Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How to Meditate: the Easy Way

I'm always teaching people how to meditate – by what I think is the easiest way.  But why learn in the first place?

Meditation is the foundation of all energy work. It's not just a method of relaxation, though it is that too and regular practice can greatly reduce stress. Do it consistently, and you'll also find that your intuition increases and you have more energy for your activities. You might get insights during your meditation; even more likely, you'll find them occurring at other times.

It has been said that prayer is talking to God; meditation is listening for God. (Or the Universe, one's Higher Self, one's guides, whatever.)

There are various methods, some very elaborate and/or time-consuming. If you have a method that you like, that's fine. If not, here is the way I think is easiest -

1. Arrange to be undisturbed. (Phone turned off, etc.)

2. Sit on a chair that supports your back, with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your lap palms up, with thumb and first finger lightly touching. This is a mudra (hand gesture) that promotes relaxation. Some people think it also prevents unwanted energies from entering your space while you are in a relaxed and vulnerable state. Another way to do that would be to create sacred space (see previous blog) and meditate inside it.

3. Close your eyes and observe your breathing. You don't have to do anything special with your breathing. Let it be however it is and do whatever it does, and simply observe it.

4. Be light and easy about this. Don't concentrate grimly; that defeats the purpose.

5. Your mind will wander. Don't even try to still your thoughts. Maybe some great adepts can do that after years of practice; most of us can't and we don't even need to. When you notice that you're off on some train of thought, don't bash yourself up. Just, gently and without struggle, bring your attention back to your breath. I repeat – GENTLY AND WITHOUT STRUGGLE.

6. You will also get distracted by things like noises or itches. Again, as soon as you notice you have become distracted, gently and without struggle bring your attention back to your breath.

7. When you're ready to stop, make sure you're looking down, and open your eyes slowly. You'll be deeper than you think, and the light can be quite a shock.

How long should you meditate for? And how often?

It depends. Some gurus say three hours a day, but we won't even go there. (Not if you're holding down a job, raising a family, or just trying to have a life.) The Transcendental Meditation people recommend 20 minutes twice a day, before breakfast and lunch. Even that can be a bit much for some of us, but it's good if you can manage it. I don't think any more than that is necessary. 10 minutes once a week is better than nothing; 10 minutes once a day is better still. Find what works for you, on the principle that little and often is better than a huge amount once in a while (you know - just like physical exercise).

Ian Gawler, an Australian who cured his own cancer with the help of meditation and now teaches it to other cancer patients and their carers, advises busy people to 'meditate in the spaces'. This is good advice if you already know how to do it; otherwise better get in some practice first. Once you are practised at it, it's easy to drop in and out of meditation just for a few minutes at a time. (Don't do it while you're driving or operating machinery!)

Having decided how long a session will be, how do you time yourself? If you ask someone to let you know, they should NOT touch you to bring you out of it; that will cause shock. It's best they gently call your name, and repeat it until you finally hear them. (For most people, most of the time, it will be quite quick. Sometimes you might have gone very deep and it will take a little longer.) Or you could set a timer or alarm clock, but preferably not a loud, jangly one. And if need be you can crack your eyes open just a fraction to look at your watch, while staying in your meditative space and closing them gently again at once. A pleasant, musical timer is best. If time is not an issue, then allow yourself to come out of it whenever your body and psyche decide they're ready.

It's best not to meditate when you're tired; falling asleep is not the idea. For the same reason, after a heavy meal is not the best timing. And it's preferable to do it after exercise, not before; you don't want to get all stirred up again just after you've become relaxed. On the other hand, before a cup of coffee is better than after; you don't want to be too hyper to relax.

Eventually you can use your meditative state for specific purposes, such as contacting your guides, astral travelling, performing absent healing....

(You can download these instructions here.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reflecting on the Dust Storm

Along with the notion that we may expect more such events, I'm left with this sobering thought:

a sky full of dust
thickening in the nostrils
and nowhere to run

(Reposted from Haiku on Friday at MySpace)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dust Storm

The day before yesterday, driving back to the coast from the nearest town, I did my usual thing of gazing at a panorama of ocean a moment at the crest of one hill before dipping down into our village. This time, it was disappointing: the water dull, and a strange haze in the air.

