Tag Archives: meditation

Adopt. Cats. Meditate.

Taken moments after the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation series, day 15. The theme: Being in the flow is effortless. Sanskrit: Sat Chit Ananda-Life is absolute bliss consciousness

I went out and got two cats the other day. I looked online at the local shelter and though the goal was one, I chose two. They did not know each other.

One radiated sweet, the other appeared cute and playful. After we got home, one was naughty, one was nice. The cute and playful one became moody and distant.

I saw her walking away a lot. At home, she was an emotional mystery prone to getting upset quickly. As in, don’t touch me, don’t pick me up. DON’T!

Neither cat actually behaved badly. I just had to get to know them.

She was a mystery, her personality and story taking form each day

I AM cute, yes, and thank you for noticing!

The sweet cat is the orange boy cat.

Lord Byron

After a couple days of being scared of a new place, he set his loving gaze upon me.

He approves of me. It’s a done deal.

How do you suddenly have two grown cats? Who don’t know each other? You follow the directions. The shelter offers tips and instructions on how to gradually introduce. The cats did great and I was committed. It took my attention. It’s not a “let ’em work it out” thing I remember hearing people say years ago. As the tribe leader, the human in the house needs to keep things respectfully organized and safe so the kitties can feel cared for in their new surroundings.

I learned to meet the cats where they were. I’m still doing that, about a month later. All this is a lot like getting to know anyone, even people. Time, space, place, boundaries, bonding, habits, preferences- these have meaning for all creatures.

Meditation turned out to be the best bonding activity, even equal to play. Spice Girl, named for personality and her hues of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili, and ginger, likes meditation. She isn’t moody, she just needs stillness. She would rather sit in peace with you than bite and scratch, given the option. Really.

She wanted to connect but didn’t know how.

So, we learned.

The other arrived with peace and love, this was his truest nature.

Lordy

If their nature is not peace and love, that is o.k. This invites close attention! Observation.

Lesson #1, don’t do what they don’t like. When cat says no; not that; not here; not there; not this; oh hell no!….. listen. Because next they will tell you what they do like.

Yes, I like that toy! Yes! Yes! I like that touch! There, under my chin! By my ears! Yes! I like sweet talk directed at ME! Yes, I love the food you offer! Yes, I love the meditation when I sit with you and you don’t pet me but we are touching! Yes! Thank you! Yes, that purr is for YOU! O.k., I have to go now!

Cats have a great ability to relax if they think everything is basically o.k. It’s a good enough reason to keep a habit of creating a basically o.k. environment.

Big thanks to my loyal dog, Lily. She is an unlikely zen master with cats. Seriously, she diffused all feelings of worry and angst when introduced. It’s not that she particularly likes cats. It’s just a non-issue for her. She adapts to adoption. She was once adopted herself.

Lily likes leaves.

We are at one month now, and everyone is getting along well. There is still an occasional hiss, but it’s more of a warning than an aggressive act. More often I hear chripy recognition hello meows with a purr follow-up. Our daily meditation brings a contented silence, which naturally spills into regular non-meditation time. It’s great to share peace with all creatures!

 

The editorial board

What is mental health?

We went from headaches to mental health fairly quickly. I asked him what he did for his own mental health? His answer: “I don’t know what it is.” Fair enough. An honest answer! A few beats passed and he asked, what do YOU do for your mental health? Touché!

I told him that for my mental health, I exercise, hang out with uplifting people, do arty stuff, meditate.

He perked up about the meditation. He said he tried it but it didn’t work. He had done it twice, each time for 2 hours. I told him that was very ambitious! How about shorter, like 10-15 minutes a day?

He asked how does it feel, when you are in the zone of meditation? This is a good question and I wasn’t sure how to answer. English was not his first language so when I used words like peaceful, it didn’t fly. So, I motioned like I was unscrewing the top of my head, and said, “it’s like if you took the top of your head off and poured fresh water through it; rinsed it out with water and light.

His eyes lit up and he said, “oh!”

He left with a new approach to meditation.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Albany, Oregon

What is good mental health?

Here is a list of eight things I was told in school (Oregon college of Oriental Medicine, Portland, Oregon).

Signs of good mental health could be the ability to:

  1. Develop emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.
  2. Initiate, develop, and sustain healthy relationships.
  3. Face problems, resolve them, learn from them.
  4. Be confident and assertive.
  5. Have awareness of others, ability to empathize with them.
  6. Use and enjoy solitude.
  7. Play and have fun.
  8. Laugh at yourself and at the world (takes tremendous amount of self esteem and inner strength to laugh at oneself).

