Category Archives: meditation

The Key, The Door, and The Path

I recently started learning Transcendental Meditation (TM). This form of meditation has been said to have huge health benefits. Whether physical, mental, or emotional, the research has shown that a TM practice is generally good for your well-being… and who couldn’t use more of that?

So, I decided to investigate further, and I found it interesting. I met two local TM teachers who were available to assist me in learning this technique, and (due to a recent health scare) I have a lovely benefactor who offered to pay for my instruction. In my world, that’s all about the Universe showing up and making the path forward very clear and easy to follow. So I did.

TM is a very deliberate practice that basically contradicts a lot of things I previously thought meditation was supposed to be. In other forms of meditation, thoughts are almost an enemy. “Monkey mind” (as it’s called) is the antithesis of good meditation.**

But in TM it’s different. Thoughts simply are. There is nothing subjective about them. Neither good nor bad, they exist, they bubble up, and they release. This one difference made a HUGE impact on my understanding of meditation. The lack of judgment was liberating.

So, as I sat down in my first few days of TM, engaging in my practice twice daily, I found that I experienced the spectrum of thought presence. Sometimes there were few, if any, and other times it was like a TV section in an electronics store with every set turned on. And both experiences were perfectly right. See? Liberating.

What I found most interesting, though, was the epiphany I had during my very first meditation of the training.

As I typically do, I conducted some research prior to starting something new. In my readings I found the key element of TM to be a mantra. The mantra is given to you in the training, it’s personal to you and you alone, and it’s not a specific word with a specific meaning. It’s something altogether different. So, of course, I thought to myself: The mantra is the key to meditation.

Yes. …And no.

Over the years, in all the meditations I’ve learned, engaged in, and taught, none have relied solely on a mantra; therefore, I assumed this is what set TM apart. The mantra is the key to the meditation. It’s also more than that. So, this was the epiphany I had as I was doing TM for the first time:

The mantra is the key, the door, and the path.

It invites us in to the inner world of consciousness (the key), almost effortlessly (the door), and then helps us stay in a flow state the entire time we’re there (the path).

There are few things in life that serve as both catalyst and conveyor, but in this case it is absolutely true, which makes it easy.

TM is by far the simplest form of meditation I have ever learned. My biggest challenge will actually be prioritizing it as a twice daily practice. But, in order to see the worthwhile benefits reported in the research, it seems like a very good idea for me to overcome that hurdle.

The truth of all learning is this:

It’s not enough to simply find a key, you must use it to unlock the door.
​It’s not enough to just unlock the door, you must open it.
​It’s not enough to just open it, you must walk through it.
​And, it’s not enough to only walk through it, you must keep walking.

A good example for this is that it’s one step to attend a workshop or lecture, another to take notes on what you’re learning, and even better to take action and embody what you have understood.

If you want to create positive change, you must keep going. There are milestones on this journey, for sure, but there is no exact finish line.

It’s early days for me, but I look forward to being able to report back to you on what I find as I continue to move forward with this endeavor. As always, I’m human, and so I’m sure I will get a little messy with it, but that’s ok; because the only way to have a “bad” TM practice is simply to not do it. Feels like a win-win to me. I’ll let you know. 😉

Finally, I now have a new level of awareness in my life. I am looking to see what else might be both catalyst and conveyor, because I think that there’s something there to be discovered. I think the more we are able to combine the two, the easier it will be to stay in authenticity, integrity, and inspired flow. What do you think? Let me know if you think of any!

**Post-Note: A good friend pointed out a different understanding than the one I was originally taught about the “monkey mind.” In other modalities, I was taught that the goal of meditation was to increasingly silence the monkey mind, whereas in TM, there is no goal.

To me, silencing something over time (as a goal), puts it in the realm of something undesirable, which becomes something to push against. This is why TM was so different for me, and works better than other forms of meditation for me – there is no goal. There is no monkey mind, or clouds of thoughts, or leaves in a river to notice as the float by. These were all things I was taught in other forms of meditation, that simply weren’t as effective for me. In TM, there is nothing to notice or not notice, no clouds or leaves, or anything. Everything just is. There is only an allowing, with a gentle return to mantra. In fact, thoughts are seen as the byproduct of some stress releasing in the body. Nothing more.

I appreciate her pointing out and sharing her experience and wisdom with different meditation. It reinforces that there is no “one way” or even one understanding of one way. We each have what works best for us, and the key element to all of it is prioritizing the practice. I encourage you to find whatever way works for you. And frankly, TM is just one more tool in my ever-expanding toolbox. Big thanks to my friend for chiming in! xo

What I learned from Ozzy Osbourne (no, really)

I am rarely ahead of the curve on anything. I still haven’t watched a single episode of Mad Men, I have no clue why Orange Is The New Black, and the only Housewives I know are my friends who are stay-at-home moms.

