On the advice of a friend, I downloaded a book called The Morning Miracle. Ironically, not knowing exactly what it was, I began reading it in the mornings during my morning routine. Which is, of course, exactly what the book is about.
Regardless of the irony with which I practice my life, there was a lot to be learned in its digital pages and I’m a more rounded and grounded person because of it.
Perhaps the thing I like best about the book is the encouragement to get up early, embrace the alarm clock as if it were your best friend and begin the day as if it were going to be your very best. Perhaps the entire point of the book.
In the early rising, as we approach the shortest daylight hours of the year, I have encountered, in all her glory, the long, dark night. And she is lovely.
I fully admit that when the alarm first sounds I am dismayed and somewhat in denial. Surely Siri has made a mistake and all the electronic gadgets in the world have gone wonky and it’s not six a.m. at all, but a gently generous 3:30 a.m., begging me to stay beneath my warm covers.
Inevitably I come to the conclusion that it is truly time to arise and embrace the day.
Once my workout clothes are on, my teeth are brushed and I’ve vacated the room of retirement, that is when I become grateful.
Maybe even more than the benefits of rising early, is the opportunity to greet the day in the dark. The quiet hours of my very full home are blanketed in an uncommon deep, dark silence.
Out here at the Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary, the fall and winter skies are almost always cushioned in clouds. Our remote location insures there is no such thing as “light pollution” and for what seems like only a breath or two each morning, I feel solitary but not alone. I can think for there’s not a word spoken and I am able to fully embrace the day before she becomes one.
Once, plagued by the vague but persistent symptoms of my autoimmune “thing”, a doctor from whom I sought relief asked in a condescending tone, “Um,” insert one raised eyebrow tinged with contempt, “Are your symptoms occurring once a month, Mrs. Young?”
Because I didn’t have as much experience, rather than tell him to go to hell as would be my response today, I started to cry. This evoked far more frustration than sympathy from him. I left his office without help or comfort. Once a doctor even told me the symptoms about which I was visiting him were, “Not possible.”
Oh. Okay. Thanks for that.
That was many, many moons ago and I would not stand to be treated like that today. Also, I wouldn’t go to a doctor for the nebulous symptoms that to this day nag me onto the couch from time to time.
Because there was “No balm in Gilead…” as the scripture goes, I sauntered off into Michelle Land, clear this wasn’t a part of my normal monthly cycle but equally convinced that there was something out there that could ease my woes.
For more than 30 years I have been on a quest for wellness. Sometimes I’ve succumbed to the panaceas of the day ~ Note to self, if it’s direct sales and will cure ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, including acne and diarrhea with exactly the monthly dose you are now obligated to purchase for the rest of your life, it’s probably voodoo. Too good to be true, almost without exception, is indeed, too good to be true.
While I may have tried a few foolhardy things in my day, the good people in the healing profession also tried to steer me away from time-honored methods as well. I had one doctor tell me to stay away from acupuncture at all costs. He was, incidentally, Asian.
While I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily “healed” myself, most of the time I feel really good. My days on the couch are limited and from time to time I continue to dabble in energy healing and the occasional weird remedy.
You can’t blame a girl for trying.
I would love to tell you what you need to do to heal your particular bugaboo, but what I’ve learned is exactly contrary to that idea.
While the medical profession is to be consulted and respected, the missing link in our wellness plan is our willingness to listen to ourselves. My symptoms are my symptoms and you can’t tell me they’re not. What makes me feel better, like acupuncture, makes me feel better, regardless of being advised against it.
While there isn’t a miracle cure, a skinny pill or a panacea to cure all that ails us perhaps the “Balm in Gilead” arrives in the quiet moments we take, the deep breaths and listening and in finally trusting ourselves to listen and trust ourselves above all others.
Listen to the silence, feel the world go round, listen to the silence, feel the lack of sound…
When I was but a young one pretending to be an adult, I took a trip to the beach. I padded in time for myself though I was with a large group of women on a retreat. I took my time before anyone arrived to go down to the beach and to be alone.
