Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An afternoon in bed

an afternoon in bed

I see
a bruised cloud
out my window
ripe with rain


this world
is for me

I see
a pee-colored stain
on the floor
that damn dog


this world
is for me

(There are no photos accompanying my simple poem becuase I couldn't decide whether to take one of the rain-cloud or the pee-stain, and by the end of the afternoon they'd both disappeared. Ahhh...impermanence. )

Monday, September 28, 2009

Let everything happen...No feeling is final

Yesterday I was in bed wrapped up in my thick doona and electric blanket, but this morning Spring sprung out of no-where. Yay! I sat outside in the glorious sunshine, pulling up the bottoms of my jeans so I could get some sun on my lily-white legs.

I started my meditation practice by just asking, 'How do I feel?' 

Breathing slowly in and out, I slowly directed attention throughout my body, and towards my feelings. 

Over the next twenty minutes image after image arose; a burnt-out tree in a desolate landscape; someone lost in a pale blue sea of sadness; an endless field of frozen ice. They were all images of loss and hopelessness. 

As I just whispered, 'yes...yes...just stay...just stay' to myself, I thought of this Rilke poem, which I heard yesterday on a podcast talk by Tara Brach.

Let Everything Happen
Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

 Photo: "Nighttime on Muri" from a travel blog.

Do you have a favorite poem that help you with your meditation practice?  I'd love to know, please just leave a comment. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lie back and think of...your breath

Ricky, from Not Done Living, wrote a long response to my post on Simple Breath Meditation saying that she has problems staying awake while she's meditating.  Falling asleep isn't so much of a problem for people who sit or stand during meditation becuase the meditation posture pretty much ensures you stay awake, but it's much harder for those of us who, becuase of illness and/or disability, have to lie down to meditate.

It's good to know that even totally able-bodied people usually experience period of sleepiness during their meditations. The US meditation teacher Jack Kornfield tells a funny story of going through months of sleepiness during meditation when he was at a Thai monastery.  His teacher finally got him to sit and meditate on the side of a well, which pretty much cured his sleepiness!

(Sleepiness is called 'sloth and torpor' in the Buddhist texts and is known as one of the five common hindrances to meditation.  The others are sensual lust, ill will, agitation, and distraction and doubting. It's fun to try to aim to hit all five of these during one meditation session - I usually have no trouble.  I blame 'sensual lust' on Adrian Grenier from Entourage...damn those intense green eyes and...woah...that hair! I'm hitting sensual lust, agitation and distraction all at the same time...focus Emma...focus...)

A few deep breaths later...

Sleepiness is, of course, a much greater hindrance to meditation if you're lying down to begin with.  In her book Turning Suffering Inside Out (A Zen approach to living with physical and emotional pain), Darlene Cohen writes about her own experiences as a Zen teacher and sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis.  She's developed some lying down postures that can be used to meditate.

"Lying on the back  Lie on your back with your knees bent and lighty touching each other, your feet firmly on the floor, and the insides of your feet lightly touching each other.  The tension in this posture is just this - keeping the knees and feet together.  If you start to drift, the knees will part.  ... Feel free to place a small pillow (not one so soft it would encourage dozing) under your head or neck...your eyes should remain open."

Cohen's idea is that we should be comfortable, but maintain some kind of musclular tension, so that if we start to fall alseep we'll fall out of our posture.  She suggests keeping the eyes open, but I have a lot of pain if I do that, so I meditate with my eyes closed.  (Falling asleep isn't much of a problem for me though, becuase I have insomnia. Lucky me...)  This is Cohen's other lying down position -

"Lying on the Side Lie on your side (either side) with your legs as straight as you can make them and the top leg completely on top of, and supported by, the bottom leg.  This, you will notice, is a hard posture to maintain without alterness; if you fall asleep, you will topple over. ... The arm underneath can be bent under you or lie out straight on the floor underneath or in front of you."

I like Cohen's methods becuase they encourage creativity.  She meditated before she got sick, so once her muscles started stiffening, she just experimented with different postures.  I subscribe to her 'work with what you've got' model of meditation.

