Archive for February 11th, 2012

Gentle Meditation

Although we are not often taught this, the most skillful way through an impasse in meditation is to become aware of it and of what holds it together and keeps it running.

To do this, you need to keep doing the meditation instructions that have gotten you to this point, but instead of following them “harder,” try approaching them in a softer, gentler manner. Do them loosely, and don’t do them all of the time.

– Jason Siff, “The Problem with Meditation Instructions” Read the entire article in the Tricycle Wisdom Collection

I love this meditation tidbit.

So often, we are anything but gentle with ourselves.  We would be so hurt if our children, lover, or best friend would talk to us the way we talk to ourselves.  I think this is most especially true when we are in tremendous pain.

You know how we talk to ourselves when we really hurt?  Think of the last time you stubbed your toe or banged your head.  I bet the expletives probably flew before you even knew it.  Did you know that most of us do the same thing to ourselves, in our minds, all day long?

Imagine if you are ill and the dialogue you might be telling yourself again and again without ever really “hearing it”. . .

what did I do wrong?

why didn’t I see the doctor earlier I know that grandma so-so died of this disease?

how am I going to deal with this because I’m not strong enough?

Mindfulness meditation gives us the time and space to sit down and be with ourselves.  It gives us the quiet to tune in and listen to what is going on with us.

And as we practice, we learn to just watch this drama, watch the stuff that we say, think, feel.  We are taught to do nothing more than to label it and let it go.  With time, we learn to have compassion with ourselves.

When you come to those impasses that Siff discusses above, just stay with them gently.  Lean into them lightly the way you would if you were doing yoga.  But, remember, this isn’t “gym time”… this isn’t no pain/no gain time. . . it’s about being respectful of where you are at, in the moment, and what you are able to tolerate.

Experiencing the softness in your heart, the tender points, in meditation can be so valuable to us as we learn to allow ourselves to sit with what is.  Try 5 minutes of sitting with your thoughts a day and learn to tolerate this new experience.

With time, when you are ready, add more time.  Don’t start with so much time that you start to hit a brick wall of aggravation and dismay.  Always start small and add to your practice so you have a more positive experience.  Take your time.  You have no where to go or to be that you have to hurry through your meditations.  It’s all about being just where you are, just how you are.


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English: Two hands holding

Image via Wikipedia

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved but hope for the patience to win my freedom.

Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling Your mercy in my success alone; but let me find the grasp of

Your hand in my failure.


*I love these words. . .the words that start the first chapter of the book On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

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English: Love Heart symbol interlaced

Image via Wikipedia

According to Advancements in Bereavement, “Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, reports that research has found your risk of a heart attack is 21 times greater than normal in the day following the death of a loved one and decreases steadily during the first month.”

Some say we die of a broken heart.  I don’t know if that’s true or not. . . it’s certainly a romantic idea and I know of at least one couple that would love to believe that at a certain age, they will crawl into bed (similar to that in the Notebook) and hold hands and never wake up.

I think there are many possible reasons for the increased incidents of heart attacks during that first month.  There are several links below to other articles that discuss this phenomenon.

First, have you been caregiving and not taking care of yourself?  Have you taken the time to be mindful of your own health (and if you are like most of us caregivers in most caregiving situations, you have not.  there’s no shame in it, that’s what happens when we are caregiving).

As I have said in an earlier post, going to see a health care professional is not a bad idea if you are newly bereaved, but especially after caregiving.  You don’t need to go and get on meds.  That’s not what I am suggesting but you can have blood work checked, get your blood glucose measured, find out what your blood pressure is, etc.  It’s good for no other reason than to have a baseline.

Secondly, if it was a parent, sibling, or grandparent that you lost, maybe you have a predisposition toward the same life-limiting disease?  That is not to say that you are doomed to experience the same disease, it is to say that you have a tendency toward it and you may want to make sure you are taking care of yourself to keep the disease/illness away.

Lastly, I am sure that there are many more, but I’m trying to work on keep posts short, just think about the terrible jolt that loss is to your whole being.  Think about what happens when you step on the brake pedal to avoid a car accident.  Now think of that happening several times as you ride the rollercoaster of caregiving during someone’s illness or the ups and downs of mourning your life and trying to recreate a new narrative.

What we think, how we feel, and what we ingest and surround ourselves with have major impacts on our minds and bodies.  Perhaps the stress it too great.  Perhaps we are dealing with the whole flight, fright, fight, or freakout mechanism that we go through instinctively.

Given that this is a time of particular importance for our own well-being, as we pick up pieces of life and experience the tumultuous waves of mourning, picking up some important self-care tips could be the very simple things to save our lives (and sanity).

Simple things such as trying to eat healthy food, getting sleep when we are tired, drinking plenty of water, and getting out in fresh air for walks are all small steps.  Continue to check back for other small steps we can take to keep our hearts (physical and metaphorical) healthy as we face life, moment by moment.


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