meditation

All posts tagged meditation

Learning to Quiet the Mind

Published August 13, 2014 by Mayrbear's Lair

Conceptual picture - tornado in woman's head

On Monday I disclosed how difficult it was for me to learn how to meditate. Today I reveal the journey that helped me work through the challenges I faced. Once I understood that regular meditation practice would be beneficial in helping me manage my health and well-being, I was ready and open to achieve successful outcomes. Needless to say, although I had a better attitude about this practice, the transformation did not occur overnight. I had to approach this as I did when learning any new behavior, like reading music or playing an instrument. In other words, it was going to take some work, because for me, meditating did not come naturally.

child praying

In my family, we were taught and conditioned to pray regularly. The closest I came then to quieting the mind as a child was when I went inward for prayer. I did not grow up in a culture that taught us how to be still, look inward, and reflect. It was quite the opposite in fact. The environment I grew up in kept us engaged and active. Our caretakers had limited education and wanted a different life for us. As a result, we were kept engaged a variety of activities, in and out of the home. While most kids were out playing with friends, we were given tasks and required to complete them all before we were rewarded with any free time. This included daily school work, Greek lessons, a physical fitness program, plus domestic cleaning and yard work. By the time we were done with our responsibilities, it was time for bed.

We were equally active at church too and joined many organizations to help out. In short, in my family, we were supported and encouraged to keep our bodies and our minds active. I am appreciative of these rewarding experiences because they helped enrich my life in so many ways. What was equally significant, however, was that although I didn’t always appreciate them at the time, many of these activities filled my heart with joy and provided me a sense of accomplishment.

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Once I enrolled at the university to pursue a bachelor’s degree that same level of commitment and dedication to my family and the Greek Community was now driven by the passion of my academic pursuits. In other words, my life didn’t slow down. My lifestyle supported a state of being that kept me active and engaged. This explained why I had such a difficult time quieting the mind to meditate. I lacked experience! The closest I came was in prayer, but even then, I was silently reciting words, so I was never really in a complete state of silence.

The reality was, I could not quiet my mind and focus on the present moment because I was conditioned to keep my mind in an active state. The voice in my head was in constant chatter. In other words, it was natural for my inner voice to remind me how uncomfortable the pillow was in class because it always behaved this way. It was normal that my legs were tickling me now that they had fallen asleep because that’s what happens to my body when I sit crossed-legged for extended periods time. Of course my head got itchy and needed scratching, this was an automatic response. What was not normal was my becoming still to observe it all. In other words, I never slowed down long enough to observe my own behavior. This was new territory!

voices

The more I focused on keeping quiet, the louder the voice sang, danced, and did everything it could to distract me. My mistake at the time was in keeping silent about how difficult the experience was. Yogi John’s class however, was not a beginner’s class, so many assumed I had experience in this practice. Why else would I have attended? Furthermore, the meditation sessions after yoga class were optional. They were offered as bonus relaxation tools and were not a requirement. The truth of the matter was that a close friend, also a teacher in Yogi John’s classes, invited me to attend. Had this been a beginner’s meditation session, I would have asked for more assistance. The instructors would have offered more guidance and assured me that everything I was experiencing was actually a normal part of the learning process. I discovered this later when I actually attended beginning classes in a small community located in central Virginia called Yogaville. Where better to become more educated about yoga and meditation?

On Friday, I will conclude this discussion before I recess for a short summer break. Until then … stay organized!

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“Happiness is part of who we are. Joy is the feeling.”  —Tony DeLiso

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The Portal to Mindful Practices

Published August 8, 2014 by Mayrbear's Lair
rough times

Like many people, I’ve experienced my share of rough times and setbacks. To help me process the stress, I began looking for information and tactics that other successful people have implemented with positive outcomes. In my ongoing search for coping strategies, I read and gathered material from many noteworthy sources, including scientists, medical practitioners, educators, and spiritualists — all of whom I give credit to in my published research work.

What surprised me was that a great deal of these experts pointed to meditation practices as effective coping skills. They supported their positions by adding that meditation also helps to improve an individual’s health and well-being. During the time I was conducting this research, the stress from the emotional roller coaster that was my life was beginning to take a toll on my physical health, and my immune system under constant attack. I knew I had to make changes because I was an independent parent, motivated to succeed and continue providing stability for my family. The problem, however, was finding the time in an already busy schedule to incorporate meditation as a regular practice.

St-Georges-Greek-Orthodox-Church-in-Toronto-Baptism-Photographer

I was brought up with the traditions of a Greek Orthodox Christian. Although it is a culture that is rich in ceremony and ritual, meditation is not included as part of this spiritual order. In other words, meditation was a foreign concept to me. In fact, before I became educated on the practice, I believed it was a spiritual ritual of Eastern religions. I was naïve and under the impression that practicing meditation went against my religious views as a Greek Orthodox Christian. This made me fearful of the practice, so I avoided it for years.

I was actually introduced to meditation techniques as an undergrad at the University of Arizona. As a Fine Arts Major in Theater production, to enhance our performance skills, we were introduced to various relaxation techniques and attended movement classes that included exercises developed to help quiet the mind. This was to help us as actors to focus inward to open and explore deeper levels of awareness. These techniques were meant to sharpen our skills as consummate performers.

laughing

Other fellow student performers also included yoga as an integral part of their training. However, I was young, closed-minded and highly opinionated. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t take the practice of yoga seriously for body training. In fact, I made fun of it. The truth is I was uneducated about yoga. In addition, at the time, I did not think it was effective for building body strength as part of a fitness program. I lacked motivation and quickly lost interest to learn more about it.

It wasn’t until after I received my BFA and moved to L.A. that I would learn more about yoga from friends in the entertainment industry. To keep physically fit, many attended weekly yoga classes and seeing the results from the instructor, I was motivated to join in and learn more as well. I must confess the sessions were extremely challenging! After taking those classes, I had a new respect for everyone that practices this discipline and had to apologize to all the friends who workout with yoga I called wimpy! Thank goodness my experiences earlier life with gymnastics, dance, and ballet came in handy because Yoga, I discovered, was based on stretching and breathing techniques. The bonus I did not plan on from this experience, was that after each class, our instructor, Yogi John, included a short meditation as part of the relaxation and cool down process from the challenging burn of the yoga class. This is when I really started to learn more about the art of meditation, which in fact did NOT go against any of my religious or spiritual views … but we’ll wrap things up for now and save that discussion for another time.

Have a great weekend everyone and keep reaching for your highest potential!

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“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” ― Paulo Coelho

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