Awareness Practice

Awareness Of the Breath   

Often when I’m teaching someone who is new to Meditation, they will say:  “I can’t meditate – I can’t quiet my mind.”

 That’s when I love to suggest that thinking of it as AWARENESS PRACTICE and simply focusing on the breath can be so helpful.   Meditation is not something mysterious and mystical.  It is simply a technique and a tool to train our minds to stay in the present moment.  Sitting quietly and focusing on the sensations of the breath can help to quiet the thoughts and calm and body and mind.  Even noticing the breath throughout the day can bring us back to center and release anxiety.

Awareness of the Body Sensations A very effective way to improve our well being is to practice noticing when you feel tension and congestion in your body.  Basically catching yourself in habits of physical tension and responding mindfully.   I have been practicing noticing tension in my shoulders.  I seem to accumulate tension there and catch myself often tightening those muscles throughout the day.  Every time I catch myself holding tension there – I get up and jiggle, breathe, stretch – especially with arms over my head – and remind my body to relax.

Awareness of the Environment We are all surrounded by the sounds of traffic, machinery, television and other people.  Perhaps you also add music in your home, car or in your headphones.  Do you ever simply enjoy sitting in silence?  One of the most wonderful benefits of Meditation is turning our attention inward to unplug from the external world.  This is very calming and allows us to listen within – to our own intuition and wisdom.   Is your living space comfortable and calming?  I’ve been on another round of clearing clutter from my home – sorting, tossing and donating feels so satisfying and leaves me with only those things that I truly love and enjoy.  Being more intentional with what I allow into my space helps me to appreciate the beauty and creativity I’m bringing into my environment.  

Awareness of Self & Others Another way to practice Mindfulness, is to pay conscious attention to how you interact with other people.  Notice who you enjoy being around.  Notice who drains your energy and who is fun to be with.  Make conscious choices about where you put your energy and time.  Allow time for your own self-care and rest.  I say Yes-And.  Yes – I take good care of myself – And – I enjoy time with friends and family.    

Tapping for Caregivers

Set Up Statements:“Even though I have all these responsibilities and it’s exhausting, I love and accept myself and all my feelings.”Even though I feel frustrated and overwhelmed and part of me is holding onto these feelings, for whatever reason, conscious or unconscious, I choose to relax and take care of myself with love and acceptance.”

Reminder Statements:  All this responsibility *** So much to do and so little time *** All this pressure *** So many details *** It feels like it’s all up to me *** I feel exhausted *** So many decisions *** It’s just too much.

When You Begin to Feel Relief

Set Up Statement:“Even though I feel calmer and more relaxed, part of me might still be holding on to the stress, for whatever reason, conscious or unconscious.  I choose to remember my needs and I love, accept and forgive myself and I am safe.

Reminder Statements:  “This remaining stress and overwhelm *** I’d really like to let it go *** This remaining frustration *** It’s time to release it now *** The truth is – I’m doing the best I can *** This remaining sadness and regret *** It’s safe to relax and let go *** Any remaining pressure *** That I’m putting on myself *** I am beginning to release and let go.” Continue to tap until you feel relief from the intense feelings.  Take a few deep breaths whenever you feel fatigue and anxiety.  Continue this practice each day as you continue to practice taking good care of yourself as well as your loved ones.  

Complete your practice with Happy Tapping:“I’m healing and releasing the past *** I’m grateful for the healing *** My body is my teacher *** I’m feeling so much clearer now *** Making healthy choices *** I’m giving my body love and support *** I’m grateful for my strong, flexible, healthy body *** Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tap Into Your Healing Power

E-book now available for $4.99 on Amazon https://www.amazon.com

Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as EFT tapping, is a powerful healing practice designed to assist you with pain and stress relief, emotional healing for anxiety, grief, sadness, frustration, depression and so much more. 

This easily accessible book is a compilation of years of lessons with Becca Pronchick, EFT Master trainer, wellness coach and yoga/meditation instructor. This is an excellent guide to EFT, starting with the basics and going on to describe how and when to use tapping, along with meditation instruction and scripts to guide you.

