Category Archives: Meditation

The Most Basic Guide to Affirmations

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There are infinite schools of thought as to how good things happen in a person’s life.
Maybe that person is just extra good.
Maybe they believe it, so it happened.
They made a deal with the Devil.
They made a deal with God.
They were lucky.
The sun lined up with Jupiter just right and the full moon was in retrograde.

I’m not a scientist, so I can neither confirm nor deny the power of the moon in retrograde, but I do know that the practice of positive affirmation isn’t a wasted one. There is something to having hope, faith and love. Believing for the best has the power to rewire your brain and help you finally put a stop to the things we are usually eager to leave behind.

Dr. Arlene Taylor specializes in speaking on brain function and she had some very interesting things to say about the best way to get your brain to respond:

According to the dictionary, the word affirm means to validate and to state positively. Practically, this defines a nurturing communications style; one in which you talk to yourself and to others in a positive manner. In general, “positives” are more powerful than “negatives.” Positives are a one-step process that creates a picture that you want the brain to follow. Negatives, on the other hand, require a two-step process. Words such as don’t are meant to convey do the opposite of the picture that was just created in the brain. This is often difficult for a mature brain to figure out and may be virtually impossible for the immature brain to compute.It might feel silly at first, but let me encourage you to speak affirmations out loud.

-Dr. Arlene Taylor, “What Does Affirmation Mean?”

Much like we do, our brains respond best to a positive environment with clear, direct communication.

What do you want?
Say them. Audibly.
It doesn’t have to be for an audience but it’s important that you AND your brain gets the message about what you’re going for.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to the words you choose, no magic spell.
So again, what do you want?
Put those desires together in a clear and direct sentence.

I am awake and alive. I have all the energy I need for today.

I am capable and strong enough to face the challenges that come my way.

I can form habits that are beneficial and long-lasting.

Choosing happiness is something I can and will do everyday.

Where are you in your life right now?
What would you like to see come into your life or change?
That’s a great place to start.
Speak what you would like to see.
Speak what you would like your brain to agree with instead of agreeing with things that aren’t necessarily any more true-

That you aren’t smart enough, likeable, pretty, strong, able.
That good things will never happen for you.
That you aren’t good enough.
That you just aren’t the kind of person who gets what they dream of.

Stop agreeing with those things consciously or subconsciously.
You are able and you are enough.
So say it.

How to Meditate with a Child

After the launch of my newest book, Miracles Now, I received some awesome emails from my readers. Many of them reported that they were intuitively guided to share the Miracles Now meditations with their kids! This news thrilled me. My hope and my intention is that those of us on a mindful path can organically plant spiritual seeds in our children. In this week’s vlog I share fabulous tips on how to teach meditation to kids. When you plant a spiritual seed in a child you can know that you have given them the greatest gift they could ever receive.

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Reaching Out For Compassion

Rabindranath Tagore embarrassment of compassion fills your eyes rain on we lucky spaces between potential and the real take my hand and walk togetherAt a weekend workshop I led, one of the participants, Marian, shared her story about the shame and guilt that had tortured her. Marian’s daughter Christy, in recovery for alcoholism, had asked her mother to join her in therapy. As their sessions unfolded, Christy revealed that she’d been sexually abused throughout her teen years by her stepfather, Marian’s second husband.

The words and revelations Marian heard that day pierced her heart. “You just slept through my whole adolescence!” her daughter had shouted. “I was being violated and had nowhere to turn! No one was there to take care of me!” Christy’s face was red; her hands clenched tight. “I was afraid to tell you then, and now I know why. You can’t handle the truth. You can’t handle me. You never could. I hate you!”

As she watched her daughter dissolve into heaving sobs, Marian knew that what she’d heard was true. She hadn’t been able to handle her daughter’s involvement with drugs, her clashes with teachers, or her truancy and suspensions from school, because she couldn’t handle anything about her own life.

At this point, compassion for herself was not only impossible, Marian was convinced it would have been wrong: the horror that Christy endured was her fault; she deserved to suffer.

We’ve all harmed others and felt as if we were bad because of our actions. When we, like Marian, face the truth that we’ve hurt others, sometimes severely, the feelings of guilt and shame can tear us apart. Even when the damage isn’t so great, some of us still feel undeserving of compassion or redemption.

At times like these, the only way to find compassion for ourselves is by reaching out to something larger than the self that feels so small and miserable. We might for instance take refuge by calling on the Buddha, Divine Mother, God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Shiva, or Allah – reaching towards a loving awareness that is great enough to offer comfort and safety to our broken being.

As a Catholic, Marian had found moments of deep peace and communion with a loving God. But, in her despair, she now felt alone in the universe. Sure, God existed, but she felt too sinful and wretched to reach out to him.

Fearing she might harm herself, Marian sought counsel from an elderly Jesuit priest she had known in college. After she’d wept and told him her story, he gently took one of her hands and began drawing a circle in the center of her palm. “This,” he said, “is where you are living. It’s painful—a place of kicking and screaming and deep, deep hurt. This place cannot be avoided, let it be.”

