There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself.” Howard Thurman
Perhaps the most challenging listening that we attempt in this life is learning to listen to ourselves. We know our inner voice well in childhood, but often lose touch with it as the opinions of others dominate our life in adolescence. It is tragic really, how we are trained to not listen to ourselves, to believe that other people know what we want to become or do with our lives more than ourselves. Listening for this inner voice is sometimes referred to as listening to our instinct or to our heart. It may be all those things, but even more importantly, it is the voice of what is genuine in us.
Steve Jobs once said “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out you own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” The chief dreamer of Apple products has clearly lived by his own advice and yet why is it so hard for so many of us to listen for and believe what is in us?
In part, our cultural love affair with the mind and all that is knowledge based is to blame. We trust experts of all kinds about our health, our professional choices and even our relationships. Our culture is driven by a colossal marketing/media machine which fills our life experience with noise, all designed to look like instructions for a better life. Many of us never experience silence on a daily basis. In fact a recent study just found that the recent increase in internet social networks has diminished not only time with ourselves but time with our family by over 30 percent.
Learning to listen to ourselves requires many of the same skills as learning to listen to others. In the same way that we give up our own agenda to hear what is beneath the words someone is sharing, we put aside the incessant thinking that dominates our days.
This is particularly true when it comes to knowing the truth of our relationships. It is easy to be confused or distracted by feelings of discomfort that are inevitable while in a loving relationship. The intensity that accompanies the sexual dynamics of relationships is often given more weight than it deserves. Often sexuality is a reflection of the deeper listening and connecting that may not be going on in a relationship. And this listening has to start inside.
The skill of inner listening is the only true guide available to any of us. Without it, we can easily fall into a life which does not feel like our own and spend our lives in relationships that don’t meet our needs. Creating the time and space to listen to ourselves is the first step. Even if only for ten minutes a day, sitting with ourselves, in relative quiet can be startling. Getting a glimpse of dreams unanswered or grievances unaired, may be temporarily disquieting. But following those thoughts and trusting them is a sure route to transforming your life into one of your own making.
There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself.” Howard Thurman
Use this practice to rediscover your natural connection with joy.
The more you practice invoking states of well-being, the more available they are. Use the following practice to teach your mind and body to experience joy in the moment. As you invite happiness into your life in this way, you will have more access to a joyful life.
1.Get comfortable and, if you wish, close your eyes. Become aware of your breath, and breathe slowly and deeply. Breathe in relaxation and a sense of ease. Let go of any tension as you exhale. Let the warmth of relaxation flow through your whole body, from your head all the way down to your feet.
2. Find your own way to the still, quiet center of your being, with your body relaxed, your emotions calm, your mind peaceful and spacious.
3. Think of a time when you experienced great joy and well-being, perhaps when you were in a beautiful place or with a good friend.
4. Recall your experience with as much detail as you can. If possible, bring an image of that moment to mind. What was happening? What was the environment like? Were you alone or with others? What sights or sounds can you remember?
5. Remember how the experience of well-being or joy felt in your body. Did your body feel light? Energetic? Expansive? What did joy feel like in your mind? Did your mind feel open? Present? Clear? Take a few moments to let your awareness feel the sensations in your body and the mood in your mind. Let them fully register as you breathe in this feeling of well-being. Relax into it with each exhalation.
6. Practice calling up this image and the feelings of well-being regularly each day for one week. At times, you may find you can simply invoke and sustain those feelings of well-being without having to re-create the specific memory.
Use this practice whenever you are feeling stuck and want to shift to a more uplifted state of mind, or simply want to open yourself to joy.
1: Breath: Breathe naturally, without forcing anything. Notice the sensation at your nostrils, and the rise and fall of your chest and belly as you breathe. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.
2: Posture: Feel free to sit cross-legged, kneel, sit on a chair or lie down — whatever's most comfortable. The most important thing is posture: Your back should be straight but not rigid, so imagine that you're being pulled toward the sky with a string attached to the crown of your head. Try not to fidget or squirm; instead of immediately reacting to discomfort, be aware of how it affects you.
3: Eyes and tongue: Close your eyes, keep them open or leave them half open, but pick one way and stick with it throughout the meditation. To stabilize your tongue, rest it lightly on the roof of your mouth. This Zen technique is believed to cut down on subvocalization, which is when your tongue moves slightly with the thoughts that pass through your head.
4: Routine: You're more likely to incorporate meditation into your daily routine if you have a designated time and spot for it. Pick a quiet corner in your home, and turn off electronics. Mornings are good, before you drink any coffee so you're not wired. Try not to meditate after a heavy meal or just before bed because you tend to be sleepy. Set a timer to alert you to the end of your session to frame the meditation and give it a ritualistic quality. Aim to meditate at least five days a week; there's not much benefit if you do it once a week or every now and then.
5: Time: Meditating 20 to 30 minutes daily is ideal, but if you only have five or 10 minutes, go for it. There is no "right" way to meditate, so let go of goal orientation, and don't try to track your progress.
Begin by taking a few deep breaths, breathing in the peace of the New Year about to unfold, breathing in the promise of the future….Then exhale, and as you do, let go of your past, and any tensions, worries and fears from the Old Year… Repeat this a few times.
Now reflect on any personal problems, negative qualities or behavior patterns from the last year that you want to release. Step back and observe these problems as a detached witness. Then affirm your intention to leave them behind and wipe your slate clean.
Now align with your soul, your highest self, your inner Divinity. Reflect on the most significant spiritual insights you’ve had in the last year…. What were your most important spiritual lessons? Take a moment and write these down if you like.
What do you want to create for yourself in the New Year? What positive personal qualities do you want to develop? What goals do you want to achieve, personally and professionally? Reflect on how you can deepen your service to others and to the world in this next year.
Now affirm your commitment to achieving these goals. Visualize the next step you are willing to take this week towards achieving one of these goals. Visualize light and strength pouring into you from your higher self, and give thanks for this help….When you are ready, slowly open your eyes, and return to your normal state of consciousness.
Sit in a comfortable upright posture. With your eyes closed, let your awareness drop into the center of your chest.
Breathe naturally and imagine your breath coming in and out through your heart. Let each inhalation caress and soften your inner heart space.
Become aware of a golden flame in the center of your chest. Your might visualize it or simply feel its warm, glowing presence.
With each inhalation, the flame glows. With each exhalation, it radiates light through the heart—front, sides, and back.
Rest your awareness gently in the flame; inhale and it glows, exhale and it radiates. Keep softening and relaxing the inner heart, spreading the glow of your inner flame throughout your body and out into the room.
Here is a meditative practice called Metta, or kindness meditation you may want to try. Metta cultivates a sense of compassion for yourself and for all life, and gets you off the hamster wheel of worry and anxiety. Set aside a few minutes, it would be 5 or 10. Maybe the same few minutes you would have listened to a ryling radio show or the news that would have brought your blood pressure up.
You can begin by sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes if you want to.
Sit with your back straight, without being strained or overarched.
Take a few deep breaths, relax your body. Settle into your body and into the moment.
This meditation begins with the self and then the focus broadens out to people close to you, then your community, then all beings. You might imagine it like ripples going out in a still lake.
First, contemplate kindness for the self, Classical Metta phrases are:
"May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy, May I live with ease."
See if certain phrases emerge from your heart that express what you wish most deeply for yourself, not just for today, but in an enduring way. Phrases that are big enough and general enough that you can ultimately wish them for all of life, for all beings every where.
Second comtemplate and repeat the phrases for a loved one, a friend or family member:
"May you live in safety. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.
Then apply the pharase to someone you don't really know - consider the bank teller or cashier you saw this morning, and again repeat the phrases: May you live in safety, etc.
Lastly apply the contemplation to all beings - you can include all people, animals, trees, etc.
"May all beings live in safety, May all beings live with ease, etc.
You can repeat these phrases over and over again, have your mind rest in the phrases and whenever you find your attention has wandered, just see if you can gently let go and begin again.
Try this paractice for a few weeks and see what happens. So much research is now being done on the benefits of meditation, and the results are amazing health benefits which affect the health of your heart and mind.
Like us, the sea is ever-changing. And, like us, the earth’s vast oceans appear at a distance to be stable and homogenous. But beneath the mask of solidity that both we and the sea wear, there lies unpredictability, sensitivity, and power. There is much we can learn from the ocean, representative as it is of our inner landscapes. The rough sounds of the sea’s waves are spiritually soothing, and its salt can purify our physical selves. Yet not everyone has the luxury of living by the shore or even visiting the coastlines where water and land meet. The ocean, however, exists in our conscious minds, put there by images we have seen and descriptions we have read. Wherever we are, we can access that mental image and use it as the starting point from which we can help to heal our emotions by meditating on the sea.
To begin, gather together any ocean artifacts you may have on hand. Seashells, a vial of sand, beach glass, stones rubbed smooth by the pounding surf, or a recording of ocean sounds can help you slip more deeply into this meditation, but they are not necessary. Sit quietly and visualize the ocean in your mind’s eye. Allow all of your senses to participate in your mental journey. Feel the tiny grains of sand beneath your feet and the cool spray of mist; hear the sea’s rhythmic roar as the waves meet the beach and retreat; smell the tang of salt in the air. Watch the sun’s rays play over the ocean’s surface, creating shifting spots of teal, cerulean, cobalt, and green. Don’t be surprised if you see dolphins or whales frolicking in the waves—they are there to assist you. Spend a few minutes drinking in the ocean’s beauty and appreciating its vast splendor.
