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Your First Meditation – So’Hum

So, you want to give this meditation thing a shot?

We have put together a short program to give you a taste of what meditation actually is. The truth is that meditation is an internal experience that is hard to convey through the media we typically use. Meditation is about tapping into an internal experience of peace and stillness and we simply can’t show that to you in an instagram picture or via a youtube video, sound byte, book, etc.

So, if you want to know what meditation is, you have to do it. And even then, the journey of regularly practicing meditation continues to give you a deeper and deeper set of experiences as you go. These experiences help you gain access to that part of you which is beyond words, ego, and day to day consciousness. It’s like a wrapped present. You won’t know whats inside until you open it, and even after you open it, there is another present inside the first box. Each package can be unwrapped through more practice.

Getting motivated

At first we want to meditate for a variety of reasons. Impulses pulled from the cacophony of media that we have absorbed over the years. It’s cool, mystical, healthy, etc….  To be reading this page, you need to have been interested enough to click here, and that says some great things about your motivation.

Our goal is to dive right in to get you an experience of the peace which meditation can bring so that you have something stronger to keep you motivated. Because, the bottom line is, you need to carve out the time and energy to do the practice or you won’t get any results at all. That tread mill in the basement covered in cobwebs is really helpful, eh?

As a final piece of motivation, let me say from 15 years of experience as a professional and practitioner in the wide wacky world of wellness and spirituality. Meditation is the single most powerful tool to wellness I have ever found. Single most powerful doesn’t mean best for everyone, nor does it mean the only thing we should do. However, it does mean that it has my full confidence to be beneficial for everyone as a lifetime practice of wellness. Trust me. You will never be sorry that you spent some time learning to meditate.

Meditation is incredibly simple

When we talk about meditation, we have grand ideas of inner peace or life changing epiphanies. Magic, mysticism, and a lot of other myths surround it. But, the truth is that the details of performing meditation are incredibly simple. In a word, its just the practice of focus. Focusing your mind on a single thought, word, sound, picture, etc…. However, the practice of maintianing that focus is where the real work of meditation is found.  Thats it.

Once we know that we can gain a tremendously positive experience from focusing our mind through meditation and sit down to do it a bit, we have the experience of obstacles. And here is where we gain a tremendous about of benefit as well.  Why does my body hurt after sitting still for five minutes? What can I do to sit longer? Why do I get so mad when I sit for meditation? What causes that? What part of my mind keeps thinking this is stupid when I know I feel great every time I do it? Which parts of my mind are involved in that internal conflict?

As obstacles come up, we can add a whole host of practices that help us work on different aspects of health and wellness. What a great thing!

Lets do it!

Listen to the audio link below to be guided through the details of your first meditation. Then, try it by yourself for 3 minutes in silence.

The very first meditation takes three minutes. It is called So’Hum meditation because those are the words that you use to focus on while you breathe. They are used because they are the actual sounds that the breath makes when you sit with your head neck and truck straight and breathe through your nose.  The sound So echoes as you inhale. Hum as you exhale. Take a moment to close your eyes and listen to the differences in the sound as you breathe smoothly in and out through your nose.

By keeping your posture upright you keep things aligned. Obstacle removed!

By breathing in and out through your nose, you help slow down the breath to keep you calm and help with focus. Obstacles removed!

By slowing down your breath so it is gentle and peaceful, you help to keep your nervous system peaceful too. Obstacle removed!

By closing your eyes you help to remove distracting stimulation from the outside, allowing you to focus. Obstacle removed!

Now, set a timer for 3 minutes or count for 25 full exhales as you breathe. Sing the sounds So and Hum along with the complete inhalations and exhalations so that they match time.

Do it now! Go.

You did it!

You just had an experience of meditation. Congrats, you are further along than most people. However, you have just scratched the surface of a massive iceburg. Even with such a simple and short practice most people feel calmer afterwards. They feel emotionally and mentally more at peace; more at ease in general. Sometimes headaches disappear and other dis – eases are lessened.

Let that sink in. Just once, and just for three minutes! And you had these results….  Now think about how powerful a regular habit of that experience would be. How much longer you would hold onto the experience of peace and calm throughout your day if you did it regularly.

Did we get you motivated? Because the truth is that meditation time often needs to be carved into your busy schedule. Our mind throws up excuses like weeds in order to avoid being trained and disciplined. Can you be one of the few that commit to maintaining the practice? It takes work and effort, just like every wellness practice. But I hope you enjoyed the sweet taste of what it can bring enough to try again tomorrow.

Next Step

The next steps involve broadening our understanding of why and how meditation works. We will fill in some holes in our technique. In general we will expound and explain more helpful hints to make the practice easier, deeper, and keep us motivated to keep doing the work. Look for a small series of blog posts and audio clips to help keep the momentum rolling.

See you then!

Walking Meditation – Classes and Group Activities

Walking Meditation @ Bliss Garden

Walking meditation is an age old practice that combines slow walking with mental focus and intentionality. There are various types of walking meditation that range from very prescribed practices filled with details about how to walk and what to think about, to simply being observant and mindful of the moment as you walk. These practices are found in many spiritual and religious traditions around the globe. The benefits of meditation are numerous, as is being out in nature. Taking time to engage in walking meditation combines mental focus, intentionality, stress free movement, and being out in nature. This combination makes for a truly blissful experience that is fun, healthy, and nourishing to heart and soul.

We will be offering monthly classes throughout the warm months of 2016. Each class will cover a specific topic or style associated with walking meditation. After class we will enjoy a formal group practice of walking meditation in the garden at our McMillian Retreat Center (weather permitting.) The garden will be open for walking meditation and socialization for the entire afternoon of class and past students of any class are welcome to walk the garden paths.

Group Structure

Each meeting will follow the same format. To begin, we will be indoors to talk about a specific aspect or practice of walking meditation. This group discussion will be followed by Q & A and will take roughly 45 mins to 1 hr. Following this the entire group will go outside to practice the specific techniques in that day’s focus. Practice can range from 20 mins to 45 mins depending on each person’s inclinations. And after the focused group practice, the garden is open for individuals to gather and socialize or perform their personal practice. Anyone is welcome to participate in either or both the group discussion and the group walk.

Bliss Garden’s will be open for the afternoon of the group meeting for all participants of past classes to enjoy personal meditation walks as well.

Dates, Times & Topics

This series is Free with donations accepted to help grow Bliss Garden. The classes are not sequential, but will have a decent amount of material that will build from previous sessions. Anyone of any age can attend class provided they can maintain the focus and quiet needed for a discussion group as well as a focused walking meditation. Registration is encouraged, but not required.

  • April 24th, Sunday from 1-3pm – Mindfulness
  • May 29th, Sunday from 1-3pm – Contemplation In Nature
  • June 14th, Tuesday from 3-5pm – Object Based Meditation – Japa / Rosary
  • July 12th, Tuesday from 3-5pm – Rhythm walking
  • August 9th, Tuesday from 3-5pm – Breathing Meditation
  • September 18th, Sunday from 1-3pm – Intentionality & Practice Building
  • October 23rd, Sunday from 1-3pm -Potential Year End Date

Bliss Garden

Back To Bliss’ community garden project is located on the property of our McMillan Retreat Center. Everything about the layout and design of the garden is meant to help inspire us to spiritual study and to help us enjoy the beauty of nature. Several activity areas are planned including a labryinth, havan, outdoor class courtyard, and communal food and fire area. Many more practices from different spiritual traditions will be built into the garden as well.

This year, the main pathways are available for walking meditation. Our paths are grass covered. They are not perfectly even, and not suitable for those challenged by uneven ground. Bring weather appropriate clothing and footwear if you plan on participating in group walks.

Goals

It is our hope that after a summer examining the different styles and philosophies of walking meditation you will have a solid grounding for making it a lifelong tool for wellness. By gathering in a group setting we build momentum and inspiration from each other to undertake these practices. Walking meditation has many styles and some are very different. By taking a look through a broad assortment of them we will find the style and philosophy that best suits your personality and needs.

If we build a strong group with energy and momentum this summer we can continue through the winter with different forms of indoor meditation practices.

For questions, call our group facilitator, Josiah @ 715.897.6825 or comment on our facebook event pages.

