Pema Chödrön talks about the practice of tonglen, one of the fundamental meditation practices of Buddhism. It’s great for doing if a loved one is dying, or your mind is in distress…you can learn how to do it from her book or at your local Shambhala Center, it’s easy to learn and very practical, effective and easy to do. Video (or, click here to check out her and Oprah’s conversation).
It’s good to set the stage by meditating for a few minutes before, and after, your tonglen practice—so that you don’t hold onto the inbreath or the outbreath (you’ll understand better what I mean when you watch the below videos).
Shadow Work is the process of exploring your inner darkness or “Shadow Self.”
Shadow Work uncovers every part of you that has been disowned, repressed & rejected. It is one of the most authentic paths to enlightenment
What can we acheive with shadow work?
Your shadow self is your unconscious side of self. It’s where all the negative aspects you perceive you are or are not reside. We all have a shadow self that changes and evolves as your personality and growth evolves. The key is facing it, seeing it and meeting that side of ourselves. We often see our shadow self reflected in others. When we recognize and face our shadow, we can become more whole and balanced. But we ourselves can’t rid ourselves of our shadow self. This is something only time, retrospection, and evolving can heal individual aspects of the shadow self. But the shadow self itself will always be there hiding the things we aren’t as yet ready to face.
Before deciding to do any shadow work, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself emotionally. Try to center yourself. This means bringing yourself to a calm state, so that you can tap into your psyche and feel more alert and aware. Do something good for yourself like a relaxing bath. Give yourself a hug. After all you are doing something very brave. Shadow work can be accomplished in many ways, from simple to lavish. You don’t have to spend money. You can do breathing exercises, go for a walk in nature, yoga, meditating, having a cup of tea and just being still, or lighting a candle.
I want you to imagine roots in the soles of your feet buried deep into the earth… feel them really sinking down and down deeper and deeper… you feel the earths energy coursing upward through your feet.
You may notice a color with it, browns and greens, deep earthy colors. It flows into your body, from your feet up and into your legs, your hips, and up your torso… filling you with warm earthy energy. Your hands and fingers may even feel the sensations of warmth, tingles and may even feel dry.
It slowly fills your body making you feel warm and comfortable… finally entering up into your neck and head, you feel the warmth at the back of your neck, easing up to your head and even around to your cheeks and face. Your whole body is aglow with this slow warm earthy energy. You feel strong, powerful, part of the earths energy and feeling connected to everything that is. For just for a couple of moments stay with this warm feeling that is allowing and helping you to relax
We now stand with an open door behind us. It’s a very heavy oak door. As we walk through, we are at the edge of a woods and the birds are singing and its a warm and beautiful autumn day. The trees are alive with golds, yellows and reds. Just stand for a minute and really see all you can. What you are wearing?
Flashes of color as we watch the birds flit from branch to branch. You wait as you begin to feel coming through the undergrowth, totems, animal spirit guides are coming…if you cant see them clearly, just ‘know, they are there. but if you can visualize them, what are they? Make note of it.
You begin to follow your guide into the forest as sunlight streams through the trees reflecting their vibrant colors. You may see things along the path, make mental not of what you see. Flowers, branches, streams? What do you hear? Birds, crickets, frogs?
Breathe regularly and gently, bathe in the sunshine to warm you. The sounds and breaths of the forest surround you… the birds singing… the colors… the smell of dew…
Very soon we come to a large clearing. Meadow flowers and grasses swaying in the gentle breeze.. Birds dipping and diving in the meadow grass… we walk into the center of the grass…the center of the woods… carefully watching where we tread…
No sounds other than the rasp of crickets… the swish of the grass in the wind… and we notice in the tree line in front of us… and as we do… a shadow detaches itself from the tree line… it approaches… making no sound.. the grass not moving…
As it gets closer you see that it is a dark aspect of yourself… you stand still… holding your ground… as it stops just in front of you… stares at you… and with a sigh of relief… you realize its an aspect of you… you open your arms and hug it… pouring your unconditional love into it… pour this energy in through the center of your chest (heart chakra) or your abdomen (solar plexus chakra).. whatever feels right.
As this transfer of energy happens between the two of you, you feel the joy, happiness and love. You thank your shadow self for meeting and sharing with you.. Step back… take a breath… and turn away.. Back to the path… the colors and smells seem brighter and sharper.. The sounds clearer.
You sit for a moment.. in the sunshine. You take a deep breath, and slowly get up and make your way back to the door… the sunshine still warm surrounds you, with a final farewell to your animal guides, knowing they will be there whenever you need them, you step through and close the door behind you and with one more deep breath, you are back and open your eyes.
Take a sip of water to help you ground yourself.
Charge your phone in another room, keep it out of the bedroom. You will sleep better and not be tempted to check social media. And there’s no pressing issue or someone would have called you! Here’s a great article on how waking up with technology is wrecking your morning vibe!
Instead, take a moment and focus on your intention for the day. Choose a mantra perhaps, like “I will find joy in my work” and really feel it. Sip some warm water with lemon and just contemplate how good your day will be.
Now it’s time to grab your phone or other device. But, STOP, don’t open social media!! Instead head over to this video and just breathe.
Five minutes of meditation!
I start my day with these standing poses with Rodney Yee ( I also end my day with his PM yoga release). Here is an alternate that is specifically designed for beginners and also included is an am/pm meditation, AM & PM Yoga & Meditation for Beginners – Gaiam
In the morning after I’ve done all of these things, I drink 16 to 32 oz of tepid water with hot lemon. This seems to give my body a better start to the morning and I am hydrated before I even start to get ready for the day.
Now get ready and go take the day and make it yours!!
The first thing to do is to make yourself available. Breathe in and out, and come back to the present moment, so you are really there. Then go to the person you want to hug and bow to them. If they have practiced mindfulness, then they will do their best to abandon the things that are possessing them and make themselves available to you. They will smile and bow, and you will know that they are available. Now hugging is possible.
Stand facing each other with your palms joined, breathing in and out three times. You can say silently:
Breathing in, I know that life is precious in this moment.
Breathing out, I cherish this moment of life.
Take the person in your arms. While hugging, breathe consciously and hug with all your body, spirit, and heart. While you hold the other person, they become real, and you also become real. You can say silently something like this:
Breathing in, my loved one is in my arms. Breathing out, I am so happy.
Breathing in, they are alive. Breathing out, it is so precious to be alive together.
Breathing in, it is so wonderful to have them in my arms. Breathing out, I am very happy.
You may then release the other person and bow to each other to show thanks.
This instruction is an edited excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s dharma talks, and reposted from an article @ Lion’s Roar.
“Take a minute to relax in the forest of the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve, in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Listen closely—how many different kinds of birds can you hear?
The Rainforest Alliance was founded in 1987 to help conserve tropical rainforests, but don’t let our name fool you—since then, we’ve grown to work with forests around the world, from the Peruvian Amazon to the highlands of Sri Lanka, from misty islands off the coast of western Canada to the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. Today, the Rainforest Alliance is a growing network of farmers, foresters, communities, scientists, governments, environmentalists, and businesses committed to creating a world where people and nature thrive in harmony. We are an international non-profit organization working to build strong forests, healthy agricultural landscapes, and thriving communities through creative, pragmatic collaboration. You can help. Want to learn more? Visit https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/”
Breathwalking involves making strong, purposeful strides in rhythm with breathing. Dr. Jim Nicolai, demonstrates various examples of breathwalking including the “stair” and “wave” patterns.