Walking the labyrinth

This Wednesday I had a morning appointment in Saint Paul, and I decided to make a stop at the College of St. Catherine in order to walk the labyrinth.

labyrinth walk
Photo credit link – Meditate in a Labyrinth

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? I realize I should have taken a photo while there but I was without electronic devices on my walk, so I did not. However, I found a great article on how to meditate in a labyrinth, so I am cribbing a photo from that, and the link as well.

I did not use the methodology described in the Wikihow page, since I found that later. I did use it as a meditative experience, starting from the outside and walking toward the inside. Then I spent some time on the inside, taking a few deep breaths, and slowly walked back out again. I walked barefoot, and did not worry too much about the acorns in my way, though I did nudge away a few small branches that had fallen along the path for the next person.

My intention was to reflect, and consider the big changes happening in my life, the opportunities that are ahead, and any possible fears that come up. It was a walking meditation, a slow and intentional walk back and forth through the “folds” of the labyrinth. It occurred to me how I knew just a bit about meditation last time I was there, more than a decade ago, but walking through it had a sacred feeling.

labyrinth visual.JPG
Photo credit link – Fractal Enlightenment

As we traverse through life, our paths are not linear. Some of them meander and fold back on themselves. Some of them seem to go in circles, and we wonder: Are we in the same place AGAIN? But really we are never in the same place twice. Even if an event seems similar, or we seem to repeat a mistake we have made before, we are not exactly the same people this time.

Our lived experiences give us a different context. This is why I love the work of Marion Woodman so much. She understands that many of us learn in a non-linear way. We forget things we have learned, or sometimes we must re-apply lesson we have learned, but in a different way, or in a different relationship.

Our learning and wisdom are never lost, even though it may seem like we did not absorb a lesson the first time. Maybe we are able to see the situation in a different way, and are ready to learn. Maybe there was resistance the first time, and we were not ready for that lesson. We receive multiple opportunities and invitations for our souls to expand and grow.

This is why I appreciate the labyrinth and the symbolism of using it as a journey both inward and outward. We can incorporate our soul’s voice and also our “outer” experiences along the path. This integration ultimately leads toward wisdom.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – watch your language

Do you ever notice what tone of voice you use with yourself when you make a mistake?

We all talk to ourselves (it is part of the human condition) though some people are not aware of what language they are using.

For example: you forgot to pick up your dry cleaning (again) and you wanted that clean shirt for tomorrow’s presentation. Do you say, “sheesh, you idiot, why did you do that again?” Or do you say, “Oh well, I guess I’ll wear a different shirt. I’d better put that reminder in my calendar next time.”

When you realize you did something you did not intend, do you have compassion for yourself?  Do you speak with yourself the way you would speak to a beloved friend? Or do you self-flagellate and add insult to injury?

It matters.

Quite simply, the way you treat yourself has a lot to do with how much compassion you can extend to others as well. If you realize we all make mistakes, that it is not a character flaw, and resolve to do it differently next time, you can learn. If you criticize yourself or use harsh words, you break down your relationship with yourself.

watch language
Photo credit link

Language can powerfully shape the way we think. If you speak to yourself with kind and loving words instead of harsh and blaming ones, you honor your being’s inherent tendency for growth and development. When you blame yourself or put yourself down (even if you do not intend, or if it is just habitual) it can erode the trust you have in your own wisdom.

It is interesting how I can observe family members or friends when they do this, but I didn’t realize when I was inadvertently doing this myself. I first discovered this during meditation. I used to “say” things like – oh dear, can you REALLY not concentrate for more than 30 seconds?”

Now when I meditate I say (to myself): hmm, how interesting that I’m thinking about X or Y. Then I gently pull myself back to my breath, or my body, whatever I am focusing on for the moment. Then 2 minutes later when I am planning my work for the day (while meditating), I say: “it’s okay, I know you are concerned about that. But it will be there when you are done meditating. Come back now.” It is a loving voice, gentle forgiving.

If you cannot access your thoughts through meditation, try a “thought download” – take a sheet of paper and just unload all of your thoughts for 5-10 minutes It might surprise you what is in there.

Curiosity and compassion will get you SO much further than blaming and shaming. 

Happy Wednesday, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

5 thousand hits!

Thank you, readers!  I just exceeded 5 thousand hits on my blog yesterday! It’s been an incredible journey since September. Now, 250 blog posts later, I am grateful for your support and encouragement as I write and process my life’s journey.

Since it is “Wellness Wednesday” I will mention one small tip on gratitude which has had profound impact on my life and wellness since I started it. Every day think of at least one or two things for which you are grateful (as I am practicing today by thanking you in this blog).

Practicing gratitude has benefits that have been proven benefits to your overall well-being. When you orient your mind toward what you are thankful for, it changes your mindset. Many people like to write these things down, and I encourage that as well, though it is not absolutely necessary. When you are new to the practice, having a small notebook where you write things down can help get you into the habit. Once you do this for 60-90 days, it will become nearly automatic, which is the goal.

