Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow? A Guided Meditation for Creativity

Since posting my last article (Distilling Your Essence: A 7-Step Program), I have received a number of e-mails from readers asking for help with meditation. So I share with you this meditation technique that I developed for working with my creativity.
MED-I-TA-TION [med-i-tey-shuh n]. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines it as "Close or continued thought; the turning or revolving of a subject in the mind; serious contemplation; reflection; musing."

When it comes to meditation, a lot of emphasis is placed on emptying the mind and finding that place of absolute stillness within. But my experience has been that a mind devoid of thought is daunting and mostly impossible.
Think about it: Even the thought of not having a thought is a thought.
Some people find it easy to connect with silence or to completely empty the mind. Ultimately, I believe it’s more important to allow yourself the time and space to connect consciously with your thoughts rather than avoid the process altogether.

In this approach, I have experienced great success.

THE EXERCISE: HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW? This meditation is a combination of contemplation and creative visualization. Here, you are asked to focus your thoughts for a specific purpose but hold them loosely enough to allow for the spontaneous expression of the subconscious mind, where your seeds of truth are often buried.

Our objectives are these: (1) contemplate a specific dream, desire or goal that you would like to achieve, (2) connect with your intuitive or subconscious self to understand what may be blocking the fulfillment of your desire, and (3) creatively transmute the poisons of negative thoughts into healthy growth.

I encourage you to read through all of the steps below before moving into the meditation. Just get a general idea for where this is going and then make it your own.

STEP 1: GET COMFORTABLE. Find a comfortable place to sit or recline. So much of the meditation instruction encourages practitioners to sit a certain way, hold our hands a certain way, touch our fingers together in a certain way, while doing a host of other things. My early days of meditation were frustrating and anything but enlightening. While for some, rules and a defined structure may be comforting, for me, I find that too many rules turn me off and take away from my experience.

So my only “rule” of meditation is this: Find what works for you and never give up.

As for me, I go into meditation almost always lying down, with my head on a pillow, arms and legs uncrossed, and covered with a warm, snuggly blanket. Gentle meditation while lying in bed just before going to sleep often will spark creative dreams that bring solutions to my most pressing dilemmas.

STEP 2: B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Now that you’re comfortable, focus on your breath. Most people find it challenging to focus on two things at once, but connecting with the breath is a great way to slow the mind chatter. Like Rain Man, I find it comforting to count, so mentally I count on the inhale and the exhale, which keeps me focused and grounded in my breath.

Spend a few minutes breathing.

STEP 3: FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE. Imagine that you are sitting under your favorite tree. (I envision myself sitting under an ancient Blue Spruce tree in my backyard.) While comfortably seated on the ground, imagine that you grab a couple of the tree’s above-ground roots lying on either side of your hips and fasten them around you like a seat belt. The roots are important because they represent the core—or root—of your experience, and they serve as a conduit for removing the obstacles to your creativity.

Spend a few minutes breathing under your tree.

STEP 4: AWARENESS IS KEY. In this step, we move into contemplation mode. Consider questions such as:

• What is my dream, goal or objective? What is my creative purpose?
• What skills or qualities do I bring to my endeavor?
• What am I lacking? What do I need to do, be or overcome to fulfill my desire?

You can focus on any question for which you want clarification but, again, don’t over “think” it. Try to let your subconscious mind reveal the subtleties of your situation.

Sit with these thoughts for a while. Grab the kernels of truth in a, “Hmmm, this is interesting” sort of way. Don’t judge what comes up. And don’t forget to breathe!

STEP 5: DISTILL YOUR CREATIVE ESSENCE. Now it’s time to turn your lemons into lemonade. To “distill” something means that you are purifying it, taking the negative or contaminated parts and running them through a cleansing process. That’s essentially what we’re doing here in Step 5 as we move into creative visualization.

