Yearly Archive: 2016

Meditation – Staying Awake While Meditating

Why is staying awake while meditating important?

Falling asleep is certainly relaxing, and can be good for you, but to get the full range of benefits from your meditation you need to have your brainwaves in the alpha and theta ranges. When you are asleep, your brainwaves range from theta to delta. Meditation should be a state of relaxed alertness (primarily alpha brainwaves).

Try the following tips to stay awake.

1. Don’t lay down. Laying down may be the comfortable way to meditate, but it is also the surest way to have trouble staying awake. Find a comfortable posture for meditating, but not TOO comfortable.

2. Don’t meditate where you sleep. A comfy chair may be a great place to meditate – unless its the one you fall asleep in while watching TV. Anyplace where you regularly sleep is likely to trigger a sleep response in your body.

3. Create slight discomfort. If you are too comfortable to stay awake, try turning the thermostat down, sitting in a harder chair, or otherwise creating a minor irritation that will be enough to keep you awake, but not distract you too much.

4. Try meditating in a new place. Using a chair set in the back yard, or doing your meditation in the car at a nice park can be a good way to get out of a rut and wake up your mind.

5. Use an automatic wake-up position. Rest your elbows on the chair arms and have your hands comfortably up in the air. If you begin to sleep, your arms will fall, waking you up. Many meditators have used positions that prevent sleep in this way, without being uncomfortable.

Sleep is good, but meditation is more than relaxation. It should help you develop a sense of peace and relaxed alertness. If meditating has become nothing more than your favorite sleeping aid, start using these tips today to get back on track.

A Look at Meditation

I’ve counseled many people from every background and led workshops and lectures about self-empowering topics for about 25 years. Over that time, I saw a need. Everyone was searching. What they were looking for was unclear, many times. But the search was on. While I could meet many of their immediate needs, through counseling, they still needed a source, or connection with who they really were.

This was not a religious pursuit, per se, but a spiritual one. We all need to know our inner self. And the best way for us to get there is through meditation: a quiet time of some sort–contemplation. So out of that need, I saw an answer. Spreading information about basic meditation became my mission.

Almost all of the information I received about meditation over the years was through personal experience–trial and error. I did not read any books on the subject. They all seemed too deep and philosophical. And many times, the books included a whole cultural exploration. This is good for someone looking into historical information, or perhaps a religious belief. But just to know the basics of what meditation is and how to do it, there wasn’t anything.

I’ve been able to connect very well with the groups I’ve spoken to because I’ve been in their shoes. I had first hand experience looking for my own inner self. And so, the column you see here will explore for you, the personal experiences of the proverbial searcher.

I had just graduated from high school, and was looking for some kind of personal project for the summer. Since I lived in a very small town, and it was in the 1960’s, I was very surprised to find a yoga class being offered at the nearby middle school. I was always open for the new and different, and this fit the bill.

I joined the class as soon as I could and found myself in some very strange positions. But there was one position that I kept going back to. It was sitting cross-legged with my hands resting on my knees, palms up. It immediately made me sit straight, and my spine was relaxed.

While practicing this position at home, a strange thing happened. I began to feel unusual. There wasn’t any way I could describe it. But it was a kind of light-headed feeling–almost like dropping off to sleep–but I was awake.

I asked the instructor about it on the very next session. She assured me it was fine. But I had my reservations. So I stopped. I didn’t go back to the class. And I didn’t continue with the yoga practice.

I found out much later that I was beginning meditation. The instructor must have been concerned about giving too much information about yoga philosophy and the spiritual traditions of Eastern India.

Our community was extremely slow about accepting new ideas. She was probably reluctant to introduce something new that could cause problems. So the yoga positions were only taught as an exercise.

I imagine many new or different ideas were stifled in the beginning. Some hesitate to share information for fear of being rejected or ostracized. And some of us hesitate to look at new information because we’re afraid of rocking the boat.

As you explore the concept of meditation, you will learn about the varied benefits that can be brought about by meditation, including health, emotional release, and self- empowerment. You will realize that meditation is about ease. Moving one step at a time.

The Purpose of Meditation
Meditation is a way to connect with the inner self, or what some believe is the Divine Spark of God that we all are. It is to become quiet: to allow all outside disturbances to fade away, to be comfortable with the quiet. That quiet, or silence, which is allowed in, can calm the mind, restore the body, and define a spiritual path.

Let’s take this opportunity to try a sample meditation on for size. Remember that this is a sample. It gives us the chance to practice. And in practicing, we learn.

Bringing In A Quiet Moment
Take a moment out of your busy day. Go for a five-minute walk by yourself. Pay attention to the sound of your footsteps. Let it become even with your heartbeat. When this rhythm within you overrides the sounds of the day, take a deep cleansing breath. Look at the sky. Watch the clouds. Just enjoy the moment. This is the skill of meditation. It is nothing harder than that: just taking a moment, and relaxing into it. Allow your mind to relax into it.

This is just a very quick way for everyone to get some idea of what meditation is like. There are plenty of different types of meditations, as many as there are people. It requires a few undisturbed minutes, dedication and a desire. It will open up a whole new world for you. Just give it a try.

