learn to meditate. your way.

2013-09-23 19.47.12-2

Most often, students who are new to yoga and meditation are told to simply, “sit there and still your thoughts.”

When I first learned to meditate, my thoughts could only stay still for about 0.03 seconds. I’m a list-maker, a future-organizer, a ruminator, a worrier and a dreamer. Even if my body was still, my mind was anything but.

In my experience, my thoughts don’t completely cease, but they do slow down a little bit after a few moments of meditation. I visualize my neural pathways as cars speeding across interstate overpasses and then very gradually slowing down … consciously choosing a safer, more sustainable, less hurried pace. Still going somewhere, but taking a slower pace with time to enjoy the scenery.

I’ve learned that meditating is an integral part of a holistic yoga practice. The asanas (postures) are performed in order prepare the body for seated meditation. But here’s thing: you don’t just sit there.

Seated meditation is an active process of learning to become attuned to your thoughts with skillful attention. It is the skill of consciously slowing down your thought processes so that you can live a sustainable life and take time to enjoy the scenery along the way.

Learning to meditate doesn’t have to be daunting.

Start Here:


Focus on Your Breath.

Focusing on your breath reaffirms your mind-body connection. Typically, your mind and your body are in two different locations: your body is one place and your mind is elsewhere, trapped in rumination of the past or worries about the future. Your breath is the bridge between a focused, present, mind-body connection.

This 3-part breathing meditation works wonders for stress relief.

Complete Breath Exercise


Enjoy a Relaxing Visualization Practice.

Visualization works wonders. One of my favorite techniques is a Systematic Relaxation Exercise from Dr. Rolf Sovik of the Himalayan Institute called “61 Points of Light.” Most Guided Meditation experiences share the primary aim of total relaxation, so go ahead and lay down in a comfortable place, snuggle in and enjoy 10 stress-free minutes.

61 Points of Light


Listen to a Guided Meditation.

Don’t feel like you can make your thoughts “be still-er” on your own volition? Utilize a guided meditation audio file that you can take with you, wherever you are. Listen and remember that you are here, and this is now.

“I am here, this is now” Meditation

Head to this page on my website for more resources: Guided Meditation


Just Do it.

Don’t worry about doing it correctly or incorrectly.  Start by sitting still for 60 seconds. Appreciate your breath for one minute. Remember that meditation is YOUR practice.

You will find a way to meditate that works well for you and you will find a way that doesn’t work well for you.  If you are learning to sit in stillness, you are learning to trust your own wisdom. Listen to your own insight, and commit to a daily stillness practice.  It will change your life.

“Trust Your Inner Knowing” Meditation


Guided Meditation Teachings

Love these Resources? Consider partnering with Lisa to continue providing valuable teachings that promote hope, health and happiness here:

$4.00

3 lessons to learn: how to become ‘less-stressed.’

My best friend ate an acorn yesterday.  He snapped up, chomped up, and swallowed that acorn whole before I even knew that he’d sniffed out something to eat.  Immediately, I freaked out:  I’m fairly sure that dogs are allergic to acorns.  (I didn’t freak out as much as I did when Russell ate an entire piece of pizza on the sidewalk outside The Bronx last fall… but, still, I was not happy about the acorn.)

Russell SmallAll day long, I waited for him to get sick, washcloth on hand to prevent any doggie-puke from drying on my bed.  And you know what?  He was fine.  He is fine.  He’s a tough cookie.

My dog-mom anxiety was unwarranted and (probably?) unhelpful.  Last night before drifting off to sleep, I remembered an article written by my dear friend Carrie Wood, called “The Acorn Lesson in Healing.”  Carrie is a Spiritual Counselor based in Ontario, Canada, and was one of my first spiritual mentors.  In this article, she remembers a similar, slightly traumatic experience from her childhood involving an acorn and gives us Three Lessons to become “less-stressed.”