You can include your gratitude practice as part of your meditation, if you meditate on a regular basis. Start with a few deep breaths and direct your mind toward people, experiences, even things that you possess, for which you are grateful. Let your mind send love and feel gratitude for this

Alternatively, when you are struggling, take a moment to focus instead of what is going right rather than what is going wrong. This skill takes a little more practice than just starting the day with gratitude. But it can also change your mindset at time when you need it.

If you do not already have a daily gratitude practice, try it out for just one week and see how it changes your attitude, your mood and your life.

rad

You are the best readers, and I really love it when you leave comments. This is such a  creative and interactive community. Love and peace to you all!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Consistency

It is interesting how we prefer consistency as humans. We want things to happen on predictable schedules and we want people to behave in predictable ways. And yet, some of us struggle with consistency in forming new habits.

With my blog, I did not want to commit to a regular schedule unless I knew I could be consistent with it. I actually did not expect to post daily. Sometimes I am still astonished that I do.

But I realize that certain activities give me energy. And when I do those things, particularly in the morning, the rest of my day flows with ease and gratitude. So I write consistently. Not because I need to get a certain number of “likes” though it seems like a nice bonus if a topic resonates.

I celebrate consistency, because as someone with a.d.d., it has not always been easy for me to adopt new habits. But when I am determined, I organize my life to achieve whatever new goal I have in mind.

Attacking too many new habits or goals at once is a recipe for failure. If you stick to one habit at most (meditating every day for 5-10 minutes, for example, or taking a short walk once a day) and maintain it for 60-90 days, you are on the road to consistency.

meditation 7 types
Photo credit link – 7 types of meditation

Once this happens, you have demonstrated you could succeed, and now you are a “person that meditates” making it a part of your identity. According to my Insight Timer I have meditated (or practiced yoga, which I think of as moving meditation) every day for 470+ consecutive days.

Meditation is changing me. I now look forward to it. I’m astonished. For years I did not think I could meditate. Mostly because people said you had to start with 15 minutes or more.

When I realized just doing it daily for 5 minutes was do-able, I slowly began increasing the time, so now my average for the past 12 weeks is 57 minutes a day. This is nothing short of miraculous.

What is one area in your life where you would like to have more consistency? Is it worth investing 5-10 minutes a day for 60-90 days to make it happen? 

 

Inviting yourself back

One of my favorite meditations from Insight Timer is by Anna Guest-Jelly called “May I Know What I Know.” It involves a body scan in which we are moved through body starting with the feet, and moving to each region. After the exercise, we consider if there are any places we could not feel, that may have been “offline” from our awareness, so to speak.

emotions body
Photo credit link

The more I practice this body awareness and deliberately tune into places in the body that may be mysterious, the more I tune into emotions. Sometimes I realize why there are “frozen” parts – those emotions may be difficult ones, like grief or anger. I am still learning to feel those emotions all the way through, and sit with them. It is an exercise in compassion and patience to realize I have habitually escaped those feelings, or pushed them under with distraction, food, or other buffers (like busy-ness) rather than to be still with them.

But now that I realize these feelings are an important emotional compass for me, I have begun to “invite myself back” more often. I tune into that channel – my gut, my shoulders, my back, sometimes my lower spine, when they are trying to tell me something. Rather than get lost in thought, and spinning mental energy, I aim to come back to the body, invite my whole self back.

This tendency to abandon the body and thus abandon ourselves is well-supported by our culture. Feeling our emotions and tuning into our intuition is seen as fluffy or woo-woo in many circles. But as I do it more, and acknowledge the times when I have buried my needs and wants in favor of pleasing other people, it gives me pause.

caring
Photo credit link

Women are well-conditioned to attending to others’ needs and taking care of partners, children, bosses, teammates, even parents sometimes. But we do not always attend to our own bodies, our own yearnings. I inadvertently learned in my family that we could (and perhaps should) ignore these needs in favor of taking care of others. This abandonment does not serve us long-term though.

Even the airlines tell us to put on our own mask before helping others. Inviting ourselves back can feel like a radical act of rebellion against patriarchy. It asks us to make everyone else comfortable, and to remain small and and of service, never demanding anything for ourselves. And yes, I think it is patriarchy that promotes this idea of the “good daughter” and it is one we must dismantle.

When we invite ourselves back, we ground ourselves in our truth. We allow ourselves to live in greater harmony with nature, and with our bodies, part of nature. We begin to understand the connected nature of all people, of all parts of the universe. We feel compassion for ourselves and for others in their struggles. We make different choices that are more sustainable for ourselves and thus can serve others with a spirit of generosity rather than resentment.

