Celebrate what your body can do

27/12/2018 at 6:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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At this time of year it’s so easy to feel bad about eating too much and exercising too little. That’s why it was good to step through the sunlit winter mist and into my local gym, where the following unattributed message was displayed: “Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate.” So true! Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to exercise when you accept and appreciate yourself wholeheartedly, just as you are? “I can do this” is a mantra that gives us wings.

The next step from appreciation is thankfulness, and that’s the word that we will be meditating on in sessions through January. I’m thankful for a body that is, on balance, pretty healthy. I’m thankful for family and friends and warmth and nourishment. I’m grateful for being part of overlapping circles of community that cooperate and help one another. Being thankful gives sustenance to the very things we appreciate. What will you appreciate in 2019? What forces will you feed with your thankfulness?

 

Try this simple star meditation for wellbeing

24/07/2018 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This exercise is quick and easy to do. Once you’ve learnt it, you can complete it in just six breaths. Many people find it relaxing, and it can help you step into a mindset of good health and happiness. It’s a little about the hand movements, and a lot about the visualisation you do during the sequence. You can do this every day, or whenever you feel like it.

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1. Clasp your hands loosely together with the thumb pads touching. Focus on your breathing. Follow the breath as it moves in and out. As you breathe in, say the word ‘Divine’ to yourself – breathe in the word silently – and imagine a golden white ball of light, shimming and glowing right in the very centre of you. As you breathe out, say the word ‘light’ to yourself – breathe out silently – and imagine the light at the centre of you radiating outwards like a star. Imagine that the light clears away any detritus in your energy field that is no longer needed, so that you glow and shine ever more brightly.

 

 

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2. With the next in-breath, keep your thumbs together, and place the two index fingers together. Repeat as above, breathing in the word ‘divine’ and breathing out the word ‘light’. Imagine the light radiating, and clearing old energies.

 

 

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3. With the next in-breath, keep thumbs and index fingers together. Place the two middle fingers together. Repeat breathing and visualising as above. Imagine yourself like a star, with beautiful, life-giving rays of light streaming out in all directions.

 

 

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4. With the next in-breath, keep thumbs, index and middle together. Feel the sensation of the thumb pads and the finger pads connecting with their counterparts. Perhaps you can feel your pulse through the connection. Repeat breathing and visualising as above. With each in-breath the light in the centre of you glows more brightly. With each out-breath it radiates outwards.

 

 

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5. And with the next in-breath, keep all your digits together, including your little fingers. Take your time to be still and breathe meditatively. Imagine that the light in the centre of you is dazzlingly bright, and that the light is streaming outwards in every direction. Picture that any areas of physical or mental pain are harmlessly being cleared away by the powerful radiating light, leaving your body, mind and spirit full of radiant good health and happiness.

 

6. Finally, conclude the exercise by placing your hands briefly in the ‘namaste’ position. As you do so, focus on a sense of the divine in yourself, and in all living beings.

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How to meditate with crystal geodes

04/07/2018 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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What are geodes?

Geodes are rock-encased cavities or bubbles within which crystals have formed. The crystals tend to point inwards, towards the centre. On the outside, geodes in their natural state are lumpy and bumpy. They may weigh less than you expect. On the inside, they are crystalline worlds that sparkle when the rock is cracked open and exposed to the light.

The contrast between a plain exterior and a detailed interior is one of the reasons why geodes work so well as tools of meditation. In meditation, our minds are revealed to have an internal richness, like a geode into which light shines.

The word ‘geode’ itself comes from the word for ‘earth’.

The geode sphere shown above is fantastic to meditate on, because it feeds both the senses and the imagination. This is a pale amethyst that has been removed from its bumpy exterior, and been shaped into a sphere. Platinum and silver vapour was then passed over it, creating permanent iridescent colours over every surface.

What’s the best kind of geode for meditation?

There are many varieties of geodes, and each one has a place in meditation. Put simply, the qualities you notice within the geode are qualities that you may also discover within yourself, bringing you a sense of peace, and insights. Here are a couple of geode examples.

