Photo by Ajay Royyuru -

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mindfulness Exercise: The Who, Where and What of Your Happiness

Start by considering:

·         The three people you feel happiest around. How much time do you spend with them – by phone, personal visits or emails/letters?

·         The three places where you feel the most joy. How often do you visit these places?

·         The three activities that most delight you. How do you integrate them into your daily life?

Becoming aware of the people, places and activities that bring us the most joy—and creating time for them--requires mindfulness. Much like your body responds to a physical exercise routine, your mind responds and becomes increasingly aware, peaceful and loving as you train it through meditation. And just like physical exercise, the more you meditate, the more you use these calming circuits in your mind, making it easier to experience happiness.

Take time to be mindful about the people you surround yourself with – make time for people you love. Visit places that make you feel joyful – the local flea market, your church or temple or a nearby forest preserve. Make time for the activities that energize and delight you. Read, if that’s what you love to do. Or listen to your favorite music . . . and of course meditate!

Consider, how can you make time for these people, places and activities on a regular basis?

“Action may not always bring happiness;

but there is no happiness without action”

-Benjamin Disraeli (British Prime Minister and Novelist 1804-1881)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quantity over quality counts in Meditation!

Many of my students fret about the quality of their meditation session. They feel their minds are not as focused as they want; they feel easily distracted with daily worries and, sometimes, give up their meditation practice.

My response is very simple -Quantity over quality! It is more beneficial for you to make 10-15 mins for your meditation practice for at least 4-5 times a week.  As you get better at meditating, your mind will start relaxing within a few seconds of starting your meditation practice. Your quality and depth of meditation will improve on its own accord.  Accept that, sometimes, your mind will be distracted and just the act of sitting or lying down for 10-15 minutes will help calm you down.

It is good to supplement your practice with a longer 30-45 minute session over the weekend. I often use the analogy of a runner training for a half-marathon race.  Most runners will run short distances 3-5 miles during the weekday and a long run (6-8  miles) over Saturday and take rest on Sunday.  A similar approach works for meditators too. Get your short sessions done over the weekdays and schedule a long session over Saturday or Sunday. Don't beat yourself up if you miss your scheduled session. Over time, you will enjoy the meditation experience so much that you will automatically find time for it.

Don’t worry about finding perfection in your meditation practice; you will discover practice is perfection!
Check out the guest blog - "Too Busy to Meditate?"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reflections of a Labyrinth Walker

I asked one of my friends, Cathy M, a free-lance writer to share her reflections about a recent labyrinth/walking meditation session.  I love her metaphor of the curved labyrinth (in this case – a Chartres Design Labyrinth for those who are interested in technical details) to that of her life and mission. We all can relate to the twists and turns of our lives – but I love her insight of embracing the flow of life that takes us to what means most to us.  While your experiences and insights may not be the same, I hope that you will ponder on the meaning of life as you wander around your labyrinth.  Here is one of my favorite quotes on life and our thoughts -

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

― Henry David Thoreau


Is this labyrinth broken? By Cathy M (July-August 2012)

When a friend my own age died unexpectedly and, of course, unfairly, I took stock of my life and committed to finally writing that novel. Although I’d majored in English, made my living as a corporate writer, and read a fair amount, I had no idea how to write fiction, let alone a whole novel. Yet, I decided that between parenting two toddlers, working part-time and running a household, I could squeeze in enough writing time to finish by my fortieth birthday, in four years.

Our plans are like that. Linear. I’ll start here, work hard and finish at the goal. We plan and expect to find the path is a direct one. But life, God, fate, the universe, higher power, Spirit—whatever you choose to believe in—reminds us, or me at least, that it’s about the journey. And it’s almost never linear.

Of course I’ve seen the posters: “Life is a journey, not a destination,” and all the rest. And at some level, I knew that. Only I didn’t live that way. My to-do list said I was to finish my novel by my fortieth birthday. I’d committed. And therefore, I would do whatever it took to accomplish that goal. If I didn’t, then I would have failed.

And, I was cruising along, cranking out pages every week. Reading books about writing books and educating myself on the publishing industry. I subscribed to a couple of writing magazines and even joined a weekly writer’s group. And then, two years in, my father died. Unexpectedly. Unfairly.

I didn’t write for a year.

I blew my self-imposed deadline. And yes, I berated myself. Over and over again. Until one sweltering July morning when a friend invited me to walk a labyrinth, something I’d never done but was open to trying, especially when I learned it only takes about 30 minutes and then I could get on with my to-do list.

So I went. It was relatively easy. Follow the path, walk slowly, concentrate on your steps and your breathing and, if you’re so inclined, meditate.

If you’ve seen a labyrinth you know the path is anything but linear. And while it wasn’t obvious that the stone walkway would eventually lead me to the center, the goal, I trusted it would. 

I trusted until I’d been walking for about 15 minutes and noticed that the path had taken me to an outer ring almost as far from the center as when I started. “Hey, wait a second,” I thought. “I should be closer to the center by now. Did I take a wrong turn? Is this labyrinth broken? Am I ever going to get there?”

I inhaled deeply and, resigned, continued walking, slowly, wondering how this path, with all its bends and turns, would ever take me to the center. As my friend had suggested, I became aware of my thoughts, acknowledged them and then let them go as best I could. And, as he had suggested, I focused on the sun warming my shoulders and face. I became aware of the giant oak trees nearby, how their leaves wiggled in the subtle breeze. I listened to the sound my steps made on the stones. And, I noticed my breath.

Then, to my astonishment, I saw how the path ended in the center.  Just a few minutes ago, I was at the edge of the labyrinth and now, here, it was clear. I was steps away from the goal.  My excitement escaped as a giggle.

Such a simple thing, to follow a path to a goal. But not so simple when the path is not linear, as we expect and plan. That requires trust. Sometimes blind trust. As I wound my way back out through the labyrinth, this time knowing it would lead me back to the start, I was aware of times in my life when I’ve felt so far from my goal. Far from clarity. From peace. From myself.

 I thought about my novel. My dad. And the missed deadline.

My grief took me away from writing for a long time. I wasn’t sure I’d ever return to it, let alone finish the book. But eventually, I did. As I put one foot in front of the other, making my way out of the labyrinth, I realized that my father’s death put me more in touch with my own raw emotions, which, later, made it easier to imagine those of my characters. As a result, the story came faster once I returned to it, and the characters were deeper because my experience informed my work.

In the weeks since walking the labyrinth, I try to remind myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my journey, even if that seems far from the goal. I remember the sun, the trees, the sound of my feet and my breath, and that if I become aware, I’ll find joy, love and happiness right where I am. Those experiences are accessible to me even when I’m not standing in the center.

I remember, too, that the labyrinth isn’t broken. As long as I continue to put one foot in front of the other and trust, I’ll look up soon and see that, even with all its bends, this path is leading me to the center.