Meditation // Category

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15 Sep

I’m delighted to introduce you to Daniel Piatek, a spiritual guide to many and an old friend and mentor of mine.

Daniel and I spent several years living, working, and meditating together in a contemporary spiritual ashram. That was almost 20 years ago.

These days, Daniel leads transformational spiritual travel adventures. His upcoming “Reunion with the Divine Odyssey Quest” is a unique alchemy of tour, retreat, vision quest and spiritual adventure through Catalonia, Spain and France, October 25 – November 3, 2019.

I encourage you to check it out. (More on this down below.)

Also, Daniel has provided some free resources below: a guided meditation entitled Advice from Your Future and an Ebook called “The 3 Sacred Keys”.

Guided Meditation

Advice from Your Future: A Guided Meditation to Discover Your Next Right Steps

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>> DanielPiatekGuidedMeditation

In order to discover new, creative solutions to life’s dilemmas, we have to get beyond the realm of what we already know. When we free ourselves from the limitations of our current perspective, and lean in with wonder and curiosity, perfect next steps can be discovered.

This guided meditation is a tool to assist you in discovering perfect next right steps for you in relation to a dilemma you’re facing in life right now.

It will free you to perceive beyond the world of the known and receive guidance from the deeper parts of yourself.

This meditation is designed to be engaged with a particular problem you’re facing, or choice you have to make. You will be guided to discover your next right steps toward creating a perfect solution.

Ebook Download: The 3 Sacred Keys

For a free electronic copy of Daniel’s short book which teaches a simple method for creating perfect solutions through living daily life from Not Knowing (daily life-as-meditation), click here: The3SacredKeys

Special Opportunity: Reunion with the Divine Odyssey Quest

Transformational travel provides a way to commune with the deeper parts of yourself. While you’re familiar with the positive influence of meditation in your life, imagine taking 10 days away from it all to discover parts of yourself which are wanting to emerge in your life now.

Daniel Piatek leads transformational spiritual travel adventures. His upcoming “Reunion with the Divine Odyssey Quest” is a unique alchemy of tour, retreat, vision quest and spiritual adventure through Catalonia, Spain and France, October 25 – November 3, 2019.

This experience is designed to explore both inner and outer landscapes, uncovering more about yourself as you discover new lands and new tales. This Odyssey Quest Tour, themed around the energies of the Black Madonna, the Mythic Dark Mother from cultures worldwide, will give you access to the deeper stirrings of your being while having the adventure of a lifetime.

For a video about the Odyssey Quest and more information, click here: https://heroacademy.kartra.com/page/8Db59

Daniel Piatek Bio

Daniel Piatek catalyzes, inspires, and guides others to take up the adventure of your life – becoming who you truly are. In his book, “The 3 Sacred Keys: An Operating System for Quantum Transformation,” Daniel teaches you how to access Wisdom & Creativity within. This Inner Genius can guide you, step by step, to perfect resolutions and a life that is a reflection of who you authentically are.

Daniel has continually walked his own path for over 30 years, experiencing profound life transformations as his alignment with his Inner Genius deepens. Utilizing the wisdom he’s gained, along with real-time, intuitive guidance, Daniel personally mentors his clients and students as they master navigating their own unique path.

You can find more information about his work at HeroAcademy.com

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03 Sep

How do you keep your meditation practice strong and steady? How do you stay inspired? In this episode, I share some of the things that have added fuel to my fire and helped a lot to keep my meditation practice fruitful.

In particular, we explore the power of getting up early as a way to boost your practice. For me, it’s a game changer. I went from never setting an alarm to setting it for 515am every morning and I feel awesome as a result.

Why?

Because I’m logging a minimum of 30 minutes of meditation. I’m reading 10-20 pages of a book each morning. And I’m managing to squeeze in deep breathing and exercise (running) as well. And usually I’m done with all that by around 730.

Coming out of the gates like that every morning affects every aspect of my life and I haven’t looked back. I love it.

Another game changer? Intermittent fasting. During the week, I’ve been experimenting with having just miso and chicken broth at dinner time.

So effectively, I’m giving up dinner during the week. The result? I feel incredible. I don’t miss eating dinner. I bounce out of bed in the mornings. I feel lighter and I’m shedding unnecessary pounds.

