What Am I Doing?

Are you content with the state of your life, your family, your world, our world? If not, I invite you to think on these things:

What am I doing to enhance peace in my own heart and mind?

What am I doing to create peace within my family? Am I expressing love and understanding? Am I owning my “stuff” rather than behaving defensively?

Do I contribute to peace in my world (family, friends, work, church)?

What am I doing to find peace with those around me who may look, feel, think differently than I do.

I was thinking about the Golden Rule the other day. When I was growing up, all of us, no matter what church we attended, were taught this simple truth:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

As I walked and thought about this, I realized that this is something worth exploring. It feels powerful to me to evaluate what I am experiencing in light of what I am thinking and doing rather than focusing on what someone else is not doing or might be thinking.

If I want anything in life to be better, the best first step is to look at my part in the situation or relationship. Am I honestly doing my part? Am I showing up? Am I?

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In The Stillness

In the stillness

there is clarity

there is wisdom

there is guidance

there is peace

there is love

there is joy

there is oneness

there is wholeness

In the stillness

I know who I am

Seeing From the Soul

In today’s meditation, we learn to see others and the world with the vision of grace and love. We call this “seeing with the eyes of the soul,” because when your deepest self recognizes its essence in another person, it experiences love. When your true self sees itself in an object, it experiences beauty. When we see with the eyes of the soul, we find our pure self everywhere. (from “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude,” Chopra Center meditation)

May our hearts and minds be open to this truth and may we walk in the light of love and compassion.

Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti.

Walking Meditation with Very Few Rules

I just came in from a one hour walk – good for me on so many levels! The obvious one is the physical of course. Mental, emotional, spiritual benefits kick in when I turn my walk into a meditation as well. I have hardly any rules. Actually, the only real rule I have is:  no ear buds for music or phone calls. I carry my phone in case of emergency or, to call a family member when I am winding down and decide to stop in for a visit if possible.

So, how do you do walking meditation. There are as many methods as there are belief systems, ideas, people. This is what I have done on my last few walks.

I do a few simple yoga stretches and rotations before leaving home to connect with my breathing and to begin to move energy into my muscles and joints. As I start walking outside, I create a balancing breath that matches my stride, starting slowly with 4 counts on the inhale and 4 counts on the exhale. As my legs warm, I increase speed while keeping my stride rather short to burn calories and protect my knees. I stay with the balanced breath (4 in, 4 out) until I get bored with it!

Then, my focus turns to what I see around me. Some days my awareness goes to the mountains around Burbank and the sky above. I breathe them in and appreciate their magnificence, their beauty. I watch birds soar high above me. I especially like seeing hawks, messengers of the gods.  Other days my awareness goes to trees, bushes, flowers, succulents, blooming bushes, etc. I send blessings to all that grows on the earth and provides these feasts for the eyes. I send blessings to the landscapers who create and care for them; I send blessings to the home and property owners who nourish the earth by getting it done. One day recently a couple of squirrels played just ahead of me so I slowed my pace and grew very quiet. One of them stopped at the base of a tall live oak and began to study me. I stopped just four feet from the squirrel and let the studying continue. The squirrel moved within about 2.5 feet of me. My breath became very slow and quiet and we just enjoyed the moment together, looking and seeing and feeling each other’s presence. It was too wonderful for words.

This morning as I enjoyed all that was around me, my legs drew my awareness. I let myself feel the actual movement of my muscles contracting, lengthening, releasing, softening. A calf muscle tightened and I stopped to stretch and lengthen, bringing awareness fully to my breath and guiding it into that tender spot in the thick of the muscle. Then I smiled as I felt a shift and when I released the tightness was gone. I treated the other calf muscle to the same attention and it responded into softness as well. A little later, the quads asked for attention so I paused again, breathing and stretching and nurturing my body.

As I slowed my pace into the cool down phase at the end of my walk, I had no real idea of how long I had been gone. I check the time before I leave and then not again until I go back in the house. As I cooled down I closed my meditation in gratitude for my life, my health, my sense of happiness in that moment. Nothing had entered my mind during my walk except what I was seeing, hearing, feeling. The essence of true meditation is being so fully in the present moment that there is no other awareness. Whether that moment is expanding into the silence of the void, being immersed in sensory sensations, allowing enlightened inspiration to flood the mind  or being absorbed mindfully into the mantra I am meditating.

So, may I invite you today to play with this idea of what meditation is and let your ideas and beliefs about it expand into the essence of its true nature? May you find forms that fit you and allow you to enter into the sweetness of the moment, whether it is five minutes or an hour. May you experience the fullness of the moment and may you let each moment be enough.

Namaste.

Listen From the Heart

I am saying this to myself this morning and thinking some of you may need to hear it as well:

Listen from your heart, Catherine.

Listen lovingly, compassionately, patiently.

Look softly into people’s eyes as they speak. Take their hand or touch their arm if that is appropriate.

Take a moment of quiet when the person stops speaking. Let your Soul guide what you do or say. If no words come, a smile or gentle touch will be enough; a warm embrace transcends words.

