Meditation and Work Life Balance

If you had eight days off to go anywhere in the world, where would you go? For me, the choice was simple, literally. I chose to be in silence for eight hours a day at a beautiful Vipassana meditation retreat center in Northern California. Call me crazy but, yes, this was my idea of fun and relaxation. It was a silent retreat. Nobody said a word to each other even during meals. Eye contact was kept to a minimum. The schedule began at 5:30 a.m. with the sound of a gong and ended with the sound of a gong at 9 p.m. There were alternating sitting and walking meditation sessions, qigong, yoga, hiking and meals throughout the day. I came back home with a clear mind, rejuvenated and completely recharged. I couldn’t have asked for a better siesta. Traditional vacations don’t do it for me – too much action and not enough down time. Some may think it’s selfish, but I think meditation is one of the most selfless things anyone can do. Why? The answer is inherent with nature. Look at plants. Plants need that delicate balance of sun, water and nutrients to thrive and survive. Humans are not much different. So what do humans need to achieve balance? Can money buy you balance? Sure, it can buy you a fancy vacation, but vacations are temporary. For many of us, going back to “reality” from a vacation is like being hit with a semi-truck head on. Two days pass and it feels like you never left. So in retrospect, material things can only bring you temporary relief of life’s pressures. I see meditation as a kind of convenient affordable vacation for the mind. When you get good at it, you can close your eyes any time and send yourself to a place of ultimate bliss. It’s better than what any expensive vacation can give you. Meditation is always there. It’s with you always. And you don’t need to go on a retreat to learn meditation. There are many places in your local communities that offer classes. The retreat was a luxury, but I learned many valuable insights to take back home, especially how to get deeper into meditation. This is highly recommended if you get time off. Namaste.

By Cheryl Schneider

Life Is a Powerful Meditation

If you have ever attempted to sit in meditation, you know how challenging it can be. The mind rushes from one thought to the next, taking you from past to future events and back, in a relentless chatter; the body goes from one discomfort to another, and even the slightest external noise grabs your attention. Before you know it, you are so distracted by your thought processes that meditation seems not only impossible but also a futile endeavor.

Most people give up meditation because they are unable to quiet their mind; or maybe I should say because their mind convinces them that it is more powerful than they are and so it feels like a lost battle from the start. They think that meditation means controlling the mind, and that in order to meditate they need to suppress it somehow. Meditation, however, is really not about control as much as it is about discipline and focus.

When you sit in meditation, your mind is doing exactly the same thing it always does, which is to create thoughts. This is inevitable because it is the nature of the mind to create thoughts. The only difference is that when you sit and expect it to be quiet, you realize how active and noisy it is, but when you are out in the world, or your attention is on the world, it doesn’t bother you because you don’t expect it to be anything it is not: your mind and the world are one and the same when your attention is focused outward.

If you think about it for a minute, life is no different than meditation. As within so without. You have a desire or a goal, and off you go, trying to accomplish it, filled with enthusiasm and hope. Yet before you can even realize how you got off track, you find yourself tangled up with thoughts, emotions, obstacles, or relationships that distract you and take up the energy you were supposed to put into fulfilling your desire.

Manifesting Your Goals and Desires

Some of my clients find manifesting what they want a very challenging prospect; they tend to get discouraged because they don’t seem able to reach their goals; and they are quick to start questioning their desires or purpose altogether and allowing their fears to take over.

Courage takes a lot of energy; believing in yourself and your goals also takes a lot of energy; and maintaining the focus on your purpose takes a lot of energy as well. It is mental and emotional energy that I am talking about here. So if you can relate to some of my clients, I would say that you do not get discouraged because you cannot reach your goals; you cannot reach your goals because you get discouraged, in the sense that you lose steam: you don’t put enough energy and focus to create enough momentum for anything to manifest.

In other words, you cannot see or create the “big picture” because you do not believe that you can, or you do not believe that you deserve it—or both. If you have a desire, rest assured that its manifestation is ready for you to perceive: it is the other side of the same desire; but if your mind takes you from desire to self-doubt to fear, back to desire, and then back to self-doubt, the energy gets diffused and you are not able to perceive and manifest what you want.

You may have started with much enthusiasm, but before your desire is ready to get actualized in life, you may have gotten distracted with something else; or maybe you are unable to perceive it because you don’t believe it is possible; or you are not open enough to receive its gratification due to some hidden belief that creates a blockage instead and pulls your attention in the opposite direction.

Like meditation, manifesting desires requires mental and emotional discipline and focus—the discipline to remove what prevents you from perceiving what is already there, and the focus to increase and direct the energy it requires. Remember that wherever your attention goes, there goes your energy as well, along with your creative power.

Meditate to Empower Your Life

If you want to go beyond a simple relaxed state and achieve a true meditative state, where the mind is quiet and you get lost in your true nature as you slowly merge with the Self, then you require the discipline to focus your attention one-hundred-percent on whatever technique you use—your breath, a mantra, an image.

Likewise, if you want to accomplish your dreams or goals, you need to focus your attention and energy one-hundred-percent on them, without allowing any distractions. If something comes along and sets you off track, you get back on focus and continue without questioning it, or doubting yourself, or giving up.

This is why meditation is such an important practice. Not only does it allow you to create a silent space within to gain clarity and insight about who you truly are, but it also gives you the discipline to master your life in spite of the challenges and obstacles you may encounter along the journey.

You cannot control life; you cannot expect your mind to be of a different nature either; but you can definitely choose what you focus on and where you direct your energy. And this is the key to accomplishing your goals and desires, as well as achieving higher states of consciousness through meditation. So don’t lose focus!

© 2012 Yol Swan. All rights reserved.

Yol Swan is a Spiritual Life Purpose & Business Coach offering her intuitive and healing gifts, plus over 28 years of experience exploring the mind and psyche, to help conscious women entrepreneurs and Indigo adults embrace their Sacred Selfishness and shape a joyful and abundant life in alignment with their soul purpose.

YouAreYourHealer.com

Meditation Retreat Preparation: Proper Meditation Posture, Poses, and Stretches

Meditation retreats are becoming increasingly popular in the West. Five years ago, I made the spontaneous decision to go on my first extended Vipassana meditation retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Wood Acre, California. Prior to that, I had very little experience sitting for long periods of time. At most, I would sit once or twice a day for ten to thirty minutes at a time either at home, at my local meditation center, or with a meditation group. Little did I know how unprepared my poor body was for the amount of sitting that I would be doing.

On the first day, they gave us a retreat schedule. It started at 6:30 am with an early morning meditation session and then alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation throughout the day. Altogether, we sat for about 6 to 7 hours each day for seven days in a row.

It was a wonderful experience and I would never forget that first meditation retreat because it is where I learned these many invaluable lessons about the importance of posture, pose, and stretches before and after meditation practice.

Proper Meditation Posture and Types of Poses

Meditation poses are as unique as the practitioners who use them, but they share a common goal: to open up the practitioner to the world’s flowing energy and produce a feeling of oneness. To do this, a practitioner must be comfortable and choose the best pose for his or her mood and intentions, without wasting all the time devoted to meditating finding the perfect pose. While there are many poses to choose from, they fall into three basic categories: sitting, using a chair, standing and walking, and lying down. Paying attention to maintaining a proper posture and stretching before and after meditation can not only improve your practice, it can also make meditation more comfortable and less of a strain on your body.
Sitting For most practitioners, seated meditation poses work well for most applications. They are comfortable and allow you to focus on opening yourself to the energy around you, without encouraging sleep. All seated poses start with the same principle: a straight-backed meditation posture. Keeping your back straight, but not locked and rigid, encourages energy flow, opens you to the world around you, and fosters mental discipline, all without creating fatigue and back pain that can distract your focus. With your back straight, seated poses vary based on the position of your legs and feet. This will vary based on how flexible you are. The tailor’s posture, in which the practitioner is seated on the floor or a cushion with the soles of the feet touching each other, is the simplest and most common. The Burmese and lotus postures are more advanced, and involve pulling the heels in toward the pelvis, opening the hips, and resting the legs on top of one another. By keeping your body aligned in these meditation poses and keeping your joints soft and relaxed, you can protect yourself from injury.

Using a Chair People who cannot sit on the ground or who lack flexibility can meditate while seated in a chair. Back is straight and flat against the seat, and feet are placed firmly on the ground. Sometimes it is useful to use cushions under the feet or behind the back for added comfort.