Also, there is something deep and peace inducing about giving up food. There’s a reason that fasting has occupied a hallowed place among the spiritual practices of the great mystical traditions.

Renouncing your core cravings makes you strong and gives you spiritual vitality.

And although I’m only fasting from after lunch to breakfast the next morning—from 2pm to 6am or about 18 hours—it still makes a difference physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

If that kind of thing resonates with you, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And finally, I share some tips and advice that I gave to one of our members who was struggling with motivation. I think you’ll find it useful.

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23 Jun

As someone interested in meditation, you have no doubt heard about the myriad of benefits to be gained from making this path a regular part of your life.

You already know about the positive effects on everything from brain health, to your relationships and how many elite athletes and successful business people attribute their success to cultivating a daily meditation habit.

While all of these powerful benefits sound amazing, for people with very full lives the truth is;

Meditation takes up space in your life.

While devoted practitioners will tell you that meditation makes space in your life, it is just as true to say it takes up space too.

Whether you are committing to ten minutes a day or 2 hours, sitting down to meditate takes time. And while the long list of benefits are enticing for those interested in taking on this practice, the main obstacle for many people when it comes to committing to regular meditation is usually surrounding the perceived lack of time.

“I would love to practice meditation every day, but I’m too busy.”

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day to add meditation to my schedule.”

“I know meditation is so good for me, but life is too hectic right now to do it.”

Sound familiar?

As an author, yoga teacher and mother of a toddler I can relate to all of this. But over the years I have come to see the “busy problem” less as a deterrent to regular practice and more as an opportunity for growth and clarity.

Re-Thinking Busy

It may seem confusing at first but being “too busy” is just as much an opportunity as it is an obstacle. But it does require you to re-think your relationship to your “busy-ness”.

I recorded a podcast about this topic, but recently I was out for dinner with friends who both own and manage several businesses. They have very full social lives and are parents to an energetic little one themselves.

If anyone is allowed to wear the “busy” badge it is these two.

Interestingly they don’t see things that way. One of my friends said that when he hears people talk about how hectic their schedules are he translates it to mean “my life is out of control.”

It was a fantastic point, especially powerful when it comes to those of us who think we are truly too busy to meditate. If your life feels busy and hectic to take on a meditation practice, don’t overlook the ways you have created it to be that way.

Also, consider if you had to say “my life is out of control” each time you were tempted to say “I am SOOOO busy” how that would feel.

Now, I understand that you have demands on our energy and our time, but in most cases, no one forces you to take on more than you can handle or tells you how to use your time. When life is out of control, it is almost always because you have consciously or unconsciously designed it that way.

The Good News

If you can relate to feeling trapped by your “busy-ness”, the good news is there is a wonderful opportunity there.

Meditation is one of the best tools you can use to regain ownership of your life. Think of it as “Busy Person Rehab.”

Sitting down and giving your full attention to the spaciousness of your being is a beautiful way of putting your life into perspective. Giving yourself the gift of time and space free from your schedule or to-do list can serve as a gentle reminder to slow down and avoid overbooking yourself so you can enjoy your precious life.

Wearing the “busy badge” can be a huge obstacle for many would-be meditators, but with a slight shift of perspective, you can build a regular meditation habit and enjoy the benefits of this path.

In Part 2: Tips for the “Busy” Meditator I will share practical tools and tips you can use to help you get out of the busy trap and start enjoying a regular mediation.

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23 Jun

Who doesn’t have a to-do list? That familiar cascade of items which never seems to clear fully.

It sure seems that as soon as it shortens, twelve more things find their way on the end of that list (or jump to the top of it), bringing us back to square one.

It’s great to be responsible and to know I am in control of my own life. There’s a great freedom that comes with adulthood—I am not dependent on anyone else to provide me food or clothing.

No one is checking up to see if I have done my homework or brushed my teeth. My life is entirely in my control.

The Pressure of Have-Tos

However, this responsibility and independence has its downside. I find myself frequently asking myself, “What do I have to do?”

I look at my task list—which is digitally-synchronized across my devices—and often feel overwhelmed at what I see.

