Susan reading at the Riverside Art Gallery

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can meditation change your perception of time? (excerpt from Huffington Post Healthy Living)

The very fact that time is precious is the reason we should meditate. I have found that taking time to meditate gives me time — the same way that exercising takes energy but ultimately helps one have more energy.

For the full article, click http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-morales-msw/making-time-for-meditation_b_1083308.html

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditate on Gratitude

 

Susan Morales, M.S.W.

Reprinted from Huffington Post Healthy Living Nov. 22, 2011

A few years ago, our British guests were touched and in awe at our Thanksgiving dinner tradition of telling each other why we are grateful. My 3-year-old grandson’s “I’m happy for the movie, ‘Cars’” gave everyone a laugh. Some comments are funny, some sentimental and others thought-provoking. They certainly enrich the experience of dining together.

For me, getting in touch with gratitude is more than a cognitive exercise. It changes my mental and emotional state. Try thinking about something you deeply appreciate. Breathe into the sensation that results, helping it expand. Doesn’t it feel great? I notice that my body relaxes, too.

Meditate on What Is Working in Your Life

When I do this meditation I begin by remembering the people in my life who have supported and loved me. Then I move on to my health, acknowledging all the parts that are functioning, even if I’m sick or injured. I continue by recognizing all the different facets of my life that are working.

In your meditation posture, use the above exercise for a simple and effective way to relax your mind and body and lift your spirits. I find that I can also shift how I’m feeling at any time of the day by repeating this process. Especially if my spirits are low, I redirect my attention to recognizing the small details that I appreciate: the hot water in the shower, the book I’m reading, the lovely colors in my yard brought out by that day’s lighting. The smaller the detail, the more I slow down. Sometimes the details are so small they seem ridiculous. This makes me laugh. Then my spirits soar even more.

Thank Yourself: A Guided Meditation

From my perspective as a Midwestern native, having worked with clients all over the U.S., one of the deficits I have found in our culture is lack of gratitude for ourselves. Our bodies and minds are with us constantly. They are the instruments at hand to serve our needs and the needs of others. Why not spend time being grateful for ourselves? In this guided meditation we thank the many parts of us that contribute to who we are.

Start in your meditation posture with your eyes open. Take a couple of deep breaths and watch your chest rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. Take a moment to appreciate the automatic functioning of your lungs. Thank your lungs.

Next, close your eyes and become aware of your thoughts — without judgment. Your mind might be evaluating this experience, or associating it with something pleasant or perhaps unpleasant. Whatever they are, thank your thoughts for the great job they do in keeping you aware and aligned with what is important to you.

Now scan your body and take time to thank the parts that you’re particularly grateful for — perhaps your feet for taking you where you want to go, perhaps for your hands for their strength. Whichever part you feel drawn to, thank it briefly and move on to another. Continue until you feel the gratitude surging.

Finally, connect with all the effort you give in creating your life. With the energy you put forth for taking care of yourself, taking care of others, contributing to our world. Feel the immensity of this energy in your heart. Breathe deeply into your heart center and allow your chest muscles to relax in the awareness of your good effort.

If your mind wanders to negative characteristics within yourself, gently return to the feeling of gratitude in your heart — for all that you have, all that you give, all that you are. Meditate on this wonderful feeling of gratitude.

When you finish with the meditation, you may want to jot down what was helpful. Perhaps write out a gratitude statement you’d like to share with others either at Thanksgiving or on another occasion. As we get in touch with our gratitude and share it with others, our appreciation grows.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Meditation Basics, meditation techniques, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Meditation: The elixir for all our mental ailments?

Excerpt from Huffington Post article published June 20, 2011

Sometimes I feel like the stereotype of the snake oil salesperson as I tout the benefits of meditation. It reduces anxiety, depression and physical pain. It increases productivity and creativity. With regular practice, relationships and self-regulation of intense emotions are improved. Even memory gets a boost. There really isn’t a difficulty that can’t be helped with meditation.

