Tag: meditation

My Safe Place

My Safe Place

3670679730_5c947acfb8As I began my healing work, I was guided ever so gently toward the discovery of my safe place. It did not come easily, nor was it anything like I expected it to be. I did not expect to go inside of myself and find an anchor, a lifeline, a living, breathing being that was at once me…and not me…that was a guide, a teacher, a lover and a friend.

I remember so clearly lying on the floor in the great room of my Lamaze instructor’s home. Propped up by the pillows I had dutifully carried, one under each arm, my belly leading the way from my house to hers each week, I lay in wait not only for the birth of my first child, but for the guidance I so desperately needed during the last months of my pregnancy. Her classes gave me an opportunity to literally and figuratively lay down my burden and be cared for just a bit.

The class was large. I was mostly silent, but I took it all in. Each lesson on one aspect or another of pregnancy and birth helped me feel a bit more prepared, though I instinctively knew that nothing could prepare me for the real experience.

At the end of each class, the instructor guided us through a relaxation and meditation exercise. “Your calmness will carry through to your child,” she would remind us. “Now, let’s get comfortable, close our eyes and breathe in peace.” She joined us on the floor and the room grew quiet except for the swish of air in and out in random bursts of good peace intentions. With each breath I took, I turned inward trying desperately to forget the drum beat of time that was catapulting me toward an unknown and terrifying experience.

Try as I might, I could not breathe in peace. I could not shut off my chattering mind and go inward to capture that peace everyone else seemed to be holding.  Each week, I’d place my hands on my tummy, trying to hold and love my beautiful unborn baby while my brain went to war with itself.  I wanted that peace she described and yet I remained saturated with fear and despair…and when I left her home I carried with me a layer of shame and guilt. I failed at bliss.

Decades later, at a very different time and in a very different place, I was handed another opportunity to enter in.  This time I was either ready to let go, or, more likely tricked into letting go. The universe had seen to it that I lost every battle I waged for thirty long years. Then, a young woman was placed in front of me, whose guidance I would have to make a conscious decision to accept. I had no more tricks up my sleeve, no more clever nuances of intellect or ego to help me escape.

Deeply traumatized and frightened beyond reason, my body and mind were ravaged by life. I would either take her hand or die. It was that simple.  I guess I wasn’t ready to die, though I wasn’t convinced of that when I closed my eyes and followed Crystal’s lead into our first guided imagery meditation.

Her gentle voice led me and I followed, breath by breath. It was if she knew exactly what I needed and exactly what to say. She held my spiritual hand and showed me how to allow the breath of peace to do its work.  Step by step, breath by breath she led me to the door of my soul. It was only the beginning. The merest start, and yet, it was huge.

That day, I came face to face with the door of my safe place.  A large, thick wooden door with decorative square panels and a large gold handle, its large brass knocker seemed to mock me. When Crystal suggested that I open the door I was overwhelmed with fear. Everything in my body resisted forward motion. I could not move my mind to allow myself to open the door. I stood frozen in place, shaking inside and out.

“What is keeping you from opening the door?”, she asked. What, or who, is taking your strength and blocking your path?” Eyes shut, tears running down my cheeks, I was one with my imaginary world. As I stood in that place in front of the door I told her what came to me in that moment, “I am terrified to go in alone”.

“Is there someone you would like to invite into the room with you? Someone who will hep you and support you? Remember, this is your space. You are the only one who can invite someone in and you can ask them to leave whenever you want.  Is there someone who you can ask to help you open the door? They can be real or imaginary.”

Immediately, my husband came to mind. He reached for my hand. As I took his hand, he pushed the door open, but he did not go in first. He held the door for me as I walked in. He stood behind me for a few moments and then gradually disappeared. I was safely inside. I knew I no longer needed him there with me.

I breathed in the sunshine and fresh air as I tentatively and  slowly explored the space in which I found myself.  Surrounded by beautiful, lush green gardens and soft, colorful flowers I sat down on a smooth, round, rock beside a small pond. I watched the birds flit from tree to tree and the bees buzz from flower to flower. I listened to the water trickle down a tiny waterfall at the edge of the pond as cool breezes washed over my skin and the sun warmed my shoulders. This was a peaceful place. This was the place where my soul lived. I had come home.

