The Comfort of my Mala

 

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.” 
L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

It’s been a harrowing ten days for me. Lots of family drama involving multiple family members, illness, tests, surgery, hospitals, worry and responsibility.

Things are finally settling down, and so it is only now that I can feel into how exhausted I am. Physically and emotionally it has been extremely tough. And so this morning at 4am, when I woke ready to meditate, nothing would come.

Nothing would come but I could feel how deep my need was for connection and solace.

In the dark my hands reached for my bag beside the bed. I felt for my Mala beads and gently lifted them up into my lap, and then my fingers found their way to the guru bead and my start position, and as easily as breathing I began to calm, my fingers working the beads, my worries and exhaustion falling away.

I have used Mala beads in meditation now for nearly forty years. Still they teach me. Still they open new places inside me, and in my awareness and knowledge.

Even holding or wearing my Mala brings me peace.

Soon I will teach my next retreat, showing each student how to craft their own Mala. Showing their own fingers how to seek out and hold each bead. Showing them how to connect with and use their Mala for prayer, for meditation, for manifestation, for connection to self and soul and all that is.

The idea of that sharing filled my weary heart this morning, bringing me comfort and inner expansion. I finished my meditation with a deep calm and a renewed energy.

Praying the Mala is one of the most restorative practices I know, and I’m so grateful to have this in my toolkit.

I said a prayer for you all this morning too, that you connect with your dreams and inner wisdom this week, and that your creative projects and life direction make themselves known to you. It’s a magical week for that kind of energy.

Biggest love and hugs to you, Nicole  xx

A Simple Breath Meditation for Stress, Anxiety and Fatigue

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated or long.

This is a soothing and energising technique that is simple to understand and that can bring a sense of increased calm and peace in as little as a few minutes. It really helps to ground you and get you back into your body.

Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Stand or sit in a relaxed way, with your feet firmly on the ground. Become aware of your feet, and of the front of your body. Breathe through your nose.
  2. On your next in-breath, imagine that you are drawing the breath up from the earth, through your feet and all the way up into your head. Imagine your breath like a wave running up onto the shore.
  3. On your out-breath, exhale through your mouth, feeling the air travel down the outside of your body. Imagine your breath like a wave rolling away from the shore and back into the ocean.
  4. Keep breathing in and out with this awareness. Really feel the energy run into and up your body and then out of and down again.
  5. Follow your breath. Let every in-breath energise and restore you, and every out-breathe relax and cleanse you.
Image from pichost.me

Image from pichost.me

How to do Tonglen Meditation – a Beginner’s Guide

Heart Chakra image from Juicy*S

Heart Chakra image from Juicy*S

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” 
~ Charles Dickens

At times it is easy to feel small and insignificant – unable to help when all we feel in our hearts is an urge to try. When those we know are suffering, or when there is a catastrophe in another part of the world we might wonder what can be done.

There is something we can do. Meditate!

I first started practicing this meditation as a small girl – maybe three or four years of age.  No one taught me.  I just seemed to know what to do.  My baby sister was fidgeting and restless one night, tossing and turning in the bed beside mine as her teeth came through. I breathed in her fever and distress with every in-breath, and with every out-breath I imagined my breath covering her like a soft blanket, helping her to settle and be calm again.

My ‘magical breathing’ (as I thought of it) worked, and I’ve been doing it ever since, as part of my daily meditation practice.

Child meditating - image from www.vk.com

Child meditating – image from www.vk.com

It was not until I reached my thirties that I found out Tibetan Buddhists have a name for this type of meditation – they call it Tonglen. Tonglen is Tibetan for ‘giving and receiving’ and it is a beautiful and simple practice than anyone can do, with no experience.  What matters is your intent.

Sit or lie quietly, and close your eyes. I like to sit with my spine straight, and my hands together in my lap, thumb tips pressed lightly together. (Use the image of the Dalai Lama at the bottom of this page as a guide.)  If I’m lying in bed, I lie on my back with my hands crossed together over my heart. Try to sit if you can, but for those of you unwell or unable to do so, a prone meditation practice will still work.

Start by imagining someone that you want to help. It might be a friend with depression.  You breathe in the heaviness of their energy and suffering and breathe out joy and peace, or whatever other energy you feel would bring them comfort.

All you ever have to do is ‘breathe in’ the condition, emotion or suffering of another, making room for healing and comfort within them.  Then ‘breathe out’ positive energy, love and light to fill the space you have created.

The suffering of others is also our own suffering, so this meditation can help us as we endeavour to help others.  If you are in pain, breathe in your own pain and also the pain of everyone who is suffering from your affliction.  Breathe out relief to everyone, in whatever form feels most right to you.

Do not worry that the things you breathe in will become a part of you, further weighing you down. As you breathe in suffering it is transmuted back into light, and it dissipates harmlessly.

Sometimes you may not even have a word for what you are breathing it – it will simply be a feeling, a weightiness, a blackness or even a void.  Breathe out hope, lightness, joy and well-being.  Breathe out ease.

At times when we don’t know what else to do, this suffices. As you bring peace to others, you bring it also to yourself.  It is a very soothing and calming practice.  You don’t need to belong to any particular religion, or follow any particular spiritual philosophy.  This simple practice merely acknowledges that we are all human, all connected, and all the same – no matter who we are, or where we come from.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama says of Tonglen:

“Whether this meditation really helps others or not, it gives me peace of mind. Then I can be more effective, and the benefit is immense.”

Image of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in meditation from www.wisdombooks.com

Image of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in meditation from www.wisdombooks.com

‘Pebbles for your pocket’ meditation – a simple way to create inner peace

There is a short meditation I make part of my regular practice.  It involves the selection of four stones or pebbles, and then a simple reflection activity for each stone.  Often I will go for a walk first, and select four stones from the beach or the fields.  I’ve even managed to find four pebbles walking along a suburban sidewalk.

Sometimes I will select four tumbled crystals from my collection, using the energetic qualities or colours of the stones to further enhance my experience.  This is a lovely way for crystal lovers to find a practical use for their stones.

I then do a  five-minute meditation with my chosen stones, and for the rest of the day I carry those four stones with me in my pocket, to remind me of what I have practised in my morning meditation.

(In my pocket today I have citrine for Freshness, rough fluorite for Solidity, clear quartz for Clarity and amethyst for Freedom.♥)

Watch this short video by Thich Nhat Hanh to see how the stones are used in meditation.  You may want to choose your stones first, and then follow along.  Once you’ve done this a few times, and remember what the stones stand for, it’s a simple practice you can do anywhere, which creates a great feeling of peace and calm.