The Simplest Relaxation Practice

I believe this is a good time for all of us to return to our basic self-care routine – or to establish one that feels good:

  1. Get up and go to bed near the same time every day.
  2. Drink plenty of room temperature water all day long.
  3. Prepare and eat nourishing real food every day.
  4. Minimize alcohol, sugar, packaged food and the news.
  5. Stay as active as possible with walking outside when possible, yoga and pilates inside.
  6. Stay in touch with loved ones and friends by phone or internet.
  7. Practice relaxation techniques, meditation, prayer or mindfulness daily to help keep your nervous system calm.
  8. When you feel anxious or fearful, ask yourself what would feel good and do that – a bath, movement, drink water, a nap, call a friend, journal and write down how you are feeling.

When all else fails – make art, make music, clean out closets, watch movies, organize your files, join an on-line support group, such as Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA).
Give thanks for all of the drivers, health care workers, chefs and cooks, teachers, lab technicians, first responders and anyone else who are on the front lines keeping us nourished and safe.
And, of course, wash your hands often, clean surfaces – especially eye glasses, cell phones, door handles, counters and light switches. We will get through this together!

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!

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!

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.

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.

What is Visioning Guided Meditation?

The purpose of Visioning guided meditation is to open a place in our consciousness for fresh ideas to be revealed.  We center ourselves in the silence, establishing awareness of the Divine within us and opening to our inner wisdom, intuition and guidance.
Visions may appear in the form of images, colors, sounds or feelings.  At times nothing may be revealed.  We accept whatever comes or doesn’t come without judgment, knowing that more will be revealed.
The questions:
 
1.  What is the HIGHEST VISION for my life/health/career?
2.  What must I RELEASE to fulfill this vision – what am I releasing or transforming that no longer serves me?
NOTE:  This is the perfect time to utilize your EFT tapping practice to release whatever wants to be released or forgiven so that you can move forward.
 
3.  What must I EMBRACE to fulfill this vision – what am I welcoming into my experience?
 
 4.     What must I BE for this vision to be fulfilled – what qualities will support me in this transformation and growth?
 5.     How can I take INSPIRED ACTION to fulfill this vision?
6.  Give Thanks for the Vision, for the guidance, for the opportunity to connect with your intuition, body wisdom and Divine guidance.
Following your meditation you may record your insights in your journal and/or share the vision with a trusted friend or coach, who will help you affirm your greater good.
I thought I’d share with you the results of one of my Visioning meditation sessions, to inspire you to join me in this amazing practice.  I copied this right out of my journal:
Vision – In a meadow, most glorious, with nothing allergenic – sunshine, perfect temp, little breeze, flowers and trees, Disney butterflies, a stream running over rocks. It’s not just my spot; it’s irresistible to everyone else. They all want to come play with me here. Coming into this space opens people’s hearts. A place they find themselves, what they’re looking for within themselves. Find other people to play with. It’s utterly safe. It’s a place that calls forth possibility. People want to be part of the solution here. They want to connect here. It’s very open. People can come and go freely. We bring their best selves to this circle. There’s a feeling beyond everything being possible; everyone can have what they want here. Together everything can be solved.
 
Release: “Nobody wants to play with me.” Really clear. Loneliness. I don’t know how to do it – create community, invite people. Doubt. No matter what I do, it isn’t good enough. Will this work? Will this sustain me?
 
Embrace: Fun, big fun! Nature. Beauty. Community. Creativity. Learning. Teaching. Traveling. Collaboration. More fun. Music. Somehow my photography is in there. Adventure. Generosity. Worthiness. Excellence. Success. Joy. Celebration. Lots of people to play with. I get the image of dropping a pebble in the water and the rings expanding out, out, out. Natural expansion that’s effortless, easy, joyful. Dancing in the moment.
 
Being: Strong. Healthy. Confident. Joyful. Playful. Excited. Welcoming. Creative. Adventurous. Grateful. Peaceful. Curious. Content.
 
Gratitude lives in my body – in my heart.
May this guided meditation connect you with your intuition and Divine guidance and move your forward with clarity, confidence and enthusiasm!

Can’t Quiet Your Mind?

