This is the sixth year of the meditation challenge, but the first year that I’ve signed on — I wasn’t sure what it had to offer someone like me who, at long last!, has a daily meditation practice.
I’m so glad that I did! It feels like summer mindfulness camp for adults. Blog posts from thousands of participants, daily guided audio meditations from Sharon, parties, readings from classic texts…fun and inviting.
The audio meditations remind us of key parts of the practice, like her piece today on metta, sending out lovingkindness out to pairs of opposites, “so that taken together, they form the whole of life.” We send lovingkindness to all enlightened beings, then we send lovingkindness to all unenlightened beings (those who live in ignorance). Bridging the dichotomy and reminding us that we are all one.
You can still sign up (there are a few days left) or consider it for the dark days of next February. And listen to some of Sharon’s mindfulness podcasts here on key topics like sympathetic joy, doubt, and suffering as an opening to faith.
May all beings be happy!]]>
I am so happy to announce that the little meditation book I wrote is available — with lots of short audio and video clips and tips!
It’s 99 cents.
Here’s the link for iBooks.
If you buy it on iBooks, you can open it on multiple devices (e.g. I bought it on my iPhone, and now can read it on both my iPad and Macbook also).
Here’s the link for Amazon. (Kindle Fire)
I hope it will support your mindfulness practice.
My mom, who grew up in the working class outskirts of Pittsburgh, wanted to rear me with ‘proper manners.’
Some kids called our small town Hicksville. Our state, Pennsyltucky.
Nevertheless, thanks to my mom, I learned:
-how to curtsy (still waiting for the Queen to invite me to tea to make use of this),
-how to set the table (there are different spoons for cream soups vs. consommes – and please no cream soup at a formal dinner because it’s too heavy to start a multi-course meal),
-how to carry myself ‘like a lady.’
This, last, meant walking around our modest split-level home, up and down the stairs, with a stack of books on my head. It was fun. It was entertaining to others. I’d take a few steps and the books would rain down like ire from an angry god.
Mom: “you’re like a bull in a china shop.”
Today, while walking home I found treasure! Two P.D. James mysteries (for mom!) and George Eliot’s Adam Bede (for me!) left in a giveaway box on someone’s stoop. After a few blocks, the books felt heavy in my arms and I thought of my teenage adventures in etiquette and of women I’d seen in Kenya carrying huge bundles on their heads — why not me?
I balanced the books on top of my head.
I shifted my attention into my body and moved at a slower and steadier pace.
I held my iphone in my right hand to shoot the video.
I waved around my left hand as ballast like Philippe Petit.
The first three takes, the books slid off and I snickered at my silliness (as did startled passersby).
The fourth time was a charm: total focus and a calm commitment to doing it for 60 seconds.
I hope you enjoy it.]]>
Yikes! After reading the article, I became hyper-aware of rolling my eyes — in impatience, exasperation, basically in some sort of silent low-level protest.
Mindfulness, also called awareness practice, of which meditation is just one glorious part, can allow us to examine subconscious and semi-conscious ways we interact with one another.
You are invited to notice your eye rolling – or any other quiet gesture of protest your body makes today.
Now here is a little treat:
-if you wear glasses, take them off
-close your eyes for a moment
-when you open your eyes, let your gaze rise up, without moving your head (ie. your head and body are still, the only movement is your eyeballs exploring the periphery of your field of vision)
-gently circle your eyes clockwise twice, and then counter-clockwise twice.
This is a lovely stretch for the tiny muscles and ligaments of your eyes.
The good kind of eye roll!]]>
This August is unusually cool and breezy, at least in NYC. It feels more like September, with just an occasional blast of heat. But maybe you’re reading this post from the Salton Sea or Jakarta or the Everglades, and long for a glacial retreat. I hope this video of elves sledding as the sun sets on a winter’s eve offers you a welcome respite from the heat.
Synesthesia is a criss-crossing of sensory signals — for example, ‘smelling’ colors. Perhaps if you are feeling uncomfortably warm and a deep desire for a cool breeze, this video will give you the opportunity to see whether what you take in through your eyes affects what you feel in your skin.
Tuning in to your senses to enhance awareness is an old meditation technique. We hone this skill in simple ways from the time we are children.