She writes:

“I barreled out of the house barefoot to run and get my father, and ended up jamming an acorn between my big toe and toe nail.  I’m sure I cried bloody murder, and in my young eyes, there was enough blood to prove it.  Dad swept me off my feet and rushed me to the bathroom, resting my bloodied legs in the bathtub.  He was calm and collected. . . I on the other hand was freaking out.   My heart was racing, I went into a full blown sweat, and my breathing was shallow and frantic.

Dad was searching through the medicine cabinet and then came towards me with what appeared to be tape of some kind, bandages, and a bottle of what I thought to be rubbing alcohol.  “Don’t put that on me, it’ll sting!” I cried.  Without hesitation, he told me to close my eyes, and just keep taking really deep breaths. 

Before I could finish my first “deep breath” that acorn was yanked out from under my toe-nail, and something poured over my foot, I looked down at what appeared to be a tub filled with blood, and in my panic, he said,  “It’s Iodine.  It’s red, see!“ and poured more out to prove my blood loss would not be fatal.   I believed him.   Up to that moment, I feared a trip to the hospital; poking, prodding, and even surgery!  (I know, what a drama queen, eh?)  Per request, I resumed my deep breaths while he dressed my wound.

Lesson #1: 

Thoughts drive our emotions!

My heightened panic was a direct result of worrying about what my future might be like.  I suspect the pain I was experiencing was also rooted more in my worries than the actual experience of the moment.

Lesson #2:

Where my attention goes, energy flows! 

Focusing on my breath and more specifically, taking deep breaths taught me how to redirect my thoughts.  As long as I was focused on my fearful outcomes, my body was in agreement . . . my heart rate increased, my breath was quick and shallow and my anxiety increased.  When my attention shifted to breathing with intention, I increased the amount of oxygen to my lungs, slowed my heart rate, and broke my “stress cycle”.

Lesson #3:

Help from another person opens our situation to resources beyond our awareness.

I learned that day, that my father had served as a medic in the military and  previously worked caring for burn victims in a hospital ward.  Even without his background if he was unable to manage the situation, he would have called on someone who could.  The small scar on my right big toe was proof of my traumatic experience and retold “swapping horror stories” throughout my childhood.  No matter what emergency my parents responded to, my brother’s many broken bones, my sister’s cracked head, the tick burrowed into my head. . . their response was basically the same.  I am aware that there are far more horrific injuries many of us have encountered in our lives.  My story is not meant to trivialize more harmful situations, or belittle very real problems.  It is simply a story to illustrate how to begin to heal what is broken, one step at a time.

Don’t worry, everything will be fine.

Take deep breaths and calm down.

We’ll get you taken care of…”

My Russell was fine.  Carrie was fine.  We will ALL be fine… but we must learn to consciously control our breath, our thoughts, and our constant emotional reactions to stressful situations.  That’s were yoga comes in.  Trust me, it takes practice.   I hope these lessons are helpful to you in your search for a life of happiness, health, and wholeness.

-lisa

Carrie’s article can be found here on her blog, To Make Whole. She would love to hear from you.

in the days of growing darkness, by Mary Oliver.

Although winter is waning, a residual dullness from the season of darkness and contemplation lingers.  February is a tough month in the Midwest: springtime teases but frigid temperatures hold us hostage.  Perhaps these lines, from Mary Oliver, naturalist and poet, may offer optimism and ease to you, as they do to me.

“Lines Written In The Days Of Growing Darkness,” by Mary Oliver.

Every year we have been

witness to it: how the world descends

into a rich mash, in order that

it may resume.

And therefore who would cry out to the petals on the ground to say,

knowing as we must,

how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?

I don’t say

it’s easy, but

what else will do if the love one claims to have for the world

be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,

this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,

and the ponds be cold and black,

and the sweets of the year be doomed.

This poem, and a spiritual contemplative practice to accompany, can be found on the Orange County Community of Christ Blog here.
IMG_0258