As you sit under your tree, grab those thoughts of lack or negativity that block your creative path and imagine that you are sending them, one by one, to the root that is fastened around your lap. Visualize the fears or blocks going through the root and into the ground, where they are planted as seeds that then sprout all around you as flowers—the flowers of your dreams. Don’t over think it. The goal is to relax your mind enough to allow for new and helpful information to present itself.

Look around at your new growth and see what’s there. Do you see a solution to your problem? Can you extract even one idea that will help you move forward? Are some of your dreams ready to harvest?

Spend some time in your new garden and make a mental note of anything that may help you move in the direction of your creative dreams. And b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

STEP 6: WINDING DOWN. Now we work in reverse. Start by giving thanks for your fully-functioning intuitive self and your creative nature. When you’re ready, unfasten your root-belt and disengage from your position of contemplation. Spend a few minutes counting your breath before slowly bringing yourself back to the present moment. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Stretch your arms and legs. Slowly move your head around and, when you’re ready, open your eyes . . . relaxed, present and ready to make your action plan.

STEP 7: DREAM CATCHER. Immediately following your meditation, before you get busy or distracted with the details of life (or before falling asleep), take 10 minutes to write down your impressions from your session. Like recording your nighttime dreams, the information you receive in meditation is most clear immediately upon waking.

Disclaimer: Remember, if you hear “voices” telling you to do things that you know are inappropriate, run, not walk, to your nearest psychotherapist’s office and do not attempt meditation again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Distilling Your Essence: A 7-Step Program

When asked where God is, people point towards the sky or some far distant region; no wonder then that He does not manifest Himself! Realize that He is in you, with you, behind you, and all around you; and he can be seen and felt everywhere.
~Sathya Sai Baba
My last article touched on our Creative Essence, reminding us that every living thing contains within it a bit of the Creative-I-Thought-of-Everything-Loving-Life-Force—or Source—from which it came. We need only to open our eyes and look around—or go within—to see evidence of our creative existence. It’s in our DNA.
This is good news! Made in this image--though on a lesser scale than our Creator--you can bet that something so intricately woven together as the human life carries with it what it needs to get along in the world. And that means a creative touch.
But how do we move from intellectualizing to connecting; from observing to being? With so much creative potential at our disposal, how do we distill our creative essence and bring forth our riches in the physical world?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. OPEN UP! The first step to create anything of value in life is to open yourself to its possibilities. This means not only making your connection a priority—carving out time and space to align with higher wisdom—but also opening your heart and mind with the curiosity of a child and a willingness to explore your true nature. Do you really believe that God is someone or something “up there,” separate from you? Be willing to challenge the accepted wisdom and find the truth that resonates with you. Your deep-rooted beliefs will shape your expectations of what's possible for your life. Count on it.

2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T . . . our girl Aretha sang it best. Start with yourself. Learn to appreciate all that you are, as you are. Get rid of the negative self-talk and loathing. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself—or some characteristic that holds you back from living your best life—and it’s within your power to change, then change it. Otherwise, find a way to let it go.
Can you imagine giving your beloved a gift and every time you turned around she trashed it? I think that's what it must be like for God when we disrespect ourselves and trash our gift of life.

When you have the ability to see yourself clearly, and love yourself enough to set healthy boundaries for your life, playing the role of victim doesn't work. With this awareness, you then become the kind of person who actually participates in the shaping of your life. There's no need to disparage yourself or gossip about others—all of that fades away—as you move from a path of negativity to one of goodness and light. There’s nothing closer to your Source than that!

3. CALL YOUR MOTHER! Mother Earth, that is. Go ahead kids . . . go outside. Get moving. Take a hike. Engage your body in its natural environment. Go to a park or sit by the water's edge. Sit on a rock and b-r-e-a-t-h-e! Pay attention to the beauty around you. Going green is not just about recycling and reducing your carbon footprint. It’s also about seeing the environment as a living organism--just like yourself. With that kind of connection, creativity naturally flows.

