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How Meditation Makes Us Better Listeners

Did you hear that?

You know that person who is always interrupting you, and pretends to listen when it’s so obvious he or she is doing anything but that? Who responds with either a completely unrelated follow-up question, or immediately hi-jacks the conversation into another direction. Oh hey, that was me. And I’m sure at times is still me.
 

Yep, for most of my life I was so busy having a gazillion conversations in my own head that anyone trying to have a conversation with me hardly stood a chance of being heard. Really, back then I could barely hear mySelf.
 

Becoming a better listener.

These days though, I’d say I’ve become a better listener. The gazillion conversations going on in my head have died down to double digits. And I even have people telling me how much they appreciate how heard they feel when speaking to me. Which is one of the ways my meditation practice has transformed my relationships – with both mySelf and with others.
 

Tara Brach says in The Sacred Art of Listening“We spend most of our moments when someone is speaking, planning what we’re going to say, evaluating it, trying to come up with our presentation of our self, or controlling the situation. Pure listening is a letting go of control. It’s not easy and takes training… The bottom line is when we are listened to, we feel connected. When we’re not listened to, we feel separate.”

 

So how does our meditation practice make us better listeners? 

When we practice meditation, we are really practicing letting go. Letting go of the gazillion conversations swirling in our heads. Letting go of the planning and the projecting. Letting go of control, or our identification with being the doer.
 

What makes us great listeners is that we listen with great attention. This means that we must be present, tending to the other person as they talk the same way that we tend to the breath as it moves – open and curious, without judgement, nor an agenda.
 

When we meditate, we practice being the witness, or observer. Which is really what our role is when we are the listener. We are there to take in the other person’s truth, and when it’s possible or welcomed, to reflect that truth back.
 

The invitation this week: practice deep, mindful listening

So if you’d like to change the way you hear yourSelf and those around you, the invitation this week is to practice Deep, Mindful Listening.
 

To begin, here’s a free, short guided mindfulness meditation to practice tending to the sounds around you. Then, after the meditation, you’re welcome to call a friend, or a family member and offer them your full attention. You just might notice that you hear them in a new way. As you listen, check in with how you feel. And you might notice that you feel different, too.
 

And if you don’t, that’s okay. As Tara Brach reminds us, “It’s not easy and it takes training.”
 

May we learn to listen without impatience / May we give neither praise nor blame, only listen / May we offer our attention in the present moment as a gift to each other / And may we feel how wonderful it is to be heard 
 

And so it is.
 

w/Love,
Kris Moon

 

 

Kindness is critical

What do we do when it appears we’ve lost our way?

 

This past weekend, in a conscious effort to slow down, Mi Amor and I attended a silent work meditation retreat. The retreat took place at Southern Dharma, a lovely retreat center about an hour north of us here in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina. The weekend was a combination of sitting and working meditation to prepare for the upcoming retreat season. There were about 20 of us who were split into various task teams, and I was assigned to the outdoor landscaping crew.

 

Even though we had specific tasks to do, the priority was placed on maintaining our meditative focus over getting the job done. We were encouraged to slow down, to be with our breath, to notice what we were doing, and to enjoy the work. And believe you me, this was much easier said than done. (even when I had just sent out an email practice all about how to do this!)

 

Within 5 minutes, yes, 5 minutes, of raking leaves I had already mapped out in my head the entire area that I would tackle in the first 3-hour work session. Once I had the plan in place, I started to attach myself to the outcome of accomplishing what I had set out to do, quickly forgetting the meditative focus.

 

About 20 minutes in I felt a sharp sensation in my left hand. I stopped, wiped the sweat that at this point covered my forehead and the back of my neck, and removed my working gloves. In between my pointer finger and thumb was a huge blister that in this short time managed to not only form but had also popped, leaving behind a large flap of skin.

 

In the absence of noticing my breath and staying present for what I was doing, I had become so focused on completing the task before me, that I was death gripping the rake, literally causing myself harm. Now in that moment of awareness, I had a choice. I could do what I tend to do, beat myself up for losing my way….

 

“Ugggghhhh…I’ve only been out here for half an hour and I’ve already failed. Ugggghhhh…I’m a professional for goodness sake, and I can’t even get it right. Ugggghhhh…all this practice and for what? I should just quit right now. What’s the point? I suck.” 

 

OR….in this moment, I could choose to offer myself kindness. I could let go of the story in my head about not being good enough or being a failure, and I could simply come back to noticing my breath in the body, feeling the sensation of the sun touching my skin, seeing the red buds against the blue sky and the yellow daffodils emerge from the green grass, hearing the sound of the birds singing their songs….

 

I could return to right now. I could remember that I am a human being and that being human isn’t about being right or wrong.

 

That the so-called success of the meditation practice is in making the choice to come back over and over and over again, no matter how many times we stray. And that the critical element for ensuring that we are able to start anew without losing hope or getting lost in our story is kindness.

 

As we approach the vernal equinox on Sunday, it’s a great time of year to come back to our center, without judgment of if and how we might have strayed. To remember our True Nature is already whole and complete. To realize that our worth isn’t tied to what we “get done.” That in any given moment, even when it may not feel like it, we are more than enough.

 

This week, the invitation is to practice coming back to your breath…. the sensations in the body…the sounds around you…the beauty you see as Nature wakes up from her winter slumber… to choose to come back to the experience of right now, with kindness.

