Arc of Life

Reach • Grow • Evolve

Category: Change (page 1 of 2)

Meditation – A Portal To Your Intuition

Meditation MIndfulnessIf I could impart one bit of wisdom to my three children as they move forward into adulthood, it would be to establish a regular meditation practice.  In this chaotic universe, meditation can help us achieve inner peace, a more balanced perspective and increase mental clarity – something we could all use. I also believe that meditation can provide us with a portal to our intuition, an essential part of our human psyche that can help us find our own unique path in today’s device driven, harried world.

About ten years ago, I decided to take my commitment to meditation to a somewhat higher level. On a cold February night I ventured through the doors of Godstow (today this it is DNKL –  Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace), an idyllic Buddhist retreat nestled in the hills of Redding, Connecticut. I quickly became hooked. Every Monday night became my night to meditate and everyone in my family knew it. Before too many weeks had passed I suspect they all looked forward to it as I would return home in a decidedly more chill mood.

The group that converged on those Monday nights was pretty consistent and somewhat eclectic: a lifelong IBMer, a clinical psychologist and a former rocker were as eager to find their bliss, as was the veteran yoga teacher. Most of us would congregate in the kitchen, pour ourselves a mug of tea and chat a little before entering the meditation room. A sanctuary of sorts, a large open room with rich hardwood floors and a high ceiling with wooden beams. Each person took a blanket and pillow that had been neatly stacked from the previous session and found their spot on the floor. In the winter months, a warm fire glowed in the wood stove; candles and incense set the mood to “go within.” When our teacher, the Venerable Phunstock entered the room we would stand, face him, place our hands in prayer position at the breastbone and slightly bow in his direction. Phunstock would then lead us in a series of Tibetan prayer rituals.

Quite honestly, a newcomer might feel a little awkward trying to figure out what to do and when to do it; you’re bowing, then you’re kneeling, you’re up, then you’re down. I thought it best to stake out a spot at the back of the room for my first couple of classes until I got the hang of things.

Phunstock was a relatively young monk in his mid-thirties and dressed in a traditional red Tibetan robe. His guided meditation took about an hour and a half, beginning with the preliminaries, which consisted of focusing on the breath, silently counting each inhale up to twenty one, then repeating. We would then visualize a ball of white light floating in front of our third eye (that would be the space between our two physical eyes), visualizing the light move up to the crown of the head and then descending down into the heart center. A brief break for discussion would follow before completing the meditation.

I definitely had trouble seeing that white ball of light. I’d get it, and then it would be gone. And my mind would wander constantly. I was sure there had to be a right and a wrong way to do this, and in my need to do this “right,” I was sure I was doing it wrong. But something compelled me to keep coming back. And in time I found myself relaxing into the process. Stress eased and I gradually began to experience a calmness and clarity of thought that followed me into my hectic life. There were a few fleeting moments when I felt myself fall into the “gap” – the silent space between thoughts where no thoughts exist.

Sadly my Monday meditations would come to end. I must admit, it would be great to get back to a guided meditation class someday –­ maybe when my last child goes off to college this fall. However the habit of meditation is one I have held onto and I will never give it up; it deepens my awareness, connects me to the deepest part of myself and enables me to view my life from a new vantage point.

For anyone who is curious about meditating, has tried and failed or is looking for a guided mediation, I highly recommend these free online meditations from UCLA.

 

How Well You Go Far

It’s not how far you go, it’s how well you go far.

These words came out of a 70 year old yoga teacher’s mouth during a yoga workshop I attended about a year ago. As someone who had always tried to push the envelope (and my body) when going into challenging poses, her words really landed and totally changed the way I approach yoga and life.

Admittedly some of this is timing; being ready and open to hear the message or the teacher shows up when the student is ready. After years of pushing and straining I finally saw that there was in fact another way and in fact better way to go deeper into the pose, a gentler way to treat myself as I sweated, strengthened and stretched my body. I now love yoga. I have moved from a love/hate relationship to a love/love relationship with my practice. When I do pigeon now – one of my most challenging poses – I go to the edge of mild discomfort not pain, I breath and I accept that this is as open as my hips are today.

It has taken time, patience and perseverance. I had to keep showing up and doing to the work, just like life. The changes in class have come gradually, my focus has shifted inward (for the most part), I listen to and inhabit my body in more intimately. It’s not a race and there is nobody to compete with when I am on the mat. I think more and more about how well I go far both on the mat and in my life.

Acceptance of oneself is a beautiful thing.

