• Certified Transpersonal Hypnotherapist ; Past experiences: Dream Analysis /10 Years Experience •Psychotherapist / Use of Gestalt, Jungian, Zen, Reality and Energy Therapies /10 Years Experience •EMDR • Men and Their Journey: the neuroscience of the male brain, and the implications in sexuality, education and relationship • Women: Their Transformation and Empowerment ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) / 21 years experience •Ordained Interfaith Minister & Official Celebrant • Social Justice Advocate • Child and Human Rights Advocate • Spiritual Guide and Intuitive • Certified Reiki Practitioner • Mediation / Conflict Resolution • “Intentional Love” Parenting Strategy Groups • Parenting Workshops • Coaching for parents of Indigo, Crystal, and Rainbow Children • International Training: Israel & England • Critical Incident Stress Debriefing • Post-911 and Post-Katrina volunteer

MSW - UNC Chapel Hill

BSW - UNC Greensboro

"An Unending Love"

This blog and video is devoted and dedicated to my daughter, my grand daughters, and my grand son. They are hearts of my heart. Our connection through many lives..... is utterly infinite.

The Definition of Genius


"ONLY LOVE PREVAILS" ...."I've loved you for a thousand years; I'll love you for a thousand more....."

The degree of our enlightenment is the degree of passion that we will have for the whole world." ~The Greystone Mandala

~The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

Winston Churchill

"Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Do not go gentle into that good night."

Dylan Thomas


In “Conversations with God”, by Neale Donald Walsch, there is a warning I think of. I refer to it as the Atlantis passage, and I've quoted it a few times before." As I have said, this isn't the first time your civilization has been at this brink,"

God tells Walsch. "I want to repeat this, because it is vital that you hear this. Once before on your planet, the technology you developed was far greater than your ability to use it responsibly. You are approaching the same point in human history again. It is vitally important that you understand this. Your present technology is threatening to outstrip your ability to use it wisely. Your society is on the verge of becoming a product of your technology rather than your technology being a product of your society. When a society becomes a product of its own technology, it destroys itself."

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"The key to a rich and vital life is an eagerness to learn and a wilingness to change."
        ~ M.A. Hershey, 1998 ~ 

"The Wolf" & "The Swan" as Personal Symbols

     One of the successful archetypal methods to work with children, especially males, is through the use of their  "spirit animals", subsequent to work with the child about which may be his or her "unique" animals.  Many beautiful lessons are illuminated through this work, and the child becomes deeply aware the glorious parts of the personality, as well as those which may need some work.  
     The children with whom I use this technique as an adjunct to play therapy, or teen-specific therapy, become richly imbued with a sense of their spirit, and what it communicates to and gives to this world.
     Of course when we, as therapists, train...we always play the role of the child and experience the intervention / technique so that we may get a sense of how it works in the psyche. Thus, some years ago, I discovered that my own "spirit animals" were the Wolf and the Swan. Many times, I have grinned to myself as I think of these spirit animals, and they remind me of the tools and gifts I can bring to the fore to utilize in a particular dilemma or difficult situation.  Likewise, it provides caveats around certain aspects of my psyche which I would want to note.
     In sharing mine, you may see why this method can be so visual and kinesthetic, for a child or youth.  Truth be known, adults simply love to work with this also!

