Pre-Dawn Meditation

 

 

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Scenario 1.

I’m lying in bed. My room is chilly but it’s warm under the covers. Cozy. It’s 4am. Two more hours before I need to get up.

But I can’t sleep.

I turn over and reach for my iPad. I’m going to read. I’ll read and fall back asleep.

But sleep doesn’t reclaim me, so I check my email. And the weather. A little FaceBook too. I peruse the NYTimes, click on a few other links, answer another email or two.

Then, before I know it, my alarm goes off. Two hours have passed. I haven’t been up and about, but I haven’t really been resting either.

I get up feeling tired and somewhat dull.

 

Scenario 2.

I’m lying in bed. My room is chilly but it’s warm under the covers. Cozy. It’s 4am. Two more hours before I need to get up.

But I can’t sleep.

I reach for my hooded sweatshirt and a pair of socks, and I crawl over to my zafu (my meditation pillow) in the corner of my bed room. I might strike a match to light a candle,  or I might simply sit in the darkness, legs  gently crossed in front of me, hands resting on my knees.

I close my eyes. I breathe deeply into my belly, and exhale every ounce of air, and then a little more.

On the next inhalation I softly lengthen my neck as my belly expands. As I exhale I sway my torso, my serpentine spine flexing and gently twisting, elongating and expanding as my breath pours out of my body.

As my spine elongates and expands, I gently rotate my shoulders. My jaw and brow soften. My breath flows deeply in, and smoothly out, out, out.

The house is quiet and dark. The glow of headlights swoop through my room as a car swooshes past.

I breathe deeply into my belly. I breathe out long and slowly, slowly, slowly.

In this dark pre-dawn hour, there are few thoughts bouncing around my head and a liquid quiet pours through my body like a dark and gentle river. I am lost and comforted, both surrounded and filled with that rich quiet.

My spine sways and lengthens again, cobra-like, with my next breath.

I am only my body and my breath. I feel only the air around me, entering my body, exiting my body, the zafu beneath me, the backs of my hands on my thighs.

I hear my orange cat pad over. He sniffs at me then curls into my lap. My mouth curves into a smile and I rest a hand on his silky, purring belly.

I don’t know how long I sit in that gentle nether space between night and dawn.

Eventually my legs and feet are tingling thickly. I slowly extend my knees and the cat leaves. I blow out the candle. I crawl back up into bed and under the covers and slide into a deep sleep.

My alarm sounds some time later and I wake, refreshed.

 

 

 

 

 

Night Time Visitor

Bear Medicine by Cathy McClelland www.dragonflytahoe.com - 648 × 680 - More sizes

Bear Medicine by Cathy McClelland
http://www.dragonflytahoe.com – 648 × 680 – More sizes

Garbage, garbage everywhere.  The trash can was turned over.  Three contractor bags ripped open, their contents strewn across the dirt floor.  What a freaking mess!  And the smell…    I hadn’t even had my tea yet.  It was 6am.  I was taking the dogs out for a quick morning vigil and planned to hop back in bed with a cup of tea and my iPad.  Instead, I was picking up debris and filling three new contractor bags.  YUCK.  Double yuck.  And I was wondering how and when the dogs had gotten into it.  My first instinct was, “Bear,” but I quickly ruled that out.  Sure, we’ve seen bears in the fields around my house.  People in town told me they’d parked on the road in front of my home  (along with several other cars) and watched a 400 pounder (how do men always know how much they weigh?) meander across my side lawn.  But that was a few years ago.  My neighbors take in their bird feeders nightly because so many have been ravaged by the local black bears.  But having one in my barn seemed out of the question.  So I packed the mess back into bags and went inside, grumbling at my naughty dogs.

But later that day I ran into Mike Bodnar, my neighbor, friend, and NYS Forest Ranger.  “Hey, Mandy!  We say a bear coming out of your barn last night.”  He held his hand waist-high, showing me the bear’s height on all fours.   Far out!  Pretty darn cool.  What’s not cool is that the dump isn’t open again until Wednesday, so I think I’ll be picking up a lot of garbage over the next few days.  This morning when I peeked into the barn, I moaned at the mess that had returned in the night.  I’m putting rubber gloves on my shopping list today.

In Native American traditions, different animals (totems) carry different “medicine” and messages.  Not medicine in the pharmaceutical sense.  But opportunities, signs, and messages for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and healing.  Hawks and crows have been strong totems for me over the years.  Now that I’ve been twice visited by a black bear in as many days, I’m going to take this as a note to investigate the medicine that bear carries.  Time for a little research.  I’ll meditate on Bear.  I’ll draw his/her image into my mind as I meditate.  Before I go to sleep, I’ll invite Bear into my dreams.  I’ll Journey with Bear.   I’ll speak to my shaman friends, I’ll turn to my books, and I’ll  troll the internet for information.  To me, this as a sign that a new door is opening in my spiritual life.  I welcome it.  And I’ll try to remember that as I pick-up the trash.

