Day 5 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To Ourselves

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“During the Buddha’s last months, he always taught, ‘Take refuge in yourselves, not in anything else.  In you are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.   Don’t look for things that are far away.   Everything is in your own heart.  Be an island unto yourself.’  

Whenever you feel confused, angry or lost, if you practice mindful breathing and return to your island of self, you will be in a safe place filled with warm sunlight, cool shade trees, and beautiful birds and flowers.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Everything is in your own heart.  Creating that safe and peaceful place is something that needs to happen from the inside out.  We cannot hope to find peace in the world unless we have peace within our own self.  Today is one more day to practice Metta for your self.  For those who are having trouble making the time to practice or are struggling with the practice itself, I encourage to spend some time just being present with the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion.  Connect with your heart center.  Call upon your circle of loving beings.

Do this as often as you can remember to as you go about your day.  Part of this journey is learning that although formal practice benefits us in many ways, what we are really working towards is carrying this quality and a more conscious awareness with us wherever we go.  Still, I hope you will try to take even a moment or two to sit and practice.   This helps to create a foundation and build new patterns.  Consistency is something that is needed for the heart to open and for loving-kindness to deepen.  What a gift you are giving yourself each time that you sit and practice Metta or drop into the space of the heart wherever you are!

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices.  This can include other practices that you work with if Metta is an addition to your regular meditation practice.  Begin in the same way.  Get settled in a comfortable position, spend a few minutes just being present with breath, let any tensions of mind and body melt away with the breath and begin to cultivate that feeling or quality of loving-kindness and compassion.  Also, get really comfortable in creating and working with your Circle of Loving Beings.  This is a powerful support to generate loving-kindness that you can call upon in any moment or any situation.  

Once you develop this foundation, it is easier to call upon the energy of loving-kindness and compassion as you move about in the world.  There may be some days it is easier to do this and others that are more difficult; that’s okay.  Just notice and remember to be gentle and loving with yourself no matter how your practice goes.  When you feel immersed in the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion, then, move onto the phrases.  Continue with the same phrases as yesterday or try some others for today.  This is still a time for exploration.  As we move on to the next category, it may benefit you to work with the same phrases for the rest of the practice.  I tend to work with these phrases most of the time:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

Daily Journal Reflection:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today. Have you found phrases you are comfortable working with?  Do the phrases help to create more of anchor for your mind?  Have you been able to find some way to practice daily or at least explore cultivating more loving-kindness toward yourself?  What can you do today that would be really loving for yourself?

Most of all take some time to really honor yourself for the efforts you are making to be more conscious, loving and compassionate.  In whatever way you are practicing, you are moving into greater self-love and understanding. Congratulations.

I’d like to offer another previous post for you to explore 7 Ways To Cultivate Love And Compassion For Yourself.

Have a beautiful and peace-filled day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

P.S. If you’d like to connect with others doing the May Is For Metta Practice, Join Our Facebook group

Day 4 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To Ourselves

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“Compassion is not a magical device that can instantly dispel all suffering. The path of compassion is altruistic but not idealistic.  Walking this path we are not asked to lay down our life, find a solution for all of the struggles in this world, or immediately rescue all beings. We are asked to explore how we may transform our own hearts and minds in the moment.

Can we understand the transparency of division and separation? Can we liberate our hearts from ill will, fear, and cruelty? Can we find the steadfastness, patience, generosity, and commitment not to abandon anyone or anything in this world? Can we learn how to listen deeply and discover the heart that trembles in the face of suffering?

The path of compassion is cultivated one step and one moment at a time. Each of those steps lessens the mountain of sorrow in the world.”  

– Pema Chodron

Believe it or not, we are going to spend a couple of more days focusing on cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves before we move on.  This practice is an opportunity to spend time being present with yourself and deepening in offering love and kindness to yourself in a new way.  How often do you take time to be fully present with yourself?  How often do you spend time offering love to yourself?  You may not always be able to take time off to just be by yourself, but in cultivating a practice of meditation and of loving-kindness, you are creating an “inner” retreat.  This is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself as you attend to the busyness of life.  And, it doesn’t have to happen on the meditation cushion, it can also be by inviting some of the aspects of Metta into your day-to-day activities.

For some of us, it is not easy to spend time loving and showering kindness on ourselves; it may actually be difficult or challenging.  This is a really good reason to stick with it.  It is often easier to focus our energies on others, neglecting ourselves.  We may have a strong inner critic, we may be used to focusing our attention on others, or we may believe it is selfish to love ourselves first.  Part of our practice is to notice what thoughts, feelings and beliefs come up as we practice.  We notice and then return to our practice by simply generating the feeling of loving-kindness and repeating the phrases.

Many thoughts arise during meditation practice and it is natural to come face to face with our conditioned mind.  There are many voices that keep us held in limiting patterns.  These are the voices that can actually keep us from sitting down to practice or from taking the time to be still.  Often, these begin with not being good enough, worthy enough or deserving of love.  In this practice and really in all meditation practice, we are beginning to turn the tables on these limiting beliefs.  Metta allows us to see where we are stuck and where it is that we are withholding love from ourselves.  I encourage you, even if you are struggling with disruptive thoughts, coming face to face with limiting beliefs or struggling with difficult feeling to stay present with the practice and with yourself.

Daily Practice:

Begin with the foundational practices.  If you have not decided how you wish to begin, take some time today to do so, reviewing Days 1 and 2 if necessary.  Once you have settled your body and mind, begin cultivating the feeling of loving-kindness.  Then, take a few moments to notice your experience.  Your sense of loving-kindness may be deepening as you are beginning to work with it more regularly.  Just notice. When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness, begin repeating the phrases.  Continue with the same phrases as yesterday or try some others for today.  This is still a time for exploration.  Be gentle, be open, and most of all be loving with yourself.  Practice for as long as you have committed to or as much as you can for today.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

Also, as you go about the day, you may become more aware of some of the voices that keep you stuck.  When you notice this during the day, take a few moments to focus on the breath, and the feeling of loving-kindness; then try to a round of the phrases for yourself.  This begins to shift your conditioned mind as you are bringing these patterns to light and responding to them with loving-kindness and compassion.

Daily Journal Reflection:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.

Are you able to connect with the energy of loving-kindness a few times as you go about your day?

  • How is your practice going so far?
  • Are you able to commit some time everyday?
  • If yes, how does it feel?  If not, what’s getting in the way?
  • Do you need to adjust the time or place to make it workable?
  • What beliefs are you aware of that keep you from your practice and from loving yourself more fully?

I’d love to hear how your explorations are going.  You are welcome to share your experiences and reflections in the comments below.

May you have a very beautiful and loving day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

P.S. If you’d like to connect with others doing the May Is For Metta Practice, JOIN the May Is For Metta Facebook group.  

Day 3 ~May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To Ourselves

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“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of our love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

– Buddha

Our relationship with ourselves is the foundation for all of our relationships – with others, with nature and with the world.  Our cultivation of love, acceptance and good – heartedness towards ourselves will facilitate our ability to offer Metta to others in a genuine way.  It is essential that we do not neglect this aspect of practice and it is why we are moving gradually as we develop our Metta practice.

For many of us, our nature is to move fast and to get to the point of it all.  Often, in moving that way, we miss the essence of what we are working to cultivate and the awareness that arises from being present to the moment.   One of the major lessons of the heart, which I have learned from many of my teachers, is the need to slow down to move into the heart space.  The mind moves quickly, the heart moves slowly and it is accessed through entering into the still space within.

