Written by: Mike Way
At almost 68 years old, I enjoy finding out that I am still capable of learning some new tricks. But admittedly, at this stage, acquiring new skills that are truly “life changing” is fairly unusual. For me, meditation has become a remarkable addition to my life, even if it has come in the “autumn” of my years. Better late than never, as they say.
I’d been mildly curious about meditation for many years. In a box somewhere, I’m pretty sure I can find some books on, and an old cassette tape of, meditations. But, the tape has never been played; the books unread. Somehow, I just never actually tried it. Why?
Well, I’m aware that I had been put-off just slightly about meditation, mostly based on clichés and false assumptions (e.g. shave my head, wear orange robes and burn incense?) I worried that I’d be required to pretzel myself into the lotus position – (which by the way, as I got older, was simply out of the question!) Silly, huh?
Recently, a few things happened that finally hooked my attention…including semi-retirement and sheltering-at-home because of Covid-19. Most importantly, a dear colleague and good friend invited me to Deepak Chopra’s 21 Days of Abundance meditation challenge. Although I tried to think up several excuses, I was unable to overcome one simple truth….that I completely and absolutely trusted her judgment and her genuineness.
That person, of course was/is Ali. I had worked with her closely about 20 years ago, and was always deeply impressed with her very high level of intelligence, but charmingly mixed with a down-to-earth demeanor, and common-sense thoughtfulness. During the ensuing years, our career and life-paths diverged, but we never lost touch. When I learned that she had answered a calling in spirituality, I was somewhat surprised, if not slightly shocked. But, it was clear she was the same old Ali I knew, having simply turned her incredible intellect and thoughtfulness onto a different focus. I fell back on my trust and belief in her, so I accepted her invitation. Thus began my personal journey with meditation…..
For some of you reading this, you may have already discovered the power(s) of meditation for yourself. For some of you, it might encourage or support you on your own journey. For a few of you, perhaps it may provide just enough of a nudge to finally put aside any reluctance, for whatever your reason(s) and “get on with it” -- taking that first step.
The stories I can offer are simply a way to share my joy of discovery. They may or may not be similar to any of your own experiences. I don’t represent them as anything you should particularly look for; nor as correct or incorrect milestones in the meditation process. I have no idea if they are “typical” in any way, shape or form. Perhaps their best value might be in stimulating or prompting some of you to share your own stories on this blog, or elsewhere. I feel I’ve had some “profound” insights, but no doubt profound only to me because, after all, meditation is a profoundly personal experience.
In a few cases, I’ll share some ideas of my own about the process and practice of meditation itself – often borne of my own muddled awareness and misconceptions. I don’t offer these as universal truths or previously un-earthed truths – but rather as considerations for anyone who may be having difficulties (as I once did) exploring or embracing meditation.
My first “aha!” moment came roughly two-thirds into the 21 Day Challenge and was about the “process” more than a personal insight. I had come to rather enjoy the “just music” parts of the meditations as much or more than the “guided” narrative parts. Somewhere along the way, I began to be troubled that the “just music” parts were becoming shorter and shorter in duration. The ending “bell” would sound long before I was “ready” to stop, and often when I thought I was just getting started into great stuff. It occurred to me this was probably intentional in design, and probably revealed later. Curious, I went back to the first couple of days – and discovered that, while I thought the “just music” time had been decreased down to only three minutes or so – it turned out that it was actually quite consistent at 9-10 minutes from the very beginning. In fact, it was I who had changed….rather than spending/wasting the first five or seven minutes worrying about whether “I was doing it right” or having my brain take me off course with distractions such as sounds or itchy eyes or needing to sneeze – I was instead learning to ignore that stuff and redirect my focus back to the mantra. Thus my actual time in useful meditation simply had time-warped on me, making the ten minutes fly by. It made me want more….much more.
The first, most dramatic, personal moment for me happened a few days later. For most of my adult life, I’d struggled with some frustrating aspects of my relationship with my mother. Since she passed a few years ago (at age 92), I had felt an uncomfortable, unfinished lack of closure with her. Then, during a meditation, with no context or reason, she suddenly appeared to me. There was no exchange of words or anything like that, but I was suddenly flushed with a wonderful sense of warmth, forgiveness, and reconnection. I became aware in that moment, that a slight smile had crossed my face, and felt it vibrate throughout my entire body – down to my toes. I realized it was the first time in 40 years that I had looked her in the eye and smiled TRULY and SINCERELY at her, and with her. The love I felt in that moment was astonishing.