I meditate lying in bed, not on the floor, as Cohen suggests.  Becuase I'm lying in bed I find it's useful to give my body some kind of slight signal that 'this is meditation time' (as opposed to my usual 'this is time for lolling in bed day-dreaming about meeting Adrian Grenier on a beach in Thailand.') The little signals I use are to put my hands in a certain position - for me it's linking my hands together over my belly.  If my arm muscles are sore and that hurts, I just place them straight down by my sides.

I met a trainee nun in a Buddhist monastery last year.  She'd been in hospital for an operation and becuase she couldn't sit up or get out of bed, her little 'this is meditation time' signal was to adjust the sheet over her so that it ran straight across her chest.  These are just tiny little signals, but once your body learns them, it can really help to flick you over into meditation-mode.

If none of these suggestions work and you still fall asleep 10 minutes after starting meditation - well, don't worry about it.  You've still done 10 minutes of meditation which is an awful lot better than 0 minutes! I don't think the Dharma police will be knocking at your door to arrest you for infirngements of the meditation code.

Now...they might just come a-knocking at my door to suggest I spend a little more time concentrating on my breath and a little less time planning my fantasy wedding to Mr Grenier.  (Ceremony on Thai beach, me in Vera Wang, Aidy in white...if you're wondering.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quote of the day

To balance up yesterday's more frivolous post I feel compelled to come up with something weighty and depressing today.  Who better to turn to than everyone's favorite mustached misanthrope - Friedrich Neitzche?

Herr Neitzsche once said - 'The only way I can get to sleep is to promise to kill myself in the morning.' worked for me last night!   Dark humour -   always better than a sleeping table. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A visit to the library

I've written a few very serious posts, so here's one to show that on a world-wide spiritual ranking, I come somewhere between Oscar the Grouch and Homer (...Simpson, that is). 

This is from an e-mail I sent last week to my sister. Aidan and Callum are my little nephews.

"I went to the library with Aidan, Callum and mum this afternoon. When my back was turned, Callum tipped over this stack of books I was going to borrow.  Mum said, (in her really loud voice so half the library could hear), 'Oh...look what Callum's done!  Easy to see you haven't spent much time around young children!'  Which made me want to scream back, 'Yes, becuase I've been..." (deep breath)..."FUCKING SICK FOR MOST OF MY CHILD-BEARING YEARS AND HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO HAVE THEM BUT THANKS FOR REMINDING ME!!'
My sister's response:
"Your emails are so funny.  I really love receiving them.  They are practically the highlight of my day." to love the sister who enjoys reading e-mail rants; probably because they remind her of the benefits of living 6000kms away from her family.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Holes...and Half-holes

In my last post  I wrote about my experiences seeing a holistic healer who turned out to be somewhat less than 'healing' for me.  The following is an excerpt from Stephen Levine's book Healing into Life and Death which I found enormously helpful and illuminating when I first read it.

In this excerpt Levine is writing about a friend of his, a doctor, who called himself a 'Holistic Practitioner' - until he got cancer.  After his experience with cancer, the doctor started calling many of his colleagues offering holistic healing 'half-holes,' because of the partial truths they offered about the reasons why illness occurs, and how it is healed.

This is the doctor's story...
"I used to call myself a holistic practitioner, but I was not particularly whole myself...I was sort of trying to force myself to be whole with diets and workshops and stuff like that.  But I was doing it all in my head...Then when I got cancer, this idea that I had created my illness, that I had stressed myself into it, which I had previously taught so many clients, made me feel so helpless it almost killed me...I was doing everything I knew to get rid of it, but nothing worked.
I was in both private and group therapy.  I did assertiveness and anger-release workshops.  I was on a special diet.  And all of these treatments seemed to help a little - I mean, I wasn't quite as underground as I had been, but I was still dying. Then I saw the war.  All these concepts were making me hate myself and my cancer more.  I felt like such a hypocrite and a failure. 
But I saw all these ideas about being responsible for my sickness were just making me sick with anger and self-hatred.  I felt so helples; I was my own worst enemy and couldn't trust myself to heal.  I felt I was wrong-minded and wrong-hearted because I had caused it but couldn't cure it. My life was filled with tension and "doing it right"; I was only half-alive.
But then I saw the awfulness of how I was treating me, and I began sending love and forgiveness into my tumours, and after a few months they just seemed to dissolve.  It was learning to pay attention, to love and forgive.  I shopped thinking me and started being me. The cancer taught me what ten years of practice had never touched.  
It is hard to believe I was so superficial, so righteous, as to tell patients they had a choice to live or die and it was solely up to them. ...  But that cancer turned things all around.  It made my holism so much more whole. It has been seven years now since they told me I was going to die, but I am more alive now than I ever was. In fact, I think if it weren't for my cancer I wouldn't be alive today."
 One of the things I think this story illustrates, is how, if we're attracted towards the idea of using an illness, or other life difficulty, as a way of reaching more wholeness in our lives, then the ideas other people offer us can be useful - but may also be damaging.

