A huge advantage of regularly practicing meditation is getting familiar with your center. In meditation, we work toward calming the body and mind where we can be more in touch with our feeling nature and higher consciousness, and this gets us to a more neutral place within where we are beyond our likes and dislikes, our successes and setbacks, and other ways in which we identify with who we are. The more often we get to this place where we are still and we are going beyond our normal consciousness, the more we get in tune with our true, essential nature.
When we are living life outside of meditation, out in the world, we have many, many encounters and incidents. These events may make us happy or angry or sad, but each of these events actually contains a big secret.
They are neutral.
The events themselves are not happy or upsetting or sad. We decide how they make us feel, and we typically just follow along with our emotions without putting a lot of thought into it.
Take a minute to let that sit in. Events are not causing your emotions. You are adding your emotion to the events. You are choosing what spin you put to events and taking the emotion from there.
Let's take an example. I bet you were hoping I would bring up my pets again, so let's go there. Last week as I was finishing a meditation I heard a scuffle between the dog and kitten, including one of those noises that indicates injury. I could see the dog seemed ok, but the kitten had run off. I looked around for her for a while before finding her hunkered down under a piece of furniture; a very strange place for her to be, position for her body to take, and she was acting very guarded. I was able to reach her, and when I picked her up I saw blood. In her eye. Arguably the eye would be one of the more alarming places to see blood. I won't do a play-by-play here, but essentially I took her to the emergency vet and luckily the blood was coming from a small laceration on her eyelid, and not the eye itself.
This event was the type that had me on full alert. All my senses were heightened as I tried to figure out where to take her, if her eye was getting worse, what I would do if she had a long treatment time (we were due to go out of town in a matter of hours). I could tell my mind was a bit scattered as I filled out the form at the vet's office. But, although I was in a state of heightened emotion, I was able to remain calm. I know that a regular meditation practice has helped me to stay more centered and not swing dramatically out in excitement or despair. I'm not pretending that the experience was serene, but I didn't panic with fear or desperation.
Another thing that helped was suspending labeling in my mind what was happening as it was happening. I wasn't thinking "this is bad, this is bad, this is bad" or "what if, what if, what if." I was doing my best to be in the moment and let things come as they came.
Controlling our emotions and coming at our lives from a calm center is one of the things that helps us live life more joyfully. We can make conscious effort to do this with each opportunity that arises in our lives, but alternatively we can meditate, or meditate more often, or deeper, or longer, and this will come naturally as a result of us naturally getting more and more in tune with our center. So now, go do!
Sending you much joy today and always.
We got a kitten about a month ago. She is so, so cute, and I'm going to need to keep myself reigned in and focused here to stay on point and not go on about the innumerable adorable and hilarious things she does throughout the day. Unless Me-ow-ditationbyKara could be a thing...? Ok, I'll think about that later. Anyway, the other day the kitten, River, was standing on my daughter's bed footboard. I was standing a couple of feet away but looking the other direction, when in an instant I was suddenly holding her. She had lept from the footboard to my side, and despite my attention and vision being focused in the other direction I managed to catch her. It was strange, because I noticed that my arm had instantly gone into position to catch her without my making any conscious motion to do so. There was some part of my physiology that understood what to do quicker than my conscious mind did.
I remember this happening only one other time in my life. I was a young teenager - around 14 - and I was having my picture taken with my cousin's daughter. She was only 2 or 3, and she was standing up on a tall platform/stage and I was standing on the floor. I was looking at the camera, and suddenly my arm crossed my body to catch the little girl, who at that moment had started to fall from the stage. I had no conscious knowledge that she was about to fall, and no one else had seemed to notice because I didn't hear anyone react. It wasn't until my arm went up to her and I felt the weight and resistance in my arm that I realized she was falling.
I am not sure how to account for these episodes. It is accepted knowledge that humans operate at different levels of consciousness, and although we may only notice part of every moment some parts of us are taking everything in. People have been known to be hypnotized and be able to pick up on things they did not consciously observe when they happened (for instance, being able to read a license plate number from a crime). Perhaps although I didn't consciously understand I would need to catch someone in each of these moments, some part of another sense I wasn't focusing on was tuned in. Or, maybe because we are all interconnected, a part of me knew what was about to happen and could react before "the little I" did.
