Prayers and Meditations.
I’ve been praying for as long as I can remember:
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
When my Dad died, my prayers went through many phases. In retrospect, I can see that they reflect the grieving process: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance…pleading, cursing, begging, crying at God in my daily prayers for years. Acceptance seemed a long way away.
Eventually, I gave up on God for a while because I never heard any answers. It was only later I realized why. I wasn’t listening!I had been questioning God, cursing God, begging God…but never listening to God. Perhaps listening is the beginning of Acceptance?
At some point, I realized that when I was meditating, I was finally listening to God. I was very angry at God, so I didn’t listen well for years, but I kept trying. I like to think I’m a little better at listening now than I was then. I meditate most mornings now and really try to listen to God. Even though I have my day planned, I show up each morning and meditate to get “God’s marching orders.”
When I talk or listen to God, it’s the same God I was cursing after my Dad’s death: The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost I learned about at Vacation Bible School in Salem First Christian Church.
Let me be clear: I don’t actually hear God’s voice or walk away with a list from Him. What I do is take in the breath (inspiration, spirit), the miracle of my breathing, the miracle of my heartbeat, the sunrise, the clouds, the sounds of nature that are around me, the sounds of nature that are inside me. I listen to the snap, crackle, and pop as it tips its hat at my aliveness, my senses, the miracle of that moment. This helps me start the day grounded and lighter at the same time. It helps me feel grace as I flow through what the day offers—which is not always what I have planned—and prepares me to accept the lessons of this day. It reminds me to show up to practice, and share.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. There are as many ways to meditate as there are human beings. I am not a formal scholar in meditation or prayer; everything I’m sharing is from my personal exploration and experiences, and I’m still exploring the endless ways. For me, every meditation has a common thread: I open with a prayer for guidance. I treat it as a ritual, asking God to guide me no matter what the specific focus of my meditation. Then I meditate and listen.
Here are a few techniques to try. Last month I discussed focusing on breath and gradually increasing the time. Let’s change it up. Explore!
Meditate on Equal Breathing.
Sama Vritti (equal breathing) is a form of pranayama (breathing practice). It is said to be good for calming the body and focusing the mind.
Sit comfortably, feet planted if possible, and as strong as possible for today. Start by observing your natural breath. Place your left hand on your heart as a reminder to lift up and keep your heart open. Relax your shoulders down. Once you feel comfortable, notice the length of your next inhale by silently counting 1…2…3…, at whatever pace you like. Repeat this on the inhales until you find a comfortable and sustainable “inhale breath number” for today. You might count to two or you might count to 20. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is comfortable for you.
Next, exhale to that same count, your breath number. Again, it doesn’t matter the speed at which you count; what matters is that the inhale and exhale are the same length. Don’t worry if you aren’t perfect, it’s a focus point, a practice. Equal breathing calms the mind, helping to balance the nervous system with nourishing hormones that counteract all of the stress hormones we secrete. Set your timer for 5-10 minutes or less, and try equal breathing today! It’s free and only takes a few minutes to start practicing anywhere…just don’t close your eyes or press your feet if you are driving!
Meditate on the Physical Body while Breathing.
You can also focus on your physical body as you are breathing. Sit as strong as possible today, feet pressing into the floor, head over shoulders and shoulders over hips, creating space between the vertebra. Lift up through the heart/sternum to create space for your nerves and blood vessels to flow freely all the way to fingers and toes!
Keep all this space in the body and continue lifting the heart as you allow your abdominal muscles to release on the inhale, creating space for the diaphragm. Let the belly expand. Keep inhaling, breathe higher up into the ribcage, feeling it expand as your breath fills the container of your lungs. On your exhales, draw your navel in and up, hugging the spine. This encourages your abdominal muscles to help your back muscles sit strong.
Now you’re focusing your mind on your physical body while breathing…in other words, you’re meditating! Notice the physical sensations that arise with this expansive breathing.
Set your timer for 5 or 10 minutes and keep going. Feel all of the muscles waking up in your body. If your back muscles feel tired, try to stick with it for just a few minutes and build up to longer over time. Enjoy these expansive breaths! Remember, you can start with less time and build up!
Meditate on an affirmation.
Last month I talked about replacing older thought patterns with new thought patterns. I think of it as retraining our brains. Affirmations help us do just that. You can choose an affirmation to help you cultivate what you need more of in your life!
We need different affirmations for different situations in our lives. Here are a few of my favorite meditation affirmations:
I am compassionate.
I am patient.
I am loving.
I am clear.
I am happy.
I am alive!
What do you want more of? If it’s courage, try I am courageous. Is it strength or kindness? I am strong, or I am kind. Create your own positive affirmation to help build that new pathway in your brain and your being. It could be your favorite bible verse repeated over and over! It could be the opposite of a thought pattern you would like to reprogram. Remember, you can change it as needed. Set your timer for 5 minutes and do it!!!
“You can sculpt your brain the way you sculpt your muscles at the gym.” Richard Davison.
This is called neuroplasticity.
Here’s a little scientific research to motivate you!
I challenge you to explore balanced breathing for one week (7 days), meditating on your physical body for one week (7 days) and meditating on an affirmation one week (7 days).
Start with 5 minutes, either first thing in the morning, before bedtime, or whenever you can schedule to do it daily.
The goal is to show up and meditate. Do not judge or grade your meditations; just keep showing up and exploring meditation. It is a practice.
Did you miss a day? Oh well, start over! You can do this!!!!
Let us know how your meditation is going. What questions do you have? What is working for you? What is your favorite affirmation? Write down what’s coming up for you.
Save or flag this e-mail so you can review your next meditation in 7 days!!! Do it!!!
Peace, love and gratitude,