For example, if someone tells you, 'you created your illness,' how does this make you feel inside?  Does it make you cringe inwardly and feel guilt or shame?  Or, does it open up new ways of seeing your illness and its causes, and how you can best deal with it?

For me, it's guilt and shame all the way!  It doesn't help me to be told I caused my illness - I just feel helpless and judged.  (My feeling is that it's empowering for the person saying it...but not quite so empowering to be on the receiving end.)

After my experiences with a few 'half-holes' (!) I am now very careful about whose opinions I listen to.  I steer away from writers like Louise L Hay - whose teachings I find simplistic - and tend towards Buddhist writers/teachers such as Tara Brach and Stephen Levine.  (I've listed my favorite books on the home page of this blog).

Like the doctor in Stephen Levine's story, I've had to go beyond the ideas and opinions of other people and really tread this path for myself.  I've had to really investigate my thoughts and feelings about my illness - to sit with how I feel when someone tells me 'you chose your illness,' and just allow myself to feel the shame or blame and see what lies underneath. I'm starting to learn to sit with each and every feeling I have about my illness, and just see where this sitting gets me.

What is important though, is that I have both awareness of my feelings, and compassion for them. The compassion is the most important part of the 'mix' for me.  

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The voices in my head

Today is a bad day.  My adrenals were overactive during the night and I woke twice in the middle of a nightmare, with my heart pounding in my chest. Now, I'm exhausted, and as a result the skin around my eyes feels stretched and painful.

As I write, I'm noting the voices in my head that respond to what I'm doing; writing about my pain.

'Don't complain,' they say. "This is boring...who would want to read this?...heaps of people are sick, you're not the only don't want to be one of those boorish wingers do you?...'

A few years ago, when I started to do some of Stephen Levine's pain meditations I noticed that any time I so much as approached the areas where I felt 
exhaustion, pain, or discomfort, these voices would appear.  It has been interesting to observe them - their tone, their level of emotion, and whether they appear to be just a general voice, or the voice of someone specific.

What I started to notice is that the voice was often that of one person, a man, who, when I first got sick around a decade ago, I went to see as a 'healer'.  He used a combination of techniques - everything from meditation and reflexology to 
Neuro Linguistic Programing.

Unfortunately, instead of an improvement in my health, or any type of healing whatsoever, I walked away from this man with the idea that my illness was my fault, and there was something very wrong with me that I had to fix up in order to heal it.  One of the things he said constantly, as he was encouraging me to visualise being well, was "don't focus on the pain, you just need to walk through it, push through it to the other side."

Now, when I approach my pain in meditation what I hear is his voice, saying, "What are you doing 
focusing on pain?  This is just'll be sick forever if you dwell on this. You're just acting the victim, you're weak." All I can do in reaction is to let this voice be -  to note it, to feel the panicky sensation behind it, and the doubt and self-blame wrapped up in it.

Over time, hearing this voice has become a symbol for me; a  little signpost pops up in my mind that says, 'Keep going! You're on the right track!'  I think this is happening because know that if I rouse this voice, if I hear its 
insistent tones in my head, then I must be approaching what I am most afraid of, and what is most difficult for me - the minute by minute, present awareness of what is happening in my body right now. If this includes pain, then, unfortunately, that is what is happening.  I try to just allow any feelings to come up around the pain - bitterness, anger, annoyance, sadness, despair, self-blame - and let them all have their say.

In the background there is always the protesting voice of the 'healer' saying, "this is a waste of time, total indulgence!"  But increasingly, I can just feel the anxiety behind this voice, and let my fears
be. Occasionally I have the image of the 'healer' standing in front of me, holding something that represents my life (usually just a vague shape) in his hands.  I reach out, take the shape back and firmly say, "This is my life, I gave it over to you, but, I'm having it back. It's mine, not yours."  Each time this image arises I feel like I've taken one small step forward to taking my life back, and making his voice just a fraction smaller in my mind.