Unlike snake oil, meditation has plenty of research* to support benefit claims. The biggest challenge is: You have to do it. When people tell me they can’t meditate, their reasons are usually one of these: “My mind is too busy” or “I can’t sit still.” If you’re one of these folks, I have a few prescriptions for you to try.

Read the full article on Huffington Post.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Use a guided meditation to take a vacation from stress

Georgioupolis beach

Image via Wikipedia

For me a guided meditation or centering technique is a poetic journey that my mind agrees to take. By simply choosing to use a guided meditation there’s a subtle letting go, like receiving a massage. The mind can stop working, can stop trying so hard. It’s like taking a mini vacation. An easy and quick trip to relaxation and stress reduction.

Recently one of my students remarked that she tried a centering technique, but ended up thinking so much about the content she couldn’t meditate. I suggested that the content must have provoked her somehow; that instead of feeling as if she’d failed, to try something different. In the same way you wouldn’t continue going to a masseuse that you didn’t like, if a particular meditation technique doesn’t work, go to another one.

The purpose of guided meditation

The purpose of a guided meditation is to engage the mind in the present moment through meditation instructions and imagery. With audio or video recordings, just focusing on the sound of the person’s voice or their physical presence can be relaxing.

The content of a centering technique can offer new ways of thinking about yourself or experiencing yourself in the present more fully, i.e. becoming more self-aware. After listening to a guided meditation even once you may find that it’s a technique you want to use on your own. That was true for me with a meditation in which I was guided to imagine a cave in the place between my inhalation and exhalation. The image has such a strong pull in quieting my mind that I use it often.

As with any meditation, it’s helpful to be in an environment free of distractions.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Guided meditation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitting cross-legged on the floor can benefit your meditation

Woman sitting cross-legged

Image via Wikipedia

 

The first fundamental I propose in setting up a meditation practice is to get comfortable. (See Fundamentals post in March, 2011.) So, is sitting on the floor out of the question? I hope not. To begin with I’ll try to convince you of the benefits so maybe you’ll give it a try. Then I’ll offer some ideas on how to make it comfortable.

I find sitting cross-legged either on a wide seated chair or on the floor helps me get focused. It takes me out of my usual routine and shouts to me: “You’re going to meditate now!” Why not give meditation a grand entrance?

My legs become engaged in an active, and completely different way, than usual. This moves my attention from my thoughts and into my body. It keeps me meditating instead of daydreaming.

I also associate sitting on the floor with my childhood. I feel  younger, more flexible physically and mentally.

So, I hope I’ve talked you into trying it, at least. Here are the pointers to make this as comfortable as possible:

Find a high-enough cushion or stack of blankets so that your knees are level or lower than your hips. If they are level, put additional blankets or supports of some kind under your thighs.

For back support, sit against a wall with a small pillow at your back.

For neck support, use one of those travel pillows on your shoulders.

If your ankles hurt, wrap them with socks.

And, lastly, if you are still uncomfortable, take some deep breaths and change your posture. See www.healthandyoga.com/html/meditation/poses.html for additional ideas.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Meditation Basics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A meditation method: Notice what you notice

 

IMG_3643

Image by aigledayres via Flickr

You’ve had the experience, haven’t you, of becoming aware of something that’s always been there but hadn’t caught your attention? A photograph on the wall of your favorite restaurant, a colleague’s shoes, a tree limb sticking out over the road. Or as the bird in the photo, your shadow on the wet sand. Why do you all of a sudden notice?

I think of these instances as little reminders to be in the present moment – to shift thoughts from the past or future. Letting go of such thoughts opens up a stream of possibilities. My heart quickens and I sense an excitement as if I’ve just met a new love. Often these moments hold a phrase or image that becomes a poem. Just being aware creates newness, a creative inspiration.

When we meditate, we are not waiting for those random moments; we are creating the environment for them to happen. A very simple method of meditation is to notice what you notice. As you sit in your favorite quiet spot, begin by being aware of your surroundings. Take in the colors and textures, the sounds and smells. A squirrel scratching at the earth to dig up a nut; the dusty odor of the furnace coming on; a soft warmth on your cheek from the sunlight filtering in through the blinds. Whatever you notice, just catalog it in your mind as something interesting. Don’t do anything. In fact resist the temptation to swipe at the cobweb, or adjust the thermostat.