Then he covered her whole hand with his. “But, if you can, try also to remember this: there is a greatness, a wholeness that is the kingdom of God, and in this merciful space, your immediate life can unfold. This pain is held always in God’s love. As you know both the pain and the love, your wounds will heal.

Marian felt as if a great wave of compassion was pouring through the hands of the priest and gently bathing her, inviting her to surrender into its caring embrace. As she gave her desperation to it, she knew she was giving herself to the mercy of God. The more she let go, the more she felt held. Yes, she’d been blind and ignorant; she’d caused irreparable damage, but she wasn’t worthless, she wasn’t evil. Being held in the infinite compassion of God, she could find her way to her own heart.

Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. The priest wasn’t advising Marian to ignore the pain or to deny that she’d failed her daughter, but to open her heart to the love that could begin the healing.

Now, rather than being locked inside her tormenting thoughts, Marian could remember the possibility of compassion. When remorse or self-hatred would arise, she would mentally say, “Please hold this pain.” When she felt her anguish as being held by God, she could face it without being ripped apart or wanting to destroy herself.

Two weeks later, when she and her daughter met again in therapy, Marian admitted to Christy – still acting cold – that she knew she’d failed her terribly. Then, gently and carefully taking her daughter’s hand, Marian drew a soft circle in the center of her palm, and whispered the same words the priest had whispered to her.

Upon hearing these words, Christy allowed herself be held, wept, and surrendered into the unexpected strength and sureness of her mother’s love. There was no way either of them could bypass the raw pain of yet unhealed wounds, but now they could heal together. By reaching out and feeling held in God’s mercy, Marian had discovered the compassion that could hold them both.

Whenever we feel held by a caring presence, by something larger than our small frightened self, we too can begin to find room in our own heart for the fragments of our life, and for the lives of others. The suffering that might have seemed “too much” can now awaken us to the sweetness of compassion.

© Tara Brach

Enjoy this talk on Cultivating Compassion 

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How to Start a Meditation Practice

meditationHave you always wanted to start meditating…but don’t know how? Or started a meditation practice and quickly fallen off the wagon? It takes a little instruction, but it’s simpler and easier than you may think.

As yogis have known for centuries and scientists more recently discovered, the benefits of meditation are profound!

Studies show, that MEDITATION can help you: lose weight, vastly improve communication and relationships, reduce anxiety and depression, overcome addiction, sharpen your thinking and master your emotions.

When you meditate, you access deeper brainwave states, helping to clear distracting thoughts, reduce stress and boost brainpower while cultivating a spiritual connection and reaching deeper states of awareness and wholeness.

Meditation trains us to use the inevitable challenges of life as opportunities to grow.

TOP 10 TIPS ON HOW TO START MEDITATING

1.    Get comfortable. 
We tend to make meditation more complicated and challenging than necessary. Take it easy. Start by taking a comfortable seat. If you’re flexible, sit on the floor, on a meditation cushion, bolster or blanket (hips higher than your knees). If you’re not, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor.

2.    Same “Bat Time”. Same “Bat Place.”
One of the most lucrative ways to coax the mind into submission is to create a ritual. Set a clearly designated space for meditation. This can be as simple as a candle, picture or stone, thoughtfully placed.

Practice at the same time every day. Start with the same protocol for each meditation. Routine triggers the mind out of the left brain (logical, linear) and into the right hemisphere (intuitive, non-linear).

3.    Sit tall.
Posture 101: Sit tall. Straighten your spine. Sit in a chair or against the wall if you need to. Lengthen the spine to help increase circulation and keep you alert.

4.    Start small.
Start where you are. If 10 min. seems overwhelming, begin with 5. After a week, begin to add 1 min. to your practice each week until you build up to 30 min. (or more) at a time.

 5.    Be nice to yourself (really nice!).
As renowned meditation teacher Sally Kempton says, “Meditation is Relationship.” Ultimately, it is all about your relationship to yourself. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. Meditation teaches us radical acceptance, compassion and unconditional love. Be sweet to your byzantine mind. Surrender to exactly who you are and what is happening – Right here. Right now. Smile.

6.    Note your excuses.
Meditation is a practice of self-inquiry. Observe the excuses you tell yourself. “I’m too tired.” “I don’t have time.”  You can carve 5 – 10 min. out of your day. Notice how your mind rationalizes breaking your commitment. No judgment. Just observation and understanding. Then, recommit.

7.    Find a meditation buddy.
Accountability is the answer to your excuses. Find a buddy. We all have an overactive, unruly mind. It’s built that way! Find a friend who is also beginning to meditate, join a Facebook group or online course. Your struggle is normal…and it will get easier.

8.    Practice Makes Perfect.
Or at least perfectly imperfect. As the great Ashtanga guru, Patthabi Jois says…”Practice. Practice. Practice. All is coming.” Like anything, we get better with practice. Think of your meditation as bicep curls for the muscle of your mind. You are training your brain to focus, concentrate and let go. Over time, with consistency…you will become more skillful.

