Archive for Meditation Posts

published in Change, Gratitude, Habits, Inspiration, Meditation by Maryanne | July 12, 2016 | No Comment

 

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

 

thank you

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

– Meister Eckhart

Have you ever read the 1990’s best-selling book, Simple Abundance; A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach? If not, I highly recommend it. A good friend gave it to me years ago – and the wisdom within resonated with me so much, it became a bible of sorts.

If you have read it, you may recall that a key principle from the book was the importance of cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.”

– Melody Beattie

“Once we accept that abundance and lack are parallel realities,” writes Ban Breathnach, “and that each day we choose – consciously or unconsciously – which world we will inhabit, a deep inner shift in our reality occurs.”

And so, to help readers get to a place where this deep inner shift can occur, the author came up with a great tool. After the phenomenal success of Simple Abundance, she created The Journal of Gratitude.

Another friend gave that to me!

Although The Journal of Gratitude has a few words of introduction at the beginning as well as inspirational quotes throughout, it’s basically a blank notebook with space for every day of the year to jot down five things one is grateful for – preferably at the end of each day.

“If you give thanks for five gifts every day,” suggests the author, “in two months you will not look at your life in the same way as you might now.”

Why? Because, she explains, by doing so, “You will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”

Now, this may or not be true – although based on personal experience, it certainly seems that way. But honestly, the older I get, the less concerned I am about the Universe sending me MORE – of anything (except maybe a decent guy and quiet neighbours…hah). Other than that, I’ve got more than enough!

What I do find, now that I am (finally) regularly jotting down all that I’m grateful for, is that I really am blessed beyond belief. And there’s a sense of humility that comes along with that profound feeling of appreciation.

I suspect the good vibes that come from taking a few moments every evening to be consciously aware of – and thankful for – one’s blessings does spill over into the rest of one’s life.

I find myself complaining less and thanking more. Gratitude seems to be helping me put things in perspective. I am focusing less on what is NOT working in my life at any given moment and am instead being thankful for all that is working.

But here’s an interesting observation: although I am dwelling far less on the small but annoying negative aspects of my life, when I do think about them, it is far more solution-based i.e. constructive problem-solving versus dwelling on the negative and getting pissed off and frustrated, over and over again, in some sort of weird feed-back loop that never leads to change!

woman meditating green

“Pause for a moment and give thanks. Let your heart awaken to the transforming power of gratefulness.”

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

In other words, making gratitude a regular part of my day – by making the time to actually jot down specifically WHAT I am grateful for and giving thanks – seems to be helping me better address, and hopefully transform, the things I am not…quite so grateful for.

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Indeed. And cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a really good way to positively affect the quality of the day 🙂

happy gardener dog

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy – they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

– Marcel Proust

Happy cultivating!

If you’ve ever kept a gratitude journal, I’d love to hear about it.

Related blog by Maryanne:

The Gift of Gratitude – Appreciating What IS

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.

published in Change, Health, Inspiration, Life Balance, Meditation, Peace by Maryanne | September 16, 2014 | 11 Comments

Why Meditation Matters – Tips from a Magic Monk

 

woman meditating on mountain

“It doesn’t matter…I’m on the path to enlightenment.”

–       Buddhist Monk

If you were a fan of the TV series, Seinfeld, you may remember the episode where George Costanza’s Dad, Frank, was trying to manage his blood pressure by not allowing himself to get angry. But despite his best efforts to practice serenity, whenever something triggered him, he would scream, “SERENITY NOW!”

That hilarious episode is memorable probably because it’s so true. Feeling a sense of serenity during a quiet moment of meditation is one thing; having serenity during the noisy challenges of everyday life is quite another.

In fact, it has been my experience that learning to calm the mind through a meditative technique, such as focusing on our breathing, is difficult enough – even when the external conditions are conducive to serenity. Once one leaves that temporary cocoon of quiet and calm, it is remarkable just how fast that sense of serenity can go right out the window at the first sign of a challenge.

Perhaps that’s why the Universe decided to send in the big guns, in terms of teachers, to teach me about meditation when it is NOT quiet.

Now, for the past three years, my ever-so-patient massage therapist and good friend, Andrea, has had to listen to my woes, on pretty much a weekly basis, about my noisy neighbours. First it was the pounding bass from the girl’s stereo – every day for five hours. Now it’s the guy using his beloved band saw in the backyard, outside my office window, and the screaming kids.

Over the years, Andrea (and others) has tried explaining to me that moving is not the answer – because if I don’t learn what I need to learn in this situation, I will only find myself facing the same problem in a new location.

“It’s you who has to change,” she said.

“But they are the ones who are being noisy,” I said. “They’re selfish and disrespectful.”

“So?”

“So then they’re the ones who should change!” I cried.

“But they are not going to – until you do. That’s how it works.”

Sigh.

“You need to learn how to stop all the drama you’re creating around the noise,” she said.

Hmmm…

“The noise itself isn’t the problem, Maryanne. It’s your reaction to the noise…the story you’re telling yourself – like how rude and disrespectful your neighbours are. That may or may not be true – it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you learn how to deal with the noise so you don’t go insane.”

