Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What is Meditation and How to Do It

Meditation can mean different things to different people. Sitting quietly constitutes meditation for some. My husband felt for a long time that "meditation" was having the TV on and just letting his mind wander. I believe that this opinion has changed now, but having the mind wandering and chattering away is not meditation. The point of meditation is to still and quiet the mind, still the constant chatter that takes us to all the negative places we tend to dwell. When we are completely still and quiet, this gives the body a chance to relax and heal, while the mind is at peace in the stillness. But how to accomplish this seemingly impossible task?

From my own experience, meditation becomes easier the more it is practiced. At first, the mind chatters incessantly and that point of stillness never manifests. Long ago, back in the 1960s, I recall the admonition to focus entirely on one's navel. This is in order to give a focal point. But let's face it, the navel is not an entirely exciting focal point! At least, it never worked for me. 

Over time, it seemed that if one can make a particular place the "meditation place", and re-create the same type of background each time, the mind tends toward relaxing as this routine becomes known and one becomes accustomed. For some, it will be lighting a candle. For me, it was a certain type of incense I enjoyed. Smelling this incense set the tone. Very non-specific music, without much variation in tone and played very quietly, can also help. In the 1990s, I meditated daily and used a sandalwood incense (because that is what I liked) and on occasion played a cassette tape (at the time) called Santosh, by PC Davidoff. It was soothing and calming for me, and it gave me a solid 26 minutes of uninterrupted music. The other thing that is helpful is to create a safe place to go to, in the mind. 

Safe Place?

A Peaceful, Safe Place
A safe place is just a place in imagination. If you can create a space in the mind that conjures up the feeling of complete safety and relaxation, this is what is wanted. For me it was a place surrounded by high rocks and with a view of some snow-capped mountains and many trees around me. I had "tried out" many other places over the years, such as a deserted beach or a pretty herb garden, but I kept coming back to the place surrounded by rock. This safe place is totally for each individual to go to, so it is created as the perfect space, if there was such a thing, for you. Let the imagination soar here, but it is best to keep it in nature. All of these things can possibly help, and there may be other things to set the mood for meditation. None of them are absolutely necessary. I pass them along only to give some examples.

The next most important thing is to turn off phones! The last thing needed is a phone call to ruin the moment and the mood that has been created. 
A Peaceful, Safe Place

Okay, So What Else?

When one can achieve a still and peaceful mindset during meditation, then the higher self becomes more receptive. The higher self is that spirit part of us that is connected to ALL. It is in this receptive place that we become attuned to that part of us that is always peaceful and calm, always connected, and able to receive answers to most any question. Whether it comes through intuition, or an Angel or a Guide, answers are given and we can begin to allow the true self to shine through rather than the mind with its chatter, telling us other things than our highest good. 

Some people will hear things. Some people see visions. In my case, it is a little of both. I do hear answers and sometimes have conversations with my Guides. I am also a very visual person, and prefer to read a book than listen to it on CD. In this case, I am also given pictures in my head, that demonstrate a point and paint a great illustration for what must be done. I am often shown an animal and I will later look up the animal in my "Animal Speak" book, by Ted Andrews. At other times I am shown things that I have no idea what they are for, but I accept the visions and move on.

If you never see a vision or are shown an animal, this does not mean you are doing something wrong, but only that this is a completely subjective practice, and we must do what works for each one of us. When my quest began in late May of 2015, I was taken on a true adventure with a whole lot of visuals. 

In August, I began reading "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" by Eckhart Tolle. In the latter half of the book, he wrote of being silent and setting all one's focus on the act of breathing. I tried this, right there and then, and found that if concentrating only on breathing, no extraneous thoughts could even form! This does not mean that it is an instant cure for a wandering mind, but it does truly help. Just gently bring the focus back to the breathing in and out and let go of all other thoughts. This has also turned out to be very helpful when I wake in the night and cannot sleep. If it does not always put me back to sleep, at the very least, I know my mind is peaceful while I focus on breathing.

Of late, I follow Tolle's breathing exercise to set my frame of mind and this takes me easily to a still and quiet place where my mind is relaxed and free. I hope that some of these ideas can help you to create a good meditation practice.

I have been on a spiritual journey, questing for inner peace, acceptance and non-judgment for many long years. This blog is the story of how I worked past some of the many issues. Outside of spiritual questing, I am an avid cook. Join me also at "A Harmony of Flavors" Blog, Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am an artist since childhood and recently began painting in acrylics. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Intuition or Angels or Guides

Different people have different beliefs. That is accepted. As we travel through life, our beliefs sometimes change, but still there are such varying ranges within belief systems that sometimes it is hard to fathom.

