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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Meditation For People Who Don't Want To Meditate

(but are just a little bit curious)

People think meditation is doing nothing, but it’s not.  It’s active. Meditation is about focused discipline.  But it’s also about freedom.

Full disclosure right off the bat, I’m a terrible “formal” meditator.  I’ll look at the clock after one minute.  Seriously.  Sometimes I make it to three minutes, then I pass out (I do it before going to sleep, and upon waking up in the morning.  Sometimes.) But I’m really amazing at freestyle meditation.  Meditation my way.  This I can do for 15-30 minutes depending on the day. We’re all wired differently. You, too, can discover “your way”.  

Once you have some insight into what meditation is, what it isn’t, and learn a few tips and tools from me, you might be interested in dabbling yourself.

First of all, let’s get one misconception out of the way; you can’t turn off your thoughts.  It’s impossible.  The only way to stop thinking is to die or get a lobotomy.  Actually, when you die, your consciousness continues, it's just the brain that stops. Energy transforms but never disappears.  What you can do is tame your thoughts and choose the direction they go in.  

Start simply by consistently choosing thoughts that feel good, also known as "daydreaming". Do this in your conscious life, and in your "meditations".  Feeling good is the key to health, peace, accomplishment, and enlightenment.  Once you permit yourself to feel good, you can take those outrageous "daydreams" and allow them to simmer down into something more calm, peaceful, and more traditionally "meditative".  But you don't want to break the bronco (i.e. your wild mind). In fact, you know that doesn't work.  Can you coerce yourself into calm?

Criticizing, judging, and berating yourself all lead to feeling bad, which is the very opposite of peace.  It is this same "feeling bad" that creates all the discord, pain and violence in the world. When animals are in pain, they lash out.  If people truly understood that being happy is the key to world peace (happy people don't go around hurting others, do they?) they would start to prioritize their own joy.  It is not selfish to be happy, it is essential. It is not narcissism (narcissists are not happy people).  Joy creates self-reliance, which fosters brilliance and creativity. You want to love your self into harmony, which can transform into spiritual artistry. I'm talking about the path of least resistance, and that, my friends, is one of the secrets of life. Getting in the "flow" of life, instead of endlessly swimming upstream.  Feeling good is the key to it all. 

Why meditate in the first place?  It’s supposed to enhance one’s general wellbeing.  We want to add some calm to the “normal” crazy mix.  Meditation is good at helping to reign in the “wild mind”.  Whether you’re foaming at the mouth, frazzled by an overstuffed schedule, or just thinking crappy thoughts, it’s good to take your mind to the cleaners from time to time.

So, sanitize your ruminations.  Not just when you’re meditating, but all the time. Examine your thoughts; don’t let them spew out of your head willy-nilly.  Thoughts have tremendous creative power and can either lift you up or tear you down.  Do whatever you have to do to make your life more peaceful so that your “one-minute meditation” isn’t the only time you achieve some serenity.  You need to set the scene for the time when you actually do sit down to meditate.  How can you make your life, home and job, more tranquil, even “romantic”?  (i.e. pleasurable and appealing).

Invite peace into your life via warm baths and long naps.  Diet from negativity.  Change is an incremental process.  Start small, and you will build momentum.  Do you hang out with grumpy, cynical people?  Or do you hang out with overly peppy types, maybe positive on the surface, but who still bug the heck out of you?  Do you do too much and run yourself ragged? Some people are afraid to be alone and to sit still, and as a result, burn themselves out with constant activity and chatter.  If you're uncomfortable being alone, why?  If you're unhappy sitting still, ask yourself why here, too. You do have the answers.  Just dig a little.  Be an investigative reporter and study yourself.  Pull out a notebook and pen if you have to.  You're a fascinating creature.  Take some time to appreciate yourself. 

People associate meditation with austerity (just ask the Buddhists) but I don’t.  I equate it with pleasure.  It’s your meditation.  You get to decide what it is.  Meditation is focused thought.  It’s an invitation to make your life more “conscious”.  Since life is your creation, endeavor to make it a masterpiece, not an afterthought. 

