Tag Archives: meditation

No More Auction Block for Me

Given the state of the political world this past year, I have started thinking about protest music – songs that make a statement about the need for social change.

Protest music has been around a very long time – as long as there has been music and something to protest.  At times the complaint is hidden within allegorical lyrics, or the tone of the song contradicts the content – for example it can sound like a ‘happy’ song though the words betray that.  In other cases, happy lyrics can be sung in a sad sounding key.  Other protest songs are musical storytelling – an oral history through song.

‘No More Auction Block for Me’ is clearly a direct statement of protest about slavery by simply stating ‘no more’.  ‘No more whip lash’, ‘no more pint of salt for me’.  It is powerful in its simplicity.

Can there be healing in a protest song?

In looking for the first song to write about here, I first listened to the version sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  It sounds more like traditional black spiritual music that I have heard.  It was very powerful to hear the voices harmonize and weave through the melody and lyrics of the song.  I then listened to Paul Robeson’s version – I initially did not like it due to what seemed to be a British accent, but as I heard each of these versions as well as more modern versions, his low voice and the lyrics started to reverberate through my body.  I got images of my root chakra and glimpses of an energetic shattering of the fear and immobilization created on that auction block.  This happened with ‘casual’ listening in my living room, with no personal knowledge of being a descendant of a slave.  I can only imagine the impact during a sound meditation.  The lyrics are written below as well as links to three different versions: Sweet Honey in the Rock, Paul Robeson, and Odetta.  All touch one’s soul in a slightly different way.

Take a listen and let me know how they impact you.  Does the melody sound familiar?  It was subsequently used by Bob Dylan for his song ‘Blowing in the Wind’

No more auction block for me.                  No more, no more.                                        No more auction block for me.             Many thousands gone

No more driver’s lash for me.                    No more, no more.                                        No more driver’s lash for me.               Many thousands gone

No more whip lash for me.                          No more, no more.                                         No more pint of salt for me.                  Many thousands gone

No more auction block for me.                   No more, no more.                                        No more auction block for me.              Many thousands gone

Paul Robeson

Odetta

Sweet Honey in the Rock

A Shaman in Kansas

What would Dorothy have done following her return from the land of Oz? She got back home by clicking her heels three times and repeating a mantra to herself: ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home’ until she did get back home.
Then, when back home, nobody believed she had been on this amazing journey in the land of Oz.
The movie ends at this point but if the story were to continue, what would have happened?
She would have continued her journey. She would have looked for answers to understand what happened to her, and would learn what she would need to do to get answers to her questions and to continue to grow.

She would have gone through a phase of not speaking about her experiences, not wanting to experience the scorn of disbelief, but would instead go on long, contemplative walks. She’d sit on a rock, close her eyes, and in her mind, go back to that land. As she did this, overtime, she would find herself reaching new insights. New insights about herself as well as new ideas on actions to take that would enable her growth while living in Kansas. The first action would be to no longer be silent about her experiences.

We all sometimes feel like we are living in Kansas, or sometimes we just work there – existing in a dustbowl where nothing really thrives and everyone barely makes enough to get by. We imagine, fantasize, about a life ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ but rarely take action. We all have the ability, however, to have that colorful life on this side of our dreams. And, it does not necessarily involve leaving Kansas. It involves contemplation, gratitude, and acknowledging and experiencing the loving relationships that are already there. What does need to shift is our sense that we don’t innately have the power to change our circumstances – clicking our heels, changing our attitude and taking action.

What is your Kansas? What can you change about your attitude? What is a small action that you can take today? I would love to hear from you.

Throat Chakra

Chakra five is the center related to communication through sound, vibration, self-expression, and creativity. It is the realm of consciousness that controls, creates, transmits, and receives communication, both within ourselves and between each other. It is the center of dynamic creativity, of synthesizing old ideas into something new. Its attributes include listening, speaking, writing, chanting, telepathy, and any of the arts – especially those related to music and sound.” Anodea Judith

Prayer and meditation : prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening for the answer. The problem is that being in our own head during meditation is like sitting in a crowded bar – you can’t carry on a conversation.

Chakra five – the throat chakra is where our inner world, perceptions and our experience are expressed. We tell our stories, express our feelings and we are creative. We reconnect with sacred sounds and our higher consciousness through the fifth chakra. We ask for things. Chakra five is where our idea of how things ought to be meets how we really are.

Part of the effects of energetic damage to the throat chakra is that we come to place greater importance on how we ‘ought’ to be, at the expense of expressing ourselves authentically to the world. We don’t know what we feel, what we really like or what we want or we may know, but are afraid to say so and hide our true selves. We worry about what people will think; wonder what the ‘right’ thing is to say or the ‘right’ way to say it. We lose touch with how we feel inside, focusing instead at trying to guess at what other people are thinking or figuring out what they want to hear.

“Be careful about what you pray for, you just might get it”

Exercises for opening the throat chakra:

lion pose – you make a ‘ha’ sound while opening up your face – wide mouth, sticking your tongue out as far as possible, open your eyes as wide as possible. (if you google lion pose, you will get a hefty amount of images that will help guide you)

toning – I wrote about this in a previous post: http://wp.me/p3PoH2-x

Part of the work involved in opening up the throat chakra is getting in touch with your authentic self, accepting that imperfect self and then taking the risk of being more authentically you to the people around you. It is important to start with people you know and trust that they will support you as you open up.