So back to River, the kitten. Regardless of what I did or didn't understand about her leap, she made the choice to jump onto me, even though I wasn't watching her or ready to catch her. She decided to just go for it and trusted that I would take care of the rest (me, and her claws!). I think there is a great lesson in there for all of us. Every turning point we have faced in our lives has required us to take that leap. Things may not be set up perfectly for us to move or take that job or go on that date or choose that university or pop the question or try that hobby. We can think it through over and over, but at some point we just have to give it a try with our best effort and see how it feels when we land. And, we can remember that we are never alone on our leaps. We are surrounded in divine energy that we can tune into for support, and if we aren't comfortable with that then we can lean on the support of beloved friends and family to help us find our feet as we transition through new journeys.
Let us all be not afraid to take those leaps. They are all leaps of faith, as we trust we will be safely caught on the other side.
Thanksgiving. If you're American or Canadian, I'm sure your mind went directly to turkey, fall leaves, and pumpkin-spiced everything! As wonderful as I find the holiday of Thanksgiving, the title of this blog is not about that, but of the act of Giving Thanks. Gratitude. Being thankful.
Research has shown that those who have a daily practice of gratitude experience positive changes in their brains. Being grateful is noted in various spiritual paths as the highest and most positive mental state possible. I was watching a video recently of a short talk by a monk in India who listed gratitude as a pathway to inspiration, and of course inspiration is also needed for development along any spiritual path, as well as for living a full life generally.
When we express gratitude, that heartfelt message of thanks goes out into the universe and returns back to us. What we put out to the universe comes back to us, via the unchangeable and unavoidable law of karma. Sending out energy of gratitude is a positive, high-vibration energy that will bring more positivity to you.
What is meant by "practicing gratitude"? There are a variety of ways to practice gratitude. If being grateful is not a very natural place for you to be in most of the time or you really want to make an extra effort in this arena, you may find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal. This can physically be anything from a beautiful notebook, to a pad of paper, to a Word document or a list on your phone. They probably have a gratitude app at this point. Make a point every day to write in your journal all the things you are grateful for from you day. Even if you didn't have a great day (and just remember - everyone has not-great-days!), there will always be something you can dig up to be grateful for - perhaps a smile from a stranger, the feeling of petting your dog, the sunshine, or the feeling of cleanliness and nourishment from the rain.
You don't need to be as formal as keeping a journal to practice gratitude. You can of course be grateful in real time. No wait at the post office? Thank you, Universe [God, Jesus, Buddha, etc]! Enjoying that coffee? Thank you, Universe, for giving me the time and means to have and enjoy this time drinking coffee! Tired after a long day? Thank you, Universe, for giving me purpose and allowing me to achieve so much today!
A great benefit for developing a habit of gratitude is the ability to have a fuller picture of life's trials and tribulations, and thus be able to find things to be grateful for even when you're going through difficult times. A little example: when I was pregnant with my first child, I never expected to have a cesarian (c-section). When I was looking through the pregnancy books and when I took the prenatal class, I really zoned out when they talked about c-sections. I knew I didn't want one, and I knew I was usually pretty "normal" when it came to medical things, I was usually very healthy, and I just didn't think that topic would apply to my pregnancy. But, I had noticed that many times when women wrote or talked about having to have a c-section they would say things like they felt they had missed out on the chance to "really" give birth. Well, I'm sure you can guess that I ended up having to have a c-section with my firstborn. He was breech, and the doctors tried to get him to turn but he was really stuck in bottom first. So, I had a c-section. Although I never wanted a c-section, I made a choice when I knew that was what needed to happen to reflect on how lucky I was to be in a time and place where that was a no-brainer, safe alternative to having to go through a very difficult birth that in the not-so-distant past and in other places on Earth at this very time caused/s death to mother and/or baby. Imagine the panic of not progressing through labor and realizing it is because it's the bottom and not the head trying to come through and it just physically is not going to happen. Instead of that, I had a bright, clean operating room with very skilled doctors and nurses, anesthesia, my husband was able to be there, and our baby was safely delivered - what a blessing! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had to go through that one way or the other - either with resistance, resignation, feeling cheated, resentful, disappointed, etc, or with gratitude.