Since then, I have been meditating every day (often more than once) without fail.
You’ve heard meditation is good for you. You’ve got a friend who LOVES it. You’ve been meaning to try it. But… you haven’t tried it.
As a meditation guide, lots of people ask me the best way to create a meditation practice...link to full article
See the rest of this article for a few easy tips to get you started. I wrote it for the amazing new wellness resource, Kensho Health!
I hope this interview with VoyageDenver inspires you to consider how what you do in this life supports who you are in this life. It has been quite a journey!
People often say that the summer solstice is the longest day (in the northern hemisphere), but I like to think of it as the longest light. Around this summer solstice (June 21), I have been playing in the light, and giving myself permission to feel the light and be bright.
I created a meditation around this quote by Shakti Gawain, "The more light you allow within you the brighter the world you live in will be." Try out this meditation to feel your light.
I see the light in you. Be bright.
Please check out this latest 'musings' on Medium where I describe a little bit about being psychic:
I See and I Say What I See
A Not So Woo Woo Psychic
Thoughts on death growing up in funeral home
This fall as the colors fade to brown, my family is undergoing another change - the family home of 80 years is for sale. This ending is a hard goodbye to a place that held so much of life for us. And it makes me laugh to think of all of the life in that house, because this particular home is also a funeral home. Yep, my grandparents operated a funeral home - the place that many people go to have a memorial for their loved one. So growing up, there were lots of funerals, caskets, open caskets with bodies in them, and mourners. And me and my cousins. While there was a service happening, we were always respectful, quiet, not seen or heard. But at all other times, my cousins and I would be running playfully through the halls, giggling and laughing. We played tag around the grave markers in the sales lot. We played hide and seek among the caskets. Death was very much a part of our lives. And I’ve noticed that this society of ours, sometimes tries to hide death, to let the ending go unnoticed. When you grow up in a funeral home, you’ve got to notice the ending.
Yes, there is an ending that comes with death, but there is also a beginning. The body ends and the soul begins a new adventure. It was so obvious at the funeral home: that a body was just a body. And there is so much more to life than a body! The laughter, the giggling, the playing, the love, the spirit. In the novel A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle creates a species of animal that doesn’t have eyes and can not see. This creature says, “We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.” Yes, these bodies are seen and temporal. Yet all those things that we can not see –the spirit, the love, the light, the life—is eternal. This we can not see, but we can know.
When the body stops working in this incarnation, it is the ultimate of endings. Yet, our lives are filled with all different kinds of endings: the sale of a home, the death of a relationship, the death of a job, or the ending of era. We experience these endings throughout our lives. Every day ends and begins again, each season ends and a new one begins. And just like when a soul leaves a body, and there are different opportunities for the soul, with every ending in our lives a rebirth is possible. Rebirth is possible throughout our lives in bodies. With every ending, there is the opportunity for a beginning.
Sometimes, though, we cling to whatever we still want to be a part of our lives. Sometimes we simply refuse to acknowledge that a “death” has happened. And when we so specifically say no to the ending, it is a lot more challenging to say yes to the rebirth. We want things to be the way they were and we cling to the past, hoping for a different ending or no ending at all.
The truth is, when we say no to what is, we hold on to the pain. But as we choose to say yes, (not yes I really wanted this to happen, but yes this is what happened) the pain starts to release. And the rebirth begins. The beginning starts. The new job, the new relationship, the new adventure has an opportunity to take root.
I learned about rebirth as a child through my dear Uncle Keith. When my grandparents died, Uncle Keith, left the job of his life as a librarian to lead the family business. He was reborn as a funeral director as he rededicated his life’s work to bring light to people in their darkest moments. He brought compassion, attention to detail, and flair. And the symbol he chose for every funeral was a shaft of wheat. The wheat has to die, so that the seeds can be sown. It is a traditional symbol of resurrection in Christian faiths, and the life of the soul. In the darkness, even in the darkest dark of the death of the body, there is light. A new path for the soul; a new field to sow. Teaching this became Uncle Keith’s life’s purpose. He transformed like a butterfly from librarian to light keeper.
Death is an end and a beginning, a step; it’s not a problem and it’s not a failure. But society would have us believe that death equals failure; that death is scary, and that death is unfamiliar. Yet, death happens every day, and some day to each one of us. I believe the more we talk about it, the less scary and spooky and fearful death feels. Talking about death will not make it happen sooner. Death is a part of life, and for those of us left living – if we are willing to talk about death—we can support each other in times of loss and grief.
