We’re meditating on the word ‘journal’

05/03/2015 at 4:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This week we’re meditating on the word ‘journal’. Many of us write journals. We love the act of buying a new notebook. There’s something gently intoxicating about the texture and scent of pristine pages. The writing itself is therapeutic. Often, it’s during the act of writing that we recognise how we actually feel. A journal, kept for decades, can even become a family heirloom.

And yet, even if we never put pen to paper, we are still recording life’s experiences, on the canvas of our own bodies. Habitual emotions are etched onto our faces through countless repetitions. Stored traumas alter the way we move our muscles and block the spontaneity of our movements. Happiness, in contrast, causes us to soften and glow. As Caroline Myss, author and speaker on human consciousness, has said, “Your biology becomes your biography.”

Meditating on the word ‘journal’ can be a challenge. We may not want to revisit the tricky times that are now indelibly recorded in book and body. Many of us would rather keep our life journals firmly closed. We may therefore feel resistance, even while we’re sitting still and trying to clear our minds.

However, there is a simple trick that can transform this meditation. I’d like you to picture, now, the brilliant white light that you can sometimes see emanating from a beautiful clear crystal, such as rock quartz. The light comes from a plane deep inside the crystal. Its beauty, shining from within, is a reminder of your own inner light. In your meditation, picture that light radiating from the pages of your journal, or from the canvas of your body.

It’s possible to see all of life’s events as though they were lit from within – with a soul light, if you like. From that perspective, it’s easier to recognise the gifts within a challenging experience, and also the new skills we’ve acquired from it, such as self-respect, wisdom and forgiveness.

Can calm thoughts create a calmer life?

28/05/2014 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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In a couple of weeks’ time, I’m running a meditation workshop on The Healing Power of Calm. A few months back, I decided to be rather organised. I decided to meditate regularly on the word ‘calm’ for 30 days. There was a question I wanted to answer. Could meditating on the word ‘calm’ actually create a calmer life for oneself? Here are some extracts from my diary.

Day 1. There begins to be a sense, with every out breath, of every cell in the body releasing stuff it has been hanging on to: letting it go. No longer trying to control, hold on or sit on top of stuff. Just letting it go… Outside, wood doves coo and blackbirds sing, and the mild winter air feels fresh and sweet.

Day 2. I realise that the cells as I visualise them are faithfully taking on the colour of the air outside. Today it is that time just before dawn, so my cells are night-dark, with early glimmerings of light.

Day 4. It seems to me that each day is like a mandala: a circular or perhaps spherical pattern. The mandala begins at the very centre of me with a seed thought: ‘calm’. And as the day and the mandala expand, the seed’s qualities of calm permeate and manifest. This happens in ways that perfectly reflect my seed intention.

Day 5. Now I understand that what has stood between ‘calm’ and me is a need to control. I have been trying to control life itself by building a house of cards, to protect those I love, and myself, from the inchoate chaos that lies beyond all things. Yet there is only one thing that can save me: I need to surrender. I cannot hold back chaos. That is impossible.  Instead, I need to step into the abyss, with a sense of trust. As I realise this, my whole body relaxes. A tingling makes itself felt at the top of my head. I feel myself beginning to grow, like a flower. But not too far, not yet. And the moment of growing passes, and is gone. But I have glimpsed it.

Day 6.  After yesterday’s brief sensation of surrender, today’s meditation brings sadness – a sense of regret, of what might have been. It feels good to let the emotions flow. I realise that is all I need to do: let it flow, let it go. I understand that to experience calm, we do need to travel through our bottled-up emotions. There is no other way. Beneath, beyond and through the sadness lies that deep, infinite calm.

Day 13. Things have been busy lately. My son turned 18 (true cause to celebrate: it was never a given). A party. Many overnight guests. A welcome time of celebration and gratitude. I notice, unsurprisingly, that my meditation sessions have been patchy: ten minutes here, five minutes there. When I do succeed in calming my mind, I learn that it is necessary to value oneself in order to maintain one’s calm. If I am constantly available to all, I am present for none, least of all myself. I need to reconnect with the stillness within me in order to make sense of a busy world.

Day 24. I have been able to reach a point where my days do not feel pressured. Many of my commitments seem to have melted away. For example, out of the blue, the school run is now being handled largely by others. This liberates extra hours in my days. Life has become more spacious – a beautiful word. I feel as though I haven’t experienced this since becoming a mother, 18 years ago.

Day 30. I notice that I have become more ordered in my life. I am better at completing one project before starting the next. There continues to be more space in my days, and in the ‘to do’ list in my mind.

For the first time in many years I feel as though I am one with the rhythms of my life and of the wider world – not all the time, but more often.

Conclusion:

In one month, the outer world around me did seem to rearrange itself to reflect the calm that I was focusing on. Some of the changes were initiated by me. But many, such as the lighter school run commitment, were initiated by changes in the outer world. And that change made a big difference!

