Thursday, 29 November 2012

iSit: Day 12 to 19

As I write this, I am eating Domino's Pizza and drinking diet pop. I'm even dipping the crust in Lite Ranch dressing. Ooooooooooh. So Bad. I'm fully aware of what I am doing. And it's delicious ... in a dirty caloric non-vegan tri(again)doshic without-chia-seeds-on-top kinda way.

Meditation won't change you overnight, but a regular practice, I am learning, will not let you get away with much unconsciously. Trust me, aside from the double negatives in that last sentence, this is a good thing.

Big brother is outside. He is a manifestation of ego. But your sacred sentinel. She is inside. Just get still and quiet, turn inward and slip through the manifold veils of thought and mindlessness. She has always been, and will forever be, watching you. Big Brother has nothing on her.

So who am I ... if not my thoughts?

Well, we know that we are what we eat. Ugh. As I wrote that last sentence approximately 50,000 cells in my body died and new ones are now being built and fuelled on cheesy chicken-pinapple-mushroom-bacon 'Za and Aspartame. Well, I guess that means it's a Greens Plus shake for dinner!

For the moment, though, I am eating my pizza slowly, enjoy it thoroughly and feeling hunger wane and fullness replace famine. My gluttonous mind, craving a wolfish winter carb-out slapped four greasy slices on my plate. But there is no way I'll feel well if I devour all of those wedges. Sacred sentinel is sparing me the anguish and heartburn.

You can sit for 49 days under a Bodhi tree or practice in a split second to quiet the mind, calm the body and free your spirit from past conditioning, present suffering and future fantasies and guessing games. Or you can even gaze at a pizza mandala, possibly taste nirvana, and just try not to take a bite!

iSit not to change myself - although transformation is often a side effect of spiritual practices. iSit and devote my self to the consciousness practice of meditation because ...'s stirring up the dust and sweeping under the rug;

... I feel calmer, clearer, happier, more fully present, but less attached to outcomes and my emotions surrounding them;

... I make kinder, gentler, more life-supporting choices;

... I feel more creative

... I'm more attentive with others and have a split second longer to check my ego before she breaks loose, finds a soapbox and a megaphone;

... I can hear negative thought patterns more loudly, recognize them as "grasping mind," and let them go, then respond instead from a place of compassion and love. Warning: this is harder in winter traffic. Although chances improve greatly, I find, when listening to CBC Radio 2 Tempo's classical music ... and when you ...

never stop practicing. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

iSit: Days 7 to 11

Don't just do time. Sitting isn't one of those things that you get good at then stop. The goal is not mastery of the practice so you can be done with it then move on to the next thing. The practice never ends. The Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree until he became enlightened, which took him 49 days and nights straight. Most of us don't have that kind of time - or inclination. Then Siddhartha Gautama Buddha got up, stretched his legs, probably did a few Downward Dogs, and continued his practice going about spreading the dharma of enlightenment to the world - but his every awakened breath and move was now meditation in action.

Boredom, contraction and inertia are part of the practice. It is in my nature to take the bull by the horns when it comes to new things. Growth curves and struggle make me feel so awake and alive! I become a proverbial sea sponge, ride the waves, coast a while, then I hit the sand, dry up, and end up in someone's exotic sea shell collection.  Just notice, without judgment, that you have fallen in a rut and are "doing" time. Be present, for each fluctuation of mind, body and breath, knowing that what ebbs eventually flows. And every once in a while, give yourself a good dunk. A drop or two of sea water is as good as the whole ocean. Smile. Get inspired. Pay attention. Share a positive outlook or kind word - it may be all that's needed to taste the infinite again and turn someone else's tide. Embrace the whole ride.

Experiment. Sit, walk, stare at a candle flame, count your breaths, listen to the sounds of silence, cross your legs, uncross them, meditate on Om, stare at your Third Eye, do mudras, smell your surroundings. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, as long as it is embraced with sincere and sustained focus and attention. The world of meditation is your oyster. Shuck it.

Make meditation a priority. On Day 10, I waited until the 11th hour to do my meditation practice. I'd been avoiding it all day, and when I finally crawled into bed and remembered my 30-day project ... one more thing I had to do ... I pulled the covers up around my face, set my timer, and got still. But I was fighting sleep the whole way. Soon enough my Oms became Zees. But I made it to the harp and got a Gold Star. Give your meditation top priority. It isn't dusting, doing your taxes, changing your oil or one more task on your To Do list. It's your whole To Be list! And better yet, it's checked off; done; finit! Because you, already, are! Meditation isn't a mundane "time out" to forget the outer world, but a sacred pause to remember that inner is outer: is there anything more important than that?!

Meditate out in the world, right where you are. Yesterday, when I was waiting in line at the Registry and then the bank, and then in traffic, I felt my body contract and irritation levels rise as my self-righteous and bitchy ego started running laps on the unconscious treadmills of untrained puppy-dog mind. Yappity-yap yap yap yap ... so I threw her with a bone, distracted her with the still, clear gaze of my unwavering Buddha attention. And she bowed, licked her chops and curled up at my feet. Om. Good dog.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

iSit: Days 4, 5 & 6

When you sit, don't expect Nirvana. If you do, you are still bound by expectation and clinging to desire.

Day four, I oscillated between self-congratulations and despair, one minute chasing the tails of enlightenment and the next, dragged down by doubt, self-judgment, worry and darkness.

Meditating will not make you a "better person." Self-improvement has its place, but not on the zafu cushion.

You are already perfect; the body just may not feel that way and the mind may not believe it. I don't think "perfection" means what we, typically, think it means.