Did you ever play ‘criss-cross applesauce’ as a little kid? It’s a gentle touch game and fun.
How it’s done:
-You say: criss-cross applesauce (as you trace an X on a person’s back with your finger)
-You say: spiders crawling up your back (as you creep your fingertips like spiders all around the person’s back)
-You say: cool breeze (then you softly blow air on the back of the person’s neck)
-You say: tight squeeze (give them a little hug)
-You say: now you’ve got the shivers! skim and lightly tap your fingers, barely touching, all around the person’s back.
One minute of awareness practice that reconnects mind and body.
Proto-meditation for kids.]]>
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” -Walt Whitman
Last week I was “on vacation” in the majestic Smokey Mountains – “on vacation” with quotation marks because I was up every night, all week, with my darling youngest daughter, who had a nasty chest cough that reappeared every time she lay down.
Yikes! By Day 4 I was feeling furious with my life situation and totally worn out. Worst, I was polluting the environment for everyone around – bad moods spread like wildfire. In such a profound state of exhaustion, meditation was a challenge because I kept falling asleep.
A good solution when conventional meditation isn’t working for you: movement meditation.
I strode off alone to the peak of Chimney Top Mountain. It was so beautiful! The intermittent rainfall was just enough that I felt comforted by the raindrops rather than drenched by them. It was refreshing to sweat and to have my attention utterly focused on the simple tasks of not slipping down the rock face or tripping over the root of a tree. My mood lifted as I took a step back from my hectic life and a step into nature– within a few minutes I felt re-connected to life’s wonder and grace, and ready to be a good mom, sister, and friend again.
This little video isn’t a substitute for actually hiking a mountain or walking in nature – but perhaps you could enjoy it as an amuse bouche – the way you are served a little tasty surprise at the beginning of the meal to whet your appetite for the main course – and be inspired to take yourself outside, into the green world today.
Yesterday’s New York Times highlighted the benefits of walking in nature…
“…soothes our minds and improves our mental health.”
The study’s author* says it’s not clear what exactly creates this enhanced state of wellbeing:
“Is it the greenery, quiet, sunniness, loamy smells, all of those, or something else that lifts our moods? Do we need to be walking or otherwise physically active outside to gain the fullest psychological benefits? Should we be alone or could companionship amplify mood enhancements?”
What do you think? Maybe it doesn’t even matter…
“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on – have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear – what remains? Nature remains.” -Walt Whitman
*Study by Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, who focuses on the psychological effects of urban living.]]>
Movement might be the right path into meditation for you. Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind, said Patañjali (who compiled the yoga sutras thousands of years ago).
Yoga to the People is a $5 totally excellent hot yoga studio, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it as it’s a very cheap thrill. And once you’ve sweat yourself out, you may find a little more spaciousness in your mind/heart.
Those three or 23 breaths you do in savasana (or corpse pose) at the end of class are meditation.
Our yoga teacher was very funny, and shared her thoughts on the challenges of meditation:
“When someone says to start meditating, my next thought is, ‘oh, you mean, I should think of everything, ever, all at once?'”
This made me laugh with recognition.
Yes. Thoughts arise. Thoughts pass away.
Funambulism is tightrope walking (from Latin ‘funis’ = rope + ‘ambulare’ = to walk). People have been doing it for a long time (though not for ‘eons’, because eon = 1 billion years & humans weren’t around that far back in geologic time).
Walking through glorious Prospect Park, I notice a passel of people gathered around some trees. At first it looked like they were witnessing a miracle, a woman walking on air. Then I saw the slim swaying strap, flat, about 2 inches wide. Apparently called ‘urban slacklining’ since the rope isn’t rigidly taut.
The difference in technique is that the walker, in slacklining, balances their body by continually moving the rope underneath their center of mass, so it’s more dynamic, with more movement. It takes tremendous concentration. There are also people who do yoga and meditation on a slackline.
The gang of slackliners was generous and welcomed me and my kids onto their slackline. It was hard, and fun. I needed someone to hold my hand while I got the hang of it.
Do you ever feel like you’re ‘walking a tightrope’ in life? Engaged in a perilous balancing act, where you have to be careful not to mess up, or disaster could befall you?
Cultivating concentration, whether through sitting in mindfulness or slacklining in the park, is an antidote to this anxiety.
