Category Archives: Health

This Adult Coloring Thing

I think I’m starting to get it, and realizing that coloring can be viewed as an art form in itself. All of you purists out there, don’t balk. And I’m not digging into the art vs. craft argument either, but as usual, when I’m working at something that allows me to go into the zone, awarenesses happen.

Without trying it, I didn’t understand the interest in coloring someone else’s designs. I’m excited to get my books published so I can color in them, but even coloring on my home-printed copy of the images, I’m finding an artistic outlet.

Mandala Adult Coloring Image

Yesterday I started coloring this image from soon-to-be Meditative Mandalas Volume 1. I used flat markers and took my time going at it. As I got closer to finishing the main design elements I found myself antsy to be able to get on to the background and shading.

I pulled out my Prismacolor pencils and started, then did basic shadows. I found myself wanting to layer more color for more depth and then thinking, “This is a piece of printer paper, not even good quality, what am I doing spending so much time on this???” It reminded me that art is in the eye of the beholder, or something like that. It’s not about what it is, but how it makes you feel.

I felt relaxed, letting my mind drift while streaming my favorite Chicago radio station. I felt accomplished, filling in all those little areas so precisely. I felt artistic, pulling out shading techniques. It reminded me also that I need more time to just sit and do something that isn’t work. Something that has no tangible purpose, something that will keep me in the present moment.

It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. It matters what you’re doing and how it makes you feel in the moment. It’s a weird thing, presence. When you’re fully present you feel like a master. You feel in tune. Nothing else matters. It’s when we start thinking, that we start to feel bad about what we’re doing, or how it’s going. It’s hard to stay in the present moment but I have a feeling that this coloring thing might have the same effect as meditation. The more you do it and the more you achieve that state of just being with it, the more it will spill over into the rest of your life. I bet if I’d read all of the articles that have been floating around about the adult coloring craze that it would say the same thing. I don’t have time for that…I’m busy coloring!

I get it.

Observations of a new meditation practice.

imageDespite having known about it for years and years, I’m sharing my experience of engaging in a regular practice of meditation. I share it now because I know that once I’ve been doing it for a good long time these observations will become second nature and it won’t seem like anything special. It will just be, and that is already starting to happen.

Simple sitting with eyes closed, focusing on the breath and then focusing on a point between the eyebrows. When thoughts come up, telling myself to let them float by, coming back to the point of focus.

At some point in the process above you “drop in.” That is, your brain goes into a different wave pattern. Alpha state is, I believe, what is reached. You notice the shift and then you can sit and watch what goes on in your inner vision.

Anyway, what I have noticed about myself since implementing a regular practice is that I don’t get hooked into things, I’m less reactive. Whereas I would once jump in and respond immediately to something someone says, or a situation, I see myself sitting back and letting it rest. I’m not thinking about what to say or do in reaction but, am still and sit with it. The interesting part about that is that when you don’t react, the other person, or situation unfolds more and it works itself out. I don’t mean that everything fixes itself but the other person will continue, express themselves and they might work through what they originally came to you with.

I’ve noticed that people like to talk and don’t always need or want a solution or response. Sometimes they just need to get it out or hear themselves say it out loud. Reacting or responding can take a conversation down a rabbit hole that isn’t necessary. My reaction or input isn’t really wanted or needed, even if they think it is what they want. Sitting still and letting them express themselves works better than trying to fix it or figure it out for them. They have their own answers too. For me, it feels like a relief. Less work and unnecessary brain power, being able to stay in my calm while in a conscious state.

I also have noticed more focus. My brain is being trained to stay on target. I’m not as focused as I’d like to be but I do notice that I am doing things that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time such as decluttering things around me. Whereas once it seemed overwhelming, I’m doing it little by little, and it feels good.

I am noticing that I appreciate things around me more. I know it sounds corny but driving and noticing the landscape around me brings me a sense of peace and appreciation. When your brain is always working and thinking about something else it is hard to appreciate what is all around you and what is around you is full of life and beauty. That feels so foreign coming out of my mouth but I like the change. It’s easy to go on a hike up and away from everything and notice the beauty but driving down the road, to an appointment or somewhere you don’t really want to go, and enjoying the trees or the sky or even the car in front of you is a wonderful feeling. I believe this is the byproduct of my brain being trained to be in the present moment. It’s a pretty cool place to be.

I’ve learned a lot about presence. They say, notice each step you take, the feel of each foot touching the ground. When you start to do it in a ‘fake it till you make it’ way it feels weird. What I’ve noticed is that now, I’m doing it spontaneously. Just a second ago I picked up my coffee cup and noticed the feel of it in my hand as I took a sip, and enjoyed the taste. I know it sounds like a little thing and what the heck could that possibly have to do with anything. When you start to feel it or experience it though, it’s profound.

Don’t write me off as crazy until you experience it yourself. Every tap of my fingers on the keyboard, when noticed, feels good. Having eyes open in a way to see more than just that picture on the wall in front of me, taking in the essence of what is around me is a phenomenal feeling. I guess that is what expanded consciousness feels like. I am in that place now and it comes and goes. The more I practice, the more it stays.

If you think meditation is hard…

If you think meditation is hard, you’re right, it is. Your brain is in training.

This weekend during my Yoga Nidra facilitator training a discussion came up about meditation that caused a lightbulb to go on in my head. There are many different ways to meditate and many different forms that people choose to fit them. Sitting meditation where you focus on one spot, or the breath, to “quiet the mind” is a myth. I use the quotation marks because that is how I used to think of it, and how many people think of it.

What I took away from the discussion is that sitting meditation of that type is very active. Your brain is active, and you continually notice your random thoughts and come back to your point of focus. You are not trying to stop or quiet your thoughts (the brain is meant to think), you are trying to come back from your thoughts, to stillness. Over time your thoughts will stop competing for your attention (your brain gets trained) and a by-product is that your mind gets quiet. Or at least more quiet.

It was said, in essence, that the best meditation practice is not one in which your mind is the most quiet for the longest time. The best meditation practice is how many times you come back to the focus point after noticing your thoughts creeping in.

Does it get easier? Yes, and no. What does “easier” mean to you? Probably that you get to that sense of peace and quiet more quickly, with less rogue thoughts interfering for the duration. Again, I point you to the paragraph above. It’s not about the peace and quiet although that is the end benefit. So, I’m not viewing it in terms of ease anymore. It is what it is. The more I “struggle” with it or against it (my thoughts) the more training my brain is getting. Just like at the gym. It’s not about the process of lifting the weights…it’s about what happens after the weights have been lifted and you’re out of the gym.

Today was one of those really thought-y days. I stopped meditating early because this blog post kept wanting to write itself in my head. The good news is, even if you’re having an overly think-y day in your practice, or “struggling,” you’re still getting the benefit of the training.

So struggle is also good. But big deal, you may say, how does that help me? I can’t speak for you but it put things into a different perspective that gave me “permission” to be ok not being perfect. It actually made me feel good about not being perfect. And good thing because perfection is never achieved…best to let go of that.

Also, the more you do it, the more your brain gets trained to do this for the short time you’re in your meditation, the more it overflows into your life outside of your practice. If you are training your brain in this way, to not hook on and go deeper into your thoughts, you will find the same happening during your day. You won’t get sucked into drama, you won’t be lured into an argument, you’ll notice that things that used to annoy you will glide right on by. Your brain has learned that thoughts can come, and thoughts can go…you don’t have to latch on to every single one.