What Everyone Needs to Know about Extramarital Affairs

Recent statistics suggest that 40% of women (and that number is increasing) and 60% of men at one point indulge in an affair. Put those numbers together and it is estimated that 80% of the marriages will have one spouse at one point or another involved in an affair. That may seem like a very steep number. However after two decades plus of full time work as a marriage and family therapist, I don’t believe that number is off the charts. I worked with a great number of people involved in affairs who were never discovered.

The possibility that someone close to you is or soon will be
involved in an extramarital affair (any of the three parties) is extremely high.

Maybe you will know. You will see telltale signs. You will notice changes in the person habits and behavioral patterns as well as a detachment, lack of focus and reduced productivity. Maybe you will sense something “out of character” but be unable to pinpoint what it is.

It is not a given that he/she will tell you. Those hiding the affair will continue to hide. The “victim” of the affair often, at least initially, is racked with anger, hurt, embarrassment and thoughts of failing that preclude divulging the crisis. It might be important to confront the person with your observations, depending on the status of your relationship with the person.

It is important to understand that extramarital affairs are different and serve different purposes. Out of my study and experience with hundreds of couples I’ve identified 7 different kinds of affairs. Briefly, some affairs are reactivity to a perceived lack of intimacy in the marriage.

Others arise out of addictive tendencies or a history of sexual confusion or trauma. Some in our culture play out issues of entitlement and power by becoming “trophy chasers.” This “boys will be boys” mentality is subtly encouraged in some contexts. Some become involved in an affair because of a high need for drama and excitement and are enthralled with the idea of “being in love” and having that “loving feeling.”

An affair might be for revenge either because the spouse did or did not do something. Or the revenge may stem from rage. Although revenge is the motive for both, they look and feel very different.

Another affair serves the purpose of affirming personal desirability. A nagging question of being “OK” may lead to usually a short-term and one-person affair. And finally, some affairs are a dance that attempts to balance needs for distance and intimacy in the marriage, often with collusion from the spouse.

The prognosis for survivability of the marriage is different for each. Some affairs are the best thing that happens to a marriage. Others serve a death knell. As well, different affairs demand different strategies on the part of the spouse or others. Some demand toughness and movement. Others demand patience and understanding.

The emotional impact of the discovery of the affair is usually profound. Days and weeks of sleeplessness, rumination, fantasies (many sexual) and unproductively follow. It typically takes 2 – 4 years to “work through” the implications. A good coach or therapist can accelerate and mollify the process. I don’t recommend “marriage” counseling, at least initially.

The devastating emotional impact results from a couple powerful dynamics. Trust is shattered – of one’s ability to discern the truth. The most important step is NOT to learn to trust the other person, but to learn to trust one’s self. Another is the power that a secret plays in relationships. THE secret exacts an emotional and sometimes physical toll that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.

How can you help?

Those in the midst of their affair crisis told me they need this from you:

1. Sometimes I want to vent, get it out without censor. I know sometimes I will say what I shouldn’t be saying. It may not be nice, pretty or mild. Please know that I know better, but I need to get it off my chest.

2. Every so often I want to hear something like, “This too shall pass.” Remind me that this is not forever.

3. I want to be validated. I want to know that I am OK. You can best do that by nodding acceptance when I talk about the pain or confusion.

4. I want to hear sometimes, “What are you learning? What are you doing to take care of yourself?” I may need that little jolt that moves me beyond my pain to see the larger picture.

5. I may want space. I may want you to be quiet and patient as I attempt to sort through and express my thoughts and feelings. Give me some time to stammer, stutter and stumble my way through this.

6. I want someone to point out some new options or different roads that I might take. But before you do this, make sure I am first heard and validated.

7. When they pop into your mind, recommend books or other resources that you think I might find helpful.

8. I want to hear every so often, “How’s it going?” And, I may want this to be more than an informal greeting. Give me time and space to let you know exactly how it IS going.

9. I want you to understand and welcome the ambivalent feelings and desires. I would like you to be fairly comfortable with the gray areas and the contradictions about how I feel and what I may want.

10. I want you to be predictable. I want to be able to count on you to be there, listen and speak consistently or let me know when you are unable to do that. I will honor that.

Affairs are powerful. Affairs are costly. They affect family, friends, colleagues and employers. Affairs are also an opportunity – to redesign one’s life and love relationships in ways that create honor, joy and true intimacy.

Human Empowerment Lessons from the Dog Whisperer

Even if you don’t live with a dog, you may be familiar with the National Geographic Channel’s program “Dog Whisperer” starring Cesar Millan. Each episode features Cesar working with families, individuals and their dogs.

In virtually every episode the dog whisperer gets troubled dogs on the road to rehabilitation and people better trained as owners. Cesar offers a set of core truths learned by working with dogs and watching and interacting with dogs just about his whole life.

Believe it or not, we think that the lessons taught by this dog whisperer can help you live a happier, more empowered life. Of course, we humans are different than our canine friends. There can be pack mentalities in our family, friend and work environments though we don’t advise you to always try to be the pack leader.

