Meditation, meditation, meditation. It’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. You’ve heard them say how wonderful it is. You want to give it a try, but it seems a little mysterious and “out there” to you; and you don’t know where to begin, or why you even should.
Let’s start with what it is. Meditation could be defined as a process: At first, it is the act of focused attention on a single subject. Eventually (and I do mean eventually), it is merging with the Infinite. You only need to be concerned with the first part, which is the discipline itself.
Before you jump into the discipline, it is important to know why you are doing it. What are the benefits of meditation? Surely they are innumerable, and outcomes can be different for you than your friend who meditates. You are a unique soul that will receive unique benefits from your practice!
There are, however, a few given benefits from a consistent meditation practice:
Does it sound worth it now? Excellent! Next month I’ll walk you through some steps and methods to support your meditation practice. In the meantime, explore some times of day that would work best for your meditation practice. Look into a space in your home that would serve as a spiritual refuge for you. Get ready to commit to your soul!
I am guilty of a most false assumption: “Everything in my life will go smoothly since I am on a spiritual journey.”
Isn’t that cute?
What a rude awakening to find out that I’m not always going to get my way from that God that I have always loved and tried to please!
My first clue into this was the drive from Missouri to Florida right after being married. My new husband and I were enjoying the scenery, albeit a little lost. My husband pulled into a gas station to ask for directions (yeah, I got a winner) while I waited in the car. Out of nowhere, I was suddenly filled with jealous thoughts: “What if he finds someone in there more attractive than me? What if he finds her more interesting? What if? What if? What if?!”
I was never jealous with previous boyfriends–not once. My attitude was, “Hey, if you want to date someone else, go right ahead. I don’t need to waste my time.” These thoughts that surfaced during our honeymoon trek came as a disarming and alien surprise.
At the time, I didn’t know what to do with jealousy, and was quite embarrassed and overwhelmed by the emotions. I tried to hide what I was feeling, but didn’t do so well. Fortunately, my husband was kind enough to talk me through my feelings.
…Which would have been great if all I needed to do was talk! I felt better in the moment, but those feelings were only a taste of what was to come. I had a whole slew of faulty childhood beliefs that were surfacing to be healed. This was what my spiritual journey was to be for several years: Clearing false beliefs from my childhood–not just jealousy, but a series of dysfunctional attitudes and concepts about relationships overall.
What the heck? I wanted to be married and live happily ever after! I wanted to ride off into the sunset, live on the beach, and be eternally wise and wonderful! That emotional work was getting in my way of my FUN! How dare it!
I eventually learned that this is the spiritual process, and healing needs showed up in all areas of life: my relationships, career endeavors, and how I perceived myself. Even those who wouldn’t consider themselves on the spiritual journey have issues that arise to be healed. This clearing of false beliefs, shedding light on what is real and true (until the next round of clearing!) is what this journey is about! It is simply part of our journey as humans moving into Something Greater.
How disappointing, I have thought–at first and many times since then! Yet, how necessary to be able to move forward unimpeded by my fears and false assumptions. How much stronger my intuition became because of my willingness to do the work. What better life choices I have made because of my willingness to let go of my lesser ideas of “fun” and short-sighted ways of doing things.
The spiritual journey is about clearing away our personal ideas of what is real, valid and important; and open to our intuitive nature that knows what is better for us. Our Higher Self waits for us to loose our little wills and cooperate with the bigger picture that can only be perceived when we tap into it! And we can’t tap into it while we hold fears and wrong ideas about whatever situation is at hand.
The spiritual journey takes diligence, willingness, and spunk. What are you willing to let go of so you can grow?
Since the transition into the new year, there have been many scientific revelations around the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is focused attention, the observing of sensations and thoughts without getting caught up in them. Often the breath is the focus of mindfulness meditation, and yoga is an example of mindfulness practice.
Meditators and yoga lovers have known the power of focused attention, stillness and breath awareness for a long time—thousands of years, even. Through many recent brain scans studies, science now acknowledges several physiological benefits of taking just five minutes every day to pay attention to the breath:
Convinced like a scientist yet?
So, where to begin? All you need in your busy schedule is five minutes. Try to pick the same time each day so it becomes part of your daily routine. Think of it as necessary as brushing your teeth, except you are “brushing” away stress from your brain!
Sit comfortably. Begin taking normal breaths. Make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm (“belly breathing”) rather than your lungs only (“chest breathing”). Rest your hand above the stomach and below the ribs, which is where your diaphragm is approximately located. As you breathe normally from your diaphragm, you will feel your belly rise as you inhale, and retract as you exhale. Continue for five minutes.
If you find your mind wandering (which you will!) during this time, gently bring your attention back to your breathe. Notice any sensations in your body, but do not let your mind have a conversation about them. Simply bring your attention back to your breathe. Notice sounds around you, but again, don’t let your thoughts go on about them. Let your belly breathing be your primary focus.
Keep a journal of the changes you notice over time. People have told me that their doctors asked them why their blood pressure was lower than their last check up. Others have noticed emotional equilibrium that wasn’t there before they began practicing. Others appreciate the sense of overall peace throughout their day.
What benefits are coming to you through your practice?
"'Mindfulness' Meditation Alters Gene Expression, Study Suggests", The Huffington Post | By Jacqueline Howard Posted: 12/09/2013 7:53 am EST | Updated: 01/19/2014 11:49 pm EST
"The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better", GEORGE DVORSKY on IO9NEUROSCIENCE
"The Power of Concentration", By Maria Konnikova, Published: December 15, 2012
Each new year brings new energy and desire for change! Often when we have something we want to change in ourselves, the first response we have is anger, frustration, rejection. We then try to go about our desired change with a hammer over our heads!
How many of us do well while getting bossed around, criticized and rejected? It might work for a little while—or a long while, if we are super-tolerant—but after a time, we stop trying so hard, or try to get away from the hammer, thus avoiding the task at hand.
We do better at change when we have encouragement, acceptance and a caring eye guiding us in the new behavior.
Who is the best person to do that for you? Maybe you have a supportive friend, or an encouraging therapist. But you are with you all the time! You are the one who will walk with you through all of the ups and downs of life!
Here are a few ways to encourage yourself through any change you want to make:
A little love goes a long way to melt raw materials and create a masterpiece. Take a best friend with you into 2014…YOU! Happy New Year, and happy new YOU!
Two years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a three part web radio series on Jane Elizabeth Hart's powerful processing tool, Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions, with Jane Elizabeth and my awesome husband, Gregory Barrette.
Since it is a time of transitioning from one year into the next, I wanted to re-post these audios on the Seven Steps. Releasing the old year is an essential part of making room for a new year of experiences and spiritual growth!
The first interview in the series, called "How to Move into the New Year Empowered", was with author and spiritual teacher Jane Elizabeth. Click here to listen. For more information on her formula for moving through changes, Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions, and empowering yourself for the new year, click here. While you are there, check out the free spiritual resources available at Center For Enlightenment.
"Every problem in life is here to support your soul's evolution. Unless you have a challenge, you will never know your capabilities. Your problems are not awful. They are the most wonderful tools designed to push you forward!"
My interview was next: "The Gift of the Seven Steps." Listen to the recorded show here: Mentors of New Thought Radio. Below is the description of the program:
"My work with clients is to help pull out the patterns and help make the unconscious conscious," says therapist and spiritual counselor Lynn Barrette, LCSW. "Or, as leading psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel says in his book, Mindsight, “In order for us to become aware of the feelings inside us—to consciously attend to and understand them—we need to link these subcortically created emotional states to our [higher thinking] cortex.” Or, in spiritual terms, making the unconscious conscious! In order for us to heal the buried emotions and the beliefs that are sustaining them, we need to become aware of our hidden patterns that keep us stuck.
"Jane Elizabeth's Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions is the greatest, most thorough processing tool I have found to uncover and heal unconscious patterns, for myself as well as my clients."
The final show in the series was with Gregory Barrette. Greg spoke about leaving the old year behind and "Making a New Start" in the new year. Here's what he says about this powerful tool: "The Seven Steps method is the single most effective way I know to forgive and release old, past issues and experiences... to fully let go of all that has happened in the past year and open up to a new experience in 201." Listen to to Greg's interview here.
However you use the Seven Steps process, it will help catapult you into new spiritual understanding in many different situations in life. Try it out, and let me know how it works for you!
The power to imagine will ease you into something greater than where you are right now. Let your imagination awaken you to new possibilities!
Detachment is a difficult thing to do.
I’m talking about spiritual detachment: Being “in the world, but not of the world”. That is different from being aloof or disengaged from people or situations in our lives.
Picture a core of light, with strings moving out from that core, attaching themselves to all sorts of things: One string attached to our partner. Another attached to our children. Another attached to our job. Another to money. And others to friends, resentments, good things, difficult things, and on and on!
And all these strings are using our core energy, the energy we came in with to support us through everything. We have to work very hard to keep these attachments going. They have become part of our personality’s identity, and can get in the way of our seeing clearly. How can we make a good decision about our job if we are afraid of letting it go, even if it is for something better? How can we help our loved ones wisely when we are attached to them, or to the outcome of their situation?
Our awakening is about letting go of our attachments, and allowing those strings to connect to our inner soul force, soul energy. Not all at once. Not blindly. Slowly, wisely, and with conscious intention. Day by day, we release our limited ideas of what can be, to be aware of the grander scheme that we are usually not aware of.
When we were getting ready to have a second child, I was looking into midwives to assist the delivery. Our first child was born at home, and I wanted a similar experience once more. I also had MANY faulty judgments about hospitals, doctors and childbirth--none of them positive or worthy of repeating here.
My intuitive guidance, as I looked for midwives the second time, was, “You won’t have this child at home.” I felt afraid. Why not? My automatic assumption was that there might be something wrong with the birth, the child, or me. I tried to force the issue, but the guidance was too strong, and I backed off. I found a midwife, but one who worked with a doctor and delivered in a nearby hospital.
I started before I was even pregnant releasing my attachment to a homebirth, which included releasing the fears about hospitals and doctors. Every time I would go in for a check-up, I would have another round of fears come up to be examined and released. For an entire year I worked on this detachment!
By the time I went into the hospital to deliver, I was free of my fears and could embrace the experience! My spiritual teacher, Jane Elizabeth Hart, said to me, “Go into that hospital as if you were walking into God’s hands.” I did, and had no resistance to any of the medical personnel who helped me. Everything went smoothly because I got out of the way, released my fears and attachments to how the process was going to look, and trusted. I detached my soul energy from fears, and reattached that energy into my Divine Self that knew what it was doing.
I released from fear and false judgments, and plugged into Soul force. There is no outer picture that is the “perfect” scenario. We have to be open to what is the highest good for our souls—and all souls involved—in the moment, and that might just be very different than our human picture of what “should” be!
Knowing your highest good in the moment comes through detaching, slowly but surely, to lesser ideas each day, and plugging into your Soul that knows!
No, I’m not talking about soccer. Or rugby. Or quidditch.
I’m talking about those goals you made last month for the new year. How are they going for you?
Committing to a goal is exciting. It brings with it new energy, new hope for happiness, and…change. Uh-oh. There it is. Change. Our commitments require us to change. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t need to commit to something in the first place, would we? We often secretly expect new year magic to come in and make us different so we can have the outcomes of our new year’s goals…which come from the awareness that we need to change. See? Tricky!
Let’s look more closely at what our resolutions really require us to do. Run one of your goals through the following questions to see what you are really committing to:
1. What is my goal? (Keep it simple, realistic and attainable.)
2. What would keep me from achieving this goal?
3. What do I have to give up in order to make this goal happen?
4. What do I have to begin doing in order to make this goal happen?
5. What would support me in achieving this goal?
6. How can I break this goal down into manageable steps?
7. What is a good first step toward this goal?
Knowing what we are in for when committing to anything helps us know how to be prepared and advocate for our success. You are an evolving soul that embraces change. Cooperate with that metamorphosis!
REVAMPED RULES FOR RESOLUTIONS
So we made it to 2013 after all! Maybe you put off your New Year’s resolutions until now so let’s take this time to look at a few rules for your New Year resolutions.
First take out any resolution that begins with "I want a better …" We all want to enjoy where we are no matter what, and if we don't like something, we think we have to jump to something else. So many desires building on each other keep us from listening within to what our soul is trying to tell us. Perhaps we are supposed to stay and learn something from our current job, relationship, house, car, and so forth. How will we know what we are truly supposed to do when we are somewhere already making our exit plan?
Try the good ole standby Serenity Prayer instead: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Now that is a beautiful resolution for 2013!
Next, add meditation to your daily self-care routine. Are you tired of hearing about the importance of meditation? Increasingly, meditation is shown to reduce stress, physical and mental illnesses, and
even increase successful decision-making in daily life. Commit to making the centeredness of your soul as important as the care of your physical body! Ten minutes a day will change you at depth.
Now commit to learning to observe yourself. Hold one part of yourself in a listening and watching position within you, while the other part of you is in "doing" mode. You will be amazed at what you
learn about yourself and how much easier it is to make changes when you discover something you don’t like so well about your own motives. This helps us to be more in tune with our intuition as well,
and who doesn’t want that for their new year?
Finally, resolve to forgive – any time, anywhere, for any reason. Do it just once, and you will discover how much lighter you feel, how much happier you can be! It’s worth the regular maintenance, but
even if you forgive two out of three times, you’ll be lighter when the time comes to release this year and prepare for 2014.
Service to others adds a nice extra credit touch to your list of resolutions. It allows you to share all the good vibes that lift you when you do all of the above actions. There is nothing more fulfilling than
supporting our own soul. Then we have much, much more to give to others.
For 2013, resolve to evolve!
Jane Elizabeth Hart, author of Spiritual Power Tools, would often say in her classes, “Love is the answer. What is the question?”
She was reminding us that every day provides opportunities to love—and not just the easy ones. As her students, we would ask her, “What do I do about this person? What do I need to do to forgive and release them from my life?” At times, underneath such questions was the ulterior motive of either making the person change or wanting them out of our lives altogether! Jane Elizabeth would respond with the bottom line answer: Love.
This was our direction: That no matter how much processing, forgiving and releasing we do, our action step is still the same: to love unconditionally, without judgment or hesitation. Her question became a tool in the midst of difficult interactions. We could ask our selves, “If I were coming from love, how would I act?”
At Christmastime, there is an energy of love which opens our hearts to giving and receiving love. Let your Christmas intention be to share love freely, especially with those more difficult characters in your Christmas story.
Love is the answer. What was the question?
Lynn Barrette, LCSW Blending psychology with spirituality, I offer tools for forgiveness, acceptance, meditation and relaxation, and positive parenting solutions.