Friday, March 15, 2013

Meditation: Anal Retentive?

There are hundreds of ways to meditate, and there is no "right way."  One of the dangers of learning specific techniques is that we grab onto the technique, and never really get beyond it.

For me, techniques can be so seductive.  They whisper in my ear, “If you just do this thing, you'll be enlightened!” or “If you get it right, you'll have a mind blowing experience!”  But, I’m going to take the risk of sharing some techniques anyway, because, well, let’s face it, meditation is one of those illusive “shoulds” floating out there that can be quite daunting.  I've found that there are some doorways that can help point the way - as long as we don’t turn them into a specific map or formula for our egos to glom onto. 

Warning: read the following with caution.

I start with taking deep breaths.  The breath seems to be a universal gateway to shift out of habitual patterns of thinking and being.  When in doubt?  Take a deep breath, anytime, anyplace, and we’ll feel a bit better, a bit wiser.  For a sitting meditation, however, it can help to get a little creative.  I imagine connecting with pure life force.  I visualize pure white light coming into my body, and out from my body like a generator.

I used to imagine the energy coming in through my crown, and one of my dear colleagues and practitioners told me I was getting “too much heaven and not enough earth,” which was throwing off my body's energy system.  Then I began breathing in energy through my heart center and I discovered that this was somehow throwing off my thalamus – too much heart energy.  That’s why there should be a warning label: experiment, adjust, customize.
So, now I breathe energy in and out through my whole body, and that seems to be doing the trick.  Then I mix and match some of the following breath holding techniques (uh-oh, there’s that word):
  • Breathe in through your nose
  • Hold the breath at the top of the inhale for 3 counts
  • Release the exhale through the mouth, almost with a sigh

For a quickie (in- the-moment shift):
  • Imagine drawing in what it is you want
  • Hold for 3 counts
  • Exhale out what you don’t want 

For example, inhale trust and exhale worry.  This is a good one when you’re feeling too full of stuff to sit quietly, or when you're moving about your day and you feel stuck or overloaded.

Here’s another one I really like.  The premise is that in order to meditate, it helps to first have energy built up in the body.  So, this practice helps meditation become easier, and I figure I’ll take any help I can get.

With any breath holding practice, I have found that it’s good not to think of it as holding the breath, but rather as a gathering of the prana/chi/energy, allowing it to distribute throughout your whole body:
  • Inhale for a count of 4
  • Hold for 4 counts and focus on the area around your navel (in Chinese Medicine, this is known as the “lower dantian” – our energy center)
During that count, I used to say to myself, “hold 2-3-4,” but I found this caused tension rather than expansion.  So I changed it to “prana 2- 3-4” and I picture a sun radiating in my solar plexus.
  • Hold for another 4 counts as you clench and draw the energy upward toward your naval. 
Ok, how do I diplomatically describe the clench?  Heck, I’ll just say it: anal clench.  There I said it.

The clench draws the feminine energy (in all of us, male or female) upward toward the navel, creating a union between male and female energy.  So for that part, I say to myself, “Union 2-3-4” as I hold my breath.
  • Then exhale for 4 counts, and begin again for 3-5 rounds

The teacher I learned this from describes this practice as an actual alchemic process of unity consciousness that prepares you for meditation.  Sounds good to me!
He recommended a hold of 8 counts for the navel and another 8 counts for the clench, but I haven’t been able to get there yet.  As always, we start where we are and go from there.  Any amount is still a good practice, and I’m finding it’s getting easier the more I practice, as with anything else.
Here’s another word of caution: I find that I often don't drop into what I imagine meditation should be, aka: a quiet mind.  

The thing is, meditation isn't always (and for most us, rarely is), a blissful trip into the void of a quiet mind.  Most days it's a scrolling through the favorite concerns and worries, and then an attempt to bless them or ask for help.  Or, it’s an uncontrollable prioritizing of my to-do list for the day.  Or, it’s a pleasant little vertical nap.

What I’ve learned over the years, however, is that this is not such a bad thing.  In fact, the things that pass through our awareness while we’re attempting to meditate, is the meditation.  One of the jobs of meditation is to cleanse, heal and return unconscious material to a conscious, purified state.  So, when we try and get quiet, it pops up for us to see.  And this is such a blessing.
In a state of intention and connection, we sit and allow the material to pass through so it can show us what it wants us to see, or tell us what it wants us to hear.  It’s a purging of the unconscious that is hugely life giving and healing.  It’s like waves crashing into the shore after a large boat goes by.  Eventually, the waves become smaller and smaller, but this takes time.  That’s why it’s so important to have some type of daily meditation practice.

Then meditation becomes medication.  And all we have to do is sit, and observe, and attempt to love ourselves amidst all the internal chaos.  If we can release the Buddha-image ideal, we may just experience something we are yearning for: connection, peace, truth.

Today, after doing the breathing stuff, I thought, “Ok, let go of the techniques now.”  I heard myself try and settle into a focus on the word, “love.”  Oops, another technique.  “So, let go of that too.”  A soft inner voice whispered, “Presence is not an exercise of the mind.”
Then, miraculously, I dropped into something very simple.  Presence.  I was just right there, in the chair, and yet, I was everywhere at once.  I could hear the various hums of the house that normally go unnoticed.  This heightened sensory awareness (in-the-moment-hearing, feeling, sensing) brought me into a buoyancy, like being enveloped in a sea of loving energy.  

It felt like warm goo that connected me to the table, the window, the air molecules….to everything.  And when I noticed how good that felt, I naturally wanted more (attachment), and poof it was gone.  I took a deep breath, and slowly opened my eyes, grateful for my brief, yet indescribably delightful, taste of what’s real.  

