It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I have not forgotten about you! I have just been busy with life… The garden is now all wrapped up for the year- plans for extending the season with cloches and cold frames have been postponed to next year. I live on the edge of the area impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but was born and raised not far from where it actually made landfall. Between the election and the storm, emotions have run pretty high for the past few weeks.
I don’t do well when tempers are flaring around me. Moods and emotions tend to rub off on me, and it’s very uncomfortable… I’m generally a pretty mellow, happy person when left to my own feelings. When things get tense and emotional, though, I need to find some way to get grounded so that I can actually focus on doing what I can do to improve things.
Getting grounded and out of the emotional whirlwind is what I’m talking about today. I know it’s not really directly creative, but I find that if I’m well grounded, I am able to be more creative and productive. When I’m in emotional overload, I have a really tough time focusing on anything. If I can’t focus, then I’m pretty much useless!
Meditation and/or prayer are about the only things I’ve found that work for getting me off of the emotional roller coaster ride. They say that you can talk to friends about the stuff that weighs on you and it’ll help, but I find the opposite to be true. The more I talk, the more upset I get. (It took me a lot of years to figure that one out!)
Now sometimes, for me, it’s enough to just spend a bit of time out in nature- a walk through the woods, some time in a canoe, or even just tending the vegetable garden can help me to ground and center. When things get really intense, though, that is unlikely to be enough. I have two methods that I find to be really useful in tough times.
The first is writing something called…
Now, if you’ve read The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron, you know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who have not read that really wonderful book (I highly recommend it!!), Morning Pages is simple a daily exercise that helps to clear the mind- and it really, really works well. It is very meditative, though not in the traditional sense of the word.
The basic concept is as follows… Immediately upon waking, you pull out a notebook and write whatever is on your mind. You write 3 full pages, without pausing. When you don’t know what to write, you write “I don’t know what to write.,” repeatedly until you think of something. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever made it through the entire sentence before something sprang to mind. The point is that you’re not thinking about what you’re writing; you are just writing whatever thoughts spring into your mind- it should be done in a very stream-of-consciousness manner. When you’re done the 3 pages, you tuck them away and do not go back and re-read them for some certain amount of time (I can’t remember if it’s 3 days or a week, or some other amount of time- it’s been a while since I read the book).
Now, I do not do the morning pages exactly like that. I tried to do it that way for about 2 weeks, but I ran into some problems with it, so I adapted it to meet my needs. The first problem is that I usually wake up because Mother Nature is calling. She will not be denied or postponed. So I usually tend to that business first. The second problem is with hand-writing. I write very slowly and sloppily, and am prone to writer’s cramp. By the time I finished writing out one sentence, my brain had jumped 3 or more sentences ahead- my hand just could not keep up.
I am a much faster typist than I am a writer. So I tried my hand at typing the morning pages. It took me about 2 weeks for the typing to be anywhere near as helpful as the writing by hand. By the end of a month, though, I am pretty sure that typing them had become more effective than writing, as it overcame the aforementioned problems.
Another problem that I had with the method given in the book was that I would tend to get distracted before making it to page 3. I decided that I would try setting a timer and writing for a set amount of time instead of doing 3 pages. I timed myself for a couple of days to see where it was that I got distracted, and it seemed to persistently be at around the 23 minute mark. I decided that 20 minutes should be enough time for me to do it.
I had a few other obstacles to deal with, too, but those were the biggies. So now, when I’m doing my morning pages, I make sure I’m all set up the night before. This way I just plop myself down at the computer in the morning and am ready to go.
I have a cup of coffee in hand, open up my word processing program, and while that opens (it takes a few seconds to load up), I set my timer. I have a pen and paper handy so that I can jot down tasks that need to be added to the day’s To Do list as they occur to me (another one of those distractions, LOL). And I type until I’m done. It usually ends up being 1 1/2 – 2 pages.
When I first started doing it this way, I would copy/paste the pages into an email that I sent to myself. More recently, though, I’ve begun changing the font size to super small (6 or 8 pt) and printing it out. I like the fact that it ends up fitting on a single page this way, so I’m not wasting tons of paper, but it’s also not out there in the internet ether where someone could hack into my email and read my innermost thoughts.
The other method I use is…
A Shielding Meditation
I find this meditation works well when I’m feeling scattered and unfocused, as well as helping me to keep from becoming bogged down in other peoples’ negativity. I like to do this one when I’m sitting in my rocking chair, barefoot, and listening to a track from a Native American drumming CD (I particularly enjoy Dave & Steven Gordon). I like to rock very slightly & gently, in time with the drums, as I find it helps me to center more quickly. I also find it helpful to have my hair down, instead of in my usual headband or ponytail.
Seat yourself comfortably, resting your arms and hands however is most comfortable for you. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
Take a few normal, but deep, breaths. As you exhale, do so forcefully. (This is how I start all of my meditations. It’s my cue to myself that it’s time to ‘center down’)
Breathe in through your nose deeply, inhaling positive energy
pause for a heartbeat or 2, and
Exhale slowly and fully through your mouth, releasing any negativity.