Mandy Meyer-Hill

NYS Licensed Massage Therapist

Stairway Healing Arts Center

1 Washington Street
Cambridge, NY  12816
518-265-7889
StairwayHealingArts@gmail.com

 

Painting the Stars

Pinterest, of course

Pinterest, of course

Today, my friend Maria and I painted stars on the walls of the Meditation room. The paint is silvery. Sparkly.  Etheric.  Maria’s an artist.  I am not.  So we practiced a bit on some cardboard.  We laughed.  We practiced until it felt easy.  Fluid.  We made a swooping splash of stars around the doorway.  They trailed across the wall of sky.  Then we painted another trail across the adjacent piece of sky.  We kept switching places, because our styles were quite different.  Maria taught me to step back and just look.  This was a great lesson for me.  I tend to dive in and hold my breath until a project’s finished, not looking at the big picture until it’s over and too late to change anything.  But she reminded us both to stop, observe, see where it was headed and how we liked that.  It gave us the space to ponder things and decide where we wanted to take this project.  I’m going to practice this “stepping back” more in other aspects of my life too.  I love the results.  I also loved the process.  Thank you Maria!

 

Maria Painting the Stars. The blessings of friendship.

Maria Painting the Stars.
The blessings of friendship.

 

Meditation

Thanks Pinterest!

Thanks Pinterest!

 

Each morning at Stairway Healing Arts Center begins with a half hour of meditation.  When I arrive at Stairway in the morning I light a bit of incense to welcome the day.  Then I sit down in the meditation room, light a candle, ring a bell, and meditate for 1/2 hour. These sessions are free of charge and are open to the public.  I love days that several people participate.  There’s a special, gentle power during a group meditation.

After meditating I feel refreshed.  Centered.  Grounded.  And that feeling stays with me through the day.  It’s healthy.   I respond more calmly to problems and crises that arise.  My faith in solutions has become more absolute.   I can’t imagine a day starting any other way.

Join us for daily meditation at Stairway Healing Arts Center.  Mondays and Tuesdays at 10:30am, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 9am.  Early morning meditations (6 or 6:30am!) will begin sometime in June.  Stay tuned.

Mandy Meyer-Hill

NYS Licensed Massage Therapist

Stairway Healing Arts Center

1 Washington Street
Cambridge, NY  12816
518-265-7889
StairwayHealingArts@gmail.com

 

When We Need to Meditate

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This quote says it all.   Truly.  When we feel too busy and hurried and stressed for time to meditate is EXACTLY  when we most need to.  That’s when meditation will particularly benefit us.  Try it.  Even if you just take 5 minutes from your crazy day.  That’s a fine place to start.  Find a comfortable place to sit.  Quiet is best, but sometimes that’s impossible.  Turn off your phone.  Shut the door.  Set a timer.  Close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.  Exhale.  Repeat.  Your thoughts may race.  That’s natural.  Don’t try to stop or change your thoughts.  Simply notice them.  Breathe deeply.  Exhale.  Repeat.  Just notice the thoughts that might be charging around your brain.  Just notice them.  Inhale deeply.  Exhale fully.  Repeat.  You can repeat a mantra quietly, aloud or in your head.  Something gentle.  Perhaps, “I am safe,” or  “I can do this,”  or  maybe just  “Love”.   Something that comforts you, soothes you, or makes you smile.  Inhale deeply.  Exhale fully.  Repeat.

When the timer rings, take another moment to focus on your breath.  Then open your eyes slowly.  Keep breathing deeply as you return to your work.  Do this again later today when you’re feeling harried or harassed.  Do it again tomorrow.  Keep going.  This is healthy.

Retreat

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This morning  I heard from a couple of people who had registered for this weekend’s Meditation Workshop & Retreat.  Due to circumstances beyond their control, they had to withdraw from participating.  Our small group has become too small.  So I made the decision to postpone the retreat.  Unless, of course, a few people register this evening.  I’ll reschedule the date later in April or May.

I was really looking forward to this experience.  I can’t help but feel disappointed that I’m having to cancel for the time being.  Yet I am confident that things happen for the best. The weekend is opening for something else for all of us who had planned on participating. Plans are shifting.  A small vacuum has been created.  Perhaps it will be filled with something wonderful.  Perhaps not.  But the day will fill-up with something else.  I’ll keep you posted on the new and improved date for later this Spring.

Meditation Retreat & Workshop

Artwork by Maria Wulf.

Artwork by Maria Wulf.