4. STOP. LOOK. LISTEN. Slow down, open your eyes and listen. The world is full of little angels and messengers from God who bring wisdom and inspiration. Like my cousin’s six year old daughter, who gently encouraged her mother during a fit of road rage to consider “what that person in the other car might be going through.” Get out of yourself and pay attention to other people. Be curious. Ask questions. You might learn a few things. The inspired mind is a playground for creativity.

5. MED-I-TA-TION [med-i-tey-shuh n]. I come from a long line of deep thinkers. For some it’s a blessing; for others, a curse. For me, it expresses itself as a tendency to spend incredible amounts of time mulling over the mysteries of life, asking “What does it all mean?” Meditation is my key. I’m not talking about a mind devoid of thought (although sometimes that's preferred). Here, I’m speaking of disciplined thought—the ability to engage in focused contemplation, usually on a spiritual or philosophical subject, that leads to a greater understanding of your life and the mysteries around you. Like anything, the ability to quiet your mind and engage in conscious reflection takes practice, but the rewards are great. Go deep.

6. PGS. [Prayers of Gratitude and Service]. If you have a roof over your head—give thanks. If you can get out of the bed in the morning and walk to the bathroom—waive your hands in the air! When you discover that your seeming “unanswered prayer” was, in fact, a blessing—shout out, “Hallelujah!” Make prayers of gratitude everyday—even for the small things—and then, armed with your many blessings, get out there and give back to the world. There's an energy in giving and there’s no better way to engage your Creative Essence than by loving your life and helping humanity through service to others. And when you give, your focus will shift from what you don't have to what you have to give. Remember, there’s always someone out there a little worse off than you.

7. CONNECT WITH J-O-Y! Ellen DeGeneres cracks me up. Every guest on her show is required to dance when they come onstage. She plays all kinds of crazy-disco-hip-hop-booty-shake music; you can’t help but smile just watching them. They’re smiling, too--even the stiffest of stiffs. And how can you not feel happy when you’re smiling? Smiles, like yawns, are contagious.
So whether it’s dancing, painting, playing with your children, traveling, making music, writing, having mind-blowing sex or working in the garden, connect with what brings your heart the greatest joy and make it a priority in your life! If you find it hard to experience happiness and joy--if your senses have been dulled by depression or years of repression--be patient with yourself. It may be a matter of rewiring the pleasure centers in your brain. This takes time, patience and repeated expressions of joy--but it can be done.
Choose to move through the world with a glad and cheerful heart—it will radiate to everyone around you. And that, my friends, is the essence of our Creative Source.


If you have unique ideas or special ways that you connect with the Divine, I would love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at Melissa@AThousandHearts.com or send a comment to this post by clicking on the comment button below. Your idea or story may be included in my book.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Get to the Source

Got milk? My sister does . . . in abundance these days . . . as she enters month two of the breast-feeding frenzy that has become her life.

Since giving birth to my niece in November, she has worked round the clock to keep her supply in check. When she’s not feeding she’s pumping and when she’s not pumping she’s feeding. And on a recent solo outing to the market, she learned the messy truth of her mammary glands—they respond to the cry of any baby, not just her own. Consider the implications.

Watching my sister move from pregnant wife to mother has been a gentle reminder of the truth of my own existence—a reminder that we carry with us all that we need for our journey through life.

I marvel at the process. There’s the act of procreation (S-E-X), which is an amazing gift to humans, intricate and fascinating in its own right, which results in the creation of this tiny little drop of fluid—the joining of sperm and egg—that contains within it everything this new life will be.

Beyond the decision to have sex and care for her unborn child, my sister had nothing to do with “making” her baby. She didn’t have to schedule time to create fingers and toes on day 10, lips on day 42 and hair in month six.

It was all taken care of from the moment of conception—height, metabolism and bone structure, the color of her eyes and hair, the blood coursing through her veins, the gifts and talents at her disposal, even her reason for being just waiting to be discovered in a moment of “Aha!”

