detox the liver. It also calms the mind. It helps visualise new goals/beginnings. Use it if there is something you’d like to change in your life. Sit for 10 minutes with your hands in apan mudra and do the following visualisation (add as much of your own detail to the visualisation as you can: colour, plants etc)

Imagine sitting in a beautiful garden. Enjoy the various plants. Observe the mystery of nature: how a plant grows and blooms. In an empty bed, plant something that will bear rich fruit for you: a conversation, relationship etc. Imagine how it sprouts, blossoms and bears fruit. Who will benefit from these fruits? End with a big thank you.

Affirmation: I plant my seeds, care for them and receive a rich harvest that I thankfully accept.

(Special thanks to Gertrud Hirschi for her fab book “Mudras” which has been invaluable to me.)

Heart meditation #1

The Heart of the Universe

First of all, bring your focus to your heart. Imagine breathing deeply in and out of your heart. This takes the focus down from the mind/intellect, into the body. (If you have suppressed emotions you may find them coming to the surface as you do this – if so, stay with them and allow them to release with love, it might feel difficult at the time but you will feel better for it afterwards. I am often surprised at what emotions come up during these meditations)

Focus on whatever you see as the divine source – God, the Universe, divine energy. Visualise divine love flowing from the source to your heart, filling your heart with joy.

bliss yoga

I found a lovely image for this meditation recently on a website. After focusing on your heart, imagine the night sky, and take a leisurely tour around the heavens: the stars, other planets, comets etc. Use your imagination. Then imagine coming upon the Heart of the Universe – visualise this as you wish. Visualise love and healing energy flowing from the Heart of the Universe to you.

Ahh, bliss!