The Setting Roots: Meditation Retreat & Workshop is just two weeks away. There are only a few openings left, so please contact me to hold your space. It’s going to be a day of experimenting with meditation techniques, deepening our practices, and relaxing. Silent meditations, visualizations, exercises, and more. AND Barry Hyman, Local Musician Extraordinaire, will be joining us for a short session after lunch, offering us the opportunity to meditate to the extraordinary sounds of the sitar. (Check out his website to sample some of his awesome world tunes.) The day is shaping up and turning into something even more special than I’d originally envisioned. Join us for SETTING ROOTS: MEDITATION RETREAT & WORKSHOP. Saturday March 16, 2013 10am-4pm $75 includes Vegetarian Lunch Stairway Healing Arts Center 1 Washington Street, Cambridge, NY 12816

Call, email, or just comment on this post.

Mandy Meyer-Hill

NYS Licensed Massage Therapist

Stairway Healing Arts Center

1 Washington Street
Cambridge, NY 12816
518-265-7889
StairwayHealingArts@gmail.com

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Setting Roots: Meditation Retreat & Workshop

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I’m really excited about sharing this day of meditation, relaxation, and healing.  Please call or e-mail me to register and save your space.  Space is limited, so the sooner the better.  

Mandy Meyer-Hill

NYS Licensed Massage Therapist

Stairway Healing Arts Center

1 Washington Street
Cambridge, NY  12816
518-265-7889
StairwayHealingArts@gmail.com

 

Getting Word Out, Getting There

Jon & Maria.  Moving day.

Jon & Maria. Moving day in October.  I wish I’d been clever enough to take photos on Thursday, but I was too preoccupied.

I created a flyer about Meditation Circles at Stairway Healing Arts Center.  I had the notion of pinning the flyer around town to get local word out.  Tuesday morning, at our weekly meeting-of-creative-dynamic-and-entrepreneurial-women, I showed it to Maria.  She gave me her artist’s view and I went back to the Mac to make some changes.  I loved the process of this creation.  I was up until midnight  playing with it.  It really feels like no time passes, when actually the hours slip away.  You know what I’m talking about.  So I finished-up and felt good about the result.  Proud, even.  Then I set it aside.

When I saw Maria on Valentine’s Day, she asked about the flyers.  I laughed.  “I haven’t put them up!”  Something about walking around town, blabbing about myself felt scary, intimidating, and completely out of my comfort zone.  Sure, I’ve come to do it daily on this blog.  I mean, talk about writing your heart out.  But that took years of nudging, and excuse-making, and putting-off before I actually got started.  The idea of putting my own printed word on the bulletin boards of my community felt impossible.  I can’t explain it.  It’s just the way it was for me.

“Do you want me to go with you?” she asked.  “Oh my gosh, would you?  Yes!”  I couldn’t believe it.  What a great idea.  What a great friend.  But the next thought I had was the realization that now I actually HAD to do it.  Oh no.  And I was right, because her next question was, “When do you want to go?  I’m free this afternoon, and tomorrow afternoon too.”  Oh shit.  She had a big smile on her face, because she knew exactly what was going on in my head.   With snakes in my belly, I finally agreed to 1:30 that same afternoon.

Maria and Jon both walked through town with me.  Jon chatted everyone up in his charming way, Maria carried the flyers, tape, and tacks.  Jon teased my nervousness and kept me laughing, telling everyone I was trying this new and very cutting-edge business tactic of actually letting people know about what I was offering.  Maria smiled, told me she totally understood my apprehension, and kept me marching to the next destination.   Stairway Healing Arts Center, Hubbard Hall (thanks Deb!), Battenkill Books (thank you Connie!), Cambridge Food Coop (thanks Nancy!), Round House Bakery  (thanks Scott & Lisa!), Cambridge Public Library, Glens Falls National Bank.  We pinned my Meditation Circle flyers next to the flyers of all the other interesting notices of what’s happening around town.  It was simple.  It was easy. It was painless.  It was fun.  The hardest part was getting there.  And I wouldn’t have gotten there if I hadn’t had the nudging, urging, and support of friends.  Thank you so much, Maria.  Oh, and Jon too (just getting him back a tiny bit.) You’re both wonderful.

Friday morning there were two new people at the Meditation Circle.  They’d seen the flyers.  Sometimes, the hardest part of doing something is just getting there.  Maria and Jon got me around town with my flyers.  They got me there.  I think the hardest part about meditation is sitting down.  Getting to that place.  But it’s so worth it.  So healthy.  Join us at Stairway Healing Arts Center for daily meditation circles:  Mondays & Tuesdays @ 10:30am;  Wednesdays, Thursdays, & Fridays @ 9am.

The Flyer.

The Flyer.

Porcupine Pie: An Unfortunate Incident for a Good Dog

Dr. Seuss tree.

Dr. Seuss tree.