In an attempt to soften the overwhelm, I strategize. “OK, I can call my mom as I’m sweeping the floors.” So I call her up and grab the broom.

I am already multitasking as I sweep my way into my bedroom and see a basket full of clean laundry.

I pause the sweeping to put my clothes away, all the while half-listening to what my mom is saying, waiting for her to pause for me to interject a comment which will make it appear that I am listening.

Then she asks me about scheduling a lunch, so I leave my bedroom to get to my calendar. Next to the calendar I see a wedding invite, and I realize that I haven’t RSVP’d yet and need to do that today as well.

Oh, and it’s March. Don’t. Forget. Taxes.

The Fleeting Promise of Multitasking

When the conversation with my mom is over, I sit down to focus on preparing my annual tax documents…with the floors half-swept, the laundry half-put away, and the wedding RSVP card unsigned on the counter.

Then the feeling of overwhelm increases with a newfound urgency, because I have started and half-completed a host of tasks.

The chaos of that scene is just an example of what so many of us do every day. We are often in such a rush to get things done, focusing on the end result of having things done that we lose sight of the process.

This lack of presence leads to a much higher chance that tasks will be done incompletely or errantly.

If I am not paying attention to sweeping, I can easily miss an area of the floor, or accidentally sweep up something that isn’t trash and have that be lost for good. This inevitably leads to greater problems down the road, because I’ll be accountable for a potentially preventable mistake that I made.

I am not alone in getting great satisfaction in crossing something off my to-do list. Yet that satisfaction is fleeting, as the newest top priority is now staring me in the face, and the pressure to complete that task immediately evident.

So the cycle continues.

Unitasking

What if I approached that same list in a more mindful way?

I call my mom and sit down as we speak. In a mindful phone call, I can relate far better with her. I hear what she is saying, and am able to respond.

On some level, it’s clear to her that I am listening to her and responding with presence. The benefit for her, and for our relationship, is immeasurable.

After I get off the phone, I turn to sweep. As this is the only task I am working on. I am very mindful about where the broom is going, what areas of the floor I have gotten and haven’t.

Focusing only on sweeping, I’m free to notice my wife’s missing earring on the floor. I find a natural rhythm with the broom and enjoy the process.

The process of being mindful is applicable to any task. When performing a task, make that the only thing you are doing.

How Are You Spending Your Life?

Completing these tasks is going to take a certain amount of time regardless. I can choose to rush through four things simultaneously, doing them all with divided attention, stressing along the way, for that momentary satisfaction of crossing them off my list.

Of the finite amount of time I am here on this earth, in this case I am choosing to spend a portion of it in stress completing the task for that momentary satisfaction of having completed it.

Instead, if I approach my tasks with mindfulness and bring presence to what I’m doing, my time on earth is suddenly more enjoyable and far less stressful. On top of this, I still have the satisfaction of crossing the item off my to-do list.

I invite you to consider how you’re approaching the things that you have to do. Can you bring a sense of mindfulness to them?

Start with the very next task you are going to complete, whether it’s reading an article, eating a meal, or walking to your car. What does it feel like to do only that task?

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23 Jun

Many of my most profound spiritual awakenings have come to me through the practice of meditation. I see it as a spiritual discipline that is central to philosophy in that at its core the practice of meditation involves making direct contact with reality.

Meditation is a time-honored spiritual discipline practiced in both the Judeo-Christian traditions of the West and the Buddhist and Hindu traditions of the East.

As I have learned it, the ultimate aim of the practice is to make direct contact with reality as it is. The ultimate prize to be won is an unadorned experience of the real. A direct encounter with reality in this way is shocking and unmistakable.

What Philosophers and Mystics Have In Common

One of the things that philosophers and mystics have generally agreed is that human beings do not generally experience reality directly as it is. Plato in his famous allegory of the cave described our normal perception of reality in terms of shadows on a cave wall.

Seldom if ever do any of us turn from the shadow play on the cave wall to face the figures that are actually casting the shadows, and it is even more rare for us to look beyond the figures directly into the source of light behind them.

More recently Immanuel Kant described how we never experience reality as it is. Rather we experience phenomenon that are created from the encounter of the perceptual mechanisms of our mind and reality.

