November 2012

A Much-Needed Holiday Stress-Reducing Meditation

A Meditation for the Holiday Season

by cheryl on November 20, 2012

in Healthy Living

Why is it that during this joyful, festive time of year so many people are feeling anxious, depressed or depleted?  All that gift giving and holiday cheer  can be exhausting.  There is pressure to be happy and full of joy.   So when we don’t feel like being in the holiday spirit (or we may feel downright depressed), we become upset with ourselves and ask, “What is wrong with me?”

First, there is nothing wrong with you.  Throw away any judgment or feeling of disappointment in yourself.  You feel the way you feel, and that is OK.  It is an exhausting time of year.  There is cooking to do, presents to wrap, gifts to give, roads to travel.  You may also feel lonely or sad.  In addition, there are always those complicated family dynamics to contend with, which are often even more intense this time of year.  So, remind yourself that it is OK to feel whatever you feel.

Second, whether you are a regular meditator or have never tried meditation before, try this simple holiday meditation.  It doesn’t take long and I know you will feel a little better after giving it a try.  The great part about this meditation is that you can use it over and over again throughout the holiday season, as needed (no prescription required).

Step 1:

Find a quiet spot.  Allow yourself to escape for a short time from the commotion.  Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, with your back straight OR lie down comfortably on your back in a resting position. Gently close your eyes.

Step 2:

Breathe deeply, in through your nose, then release that air back out through your nose.   Simply follow your breath in through your nose, filling up your lungs and abdomen, allowing your belly and chest to expand.   As you exhale, follow your breath back out through your lungs, your abdomen contracting, as the air flows out your nose.  As you inhale, think of letting in a sense of  calm, quiet, and stillness.   As you exhale, release all of the tension in your body, and any anxiety or sadness you are feeling.  With each exhale, simply let go.  As you continue your breathing, exhale for a slightly longer time than you inhale.  For example, inhale for two counts, then exhale for four counts.  You can use any number you want, just try to make your exhales longer than your inhales.  Fully release all of the air you are holding on to.  After doing this several times, you will begin to feel more relaxed, calm and peaceful.

Step 3:

After you have done some breathing and are in a nice rhythm, continue your slow, steady breathing while you think about five things you are grateful for.  These can be almost anything.  Just take the time to remind yourself of a few incredible gifts, big or small, that you have in your life.  For example, you may be grateful for allowing yourself to take this much needed time out from the holiday madness.   I will give you the first five things that pop into my head.

 

#1 – I am grateful for my breath.  As I breathe in and breathe out, I am so thankful that I can breathe freely, that my body works in a miraculous rhythm, naturally and rhythmically.  I am grateful for my breath.

 

#2 – I am grateful for my children.  I am incredibly lucky to have three beautiful, healthy, loving children who bring great joy to my life.  I am grateful for my children.

 

#3 – I am grateful for my husband.  I am so thankful to have a supportive husband who loves me unconditionally every day.  I am grateful for my husband.

 

#4 – I am grateful for my own wellness warrior, my mother.  My mother spent all of last year fighting lymphoma.  Every day she faced very difficult physical and emotional challenges with incredible strength, optimism and courage.  Through the most difficult circumstances, she was an example of the importance of being present in each moment, taking each day as it came,  one moment at a time, and, sometimes, one breath at a time.  I am grateful for my mother.

#5 – I am grateful for my friends.  I have so many people in my life that love and care about me.  I am truly blessed to have them in life.  I am grateful for my friends.

 

Step 4:

Smile and continue to breathe.  After taking the time to think about a few things you are grateful for, return to your breath.  Try smiling by simply turning the very ends of your mouth upwards, to allow some happiness in.  “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”  (Thich Nhat Hanh)  Focus on your breath, on that feeling of gratitude and on letting go. Take this time for yourself.  Be present, let go and simply breathe this holiday season!

 

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Weekly Wisdom # 19

by cheryl on November 20, 2012

in Weekly Wisdom

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

– Henry David Thoreau

 

 

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Foundations of Meditation –   Join Janaki Pierson for an introduction to silent, seated, mantra-based meditation.  The course will help establish the participants in the daily practice of meditation to experience the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits.  Each class is 90 minutes and includes a 20 minute silent meditation.

