creating a sacred space

sacred space In order to begin the practice of meditation one needs to create a sacred space. Sacred spaces are not just meant to be in cathedrals, churches or other special locations. A sacred space is an area that you set aside for yourself – a space where you can spend some time in prayer, that is dedicated to prayerful thinking and can have objects that are spiritual or contemplative in nature; or maybe they are simply pretty to look at. A candle, statue, rosary, sage, incense are some items that come to mind. Depending on your spiritual inclinations, you could have a cross; a Buddha statue; or prayer beads – whatever calls to you. It is a space, area, spot that is not used for other things – like placing the remote, or TV Guide, or last night’s glass of soda.

This sacred space does not have to be big. It could be a placemat with some items on it that are important to you, possibly a daily meditation book or even an index card with your favorite prayer written on it that you can read aloud during your prayer time. Maybe your sacred space is portable – you put it out, pray, and then put it away in a safe place. Possibly, your sacred space is in a discreet location – something that only you would know was sacred – such as corner of the room or spot behind a curtain that no one goes near.

As you think about creating your sacred space, what are the thoughts or feelings that come up? For some it may be centered on issues of safety or privacy. For others, there may be thoughts/feelings of unworthiness – feeling embarassed about setting aside a space for meditation and prayer. Who are the people in your household ? Are they supportive of something like this? Are you afraid to find out?

sacred space

Write down your thoughts, no matter what they are. Write down all your desires, concerns, fears, hopes related to setting up a sacred space. I’d like to hear from you what your obstacles are to creating a sacred space for yourself. This is the work. The inner work does not begin after the sacred space is created, the inner work is getting to the emotional place to be able to have one – to get through all the issues, whether real or imagined, that block setting up that space.

When working on yourself doesn’t feel like you’re working on yourself

When you’re in pain and life is hard; when your self esteem is at its low point and you are struggling. As you work on your issues, you work through painful feelings and you feel like this struggle counts as ‘working on yourself’, and it is. One way of coping through difficult times is by listening to music. You can listen to happy music that inspires you and changes your mood. Or you can, like I have preferred doing, listen to music that expands or plays out your feelings in way that you are not able to. The song helps you emote.

The video above is best reflects my self-esteem when it’s at its lowest point. I imagine my self-esteem taunting me sarcastically in the lyrics to this song. Paradoxically, it makes me feel better.

Another way of working through feelings is by using sound. Sound without a melody and without lyrics. The focus is on the vibration of the notes, and the harmony between the notes. Using sound and vibration for healing does not rely on words to process the feelings. It does not require the use of the left side of your brain – the logical, thinking side.

A simple practice that you can do to begin understanding the use of sound as a healing tool is toning. Toning helps with reaching a meditative state and getting some vibrational movement into your body and through your energetic fields.

Sit down in a comfortable position, sit cross legged on the floor; or in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Preferably without shoes on.

Do 1:2 breathing: Inhale slowly through your nose, hold your breath briefly and then exhale slowly through your mouth. While inhaling, count up – for example when I inhale slowly I can count (in my head) up to 10. So then, on the exhalation, double it to 20.

When you feel comfortable, on the exhalation instead of silently breathing out, start toning by saying vowels. Say each vowel 3 times to start. As you say each of these vowels, place your hand on your heart chakra and notice the vibration that each vowel creates. Place your hand on your solar plexus or throat chakra and see if you can feel the vibration. Experiment with different notes, different vowels to see what you feel. Don’t worry if you can’t actually feel the vibration initially, the vibrational energy follows your intention.

As you do this on a regular basis, you may notice a greater affinity to a particular vowel; so you can feel free to say that particular vowel more often.

say ‘aaah’ (as in ‘pot’)

say ‘ehh’ (as in ‘fest’)

say ‘eee’ ( as in ‘feet’)

say ‘oh’ ( as in ‘fold’)

say ‘u’ ( as in ‘food’)

If you are new to using sound as a way of healing, toning through difficult times may not feel like you are ‘working on yourself’, but it is! One aspect of toning is the meditation which is calming; and then the toning vibration clears up emotional and energetic blocks that allows you to have greater clarity about your situation.

Let me know if you try this exercise and tell me how it goes! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me or ask in the comments section.

What is meditation and why should I do it?

Everybody talks about meditation, but I’m not really sure what the benefit is. I sit down, can’t sit down cross-legged like they show in the pictures; and then I try to be quiet, but all I really do is continue thinking about stuff. Is it really possible to stop thinking? Yeah, I know, you are supposed to ‘notice’ the thoughts as they drift by, but not get caught up in the content of the thought. Eventually, your mind is supposed to become still…

Up until not too long ago, I have been saying/ thinking the above. I liked the idea of meditating to get to a calmer state, but it just wasn’t happening. Every once in a while, I would resolve to start meditating. My attempts at meditation would just eventually whither into nothingness; or even sometimes increased anxiety. I could not stop my stinkin’ thinkin’. Being a skeptical sort of person, I could not really see the connection between meditation and ‘being better’. I am not a ‘bliss bunny’. Bliss bunny is a term that a former sound & music teacher used for individuals who are … well, bliss bunnies. The way I conceptualize it is people who are eternal hippies; forever happy, smelling flowers; twirling around in tie-dye clothes, with no obvious source of income and no apparrent worries about it either. Not. Me.