The Wolf As Personal Symbol
     The phases of power of Wolf are year around, the full Moon, and twilight.
     According to Celtic tradition, Wolf represents learning, loyalty, intuition, loyalty and the shadow. He teaches people not to feel strength and power of self when alone and to learn about the deepest self by imparting spiritual assistance and courage. Wolf also symbolizes cunning, wisdom, knowingness and intuition, searching, dreams, magick,  transformation, death and rebirth, and protection.
     Native Americans believe that Wolf is teacher and pathfinder to find new ideas and teach them to the tribe. He imparts a sense of family and loyalty, Moon is the power ally which helps Wolf to access the subconscious that has the secrets of knowledge and wisdom. Wolf tells people to seek out solitude to find the teacher within the self so they can teach others about spirituality. He helps people to learn to trust insights when they learn to value the inner voice.
     Some Native American tribes, African Dogon tribe and the Aborigines of Australia believe Wolf is allied with Sirius, the Dog Star. A number of these believe the teachers and ancestors came from there.
     People have studied Wolf’s ways. He is a communal animal and teaches people to learn to cooperate in attaining those ends which are desired. Wolf helps people to learn to use body language as well as their voice in communicating these.
     Rituals are important to Wolf . People can learn from this to enable them in getting in touch with the Source of Life.
     Wolves are probably one of the most misunderstood of the wild animals. Tales of cold bloodedness abound, in spite of the their friendly, social and intelligent traits. Wolves in literature have also represented our cunning natures as in the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Little Pigs".
     Wolves are fiercely loyal to their mates, and have a strong sense of family while maintaining individualism. They are truly free spirits even though their packs are highly organized. They do not mate with their off spring. Incest is not tolorated and can lead to severe sexual conflicts, enough to split the pack (Obee 49).  They seem to go out of their way to avoid a fight. The dominant animal's most effective weapon is not always physical, but often psychological. That penetrating stare can be enough to get the response needed. A shift in posture, a growl, or a glance cuts right to the point . Traditionally,someone with "Wolf Medicine" has a strong sense of self communicates well , through subtle changes in voice inflection and body movements . They often find new solutions to problems while providing stability and support that one normally associates with a family structure. 
Key Words and Phrases of Wolf Traits
  • cautious( of strangers) but curious 
  • elusive by nature 
  • attuned to environment 
  • family oriented 
  • devoted 
  • fearless
  • loyal 
  • develop strong emotional ties 
  • cooperative
  • playful 
  • social 
  • intelligent 
  • expressive communicators 
  • loving 

The Swan As Personal Symbol
As we have seen, birds often symbolize the divine.  They are often viewed as gods in disguise, or else they are the vehicles of gods and goddesses.
While the peacock is a symbol of material manifestation, the swan stands for the ethereal.  It represents the presence of divine inspiration in our world. 
The association of the swan with wisdom and creativity appears also among the Greeks who considered that bird related to the nine Muses.  It is said that when Apollo was born at Delos, the event was marked with flights of circling swans.
It is in the form of a swan that Zeus assaults Leda and in so doing, engenders the twins -- the Gemini -- Castor and Pollux, who hatched from eggs and also their sisters, the tormented Clytemnestra, and fatefully beautiful Helen, whose elopement with Paris is cause for the Trojan War.
Despite the fact that the swan is generally judged the most beautiful of the large water birds, we can see in its long, graceful, serpentine neck, a kinship to the snake.  Therefore, in Indian mythology, the swan (Skt. hamsa) embodies the union of Garuda and Naga, and since those two are enemies, it also stands for the highest wisdom teachings concerning the union of opposites.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa [superior or, perfected hamsa] was the name of the guru of the Bengali author of Autobiography of a Yogi, Swami Paramhansa Yogananda.  Through their influence, people of the United States and Europe learned that the teachings of ancient India could also benefit non-Indians.   You too could aspire to be a yogin or yogini.
The spiritual association is further emphasized by the swan's seeming to move almost as if suspended above the water's surface, which evokes the detachment that is the result of  meditative practice.  Its regal posture and smooth, graceful gliding movement through the water, along with its general reputation as a silent bird, enhances its prestige. 
Natural Science
The most common species is the white swan (Cygnus olor) also known as the mute swan. Its disposition is not as mild and gracious as its appearance suggests.  In the breeding season cobs can be territorial and aggressive to intruders, and they have been known to fight to the death.  They do not hesitate to threaten other animals including humans who venture too close to their nests, extending their long necks to issue a warning hiss, which again reminds us of the snake.  There are many accounts of people who have been injured in encounters with a swan.  Some have had an arm or leg broken by the powerful blow of wing or beak, but contrary to popular belief they do not bite. 
     According to Wildlife Conservation magazine, a swan can have 25,000 feathers.  Its plumage includes the fine, light, insulating coat that provides the remarkable filling material known as swansdown, once reserved exclusively for the quilted garments and bedding of the aristocracy.           
     Tchaikovsky wrote a score for the ballet Lebedinoe Ozero (Swan Lake) in May 1875.  The scenario contains many elements from all the above-mentioned tales, but in the ballet, both Odette and the black swan, Odile, are in the sway of the magician, Rothbart.
     Other possible sources of inspiration could have been Johann Karl August Musäus’ Der geraubte Schleier, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans and Alexandre Pushkin’s Tzar Sultan, the story of a prince who saves the life of a wounded swan who later reappears as a woman to marry him.  There are also elements of the story that are traditional in many ballets.  One cannot discount the influence, at least on Tchaikovsky, of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, the story of an heroic Swan Prince, a man with a mysterious past who arrives on a magical swan-boat.  ~ Metropolitan Ballet, a history of the swan ballet.
     No contemporary amusement park Tunnel of Love or carousel ride is complete without at least one swan-boat.  However, the boat of Lohengrin (son of the Grail-seeker, Parsifal,) is not in swan form but rather described as being drawn by swans all the way to Antwerp, where he is to serve Elsa of Brabant.
Keywords for swan meaning exploration:
  1. Love
  2. Grace
  3. Union
  4. Purity
  5. Beauty
  6. Dreams
  7. Balance
  8. Elegance
  9. Partnership
  10. Transformation
Our first symbolic clues from the swan can be taken from observing them in nature. They are waterfowl, closely connected with water, even nesting near the water.
  1. Fluidity
  2. Intuition
  3. Dreaming
  4. Emotions
  5. Creativity
In this respect, we can intuit the swan’s appearance in our lives as an arrow pointing to our dreamier depths and feelings. Furthermore, we get the sense of balance from swan meaning as it lives harmoniously amongst three of the four Aristotelian elements. Grounding herself on earth, lofting to great heights in the air, and winding through waters with magnificent elegance.
The swan may also bear messages of love and relationships. They pair for years, sometimes male-female unions are sustained for a lifetime. When the swan glides upon the waters of our awareness, it might be a symbol of love, and a reminder of the blessings found in our relationships.
The concept of partnership is further expressed on a divine level in Hinduism, wherein the swan graces vibrant traditions as the Hamsa bird. In the Saundarya Lahari (translated: “Waves of Beauty,” it’s a text filled with beautiful mantras from the Hindu perspective) two swans (Ham and Sa) pair together, swimming around in the divine mind “living on honey from the blooming lotus of knowledge.” Isn’t that a lovely concept?
In the Celtic mind, swans and geese were observed in the context of movement. Specifically, the keenly observant Celts noted their transitory nature and the swan’s pattern of migration. Consequently, the sign of the swan urged Celtic intuition to consider changes of mood (water) and heart (love).