Lightness and sparkle

Last week I picked up two humble snow quartz half-geodes for a fiver from Bath Market. Here is one of them.

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Small and light, it’s easy to keep this in your hand or your lap, or just near you while you work. Gaze into its depths, and you are subtly taken into another world of beauty and sparkle. Each time you look into a simple geode like this, your perspective shifts, and you feel a small dose of relaxation.  Note, this type of crystal is sometimes described as chalcedony, which just means it’s a microcrystalline variant of quartz. However, a clearer example of chalcedony can be seen below.

Deep and powerful

If you’ve ever walked into a crystal shop, you’ve almost certainly seen one or more amethyst caves, which are geodes by another name. These can range from diminutive to giant-sized. Search online for ‘amethyst cave’ and you’ll find plenty of examples. Many people find these deep purple caverns calming and restful.

At the furthest end of the scale of magnitude is the incredible Cave of Crystals in Mexico, a searingly hot cavern lined with the world’s largest known crystals. The cave is usually flooded and inaccessible. However, for a brief period some years ago, it was drained, and small numbers of people were able to walk around the giant selenite crystals.

Organic flow

Not all geodes contain crystal points. Here is an example of chalcedony where the mineral seems to have been caught mid-flow. At just under 4 cm, it’s slightly smaller than the sweet and sparkly snow quartz geode illustrated above, but it’s noticeably heavier to hold.

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This example has a translucent, milky appearance, though it can equally be coloured – agate is a bright, banded version of chalcedony. With its flowing qualities, this form of chalcedony can have a organic, even intimate aspect to it. When you tune into those qualities within yourself, it can help you to be in touch with who you really are.

What’s the best way to meditate with a geode?

• Sit comfortably somewhere quiet and peaceful with your chosen geode. You might wish to set a timer for, say, 20 minutes for this exercise.

• Study the geode using your senses: handle it, gaze at it, notice how the light shines and reflects within it. Feel the weight of it in your hands. Tap it and notice any hollowness or otherwise. Gaze into it as though it is a sparkling cave that you can enter.

• Close your eyes and continue to notice your geode’s qualities in your imagination. Breathe in and out, slowly and peacefully. Allow your continued imaginary study of your geode to synchronise with your breathing.

• Continue your unhurried, relaxed breathing, and your imaginary exploration of your geode. As you do so, you may find your attention wanders. Whenever you notice that it has, just gently bring your attention back to your geode. Feel it in your hands to reinforce  your connection with it.

• As you continue your meditation, you may find spontaneous images or words enter your mind. Some of these may appear to make no sense. Some may feel like solutions to problems, or shimmering insights. Do your best to witness these without attachment. Let them float through and out of your consciousness. Remind yourself gently that you are here to meditate, and that it all.

• After the meditation, think about what has taken place. You will likely notice that your mind feels calmer and fresher, like a clear pool in which the silt has settled or been washed away. Note any new insights you may acquired as a result of your meditation.

In summary, geodes make useful and beautiful meditation companions. You can use them frequently as part of a regular practice, or simply to create a calm, meditative atmosphere in a room. You can also use images of geodes to focus on, or you can imagine the perfect meditative crystal cave, full of relaxing qualities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift your mood with lavender

14/06/2018 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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In a week when a study showed that over a third of all medicines can cause depression, it’s worth remembering that simple remedies from nature can lift your mood. Lavender is one of the very best that you can rely on.

Run your fingers gently through a lavender plant that’s just come into bloom, and you will instantly relax with the characteristic, uplifting, restful scent. Inhaling lavender is proven to reduce levels of anxiety and stress.

A few drops of lavender essential oil on a tissue placed near you at night or near your desk will calm the mind and nerves. Diluted in a carrier oil and rubbed into the skin, molecules of soothing lavender have been found to enter the bloodstream and deliver pain-reducing, mildly sedative benefits. Lavender oil in an intensive care unit or hospital ward can reduce the levels of body-disrupting sedation required.

