A Holiday Meditation

A Holiday Meditation

Each week our team at Mind Body Align gathers on Tuesday afternoons for a brief group mindfulness meditation. It’s a chance to connect not just as colleagues but as humans “being”.  This was my week to lead and I really felt pulled toward this fabulous meditation from Jack Kornfield as our monthly topic of gratitude was coming to a close plus we are all about to celebrate Thanksgiving.

I love the way it reminds us to begin our gratitude meditation by recognizing the way we feel and how we have cared for ourselves, then we express gratitude for all things and finally we move to express gratitude for others and wish them joy.

We were so moved by the words that we began our Coffee Talk with the meditation and now we want for you to be able to access it throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Meditation on Gratitude and Joy by Jack Kornfield

Let yourself sit quietly and at ease. Allow your body to be relaxed and open, your breath natural, your heart easy. Begin the practice of gratitude by feeling how year after year you have cared for your own life. Now let yourself begin to acknowledge all that has supported you in this care:

With gratitude I remember the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose joyful exertion blesses my life every day.

With gratitude I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.

I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the community I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.

Just as we are grateful for our blessings, so we can be grateful for the blessings of others.

Continue to breathe gently. Bring to mind someone you care about, someone it is easy to rejoice for. Picture them and feel the natural joy you have for their well-being, for their happiness and success. With each breath, offer them your grateful, heartfelt wishes:

May you be joyful.

May your happiness increase.

May you not be separated from great happiness.

May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.

Sense the sympathetic joy and caring in each phrase. When you feel some degree of natural gratitude for the happiness of this loved one, extend this practice to another person you care about. Recite the same simple phrases that express your heart’s intention.

Then gradually open the meditation to include neutral people, difficult people, and even enemies until you extend sympathetic joy to all beings everywhere, young and old, near and far.

Practice dwelling in joy until the deliberate effort of practice drops away and the intentions of joy blend into the natural joy of your own wise heart.

You can read the original post on Jack Kornfield’s website here

Creating Your Sanctuary

Creating Your Sanctuary

When I was a child, I had two sanctuaries.  One was under a huge tree in the woods visible from my house.  The leaves of this tree were thick and the ground beneath was soft with leaves and moss.  The branches hung low to the ground so that I felt invisible to the world outside (although my house was safely close by and could be seen and heard).  My second sanctuary was my bedroom. I had a room at the front of the house with two windows overlooking the yard, neighborhood, and the woods beyond. I pushed my bed under those two windows and sat there reading for hours, immersed in the authors’ story while watching the world outside my windows.

As I look back in time and remember these spaces, I recall the sense of safety and contentment I felt.  I’m also noticing the elements that characterize these spaces. What can I learn about creating my modern sanctuary from these childhood spaces?

How comfortable are you being alone with yourself?

My safe space has an element of alone, invisibility, quiet, and yet it must have eyes on the world.  For me, watching the movement of the world allows my brain to soften and my mind to wander. I work while watching cars going by from the windows of The Butterfly House.  My meditations are eyes open, where I can calm mind and body by regulating my rhythm with the chorus of the world around me.

What arrangements and elements create, for you, a sense of safety?

I prefer to sit with my back against a wall.  As a child, I would tuck my body into the corner of my bedroom.  When I was under the tree, my back was resting against the security of the trunk.  And I realize I need something on which to place my feet. I either place a footstool or a table directly in front of my meditation chair.  If I’m sitting on a cushion on the floor, I often place another cushion in front of me. Sometimes I place the cushion or a blanket on my lap. Notice how your body feels when you arrange your space.  If you close your eyes and listen to your body in harmony with the space around you, what do you notice?

What colors and textures bring softness to your body and mind?  

You might start by asking yourself, What vistas allow your mind to relax and wander?  Do you love to overlook fields and valleys, rivers and trees, sparkling lights of office towers, or the ebb and flow of ocean waves?  Consider these things when selecting colors and textures. If your favorite place is a beach on the Caribbean, then choose colors that remind you of sand, sun, and Caribbean waters.   You may put a hammock or a hanging chair in your sanctuary along with a happy light or a full spectrum light box. If you like rivers and trees, you might collect river stones and place them in a bowl and burn candles to represent bonfires. Your colors may be shades of brown and green with touches of grey.

What words and phrases encourage you to explore your beliefs and values?