Next day (Wednesday 23rd) I went to my Tai Chi class at 9am. Nothing much to notice then. I had my chiropractic appointment at 11.15, and as I walked there I noticed that the fine day seemed to be getting overcast. When I left, the chiropractor and his receptionist both came to the door and looked out at the thick yellowish haze now coming over the hills. It had an eerie quiet to it. "Ominous," they agreed. We couldn't figure out what it was. I thought there might be a bushfire somewhere – and yet it wasn't smoke we were seeing.

I went home, turned on the local news, missed most of it but got something about motorists needing to be careful of "the dust from Newcastle" so I Googled that. I found out there had been a huge dust storm way off in the outback desert, exacerbated by gale force winds which blew it eastwards, and by some bush fires along its path. It had blacked out the whole of Broken Hill the previous night, and then moved on to cloak Sydney and Newcastle in an eerie orange-red glow by Wednesday morning.

By 12.30 in the afternoon it was well and truly here - not red as in Sydney but a nasty pale yellow that didn't look healthy. And it was not healthy, of course. In Sydney asthmatics and others ended up in hospital. We got off fairly lightly here by comparison with other places, but we could certainly smell it and knew we were breathing it in somewhat. The day got darker and darker.

Soon the whole sky was blanketed from underneath, and the day and evening became quite cold – strange for this time of year in this part of the country –  presumably because of the sun being blocked off. When night came it seemed much darker than usual.

The satellite weather picture on the evening news showed a massive cloud that moved across from South Australia and central Australia to the east coast, stretching from south of Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria (the most northeastern point of the country) and as wide as half the State. They said it probably was not an effect of climate change, but one wonders. They also said it was by far the worst dust storm in our recorded history. Here's a NASA view of it from space.

I had no trouble finding a topic for yesterday's 30 Poems in 30 Days prompt: "Write a poem in which a similar or identical phrase is repeated three or more times throughout the poem."

Dark Sky in Daylight

Once upon a time
this was a lush continent
but that was long ago.
Now we have drought.

Our dry inland “outback”
dry like this for centuries
became that way long ago.
Now we have desert.

Today there’s a haze
thickening the whole eastern sky.
Wind and fire outback yesterday,
now we have dust.

We have it here
far from the red centre,
blown all that way yesterday.
Now we have darkness.

23/9/09


Amazing, on waking this morning, to find blue, sunny skies and no trace of the dust to be seen. Even now, though, well into the afternoon, I only have to sniff a bit and I can still smell it. It prompted a tanka (a form I'm playing with a lot lately in an attempt to learn it).

A fresh Spring morning
yesterday’s choking dust cloud
vanished from this coast –
to infiltrate the ocean
or arrive in New Zealand?

24/9/09

Photos here (Sydney).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Resigning from Extra Motherhood

“You’re such a mum,” says my friend Pat affectionately – and inside myself I go, “Oh no, not again!” But it’s not too bad; she doesn’t actually want to claim me for herself in that capacity as so many others do, she’s just commenting on how I come across.

It’s a mystery to me. I have friends of all ages and don’t feel older in my consciousness than any except the really young, and not even all of them. Further, I have never experienced myself as particularly maternal, even when I actually had children – though I did my best of course, as one does. I certainly wasn’t the stereotype, the happily domesticated, perfectly efficient Mum of the early sitcoms (much to my youngest’s continuing reproach). I remember saying, when the kids had all left the nest (really the nest left them, but that’s another story) and my cat and the last of the family dogs had died, “I think I’ve finally learned how to do Mother, just at the point when it’s over.” (For those who will rush to tell me it’s never over, I’m speaking here of practical, day-to-day mothering.)

Not that I wanted it not to be over. I was glad I’d got through it somehow without major disasters, and I was good and ready for the children’s father and me to be just  a couple again – at last! Then we found out that we no longer had much in common apart from parenting, and when that was gone … but that too is another story.