Most people believe we have some kind of intuition. That voice that helps us along sometimes, where suddenly we just "know" something, or a direction to go. A sixth-sense is sometimes another way of expressing this intuition. We just have a feeling. Some believe we have a "higher self" that speaks to us. Then there are those who believe in Guardian Angels. Whether or not these angels speak or not depends on the person one talks with. Those who believe in Guardian Angels generally fall into the category of "religious" on some level, but not necessarily. And then there are those who believe we have Guides, as do I. 

"It makes no difference how one believes, whether one is religious or not religious at all, or whether 'there are no such things as angels or guides.' We are still guided, daily."

I believe I have Guides. I believe these Guides are entities in spirit form, that may or may not have lived a physical life here on earth, and who are there to help when we need. They provide the "voice" that sometimes tells me to buy something in the grocery store (which if I ignore, most often it was something I really needed, but felt I knew better). That voice also sometimes tells me that if something is left where it is, it might fall and break or spill. Easy things to rectify, and I am exceedingly grateful. Most of us chalk that down to intuition or just a "feeling." Yet once one gets past the doubting stage, it becomes easier over time to hear what the Guides are saying, and even to have conversations. 

Ana, sketched as I see her
I have had two active Guides for many years. One presented herself to me as a Native American woman, older, chubby and round faced, with mostly gray, grizzled hair and a huge grin. Her name was given me as "Ana", but pronounced with the second syllable stressed: a-NA. I was given to understand that the actual name was much longer, but that this was an acceptable shortening of the name. Ana would give me short, mostly one syllable answers like "yes" or "no" or "possibly". She rarely gave any sort of conversation, though I feel her there all the time with her smiling countenance. I sketched a picture of how I see her at right.

Another Guide came to me some years later, and her name was far harder to decipher. There was a jumble of letters, out of which I cobbled "Hajnia", and while I was given to understand that this was not quite it, the name was fine to use that way. After all, names do not matter all that much to an entity who no longer has a body or gender. Hajnia is the Guide who will actually give me more fleshed out answers, and sometimes conversation. I have had these two, plus a few others who seemed to be around but without communication.

I am writing this blog to establish how it is that I see things, and how I experience my guides. Take this in the spirit it is meant, and understand that a quick substitution for any of the alternative beliefs stated above will work. This blog is about my own personal journey and the things I have experienced along the way.

If you are of the mind to find out something about a Guide of your own, I would first suggest meditating on a daily basis. Create your own safe place in your mind: some place where you would feel absolutely safe and relaxed. It can be any place you like whether at the top of a mountain or at the sea shore, in a hot dry desert, or a lush green meadow. I chose something with high rock walls, and as it turned out, that was not by accident, but I didn't find that out until much, much later. Once you have a pace set in your mind, take yourself there and compose yourself for meditation. Relax and do your best to stay in the present, aware of things around you without any particular focus on them. Relax and see if you can feel a presence. Ask for a name. Say hello!

It really can be as easy as this. It may take some time if you find it difficult to relax and meditate, but if this is the case, then as one of the sayings goes, 

"Meditate for 10 minutes daily, unless you don't have time, in which case meditate for 30 minutes."

I have been on a spiritual journey, questing for inner peace, acceptance and non-judgment for many long years. This blog is the story of how I worked past some of the many issues. Outside of spiritual questing, I am an avid cook. Join me also at "A Harmony of Flavors" Blog, Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am an artist since childhood and recently began painting in acrylics. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Leaping off a Precipice and the First Steps

For about a year and a half, I had been getting a phrase or a picture in my mind about "Leaping off a Precipice." Then, coincidentally, a friend had sent me a greeting card with a quotation on the front that said, 
 "When you come to the edge of all you know, you must believe in one of two things. Either there will be ground to stand on, or you will be given wings to fly." 

The quotation was cited to "unknown", and as I researched a bit, it is said to belong to many possible sources. The quotation has remained on my refrigerator, at eye level, and I read it daily. 

While I knew that the quotation, or mentally "hearing" something about leaping off a precipice are both meant as positive inspiration, I also knew it meant change. When it comes to spiritual change, most of us balk. I am no exception. Fears crop up faster than faith or belief can cope with and are far stronger. My main fear was that my husband, overweight and generally in pain and unhealthy, would die and I would be faced not only with the lack of a husband, but also no way to maintain the lifestyle we had. These thoughts were terrifying. 

Over the course of time, these fears got greater and greater and I was just sure that my husband would no longer be here past his birthday in August. He seemed to be deteriorating in front of my eyes. In May of this year (2015) things truly came to a head. All of this was in my own mind, but I was leaking my unhappiness out to everyone in near despair. My son urged me to start meditation again, seriously. No little dabbles here and there, but to fully commit to meditation, daily; no ifs, ands or buts. My meditations are very often filled with imagery, many times animals. I own a book called "Animal-Speak" (copyright 1993), by Ted Andrews, and the animals I see during meditation will often explain something I am working through at the time.

