Get your meditation groove on! Click on the photo above to watch a video about the Summer of Meditation Challenge…
Plus enter your name and email below to learn more about this free 8 week online training program which starts June 6 2014 and to receive Bird in Hand’s weekly enewsletter on conscious living. In addition to a complete “how-to-get-started” meditation curriculum, this year the meditation challenge is focused on mindfulness practices for the “real world,” especially our work lives. Please sign up below, “like” this video, and invite friends to join in with you!
This year I’ll also be offering 8 audios of guided meditations as well as two live group coaching calls. Registration for this group coaching program will open after Memorial Day Weekend. Sign up now for the free training program and you will also receive details about these additional options for more support as the program gets closer.
Here’s to your spacious summer– and to cultivating the presence of mind to enjoy it all.
“Oh thats a big chair!” Sharon Salzberg giggled as she came in the room. And then proceeded to sit in it, and with grace and charm hold a day-long workshop on meditation. There were no notes, no power points. Simply deep inquiry, beautiful words, lots of stories and laughter and practice.
You know when you are in the company of a true spiritual teacher, and you are grateful. Not that you have to put them on a pedestal. Not that they can’t also be a work in progress. But still, they have cultivated PRESENCE. Something which you drink in and feel bathed by.
There were many jewels embedded in her teaching — several of which are out of her newest book, Real Happiness at Work. But in having tea with a friend this week, it was a different lesson which bubbled to surface and I found myself sharing: a simple idea, related to lovingkindness. Lovingkindness is an awkward translation in that it sounds so formal, when really it is a quality we can cultivate and experience everyday.
At its most basic lovingkindness is an act of generosity we offer first to ourselves and then to others in our life and world.
And generosity she explained has three parts: 1) motivation, 2) skillfulness of execution and 3) the immediate reaction. The first two elements are invisible to the eye, but visible to the heart. You know when someone gives you a gift and it comes with love versus duty, or an inflated sense of pride on the part of the gift-giver. That is motivation.
Skillfulness of execution simply means we were thoughtful of the circumstances around our gift-giving, to the best of our abilities. Perhaps you take the person aside and give them something quietly instead of in front of a big group or you consider their life stage and try to offer something they can truly enjoy (no breakable knick-knacks to the mom of a toddler, please!).
Lastly, the response of the receiver is just that– how they respond and how you respond to their response. Are they happy and grateful or do they seem put off or uncomfortable? What is interesting is that of the three elements of generosity this is the one we have the least control over.
Yet, and this is the big take-home lesson, we evaluate ourselves almost entirely on the immediate reaction rather than considering the first two elements. Meaning– if someone doesn’t like what we offer, we assume we are a big lamo and down the self-doubt and criticism spiral we can go.
Now this certainly applies in the realm of tangible gifts (and is probably one reason the holidays are so stressful!) but even more so in the realm of sharing our gifts with the world in terms of our work and relationships.
So here is what to do: the next time you feel deflated after sharing a gift (of your friendship, time, creativity, or any other sort) get curious about which of these three elements you are evaluating yourself based on. Is in only the third? Then ask yourself: was I motivated out of a good place? Was I thoughtful of the context when giving this gift? And listen.
Perhaps you have something interesting to learn. Maybe you see that you jumped into something without a good sense of the context or that you were motivated out of a desire for the spotlight. In those cases simply acknowledge that insight and receive it with compassion.
Alternatively you may be able to honestly say yes to the first two categories in which case use that awareness to offer yourself some kindness and get out of the self-criticism spiral. Who knows the mysteries of our world and someone else’s life. Maybe they got a terrible email right before you shared with them or maybe the group is still quaking from a conflict which has nothing to do with you. When we base our sharing on others reactions– it’s an exhausting ride through life.
I invite you to try this practice out and please let me know (in the comments or send an email) how it goes. I hope that it makes your path clearer and supports you in sharing more of your love, creativity, kindness, and authentic voice with our world.
PS. I have space opening for two new clients for my ten week transformational coaching program. If you feel like you could use some extra support getting clarity and relief from habits which trip you up and leave you feeling deflated I hope you will read about my coaching services here and reach out to set up your complementary conversation! xox
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How to Be Your Child’s Soul Teacher Series. Thursday evenings in April and May 1, 6:45-8pm. $35 drop-in per class at Oil & Cotton Creative Exchange. 837 W. 7th Street. Dallas, Texas 75208
Join Courtney and other conscious parents for this special series. Each week includes an experiential lesson, written guide with specific tips and practices for the home as well as a creative take-away.
Join me this week, Thursday April 17th for Week 3: Your Family Story. Come learn this step by step method for listening deeply as well as an ancient meditative practice of “gathering the flowers” out of your story: starting with your child’s birth and weaving in both sublime and challenging elements of life together. We will also watercolor flowers for our May Day crowns.
Week 4. April 24. What is Your Parenting Personality? Do you lead (and filter) primarily with your head, heart, or gut center? Do you tend to lean into conflict? Or need time to retreat to regain your center? Utilizing a powerful tool called the Enneagram you can recognize your own dominant personality pattern and “de-velcro “ from habitual approaches to life to instead find more freedom & choice in parenting and all relationships. Create three aromatherapy blends (in convenient roller bottles for easy application) to balance your mood and help you ground, open your heart, and clarify your mind.
Week 5: May 1. Your Family Culture. Learn strategies for crafting life-giving birthday and holiday celebrations which together create a sacred calendar in which you and your child can live the whole year round. Create paper crowns and ankle bells for our May Pole Celebration!
I like taking stock in January but resolutions can feel like a lot of pressure. Instead, why not identify a few good questions to guide your way? (Asking the right questions and committing to live your way into the answers bypasses the whole performance anxiety around setting goals and creates a framework for integrating soul nudges.)
So here are a few questions to get your juices flowing:
What habitual filter or way of approaching life are you starting to suspect might not be showing you the full picture of reality?
What simple practices help to relax this filter and to shift your mood or state of being?
Where could you use some extra support?
Recently I signed up for a training program which helps coaches with the financial and business end of their work. I can’t tell you how much energy has been freed up as I’m getting practical hands-on financial and legal guidance as well as new relationships with coaches across the country. I also unearthed an “I can do it all myself” attitude which simply wasn’t serving me.
In order to make the shift to serve and to show up bigger in our life and work we need to resource our growing edges.
This doesn’t mean you are not already thoughtful, conscious, aware and awake.
It simply means you are human and like all of us, you need quality relationships and support in order to thrive.
If you are feeling nudged to go deeper this year, to burn off non-essentials (like a habit of looking outside yourself for validation or guidance) and to take some serious steps toward creating a life with more room for your authentic self to show up– I would love to talk with you!
PS One thing which shifts my mood is meditating. It reminds me of the magic embedded in the moment. Today Rosetta played with her fairies while I meditated (normally I try to wait till a solitary moment but that wasn’t happening today so instead I got lots of practice bringing my attention back to my breath rather than getting uptight about distracting noises in the environment:) Anyway, the photo above is more or less what I saw when I opened my eyes and I wanted to share a little glimpse of what feels magical to me with all of you. xxo
I’m practicing physics without a license this week. Here is what I have learned: there are trillions of atoms in you. Actually, according to an estimate made by engineers at Washington University, there are around 100 trillion atoms in one human cell. Interestingly, there are a similar number of cells in the whole human body. To get the total number of atoms in your body we would need to multiply 100 trillion by 100 trillion– which exceeds my skill level. Please feel free to calculate and tell me in comments below!
So, and this is the part which piqued my interest, every time you breathe in there is a good chance you inhaled atoms that circulated in your mother’s lungs at the time of your birth. Take a breath. Consider that.