The only objective is toward full concentration. With sustained effort, you may shift focus, beyond mind and body, out of doing and into being. Here, there is no commentary (which is a freakin' relief!) just boundless unbound. I am at home, and awake, and at One with Peace, itself, in the whirling dervish of the present moment. Then suddenly Kurt Cobain is serenading me from a bed of 1,000-petalled lotuses and I reach, and Pop! It's gone. Don't expect Nirvana.

Sit in your shit. It's stinky and unflattering and it may change what other people think of you, including yourself. But who knows?! Maybe that's a good thing! Dogs instinctively roll in their own poop to mask their own scent from other predators and prey. But what if sitting in your karmic dung heap ... getting really still and unceremonious and honest with yourself ... could help you sniff out the delusions and lies, drop the disguise ... and recognize that the only predator or prey, is fear, itself? And what if you could hold only that piece of Truth every minute of your day or life? Now that's powerful shit!

You don't need more time, just more attention and focus. Whether you sit for 10 minutes or two hours is irrelevant. It's quality over quantity. Day six I spent several minutes with my inner Drama Queen before losing interest in her seductive rant. Then there was this spinny thing. It's happened before, in my palms and in my chest and in my head. Little revolving energy orbs which dissolve my sense of inside and out. These spiralling reeling sensations are like being inside a dance. I am neither spatial moving body nor the intelligence in the time-bound steps, but flow itself. Could this be Rumi's unseen Friend, come out to play? Here I am!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

iSit: Days 1, 2 & 3

iSit is my campaign to embrace the practice of meditation once and for all.

To sit and do nothing is not an act of idleness and passivity. It is an active choice to get quiet, still and present - 'cause that's where all the real stuff is happening anyway.

Here's what I've learned so far:

1. It helps to set an alarm. You might be tempted to peak at the time, but having an automatic time-keeper helps frees you to let go of abstract goals and objectives, and instead focus on your experience. Just make sure the alert isn't loud and annoying: Today I was jarred out of my Zen place with an irritating "boing-boing" noise. Tomorrow it will be a lovely harp.

2. Best to sit upright to meditate. On Day 2, I began with a morning five-minute sit/float in the hot tub. Sitting tall, I watched my breath move in and out of my nostrils and observed the sensations of my body receiving and releasing my breath. I was quickly distracted by the 43-degree Celsius water. This is probably what hot flashes feel like. And the sensations of bubbles and buoyancy. Coolio. I am a meditating goddess. It felt effortless to hold myself upright. Reminder: buy Yoga Swing to explore the effects of anti-gravity. And the effervescence against my skin was more delightful than usual. Amazing, how the intensity of experience gets dialled up when you give 100% of your attention. Makes you wonder what you've been missing. Ommmmmm.

I taught a yoga session Monday night and wasn't feeling so hot beforehand. When I started to feel nauseous during class, I brought the students into a Warrior I-Intense Side Stretch sequence and paused a moment to check in. I allowed myself to experience the dis-ease in my belly without trying to alter my condition, but rather accept and breathe through it. But no sooner had I zoomed in on the unsavoury sensations than my mouth erupted into saline waterworks which signalled that I was going to be sick. I ran for the door, regretfully leaving my students in a deep pretzel bend, and hurled full throttle into the garbage can next to the water cooler. Upchuck-asana. Now that is a first.

Needless to say, my evening meditation was completed in supine position in bed, during which my efforts were usurped by Neo Citron and my cozy fleece blanket. Om to the Zee.

3. It's freakin' hard. Day Three, I thought it would be fun to do a fireside meditation, but the frenetic dance of gas fire flames tripped me out, so I slammed my eyes shut, and kept it simple. One second my mind is empty and spacious, flames forgotten, and I'm listening to my lively heart beat; the next, I'm contemplating the effects of caffeine on my blood pressure, due to the coffee I had while walking through Ikea two hours earlier, wondering what the secret ingredient is in Tim Horton's blend, and fantasizing about the lengths to which they go to keep their narcotic additive under tight wraps. I'm visualizing covert armed factory drop-offs of unmarked shipments. Not even top execs are privy to the nature of the Secret Spice. ... I'm pretty sure this is not meditation anymore. Crap. Back to my breath. Now there's that lovely harp.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

iSit: My 30-day Meditation Challenge.

Right about now is when the ball drops. The Earth throws her hip too far to the left, and winter's orbit sends me into a contracted state of goosebumps, grumbling and grandstand fantasies of escape.

My bear instincts kick in and I can be found at the fridge. My serotonin plummets. I pop Vitamin D like its Valium and wonder if yoga's a strong enough prescription, and whether I should take two or ten.

These old folds, where once I was stuck, somewhere in between figments of a better place than Here and wondering if My Life was stacking up well enough, taunt seductively, like warm blankets against the cutting cold morning air, and I want to sink in more deeply and go back to sleep.

But here's where I get my Molly-Maid on and iron out all that samsara hala hala. Here's where I fight back - like a Gentle Warrior, of course - with the weapons of Mind, Body and Breath.

Even a snake knows not to crawl back into old skin!

This year I will not hibernate in dark, unconscious caves. I will light a fire, and watch the shadows dance upon their stony walls until the flames have fanned into my heart, and dance becomes destiny.

That is why today I am starting a 30-day meditation challenge. That's right, I will sit in defiance of auto-pilot cycles of suffering. I will sit, even when I don't feel like it; and my boyfriend has even agreed to sit with me. I guess that means this month we have a standing sitting date. I might even, sometimes, sit on the spiky Medi-Mat - a.k.a. torture mat - that I just picked up last week.

Peaceful protest or sadomasochistic love-in, I'll let you know how it goes. Maybe you want to sit too?

This is my rally for reality.