So, when I started seeing all the posts on social media over the last year about the benefits of coloring as meditation, I smiled quietly inside as I heard a voice in my head say, “yup,” while my wanna-be hipster started jumping up and down like a cheerleader.

Coloring as meditation is something I have been doing for many years. I even offered it as a component of a self-care fair during graduate school. (I even got our Dean to color a mandala!) I offered it because I knew of its benefits. I suggested it because I know it as a path to self-care and inner calm. I know these things, not because of a research study, but because I had been practicing this kind of meditation and self-care for a while, and it was one of the strongest, most-beloved tools in my toolbox. But, I’ll bet you’d be surprised to learn where I originally got the idea.

Years ago – I really don’t remember when, though I imagine somebody could look it up – I watched The Osbournes on TV. It was a favorite pastime for my ex-husband and I to see what Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly and Jack were up to. The episodes always proved entertaining. I loved it. Unlike today when I barely turn the TV on, back then I had my favorite shows, and The Osbournes was one of them.

Much to my surprise, on one episode in particular I watched Ozzy pick up some marvelous looking markers from his kitchen counter and promptly sit down at a bar stool to do what looked like coloring. My brain said this, possibly out loud:

Ozzy Osbourne is sitting in his kitchen, coloring. Ozzy. Osbourne.

Perhaps he was doing original art, the camera never showed us. For me, I saw markers which meant Ozzy was coloring. And as he was coloring, I watched his whole body look calm and peaceful, even as the mayhem swirled in the kitchen around him. In that moment, I remember thinking to myself,

“God, I miss coloring!”

That sentiment was immediately followed by,

“That looks so awesome – to just sit and color.”

Soon after that episode aired I found some markers in a drawer and decided to start doodling. I enjoyed feeling the markers in my hand, watching the surge of color pour onto the page, and seeing the simple little doodles come to life in front of me. It was fun! More than fun, though, it felt good.

At the time, I didn’t explain it as something “healthy,” “meditative” or “peaceful.” Coloring was something to do that felt more productive than just watching TV. In fact, I often did it in front of the TV, which actually allowed me to slowly give up almost all TV in general. Coloring wasn’t an escape though (TV was the escape). Coloring was me moving TOWARD something… toward something fabulous, calming, and expressive. Coloring was a way for me to get in touch with myself again. What started out as a passive hobby soon became a deliberate choice.

A little while later, I found one of my old coloring books from when I was in elementary school or maybe high school. It was barely used, but it was intricate and detailed. It was what I now call an “adult coloring book.” Unfortunately, sometimes the word “adult” has a very different connotation, but there were very few other ways I could think of to explain myself. So, “adult coloring book” it was, and I started searching them out in crafts stores and online. (Thankfully both Google and Amazon understood what I meant!)

Back when I first started coloring, there were very few books available, but there were some. Not as many as today of course, but enough. I found two main resources for coloring books on Amazon and became a loyal customer. I started to build a collection.

coloring books

My collection today

I would spend hours each week, calmly sitting in a chair with my markers, coloring. I also started creating art for other people in my life to share my passion and creativity. I colored and colored, and colored some more. My collection grew, and I found myself with so many options, across so many areas of interest, that I started cataloging my work. I then went shopping for even better markers. I started playing with shading and backgrounds. I found my inner artist come to life through coloring. More importantly, I found great peace and a sense of calm as I sat and quietly filled in the empty space between the lines with deep rich color.

It wasn’t long before I started creating my own designs, mandalas, specifically, that I could color. My coloring had become more than a refuge, it was an outlet, and I loved it. I colored straight through my divorce and graduate school. It provided me with a sense of joy, creativity, and calm whenever I took my markers out. Coloring was good for me. More importantly, coloring was fun.

I could never have known so many years ago that coloring would become what it has today. I only knew that it helped me find peace, quiet, and joy at the end of my busy days. I shared it with those that were interested, and kept seeking out new coloring books that sparked my curiosity.

Turkish Mandala

©martinafaulkner.com

Today, I use coloring very deliberately, and I have clients who do the same (sometimes it’s their homework!). Recently when I noticed my stress levels had gotten unmanageably high, I pulled out my markers, sat down in a comfy chair, and I colored. Within three days of doing this repeatedly, my sleep improved and my mood lifted.

 

 

If you haven’t tried coloring yet – may I suggest you take a page out of Ozzy Osbourne’s book and find a little time in your day for this wonderful creative outlet. It just might bring you calm in the midst of chaos. At the very least, you’ll get to feel like a kid again, and there’s nothing wrong with that.