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The Holidays, Family, and Spiritual Growth

I just discovered Sally Kempton, former journalist turned meditation teacher, via Facebook (of all places!) thanks to a friend from graduate school, who shared the following article “Your Roots Are Showing.” It’s holiday time, and with holidays, for most of us, comes family, and with family, comes stress. This article highlights what, exactly, is stressful about these gatherings: the family dynamics, the emotional triggers, the patterns of behavior and belief within the family system, and most importantly, what we can do about it all.

 

Your Roots Are Showing

“Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother for your baby, your anger. The moment you begin to practice breathing mindfully in and out, you have the energy of a mother, to cradle and embrace the baby.”¬†

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The Myth of the ‘Bad’ Meditator

“I’m not a good meditator, I can’t stop my thoughts”

“I’m not a good breather”

I can’t count the times I have heard these sentiments expressed, but every time I hear them, they break my heart a little bit. Truth be told, I am guilty of having said the second statement myself. I said it during my first year of graduate school, in my mid-twenties, during a time that I was encountering multiple new worlds: yoga, meditation, fully embodied presence and clear and effective feelings-focused communication which I had never before encountered. I was overwhelmed and awed by this paradigm shift and in my new understanding of what was possible.

I was also extremely self-critical. I had come to associate the relentlessly analytical judge in my mind who let me know when I had said or done the wrong thing with my true self. (I later realized this judge was an impostor!)

I know now that I am a natural-born breather. I know that my breath will sometimes be fast and labored, particularly during times of heightened stress. I also know my breath can be slow and steady. It can calm and soothe me when I harness its power to affect my parasympathetic nervous system. I also know that my breath can be used as a tool to anchor me in the present moment, so that I can be fully aware and come back to the now when my mind begins to wander or I get lost in my own thoughts.

As a part of my work as a licensed professional counselor, I often introduce clients to meditation and breathing exercises, and I often hear these “I’m bad at it” concerns expressed. Dispelling the myths about what mediation is and is not is often the first step in that process. Above is a short video by Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg that breaks down some of those myths and includes a few minutes of guided meditation so that you can learn and practice on your own. Below is another, longer guided meditation by meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.

Guided Loving Kindness Meditation

It has been a month since I had my son, and over the course of the past several months, I have gotten way out-of-touch with my meditation practice.

Today, while I was scanning through my Facebook news feed, I stumbled upon this 30 minute Loving Kindness guided meditation by Sharon Salzberg, a Buddhist teacher who often leads courses at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, located in Woodacre, CA and founded by Jack Kornfield. While living in California several years ago I had the pleasure of taking several courses at Spirit Rock and learned much from the teachers there.

With the baby sleeping (luckily!), it was easy to get myself on the floor with a throw pillow and find my meditation seat. Listening to and practicing this Metta meditation quickly brought me back to the importance of my practice. I particularly liked the creative aspect of Sharon’s asking ‘what four things do you wish for yourself in this life?’

What do you wish for yourself?