Then, after that little bundle of joy came out, my sister’s body sort of went on auto-pilot. The girl who, once, could sleep through anything now wakes at the slightest sound. Not only does mother’s milk deliver to baby the sustenance she needs, produced on queue with a hungry cry, but breastfeeding serves another function—it helps mom lose the weight she gained during pregnancy. Bonus points!

It’s extraordinary, really. We’re all in a constant state of creation and movement. Every day, our bodies kill off old cells and make new ones. We breathe. Our hearts beat. We sleep and wake. We eat and drink and our bodies process it all—distributing nutrients where needed and eliminating the rest as waste—all through an intricate system of organs, tissues and cells that we have absolutely nothing to do with (not consciously, anyway).

Consider, too, our ability to think and reason, focus and build—to create something new from raw materials; our capacity to love and experience a whole range of emotions and desires; our ability to communicate with others and be inspired. And let’s not forget our internal guidance system (IGS), cleverly designed to help us navigate the physical world through intuition, higher consciousness and messages from the world of Spirit.

It’s not just we humans that won the lucky lottery of design. I see this intelligence displayed in every living thing around me. From our furry little dog friends who receive a second coat of hair in the winter to keep them warm . . . to the endangered lynx with the instinct to know when it’s time to climb to higher ground . . . to the peony bulb planted in my garden that grows beautiful new flowers year after year—even when they’ve spent the winter under a blanket of snow . . . and to the rising and setting sun, dancing in the sky with its opposite, the moon, never deviating from their course.

With such careful attention to detail, such brilliance behind all design, do we really think we’re beyond its perfect reach?

Remember: Every living thing contains within it a bit of the Source from which it came. You can move it, put it in different containers, and define it with labels—human, animal, flower, tree, water—but its essence remains the same: Creative Spirit, from which all possibilities flow. We are made in this image, they say. And it's up to us to distill our essence and bring forth the riches waiting to be expressed in the physical world.

True, we may not be able to create a new species of animal on demand . . . and we may not be born with every material advantage . . . or an automatic solution to every problem . . . and for anyone who has ever pursued a goal or dream or wanted something really, really badly, we know that it isn’t as simple as wishing it so.

But, technically, as humans we come equipped to handle whatever comes our way—to function in the world, get creative, invent things, solve problems, structure meaningful lives and make choices about how we want to experience our environment—all through these amazingly complex and beautiful bodies that, in many ways, take care of themselves.

Unlike our wildlife friends, however, we get trapped in our minds thinking we’re separate, trying to control it all and make it happen NOW; at times feeling blocked and victimized by our circumstances.

That’s precisely when we need to remember our creative blue print and reconnect with the Creative-I-Thought-of-Everything-Loving-Life Force—or Source—from which we came. It’s our birthright.

Life is the gift. What we make of it and how we use it—even in the face of tragedy and disappointment—is our choice and, I believe, the ultimate act of creation here on Earth.

Now, then, the question remains: What will be your legacy?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Horse With No Name

Every man is divinity in disguise.
It is God playing the fool.