Maybe you have not experienced a person’s life ending in a body recently, but maybe you are mourning the end of a marriage, your child’s childhood, the change of the seasons, or something only you would understand. Give yourself the time and the space to move from the place of resistance, of “no this did not happen” to acceptance. Say “yes, this did happen’.” Maybe you can even find gratitude for the change, and dare to dream the new beginning. Dare to be the happiest version of yourself now.
Let’s take a look at this idea of endings and beginnings in meditation:
Click here for the meditation recording
Grief is hard, especially if you feel alone. If you feel like talking about death or grief, please do! Find a friend with a good ear. And I would encourage you to do the same for a friend in need. Consider being there in a space of love, acceptance, and light. How can you be a light in their darkness? Be the sun for the newly sown wheat.
Remember kindergarten for a moment. What was it like?
Playful. Carefree. Exciting. Wonder. No grades. Getting to try new things. Maybe even cookies and milk.
How many things have you not tried out of fear you won’t “get it right?” Like me in a fancy coffee shop. I always order coffee, regular coffee. I have no idea what the other drinks are… and I have never wanted to feel so stupid as to have to ask what they are. Seriously. The worst that could happen is that they give me a free sample. But the expectation is that I already know what the drinks are and I do not want to look stupid. What new things are you afraid to try?
Instead of not trying things that scare you, consider allowing yourself to do it as if you are in kindergarten. When I let myself be in kindergarten, I instantly take a deep breath and relax. I just get to try it. The pressure is off. I feel playful and carefree because I don’t judge what I am doing as right or wrong.
Allowing yourself to ‘be in kindergarten’ with anything you do is an opportunity is to swing away from the right and wrong, and allow it to just be what it is. The right or wrong, the striving for what’s best, next, better, that isn’t life in kindergarten. In kindergarten, I just get to do it. Just be it. Find my light. See your light. And be in the light together.
Finding that kindergarten space is often easier to do when we are trying a new experience. Because the situation is brand new, it’s easier to let ourselves off the hook to “get it right.” We can more easily find that place of freedom of judgment and expectation. Think about the last time you did something just with the freedom to try, without even the possibility that whatever happened could be wrong. That is part of the kindergarten mindset—just show up and give it a try. Be present. Perfection not required or expected.
But why be in kindergarten for just new things? What would happen if we applied that freedom to something we’ve done before? This idea is something my yoga teachers talk about as “beginner’s mind”. They say things like “Feel the pose as if for the first time. What do you notice about this pose in this moment?” There’s no judgment of what happened the last time. It is about this time. Right here. Right now. Present time.
When we tap into the beginner’s mind for all of the things we have done a thousand times, we tap into the right here and now – being fully present with the miracle before us. Have you ever watched a young child blow out a dandelion? See a firefly? They approach these experiences with a sense of wonder. An awe for this life, for this experience, for this moment. THAT is being in kindergarten. They are fully present, taking in every detail of the miracle before them.
So in a kindergarten mindset, we experience the freedom of not being right or wrong, the freedom to try something new, or trying something old as if for the first time, we are showing up creating our experience, giving it a try in present time, in the miracle of life. It all sounds great.
Yet, as adults, there are some things we are expected to know and do – and we can be a little uncomfortable in the space where we raise our hands and say “I’m a beginner. I do not know how to do _______________(fill in the blank).” And that is why some of us stay in a routine and do not try new things. It isn’t always big life moments where we can be in kindergarten. We can practice releasing the fear in smaller moments. Like me in the fancy coffee shop.
If I could be in kindergarten, with the freedom to just try something new, I would walk into that coffee shop and order a cappuccino. And that is really part of the fun of a kindergarten mindset. Getting the freedom to fail, showing up and try. And as we practice in these smaller moments, it gives us the experience of trying something new so that when the life’s path decisions come up, we are ready, we can trust our intuition, let go of the fear, and show up and try.
It takes practice, really doing this kindergarten mindset. So I offer you the opportunity to try it out. You could set the intention to have an experience this summer that is about showing up, letting go of perfection, letting go of judgment or being judged, maybe try something new, and especially try something old as if for the first time, giving it a try in present time, in the miracle of life. And don’t forget to play!
Here’s a starter meditation to get a little practice at letting go of what has always happened in the past, and let yourself have an experience as if for the first time.
LINK TO RECORDING
How can you approach your meditation practice and spiritual skills with a beginner’s mind? Even if you know how to meditate - you’ve found what works for you - is there a nuance that you can find that allows you to see something new about yourself? Letting go of what has happened, and what may happen, and be present with what is happening right now?