First of all, may I say, that I practice all of the techniques and practices that I teach.  I’m not just regurgitating something I read in a book or on-line.  I began to study Meditation in the early 80’s and, for many years, didn’t really have a daily spiritual practice.
Then in the late 90’s I trained at The Expanding Light as an Ananda Yoga & Meditation instructor and really began to practice and understand the benefits of daily practice.
Routine, environment, energization exercises, yoga postures, breathing practices, mantra and progressive relaxation are all methods to quiet the mind and body and prepare for meditation.
If you are struggling with settling down to meditate, finding the time to meditate or quieting your mind when you do decide to meditate – I know exactly how you feel.  It can be frustrating, discouraging and not fun to feel that you don’t know how to meditate and you don’t understand why so many people practice and enjoy the benefits and, for some reason, you can’t seem to get it.  Ahhhhh…
PREPARATION FOR MEDITATION
1. Settle yourself down in a comfortable position, where you will not be disturbed for at least ten to twenty minutes. Shorter meditation periods are beneficial, even just a few minutes can be helpful, however taking a bit more time for your mind and body to settle will give you great relief from stress, worry and fatigue.
2. Sit so that your spine is long and open, supporting yourself with cushions if necessary.
3. Take a few slow, deep breaths, bringing the breath into your abdomen, expanding the lungs and open and softening the space around your heart.
4. Allow your awareness to settle down into your body, focusing on the sensations of the breath, wherever you feel them moving – in your belly, your nostrils or your throat.
5. Close your eyes if you like, keeping the eyes relaxed and lifting the level of your gaze to just above the horizon line. This eye position quiets the primitive brain, quieting the thoughts and focuses your awareness on the frontal lobes or higher consciousness part of the brain. It also helps you to stay awake while meditating.
6. You might practice a measured breathing technique – inhaling for a count of seven, holding the breath for seven and exhaling for a count of seven. Repeat this several times, then allow your breath to relax into a natural rhythm. Observe the breath, without changing or controlling it.
7. Concentration – The Hong-Sau Technique
Notice the breath wherever you feel it moving, eventually noticing the breath at the top of the nose and bringing your attention to the spiritual eye, or sixth chakra at the point between the eyebrows.
As the breath flows in, silently repeat “Hong”, as the breath flows out, silently repeat “Sau”. Follow the nature flow of the breath. Hong Sau means “I am Spirit” or “I am peace”. You will find that as you use the mantra as a point of focus, your breath will naturally and gradually slow down on it’s own. Be very gentle with yourself, when you notice your mind wandering, bring your awareness back to you breath and back to the mantra.
Practice with the mantra for two-thirds of your meditation time and then allow yourself to rest in the stillness, perhaps saying a healing prayer, affirmation or visualization.
And remember that it’s always easier to meditate in a group, so come to Meditation class if you are in Napa and available on Monday afternoons, or listen to my Guided Meditations or another lesson on-line.

Centering and Quieting Your Wandering Mind

I’ve had conversations with several folks recently about their challenges with quieting the mind for Meditation.  Ahhhh…
Somehow we think it will be easy to center ourselves and be quiet – resting our bodies and minds.  That is not always the case, as you may have noticed.
I’ve heard from several of my students that they are able to settle when we practice together in class or in a private session and not so much on their own.  There is a definite benefit to practicing with a group or with a teacher to guide you.  That is how I learned to meditate and that’s why I love to teach and practice with y’all.
I thought it might be helpful to remind you of the simple tools to help you with your meditation practice at home.  It’s not necessary to do all of the steps listed below – find what works well for you.
Be patient with yourself as you integrate the practice into your schedule – even for a few minutes each day – you will enjoy greater mental focus and clarity, ease, calm, peace of mind and relaxation.  Ahhhh…
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.  The best time is when you will do it!
  • 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 gratitude.

The Simplest Way To Quiet Your Mind

  When my mind just won’t quiet down, I turn to humming or chanting to help relax, calm down and quiet the thoughts.
 It’s fun.  It’s comforting and healing and it works! You can simply hum for a few minutes before sitting in silence. You can chant Om. You can chant the Loving Kindness chant. You might sing your favorite song. Really, it all works. The sound and the vibration is very comforting and relaxing to the body and your mind will ease up and become quiet. Ahhhhh… When you’d like to add an additional feature to your humming, you might practice gently sending the hum down into your body. You might place one hand on your heart and one hand on your abdomen and imagine that the sound is relaxing and aligning your organs, muscles, bones and fluids.Imagine that the hum is going wherever it is needed in your body.  Be gentle.  Don’t push.  Relax and Enjoy!