Standing or Walking

If you are standing or walking, consider going barefoot if it is safe and comfortable to do so, in order to encourage energy flow and enhance your connection with the earth. In all cases, maintain a straight-backed posture, and be mindful of the position of your head and buttocks.

Lying down

Some people have physical reasons to lie down but it is not encouraged because it induces sleepiness. If you do lie down, then your spine should be straight, hands to the side either placed up or down, and knees are bent with feet planted on the floor. You should be comfortable and relaxed, but not sleepy.

Importance of Stretching Many people who practice meditation complain of stiffness in the lower back, pain in the hips, or numbness in the feet and legs after being seated for long periods of time. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s time to think about improving your posture or pose or adding stretches before and after you meditate. Pain is not a normal part of meditation. It only distracts our focus and gets in the way of developing spiritual discipline.
Meditation stretches are focused on relaxing and opening the shoulders, chest, lower back, and hips. Many yoga poses are useful for stretching before and after meditation. Start by rolling your shoulders forward and back and gently rolling your neck from side to side. Sit down and do a few gentle seated twists on each side, then assume a kneeling position and move into child’s pose to open your lower back. Lunges help to open the hips. The warrior poses open and stretch the whole body, including the shoulders. Finally, if downward-facing dog is comfortable for you, this is a good stretch to open your back and hips, relax your neck, and bring blood flow toward your head to energize your practice.
Meditation stretches help prepare your body for your practice, and after you meditate, they can help you stretch your muscles and return to your day without soreness. By maintaining a proper posture and stretching, you can protect yourself from pain and injury while enhancing your practice and developing the openness and spiritual discipline you seek.

By Cheryl Schneider

Meditation & Parenting

19_photo_125 meditation and parenting articleI have been parenting for 13 years and meditating intently for only two, but already the similarities are evident. Without a doubt, having a regular meditation practice has made me a calmer, more consistent parent. And the challenges of parenting make me aware of how much I need meditation! Whether you have a regular meditation practice or have just heard that it is beneficial, see if you can relate to these things they have in common.

# 1 Showing up daily and being fully present are required

No one gets anywhere by meditating ‘once in a while.’ And can you imagine if we only made our children’s lunches ‘when we felt like it?’ Both require a commitment to doing what we know we need to do – even when we don’t feel like it. No one likes learning that meditation depends on the discipline of daily sitting to reap any deep benefits. And no one enjoys getting up again and again and again when the baby cries. Yet tremendous amounts of patience are cultivated as we do these daily practices. Through consistent, persistent, and sincere showing up, we catch glimmers of growth occurring over time. Like the tender shoot of new life that grows from a seed planted, watered and protected, one day a bud of joy blooms as we bring our full presence to each moment of parenting or meditating.

# 2 The distractions are endless

Laundry piles, missing homework, undone chores – anyone with kids knows what manner of things distract when we try to get organized. Similarly, when we try to get still, the mental monkeys, roller coasters, and demons show up in full force. The challenge and the gist of the practice of course, is to stay centered amidst all inevitable distractions. If we fluctuate with every wave of chaos that races through our minds or our kitchens, we are done for. By remaining stable regardless of external circumstances, we become an anchor for our children, one that they can rely on when life’s challenges arise. By remaining focused on our breath or meditation technique amidst the swirling currents of the mind’s wandering, we diminish its ability to toss us around in reactivity. In both cases, over time, we find that there is a calm center within – one that is undistractable, peaceful and always joyous.

# 3 Love and devotion are essential ingredients for success

In Yoga meditation, the practice of focusing on one thought of the Divine is a beautiful way to still the ever restless mind. Using something as simple as Light we can perceive the beauty and ever changing magnificence of God’s light on this earth. But usually our focus can burn brightly for a few seconds like the last blaze of a sunset, and then it is gone, elusive as trying to capture a sun ray in our hands. But by infusing the technique of concentration (or whatever meditation technique you use) with love and devotion, we experience what the Yoga Sutras promise: “Boundless love and devotion unite us with the Divine Consciousness.” (translation by Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga) This distinction is much like attending to our children’s basic needs while thinking of what we would ‘rather’ be doing versus giving them our full loving, dedicated attention. We know the difference – and they do too.