Lavender spray recipe

This is a simple and delightful way to feel the benefits of lavender.

Take a clean and empty 100 ml bottle with a fine spray attachment. Add 15 ml of vodka, 80 ml of spring or other water, and 40 drops of lavender essential oil. Put the lid on the bottle and shake. Spray on yourself, around rooms or around your bed at night for instant, soothing relaxation.

Do you have a favourite method of using lavender?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to run a meditation group

11/05/2018 at 10:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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“How do I go about running a meditation group?” This is a question I’m asked from time to time, so I thought it would be helpful to share a few guidelines. These are based on meditation groups I’ve run for nine years in Wiltshire, UK.

Consider yourself a facilitator, not a teacher

The members of any group will bring their own skills and experience to a session. Often, one person’s dilemma will be answered by another person’s insights. Your role is not to provide the answers, but to create the space in which answers arise from within the group. Often that means choosing a theme for the session, and being ready to ask gentle questions to encourage all members to contribute. You also keep the group on topic with your relevant questions. If you have particular experience of meditation, or teaching, those things are obviously very useful. But the most important skills to have are probably the willingness to turn up, and to do the best you can, by being properly prepared.

Decide the perfect time and place

Decide on a fixed day and time every week, fortnight or month. An hour is an ideal length of time for a session. This might include half an hour of silent meditation, followed by half an hour of discussion on the theme of the meditation. You also need to consider the venue. Many groups meet, at least at first, in the facilitator’s home. You then have to consider safety issues: who you are inviting into your home; and conversely, whether your home contains any hazards for unwary people. You may find it more practical to hire a local venue. Whatever you choose, look into what insurance may be required. And be consistent about finishing sessions on time.

Charge a fee

If a few friends are meeting in your living room it may seem hard to do this, but it really is a good idea to charge a small amount to cover expenses. You might spend money on refreshments, marketing, plus ancillary costs such as the provision of blankets to keep meditators cosy, or cleaning of the room. If you are hiring a hall, of course you need to charge enough to cover the cost of hire, refreshments, marketing and so on.

If you don’t charge a fee, your guests will begin to wonder if they owe you something. A fee evens things out. You are providing a service. The members are happy in the knowledge that they don’t owe you anything. You don’t develop the resentful feeling that you are doing something for nothing. A bowl on a table by the door with a fee marked beside it, and some change inside, is perfectly adequate. And if someone forgets to pay one week, don’t worry about it. It’s basically an honesty box, all part of the spirit of the gathering.

Set a timer

You will need to time your sessions. In silent meditation, it’s a good idea to use a timer to start a session, and to end it. A zen meditation timer, with chimes, is a nice way of doing this. I don’t especially recommend using a timer app on your phone. Although this is fine for solitary meditation, it lacks a certain ceremony, or ritual, that enhances group meditation.

Choose your method

You don’t have to follow a particular school of meditation. It’s essential, though, to come up with a format that feels right for you. The simplest format is this: Choose an uplifting word that lends itself to meditation. A word such as ‘Love’, ‘Peace’ or ‘Serene’ works well. Or you might chose an item from nature, such as ‘Leaf’, ‘Tree’, ‘Ocean’. The idea is that members of your group will sit still in silence, silently breathing in “I am” and breathing out the word. They might imagine the words are written in gold letters against a blue sky. Or they might picture, or sense, something that represents the word. The word itself – the theme – can be a new one for each session. You might, alternatively, keep the same word for a month, finding new insights every session. Encourage the members of the group to think of ‘I am’ as a collective force of the universe, rather than one person’s individual identity.

Offer a simple guided meditation

Optionally, you could guide them through the beginnings of the meditation: invite them to sit comfortably, close their eyes, become aware of their breath, their feet on the ground… invite them to visualise, or sense a peaceful scene that embodies the theme. Lead them to a period of silent meditation of 20 minutes. Set the timer at the beginning of the silence so that you can meditate fully yourself. When the timer goes at the end, you might offer a few words to lead them out of the meditation, or you might have pre-arranged that the meditation simply finishes at that point.