I can only hope that this fleeting moment might actually be potent nectar that can’t be measured, yet provides everything I need to move through this world of smoke and mirrors.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Part 2: Detoxing Our Bodies and Minds - A Journey of The Soul

Several of you have asked me recently how I'm doing since the publication of the first Detox Article (aka: "that crazy rash").  In response, I decided to post a work in progress... Part 2 of a four part article series:

Part 2: Detoxing Our Bodies and Minds - A Journey of The Soul 

As I was wrapping up Part 1 of “Detoxing Body and Mind – A Journey of the Soul,” I asked a good friend and colleague to give it a final read through.  Among her feedback was a comment that stuck with me.  “You lost me when you got to the part about our bodies evolving.”  Here is the passage she is referring to:

In the bigger picture, why does it seem that so many more of us are reacting to foods and environments?  Yes, there are more toxins in our environment than ever before, but my experience has led me to understand that there is more to the story.  I believe that our bodies are changing.  Some would even say evolving. 

In this time of breakdown, we are also at the dawning of expanded human consciousness.  This expansion requires a vessel that can handle more “wattage” (light or energy).  As challenging as it can be at times, detoxing on all levels allows us to grow and strengthen so that we can live into our soul’s potential and destiny.  I feel like I’m a phoenix rising from the flames, transforming so completely that I may be wonderfully unrecognizable on the other side of this amazing journey. 

Perhaps now is the time to expand on this notion that “our bodies are evolving.”  Before we go there, an update on the rash and my detox process might be helpful.

I am happy to report that the move to my new home has allowed me to clear my reactions to environmental toxins (mold, carpeting, lead, etc.).  That’s good news.  The mystery, however, is that I am still reacting to foods.  

In Part 1 of the article, I refer to “the rain barrel spilling over.”  That was at the heart of why I began reacting to foods…the rain barrel was full.  Now that the rain barrel is no longer full, why am I still reacting to foods?  The million dollar question…

In search of an answer, I took a blood test that revealed around 50 foods that I was reacting to.  For foods that showed a “moderate” reaction, it was recommended that those foods be eliminated for three months.  For foods that showed a “severe” reaction, six months of elimination was recommended.  I began eliminating those foods, as well as doing a diet rotation that prevented me from eating the same foods within two days.

For example, if I had rice on Tuesday, I wouldn’t eat rice again until Friday.  For many people with food sensitivities, rotating foods is key to reducing sensitivity.  But after a month of no relief, I learned that there are practically an infinite number of ways to rotate your diet, and the trick is to figure out which type of rotation is best for your body’s healing.  I used Kinesiology (muscle testing) to fine tune the rotation and determine which type my body wanted.
In order to keep track of what I ate when, I created a chart to track everything I ate.  It took a great deal of focus and energy to sustain it, but I was determined.  My family suffered through my seemingly endless obsession with what I put in my mouth.  

I became fixated on food as though it was my enemy or my god, depending on the day.  I got allergy free cookbooks, and lived for the treat that was “ok” for me to eat.  I could rarely eat out, and when I did, I became annoyed and frustrated with servers who didn’t get my obscure requests right.  

Finally, my husband called me on it.  He was right.  I was out of balance.  Fear was driving me.  I was afraid of the rash and I was afraid of food.  As you can imagine, I wasn’t very much fun either.  I made a decision that day to shift my focus.
I continued avoiding certain foods, but I decided it wasn’t going to run my life anymore.  I focused on having fun, lightening up, and letting go of control.  This was a huge turning point.  

I would play with my thoughts, “So what if I have a rash? Maybe that’s exactly what my body needs to do.”  When I looked in the mirror, instead of focusing on how bad the rash looked, I’d say, “Hello, beautiful!”  I stopped talking about it and wondering what people thought when they looked at me.

I accepted it.  I even thanked it.  I loved myself more deeply – even with the rash.  I paid attention to every negative thought that passed through my mind and changed it to a loving thought.  I used EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to clear my worry, fear, frustration and anger.  The rash became my greatest teacher.
As I let go of the fear and worry, I still needed to take action to support my body healing.  It was a balancing act of, “How do I let go of outcome (the rash going away), yet still take action toward what it is I want (health and well-being)?”  

The challenge of setting intention, taking right action AND letting go of outcome has always seemed like a paradox to me.  How do I envision what I want and yet not become attached to whether I actually get it or not?  I think it’s a life-long practice that reveals its magic as we go.

One of the most difficult parts about letting go was feeling close to an answer, and then the disappointment that followed when it didn’t resolve the symptoms.  The roller coaster can be exhausting when we’re attached to fixing and not in a place of loving acceptance of what is.  

Acceptance, however, doesn’t mean giving up or falling into hopelessness.  Many people with chronic conditions can attest to how tricky this dance can be.  We learn to get up, dust ourselves off, and take the next step.
In the past, I leaned heavily on practitioners and doctors to tell me what that next step was.  I figured they knew best.  When I was so overwhelmed by the symptoms that I couldn't think straight, it was a good idea to let them steer me.  The tricky part was knowing when trusting a treatment plan had crossed over into a loss of trusting my inner compass.

I experienced yet another turning point where I stopped looking solely to the experts, and really began to trust my own inner guidance.  Of course, I had always checked in with myself to make sure their recommendations felt right, or to decide who I should go see next.  But I’m talking about really taking the helm.  

I now feel I’m in the driver’s seat, and that is hugely empowering.  The truth is, we possess the answers to even the most challenging experiences.  The real challenge is to be able to hear those answers.

In Part 3 of this article series, I’ll share an inner inquiry where my body communicated with me information about the rash on a cellular level and how my brain was going through a complete transformation.

And, in Part 4, I’ll finally circle back to how this all relates to the question of “our bodies evolving” and this controversial business of expanded consciousness.  Sounds like fun to me!  See you then…