I remember vividly the view though I can’t recall which coastal town it was. The sun barely shown through the persistent Northwest clouds and the breeze tickled instead of nagged as my toes tunneled into the salty sand.
And then I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d watched too many movies and read too many books with deep thinking characters with great plans or flaws to flush out on a sandy shore or a lonely night.
I dawdled as long as I could, trying to eat up time so I wouldn’t feel silly. And I felt silly. And I felt silly all by myself since no one else knew I had no great plans or readily apparent flaws available.
I am many years older than I was back then. The beach I visit is almost always Lincoln City. The view spectacular and largely unchanged. I have what I like to think are “great” plans and my flaws have been revealed to me over and over again over the decades.
But the real difference lies not in the wrinkles congregating around my eyes or the people ready to testify concerning my flaws. It lies in the fact that I know exactly what to do with a bit of time for pondering with buried toes and nothing demanding but seagulls and waves.
When one has time to think and latitude in which to ponder, it’s a terrible waste to ponder imperfections and percolate plans.
There is a time to simply meditate. When the space is cleared in which to breath the fresh ocean air and a stretch arrives in which you can simply exist without apology or explanation, it is best to feel your toes in the sand, the breeze on your cheek and humbly be grateful to be alive.
There’s no need to complicate things. It’s as simple as a gentle breeze at the beach and just as pleasant.
Months ago I adopted and warped a meditation to my liking, originally of the Dalia Lama’s making. In it, I meditated on life and love and all the richness of living on purpose. So delicious..
However when my meditation came to fruition, I was, at least for a short time, disgruntled and anxious. You know what they say about being careful what you ask for…
The specific part of the meditation to which I refer is, “May I live a life rich in love…” It sounded good on paper, but its arrival was through a back door and I didn’t know my visitor when it landed.
What I saw was an overly taxed schedule as well as a steep learning curve.
In a very short period of time I played the role of Mother of the bride (also known at our house as, the Maid of Mommer) and the maid of honor to one of my best friends. I shopped for wedding dresses, wedding shoes, threw a Stag-ette party for my friend and a bridal shower for my daughter. There were barbecues, late nights laughing and the chaos that is living and loving and celebration.
For a little while, before I saw the whole thing as it should be seen, what I believed was that I was a bit of a slave to obligation ~ forgive the dramatics. I thought I was over-taxed and under-prepared.
Perhaps in our age of “Business = Importance”, in some way I felt justified by my stress, but busy-ness never was happiness.
My turnabout came one day as I was driving, likely on the way to the party store, when suddenly I connected my meditation with my circumstances.
How lucky I am to have a daughter who wants me involved in her wedding and a friend who wants me intimately involved in the most important decision of her life.
Rich in love. I am living a life truly rich in love.
It was a stunning revelation and with its arrival my stress level plummeted and my pleasure meter sang at the red end of the spectrum, instantaneously drenching me in joy.
They say we have everything we need within our reach and I have seen this to be true. Sometimes we don’t even have to reach for it, we just have to see it for what it is. And then be grateful for it. Always grateful.
Like, share, comment, tweet and tell me, do you make this mistake too?
Jokingly (read: not even joking a little bit) on Saturday I told my coaching group that one of the ways I decided to change my life so many years ago was to be an every day flosser. I was hoping they’d giggle. Maybe they did on the inside.
My point was simply that small shifts in our lives can create amazing energy on the inside and on the outside. I floss every day because it makes me feel good, both dentally and emotionally.
Here are a few things I do to make myself feel good. They include no unhealthy indulgences and a few things (like flossing ~ totally underrated as a health practice) that can actually improve the quality and longevity of your life.
1. I like to get pedicures. I like my toes to feel pretty and have someone massage my feet. Throw in a hot wax treatment and I’m in heaven. So you can imagine when I learned that getting pedicures is actually good for your health, it went even higher on my list of self-care practices. I’m still fighting with the insurance company over having them cover 100% of the charges. Sigh…
2. Meditation isn’t just for your hippie friends anymore. It too is scientifically proven to improve basically every aspect of your life from sex to heart health. It’s also free. But I’m sure insurance still wouldn’t cover it… You should download this meditation app.