Friday, January 29, 2010

All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume. 
~ Noam Chomsky ~

"Man must evolve....."

"Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

~ MLK~

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Bedshaped" - Keane/Live 8

"The Inner Pain of Adult Children of Alcoholics"

     Since there are over 600,00 deaths each year from alcohol, it naturally follows that many children are born into an a family with at least one alcoholic parent.  Many people discover that they have several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic household.
     They came to feel isolated, and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect themselves, they become people pleasers, even though they may lose their own identities in the process. At the same time  they mistake any personal criticism as a threat. Often, they lose the ability to feel empathy for others, and rarely "walk in the moccasins" of the Other.  
      They either became alcoholics themselves, married them, or both. Failing that, they  found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, a person in high need of control, or other similar wounds to fulfill their insatiable need for abandonment. 
     "Need"?  Yes, because in that way, when others tire of the drama and detach from them, it feels both terrible and wonderful at the same time.  The "wonderful" part results from the recapitulation of their childhood with the alcoholic caretaker.  That, of course, is a primary reason for why people choose their partners:  to replicate that same chaos, pain and fear, in order to 'do over' that period of time., hoping that it will turn out differently.  Of course, without recovery, therapy, etc., they just replicate the pain of their youth all over again.
     ACOA's live life from the standpoint of victims. Having an over developed, or under-developed sense of responsibility, they preferred to be concerned with others rather than themselves. They get guilt feelings when they trust themselves, giving in to others. They become reactors rather than actors, letting others take the initiative.  
     Often, beginning life as independent, proud children, they eventually become dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. For women especially, they view a relationship with a theme of passivity rather than feeling, and acting upon, their true personal power.  Their lives are fraught with complex opposites:  the "show" of a confident, independent person, while they are being quite dependent. 
     While yearning for a true loving relationship with a person who honors their unique individuality, they tend to pass that up for another person who is angry, non-empathic, demanding, and who does not truly value them as a human being. They content themselves with charming lip service from partners, as long as they can avoid any sort of symbolic long as the scale of abandonment plus non-abandonment remains finely balanced.  To balance that scale,  they do things which will create abandonment, replicating the roots of their life. Until therapy has progressed, they keep choosing insecure primary and secondary relationships because they remind the ACOA of  their childhood relationship with the alcoholic parent(s). This is an emotionally exhausting process for the ACOA, and even more so if they have children.
     These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism made them 'co-victims', those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. ACOA's learn to keep our feelings down as children and keep them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we often confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. And..... they confuse love with control.
     Even more self-defeating, ACOA's became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable solutions.