Much can be learned when you follow another person’s leadership as well. At the same time, who wouldn’t want to experience the sheer joy that is apparent in a dog’s “smile” with his or her tail wagging? Look at a happy dog-whether he or she is running after a ball, leaping into a pond, or quietly lounging on the floor. Wouldn’t it be great to feel that contentment and spark for life more of the time?

Be in the moment.
We’ve all heard this suggestion before but how many of us really follow it? With the humans he works with, Cesar Millan often points out how in the moment dogs are. They don’t tend to react from the past unless their humans have taught them to. According to Millan, it is not a dog’s way to hold a grudge, anticipate a negative event, or live in the past. That, unfortunately, is a human tendency. And it’s one we can unlearn!

When you find yourself thinking ahead to your to-do list, last night’s argument with your spouse, an upcoming parent- teacher conference, the end of the month bill paying, or even a longed for vacation– STOP! It is such a common occurrence to spend your present worrying about the future or rehashing the past. So when do you get to live?

Take time to look around and feel within yourself. What is going well for you right here and now? It could be something as “small” as the crystal clear cloudless blue sky that graces your day. How do you feel at this very moment? Now is the time for appreciating your life and now is the moment for celebrating what you have and what you want.

Let your feelings flow.
As Lily walks her pet dog Goldie, she notices the ease with which Goldie seems to move through life. Even though she was scolded for sticking her nose in the trash can, Goldie doesn’t let that ruin her day. In fact, it seems to Lily that Goldie experienced the momentary “oops, I’m in trouble” and then moved on. Lily wonders to herself why it seems so difficult for her to do the same. Sound familiar?

From time to time dogs can also become stuck in challenging emotions. This is sometimes what brings Cesar to a family. Whether it’s a dog too afraid to walk on linoleum floors or one who is terrified of loud noises, Cesar works with the dog to help him or her move through those fearful feelings. It is a process that takes time, patience and perseverance, but in the end the dog is happier and more at ease with life.

We all know that when we’re stuck in particular feelings, it seems like everything else going on in our lives fades to the background. It might be anger, panic, grief or some other emotion that became lodged in our consciousness after a traumatic event or even something more subtle. In the midst of the stuck feelings, it might even seem like we’ll never be truly happy again. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

No matter what the apparent cause of emotions that appear to dominate our lives, we can move through those difficult feelings and let them go. There are many ways to release when you are stuck.

For some people creating a ritual around letting go is helpful. You might burn old letters in a fireplace. Others find working with a coach or participating in a therapy such as breathwork freeing. Making time for quiet reflection and meditation is almost always useful. Try to stay focused on your emotions and not on the events around the emotions.

You may realize that some of the beliefs you have about yourself, your life and the initial event are a large part of what’s keeping you feeling stuck. Know that at anytime you can change your beliefs.

Take a good look at the dog in your life or just one walking down the street. If it’s a happy-looking dog, soak in the example and allow yourself to feel the joy that’s available to you. Now wag your tail and smile!

Dealing With Change In A Positive Way…

Some of you reading this article may be old enough to remember the Elton John song with the line that says, “The change is going to do you good.”

So here’s an interesting question–If change is so good for us, why do most of us fear change so much?

There’s an incredible new book we’ve been reading called Dragon Spirit and in it the authors talk about change. They say that change is inevitable, things will change and nothing is fixed in place or time.

Now while this is not news to most of us, many of us still cringe inwardly when changes occur in our lives, especially when we perceive the changes to be negative.

The truth is that change is happening in every moment whether you are consciously creating the change or not and we can use that change to create a better life.

When change happens, we have two choices. We can either embrace the change and move forward into a new life or situation or we can stay stuck in the past. Keeping things as they are or staying in the past is always okay if it’s a conscious choice.

Change creates challenges when we don’t look at our lives as they really are and don’t embrace the change to consciously create our lives from an empowering place.

In our relationship and our lives, we have learned a great deal about change from each other. Susie has always viewed change with varying degrees of apprehension. She’s lived in the same house for 30 years and changed jobs infrequently. Otto, on the other hand, has lived in well over 20 or 25 houses in his lifetime and has had even more jobs so change has been a big part of his experience.

What Susie has learned from Otto about change is to expect it and that change is not a “bad” thing. Otto has learned from Susie that if you’re going to make a change in your life, make sure that you are conscious about the reasons for making those changes.

If change is an “issue” in your life, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you to move forward.

1. Are you recognizing and embracing the changes going on around you in every moment?

2. Do you keep doing the same things over and over in the face of change that keep you stuck in the past?

3. What can you consistently do to create your life the way you want it?

If change is certain, on-going and inevitable, an important truth to recognize is that it’s what we do in the face of those changes that determines the outcome of our lives and our happiness.

So, we encourage you to look at the change in your life with a sense of wonder and possibility. The author Pema Chodron encourages us to “relax into the truth of change.” Welcome it as if it were a long-lost friend and not an enemy. If you do, you’ll see glorious “changes” in your life.

“Change is the elixir of life. Stating a simple truth, happiness is ours when we respond and adapt with enthusiasm to changes when they appear.”