I notice from the diary entries that just as I was beginning to get real breakthroughs – expressed through the sadness flowing – I got busy. On some level it seems to me that I decided that I had dealt with enough bottled-up emotions for the time being. After that point, the practice felt like more a consolidation of new habits. It felt ok to do that. But I wonder what would have happened if I had, for example, gone on a longer retreat and effectively forced myself to go into the subject more fully. However, the beauty of this daily system was that I could make changes at a comfortable pace. Over all, I liked it a lot. I will do it again, perhaps soon.

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PS The pebbles photographed above were three that I picked up on Brey Beach on the Island of Alderney last summer, and placed on a window sill. I have discovered that calm lies in such simple, sunlit moments.

Who do you choose to be?

28/12/2013 at 6:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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MarshmallowI was waiting to buy some items in a local pharmacy. In front of me were two women. The one who had her purse out was elderly. The other was there to help her. The process was taking a while. I found myself studying the elderly woman. I noticed that her skin was a uniform, pale colour. I noticed that her legs in their tan-coloured tights were thin and lacked muscle tone. Her ankles were swollen. There seemed to be no sense of fire or animation about her. If I focused with my inner eye I could see the English rose she  used to be. But today she was child-like and obedient, simply doing what the carer instructed her to do. The carer used simple language, as if she was talking to a child. The older lady smiled sweetly, took money out of her purse, and passed it to the cashier.

Something about the scene unsettled me. The older lady was being spoken to as if she were simple, or senile. Perhaps she was. That was certainly the assumption. Yet it would have been so easy for the carer to choose her words differently. What if the carer spoke to the older woman as though she were a wise elder, a treasure house of  experiences? Would the older lady have been different as a result? I believe she would have been.

And what of the older lady herself? Was there a moment in her life when she began to say to herself: “I am old. I am not as able as I used to be.”  What if she had never said that – never believed it? What if she had decided to keep herself in tip-top shape with a few gentle stretches and a walk every day? What if she’d developed a taste for nutritious daily smoothies, or loaded her plate with fresh fruit and vegetables? What if she had, as Louise Hay (87 years old) recommends, gazed at herself in the mirror every morning and said: “I really, really love you.”

I read recently that our DNA is altered by our beliefs – i.e. the physical structure of your body and mine is altered by what we believe.  And these beliefs go very deep. An estimated 95% of these beliefs are unconscious. So it’s not really enough to keep telling ourselves to ‘think positive’ (although affirmations can be helpful). That approach is like trying to put a layer of sugar icing over a deep, deep ocean – it just won’t stick.

A better solution, it seems, is to access our unconscious. Luckily, there are many paths to this strange, deep place within the psyche.

Writing a journal, especially a dream journal, is one good path. It’s therapeutic to allow the intuitive insights to emerge, and listen to their wisdom.

Spending regular time in nature is also such a good idea. Most weeks, I spend a morning in the garden. Recently that involved digging up roots – elecampane and marshmallow (pictured above) – then shredding and drying them for herbal teas. The process helped me to connect with rich, dark earth; the stored up, vibrant, healing power of plants; and also my own roots.

And then, of course, there is meditation. The sort I share with others is what I sometimes call ‘Intuitive Meditation’. As a group, we enjoy the deep personal insights that emerge when we are sitting still, focusing on a single word that changes by the week.

But ultimately it’s not about following any method in order to achieve a result. Ultimately, it’s about having fun, and learning. On the deepest level, it’s about letting go of all outdated programming, and choosing to be ourselves.

Warm thoughts about ice

30/11/2013 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Meditation word over the coming week is ‘ice’. One of the meditators last week said it made her feel chilly just to think of it. So I thought I’d write a few thoughts for you, Diane, and all of us, to widen the associations. Here goes…

In dreams, ice may often be a symbol of transformation. It can be a symbol of frozen energy: some aspect of the psyche that hasn’t changed and developed, most likely as a result of trauma – something a younger version of ourselves just couldn’t cope with, so we put it in deep storage.

The thing is, there is such potential in this frozen energy. When the ice melts, new power and abilities may course through the psyche. Our lives can transform as we reconnect with aspects of ourselves that we had all but forgotten.

Ice can form the most beautiful crystals. For all who love crystals, winter can be the most transformative time of year as we walk in a three-dimensional crystal world: frost and snow on the trees above us, snow beneath our feet.

Ice can bring out the child in us. What memories do you have? I remember my five-year-old self all bundled up and scrunching through deep snow in the streets of an East European city. I remember stopping by a doughnut stall: watching the little ring doughnuts cook before my eyes; the sweet scent of warm food on a cold winter’s day.

Ice can also help us re-connnect with our inner child  as adults. I have a warm memory from last winter: lying on the snow, side by side with my daughter as we made snow angels, then going indoors for hot chocolate.