How do you feel about silence?  There is tremendous fullness in silence when you are at peace with yourself.  Think of the sublime peace of the forest.  Now, of course there are sounds there, but overwhelmingly, it holds an atmosphere of peace and quiet.  Nature feeds our peace and it's important to seek her out, any way you can.  It's a little trickier in cities, however, it can be done.  For urban types we have to create our own peace, a challenge to be sure given the frenetic energy we are enveloped by.  

I chose to meditate this morning on the subway and as I closed my eyes I filled and surrounded my body with light.  I then radiated light and love to everyone on my train, and afterwards had a pleasant conversation with a man standing near me.  Even though I was running late, I experienced genuinely pleasant energy on this ride because I produced it.  Meditation is an act of creation.  And I arrived at my tap class right on time.  

I'm challenged by the constant concrete of my environs since I love nature, which most assuredly feeds my soul and wellbeing.  So where in the city can you find serenity?  Museums, parks, tea salons, book stores or boutiques (depending on the vibe).  Just today I left Times Square and walked through four mini parks in midtown Manhattan with waterfalls, and I basked in that soothing sound and energy for several minutes. (Falling water produces negative ions which make us feel positive.  This includes the shower.) I take bike rides around the perimeter of Manhattan where I'm exposed to wind, water, and get to see the sky, not a common sight in a city crammed with skyscrapers.  Frankly, Central Park has become too packed with people these days, however I still have a spot or two which remain sacred and silent.  Churches and chapels are also very calming to me.  For one, they're quiet, and two, many are quite beautiful.  

Candles, incense, mood lighting, tea and soothing music create peace in my home.  I don't have TV, and rarely keep my cell phone on. This sets the scene for when I meditate. It also sets the scene for my life.  Ultimately, they can become interchangeable.  Your life can become a "moving" meditation.  This simply means you are living with consciousness, intentionality, and sometimes grace, which is the outward manifestation of peace.  

I’m not suggesting you simply flush anger, sadness, grief, irritation, etc. down the toilet.  Those unhappy feelings are not bad in and of themselves; they are simply indicators that something is not right in your life. It’s your job to figure out what’s “off” and do something about it (to the best of your ability).  

Take stock of every aspect of your life.  What do you feed your head?  Nerve wracking “news”, gossip, and extraneous information?    Feed your head nutritious thoughts.  Kill the junk food. 

If you happen to be fixated on what’s wrong with the world (I told you not to listen to the news!) you’re definitely on a wild goose chase.  Give that one right up (unless you’ve got tangible ideas and are acting on them).  How many people spend time being angry about things they can’t change, and, better yet, don't even bother to try to?  These people just grouse and get ulcers, and frankly, pollute the planet with even more negativity.  Get right with yourself.  Establish peace within, and you will help to create peace without.  

This is about getting your own house in order.  And if you accede my point that angry, disgruntled people only add to the world's problems, can you see that the converse is also true? Happy people contribute to the peace on the planet, by virtue of simply Being.  Your vibration, your happiness quotient, your ever growing Spiritual Light truly heals this world.  I'm not discouraging you if you're politically inclined, taking action is key in this life, but be mindful of the attitude you hold when you work toward your goals.  "Fighting" for peace is an oxymoron. See if you can "keep the peace" even as you seek to grow it. Get Zen and contemplate "movement in silence" and "silence in movement". It's that Yin Yang thing.   

Don't worry about always maintaining your Zen calm. Don't worry about being happy all the time.  Our moods ebb and flow.  Our thoughts change, like clouds moving across the sky, and our feelings reflect our thoughts.  You never want to be rigid or static, and if you think of a body of water, sometimes wild, sometimes still, you'll understand that you are allowed those very same ebbs and flows. It's not about freezing the moment.  Go with the flow, but do take responsibility for your behavior.  As you get better at creating peace and happiness within, you'll be less rattled when you experience life's vicissitudes.  You're building a "happiness muscle" with your inner work and you will eventually sail more easily even over rough seas. 