9.    Just Breathe.
The breath is a gateway beyond the mind. Our mind is addicted to analyzing the past or projecting into the future. The breath is only ever right here, right now. Focus on your breath to anchor the mind into the present moment.

10. Start a “Benefit book”.
End your practice by observing the benefits of your practice. How do you feel? What is your emotional state or mood? Make note any changes so they register in your body and conscious mind. Next time you resist meditation, remember the benefits to help you motivate and stay committed.

Committing to Presence for the Sake of Love

 Romantic Heart from Love SeedsJeff was convinced he’d fallen out of love with his wife, Arlene, and that nothing could salvage their twenty-six-year marriage. He wanted relief from the oppressiveness of feeling continually judged and found wanting. Arlene, for her part, was hurt and angry because she felt Jeff avoided any real communication or emotional intimacy. As a last-ditch effort, she convinced him to attend a weekend workshop for couples sponsored by their church. Much to their surprise, they both left with a glimmer of hope for their future together. The message they took away was “Love is a decision.” Their guides at the workshop had insisted that while we don’t always feel loving, love is here should we choose to awaken it.

Yet, back at home, when their old styles of attacking and defending were triggered, deciding on love seemed like an ineffectual mental maneuver. Discouraged, Jeff sought me out for a counseling session. “I don’t know how to get from point A to point B,” he declared. “Like when we were together yesterday . . . my mind told me to decide on love, but that didn’t make a difference . . . my heart was in lockdown. Arlene was blaming me for something, and all I wanted to do was get away from her!”

“Let’s take another look at what happened yesterday,” I suggested, then invited him to close his eyes, put himself back into the situation, and let go of his notions of who was right or wrong. “Just let yourself experience what it’s like in your body to feel blamed and want to get away.” Jeff sat still, his face tightening into a grimace. “Keep allowing the feelings to be there,” I said, “and find out what unfolds.”

Gradually, his face softened. “Now I’m feeling stuck and sad,” he said. “We spend so much time caught in this. I withdraw, often without knowing it . . . that hurts her . . . she gets upset . . . then I very consciously want to get away. It’s sad to be so trapped.”

He looked up at me. I nodded with understanding. “What would it be like, Jeff, if instead of pulling away during this kind of encounter, you were able to let her know exactly what you were experiencing?” Then I added, “And if she, too, without accusing you of anything, were able to report on her feelings?”

“We’d have to know what we were feeling!” he said with a small laugh. “We’re usually too busy reacting.”

“Exactly!” I said. “You’d both have to be paying attention to what’s going on inside you. And that runs counter to our conditioning. When we’re emotionally stirred up, we’re lost in our stories about what’s happening, and caught in reflexive behaviors—like blaming the other person or finding a way to leave. That’s why we need to train ourselves to pay attention, so that we’re not at the mercy of our conditioning.”

I went on to explain how the practice of meditation cultivates our capacity for presence, for directly contacting our real, moment-to-moment experience. This gives us more inner space and creativity in responding—rather than reacting—to our circumstances. When I suggested that he and Arlene might consider coming to my weekly meditation class, he readily agreed. They were both there the following Wednesday night, and a month later, they attended a weekend meditation retreat I was leading.

Some weeks after the retreat, the three of us spoke briefly after class. Arlene said that thanks to their meditation practice, they were learning how to decide on love: “We have to choose presence with each other, over and over and over,” she told me. “We have to choose presence when we’re angry, presence when we aren’t in the mood to listen, presence when we’re alone and running the same old stories about how the other is wrong. Choosing presence is our way of opening our hearts.”

Jeff nodded his agreement. “I realized that it’s not about getting from point A to point B,” he said with a smile. “It’s about bringing a full presence to point A, to the life of this moment, no matter what’s going on. The rest unfolds from there.”

Taking refuge in presence—choosing presence—requires training. When “point A” is unpleasant, the last thing we want to do is to stay and feel our experience. Rather than entrusting ourselves to the waves of experience, we want to get away, lash out, numb ourselves, do anything but touch what’s real. Yet, as Jeff and Arlene were realizing, these types of false refuges keep us feeling small and defended.

As I explore in my upcoming course on cultivating more conscious, vibrant relationships, only by deepening our attention and letting life be just as it is can we find real intimacy with ourselves and others. In more than thirty-five years of teaching meditation, I’ve seen it help countless people to deepen their capacity for loving, because if we are able to stay present, we can decide on love, and give it the space and attention it needs to ignite fully. When you are next in a conflict with a dear one, your might inquire, “What would it mean to decide on love? Can I commit to deepening presence for the sake of love?” Just the inquiry will draw you closer to your heart.

© Tara Brach

Note: Coming soon  – an online course on cultivating more conscious, vibrant relationships.

Enjoy this talk on: The Dance of Relational Trance 

Join my email list: http://eepurl.com/6YfI

For more information, visit www.tarabrach.com

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