Tag Archives: meditation

Expectations, Change, & Growth – Oh my!!!

I LOVE a good plan. I’m a planner. Sometimes it hurts when unforeseen kinks appear in my plans. This week I talk about some things I do to manage my own expectations, in case things don’t go exactly the way I plan them.

The Winding Road from Christianity to Buddhism

I’ve been thinking about my journey into Buddhism more often in recent days, reflecting on the path and how far I’ve come.

Throughout my life, I’ve had an interesting relationship with religion. I grew up with Christianity and attended church often as a child, but always felt out of place.

It’s never been like me to call on a higher power. The closest I ever came was in the fifth grade when I shouted up at the sky angrily, “If you are real, now would be a GREAT TIME to do something!” I wanted to believe but it all felt like a fairy tale to me. For many years I was very conflicted over this, but as I grew up the feelings faded.

Always walking to the beat of a different drum, although not intentionally, in middle school I discovered Wicca (a form of modern paganism). Finally, something self-empowering!

I stuck to a regular Wiccan practice for several years, until my late teens. There were so many things I loved about Wicca, the rituals, the connection with nature, the routine. The mantra, “If it harm none, do what ye will,” freed me from the guilt I had for being a non-believer in my previous church. I loved my new religion, it helped me to make sense of the world, gave me clarity.

My mother, on the other hand, was concerned for my mortal soul. She called me a “devil worshiper” and told me she “didn’t want me to go to hell.”  My mother went to church several times a week and dragged me along, moaning and groaning all the way.

Through the years I’ve been called many things but rebellious and difficult are probably the two I hear the most. “You HAVE to be a rebel don’t you?” “Why are you SO rebellious?” “Can’t you just do it like everyone else?” “Why do you have to be difficult?”

People accused me of becoming a Pagan just to tick off my mom. “Here is Christa being difficult again!” I was never trying to be difficult, all I wanted was to be myself.

In my early twenties, I studied all religions from a very high level. The similarities and parallels between all religions, things people seek and learn, were becoming more obvious to me.

For a while, I had no religion, but took up yoga and then meditation. These things created temporary pauses to the suffering didn’t know I had. I wanted to hang in the stillness, that perfect feeling when a yoga sequence becomes so effortless that all my worries and troubles stopped. I was addicted to the feeling and wanted to do yoga everywhere I went.

Many people don’t realize yoga is more than just body postures and sequences. Even fewer people dig into the history of yoga, but when I love something I have a deep need to know everything about it.

I became particularly fixated on chakra balancing and was convinced my Throat Chakra, the one in charge of communication, was off balance. I even went so far as to wear the color blue, a color I generally dislike, around my throat.

My exposure to yoga and yoga culture brought me into contact with Buddhism and its practical mind shaping wisdom. Buddhism acknowledged that life is full of near constant suffering. This was something I could relate to. I was suffering from something I could not name. Buddhism also promised a way to end ones suffering, so I was on board.

Buddhism is a very practical religion full of lists. I love it! There is no sin, the rules are clear, and you are encouraged to take responsibility for your own actions – every single thing you say or do. There is no threat of heaven or hell in the end, and because the historical Buddha was not a god, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.

The first step was to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, a list of things I needed to work on to reach mental freedom on earth. Right Speech seemed to give me the most trouble so I focused extra attention in this area, sometimes writing reminders in pen on my arms & hands.

Years later, I no longer need the reminders. Finally, I’ve got everything memorized and know how I should be acting. I’m practicing, getting better every day.

Nobody’s perfect. I am a work in progress. Each day is an opportunity to start over when we make mistakes. Every minute a chance to learn something new. It’s great to look back at the long and winding road, seeing how far I’ve come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Habit-forming – The Art of Creating Good Habits

I am a creature of habit. I love my little rituals and routines. I am very aware of this and take advantage of my ability to form habits.

 

The Quiet Place – An Addiction to Solitude

I have a deep love for the peaceful quiet that only solitude can create. When the dogs are sleeping, and the only sounds I hear are birds chirping, my introspective mind comes alive.

The blank in between the interactions, where I can find my true self, uncluttered by the sounds and feelings of others. This is my chapel, my holy place, where I speak with my soul.

It is the place I go for yoga and meditation, the place I go when I need to think. At first, I started in my home but, as I grow, I am learning to take it with me everywhere.

I build quite meditation and rest times into my day. Prescheduled breaks give me something to look forward to if I’m not excited about a project in front of me.

I’m a huge believer in positive reinforcement (although taking things away from me worked well for my mother when I was growing up). She called it The Taming of Shrew. For a while, I wondered why she was comparing me to a rodent.

My mother would set a clear expectation of what she wanted from me and what would be taken away if I did not comply. Rewards for good deeds also helped as motivators.

Now, as an adult rodent, I am in charge of motivating myself. I use lists and rewards, many of which are times of quiet reflection or writing breaks. Retreating back into myself, diving deeply, settling in my quiet space.

The atmosphere in my world is pleasant because I control most of the elements. It’s intoxicating and blissful. Why would I ever want to leave?

Careful not to get too comfortable.