“I See You” by MJohnson; © 2009
Now I’ve been up close and personal with some animals—dogs, cats, monkeys, raccoons, bears, even some endangered species like the lynx and bobcat that visit my land—but never a horse...in the middle of the road...on a dark and snowy night.
I suppose stranger things have happened.
‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and I was on my way home from a holiday musical extravaganza sponsored by the Unity Church of Boulder.
With a new moon rising and snow clouds hanging low in the sky, visibility was limited as I wound my way up the familiar stretch of Boulder Canyon toward my home. Sticking close to the canyon wall, slowly, I drove through the snow, all the while contemplating the meaning of “Unity.” What does it really mean—this concept of oneness?
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I came upon a horse running wildly back-and-forth across the narrow, two-lane road, sliding as she maneuvered uphill in the snow. The unexpected sight of her scared me half to death; she was scared, too. So I stopped and turned on my hazard lights, not sure what to do next, but this much I knew: Boulder Canyon is no place for a horse, especially at night when it’s snowing.
For a brief moment I watched her and, she, looking over her shoulder, watched me. And then I did the only thing I could think of to do: I rolled down my window and talked to her.
“Don’t be scared . . . I’m not going to hurt you,” I said softly. “Please, you have to get out of the road before you cause an accident.”
She stopped running, eyeing me suspiciously.
“Please, come here . . . you have to get out of the road,” I pleaded.
Slowly, she turned and walked toward me.
“Come here, girl, I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help you,” I continued, coaxing her with promises of safety while holding out my hand to her through the open window.
She approached my car, towering high above it, and lowered her head to meet me at eye level. As I reached out to touch the side of her face I saw something in her eyes that changed me. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of her spirit and I understood with acute awareness what I had only intellectualized until then—that the same life force that moved through her flowed through me. The same vital energy that animated her form, gave life to mine, albeit in different packages.
It was as if time stood still for me and that horse on the canyon. I whispered, “I see you.”
Just then a car came barreling around the corner and slammed on the brakes. My new friend freaked out and started running around my car. She had no bridle or halter to grab, so there was little I could do but work out a plan with the man in the car behind me to get the horse out of the road. We agreed—he would stay with the horse and warn oncoming cars with flashing lights, and I would drive the remaining three miles up the canyon and get the local police to help us.
The rest of the story played out like a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. I ran into the police station and exclaimed with excitement: “There’s a horse in the middle of the canyon.” To which the officer replied, “Yeah, what does the horse look like?”
What? So I described the horse and told them of the man I had left behind on the canyon waiting for help, and I discovered that the officers knew the horse—or at least they knew the horse’s owner—and they followed me out to remedy the situation. The horse was rescued. Crisis averted. It was surreal.
Later, as I pulled into my driveway, I couldn’t shake the intensity of my experience with that horse—the moment of connection with her living spirit. What a precious gift to see and truly understand the essence of the Law of One, which reminds us that we are all unique expressions of the same Creative Source, interconnected with everyone and everything else. Call that Source whatever you like—God, Allah, Great Spirit, Creator, the “Big C”—it matters not, because there is only One from which all things flow.
You are at once a beating heart
and a single heartbeat in the body called humanity.
~Dr. Wayne Dyer
Oneness is a concept emphasized by many, and has been, perhaps, one of the toughest ideas for me to wrap my mind around. It is simple enough in theory to say that we’re all one, but when I see my neighbor in his yard shoveling snow and I’m standing across the street in my own yard—physically separate from him—it’s hard to make the connection. It is especially challenging for me to find the common thread when I look at the most repulsive of criminal offenders—rapists, murderers and child molesters—for it is here that I am most keen to distinguish myself in every conceivable way. It’s even more difficult to conceptualize my oneness with the creek flowing through my back yard or the horse in the middle of the canyon, particularly when I consider the differences in our physical constitutions.
To grasp this concept requires that we open our minds and see beyond our physical limitations. Analogies help. For instance, if I pour wine from a bottle into your glass, what do you have? A glass of wine—the same wine that’s still in the bottle, only now a portion of it has been transferred to another container. The same is true of me, the horse and the vital energy that flows through us, bringing our “containers” to life. True, our containers are quite different and come with unique bells and whistles—in that way, we’re definitely not the same—but we come from One, which makes us all related in a wonderfully abstract way.
Spiritual teachers and mystics across time have urged us to consider that what we do to one we do to all; that we cannot hurt another without also, in some way, hurting ourselves. And while many of us may find it easy to extend that thought pattern and courtesy to a handful of people we're close to—our immediate family and loved ones—how often do we reach out to help strangers or animals or the environment in the spirit of unity and oneness?
And so this was my Gift of the Magi—wisdom and recognition shared between a girl and a horse on a dark canyon road—and now I pass it on to you.
As we begin a new year, may you discover the peace that comes with understanding your connection to the One.