It is also possible that you just breathed in atoms that sustained Mother Teresa as she cared for the dignity and lives of the poor in Calcutta. Or the Desert mothers of the 4th century as they examined the human condition and contributed to the birth of the Enneagram. Or the migrant farm laborer who harvested your apple last month. (Based on your breath containing about one liter of air, and calculating the atoms in that liter compared to the atoms in the atmosphere through the ages. Yes there is an actual formula for this.)*
Entertain this possibility of swapping atoms with luminaries for a moment…
Does it impact your sense of the boundaries of your own life?
Does the sense of interconnectedness bring you any comfort?
Reading about this phenomenon gifted me with moments of perspective this week where I could stand outside my defacto frame of reference and notice how small it is. I live everyday with a vague sense that I didn’t get as much done as I should have. And a subtle but ever present anxiety over what people think of me and my work. This has everything to do with personality type and while it is so helpful to know about the pattern so I can get perspective on it (and boot it out of the drivers seat) I still have to live with it.
We all see life through the lens of our personality — what is your filter? Maybe you focus less on success in your work but find yourself always trying to do it right, or be helpful, or map out all the possibilities, or be true to your rich emotional life).
Yet there is always much more than we see or perceive.
In fact we can actually position this ego voice in a specific spot in the body: the left hemisphere of our brain, which is so very concerned with classifying, labeling right or wrong, and preserving our own idea of our identity. (Some people who have had strokes in this part of the brain report a blissful cessation of the mental chatter even as their bodies were struggling to live.) The right hemisphere by contrast regulates creativity, empathy, intuition and synthesis. It is the part of you which would light up on the MRI if we scanned you right now while you pause, breathe, and engage in the meditation below.
This is a simple meditation practice to help cultivate this more spacious approach to living by connecting to life within and beyond the borders of our body. This meditation is something you can do in five minutes anytime, or incorporate into a regular sitting practice.
The “Go in/Go out” Meditation
First—Go in with your awareness. Consider your body. Pause for a few minutes and scan yourself internally. Is there a part of you which is sore, weary, or otherwise desiring attention? Often we have habitual areas where our body talks back to us, which we then label– calling them “my weak knee” or “tight neck.”
Now invite a shift of perspective. What if rather than thinking of this area as a “weak spot” it is actually your “strong spot?” It is the part of you which shows up to carry the extra load of stress… until it can’t (and you feel the pain or recurrent illness.) Perhaps you allow an organic sense of gratitude to rise up for this area and the multitude of cells and atoms within those cells. You might even let it know that you see its extra work in support of your life and all that it does without your conscious awareness. Also take a moment now to recommit to your daily or weekly centering practice(s): meditation, time in nature, journaling etc. which help you digest extra stress and process it out of your body.
Second – Go out with your awareness. You can do this with your eyes closed –simply considering all that is in the broader world which supports you: the clouds which bring rain, the trees which provide shade, the moth you saw this morning on your windowsill which reminds you how delicate life is.
Or even better take your body outside as you do this part of the reflection. I meditate most of the time in my kids’ tree house. And the birds calling to each other or flying to the bird house make me feel less lonely. It is hard to be angsty when you feel connected to such a rich and restorative whole as nature—providing us with nourishing food to eat, oxygen to breathe, and falling leaves of many colors.
All of which are good for the soul to take in. So if you are able to step outside invite yourself to interact with another species and consider your connection with it. Maybe it is the small succulent on a pot on your porch. Or the grasshopper which flies up before you across the lawn. Or the squirrel which scampers away… And if you cant get outside perhaps you can hear the rain on your roof or see through your window sunshine and clouds passing in the sky– reminders that you are connected to broader weather cycles. However you do it draw your awareness up and out to the greater whole, of which you are part.
And breathe it in.
And after a few minutes go about your day and other tasks and work and relationships. But continue to take note of any shifts you find in your awareness.
And as always, I would love to hear about your experiences by clicking reply and leaving a comment below.
*Grateful to Sarah McLean’s book Soul Centered for this atomic observation.
