Thank you for visiting Black Lotus Reiki at the first annual Jeffersonville Holiday Market! Below are all the meditations and activities from the "Have a Happy Heart" section of our booth, as well as the "Planting Seeds for the New Year" exercise. If you purchased a Bluestone necklace and wish to review the description, you can find that information at the bottom of the page. I hope you enjoy them and that they bring a little peace to your holiday season!
"Have a Happy Heart"
The holidays are here! And while many of us excitedly look forward to this season as a time filled with laughter, joy, and love, it’s also completely human to feel stress and anticipation as we scramble to make everything “just so.” If you’re feeling under pressure this year, try out some of the following mindfulness exercises, meditations, and activities to help you get through.
Wishing you a holiday season filled with love, a peaceful mind, and above all, a happy heart!
You’re a giver. Each year, especially during the holidays, you spend countless hours thinking of the perfect gifts for everyone in your family and circle of friends. You decorate the house just so and bend over backwards cooking fantastic meals. You love making others happy, yet, even though you do these things because you care about the people around you and not because you’re expecting anything in return, a part of you can’t help but feel a little saddened when nobody seems to go out of their way to make you feel special the way you do for them.
Don’t lose heart, because there’s someone out there with a generous spirit who knows you better than anyone else in the world, and is just waiting to make you feel special if you allow them to. You may have already guessed it - that someone is you!
Of course it’s totally natural to want others to show that they care for you, but the truth is, there is nobody on this planet better equipped to give you exactly what you want or need than you are. This year, why not redirect a little of that tender loving care you give so much to others toward yourself and take yourself on an “Artist Date”?
The Artist Date is a concept that comes from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,”which is an excellent tool for creative recovery and connecting with your inner child. In her own words:
“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly ‘artistic’ — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, ‘what sounds fun?’ — and then allow yourself to try it.”
Note that this is an exercise you’re meant to do on your own and “defend against all interlopers.” That means no friends, family, significant others, pets, coworkers, robots, etc are allowed to come with you. This keeps the excursion 100% about you and prevents you from worrying about someone else’s schedule, whether or not they’re having fun, whether or not they “get it,” etc. Go ahead and let your inner child take over. What does he or she want to do? Do they want to explore that art gallery you’ve been passing on your commute to work every day? Or do they want to sneak into the McDonald’s play place and jump around in the ball pit? It’s important not to take this exercise too seriously and to allow yourself the opportunity to be a little silly. Above all, the most important thing is to actually go out there and do it! Drop any excuses that may be creeping up in your mind and make yourself a priority for a change. Go live, laugh, and treat yourself to a little fun!
“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
This quote by Ram Dass holds particularly true for many of us during the holiday season. When surrounded by family members, be often find ourselves sliding back into old patterns and attitudes that make it seem as though we never truly grew out of that angsty teen version of ourselves. If your family has a way of getting under your skin, why not give the following exercise a try?
Pick a person you’re concerned about seeing this holiday season who has a habit of breaking your zen. Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take a few slow inhales and exhales; counting to four on the inhale and six on the exhale.
Once you’re in a relaxed state, bring your chosen person to mind. Think of a time when they said or did something that hurt your feelings. Recall the situation and what was said in as much detail as possible. Once you are in the heat of the memory, shift your awareness to your body and notice what’s happening. Have you stopped breathing? Is your face flushed with anger? Are your shoulders raised or your teeth clenched? Is your chest tight or your throat in a knot? Do you feel like you were just sucker punched in the solar plexus? Paying attention to how your body reacts in difficult situations can offer powerful insights into your emotions and personal triggers. Additionally, shifting the focus of your attention away from your judgments and negative thought patterns about the encounter, and turning it toward understanding what is happening to you physically can help you to re-establish equilibrium faster. This will better allow you to remain calm, listen and relate rather than reacting harshly or out of anger.
After you’ve adequately explored your body’s reaction to the first memory, return to your cycle of breath. Again call your chosen person to mind, but this time, think of a memory where they said or did something that made you feel loved or special. If this particular person has never done anything to make you feel good, pick any memory where someone made you feel positively. Recall the event in as much detail as possible, and when the memory has reached its peak, shift your awareness toward your body. How do you feel? Perhaps your chest and heart feel more open, your shoulders are relaxed, or your body feels lighter. Take a few moments to reflect on how different you feel physically when recalling the positive memory versus the negative one. You might even take a moment to smile as you consider the incredibly broad range of emotions this person is able to make you feel.