We only experience this combination and therefore never experience reality directly.

My own experience of meditation has shown me that we as human beings all prefer to experience pleasure over pain and in gross and subtle, conscious and unconscious, ways we are constantly manipulating our experience into more pleasurable arrangements.

We do this by directing our attention toward thoughts and feelings that we find pleasing and away from those that are uncomfortable.

Experiencing Reality As It Is

The way that I have learned to practice meditation can essentially be described as the practice of resisting the temptation to manipulate your experience in anyway. You simply allow yourself to experience reality however it presents itself without doing anything at all.

In this practice you quickly find that what sounds like it should be simple is actually a supreme challenge. As you sit with the intention not to do anything at all and only to experience reality as it is, you quickly experience how much strong a habit you have of constantly manipulating your experience.

In meditation you endeavor to give up control, to surrender to the way things are, and you find yourself desperately holding onto control – consciously and unconsciously making an unending stream of adjustments to your experience.

If you begin to be successful in the practice of giving up control you will begin to discover a profound truth. You will see that seemingly every aspect of reality as you experience it is a fictitious manipulation.

Your sense of things, your sense of self, your sense of others – it is all a construction rather than a given.

The Revelation of Coming Home

You might even begin to experience what William James described as the stream of consciousness. In this unending stream of awareness everything manifests as a succession of experiences each flowing into the next.

In that stream you cannot find anything that you can identify with as you, although ‘you’ seem to be there.

As you continue to let go your mind begins to relax into a profound state of not-knowing. You realize that your normal experience of reality is not the way things are and as you become less and less afraid of discovering the truth about the way things are you relax more and more deeply into reality.

It is the most profound experience of coming home, because of course this is where you always have been. It is the most intense experience of revelation because you are seeing right in front of your eyes the reality of the way things always have been.

You discover the mechanisms that you have learned to adopt in order to construct reality and hide from the truth.

Living in a reality of our own construction is in many ways essential and allows us to get along in an unpredictable world. In other ways, however, it keeps us locked into ways of being that may have long outlived any value.

The most detrimental of these is an assumed fearful relationship to life. After all, if we are constantly manipulating our experience, we must somewhere be convinced that reality as it is cannot be trusted.

As you let go of the habit of manipulation you simultaneously let go of the habit of mistrust.

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22 Jun

When I started meditating, I thought that meditating was a magic activity. If I could do it right, I thought it would connect me with the Great Mystery, reveal my true nature, develop wisdom, and give me inner peace.

All I had to do was was follow its inscrutable rules and mysterious instructions.

I would sit with my legs crossed (in lotus if I could stand it). Spine erect but supple. My hands in special positions. I would release tension over and over, trying to reach an unattainable zero-point tension level. I thought each instruction held an invisible key that I hoped would get me closer to the Divine.

But with all my attention to my body, did it actually help my meditation? Not if the point of meditating is to learn about your mind instead of looking like the cover of a meditation magazine.

Sitting for meditation doesn’t need to be complex or physically taxing. Your posture should support your practice, not distract from it. For beginners, it’s often best to start simple.

Is There a “Right” Way to Sit for Meditation?

While there are many different instructions about sitting, there are two common themes that show up again and again in many different traditions.

The first is that you should have a firm, balanced base. Whether you are seated in a chair or on a cushion, you should feel grounded and stable. Your weight should feel balanced.

And the second common instruction is to have an erect spine. Slouching is discouraged. It feels uncomfortable and makes your attention a lazy. Some techniques are quite strict about this. For others, it’s more of a guideline.

But other than being grounded and having an erect spine, the rest can vary wildly. Hands facing up or down. Eyes open or closed. Legs in lotus or not. Gaze downwards or forward. Some instructions are quite strict while others are more forgiving. There are many different spins on the right way to meditate.

So why is it important?

The biggest reason to use a special meditation posture is to help build your meditation practice. The posture is designed to minimize distractions. By organizing your body, it helps calm and organize your mind.

In addition, using the same position day after day helps your mind to automatically know how to settle down. It’s a little Pavlovian. Sitting in the same position every time you meditate is a direct signal to your mind that “now it’s time to meditate”.

