I attend a weekly group meditation during my lunch hour. I am always so grateful for this shared experience of resting in stillness. The group is a safe place in which to let down one’s guard, quiet the mind and in the stillness, become aware of our divine connection to spirit.
The leader of the mediation group, Henry helps guide us from our mind consciousness which he describes as being busy checking things off our to-do list into our heart consciousness which rests in being and non-doing.
The irony of meditation is that you would think the disconnection from mind would make you feel empty, but the opposite is true. Henry guides us through a progressive relaxation and reminds us to not be perfectionists in our meditation practice. The mind fights giving up control to the heart and will distract you with errant thoughts and twitches. Henry reminds us to acknowledge the thoughts and return to our breath or mantra to return to stillness.
Once in stillness, you are overcome with a sense of peace, love and gratitude. It is an amazing place and the energy is amplified within the circle of seated colleagues joined in meditation. I call this connecting to the grid and have written about this experience before.
Although you might think that connecting to source makes you feel small and lost within the immensity of it all – it is the opposite. The connection fills you up to brimming until it overflows. And all of this is done within stillness. In non-doing with gentle breathing. In and out. Out and in like the tide. No rules. Nothingness. Empty yet full.
The challenge in meditation is to bring the awareness of our connection to source back to our day-to-day activities. I find that the afterglow of meditation stays with me for the first hour back at my desk, but that the connection gradually dims and is replaced by busy-ness. However, with intentional yogic breathing I can bring myself back to the peaceful oasis within – even if it is fleeting.
It is a natural that we spend so much of our lives chasing happiness but it is crazy that we let others define what our happiness should look like with checkboxes for the right job, the right car, house, clothes, vacations, friends, pets etc. You can add your own checkboxes to this list. Deep inside our spirit resists the boundaries created by all these checkboxes because it knows that our happiness does not lie in these false gods. Our happiness lies within ourselves and we spend our entire lives discovering this truth. Meditation helps you discover yourself.
So how do you start a meditation practice? Here are my seven steps to begin meditating:
- Give yourself permission to take this time for yourself. This is probably the hardest step because we define success by our busy-ness and attach so much judgement to not being busy.
- Sit in a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. Remember this is your practice so there are no rules. You can sit cross-legged or in a chair with your feet resting on the floor or whatever position promotes relaxation for you.
- Close your eyes and start breathing in and out slowly. Focus on your breathing.
- Relax your body by focusing your attention on your feet, knees, upper legs, etc. progressively moving up your body. Initially, you might find it easier to use a guided meditation for this part until you can do this for yourself unaided. Keep breathing.
- Some people find it helpful to focus on a word or sound to begin meditation. I use the word “Om”. Breathe in. Breathe out saying to yourself, “Om”.
- Continue in this pattern as long as you can. As my mind quietens, I drop “Om” and rest in being. If my mind starts to wander, I reintroduce “Om” with my breath and return to stillness.
- Initially, meditate for short periods of time and increase by five-minute intervals. Know that all of this is meditation. The practice comes from the regular ‘being’ in meditation.
Resist the temptation of the mind to over-analyze and judge your meditation practice. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. You don’t have to be in a certain space, building or country to meditate. Eventually, you will be able to meditate on a busy bus, an airplane or during a walk. You carry the ability to meditate within yourself. It does not cost anything but your time. it is a gift of stillness that you give yourself to rest in being. Meditation allows you to discover your best self so that you can share this with your world.
Reflexology was the first natural therapy that I became certified in 15 years ago and its simple yet powerful efficacy amazes me to this day. Although I no longer have a healing practice except for the occasional treatment or exchange, it remains my favourite natural therapy for its holistic effects on the body.
I use reflexology on myself daily by working the reflexes in my feet before bedtime to promote relaxation and a good night’s sleep. It also allows me to check in to see where I might be developing congestion in my body. I also work the reflexes in my hands throughout the work day to help reduce stress. I’d like to share with you a few key hand reflexes so you too, can enjoy healing in the plams of your hands.
Reflexology has roots in Chinese medicine and the endpoints for the 12 meridians can be found in either the feet or hands. I was trained through the Reflexology Association of Canada which uses a westernized approach to Reflexology, but I had the privilege to attend a workshop by Lillian Morten where I learned how to incorporate meridian theory into my reflexology practice.
Lately, I have noticed that reflexology is referred to as “reflexology massage’ and I find this odd because the treatment’s benefit comes from the stimulation of specific reflex points. Most reflexologists include a relaxing foot massage as part of their practice to warm up the feet before a treatment and again at the end for pure enjoyment, but the heart of the treatment lies in pinpointing the reflexes. The mastery of the reflexologist comes from the skill developed in pinpointing the reflexes on each client’s unique physiology.