Repeat this exercise for as many people as you wish before your family gatherings. If, during the holidays, someone says or does something which upsets you, remember to focus your attention on how your body is reacting. Feel these sensations naturally without trying to change or control them, and don’t forget to breathe! When you do respond, try not to engage in an argument. Remember the positive memory you had of this person and try to see the positive in how they are arriving now. If you can, give honest and sincere appreciation for them. For instance, even if you don’t agree with the advice a person is giving you (or the way they chose to deliver it), you can diffuse the situation by thanking them for caring enough about you to offer their guidance. You may even wish to tell the person about the positive memory you recalled about them in the first part of this exercise (without mentioning the exercise itself) and tell them how good it made you feel. Remember that if you’re feeling the stress of family pressure, chances are others in your gathering are too. Having compassion for where others may be coming from and allowing them to feel loved and appreciated will go a long way in soothing tensions during the holidays.
With so many commercials featuring happy families laughing at perfectly set tables, or holiday movies about fairy-tale romances, it’s easy to feel a little lonesome if you’re not spending the holidays with anyone (and sometimes even when you are!). If you’ve already thought of things like volunteering with organizations you care about or spending some time in nature, or if you’re just looking for something to make you feel a little more connected in those “off” moments, why not give Metta Meditation a try?
“Metta” comes from Pali, an ancient Indian language, and it translates as: lovingkindness, benevolence, active good will. During a Metta meditation, rather than focusing solely on the breath we focus on sending benevolent thoughts and wishes out into the world, and imagine that people, animals, and all creatures are touched by our loving thoughts. To get started:
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. For a little added comfort, you may wish to cover yourself with a warm blanket. Spend about minute or so connecting in with your breath, seeing if you can lengthen your inhales and exhales. Breath in deeply and slowly, and with each exhale begin to relax into your posture a bit further. Notice anywhere you may be holding tension and allow those areas to sink a little deeper and release. Let go of any concerns and spend the next few minutes imagining the breath moving through the center of your chest in the area of your heart.
Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we can’t truly love others if we don’t show love for ourselves. Slowly repeat to yourself mentally or quietly out loud, “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May my mind be at ease.”
As you say these phrases, allow yourself to truly feel the intensions they express. Notice how these heartfelt words feel as you say them, and allow your heart to open to receiving this loving kindness from yourself.
Next, direct the Metta toward someone you feel thankful for. You may visualize their features and use your creative mind to “see” the love coming out from your heart and traveling over to them as you repeat the words, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May your mind be at ease.”
Continue this process for as many people and creatures as you wish. It is common to call to mind someone you feel neutrally about, followed by someone you dislike after sending the Metta to someone you love. You can bring to mind other friends, coworkers, neighbors, animals, even whole communities or countries. For each person, place or thing, focus on the intent of the words and the feelings of love coming out of you as you say, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May your mind be at ease.” Don’t judge yourself if feelings arise that seem contrary to the exercise, such as anger, grief or sadness. This is just your heart softening and revealing feelings hidden inside you. Take a moment to send some love to those feelings and yourself!
Last, extend your well-wishes to the world. Imagine the entire planet, all the people, plants, animals and creatures who live here. See the faces of people you do not know and the sidewalks of places you’ve never been to. Imagine the Metta flowing out of your heart and reaching every corner of the Earth, perhaps even imagine the loving kindness completely wrapping itself around the planet. Repeat to yourself or out loud, ““May all beings everywhere be safe. May all beings everywhere be happy. May all beings everywhere be healthy. May the minds of all beings everywhere be at ease.”
As you close down this meditation, take a moment to consider all the people around the world who may be doing the same exercise at the very same moment as you. With a population of 7.7 Billion, there’s bound to be at least one, and that means that at this very moment, someone is sending their loving kindness to you.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list? Between writing holiday cards, cleaning the house, shopping for the perfect gifts, then wrapping them in secret, planning and preparing meals, etc, etc, etc, it can often seem as though there’s an impossible amount of things to get done and simply not enough time to do all of them.
Take a deep breath… Everything is ok. Really, if everything was not ok, you’d be calling the cops or an ambulance right now. Take some time to consider the items on your to-do list and be honest with yourself about the reasons you feel you need to do them. Cut out the items that are not truly necessary, or ask for help from others in your home or who will be part of your gathering. It’s funny how the holidays are supposed to be about togetherness, and yet we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything alone!
Once you have a to-do list that reflects the things you actually need to get done on your own, try a media fast. A media fast means absolutely NO television, newspapers, social media, or surfing the internet (unless it’s related to your task list such as ordering a gift or searching for a recipe). You can take it one step further by adding no music, or no music with lyrics to the list. Trust me, this is going to be a lot harder to put into practice than it sounds!
