Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

In Blackwater Woods April 3, 2009

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 1:47 pm
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The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. The highs have been fantastic and have been wrapped up mostly in the baby who is now doing somersaults in my belly. I’ve started prenatal yoga, and this small step of self-nurture has been absolutely golden, completely necessary and fulfilling, and yet another beautiful way for me to connect with baby. We had an incredibly productive day last weekend where we unpacked enough of the right stuff to finally feel like we truly live here. Now all of my inspirational books have been moved onto a new bookcase in the bedroom, the beginnings of a new reading nook we’re creating in there. It all feels so good.

The lows have surrounded love and loss and probably a fair amount of nostalgia. I went to visit my family in Georgia and spent a couple of days with my grandparents on my mother’s side. They spend their days remembering how things used to be, resisting the way things are now, and are slowly slipping away into Alzheimer’s and senility. My last few visits, I’ve been highly conscious of how this may be the last, and so I try to soak up as much as I can while I am there, but it is easy to slip into a place of nostalgia, of remembering the good ol’ days through the rosy veil that memory provides. Home again, I find my uncle scanning in old pics of my father’s family, including some true gems of my early days with my grandfather, who made his transition several years ago now. The pictures make me smile, but also bring tears to my eyes as I remember just how much I miss him.

Life truly is a cycle, and these past couple of weeks have been full of the reminder that this new life in my belly in some respects replaces life that has come before. Individuals ebb and flow into our lives, and we are truly blessed to be touched by so many. Now that my books have been freed from their two-month bondage in boxes, I was pleased to be able to pull Risking Everything back off the shelf and uncover a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver that connects with the feelings tumbling around within me. Her words remind me of the power of love in this ephemeral world. Enjoy, and namaste.

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Photo: “1930’s postcards- in sepia,” originally uploaded by aussiegall

 

Step 4: Connect Consciously February 28, 2008

From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, swelling in the present moment and feeling truly alive.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I don’t know about you, but I am a busy person. If you have ever tried to make a plan with me, you know how true this is. I have a wide variety of interests and I generally like to be doing things, whether it’s going for a hike or hanging out with friends or reorganizing a closet. Even without working full-time right now, I get myself so busy some days I feel like my head is going to spin on my shoulders. My saving grace? My meditation practice.

The word “meditation” has a lot of expectation tied up in it. There are schools of thought out there that follow pretty specific guidelines–that’s not (exclusively) what I’m talking about here. Whether you call it meditation, or sitting, or being still, the point is to take time each day to stop doing and to practice being. Guided meditation, walking meditation, silent meditation, or even just watching the waves crash on the beach–whatever works for you, this is what I mean by meditation.

So how does something that requires more time get fit into a busy life? I know one of the first places of resistance that I go to is, “But I just don’t have the time.” The truth is, you don’t have to meditate for a long period of time to feel its benefits. While my goal is to meditate at least 30 minutes each day, the minimum commitment I make to myself is 15 minutes. Still sound like too much? Then start with 10 minutes, or even 5. The amount of time is less important than the commitment, the practice.

August Gold recommends a daily morning practice she calls 5-5-5: five minutes of reading, five minutes of writing, five minutes of sitting. If you have more time, then expand each section to fill it–currently, I’m at roughly 30-30-30. All three pieces come into play as part of the larger concept of connecting consciously to Source–or God, or the Universe, or Infinite Intelligence, or whatever you like to call the Oneness, the omnipresence that is back of all creation–and your intuition, that internal wisdom that is there to provide you with guidance. Doing five minutes of each activity should fit into even the busiest schedule, and each has its own benefit. Plus, starting your day with such a self-nurturing connection enables the rest of your day to flow that much more smoothly and gracefully.

The benefits to conscious connection are probably too large to enumerate here, but let me just start with the basics to whet your appetite–I assure you, the longer you engage in this practice, the more advantages you will become aware of.

Reading: For many of us, reading an eye-opening book was the gateway to the journey we find ourselves on today. Once you’ve read enough, you start to truly understand that there’s nothing new under the sun, however each new approach, each new turn of phrase, each new perspective opens you up to a deeper understanding than you held before. I can’t tell you how many Aha! moments I have had where in trying to explain it to someone else I realized it was something I already knew quite well, but there was just something about this new way of thinking about it that made me really *get* it. Incorporating reading, even for just five minutes, into your morning practice gives you the gift of fresh inspiration to apply to whatever crosses your path that day.