Instructor Janaki Pierson has taught silent, sitting, yogic meditation using mantra for over 30 years.  She has been established in her own daily practice for 36 years.  She teaches throughout New England and Pennsylvania in medical, educational, corporate and community settings.  She has taught up to six meditation classes weekly through various departments of Greenwich Hospital over the past 18 years, as well as weekly classes at the Woodbury Yoga Center for 30 years.

The course starts in February on either Wednesday mornings, Wednesday evenings or Thursday afternoons.  Exact times and locations TBA.  Please contact Janaki Pierson at janaki1@juno.com if you are interested in joining any of these classes.

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Teachable Moments in the Eye of the Storm

Teachable Moments in the Eye of the Storm

by cheryl on November 13, 2012

in 2mindfulmoms

Hurricane Sandy was a massive storm that caused great devastation and loss of life along the Northeastern United States.  My prayers go out to all of those who lost so much in the storm.  Having lived through it with my children, and having been incredibly fortunate not to have been severely impacted by its wrath, I now have the opportunity to reflect on the many teachable moments Sandy has provided me and my children.  Here are a few of the things that we were reminded of this past week in the aftermath of a superstorm.

Lesson Number One: Less is More

In the hours before the storm hit, my family and I rushed to remove all the items from our basement to protect them from being destroyed by the expected ten to fifteen foot tidal surge that would soon sweep through our community.  Living only minutes from the Long Island Sound, and having a tidal estuary in our backyard, we had good reason to fear that our property might be inundated by the salty waters that Sandy would send our way.

As my family raced to bring all of our belongings from our basement up the stairs to areas we hoped would be spared, I took a moment to evaluate the situation.  What was all this “stuff” that we were moving around?  If the waves rolled in and completely ruined all of these items, would my life be greatly impacted?  I realized then, that none of this “stuff” really mattered.  All that really mattered was the safety of the people helping to move all that stuff upstairs.  As long as they were safe, the rest was all either replaceable or simply unnecessary.  So the first teachable moment for me was the opportunity to take a good look at all the things that we have, to recognize how unimportant most of those things really are, and to focus on what really matters.

We spend so much of our time, working so hard to accumulate things – new clothes, a new car, new furniture, new toys, a bigger house.  Do those things really improve our quality of life?  Is all of that stuff really so important?  Is it important enough to justify  the amount of time we spend trying to get more of it?   Perhaps constantly adding to our  “stuff” diminishes the value of each item and teaches our children the wrong message, that each item is only valuable and useful until we are able to find its newer, and more exciting replacement.

As I was hauling all this “stuff” up the stairs, I  was struck with the realization that if everything were to get flooded in that space, it is not the items that I would miss most.  It is the space itself that provided us the opportunity  to have fun, to learn, to be together and to create great memories, that is what we do in our homes (no matter how big or small, full or empty),  and those experiences cannot be destroyed even by a superstorm.

The tidal surge came and went and the flood waters filled our street.  We returned to our home the next day to assess the damage.   As we approached the lowest elevation point on our street, we had to walk knee deep through the cold salty water to get to our home.  The water was slowly receding, and as we approached our home, we realized that we were incredibly lucky.   The water had reached our garage but did not find its way into our home.  Many of our neighbors were not as lucky.

As I looked at the piles of “stuff” now upstairs untouched by the flood, I decided to pack much of it up, along with many other items from around the house, and put everything in boxes to donate.  Perhaps someone else, someone who lost so much in the storm, or others who had so little before the storm would be happy to have some.

Lesson Number Two: We are all in this together.

After realizing the great devastation and loss that many are experiencing after the storm,  people are mobilizing in great numbers to help those in need.  This sense of connection, kindness and compassion was also palpable in the days and hours before and during the storm.   There seemed to be a feeling in the air that we were all in this together, whatever may come.

This strong sense of interconnection was in stark contrast to how we live our normal, busy everyday lives.  Usually, we are so focused on meeting our own needs and the needs of our families, that we forget how wonderful it is to connect to those around us.  This incredible weather event connected so many people in so many ways.  It was not just the opportunity to donate to the hurricane relief efforts after the storm, it was also the numerous phone calls from friends and family in other parts of the country reaching out to check in to see if we were safe.  It was the caring conversations with total strangers in the grocery line in the hours before the storm, reassuring one another that it would be OK and making suggestions on what we might need in the days to come.  It was the endless e-mails from friends and neighbors asking who lost power, who needed a warm place to stay, who needed food, and following up with offers to help.

