Unsettled and Restless

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meditation candleI am unsettled and restless these days.

Maybe with the current state of the world it’s easy to understand why, but somehow this uneasiness seems more personal.

I’m caught in the tangle of planning for the future or in looking over my shoulder to resolve old business. I’m “doing” all the right things—eating complex carbs, fruits, and vegetables. I exercise regularly—a combination of aerobic and strength training. I stay in touch with friends near and far, read good books, limit exposure to distressing news while staying informed and involved. I have a family I love, a dog, work that is meaningful. I know how to have fun. I meditate regularly. And yet I am unsettled and restless.

This morning at 5:00 after the fourth day of waking early, it occurred to me what I might be missing. I remembered the deep and abiding feeling of a weeklong silent retreat four months ago.

So rather than stay in bed and stew about my inability to sleep and my growing concern about what the pattern of early morning awakening might mean about my psyche, I quietly got out of bed and went downstairs to meditate. It was still dark and the house was completely quiet. Even the dog was asleep.

I set the timer for an extended period and listened deeply to the sound of the bell on my phone. I set my intention to find refuge, to remember the experience I had during the weeklong retreat. I didn’t simply put in my time until the sound of the three bells forty-five minutes later. I was wholeheartedly present with myself, asking nothing of myself other than my presence.

I had become so entangled in the workings of my mind that I had lost touch with the present and myself. It was a gift I had forgotten. Like finding a precious jewel tucked away in the back of a drawer—only so much better.

Claire Weiner, LMSW, RYT
September 6, 2017

Meditation at Ten Thousand Feet

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plane in peaceful skyI’m on my way to what I hope is a new habit, a good habit. I typically meditate first thing in the morning. After trial and error, I’ve found that the likelihood of getting myself on the cushion decreases with every passing hour.

However on days that I travel, my first-thing-in-the-morning-meditation is often not possible. I’m often engaged in last minute packing or making other arrangements. My entire family lives out of state, so I fly frequently, as often as every six weeks. Even if my flight leaves late in the day, the prospect of flying somehow interrupts my schedule.

So the last several times I’ve flown, I’ve begun meditating shortly after boarding the plane. I wait until the passengers in my row are seated, set my phone in “airplane mode”, set my timer, close my eyes and find my breath.

As usual there is a lot to notice – the captain’s reminder of our destination, an announcement to fasten seat belts, the sound of the plane taxiing on a runway, a child kicking the seat, a baby crying, cool air blowing overhead. It is a rich sensory experience along with my mental reactions to it all.

Somehow when I hear the timer ring twenty-five minutes later, we are in the air and I am not irritated, impatient or bored.

It’s a given that air travel is stressful. As I write this blog, I am on my way from Michigan to New Mexico by way of Atlanta, which of course makes no sense. I am skeptical that my flight will arrive on time with my luggage, not to mention a quiet but certain anxiety about safety.

But my practice has shifted my relationship with flying; beginning with boarding the plane, as I begin to look forward to the opportunity to find my breath, and simply notice.

 

~Claire Weiner
July 14, 2017
On route to New Mexico

 

Walking Nowhere But Home:

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On Retreat with Rebecca Bradshaw and the Good People of the Yellow Springs Dharma Centerhiker's legs - on retreat at the yellow springs dharma center.

It was the first morning of a seven-day retreat. I arrived the evening before with two friends after driving four hours in steady rain. The day before my departure, I backed my car into a neighbor’s mailbox and destroyed the rear windshield. I was glad to be here.

When Rebecca gave the instructions for walking meditation, I was only half listening;  I’ve practiced walking meditation for years. But then I heard her say, “ “When you walk, there is nowhere to go but home”. I was struck by the simplicity and the power of her message and I began to understand and appreciate walking meditation in an entirely new way.

In the past, when practicing walking meditation, I slowed down, paid attention to the sensations of movement beginning in my hips, progressing down my legs through my knees, my ankles and finally the placement of my foot. And I repeated this series over and over. And whenever I noticed my attention wandering away from the experience of walking, whether to the scenery or sounds or thoughts, I did my best to return to the sensations of walking.

But today was different because I returned home, and home was solid and comforting.

The walking meditation felt less like an exercise in mindfulness and more like a practice in self -compassion, kindness and forgiveness. And isn’t that the true meaning of mindfulness?

 

~Claire Weiner
May 6, 2017
On retreat