Tag Archives: meditation

Bring Joy into the Holiday Season with Sensory Awareness

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it essential to really tune in to what I am experiencing in the moment. It’s important to me to really connect with the people I choose to be with. If I can’t—and find myself spacing out or keeping things on the surface level—that’s OK, too. Practicing neutrality toward myself and my feelings helps me stay in self-love and acceptance.

But when I can really connect, these moments help me feel loved and loving. Though I try to practice it all of the time, it’s even more important during the holidays, as people are voluntarily creating a stressed out, anxious, and hurried environment. I make it a point to fully experience the rich opportunities within my reach and create meaningful holiday moments.

Sensory awareness practice is the discipline of really tuning into something, during those small and everyday moments, to the point that it becomes an exquisite experience. During the holidays, this can be as simple as focusing on a cozy scent, or meditating on a seasonal sound.

Here are some ideas for bringing sensory awareness practice into your holidays:

Musical Event

If you go to an event where there is singing or music over the holidays, instead of letting the experience simply flow over you, try to really hone in on the melody of one instrument, or focus on the sound of one person’s voice in the choir. Notice how the sound resonates in your chest or through the floor in your feet. This will help you tune into the exquisite nature of the sound and make it a much deeper sensory experience.

Cooking

One of the reasons I love cooking so much is because it is a very sensory experience. If you bake holiday treats or cook meals for the holidays, you have the opportunity to really get in touch with your senses in terms of the texture of food and the smell of the food you are preparing. Tune into the sound of different foods when you are chopping them and biting into them. As you let yourself tune into these small moments, they become richer and more meaningful.

Greeting Loved Ones

Ironically, often the reason we are rushing around during the holidays is because we want to make the holidays joyful for the people we love. Although our intentions are good, urgency and hurry work against deep connection with others.

One example of an exquisite sensory opportunity we often miss out on during the holidays is fully experiencing loved ones when greeting them upon arrival. When you first see someone you haven’t seen in awhile, or when you are in the company of someone you are really happy to spend time with, allow yourself to take in the whole person. Fully experience how you feel, being with them, in the moment.

Before you open the door to greet a guest, or before you knock on their door to be greeted, take 30 seconds to prepare yourself to really take in the energy of that person. Prepare yourself to connect with how she looks, what her smile is like, the feel of her skin or clothing as you hug her. Take pleasure in her company. Be in the moment.


There are many ways to bring sensory awareness practice into your holiday season, which can bring you back from the hustle and bustle into your highest self. I would love to hear about your ideas and experiences. Please feel free to share them in the comments.

Photo courtesy of FreeFoto

The Faces of Prayer

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Call it meditation, prayer, mindfulness, consciousness, or sitting quietly with self. What matters is the intention behind it. When you take those actions, do you intend to connect to something larger than ego? The divine within you, perhaps, or God, or Buddha, or the universal consciousness?

You might call that prayer–not the, “Please save me,” kind, but the, “My eyes are open and I am grateful,” kind. Each time, each moment is unique.

What surprised me recently was how much I pray, and in how many ways:

  • My “20 breaths” meditation with eyes closed–which I can do anywhere, even on the back of the motorcycle–allows for immediate grounding and a new perspective on the world every time I open my eyes
  • Yoga practice, where I pray with my body by falling deep into meditation even while my muscles and ligaments are challenged; I am honoring the divine in myself, my teacher, and the lights in the rooms who are practicing with me
  • Wearing amulets, such as the lotus flower and an open heart charm, which represent my connection to the larger consciousness and honor my ability to stay present with the world even during difficult times
  • Kirtan, or chanting in Sanskrit, which removes the mind-created barriers to being one with the divine energy
  • Hiking, where I am at one with my surroundings and in awe of the sounds, sights, and smells of the physical world
  • Affirmations, which I speak to honor myself as a unique and beautiful expression of divinity
  • Mindful eating, where I thank three teachers, one with each of the first three bites I take

Without even counting the times when I converse directly with my higher power, I pray all the time. I’ve built these practices up slowly–over years–but I am pleased to notice that I am connecting to the light more every day. My aunt, an energy worker herself, once told me, “Honey, you are the brightest thing in this room.”