This was such a wonderful reminder that we all face challenges in our lives and we can get through those challenges with greater ease if we show kindness and compassion to one another.  Although we live in a western world in which we are often focused on “me” and “mine,” it was so nice to see that in times of great need, people were focused on “you” and “yours” or on “us.”  We saw first hand how much richer life is when everyone cares a bit more for one another.

Lesson Number Three – If Given the Choice to Laugh or to Cry, Choose to Laugh!

The night of the storm, we decided to leave our house out of concern for our safety and spend the night in a home nearby with 25 friends and family members.  In the midst of the storm we gathered.  We played cards, listened to the news and laughed a bit at the situation we were in.  At the time, I was fascinated by the storm and the potentially devastating impact that it would have on people’s lives.  So, the laughter that night at first seemed a bit inappropriate.  However, I soon realized that there was nothing any of us could do at the time, other than what we were doing.  We had a choice.  We could tremble with fear and worry in anticipation of what might be, or we could chose to sit tight, recognize that we were safe and make the best of our current situation.  This is so often our choice in life when circumstances arise that are beyond our control.  When given the choice to laugh or to cry when life gets challenging, always chose to laugh, and that is what we did.

There were many opportunities to make the best of a bad situation in the days that followed.  When we returned home, large hundred-year-old trees had fallen in our yard.  We were in awe of their grandeur and of the massive root systems that towered over us as they lay sadly on their sides, permanently uprooted.  As children so often do, my children saw the fun and found the joy in this new situation and decided to climb up on the now horizontal trunks and delighted in the giant bridges the trees now made across our yard.  They played in the enormous holes in the ground left behind by the now uprooted giants.  They splashed through the waters that flooded our streets and explored their new surroundings with awe and with laughter.

We saw first hand, on television, in the news and in our own community, the devastation that this storm brought to so many people’s lives, but in the midst of those struggles that often cause tears, it was so wonderful to be able to laugh a bit at the absurdity of it all and find great joy in the fact that we are here, that we all came together to face the storm, and that we are incredibly grateful for all that we have, most of which a storm could never take away.

 

 

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The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm

by cheryl on November 8, 2012

in Meditation

Just before Superstorm Sandy hit our area, in what was the calm before the storm, I attended a beautiful service in which the following thoughts were read aloud by Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman.  I was struck by the beauty of his words and wanted to share his thoughts with you.  We are sending our love and prayers to those impacted by this devasting storm.

The Calm Before the Storm  . . .

There is something called the “calm before the storm.”  I do not know whether it is a scientific reality – whether there really is a “calm before the storm.”  It’s possible.  Or it might be that when we know a storm is coming and we are playing out all the terrible possibilities in our mind, the present reality just seems very calm.

But in either case – whether real or perceived – there is a calm before the storm.

I sometimes think that we don’t use it properly.  We usually use the calm to prepare for the storm.  Yes, I imagine that is important.  And yet, it would be nice if we could appreciate the calm without images of the storm infecting it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take a walk in the calm before the storm, and just enjoy the calmness?  In the calm before the storm the wind may be invigorating – not destructive.  In the calm before the storm, the drops of rain may be refreshing – not drenching.  In the intense quiet of the calm before the storm, we can think, we can close our eyes, breathe in life, and maybe we can hear the still small voice of God.

Life is filled with storms – physical storms, emotional ones, spiritual ones.  Sometimes they take us by surprise; but sometimes they don’t, and there is a special – almost holy – calm before the storm.  The trick is to not let the fear of the storm destroy the peace of the calm.  We can use the calm to give thanks for what we have – even as it may soon blow away.  We can use the calm to pray – use the calm to listen – use the calm to love.

Thank you God – for the calm before the storm.

-by Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

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Weekly Wisdom #18

by cheryl on November 8, 2012

in Weekly Wisdom

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
– Helen Keller

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Children’s Body Scan Meditation

by cheryl on November 8, 2012

in Guided Meditation

Let’s begin by lying down in a comfortable position on the floor, with your arms resting gently on the ground, and your eyes closed.  Feel the weight of your body as it rests on the earth.  Feel the earth supporting you. Feel your feet resting firmly on the ground.  Pretend that you are an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and simply melt into the ground.  Rest your attention only on the sound of my voice.  Let all of the other sounds in the room fade away.

 

I am going to lead you on a scan of your body as a way of getting centered and relaxed – a reminder that you can be at home and at peace in your own body.

