300 Days of Meditation: Tips and Learnings

IMG_20181125_225640_186Today I complete 300 consecutive days of daily meditation. I practice Vipassana, a silent unguided meditation. I embarked on this journey on January 31st 2018 when I went to my second 10-day silent retreat. As I left on February 11th, I decided I want to continue this practice for at least a 100 days. When I reached the 100 days, I felt that 180 day / six months would be the next step. But when I hit 130 days / 4 months, I knew I had to go for the 365 days – an entire year of daily meditation. Now, as I near my goal of 365 days, I am convinced I want to continue this practice for life. Nothing has brought me as much joy, peace and balance as this has.

At the retreat, they said an ideal practice would have an hour each in the morning and evening (2 hours a day). They also said that it may be a lofty goal, so sit for at least 20 minutes a day. I felt I could easily be somewhere in between and decided to meditate for at least 30 minutes / day. I have successfully done that and gone on to meditate 2 hours / day several times. May be in the next year, I will firm up this goal. I will see where this journey takes me.

I wanted to summarize what enabled me to easily accomplish this particular goal, so here goes:

A. Knowing my values and how this specific goal would allow me to live them out each day

B. Keeping the goal realistic and being grounded in the present

C. Limiting my daily task list to just a few tasks

D. Sharing my goals with those important to me, i.e. my husband

E. Prioritizing meditation each day, even on vacation

F. Documenting my journey in a journal (separate from social media posts)

G. Celebrating victories along the way

And here are some of the attitudes that aided the process (and got stronger each day as I meditated)

  • A beginner’s mind – not expecting earth-shattering results
  • Curiosity – gentle pushing towards sitting for a longer time
  • Detachment – not analyzing the meaning of thoughts / experiences
  • Acceptance – of negative and positive thoughts as they arise and abate
  • Forgiveness – others and myself through this process

 

None of what I have learned is rocket science. But till I actually experienced it, it may as well have been. Here is my experiential learning summarized:

#How we spend our days will determine how we spend our lives!

#Habits are created based on what we practice every single day.

#Transformation requires openness to change who we are intrinsically and that can mean giving up things we hold close to our hearts.

#Compassion is a journey and not a goal.

#Peace is a practice and an outcome.

#Cut out the bullshit. So here’s to a 2019 without any social media! (Blog excluded)

 

 

 

 

Be a fountain

A few days ago, I came across this quote, “Be a fountain, not a drain,” and I was immediately captivated by it. Perhaps because I identify so much with the analogy of being a fountain. I often end my meditation with affirmations / visualization of a fountain – some days it’s of joy and love, and on others of peace and positivity. “I feel a fountain of joy within me. I am a fountain of compassion and love,” to give you an example.

I reflected on what about the fountain resonates with me. Here are a few aspects of the fountain that I love and try to embody personally:

  • Abundance 

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    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • A cycle – it puts out joy (or water if you want to be literal) and it goes right back into it.
  • No ulterior motive except to spread a message of calmness, coolness and beauty
  • Stability – it doesn’t travel from place to place, but it draws the weary and the thirsty to it and rejuvenates them.

And that got me to thinking, how can we as human beings be fountains?

 

  • Practice self-care. The fountain is continuously feeding itself what it puts out.
  • Balanced input and output – The fountain can never give others more than it gives itself. This is especially for someone like me that derives so much pleasure, validation and meaning in serving others. But if I don’t fill my cup, I will be draining my cup.
  • Self reflection and knowing our strengths – The fountain does not try to dispense fizzy drinks! It knows what it has and what it can offer.

We can all be fountains. Even when we are in pain. It does not matter whether we start by focussing on loving ourselves or by spreading joy and love to others. In the end, we have to do both to create this unending symbiotic relationship between ourselves and the universe.

In my case, I did start by giving to others. It helped me start healing from trauma. But I often felt empty and drained. I realized that I was stretching myself without giving any type of care and compassion to myself. I pushed myself till I could no longer.

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http://emilyrosetv.me/be-a-fountain-not-a-drain/

This experience taught me that a drain is not always draining others. Drain can mean draining ourselves. So more drainage for me!! You see, the healing had created the space for many other things, but I wasn’t putting anything in. Early this year, I began meditation and things evolved drastically for me. I feel love and compassion for me and those around me. I am able to set better boundaries and know my limits. I became aware. I became a fountain.