In Stephen Levine's excellent book 'Healing into Life and Death' he has a wonderful section on how holistic healers can sometimes be as damaging as they are healing.  Reading this was profoundly important to me in trying to understand how hurt I had been by the man I went to see as a 'healer.'  I felt like I wasn't the only one that had been affected in this way, and this helped to take a lot of my self-blame away.  In my next post I'll type out this section.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The 1001 things

Chronic illness, grief, and loss

One night late last year I lay in bed watching a TV documentary about a couple whose child had died a few hours after birth.

I watched as the grieving parents spoke about the whirlpool of emotions surrounding them after their infant daughter’s death.  They seemed swept off their feet; floundering in feelings of despair, anger, and sadness and love.

I cried not only with sadness but also, unexpectedly, with an overwhelming feeling of relief. Suddenly I could give a name to the emotions that had held me in their clutches for the past five years. I realised that I was in mourning. I saw with clarity that someone I’d loved and cherished had gone away and would probably never come back. I hadn’t lost a child, but I had lost ‘me’ – or the person I thought was ‘me’ - to a chronic illness.

People who have a chronic illness are often struggling with feelings of grief, but that this aspect of illness is rarely understood or acknowledged by either the person themselves, or by the people around them. Watching this documentary I realised that I was in mourning for myself; my life. I wasn’t just grieving the loss of good health – I was grieving the loss of a thousand and one things that good health enabled me to do.

I was studying at a University in America’s Mid-West when I first became ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At the time I railed angrily against the loss of an opportunity to travel to South America and to continue my studies. Now, as I watch my friends getting married, I wonder if I’ll ever have the energy required to meet my own needs, let alone those of a partner or child. Grieving the loss of the life that I watch my friends leading is painful and exhausting.  I struggle with these feelings everyday.

People with long-term illnesses can struggle for years, as I did, with anger and depression without recognising that what they are going through is a long grieving period.  Had I realised, earlier on, that the bitterness and despair I was feeling was part of a very normal bereavement process I think I would have been easier on myself.  I wouldn’t have thought I was a terrible person when I felt waves of envy and bitterness watching a woman jogging along the footpath in front of my house. I wouldn’t have told myself I was small-minded when I heard about a friend’s upcoming trip to the USA and felt jealousy towards her instead of good will.

I regret that I’ve never been able to say a sad but firm ‘goodbye’ to the life that was mine before I got CFS. Rather than becoming less intense it seems almost as if my grief is intensifying as the years of illness go by. The sadness I feel is strapped to my back like an old, threadbare, canvas backpack.  It’s a bag that I lug along everywhere I go. My bag of grief is so familiar to me that it almost feels comfy; its shape softened over time to mould with the contours of my back. I know that as long as I have this illness I can never completely let this bag go.  Part of me will always be in grief for the way things were and the way they could be.

I think it was Elizabeth Kublar-Ross who came up with the theory of the stages of grief: first denial, then anger, despair, depression, bargaining, and finally, acceptance.  It sounds great in theory – but does it allow for the messiness and confusion of real life?  Will the young couple I saw on television ever completely ‘move through’ the grief they feel over their daughter’s death?

Somehow I doubt it. Kublar-Ross’ stages are too neat and tidy and I doubt whether anyone really ‘gets over’ profound loss. There is no expectation that we will ‘get over’ the many joyous and wonderful things that happen to us in our life. You never hear anyone say ‘I met the love of my life twenty years ago. It was great and I’ve never really recovered from it!’ Happy events change us and we carry this change with us.   Why, therefore, is there an expectation that it’s possible to ‘get over’ terribly sad events or situations?  They also change us, and we carry this change with us – for better or worse.

I roller coaster through all of Kublar-Ross’s stages of grief in the space of one day.  For breakfast I have a dose of anger with my cornflakes, by lunchtime I’ve trudged through depression and graduated smugly to acceptance then by dinner I’m back down in despair. Every day I go through the same emotions with the monotonous regularity of a train that travels the same route, pulling into the same stations, day after day, year after year.