Once you are fully engaged with the setting before you, visualize yourself sitting on the beach, facing the ocean, and watching the waves advance and retreat. As each new wave of seawater approaches, imagine it carrying healing energy toward you. The magnificent ocean in your thoughts is sending you light and love while the sun supports your healing efforts and Mother Earth grounds you in the moment so healing can occur. When you feel you are finished, grant the ocean your earnest gratitude for the aid it has given you. Thank the sun, the sand, and any other elements of your visualization that offered you guidance. Perform this meditation daily or monthly in order to rid yourself of negativity and reestablish emotional equilibrium. Just as the ocean’s tides sweep the shores free of detritus, restoring balance, so can the waves in our mind’s eye cleanse our souls of what no longer serves us.
Forgiveness of others, forgiveness of yourself
To practice forgiveness meditation, let yourself sit comfortably, allowing your eyes to close and your breath to be natural and easy. Let your body and mind relax. Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven - not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others. Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed. Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.
FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS: There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed others, have betrayed or abandoned them, cause them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger and confusion. Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat: I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.
FORGIVENESS FOR YOURSELF: There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly or unknowingly. Feel your own precious body and life. Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. Repeat to yourself: For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.
FORGIVENESS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HURT OR HARMED YOU: There are many ways that I have been harmed by others, abused or abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed. Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness when your heart is ready. Now say to yourself: I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.
Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart. For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving kindness.
The Loving Kindness meditation, taught by the Buddha, is to teach
selfless or altruistic love. Buddha said that “Hatred cannot
coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted
with thoughts based on loving-kindness.”
This easy but very profound meditation can help you to make friends with yourself, give you greater capacity for empathy with other people, reduce your animosity, open your heart, and boost your capacity for love.
Learn here this meditation to teach you loving acceptance of
yourself and others.
1. Sit in a relaxed but alert posture.
2. Focus your intention. Remember that during this meditation you want to get in touch with your own heart and your innate feelings of goodness.
3. Let your mind and body relax. Let go of any thoughts that are currently preoccupying you.
4. Recall a situation in which you felt a complete sense of well-being and contentment. Recall exactly where you were, who you were with, and precisely how you felt. Take time to reestablish that scene, and feel the sensations in your body.
5. Find words that describe the feelings of well-being you had. You might choose words such as contentment, well-being, happiness, delight, ease–whichever feel most fitting.
6. Let go of the details of the remembered scene. At the same time, continue to pay attention to the feelings of well-being that accompanied the scene. Remain with the sensation of well-being, and allow yourself to feel it intensely. Let the words and feelings arise together.
7. As you experience the well-being, repeat to yourself the phrase, “May I be happy,” or “May I experience ease and contentment.”
8. Recall a friend or someone who has shown kindness toward you. Begin with someone for whom you feel kindness. It is better to recall a friend than a lover or family member. Keep the image of that person in your mind.
9. Recall the feelings of well-being or happiness you generated in the first part of this meditation (steps 1 - 8). Let those feelings of goodness move to the area around your heart.
10. As you are experiencing those feelings of well-being from your heart center, let them radiate to the person you were thinking about.
11. Recite the same phrases you repeated before, this time saying, “May he/she experience ease and contentment,” or “May he/she be filled with loving kindness.”
12. When you feel some familiarity with radiating loving kindness to people you love, gradually extend the feeling to others: neighbors, family, work colleagues, animals.
12. Gradually extend the feeling further, to people you find difficult–those who have power over you, people who might dislike you, or those you feel negative toward.
14. If you are unwilling to extend the feeling of goodness in this part of the meditation, don’t worry. This is natural.
15. When you feel that resistance, try to generate the feeling of loving kindness. If you can’t generate positive feelings, don’t force it; be gentle and patient with yourself.
16. After 5-10 minutes of working with this loving-kindness meditation, sit quietly and reflect on your experience. Having engaged all of your emotions in a new way, contemplate what you have learned.
Sit in a comfortable place, in a posture that will allow you to be free from all physical tension. Close your eyes. Command your body, mind, and emotions to not distract you in any way. Hear and feel your breath going in, retaining, and leaving. When you have established a steady, effortless rhythm, focus your attention on your minds eye.
Receive love with every breath.
Store love in your heart.
See and feel it beam out and saturate every cell in your body.
Visualize love radiating from your heart to someone who needs love.
See their heart fill with love, saturate every cell in their body, and radiate out from their heart in every direction.
Visualize love radiating from your heart to everyone, everywhere. See them all filling with love, saturating with love, and beaming love from their hearts to everyone, everywhere.
Visualize the entire universe pulsing with love. This is reality and now is the eternal moment to realize it. See and feel yourself dissolve into pure love. Know this love, feel this love, share this love. And live happily ever after.
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