The book also includes Becca’s personal healing journey, beautiful photographs and healing stories from her clients.

Awareness Practice

Awareness Of the Breath 
Often when I’m teaching someone who is new to Meditation, they will say:  “I can’t meditate – I can’t quiet my mind.”  That’s when I love to suggest that thinking of it as AWARENESS PRACTICE and simply focusing on the breath can be so helpful.
Meditation is not something mysterious and mystical.  It is simply a technique and a tool to train our minds to stay in the present moment.  Sitting quietly and focusing on the sensations of the breath can help to quiet the thoughts and calm and body and mind.  Even noticing the breath throughout the day can bring us back to center and release anxiety.
 
Awareness of the Body Sensations
 
A very effective way to improve our well being is to practice noticing when you feel tension and congestion in your body.  Basically catching yourself in habits of physical tension and responding mindfully.
I have been practicing noticing tension in my shoulders.  I seem to accumulate tension there and catch myself often tightening those muscles throughout the day.  Every time I catch myself holding tension there – I get up and jiggle, breathe, stretch – especially with arms over my head – and remind my body to relax.
 
Awareness of the Environment
 
We are all surrounded by the sounds of traffic, machinery, television and other people.  Perhaps you also add music in your home, car or in your headphones.  Do you ever simply enjoy sitting in silence?  One of the most wonderful benefits of Meditation is turning our attention inward to unplug from the external world.  This is very calming and allows us to listen within – to our own intuition and wisdom.
Is your living space comfortable and calming?  I’ve been on another round of clearing clutter from my home – sorting, tossing and donating feels so satisfying and leaves me with only those things that I truly love and enjoy.  Being more intentional with what I allow into my space helps me to appreciate the beauty and creativity I’m bringing into my environment.
Awareness of Self & Others
 
Another way to practice Mindfulness, is to pay conscious attention to how you interact with other people.  Notice who you enjoy being around.  Notice who drains your energy and who is fun to be with.  Make conscious choices about where you put your energy and time.  Allow time for your own self-care and rest.  I say Yes-And.  Yes – I take good care of myself – And – I enjoy time with friends and family.
Tapping for Caregivers
Set Up Statements:  “Even though I have all these responsibilities and it’s exhausting, I love and accept myself and all my feelings.
“Even though I feel frustrated and overwhelmed and part of me is holding onto these feelings, for whatever reason, conscious or unconscious, I choose to relax and take care of myself with love and acceptance.”
Reminder Statements:  All this responsibility *** So much to do and so little time *** All this pressure *** So many details *** It feels like it’s all up to me *** I feel exhausted *** So many decisions *** It’s just too much.
 
When You Begin to Feel Relief
Set Up Statement:  “Even though I feel calmer and more relaxed, part of me might still be holding on to the stress, for whatever reason, conscious or unconscious.  I choose to remember my needs and I love, accept and forgive myself and I am safe.”
Reminder Statements:  “This remaining stress and overwhelm *** I’d really like to let it go *** This remaining frustration *** It’s time to release it now *** The truth is – I’m doing the best I can *** This remaining sadness and regret *** It’s safe to relax and let go *** Any remaining pressure *** That I’m putting on myself *** I am beginning to release and let go.”
 
Continue to tap until you feel relief from the intense feelings.  Take a few deep breaths whenever you feel fatigue and anxiety.  Continue this practice each day as you continue to practice taking good care of yourself as well as your loved ones.
Complete your practice with Happy Tapping:
“I’m healing and releasing the past *** I’m grateful for the healing *** My body is my teacher *** I’m feeling so much clearer now *** Making healthy choices *** I’m giving my body love and support *** I’m grateful for my strong, flexible, healthy body *** Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Welcoming Anxiety As A Path To Acceptance

