Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Source of Balance

What matters most in life? If you had just a few days to live, how would you spend them? If you had one phone call you could make before your life ended, who would you call and what would you say? If you had two minutes to gather what would fit in a small carry-on bag before fleeing your burning home, what would you pack?

During these moments of crisis, or even when reflecting on tragedy such as the recent disasters in Japan, you may come to a crystal clear realization that you wouldn’t miss your finest possessions, or your hardest won financial security for a second if faced with death. You realize that what really matters are the human moments of care and connection. The most amazing thing about these crisis or perspective moments is that you realize how full your life already is. You realize that you have been taking your abundance for granted. You have been starving in the midst of plenty, drowning in the calmest ocean of love.

Try this experiment, or at least think of it as a visualization. Take a large and empty jar and fill it with tennis balls. Is the jar full? It certainly appears to be full but its not. Pour some pebbles into the jar. After shaking the jar, the pebbles roll into the open spaces between the tennis balls. Is the jar full now? It seems to be but it still isn’t full. Then pour sand into the jar. The sand moves into the empty spaces between the balls and the pebbles. Is the jar full? Still not. Lastly, pour some liquid into the jar. The liquid spreads around the jar, moving into the empty spaces between the balls, pebbles and grains of sand. Now the jar is finally full.

Your life is full of something, so make sure its things you can be proud of and people who make your heart sing. The things that matter most to you are the tennis balls; your family, your inner peace, your friends, your creative freedom, your health. If there was nothing else in the jar but these things, your life would be abundant and joyful. The things that are important but not essential are like pebbles. Maybe the pebbles include your job, your house or your changing beliefs. They move around more easily than tennis balls and may be important at certain times more than others. The sand is the really small stuff; the distractions, the petty grievances that claw away at your inner peace, the anxieties about things that may or may not be problems. Like sand in your mouth, the petty things aggravate you and get in the way of your appreciation of the truly important things.

If you put the sand in the jar first, then there’s no room for the tennis balls. It’s the same in life. If you fill your life with things, jobs and petty grievances, you have no room in life for what matters most. Life is short and precious. Allocate your time according to what matters most. The rest of life is sand. And make sure you pause often to appreciate the incredible fullness of life that is already yours.

If your life feels out of balance, set about correcting the imbalance.The beautifully reassuring thing is that the human body is built to restore balance. I love the fact that our balance center is in the inner ear because it suggests that we have inner wisdom if we are able to “hear” it. In other words, you have within you the wisdom to know how to restore balance in your life.

What is your current challenge with balance? Maybe it’s the balance between work and play. Maybe it’s the balance between justice and forgiveness. Maybe it’s the balance between self worth and humility. Maybe it’s the balance of your own needs and the needs of others. Maybe it’s the balance between changing what you can change, and accepting what you cannot change for now. Maybe it’s the balance between striving and just being.

The wisdom of balance is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, and you can change from one moment to the next. Some problems are not meant to be solved, just managed. Even the tennis balls sometimes need to be juggled. Imagine yourself juggling a number of balls; work, family, health, friends, economic crises, global suffering and your own needs– and you’re keeping all of them in the air. If you drop some of them, they just bounce back. The economy is an example of a ball. It will bounce back eventually so keep this in perspective. But sometimes the balls are more like glass. If you drop them, they may be damaged, or even shattered. They may never be the same. Take greater care with these.

Strive for balance in your life. Know what is most important, what is negotiable and when action is important. At your core you have a balance that is neither rubber nor glass. It is not rubber because it doesn’t bounce around with circumstances, and it’s not glass because it can never be broken. It’s more like water which can be both gentle and yielding and tough and corrosive depending on the circumstance. It knows what to do and when to act. It is the source of your deep seated inner wisdom. Think once again about the jar analogy. The water is the source of your life and it fills everything else with meaning and gives all your relationships and visions a higher purpose.

When you feel out of balance, may you hear the voice of your inner wisdom whispering truths about balance and inner capacity. When despair grows in you and you feel overwhelmed by the burdens of life, may you feel the reassurance of your own balanced spirit. When confusion reigns and tragedy strikes the world, may the earth and all of its people be restored to balance. Namaste.