Today, we will begin using the Metta phrases in our practice with a continued focus on loving ourselves.  Some of us may not be used to spending so much time on ourselves in this way.  We may come up against our resistance, our judgments, and all of the ways we hold our mistakes and shortcomings against us.  We may even doubt the value of dedicating time and effort to this practice.  We may feel we don’t deserve love and compassion.  And yet, our goal is to love ourselves completely, which includes all the things we may not like about ourselves.

At this time, it is important to remember to be gentle and loving with yourself.  When a new shoot emerges from the ground, it needs to break through; there is effort involved.  You are creating a new way of being; it requires effort and even some discomfort.  Consider this practice as if you are starting a new workout program – wouldn’t you expect to feel sore or out of shape at the beginning?  Wouldn’t you have some resistance and not really want to show up?   I am hoping you will show up in some way and just notice what is arising.  Even a short workout, can be beneficial in building your “muscles” of loving-kindness and compassion.

You may like to take some time today to consider your commitment to practice – where, when, how long, etc.  We have been creating a foundation that will be used throughout our month of practice and possibly beyond.  Coming to your place of practice, moving into your meditation posture, working with your breath, beginning to connect with the heart center and connecting with your circle of loving beings will be what we will refer to going forward as the “foundational practice”.

So, you can explore how you wish to begin your Metta practice and also, this may become a foundation for all of your practices.  It is up to you which aspects are most important; it is about finding ways to begin that bring you into the moment and help to center you in the energy of loving-kindness.  It can be beneficial if you come to your practice the same way each day, but there is room to take time and explore what works for you.  Review the practices for Day 1 and Day 2 if you feel to, especially if you are just joining in.  Today we will begin to incorporate the Metta phrases into our practice.

There are a variety of Metta phrases and you will see different ones as you begin to explore.  It is good to find 3 – 4 phrases that you feel resonant with.  Feel free to explore with different phrases, especially during the first week of practice to find what feels best for you.  Here are some suggestions. I have grouped them together but you can mix and match 3 or 4, as you feel called to.  I tend to use the first group most often.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.
  • May I be free from danger.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have ease of well-being.
  • May I be happy and peaceful.
  • May I be healthy and strong.
  • May I care for myself, joyfully.
  • May I be safe from inner and outer harm.
  • May I be safe from internal and external harm.
  • May I have a calm, clear mind and a peaceful loving heart.
  • May I be physically strong, healthy and vital.
  • May I experience love, joy, wonder and wisdom in this life just as it is.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be at peace.
  • May I live with ease.
  • May I be free from suffering.

The purpose of the phrases is two-fold.  One, they are the catalyst for cultivating loving-kindness and compassion and for showering ourselves with those qualities.  Two, they are the anchor for this practice.  They are the center that we come back to when our mind wanders or as we notice we have become distracted.  So, when the mind wanders, as it will, as is the nature of the mind, we just gently and lovingly bring ourselves back to the next phrase.  If we find we have totally wandered off, we simply begin with the next set of phrases.

Daily Practice:

Do the foundational practice – Come to your place of practice, move into your meditation posture, work with your breath, begin to connect with the heart center and connect with your circle of loving beings or personal connection to unconditional love.  Spend as much time to as you feel to generating the energy of loving-kindness – remember this is the heart of the practice.  

When you feel ready begin to work with 3 or 4 of the phrases you have chosen for today.  The phrases are repeated silently to oneself.  Sometimes, they are repeated aloud and we will explore this later on, but for now, let’s repeat them silently.  You can repeat one phrase per breath, alternate one on the inhale and one on the exhale, or find a rhythm that feels good to you. Also, you don’t necessarily have to focus on the breath at all; you can just focus on the phrases, especially for now.

Let the meaning of the phrase gently wash over you.  You are affirming to yourself and to the universe that you desire to be safe, happy and peaceful.  If at any point you feel disconnected from the energy of loving-kindness, you can always go back to your heart center and your circle of loving beings.  This is the foundation of your practice; the phrases symbolize Metta but generating the essence of loving-kindness is the true practice.  Spend as much as time as you have dedicated to your practice for today.

When you finish with the phrases, you may wish to reconnect with your circle of loving beings for a moment and then, in whatever way you feel to give thanks or gratitude for your practice. 

Daily Journal Reflections:

  • How did it feel to work with the phrases? 
  • Were they a good anchor for your practice? 
  • Did you notice your mind was less busy using the phrases? 
  • Were you able to stay connected to the energy of loving-kindness as you repeated the phrases?  
  • Did you practice in the way you intended to today?  
  • If you did not practice in the way you intended to, are you still being gentle and loving with yourself? 
  • How does it feel to be cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for your self?  
  • Did you notice any ways you may be resisting loving yourself or even taking the time to practice lovingkindness toward yourself?

I hope you enjoy beginning to work with the phrases.  Wishing you a happy, peaceful and loving day!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 2 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Our Circle of Loving Beings

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“The nature of the sun can be called “Maitri” or “Metta”.  Maitri or Metta also means friendliness or loving-kindness.  Perhaps the reason why loving-kindness is called so is that it generates very warm feeling towards all beings.  

Like warmth that comes from the sun, one who has loving-kindness has a warm heart towards others.  Just as the sun shines indiscriminately on any object in the world, “Metta” or “Maitri” pervades all beings without any discrimination.  Just as the sun dispels darkness, loving-kindness destroys the darkness of hatred.”

– Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

The foundation of Metta begins with cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  It is here, with our own self that we can begin to experience the deep love and compassion that we will later extend out to others and the world.  Yesterday, we started to connect with essence or feeling of loving-kindness and compassion by reflecting on a person or time we felt held in unconditional love.  Today, we will continue to generate the quality of loving-kindness toward ourselves a by creating our own circle of loving beings.  For some this way is easier, for others the first way is preferred.  It’s good to keep in mind that May Is For Metta is a time for exploration – you may try one way, then another and finally find one that you settle into for your practice.

Developing a deep sense of connection with our own inner self allows us to feel connected to everything and to experience a sense of wholeness.  Offering loving-kindness and compassion to ourselves is the catalyst for offering it others and the world.  So, it is important to take time to generate this feeling.  Once we know the feeling and we can generate the energy of loving-kindness, then we can truly work with it as a vehicle for our practice.

As I mentioned yesterday, we will gradually be building our practice, day by day.  You may feel like we are going too slow but this is an intentional part of the practice.  The mind tends to be very busy and goes fast, but the energy of the heart is much slower and gentler.  Taking time to shift our energy and our awareness into the space of the heart requires slowing down.

Also, we are just beginning to connect with the feeling of loving-kindness in this new way.  So, in a sense we are beginning to build a new relationship with ourselves.  Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that it takes time to connect and grow in intimacy.  Part of our journey during May Is For Metta is to cultivate a deeper knowing of ourselves that can only arise when we begin to approach ourselves from the space of the heart, with openness, gentleness and loving-kindness.  It is important to include “going slow” as part of our practice!

Daily Practice:

Find a comfortable position either sitting on a chair or on the floor.  Allow your spine to be straight but not tense; shoulders or stomach relaxed with your hands on your knees or your lap.  Eyes can be closed or open with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you.  You may like to explore practicing with eyes open or closed; there is merit to both ways for various practices and it is good to find a way that is resonant for you at this time.

Begin with a few deep breaths.  It is important to allow the body and the mind to relax.  Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort.  Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions.  Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or business of the day, and send all that out with the next few breaths, just letting it all drift away like a cloud passing by in the sky ~ you simply notice it and then it just drifts away.

Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest.  Notice how it feels to be present in the heart.  This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for your self and for others.  As we begin, we connect with our own heart.  Sometimes we notice a sense of openness or spaciousness as we enter the heart space.  Sometimes we notice our resistance or a sense of constriction.  Just notice what arises as you connect with your heart center without judgment or the need to change anything in this moment.  Simply love and accept where you are and honor that you are taking time to make this connection with your self.

Now, imagine yourself sitting in the center of a circle of loving beings.  They may be people in your life – loved ones – family members, close friends, animals or universal beings whom you feel embody love such as Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, Quan Yin, etc.  In my practice, I include my Grandma Clara, my childhood dog Babas Au Rhum, my cat Percy, my mentor Bill, my Sufi teacher Ayesha, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Hilda Charlton, Buddha and others whose image stirs the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion in me.  Sometimes it can be easier to work with people who are living but this is for you to explore.  Be sure that the feeling that arises from these beings is one of unconditional love.

Also, if there is someone whom you have mixed or uncomfortable feelings about, perhaps a family member or friend, you can work with this later on in our practice, but you may not want to include them in your circle just for now.  This is “your circle of unconditional love and compassion” and only those beings that generate those feelings should be included.  Are you willing to create this for yourself?  This is a powerful tool to work with in your practice and to bring into your daily life.  So take some time to consider who will be in your circle for now; this is something you can change as your practice develops.

Once you have your circle created, just imagine sitting in the center of it.  You are receiving love from all of those loving beings surrounding you.  Allow the love in your heart, mind, body and spirit to expand as you receive the unconditional love of all the beings in your circle.  Deeply breathe this into your heart center, letting it flow into every atom and cell of your being.  As you breathe out, allow love and compassion to fill your circle so that you are infused with it both inwardly and outwardly.  Feel all the love that is in you and all of the loving, supportive energy around you.  Spend as long as you wish to sitting in your circle receiving loving-kindness.  When you feel ready, let the imagery of your circle go for now, knowing you can always call on it when you feel to.

Daily Journal Reflections:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.

  • What did you notice?
  • Did you practice today?
  • If so, how did it feel?  If not, what happened?
  • How does it feel to be cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for your self?
  • Did you notice any ways you resist loving yourself?

Tomorrow, we will begin to incorporate the Metta phrases into our practice.  Today, really allow yourself to embody the feeling and energy of loving-kindness as you do your practice and perhaps, as you go about your day.  At least once, try to call your circle of loving beings into your active life, perhaps at work, or while running an errand, etc.  Allow yourself to carry loving-kindness and compassion with you wherever you go.

Everyone is invited to share thoughts, experiences and reflections as their practice unfolds.

May you have a beautiful and loving day!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

P.S. If you’d like to connect with others doing the May Is For Metta Practice, Request to join our Facebook group

And, I am using the following hashtags on posts on Twitter if you’d like to connect there: #lovingworld #may4metta2016

 

Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Our Journey of Lovingkindness Begins

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Welcome to May is for Metta 2016!  Today is the first day of our annual 31-Day Exploration Of Loving-kindness Meditation here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.   Each day will offer an exploration, guided meditation practice and journaling reflection in Metta, Loving-kindness meditation.

The intention of May Is For Metta is to support:

  • Cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves, others and the world
  • Developing or deepening in a daily meditation practice
  • Reflecting and expanding our self-awareness through contemplative practice, sharing in community, and journaling exercises

If you are new to May Is For Metta and would like to learn a bit more about it, you can explore the following:

May Is For Metta Page

Introduction To May Is For Metta 2016! Daily Posts Start Tomorrow!

Exploring Metta Meditation

May Is For Metta ~ A Journey Of Loving-kindness On Heal My Voice Radio  (2014)

Over the course of the next 31 days, we will be exploring cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in our lives, our relationships and our world.  Our vehicle will be the Buddhist practice of Metta (Loving-kindness) Meditation.  We will begin gradually with the focus on cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves.  In the Buddhist tradition, it is understood that in order to have the ability to offer loving-kindness and compassion to others, we must have a foundation of loving-kindness towards ourselves.

For many Westerners, this is something that can go against our grain.  We may have been taught to love others first or even that loving ourselves is selfish.  This is something we will be exploring during our journey together.  For now, I encourage you to just be open and notice what arises as you enter into the container of May Is For Metta.  There will be lots of support to work with our resistance and to shift our patterns towards greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.

There will also be lots of support around creating a daily meditation practice.  Take some time to decide where you will do your practice and when.  It can be helpful to have a set place to practice that is clear and quiet.  You may wish to designate a meditation area in your home or office for this exploration.  However, do not let this be an obstacle.  As Mindfulness Meditation Teacher & Author Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his popular book title, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  So, wherever you can find the time and space to practice can the perfect place to start. Also, this is something you can explore during the practice period.

Meditating first thing in the morning can be a great way to start the day if you can create room to do so.  If not, just find a time that works for you.  For instance, if lunchtime is the only time you have, perhaps going outside is a good way to practice this time of year.  Be open and creative in finding a time and space that feels good to you whether it is in your home or elsewhere.  Last year, one of our participants shared that after struggling for a while to find a place to practice at home where there were many obstacles, she started doing her May Is For Metta practice in her car right as she arrived at work.

Consistency can be helpful in terms of where you practice, when you practice and for how long; this is something we will explore in the coming month, but feel free to be creative in your process – this is your journey!  Consider May Is For Metta as an opportunity to explore different aspects of meditation practice and to develop a structure that supports you where you are and where you would like to be on your path of transformation.

Daily Practice:

As we begin, find a comfortable position for your body. This can be on a chair or on the floor.  If you are on a chair, it is good to sit with your spine straight and feet flat on the floor.  Sometimes, it helps to put a pillow behind your back for support or to sit at the leading edge of the chair rather than leaning back.  If you are on the floor, sit cross-legged or in lotus posture.  Make sure to have a cushion or blanket to sit on and adjust your leg position so that you feel comfortable.

Once you come into your sitting position, check that your spine is straight, but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Your hands can rest on your knees or your lap.  Allow your chin to tuck slightly toward your chest.   Let the eyes close, or if you prefer, leave your eyes open, gazing softly at the floor in front of you.

Begin with a few deep breaths, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. It is helpful to allow the body and the mind to relax.  Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort.  Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions.  Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or busyness of the day.

Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest.  Notice how it feels to be present in the heart.  This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for yourself and for others.  As we begin, we connect with the energy of our own heart.  When the Buddha spoke of Metta he used the example of a mother’s love for a child; he taught that we need to love all beings as a mother loves her child.  The essence of Metta practice is generating the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion to create that foundation for ourselves and then share it with others and the world. We will explore a few ways to cultivate this feeling.

To begin, take a few moments to recall a time when you felt loved totally held in unconditional love and compassion.  Sometimes calling on the memory of a moment with a grandparent, good friend or even a loving pet is a way to generate this feeling. There may be a certain place such as a childhood home or place in nature, which brings on this feeling for you.  Imagine yourself in that moment and let that feeling, that quality of loving-kindness and compassion fill your whole being, every atom and cell.

This is the quality of Metta, or Loving-kindness; this is where our practice begins.  Allow yourself to simply spend some time just being with this feeling.  If your mind wanders or distractions arise, just remember to come back to the quality, the feeling or the image of the moment you have called on to generate it.  Breathe that feeling right into the center of your chest, into your heart center.  Allow yourself to spend some time being present in the heart, with the quality of loving-kindness.