With each new sense that you notice, watch where your thoughts go. Maybe you remember something painful. If so, then notice the pain. Where is it located in your body? What stories does your mind start telling you? Be curious about the pain as if it is the first time you’ve experienced it.

Whether the dusty odor of the furnace makes you want to go down and change the air filter, or you associate it with a visit at nasty Aunt Beulah’s, the key is to be inquisitive about what you notice and not judgmental. Judgment is what takes us out of the present moment and squelches our relaxation. So, allow the mind to roam freely. Just keep noticing where it goes and what impact it has on your body and your emotional state.

Be a pioneer within yourself. Each thought is new. Each sense experience is new. Each breath is as new as the infant’s first breath. Enjoy the wonder and meditate.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in meditation techniques | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breath to brain meditation technique for slowing your thougths

This is a transaxial slice of the brain of a 5...

Image via Wikipedia

This technique came to me one day when I was meditating and trying to soften the clatter going on in my mind. Especially when I wake up at my usual time 7 – 7:30am and go to sit in my meditation chair, my thoughts are already in high gear with my plans for the day. I’ve disciplined my body to sit anyway, before my cup of tea, before getting on the computer to check messages.

So, I sit and watch my thoughts. One day, feeling particularly frustrated, a new idea popped into my head, “Fog up your brain with your breath.” Of course, I don’t think this is possible physiologically, but I thought it an interesting exploration. In yoga classes, and in bodywork sessions, I was often instructed to “direct my breath” to an area that needed soothing or relaxing. Well, most mornings, that’s my brain.

I took a deep breath and imagined the exhalation going up and clouding my head. Instantly, I sensed my thoughts slow down. I took another breath and did the same. The result was almost dizzying. The thought I’m on to something snuck out from the fog and I continued meditating, focusing on the light, fluffy sensation inside my skull. Within moments my sense of time disappeared. I automatically came back to awareness of the room when my usual twenty minutes had passed. I felt refreshed and my mind calm for all the day’s events.

One of the participants in a meditation workshop gave me feedback that the technique didn’t completely work for her. She couldn’t get past imagining carbon dioxide floating around in her brain. So, not wanting the pollution, she “sent” the breath out through the crown of her head. She was then able to relax and allow the experience to unfold. This is a great example of allowing meditation to teach you how to meditate. Take your experience and make it your own.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in meditation techniques | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Three Fundamentals of Setting Up a Meditation Practice

Photo by Flickr user alicepopkorn

 

You’ve read you can increase your brainpower or you want to enhance your sports performance. Perhaps your doctor told you it’s time to learn stress reduction. In yoga class you’ve become aware of the possibility of enlightenment, understanding your true nature or your purpose in life. Whatever your motivation, bravo! Meditation is an extremely effective change agent because you are looking within yourself.

There are three simple steps to set up a practice: create the appropriate environment, maintain a relaxed and alert posture and have an intention.

Create the environment

We don’t make our minds meditate any more than we can make ourselves sleep. But to achieve the latter usually all it takes is lying down on a comfortable surface and closing our eyes. Sleep happens. Similarly we can condition our minds to slip into meditation by creating a soothing environment with few distractions. For example, you might choose an easy chair in the living room or a large pillow on the floor of the den or bedroom. Low lights, a lighted candle can also enhance the ambiance. Wearing the same clothes, sitting at the same time of the day can help you enter into meditation more easily.

Sit in a Comfortable Posture

You can throw away the picture in your mind of the yogi sitting crossed-legged in a full lotus asana (posture) with hands in shin mudra (thumbs and index fingers touching). Although there are advantages to those positions for meditation, they are not necessary. The two main essentials are being seated upright and being relaxed. Upright so you stay alert and relaxed so that your breath is moving easily. It’s hard to stay relaxed if you’re uncomfortable so use props like pillows and blankets. You can shift your posture during meditation as long as you stay relaxed and upright. Rest your hands on your thighs or fold them in your lap. Again, whatever feels good to you.