Where do you learn what you need to know? I love the acerbic teaching of fourth century spiritual teachers, called the desert fathers and mothers. They are like zen masters within the Christian tradition and their sayings cut through false or incomplete understandings of life.
They lived in caves and rejected the collusion of Christianity with the Roman Empire and say things like: “Go into your cell and it will teach you what you need to know.” I can hear the wind blowing through their writing and love the invitation to turn inward to find the resources we need for life.
One of the desert mothers likens the inner spiritual landscape to a nest and encouraged her fellow seekers to stay in place and listen deeply rather than fluttering from location to location. I think of this as an inner practice – of not abandoning ourselves by chasing externals but instead choosing to tune into the messages of our body, our intuition, and our feelings.
Friday evening I gathered at Oil & Cotton, a local creative exchange, with ten families of all ages. There was a lovely energy in the room and people dove into feathering and decorating their nests seeming hungry both to create and to spend some time reflecting as a family. Here is an excerpt from my lesson that night on how to set core-desired emotions:
“When seasons change it is a natural time to take stock. We feel the shift in nature and register it in our bodies. It is a wonderful time to set your intensions for who and how you want to be in your home.
Experiencing fluctuating emotions is a part of being human.
Yet what if we could actually cultivate and live more often in positive, soulful emotional states? Feeling happy, centered, or peaceful is a subtle sensation compared to the steady drumbeat of negative emotions (anxiety, anger, shame etc.) which are stirred up by habitual personality patterns and exacerbated by busy lives.
We aren’t looking to generate certain positive feelings in an artificial way but rather to prime ourselves to catch the beautiful moments of our lives as they organically unfold.
For what we pay attention to grows.
Did you know it takes the body on average eleven seconds to absorb a good experience or register a positive emotion? Can you guess how quickly we take in negative energy? Half a second. You can put this piece of bio-wisdom to work for you by trying to consciously “breathe in the good.” When something lovely is happening, when you are feeling the way you want to feel, bring awareness to the actual embodied experience and soak it up on a cellular level. It is sacred work to model a fullness of life which can only be found through savoring everyday goodness.”
And pics of a handful of the participants:
This is the gist of what lights me up as a teacher and coach: people tuning into their inner lives whether through a creative practice, meditation, or time in nature. And I love teaching the enneagram because it fast tracks the whole process. As we learn our personality type and come to recognize habitual patterns we can relax them. And in this more relaxed state rise up the tender and beautiful feelings which are really what we are chasing in life: an organic sense of gratitude, of freedom, of hopeful possibility, of being loved and knowing we have love to give, of feeling solid and rooted in our bodies and tasting generosity—both in receiving from others and in our compassion for our self.
And there is no where better to stoke the fire of this awareness than by naming our desires for who and how we want to be in our home space. Home is our refuge. It is where we can resource ourselves and draw from a deeper well.
So my invitation for each of you is to spend some time meditating on your hearts desires. On how you actually want to feel. Is it more balanced? More awake? More kind? More peaceful? More engaged? More fulfilled? More solid? Simply by asking the question and listening you will live your way into the answer.
And consider claiming a handful of words and writing them out.
Maybe you make your own centerpiece and incorporate the words: it could be in an elaborate nest or as simple as writing them on a few stones and gathering them in a tray. Or easier still maybe you simply write them on a piece of paper and tuck them in your pocket.
However you do it know they are a compass which helps you moment by moment make choices which honor your soul. Considering a new job? Ask yourself how you feel as you imagine doing it… Just move into a new home? Ask yourself how you want to feel in the space and edit out old or unwanted things which no longer inspire. Feeling anxious or dissatisfied in a relationship or work setting? Give yourself the freedom to name how you desire to feel. And use that desire as your guide… taking note when those feelings come up organically (even if it is rare) — and stopping to breathe them in.
Go into your nest and it will teach you what you need to know.
PS I have space opening in my calendar for two new coaching clients in October. Could you use support in living your way into a life that feels better? Read more about coaching here and contact me at 972.571.6860 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free half hour phone conversation about your needs. xxo