This is your practice for today.  We are beginning by keeping it simple and exploring the essence of Metta, the feeling of loving-kindness.  If the chance arises and you remember, try to connect with this feeling of loving-kindness as you go about your day.  Bring your breath and awareness to your heart center whenever you feel to.  Simply notice how it feels to connect in this new way.

Today is the day to invite loving-kindness and compassion into your life in a more conscious way.  Although not required, it can be helpful to create a journal for this practice period and to spend a few minutes in the evening to reflect on your daily practice and exploration.

Daily Journal Reflections…

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today. 

  • What did you notice? 
  • Did you find time to practice today?  
  • If yes, how did it feel?  If no, what stopped you? 
  • Did you decide on a place to practice?
  • What will help you to practice tomorrow? 
  • How did it feel to connect with your heart center and the feeling of loving-kindness?
  • Are there any obstacles to your practice that you are aware of?

Feel free to ask questions or share your experiences and reflections in the comments below or on The Heart Of Awakening Facebook page.  There is also a private Facebook group if you’d like to connect with others doing the practice ~ Request to join.

An important message from your host & facilitator, Beth Terrence:  

This practice is about loving-kindness and compassion.  For many of us, our tendency is to be harsh and critical with ourselves.  When we begin a new practice, we set high standards and when we don’t meet them, we tend to beat ourselves up emotionally.  This is an excellent opportunity to change that pattern, to approach change and growth from a place of gentleness and self-love rather than harshness and self-hate.

As Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, says, “If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”.   So, however your practice unfolds, remember to be gentle and loving with yourself.   This time is a gift you are giving to yourself to support your personal journey of transformation and healing. Let’s allow it to be a space to transform our harshness into gentleness and our self-hate into self-love.  This is truly the heart of our practice.

I am so happy you are joining us for this journey of loving-kindness and compassion.  I look forward to our time together!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Introduction To May Is For Metta 2016! Daily Posts Start Tomorrow!

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I truly believe that the greatest disease of our time is one of disconnection.  We can see this in our disconnect from the natural world, from community and on the deepest level from our own selves.  This imbalance is one that tends to accompany the many benefits of living in a modern world.  And, it is one that seems to contribute to suffering, sorrow and even disease itself.  The good news is that there are resources and tools that have been around for millennia that can support us in reconnecting and returning our lives to a state of wholeness.

As a long-time meditator, trained shaman and holistic practitioner, I have come to view life on earth as a journey of awakening.  In many ways it is like a school — we come here to learn and to grow.  What presents itself to us through our life experiences is our curriculum or our program.  One of my teachers always reminds me of this when I am struggling with the affairs of daily life.  Whether great or small, our challenges, and particularly how we respond to them, are the key to unlocking the greater truth of who we are.

In my own journey, I have found no greater tool than meditation and mindfulness for facilitating a sense of awareness and connection.  And, these are practices that are not new but that have been a part of spiritual traditions for thousands of years.  They have been proven by those who have treaded the path of seeker; and today, science is joining in to uncover that there are benefits on all levels — body, mind, emotion and spirit.  Perhaps, it is this marriage between spirituality and science that is stirring an invitation for these ancient practices in our modern culture.

Everyone has a longing to transform themselves in some way and to find happiness in their lives.  Meditation and contemplative practices can help us to get to know ourselves on a deeper level, to move into acceptance of who we are and to develop the sense of connection that for many of us is often lacking in our lives.  There are many types of meditation practices available ~ enough to meet the needs of every person in this world.  I always encourage people to explore and find practices that truly resonate with them, with where they are in life today and in moving toward the person they would like to become.  As we meditate, we begin to discover that true change comes from within.

One of the most beneficial practices I have found, both in my personal practice and in sharing meditation in workshops and trainings over the last 20 years, is the practice of Metta (or Loving-kindness meditation).  This practice derives from Buddhism and in many of its traditions is considered a foundational practice.  Metta can be translated quite simply as Loving-kindness.  It is connected to the energies of the heart — love, compassion and gentleness.

I was first introduced to Metta in my early twenties when I lived and worked in New York City.  I had been meditating since I was 14 years old, mostly on my own, learning through books and occasional lectures (there was no internet yet)!  After I graduated from college, I moved to NYC and was blessed to find many centers, classes and workshops where I could go to learn about meditation.  I spent quite a bit of time at a couple of Buddhist centers and that is when I was introduced to Metta practice.

According to the Buddha’s teachings on the practice of Metta, we begin with cultivating Loving-kindness for ourselves, then for others beings and finally, for our whole world.  This is done through visualization, reflection and repetition of simple phrases like these:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

I have to be honest, as someone who has a voracious inner critic, I found the suggestion of offering loving-kindness to myself to be a bit challenging at first.  Thankfully, I had committed to exploring Metta, so I followed the instruction of offering loving-kindness to myself as the foundation for the practice.  I can now see this resistance to loving and nurturing ourselves is a challenge that many people in our world face; back then I thought it was just me and my upbringing.

It took many years of practice for me to embrace and understand the deep importance of offering loving-kindness and compassion to oneself as a foundation, not just for Metta meditation practice, but for life itself.  Today, I view working with the resistance to this as one of the most powerful teachings of my life.  However, in those early years of exploration, it was in offering Metta to others where I found myself connecting to this practice in a profound way.

So, there I was in my early 20’s in New York City.  I hadn’t found my direction in life and was working at a job I didn’t love but I was figuring it out.  I would take the subway from my tiny apartment in Astoria, Queens to my office in Manhattan.  It didn’t take long to see that there was whole lot of the suffering going on around me.  On a daily basis, I was faced, as were all New Yorkers, with seeing people who were homeless, sick, and often unhappy.  The subway wasn’t somewhere you came across a lot of smiles, especially during the morning commute!

I think it was this feeling of suffering — others and my own, too, that led me to bring my meditation practice to my morning train ride.   At first, it was really because that was when I could find the time.  Soon, I found it helped me to practice stillness and find my center amidst the chaos of the world around me.  Then, things seemed to really change when I learned Metta.  Instead of focusing on myself alone, I was able to extend my practice out to those around me.  I noticed immediately that this helped my sense of connection as well as feeling like there was something I could offer others without having to do anything outwardly.

Like many other New Yorkers, I always wanted to help to the homeless people who I passed daily on the street — sometimes I had money to give, sometimes I didn’t or didn’t know if giving money was the best kind of support.  Often, I wondered “what else can I do to help?”  I ended up doing a lot of volunteer work with homeless shelters and programs.  As I began to practice Metta, I realized that the energy of Loving-kindness was something I could always offer.  Did it actually help that other person?  I hope so but it’s hard to know how for sure.  I do know that it helped how I felt about the world around me, it deepened my sense of connection and transformed my attitudes about life.  I truly believe these inner changes have an impact on our relationships and the world around us.

Since that time, Metta has been a foundational practice in my life.  At times, it’s been at the forefront of my daily meditation practice and at other times, I practice it on the spot, wherever I am and with whomever I encounter.  It is also one of the main practices I share with others as I have come to see that loving ourselves is a key to transformation and healing on many levels and one that is much needed in our lives and our world.  For many of us, It is one of the hardest things to do.  Metta offers a vehicle for loving ourselves like few others I have encountered — it is both simple and profound.

It was with this awareness that the vision for May Is For Metta emerged in 2010.  After leading meditation groups in a variety of settings in NYC and the MD/DC area, I found I was getting quite a number of requests for support from folks I had worked with previously and those I was connecting with online for some type of virtual program.  At the time, I was working part-time in a residential addiction treatment program as a shaman and holistic health practitioner.  One of my weekly groups at the center was on meditation and mindfulness.

In this group, I would introduce the clients to a variety of practices with the intention that they might find one they resonated with enough to practice in an ongoing way once they left treatment.  Inevitably, I found that the practice most “loved” and embraced by my clients, who were in very early recovery, was Metta or Loving-Kindness meditation. It’s not really surprising… Not only had Metta become a foundational practice in my own life, but it was also one of the tools that really helped me in my own process of long-term recovery from trauma.

The concept of loving oneself was new and somewhat scary for many of the clients, but I could also see it was something they felt excited about exploring as most had tried so many other ways to recover and were still struggling.  What I noticed was that in addition to the benefit of the feeling of loving-kindness, which is generated at the beginning of the practice, the Metta phrases actually provided a strong anchor for their practice, perhaps a bit stronger than the breath itself.  Additionally, having the ability to offer loving-kindness to others gave them an opportunity to work on their relationships that had been damaged through their addiction in a powerful way.  They may not have been able to heal or change the relationship directly, but what I noticed is their response to it changed and often softened in ways that seemed to open the door for communication in a new way.

So, in the spring of 2010, when I decided to start some type of virtual mediation program, Metta was at the forefront of my mind and heart.  One day while I was practicing, and repeating the phrases, I had an idea bubble up to do a 31 Day program.  Since May was coming, I decided to call it May Is For Metta.  The first year, the program began through a Facebook group.  I just began by inviting folks I knew who were interested in meditation.  The word spread organically and we had 118 people participate that May from various parts of the world.

In the following years, I moved the monthly practice to my blog, The Heart Of Awakening: Searching for A New Paradigm and decided to offer the program as a series of daily posts.  In 2014, it even evolved to include daily audios to accompany the posts. I am excited to share it as we move into the 6th year of May Is For Metta: 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Practice, which happens live every May 1st to 31st.  It can also happen anytime and anywhere that you feel called to practice. 

Perhaps you have joined us because you:

  • are curious about the Buddhist practice of Metta
  • have thought about meditating for sometime
  • already meditate but would like to deepen or explore a new practice
  • struggle with feelings of self-criticism or harshness
  • feel stuck in your life
  • have a sense of disconnection (this may be with your self, in your relationships or with the world itself)
  • would like to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion in your life, your relationships and the world
  • have participated in May is For Metta before and want to continue your explorations

Just know, you don’t have to be an experienced meditator or a Buddhist to practice Metta. Loving-kindness is universal!  You are welcome to work with the program in a way that feels good to you.  This program is designed to support you at whatever level of experience or interest you have.  As they say in many twelve step programs, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”  And, in the spirit of loving-kindness and compassion, it is essential to follow the guidance of your own heart — this is a concept we will explore more on our journey together.

A Note:  I am not a monk or nun, guru or authority, just a person who is happy to share this exploration with you!  It is offered by just one human being on the path of life who has explored Metta and Loving-kindness as a foundational practice and tool for life on earth.  It has helped me to open my heart and find joy in life.  I hope it will help you, too!


How To Participate in May Is For Metta 2016…

Come Explore!

May Is For Metta 2016 Starts on 5/1! Join Us For 31 Days of Lovingkindness Exploration & Meditation!

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Join Us May 1st to May 31st!

I am so excited to begin our sixth year of May Is For Metta Exploration & Meditation, which will be happening from May 1st to May 31st as a The Heart of Awakening Blog Community comes together virtually to participate in our annual daily Loving-kindness Exploration & Meditation.
 
This time offers an opening to cultivate greater loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves, our relationships and our world. The vehicle for our practice is Metta Meditation, a foundational practice in the Buddhist tradition.  Although Metta originates in Buddhimsm, the practice Lovingkindness and Compassion is universal.  This year we will look at some of the current research and benefits on this type of practice.
 
How To Participate…

What to expect…

For those who are new to Metta and/or a daily meditation practice, this time will offer you the opportunity to build a practice and to create a space for stillness and peace. This is one of the most loving acts we can do for ourselves. And so how wonderful to begin with the practice of Metta, cultivating Loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world. For those who currently have a daily meditation practice and/or have worked with Metta practice before, this is a time to for you to go reconnect and go deeper. 

One of the greatest lessons I have learned from my teachers is to always come to a teaching or practice with a beginners mind, even if I have done it before. From this place of openness and unknowing, lies a great opportunity for developing our understanding and it is also a powerful way to become more present to the moment.
 
In a gradual way, each day will offer simple guidance on how to begin and stay present with a daily practice.  It is up to you how much time you commit and how deep you will choose to go.  A part of the journey is uncovering where we resist, get stuck and withhold from ourselves by not creating the time and space we need to be balanced, centered and whole.
 
So in essence, this 31 Days is really an exercise in Loving Ourselves enough to commit some time and space to be more present; the vehicle for creating that time and space is the practice of Metta and a daily meditation practice. If you concerned that you cannot commit, I encourage you to use one of the wisdom slogans of many 12 Step Programs and just do it “one day at a time”.  Really, there is only this moment and then, there is another moment, and another.
 
Meditation teaches us to be in the present moment more fully with our whole being. Loving-kindness allows us to be open and receptive to whatever is present and arising in that moment with tenderness and compassion.
 
My wish for each of you is that you will follow the guidance of your heart and be willing to explore in a way that is loving and gentle toward yourself.
 
I hope you’ll join us for this 2016’s May Is For Metta Exploration!
 
Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness within you)!
 
Beth
 
P.S. If you have questions or would like additional information, feel free to post a note in the comments below.

Join Me Tomorrow for the “Raise Stress-Proof Kids” Telesummit!

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I am so thrilled to be one of the featured experts on Sree Meleth’s Raise Stress-Proof Kids Telesummit happening this month.  Sree and I had a wonderful chat last week and she will be sharing this teleseminar via email tomorrow along with a free gift from me – a special report on “Easing the Ups & Downs of Childhood with the Bach Flower Remedies”.   There are also lots of other great presentations on topics such as EFT, Mindfulness, Nutrition and more for you to explore.  The resources focus primarily on supporting children; however, it became clear that during many of the interviews that having adults who take care of themselves and work to have less stress are a key to raising stress-proof kids – so there are lots of tools for everyone on this Telesummit!

Many of you know by now that Bach Flower Remedies are one of my favorite topics to share on.  These gentle remedies are one of the safest, natural and effective holistic tools that I have worked with both personally and professionally over the last 20 years. Although the majority of my clients are adults, I have had the honor and privilege of supporting many children, teens, babies (even those “in utero” beings via their pregnant moms) throughout my many years of practicing holistic healing.  I am excited to share more about this through tomorrow’s teleseminar with Sree Meleth.

My friend and colleague, Dr. Sree Meleth, has put together this amazing interview series that is focused on raising stress-proof kids.  As a parent and grandparent, Sree has learned that the biggest gift we can give our children is confidence in their own inner resources. She has gathered a group of experts who have spent decades helping children and parents deal with the issues of stress and anxiety in natural wholesome ways. She is passionate about working to raise a generation of stress-proofed kids.

  • Do you worry about the level of stress and anxiety that current events expose our children to?
  • Are you concerned that they are not equipped to deal with the normal stresses and strains that are a part of regular life, let alone the excessive almost unavoidable stimulation that digital media provides?
  • Do you worry about the fact that they are constantly “on” and have no time to turn “off”?
  • Do you wish you had access to non-pharma tools and techniques to help your child learn to switch off and calm down?