Class Topic Descriptions

Mindfulness

Mindfulness has gotten a lot of attention lately so we will begin from here. Walking meditation from the buddhist mindfulness school involves very structured movement at a slow pace. You repeat thoughts based on the actions you are performing. The focus and repetition develop a space where you become very present with the motion of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations within you.

Contemplation In Nature

Contrasting the high structure and tight mental focus on our mindfulness practice, contemplation in nature is very unstructured. We attempt to use the energy from the natural setting to calm, replenish, and open us to a mental space where we can be free of our standard thought patterns. How we choose the topic of our contemplation and the way we set up a regular practice of such contemplations is dependant on our goals.

Object Based Meditation – Japa / Rosary

Object based meditation involves repeating a sound, phrase, or sight. Walking with a counting bead such as a mala or rosary, (finger counting works fine as well if you don’t have one) is a very calming experience. We will discuss the types of object for focusing upon that work best for walking meditation for any religious or spiritual tradition. This type of walking meditation has a moderate amount of structure and a slower walk.

Rhythm walking

Here we develop a type of focus that has more physical elements in it. These techniques can be applied to someone’s typical exercise walking practices to make your exercise more holistic. The mental focuses and awareness practices we implement are all based on the rhythm and pulse of the walk you choose. This practice can be applied to a vigorous paced walk, but any pace will work.

Breathing Meditation

With a specific focus on control and awareness of breath, these practices allow you to delve more powerfully into moving prana and balancing emotion. The topic of the day will be applying breath counting to the pace of your walk and breathing in the vitality from nature. These practices can be combined with previously discussed techniques to moderate them towards emotion and energy balancing.

Intentionality & Practice Building

By the end of the series we will have discussed techniques from many different traditions with subtle variations that help them focus on different parts of our being. These slight changes in focus allow us to gain deeper benefits in particular parts of our being. Today we will discus how to take the techniques and build  them into individual practices for personal benefit. Ideas such as: how long to walk, how many days in a row, what techniques help specifically with anxiety or anger will be discussed. You will build a personal practice and then as a group we will all walk our individual practices together.

Ego Pt. 3: The Four Aspects Of Your Mind

We have been talking about the Ego, but did you know that there are other aspects of the human mind? Maintaining a balanced working relationship between all four major aspects is important to our happiness and success in life.

The first aspect of mind is the clerk.  The clerk handles all of the secretarial work.  It has no major opinions or agenda and acts a bit robotically to file, sort, and recall information.  When our clerk begins to fail us we can’t remember details, we lose words or forget to keep appointments.  A healthy clerk keeps us sharp and effecient.

The second aspect of mind is the unconscious mind.   It is referred to as the repository and the metaphor of a vast ocean is commonly used to describe it.  This storehouse of sensory data can be accessed by the clerk.  It also sends impulses and impressions out on its own that can influence our dreams and our thoughts.  The unconscious is powerful, immense, and misunderstood.  Both repeitition and strong emotion increase the power of unconscious impulses.  Working with our addictions, habits, and desires helps to slow down the power of these impressions so that they don’t overwhelm us and carry us away into unhelpful directions.

The third aspect of mind is our ego, the self-appointed boss. We have already covered how our loud, bold, and myopic ego can get itself into trouble.  At its core, ego’s perspective is what creates all of those problems.  Ego sits facing the physical world.  Its self identifications are all based on sensory data alone, and not on our deeper self.

The fourth aspect of our mind is the mystic, or the enlightened mind.  This is the part of our mind that is thought of as being able to listen to our deeper intuitive impulses.  Where ego faces solely forward, listening to the physical world, the mystic listens to both our senses and our more subtle, more connected, self.  The personality of the mystic is one of queit as opposed to the ego’s bluster.  Thus it is said that the soft voice of wisdom coming from our mystic is often overshadowed and overridden by the rowdy voice of ego.

What does it mean?  Happiness and wellness are better achieved via a healthy relationship between all four aspects of our mind.  With all four players working effeciently and as a team, we can accomplish our life’s purpose with grace.  Looking for details on how to nourish and strengthen each aspect of mind?  There are more details than we can get into today.  However, the best practice for nourishing all four aspects of mind together is meditation.  If you would like to learn more about meditation, ask someone who practices regularly or join one of our yoga classes or meditation groups.