This is a description, not an indictment.

Some of the hallmarks of the ACOA are:

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.
2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without rational mercy. As a result, they judge others in that same rigid manner, completely overriding mercy, and understanding.
5  Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun. Even when they claim to be "having fun", they generally display a false self, in that they cannot simply "let go" into an easygoing joyfulness. Those around them sense this without any problem, and the "air" is laden with anxiety.
6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously, and lose a free flowing adaptability and acquiescence.  Acquiescence for the ACOA is threatening to their core.  They see it as a measure of weakness, rather than a serene acceptance of their foibles.
7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships, and often recreate the abandonment see-saw with ones who love them.  Push-pull dynamics, ones that say, "Go away----come here", as well as passive aggression are most common.
8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.
9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, and even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

"Music in Speech Equals Empathy In Heart?"

Dedicated to Brogan!

ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2010) — Some people are annoyed by upspeak: the habit of making a sentence sound like a question?

But actually, being able to change intonation in speech -- as in upspeak -- may be a sign of superior empathy?
A new study in the journal PLoS ONE finds that people use the same brain regions to produce and understand intonation in speech.
Many studies suggest that people learn by imitating through so-called mirror neurons. This study shows for the first time that prosody -- the music of speech -- also works on a mirror-like system.
And it turns out that the higher a person scores on standard tests of empathy, the more activity they have in their prosody-producing areas of the brain.
So increased empathic ability is linked to the ability to perceive prosody as well as activity in these motor regions, said authors Lisa Aziz-Zadeh and Tong Sheng of USC, and Anahita Gheytanchi of the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology.
"Prosody is one of the main ways that we communicate with each other," Aziz-Zadeh said.
In some cases, humans can't do without it, as in the case of a stroke victim who garbles words but can express emotion.
Or when talking to a pet: "If you have a pet, they basically are understanding your prosody," Aziz-Zadeh said.
She and her colleagues imaged the brains of 20 volunteers as they heard and produced prosody through happy, sad and other intonations of the nonsensical phrase "da da da da da."
The same part of the brain lit up when the volunteers heard the phrase as when they repeated it. It is called Broca's Area and sits about two inches above and forward of each ear.
The volunteers with the most activity in Broca's Area tended to score high on empathy measures. They also used prosody more frequently in daily speech.
It is not clear whether empathy brings about prosodic activity or whether frequent use of prosody can somehow help to develop empathy -- or whether there is no cause and effect relationship either way.
Aziz-Zadeh is assistant professor of occupational sciences with a joint appointment in the Brain and Creativity Institute of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Sheng is a USC doctoral student in the Brain and Creativity Institute. Gheytanchi is a postdoctoral researcher at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology.

"Do Children Need Both A Mother and A Father?"

ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2010) — The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Barack Obama endorsed the vital role of fathers in a 2008 speech: "Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation."
The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that "fatherless" children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.
"Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father. Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents," said sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Extending their prior work on gender and family, Biblarz and Judith Stacey of NYU analyzed relevant studies about parenting, including available research on single-mother and single-father households, gay male parents and lesbian parents. "That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical," Stacey said.
In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the "partial exception of lactation," noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children's psychological adjustment and social success.
As the researchers write: "The social science research that is routinely cited does not actually speak to the questions of whether or not children need both a mother and a father at home. Instead proponents generally cite research that compares [heterosexual two-parent] families with single parents, thus conflating the number with the gender of parents."
Indeed, there are far more similarities than differences among children of lesbian and heterosexual parents, according to the study. On average, two mothers tended to play with their children more, were less likely to use physical discipline, and were less likely to raise children with chauvinistic attitudes. Studies of gay male families are still limited.
However, like two heterosexual parents, new parenthood among lesbians increased stress and conflict, exacerbated by general lack of legal recognition of commitment. Also, lesbian biological mothers typically assumed greater caregiving responsibility than their partners, reflecting inequities among heterosexual couples.
"The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents. This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well," Biblarz said.
Stacey concluded: "The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting. Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones. The gender of parents only matters in ways that don't matter."
This study is published in the February 2010 issue of theJournal of Marriage and Family

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation

By Karen Kissel Wegela, Ph.D.
     Cultivating mindfulness is the key to overcoming suffering and recognizing natural wisdom: both our own and others'. How do we go about it?
    In the Buddhist tradition and in Contemplative Psychotherapy training, we nurture mindfulness through the practice of sitting meditation. There are many different kinds of meditation. For example, some are designed to help us relax; others are meant to produce altered states of consciousness.

    Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.

     You may wonder what good that is. After all, don't we want to suffer less? Aren't we interested in tuning in to this natural wisdom, this brilliant sanity, that we've heard about? Aren't those changes from how we already are?

     Well, yes and no. On the one hand, suffering less and being more aware of our inherent wakefulness would be changes from how we experience ourselves right now, or at least most of the time. On the other hand, though, the way to uncover brilliant sanity and to alleviate suffering is by going more deeply into the present moment and into ourselves as we already are, not by trying to change what is already going on. 
     The sitting practice of mindfulness meditation gives us exactly this opportunity to become more present with ourselves just as we are. This, in turn, shows us glimpses of our inherent wisdom and teaches us how to stop perpetuating the unnecessary suffering that results from trying to escape the discomfort, and even pain, we inevitably experience as a consequence of simply being alive.

    The man called the Buddha taught that the source of suffering is our attempt to escape from our direct experience. First, we cause ourselves suffering by trying to get away from pain and attempting to hang on to pleasure. Unfortunately, instead of quelling our suffering or perpetuating our happiness, this strategy has the opposite effect. Instead of making us happier, it causes us to suffer. Second, we cause suffering when we try to prop up a false identity usually known as ego. This, too, doesn't work and leads instead to suffering. (See earlier blog entries for more on these ideas.)

     Mindfulness, paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides, doesn't reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we practice being able to be with them. Equally, we bring mindfulness to pleasant experiences as well. Perhaps surprisingly, many times we have a hard time staying simply present with happiness. We turn it into something more familiar, like worrying that it won't last or trying to keep it from fading away.

     When we are mindful, we show up for our lives; we don't miss them in being distracted or in wishing for things to be different. Instead, if something needs to be changed we are present enough to understand what needs to be done. Being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in our lives and taking care of our own and others' needs. In fact, the more mindful we are, the more skillful we can be in compassionate action.

     So, how do we actually practice mindfulness meditation? Once again, there are many different basic techniques. If you are interested in pursuing mindfulness within a particular tradition, one of the Buddhist ones or another, you might at some point wish to connect with a meditation instructor or take a class at a meditation center. Still, I can provide one form of basic instructions here so that you can begin.

     There are three basic aspects worked with in this meditation technique: body, breath and thoughts. First, we relate with the body. This includes how we set up the environment. Since we use meditation in preparing ourselves to work with others, we use an eyes-open practice. That makes what we have in front of us a factor in our practice. Very few people can dedicate a whole room to their meditation practice, so they choose a corner of a room or a spot in their home where they can set up a quiet space.

    If you like, you can make a small altar of some kind and decorate it with pictures or photos and sacred objects from your own tradition. You might want to light candles and incense as reminders of impermanence, but you can also have a plain wall in front of you. As long as you are not sitting in front of something distracting, like the TV or the desk where your computer lives, it doesn't matter too much what is in front of you.

     Once you've picked your spot, you need to choose your seat. It's fine to sit either on a cushion on the floor or on a chair. If you choose a cushion you can use one designed for meditation practice like a zafu or gomden or you can use a folded up blanket or some other kind of cushion or low bench. The point is to have a seat that is stable and not wiggling around.