“Raise Stress-Proof Kids” will share lots of resources and tools that are safe, natural and non-pharma!

  • Do you have a child who is an introvert and prone to stress and anxiety?
  • Would you like to learn how storytelling can help you help the young ones in your life acknowledge and move through big emotions?
  • Would you love to learn quick, easy, practical techniques to help you and your child de-escalate a stressful situation?
  • Would you like to learn more about neuro-linguistic programming, and how it can be a part of you helping your child to be stress free?

This telesummit will be available for a limited time and is already happening.  Be sure to check it out!  There are lots of great resources to explore!

Sign Up Now for “Raise Stress-Proof Kids” Telesummit

And, if you enjoy my interview or have questions about Bach Flower Remedies for Children feel free to post note in the comments below!


 

Beth is available for Bach Flower Remedy consultations in Annapolis, MD or by Phone/Skype.  To learn more about the Bach Flower Remedies and how they can support you and your children in achieving greater balance, joy and ease of well-being, visit Beth’s Bach Flower Remedy Page or contact her today for a complimentary 20 minute consultation

 

Spring Cleaning Inside & Out Virtual Writing Retreat Day 5 ~ Outer Spaces

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So far in our journey of Spring Cleaning Inside & Out we have explored ourselves from a holistic perspective – body, mind, emotions and spirit.  Today, we will shift a bit to a more traditional approach to Spring Cleaning  – our Outer Spaces!

It’s interesting that Passover starts later this week.  Some researchers trace the origin of spring cleaning to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in preparation for the Passover holiday, which celebrates the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt.  Due to the hurriedness of the escape, the bread of the Jews was unable to rise and so during the period of Passover, only unleavened bread, Matzoh, is eaten to commemorate this great transition from slavery to freedom.   Not only is leavened bread not eaten, but the whole house is cleaned so that not a crumb remains.

In other religions and traditions, there are similar practices.  The Catholic church prepares for Good Friday with a thorough cleaning of the church altar and everything associated with it It is also traditional to clean the house thoroughly either right before or during the period of  Lent, which may also be referred to as Clean Week.

Also, once the warm weather sets in, it is natural to fling open the windows letting in the fresh air and sunshine.  This seems like a perfect time to clean and clear out the dust that has built up during the winter months.   In the UK, National Spring Cleaning Week is celebrated each March and their website offers lots of great ideas and resources for freshening up your home and your life this time of year. Visit www.springcleaningweek.com to learn more.

I am always so fascinated by the interrelationship between our inner and our outer spaces. What I noticed during Part I of this retreat is that as I explored my body, mind, emotions and spirit, I naturally gravitated toward cleaning and clearing certain areas of my home.  And, as my outer spaces became clearer, then my mind became calmer and more focused; and my energy increased, too.  It’s pretty amazing!

For today’s exploration, take some time to look around you home and your garden, too…

  • Are there areas of clutter that you are ready to be clear in your home ? What are you ready to let go of  to create a sense of spaciousness in your home and your life?
  • Sometimes it all feels too much.  Rather than diving right in, take some time to simply make a list of the cleaning or organizing projects you’d like to get done.  Then, begin to schedule them into your calendar over the next couple of weeks or even months if need – do it in a  way that is manageable.
  • Sometimes just tuning into how you would like to feel helps to initiate a process of change.  Take some time to write about how you would like to feel in your home.  Write a story about what it feels and looks like when you walk into the door of your home.  Be creative! Explore!
  • Are there weeds or old growth that need to be cleared out from your garden for the new growth to come in or be planted?  Perhaps you can take some time each day or once a week to work on this.  
    • Suggestion: I have a hard time pulling weeds.  To me, they are still living things. and I’d rather just leave them, but some of the other things growing in my garden need space to grow.  Awhile back, a friend suggested this practice: “With each weed that you pull, say a prayer for someone or set a positive intention.” 
  • What one change would help you to  feel more peaceful and happy in your home today?  Explore how you can make it happen!

Looking forward to continuing to explore Spring Cleaning Inside & Out with you.  Feel free to share your reflections or suggestions on in the comments below.


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Spring Cleaning Inside & Out Virtual Writing Retreat Part II Starts on 4/18!

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Spring has appeared to begin with fits and starts this year here in Maryland.  We just had a bit of snow this past weekend! Now, it’s beautiful and sunny in the 50’s and we’re headed to 70 deg. on Sunday.  I’m not sure if that’s why the Virtual Writing Retreat also had some fits and starts; initially, it was my intention to go straight through but it turns out, we’ve have had a Part I and now it’s time to explore Part II.

I actually found that taking the time to tune in and reflect on Part I’s explorations, looking at body, mind, emotion and spirit, helped me to create a foundation for some of things I have a deep desire to plant seeds for in my life and begin to cultivate this Spring.  And, it took a few weeks of exploration in that way for me to feel the call for a full on “Spring Cleaning”.  I’m in the process of doing that now and it feels good to focus on my physical space as well as personal space.  There is such a powerful interrelationship with our inner and outer spaces.  We’ll take some time to explore this in Part II of this series, which will run from April 18th to 21st.  Stay tuned!

Here is a summary of the posts from Part I if you are just joining in or if you’d like to re-explore them:

Day 1 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Body

Day 2 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Mind

Day 3 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Emotions

Day 4 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Spiritual

If you have any reflections from Part I, feel free to share them in the comments below.

Looking forward to exploring more starting on Monday, April 18th!


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Spring Cleaning Inside & Out Virtual Writing Retreat Day 4 ~ Spiritual

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We’ve been looking at Spring Cleaning through a holistic framework – one that addresses body, mind, emotion and spirit.  Today, we’ll focus on the spiritual aspects of ourselves to see what we might like to shift or change as we harmonize with the energy of Spring.  Spring is a particularly good time to harmonize with the natural world.  With the warmer weather and longer days, it often seems like we are more easily drawn outdoors and with so many things beginning to bud and bloom, it is natural that our attention is on the natural world that we are a part of.

Let’s take a look at what an imbalance in the Wood element might look like on the spiritual level:

  • Lack of enthusiasm for life
  • Feeling disconnected from Nature
  • Lack of sense of spiritual connection
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Missing a sense of soul purpose

I feel like this really represents something I consider to be one of the greatest diseases of our time – DISCONNECTION.  From the shamanic viewpoint and other spiritual traditions, it is understood that everything is interconnected through what we call the “web of life”.  As humans, we often tend to see or feel ourselves as separate.  This often starts with the natural world, but continue with our sense of connection to spirit, to community and ultimately to our own selves.

Spring can be a wonderful time to tune in and reconnect.   I hope you’ll take some time to explore how you can create greater connection in all areas of your life.  Here are some questions to write and reflect on for today:

  • Do you feel connected to your own inner voice?
  • Do you spend quiet time just “being”?
  • Are you able to feel a sense of oneness?
  • Do you feel a connection to Spiritual Source? God? Spiritual Community? Nature?
  • Do you know what Spirituality means for you?  
  • Is there something that your need to resolve or let go of that affects your ability to connect on a spiritual level?
  • Do you have a sense of your soul purpose?  Make a list of things you love most and explore what that might be.

Make a list of 3 – 5 things you can do to support yourself spiritually.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Find a spiritual practice that suits you (be curious and explore!)  
  • Attend a spiritual service or community.  
  • Connect with nature.  
  • Create time and space to meditate.  
  • Find a creative activity that allows you to express yourself more freely.  
  • Awaken your inner self – explore what ignites your own inner spark.

Happy explorations!

See you tomorrow!

Spring Cleaning Inside & Out 7-Day Virtual Writing Retreat Day 3 ~ Emotions

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Day 3

So far in our Spring Cleaning Virtual Writing Retreat, we’ve explored body and mind. Today we’re going to take some time to explore our emotional body and how we can support it at this time of year and beyond.

We’ve been exploring the Wood Element, which according to Chinese Medicine is most active in Spring.  Let’s look at the some of the indicators of a Wood imbalance on the emotional level:

  • Anger
  • Shouting
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • “Stuffing” feelings
  • Control issues
  • Feelings of overwhelm
  • Sense of separateness

Take some time today to write and reflect on the following questions:

  • Are you in touch with your emotions?
  • Are you able to express your feelings appropriately?
  • Do you allow your self to experience a full range of feelings – anger and sorrow, love and happiness, etc?
  • Are you able to develop close and intimate relationships? 
  • Are there feelings your holding onto that it might be time to let go or work on releasing?

List 3 – 5 things that you can do to support emotional well-being.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Keep a daily journal list of your feelings
  • Share you feelings with a good friend or family member whom you feel safe with
  • Seek out a therapist, counselor, shaman or other guide if you need support in getting in touch with your feelings
  • Join a support group – there are many kinds available and sometimes it helps to connect with others dealing with similar challenges as you are
  • Move your body – dance, exercise, etc. are great ways to allow your emotions space to move through (talking in not the only way!)
  • Make a list in your journal of ways you can connect with and express your emotions and keep adding to it.

Have a  beautiful day!

See you tomorrow!

Spring Cleaning Inside & Out 7-Day Virtual Writing Retreat Day 2 ~ Mind

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Day 2

Today, we’ll take a look at our minds.  In the Day 1 post, we explored a bit about the Wood Element, which is most active in Spring.  Here are some indicators of an Wood element on the level of mind:

  • Poor Judgement
  • Disorganization
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Control issues
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Lack of clarity
  • Unable to focus

One thing I’ve noticed it that even if someone doesn’t have a Wood imbalance in general, it is somewhat common for people to experience these types of symptoms as we transition from Winter into Spring.  And, giving some time and attention to our minds, is a good way to bring about balance in this area.

Here are some questions to help you explore for today:

  • Can you think and express yourself clearly?
  • Are you intellectually satisfied?
  • Does your belief system support you?  
  • What are the beliefs you are holding on to which are limited or no longer serve you?
  • Do you believe in yourself?
  • Are you able to focus?
  • Can you relax your mind easily? 

Today, pay attention to your thoughts.  Look for recurring patterns to see which ones support your well-being and which ones may limit your satisfaction and fulfillment in life.  Be open to creating new ideas and beliefs that will support your growth.  Writing and journaling are great ways to explore our beliefs and begin to explore and release thoughts, which may no longer serve us.  You may wish to create a list of limiting beliefs and adding to it as you notice them, so that you can begin to work on letting them go.  Awareness is a first step toward transformation.

Make a list of 3 – 5 things you can do to support your mental well-being.  And, keep adding to this list as you learn more about yourself.

Also, be sure to celebrate your mind. Give yourself recognition for your own intelligence, talents and abilities!

See you tomorrow!


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Bonus:

Working with intention is a powerful way to support the mental body.  Visit my Actualizing the Power of Intention page to access a free teleseminar and learn about a special offer for one-on-one sessions, too!  Come explore a whole new you!

Spring Cleaning Inside & Out 7-Day Virtual Writing Retreat Day 1 ~ Body

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As each season arrives, we move through a period of change and transition.  This can be seen easily in  changes of the natural world all around us but it is also something that is going within us on many levels.  By taking some time to harmonize with the energy of each season, we gain an opportunity to look at the patterns in our own lives with a deeper perspective and insight.  And, we can be supported by the energies that are most active during the current time of year.

As Spring sets in, the days begin to get longer giving us more light.  We can begin to observe new growth in the natural world ~ shoots break through the previously frozen ground and buds pop up on plants and trees almost miraculously, all in preparation for the big Spring Bloom.  Spring is the truly a season of new growth and transformation. With all this happening, we may feel our own energy is expanding, flowing and blossoming with new ideas, too!

This makes Spring a wonderful time to reflect, refresh and renew.  It is a time for new beginnings and offers us a time to tune into our whole self – body, mind, emotion and spirit.  It’s also a great time to review and update our self-care plans as well as explore what might support our well-being during this transitional time and beyond.

I am excited to be sharing this Spring Cleaning Inside & Out 7-Day Virtual Writing Retreat with the HOA community.  I’ve started to offer a number of virtual writing retreats throughout the year as a way to tune in through writing and reflection; and to support transformation and healing in ourselves, our relationships and our world.  I invite you take some time to explore as you feel called to.  It’s not always easy to take time off for a retreat, however it is something we can always create for ourselves in our own way.

I just finished my early Spring Cleanse last, a nine day fast of juicing and master cleanser, which I find helps me to detoxify and recalibrate my system.  It may seem like a fast is focused on the physical, but it is actually a way to clear ourselves on many levels.  I was amazed out how much more spaciousness I found in my mind and how many emotions were moving through during that time.  We often tend to think of spring cleaning in terms of the physical – our bodies, our houses, etc.  However, this is a perfect time to really look as all aspects of ourselves inside and out.

Each day for the next seven days, I’ll be offering a reflection and a prompt for you to explore how you can work with the energy of Spring to support transformation and healing in all areas of your life.  We’ll be looking at body, mind, emotion, spirit and space – inner, outer and sacred.  Come Explore!


 

Day 1

Spring is a great time to look at your life and make a new self-care plan.  Take some time this Spring to look at how you care for yourself, consider where you may be out of balance and where you need to give greater attention to support your overall health and well-being.  Consider what you may need to let go of and what you might like to create in your life – this is what Spring Cleaning Inside and Out is all about!

According to Chinese Medicine, Spring is the season of the Wood Element.  The organs most active are Liver and Gall Bladder.  The color is Green.  So, this makes Spring an ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation of our overall health and well-being.

A person with a balanced Wood Element would experience much of the following:

  • Sense of Connectedness to Nature
  • Clarity
  • Organization
  • Energized
  • Ability & Capacity for Control
  • Spiritual Connection
  • Enthusiasm
  • Healthy Expression of Emotions, especially Anger,
  • Mentally Relaxed
  • Creative

Wood element imbalances may be experienced in a variety of ways.  Let’s take a look at the physical today.  These many include:

  • Spinal Problems
  • Poor Flexibility
  • Headaches
  • Poor Resistance to Illness
  • Allergic Sensitivities
  • Skin Problems
  • Irritated, watery eyes
  • Muscle Fatigue and weakness

Whether or not you notice that you have some type of Wood imbalance or not, now is a good time to reflect on your physical well-being.  Take some time to reflect on the following questions:

  • Are you physically healthy and active?
  • Do you feel comfortable in you body?  
  • Do you have health issues that limit your life?
  • Are you eating a diet that supports you where you are and where you want to be?
  • Are there certain things it might be time to let go of from your diet that you are aware aren’t healthy for your body?

Take some time to write and to explore how you might change this area of your life.

Here are some suggestions to explore:

  • Begin to develop your own program to keep you body fit and healthy (this may involve trying different things to see what works – be creative!)
  • Take a walk for 15 to 20 minutes daily.  
  • Try a yoga or tai chi class.  
  • Eat a balanced diet (explore and discover what diet best supports you today!)
  • Listen to the messages that your body is sending to you.  
  • Go for a massage.  
  • Drink plenty of water.  
  • Fast or cleanse to detoxify and rejuvenate your body.  
  • See appropriate health care practitioners or get supports as needed.