Another glorious day for hiking/snowshoeing yesterday.  Clear blue skies, crisp cold air.  I’m awed by the silence of winter.  Is it that the snow absorbs the sounds?  We’d stop walking and there would be absolute silence.  We’d just stand there and breathe in the quiet.  It felt so good.  Like quieting my rushing mind in meditation.  Is nature meditating in winter?  On days like that it certainly feels like it.  As though nature is quieting and turning within herself.   Perhaps gathering her energy for the birth of spring.  Or maybe not.  But these are the kinds of things I wonder about.

My friend Susan loves winter too.  We see more of each other in February, it seems, than all the rest of the year combined.  We meet up with our dogs and hike up into the forest behind her house.  “The Chair Overlook today, or Cathedral Pines?” she’ll ask.  And we take off in one direction or another.  We have good conversation, talking about things like nature meditating, and backpacking in Greece.  Our dogs, Weston and Eli, romp and run and play together.  They’re good friends too.  So we were having a wonderful day.  Until Weston ran up to us with a face full of porcupine quills.

His snout looked like a pin cushion.  So did his chest, front legs, and paws.  And his mouth was full of quills.  He was pawing and scratching at them miserably.   Shocked, we started pulling them.  But without the right tools they just break off, which makes them harder to pull later.  “We just need to get him home,” I said, “and I’ll call the Vet.”  That’s the thing about porcupine quills, especially when they’re in the poor animal’s mouth.  You’ve got to get them all.  It usually entails some sort of sedative because it’s probably at least as unpleasant having them pulled as it is getting stuck with them.  But we had close to an hour’s hike just to get back to Susan’s place.  She led the way, and I talked to Weston, urging him on, trying to soothe him with my voice.  He was a trooper.  I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for him.  Some of the quills were surely in his feet.

Our veterinary clinic is, understandably, closed on Sundays.  So were the other local clinics I tried.  So Delaney, my 12 year old daughter, and I set up camp on the kitchen floor with a stainless steel bowl, plenty of towels, and a few sets of pliers.  She sat with Weston, talking to him gently, stroking his back, while I began pulling the quills.  One at a time.  We began with his feet.  Some were sticking out of his pads.  How did he ever walk all the way home?  He sat patiently, letting me hold his legs and yank.   He whimpered with each quill, but let me work my way up each leg and over his chest.  Such a good boy.  We praised him with each pull.  But working on his snout was more challenging.  And much more unpleasant for him.  He let us know he’d had enough.  I’d return to the task every 15 minutes or so and managed to remove everything around his nose, those on his outer lips, and some on his inner lips.  But it was the inside of his mouth that worried me.  I knew we needed help, and the clinic wouldn’t open for another 15 hours.  It was going to be a long night for poor Weston.

Then the phone rang at 6pm.  The Veterinarian.  I won’t name him/her as I don’t yet have his/her permission.  But I could have sung the Hallelujah Chorus when s/he said, “I’ll meet you at the clinic in 10 minutes.”   S/he was an angel to us right then.  Amazing.  Help was on the way.

Now, one of the many things that I love about being a massage therapist is that I can help people with their health without the experience of  blood or needles.  But I know there’s a time and a place for everything, and that this was going to be one of those times for both blood and needles.  The good news was that Weston felt no more pain within minutes of walking through the clinic doors.  Marleigh, Delaney, and I stayed with him during the icky procedure.  Well, Marleigh and Delaney came and went, but I stayed for the duration.  I had to giggle though, because a couple of times I started to feel a bit woozy.  The vet, without even having to look up, each time said,”You doing ok, Mandy?”  “Need to go sit down, Mandy?”  It cracked me up.  How did s/he know?  That 6th sense.  Anyway, we made it through.  I didn’t pass out, and within an hour of receiving the call from the Vet, we were home with a slightly dopey, quill-free Weston.

Weston’s a little subdued today, but he’s healthy and will be back to his exuberant self in no time, I’m sure.  Sitting here right now I’m awed by and tremendously grateful for the generosity of time, skill, expertise, and kindness offered by our Vet.  We needed help, and it was there for us.  I’m seriously awed and deeply, truly grateful.  I don’t want to try to make anything more out of this story that isn’t there.  It doesn’t have anything to do with massage therapy.  I trust I was able to handle the situation  calmly all the way through thanks to my meditation practice, so I guess it has something to do with meditation.  But really I guess it’s just about friendship, and dogs, and kindness, and receiving,  and life.  We were all having a really nice day when something unfortunate struck, unexpectedly.  Life keeps happening: the good, the not so great, the amazing, the challenging, the heartbreak, and everything in between.  Flowing with it, even gracefully sometimes, is a lifestyle I’m developing, little by little.  And not without a little, and sometimes a whole lot, of help from my friends.  We’re going to keep doing the things we love.  And hopefully, if the opportunity ever arises again, Weston will remember that porcupine does not make a good pie.

Weston today.  A little subdued, but healthy and well.

Weston today. A little subdued, but healthy and well.