Often, it is really hard to hear that you should be grateful for hard things when you are going through them (so be mindful of that if you know someone going through a hard time right now!), but we all have experienced being able to look back at a challenging time and see the blessing in it. And, as I mentioned, mine is just a small example. I won't pretend that is the hardest thing anyone has come across, including myself. But, as our minds can really only focus on one thing at a time, especially in those hard times it can be so helpful to try to zero in on whatever can be found, however small, to be grateful for. And with practice, over time it will become a habit, and with all that gratitude getting sent out you will be sent evermore things deserving of gratitude.
In the last few years the word "vibration" has entered the vernacular in relation to the state that every living thing is in. Yogis have been talking about a living being's vibration since ancient times, and science has also discovered that all matter is constantly in motion (vibrating). In fact, science has shown that all matter is actually mostly space. Every atom contains "vast" amounts of space (relative to the size of an atom!). Vibration is also a main point in quantum physics, although I have heard it said by a physicist that what they mean by vibration is not exactly what yogis and spiritual seekers are talking about when they talk about vibration.
Ok, I am not a physicist nor a molecular biologist, so I don't want to go too far down the science rabbit hole for fear of misrepresenting something! But, I have been a student and practitioner of meditation long enough to know that meditating raises a person's vibration. This raised vibration is what is enabling one to reach higher states, into the superconsciousness and the Higher Self. One of the reasons it is good to meditate with a group, particularly one in which you are not the most experienced meditator, is to benefit from the group vibration. It can make it easier to raise your own vibration; you can to a certain extent be carried along by that communal vibration. One of my former teachers said that he has been known to strategically sit near a more seasoned meditator than himself in group meditations to try to benefit from that higher vibration.
I have to admit that sometimes my rational mind has gotten too strong and wondered if this vibrational talk is true. It's one of those areas that a someone like me, who tends to lean toward intellectualization and can stumble against these more esoteric topics, likes the sound of but at times has also wondered if it's more a fanciful idea.
In that regard, it has been quite funny for me to see the evolution of my pets when it's come to meditation time. We were able to "get our dog back" when we moved back to the US earlier in the summer. She had been living with my dad and stepmom for 4 years while we were abroad. We also just got a kitten 2 weeks ago. As the kids are now back at school, we have started to get into more of a rhythm on school days. It seems that after the kids get on the bus, I have a perfect sweet spot of time to dedicate to my meditation practice. The pets have without doubt caught onto this now. It is really funny to see my dog following me around just before I start my practice. She does not follow me around much the other parts of the day unless she needs something, like going outside or she's ready to eat. The kitten always ends up snuggled up around the meditation cushion (only at meditation time, never at any other time). They both get settled in and ready to absorb those vibrations. I was doing an online meditation with my friends in Sweden and South Africa yesterday and showed them how the dog and cat were up on the bed while we had been chatting online, and I told them that when we meditated I would bet the kitten would come down and end up laying behind me against the cushion. We started meditating, and sure enough after a few moments she jumped off the bed and came to rest behind me. I had been sitting in the same place the whole time, but the first 30 minutes I was just talking to my friends and not meditating, and it wasn't until the meditation started that she came to be near me... To be immersed in those vibrations.
Their reactions to/expectant behavior of meditation is really interesting to me. Because a higher vibration is one of those less-tangible benefits of meditation, it can be hard to gauge whether things are changing on a subtler level than my more gross/worldly perceptions can notice. But animals are known to be more sensitive to many things in this material world than their human counterparts, and having now seen how their behavior changes at that specific point in the day versus the other 23 hours does give me a sort of canary-in-a-coalmine gauge of vibrational changes, but of course in a much more positive way than the poor canary!
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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