To this end, Andrea suggested I attend a Buddhist meditation session at the library around the corner from where I live.

“I bet you’ll love the Buddhist Monk who leads it,” she said. “The worst that can happen is you don’t like him and you never go back. The best that can happen is you just might learn something that will help you cope a bit better.”

That was a year ago. Funny how we put off doing the very thing that will probably help us the most.

But then, last Monday, when the new fall meditation session started, I decided to give it a try. Andrea even made plans to join me, so she could introduce me to the Monk…or so she said. She probably just wanted to make sure I actually went!

For Monday morning is prime-time writing for me…I’m at my most rested and alert to get my work done. Taking 90 minutes to listen to a Buddhist Monk and meditate seemed a bit…well, you know – perhaps not the most effective use of a Monday morning.

I was wrong.

Now interestingly, on that same morning I happen to be reading Elisabeth Fayt’s book, Paving it Forward; The Energy of Creating, and came across this mantra:

 “My environment is perfect for me.”

“Any challenge that is not received in the right attitude,” Fayt explained, “will need to be re-played in the drama of life until you get it.”

And then wouldn’t you know it but, as if on cue, the landscaping guys working at the condos behind my backyard started up their industrial strength weed-whackers. They usually show up on Friday mornings to annoy me.

So I calmly put on my runners and walked around the corner to meet my Monk. After Andrea introduced us, we took our seats.

“Oh and by the way,” she whispered, “he has this amazing ability of picking up on the energy of the individuals in the group. It’s like he can somehow tell what people are struggling with on any given day – and then tweaks his comments accordingly.”

Hmmm, I thought to myself, a magic Monk.

“Happiness is a state of mind,” the Monk began. “When our minds are calm, we are at peace. So what we will be learning in the coming weeks is how to use the tool of meditation to train our minds to be calm, so that when things anger or irritate us, we can always guide our minds back to that calm state.”

Bring it on, Brother!

“The problem,” he said, “is that we tend to get attached to the feelings we assign to whatever it is that’s bothering us. We often allow our happiness to depend on what is happening around us.”

Then, I kid you not – a jackhammer starts up outside the library window.

Wow…this guy is good! At first, the Monk didn’t even acknowledge the noise. He just kept on talking about how easy it is to get wrapped up in our negative feelings towards whatever it is we may be dealing with.

“For example,” he then says, with a smile, “let’s say there is a…distracting noise that really irritates you. How do you deal with that?”

I turned and looked at Andrea, my mouth hanging open.

“You ignore it,” the Monk said, answering his own question.

I looked back at him, incredulous. IGNORE IT?! How the heck do you ignore a jackhammer outside the window when you’re trying to learn meditation?

“The person operating that jackhammer,” he said, “is just doing their job. You could go out and bonk them on the head to make them stop. But that’s perhaps not the best course of action for all concerned. Plus it’s a rather negative thought that isn’t going to serve you…or change the outcome.”

I thought back to the times I’d fantasized about shoving my neighbour’s band saw – or stereo – where the sun don’t shine 🙁 Oops. That could possibly be construed as a rather negative thought…but it sure felt good at the time!

“No matter what you are dealing with,” the Monk continued, “just remember that it is all part of what you are here to learn.”

The Monk looked around the room and smiled kindly. “So just say to yourself: it doesn’t matter…I’m on the path to enlightenment.”

I smiled back. Message received.

Then we did some breathing meditations where we focused on breathing in and out, in and out. He advised us to just ignore everything else that was happening around us, such as noises and movement, and in us – such as thoughts. Whenever our mind began to wander, we were to just gently bring our focus back to our breathing.

The Monk explained that meditation is simply a tool used to train the mind to be calm, so that when the inevitable stresses, challenges and irritations of every day life happen, our minds will eventually automatically default to that calm state – instead of reacting with thoughts, feelings and all the damn drama.

Mastering meditation obviously isn’t going to happen overnight – or the next decade for that matter. But I am already astounded at the difference in the quality of my day when I choose to walk away, or put in earplugs, whenever an annoying noise starts up around me – instead of allowing it to trigger negative thoughts that lead to feelings of anger and frustration.

In the bigger picture, the ever-unfolding saga next door is brilliant writing material! As such, I’m saving the drama in my head for the page – and have started writing a hilarious play about the situation, aptly titled, The Neighbours.

And speaking of the bigger picture, since we are supposed to learn to love thy neighbour, maybe that’s why we don’t always get the neighbours that are easy to love. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed to mostly have that kind. But perhaps the real test is to learn to love the not-so-loveable neighbours? Now that’s a worthy challenge.

Why?

Because the hate I have felt for my noisy neighbours is no different than the hate that people at war in all corners of the globe have for each other – and kill each other for.

Peace is peace…and if we can’t find it in own hearts and minds then we will never be able to achieve it on the world stage. I learned that in this week’s meditation session.

He is a magic Monk 🙂

Maryanne Pope is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. She is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the playwright of Saviour. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.