I’m delighted to be hosting week 2 of our July Self-Care Retreat along with my delicious co-conspirator, Valerie of City Life Eats and our guest hosts, Shirley of Gluten-Free Easily, Wendy of Celiacs in the House and Iris of Daily Dietribe.
We had initially chosen the term mediation, but it’s really broader than that. Whether it’s meditation, guided imagery, breathing, prayer, yoga, tai chi, journaling…to each their own. To me, reflection is whatever helps me pause, be present and BE rather than do. I tend to see inner reflection as the basis for all kinds of self-care, because if I’m not paying attention to my body, I don’t know what I really need. For me, meditation helps me be more present in my life. As a Vipassna teacher named Munindra was quoted,“I practice meditation to notice the small purple flowers growing by the roadside”.
First, a confession: by nature or by habit, I was always a type A, hard driving, over-achieving person who would push all limits and never take no for an answer. I do still have those parts of my personality, but especially after illness/injury, it’s amazing how much I’ve mellowed. I did try to slow down years ago, and even took tai chi in grad school, but it drove me nuts because it was so painfully slow. Yes, I get that’s the point, but it just was like swimming upstream.
And so 8 years ago when I was first injured, I started doing guided imagery to help with pain management. It was fabulous to just relax, even if just for a short period of time. After that, I did a few years of classes in concentration meditation (mantras, gazing, counting, drawing, etc). And yet it was Buddhist meditation that has really ‘stuck’ with me the most–simply paying attention to the sensation of the moment.
It can be a bit challenging to sum up the power of something so simple, so by way of illustration, I found myself really irritated (and being quite obnoxious) to a phone rep last week. And honestly, that’s not the sort of person I consider myself or want to be. So I did take time out to do a meditation, and somewhere in that realized that I was physically exhausted because I hadn’t slept well, I was nervous about a new procedure I’m doing with my leg, I’m in pain, and feeling overwhelmed. So normally I would get into stories about how she was wrong for saying something so ridiculous, or how I was wrong for being such a grouch, or get sucked into something trivial for hours (um…email? Twitter?), or eating mindlessly, and I would be exhausted later, but still not have a sense of what was going on, and how I could better take care of myself. I find that if I don’t stop or pause, I get more and more like a toddler having a meltdown because he really needs a nap.
So for me, meditation is the break that helps me respond…and to respond in a more awake way. To put it more eloquently:
“Wake up, my love. You are walking asleep. There’s no safety in that! Remember what you are and let this knowing take you home to the Beloved with every breath. Hold tenderly who you are and let a deeper knowing colour the shape of your humanness. There is no where to go. What you are looking for is right here.”
Oriah, Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder
It’s also worth noting that for many people, meditation is a practice that takes time and not a *poof!* instantaneous habit. I’ve been doing guided imagery and meditation for almost 8 years. In the beginning when I had crazy pain, it was 3 times a day, every day. Now it’s 1 time a day, sometimes 2. And yet there were months that I only went to a meditation group once a week, or considered my time out in the garden a mediation. I can say that choosing a time has been invaluable–1st thing in the morning, right before bed, right after arriving home, etc. Otherwise, it becomes, yep, I’ll do it later, and later doesn’t happen. It also helps that I host a small meditation group, and of course, that serves as a gentle nudge as well.
And for those of you who feel like they’re too busy to meditate, I like this quote: Half an hour’s meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then, a full hour is needed. –Francis de Sales
I do hope to post on this twice more–on local DC and online mediation/mindfulness resources, and on the research behind meditation. That may be overambitious, we will see! I’d love to hear from YOU, and how you incorporate whatever flavor of mindfulness into your life, and what kind of impact it’s had on you.
This virtual self-care retreat is to inspire you all to make July a month of reflecting on self-care and the many ways to nourish ourselves. We encourage everyone to participate in this event in a way that feels appropriate to them, whether through personal reflection, journal or other self-care. If you would like to share your experience with self-care, we would love to include you in the experience, whether you join us for one week or every week. You can write generally about self-care, or focus on one of the themes (movement, food, family/friends/pets, creativity and meditation and mindfulness), or write every week about each of the themes. We ask that you link back to this post so that more people can learn about this retreat, and leave a comment for the weekly theme host, too!. If you would like to be included in our roundup, please email a link to your post, along with your name and blog name, to us at selfcareretreat at gmail dot com by July 30, 2011. Feel free to use the badge in your posts. Non-bloggers who would like to contribute,please email the full text to the same address and it will be included in the roundup.
Great post, Cheryl! I can’t really imagine you as being Type A or being obnoxious to a sales rep, but your points on why on the latter are good ones. When we are compromised in some way, we are not ourselves and need to take a step back. I’m so sorry that you are in pain, but grateful that the meditation provides relief. I love all the quotes you shared. The only meditation I am doing currently is the breathing exercises at the end of my yoga sessions, but meditation is very powerful in even the simplest forms. I do like the self-guided mediatation, too, and need to get back to that. Thanks, dear, and sending all good thoughts on the new exercises and meditation you are doing to get through them.
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I have always used mindfulness to become part of
the moment of doing something and fully engaging.
For instance, when drinking tea or coffee, fully
become aware of all aspects of the preparation,
pouring, and drinking without thinking of
something else. Just be present, its a great
exercise and then return to the breath when
That’s funny, I used to feel the same way about intentionally slow activities, like I was swimming upstream. But then I began to realize more and more that I’m a human being, not a human doing. I cherish my self-reflective times now.
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Thanks, Shirley. DH snickers at the thought of me NOT being type A (habits are very hard to break!)
Paul, I agree! Tea and coffee can be great opportunities for mindfulness.
Green, I couldn’t agree more. It’s lovely to come to appreciate stillness.
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This topic is *really* resonating with me right now. I am formulating my thoughts and will let you know when I have posted it.
I liked reading about different ways you practiced ways to reflect. I have used guided imagery for years to handle stress and pain. I also love walking labyrinths as reflection. I feel like we need different ways to help ourselves in different situations.