Time For Chai

A Yogi’s Drink

Chai is the chosen drink of yogi’s because of several reasons:

1: Caffeine helps to keep the mind awake when you are practicing deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation; these practices bring your body to a state on the verge of sleep.  The extra stimulating boost that chai gives you can mean the difference between falling asleep or not in the middle of your practice.

2:  Milk fat nourishes the nerves and buffers the highly available energy from the sugar and caffeine so that it doesn’t ravage your nervous system. Yoga practices that direct prana also create lots of heat and movement throughout the nervous system.  Milk fat is a great way to keep our body insulated.

3:  Ginger and black pepper provide digestibility and help you to digest the milk, while the other spices create a sattvic quality of mind.

4:  Sugar helps pull all of these things deeper into the body.  Your body considers sugar a friend and readily welcomes it in.  Thus when your friend sugar arrives, the doors open and all of the spices – along with their benefits, are taken deeply into the body.  Many people find that coffee doesn’t keep them awake at night, but when they drink coffee with sugars and syrups, it affects them more strongly.  This is a reflection of the fact that our body opens the doors wide to sugar.

 

Here is a PDF of our chai recipe as written below.  We hope you enjoy.

 Chai Tea

 Combine in a large sauce pan – Make sure this pan is big enough to hold the contents from both pans when you combine them.

  1. 1 cup water – turn to high heat, bringing to boil
  2. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of loose black tea or 1-2 tea bags (rooibos tea works for a non-caffeinated option)
  3. Sugar to taste (usually 1-3 tablespoons)
  4. ¼-1/2 inch of a ginger root –peeled & grated or chopped
  5. 3 shakes of ground black pepper
  • Combine in a small sauce pan
    1. 2 cups milk – turn to high heat, bringing to simmer but not to a boil!
    2. 3 strands of saffron
  • Combine pan contents after the water pan has boiled for 30 seconds. The main purpose here is to assure the diffusion of the tea.  Sometimes I take the pan off the heat for 30 seconds or so until my water turns nice and dark.
    1. Bring the combined pan to a boil. The mixture will froth up and if not pulled off the heat fast enough, it will boil over.  So pull the pan from the heat, stir and let the froth go down.  Repeat this 3 times so that you have fully mixed the ingredients and have denatured the milk proteins properly for easy digestion.
  • Add aromatic spices – Add ground cardamom to the mixture, stir, and cover to cool.
    1. The milk will form a scum on the surface from oxidation if you do not cover the pot.
  • Strain and serve. Enjoy!
    1. Your chai will increase in flavor if you refrain from straining out the whole pan until serving each cup individually. Some people like to strain the whole pot and serve in a separate decanter.  This works best when serving family style.

Why 2 pots?

Using two pots speeds up the process of chai preparation; this is very important for true chai addicts!  Typically it takes me 12 minutes to make chai in a single pot – yes I have timed it! This recipe is given for preparation in two pots, but the milk pot can easily be added to the water pot after the water pot boils for 30 seconds.  Speed is often an important factor in our busy day and

A liquid recipe

Water: Milk ratio changes based on digestive capacity.  The general rules are that the ratio starts at 1:2 and moves towards 2:1.  Young or vigorous or Pitta should start with more milk while older, congested or convalescing people should start with more water.

The spicing of chai changes according to the season and your dosha.  People find a variety of extra spices wonderful in their chai.  Experiment and see what works for you.

Bacteria as Guide

The whole drink, when prepared with boiled milk is very bio-available, it means that it is all easily used by the body and doesn’t take too much energy to digest it.  If you have any doubts about this, drink chai in the morning before you brush your teeth.  You will find that after 30 minutes or so you have a heavily coated tongue.  The extra bacteria have grown on that highly available chai energy.

I have tasted cooked milk products that have sat out for four or five hours.  Chai tastes markedly more spoiled than most products after a mere three hours sitting out.  Use bacteria as your guides to know what foods are more bio-available.  The faster it rots – has small organisms eating it – the more bio- available the food will be.