If you want to learn more about self-care, mindfulness and creating an inner fountain, please do talk to me.

A gentle reminder to be gentle

I am at the Yoga studio. It’s been 2 weeks since I practiced yoga. Since the last month or so, I have been doing less yoga than I need or my body is used to. It should have been a warning. But I don’t think anything of it. Today it feels harder. I am surprised. I slept well. I am well hydrated. Why is this happening? But it happens. My body does not move the way it’s supposed to.

I have lived with chronic pain for 11 years. Since February 2018, I have been practicing the Vipassana meditation daily. There has been an 80% improvement in my life with pain. I go weeks without any pain. In Yoga, I am able to do a lot more, kinda like the fancy poses you see on those Instayogis. So when my body doesn’t move in downward dog, the simplest of all positions for a flow class, I feel betrayed.

I start pushing myself. My body does what I want it to. There is no pain. BUT, there is no joy. Every move is a struggle. Every pose seems endless. I check in with my breath – non-existent. I start by focussing on my breath again. There is ease. I push myself. Check in again. There is no ease. There is no breath.

This feels different. When there is no pain, why won’t my body move? And then I decide. Fuck it. I am gonna go easy and modify everything. Wherever there was struggle, I put in a modification. I used a block, put my knee down when I needed to, skipped the push up, did a different pose.

Result: I could stay in all the poses. I completed the class. There was breath. There was ease and most importantly, there was joy. I did try the advanced poses that the teacher asked us to try. I fell out. I laughed. I felt elated.

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Location: PowerYoga Canada, Etobicoke

Worldwide June Gratitude Pledge

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I am hosting a June Gratitude & Mindfulness Pledge for everyone who wants to join in any corner of the world. To put it simply, all of us know that being appreciative of the little things in life has great benefits to our mental health. But most of us may lack the discipline and/or the motivation to be consistent with it.  I thought, “Why not create a community event and all of us can be in it together!”

The pledge starts June 1 at 12.01AM and ends on June 30th at 11.59PM your local time. All of you have to do is spend 5-10 minutes everyday to write down 10 Positive Things that happened or you noticed on any given day.

Personally, I spent a year doing this in 2017. I want to emphasize that this is different from praying. It can be part of your praying practice, but slightly different. This is intentionally reflecting on every single day and writing down things that we may otherwise enjoy in the moment, but not necessarily preserve it.

What kind of things can be written?

A. It would depend on your values and personal goals: e.g. if you’re someone who has been timid and are working towards your goal of allowing yourself to get angry, and you do that one day – you’d write, “I allowed myself to get angry.” For someone working on their anger, they’d write, “I was able to walk it off without getting too mad.”

No inherent emotion or action is good or bad. We just have to identify it’s function in our lives. It depends on us.

B. Day-to-day things that we don’t give ourselves and others credit for: You did something special for someone else or someone else did something for you, that can go in your journal! Why should you do this? Well, why shouldn’t you? Isn’t it amazing to go back days and months later and be reminded? My entire journal from 2017 is being such an encouragement to me this year!

Sometime last year, I had a mini argument with Sid. I was really annoyed. I sat down to journal and somehow I opened an entry just made a few weeks ago. And the first thing I’d written on that page was how I came home to a clean house and a hot meal. My annoyance just melted. This is more than just being thankful for your family – this is about documenting a specific thing that you did for them and/or vice-versa.

C. Little things that don’t involve us, but make our lives brighter: Here’s where you write about stopping to smell the flowers or notice people helping each other or children playing in the park or just any damn thing that made you smile during the day!

D. Things you are grateful for each day: Food, clothing, shelter, people to love and hug, your body. I struggle with chronic pain and body image issues. Last year, when I wrote down daily that I am grateful for this body that let’s me do things I enjoy, my feelings towards my body began to change.

WHY? WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? Noticing the little things in life helps us to become more mindful. It improves mood, resilience to stress and adopt a positive outlook in general. If you’re healing from a trauma, it can bring relief to think of the smallest things that are not related to that incident. If you’re still not feeling it, working with a therapist can help you get there.