And the last reason many traditions suggest using particular positions is that it helps balance your energetic body. Some traditions are quite exact on this point. For example, they’ll instruct that certain hand positions create different effects in the body. While opinions vary about these effects, many people believe that your body is more prepared for meditation in a balanced, grounded position.

Ultimately, meditation can happen any where and in any position. But as a good, common sense guideline, a formal mediation posture makes it easier to meditate.

How to Sit in a Simple Meditation Posture

  • Find a comfortable position on a cushion or in a chair. If you are on a cushion, have enough height below your hips so you can sit comfortably without needing to hold yourself upright. If you are on a chair, have your feet flat on the floor in a balanced, even way.
  • Allow your spine to be soft and erect.
  • Place your hands in your lap, either palms down on your legs or open to the sky.
  • Let yes head point forward and slightly down so you’re not jutting your chin.
  • Close your eyes or leave your eyes open, gaze soft.

That’s it. No hocus pocus. Nothing mysterious. Take a position that is both balanced and comfortable–bonus points if you use the same position every time you meditate.

Common Questions about Sitting for Meditation

Do I have to sit in lotus?

No! Any comfortable position for your legs is fine. If you are on the floor, you can sit cross-legged or with your knees bent so your feet are beside your hips. Placing a height beneath your hips (a pillow, cushion or yoga block) can help if your back is sore or hips tight. If you are in a chair, place your feet evenly on the floor.

Do I have to buy a special meditation cushion or bench?

No. Some meditation traditions use special meditation cushions or benches. If you like them and they make you feel more comfortable, they can be a good tool for your practice. But if you want to sit on a regular pillow, yoga block, or chair, that is fine too.

What if my back hurts?

Sometimes it’s easiest to start with a support for your back. You can sit in a chair or against the wall so you’re not struggling to stay upright.

There’s nothing complex about sitting for meditation. Find a balanced position and begin.

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22 Jun

“Hey, how are you?”

“Fine, thanks. How are you?”

“Good.”

This interaction is certainly familiar to all of us – as part of our saying “hello” we include a “how are you?” Yet how often does that question really prompt a deep and thoughtful response instead of the knee-jerk platitude?

Consider how it feels when someone looks you in the eye with genuine care and curiosity and asks, “How are you? What’s going on in your life?” The space that interest provides is naturally very inviting for you to express what’s truly going on in your inner world.

Bringing the Focus Inwards

More importantly, how often do you ask yourself that question?

When we meditate, we are not beholden to anyone or anything. We hold no responsibility to respond to any stimulus. Simply put, it is an opportunity to be.

When we are quiet and still, we naturally open ourselves up to the more subtle sensations within us and around us. Being open to what is going on is essentially approaching ourselves with curiosity, asking, “How are you?”

This is not a question that requires a mental answer. Neither our bodies nor our hearts speak English. They have their own language, speaking in sensations and feelings. As we turn our focus inwards, we give ourselves the time and space to listen to what our bodies and hearts have to say.

Catching the Subtle Signs

Imagine that you have lost your balance and are standing on one leg with your arms flailing wildly as you attempt to regain steadiness. Your body is working very hard in a loud and demonstrative way in order to bring itself back to ease.

However, what if you were able to sense that you were off-balance before your foot even left the ground in the first place? Being aware of a subtle tilt gives you an opportunity to correct your balance long before you have to flail your arms wildly.

When we are still in meditation and bring our awareness inside, we are giving ourselves the time and space to hear the more subtle signs of imbalance from our bodies and hearts.

It is far easier to make a course correction if you recognize, for instance, that you are thirsty because you sense some dryness in your throat as opposed to waiting until you have a pounding headache due to dehydration.

Tending to the subtleties prevents us from having a major intervention at a later time.

Take Time to Pause

Not too many years ago, we lived in a world that had built-in times for stillness and self-connection. Before the age of cell phones and the ubiquitousness of the internet, if we went for a walk, there was nothing to do but walk. When driving, the only “distraction” was the radio.

When in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, we waited. Throughout our days we had these spaces automatically built-in for us to self-connect and self-reflect, making it natural for us to hear the more subtle signals coming from our hearts and bodies.