For years I saw my inability to accept my life as it is now as a character flaw; a shameful weakness of spirit. One day, suddenly realising that I would never completely accept being sick, I paradoxically reached my only true moment of acceptance. I accepted non-acceptance!

I realised that some days I would lie on the couch in a state of saint-like serenity, accepting whatever life had to throw at me.  On other days I would be angry and bitter, hurling pillows across the room in frustration.  I acknowledged that, as long as I was sick, I would seesaw between these two states.

It’s my experience that grief – and its accompanying emotions of anger, sadness, denial and despair – comes in waves.  The trick is to ride the waves.  If I’m going through a day of sadness and self-pity I try to keep in mind that it won’t always feel like this. I try to be gentle with these feelings, to ride them like a long, smooth wave- knowing that this wave will eventually subside and another one will come to take its place.  It’s not easy.  A few weeks ago I wrote in my journal,

'Was just listening to a Bach aria called ‘Ich habe genug.’ In English this translates literally to  ‘I’ve had enough’.  I thought to myself, ‘ and me both!'
Of course, there are personal gains from my struggle with CFS.  I’m grateful for them but regret they had to come at such a huge price.  The recognition that I cannot, by the sheer force of my will power and desire have my health back has ripped my heart open and exposed it to a new reality.  My connection to life is growing richer and deeper.

I can relate to strangers on a television documentary crying over the death of their baby girl.  I can empathize with my ninety-five year old grandfather’s soft bewilderment at losing his ability to read. Watching the SBS news I see worn-out victims of war and their pain is real to me.  It’s impossible now to turn away from the knowledge that terrible suffering exists in this world. I have found God in the acknowledgment of pain I cannot fix.

My experience of loss has allowed me to peer, tentatively, over the edge of an abyss. It’s demanded that I move beyond my comfort zone to sit in a space where I am keenly aware of my fragility; a space where I recognise that it is only the whisper of a breath and soft thud of a heart beat that allows me to be here.

It is not easy to live in this space; I have little control of the feelings that rage within me and I often feel like a frustrated and impotent witness to my life. I don’t know why I’m experiencing the ill health that has come my way. It doesn’t seem fair.

The only thing I can do is to be here.  To recognise that the island of loss and the land of birth aren’t on different maps. To appreciate the thousand tiny births and deaths in every day and recognise, as Kahil Gibran reminds me, that joy and sorrow are entwined:

‘Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and

others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with

you at your board, remember that the other is asleep

upon your bed’.

Kalil Gibran – The Prophet

Note:  This piece was written about eight years ago; I thought I'd resurrect it for this blog. It's not terribly cheerful, but I hope it might be useful to someone out there going through the same emotions.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ego - a dirty spiritual word?

A few weeks ago I met a man, Mike, who was very involved in meditation and yoga. When I tried asking Mike any questions about himself, or his plans, he seemed to block all my questions by answering in a kind of mantra...'We're just floating through the universe...I'm living in universal love; the rest is ego...It's all illusion...' Making a lunch-date with Mike was really difficult, because he almost refused to say what he might do ten minutes into the future because he was, 'completely in the present moment.'

When he found out I wasn't well, Mike's response was to suggest it might be past-life issues causing my illness, and that I also had to think less. I felt criticized, misunderstood, and frustrated.

Later, I sat down and really allowed myself to feel how judged and impotent I felt in the face of Mike's unsolicited opinions about my illness. After sitting with these feelings for a while I had a moment of intuitive realisation. I had a strong feeling that, in his head, Mike was constantly telling himself how he should be - 'don't's all an illusion...' - and that these inward judgements, of course, led him to be outwardly judgemental as well. I felt  that what Mike was really trying to do was avoid ordinary life; trying to 'jump over' it in order to get to some vague spritual ideal. 

At the same moment, I realised how I was doing the same thing myself.  I constantly boss myself around in my mind with a barrage of thoughts along the lines of - 'you have to be more have to have to meditate more to get well...' It became obvious that my judgement works like a barrier that separates me from what is actually going on in the present moment. Of course, like Mike, this inward judgement also leads to me judging my friends and family a lot.

I felt an incredible sense of connection with Mike, and for the pain our minds can cause us when we try to control ourselves so much with our thoughts. I could really sense this 'inner dictator' that so many of us have. It was the first time that I've been able to go beyond the terrible frustration I feel when people make judgements about me and my illness, and felt some small sense of compassion for the ways in which we try to constantly control ourselves in order to avoid the difficult, messy, and constantly changing 'here and now.'