Repeat this breathing pattern a few times, until you begin to feel yourself become centered…
You don’t need to be in a full-on meditative state at this point, but you should feel calm and as though you’re beginning to reach the meditative state. How long this takes will depend upon how your state of mind and consciousness was when you began. (I could get into a long-winded discourse on the different types of brain waves here, but I’ll leave that for another day.)
If you find yourself beginning to think as you do the breathing, it’s okay- it’s actually perfectly natural. Don’t become irritated or annoyed with yourself, just gently bring your focus back to the breathing… in with love, peace, joy and positive energy… feel it washing through you, like a gentle rain… and out with all of the negativity- feel it begin to be released with your breath…
Now, continuing to breathe deeply but naturally, and continuing to breathe in the positive and exhale the negative, become aware of your feet. Try to feel the energy pulsing there. There are minor chakras, or energy centers, on your feet and hands. Can you feel them? Breathe and be aware of them.
Visualize the energy at your feet moving down into the earth, as if you’re growing energetic roots. Feel the energy pulsing gently into the earth. Feel yourself connecting to that nurturing energy. Allow any negativity that’s remaining within you to drain out through those roots and into the Earth. The Earth is very good at mulching up the yucky stuff and turning it into something useful, so don’t hesitate to give it all over. You may begin to feel the Earth energy moving up your body a little bit, almost like a warm gentle tide coming in. This is fine. Relax into it and feel your connection with Earth growing stronger.
Again, if you find yourself thinking about other stuff, just gently bring your awareness back to your breathing and your energetic roots. Is it just your feet that have those roots, or have your legs and tailbone joined in, as well?
Release the negativity into the Earth and feel yourself becoming a bit lighter and more in synch with the Universe.
Now bring your attention to the crown of your head. Feel the energy there begin to reach up toward the Heavens. You are a part of this amazing Universe where everything is connected. Feel your energy reaching up like branches on a tree, hungry for the sunlight. Feel the sunlight kissing your energetic branches, warming you with positive energy that moves through you. The positive energy fills you up with love and joy. (If I’m alone at this point, I often reach my arms up, emulating branches of a tree. It just feels ‘right’ to me to do this, though I’m sure it looks pretty silly. Feel free to do it or not- whatever you feel comfortable with.)
As the positive energy flows through you, allow it to wash away any of those stubborn negative ‘stains’.
After a little time, you’ll begin to feel the nurturing Earth energy and the joyful Heavenly energy swirl around and meet (this is when I usually put my arms back down). Allow them to merge within you. You are a conduit for this flow of Universal energy, and it is a wonderful and joyful thing. The energy of the Heavens comes in through the crown of your head, moves through your body and down into the welcoming, nurturing Earth, and you can feel the gentle, soothing pulse of the heartbeat of the Universe.
Breathe deeply and relish the feeling of connectedness.
Now, while this energy is still moving through you, visualize yourself surrounded by a clear bubble. The Universal energy can move through it, but the bubble is impenetrable to other peoples’ negative energy. The bubble will only allow loving, nurturing energy through. It is comfortable and soothing… like an old pair of sweatpants, fresh from the dryer, but very strong.
Feel the energy continue to pulse through you as the bubble surrounds you. The energy expands into the bubble, filling it with peace and joy. You may begin to feel a little light headed at this point. If you feel that way, just continue breathing and allowing the energy to wash over and through you. Feel your roots reaching deep into the Earth and feel the steadiness that can be found there. (This part of the exercise helps remove any energetic ‘suckers’ that may have latched onto you, and it can be mildly unsettling to be freed of them in such a short space of time. That is usually the source of any lightheadedness, so just take a moment to adjust and regain your balance, if needed.)
The energy expands to just outside of the bubble, and as it breaches that boundary, a rainbow of colors begin to swirl on the exterior of the bubble. The swirling colors will ‘catch’ any negativity that is headed for you, and the Universal energy will wash it down into the Earth to be mulched up. The Universal energy will also help to patch any holes or scratches that happen to the bubble, if you ask it to do so.
Know that as you go about your day, you maintain the connection to the Heavens & the Earth, and the bubble will stay with you as long as you want it to.
Take a few more deep breaths, feeling love and gratitude, and open your eyes.
Once you’ve done the full meditation a few times, and have familiarized yourself with it, you can do a short version of it, pretty much anywhere or any time that you’ve got a moment to be “still”, before entering a situation where you may be faced with negativity. It’s a good reinforcement to keep any of the yuckiness from sticking to you. (I don’t recommend this, but I’ve actually done the reinforcement while walking with one of those negative people.)
For the abridged version, I just use keywords to run through the steps, a few breaths for each one-
breathe- release- root- branch- bubble- rainbow swirl- breathe- gratitude
It can be done in under a minute, if need be, but I find that 2-3 minutes is optimal for giving the bubble, and my connection to the Universal energy, a strength boost.
Do not attempt to do this, or any other meditation while driving, operating machinery, or doing anything else that requires your full attention.