 

Start by settling your attention on your feet.  Feel the weight of your feet as they rest on the earth.  Notice the position of your feet, the sensations inside the feet, travel along the bottom and tops of your feet to your toes.  Just notice what you feel there. . . . Notice each toe and move your attention from toe to toe noticing how they feel.  Notice the space between the toes.

 

Now bring your attention to the tops of your feet and then to your ankles.  Bring your attention up your shins and around to your calves.  Notice how the backs of your legs feel.  Now, bring your attention to your knees, the front of your knees and the back of your knees.  Notice how they feel.

 

Bring your attention to your thighs, the front of your thighs and the back of your thighs.  Now move your attention up to your hips and see what sensations you feel there.  Notice how your lower back is resting on the earth.

Move your attention to the back body, to the lower back, to the mid back, to your shoulder blades. You may feel stiffness or tension, whatever you encounter, simply notice it.

 

Keep moving your attention around to the front of your body, to your abdomen and rib cage.  Notice how that feels as you inhale and exhale.  Slowly move your awareness to your chest, noticing any sensations you find there. Notice the lungs themselves, as you breathe . . . Does the breath reach into all areas of the lungs?  Notice the heart itself, and the sensations and movements within the heart.  Notice how it feels.  .  .

 

Move your attention back to the tops of your shoulders.  Slowly move your awareness down the upper arms, feeling your elbows, your forearms. Let your attention rest for a moment on your hands – the palms of your hands . . . the backs of your hands. See if you can feel each separate finger, each fingertip. . . .

 

Slowly move your attention back up to the top of the hands, back up the arms to your shoulders and neck.  Notice your neck and your throat.  Notice any tension or tightness . . . notice the feeling of breath as it passes in and out with ease.

 

Bring your awareness slowly up to the front of your face. Be aware of what you encounter. Tightness, relaxation, pressure. Turn your attention to your eyes as they gaze inward, and feel the weight of your eyelids as they rest over your eyes  . . . Move your attention to your nose.  Notice the feeling of air as it passes through your nostrils.  Is it warm or cool?  Feel your cheeks and your jaw.  Is your jaw clenched or loose? Just notice what you are feeling and continue to breath through these sensations. . . .Feel your mouth, your teeth, your lips, the light pressure of skin on skin, softness, coolness.

Bring your attention to the back of the head, over the curve of your skull, notice your ears as they buffer the sounds of the room.  Now, bring your attention to the top of your head and simply feel whatever sensations are there—tingling, pulsing or the absence of sensation.

Now bring your body as a whole into your awareness, and take a moment to scan through your entire body.  Allow your breath to become more full, taking a few deep breaths.  . .

 

As you end the meditation see if you can continue to feel the world of sensations and all of its changes, moment by moment, as you move into the activities of your day.

 

Gently and gradually regain awareness of your surroundings.  When you feel ready, open your eyes.

 

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We are going to go on a little trip right now.  Like tele-transporting us to another place and another time.

 

Gently close your eyes.  Relax your body.  Take a few deep breaths.  Breath in for 5 slowly, then out for 5 slowly.

 

Now, think of your favorite place to be in the whole wide world.  Take a moment to think about a place where you love to be, where you feel a deep sense of peace and calm.

 

It can be a beach, on a mountain, in your bed, anywhere you feel really safe and calm, and completely relaxed.  Somewhere you love to be.

 

It may be somewhere you have been recently or a while ago.

 

Once you have chosen your favorite place, imagine yourself there right now. (pause for ten seconds)

 

Notice how you feel in this place. (pause)

Look around and notice what you see.  (pause)

 

Notice the colors and the shapes of things around you.  (pause)

 

Notice if you hear any sounds . . . any smells . . . (pause)

 

Are you standing, sitting or lying down?

 

How does it feel . . .notice what your hands are touching and how it feels . . . Notice how you feel in this special place . . .

Slowly come back into the room and open your eyes.

 

How did your body feel when you are in that place?  You can go visit that place any time.  Enjoy!

 

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Children’s Core Breathing Meditation

November 8, 2012

Find a comfortable position either sitting or lying down.  If you are sitting, sit with your spine straight, your shoulders relaxed, your feet resting gently on the ground and your hands resting comfortably on your lap.  If you are lying down, feel the weight of your body resting gently on the earth and melt into […]

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