Surround yourself with words that open your mind to new ideas and possibilities.  If you love to read, place books in your sanctuary that encourage thoughtfulness. I am surrounded by books that I can read a paragraph or chapter that will set my mind down new roads of thought.  Poets such as Rumi and Mary Oliver. Authors such as Tara Brach, Roland Merullo, and Robert Wright. Be intentional about the words and thoughts that may penetrate or influence your thinking and allow the wisdom of others to invite you to explore new ways of being.

What sounds resonate with you and make your body hum?  

I love to meditate with the free app called Insight Timer.  This app has a feature making it possible to choose a chime and set it to repeat at designated intervals.  I can create a 20-minute meditation with three repeating chimes, each chime, for me, a reminder that I’m meditating.  If my mind has been captured by a story, the chime encourages me to return to my breath, and if I’m deeply in the meditation, the chime invites me to sink deeper.  Wind chimes have the same effect (if they are the correct tone). When the wind kicks up and activates the gong in the trees at The Butterfly House, I immediately sense my body moving toward the sound.  It’s an immediate call to quiet; my body softens and my mind calms. For you, it may be the sounds of the waves and the seagulls or the wind in the trees and bird song. My suggestion is that you choose sounds, or choose music that doesn’t have words or lyrics, and notice how your body and mind responds.  Continue to move toward sounds and music that connect you to the energy of the world around you.

What smells bring you comfort and joy?

This can be a tricky one.  Do you know that fragrances, all fragrances, including pure essential oils, are hormone disruptors?  70% of synthetic fragrances contain a chemical called phthalates which disrupt the body’s normal hormone function and have been linked to things like birth defects, breast cancer, and obesity.  Any label that says “fragrance” is likely to contain phthalates. If you’re reading this and think, “hogwash,” consider this. Most people will agree that lavender helps you relax. Why do you think lavender has that effect on the body? My research indicates that lavender interacts with the neurotransmitter in our brain called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which regulates anxiety.  It has also been proven to be an endocrine disruptor having a mild effect on the body’s levels of estrogen and testosterone. My advice to you is to choose wisely, do your homework, avoid scented candles, and less is more. Be intentional about the fragrances with which you surround yourself.

There is no “one size fits all” when creating your sanctuary.  Consider gently activating all your senses, stimulating your thoughts, and nourishing healthy emotions. So, Let’s recap:

  1. Know yourself.  Create your space in a location where you will use it (a corner of your family room, an empty bedroom away from the rest of the world, or a treehouse in the backyard).
  2. What elements help you feel safe (a locked door, your back against the wall, a weighted blanket)?
  3. What colors and textures calm your body and mind?
  4. What words and phrases motivate you to grow and evolve?
  5. What sounds activate your parasympathetic nervous system (binaural beats, Marconi Union, Enya)?
  6. What smells calm you and bring you joy?

If you’re interested in creating your sacred space and would like additional guidance and coaching, we are offering, in our sacred space (The Butterfly House), the workshop, “Creating Your Sacred Space” on March 18th.  Click here for more information.

Sending you love and a deep breath!!!



Intention For Life

Intention For Life

Ok, so I’ve never written a blog post before.  My first reaction is to behave as if I am publishing all of the world’s research on intention from the beginning of time.  Of course, the achiever in me wants an A++!  I determined that before I began I should formally define “blog”, identify its structure, learn tips on how to write a successful post, and read every blog ever written.  Whew! But, I refrained. If this is for MY community, it needs to come from my thoughts, my experiences, and my heart.  These are things I have discovered through my own journey of healing and personal growth.  I collectively credit all of my mentors near and far.

In the Beginning

It started several years ago when the experience of my second marriage had turned me into someone who was not…ME!  My daily monologue was, “I am not this person.” I was in complete despair.  I was physically ill and in so much emotional pain that I was sure I was going to die.  I was in crisis. Survival mode kicked in and I realized the only way to survive was to “do my work.”  I began studying, journaling, crying, praying, studying, journaling, and crying.  I spent months filling notebooks with things I wanted, steps that needed to be taken, the ways I wanted my next decisions to improve my situation and the well-being of my family members.  I was setting intentions for my LIFE! I want…I need…I will…I must…I can no longer accept…I must let go of…the vision I have for myself is… how I want to feel is…who I want to be is…how I show up for my kids and my team will be… This process ultimately helped me get unstuck and back to my normal.

Moving On

So, I’ve been out of crisis mode for quite some time now and I have come to know that intention is a true gift.  I no longer set my intentions out of desperation. It is an ongoing practice that guides me and moves me forward to where I want to be.  The beauty is that we can set intentions for whatever we want no matter where we are in our lives: Intention for growth, abundance, healing, personal development, nurturing relationships, creating moments rather than going through the motions, for understanding, for how you want to show up today, or who you want to be in the world.

Between my upbringing and our culture, I used to be “goal” driven. Go go go, get get get, push push push, more- better- best!  Understanding what “intention” means has allowed me to shift my perspective on achievement – moving me from a “self” mentality to “serve” mentality.  “Goals,” as I understood them before the mindfulness movement, are often sought outwardly, creating a sense of pressure within us and disappointment or punishment if we fail to reach them. For me, intention equals freedom – a knowing as opposed to uncertainty.  I literally feel my physiology change when I say each word in my mind.   When focusing on intention I feel a huge expansion bringing me to center.  It feels vast and limitless. It helps me reconnect with that which is bigger than myself.  It gives me confidence knowing “I’ve got this.” It helps me focus less on expectation and how others perceive me.  It has changed how I view myself, the world, humanity and beyond. I feel a little, girlish giggle on the inside knowing it’s all mine.  Like I have a secret no one knows. I can have it right now, in any way I want to…to nurture it, hold it, and appreciate it. It is faith instead of worry.  Unlike a goal we set outside of ourselves, there is peace in intention.

Go Inward

True intention will come from the body not what you force out with your thinking mind. Stop, close your eyes, take a breath, and feel what comes up. Write down what comes to you.  This could be tiny clues that will keep emerging that will guide you later or huge “aha moments.”

Set your intention, let it go, and trust that the universe will listen.  Revisit your notes periodically as a reminder of where you want to go and who you want to become.  I like to do a Sunday review. For me, it is a good day for reflection and renewal. I have used pop up reminders on my phone with power words or phrases during particularly difficult times.

Find what works for you.  Be open. Put it out there, stay focused, be consistent, hold it in your heart, and be prepared to receive your gifts in unexpected ways.

Setting Intentions

Setting Intentions

When I got the email from Diana Hostettler at Mind Body Align to write a blog on Setting Intentions, I was flattered and terrified.  I can get up and speak ad lib in front of 100 people but to put my thoughts down on paper makes me panic. However, in the spirit of all that I have learned at MBA, I felt I had to accept the assignment.

What is “setting intentions?” Are “intentions” like the resolutions we make in January every year that we never keep? Are “intentions” like those punishments we use to make sure we lose the weight we gained from eating the delicious food during the Holiday season?

No, they are not.

An intention is a guiding principle for the way you wish to show up in the world. When you set an intention, you are activating your receptivity. If you go out in the day without setting one, it’s like you are riding a bike with no direction. When you do set an intention, you are putting out that which you intend to attract into your life. But how do we get there? How can we connect to our inner wisdom to chart our course for 2019?

Since I didn’t know the answer to my question, I did research on this subject. There was a lot of guidance explaining how to set intentions, but I liked the information from Deepak Chopra, which I’ve paraphrased below.

Chopra states that “the sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires.” Here are the five steps in his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Science, to help us harness the power of intention.

  1. Slip into the Gap: The “Gap” is a state of pure awareness that takes us away from the chattering monkeys in our minds. Meditation is one of the most effective tools we have for entering into the stillness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to “plant your seeds of intention.”
  2. Release Your Intentions and Desires: Once you’re established in a state of restful awareness, release your intentions and desires. The best time to state your intentions is during the period after meditation. After you set your intention, stop thinking about it and let it go.
  3. Remain Centered in a State of Restful Awareness:  Let your intention go into the positive vibrations of your meditative state. Let your higher self take care of the outcome.
  4. Detach from the Outcome: Let go of the need for a specific result and “live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Intend for everything to work out as it should and allow opportunities to come your way.”
  5. Let the Universe Handle the Details:  “Your focused intentions set the infinite organizing power of the universe in motion.” We don’t know what the outcome will be. Many times we have a plan in mind and our higher power sends us something better than what we had envisioned.

When you are working on your intention, make sure you keep it positive. Instead of saying I want to take off these ugly 10 pounds I stupidly gained—try the more positive version—I want to love my body and eat healthy food that nourishes it.  Your intentions can change and evolve. Many people find it helpful to keep a journal to decide what intentions are meaningful for them. You can also write about your outcomes after you start doing this. I love reading old writings to see how I’ve evolved and grown. It can be amazing to see how things that upset me in the past have been healed.

I’m glad I took the challenge to write about “setting intentions.” I thought I knew a lot about this subject, but I really didn’t.  Now, I have a roadmap to help me bring this into my daily practice. One of my new intentions will be to face challenges in a positive way. Writing this blog was a significant experience and I highly recommend it to others who may be asked to contribute.