Do you have enough time alone?  I spend a lot of time alone, and it suits me fine.  There is often soothing music in the background when I'm home (music is a vibration as surely as peace is).  I like being with people, too, but it’s important to enjoy your own company.  The more comfortable you become with peace and quiet, the more you will feel the fullness of that silence.  There’s a lot there when you sink into it.  But you need comfortable thoughts floating inside your head to feel relaxed.  Thoughts create feelings.  "I am calm." is a nice thought.  So is "everything is okay." Make up some thoughts right now that feel good to you.  These are mantras.  Use them.  

Imagine being in a beautiful forest (I love the forest. When you create your own scenario, you can go where you want.)  I once instructed a mother and her young son that I was leading in meditation to pick a beautiful, natural setting and the five year-old felt compelled to blurt out where he went.  Home Depot. That’s his idea of heaven.

Anyway, you’re in the forest and you have not a care in the world.  Breathe in the moist, clean air.  Know that it is soothing your lungs and revivifying your body. The sound of water streaming from a distant waterfall and babbling brook serve to further relax and rejuvenate you. The sky is blue, the sun is streaming through the green leaves, and you’re blanketed in the serenity and magic of nature.  Soft moss cushions your bare feet. You are at peace.  You are free.  There’s nowhere to go, nothing to do.  Just revel in that feeling now.  Take a deep breath.  Smile.  Stretch.

You just meditated.

You focused your mind on a particular topic, and that’s all meditation is. 

Some people stare at a candle flame, or focus on their inhalation and exhalation. Others repeat a mantra endlessly (that’s my idea of losing your mind, but whatever works for you). Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz) had a good mantra, and she only had to say it a few times: "There's no place like home, there's no place like home..." The visual focus (eyes open), the mental focus, either on your breath or on a mantra, are simply tools to help you rein in those wild thoughts.  Another approach is to still the body and allow the mind to follow. Once you get the hang of it, you may not need the candle, the mantra, or the body to be in perfect stillness (you’ll want to keep the breathing part). Indeed, these things can become crutches.  We need to keep moving to continue growing.  Even in stillness.  We want active energy, not stagnation nor rigid, rote habit.  Even the peaceful candle flame flickers.  

I live the majority of my life in peace.  That means that my days have become a moving meditation on “Valerie”.  Because I am focused and calm (most of the time) I can enjoy “moving meditation” even while preparing breakfast or cleaning the kitty litter.  Coloring books are also a great way to focus and “lose yourself”.  Creativity aligns you with the "child's mind" where time and space do not exist.  Imagination, play, and desire expand into infinity, creating a mystical trance of sorts.  

Synchronicities start happening when you spend time in this state of mind.  Doors start opening for you where before they were shut.  When you move through life with consciousness, gratitude and grace, not bumbling around as so many people do, you are in the process of becoming more peaceful, contemplative, and meditative.  These qualities are conducive to a happy, relaxed and healthy life. That's the purpose of meditation anyway, to make you calmer, happier, and ultimately, more productive and peaceful as you waste less energy being frazzled.  

And don't think for a minute that I don't "let it rip" with loud music, wine, coffee, chocolate, laughter, raucousness and dance.  Flip sides of the same coin.  What good is calm if you don't also have celebration?  Remember, we're not looking to get a lobotomy here.  We're looking to have a good, happy, healthy, joyful, loving, creative and fulfilling life.  Right? The same Spirit that created babbling brooks also created thundering earthquakes.  We are fire and rain, peace and paradise. 

Focus on what makes you happy.  Eschew that which does not support your peace and wellbeing.  It can be done.  You may not be an island, but you can be selective.

Once in a while, try sitting down, taking some deep breaths, smiling, and see what happens when you close your eyes.  Let yourself daydream, even with your eyes open. There are no rules here.  Empower yourself with that thought. 