Fire and ice are both opposites and natural companions. As Steven’s picture of icebergs in Greenland demonstrates, sun gradually melts the ice, allowing it to flow. It’s helpful to see that process in ourselves. In what areas of our lives are we allowing ourselves to become more open, to flow with greater ease?

Ice is about pause – the pause between two growing seasons. A time when plants dream of all that they are going to be, and our sleeping selves keep files of all that we may become. Who knows how long the icy pause may last? And yet, life may still be there, waiting to emerge. I’m thinking about that incredible plant, the white CampionSilene stenophylla. Its fruits were frozen in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years. Then, one day, Russian scientists discovered a way to propagate them, and the ancient campions bloom again.

 

What I wish I’d said to Anita Moorjani

26/08/2013 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 58 Comments
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There’s an autumnal edge to the air, and outside the leaves are speckled brown in places. The apples are reddening on the trees, and children’s school shoes are flying out of the shops. I’m about to plan the meditation themes for a new term in the Studio. So, all in all, I have that ‘going back to school’ feeling. The weather is cooling off and it’s time to learn again (as if we ever stop).

Instead of working, I keep thinking about a ‘nearly’ conversation I had with Anita Moorjani at the Hay House ‘I can do it!’ London conference last autumn. It keeps playing on my mind. I haven’t thought about it for months. So there must be a reason why it’s coming up now.

I heard Anita speak about her near death experience at the conference. I had previously read her book, Dying to be Me, and loved it. Last year, Anita was still fairly new to public speaking, and she was accompanied on stage by Dr Wayne Dyer. I liked her lack of ego. She wasn’t trying to prove anything. She simply had an amazing experience to share. Anita’s essential message seemed to be: Live your life fearlessly. You are always loved. You are magnificent. You are meant to be you, no one else. Live your life to the full. Enjoy being you.

At the end of the conference, I saw Anita again. I was standing in a long queue on the stairs, waiting for luggage from the cloakroom. Anita walked up the steps with her husband Danny. I said a quiet, heartfelt ‘Thank you’.

To my surprise, in all that noise Anita heard me and stopped. She looked at me, waiting for more. I didn’t know what to say. So I opted for: “Thank you for your talk. I really enjoyed it.”

“Why, thank you so much,” said Anita, and carried on her way.

Now the thing is, I wasn’t being honest. There was more I could have said. Much more.

What was I really thanking Anita for?

The clue is in this photo.

Timothy and Steven

It’s a picture of my teenaged son, Timothy, with his lovely, supportive dad – my partner Steven. You will notice that Timothy is disabled. He has an undiagnosed condition which means that he cannot walk, except for a few wobbly steps. He cannot talk, beyond a few basic words. “Ready, steady go!” is his favourite expression. He uses signs to communicate. He is holding his ‘taggy’, a favourite soft shape covered with labels that he likes to play with.

You may also notice that Timothy is smiling. Timothy smiles a lot. He loves people. When I’m with him I always have a sense that I am unconditionally loved and accepted. Other people experience the same thing. Timothy feels good to be around.

So what does this have to do with Anita Moorjani?

A vision of bliss

Unlike Anita, I have not had a near death experience. But the year before Timothy was born I had an experience which was very like one. I call it a vision, but it involved other senses too.

In my vision, I wasn’t in my body. It felt to me that I was pure energy. Somehow, I was occupying the space between matter, between the particles of matter. Matter itself, our physical world, appeared insubstantial, like a movie image that you could put your hands through.

The feeling I had was pure, absolute bliss. I was known, and witnessed and absolutely loved by the overriding intelligence that was everywhere in that space. For want of a better word, I called that intelligent being, ‘God’. But I knew it had nothing in common with external views of God.  I was unconditionally loved. I was incapable of sinning. I was this shining, wondrously loving consciousness in which I bathed, and it was me. There was no separation. And these same truths applied to every being on this earth.

Hard lessons

My vision of bliss has never completely left me. It sustained me when Timothy was born with complex and life-threatening issues, which became more apparent as he grew older.

As every parent of a disabled child knows, it is incredibly difficult dealing with the complex medical decisions for someone you adore, whose survival may at times seem fragile at best. It took me a while, and I stumbled many times, but gradually I learnt to trust my intuition – the inner voice of wisdom. And I believe this has helped Timothy immeasurably, many times over.

Not only that, after the vision it was as if a door remained open to the Other Realm. I have had, and continue to have, other visions that teach, sustain and delight me. Increasingly, I share these with others.

To me, it seems that Timothy himself occupies a space between this world and the Other Realm. He can appear immensely intuitive. He can sign an answer to me when I’ve only just framed the question in my mind – before I’ve spoken it aloud. And his unconditional love, his lack of judgement, is powerfully like the energy I experienced in my original vision of bliss.