Make a list of 3 – 5 things you can do to support your physical well-being.  And, keep adding to this list as you learn more about yourself.

I hope you’ll take some time today to write, reflect and explore a whole new you!

As always, you are welcome to share reflections and thoughts in the comments below.

See you tomorrow!

 

 

Mindfulness Mondays: Actualizing The Power of Intention

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“Every journey begins with the first step of articulating the intention, and then becoming the intention.” ~ Bryant McGill

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I just finished up leading a 30 day program on Setting Intentions & Visioning Your Dreams for  2016.  It was a powerful journey and I was amazed how it really helped me to deepen in my daily practice of mindfulness and meditation as well as the theme of intention setting and visioning.

How does actualizing the power of intention relate to mindfulness?

In mindfulness and other meditative practices, we tend to find something to focus our awareness on.  It may be our breath, our body or the beauty of nature around us.  The possibilities are endless.  We can also focus on our thoughts. This may include noticing the thoughts, worries or concerns that arise in our mind.  And, it may include cultivating positive thoughts or intentions such as gratitude, peace or loving ourselves.

To me, working with intention is a mindful practice. By setting intentions, both in an overall way and on a daily basis, I find I am more able to stay present with myself, to notice when I am aligning with that intention and to also recognize when I am distracted or off center.  In a way, an intention that we’ve created for ourselves is an anchor for our practice and for living mindfully.

I’ve shared several posts on Actualizing The Power of Intention previously on The Heart of Awakening.  For today’s practice, I’d like to share this audio meditation…

 

If you’d like to explore this topic more, I invite you visit my website’s Actualizing The Power of Intention, which includes a free 60 minute teleseminar previously recorded on 2/2/15 and a special offer, too!  Learn more…

Feel free to share you comments, thoughts and reflections on this week’s exploration below!  Or, join our Meditation & Mindfulness in a Rapidly Changing World group on Facebook.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!


 

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Mindfulness Mondays ~ Walking Meditation

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“In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps.  Your steps are the most important thing.  They decide everything.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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Last week, we explored Movement with Breath as a way to explore mindful movement.  I thought to continue this week with an exploration of walking meditation.

Walking meditation can be both a formal practice as well as a simple way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. It is one the most powerful ways to cultivate embodied awareness.  It invites you to be present as you walk, to use your steps and movement as a vehicle for mindfulness and for staying present in the moment.  It can also be a way to cultivate peace and calm as we move through our world.

You may wish to work with it on it’s own or incorporate it with a sitting meditation practice.  You may find you are on your way to work and simply choose to walk mindfully for a few blocks or for the whole trip. Be curious. Explore.

Here is video of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about Walking Meditation…

Walking Meditation Exploration

Standing with your eyes open with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, simply focus on your breath and begin to step right and then left, with mindful awareness.  If it’s helpful you can label your steps, “stepping right” and “stepping left”.  You can explore synchronizing the breath with each step.  As you stay present with your steps, notice what is arising in body, mind, emotion and spirit.  When you noticed you’ve become distracted or drifted off, simple return your awareness to your next step. 

Walking meditation can be done by walking in a circle or by walking back and forth in straight line, pausing when you get to an end point and really taking time to notice as your turn around.  In practicing walking back and forth, you can pause at each turn to notice how it feels to shift from movement to stillness and to movement once again.  Exploring in this way is something we can inform us so that we might walk and move more mindfully and with greater awareness as we move through our daily lives.

You may wish to incorporate some of what Thich Nhat Hanh shared about taking peaceful steps into your exploration.  During our annual, May is For Metta event here on The Heart of Awakening Blog, we explore combining Walking Meditation with Lovingkindness practice.  Here is last year’s post if you’d like to explore this practice on Walking Metta Meditation.

Feel free to share your experiences and reflections in the comments below.


Come join us on Facebook! Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World group is a space where I share each week’s practice and additional resources on mindfulness and meditation. Come Explore!

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Movement With Breath

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“In the midst of movement and chaos,

keep stillness inside of you.” 

~ Deepak Chopra

Butterfly BeautyThere are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation.  Beginning to include practices that incorporate movement can be a way to deepen your presence and support you in being more mindful as you move about through your daily life and the world around you.

Anytime that you practice mindful movements, with your attention fully in the activity and with a mindful attitude, you are practicing meditation.  Some activities to explore include walking, eating, cleaning, or doing the dishes. We’ll take time to work with each of the in future Mindfulness Mondays posts.

For this week, I was feeling to share a few simple ways to begin to explore working with mindful movement and the breath.  As I’ve shared before, sometimes due to the subtlety of the breath, it can be hard to focus on it, especially for beginning practitioners.  Also, for people who have experienced trauma or tend to be disconnected from their bodies in some way, bringing together movement and the breath, can be a way to really become more connected within themselves.

Movement With Breath Exploration

You can do these practices either sitting, on a chair or crosslegged/lotus position on the floor or in a standing position.  Sometimes it is good to explore practicing mindfulness in a standing position — if you have not done so, I encourage you to do so with this practice.  There may be times when practicing mindfulness is helpful in your daily life but taking time to sit and practice is not possible.  As you cultivate a standing practice, it will become easier practice mindfulness as you stand on line at the grocery store, walk down the street, etc.

Come to a comfortable position either sitting or standing.  If standing, stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart. Allow your knees to be slightly bent, not tense. Relax your shoulders back, your chest and your stomach.  Tilt your chin a bit toward your chest so that your head is balanced on your neck and shoulders.

Whether sitting or standing, have a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, about 3 feet forward.  Begin to notice the sensation of your breath.  Become mindful of any areas in your body that feel tense or uncomfortable. Without trying to relax them, simply notice.

3 Ways To Practice Movement With Breath…

1) Floating Arms ~ After a few moments of tuning into to your breath and your body, begin to move your arms upwards in front of you with palms facing the floor.  As you breathe in, letting your arms simple float up to about shoulder height, continuing to rise for the length of the in-breath.  Once at shoulder height, slowly let then move back down as you breath out, returning to the side of your body on as the out-breath completes. Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

2) Butterfly HandsHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together, fingers touching and then cross your thumbs one over the other.  As you breathe in, allow the pinky side of your hand to move outwards, spreading your finger and keeping thumbs intertwined so that your hands appear to be a like a butterfly opening it’s wings. As you breathe out, allow your bring your hands back together palms together, fingers touching and thumbs crossed.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

3) Lotus FlowerHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together with all fingers touching and pointing straight out from your body.  On your in-breath, move the thumb side of your hands outward, allowing all of the fingers but the pink to become open, like a lotus blossoming.  On the out-breath, slowly bring your fingers together one by one from ring finger back to thumb until palms are together once again.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

Take a few mindful moments to watch this video of a lotus blossom opening and closing.  There is a a rhythmic stillness in this movement which we can bring to our own mindfulness movements.  

After exploring these practices, you may also like to create your own mindful movements.  Be creative.

At the end of your practice, take some time to reflect, explore and journal about the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you began?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you finished your practice?
  • What did you notice about your bodily sensations?  Was one movement more beneficial for you than another?
  • What thoughts arose while you were practicing?
  • What emotions arose for you while your were practicing?
  • How did it feel to incorporate movement with the breath? How might you continue to work with this type of practice?

I hope you’ll take some time to explore mindful movements this week. 

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness with you!)

Beth