It was hard to leave that day,  but I learned quickly that it is always there for me when I choose to visit. Throughout the course of my healing journey from PTSD, and the continued healing of all of life’s woundings, I  find strength and guidance here in this place. My imagination, my soul self, is my guide and teacher. Through guided imagery meditation with Crystal and more and more frequently alone in quiet private meditation, I find strength, peace, guidance, answers, direction and healing.

Creating a New Life

A Grounding Place

 

Finding Your Inner Guide

Finding Your Inner Guide

Duke Gardens, Durham, NC
Duke Gardens, Durham, NC

Many of us, particularly those of us who are members of the “scar clan”, the walking wounded, have an unhealthy tendency to minimize our accomplishments. We look around us and see only those people who excel, who have accomplished what we have accomplished and more. As our access and, perhaps more precisely,  our exposure to what’s going on in the world is heightened by technology, particularly while we are healing we need to be careful, and intentional, about what we allow into our view. If we do not, we may find ourselves shrinking away in horror at our utter ineptness by comparison to what we see.

Focusing our attention outside of ourselves is always a path to destruction, as in doing so we lose sight of our own inner directives and talents. The people we put on a pedestal are people we only know very superficially. The Oprah’s of the world. We may think we know them, but we only know the facade they carefully choose to share with the world. This is true all the way down to the people we connect with in social media who seem to be very much like us. They may be, but again, we do not see as clearly as we might the road they have traveled to where they are now, or even what their road really looks like.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing our insides to their outsides.  (Thank you to my good friend Jill who first uttered these words to me.) It’s a wonderful little phrase that sums up a crucial concept that we should repeat to ourselves often on our healing journey and long after!

We can only walk in our own shoes. If we are fortunate we may have one or two other people in our lives with whom we have a deep enough connection to walk a bit in theirs and who set a higher standard that we can model and grow toward.  By and large, however, those “successful” people against whom we measure ourselves really have no bearing whatsoever on how we live, what we do and who we are. We only see their outsides, not their insides. We have no idea what is really true about their world as we are only seeing a very small piece of it.

It takes time, effort and attention, but when we become aware that we are doing this, it’s important to take several steps back and find our core selves again. If we do this often enough, it will become a habit and a way of life. If we ignore the signals, we will spend our lives trying to be someone we’re not, living a life we were not meant to live, all the while feeling like a failure.

We are meant to live our own lives. We are meant to use the gifts we were given. We were meant to be as fully and completely present in love to the world in which we live. Period.

When I start comparing my insides to someone’s outsides, I have learned to use this as a signal that I am not paying enough attention to the needs of my own soul, that I am not tuning in to my own heart.  I now use this awareness to draw myself back into the fold, calling my attention back to my inner guide and resources. If need be, I shut off the TV, I limit my time online, I turn my attention away from external input of any kind, even books and spend more time alone.

We all have different levels of tolerance for solitude. I am a person who requires a ton of it, but the important thing is that when we become aware that we are living “outside of” ourselves, increasing our time spent in quiet will help us to restore our inner balance.

In this quiet space I write and meditate.  You may enjoy doodling, drawing, needlework, creating a vision board, or simply doing nothing. Follow your instincts. Whatever facilitates communication with your true self and helps you clear away the debris of the world is what will bring you back to you. The first step is to disconnect from the outside world.

Room for Silence

Room for Silence

"Remembering Eternity" Painting by Autumn Skye Morrison
“Remembering Eternity”
Painting by
Autumn Skye Morrison

Spending time in silence each day has become an essential part of my life in recent years. As a young person I valued the idea and practice of quiet meditation, though I was seldom able to do so in a comfortable, consistent fashion. I was too busy searching for answers and direction in more immediate and tangible ways. I was too arrogant and full of my own sense of things, too unwilling to give up control, especially of my thoughts.