3. It would please me to tell you that I do it every day, but I don’t. That said, and way more often in the summer, I sweep my front doorstep. It’s a feng shui practice informing the Universe that you’re open for business. It’s a moving meditation. And your doorstep is cleaner. So at the very least there’s that.
4. When I don’t feel happy, I try and make sure to be particularly friendly, helpful and generous. Even one of those things will make you feel better, the triple threat is a guaranteed win.
5. The green smoothie is a brilliant way to start any day. No matter what happens throughout the day, if you’ve thrown in some power greens and a few other super-ingredients, you’re golden and your body says, “Gracias, amiga.”
6. Whenever “the fatigue” hits, if at all possible, I try to honor that demanding mistress and feed her a nap. It’s just my way of sayin’, “If I give you what you want, I expect you to go away.”
7. With all my heart I wish to control “Hangry”. My people, we are susceptible to low blood sugar. It is not a pretty sight and so quite often you can find almonds or a banana in my purse. More than once this has saved me from going and damaging my health at McD’s. More than once this has saved Mr Dreamboat from irrational wrath.
8. The difference between two skilled people and their success usually has more to do with audacity than with talent. I try to keep audacity with me even more often than a healthy snack.
9. I’m all about positive thinking, I know the importance of looking on the bright side, and I also know how important it is to simply feel what I am feeling. No judgment, no urgency to get away. If we let it be, often it gets bored and goes away when it’s ready.
10. Even when I don’t feel pretty, I pretend I do.
Like, share, comment, tweet and add a little something into your happiness regimen.
When I was a little girl I asked for a long dress for Christmas. My mother, a Christmas maven, was all over it and Christmas morning, in one of the many packages wrapped just for me, I found a long dress in the fashion of the day. It fit just right.
What my mother could not have known was that when ten year old Michelle asked for a “long dress,” what she meant was a ball gown. Like a red velvet gown. Possibly with ermine accouterments.
I now understand the extremism my brain is wired for. If I think, “I should go for a run,” it means at least 5 miles. If I decide to become an artist, nothing short of fine art and museum purchases will do.
I’ve grown to understand the, shall we call it ridiculous? nature of my brain and over time I’ve learned to tame the extremism to which I lean.
And so it was when I decided to begin a meditation practice. I imagined hours long sessions with my fellow Tibetan monks. Short of my sad inability to be a Tibetan monk, there are other, just as silly ideas I had in my head about meditation.
I thought there was a “right” way to do it. I believed each session should be 30 minutes of mind bending bliss. And, you can imagine, my foot going numb sitting in lotus pose never even crossed my mind.
That’s just not how it’s supposed to go, right? No. Not right.
Meditation can run such a broad range of experiences to the point that there’s no real supposed to it at all.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when meditating is that it’s just like any other exercise. Just as you won’t be running a marathon your first day out the door, you likely won’t actually turn into a Tibetan monk just because you’ve crossed your legs and made “ohm” fingers.
It’s not uncommon for me to suggest meditation as a method of self-care and as close to a panacea as we have. And so I offer you a few suggestions to start you on the path to wellness, or at least weller-ness.
• Short sessions are a great way to start. When I began meditating regularly I chose eight minutes as my goal. Five minutes seemed too skinny, ten interminably long. Set your goal short enough that it doesn’t feel like a punishment and long enough that you feel like you really accomplished something.
• Find a comfortable place to sit. A chair, the couch or in lotus position harking back to the iconic Tibetan monks, all are good choices. I like sitting on the floor, middle finger knuckles layered over one another. Be warned, your feet might go numb once you up the minutes. Mine do at around 20 minutes.
• Make sure you’re in a quiet place were you’re likely to have uninterrupted privacy and you can relax completely.
• I like to use a timer. It takes the burden of keeping track of time off my shoulders so I can relax more completely. Just make sure it’s a happy alarm greeting you. No vicious, demanding beep, beep, beeping.
• As you sit in your chosen position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Focus as you breathe in, and notice as you breathe out. Simply observe your breath.
• When your mind wanders, and it will wander, gently move it back to your breath. No judgment. Leave out frustration. This too is a part of the process.