As many of you know, I have lived with chronic anxiety for most of my life.  I have chosen not to take medication and have continued to search for healing through meditation, tapping, Matrix Reimprinting (an advanced form of EFT) and acupuncture.
For some time I have been free of my familiar morning anxiety, until the past couple of weeks.  Perhaps it’s flared up when I began to have more seasonal hay fever and wake up congested, achy and grumpy.
Who knows …
Two days ago I woke up feeling anxious and found a wonderful video lesson from Pema Chodron on-line (pematonglen.shambala.com).
She was teaching a Buddhist meditation practice called Tonglen.  She describes this as a practice to remain open – it’s also referred to as sending and receiving.
In the past when I’ve heard of this practice, I was not willing to apply this for myself.  It felt too challenging and scary, actually.  This time when I heard Pema suggesting that we can begin this practice with our own challenges, then I felt that I was receiving the lesson at just the right time for me.
This is very real for me.  I did this practice while listening to Pema’s lesson and doing my standing sun salutations.  Breathing in my own anxiety and breathing out well being for myself and all beings.  You may breathe out anything pleasurable to share.
Here are the four stages of Tonglen practice as Pema Chodron teaches:
1.  First, rest your mind briefly, for a moment or two, in a state of openness or stillness. This stage is traditionally called flashing on absolute bodhichitta, or suddenly opening to basic spaciousness and clarity.
2.  Second, work with texture. Breathe in a feeling of hot, dark, and heavy-a sense of claustrophobia-and breathe out a feeling of cool, bright, and light-a sense of freshness. Breathe in completely, through all the pores of your body, and breathe out, radiate out, completely, through all the pores of your body. Do this until it feels synchronized with your in and out-breaths.
3.  Third, work with a personal situation-any painful situation that’s real to you. For instance, if you are feeling inadequate, you breathe that in for yourself and all the others in the same boat, and you send out confidence and adequacy or relief in any form you wish.
4.  Finally, make the taking in and sending out bigger. If you are doing tonglen for someone you love, extend it out to those who are in the same situation as you or your friend.
I encourage you to see how this practice might help you calm your own anxiety and share the ease and well being with others.

Tapping To Clear Food Cravings

What tapping does incredibly well is disrupt the fight-or-flight response, quickly allowing your
body to return to a more relaxed state in which it can digest food properly and support healthier digestion and faster metabolism.”  
 
Jessica Ortner, author of The Tapping Solution
for Weight Loss & Body Confidence
As we move into the summer holiday, BBQ and eating more season, I thought I would share a new book from our friends at The Tapping Solution.
Whether your goal is releasing excess weight or simply feeling better about your food choices and therefore feeling happier and more confident in your body, these simple practices may be helpful.
Because it’s not about the food!  Ahhhh…
 
The foods we crave may very likely represent comfort, safety, fun or fulfillment in ways that we don’t feel able to access in other, healthier ways.  Be gentle and patient with yourself.
Perhaps eating comforting foods helps us prevent uncomfortable feelings or painful memories.  That’s where tapping helps us to acknowledge those memories and feelings and release the past, so that we can make healthy choices in the present.
Tapping To Release Food Cravings
One of the simplest ways to relieve the struggle, is to tap directly on the cravings, for example:
Set Up Statement:  “Even though I crave this chocolate, I accept myself and all my feelings.”
Reminder Statements:  I need this chocolate now *** I need this chocolate *** I have to have it now *** This craving for chocolate *** I need it now *** This craving for chocolate *** This intense craving *** I can’t focus on anything else!
 
Tapping On the Underlying Feelings
When you are willing to gently explore what may lie beneath your cravings, practice noticing and being present with your feelings – before you reach for the food.  I’m not saying this is easy to do.  Acknowledging and releasing the past with relaxation and tapping can be very effective and help you welcome change into your behavior.
Set Up Statement:  “Even though I crave this food to quiet my feelings, I accept myself and I am safe.”
 