What I have learned is that even if I don’t believe, if I do something with discipline, the belief follows.

Here is the link to the Facebook event:  https://www.facebook.com/events/208946573227419/

Add yourself to the event and invite your friends and family! You are all invited to share your ideas and experiences as time goes by!

Please use the #JuneMindfulness on social media if you decide to share. The first thing I invite you to share is a picture of your journal on the event itself on Facebook or on Instagram with the #JuneMindfulness and you can tag me: @i_am_unity if you wish.

I am so excited. Let’s spread the message of gratitude and mindfulness!

 

Lessons from a messed up Yoga pose

As a chronic pain warrior, Yoga has literally been my lifeboat over the last 4.5 years. People often ask me how long I have been doing Yoga. It is a common misconception that the number of years one has been practicing determines how “advanced”, or far worse, how “good” one is. And then some are pretty open; they ask me if I can do handstands. My answer is no and that is not my goal. This sort of attitude towards Yoga is very able-ist and excludes those like me who live with life-limiting conditions. To me, Yoga is as much about what happens off the mat as what happens on it. And sometimes, as in my case, the leaps one makes are more off the mat than on it.

I live with chronic pain. This means my body will not do what it is supposed to, what I want it to, what I beg it to. With pain comes great fatigue and unpredictability. I never know what kind of day I am going to have. At one point, I wanted to die even, so that the pain would end. I hated my body. It wouldn’t move. I put on weight. I had more pain. On a scale of 10, my normal was a 6 / 10 constantly. A lot of days, it would be 8 / 10. I developed anxiety and low self esteem.

However, things began shifting when I started practicing Yoga. I learned to accept each day for what it was, along with the state of my body. It helped. I learned to modify my practice to suit my mental and physical self each day. It made me more cognizant of my personal needs. For the last few months I have been an Energy Exchange volunteer at the Poweryoga Canada Etobicoke studio in the West End of Toronto. (You can read that post HERE.) Today, I was reminded of how much I have benefited from practicing in the last few years. I was at the Yoga studio and my friend said to me:

Friend: You look very fit and happy.
Me: Yes, I know! Thank you.

This brief conversation felt like a celebration to me. To mark this momentous occasion, I decided to take a picture in one of my favourite poses, Svarga Dvijasana, or Bird of Paradise. This has been a challenging pose for me for several years. Having chronic neck, back, hip and shoulder issues made it hard to bind myself from Utthita Parsvakonasana or Side Angle into Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana or Full Bind. And then of course to stand up proud and straight and stay there is a whole other ball game. But consistent practice and meditation have helped my pain and flexibility extensively. And I am now, every once so often, able to get myself into Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana and even Svarga Dvijasana.

So for my celebratory pose, I thought, why don’t I get into something I am working on! This was before class and I wasn’t warmed up at all and it was tricky to get my shoulders to comply. However, I did it for a split second and then I fell out. My friend did such a beautiful job of capturing the transition to standing tall to losing my balance. I know the pose isn’t perfect. And I don’t care. I would have never posted these pictures even last year because it wasn’t perfect and that you could see my tummy rolls, LOL. But I have learned so much about myself from just looking at those pictures. And I learned a lot about life just from falling out of the pose as well.

Bird of Paradise
I am a beautiful Bird of Paradise. Photo location: Poweryoga Canada Etobicoke PC: Georgia
  1. Falling is not failure.
  2. Falling means I pushed myself to the limit.
  3. Falling taught me that there is still a lot to learn.
  4. Falling reminded me to not take myself so seriously.
  5. Falling safely is important.
  6. Falling can make me stronger.
  7. Falling is the mortal enemy of complacency.
  8. Falling is inevitable and part of the process.
  9. Falling and rising are both momentary.
  10. Falling has no value till I attach something to it.

I can’t stop looking at these pictures. I can’t believe I am the person in this photo. She looks so happy and strong and beautiful and free.

11. Falling is not limiting. The fear of falling is.
12. Falling set me free. I am free.

More on my blog:

My Journey w/ Chronic Pain & Yoga

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