Set an Intention

Why are you meditating? You may have an overall intention like stress reduction, but it helps to get specific. For example, to stop worrying about an exam, to relax your shoulders, to focus on the tightness in your chest to discover what’s bugging you. These are not expectations. Instead you are programming your mind to guide you where you want to go. It’s a set up for disappointment if you approach meditation thinking you want to see a full lotus blooming in your head like your friend experienced. Meditation, like dreaming, is highly individual.

With all of these points, be flexible. Make them work for you. If the pillow in the den is too soft, try sitting in a chair. If your legs fall asleep, move or stretch. If you worry that your meditation isn’t “working,” change your intention to: “I will accept whatever happens.” There are no mistakes with meditation. It is you being with yourself.

 

Posted in Meditation Basics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Book Signing at Crazy Wisdom

Good evening and thank you for coming tonight. This is my first ever book signing and I’m very grateful to Crazy Wisdom, Rachel, and Bill for setting this up for me. They also did a very nice piece in their Community Journal. If you’re not familiar with this publication, it’s a great service to our community, on many levels.

Given our setting I thought I would talk a little about my spiritual unfolding through writing. First a story.

I was at an event with my meditation teacher who was about to leave on a world tour. While waiting in a line to greet her and say my farewell, I had a blessing, kind of a poem, in my hand that I had written. I was mulling over my connection with writing and whether it was something I should pursue. I’d never been educated in it and had little experience but I felt drawn to it. When it was my turn at the head of the line, I handed the blessing to my teacher. She handed it back to me and said, “Please read it.”

I must have gulped audibly. There were probably 200 people in the room. I’d never read anything I’d written in public before. In as clear a voice as I could manage, I began. She immediately stopped me and said, “Come closer.”  I stepped forward and read. Afterwards she thanked me, said the poem was beautiful and gave me a gift. I later learned that she posted my blessing wherever she went on tour that year.

That was 16 years ago.

Writing became the arena that I stretched myself, where my growth, both personal and spiritual, began to take place. I no longer had difficulties in my career, finances, relationships – all those places rich with nutrients for growth. Now, writing was going to offer all those challenges.

So I wrote poems and learned about submitting poems to journals and magazines and getting rejected.

I wrote a novel and learned about submitting novels to agents and publishers and getting rejected.

I took writing classes, met regularly with a mentor, then later joined writing groups but I couldn’t call myself a writer. I somehow believed that was for people who had published. But after lots of positive feedback from teachers, and members of my growing writing community, I began to let myself think of myself as a writer, then as a poet. But I had difficulty acknowledging that I was writing a book. This seemed so pretentious to me. Even though I never thought of myself as having self worth issues, there it was.

I continued to work hard on the craft of writing, which I have to say is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn. I found my meditation practice was vital to my writing and so my meditation practice became regular. Then one day I was mowing the lawn, thinking about what I was doing with my writing and I had one of those “ah-ha” moments. Musicians, dancers, singers, give themselves concerts or performances. Why couldn’t I give myself a recital? I could invite my friends and family to hear my work and also bring their own to share. That was 3 years ago. The next day I received an acceptance letter for one of poems in a literary journal.

I’d like to say that being published didn’t make a difference but it did. I relaxed about it after that. One person, or committee of editors, had validated my work. Since that time my poems have been published in several other journals.

Okay, so I could say I am a poet. But what about being a book author, a novelist? Not sure how it happened but gradually, the stigma I had attached to that gave way. I stopped feeling self-conscious about it. So, the other day my publisher asked me how it felt to be a published novelist. I actually can’t say, because the labels have lost that mysterious charge they used to have. Last winter, after a deep meditation, I just knew that my book was going to be printed by the end of the summer – one way or another. It was released and in my hands a week before autumn was official.

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments