Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where the Ideas Are

As a writer, the most frequently asked question I receive is where do my ideas come from.  My answer surprises people and is easily dismissed as too kooky to deal with. I tell them my ideas come from meditation.

Being a meditator helps me to stay present. You have to be aware of what is going on right now in order to be open to fresh proposals that are floating, flouting and fidgeting for your attention this moment. 

Three types of meditation I do:

1.  Three-Breather
This is the easiest, least intimidating, and you don’t need a master yogi certificate.  Being able to breathe with awareness is the only requirement.  You can be driving in traffic, waiting in line at the DMV, or reading one of my fascinating blogs.  For three breaths:
·      Focus on the oxygen entering your body
·      Where it is going
·      How it feels
·      How your body is feeling

BAM! You have just meditated.  Do the three-breather whenever you think about it. Now you are a lifetime meditator.

2. Mantra Stick
In India, it is the common practice to give an elephant a stick for his trunk to hold when riding through a market place.  With a stick occupying his trunk, he can’t reach for all of the goodies for sale.  Please don’t ask me why the animal doesn’t drop the stick and pick out what he likes; I don’t know any elephants to present that questions to.

A mantra, or silent chant, is like the elephant stick but it is for your mind. When you are repeating a mantra, your mind is paying attention to the words you have given it. Just like that science thing about two objects not inhabiting the same place at the same time, your mind only thinks about one thing at a time.  Your thoughts may jump around as quickly as the Mexican Jumping Bean I ate when I was five, but it is still jumping on one thing at a time.

The mantra that you choose is personal, should be something you feel good about, and needs to be memorized. Mine is the Prayer of Saint Francis.  Others are:
·      ‘God is…I am’
·      The Lord’s Prayer
·      The Alcoholics Anonymous one about God giving strength

The bible has some great stuff to work with, as I’m sure the Koran and Torah do also.

Now find a comfortable, relaxing, quiet place to sit with your arms limp and feet on the ground, and close your eyes. Over time, these can be done anywhere—including punk rock mosh-pits—but starting out in a tranquil environment is the recommended method.  Silently repeat your mantra, repeat your mantra, watch your thoughts float away without judging them, and repeat your mantra.  Start this process at three minutes a day and then add time, and daily amount, as you feel ready.

3.  Stream Listening

A disciple asked the master monk how to meditate. The master said to sit under a nearby tree and listen for the sound of a stream that was on the other side of the hill.  The disciple did this and heard birds, chattering animals, breezes through the tree and children laughing in the background. With much concentration, he eventually heard the stream.  He listened for a long time and was content and joyful.  When he asked the monk what would have happened if he could not have heard the stream, the monk said that he would have told him to listen to that. 

So now you can probably guess where we are heading.  Going back to your comfy chair and relaxation position, close your eyes and listen.  What do you hear?  Is there a wind coming through the window that is flapping at your vertical blinds, children watching a silly movie in the living room, a neighbor parking in her driveway, the cat licking her long black fur, the dog panting from the heat?  That is what I am hearing.

As you are ready, bring your focus to your own sounds: your heartbeat, breath and body. You may not be able to hear this with your ears, but you can feel it and know the sounds are there.

Over time, you may feel a sensation of energy that radiates from your hands. When you get to this point, you will have achieved a PhD in Meditation.  Congratulations.

Three last minute tips:
1.    Be gentle on yourself
2.    Watch thoughts float away without judgement
3.    Keep a natural breath

Allow meditation to be a joyful, easy part of your life.  My belief is that it should be a requirement in the Universal desire for a peaceful world.  Focused, aware breathing keeps us alive to the creative world of ideas that are present at every moment. Now go meditate on that.

Heather Leigh

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friendly Plankton

Being back in San Diego has brought a fresh appreciation for warm weather but the epitome of the loveliness of this place was discovered last night when we went to La Jolla Shores to see the illuminating  water.  I don't know how often this takes place, but on occasion there are plankton close to shore that as they die in the water, they illuminate. From our perspective on the shore line, we see the crashing of the white water with a neon glow.  There is a gentle casting of aquamarine strewn in with the whiteness.

There was no moon, so the stars were especially abundant.  The combination of the glowing whitewater and starry night allowed for a more clear view of the occasional seagull, returning to his nesting ground.

As the air has been hot from Santa Ana winds, the water was so warm it could hardly be felt as we stood there getting wet up to our knees.

I was surrounded by friends, my boys, and their friends.  The boys skimmed boarded and even body surfed without being able to see their feet with out the sun to show them.

It was one of those nights in which conversation was not needed or desired.  One of those occasions that will be recalled with the phrase, 'remember that night we watched the illuminating waves?'.

While I loved many aspects of the Pacific Northwest and will miss the constant beauty, there are some really awesome things to be appreciated in my hometown: old friends, happy children, warm weather, and dying plankton giving light to warm waves.

I am thankful to have discovered a new thing in my old town.

Heather Leigh