Writing: The idea of daily writing calls to mind the countless diaries I filled as a kid about what I had done that day or which boy I liked or why I was mad at my mom. And while getting that detritus out of your system through writing is one of the benefits of this practice, once you’ve been doing this for a while you begin to access your inner wisdom in a new way. I’ve gotten to the point where I can just write a question and keep writing and the answer pours out of my pen. I receive nearly daily guidance in this manner about everything from reminders to call a relative for their birthday to what kinds of release rituals I’m due for to what to write about on Learning to Fly to what to make for dinner. For me, it started small, but the more I began to trust it and to follow its guidance, the more avenues it opened up for me.

Sitting: As we’ve already touched on, this practice is about getting still, about just being. It is how you begin to cultivate a sense of which of those voices in your head is the voice of fear and which is the voice of intuition, that still small voice within that holds the answers you seek. Sometimes, your mind is just chatty chatty chatty, and other times you can get to a place of quiet, but either way it all adds up. The effects may be subtle at first–you might feel a little more energized, or you might feel more intuitive, or you might feel more aware of what’s happening around you. It’s another muscle to be built, your meditation muscle, and over time as you build that muscle the effects become clearer and clearer. For me, as I touched on in my “Ah, meditation” post, it increases my awareness on many levels, leaving me feeling like I am communing with all of creation long after I open my eyes and begin to dive into my day. I am more in touch with my intuition, enabling me to be aware of what it is I need but also opening me up to seeing what is happening with those around me. It leaves me with a sense of calm and the ability to focus on things one at a time, to be mindful of what I’m doing in such a way that makes me more efficient and engaged. When I meditate regularly, I am simply MORE–more appreciative, more aware, more open, more intuitive, more focused, more peaceful.

The last piece of conscious connection is getting clear on what it is you want for your life and setting your intention. This concept is somewhat woven into each of the steps in this series as part of the circular nature of this path, so let’s revisit it fully on its own in the near future. In the meantime, I hope I have at least piqued your curiosity. If you should choose to incorporate a morning practice into your daily routine, please let me know how it goes. And hey, let me know what you think are the most important things that I have missed!

Recommended Listening:
Awakening Kundalini, by Kelly Howell
Retrieve Your Destiny, by Kelly Howell
Soul Stretch, by Caroline Reynolds
Tibetan Singing Bowl: Music for Deep Meditation

Recommend Reading:
Meditation, by Eknath Eswaran
The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer
The Prayer Chest, By August Gold and Joel Fotinos
Tao te Ching, by Lao Tzu, translated by Jonathan Star
The Universe Is Calling, by Eric Butterworth

Photo: Day 3/366…..Fire, Wood & Stone, Originally uploaded by LD Cross

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Step 2: Clear the Slate February 25, 2008

From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

One of the largest obstacles to living life fully is the white noise, the clutter that builds up in our minds and bodies. Think of yourself as a receiver–in addition to the voice of your intuition, your inner guidance system, you’re getting input from your environment, from the people around you, and from the other voices in your head like fear and your inner critic. We recently got a new clock radio that picks up so many stations, it often dilutes the quality of the ones we want to listen to, creating static and dissonance. This is what having so much input all at once does to you–it clogs up the works so that you can’t hear the messages coming to you from the universe, you can’t discern the difference between what is resonating for you versus what isn’t, you can’t see what is being placed in your path for you to work on. It all just becomes noise.

Clearing the slate is about looking closely at these distractions, cleaning things up inside and out so you can actually see and hear what’s going on. The first place I would recommend looking is at your physical environment. Do you tend to have clutter around you, on your coffee table, your dresser, your desks at home and at work? Are your closets overflowing with all of the things that have just been shoved in there? Is your car full of empty water bottles and fast food bags you were too busy to throw out? When things around us are chaotic and disorderly, it tends to generate chaos in our minds as well. Treat yourself to some time this week to tackle an organization project that has been on your mind for a while, and take a few minutes each day to arrange your home and office, picking things up and throwing things away as you go so that are living and working surrounded by harmony.

As you begin to establish order in your life, you may begin to notice the source of some of your other distractions. Begin to pay attention to your thought processes, especially when you hear things like “I can’t do that because . . .” or “I don’t have time . . .” or “Maybe one day I’ll be able to . . .” The idea that we don’t have enough time to do the things we want to do is a choice. How much time do you spend watching television, having a beer (or two or more), gossiping by the water cooler, playing video games (and yes, computer solitaire counts), or reading about what’s happening in celebrities’ lives? Sure, there are plenty of things we do throughout the day that are necessary, but there are plenty more that are essentially just time suckers, distractions that keep us from even thinking about what it is we’d really like to be doing with our time, let alone actually acting on those ideas.

Another way we distract ourselves is by living in the past instead of in the present, defining ourselves by what has come before instead of where we are today. Each moment is a new moment, with the opportunity to make a new choice. When we cling to old ideas, old beliefs, old patterns, we keep ourselves locked in the past. When we hold on to perceived hurts, we get weighed down, hurting ourselves anew every time we think of them. Letting go of these things fills you with such energy, with such lightness, that you can use it as a springboard, catapulting you in the direction of your dreams. Make the choice to put down the baggage you’ve been carrying around with you, forgiving yourself and those who have hurt you, recognizing that right now is the only moment that really is and choosing to live it from a place of love and light and laughter.

At this point you are probably ready for some cleansing of the body and the mind. A little self-love goes a long way here. You might choose to do a fast of some sort, although really, the goal here is to do something that feels good for yourself, that feels nurturing. It might be as simple as making yourself a special meal where the only special occasion is that you’re taking care of yourself. Or you might choose to eliminate or reduce something in your diet that you tend to overindulge in. Or you might choose to follow the Native tradition of smudging, burning sage to cleanse your home and yourself of any negative feelings or influences that have built up there. Whatever you choose to do, find something that is meaningful to you and imbue it with a sense of ceremony, allowing it to really sink in on all levels.

Following are a couple of exercises you can use to help with the process of letting go. You might use them alone or in conjunction with some of the ideas we’ve already discussed here. I don’t follow any specific schedule, but when things start to get clogged up for me, I often receive a message that says it is time to do a burning bowl or do some forgiveness work. When you listen to your inner wisdom, you will know when is the right time for you as well.

Forgiveness Exercise:
There are many guided meditations out there that will walk you through a forgiveness exercise. I like to do this simple exercise that is a melding of various traditions I’ve been introduced to along the way.

Start by making yourself comfortable in a sitting position–you can use a more traditional meditation stance if you’d like, but sitting cross-legged in your favorite chair works just as well. Close your eyes and spend a few minutes breathing deeply, visualizing the tension flowing out of your muscles as you move from the top of your head down to your toes. You might choose to envision yourself being enveloped in a loving presence, full of kindness and compassion and unconditional love. Know that you are truly loved, inside and out, and that nothing you could ever do would shake that love.

When you’ve achieved a feeling of peace and relaxation, bring into your mind’s eye a picture of the person you are ready to forgive, which might even be yourself, and see them sitting across from you. Visualize this individual in the same state of peace and relaxation that you are. Take a few minutes to speak your peace, stating what it was that they did that hurt you and how it made you feel. This is not about blaming them or telling them that they are wrong–this is a time for you to talk about your perception of what happened and its effects on you. Talk until you’ve gotten it all out of your system and you feel like you are ready to move on.

Keeping the image of this person in your mind’s eye, acknowledge that whether the hurt was intentional or unintentional, you are ready to release it. Tell them out loud that you forgive them and ask for their forgiveness in return. Imagine both of you being filled with a cleansing white light, and allow yourself to float in this light, feeling free of the weight that has just been lifted from you. Allow the other person to float off along their own path, blessing them on their journey. Stay in this white light until you feel the lightness transferred into your physical being.

As they say, nature abhors a vacuum, so take a few moments to focus on what you are grateful for. You can say it out loud or write it down, but really feel that gratitude, allowing it to fill the space that now exists within you. The gratitude does not need to tie back into what was just released, but should feel genuine, and might even bring a smile to your face.

Repeat this exercise every couple of days until you feel like the forgiveness has truly sunk in throughout your body and mind.

Burning Bowl Ritual:
There are a variety of different ways to do this ritual, which is often practiced when something is coming to an end as a way of releasing the past before the new work can begin.

Gather together a few materials that you’ll need for this ritual: a candle, a lighter or matches, a pad of paper or slips of paper, a pen, a bowl to catch the ashes. Optional: tweezers, sage.

Write down on individual pieces of paper all of the things that you are ready to release, from an old belief or pattern to a person. Keep in mind that releasing a person does not have to mean that you are rejecting them from your life but it is an acknowledgment that they are on their own path as you are on yours. When you are finished writing things down, take a few moments to relax, closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to allow any last nuggets to come to mind.

Light the candle you have in front of you. You might choose to say a little prayer, whatever comes to mind about your intention for this ritual. Pick up the first piece of paper, holding onto just the corner. (Optional: use tweezers to hold the pieces of paper to protect your fingers from the flame.) Read what is written on the paper, saying out loud that you are ready to release this belief, pattern, person, etc. Affirm what you accept into your life, the positive thing you’d like to see manifest with this release. For example, if the thing you are releasing is your debt, then you’d say something like: “I release this debt. I know that I am prosperous and I am now living my life from that place of abundance.” Allow this affirmation to sink in as you place the slip of paper in the candle’s flame. Watch the words burn and feel the sensation of release of this concept, allowing the ashes to fall into the bowl in front of you.

Repeat this process with each of the slips of paper you have written on until all has been released. You might choose to take this opportunity to burn some sage to cleanse the residue of what you’ve released from yourself and the room. Do something that feels ceremonious with the ashes–some people like to bury them, I’m okay with just washing them down the drain. Again, you might want to take a moment to do say a prayer affirming your intentions.

I do this ritual periodically, about once every other month or so, depending on what is coming up for me at the moment. There is no right or wrong way to do this–sometimes I’ve done them two days in a row because I remembered more things I needed to release or I felt like something was especially sticky. Just do what feels good here.

Recommended Reading:
The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
Radical Forgiveness, by Colin Tipping
True Balance, by Sonia Choquette

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The grounding, Part II February 7, 2008

This process of grounding is truly a process. While I did finish the task I set out to accomplish yesterday, it did not leave me with the feeling of relief and order that I was hoping for. The good news is that I can now be lazy and not have to look for things (ha ha ha). The bad news is that it seems the whole apartment needs this type of overhaul. Our place is pretty small and our hobbies tend to take up a lot of space. The office bears the brunt of this and until we have more room in which to set up a system of organization that can actually be maintained, order really needs to be restored fairly regularly or we just have to live with the consequences. Office aside, the kitchen really needs to be tackled, and then when that’s done, I should really do something about old magazines, and then go through the paperbacks to see which ones can be donated to new homes, and then there are closets that need some reorienting, and then . . .

When does it end? At what point does getting organized become just being a perfectionist, or only seeing what’s wrong instead of being able to see what’s right? Or is that just “all or nothing” thinking, where if one thing is organized then everything else should be, and if one thing is disorganized everything might as well be? And what about Nietzsche’s discovery, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star” — where is there room for my creative chaos?

As with everything else, it seems, I need to find a balance here. Order enables me to be still, to reduce distractions, to see clearly, and chaos enables me to mix things up, to get silly and crazy and messy and see what happens. Order provides the grounding so that when I am open at the top, truly connected to that divine creativity that is calling me to expand, I can be stretched yet maintain my connection to the earth. One of the reasons I love Yael Naim’s Far Far so much is that she’s talking about that birthing process, praying for something to happen to her, feeling the beautiful mess inside and recognizing where it will lead. “I guess I’ll have to give it birth / To give it birth / There’s a beautiful mess inside and it’s everywhere.” Sometimes things have to get messy before we can get clear, but that mess needs space in which it can live and breathe and feel safe once the birthing process is complete.

So I will continue to ground myself, to get organized and nurture myself and my family. And I will continue to reach out into the stars, to let things get a little messy and see where it leads, knowing that I have laid the foundation that makes it possible for me to find order and clarity when I need to. Namaste.

 

Yum-o February 5, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 11:51 pm
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I can’t wait to make dinner tonight. I was really enjoying cooking healthy meals there for a while, but I got off track along with everything else. I’m excited to get back into it again! I’ve been a believer in “all things in moderation” for a while now, and collect cookbooks and diet books aimed at this concept. My latest favorite is Eat, Drink, and Weigh Less by Mollie Katzen and Walter Willett, M.D. I love Mollie Katzen and her Moosewood cookbooks, so already this book had something going for it, but it’s got a simple, informative, understandable style that makes food consumption akin to common sense. Go figure. Plus, the recipes are all Mollie’s and they’re wonderful. Some are super easy, others a little more time intensive, but all of them are yummy. Plus, she makes it easy for me to adapt meals to accommodate both vegetarians, like me, and omnivores, like my husband. Very cool.

The Witch of Portobello, interestingly enough, has just a couple of paragraphs about diet, but I loved them. Almost as an afterthought, the main character, Athena, talks about diets as both unnecessary and unhealthy. Mostly she talks about the struggle to remain thin as we age as a battle that can consume energy that would be better invested in spiritual labors. My favorite part is when she says, “Eat in moderation, but take pleasure in eating: it isn’t what enters a person’s mouth that’s evil, but what leaves it.” Oh yeah. So I am taking pleasure in eating my three meals a day, and taking pleasure in preparing those meals as well. It feels so self-nurturing, a practice that I can always do more of.

I’m actually making quite a bit of food tonight, however we’ll just be having a little of everything. I expect the leftovers to be yummy. We’ll start with Ten-Minute Tomato Soup — I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks simple, garlicky, and delicious. Chicken and Quorn (a vegetarian chicken) cook easily on the grill. I’ll bake a couple of sweet potatoes– SO good and good for you too! I’m going to chop up some broccoli, putting some aside to have in a scramble for breakfast and sautĂ©ing the remainder for dinner tonight. And finally, I’m making a grain dish with cashews for a little extra protein and some whole grains. It should be relatively simple, even though with 5 dishes included it’s something I never would have thought to have tried when I was working. The extra time is such a treat as I experiment with new recipes and find ways to incorporate extra servings of vegetables throughout the day.

This is part of the re-grounding I’ve been doing today. In addition to doing a little grocery shopping, I cleaned up, preparing the way to do some organizational tasks tomorrow. I was told today that while it great that I am opening up and connecting to Source, I have to remember to ground myself before I float away. So this is what I’m doing. We shall see how it dovetails with my goal of achieving balance this week, but so far everything I’ve done has felt absolutely essential. What kinds of things do you find grounding? Perhaps I can add them to the to-do list this week. Namaste.

Post-dinner note, 9pm: That thing about getting grounded before you float away is true. While my intentions were good, I kind of forgot to plan things, which meant I hadn’t read all of the recipes all the way through or in a couple of days or whatnot. The gravy took twice as long as I realized and the broccoli ended up getting cold. I completely forgot about the sweet potatoes — we’ll have to have those another night — and I didn’t realize the grains needed to cook for 90+ minutes, so I improvised with some rices and the nuts. The grains actually turned out superb, by the way — adding nuts is an excellent (and yummy) idea. The gravy was also excellent — I threw in a little Marsala towards the end, which rounded out the flavors nicely. The soup was a downer — it would need to be heavily edited before I’d try it again, I think — but the broccoli was simple and tasty. All and all, I would say this would be a great meal if some of the work was done in advance, along with a lot more planning. But it was still a pleasure to eat. 🙂

 

Market day January 26, 2008

Filed under: notes — jennsheridan @ 11:30 pm
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The sun has been mostly out today and I’ve been so relieved. I know we can probably use all the rain we can get — even if it causes flooding — but when it’s been raining all week and the forecast has the rain continuing for at least another week, a break feels really good. And hey, on a somewhat related note, did you hear about the avalanche in Southern California? I just like to say that — there was an AVALANCHE in Southern California. It’s the kind of thing I associate with the Alps or the Himalayas, not the land of Baywatch and Hollywood. Totally trippy.

Anyhoo, the break in the rain meant that I got to visit my local farmer’s market. Actually, I’m lucky to have two year-round farmer’s markets within spitting distance of my house, but it’s the Saturday morning one in San Mateo that’s my favorite. Even in winter when there aren’t a lot of foods naturally in season, we can get tons of locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Today I kept it simple, picking up onions, garlic, broccoli and broccoli rabe (or rapini), mandarin oranges, sweet potatoes, and a lovely bunch of tulips. I still had salad greens, green onions, strawberries, and grapefruit leftover from going to the market last week. It’s a literal cornucopia.

Most people think that vegetarians eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, but that has not always been the case for me. I go through phases where I eat mostly grains and legumes or I’m heavy on the dairy, which never makes me feel good. So right now I’m placing a huge emphasis on fruits and vegetables — not only does it make my diet much more colorful, it’s much more flavorful as well. Almost every meal is a delicious treat — last night, Sean got stuck working late so I “whipped up” Savory Loaf (a grain side dish that is truly savory), a beautiful green salad with toasted pine nuts and gorgonzola cheese, and a baked sweet potato. It was incredibly simple, but simply delicious. This weekend’s highlights will include a veggie fried rice with toasted almonds and a red lentil soup. It makes my stomach rumble in anticipation just to think about it.

While the spectacular array of foods and flowers available is my primary reason for going to the farmer’s market, it also just makes me feel good to be there. There’s such a sense of community, reinforced by occasionally running into people I know. Lots of families and couples and friends and individuals walking around, interacting with the people selling their wares, mostly with smiles on their faces and a spring in their step. There’s also a sense of sustainability, as at least half of the attendees are carrying “permanent” grocery bags from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s or baskets and bags purchased just for the market, and everything is coming from relatively local farms. And finally, there’s a bountiful sense of self-nurture, like I’m doing something that is good for me and just the act of doing it already makes my body feel better. Utilizing my purchases is almost like a bonus instead of being the purpose.

Apparently there are 90 farmer’s markets in the Bay Area — wild. I feel blessed to be in an area of such abundance. But farmer’s markets are cropping up all over the country, too. When I visited my family in Rome, Georgia last summer, my aunt and I went to an early morning farmer’s market at a local church. While it was mostly people with large gardens sharing their extras, it was still a testament to the power of community. I was happy to be able to support the locals in their endeavors, and kind of wished I had a fledgling farmer’s market that I could support at home too. But large or small, professional or amateur, I always look forward to market day, to the feelings it engenders and the spoils I get to take home with me. Namaste.

 

Ah, meditation January 25, 2008

I am having a good, if sleepy, day today. The rain is a nice backdrop for me to work in, creating a soothing, meditative state. I got up early this morning so I would have time to do my morning pages before making a yummy breakfast (vanilla-cinnamon french toast using whole-grain bread and real maple syrup — yum-o). I’ve been trying to cook three meals a day lately, and I find it to be a timing challenge to finish my morning practice before putting breakfast together by 7:15. Starting my morning practice after Sean leaves for work, however, means it’s the only thing that gets to utilize my most productive hours of the day. In seeking balance, getting up earlier appears to be the best solution.

Today worked out so well I almost even had enough time for my meditation, but it would have been noticeably short so I held off until later in the morning. And I’m really glad I did — I got in a couple of hours of freelance work and still had a full hour to dedicate to meditation before lunch. This full hour is something I’ve been trying to fit into my schedule for over a week as I’ve been wanting to try out a new meditation recording I picked up — Kelly Howell’s Awakening Kundalini. Oh wow, it’s a good one. I was already loving the brainwave techniques she uses and most frequently meditate to her Retrieve Your Destiny “Side B” meditation. Awakening Kundalini uses the same theta-wave meditation music found on Retrieve Your Destiny but adds a guided meditation to it. It starts with an introduction to the concept of Kundalini and instructions on how to use the meditation and what the different breathing techniques are, so the first use is a little time-consuming but let me tell you, it’s well worth it. I’m looking forward to seeing how it opens me up over time.

I love meditation. I know for some people it’s something they “should” do, something they’re “supposed to” do. But for me it’s something I truly love with all of my heart. I love the feeling of connection it leaves me with, the sense of cleanliness and purity inside and out. I finished meditating today and I was hungry, but at the same time I felt very FULL. I’ve spent the past couple of hours almost in a daze because my meditation brought me so into the present moment I’m really looking at things, really absorbing my surroundings. It’s a little like being high, but an all-natural, totally reattainable high.

If you have trouble committing to a meditation practice, I really recommend listening to something while you are meditating. First of all, it’s a natural timer so you know upfront how long your meditation will be depending on which recording you select. You have no excuse to peek at the clock to see how much time is left — if the meditation is still playing, you still have time left. I typically shoot for 30 minutes because I like how it makes me feel, how it gives me enough time for that sense of connection to really sink in. In addition to Kelly Howell’s meditations, I love the gong meditation on Music for Deep Meditation: Tibetan Singing Bowl. If I’m really crunched for time, then I’ll do a 15-minute meditation. For that I typically use the “Deep Trance Meditative Music” track off of Caroline Reynolds’ Soul Stretch.

The other reason I recommend listening to something is that it gives the layers of your mind something to do, especially when you’re just learning how to meditate. If you think of your mind like a pond, your thoughts usually dance around the surface, causing ripples as they plunk down onto the water. Meditation pulls you down beneath the surface where it’s still and quiet. Having something to listen to gives that surface-layer something to be distracted by and allows the rest of your mind to sink into the depths. Or at least that’s the way I think of it.

All I can say is that it’s the best way to spend 30 minutes each day. AND it makes the rest of your 23 hours and 30 minutes go so much more smoothly, gracefully, and presently. Namaste.