There is nothing you have to say that is more important than that person knowing they are truly seen and heard.

Listen from your heart.

Eye Contact

Are you aware when you make eye contact with someone? Do you really see that person? If it is a stranger, perhaps the cashier at a grocery store or restaurant, do you notice the color of their eyes? Are you aware of their Inner Being or just their outward appearance?

We’ve all heard it said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. It is true. In yoga we do eye gazing as part of our practice. For many people it is extremely uncomfortable. For some, it is an opportunity to connect with another without words. You simply soften your face, your eyes and your gaze and look, without interruption, into that person’s eyes.

As you stand or sit across from each other in silence, barriers begin to fade and a gentle awareness arises. This is a soul manifesting in a body. This is a Being seeing you through the portals we call eyes. You become aware of your own eyes as portals. You feel the Being, the soul that you are, seeing through the portals of your own eyes. The two of you are allowing your True Selves to see and to be seen.

Mindful eye contact or eye gazing done in a group or with a loved one prepares us for those momentary opportunities to look into the eyes of a stranger in a way that lets them know they have been seen. Once on a very busy day, I looked softly into the eyes of a cashier and simply said, “Good morning, Susan.” Yes, I had read her name tag. Because I said her name, she looked at my face and then into my eyes which, of course, were softly focused on hers. She whispered, “You are the first person since I was hired here to actually say my name!” She stood a little taller and smiled at the customer behind me as I left.

Oh, how we all need to be seen, to hear our names spoken with respect, to know that we are not invisible.

There were several effects of this type of mindful interaction that were a surprise for me when I first began to practice with others. When I look softly into the eyes of another person and have the intention of seeing the Being inhabiting that body, I am incapable of doing that person harm in my behavior or my thoughts. I see myself in their eyes as well. I cannot look into your soul without connecting with my own. When I allow myself to see you, I see myself as well and the love that wells up within me is for both of us. In the moment I experience this depth of connection, I know the Oneness that We Are. I cannot harm you without harming myself. Feeling love and compassion for you is feeling it toward myself because everything that touches you also touches me.

In the Oneness of All That Is, We Are.

This Moment Gives Birth to the Next

This moment gives birth to the next.

I often make this statement to my yoga students as an invitation to mindfulness, being present in the moment. I love when one of them asks me what I mean by that because it is an invitation for me to take them deeper.

If I am in a truly unhappy, difficult experience and I am advised to count my blessings I will feel a small smile forming on my face as I quietly nod my head. Years ago, a woman older and wiser than myself told me that gratitude opens the heart for further blessings. In order for my heart to open and receive what I need right now, I must be mindful of current blessings. The Circle of Life is evident here. If I desire blessings, I must see blessings right now in this moment. The gratitude I feel in this moment gives birth to the blessings and gratitude I will feel in the next moment. It is a circle within the Circle of Life.

How? Good question. Nature has always brought me deep peace and sincere gratitude for this world, this planet. I remember being so deeply sorrowful that letting myself see the beauty around me was actually painful; it seemed to hurt my eyes and my broken heart was frightened of taking it in. If I let it in, I might feel grateful and start to live again and then be hurt again. When I read that this morning, it doesn’t make sense to me but that was the level of my awareness at the time. Fortunately, life and love won out. The beauty around me that day assaulted me time and time again until I relented and let it in. Then I wept and wept, releasing the sorrow and pain that had consumed me for a time, being grateful for the beauty and love surrounding and filling me.

Life can be overwhelming. Staying centered in True Self through practices like yoga and meditation keeps me in the moment, present with the truth of who I Am. I Am a spiritual being currently having a human experience. If I Am present and mindful in this moment, I can be grateful for what it contains while knowing it will give birth to further experience – which will be determined by my level of awareness of Self and Source and by my desire/intention to be divinely human.

Laughter begets laughter. Standing in the parking lot after a yoga class with students and laughing reminds me of what is real and important. As I drive away, I laugh instead of cursing when another driver cuts me off or sits talking on the phone while the light turns green. We humans are a goofy bunch. Why not accept that and have a good laugh?!

This moment gives birth to the next. I live alone and must remind myself of the importance of human touch and affection. When I feel that need, I enter my yoga classes hugging students and receiving their hugs in return. I touch an arm while listening and often find myself holding hands with the person. Love and affection flow through the room.

Receiving the blessings of gratitude begets more blessings of gratitude. Yes, life may bring sorrow but I now know that within that sorrow there are moments of deep love and understanding, the growth of compassion. Blessings that elicit gratitude as deep as the sorrow.

This moment gives birth to the next. The Circle of Life is a moment-by-moment journey, an experience in being human and letting the Divine shine through. Light shines through a pinhole and expands as it moves beyond that tiny opening. Love demands expression and only needs the smallest opening to shine its light into my heart, my mind, my life. When it moves beyond any opening I give it, Love expands exponentially in every direction bathing my world in its Light.