Many of us reach for our tv remotes and electronic devices when we’re stressed, without realizing just how much time we end up losing while scrolling through our Instagram feeds or watching that “one episode, just to relax” which always inevitably turns into five episodes of television, or an all-out Netflix binge. Commit to doing the media fast for 3 days. If you have a very active social media life, let your friends know ahead of time that you’ll be staying off of it temporarily and that they can always call you if they need to get in touch. You may find the first day of the fast incredibly difficult. Take it as an opportunity to notice how many times you have to convince yourself not to pick up the remote or engage in one of the other “forbidden” activities. If you can make it through the first day, the others will be much easier, and you will be amazed by how much time you’re able to reclaim for yourself. Repeat as necessary, and watch as your to-do list magically vanishes before your eyes! Use any extra time for a little self-pampering - you deserve it!
You want the holidays to be special for you and your loved ones. You hope to create an atmosphere of love and gratitude, and promote a sense of abundance in your home. The only problem is, times are tough and you just don’t have the financial means to give everyone the perfect gift, or maybe even any gift this year.
You’re not alone, and the good news is there are so many ways to make your holidays special without lavishing gifts on those around you. It may be the season of giving, but what you have to offer extends way beyond the contents of your bank account.
Take this as an opportunity to look at your holiday traditions and ask yourself why you engage in them. Do these things truly reflect your values? Or are you engaging in activities and behaviors because they fit the standards set up by today’s society? Consider that excessive gift giving was not always the “norm” for the holidays. For example, in colonial times, the customs for celebrating Christmas were pretty straightforward: church, dinner, dancing, some evergreens, and visiting or being visited. If any gifts were given, they were small things like books, cash tips for servants, and fruit or candies stuffed into wooden shoes for children (a custom that would later be replaced by “stockings hung by the chimney with care”). The celebrations during this time were filled with dancing, caroling and lighting candles as a way to bring some warmth and light into an otherwise dark and chilly time of year.
What are you hoping to achieve during the holidays this year? Are you looking to build a stronger connection with your children? Perhaps you have a craft or skill you can teach them like sewing or painting. If they’re old enough, perhaps this year can offer a Rite of Passage where they join in on a special activity such as a hunting trip that provides food for the family. Or maybe you have a cookie baking and decorating party, or allow your child to pick an item they’d like to see on the table during the holiday dinner and you make it together. If there’s a family heirloom or a secret family recipe that was always meant to be theirs, perhaps you can give it to them now along with the story behind why that item is so special (you can always hold onto it for safe keeping until they’re older if you’re worried it might be broken).
Studies have shown that most people remember experiences above gifts, so if you’re looking to do something special for a loved one, spend some time thinking about what type of experience might make them feel cared for, whether that’s cooking dinner for them while they relax, going for a walk out in nature, braving the cold to watch a meteor shower together, or tucking them into a blanket like a happy sushi roll and tending the fire while they watch their favorite tv show. Most people just want to feel loved and appreciated, so the best gift of all might be to write them a letter expressing your true and honest feelings of how much they mean to you and why.
Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. If you think there are people in your circle who will be truly disappointed to not receive presents, be honest with them about the situation and invite them to help pioneer new holiday rituals and traditions for your family to engage in. Allow your family to participate in finding fun and creative ways to celebrate that are expressive of your current interests, budgets, and most of all, your true values.
If you find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed this holiday season, take 5-10 minutes for yourself and try this meditation to bring you to a more peaceful present moment:
Find a comfortable seat in a place where you can be alone. Bring your focus to your breath and take a few deep inhales followed by long, cleansing exhales. Spend a minute or so on your breathing cycle, counting to 4 on the inhale and 4 on the exhale. You may also play around with this, shifting to a 4-count inhale and a 6-count exhale for a cycle of 10 breaths, and then trying a cycle of 6-count inhales and a 4-count exhales, before settling back into a steady 4-count inhale and 4-count exhale. This type of rhythmic breathing can have an immediate impact on your physical and emotional state, slowing your heart rate and reducing your blood pressure.
Once your breath is steady, start to engage your senses one by one. Beginning with your sense of sight, slowly scan your surroundings. What do you see? Name 5 things in your field of vision. Notice what you can see at a distance, and notice what you can see at very close range. Perhaps you will discover things like small insects crawling on a blade of grass or the intricate texture of the woven rug in your home that you would not otherwise have paid attention to.
Shift to the next sense, and begin to notice the different sounds around you. Perhaps you hear the refrigerator running or traffic at a distance. Perhaps there are birds chirping or murmurs of conversation in the next room. Play around with the exercise and try to gauge how far away these sounds are from you. What are the closest sounds? The sounds that are moderately far away? What are the farthest sounds that you can hear and where are they coming from?
Spend a minute or two working through each sense. What can you smell? What can you taste? What different textures around you can you feel?
Next, focus on your physical body. What do you feel? Are you holding tension anywhere? Do you feel full? Hungry? Do you have pain? If so, bring your attention to the places where you feel pain or tension and, holding it there, take 5-10 long, slow inhales and exhales (resistance to this is normal).