Beyond the breath and the sitting comfortably and relaxing your mind and body together, there are loads of apps for your meditation pleasure. Guided meditation is a wonderful way to start.
From time to time I use Omvana but am branching out as well. A perfect, eight minute meditation I recommend is listening to what scientists believe is the most relaxing song in the world.
Whatever your method, your position or the time you spend meditating, I can promise you that you’ll begin almost immediately to find the benefits of it. You’ll thank me. No, really.
My meditation practice began as what felt like a tattered and sorry use of my time. Over the few years since then, though my habit certainly waxes and wanes in strength, there are times of beautiful elegance that can even seem worthy of my most extravagant expectations.
Like, share, comment, tweet and give a shout out to the Universe… Ohhhhhhmmm…
It used to be reserved for monks and hippies. Back in the 70’s you’d expect to do it in a commune and never, ever eat an animal. The problem with that was that most people like to eat animals. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. I’m just saying most people like food that used to walk around before it sat tidily on your plate.
But the perception of meditation, at least, has changed. Finally it’s being recognized by scientists as a mind-altering practice that enables you to think more clearly, feel more deeply and focus more effectively. It’s like a drug, only with no bad side effects.
I fancy myself a bit of a hippie. Well, that’s not entirely true. My children have branded me a hippie from time to time when I served them things like “Raw-vegan tacos”, which, I was informed, were not tacos at all and if my children were the litigious type I could have been sued for using bate and switch tactics to lure them to the family dinner table.
Not only have I dabbled in vegetarianism, even veganism, but I am a regular meditator.
Having grown up in a religious environment, I was often encouraged toward “prayer and meditation”, but somehow it never looked to me like “meditation”. It looked like prayer and I never went with the meditation part.
But now it’s not only religious leaders exhorting us to meditate, it’s scientists. Funny how spirituality often leads the way and science has to catch up.
The benefits one gains from mediation are varied and non-linear. A day of meditation does a bit of good, but a regular practice can bring benefits like peace of mind as well as the ability to think clearly in stressful situations. There is something magical and exciting about it. And scientific. We can’t forget that part.
One of the barriers to becoming regular in the practice is the idea of what meditation should be. I know I’ve sat more times than I’d like to admit, with my brain doing what felt like a free for all as I tried, in vain, to reign it in. To find a few breaths of peace, only to come to the end of my time feeling not like I’d tamed the monkey in my brain, only that I met her face to face.
But even those frustrating sessions bear fruits that cannot be imagined.
Don’t take my word for it. We live in the age of information and you can Google the hell out of the topic. But don’t just get the information, USE it. It’s not just for hippies and monks anymore. It’s for me and for you and for everyone who wants to change the world. Unleash your superpower. Tap in to your inner hippie. And afterward you can still it a steak. That’s the kind of world we live in. That’s exactly how blessed we are.
Like it. Share it. Tweet, comment and take a few minutes to tap in to your Zen.
I have recently come to a point where I meditate for 20 minutes a day, almost every day. I sit usually in my bedroom, but if Mr Dreamboat is singing Elvis songs in the shower I take my meditation on the road in my studio. It’s nice, his singing, but I really can’t focus with all that awesomeness going on so close by.
I breathe deeply, I try to clear my mind and then I try to clear it some more, and then I keep trying to clear my mind and sometimes, if I’m very, very lucky, near the end I have a few transcendental moments of sweet connection. Sometimes I just get sore hips. Whichever.
Along with my traditional meditation, I’ve come to think of my Friday painting workshops as a form of meditation as well.
For hours on end I stand in the verdant Northwest and paint the richness that is a luxurious gift from our Creator. I notice the way the leaves turn yellow on the ends, the way the shadows add depth to the buildings, holding them to earth like shady anchors. This is often an easier transition into meditation than the normal route.
What I get from each of these practices is really quite similar. When I come away from either event I am more aware. I notice how it feels to be in my body, I observe how I react to things, how food feels in my mouth.
I notice how the clouds are not white and grey at all, but shades of blue and green and brilliant casts of yellow from the glowing sun.
I suppose not everyone is interested in meditation. Perhaps you just don’t have the hips for it. I get that. I realize not everyone has the time or the inclination to take a painting workshop. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea, maybe the boss wouldn’t look highly on a 4-day work week. Makes sense.
Whether or not these two practices are your thing doesn’t really matter. It’s not really the means that are important, but the ends.
Today, because it’s Saturday, and because I promise you will like it, take some deep breaths, feel the food in your mouth and the flavors on your tongue. Notice the clouds in the sky or marvel at the profound blueness of it. Feel your body, and be grateful for it.
Paying attention, getting out of our heads and off of our phones, these things will anchor us to the earth no differently than the subtle shadows that hold things so gently to this world.
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Sometimes I feel like a meditation champion. I sit in lotus position, I’m a quasi-traditionalist, and I breathe and relax and when all the stars align, I sometimes feel a deep connection to God and the Universe that inspires and humbles me. Twenty minutes speeds by and I am sad it is over.
There are other times I feel like a meditation monkey. My nose itches and I focus on my breath for just a few short moments and for all the world I feel no connection to anything but the rough carpet of my studio floor digging into my ankle bone. And… time… draaaaaagssss… out… for.ev.er.
For the past few days I have spent anywhere from a few minutes to full hours in the garden in my front yard. In front of my house is a beautiful little garden with a fountain and rose bushes that scent the air so thickly that it’s a wonder I don’t come back into the house and infuse the entire residence with their perfume. If only…
The sun has been gracing the Northwest for the past week, so every day I go out into the garden and I pull some weeds and prune some bushes. I have the scrapes and slivers in my hands to prove it. I began my daily ritual because what was once a show piece garden has begun to fail under my poor management. My own interests have taken priority and it will take more hours until the little oasis returns to its full bloom. Nevertheless, I’ve made some good progress and my efforts are already showing.
Just like in life, when we serve others, we receive far more than we ever give, so too gives my little garden to my soul.
I may not be in the traditional lotus position and my hands are certainly worse for the wear, but oh! my soul! It benefits gloriously from a moving mediation. The plants practically ooze their life onto me and I am convinced that these daily meditations take me further than I ever go on my own.
I’ve branded myself a closet introvert. Sure, some people take exception to labels, but labels make me feel comfortable. I like them. They help me make sense of the world. And so I make sense of myself with the label, “Closet Introvert”.
You might like to use the label yourself. Perhaps you prefer extrovert or omnivert (a recent update on personality types). It doesn’t really matter. We all have our preferences. Painful as it is, we’re probably not the unique, little snowflakes we imagine ourselves to be. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger.
Whether we claim to be introverts or admire the extrovert, each of us needs a little time alone. It’s good for the soul no matter which way you lean. As I write this I find myself in a silent household. The lack of other occupants has not inspired me to turn on the TV for background noise, I feel no need to listen to the radio. The sound of rain and a deep breathing dog is plenty of company for me just now.
I am an avid fan of meditation. There is a deep calm to be found when we still our bodies and still our minds.
And while many people aren’t quite sure how to do it, in Michelle Land it is quite simple.
Try not to think about stuff
Fail at it
Until you’ve tried it for a while (like 8 minutes or even 20)
There is a time and a place for company. To be in the company of those we love is rejuvenating and brings us joy. But the time we spend with ourselves is just as important. Our mind can be a place of sanctuary, but when we let the horses of our thoughts run wild, it becomes a place from which we wish to escape. That’s just sad if you think about it.
Meditation calms the horses of our minds. There is no vacation from our problems, but when we meditate, even for just a few minutes a day, we find relief and a safe haven from all that bothers us.
I am sitting in a quiet house with solitude my hearty companion. I have no need for entertainment and even the computer feels a bit too much. I have showered myself in sights and sounds and stimulation, even a die hard extrovert would need a break. I can feel it now like the need for a shower after a long trip into the out of doors. I need a retreat and the simple and easy answer is meditation. Don’t mind if I do.
“The whole of meditation practice can be essentialized into these 3 crucial points: Bring your mind home. Release. And relax!” – Sogyal Rinpoche