The interesting thing was that it was really just by sitting down and feeling my feelings that I came to this understanding. It wasn't through thinking, or intellectualising, or 'shoulding' myself into feeling compassion.

Yesterday I read a section from Jack Kornfield's excellent book 'A Path With Heart,' that helped me further understand the interaction I had with Mike. I can really relate to the part about trying to make a "spiritual bypass"...

He writes,

"Misconceptions about selflessness and emptiness abound, and such confusions undermine genuine spiritual development. Some people believe that they can come to selflessness by struggling to get rid of their ego-centered self...We have described how some students use emptiness as an excuse for a withdrawal from life, saying it is all illusion, trying to make a "spiritual bypass" around life's problems. But each of these diseases of emptiness misses the true meaning of emptiness and its liberating freedom. To try to get rid of the self, to purify, root out, or transcend all desire, anger, and centeredness, to vanquish a self that is "bad," is an old religious idea..." (p. 203)

 I also found a really interesting Vancouver Sun article titled 'Meditation can often mask a downside' that explores the idea that common misunderstandings or misinterpretations of ideas such as 'killing the ego' can lead to people using meditation to deny, rather than connect with, their darker emotions. Part of the article reads,

"Ken Wilber, another sophisticated spiritual thinker who is working to integrate psychology, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and philosophy, also warns against North Americans treating meditation as a be-all and end-all. ... when Eastern meditation teachers tell people to "kill their egos," it runs the danger the students might "dis-identify" with their more unpleasant personality traits.

Meditation for many "becomes a process of transcend and deny ... rather than transcend and include," Wilber writes in his book, Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World.

The Eastern teaching that people should have "no ego," an idea espoused by Vancouver-based spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and many others, encourages meditators to try to be "empty," to have no viewpoint, says Wilber. The trouble is many meditators believe that means having no viewpoints at all, even on important issues. As Wilber says, many meditators don't believe in anything."'s to having viewpoints, believing in things, seeing our minds with compassion, and perhaps even signing a peace-treaty with our egos!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Simple breath meditation

At the moment I'm beginning every day with around an hour of meditation. I usually do this in bed, as soon as I wake up. I just lie in bed doing it, because I have difficulties sitting up.

I have a general structure to the meditation, and usually starting off just focusing on my breath. I have a practice where I count my breaths one to five, then start again and count them one to six, then one to seven...etc until I'm counting one to ten. Then I start over again counting one to five.

I can't remember where I first read about this particular technique, but it works well for me because it keeps me focused. I usually do this technique for 10 minutes or so, just to get myself settled.

Lately, to introduce some 'loving kindness' techniques into my meditation, I've also been focusing on the gentle, soft, aspects of the breath. I concentrate on the breath, and say 'gentle breath in,' or 'soft breath out.' While I'm doing this I start to soften into the breath and really start to feel the gentleness and softness of the breath as it flows in and out. The words I'm saying in my mind slowly move from being just abstract constructs, into being real feelings. It's as though repeating the words 'gentle,' 'soft' or 'kind' in my mind, and connecting them with my breath actually starts to 'grow' these feelings in my body.

Sometimes I feel colors, or even shapes associated with the softness of the breath. This morning I had a strong image of a baby pink color, which represents a very childlike softness to me. I just allowed myself to breath this soft color in and out. Sometimes I have images of a very soft pillow, and I feel the breath rising and falling on top of this pillow.

Sometimes I find I have very little emotion when I do this meditation, sometimes just snatches of emotions, and sometimes I find I have tears rolling down my face as I really feel the softness of the breath. Sometimes I notice really strong judgements about focusing on gentleness or kindness. My mind says things like, 'this is so stupid! It's embarrassing! You're just being self-absorbed and weak!' I'm slowly learning just to notice these thoughts and allow them to be, without paying much attention to them.

To summarise this meditation idea, it is...

Counting the breaths - 1 to 5, 1 to 6 .... until 1 to 10, then starting over. I do this two or three times.
Softly repeating 'gentle breath in' 'soft breath out' and allowing colors or shapes or gentle images to arise (or nothing to arise!) as I keep focusing on the breath.
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