Then some of my younger friends started claiming me as  their “adopted” Mums (i.e. one Mum, me; various independent-of-each-other adoptees). It never sat easily with me – I just thought we were close friends – but it always seemed meant as such a compliment, even an honour, that I accepted the silly label with whatever semblance of good grace I could manage – and the attendant feeling of some undefined kind of obligation, too. How churlish would it be to refuse? Well from now on that’s what I’m going to do. Next time someone says, “You know, I’ve decided you’re my surrogate Mum,” or, “You’re just like another mother to me,” I’m going to say, swiftly and loudly, and if necessary rudely, “Oh no I’m not!”

I’ve started to notice that these can be dangerous projections. Did I mention that I’m not maternal? Sooner or later I’m bound to disappoint. I don’t do the mother thing well … though perhaps that wouldn’t matter anyway, given that projection is involved. Even when the person consciously sees me in that role, I think there’s still a lot of unconscious stuff comes with it. After all, who wants an extra mother except someone who feels they’ve missed out on the real thing? The ones who see me that way aren’t making up for a deceased mother; no, they’re substituting fantasy me for a real one who was/is unsatisfactory. But sooner or later they reach their delayed adolescence, and then it’s time to break free, grow up and become themselves, delivering a few hard kicks to Mother-Figure in the process. After all, at that point, who would want a mother figure being privy to the confidential details of their lives? (That’s what friends are for. So, by virtue of being mother, I cease to be friend.) I never trained as a psychotherapist, to expect or deal with such developments, let alone maintain objective, professional distance from someone I regard as a pal, and I’m just not up for it any more.

I’m perfectly happy for my sons and foster-sons to call me Mum, and to sign myself that way in emails and birthday cards to them. Sometimes nowadays they call me by my name (as one of the “fosters” always did) and that’s OK too. And of course there is a special bond, a special history.

I didn’t meet my stepchildren until they were already grown up. Sensibly they’ve never regarded me as an extra parent, but more as a friend. I have a nice relationship with my stepdaughter, and she sometimes turns to me for advice, but she doesn’t want me to be her Mum; she’s got one.

I’m perfectly happy when my excellent god-daughters address me, half-jokingly, as “god-mum”. We’re all quite clear on the nature of the relationship and it’s nothing like mother-daughter. It’s somewhat like being a favourite aunt. (I am that too, to a beloved niece.) Mostly they call me by my name, and I treat them as the adults they now are.

And I’m perfectly happy to be “Nana” to my grandchildren. They’re “steps” too, but that makes no difference to them – I’ve always been around. So I AM an extra grandmother, but in an official way. It’s a real relationship: I’m married to their grandfather.

All these relationships, you see, are real and defined. They are legitimate, they have either legal or socially recognised status. There’s a framework. This makes for ease and clarity. Even the mentoring I do for some people is recognised by all parties as exactly what it is.

For the rest – sorry, I did my parenting decades ago. There were lots of bits of it I enjoyed and I certainly don’t un-wish it, but it was enough. I don’t want or need any grown-up infants now.


(Disclaimer: None of the above applies to my friend Letitia, whose idea of surrogate daughterhood is not to want things from me but to seek to do things for me!) 

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Well, look at us!

 
Andrew and me, taken August 7 2009
For everyone who may be wondering 
what the heck we look like nowadays. 

Monday, September 07, 2009

Innovative new online mag

The Group is an exciting new concept in online publishing. Curated by a roster of some of Australia's best and boldest writers, each edition will bring you quality new work from Australia and abroad. Foundation members include John Birmingham, James Bradley, Larry Buttrose, Billy Marshall Stoneking and Mark Mordue, with more to be announced soon. Membership is free and open to all, on Facebook.

GROUP 2 magazine is now online, at:

http://groupmag.blogspot.com/2009/08/group-2_26.html

Much to my joy and pride, I'm included in this issue!


You can read the first edition GROUP 1 at:

http://groupmag.blogspot.com/2009/06/group-1.html