# 4 To experience anything, we must trust the process and let go of the results

Paramahansa Yogananda, master of Yoga meditation, explains that the reason people do not perceive benefit from meditation is because they give up too soon. When we throw a rock into a placid lake, ripples radiate, and it takes time for the stillness of the water to return. The ripples of our restless, egoic minds take more than minutes, hours or days to still. So when we approach stillness, having a ‘goal’ is just a setup for frustration. And as parents, although we might hold ideals for our children’s future, we must trust their daily evolution into that which their Divine Creator has set them here to become. By releasing ourselves and our kids from the suffering born of attachment to specific outcomes, we create a life through which trust and enjoyment can flow.

# 5 Both parenting and mediation lead us to greater awareness

It is okay that the brilliant sunset doesn’t last. And it is okay that our child doesn’t make straight A’s or the Little League team. What matters is that we show up with our full presence, attention, love, devotion, trust and enthusiasm to tomorrow’s sunset, tomorrow’s game, and tomorrow’s meditation. We embrace each moment and see the blessing it holds. And day by day, year by year, we begin to remember ourselves as part of the universal oneness. When our awareness expands in this way, both meditation and parenting become pursuits of pure joy.

Original Posting by Jennie Lee in Conscious Moms.org

Jennie Lee is a Yoga Therapist and retreat leader with over 6,000 teaching hours and 20 years of experience in Yoga philosophy, practice and meditation. Through her teaching and writing she applies the ancient science of Yoga to facilitate self-awareness, higher consciousness and healing. She has been published in Yoga Therapy Today, Common Ground, My Yoga Online, Yoga Finder, and Living the Truth. Her next Yoga and meditation retreat will be held in Hawai’i in February 2012.

Vipassana Meditation with Goenka

Vipassana Meditation has taken off! It’s so popular at the moment which is really wonderful!

If meditation can bring about a more peaceful world (I believe it can) then surely we’re in with a chance!

The word Vipassana means seeing things as they really and is also known as Insight Meditation. It’s a process whereby the root causes of suffering – craving, aversion and ignorance can be eliminated through their first being revealed clearly to us. This knowledge and understanding leads to their cessation – ie. an absence of suffering and finally, enlightenment.

Vipassana Meditation is a process of self-observation and when learning the technique, participants start with observing the breath as it naturally is without doing any forcible inhalations or exhalations. This has the effect of increasing the mind’s concentration and focus. Body scans are then implemented whereby the changing sensations felt on and in the body are observed in a highly concentrated state.

In this state of highly sharpened awareness, the impermanence of all phenomena becomes clearer to us and we see that this includes our suffering. The way in which we react habitually to certain events that happen in our everyday life is also revealed, allowing us to choose new and more healthy ways to react to everyday occurences.

S.N. Goenka (Goenkaji) who trained in Burma (taught by Sayagyi U Ba Khin) and Goenkaji’s wife Ilaichidevi Goenka teach a non-sectarian Vipassana Meditation practice that is offered on a donation basis worldwide.

S.N. Goenka calls his Vipassana Meditation retreats neither a holiday nor an intellectual or philosophical entertainment, nor an escape or an experience where blind faith is required. I would agree with this! (and it’s certainly not a holiday.. but perhaps more rewarding than a holiday..) His courses are offered in 10 day or 3 day durations. 10 days in considered the minimum length of time necessary to fully learn the technique of Vipassana Meditation, so new students are not offered a 3 day option, they first must do a 10-day to be able to come back for a 3-day course. Other Vipassana Meditation courses are available, I’m only speaking of the S. N. Goenka course as that is the one with which I am familiar. There are thankfully so many meditation centers around now which is simply fantastic!

A 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat might not suit the casual or uncommited meditator! It can be quite challenging. Complete silence, a vegitarian lifestyle and simple accomodation help the students to fulful five precepts of not killing, stealing, engaging in sexual activity, telling lies or taking intoxicants. This prevents disturbances to the mind which could put the students off their practice.

It took me many years of meditation before I felt ready to commit to embarking on a 10-day Vipassana Meditation Course. I found it so beneficial that after I had completed it, I wished that I had done it a lot sooner! If you are considering signing up – go for it without hesitation – you won’t regret it!

By Mia Randall of MiaRandall.com – Author of Meditation Motivation – A Quick Tour of Buddhism and 20 Easy Tips to Create a Daily Practice