    If you choose to sit on a chair, pick one that has a flat seat that doesn't tilt too much toward the back. If you are short, like me, you will want to put something on the floor for your feet to rest on, taking a little bit of weight. You don't want your legs dangling uncomfortably. If you are very tall, with long legs, make sure that your hips are higher than your knees-either on a chair or on a cushion. If you don't do that your back will start to hurt pretty quickly.

     Okay, once you have your seat and your spot, go ahead and sit down. Take a posture that is upright but not rigid. The idea is to take a posture that reflects your inherent brilliant sanity, so one that is dignified but not stiff. The back is straight with the curve in the lower back that is naturally there. I was once told to imagine that my spine was a tree and to lean against it. It works for me; you can see if it works for you.

     Sitting on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. There's no need to contort yourself into an uncomfortable posture. Just simply cross your legs as you might have done as a child. Notice again that you want your hips higher than your knees. If necessary, add more height to your seat by folding up a blanket or towel.

     Hands rest on the thighs, facing down. The eyes are somewhat open and the gaze rests gently on the floor in front of you about four to six feet away. If you are closer to the wall than that, let your gaze rest on the wall wherever it lands as if you were looking that distance in front. The gaze is not tightly focused. The idea is that whatever is in front of you is what's in front of you. Don't stare or do anything special with your gaze; just let it rest where you've set it.

     Let your front be open and your back be strong. Begin by just sitting in this posture for a few minutes in this environment. If your attention wanders away, just gently bring it back to your body and the environment. The key word here is "gently." Your mind WILL wander; that's part of what you will notice with your mindfulness: minds wander. When you notice that yours has wandered, come back again to body and environment.

     The second part of the practice is working with the breath. In this practice rest your attention lightly (yes, lightly) on the breath. Feel it as it comes into your body and as it goes out. There's no special way to breathe in this technique. Once again, we are interested in how we already are, not how we are if we manipulate our breath. If you find that you are, in fact, controlling your breath in some way, just let it be that way. It's a bit tricky to try to be natural on purpose, so don't get caught up in worrying about whether your breath is natural or not. Just let it be however it is.

     Again, sit for a few minutes with the posture and the environment and with your breath. In and out. In and out. Sometimes this is quantified as 25% of your attention on your breath. The idea isn't to get it "right," but instead to give you an idea that you're not channeling all of your attention tightly on to your breath. The rest of your attention will naturally be on your body and the environment.

     Finally, the last part of the practice is working with thoughts. As you sit practicing, you will notice that thoughts arise. Sometimes there are a great many thoughts, overlapping one over the next: memories, plans for the future, fantasies, snatches of jingles from TV commercials. There may seem to be no gaps at all in which you can catch a glimpse of your breath. That's not uncommon, especially if you're new to meditation. Just notice what happens.

     When you notice that you have gotten so caught up in thoughts that you have forgotten that you're sitting in the room, just gently bring yourself back to the breath. You can mentally say "thinking" to yourself as a further reminder of what just happened. This labeling is not a judgment; it is a neutral observation: "Thinking has just occurred." I like to think of it as a kind of weather report: "Thinking has just been observed in the vicinity."

     How long should you practice? If you are new to it, try to sit for 10 to 15 minutes and gradually increase to 20 or 30 minutes. Eventually, you could extend it to 45 minutes or an hour. If you want to sit longer, you might want to learn how to do walking meditation as a break. We'll get to that in a later posting.

     Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that mindfulness meditation is about practicing being mindful of whatever happens. It is NOT about getting ourselves to stop thinking.Repeat: it is not about getting ourselves to stop thinking. It is easy to fall into believing that that is the goal.      Many people have a mistaken idea that becoming blank is the goal of meditation. Perhaps it is in some approaches, but it's not in mindfulness meditation. So once again: if you find you are thinking (and you will), include it in what you notice. Don't try to get rid of your thoughts. It won't work and it's the opposite of the spirit of the practice. We are trying to be with ourselves as we already are, not trying to change ourselves into some preconceived notion of how we ought to be instead.

"there were no words, but images flooded every cell in her being ...

"there were no words, but images flooded every cell in her being ...