Ask yourself “What do I need right now?” and simply allow the answers to drift up to you.
Look outside your window if you’re not already sitting in nature. Take a few minutes to examine the earth around you - the trees, the grass, the quality and color of the sky. Notice how different the landscape looks today compared to how it looks during other seasons of the year. If there’s a breeze flowing, what direction is it coming from and where is it going? Consider that each year the wind carries dust rich with minerals from the Sahara in Africa high into the sky, all the way across the Atlantic and deposits it into the Amazon where those particles act as fertilizer for the rainforest. As you look at the wind outside you right now, imagine what riches it may be carrying, the people and places it may have touched before you and those it may touch after it has moved beyond where you are sitting now. Take a moment to reflect on the slow, repeating cycles and rhythms of nature and its seasons. Consider the oldness of the Earth and how many billions of years it took to get to this remarkable place in time where human life could be supported and thrive. Expand your awareness and imagine the entire earth, rotating on its axis as it makes its long migration around the sun. Then, scale down your focus to the continent, to your country, your state, your city, and finally down to where you are sitting now.
Understand that though your concerns are important, they are all small things when considering the great scale of nature and the cosmos. Remember that no matter what happens, you are and have always been connected to the Earth and a part of the endless cycles and rhythms of nature. Rest here for as long as you need before returning to your day.
"Planting Seeds for the New Year"
In less than one month, on Saturday, 12/21/2019, Winter Solstice will occur across the Northern Hemisphere. This day marks the official beginning of winter and is also the longest night of the year. At the Winter Solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, and each day after until Summer Solstice, 2020, the days will grow incrementally longer. What a perfect time to consider what you want to welcome into your life along with the increasing light of the sun!
In this visualization activity, take a pinecone and a piece of ribbon. Consider what you want to bring into your life in the coming months, whether that be love, financial abundance, good health and vitality, or something different. Focus on the things you do want, and not on what you’re trying to get rid of. For instance, you may choose to wish for a trim, healthy body rather than wishing to lose weight. Close your eyes and visualize this wish for your life in as much detail as possible. Then, write your wish down on your piece of ribbon and loosely tie it around your pinecone.
When you have some time at home, go into nature and dig a small hole to plant your seed in (don’t worry, your ribbon is made out of recycled silk from the Sari trade in India and is 100% natural). Plant your pinecone and ribbon in the Earth while focusing on your wish. You may even choose to speak your wish out loud as you visualize it in your mind. Once a week, or any time you want to give your wish a boost toward becoming a reality, go to a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Imagine your pinecone in the earth getting all the water and nutrients it needs for the seed inside to grow strong. Visualize the ribbon and the letters you wrote on it. Imagine the scales of the pinecone opening and a small, green shoot beginning to grow out of the seed inside. Imagine the tiny shoot slowly making its way up through the soil, growing bigger and stronger as it works toward the surface. Once it breaks through the top layer of soil, imagine the sun shining strongly on this new seedling, your wish, and watch as it grows into maturity (this may happen over the course of a few meditation sessions). As the seedling becomes a young tree, imagine each unfurling leaf and branch as a different aspect of the wish you made for your life. Each time you envision the tree growing, it begins to resemble your wish and your life more and more. Visualize yourself living your life with your wish fulfilled.
Remember to come back and nurture your wish with your love and attention so it can fully take root in your life!
The Bluestone found in New York State was created as a result of erosion from the Acadian Mountains (the ancestral name for the present-day Appalachians) during the Middle to Upper Devonian Period of the Paleozoic Era, approximately 370 to 345 million years ago. Runoff from the mountains placed mineral grains and rocky deposits into the Catskill Delta, an ancient seabed that covered the majority of present-day New York. The delta ran in a narrow band from southwest to northeast and today provides the bluestone quarried from the Catskill Mountains and Northeast Pennsylvania.
This geological origin influenced the Bluestone’s mineral composition, making it very durable, and resistant to wear, changes in temperature, and shifts in pressure. It carries the energies of both the land and the sea, reminding us to be adaptable to different environments and to persevere through challenges.
Bluestone was once called the “Blue Gold of the Catskills” and was quarried during the 1800s as a local material for tombstones, foundation walls, field walls, hitching posts, exterior and cellar steps, smokehouses, and even lids for wells and pickle barrels. Large Bluestone slabs were sometimes left as collateral for goods bought on credit. Given its superior quality and aesthetic beauty, Bluestone quickly became a popular building material nationwide. High demand for the stone sent it to cities all over the country to be used for sidewalks, steps and curbing until the industry suddenly collapsed in the late 1880s with rise of the less expensive Portland Cement. The history of Bluestone serves as a reminder for us to protect the natural resources within and around us, to know our own worth, and to not let the opinions or motivations of others alter the value we place on ourselves.