In what ways do you pray? How does being more conscious of that shift your perspective on your connection to the divine?

 

Photo: Buddhist prayer flags; (c) Rawich; courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Mini-Meditations You Can Practice Every Day

It can be tough to start or maintain a meditation practice. Maybe it’s difficult to find a quiet space or more than a few minutes where you can sit or lie down to focus. It’s possible that the discomfort of looking at your thoughts or your inability to let them go without judging yourself harshly gets in the way. There are myriad reasons why meditation doesn’t make it to the top of the to-do list.

Even with lots of practice and a deep understanding of the benefits of meditation, I laugh at myself when I find I’m not doing it every day. But when I reflect on it a bit more, I know that in fact, I’m practicing a series of mini-meditations as I move throughout my day. Going through even one of these exercises a week will help you access the benefits of meditation: calm mind, calm body, calm heart, and feelings of serenity, joy, and gratitude.

  1. When I wake in the morning, I take two to ten minutes before I get up and simply lie in bed. During that time, I don’t go through my to-do list in my mind or think about anything other than how sweet life is. Call it a practice of gratitude, or counting blessings.
  2. To create calm mind and calm heart, I notice my breathing. Intentionally taking long breaths in for a count of four, holding them for a count of two, and exhaling long breaths out for a count of four helps to slow the heart rate and brings with it a peaceful feeling.
  3. If I’m feeling emotionally highjacked by someone or something, I stop, close my eyes, and gather all of the energy that’s residing in my space that belongs to someone else. I let it effortlessly go into a rose or other symbol that’s outside my aura layers, then explode that symbol so the energy can go back to its rightful owners.
  4. If I’m feeling floaty or like I’m not being in my physical body, I connect my root chakra energy (at the base of the spine) to an energetic grounding cord that goes deep into the center of the earth. Sometimes that cord looks like a tree trunk, sometimes a column of white light, sometimes a green vine. That instantly brings me back to my body and allows me to reconnect with the present moment.
  5. If I’m feeling unsafe or I just want to protect something, such as a car I’m in or the bike I’m riding, I put a big energetic bubble around me and the object. Then I attach it to a grounding cord (see above).

There are many more mini-meditations and energy exercises I do throughout the day as circumstances call for it. Add yours in the comments below–I would love to hear them!

Meditation Is Practicing Peace

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, speaker, author, and all-around rock star of kindness, turned 76 years old this past Saturday. Happy birthday, Pema!

Well known for her ability to bring Buddhist teachings to the Western world in a widely accessible way, Pema helps us laugh at ourselves while imparting valuable wisdom. Just the sound of her voice radiates peace, and she has had a profound effect on my life. Here’s a brief look at her style, where she explains why the best spiritual teachers are actually the biggest troublemakers in your life:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7qFi52FX1Q

Pema is in a year-long retreat in the mountains of Colorado, but she created a video in celebration of her birthday to give us all some instruction on the way of meditation.

I celebrated with others in community at the Shambhala Meditation Center of Denver on Saturday. We watched Pema’s video, experienced three 20-minute sessions of silent, open-eyed meditation (two sitting, one walking), discussed our experience briefly in small groups, and had one final sitting meditation.

In the small group, I talked about how I had learned to meditate with eyes closed and had some difficulty with the fixed, open-eyed gaze. “What did it bring up for you?” the teacher asked. “I can feel the discomfort of my body more,” I said, laughing because the knot underneath my shoulder blade seemed to bring searing pain with eyes open and was manageable with eyes closed.

“Just as we don’t cover our ears during meditation, neither do we cover our eyes,” he advised. “The challenge is to find that place of peace regardless of the external environment.” He smiled at me kindly, and I quietly integrated the exquisite beauty of that lesson. “Try to work with it,” he said. Thank you, teacher.

Another woman talked about how much anger was coming up for her during her meditation practice that morning. “What Pema would say is to practice unending kindness toward yourself during those moments,” our teacher said, and we all nodded. Even the Buddha felt the emotions, from what I understand. The path to perfection is not judging yourself or the emotions, but rather sitting in harmony with them. That is the practice of peace that comes with meditation.