Morgan’s Musings on Manifesting, Meditation, and Mindfulness- Part 2

Quite simply, I would not have the quality of life that I do without meditation. It keeps me focused and grounded and at the end, I always know the right thing to do (whether or not I do the right thing or not  is a something I’ll cover in Mindfulness). I think people often have the wrong idea of meditation. They think they need to be sitting with their ankles on their hips, on top of a mountain somewhere, chanting to God. Well, for some people that does the trick, but for me, climbing to the top of Mt. Rose every day doesn’t sound fun. I also don’t understand chanting and I don’t believe in God. But I do believe in my Higher Power (HP) who I call The Universe. For the focus of this blog I won’t dive too deep into higher powers, I do think a little explanation is needed though so you can understand how I meditate.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “Not only are we in the Universe, the Universe is in us. I don’t know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.” That is pretty much the basis of my belief in my HP, the Universe. I pray/meditate/ask/talk to the Universe and it responds through me, then I act upon whatever I’ve received. Here is where you might be thinking, WTF is she talking about. Remember my flood story from the part 1 of this blog? The man prayed to God to save him and God sent boats. Now God isn’t going to physically pick this man up and place him in a boat. That’s levitation and this is not Harry Potter World. God was answering his prayers by sending boats, it was up to that man to act on his own to save himself. You might still be confused, here is a real life example. Right now I’m manifesting making the switch to teaching yoga and personal training fulltime. When I pray/meditate- Preditate? Medipray?- first thing in the morning, I thank my HP for everything coming my way in terms of my intentions and goals. I ask for the motivation, tenacity, and ambition. I pray that I might be an inspiration to someone today to live a better life. I pray for those struggling and ask for my HP to guide the thoughts that I think, the words that I say, and the actions that I do. I pray that I may be of service to my fellows.

So now you know how I meditate, I’m sure you want some tips on how you can do that too; especially if you’re not sold on the idea of a HP yet. Fair enough. But before we learn how to meditate, let’s consider why we meditate. Meditation teaches you how to respond in a constructive way, rather than impulsively react. It’s organized around the concept that you are naturally whole, you are capable of well-being, and your thoughts are messengers. That awareness is key. Along with awareness as a key concept of meditation, so is receiving and using every opportunity as a learning experience. Receiving is your ability to accept and respond gracefully to every experience as opposed to having a dismissive, reactive, f*ck you attitude. Receiving and welcoming keeps you connected to the experience instead of lashing out with knee-jerk reactions. Receiving allows you to step back, take the moment in, and gain perspective. In this moment you are more than the experience, you are aware of your awareness. When you are aware that you are aware, the emphasis now becomes on what you are aware of. Make sense? Try this, say hello to yourself in your head. You “heard” that, you recognize that thought. You are aware of your awareness. You are awareness. And once you are awareness, you become mindful of judgment, resisting, refusing, and trying to change situations. How often has that happened to you, your thoughts are running wild in your head how much you dislike someone. You replay everything they’ve ever done or said that hasn’t set well with you. Then suddenly you catch yourself and think, ‘wow I’m being really bitchy right now’. That is you becoming aware. You are awareness. And you learned this from the focus you created in your meditation.

Sometimes you don’t want to receive “negative” emotions though. Let’s call them ‘scratchy’. Sometimes you just want to feel irritated or mad. That’s natural. Over time you’ll learn to welcome and receive these scratchy feelings uncomfortable as it may be. Think of the scratchy feelings as a messenger to help you live a better life. By receiving them you’ll learn there are healthier ways to live in that moment instead of what you’re currently doing. The scratchy feelings are your body’s way of getting your attention; they are disharmonies way of getting your attention to take action and reconsider what you could be doing instead to be happy and healthy.

Still with me? If so, now let’s talk about to how to meditate. You might say, Morgs I don’t know about that HP thing and I don’t understand awareness. Or maybe you think, this sounds like a lot, I don’t have time. You might even be thinking, ‘my thoughts run wild, there’s no way I can slow them down’. My answers to those, do you want to feel more connected to life around you? Do you want to be a part of this life on a deeper and more meaningful level? Do you have 5 minutes to yourself every day? Can you make 5 minutes to yourself every day? Even in the bathroom? If your answer to all those questions is no, then maybe meditating isn’t for you yet. And that’s ok. But if you think there is something out there bigger than you, even if you don’t know what it is, and you can make 5 minutes for yourself- yes even in the bathroom- then you are ready to meditate.

The purpose of meditation is to create focus and become aware. It is about focusing your attention on your experience. The reason for focus: it allows you to be here now. Your only reality is This Moment, right here, right now. Peace is found in such awareness. First you must find quiet. A space free from distraction where you can tune out any external stimuli. This might be in bed in the morning pretending to still be asleep. It might be in the bathroom. I meditate in the morning in my car before I head off to teach yoga. The radio is off and I simply start talking to my HP, an intentional conversation. I’m a master at multi-tasking, so to sit still like this and focus on nothing but this conversation takes a lot of focus for me.

An exercise to get you started, once you’ve found your quiet place, sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed (less glittery squirrels to catch your attention that way) and try to focus on something else other than your thoughts. Intentionally clear your mind, try to disengage from all the thoughts that are used to running rampant in your head. In yoga, we call that the ‘monkey mind’. As a monkey jumps from tree to tree, our thoughts come in one after another. So basically, stop thinking. If a thought comes into your mind (because that’s what the mind is for, it’s human nature), acknowledge it and let it go. Imagine you place the thought on a cloud and watch it float by. It takes effort and patience. The more you practice dis-attaching from your thoughts, the easier it becomes, until it’s effortless. You can listen for sounds around you and identify them: that is a car going by, that is the clock ticking, that is the faucet dripping. Suddenly you aren’t thinking anymore about picking kids up from cheerleading and football or dinner you need to make, you are simply listening and your mind is still.

Another meditation exercise is counting your breaths. I like to use the square breathing technique- all through your nose, inhale to a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold at the bottom for 4. It might take some getting used to; it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re going to suffocate holding at the bottom of the exhale. You get used to it, I promise, and it doesn’t feel so panicky. Repeat that a 5-7 times then let your breath return to normal.

You might also try a mantra. On the inhale you think to yourself ‘I am’ on the exhale consider what you are. I am… love. I am… patient. I am… forgiving. You can think about things you want to be as well to set an intention of something as well as a way to manifest it in your life.

Meditation is a journey and the fact that you’ve even been considering it means you’re on the right track. Be gentle with yourself. Be patient, curious, and persistent. Know that this awareness and focus is possible when you nourish your practice and give it a chance.

Morgan’s Musings on Manifesting, Meditation, and Mindfulness- Part 1

I’ve been getting some questions lately on Manifesting, Meditation, and Mindfulness. People want to know how to use those concepts, collectively or individually, in their own life. I get it. Those three M words, Manifesting, Meditation, Mindfulness, can seem confusing if you don’t understand what they are. They seem even more confusing when you hear and witness other people using them. You understand they are useful, but you don’t know how to go about using them in your own life. So I’ve decided to do a 3-part blog series, each blog exploring a different M. Keep in mind, this M trifecta is not an exact science. There are studies and research to show they work, but take everything with a grain of salt. What I’m writing about is how I apply them in my life and what has worked for me. it may very well work differently for you. This time around I’m going to start with Manifesting.

For me, the concept of manifesting can be summed up in this story: The town is flooding. A man is standing on his roof, the rest of his house is underwater. The water is up to his feet and he starts to pray, “Please God, please save me from this flood.” Well no sooner did he say ‘amen’ that a group of people paddle up in a canoe. “Hey Pal, hop in! There’s room!” “No thanks!” said the man, “God will save me.” “Suit yourself,” said the people, and they paddled off.

Some time went by, it was still pouring rain and the water was up to the man’s knees. A large boat floated by. “Hop in Pal, there’s room!” the people on the boat cried. “No thanks!” said the man, “God will save me.” “Suit yourself,” said the people, and the boat floated away.

The rain was coming down even heavier now and the water was up to the man’s neck. Suddenly a basket dropped down from a helicopter. “Hey Pal, hop in! We will save you!” said the people in the helicopter. “No thanks!” said the man, “God will save me.” “Suit yourself,” said the people, and the helicopter flew away.

Well the man drowned and went to Heaven. When he got there he asked God, “God, why didn’t you save me? I prayed and asked you to save me and I still died.” “I did try to save you,” God replied. “I tried to save you three times, I sent a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter!”

That’s how manifesting works to me, you tell the Universe what it is that you want. (I try to keep it pretty basic, not too many specifics. The more to try to control outcome, the less you will recognize when the manifestation comes into fruition.) After you ask, sit back and let the Universe do the rest. That’s not to say though that you don’t need to work for it. Quite the opposite in fact. You need to work really hard and put a lot of energy and attention into what it is you want. It’s your life right, you can’t expect everything to be done for you. If you really want something, you need to do the leg work. But the Universe is there in the background, pulling the strings, moving mountains, planning the moves in the chess game of your life, to make sure that what you want happens. That’s your first step to manifesting, ask for it. Tell the Universe what it is that you want and the Universe will immediately start conspiring on your behalf to make it happen. I like to say, everything is within your reach, you just need to reach for it.

Here is the story of how I manifested moving to Reno, Nevada: After I graduated college in 2010 I worked for the Boy Scouts of America near Chicago. The way the organization works is after 3 years, if you’re promoted, you have the option to move anywhere in the country you want as long as they have a position open for you to be promoted into. I had been going to Burning Man for a few years at this point and it completely changed my life. I had my heart set on moving to Colorado so I could be a little free-spirit hippy. Well my three year anniversary rolled around and none of the Colorado councils had any positions open for me to move into. I was disappointed, but at this point I had an understanding of how manifesting worked. I knew that the Universe had something better in store for me and if I continued to be disappointed about Colorado, I might miss this better thing coming. About two weeks later my boss called me. “The Boy Scout council in Reno called about you. Would you be interested in moving to Nevada?” Being closer to Burning Man and the amazing friends that I already had in Reno who I met at Burning Man two years prior? Yes please and thank you! (That’s right. The Universe had been planning this for me since 2012 when my sister and I met the craziest/weirdest/funnest/best group of people on the Playa. Who happened to be from Reno. And we happened to keep in touch with them over the next two years…) As they say, the rest is history. My sister and I moved to Reno where we started to build our lives. Within 3 months of living there I met the man who would become my fiancé. We are engaged to be married this summer. Awesome right? Thank you Universe.

Consider something big you want in your life right now that hasn’t happened yet. Now ask for it. Yes, just ask. Don’t be fearful, you are not limited by logic or perceived constraints.  Next, take a moment to close your eyes and feel what you want. Imagine what it will feel like when this thing/moment/event presents itself to you. Say thank you in advance, then sit back and trust that it’s going to happen. In the meantime, get out there and start doing the ground work. Anything you want the Universe to do for you is something you can start working on today, on your own, to make the process happen even quicker (if you’re in a hurry).

Currently I am manifesting making the switch from my full time job at a non-profit to teaching yoga/personal training/ fitness/health/wellness full time. I practice and teach yoga every day, I talk to people about my goals, and I work on acquiring more certifications to make myself even more marketable. Whatever it is you want, work on it a little bit every day. That’s the trick, you must put energy into this thing you that you want. You must believe. If you imagine it, you can have it. (I am so full of these little mantras.) You must visualize and life your life like this thing you want has actually happened.

But Morgan, you say, I’ve been working really hard, for a long time on this thing I want and nothing is happening. I get it. Sometimes it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels. You’re doing the legwork so to speak, but whatever it is you want isn’t happening (yet). You might start to doubt, you might become frustrated and question the process. Stop it right there. You needn’t worry, there is time. All the time in the world in fact. There is no dream you cannot manifest, there is no challenge you can’t crush. There is no point in spending one more second of your already awesome life thinking anything of the contrary. When you doubt the Universe, you are actually saying you don’t trust the plan. You don’t even know what the behind the scenes plan is, yet you don’t trust it. By doing that you are taking energy out of moving forward and you’re moving yourself backwards. Don’t become the reason you don’t succeed. The Universe knows what it’s doing, I promise. Sometimes it happens quickly, other times not so much. You might not understand, but everything is always playing to the greater good. Things will continue to get better and you will become the person you’ve always dreamed. There is time, you are in no rush. You must always believe and know that your success is inevitable. Ok?

Finally, while you’re waiting for this thing to show up in your life, continue to say thank you. Say thank you for that beautiful sunset, thank you for the convenient parking spot, thank you for the $1.00 you found on the ground. The more you give thanks the more the Universe will put in your life to be thankful for.

So that’s it. That’s how you live the life of your dream. Easy peasy! That being said, if you are looking for private yoga, group yoga, personal training at your home or in the gym, let me know. Let me help you manifest better health in your life.

Lessons From Buffalos

Sunday mornings I attend an hour and a half meditation. I try my best to make this meditation a priority in my weekly appointments and it’s rare that I miss one, ever rarer that I miss two in a row. The meditation is sobriety focused, but it’s an open meeting and I believe everyone would benefit from the energy/positivity/wisdom/hope/open-mindedness/honesty/love that fills this room every week. This week was no different and as ‘V’ opened with our regular prayer, the phrase that came into my head was ‘heavy peace. V is a Lakota Native American and grew up on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The style of meditation varies from week to week and this week V used his singing bowls as he guided us ‘out there’. I try to remember what he says but I rarely do. (That’s the irony or catch-22 of meditating. If you’re doing it right you will be too far gone in your own place to remember everything. Kind of like a dream. A lot like a dream.)

One thing I do remember V talking about today was comparing buffalos to cows in a storm and the lesson we can learn. Imagine a dark storm rolling in. The sky is black as the rain and hail roll in from the mountains. There is thunder and lightning. What cows do is very natural. Cows sense the storm coming, so they turn and run away. However cows aren’t very fast and the storm catches up quickly. Instead of outrunning the storm they actually run right along with the storm. Then consider the buffalo. Buffalos can run up to 40mph, and instead of running away from the storm, they turn and run into it. Instead of facing the blizzard or rain solo, they tackle it together. They charge the storm and get through it quicker. It’s a powerful image isn’t it?  A herd of bison steadfastly and slowly progressing in the face of a storm rather than running in the other direction. So not only do they face this test as a team, facing down the storm makes their hair thicker and their bones are stronger. Facing the fierce weather elements literally makes them stronger.

So which one are you, the cow or the buffalo? When confronted with a problem, do you try to avoid it, or do you put your head down and find a way through?

I get it. Life can seem overwhelming and you don’t know where to start. Student debt, job insecurities, marriage problems, health issues, financial pressures, work, bills, the list is endless. Working through tough times isn’t easy and a lot of times it seems more comfortable to turn the other way and try to outrun the storm. But more often than not, the problem doesn’t go away. It just lasts longer and gets worse. About 4 years ago when I was still living in Illinois, I once racked up over $3,000 in unpaid tolls and was sent to collections. Instead of just paying them (like a normal, responsible human) I kept throwing the notices away, thinking the problem would just take care of itself and Illinois Tollway would forget. They didn’t forget (Illinois is super broke, of course they aren’t going to forget about $3,000 of unpaid tolls.) and I had to pay so that I wouldn’t do any further damage to my credit.

Moral of the story- turn and face the problem head on. Be the buffalo.

Happy People Feel Stress Too

I consider myself a positive person. I was born blessed with a sunny disposition and a cheery outlook on life. I also consider myself a realist, but you can count on me to find the silver lining, see the glass half full, and put a positive spin on any situation. However, these last couple weeks had been very trying for me and the reserves I’ve had of ‘saving happy for a rainy day’, were starting to run low.

Along with being a naturally optimistic person, I am also (like most people) a person of habit. I’m highly functioning and having my routine makes me feel comforted and in control. By no means am I saying I’m a rigid, OCD, control freak. I’m just saying I like having a plan and crossing things off lists. Having a loose schedule helps me feel grounded.

Over the Christmas holiday my sweetie and I decided to get off the grid and take a road trip. We turned our phones on airplane mode and vowed to stay present and in the moment. We had a general idea of a direction to go (south) but for the most part we drove until we found something cool, slept when we were tired, and ate when we were hungry. It was a great way to experience letting go of “the plan” and enjoying life on life terms. It was so refreshing to not have to worry about answering to anyone or returning phone calls. We left the dogs at home, so it was even nice no having to worry about making sure they got walked. We were adventurers to the fullest extent.

Living free spirited like this lasted for 3 beautiful days. A few years ago a good friend taught me her camping practice- on these getaways, turn off your phone, but turn it on for 10 minutes every day just to see if there is something super pressing that needs to be taken care of and cannot wait until you get back. I’m glad I took that advice. On the fourth day, December 26, we were driving through Death Valley and pulled over to enjoy the scenery at the Furnace Creek Inn. I finally had Wi-Fi so I turned on my phone. I had a barrage of voicemails, texts, instant messages all with the same message, my dad had unexpectedly passed away and the funeral was in 3 days. The road trip that we had been looking forward to and planning for months was now cut short so that I could get back to Reno and back to Illinois. It was a hard lesson in giving up control and accepting situations as they come, but I was disappointed. I now had to go back a “reality” of checking my phone on time so I get a good section on the plane and getting to the airport with enough time to get through security.

Funerals are weird. You see tons of friends and family that you maybe haven’t seen in years and you want to catch up with them, but at the same time you are there because you’re mourning the same loved one and it seems unsympathetic to talk about anything other than the deceased. Funerals are exhausting too. I show emotion, but I’m much more comfortable and used to showing “happy” emotion and I felt me judging myself from time to time on if I was grieving enough or the right way. I felt like I had to be strong for those around me and honestly I felt a little bitter about my dad’s death. I stayed in Illinois for 5 days to hang out with my mom and sister and came back to Reno feeling drained. It was hard holding space for others without having anyone to hold space for me. I had been telling the Universe that I wanted to get out of Reno a little bit, get a change of scenery, but this hadn’t been exactly what I had in mind. I had accepted that my Christmas break hadn’t gone exactly how I expected and needless to say, so I was ready to get back to my normal schedule and my little routine.

The Universe wasn’t done yet though. In the 2 weeks coming back to work I think we had 5 snow days and 3 delayed starts. Some of those were even delayed starts that turned into snow days! I absolutely loved them because I was able to catch up on my own projects, like studying for my personal trainer exam, creating a vision board, journal, make some new yoga classes, etc. I had a lot of fun things to keep me busy and it should have been super enjoyable, except for the little voice in the back of my head that kept annoyingly nagging at me saying, ‘you’re not supposed to be at home right now. Christmas break is done, you’re supposed to be at work. This wasn’t the plan.’ Leave it to me to find a way to stress myself out about schedules on a surprise vacation. I think it was the uncertainty of not knowing what the next day was going to be was stressing me out. Funny how on a road trip, not knowing what the next day holds is exciting, but back in reality, not knowing if I’ll be working the next day gave me was stressful. And I had nothing to be stressed out about at all! These were paid snow days anyways! I am seriously a freak.

My life was feeling inconsistent and my inner peace was really starting to crumble. It was getting hard to find the balance in my life. During this time it was even proving difficult to get up and be motivated to teach yoga. I felt like I was keeping my head above water and on the surface I looked fine, maybe a little tired. But underneath the water my legs were flailing and I was struggling to stay afloat.

During this time my best pals came to visit. These three ladies are the loves of my life. I’ve been friends with Goose since 1st grade, Uni since 5th grade, and Lulu since 6th. Cumulatively that is 60 years of friendship. These frands and I know a thing or two about each other. These last time we were all together was almost 3 years ago and a lot had changed since then. Goose graduated Pharmacy school and is engaged to be married this fall,  Uni graduated Nursing school and went through a huge break up, and Lulu is a boss climbing the corporate ladder in her advertising agency and her man just moved in with her. Me on the other hand, I’d gotten sober, moved to Nevada, started teaching yoga, and am also engaged to be married this fall. The 4 of us have a group text message that we write in almost daily, but nothing compares to quality time with your best friends. They visited for 5 days and we did enough talking, laughing, crying, and being silly to get us through to this fall when we see each other at the weddings.

And just like that, in a trail of glitter, Bobbi pins, and perfume, they were gone and I was left to figure out my emotional state of balance again. Thankfully it didn’t take long. The Wednesday after they left I woke energized and excited. I popped out of bed at 5am and immediately knew I was back to “normal”. (Side note, I HATE that word. I don’t even know why I used it. I am one of the weirdest people I know. A new coworker at a job I had last year once told me, “You are probably the nicest person here and also the weirdest.” That was the nicest compliment Id received in a long time.) I was eager to start my day and looking forward to what awesome surprises it held. This is how I typically feel 99.9% of my mornings and I hadn’t felt this way consistently since before we left for our road trip. It was good to be back.

The moral of this story is it’s OK to feel sad, stressed, out-of-sorts or whatever. Sometimes you can pinpoint why you feel this way and other times you can’t. The goal is not to be 100% happy and excited and having what I call “your dial turned up to 20” all the time. That is not realistic or expected and anyone who is excited and bouncing off the walls all the time, is either on drugs or needs to be. The goal is to be self-aware enough that you recognize these deviations from your normal thought processes and behavior patterns. Once you are aware of these changes in your energy and acknowledge them, it’s up to you how you want to handle them. And always acknowledge the feeling because it’s happening. It’s real and covering it up and hiding it just because the feeling is uncomfortable or not fun isn’t going to make it go away. For example, you wake up one day and feel sad. Nothing has happened but you simply feel down and you don’t know why because that’s not how you typically feel when you wake up in the morning. First, you acknowledge the feeling and bring awareness to your state of mind. You might think to yourself, ‘I realize I feel sad right now’. You don’t need to change anything just yet, just be there, noticing what you notice. Like a headache, you notice there is something different about you. From there you either choose to actively try and move past being sad, or you choose to be sad for a little bit. And that’s ok! Sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to stay in PJs and watch Netflix and eat a family bag of pretzel MNMs to yourself because. Just don’t let that little bit turn into a big bit. Either way, the mind is going to do its own thing, there is no need to attach to the feeling. And when you’re ready to move on, you come out on the other side of being sad. Except this time you and energized and full again, with a renewed appreciation for life and positivity and optimism.

Being positive doesn’t mean you live in a candy land. Positive people feel sad and melancholy. They also get angry and challenge people and stick up for what they believe in. being positive is not about being oblivious and hiding from reality behind a unicorn. Positivity is about being strong, self-aware, and accountable for your state of mind.

 

*Snuggs*

Morgan