 

So what exactly was I thanking Anita for? 

In a word, validation.

Anita appeared to be terminally ill with cancer, on the verge of complete organ failure, when she had her near-death experience. In her book, Dying to be Me, she describes how she experienced a state of extreme bliss while also being aware of what was going on in the hospital, and also where her brother was, many hundreds of miles away. She describes how she understood that she was completely loved, and magnificent. And when she returned, her body healed within days.

What Anita describes corresponds to my own vision, although our circumstances were very different. I am grateful that Anita worked hard to share her experiences in a thoughtful and balanced way. Eighteen years ago, when I experienced my vision, these things were less talked about. I have always felt that I live two lives: the physical one here, and the blissful one, in the space between the particles.  The first I talked about; the second, I did not.

Well, that is changing. Now I am talking about my experience of bliss – why ever wouldn’t I? Seeing Anita stand up and speak her truth, with dignity, on a stage before  hundreds of people has got a lot to do with that.

The autumn term begins here in one week’s time. There’s one thing I’m sure about, whether I’m learning, or sharing what I’ve learnt: I will speak my truth.

How to meditate the EASY way

21/08/2013 at 11:31 am | Posted in Meditation | 5 Comments
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Meditation is the easiest way I know to feel better fast. During challenging times, meditation can be really helpful. During good times, meditation can create a sense of bliss. It calms the mind. It stops the cycle of negative thinking. And it creates a space for hope and happiness to enter.

I aim to meditate for 20 minutes a day, early in the morning. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I miss a few days, or even weeks. But when I catch myself feeling low, I’m quick to start meditating again – because, quite simply, it works.

Here is the EASY method that works for me and many of the people who attend my meditation studio.

Establish a routine.
Accept that it won’t go perfectly.
Sit still in silence.
Yield to the process.

Let’s take each of those steps in more detail…

Establish a routine

You’re more likely to meditate if it’s booked into your diary. Find an ideal time of day for you. You might try 20 minutes at the start of every day, or in the evening; or both those times.

Aim to meditate at the same time every day. Choose a length of time that will work for you. Anything from 15 minutes to half an hour is good.  However, it’s better to do ten minutes, or even five, rather than none. Aim to meditate in the same place, and make it pleasant and uncluttered, the way you’d like your mind to be.  You might like a  shawl or blanket over you, so you feel warm and comfortable. It’s helpful to set a timer to let you know, gently, when the meditation has finished. You can use your phone, as long as you’ve switched off incoming calls. There are also some lovely meditation timers around, but keep it simple. A brilliant low-tech alternative which I use for my own morning practice is to meditate with beads.

Accept that it won’t go perfectly

Sometimes we try to create the perfect, calm environment, and then feel fazed if a fly enters the room and buzzes around, or building work starts up outside. Accept that life isn’t perfect. If anything disturbs your concentration during your meditation, simply witness it. It may well be a reflection of your own mind, which may be buzzing like a fly, or in a state of change and renewal, like a building that is being restored.

Sit still in silence

It’s helpful to focus on a single thing in your imagination, and to keep focusing on that during your meditation. An object from nature, such as the flower pictured above, makes a fantastic subject for meditation, because it has shape, pattern, texture, colour, scent and depth that you can dwell on in your imagination.

Or you might simply witness your breath, noticing every detail of it.

Or you might count up to four, one number per breath, and start again, counting up to four each time.

Or you might repeat certain words, silently to yourself. Breathe in “I am”, and breathe out an uplifting word that you have chosen. It might be “peace” or “love” or “leaf” or “flow”. This is the method we use during twice-weekly meditation sessions that I run in my Wiltshire studio.

In the studio, we typically combine more than one of the above. For example, breathe in “I am”, breathe out “tree” and visualise that you are a flexible willow tree, bending gracefully in the breeze. Or a tall, strong oak tree with rough bark and spreading branches.

Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered, simply remind yourself that you are here to meditate, and go back to the object that you are focusing on, or your breath, or counting.

Yield to the process

There’s a sort of ‘giving up’ that goes on when we meditate. We’re letting go of that list of things to do that seems to have permanent residence in our head. We’re giving up trying to control anything. We’re giving up, sitting down and being still. That is when the magic happens. You may experience colours that aren’t there, voices of people you can’t see, shafts of sunlight, and sudden insights. Simply witness these. Keep witnessing. Keep returning to counting breaths, or noticing your breath, or whatever you have decided to do to still your mind. And at some point, you may well experience bliss. Let yourself bathe in that bliss.

Afterwards, don’t try to recreate what happened. Don’t worry that you’ll never manage to achieve it again. Remind yourself that you meditate in order to meditate, that’s all. There is no goal. Bliss is… well, blissful, but it is not a goal. Follow the EASY steps, and simply witness all that happens.

I wish you a calm mind, peace and happiness.

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