This place, where art is born, songs come to life, and birds sing is too perfect, to the point of addiction. It would be easy to settle into a monk-like solitude, giving up speaking, but that is taking the easy way out.

Not speaking is easier. Being alone is often easier. I don’t want to settle for what is easy.

This comfort zone I’m standing in, it’s something I need to push. Walking out of it slowly, step by step, learning new things every single day.

Take Care of Yourself

“You look like you take good care of yourself.” – What a strange thing to say to someone.

Self care is the deepest affection that you can show to yourself.

It has taken me years to get to where I am now in regards to self care. As I grow and age self care has become a much bigger priority for me.

Love yourself – YOU deserve it!

 

Why I Took a Half Day for a Dental Appointment

 

I worked vigorously through the morning, racing against the clock. In preparation for my upcoming dental appointment, I’d taken a half day and needed to condense my most important tasks into a smaller window than usual.

In the future I plan to schedule my appointments at the very end of the day, a lesson learned from this past appointment, but this obligation was already set in stone.

My teeth have always been a problem. Cavities have always grown easily in my mouth. “Bad teeth run in the family, kid.” My grandmother and mother would say. My resistance to brushing as a child undoubtedly complicated the issue.

It doesn’t feel right, brushes, picks, and gloves invading and overwhelming my senses. Still, despite times of great discomfort, I take care of my teeth. If I don’t they will surely fall out.

I pull into the dental office’s shared parking lot sixteen minutes before my scheduled appointment, eyes bouncing from side to side, seeking a shaded spot. At the back of the building, I find a quiet space to gather myself. Here I will sit until exactly five minutes before my scheduled time.

Alone in the car, I close my eyes and focus on the feelings in my feet while counting my breaths. It is my car ritual, arrive early, meditate and do breathing exercise. After a few moments, I am feeling charged and ready.

I glance upward at the digital clock on the car radio on the dash to my right, eleven forty-nine. Still too early to go inside. Time to kill.

There is a nagging in my brain, are reminder that I haven’t done anything for my website this week, “I should shoot a video! I bet I can edit it and create the title art before I have to be inside.”

Despite almost no desire to compete with others, I’m always challenging myself.  I grab my iPhone from the dusty, grey, cupholder and prepare the camera. With one more deep breath, my finger slides over the record button on the glass screen. “Here goes.”

 

 

My goal is always to get the video in three takes, although it can be five to ten when the dogs are around.

Today, in the quiet car, I quickly shot two short videos. Most often I feel as if the videos get better on the second or third take, however, today was more of a “get it right on your first try” kind of day, perhaps because I was feeling the rush.

So how did I feel after the dentist? I have a small headache but relaxing at home with soothing music and writing this story (being creative) has kept it from growing into a monster. Also sitting in a dark room helps me greatly.

To Everyone Who “Can’t Meditate”

Mindfulness and meditation have been a big part of my life for several years now. I’m always happy to share with people how helpful meditation is for me.

Unfortunately almost everyone I talk to about meditation “can’t meditate”.

“I wish I could meditate. My mind isn’t made for that!” or “I can’t stand being still”, a few of the most common excuses why people tell me they “can’t meditate”.

People assume meditation was always easy for me, while in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

I started meditation because of a deep internal need for change.

My twenty-fifth birthday was coming at me like an out of control locomotive with a sleeping driver. The number made me uneasy and it was coming too fast. Like a doe, hypnotized by the headlights, I felt helpless to stop it.

Something was wrong, missing, empty and completely inexpressible. I’d been searching my entire life for something. . . peace, stillness, answers, meaning maybe?

In my mid to early twenties, I was very out of touch with my own feelings and emotions.

At first, my meditations were distracted, plagued with racing, unwanted, thoughts. When the goal was to count to five without allowing your mind to wander off, sometimes I only got to two or three before starting over, and over, and over.

It was hard, but as I kept on it things got easier.

Finally, with Buddhism, I was beginning to unlock the tools needed to understand and shape my own mind. Somedays progress crawled along at what felt like a snail’s pace, but every week as I continued to practice it got easier.

As I’ve grown older and incorporated mindfulness into my life over the years, things have greatly improved. I still meditate every day but the way I meditate has changed.

I meditate all the time. At times I may meditate for only a few minutes or seconds, whenever I need to calm and relax my mind, think more clearly, or gather the words for an important conversation.

Meditation has become the tool that I use to recalibrate my brain. Sitting tall I close my eyes and bow my head as I take in a deep, slow breath. As I breathe in I focus on the feelings of my feet on the ground or my butt in a chair (depending on where I am).

As my lungs expand I shift my focus to the feelings of my breath. With eyes closed, I listen and feel, asking myself – “what’s happening now?” Depending on available time I may stay for a while, eyes closed, nose pointed at the floor.

This micro-meditations can be as quick as a few breaths. I’ve even learned to meditate with my eyes open, although I wonder if I have a blank stare when I do this.

I take the time that I need and if I get flustered I remind myself not to rush, gently whispering in my own ear “relax, stay in the present”.

Every day I am needing to remind myself less and less, thanks to a very conscious choice I made years ago to change my life.

Dear people who “can’t meditate” – keep trying.