I missed you and I’m happy to be back!]]>
In her words:
We seek so many things, we desire so many things. And yet, we also share the desire for emptiness, the absence of wanting. And this tension can be difficult. This short video invites you to a short moment of meditation that you can choose to experience anywhere you like. Concentration on a single point is a classic path to approaching emptiness, and the feeling of the world receding can be a relief.]]>
Goodnight! and so long, summer.
I love this video of the Lawrence Welk singers closing their 1970’s-era tv show in high style. It was one of the rare tv shows I was permitted to watch by my conservative parents.
It was fun. Singing! Dancing! Witty repartee in foreign languages!
Now, in hindsight, I notice other things too: the cast is very white. And why is it that only the pretty ladies get close-ups? A little frivolous video that offers a time-capsule reminder of our struggles for racial justice and women’s rights.
This blog has been a fun place to think things through — and I apologize that it’s been so intermittent.
The video’s foreign language send-off reminds me of the many meditative aspects of communicating in another language. The process invites us to bring our awareness to each word and phrase in a different way than when we speak our mother tongue and language is a seamless element in our moment by moment experience of life.
Here are some tools for learning language free, online.
In closing, I’d like to say thank you — to those of you who subscribe and who have taken a moment to share your reflections. It really means a lot to me!
Thank you, A to Z, with phonetic pronunciation:
AFRIKAANS – dankie
ALBANIAN – faleminderit
ARABIC – shukran
ARMENIAN – Շնորհակալություն / chnorakaloutioun
BELARUSIAN – Дзякую / dziakuju
BOSNIAN – hvala (HVAH-lah)
BULGARIAN – благодаря / blagodaria
CATALAN – gràcies (GRAH-syuhs)
CANTONESE – M̀h’gōi
CROATIAN – hvala (HVAH-lah)
CZECH – děkuji (Dyekooyih)
DANISH – tak (tahg)
DUTCH – dank u
ESTONIAN – tänan (TA-nahn)
FINNISH – kiitos (KEE-tohss)
FRENCH – merci
GERMAN – danke
GREEK – ευχαριστώ (ef-hah-rees-TOH)
HAWAIIAN – mahalo (ma-HA-lo)
HEBREW – .תודה / todah (toh-DAH)
HINDI – dhanyavād / shukriya
HUNGARIAN – köszönöm (KØ-sø-nøm)
ICELANDIC – takk (tahk)
INDONESIAN – terima kasih. (tuh-REE-mah KAH-see)
ITALIAN – grazie (GRAHT-tsyeh)
JAPANESE – arigatô (ah-ree-GAH-toh)
KHMER – akun (Aw khun)
KOREAN – 감사합니다 (gamsahamnida)
LAO – khob chai
LATVIAN – paldies (PUHL-dyehs)
LEBANESE – choukrane
LITHUANIAN – ačiū (AH-choo)
MACEDONIAN – Благодарам / blagodaram (blah-GOH-dah-rahm)
MALAY – terima kasih (TREE-muh KAH-seh)
MALTESE – grazzi (GRUTS-ee)
MANDARIN – Xièxiè
MONGOLIAN – Баярлалаа (bayarlalaa)
NORWEGIAN – takk
PERSIAN – mamnun (formal) / mersi (informal)
POLISH – dziękuję (Jenkoo-yen)
PORTUGUESE – obrigado [masculine] / obrigada [feminine] (oh-bree-GAH-doo / oh-bree-GAH-dah)
ROMANIAN – mulţumesc (mool-tzoo-MESK)
RUSSIAN – спасибо (spuh-SEE-buh)
SERBIAN – xвала / hvala (HVAH-lah)
SLOVAK – Ďakujem (JAH-koo-yehm)
SLOVENIAN – hvala (HVAA-lah)
SPANISH – gracias (GRAH-syahs)
SWAHILI – asante (ah-sahn-teh)
SWEDISH – tack
TAMIL – nandri
THAI – kop khun
TURKISH – teşekkür ederim (teh shek uer eh der eem)
UKRAINIAN – Дякую (DYAH-koo-yoo)
URDU – shukriya
WELSH – diolch (DEE-ol’ch)
WOLOF – djiere dieuf
YIDDISH – a dank
ZULU – ngiyabonga