Singing bowl variation: instead of a timer, you could use a beautiful instrument such as a singing bowl to signal the beginning and end of the silent period. However, this does mean that you need to keep an eye on the time yourself, so this may potentially be less meditative for you.

Research your theme

Before each session, it’s helpful if you as facilitator have researched your theme. You might have learnt the earliest meaning of the word. You might have found a poem that evokes the theme beautifully. These are good things to share with the group. You might turn up with a useful meditative technique or an idea for a short guided meditation that you can share with others. You might share some easy meditation principles. Or give them a simple strategy for when they are too busy to meditate. 

Be kind

Don’t put pressure on your guests, or expect them to do anything in particular. They are here to meditate, and that is all. You are the facilitator, the one who makes it happen. It is always wonderful to see who turns up on any particular week, and it’s good to see each meeting as perfect, just the way it is.

Be practical

The simplest of themes, focused on in a supportive atmosphere, can lead to emotional healing. Especially in the discussion that follows a period of silent meditation, an individual may become tearful. It’s helpful to follow these three guidelines for any group. And make sure tissues are always quietly available. At the same time, realise that you are not a counsellor (unless you are one, of course!) You are not there to mend anyone. If you feel out of your depth, you can very gently offer a suitable next step to a member of the group: they might visit their GP to ask for a referral for counselling, or some other strategy. In practice, it would be extremely rare for this to be necessary. The group supports each individual with compassion, empathy and humour. The humour itself is a natural part of any gathering, always to be welcomed.

Make sure everyone is well grounded before they leave. If need be, have them stamp their feet, or drink a glass of water. Say something spontaneous that gets people laughing. Talk about what they are doing later that day. Make time for a certain amount of small talk after the session has ended, while they are collecting bags and coats and shoes on their way out.

Keep a record

Keep a record of your themes, of the number of attendees, and of the small financial sums collected. You will need a record of your themes, in particular, to avoid too much repetition, and to gain an overview of how the group is developing.

Good luck

I hope these guidelines will be useful, but your group will be unique to you – and that’s the best way to be. Make decisions for your group based on love, rather than fear. Do things that make you feel joyful, and your group will surely thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is why you need to make balance your new best friend

26/09/2017 at 11:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Recently my work was soaring like an eagle or, to be more precise, like the buzzards that live around here. I seemed to succeed in everything I did. I felt strong, confident, invincible. I cut down on sleep to fit in more work…. and my throat began to hurt, and then I got a chill that kept me away from work for a couple of days.

“How annoying,” I thought. “Just when everything was going so well!”

And then I realised my cold had arrived precisely because my work had become super-charged. Humans need to pace ourselves, or we burn ourselves out. Obvious, isn’t it? And yet I had fallen into the trap of believing I was super-human, above such considerations.

The tell-tale signs were there. They alway are. The intoxicating feeling of invincibility. The exhilaration. The lack of regard for rest breaks. The sense that there was no time for nourishing meals.

Our bodies truly are our own best guides when it comes to living a happy, healthy, balanced life. As soon as your choices get out of balance your body will let you know. The first signs are subtle – sneeze and you’ll miss them. Then the signs grow bigger, until you can’t physically avoid them.

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Here is the most important question you can ask yourself:

“How am I feeling right now?”

Are your emotions in balance, or are you tending towards one extreme or another?

The immediate remedy to help you get back in balance is always the little, natural things.

Have enough sleep.

Eat apples from a tree.

Cook a tasty, sustaining meal.

Turn off your phone.

Collect firewood.

Draw a picture.

Talk to a loved one.

Simply be.

 

Sense the wisdom of the ancient stones

24/07/2015 at 11:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Standing stones are scattered over the mistiest reaches of the British Isles. Each one is different, and highly distinctive. I wonder how many you know, and whether you have a favourite?