I digress – you want to know how you can help mitigate stress as you go about your day. The reflexes on the feet are easy to identify because there is more space on the surface of the foot. The reflexes on the hands in comparison are stacked on top of each other and it can be difficult to be certain that you are on a specific reflex. However, the following three reflexes are easy to find and will help you to calm your nervous system in the middle of a busy day. The beauty of the hand reflexes is that they can be done anywhere and do not require the removal of shoes and socks.
Solar Plexus Reflex
This is my go-to reflex when I am feeling overwhelmed. Located in the middle of the palm, this reflex instantly calms me down. By combining the pressing of the reflex with a slow inhalation and releasing with an exhalation, you have the ability to interrupt the physiological response to stress.
You can discreetly press this reflex while walking to a meeting, waiting in the elevator, sitting in a meeting or any other opportunity when your hands aren’t busy. Repeat on the opposite hand.
It can be a little tricky finding this reflex as there are several reflexes in this area. This reflex is found in the fleshy part of the palm below the thumb and is often sharply sensitive. Push and reflex this reflex until the sensitivity decreases. Repeat on the opposite hand.
I personally don’t find the shoulder reflex in the hand to be that effective in reducing shoulder tension but it might work for you so it is worth sharing. Find the head of the metacarpal bone just below the baby finger and push in a circular direction. The left hand corresponds to the left shoulder and the right hand corresponds to the right shoulder.
Stimulate these reflexes throughout your day to promote relaxation.
I started being aware of ego when I was in high school. The “cool kids” in school would sit on the low window sills that lined the hallway outside the cafeteria. You always felt like you were being inspected by whoever was sitting there so you would try to avoid this hallway if possible. I don’t know if the cool kids were aware of the effect that they had on the uncool kids, but I somehow think that they must have. The weird thing is that as uncomfortable as it was to walk that hallway of judgement, there was a twisted desire to be one of the cool kids sitting on the window sill.
I became so annoyed about this group of students passing judgement on the rest of this that I wrote this poem which was published in my high school year book.
A conceivable object
breeding on liquor and foul language
always lusting for more, yet never satisfied.
Nurtured on inferior minds housed in toys of flesh.
Primates, brains yet to evolve. Lost in double standards.
Pygmies wearing over-sized suits and hats inflated for better fit.
Vulnerable to a pin-prick soon mended by conceit.
Impregnated with childlike notions. Immortal.
Few exceptions to the rule
yet to be found in
The more self righteous I became about ego-maniacs and their arrogance, the more in denial I became about my own ego. You see, ego is a jerk and is very good at hiding its selfish behaviour often without any awareness by its host.
I learned more about ego through a meditation group which started exploring the work of Eckhart Tolle. This reflective work forced me to look at my own inner jerk and I came away from this process with some thoughts that I’d like to share with you.
My belief is that we are all connected through one energetic source (call it whatever suits your spiritual or religious beliefs) and this universal source unites us; it makes us the same. When you are connected to source you have a constant reservoir of energy that sustains you. This connection is very humbling and brings with it an awareness of your responsibility to serve others.
When you are not connected to source, you are in an energetic deficit and have to find an alternate source of energy. A disconnected spirit is vulnerable to the actions of ego: judging others; comparing yourself to others, jealousy, passive-aggressive behaviour; gossiping. Ego loves this stuff because he is such a jerk!
Director, Alejandro G. Inarritu who in 2015, won the Academy Award for Best Director for his film, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virture of Ignorance)” had this to say about ego. (Skip to 2:15 in the video if you are short on time.)
When I worked as a body worker (on people not cars), I was privileged to work with a fantastic group of like-minded people who shared the common desire to help their clients feel better. There was no gloating over successes, bragging or one-upmanship. There was deep satisfaction in the act of serving another. Could happiness be this simple? Could the only person that you compete with be a better version of yourself?
Social media can feed ego if you let it. Likes and faves can cause you to run to your iPhone every half-hour. Apps and services that can buy followers create a false reality of being popular. Facebook posts can show happy-happy days without the reality of poopy diapers and snotty-nosed children. That jerk, ego loves social media!
But is there a place for ego? The yang for the yin? Do leaders need a healthy ego in order to take risks and overcome adversity? Some leaders might fit this profile, but will they be happy in their accomplishments or will ego crave more power – more money – more something? Consider the candidates currently running for President in the United States. You could line candidates up under one of two signs: “Ego” and “Serving others”.
Ego is a jerk and likes to sneak up on you when you are least expecting it – when you are unaware. So what can you do to keep this jerk out of your life? Lately I have been applying a filter on my thoughts, words and actions by asking myself if this serves my higher self (God spark/source) or ego. It is an interesting exercise and keeps me honest with my intentions because ego tries to convince you that it is acting with the best of intentions but sometimes ego lies because (let’s say it together) – ego is a jerk.
Do you have any stories to share about ego or tips to keep it in check?