Think of pleasant things.  You may be surprised at how much time passes when you are having quiet fun, with or without engaging coloring books, contemplative cooking, or meditative quilting circles.  Time and space disappear. Get lost in the activity, in active, conscious, focused thought. This is meditation.  See where it takes you.  For while you may initially hold the reins, you may be surprised by Who and What takes over.  It can become a magic carpet ride.  Let your mind be blown.  

©2015 Valerie Gilbert All Rights Reserved

Valerie is the author of RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion, and SWAMI SOUP. The books are available in print, e-book, and audio book, narrated by the author. 

Valerie leads Psychic Development/Guided Meditation/Healing/Past Life Regression Workshops at Namaste Healing Center, and privately, in New York City.  Valerie's next Namaste class, a Spiritual Development Workshop, will be Friday, December 4th, 7-9pm, $25. Sign up here:

For more information on Valerie's full lineup:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Food, Intuition and Healing

How do you intuit what’s right for your body? There are myriad advisories to consider and they often conflict: no gluten, dairy, meat, alcohol, caffeine, sugar and soy. Yeast is out, but fermented is in (what?). It’s easier to lose your mind than it is to lose weight, and weight loss is just one of many concerns for people trying to adjust their diet to improve their health. What’s left to eat? A couple of beans and some wheatgrass.

Let me suggest this, other than avoiding things to which you have clear negative reactions, why not listen to your body and see what it says? I’ve been told to go gluten, dairy, alcohol and caffeine free.  Those are my four basic food groups (plus chocolate).  All kidding aside, I eat a very healthy and moderate diet.  Organic greens and fruits.  Organic whole grains, often sprouted. Organic eggs and dairy.  Olive oil, coconut oil, nuts.  Meat. Honey and agave in limited amounts. I refuse to feel bad about those choices, especially since I feel good.

As a kid I had the tendency to be very obsessed with what I was eating, and became bulimic as a result.  Any extreme is unnatural. I endeavor to buy organic as often as possible, but don’t torment myself when I don’t.  A little poison won’t kill you, and in this world, it’s impossible to avoid all poison.

What can you abstain from?  Torturing yourself about what you eat.  You can eat the most “pure” diet possible (oh, say, organic wheatgrass juice) but if you live with fear, doubt, worry and anger, all the health benefits of the greens will go out the window.  You feed your body with your thoughts as surely as with your food. 

A glass of wine lifts my spirits, so does moderate caffeine. I enjoy a square of dark chocolate a day. I have no obvious reactions to what I eat, so why should I stop?  The whole idea of detoxifying makes no sense to me.  If it’s a temporary withdrawal, then you’ll go back to “what’s wrong” right after, so why bother? Also, I ain't "toxic." I resent the implication that I'm dirty and need cleaning. People's need to purify, clean, detoxify and de-germ borders on the puritanic.  

When I worked in publishing years ago a colleague told me that she and her mom were amazed by the sludge that came out of them both when they had colonics.  As I listened in horror, I thought about the gum that I swallowed by mistake in fourth grade, and imagined a sort of Exxon Valdez spill lurking in my lower G.I. tract.  

Surrounded at work by the Atkins diet book, The Zone, and Sugar Busters, I was making changes in my life.  Cutting out carbs, sugar, and exercising more, I was enjoying a health and beauty renaissance.  I decided to treat myself, and since I'd already had facials but never a colonic, I went for the colonic, deciding to de-sludge once and for all.  Turns out I was clean as a whistle.  A lone bran flake came floating out, along with the gallons of water that had been pumped in.  That was the last colonic I got.    
When I told this to a New Ager that I met recently, she affirmed that I was still dirty, "we all are" (sounded like a damn Puritan).  She said I needed to "dig deeper" and get another colonic. I guess I wasn't trying hard enough at my first session.  (I'm a sinner!)  Hell no, I trust the results of my first experience.  I'm clean, and while it felt like a waste of money, at least I no longer harbor concerns about being filled with filth. 

I spend my money on really good food now, more so than ever, and stand by everything I put in my mouth.  I’m proud of what I eat, and, most important, I enjoy it.  Food is a terrific daily pleasure.  Don’t deprive yourself.