Now, there is room for silence. I’ve discovered that when we come to understand that all of our efforts to live successfully according to the world’s, will ultimately fail to fill the hole in our hearts that remains when we are disconnected from the source of all that is,  we can begin to understand the value of silence. It takes decades of trying and failing to see the absolute necessity for giving up control of one’s destiny and to finally rest in the peace of what is.

I was reminded of this beautiful poem by John O’Donohue posted on Facebook today by Woman, which is a great page that you might enjoy following too.

To Bless the Space Between Us

by John O’Donohue

To all that is chaotic in you..
let there come silence.

Let there be a calming of the clamoring..
a stilling of the voices that have
laid their claim on you..
that have made their home in you..
that go with you even to the holy places
but will not let you rest…
will not let you hear your life with wholeness
or feel the grace that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you cease.
Let what divides you cease.
Let there come an end
to what diminishes and demeans..
and let depart all that keeps you in its cage.

Let there be an opening into the quiet
that lies beneath the chaos..
where you find the peace you did not think possible..
and see what shimmers within the storm.

Meditation Prayer on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation Prayer on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation Prayer on Love
by Thich Nhat Hanh

May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I be free from injury.  May I live in safety.
May I be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety and worry.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

Quiet ~ Just a Small Dose Can Make a Difference

Quiet ~ Just a Small Dose Can Make a Difference

Photo by D. Sander

It is so easy to wander away from our dreams. Everywhere we go, there are enticing diversions calling for our attention. I can’t help but wonder why it is so difficult to stay focused on what we know is good and right and true…for ourselves. Perhaps it’s the result of a lifetime of living up to everyone else’s expectations and demands. It’s so easy to tune out our own desires when the world around us clamors for attention. Now, later in life, when those demands have quieted we may find ourselves disconnected from our inner voice, at least the one that tells us how to live our dreams. Chances are we just no longer recognize the still, small voice that is us, if we ever did. Now is the time. It is time to tune in, time to connect with our deepest selves and time to let it take us where it leads.

Most of us have the time we need now to develop a daily practice of tuning in. A few well-developed practices will strengthen the muscle of attention that will keep you connected to yourself. You are still there. It’s just a matter of reconnecting. These practices will reawaken your ability to tune in to yourself so that you can hear, once again, your true voice. They will help you come home if you’re feeling lost.

Quiet

Quiet is the balm that soothes for some and a terrifying void for others. But no matter where you are on the continuum, it is okay. Just begin. Begin to add a small dose of quiet to your day. Every day. Whether it is five minutes in the car after you’ve turned the engine off and before you’ve opened the door, or while sitting alone on your back deck in the sun, find a time and a place and breathe. Breathe in the stillness. Breathe in the clarity of quiet. Connect with whatever it is that feels like the center of your being. Then build on this every day. Add five more minutes, or ten until you are comfortable and connected with that which you already know is the still small voice within.

Beauty

Take in the beauty around you. If there is none, find some. Dwell on a beautiful flower, a masterful painting, a lyric in a poem, a melody that lifts your spirits. Absorb beauty in all its magnificence and that we too often ignore. Replace the violence of the news with the lilt of Enya’s melodies. Assemble the most beautiful photos you can find and place them where you will see them often. Whenever possible seek beauty first.  The beauty that touches you is within you. If you feel moved to create, create something from the beauty that comes from within you. The act of creation connects us to ourselves and is the core of the dreams we’ve yet to uncover.

Rest

Rest deeply, fully, completely. Stop the forward motion of your mind and body. Put aside that one more thing that you think you must do and rest.  Sleep if that is what comes. Sit. Read. Listen. Turn down the volume of your thoughts in any way you can. Busy your hands with needle work if you must, but make sure that what you are doing with your hands is beautiful and creative. If you can go away from your day-to-day demands to a place that nurtures your soul ~ the beach, a mountain-side cabin, a library or bookstore. For an hour, a day or a week, whatever you can manage, whatever the deep fatigue and disconnect within you requires. You will know. Turn off the demands and rest.

Begin

Begin today in whatever way you can to connect to you and the creative spirit that is your life force. Step by step, moment by moment be still and rest in the beauty that is you.