However, our world is one where we are always on and always connected. The pace of life has increased dramatically as has the volume and intensity of sensation around us. With this comes less time and space built in to our days to listen to ourselves and to hear the more subtle signals of our bodies.

Without this time built in to our days, it becomes vital for us to create it. We have to create the space to approach ourselves with the genuine curiosity of the heartfelt, “How are you?”

When we do so, we open ourselves to hearing and responding to the subtleties of our imbalance, so we don’t have to drop everything when we are flailing our arms wildly.

Simple Everyday Pause

In addition to meditation, one simple technique you can employ is to take 10-second pauses throughout your day. After hanging up the phone, before rushing off to the next item on your to-do list, try pausing and sitting still for 10 seconds.

When you arrive somewhere in your car, turn off the engine and sit for 10 seconds before getting out. The opportunities for these pauses are everywhere: between clients, between tasks, between bites of food, after taking a shower our brushing your teeth.

Give yourself time to let go of all that just happened, collect your energy, and check in with yourself. Pause and listen to what subtle sensations are present.

Maybe you’ll notice very little, and proceed as you would have otherwise. Maybe you’ll notice that you do need to take a trip to the restroom or have a sip of water.

Regardless of what you notice, you are giving yourself the gift of genuine presence and asking, “How are you?”

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22 Jun

In my last article I shared ways to reconsider what it means to say you are too “busy” when it comes to making room in your life for practices like meditation.

For many people the thought of adding a beautiful, spacious meditation into their day seems like a great idea, but most have no idea how to fit it in. If you haven’t read my article on how to re-think busy, start here.

Next, here are a few tips on what to do when you’re too busy to meditate:

1. Do an Honest Assessment

If you truly believe you don’t have even ten minutes a day to meditate, do an honest assessment of how you are using your time.

Without being hard on yourself, notice if you are spending your precious time on things that don’t add the same value to your life as meditation could. Spend a day tracking your normal activities and how you use your time.

You will likely notice some area you can reduce to give yourself the gift of a regular meditation session (the primary time stealers for most people are T.V., Social Media and scrolling your smartphone).

2. Take Something In, Let Something Out

One of my favourite methods to help keep my living space free from getting too cluttered is that I don’t bring something new in unless I am willing to let something I already have, go.

When you buy a new sofa, it is to replace the old one you no longer love to sit on. You don’t stack your new sofa on top of the old one. You sell or give that old piece of furniture away to make room in your home for the new one.

Strangely, many people do not think this way about how they use their time.

They don’t think that in order to bring in a new habit like meditation they may need to trade out the 20 minutes of hitting the snooze button in the morning or delegate a few tasks to other members of their household.

Avoid trying to cram more into your schedule and letting meditation become just another task on your to-do list. Instead make the conscious choice to trade out an activity or habit that is eating up your time with no real benefit and clear the way meditation.

3. Make a Date with Yourself…and Some Friends

When I first began exploring meditation I found it very difficult to stick to my commitment. My urgent “to-do list” often displaced my intention to meditate because it wasn’t a high level priority to me yet.

However, I knew that when I did keep my appointment with myself to meditate, I felt better and had a greater perspective with which to face the day. I decided to make a daily date with myself and invite a few friends to help me stay accountable.

I met with fellow yoga teachers before we began our classes for the day and we would sit together for an hour. On the days that wasn’t possible, I would jump on a Skype call with friends from all over North America and enjoy the connected silence of shared meditation.

Accountability is a powerful thing.

While I wish I was the type of person that always kept appointments with myself, in truth knowing that other people were counting on me to show up is was the inspirational push I needed to sit down and meditate some days.

Booking your meditation sessions on the calendar ahead of time might be all your need to do to give yourself the space. If not, use the power of meditation friends who can help you support your desire to carve out the room in your life to sit regularly.

If you are willing to look, you can find the time and energy to bring regular meditation into your life. We all have 24 hours each day and meditation is a practice that can help you appreciate the sacred nature of this beautiful life you are living.

I promise. You’ll be glad you did.

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22 Jun

Meditation is a hot subject these days. You hear about it everywhere.

And like any subject that is popular in Facebook feeds and new shows, there can be a number of myths and misunderstandings about it.