Please visit Soulseeds for resources that support balance and essential priorities.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You Are What You Eat- A Gratitude Meditation

If you are what you eat, you should definitely avoid chopped liver, waffles and all forms of nuts. In seriousness, its just as true that you are what you eat as it is that you become what you think and end up where your intentions lead you. We eat our histories, live our intentions, and create our futures with each thought, word and meal.

Wendell Berry wrote, “I eat my history day by day. Bird, butterfly, and flower pass through the seasons of my flesh.” This is true for all of us. When you eat with love, what’s grown with love, prepared with love and served with love, you feel more nourished, revitalized, satisfied, balanced and loved. Meal times are an awesome time for gratitude, to remember the goodness of the earth and our many connections. We consume earth’s food to give us strength to serve the earth and everything in it.

This is a meditation to nurture gratitude around food, to be mindful of the journey of various ingredients to your plate. You can do this meditation alone or with your family as a fun visualization.

Quiet your mind and bring your full attention to this moment. Begin with awareness; of your body, your breath and your surroundings. Become as relaxed as possible knowing that in this moment you are safely held in the embrace of a life force that is larger than you and yet deeply present within you and in the earth and in every living thing.

Let your senses take in the beauty of the moment; the awesome potential, the surprising symmetry, the glorious oneness of life. Life is an incredible miracle and you have the privilege of participating and co-creating the future. Focus on gratitude, for all this and more. Nature is rolling out spring like a red carpet with its own designer labels of new color and spectacular growth. Feed this appetite for gratitude with a visualization about a spring feast. Gratitude is to the spirit what food is to the body; it nourishes and regenerates.

Imagine yourself the host at an outdoor party. The sun is bright, warming your face and body, and splashing patterns of light on the meal table. Give thanks for the sunshine, earth and rain that helps grow the food that makes your feast possible. Give thanks for the animals that provide your nourishment. Give thanks for the trees that provide shelter and shade. Give thanks for good company and for the love that connects us all. Breathe in deeply and feel your connection to ALL THAT IS.

Allow yourself to drop deeply into this scene until you truly feel you are there. Imagine that you are greeting all the objects of your gratitude along a red carpet, leading to the feast table. Local farmers and bakers are arriving, bringing their seasonal goodies. Friends are arriving with home cooked dishes. Children are skipping down the carpet. Blue feathers are floating down and resting on the carpet. The people who have prepared, packaged and processed your food are now arriving. Greet them all warmly. Include the local store owners and cashiers. The homeless and hungry are also arriving for they too are part of your compassionate consciousness.

The table is ready and all the participants are here. Notice the way you feel about this feast. Notice the aromas. Feel the energy. Are you feeling pangs of hunger and anticipation? Are you feeling profound gratitude for all those who make your life and health possible?

Call all your guests together around the table and join hands in friendship, grace and gratitude before you sit down to eat. Notice the abundance at your table; love, food, friendship, warmth, shelter, peaceful hearts, good conversation. This feast is a gift of the soil and the air; the ricefield, the vegetable garden, the beans sown in the soil, an apple orchard, a tomato garden, the bees and butterflies flying from flower to flower. Every part of the universe has participated in this feast and is part of your nourishment.

Is your heart full of gratitude and joy? As you eat the feast, let it nourish your consciousness that all is related and let it feed your compassion for those who don’t have enough to eat. Every bite nourishes you and reminds you of your ancestors and your descendants, who live in you. As you eat with full awareness, feel the compassion, freedom and joy.

Now you have finished the meal and said goodbye to your friends. Stand alone in the gentle moonlight. Bathed in light and love, you are ready to return to this here and now reality. Focus your awareness back in this setting. Feel your feet on the floor and gently open your eyes. Offer love and blessings to all as you go about your day in greater awareness and gratitude for the great web of collaboration that makes life possible.

Universal blessings on your meals, your friends, your family, the earth, the hungry and all living things. May peace and compassion fill the earth and may it begin with you.

Please visit Soulseeds for more meditation, mindfulness and family resources.