Meditation for compassion

Laura seated in well-propped easy pose demonstrating a gently moving meditation to encourage compassion
Laura mid-way through an easy, five-minute meditation to encourage compassion

Most of us could stand to show ourselves and others a little more kindness. And I feel that need for compassion is more with the amplified sense of hatred, fear, confusion, and division that’s reflected in my social media feeds.

I ended my last online Yin Yoga class with a short meditation to encourage compassion for ourselves and others and I’ve recorded this short practice to share more broadly.

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Meringue over meditation

Easy hazelnut chocolate cookies

My commitment to daily meditation in March faded almost immediately after my mid-March update – and my commitment to posting seems to have ended with it ūüėČ I have, however, been making an inordinate number of meringue-based treats! Spring has been all about whipping up egg whites to use in pavlovas or cookies.

These Nutella-inspired confections are based on an Italian recipe for Brutti ma Buoni (ugly but delicious) cookies that has just three ingredients (egg white, sugar, ground hazelnuts). I’ve added a bit of depth with vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar) and amped up the deliciousness by covering them with chocolate.

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Mid-March measure

Laura sitting cross-legged on a bench, meditating at nightI’ve been successful thus far in my commitment to meditate at least once a day in March. In fact, I’m at 16 consecutive¬†days of meditation because I jumped the gun by starting on February 28 ūüėČ

So far I’ve done my¬†Om Shreem Mahalakshmiyei Namaha¬†meditation mostly at home, but I’ve also sat and silently chanted in an airport, an empty hotel conference room, and my brother’s guest room. I’ve meditated with my dog, Sofie, curled up next to me, while lying down in savasana (corpse pose),¬†and with my legs up the wall. I’ve meditated in yoga gear (stretchy pants and a tank top) and in jeans. I’ve meditated in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. I’ve meditated as part of a yoga practice and as a quick 10 minute stand alone.

I have not¬†sought out a regular meditation routine (like a specific time of day or location), but have been able to fit it into my life without feeling like it’s an imposition.¬†I have embraced the idea that there’s no wrong way to meditate. Simply sitting and being mindful is enough.

And it’s even been warm enough in Calgary to meditate outdoors¬†in March! (Although winter has made its return after a few days of 15¬ļ+ temperatures –¬†it’s currently snowing!) I suspect I’ll be meditating indoors for the rest of March ūüôā

March is for meditating

Laura sitting in easy pose meditatingLarge-scale change has been a constant for me over the last year and a half (new languages! new cities! new places to travel! new residences!) and, despite being somewhat settled in Calgary,¬†there are still many more changes coming. To help me manage¬†this upheaval, I’m undertaking a personal meditation challenge and committing to daily meditation for the month of March.

I’ve selected a Sanskrit meditation for abundance; partially to encourage my levels of¬†energy and enthusiasm and partially just because I like the way it sounds ūüėČ I’ll be chanting 108 repetitions of¬†Om Shreem Mahalakshmiyei Namaha along with Deva Premal for the next 31 days and hoping that the regularity helps me feel content and calm.

The words are relatively simple (no long complicated Sanskrit phrases!), it takes under 10 minutes, and Deva Premal’s version is well-paced and easy to follow (take a listen on YouTube, if you’d like). I’ll have very few excuses not to stick to meditating for¬†abundance in March!

Peace peace peace

Peace peace peace on turquoise butterfly backgroundHaving just returned from an amazing week with a group of students in the Prana Yoga College Teacher Training program, I’m feeling very much at peace right now. But it’s hard not to feel peaceful when¬†every day starts with¬†three hours of breathing exercises and yoga postures – the challenge is keeping that serenity¬†afterwards!

Thankfully, I can still hear Shakti closing each daily class¬†with a chant: ‘Ohm. Shanti shanti shanti. Om; peace peace peace.” Shanti means peace in Sanskrit and it’s no mistake that the concept is repeated at the end of each session.

With every yoga practice, Shakti tries to bring a sense of peace to each student. Her style of classical hatha yoga aims to bring stillness in every posture, meditation throughout the sequence, and a deeply calm mind.

That quiet mind seems to be the goal of every style of meditation. Whether you prefer a silent Zen style or an active Kundalini version, the point of meditation is to get your brain to shut up. To find peace within your own thoughts.

Global Meditation for Peace - 8 August 2014

Despite¬†no longer doing¬†a¬†guided¬†yoga practice with Shakti every morning, there are still resources to guide me towards peacefulness. The Chopra Centre’s Global Meditation for Peace¬†hopes to inspire peace through¬†thousands of people meditating at the same time on 8 August 2014.¬†Although 8 August is almost over and I’m too late to join the Chopra Centre’s event… it’s never too late¬†¬†for peaceful meditation!

With the sound of the teacher training group chanting “Peace, peace, peace” echoing in my mind, I wish you all quiet thoughts.

May you find peace within yourself that will help overcome strife. And may that peace spread and help quell conflicts throughout the world.

Shanti shanti shanti.

Gone to the dogs

On Sunday evening, I went to the Healing Circle Meditation at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre, along with 30 or so other people and one dog! My dog, Sofie, is a skilled meditator and has participated in a number of group meditations at Bound Lotus.

During the meditations, which involve chanting mantras and sometimes use¬†mudras (hand gestures), Sofie curls up in front of me and settles into a meditative state of her own. She helps bring out my meditative best and seems to create an even more calming energy for the group. And she loves getting petted and cooed at by students ūüôā

Sofie regularly joins me when I practice yoga or meditate at home, so she’s very used to the process. Within minutes of rolling out my yoga mat, she’s on it. Sometimes I can convince her to provide assists, like applying a little pressure to my hips in swan/pigeon pose or letting me use her as a prop in child’s pose. And she’s always willing to rest next to me during savasana.

One of the challenges of any meditation or yoga practice is letting go of all the mental clutter and simply experiencing the present moment. Dogs are masters of ‘now.’ Sofie doesn’t understand ‘later,’ or ‘before,’ she’s entirely in the present. Exactly how I want to be when meditating!

The Healing Circle Meditation is a free monthly event at Bound Lotus. If you or someone you love could use a little healing boost and/or you’re interested in experiencing a group Kundalini meditation look for the next date on the¬†Bound Lotus website. Hopefully Sofie and I will be meditating there with you!

Laura and Sofie stretching together

Change the way you think

If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

Practicing meditation can be a powerful way to change the way you think.

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt posits that there are three ways to change your thinking and permanently alter the way you view the world: Prozac (or other similar medications), cognitive behavioural therapy, and meditation.

Meditation is the cheapest and comes with far fewer side effects that medication!

And I highly recommend taking a look at Haidt’s website and reading his book. It’s a scientific approach to why we think the way we do… and how to make ourselves happier.

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

Mary Engelbreit