7 Meditation Myths

In this first part of a 3-part series on “Common Meditation Myths”, we’ll look at what is meditation. Oddly, defining meditation can be one of the trickiest things about learning to meditate.

Just what exactly is it? Is it being mindful? Focused? Sitting in open awareness?

We’ll look at many of the ideas people have about meditation and compare that to what it really is.

Myth #1: Meditation is all about focus and concentration

There are many meditation traditions and techniques. Even though they can be very different, a common theme is that meditation trains your mind.

One way or another, they promise to change your state of consciousness, to help you see clearly, find peace, or gain self-knowledge.

To develop these skills, some meditative techniques use focus and concentration. You might focus on your breath. You might bring your attention back to a single point every time it wanders.

But many techniques do not focus. Some broaden your awareness to include all of your surroundings. You are open. Expansive.

And still other techniques use chanting, visualization, contemplation, or mantras.

Depending on what type of meditation you use, focus and concentration are just two of the practices you may develop.

Myth #2: Meditation is mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are two common terms, both of which have broad, vague meaning. They can be confusing because they refer to many different things and are often used interchangeably.

Generally, meditation is a broad category of practices to self-regulate and manage the mind.

Mindfulness is one of the practices. It refers to being in the present, fully aware of whatever is occurring. If you are mindful of your breathing, you are fully aware and present with the experience of breathing.

You can be mindful of any sensation or experience–from the sensations in your body to the many experiences in everyday life.

But in popular culture, meditation and mindfulness often mean the same thing.

Myth #3: Meditating means you empty your mind

There’s a common myth that to meditate, you must stop your thoughts. If you’ve ever tried to do this, you probably realized that not thinking is a very difficult task.

The root of this myth is from one common outcome of meditating. Often, your mind becomes calmer. The chatter is softer and less disturbing.

The image of a meditator sitting with an empty mind is reinforced with the many meditating saint images available. The pictures make it hard to imagine that the saints were sitting and thinking about their grocery list.

This myth gets the end confused with the beginning. While your thoughts may be less intrusive with a meditation practice, you don’t block or fight your thoughts to get to that end.

Forcing your thoughts to go away only makes them more rebellious. You work with your thoughts–not against them.

Myth #4: Meditation can teach you esoteric skills like levitating

There are some meditation traditions which believe that highly skilled masters can achieve some very unusual, quite extraordinary skills (including levitating).

However, most meditation traditions don’t focus on these practices. Even if they do, they teach that these skills are the result of meditation–not the goal.

Myth #5: Meditation is spiritual

For some people, meditation is a spiritual practice. Meditation makes them feel closer to a Higher Power or helps them find a deeper Truth.

But for others, meditation is part of their health and wellness regime.

Either way. You get to pick. Meditation is not one or the other.

Myth #6: Meditation is a wellness practice

Many people meditate to reduce stress and increase their overall contentment. They understand (and more and more research is confirming) that meditation provides many health benefits.

But for others, meditating for health alone feels flat.

Meditation includes a broad range of practices that can be practical or spiritual.

Myth #7: Meditation is… (fill in a particular technique)

There are many techniques which fall under the umbrella of meditation.

From single-pointed focus to sitting in open awareness, from contemplating a koan (a paradoxical question) to visualizing complex images, from sitting practices to walking, and from cultivating compassion to contemplating the nature of reality—all of these very different practices could be called meditation.

Meditative practices come from many different traditions, different times in history, and from different parts of the world. Some are taught in a clinical setting and others in a religious space.

Typically the techniques develop the mind or induce different states of consciousness but there is a wide range of why or how they do it.

And despite all these differences, these practices are all mashed under the idea of “meditation”. It’s no wonder that defining meditation can be confusing. Meditation can be many things.

Next month, we’ll look at common meditation myths about how you meditate–myths that can keep you from getting started or that make your practice more difficult.

Julia Rymut
Looking for the truth about mediation (and other philosophical questions)? So does Julia. Julia Rymut plays with the mind-body connection as she teaches yoga and meditation. Join her mailing list at TaraTrue.com

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22 Jun

I have dedicated my life to the exploration of the profound potential for transformation that all human beings possess.