Reminder Statements:  “I need to eat this now *** All these powerful feelings *** I don’t want to feel this *** It’s too much to handle *** So I need this food *** I don’t feel safe *** It’s the only way I can get through this *** All these feelings *** It feels overwhelming.
 
Continue to tap until you feel relief from the intense feelings.  Take a few deep breaths when you next feel the craving and tap before you act on the craving.  Continue this practice each day as you continue to release and heal the past.
Complete your practice with Happy Tapping:
“I’m healing and releasing the past *** I’m grateful for the healing *** My body is my teacher *** I’m feeling so much clearer now *** Making healthy choices *** I’m giving my body love and support *** I’m grateful for my strong, flexible, healthy body *** Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Preparation for Meditation

The test of your success in meditation is not whether you have visions, but rather how you are changing as a person in everyday life – whether you are becoming a happier person.  The goal is to have your whole life become a meditation.
Preparing for Meditation
  • Create a comfortable and pleasant place to meditate.
  • Set aside a specific time to meditate – best times are dawn, dusk,noon and midnight – but most importantly – be consistent about when you meditate.
  • Find a comfortable sitting position in a chair, on a cushion or on a meditation bench, so that your spine is long and open.
  • Relaxation – do some yoga postures or stretching exercises.
  • Say a prayer and ask for guidance and support for your practice.
  • Close your eyes and place your hands palms up on your thighs.
  • Inhale and hold your breath, tensing the entire body; then throw the breath out and relax.  Do this three times.
  • Sing a chant, such as “All is well now, all is well.”
  • Practice a measured breathing technique and finally breathe normally.
  • Practice a concentration technique, such as Hong-Sau:  As your breath flows in, mentally repeat the sound “Hong”; as your breath flows out, mentally repeat the sound “Sau.”  Let the natural flow of breath indicate the pace. Hong-Sau means “I am Spirit.”
  • Let go of all technique and simply relax in the presence.
  • Come out of meditation slowly, perhaps ending with a prayer of gratitude.

The Amazing Vagus Nerve Complex

The Amazing Vagus Nerve Complex
 
The Vagus Nerve is a cranial nerve that extends up into our brains, even though it is not shown in this image.

Following is a somewhat technical description of our amazing vagus nerve complex.  This is a cranial nerve which, quite elegantly, travels from within our brains, down through all of our major organs, and into our gastro-intestinal system, governing taste, speech, circulation, digestion and so much more.
I am suspecting that our so called gut-brain is influential in so many of our chronic illnesses and conditions.
In our practice on Monday, let’s see if we can imagine sending loving kindness and appreciation to this wonderful and complex part of our bodies.
The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve.
Sensory: Innervates the skin and larynx. Provides visceral sensation to the heart and abdomen.
Special Sensory: Provides taste sensation to the epiglottis and root of the tongue.
Motor: Provides motor innervation to the majority of the muscles of the pharynx, soft palate and larynx.
Parasympathetic: Innervates the smooth muscle of the trachea, bronchi and gastro-intestinal tract and regulates heart rhythm.

Anatomical Course
 
The vagus nerve has the longest course of all the cranial nerves, extending from the head to the abdomen. Its name is derived from the Latin ‘vagary’ – meaning wandering. It is sometimes referred to as the wandering nerve.
In the Head
 
