Tag Archives: Consciousness

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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Two Guest Posts & Some Big News…

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Believe or not, I am doing a lot of writing lately even though I haven’t been very present on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.  Just know, Spring is coming and I am birthing a lot of new posts for HOA! So stay tuned!

The Big News… is that I am working actively to create the first May Is For Metta book that will carry the program we do here each May on HOA off the web and onto the page!  This is a project I have been working on for sometime and 2015 is the year it is coming together.  So stay tuned!

Also, I have been doing quite a bit of guest blogging.  I have two posts from this week I’d like to share.

One is from the Gently Moving Forward created by Kathleen Nelson Troyer, an amazing coach and mentor; she is also a dear friend!  Kat invited a number of guests to come share this month on the topic of  “Be The Love”, so there are lots of great posts to explore.  My post is called, “What Better Time Than Now!” and is on guess what?  One of our most favored topics here on HOA – Loving Ourselves! Are you willing to embrace all of “you” with love and compassion? 

I was also asked to join a group of 17 shaman in answering the following question on Sarah Petruno’s Shamanism blog:

“What tip would you give for leading a more sacred, enlightened life?” 

Here’s my response and be sure to read the full post as there are lots of great tips to explore!

BethTerrence-1

This Spring look forward to some new posts on Transformation & Healing, Seasonal Well-being, Bach Flower Remedies, Meditation & Mindfulness, Shamanism and more!

Love & light,

Beth

Day 23 ~ May Is For Metta 2014: Every Day Is A New Beginning

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“Rahula, practice loving-kindness to overcome anger.  Loving-kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return.  Practice compassion to overcome cruelty.  Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return. Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred.  Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success.  Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice.  Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally.  This is because that is.  Myself and others are not separate.  Do not reject one thing only to chase after another.  I call these the four immeasurables.  Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others.” – Buddha speaking to his son, Rahula

May Is For Metta 2014

Everyday is a new beginning.  If for some reason you have lost momentum with your practice or even if you have dropped off, just remember that you can begin again.  You can continue right where you left off or move on; you can even start over again if that feels right to you.  This exploration is about cultivating loving-kindness and compassion.  It is also about developing a daily meditation practice in a way that supports you where you are today.

During meditation, we use an anchor such as the breath or the phrases to bring us back to the present moment; we do this whenever we realize our mind has wandered.  In the same way, when we realize we have gotten off track or missed a day or two or three of our practice, we simply return to it.  We do this with gentleness and with love.  We just notice we have gotten distracted and we return to the practice.  Although our natural habitual tendency might be to move into self-judgment or harshness, we can choose to embrace our practice of loving-kindness by just noticing where we are and then gently and lovingly returning to our center.

Meditation offers us the opportunity to return to our center and to begin anew in every moment.  Metta teaches us to be loving and compassionate with ourselves in our practice and in our daily life.  Extend this gift of loving-kindness to yourself in the moment and explore what’s possible.

Today, we will work with the full practice, choosing one person for each of the categories.  If for any reason this feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with.  Begin your practice by setting an intention in a way that feels right for you. Recognize that you are practicing, not just for yourself and that the cultivation of loving-kindness is beneficial for all beings and for the world.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Imagine a time when you felt held in that way.  Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.

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

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  Remember to come back to your heart center for a few moments between each category.  Offer the phrases for each being you have chosen to work with today:

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

As you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off.  To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating. Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled 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.  How are you feeling about your practice?  Can you approach your practice with gentleness and compassion rather than harshness or judgment?  How does it feel to be cultivating a daily practice or exploring expanding in loving-kindness? Are you able to connect with your heart center more easily? If so, how does that feel?  If not, what is getting in your way?  Are you being gentle and loving with yourself in regards to your practice? in your life?

May you have a peaceful and happy day.

 

Poem Of The Week: Ode To The West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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AutumnLeaf

Ever since I wrote my last post, Autumn Tips For Happy & Healthy Living, which included a quote by Percy Bysshe Shelley, this fascinating poet has been on my mind.  His words in “Ode To The West Wind” speak so beautifully to the energy of the season, the journey of life and our connection to nature and spirit.  It was interesting to learn that his writings and actions provided a strong influence on Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and the principles of non-violence.  He also was a proponent of vegetarianism as well as social justice for the lower classes.  He saw the need to fight for the rights of all living creatures that he saw being treated unjustly.

I hope you enjoy the poem.  Feel free to share you thoughts, feelings and reflections.  Happy Autumn!

Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I.
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!

II.
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aery surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear!

 III.
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear!

 IV.
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
And then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

V.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Voices Of Peace: Peace Pilgrim

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Peace Pilgrim

“We who work for peace must not falter.  We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can, we must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others, we must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

I remember the first time I heard about Peace Pilgrim.  I was at meditation gathering in NYC and the leader read a bit from the book Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words.  I had heard about many saints, mystics and sages who carried the message of peace, but most of them lived in other parts of the world or in other times.  As I learned more about the life of Peace Pilgrim, it was hard to image a woman who had so much strength, courage and faith to make the journey of “25,000 miles on foot for peace” right here in the United States.  And, as it turned out not only did she achieve that goal, but she surpassed it, becoming a guiding light for peace in our world whose message continues to inspire people today.

Peace Pilgrim was born Mildred Lisette Norman in Egg Harbor City, NJ on July 18, 1908.  She was the first woman to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season in 1952 and this led into her journey of walking for peace.  She began her walk for peace in Pasadena, California on January 1st, 1953, intending to cross the country for peace one time and when she died in 1981, she had walked across America seven times, possibly even more.  She had stopped counting when she achieved her goal of 25,000 miles for peace in 1964.

As Mildred set off from the Rose Bowl Parade in 1953, she left behind her name and all of her belongings, taking on the title of Peace Pilgrim.  It was there that she began her journey of walking for peace with just a blue tunic labeled “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “25,000 miles for peace” on the back.  She carried a few belongings in her pockets but had no money and no organizational support.  She was a woman on her own choosing to walk for peace.  As she began her pilgrimage, she vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”

Peace Pilgrim’s journey spanned close to three decades; she continued to walk until her passing in 1981.  She walked for peace through the period of the Korean and Vietnam Wars and beyond.  During that time, Peace Pilgrim was a frequent speaker at churches, universities, and on radio and television.  She was a true messenger of peace!

Today, the Friends Of Peace Pilgrim continue to carry her message and share her legacy of peace with the world.  Reading her book, Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, is like being on a pilgrimage with her.  And, her final talk given on the day before her death has become a spiritual guidebook for cultivating peace, Steps Toward Inner Peace.

Here are some of the words of Peace Pilgrim offered:

“You have much more power when you are working for the right thing than when you are working against the wrong thing.  And, of course, if the right thing is established wrong things will fade away of their own accord.  Grass-roots peace work is vitally important.  All who work for peace belong to a special peace fellowship — whether we work together or apart.”

“In order for the world to become peaceful, people must become more peaceful.  Among mature people war would not be a problem — it would be impossible.  In their immaturity people want, at the same time, peace and the things which make war.  However, people can mature just as children grow up.  Yes, our institutions and our leaders reflect our immaturity, but as we mature we will elect better leaders and set up better institutions.  It always comes back to the thing so many of us wish to avoid: working to improve ourselves.”

“The world may look at you and believe that you are facing great problems, but always there are the inner resources to easily overcome the problems. Nothing seems difficult. There is a calmness and a serenity and unhurriedness—no more striving or straining about anything. That’s a very important thing I’ve learned.  If your life is in harmony with your part in the Life Pattern, and if you are obedient to the laws which govern this universe, then life is full and life is good but life is nevermore overcrowded.  If it is overcrowded, then you are doing more than is right for you to do—more than is your job to do in the total scheme of things.”

“We can all spend our lives going about doing good. Every time you meet a person, think of some encouraging thing to say – a kind word, a helpful suggestion, an expression of admiration. Every time you come into a situation, think of some good thing to bring – a thoughtful gift, a considerate attitude, a helping hand.”

“In this world you are given as you give
. 
And you are forgiven as you forgive –
While you go your way

Through each lovely day

You create your future as you live.”

Of all the messages that Peace Pilgrim shared, the message of her life and her commitment to peace is the one that speaks to me the most.  She showed us in her words and her actions that peace is a choice that we can all make and as she shared so beautifully,

“One little person giving all her time to peace, can make news.  Many people giving some of their time, can make history.” 

What can you do today to choose peace?  How can you create more peace in your own life? In your relationships? In the world?

In the spirit of Peace Pilgrim, I have begun walking daily with the intention of cultivating peace.  For now it is just in my neighborhood, but imagine if each person would just walk a few steps for peace each day, how that might change our world.  I hope you will join me in taking a step toward peace today.

Five Steps To Becoming Your Own Agent Of Change

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Butterfly

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watt

1. Accept responsibility for your own change or healing process.

The most common definition of the word responsibility is “the quality or state of being responsible” and sometimes this is seen as a burden.  I had an Aha moment with this word when I attended a college psychology class with a friend.  Oddly, I had dropped out of school at the time but while visiting went to class  and heard his professor define responsibility as “the ability to respond”.  I can’t even tell the exact nature of that lecture or the class overall, but hearing those words impacted in a way that has shaped my life.

Interestingly, part of the reason I had dropped out of school at that time was because I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and some of the symptoms such as fatigue and severe muscle pain caused me to be unable to attend classes consistently.  At the time, Fibromyalgia was a relatively new diagnosis and there weren’t a lot of treatment options available.  I learned quickly that if I were to regain my health and return to college, I needed to take “responsibility” for my own healing process.

Having that alternative definition of responsibility opened a door of possibilities for me as I began to explore holistic and alternative modalities so that I could become better able to respond to what I was experiencing and create change in my life.  “Being able to respond” is a core concept  in my personal work and in the work I share with others and I view it is a key to becoming your own change age

 2. Be curious and open to exploration.

As I began to explore alternative and holistic modalities, I began to learn and grow in ways I never imagined.  Carrying a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia for a young aspiring 20 something seemed like a burden, even a curse at times, and yet, this burden, led me to a path of self-exploration and discovery that defines who I am today.  This burden ended up being one of greatest blessings in my life and has led me to a life path I feel passionate about.

Some of the tools I explored were very beneficial, others not so much, but either way, I was building my toolbox and getting to know myself on a much deeper level in the process.  We don’t know what will help us in creating change until we try it and what works for one person may not work for another.  Being open and curious is such an important part of any change process.  In meditation and other spiritual practices, it is often suggested to come to it with a Beginner’s Mind.  This is a great way to approach life and change as well.  When we come to our explorations with this type of openness, new possibilities emerge that we may not have been able to see if we hold the “I already know” paradigm.

3. Track your experiences and build your personal transformational toolbox.

By now you are probably getting tired of me talking about the importance of journaling as a transformational tool, but without somehow tracking your experiences, it is difficult to truly identify what is working and what is not working in your change process.   Also, one of the keys to becoming your own change agent is to build a transformational toolbox that can support you in the changes you are currently making and in future changes.  Having some type of journal, log, and list becomes your personal guide to change.  And, no one can truly write this book but you.   In Five Steps To Mastering Anxiety, I share an example of some ways to track your experience and begin to build your toolbox that may offer some ideas to explore.

 4. Be willing to be uncomfortable and roll with the resistance.

This is a step that most of us don’t like and it is often where we tend lost our steam in the change process.  Being willing to roll with the resistance that arises as we initiate change is a vital component of any transformational process.  If we approach change with some of the above steps, we can be more conscious of our resistance and awareness as it is arising and this s a key to working with it.  Also, often doing some deeper work, such as an inner child process, can help to create safety and security within, which is often where our fear of change arises.  Developing practices that support being present with what is arising, such as meditation, can help.  Also, be sure to develop a good support system and use it

5. Recognize the need to continually adapt.

In the words of Greek philosopher Heraclitus,

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.”

We are constantly changing, as is our world.  Our cells our changing, our relationships are changing, nature is changing and yet, we somehow long for things to stay the same.  This is where much of our suffering arises.  By acknowledging that we are always changing and that we will continue to change and by recognizing that as a result, we need to continually adapt, we truly become agents of change.

At times, it may feel like we need the majority of people to change for our world to change, however I feel much like Margaret Mead,

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Each step we take toward change in our personal lives and in our relationships creates the potential for transformation to occur in a greater way in our world as we are all connected through the beautiful, amazing web of life.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections and most of all, enjoy the journey!

7 Ways to Cultivate Love and Compassion for Yourself

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Learn to trust your
Feelings and, most of all,
allow yourself to
grow;

Perpetual expansion
is the way of the
Heart and the Soul
.

– Maria Lucia

One of the earliest posts on The Heart Of Awakening was “7 Ways To Cultivate Love And Compassion For Yourself”; this continues to be one of the most popular and what I feel is one of the most important posts found here. In my personal journey of healing and transformation, learning to love myself was the key that opened the door for new possibilities to emerge.  Although I had tried to work on this on my own in various ways, I had not had tremendous success as the patterning and critical voices I carried overpowered any voices of self-love I might have tried to develop.  Even having focused for years on the heart as a focal point of my spiritual practice, I still felt like I wasn’t worthy enough of my own love and compassion.

In 2003, I had the blessing to connect with a teacher of the heart, Maria Lucia Picaza and spent a year devoting myself to the heart as guide through her program, School Of Spiritual Heart Studies, aka “Heart School”.  This year was a turning point in my life. Interestingly, I was in the beginning of a period of tremendous change – relocation, the loss of my mother, separation, financial stress and a lot more was to come over the next few years.  I call this a blessing because had I not begun to devote myself to the heart and to loving myself at that time I don’t really know how I would have made it through that difficult time.  I continued to have intense major losses for a period of about 3 years and much of that stirred up old traumas and patterns I had not resolved.

Being gifted with the tools that Maria Lucia shared in addition to my spiritual practices and a number of other heart-centered guides in my life, I was able to consciously work to let go of old patterns, feelings and beliefs that were no longer serving me and to move into a new way of being – one of love, compassion and acceptance of myself and others.  If you explore, you may be able to find a copy of Maria Lucia’s book, The Heart’s Unraveling: The Birth of a New Evolutionary Directive, which offers a foundation in shifting our consciousness from a mind based directive to a heart based path.

The post “7 Ways To Cultivate Love And Compassion For Yourself” developed out of an essay I wrote that summed up what I learned about the heart during that year of devotion to the heart.  As I mentioned, even though I attended to this in various ways, previously, this was the first year I totally devoted myself to the heart and it has become my path ever since.  These steps have become a foundation in my personal life, in the work I offer to others individually and in workshops, and in my writings.

I hope you enjoy the post and as always, feel free to share your thoughts, feelings and reflections.

The Heart of Awakening

Perhaps one of the hardest and most healing things we can do for both for ourselves and for the world is to cultivate love and compassion for ourselves.  In the Buddhist practice of Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, it is taught that in order to have love and compassion for others and the world, we must begin with offering those energies to ourselves. In the practice, we begin by generating the feelings and qualities of love and compassion and then repeating phrases like these: 

May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free of suffering. May I have ease of well-being.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It is understood that without a strong foundation of compassion for ourselves, we will not have the ability to truly embody those qualities in the world and extend them to other beings.  For many of us, who have grown up in western culture, it goes against…

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Poem Of The Week: A Ritual To Read To Each Other By William Stafford

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The Way of Council

It’s only Day 4 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge and although my list of ideas is growing, I am finding the writing is slow going.  One of the things I have wanted to do is share more poetry as regular part of the Heart Of Awakening Blog.  So here goes with the first official Poem Of The Week Post.  I can’t guarantee how things will unfold but look forward to seeing weekly poetry posts and if you have suggestions or favorites please feel free to share your comments.

Today is our Independence Day here in the U.S. and there is a lot of focus on Interdependence as well.  There are many benefits that we experience here in America.  I know as a woman I have had many opportunities and privileges that I may not have now, had I grown up in another country.  For that I am grateful.  And, there are certainly many areas for growth and change as well.  As we are existing in a more global system, it feels so important to focus on connection today and how we relate with one another in our own countries and in the world.

So, the poem that I felt called to share is one of my absolute favorite poems.   It speaks of the need to be open, honest and authentic as we relate with each other.  It is called, “A Ritual To Read To Each Other” by William Stafford.

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

by William Stafford

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Exploring A Holistic Approach To Living & Well-Being

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Chakras

“To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is not you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you do.
So, in each lake, the moon shines with splendor
Because it blooms up above.”
~ Fernando Pessoa

As human beings, our life consists of four basic levels: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical.  In order to create a healthy, balanced way of living, we need to give attention to each of these aspects of ourselves.  As we do so, we become able to heal the specific parts of ourselves that are in need in any given moment and we begin to create a greater sense of wholeness by attending to all aspects of ourselves.  Life is always changing and so are we, but as we deepen in our experience of ourselves, all aspects of ourselves, we begin to create a foundation for living a more joyful and balanced life.

When go through life transitions, we tend to lose the structure of caring for ourselves or we may have never even had one.  Also, when we are desiring to create a certain change in our lives,  a new structure is needed and in the transition, we are lacking a foundation to support that change.   This is a natural part of the change process.   Although there may be discomfort with the  uncertainty and instability that accompanies  change, there is an opening for a new way of being to emerge.  By being willing to look at where we are, what we have experienced and what changes we wish to bring forth in our lives, we have a great opportunity to delve deeper into ourselves and to create a new structure for living life in a more loving and conscious way.

In my personal healing journey and in my work with others, I have found that taking an integrative holistic approach to life and well-being supports a return to balance.  This model also offers a structure for self-reflection and action during the change process.  It can also be used in an ongoing way as part of a holistic self-care plan.

Defining The Four Levels

Spiritual:   This is our soul or our inner essence that connects us to universal source and the oneness of life.  By developing this part of ourselves, we can begin to experience a sense of belonging to a greater whole, to having deeper purpose and meaning in our lives, and to feeling we are more that just an individual.  This level creates a foundation for all the other levels of our being.

Mental:  This is our intellect, our ability to think and reason things out.  It includes our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and values.  Developing this level supports us in our abilities to think clearly, to be open-minded and to be discerning.  Through our minds, we are able to gather information and knowledge from our life experiences and from the world we live in.

Emotional:  This is our ability to relate to others, to ourselves and to the world on a feeling level.  It allows us to experience life deeply and to have meaningful connections with others.  Developing this level supports us in having a full range of experiences and to bringing fulfillment to our relationships with others and ourselves.

Physical:  This is our physical body.  It includes our ability to survive and thrive on the material plane.  We develop this level through caring for our bodies and learning to be connected to our physical being.  It also includes the development of skills to live and manage life in the material world.

Caring for the Four Levels

Caring for all of the levels is equally important.  To live a balanced and healthy life, we need to focus time and attention on each level.  Most of us develop certain parts more than others depending on our life experiences.   We may have been supported or discouraged from developing certain parts.  At certain times in our lives, we may need to focus attention on a specific area to assist us in where we are and what we are experiencing or in healing traumas and wounds from the past that may exist on any level.  There is no right way to heal or change.  We can proceed by developing one area or working on all at once.  Allowing our lives to guide us by being present with where we are and accepting who we are is a major part of the process.  We cannot change where we have been, but by being gentle, loving and present with ourselves in the now, we can create positive changes in our lives.  And it is this moment, which creates the next.

Here are some ways to explore caring for each of the levels.

Spiritual:   Develop or explore a spiritual practice, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi or studying a spiritual teaching.   Spend a few moments in prayer each day.   Create a gratitude journal and write in it.   Spend time in nature, gardening or hiking.  Practice mindfulness in your daily activities.  Spend some time each day checking in with yourself and asking for inner guidance.  Take time to be alone and quiet, just “being” with yourself.  Explore creative activities such as painting, dancing, singing.  You know it’s a spiritual practice when you feel it feeding your soul.

Mental:   Pay attention to your thoughts.  Write down some of your repetitive thoughts and beliefs.  Make a list of core beliefs and examine where they came from.  Explore which beliefs support you and which limit you.  Be open to exploring new ideas and letting go of old ones.  Explore things you do well and like to do, as this is part of your native intelligence.

Emotional:  Honor all of your feelings.  Ask what they are about; allow the feelings to guide you to what you need.  Learn to appreciate your different moods and emotions.  Journal about what you are feeling.  Get help or support on emotional healing from friends, family, a therapist, a healer or a support group.   Have healthy boundaries.  Give yourself time and space to process your feelings.  Be open to receiving love and support.

Physical:  Tune in, feel and listen to your physical body.  Consume plenty of water.  Eat a diet that is appropriate for you.  Eat regularly.  Get plenty of rest.  Get fresh air each day.  Get regular exercise and daily physical movement.  Heal you addictions.  Experience physical touch, affection and closeness.  Cultivate your ability to practically manage aspects of living in the material world.  Get some bodywork or massage.  Listen to your body’s innate wisdom and follow it.

A Holistic Self-Care Exploration

Take a few moments to answer these questions.  The intention of looking at each of the four levels of existence is to see how you are experiencing these aspects in your life at this time.  Notice any areas that may need attention and notice those areas that feel developed and balanced.  Also, be open to noticing and exploring any resistance that may come up about any of the levels.  Write down any ideas you have about how you can create more balance in any specific area or overall.  Also, write down anything you have done in the past, particularly before recent transitions, which may have supported you in any of these areas.

Spiritual:    Do you feel a sense of connection to your spiritual source?  Do you have a relationship with your own inner wisdom or intuitive guidance?  Do you feel you are a part of a greater whole?  Do you spend time alone just “being”? Do you have a spiritual practice, which supports you being?

Mental:  Are you satisfied with your intellect?  Can you think and express yourself clearly?   Do you have a belief system that supports you and works for you?  Are you open to new ideas without being overly impressionable?  Do you have clarity?  Are you able to stay focused?

Emotional:  Are you in touch with your feelings and able to express them appropriately?  Do you allow yourself to experience a full range of emotions or do you find you shut down certain emotions if they arise? (E.g. fear, sadness, anger, joy, love)  Are you able to set appropriate boundaries with others?   Are you able to be open and honest with others and your self about your feelings?  Can you relate to others in a close, intimate way?

Physical:  Are you physically healthy and active?  Do you feel comfortable in your body?  Do you like your body?   Do you eat a healthy, balanced diet?  Are you comfortable in the material world?  Are you practical and down to earth?  Are you financially stable?  Do you enjoy your sexuality?

This review can be useful in the process of creating changes in your life.  It can also be used regularly as part of a holistic self-care plan.  It is a great way to do a check-in or review of where you are in the change process.  I tend to use it monthly just to touch base with the various aspects of myself and to see where I may have moved out of balance or need to give more attention based on what is arising in my life.  It is also great to see the progress and how I have grown in certain areas as well.

As always, please feel free to share you thoughts, feelings and reflections.

Know Yourself: The Foundation For Change

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You cannot transcend what you do not know.  To go beyond yourself, you must know yourself.

~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I am excited to be starting a new 31 Day Blog Challenge.  Every year when I do May Is For Metta, I feel like this is an opening to write more and daily.  Then, June comes and find I just don’t make it back to the page as much as I intend to.  Having a motivator, a challenge or a deadline that is accountable to others is something I find I need.  I am not sure why this is the case. I’d love to just say I am going to write everyday and do it, just because I want to.  It’s curious and something I am exploring in myself.

So, here I am in July, feeling the call to join a 31 Day Blog Challenge.  I guess another aspect of this is that writing or the process of writing itself tends to be a very solitary process.  So joining in a collective group of writers and bloggers who are journeying together during this time really helps to create a container for that energy and offers a drive to be more proactive.  I am looking forward to exploring the variety of bloggers and blogs that have signed on for Lesa Townsend’s 31 Day Blog Challenge.  I hope you’ll join me in this exploration here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog and check out some of the other blogs as well.

One of the things I have been working on this year is creating a program that is at this point called, 30 Days To Change.  This program has stemmed from some of the workshops, articles and individual sessions I have done over recent years.  What I have found is that 30 or 31 Days is a great container to initiate a foundation for change.  I have seen research on varying amounts of time but this is a framework that I have found works well with the processes I have developed around holistic self-care, mastering anxiety, transforming your inner critic, and discovering the healer within.

It just occurred to me recently that this process can be applied to any area of focus or type of change –  30 Days is a good way to begin to cultivate healing and transformation in a powerful way and can offer a foundation for how to work in an ongoing way.  I like that this time frame can involve both a daily process and also be segmented into 4 weekly segments.  I plan to spend some time over the summer developing this as its own model for change to be applied to whatever area one might like to focus on.   So, stay tuned for more of that exploration to emerging here.

For today, I’d like to share a step that I find is a key component in creating any type of change:

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Know Yourself.  We live in such a busy and chaotic world.  Our lives are full of distractions and disruptions both inwardly and outwardly.  How can we create change in our lives if we don’t know who we are and we aren’t truly conscious of what we are experiencing.  How can we know what changes would best support us or how we want to be in the world without that self-knowing?

There are many ways to get to know oneself on a deeper level.  Developing a contemplative practice such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, or prayer can be a good starting point.   Just spending some time in stillness, whether indoors or out in nature, just being and listening  and allowing our inner voice to be heard is a great step, too.  Writing or journaling can be a powerful way to deepen in self-reflection and self-awareness.

Take the time and space to explore some tools and practices that can support you in getting to know yourself more fully and deeply; this is probably the greatest thing you can do for yourself.  Take some time to consider areas of your life where you feel out of balance.  Are there certain changes you are feeling to make?  Is there something that is going on in your life that is causing you considerable distress?  Are you willing to take some time to just be with that and explore what might be beneficial for you in terms of change?

So, whether you have a specific change in mind or just feel to explore a bit, I hope you will join me this month in my exploration.  It won’t be totally linear, but I will be sharing bits and pieces of my developing program.  Is there a practice or tool you feel to bring in that can support you in getting to know yourself?  Or, perhaps you feel to explore some new practices to see how they might support you.

As always,  I would love to hear how others have worked with creating change, particularly if there is a certain time frame you have found beneficial or certain practices that support getting to know yourself.

As I Began To Love Myself: Reflections On A Self-Love Poem By Charlie Chaplin

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Charlie Chaplin
It’s so interesting how when one journey completes a new one emerges.  On the last day of May Is For Metta 2013, I was preparing to lead a workshop on Transforming Your Inner Critic Into Your Inner Cheerleader the following day at a women’s recovery retreat.  One of the points I share in that workshop focuses on loving ourselves as a key to healing and transformation, which is at heart of my personal journey and my work.  It is a major focus here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog as well.  I often like to close my workshops and gatherings with a poem and although I had one in mind, for some reason, I felt to google “self-love poems”.  I was surprised to find a poem by Charlie Chaplin on this subject, but as I read it, I was just amazed and inspired.

I ended up sharing the poem with my writing group a few days later and we were all really touched by it in a deep way.   What emerged was the idea to use this poem as a practice.  So for as long as it takes, we will be working with one stanza a week as a prompt for writing and for life.   We are just coming to the end of the first week and I have found this prompt to be a great catalyst for self-exploration as well as writing.  The focus of the first stanza is on Authenticity and is as follows:

“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.  Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.”

Although the concept that Chaplin shared is not new to me, by holding that awareness in the forefront of my consciousness, I found was more able to recognize when I was in a place of alignment and when perhaps, I was going against my truth.  I wasn’t focused on changing anything specifically at this time, rather, my focus was just about noticing when I felt anguish or emotions arising and what that was about.  It was almost like the breath in meditation.  Each time I felt something, I checked in with myself.  I believe one of the great “dis-eases” in our modern world, and perhaps, one that causes many of our illness and imbalances both individually and societally, is our disconnection from our feelings.

It is a very common experience to learn or be taught to suppress and override our feelings and it takes practice to begin to allow them to just be.  I found this exploration really helped with that practice and in a way that I was not attached to changing or working with the emotions but just noticing.  That’s all it really takes to allow one’s feelings.  I shared a bit about this exploration in a guest blog post on the Heal My Voice Blog.   Here is a link to that post, “A Journey Into Awakening”.

I’ll be sharing more as this exploration continues.  Feel free to join in as you feel to and as always, your thoughts, feelings and reflections are always welcome here or on HOA’s Facebook Page, too.

Here is the full poem for you to read:

As I Began To Love Myself By Charlie Chaplin

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.  Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me.  Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.  Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment.  So I could be calm.  Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.  Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm.  Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself.  At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.  Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time.  Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future.  Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening.  Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick.  But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally.  Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!

Day 30 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Metta As Medicine For Heart & Soul

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“ONE GREAT QUESTION underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not:  What is the purpose of life?  I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.
 
I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.  Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.  I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.  Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness…

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.”- H.H. Dalai Lama on Compassion and The Individual

Our journey together through May is for Metta has been an opportunity to explore ways to create happiness and peace in ourselves, others and the world.  As the Dalai Lama indicated above – at the core of being human is the desire to be happy.  This is a bond we share as human beings, regardless of our outer differences.  Our sense of separation, from ourselves, others and the world, is an obstacle, which most of us face as we try to create happiness in our lives.  By developing and deepening our connection with our own heart and generating a foundation of loving-kindness and compassion, we have begun the process of bringing more happiness to ourselves and to all beings.

In a sense, we can view our practice of Metta, of loving-kindness and compassion, as the “medicine” that brings happiness into being.  What better medicine can there be?  In many cultures, the term medicine refers not only to drugs or substances, but to wisdom and the guidance of spirit.  Metta is medicine for the heart and soul;  it’s natural, it’s free and it’s beautiful to experience.  And, as we work with the “medicine” of Metta, it’s energy pours over into others and the world.  As we heal ourselves, we heal the world.

Daily Practice:  As we move towards the end of May Is For Metta 2013, I hope you will take some time to honor the efforts you have been making to be more loving and compassionate.  Do you foundational practices.  As you begin your practice today, take a few moments to reflect on any changes you may have experienced since you began May is for Metta.  How has your ability to connect with and generate the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion evolved?  Spend some time in your circle of loving beings or imagining a time you were held in unconditional love.  Really allow yourself to feel those energies enveloping you.  When you feel ready, repeat the phrases for yourself:

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

When you feel ready move onto the other categories as you feel to for today:  Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, and Difficult Person.  Acknowledge that in practicing for this being, you have benefitted by becoming more open-hearted and loving.  As you begin each category, say, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and happy, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joy.”   Repeat the phrases for each category you are working with remembering to come back to your own heart center for a few moments between each category:

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

If you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off or move on to the next category.   When you are ready move on to the category of All Beings.

When you feel complete, move on to the broader category of All Beings.  As we extend out our practice today, let us remember the words of the Dalai Lama, that at the core, all beings wish to be happy.  Let us dedicate our practice for the benefit of all beings without exception:

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

To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Let every atom and cell of your being be filled with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Feel these qualities filling you and surrounding you.  Know that you have created a strong foundation of loving-kindness and compassion within yourself and you can now carry that wherever you go.  You are a beacon of loving-kindness and compassion.

Take some time today to reflect on your practice and to explore how you would like to continue as we prepare to move into our last day of practice together. 

Journal Notes: How does it feel to be a beacon of loving-kindness and compassion?  What have you noticed about yourself and your practice since you began?  How will you work with Metta going forward?  What other practices would you like to explore?  Have you taken time to honor yourself for your efforts?

Have a happy, peaceful and loving day!

Day 26 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Cultivating Peace On Earth

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My life blazed

with the desire

To serve as a thread

Joining Heaven and Earth

                                                                      ~ Haiku by Masahisa Goi

One of the things that may happen when we are cultivating loving-kindness and compassion is that we become more attuned with these energies and are drawn into connection and community with like-minded others.  Really, this is our intention, for as each being becomes more of an embodiment of these positive qualities, they are not just bringing change to themselves but to those around them and the greater whole.  Perhaps you have experienced this is in some way as you have been working with May Is For Metta or maybe May Is For Metta is part of connecting with others cultivating loving-kindness and compassion as you have already been doing.

One of the qualities we often work with in the Metta phrases is peace.  May I be peaceful.  May you be peaceful.  May all beings be peaceful.  In Metta, we may see this as an aspect of loving-kindness; when we feel held in love and compassion, most often we are at peace and when we are at peace we are able to be in touch with energy of loving-kindness.  These qualities go hand in hand.

Yesterday, I participated in a Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony with one of the communities I am a part of, Heal My Voice.  Heal My Voice is an organization that empowers women and girls to heal and transform through reclaiming their voices; this is done through writing stories, leadership development, and community building.  One of our current projects, which I am a participant and adjunct facilitator of, is a circle called, Voices Of Peace. The Voices of Peace writing project is focused on the journey from chaos to inner peace, harmony and transformation with the intention of bringing greater peace to ourselves, others and our world.

Although I was familiar with the concept of Peace Poles, I didn’t know the origin of them until yesterday.  The Peace Pole Project was started in Japan by Masahisa Goi, who was greatly affected by the destruction caused by World War II and the atomic bombs which fell on the city of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  His desire to assist in the creation of world peace was answered when in 1955, the Peace Message, “May Peace Prevail On Earth”, came to him in a moment of great inspiration and deep prayer.

After Mr. Goi authored the Universal Peace Message in 1955, a great number of people gathered in support of his vision and activities to spread the Peace Message were promoted throughout Japan.  Soon after, Peace Poles inscribed with the Peace Message began to appear in various locations across Japan initiating the start of The Peace Pole Project.  The year 1986 was designated as the International Year of Peace and since then Peace Poles are one of the most recognized international peace symbols with more than 200,000 Peace Poles standing in almost every country throughout the world.

It was beautiful to stand in community yesterday to call for peace on earth and plant a Peace Pole on a children’s playground, which will stand as a message for years to come.  This made me think of how as we cultivate an energy or quality such as loving-kindness or peace, we are actually becoming an embodiment of it.   So for today’s practice, I felt to focus on peace specifically as our exploration.  When we focus on peace and being peaceful, we are allowing ourselves to become a “living” peace pole, one that is moving about and radiating the energy of peace wherever we go.  I hope you’ll join us in this exploration today.

You may wish to work with the full practice, choosing someone for each category or you may just wish to practice Metta on the spot today.  Take some time to feel into what feels best for you.  As always, our foundation comes from cultivating Metta for ourselves, so be sure to spend some time cultivating peace for yourself so that you may then extend that energy out to others and the world.

Daily Practice: Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Imagine a time when you felt held in that way.  Also, for today, tune into a place or a time when you felt a deep sense of peace.  Really allow yourself to feel that peace.  Breathe it into every atom and cell of your being on the in breath and as you breathe it out feel it surrounding and enveloping you.  You may wish to continue to work with all of your phrases or just work with “May I be peaceful” for today’s exploration; it’s up to you.

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  Remember to come back to your heart center for a few moments between each category and reconnect with the feeling of peace you generated for yourself before moving on.  For each category, offer “May you be peaceful“.  If you feel to work with other phrases, please do.

As always, if you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Use a peaceful time or place as your anchor for today.  When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off.   To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of peace that you have been cultivating.  Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with peace.

In honor of the Peace Pole Project, let us also add this round of phrases, “May Peace Prevail On Earth“.  Knowing that as we do so we are supporting and embodying a vision which,

  • Symbolizes the oneness of humanity and our common wish for a world at peace
  • Reminds us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and harmony
  • Stands as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth

May Peace Prevail On Earth

Finally, take a moment to honor yourself for creating the space to cultivate peace in your own life and in the world.  Can you feel how this is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves and for all beings?

Journal Notes: How did it feel to focus on peace today?  Did it feel difficult to work with one quality?   Did you notice areas of your life where it is challenging to feel peaceful?   How did it feel to offer peace to others?  to the world?  What will you do to continue to cultivate peace in your own life, in your relationships and in the world?

Wishing you a most loving and peaceful day.

May Peace Prevail On Earth!

Day 18 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Exploring Loving-kindness For All Beings

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Let thoughts of loving-kindness pervade the whole world, above and below, outwards and unbounded, free from any hatred or ill-will.  Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all one’s waking hours, tend this mind of goodwill, which is called the state of sublime abiding. – The Buddha, Sutta Nipata

The Buddha taught that loving-kindness practice is central to happiness.  The practice of Metta is very positive and as we have touched on earlier, really means cultivating a deep “friendliness” toward ourselves, others and all beings.  Sometimes people think these feelings should arise naturally or spontaneously rather than being generated.  The Buddha shared that there is a need to cultivate these qualities.  He taught that achieving this state, know as sublime abiding, where heart and mind are one, does come from a heavenly state, however it is something we must invite into ourselves and our lives.  In a sense, by working with the energies and qualities of loving-kindness and compassion, we are activating that part of our divinity.

Today, we will continue our practice with groups of beings and the category of All Beings.  We will also add one or two of the individual categories to the practice before we bring the full practice together tomorrow.  In addition, to tomorrow’s post, I will be offering a teleclass gathering at 8 PM EST on Sunday, May 19th.   This will be an opportunity to come together and share our experiences, ask questions and participate in a guided Metta meditation practice.  Here is the link to register, which will provide call instructions for the live call and audio replay.   I hope you’ll join us.

Daily Practice:  As always, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  Find a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I be free from danger.
  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, choose one category, either a Benefactor/Mentor or a Beloved to work with.  Envision holding this being in loving-kindness and compassion.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish for joy and serenity.”  Begin to offer phrases for the person you have chosen:

  • May you be free from danger.
  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, come back to your heart center and repeat a round of phrases for yourself.  Then, choose either a Neutral being or a Difficult person to work with.  Envision holding this being in loving-kindness and compassion.   Begin to offer phrases for this person, saying, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish for joy and serenity.”   Repeat the phrases for this being:

  • May you be free from danger.
  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Again, when you feel ready to move on, come back to your heart center for a few moments and repeat a round of phrases for yourself.  This time call on a group of All Beings, such as All Children, All Animals, All Men, or All Women.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do All ______  wish for joy and serenity.”  Begin to offer loving-kindness to this group by offering the phrases:

  • May All _______ be free from danger.
  • May All _______ have mental happiness.
  • May All _______ have physical happiness.
  • May All _______ have ease of well-being.

As always, if your mind wanders, just notice and return to the phrases.  If you continue to struggle or difficult emotions arise, return your practice to your self until your feel more settled.  When you feel ready, once again offer the phrases for your group.  If working with a large group is too difficult, you can always choose a smaller group, like your family or a community you are a part of.  Sometimes it is more challenging to hold our focus and awareness on a larger group of beings, particularly spread out around the world.

When you feel ready to move on, center in your heart once again.  Connect with the loving-kindness within your self.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do All Beings wish for joy and serenity.”  And, gently begin to repeat the phrases for All Beings:

  • May All Beings be free from danger.
  • May All Beings have mental happiness.
  • May All Beings have physical happiness.
  • May All Beings have ease of well-being.

If at any point you need to return the practice to yourself, or perhaps return to a smaller group, do so.   Being gentle and responsive to yourself is one of the gifts of Metta practice.  We notice our difficulty or resistance, but rather than ignoring it or trying to push through it, we return to our own heart and to cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves.  It can be helpful to reflect on or journal about what difficulties arise as they are indication of things we need to work on in ourselves.  When you feel complete with your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being to absorb the energy of loving-kindness.  Take a few moments to reflect on your practice.

Dedicate the merit of your practice for all beings.  Consider all of the beings you have practiced for today and offer the merit of your practice for their benefit.  Remember that as you offer up the merit of your practice, you are not giving it away or losing it but you are actually generating more merit through the act of giving.

Journal Notes:  Did you have difficult feelings or emotions arise during your practice?  If so, spend some time writing about them.  What did you notice in practicing for various categories of individuals and groups?  Were some more difficult than others?  Were some easier?  How are you feeling about your practice overall?  Is there anything you’d like to change about it for the rest of our time together?  This can be a good time to review your commitment to see if you’d like to make any changes.

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fall soft upon your fields,

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

– An Irish Blessing

May Is For Metta Community Teleclass Gathering On Sunday, May 19th at 8 PM EST

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Quanyin

Join the Heart Of Awakening Blog community for a teleclass gathering as part of our May Is For Metta 2013 Practice.   We have now explored all of the categories of Metta and are beginning to bring the full practice together.  As we gather, we will hold the intention of cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world.  There will be a guided Metta meditation practice which will be recorded.  There will also be some time to check in to see how our practices are going, ask any questions and share our experiences with Metta.  Please join us for this opportunity to gather and deepen in our experience of May Is For Metta.

When: Sunday, May 19th at 8 PM EST

Where: Wherever You Are

Cost: Free

To Register, Click Here

I will be emailing call in instructions on Saturday.

Registrants will have access to the live call and replay.

I hope you’ll join us.

Many blessings,

Beth

Day 16 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Explorations in Loving-kindness Practice

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Quanyin

“I am larger and better than I thought, I did not think I had so much goodness.” – Walt Whitman

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta by working with all of the categories we have worked with so far or by choosing a few we feel to work with today.  It’s your practice, so it’s up to you.  As we proceed over the rest of our month-long practice of Metta we will explore working in various ways including the full practice.  Some days you may feel to do the full practice; others you may feel to do just a few of the categories.  There may be some days when you feel to return your practice solely to yourself to deepen your experience of loving-kindness and compassion.  We will continue to explore together and I encourage you to explore on your own as well.

The practice of Metta is about opening one’s heart and inviting loving-kindness and compassion to become a guiding force in life.  We cannot control what happens in the world, in our day-to-day experiences or in our relationships.  The only thing that we can do is create change in ourselves and in our attitude toward life.  Instead of responding from a place of reaction, we can arrive with tenderness and an open heart.  When we have uncomfortable feelings arise, we can embrace them with loving-kindness and compassion or we can just be with them.  Either way, we can do so in a way that is gentle and loving to ourselves.

Many of us have been taught to put up walls, sometimes fortresses, around ourselves as a mechanism for survival and protection.  Creating this type of container may have afforded us some basic protection when we had no other tools but it also limited our ability to experience love on a deeper level.  In practicing Metta, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  As we do this, we begin to melt away some of those walls.  Then, we extend the energy of loving-kindness out to others and the world.  We recognize that all beings wish to be happy as we wish to be happy. We begin to not only sense, but also experience that we are all the same, that we are one.

As you practice today, I encourage you to allow yourself to feel that sense of connection and oneness.  Also, as you go about your day, if you encounter a person or situation which triggers you to put up walls or to feel you are separate or different, explore practicing Metta in that moment – first, for yourself and then, for the others involved.  Remind yourself that just as you wish to be happy, all other beings wish to be happy.

Daily Practice: Do your foundational practices.  Once again, find a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories we have worked with or the ones you have chosen for today using the phrases that feel best to you.  Here is a list of the categories we have worked with:

  • Self
  • Benefactor/Mentor
  • Beloved – Family Member or Good Friend
  • Neutral Being
  • Difficult Person

As you begin each category, acknowledge that just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being whom you are practicing for as do all beings.  Then, generate the feelings of loving-kindness for the person or being in that category.  Offer the phrases you have been working with:

  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Then, return your practice to the category where you left off.  When you feel complete with a category, come back to your own heart center for a moment and reconnect with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  When you are ready, call on the image of the being or person you will offer Metta for in the next category of your practice.  Each time you complete a category, come back to your heart center for a few moments and then move onto the next category.

As I indicated, you can work with all of the categories above or just choose a few for today.  We will add the category of All Beings tomorrow.  Also, if you don’t feel to do all the categories as part of your sitting practice, you can work with them during the day as you are out and about in the world.  And remember, if you don’t have the time or space for a sitting practice right now, you can always do your whole Metta practice out in the world – Anytime, Anywhere!

When you are ready to complete your practice, return to your circle of loving beings or see yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Really allow that feeling to sink into you.  Let every atom and cell of your being absorb loving-kindness and compassion.  Take a few moments to dedicate the merit of your practice for the benefit of your self, others and all beings.

Journal Notes:  Are you noticing more openness or resistance to certain categories?  Have you found phrases that feel good to you?  How does it feel to do a more expanded practice?  Are you able to make the time and space to practice? Are you exploring Metta in your daily life?  Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself?

May you all have happy and fun-filled day.

Day 15 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Offering Loving-kindness For A Difficult Person

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Quanyin

“Hatred can never cease by hatred.

Hatred can only cease by love.

This is an eternal law.”

– Buddha

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta for the category of a Difficult person.  Consider someone who you have a deeper degree of difficulty with but not the most severe of challenges.  Perhaps, there is an ongoing situation, which you cannot change outwardly.  Maybe, yesterday or even today, you had an interaction that is causing you frustration, annoyance, or anger.  Perhaps your mind is not able to let go of something or someone.   Metta offers an opportunity to work with what is arising in the moment and in our daily experience.  We can utilize our practice to assist in transforming our attitude from the negative to the positive in any given moment.

Daily Practice:  Do your foundational practices.  Get comfortable and settle into your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart.  Imagine yourself sitting in your circle of loving beings.  Allow yourself to absorb the energy of loving-kindness and compassion into your heart and into every atom and cell of your being.  Begin to send Metta to yourself by using the phrases you have been working with:

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

When you feel immersed in loving-kindness, bring an image of the Difficult person you will work with into your awareness.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and free from suffering, may you also find inner peace and calm.”  Then, repeat the phrases while holding the image of the Difficult person in your mind:

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

If you struggle sending loving-kindness to your Difficult person, you may wish to imagine them as vulnerable.  Perhaps as a helpless infant or someone who is on their death-bed.  Allow yourself to feel their fragility rather than their harshness, which is a trigger for you.  Allow yourself to feel this being’s humanness.  Remember that they, too, are suffering in some way.

Accept the feelings that arise for you and let them move through.  You may feel anger, frustration, sadness or grief; just let it flow.  If at any point, the feelings become overwhelming, switch back to practicing for your self.  You may wish to ask yourself, “Who is the one suffering from this anger or sadness?”  You are the one who is holding onto this feeling, the other person has most likely moved on.  Begin to let these emotions go to ease your own heart.  When you feel ready, return your practice to the difficult person until you feel complete.

Finish your practice by returning to your heart center or circle of loving beings.  Offer a few rounds of phrases for your self for your willingness to be present and work with difficult feelings and resistance.  When you are complete with your practice, take a few moments to dedicate the merit for the benefit of all who are suffering, yourself and your Difficult person included.  Use the words that feel right to you.

Journal Notes:  What are you noticing about practicing Metta for a Difficult person?  Was it any different today?  Are you able to let go of difficult feelings that you are holding onto?  If so, how does that feel?  If not, why are you still holding on? How is practicing Metta affecting your daily life?

I thank all of you for participating with me in this journey of Metta.  Our virtual Sangha or community is worldwide; the loving-kindness and compassion we are generating is universal!

May you have a day filled with inner peace and calm.