Thank you for your time and attention and the opportunity to be in kindergarten with you.
When something in your life gets to the bumper sticker stage, you pretty much believe what you believe so much that you do not care who knows it, and you want other people to believe it too. It’s a belief that has become ingrained, maybe even so much that we’ve stopped seeing these beliefs as something we can change.
The bumper stickers in our lives are those beliefs that we have stopped questioning. Stopped talking about. The ones that run deep. Sometimes they run so deep that we don’t even realize they are there anymore. We believe them to be true. But that is not always the case, and yet there are some bumper sticker beliefs that may be running in your life that seem too difficult to take off. There may even be some bumper stickers that have been on your bumper so long you don’t even see them anymore.
Recently, some ‘life events’ have helped me see my bumper stickers again. Some of them sound like this: I can’t make a mistake. I am not good enough. AND bumper stickers don’t always have to be about the challenging things in life – there are some on the other side of the spectrum for me too like There is enough. And Chocolate is heavenly. Sometimes they serve to ground us, to remind us who we truly are. But sometimes they are not in present time, they are about who we once were, not who we are now and they keep us stuck.
One I have become aware of recently is - Money can not buy happiness. Think about that for a moment. Money can not buy happiness. How that plays out in my life is that spending money is never joyful. There is some small amount of joy in getting something as a deal or half price or with a coupon. But there is no joy in the stuff itself, because “money can’t buy happiness.” My partner is the exact opposite. Spending money brings him joy. Especially if it is something that he really likes – new music, or spoiling me.
There it is again. He is ‘spoiling’ me, just by spending money on me. It is a bumper sticker there for me to see. So he buys me something – and I will chastise him, not because we don’t have the money to spend – we do, and he isn’t overspending our budget – it is because “I don’t need it”. I am not happy with what money buys. Until I shake off the bumper sticker, and accept the gift.
Michael Norton’s TED Talk “How to Buy Happiness” talks about a research study that shows people are happiest spending money when they spend it on other people. So here is my partner happy to spend money on me. Here is me confident that money can not buy happiness. And I miss the happiness on both fronts – for myself because there are some really nice things or experiences out there to buy – this is a great lifetime for stuff! — and for my partner because instead of gratitude, he got frustration. And I missed out on buying for other people too, because in that there is truly great joy. That is just one of my bumper stickers that I am noticing and removing. And as I look at one, I see many many more.
Another outdated bumper sticker I realized recently is Nothing is ever easy. Nothing is ever easy. The other day, I opened my refrigerator and took out a stick of butter, fully wrapped in its little paper. As I turned from the fridge to the counter, my fingers dropped it. As I bent to pick it up, the voice in my head said “ugh. Nothing is ever easy.” Is that true? Really really true? I did not milk the cow. I did not churn that butter. I wasn’t storing it outside in the snow, but in the fridge, in my fully heated kitchen, with electricity. I did drop a fully wrapped stick of butter on the floor, and this totally able body had to bend over and pick it up. That’s it. And my mind went, “nothing is ever easy.” Not true! All I really had to do was bend over and pick it up! I’d say that actually was pretty easy. Anytime anything doesn’t go ‘just so’- the bumper sticker that shows up for me is ‘nothing is ever easy’. Now that I see this bumper sticker, I am beginning to become more grateful for just how amazing and actually pretty easy this life I’ve got is.
Those are just a couple of mine, and now I’d like to invite you to see one of yours through meditation.
Listen to Meditation Recording
Amusement is always a helpful vibration whenever you start to look at deeply held beliefs. So the universe sent me a couple bumper stickers on actual vehicles to give me a chuckle. I saw a bumper sticker on a tow truck the other day that said “Best Hookers in Town.” I saw another one that said “Non-judgment day is near”.
I live next door to a 15-year-old. She scrimped and saved and babysat for us A LOT and she got herself a car a few months before she even got her license. I see this car a lot. It doesn’t move from its spot on the street because she doesn’t have her license yet. She started by covering the back of it in bumper stickers. I laughed and thought, oh to be 15. There were peace signs, and sayings about ‘truth,’ and lots of others.
Then I was surprised. The next week, all of the stickers I’d gotten used to seeing were gone. A brand new one said, “Well behaved women rarely make history.”
I don’t put bumper stickers on my car because I have this idea that they are really hard to get off. Our young neighbor changes her bumper stickers all the time! What an opportunity! I encourage you all to embrace the teenager in you and change your bumper stickers.
I would love to know more about what bumper stickers you are changing in your life - leave me a comment below!