These are the Standing Stones of Stenness, on the mainland of Orkney. They are part of what may be the oldest henge in Britain. I visited them last week with my partner, Steven, on a rare child-free holiday. We found these giants bathing in the evening sun, framed by a rainbow. They seemed magical and mysterious: reassuring presences on the landscape.

The thing about standing stones is that they predate our written history. Perhaps we can say that they are a form of writing in themselves: rocky runes, inscribing messages on our horizons.

It’s a language we don’t understand today – but it’s possible to pick up something. I walked up to the monolith on the left in the picture above and leant against it: warm sunlight at the front of me; cool rock at the back. Imagine yourself doing that now. The stone is more than three times your height. As you lean back, it supports you. Perhaps it even feels as though it is scanning and recording your energy – that’s how it seemed to me.

As you stand there, it feels easy to have a silent dialogue. What would you like to confide in this silent stone, and what subliminal messages might it give you?

At the simplest level, stones speak of continuity and the steady rhythm of change. The people who first raised these megaliths were fully aware of the annual dance of sunrise and sunset along the east and west horizons. They had a deep understanding of how sunshine brought life to crops and humanity. Bringing this awareness to our modern world of distractions is very good for us – It can keep us sane.

After a while, the sun neared the horizon. The Standing Stones of Stenness became dramatic silhouettes.

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The view reminded me of a powerful insight I received at Avebury Stone Circle: “It is not the stones themselves that matter. It’s the spaces in between.“ 

The spaces in between the Stones of Stenness reveal a most amazing landscape. You can catch glimpses in this picture. There are two lochs: one is saltwater, and the other is freshwater. They are separated by a narrow causeway, which takes you to a Stone Age collection of buildings which are thought to have been temples. Beyond them is another henge, the Ring of Brodgar, and beyond that… the sun.

The Standing Stones of Stenness from this perspective are a portal to the elements of life. They reveal to us that we and our world are composed of earth, fire, air and water. And sometimes, just sometimes, it feels good to remember that.

How to keep a dream diary

01/06/2015 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Guidance of my dreams

Keeping a dream diary is one of the kindest, wisest gifts you can give yourself. Even if you don’t remember your dreams, keep a journal anyway. Record whatever you can recall on waking up. If you only catch a fleeting mood, record it. Hold this intention: ‘I am now ready for the guidance of my dreams’. And, in time, your diary will begin to fill.

I was inspired back in the 1990s by an early version of Denise Linn’s book, The Hidden Power of Dreams. I loved her suggestion that you write an uplifting title in the front of your journal. This might be something along the lines of ‘My dream diary: a beautiful book filled with beautiful gifts’. Many volumes later, I still write something similar.

On each left hand page…

Write the date, and a title for a dream you had the night before. The title can be anything that seems to sum up your dream. Then simply write down your dream. 

You may find you don’t remember any dreams. In that case, just write down any fleeting thoughts or feelings you had on waking up. Try to notice if you had any pictures or words in your mind on waking, and record those. Or you may find you had several unrelated dreams in the same night. Just write them down, as if they were chapters of the same dream.

On each right hand page…

Write down any thoughts or observations you have about the dream. Perhaps you were doing something the day before that triggered it? Over time you will begin to understand the meaning of different images in your dream. It can be helpful and enjoyable to draw or paint a picture of the dream on this page – you can gain new insights that way.

The key to your dreams

Be aware that everything and everyone in your dream is representing an aspect of yourself. Everything is symbolic. You don’t have to understand all the symbols, but it’s very rewarding when you start to interpret them. You can think of it as a puzzle to which only you hold the key. And over time, the more you study your dreams, the more you will understand.

 Never be scared of your dreams – they are there to help you to understand yourself and your life choices better.

Your own dream dictionary

The best dream dictionary you can ever have comes from first-hand observation of your own dreams: go by how the dream symbols feel – their essence, their energy. Where in your own life do you have a similar feeling?

 Here are some examples to get you started…

Narrow streets, or doors that are difficult to go through may suggest that a current course of action, or a current attitude, is not ideal. Conversely, if a dream has a sense of space, with wide avenues and clear views, it may be showing you that your current course in life is the right one for you.