Over the years I’ve become increasingly organic and whole grain. I eat more dark leafy greens, from mesclun to spinach to kale.  I eat fewer sweets. And (this is a big one!) I have healthier human relationships in my life.   Spend time with people who enhance your wellbeing and eschew the ones who don’t honor your hopes, dreams, thoughts and feelings.  Bypass the bad (food, people and circumstances) and invest in the good. We're not looking for an overhaul or crash diet here; incremental change is the best and most long-lasting.

A holistic view to life means taking all areas of your life into account: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.  They go hand in hand, and when you work on one, it impacts all the others.  But you can’t ignore any of the four and expect to be balanced.  It’s like only studying math in school, with no English, history, science, athletics or arts. 

The body needs exercise.  So move.  Whether it’s stretching at home, a walk in the woods, or jumping up and down like a lunatic on the sidewalk, do it.  Need something gentle?  Do Qi Gong or Tai Chi. Don’t have time?  Do something, anything, for five minutes. Ten sit-ups.  Ten push-ups. Ten jumping jacks. Run around the bedroom in circles while you scream and wave your hands. Something is always better than nothing.  Start small and build from there.

A friend of mine lost over a hundred pounds this year by making incremental change.  He changed his diet and started walking everywhere. He is now biking, something he'd never done.  He looks and feels fantastic because he is feeding his body nutritious food, and is giving it the exercise that it was denied for years. A dog needs exercise, play, fresh air, love, affection, and healthy food.  You need it, too. 

Don’t look for the end result, just know that you’re doing what feels right today, and you’ll do what feels right tomorrow.  If you skip a day or a week, don’t get mad at yourself.  Maybe you need more sleep.  Maybe you’re upset about something and need to figure it out (trust me, you can, if you listen to your feelings).  Take care of today’s priorities and know that you’re not going to fit it all in every day.  Be flexible, forgiving, gentle, understanding and compassionate with yourself. 

Trust your gut.  The more “sensitive” (intuitive) you become, you will know what your body wants to eat, what it wants to do, and who it wants to do it with. How many people do you spend time with out of obligation rather than desire?  That’s an example of “eating your greens” that will not benefit you. Seek out who and what feels good.  Trust yourself.  

Emotions need expressing.  If you’re angry, figure out why, and do something about it (no, not revenge, but correct the situation).  Perhaps a friendship no longer serves you.  Perhaps you need to speak up and set boundaries.  Perhaps you need change in your life.  It’s up to you to make the moves. 

Mentally, what are you feeding yourself?  Do you read and watch dramas and thrillers, or, God forbid, the “news”? You are feeding yourself anxiety.  Do yourself a favor and get rid of cable TV, like I did six years ago.  You can still view stuff online and rent.  Instead, you’ll read, meditate, listen to music, and create. Dabble with coloring books as I have done for decades; it's a very zen activity.  Invite people over, talk, cook, relax and interact. We get healthy by being happy

Spiritually, explore your beliefs.  Do they feel good? Unless you have a higher perspective, it’s easy to get lost in the mundane myopia of 3D. Lighten up and play more. Angels fly because they take themselves lightly. 

Spirituality includes solitude, meditation, being in nature, playing, relaxing, and exploring expansive thought.  It creates a counter balance to the heaviness and rigidity of daily life.  For we are not physical.  We are energetic, vibrational creatures who don ever-changing bodies while we live as humans.  Life is change.  Don't allow yourself to stagnate. Listen to your feelings, let yourself have fun, and enjoy your food!

©2015 Valerie Gilbert All Rights Reserved

Valerie is the author of RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion, and SWAMI SOUP, available in print, e-book and audio book, narrated by the author.

Valerie leads Psychic Development/Guided Meditation/Healing/Past Life Regression Workshops at Namaste Healing Center, and privately, in New York City. Valerie's next Namaste class, a Spiritual Development Workshop, will be Friday, December 4th, 7-9pm, $25.  Sign up here:

For more information on Valerie's full lineup: