Have you ever had the experience of being deeply relaxed and open? Maybe you felt it in the early days of falling in love. Or, perhaps during a really expansive vacation. Maybe, after a good massage. How did it feel to be you in those moments? Can you remember? And how did you move through the world? Likely, you were more comfortable in your own skin and a lot easier to be around; kinder and less critical, more patient and less rushed, more go with the flow and less controlling.
All these, and more, are the rewards of a regular practice; especially when done daily. The action of returning over and over again to something that steadies, clarifies and calms begins to gift us, and therefore the world, with the very best of who we are. This is the single most important thing you can do for yourself and by association, the world.
It does not matter what form it takes or for how long you do it. What matters is that you show up and open yourself to what the practice has to teach. Whether it is yoga, meditation, a contemplative walk, a cup of tea to catch up with yourself, or…it does not matter. What matters is the regular space you create to check in with yourself in order to see the truth of you and how things are really going. In yoga, that which reveals the truth is known as sadhana. What do you do that reveals the truth in your life?
There seems to be an epidemic of uncertainty plaguing today’s parents; a way in which we have not fully claimed our authority to make choices on behalf of our children’s best interest. For our children to feel valued and secure in the world, we must recognize and own that we, not they, are the ones in charge. We are the one’s with the experience and the perspective to make choices on their behalf. Without a secure foundation, we leave our children prey to the vagaries of the world; to those interests that would exploit their innocence, well-being and potential.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the choices being made around technology and children. Somehow the natural order of the parent-child relationship has been commandeered and turned upside down. Instead of the parents deciding what their children will have and be exposed to, we now have policy-makers, marketers and our children’s peers who are overly influencing what shows up in our children’s lives. Overwhelmed by this wave of persuasion, our children come to us imploring, demanding, and wheedling. Instead of staking our claim as the ones in charge, the one’s who get to decide, too many of us cave to this pressure, even when it goes against what we know to be true.
And therein lies one of the greatest assaults to our children’s sense of self-worth. For when we allow, into their lives, something that we know is not good for them, we send the message to them that they are not that precious. That they are not worth the hard work of protecting them. That they are not more important than the discomfort that arises through us having to say “no”. The bottom line is this; they “know” when we say yes to something we are uncomfortable with or do not believe in. And the dissonance that this creates undermines our credibility as their protectors and strips them of their perceived preciousness.
Beyond the specifics of what technologies you allow into your child’s life is the undercurrent beneath your choices. Look around. Why have you said “yes” to the technologies they are engaged with? And have you in any way abdicated your responsibility to be the one in charge; the one who protects them?
(This blog was inspired by and is dedicated to Marilyn)
I have been meditating for almost 20 years. I got into it not because of some epiphany or resonance with a Buddhist tradition, but because I felt like a fraud. I was teaching a Pain Management and Stress-Reduction Program for people with life-threatening illnesses and chronic, debilitating pain. We had been teaching various approaches to stress management and were about to start leading meditation. Only, I had never meditated before. In the interest of not being a phony, I started to meditate.
The very first thing that happened hooked me for life. It’s not that it was all that earth shattering, though for me at the time it was. Up until that time I would get this debilitating neck pain several times a year that made it impossible to drive, to sleep or to think. I would be locked up for days, downing all the aspirin I could handle and begging for appointments with my chiropractor. From the moment I first sat in meditation, it was immediately obvious to me that I held one shoulder higher than the other, the same shoulder below the side of the neck pain. From that moment on, I began working to bring that part of me into balance. It took almost two years. But all these years later, I have never had that experience of pain again. That alone has been worth the price of admission.
More than anything, meditation has given me a way of noticing and with it, a reduction in “pain.” What I have learned to notice are the ways I judge, worry, carry my body, fear, need, and the list goes on and on. It is said that awareness is the Mother of all change. That makes meditation the Mother of the Mother because of the way it helps to give birth to awareness. This birthing creates a most powerful possibility in our lives. So, if you have ever been curious, start with what you can commit to. Maybe that is just one minute of sitting, or five. Sit however you are comfortable. Do not worry that the ordinary mind talks on and on and on. Just commit yourself to sitting and breathing and noticing. Who knows what simple yet extraordinary thing might happen for you.
As for me, I consider myself a blue collar meditator. I do not belong to a tradition. I do not transcend into other realms. I do not think I am necessarily even that “good” as a meditator in the traditional sense. None of that matters though, for just the act of choosing to sit day in and day out has slowly and surely changed my life, without me “doing” anything other than learning to sit with myself. Through this process, I have become far less reactive and far more easy going. I notice so many things about myself so quickly that they don’t have much time to turn into a problem. Even my “worst” meditations are often my best. Why? Because even though my mind might have been all over the place, I leave my cushion aware of my agitated state, putting me in a position to own my thoughts and emotions which helps me to tread lightly with myself and others. What a gift! For it is surely our troubled, chaotic minds that create the disharmony in our lives and in the world. Can you imagine how your life might change if you had a little more insight into what drives you? Talk about pain reduction; no medication necessary!
I have had the great and good fortune of working with a homeopath since my children were babies. One of the greatest suggestions she ever made to me was to keep a health journal on the kids. In this journal I would note things like how often and when they got sick, what kind of sick and what helped. Over time, patterns began to emerge. Armed with these observations, I was able to predict how things would go, which treatments were most effective and eventually the approaches that would help strengthen the systems that habitually seemed out of balance.
After a time, I began keeping a journal on myself. This journaling has formed the basis of my own Personal Medicine. “Personal”, as in pertaining to a particular person, me. And “Medicine” as in the art and science of preserving and restoring my own health. It is made up of observations, wonderings, connections, approaches, and it is unique to me. I find this to be a meaningful and effective way to approach health in a time when conventional medicine seems top heavy with bureaucrats, overburdened with red tape and chains of command and ineffective in its ability to get to the root cause of illness and suffering.
What resides at the heart of this approach is personal responsibility. Being accountable to the parts of your health that are within your power to control. No matter where we are on the path, each one of us already knows where we have abdicated personal responsibility in matters of health. Where’s yours?
“The highest spiritual practice is self-observation, without judgment.”
When my children were young, but old enough to venture out in the world beyond my reach, I knew I had to teach them something they could carry with them wherever they went. Something that would help them stand in the face of too many choices and too many life-depleting options. So, when they were old enough to know dessert was being offered at a party and ask me for it, I would ask them, “What does your body say?”
Many of us take care of our bodies based on what the mind wants and says. And too many of us respond to our bodies based on what others have told us, or how we have been brainwashed to believe what our bodies should look like and feel like. The body speaks a different language than the mind. It does not care that the meeting you are in makes it inconvenient to have a need like, thirst, hunger or elimination. The body knows nothing about the mind’s decision to be model thin. And it cares not for your decision to sit in front of a screen for hours despite it’s protests. The body needs what it needs when it needs it.
How might your life change if you began checking in with your body, asking its opinion around the choices you are making. Might you eat differently? Go to bed when you are tired? Slow down? Learn to say “no”? Notice that the way you medicate yourself is making you sick? The wholeness that we all yearn for must include the body in all that we do. Can you imagine beginning again, like a small child? Starting over in a way that recognizes your most basic and fundamental needs and actually responding to them? In other words, “What does your body say?”
I was recently away on a dance retreat where part of the focus was on how to build a daily practice. Practice, here, being something that you do, day in and day out, doesn’t matter what it is, that brings you into relationship with yourself and how you are truly doing. And by truly, I mean beyond the masks we wear for other people and even ourselves.
As you might already have experienced, carving out time day after day for yourself, can be difficult to impossible to accomplish. And yet, deep down, we all know that when we give this level of care to our lives, it is life-changing. Why it is then that so many of us struggle to get there? Of course, there are many, many reasons; too busy, don’t know how to start, don’t feel we are worth it, afraid of what we will lose if we change, and on and on it goes. We could get stuck in what keeps us from getting there, or, we could look at what it is that does get us there.
In a word, what gets us there day after day through good times and bad, is devotion. The intention to willingly and humbly give yourself to something greater than yourself. It does not matter what that something is; God, your community, a cause, service in the world, family, a creative endeavor. What matters is that you get over yourself! What has helped me to get over myself and get to a daily practice is my children. It was and continues to be the intention to be as clear and healthy as I can be for them. Interestingly enough, over time this devotion to them has spilled over to include me and every facet of my life. What I started out doing for another has blessed me in ways I could never have imagined or known to ask for. And therein lies the magic of devotion. For when we get past ourselves, we are returned to ourselves and the world, happier and more complete.
Today, what promise to practice could you make to yourself that was born out of devotion?