Although that persona , if real, is appealing; I never really believed it when I saw it in others; and I definitely did not think that this was an achievable state of mind for me. I do realize though, that the part of me that disbelieves ‘bliss bunnies’ is exactly the same judgmental; critical aspect of myself that judges and criticizes me and has at times been the obstacle to me pursuing certain goals.

The only times that I have felt in a meditative zone was when bicycling on long stretches of road – where I basically focussed on my pace and not much else. Those instances though, were few and far between.

Now however, I do meditate. I still don’t sit down an ‘Meditate’ with a capital ‘M’, but I do sit down on a daily basis, in the morning and in the evening and engage in a form of meditation. I sit down and do breathing exercises; I sit down and tone., I sit down and I drum. This gives me a focus. It allows me to open my mind to the universal energies. (Yes, I did I just say that) I still think, I even still have “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” at times, but mostly, I can get into the drumming or the toning and ‘defragment’ my brain(1).

My goal in this blog is to post different exercises to facilitate getting into a meditative state. Exercises that have worked for me and hopefully for you too!

I would love to hear about your experiences with meditation; and let me know what works or doesn’t work for you.

(1) I read this analogy somewhere which is in terms I can understand, but I don’t remember which book it was in- as soon as I find it again, I will post it here.

Have a hard time meditating? Try Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a simple, yet powerful, technique for centering and grounding yourself.

You breathe in one nostril and breathe out the other 10 times and then switch nostrils.

This is the hand position you use. The index and middle fingers are placed on your forehead, between your eyebrows – a location that is called your ‘third eye’. Your ring and pinky finger press one nostril, and your thumb alternately presses the other.

alternate nostril breathing hand position
alternate nostril breathing hand position

how you place your fingers on your nostrils and third eye
how you place your fingers on your nostrils and third eye

There are variations of alternate nostril breathing that you can find in books and on the internet. I am only going to present the one that I was taught and that I use.

Sit in a comfortable position; feet flat on the floor.

Place your right hand (you can use whichever hand you feel most comfortable using) on your nose, in the position shown above.

Close the left nostril with your ring and pinky finger and inhale through your right nostril.

Inhale deeply, and then cover your right nostril with your thumb and exhale slowly through your left nostril.

Switch back and cover your left nostril again in order to inhale through your right nostril and repeat this whole process 10 times.

After the 10th exhalation from your left nostril, instead of switching nostrils, now inhale through this same nostril while keeping your thumb pressed on your right nostril.

You are now beginning 10 inhalations through your left nostril and exhalations through your right nostril.

Try this for a week and see how you feel. It won’t take more than a few minutes to do. This is a great way to begin a meditation practice. Let me know how it goes!

You find what you look for – getting past the root chakra

Please watch this video before reading the rest of this post.

Do you often wonder what someone else’s ‘angle’ is, finding it difficult during a conversation to take things at face value? Or maybe you just feel lonely, not liked by many people. Perhaps there was some past trauma that has left you hypervigilant and unable to move forward. How often do we ‘look’ for things and ultimately find them? What is the likelihood of seeing something that we are not looking for?

I have worked with many people that count their personal slights; they look at and report on the number of times they have been ‘betrayed’. Often times, there is unhealed trauma that keeps perpetuating itself in various ways that appear to be unrelated to the original event(s). One is left with unrelenting sense of ungroundedness; fears, insecurities and inability to take risks due to a fundamental sense of lack of safety.

As in the video above, how often do you ‘count’ the number of times someone has wronged you; or how many times you have been hurt? The bigger question is, though, how often have you missed the ‘moon-walking bear’? How many times has a kind gesture gone unnoticed; an invitation to lunch left unanswered?

The root chakra – located at the base of the spine is the energetic center that holds our most basic survival needs: physical safety; financial stability; shelter. When our root chakra is clear, we feel stable, grounded, safe. We are able to venture out and take risks. When there are blockages, or ‘sanskaras’ – imprints left in our bodies from past experiences that impacted our basic sense of safety or stability – then we become, or remain, ungrounded, insecure or fearful. We may have physical problems in the general area of the root chakra or emotional problems stemming from the lack of groundedness such as depression or anxiety. The events that lead to PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – could also cause a disruption in the root chakra, especially if the individual is not able to or does not have the opportunity to process the trauma.

Talking about the past in therapy is a wonderful way of working through past trauma. It is a forum to work through difficult social interactions and the full range of emotional issues that stem from them. There are specific cognitive- behavioral interventions that help an individual move past their specific life events in order to live happier healthier lives. However, sometimes an individual can get stuck with the whirlpool of talking about their problems and remaining unable to move beyond this.

Sound healing can be a tool to help an individual move to the next level in their psychotherapy; give them that extra ‘oomph’ or insight into themselves that helps them along in their growth. Using toning; tuning forks and other sound healing tools – in meditation or with a sound healing practitioner – can help an individual heal and move forward.