Long ago when I started meditating, around 1993, I created a "safe place" in my mind; a place I would go to in order to feel totally relaxed and safe while in a state of meditation. My safe place consisted of a small meadow. This meadow was accessed through a cave. Once inside, it was surrounded by high walls of rock, with some snowy mountain tops visible above them to one side. There were tall deciduous trees that rustled gently in a breeze all around where I would sit. There was a little babbling brook that traversed the meadow. On the opposite side of this brook was a dense stand of fir trees. 
quick pencil sketch of what occurred in meditation

On this first day back into meditation, in all my mental turmoil, I entered my safe place and got the sense that instead of sitting down, this time I should lie flat on my back in the grassy meadow. The imagery on this first day was surely geared to put me in the right mindset to want to continue my meditations. With eyes closed, I listened to the breeze in the leaves above, when suddenly I felt something lick my forehead. Slowly opening my eyes, so as not to startle the creature away, I saw a deer standing at my head. Shortly after, I felt a furry rabbit snuggling in against my right arm. Then I felt a bird hopping on my hands, which were crossed over my stomach. Again, without opening my eyes, I "asked" what kind of bird and received the answer, "chickadee." A bit later, I felt a cat of some kind scent marking my feet. When I slowly opened my eyes again, it appeared to be a lynx. While some of these animals are natural predators and prey, I got the sense of complete tranquility and the words came to me, 
"You are surrounded by complete love and trust."

When I finished with my meditation, I created a quick pencil sketch of what had occurred, shown above. Obviously, not all my meditations are either so image-packed, nor so serene and focused. Some days my mind hops around like a flea, landing nowhere. Still, I persevere. So should you...

I have been on a spiritual journey, questing for inner peace, acceptance and nonjudgment for many long years. This blog is the story of how I worked past some of the many issues. Outside of spiritual questing, I am an avid cook. Join me also at "A Harmony of Flavors" Blog, Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am an artist since childhood and recently began painting in acrylics.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Little Back Story

If you've read my Welcome page, you will understand that I have been on a spiritual search for some many years. Only just over 3 months ago did I finally reach a place in my searching where I felt I finally could identify with so many things I had read about.

Some of my favorite authors are wonderful spiritual teachers like Dr. Wayne Dyer (now deceased), Deepak Chopra, and Eckhart Tolle. I read Eckhart Tolle's book, "The Power of Now", about 15 years ago and while I found it terribly interesting, it made no lasting impact. I have read at least 5 of Deepak Chopra's books, all of them fascinating. I have read some of Wayne Dyer's books, but more recently watched him on the PBS specials. My particular favorite was his talk on "The Power of Intention." I could absolutely feel how important all this information was, yet somehow I could not get it into full practice. 

Then a few years back, while traveling with my sister, she introduced me to Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret." We listened to the CDs in the car and I was stunned. After all the information amassed to date, "The Secret" felt like an easy explanation or "how-to" that explained all this information. It made such a profound impact that I immediately went and bought a copy of the CDs to take home and my husband and I listened to them. We both agreed we felt it easy to understand. 

And yet.....

Still, we were unable to put this information that we both just knew with certainty was true, to any good use. As years went by, I did my utmost to use positive thought processes. I corrected negatively phrased sentences. I tried to clean up the chatter in my head. I focused on happy outcomes.

While I know for fact that things have gone well for us in the overall scheme of things (because we all go through some unfortunate events, some of which could have been far worse), when it came down to truly ordering our lives as is told about in "The Secret" (or any of the other marvelous books out there), we still fell far short.

And in the meantime, our relationship was deteriorating. I felt I had not really changed, but felt my husband seemingly withdrawing from any contact with me. He felt the same about me. As our personal lives were heading downhill, I felt it was imperative that I do something for myself. I no longer had the luxury of trying to help him out; my own life was in too much turmoil. I decided to release him to his own devices and concentrate on helping myself. I had no intention or desire for a divorce. We just lived on two different floors of the house. I read "Eat, Pray, Love" and watched the movie. I had my refrigerator plastered with small bits of paper with inspirational quotes. All the information was there. So what was wrong with me, that I couldn't make this kind of change?

If anyone can identify with this kind of spiritual search, you may also be able to identify with what came next. I will continue this narrative in my next blog post.

I have been on a spiritual journey, questing for inner peace, acceptance and nonjudgment for many long years. This blog is the story of how I worked past some of the many issues. Outside of spiritual questing, I am an avid cook. Join me also at "A Harmony of Flavors" Blog, Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am an artist since childhood and recently began painting in acrylics.