Fourth Chakra – The heart

All you need is love – So simple, yet so hard…

The heart chakra is at the center of all the chakras. The element associated with it is air. We all breathe the same air. Without air we can only survive a few minutes. Without love, are we really living? When we breathe, there is a balance between input and output. The same holds true for all matters of the heart. One cannot give without ever receiving; one cannot endlessly receive without ever giving. As with breath, sometimes we hold our love out of fear. As with breath, we sometimes may need to do 2:1 loving* in order to restore balance to our heart.

I have worked with many people who say they will no longer love because they have been hurt in the past. Although it’s understandable that past trauma or loss impacts a person’s ability to get close to others, trauma doesn’t have to be a death sentence on your future. As Marianne Williamson says: “we are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.”

Our culture emphasizes fulfilling the needs of the first 3 chakras: more safety, more security, more pleasure, more fun, more ‘getting my way’. All this changes though, with love in the mix. Anodea Judith describes it this way: The first chakra is solid earth – unmoving, static. The 2nd chakra introduces movement, separation. The third chakra is where these moving objects collide and release energy. The 4th chakra is the organizing principle – love. “Once we perceive objects and their activities as relationship, we begin to perceive the perfection, balance and eternal nature of these relationships.”

What to do , what to do…

simple exercise: Think about a person you have a resentment against, someone that really irritates you. Now, for the next 30 days, pray for them or send them a positive wish or hope for their health and well-being. For example : “I hope (pray) that “name of person” has good health and happiness, and that they have a nice day today”.

See what happens in 30 days! I think your heart chakra will be a little more open!

* 2:1 breathing exhalation is twice of inhalation. Discussion about what 2:1 loving would look like can be the topic of a future blog post.

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!

My little hater

A while back, the church I attend announced that it planned on raising 1.5 million dollars through it’s parishioners in order to give the church a makeover. My spouse immediately said ‘I’m going to get involved!’ and I thought to myself that this would be a waste of money as the church would never raise the needed money.

More recently, Marianne Williamson – an ‘internationally acclaimed spiritual author and lecturer’ – announced she will be running for congress in her district in California. I love Marianne; I’ve read many of her books, attended her lectures; and think that it would be great if she could be elected to Congress. But then I thought: ‘she won’t get elected’; ‘the general public won’t go for her’. I read some of her website, there were some parts in her FAQ’s that I felt were a little awkward; so again, I pondered that maybe she was putting energy into a losing battle; ‘she’ll feel bad if she loses’. I read some of the comments, and already there were some haters posting ridiculous statements.

Sometimes I look at the comments section of Youtube videos, or of articles that I read and there are always haters commenting, no matter what the topic – sometimes important, divisive topics; and at other times quite innocuous topics. A few years back, I had posted a Youtube video that I had taken while on an airplane whose wings were being ‘de-iced’. I put the video to music and posted it. It was innocuous enough for me that I could post it, I wasn’t putting something dear to me online – but still, there were hater comments. I’ve wondered about the haters that have time to post toxic commentaries online, and I wonder who they are in their ‘real’ lives. But then, I don’t really have to look too far, because I have my own little hater.

The church placed this fundraising thermometer with their goal amount. I was embarrassed for the church, that they would set themselves up for such a major disappointment. As the weeks passed, slowly but surely the red marker kept rising. Eventually, and this didn’t take a long time either, it reached it’s goal and then surpassed it. I was stunned, and I felt it was a lesson learned. The church benefited by having many people who were like my spouse – they took the leap of faith and put their money where their mouth is.

I don’t know if Marianne Williamson will win, nobody knows that. But she is taking that leap and doing what she feels called to do. It is a major leap, that won’t be easy – but what is life, if not for the leaps?

All of these negative thoughts I have – about the church’s inability to raise money; how they’ll embarass themselves; how Marianne will be disappointed to have put herself out there – are comments that I make to myself. My projections. I am my own little hater. Statements that are preemptive strikes to any action that I may desire to take. ‘this is stupid’ ‘people won’t understand’ ‘nobody would buy that’ ‘it’s not good enough’ ‘I’m not an artist’ ‘I don’t know enough’.

Do you have a little hater? How does your little hater stop you in your tracks; slow you down; make you doubt yourself?

Working with music and sound in therapeutic ways is something that I am feeling called to do. In doing this work, I have to bring in all of me. I do have something to offer despite being imperfect. As this blog evolves; as I evolve – I hope that you will be able to get something that you could use for your own personal growth and healing.

http://www.holynamebrooklyn.com/

fundraising thermometer
fundraising thermometer

http://marianneforcongress.com/
Marianne Williamson


Beating the Little Hater

chakras and sound healing

The Chakras

The chakras are represented by the seven colors of the rainbow: red – orange – yellow – green – blue – indigo – violet.  As one goes up the ‘shushumna’ through the chakras, there is an increasing energy level, an increasing vibration just as the colors of the rainbow increase in their vibration as they move from red to violet.

Categorizing the above colors and sounds into 7 elements is essentially creating artificial boundaries and limiting what is really an infinitely vast spectrum of light and sound.  It is a simplified way of conceptualizing the energy work that is being done and it is intended to help develop a beginning understanding of sound healing.

All your experiences in life are stored energetically in your body.  Memories can be triggered through one of the 5 senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, or auditory.    The impact of life events can alter our energetic power centers – our chakras. Our heart closes; our mind does not learn new things; our sense of safety is perpetually awry.  We can have an intellectual understanding of our past life events (through therapy, or self-help groups and other forms of healing), but often times, these experiences remain ‘stuck’ within our bodies – the energetic misalignment of chakras remains the same.

I like to call the soundwork that I do ‘chakra massage’.  It does not involve an actual physical massage, but rather an energetic massage through the use of the monochord and energy work through my hands.