Inviting ourselves back means we have to set appropriate boundaries and say no to things that do not align with our purpose or intention. That can be very hard for those of us who were trained to say “yes” to everything we are asked to do. We can be perceived as “uppity” or trouble-makers, or not those nice girls we used to be.

It is a daily practice, inviting ourselves back. It does not simply happen one day, and then all things change. It is a daily choice, a habit that grows easier with regular practice. If we want to make sustainable change in the world, I believe it is non-negotiable. The world needs our whole and integrated selves. Our souls call for this as well.

Consider inviting yourself back today and centering on what your body is telling you. I would love to know how this changes or decisions and your results.

This moment, this breath

All we have is this moment. The past exists only in our memories. And the future exists only in our imagination.

Neither the past nor the future exist, except in our minds.

All we have is this moment, right now, anchored to the body by this breath, and our awareness of being HERE.

By awakening to this moment, developing the awareness to keep coming back here again and again, we develop gratitude and wonder for the abundance all around us.

People and companies from all channels, teevee, and internet, try to sell us happiness, in a can of Coke, the latest shoes, car or whatever accessory they urge us to buy and consume.

In the meantime, when we are aware that nothing outside of us can bring us true joy, and that we can tap an inner well of joy at any time, we are truly free.

We give thanks for our existence, for that miracle of being born in a time when we can create, as a species, more than we will ever need to survive.

We become conscious of over-using resources of the earth without regard for consequences. By not cultivating ecological harmony for future generations, we short-change the gift we simply received with no work on our part. It was granted just by being born of this earth.

As we sit in stillness and awareness of this moment, let us realize this great gift. Let us restore and heal our mother earth  and honor her for how she has fed us and sheltered us. We thank her for granting all the raw materials we need to apply our human ingenuity to transform into tools for better living.

She has not failed us and continues to give generously. Let us pledge never to fail her.

divine feminine
Photo credit link – The Divine Feminine and Return of the Sacred Wisdom of Creation

Amen.

(a prayer/meditation to honor the divine feminine, handwritten by mexi minnesotana on March 1, 2018, transcribed March 2, 2018.)

What are you making it mean?

One of the things I have discovered as I have developed a daily practice of meditation is that my mind does not sit still very willingly.

I used to confuse meditation with the idea that you must empty your mind of thoughts. Maybe some well-trained and long-practiced gurus can do this, but I am not at that level. What I *can* do however, is pay attention to my thoughts. If I use a mantra for meditation, like “ease of being” or pay attention to the breath, or scan the body, I inevitably get distracted, and my mind starts doing what it does so well, thinking and churning away.

But then I realize I have gone away from the intention for that practice, gently bring the mind back, and begin again. In the beginning, I think I used to get annoyed with myself – how did I get distracted so easily and so quickly?!? The more I learned and studied I realized that it was much better to view this with compassion. As Jon Kabat-Zinn would say: it’s not a problem, or a mistake that you got distracted. This is just what minds do. When you notice you have gone off, just bring it back. That is the very essence of the practice.

Wow. What a relief. I’m not doing it wrong. Dan Harris, wrote 10% Happier, uses the metaphor that meditation is like a “bicep curl” for the brain. The process of bringing the mind back, many many times, is what helps you grow in the practice, and to develop mastery over your mind.

presence of mind
Photo credit link – YouTube with Alan Watts on Presence of Mind

As I developed in my practice, I began to see places where my mind would create and invent stories upon hearing communication from someone else. And my mind is inventive about this, thought it has a very story-lines it seems to prefer. For example, if I heard a benign comment from my husband about something that struck me in an emotional way, I would stew about it, and use it to feel bad.

But if I used the approach, recommended by coaches and therapists to echo back what I had heard (“you plan to go cut some wood after work”), and said, “what I’m making that mean is that you want some time away from me, you are tired of spending time with me.” Typically that is not what he meant at all, and he would correct the invented story that was running through my head. By saying it out loud, and declaring my interpretation, I was able to clarify that HE did not mean that, my own mind was inventing a story that was creating hurt. 

So have learned to do this more often in general, not always out loud, depending on the context. But sometimes I will examine a particular comment or issue that is bothering me, and ask myself “What am I making it mean?” to allow myself to stop and take some distance, realize that my mind is programmed to make sense of the world, and so often jumps to whatever conclusion fits its usual story-line. When I question that thought, I realize that might not be the case at all. The objective facts or circumstance presented itself and my mind took the next “logical” step, which may not be logical at all.

Our minds are pretty sneaky, and we sometimes buy into these stories as though they are reality. These stories create an emotional state, and if they are habitual, we typically forget to question them. But it is worth stopping now and then, examining them, asking ourselves if we really know that thought is true. Or is it just a projection? Is it just a story-line that we have thought so many times, we believe it to be true?

We then understand that these thoughts are optional, and we may learn to let go of them more easily, to hold them lightly instead of tightly. There is so much freedom in that, and so much less drama. What are you making it mean?