The vagus nerve originates from the medulla of the brain stem.
Within the cranium, the auricular branch arises. This supplies sensation to the posterior part of the external auditory and canal external ear.
In the Neck
At the base of the neck, the right and left nerves have differing pathways:
  • The right vagus nerve passes anterior to the subclavian artery and posterior to the sternoclavicular joint, entering the thorax.
  • The left vagus nerve passes inferiorly between the left common carotid and left subclavian arteries, posterior to the sternoclavicular joint, entering the thorax.
Several branches arise in the neck:
  • Pharyngeal branches – Provides motor innervation to the majority of the muscles of the pharynx and soft palate.
  • Superior laryngeal nerve – Splits into internal and external branches. The external laryngeal nerve innervates the cricothyroid muscle of the larynx. The internal laryngeal provides sensory innervation to the laryngopharynx and superior part of the larynx.
  • Recurrent laryngeal nerve (right side only) – Hooks underneath the right subclavian artery, then ascends towards to the larynx. It innervates the majority of the intrinsic muscles of the larynx.
In the Thorax
In the thorax, the right vagus nerve forms the posterior vagal trunk, and the left forms the anterior vagal trunk. Branches from the vagal trunks contribute to the formation of the oesophageal plexus, which innervates the smooth muscle of the oesophagus.
Two other branches arise in the thorax:
  • Left recurrent laryngeal nerve – it hooks under the arch of the aorta, ascending to innervate the majority of the intrinsic muscles of the larynx.
  • Cardiac branches – these innervate regulate heart rate and provide visceral sensation to the organ.
The vagal trunks enter the abdomen via the oesophageal hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm.
In the Abdomen
 
In the abdomen, the vagal trunks terminate by dividing into branches that supply the oesophagus, stomach and the small and large bowel (up to the splenic flexure).

Sensory Functions
 
There are somatic and visceral components to the sensory function of the vagus nerve.  Somatic refers to sensation from the skin and muscles. This is provided by the auricular nerve, which innervates the skin of the posterior part of the external auditory canal and external ear.
Viscera sensation is that from the organs of the body. The vagus nerve innervates:
  • Laryngopharynx – via the internal laryngeal nerve.
  • Superior aspect of larynx (above vocal folds) – via the internal laryngeal nerve.
  • Heart – via cardiac branches of the vagus nerve.
  • Gastro-intestinal tract (up to the splenic flexure) – via the terminal branches of the vagus nerve.

Special Sensory Functions
 
The vagus nerve has a minor role in taste sensation. It carries afferent fibres from the root of the tongue and epiglottis.

Motor Functions
 
The vagus nerve innervates the majority of the muscles associated with the pharynx and larynx. These muscles are responsible for the initiation of swallowing and phonation.
Muscles of the Pharynx
 
Most of the muscles of the pharynx are innervated by the pharyngeal branchesof the vagus nerve:
  • Superior, middle and inferior pharyngeal constrictor muscles
  • Palatopharyngeus
  • Salpingopharyngeus
An additional muscle of the pharynx, the stylopharyngeus, is innervated by the glossopharyngeal nerve.
Muscles of the Larynx
 
Innervation to the intrinsic muscles of the larynx is achieved via the recurrent laryngeal nerve and external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve.
Recurrent laryngeal nerve:
  • Thyro-arytenoid
  • Posterior crico-arytenoid
  • Lateral crico-arytenoid
  • Transverse and oblique arytenoids
  • Vocalis
External laryngeal nerve:
  • Cricothyroid
Other Muscles
 
In addition to the pharynx and larynx, the vagus nerve also innervates the palatoglossus of the tongue, and the majority of the muscles of the soft palate.

Parasympathetic Functions
 
In the thorax and abdomen, the vagus nerve is the main parasympathetic outflow to the heart and gastro-intestinal organs.
The Heart
 
Cardiac branches arise in the thorax, conveying parasympathetic innervation to the sino-atrial and atrio-ventricular nodes of the heart.
These branches stimulate a reduction in the resting heart rate. They are constantly active, producing a rhythm of 60 – 80 beats per minute. If the vagus nerve was lesioned, the resting heart rate would be around 100 beats per minute.
Gastro-Intestinal System
 
The vagus nerve provides parasympathetic innervation to the majority of the abdominal organs. It sends branches to the oesophagus, stomach and most of the intestinal tract – up to the splenic flexure of the large colon.
The function of the vagus nerve is to stimulate smooth muscle contraction and glandular secretions in these organs. For example, in the stomach, the vagus nerve increases the rate of gastric emptying, and stimulates acid production.