In this pursuit I have had the grace of experiencing transformation at the core of my being and having other pioneering souls to explore intimately with.

All of that experience has brought with it an unshakeable conviction that there is a profound relationship between meditation and transformation.

In this post I share my understanding of how and why the experience of meditation profoundly enhances our capacity to transform.

Meditation is not JUST sitting with your eyes closed

First of all let me be clear that when I talk about meditation, I am not referring only to sitting with your eyes closed.

I am talking about deep abidance in the experience of who we are beyond the mind. The posture or form that initiates that abidance doesn’t ultimately matter.

All that matters is that we move beyond the assumed limits of the mind.

You see, our awareness is conditioned to remain fixed on a certain range of thoughts, feelings and sensory perceptions at all times. Because this is what we are habituated to perceive, we assume that is all there is to be aware of.

But it’s not the whole story.

One of the miracles of meditation is the discovery that we can perceive more than our minds can. There is more to be conscious of than what your mind knows.

Meditation—whether sitting with your eyes closed or not—occurs when you discover how to remove your attention from anything in particular and allow it to float freely in consciousness.

When meditation occurs, it is like realizing that you can fly.

You live your whole life anchored to a narrow range of thoughts, feelings and sensations, and suddenly you find yourself floating in midair. Nothing is more exhilarating or mind altering than the freedom you find in true meditation.

The relationship between meditation and transformation

To understand the relationship between meditation and transformation, the first thing we have to realize is that our current experience of being human is a small subset of a vast field of conscious possibility.

We know that our eyes perceive only a narrow part of the electro-magnetic spectrum, and our ears hear only a small range of sound frequencies.

In the same way, our minds only experience a small part of a vast field of consciousness.

As I already stated, one of the great miracles that can be discovered through meditation is that we have the ability to experience consciousness beyond what our mind is capable of experiencing.

We are not our minds and our ability to experience is not limited by our minds. This discovery is like seeing beyond what the eye can see, or hearing beyond what the ear can hear.

We have much more access to consciousness than what the mind alone experiences.

All of reality is in constant flux

The next thing that we have to realize in order to appreciate the relationship between meditation and transformation is that all of reality is in constant flux. We are born into an unintelligible rush of experience.

Slowly we learn how to filter our perception so that we stabilize in a particular experience of being someone. Within an unceasing flow of experience we have temporarily stabilized into the experience of being ‘me.’

By keeping ourselves focused on a limited part of the ever-shifting field of experience, we are able to experience ourselves as a static being.

In order to stabilize into a particular identity we had to learn to remain doggedly fixated on a narrow band of consciousness—the experience of being me.

That habit of riveting attention on the experience of being me is so strong that we have forgotten that there is any other possibility. Most people live their lives busy being whoever they learned to be in the first place.

Some of us become interested in transformation. We begin to feel stifled by the fixed sense of self that we are. We begin to realize that we are more than that, but we don’t know how to break the habit of mental fixation that holds our identity in place.

If we want to transform and expand our experience of consciousness and identity, we have to unglue our attention from the small band of possibility that we habitually adhere to.

Meditation is a practice for releasing our awareness.

The experience of freedom is the first miracle of meditation. The second is the discovery that once our attention has been liberated from strict adherence to our current sense of self, we are available to enter into a natural process of growth.

Once we discover the miracle of free-floating consciousness we begin to realize something even more miraculous. Consciousness naturally expands.

The transformation of consciousness is what we experience as soon as we stop holding ourselves to only one spot in consciousness.

Suddenly it all makes sense. Growth is a natural part of life. Everything grows without needing to be forced.

Trees don’t have to force themselves through effort to grow from seed to maturity, nor do flowers, or animals or birds.

Growth is foundational to the essential nature of being alive.

Why wouldn’t consciousness grow in the same way?

As we enter into a process of growth, we realize that at the very same time that we have been trying to change we have also been holding on to who we are.

Pushing off of the past is just another way of holding on to it.

The experience of meditation is the experience of letting go of who we are. And as soon as we let go of who we are, we are invited to enter into a natural process of growth and evolution.

Deep meditation allows us to let go of who we habitually think we are so that we are free to become more than that.

That is why I see it as an essential part of the transformative process.

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