People you dream of may represent some aspect of yourself that you are working on. What qualities do you associate with that person? 

If someone dies in a dream, it often means a new chapter of your own self-development is beginning, and maybe it’s a new chapter for that person too (it doesn’t mean that anyone is actually going to die!)

If a house or car is in need of repair, it may mean your health or career is in need of some tender loving care. Newly discovered floors and rooms in a building can mean that you will be exploring new areas of your own interests and abilities – maybe a new career is opening up for you.

Scary people or monsters chasing you may mean that a repressed part of your psyche is ready to be reintegrated. When you’re awake, spend some time loving and blessing the scary beings, ask them what they want… in your imagination, hug them!

Water often represents emotions – is it flowing, turbulent, flooding, or calm?



Nature: A beautiful object from nature – such as a flower or a feather – may represent an aspect of your natural self that you are beginning to reconnect with, and can also represent guidance from other realms.

Night guidance

Note that over time your observed dreams are likely to become more vivid, more colourful, as though you are actually there. You may experience the bliss of flying, and receive clear spiritual lessons that remain in your mind when you wake up. You may wake up with recipes, formulas… all sorts of knowledge that can help you, and other people.

Record it all in your dream diary. And be ready to carry your new knowledge into your waking life. That’s when the fun really begins!

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Bookmark your intention

10/04/2015 at 8:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Not so long ago, I was doing a lot of caring for others, and forgetting to care for myself. Therefore, I was running on empty: constantly tired; crabby. My caring for others had become a monster that went through the motions and denied my loved ones the true energy of compassion.

This went on for several days. Then, one morning, in that dreamy state between sleep and awakening, I saw a bookmark hovering in front of me. You know, the long, thin rectangular sort that you put in a proper card-and-paper book.

“Bookmark your intention for today,” said a wise teacher who was invisibly beside me. And at once I saw words appearing on the bookmark. I understood then that I was choosing a simple, uncomplicated intention for the day. My intention – far shorter than a typical ‘to-do’ list – was to help a particular relative in a specific way, and also to care for myself. That was all. Sure, there would be other activities in the day, but my intention was just those two things.

And with that knowledge, I stopped feeling tired and overwhelmed. The energy of life and compassion returned to me.

Additionally, I understood that each new morning benefits from a fresh bookmark, spelling out an intention for that particular day.

What is your intention for today? Keep it simple. There’s only room for a few well-chosen words on a bookmark.

Why ‘eternal’ is the new ‘now’

23/03/2015 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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EclipseThis week we’re focusing on the word ‘eternal’. It’s the final theme in our series, Adapting Mindfully to Change. The idea is that underlying the myriad worldly changes that we grapple with, there is a pure unchanging energy that we might call universal consciousness. It’s the realm of unity, and of our spiritual identity.

In this morning’s session the group was fizzing. The talk was of ‘rebooting’ after the global shift in energy from the Vernal Equinox, not to mention the recent solar eclipse, and the supermoon…. But then we did manage to sit in silence. We breathed in “I am” and breathed out “eternal”.

And that’s the thing. Simply doing this, and keeping on even though our minds are racing, does bring peace. It enables us to step off the hamster wheel of distracting thoughts and dramas.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle talks about having deep roots within – to connect consciously with our inner body, our essential energy. This is the essence of us that feels eternally young, however many calendar years we have. When we sit quietly with that energy, it is possible for the constraints of time to dissolve. We become fully present in the moment, aware that we are part of a blissfully soothing current of peace. If we look at our lives from the perspective of that peace, events appear like movies. We notice, almost lazily, that we don’t need to perpetuate the arguments and we can effortlessly forgive everyone, including ourselves, because actually there is nothing to forgive.

Tolle describes this as a divine reality. “What is God?” he writes. “The eternal One Life underneath all the forms of life. What is love? To feel the presence of that One Life deep within yourself and within all creatures. To be it. Therefore, all love is the love of God.”

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