raw, bald and inspired

Susan’s first chapbook of poetry, raw, bald and inspired, is a compilation of poems from when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer to when treatment started working. It’s available for purchase through http://mioca.org. All proceeds benefit the Michigan Alliance of Ovarian Cancer.

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How not to meditate

Wear your tightest jeans
not the stretchy kind
the ones that pinch at the waist
so your midriff folds over
and it's hard to breathe.

Recall a recent conversation
where you felt misunderstood
and analyze what you should
have said. Visualize what you'll 
do next chance you get.

Find something on your body
or clothing to help you fidget
like cleaning your fingernails
picking the pile off your sweater
or winding hair around your finger.

Don't set an intention or an alarm
look at the clock every time you think of it.
Focus outside yourself
inhale short and shallow.
Tell yourself you can't meditate.





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Susan reading at the Riverside Art Gallery

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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