Even though meditation practices offer us a way to recenter and settle into a focused, quiet state of mind and body, for some people the process of doing a sitting meditation creates anxiety. For these people, rather than bringing pleasure and relaxation, focusing inside is an uncomfortable experience, and may activate fear instead of calm. When we’ve been hurt as children, or struggle with anxiety or panic for any reason, we often learn to ignore or push away awareness of what was going on inside ourselves. By definition, most meditation asks us to focus on being aware of our awareness – just the opposite of what we may have done historically in an effort to feel safe and comfortable in our own skin.
The Practice of Meditation
...and Other Journeys ...What follows are written guided meditations that you can print for your own use. They include a number of approaches I've found useful over the years. I hope they will support your journey in enlightening and practical ways...Nancy
(For more information on ways to recenter and ground yourself, see my books Getting Through the Day and Sacred Practices for Conscious Living.)
Another way to recenter yourself is to do the following breathing exercise. It supports your body’s natural capacity to settle down into a more relaxed state.
Variations on this particular breathing exercise can be found, in various forms, in most yoga and meditation traditions. As with all exercises for recentering, experiment with what follows and see if it gives you another useful tool.
Variations of this meditation are found in each of my books, and it’s one of my favorite approaches to accessing possibility. All it requires is a willingness to suspend disbelief, reach beyond what you know today, and accept change in your life. For most of us, change can be scary, even when it moves in a positive direction, so a willingness to dare to engage the unknown is key to working with future self parts of you.
When you reach out to your optimal future self, you do so from your deep wisdom, rather than from any conscious, preconceived idea of what your future self will be like or how things will unfold as you move toward your goal. Because of this, it’s important to allow impressions of your future self to drop into the back of your mind – to arrive in awareness, in a sense – rather than to try to figure out anything up in the front of your mind.
(Further information about living with intention may be found in my book, Sacred Practices for Conscious Living)
A fundamental premise of all the materials found on my website is that we humans live in a context of collective consciousness. What we think, how we live, who we choose to be contributes to the quality of this collective consciousness. Because of this, the quality of our own consciousness, and that of everyone else, matters. At every moment, we both give to, and draw from, the wisdom of all of us, through all time. The hopeful part of this is that we never travel alone, always have available sources of inspiration, experience and learning from everyone who has gone before us. The other side of the equation is that we also are impacted by the less inspiring, more toxic elements of human thinking, feeling, and behavior.
All spiritual practices lend meaning and depth to daily living, and offer us ways to enhance the quality of both our inner lives and the way we choose to be in the world. Some, such as mindfulness, support centering, and practice in skillfully responding to life‰s challenges. Some, such as prayer and other forms of contemplation and meditation, give our lives meaning by connecting us to sources of inspiration and comfort. Others allow us to actively participate in co-creating the quality of our lives. One of the most powerful of these is intention.
Excerpts from “Sacred Practices for Conscious Living” on the topic Lovingkindness followed by a Meditation Exercise
The journey into wholeness brings many unexpected gifts. One of these is compassion. This extraordinary state of being arises spontaneously when we allow ourselves to recognize that we have at least one thing in common with all beings: our capacity to suffer. This realization creates a bridge of understanding between ourselves and others. As we become more whole and acknowledge the inevitability of our inherent imperfection, our capacity for compassion increases. As it does, a sense of connection with others deepens and expands. Within a context of compassion, we tap into a collective human experience and realize that we are not alone in our suffering. The world becomes populated with people whose deepest yearnings for love, comfort, and security aren’t so very different from our own. For this reason, even as the sources of suffering may differ, depending on our culture and life circumstances, we are alike when it comes to the inevitable fact that we all can be touched by feelings and experiences that cause distress. . .
Excerpts from “Getting Through the Day”
Followed by: Using Mindfulness for Recentering – a Meditative Exercise
When you are overwhelmed by the past, how can you reclaim your present-day awareness? This question comes up over and over again in the lives of abuse survivors. Being able to recenter yourself and handle life’s challenges effectively is an important element in determining the quality of your day-to-day experience. It also allows you to pace your healing so that you have times when you are free from the intensity and immediacy of past abuse experiences.
Watching the escalating situation in the Middle East prompts me to send the following to as many people as I can. While most of us aren’t in a position to individually change the flow of events there and around the world, we do have a tool available that might offer some respite, shift the energy, or generate unexpected healing. It’s a derivation of a Buddhist practice called Tonglen.
Tonglen is a process that invites us to breathe in the suffering of ourselves and the world, as we breathe out ease, comfort, peace. Through identifying with the negativity and distress around us – recognizing that it is part of the human experience and, as such, not separate from us, and that many people are experiencing exactly the suffering or negativity that is the focus of our meditation or experience right now – we diffuse some of the intensity of this suffering and chaos. In the Tonglen process, we breathe into our heart any suffering, distress of whatever kind, 360 degrees around, through every pore, and then breathe out – through every pore, again – ease, calm, comfort, peace, compassion – whatever transforms the suffering we have taken in.