For Challenging People & Circumstances

Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation practice.
The words are:
May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
And may I be happy.
Repeat this phrase, speaking or chanting, a few times through.
Then extend the practice to your loved ones:
May you be filled with loving kindness
May you be well
May you be peaceful and at ease
And may you be happy.
Bringing to mind your family and friends, as you speak or chant the Metta phrases – wishing them well and happy.
Here Comes The Challenging Part
An additional, and more challenging, way to practice, is to offer well-wishing to a person or a circumstance that is challenging for you.
  • Bring to mind a person you have difficulty liking or accepting.
  • Bring to mind a circumstance in the world – war or injustice.
  • Bring to mind the suffering of refugees or the homeless.
May you be filled with loving kindness
May you be well
May you be peaceful and at ease
And may you be happy.
Continue to chant, staying calm, centered and relaxed – allowing any judgments or criticisms to arise – until you can genuinely send loving thoughts to that person or circumstance.
Notice how this practice begins to resonate throughout your day and ease tension, critical self-talk and discontent with the world.
And always remember to bring the loving kindness back to yourself – placing your hand on your heart:
May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
And may I be happy.

Accessing & Trusting Your Body Wisdom

One way to find relief that helps us move beyond taking a pill or searching the internet, is to get in touch with our Body Wisdom. You may call this intuition, guidance, knowing or even magic.
I have found that when I have a question about what is happening in my body – my head wants to figure out a solution and Do something. When I take the time to slow down, get quiet and ask my body for information, I usually get a different answer and somehow wiser information.
I might ask “What is it I need to know or understand?”
Then I listen with my heart for the answer.
This may take some time and patience. I feel that I am tuning in to my Body Wisdom and Intuition – a part of my consciousness that is not confined to intellect or intelligence.
My body might say, “Slow Down”. Or “Time to Rest”.
It is most often a Being response, rather than a Doing.

Asking For Guidance From a Body Part or Symptom

Another way to gain clarity about your self-care may be to practice communicating with your body, as if it has a voice.
When you have tension, pain or discomfort in your back, for instance. You might settle yourself down and bring your awareness to your back. Gently pat your heart and say,”There, there, I’m listening, how can I help you?”
Then wait patiently for an answer from your body. You may receive words, phrases, thoughts, or memories. At times my body will show me a behavior or treatment that will be helpful.
You are tuning into your unique Body Wisdom and Guidance. I also find that trusting and acting on the guidance helps to encourage the connection and effectivness.
This practice works just as well for emotional issues. When I feel anxious and ask my Body Wisdom for guidance, my body will say “Go outside”. This almost always helps me to calm down, especially after all the days of staying inside to avoid the nasty smoke in the air. Ahhhhh…
May this practice help you with your healing and self-care.

Total Lunar Eclipse on Friday – Transformation or Chaos?

“The full moon on the night of July 27, 2018, presents the longest 
total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. The total phase of the eclipse – 
called the totality – spans 1 hour 42 minutes and 57 seconds.” www.earthsky.org
That’s exciting news!  And, unfortunately, we won’t be able to see the eclipse from north America this time.  I did find a place in Israel that will be live casting at www.bareket-astro.com, if you would like to follow the event. If you are in Asia or Africa – enjoy!
I’ve also been hearing a lot of conversation about the astrological and emotional implications of this full moon and the eclipse.  So I got curious to see what I could learn.
1.  Be aware that we will feel the emotional effects of the eclipse before, during and after the event.  No wonder I wrote about all of the dust and emotions I stirred up last week in my garage.  Ahhhh…
2.  This is a great time to review, reconsider, rethink and reflect on your core values.  As a life coach, I get excited about Visioning meditations and asking powerful questions:
–  What have I been resisting, denying or putting off?
–  What are my core values and how do I honor them?
–  Where am I out of alignment with what is truly important to me?
–  How may I deepen and nurture my relationships?
–  What will give me greater ease, comfort and wellbeing in my body?
Now is the time to be open to change.  Be patient with yourself and others.  Be open to surprises and unexpected opportunities.  Practice extreme self-care and patience with the process.  Ahhhh…