*We need enough life force to initiate and develop ourselves. Always look for and find ways to cultivate your life force.

The above list came from an academic course, which was directed toward working with addiction and mental health.

© Mary Ann Petersen

These are guidelines, points of reference. I think we need to identify in writing some concepts of good mental health. It’s time to be concrete rather than vague.

Why don’t more people have answers for good mental health? Why does it seem slippery? Lately, I see a need for solid footing in this subject. Let’s start somewhere. And go beyond, “see a counselor.” Some won’t get there, so what are common sense concepts in the meantime? As in, let’s get some movement on the ground floor, within our reach and not make supporting general mental health too confusing.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Dublin, Ireland.

My point is, we all need to bring this care into our own lives, even if we are not in the middle of a mental health crisis. If we wait for that, it’s a harder place to set up aid and self care.

© Mary Ann Petersen. The temple.

The next list is from a Quaker group I attended, so it has a spiritual leaning. The topic was Universal Spiritual Elements.

Universal Spiritual Elements

  1. Awareness of the “other.” What is valued or sacred? What do you value over yourself?

2. Sense of responsibility. How am I responsible for the world around me? How do treat my space, surroundings, people, pets?

3. Sense of vocation. What is my reason for being? What gives meaning or purpose?

4. Sense of community. Is there a sense of caring and being cared for? Who are my people? Who do I trust?

5. Sense of repentance. What is my capacity for reconciliation with self and others. Mistakes are entry points for healing forgiveness.

6. Ability to be present. Is my focus past, present, or future oriented. Soul lives in present. Past: ego. Future: ego.

7. Faith. What is the relationship between my small story fitting into the bigger story. To connect to a sense of the transcendent, what do you relate to?

Having trouble figuring out how to integrate all this into your life? That’s o.k., pick one thing and start there. Remember to have fun. Practice, practice, practice.

In my view, we should be having conversations and taking action everyday toward cultivating good head and heart space.

Leave a comment to say which or what called to you.

Back to meditation, if you want a great kickstart, go to https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience.
It’s a great 21-day simple guided meditation. It fits into any schedule! It starts Monday the 30th. The theme is Making Every Moment Matter.

Time-traveling tortoise

 

We can time travel, but nobody writes about it.
It’s not what you think.
When you put me down on the floor back in the winter, you said I didn’t move for days.

It seemed like 5 minutes to me.

Summer is my favorite time of year.

I like to eat the Grandpa Ott morning glories. The bright purple flowers produce hallucinations, though the effect wore off after they became a regular meal. They told me their name, the first plant name I learned. Now I eat almost everything and I wait for it to tell me stories.

I don’t like cilantro.

Some plants tell folk stories using a specific dialect of their native language. Others connect to satellites and at certain times, play international news shows. This is sometimes what I am doing when resting under the blueberries.

Other times, I am meditating. By meditating, I mean I am exchanging qi with the universe, which is currently called qi gong. T animals, the tortoise and turtle are masters. We process the scattered qi that people are constantly flicking around. It’s a little bit like recycling.

Back to time travel. I don’t know how to explain it to you.

I come and go. It mostly happens when I relax. I sink down, drop out of my shell and wiggle down through soft slippery fibers. When I get to the bottom, it becomes the top.

I pop up out of water. I am washed onto a rocky beach where I hear birds singing and humans have not yet arrived.

This is one place I go when I’m not here.

 

Meditation provokes potato calm

Today’s group meditation was like a smooth slalom through warm, mashed potatoes. Visualize effortlessly carving left and right down a gentle tater slope. An occasional splatter sprays your cheek. You lick at this flavor of experience.

There is only a slight drag on the bottom of your skis, not in an obstructive way, but in a comfort food kind of way. Speed is relatively slow over mashed potatoes. This plant-based base has a subtle granular quality. Butter slows you down more than you would think. It adds a certain weight and fluidity to the glide through starchy spud drifts.

This meditative space is welcoming and open. It allows vulnerability. It offers a new phrase I just learned: emotional exposure. In a totally safe way. The air and the people sharing it do not put out a vibe of defense. Collectively, there is no bristling in response to another. No guts are tightening in preparation to fire off a counterpoint.

I enjoy this rhythm of being. There is no top or bottom, only moving through.

Sanctuary. Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Sometimes sanctuaries are just sitting there. You have no idea. I found one today, just a few miles from where I live. Cortesia Sanctuary is in the woods of South Eugene. Cortesia comes from Cortese, a 900-year-old French word, which means “quiet.” Just kidding, actually, it means “a deep, noble courtesy and reverence for the sacredness of life.”

