January 31, 2016

Heart Hunger

Last summer, I read Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays. These words—her words—stayed with me: "Most unbalanced relationships with food are caused by being unaware of heart hunger. No food can ever satisfy this form of hunger. To satisfy it, we must learn how to nourish our hearts." The word "food" is easily replaced by others: work, social media, news, shopping, exercise. (We have many unbalanced relationships.) There's much that consumes us and that we consume. But what do we really seek? What are the whispers of our hearts?

When I was in academia—unsatisfied but unaware—I bought myself books, clothes, and housewares. I didn't look at price tags nor did I consciously choose. It was an unskilled version of self-care: consumption that didn't nourish my heart. From this same place, I hosted parties and filled my social calendar. I was consumed by what people thought of me. My worthiness came from externals. Eventually, my freedom came from within: The connection I craved most was connection with myself.

Yesterday, I found 3-year-old notebook scribblings (a page entitled "Funk Freedom"):
Talk about the difficult stuff. Get outside. Create. Move my body. Meditate. Listen. Open my heart. Hug. Take a break. Smile. Meditate. Be kind. Have lunch with a friend. Dig in the dirt. Chop vegetables. Dance. Cry. Meditate. Donate my time. Watch the light. Photograph. Laugh.

These were (still are) ways for me to nourish my heart. True medicine, not band-aids. When I lapse into craving-mindthat uneasy feeling of not-enough—I try to pause. When I remember to pause, breathe, and be, I better access my basic-goodness; I better access wisdom and awareness, and these lead to conscious choices. Choices that fill my heart.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

January 26, 2016

Waiting Practice

In daily life, we spend a lot of time waiting: waiting in line, waiting to meet a friend, waiting at the doctor, waiting in traffic. Pieced together, we can wait 30 minutes in a day. Often, there's an underlying annoyance with waitingit can feel like we're missing out on life. But here's a radical re-frame: waiting as a mindfulness practice; as an intentional time to check in with ourselves. 

The next time you're waiting, try something different. Close your eyes, breathe, and look inward. I try to regularly ask the question: What's happening inside me right now? What needs my attention? If you want guidance with this practice, listen to the audio below. 

And if waiting-as-mindfulness is difficult, try something else: Anytime you're waiting, notice the ways you distract yourself. Just notice. And notice how you feel.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

January 13, 2016

Blind Spots

Since mom died, I've tried to practice self-compassion. I need gentleness as I move through grief. I need gentleness as I navigate this unpredictable life. And I thought I was doing just that. Then I attended a 3-day silent meditation retreat and received a clear message: I need sincere love and kindness from within. This insight brought me to tears. I thought I was giving self-kindness, but it was on the surface, going through the motions. During the retreat I went deeper: I felt love and gratitude within my body and heart. My practice was sincere.

We all have these inner blind spots--places where our actions are not aligned with our intentions. Sometimes it's obvious: we feel a disconnection and make a change. Often it's not obvious. Our minds are wily. We trick ourselves in complex and varied ways. It's important to regularly check in. Not in a heady way, but in a full-being way. This requires space, stillness, and quiet. Space to sit with the question: What is most important? Then sit with the question: Are my daily actions or non-actions aligned with my values?

Judgment can sneak in, telling us we've failed or we should be different or we should give up. But judgment is not helpful. Honesty, kindness, and awareness are helpful. Judgment closes our heart; awareness opens us. When we find a blind spot, it's a moment of awakening. We can now make conscious choices. Small steps toward wholeness.

But first, we must make space. Instead of packing our schedules and distracting in every free moment, we can choose a different path. A regular check-in can happen through meditation, walking in nature, or savoring a cup of tea. I often ask myself: Am I moving toward or away from wholeness? Do my choices lead to openness or constriction? I'm most present in my own life--and most present to others--when I'm open and aware; when my intentions and actions are aligned; when I feel my interconnection with all beings.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page