May you be happy

May you be safe

May you be joyful

May you be free

Focused Intensity

Focused-IntensityWork for me, any kind of work, whether it be school, a job, whatever – has never been something I have been able to take on in a casual or laid back manner. When I’ve got a job to do, there is an intensity and pressure that takes over. It is pretty much all self-inflicted. And if there is a deadline, forget it – I go into high adrenaline mode. I would rather die than miss a deadline.

Now some may say this is a good thing and I think that in the past I felt this way as well. It is no doubt a driver. However I am beginning to think that this overdrive mode may not actually be as productive as I had previously thought.

I am at the beginning of a new writing project. It is work I enjoy and the schedule is reasonable. I have not entered the panic mode at this point and I feel fairly productive and creative. Hmmm. This is interesting, a little scary, but interesting. Could it be that letting up on the gas has allowed me some space to breathe and perhaps think a little more clearly? I think this may be entirely possible.

Of course there is the hard driver that still lurks within – she is somewhat submerged – but she is still there. I keep hearing her whisper, “What are you doing? You need to get busy, you need to feel crazy – snap out of it girl!” Yes, I hear you but I really think I am doing just fine, thank you very much.

Beauty Beneath

true-self-core-connectionEvery time I hear about a female being raped, molested or sexually abused, I feel a deep sadness for her because I know that something vital has been altered within her being. Initially I wanted to say that something was destroyed but I am not sure it is destroyed. Buried, altered, transfigured, morphed…I’m not sure, but absolutely changed. Perhaps it is different for every woman.

I suppose I should be including males in this meditation, but I’m not. I can only speak from the female perspective.

I have spent countless hours pondering the lost parts of myself. And then there are the parts of myself that overcompensated, overreacted, acted out. The misplaced anger, the deep need to punish relentlessly and disassociate from the ugliness within myself. As a defense, I grew up too quickly, taking on an adult persona long before I should have. The carefree young girl went deep undercover.

Last summer my daughter posted a photo of me on Facebook. The photo was taken while I was camping; it was the end of a hot beach day, my hair was oily and clipped up and the only thing on my face was sunscreen and sand. I was standing on the small private beach next to our campsite, the water and the setting sun behind me. I must have been feeling very good at that moment because my daughter captured a decent shot of me. A decent shot is a very rare thing for me indeed. The camera is not my friend.

Within a few hours a friend made this comment: “You are really beautiful.”  I was shocked and my immediate thought was, No I’m not. But then I looked at the photo again and saw a confident happy woman looking back at me – perhaps there is a smidgen of beauty in there,  perhaps my true self had emerged on that carefree summer day.

I am hopeful that undamaged beautiful soul still lives in me. And I would like her come forward more and play a larger role in my life. Because she is smart, intuitive, playful, forgiving, imaginative and she believes in the possibilities of life.

She is my true self and she is beautiful.

The Narcissist In Me Sees the Narcissist In You

images-2For years I felt I had been treated unfairly. You did this so me, you destroyed my life, you destroyed our family. I was all about blame. Blaming the other person absolved me from any wrong doing. Blaming the other person kept me stuck in neutral. Blaming the other person made me both the victim and the hero in my own mind.

After years of losing money, stuff, a cohesive family, my self-esteem, I finally said enough and began to move away from the problem – my husband. I knew something was wrong but I could never put my finger on it. There was no real diagnosis. I was not married to an alcoholic or a wife beater. But life kept spiraling downward. Where does it end? How many times do I need to feel the floor fall drop out from under me?

So I began to strike out on my own and separated from my husband. And it felt like the right thing to do. I was saving my family, I was saving myself. I was the hero. Recently our family therapist informed me that my husband exhibited narcissistic behaviors. Not the typical grandiose “Donald Trump” type of narcissism, but the shy/covert type narcissism. I had no idea narcissism came in a variety of flavors.

Shy/Covert Narcissist is characterized by vulnerability and sensitivity which manifest itself in defensiveness and hostility, and is characterized by worry, ineffective functioning, unfulfilled expectations, and vulnerability to stress.

Ah ha! There it is! This was the validation I had been seeking for so many years. This was the man I was married to. I desperately needed to point to something, to assign blame for the mess that my life had become. And I did and I felt some relief… for a bit.

And then life took another swing at me. It knocked me down hard. It was the kind of hit that rearranges one’s perspective. When I finally got up, the mirror was waiting for me and I finally saw the narcissistic in myself. I was not blameless. I had been selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed. I too had contributed to the demise of my marriage. Taking an honest look in the mirror has been painful, maybe one of the most painful things I’ve ever done.

But with that pain came growth and isn’t that what life is all about?

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