Garden entrance from the front meadow
Garden entrance from the front meadow

Once you step out of the car, it is quiet. This is a private home setting of 22 acres. It is surrounded by tall 150-year-old fir trees. It has a personal feel, like you are stopping in to see old friends. We were greeted by Forrest McDowell, one of the owners. He and his wife, Tricia, started living here in 1986.

Forrest emerged smiling and friendly, providing us with a map and background about the property. Soon, we were off, heading down the Fern trail. This passed the labyrinth on the left, then branched to the right with two bench options: St. Francis or Gandhi. These were near the edge of the ridge. Though the trees, you get a lovely view of west Eugene, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Mary’s Peak off in the distance.

My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden
My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden

The garden has many herbs, flowers, and even some opportunities for simple rituals. One such thing is a prayer shrine. You can write down a prayer on a card and then hang it from a small tree. They had several dwarf apples trees.

One of the prayers hanging from the tree
One of the prayers hanging from the tree

This organic garden space grows their vegetables and herbs, which they turn into flower essences, tinctures, and salves. They sell their products locally and on the web. The McDowell’s wrote the book, The Sanctuary Garden, in 1998. It is said to explore the personal, philosophical, spiritual, and practical aspects of creating a natural garden that emits peace and harmony. From walking around on their land, I’d say they walk their talk.

Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me
Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me

The place has a real sense of peaceful purpose. It even has an 18-year-old healthy and happy cat. Permaculture methods are in place, compost is revolving, nature spirits are dancing. It’s not flashy or pretentious, rather just being here now, as is, rustic.

Back to nature spirits, there are a lot of them. By that, I mean people have been talking about them since the beginning of time. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of them, from every part of the world, with exotic names and colorful personalities. If I had to choose one for this place, it would be: Aranyani, Hindu goddess of the forest, and the animals that dwell there. Just my opinion.

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St. Francis in his moss shawl
St. Francis in his moss shawl

There are cute sheds and yurts on site, and even a “cob grotto.” We spent about an hour onsite. You could certainly stay longer, maybe have a picnic. It is not large enough for long walks, but better suited for a slower and more thoughtful time.

Finding the window out of addiction

“I saw the window, so I took it,” was what he said. This was in response to the question of how did you quit large doses of prescribed pain medication and copious amount of pot smoking? He started out with neck pain and back pain. The pain medication and pot smoking rained down to cover the pain. There was also mention of PTSD lurking in the background. It needed something too. So he used substances, lots.

Then he quit.

How does it feel? “Good. now it’s just me,” he said.

Milkweed
Milkweed

I’m not sure why but he looked around, saw a window for change, and he took it. He didn’t deliberate. He didn’t wonder if he could do it. He figured it would be hard. He did it anyway.

Maybe he got lucky. He didn’t notice a painful withdrawal. He said it was neither painful or dramatic. A little while after he stopped the pain medication, his pain got better, decreased noticeably. After he stopped smoking pot, he felt more engaged/available in his relationships.

Now he actively meditates, gets acupuncture, and looks for holistic ways to nurture a healthy body/mind/spirit path. He wants to be active in his life, engaged, and, as he said, “become better.”

I see a lot of people who want to make positive changes happen. They are very sincere. But they struggle with obstacles. Real or imagined, the obstacles get in the way. Real or imagined, excuses clog the path, the stream, the field, and ultimately, the window. They can’t get to the window, much less open it.

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I am curious, how we get there ourselves? How do we help each other? How do I help clients? I had a teacher once tell me that what I do  (acupuncture/Chinese medicine) is like a housekeeper and gardener. The practitioner must help to trim the brush, sweep the walkway, wash the windows, clean the pond, hang up laundry in the sun to dry…. you get the idea. This maintenance and attention to the inner and outer landscape may lead to a sharper focus. It cleans up the noise and distraction and leads to an easier path to a row of open windows with bird songs floating in.

How people get there is diverse. The man I talked to seemed to just bob to the surface one day and it happened. I think a lot people can be motivated by witnessing others, being inspired. Though many appear to have inspiration like a new baby, a dream job, a great love, a new house- all the stuff we can see- none of this is enough to actually make change. From what I have seen, change comes from a deep inner place that has its own reasons and they can’t be seen or analyzed. They just are there and they have a louder voice than all of the reasons to not change.

Where do you find inspiration that lifts you and lasts?

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