 

Now sometimes we need outside support in helping us remember our innate ability to begin again. Mother Nature continues to be one of my most helpful teachers. Spring offers us the reminder that new growth is possible. Sometimes support comes in the form of a trusted friend who reminds us to be gentle and kind to ourselves when we are stuck in a pattern of despair or when our inner bully is on the pounce. And sometimes we just need some guidance as we practice.

 

Lately, I’ve found it quite challenging to exercise my kindness muscle, and therefore I’ve included a loving kindness meditation practice that has served me well in hopes that it may support you, too.

 

As always, if you have questions or comments, or are in need of a friend, I love hearing from you. And if you feel called to invite another to join this online practice community, please do.

 

May we all be happy, may we all be healthy, and may we all love and accept ourselves just as we are…

 

Wishing you all a supportive Spring Equinox, full of kindness and reflection.

 

W/love,
Kris Moon

Guided Mindfulness Meditation on the Breath

Here’s a short & simple mindfulness meditation on the breath. It’s a perfect practice for when you’re feeling the need for less speed. It aims to help you move from a high alert red zone to a calmer, more focused state. All you need for this one is your awareness.

 

If you benefited from the practice and would like to download the audio version to your device to conveniently carry with you wherever and whenever you need it most, head over to my (re)store and download it now.

 

As always, thanks for practicing with me! xo, Kris

Relaxing the Body – A Guided Audio Practice for Deep Rest

Por fin!  Finally my friends, it is here.  I have been asked by many of you over the past couple of years to record the guided relaxation I use to end my classes.  A couple of you know exactly who you are. Hopefully others will be thankful for your persistence 😉

 

One of my first teachers, a 73-year old Indian man, Narayanan, used the technique of Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, to help us completely let go.  He almost always wore a big, bright grin across his face and carried light in his eyes.  But toward the end of every class, the white of his teeth would be swallowed by serious lips.  He would gently shake his head and say, “OK relaxing time now.”  The vibrations of his voice would zap us  into deep states of relaxation.  Such a simple and effective way to let go of physical, mental and emotional tension, I knew it would become a staple of my practice.   It really is one of my most favorite practices to share.

 

You can pair the guided relaxation audio with a relaxing pose of your choice whenever you need to counter stress or exhaustion.  Feel free to practice some mindful movement first, especially if you’re feeling like you need to get some of the ants out of your pants before you settle into stillness.

 

You may find it’s helps prepare you for meditation, and can consider using it if you have trouble falling asleep or don’t really experience quality sleep.  However and whenever you decide to practice is up to you.  Just remember to give it a go so you’ll know.  If you benefit from the practice, it’s yours.

 

kindly,

kris

 

How to do the practice:

 

1. Set yourself up in your most comfy relaxation pose.  Corpse pose, Savasana in Sanskrit, is a good one.  You can modify it by resting the backs of the knees on a bolster, folded blankets or a rolled up yoga mat, especially if you have any lower back pain.  You can also take Legs up the Wall pose, or Viparita Karani.  (not sure what that means, here’s a video and post that will tell you what you need to know).

 

2.  You can cover yourself with a blanket or wear comfy, warm clothes.  Light candles or rub lavender essential oil on your temples and neck.   Do what you need to do to help you relax.   

 

3.  Press play and follow my words inside.

 

You can also listen to it on SoundCloud.

Restorative Yoga – Legs up the Wall Pose

Studies show a slew of really positive stuff happens when you rest in a relaxed, awakened state.   The practice I’d like to offer you to gain some of those benefits is a classic Restorative Yoga pose paired with a guided relaxation.  Considered the king of Restorative Yoga poses, Legs up the Wall pose, or Viparita Karani as it is called in Sanskrit, provides tremendous relief to tired legs.  Additional benefits of this passive inversion include giving a much-needed break to the heart since it doesn’t need to work against gravity to pump blood through the legs, it also helps to cleanse the body of stagnated blood, promoting fresh, oxygenated blood into the legs, and it is extremely effective in releasing tension and inducing a sense of calm.

 

Legs up the wall is done with the support of a wall usually, though sometimes additional props are used to offer more support.   More support means that you are able to let go and relax into the pose, which is what Restorative Yoga is all about.   Once you feel supported and able to fully relax, then you simply rely on gravity, patience and time to receive the pose rather than using force to feel the stretch.  In fact, you don’t really want to feel much of a stretch at all.  So those of you with tighter hamstrings will want to come away from the wall.  Not sure what the heck to do but want to get zapped with a slew of positive stuff?  Don’t worry, chicken curry — here’s a video to show you how to set yourself up.

 

Finally, feel free to pair legs up the wall pose with the audio recording of me guiding you into a deeper state of relaxation.

 

sidenote:  If you’re pregnant, have high blood pressure or serious eye conditions, like glaucoma, or have neck or back problems it’s best to sit this pose out and opt to practice the guided relaxation in the basic relaxation pose, aka Corpse pose or Savasana, and for mamas-to-be, rest on your side not your back.  Always feel free to reach out with questions.

 

kindly,

kris

 

Lift Your Mood – Practice a Simple Gratitude Meditation

 

Here’s a very simple practice that you can do, maybe when you wake up, or before you go to bed. When we meditate on gratitude there is an almost immediate lifting effect.  You may even be able to actually feel your heart swell, as if the gratitude is physically filling it up like air fills a balloon.

 

If you’re a cheese ball, or will allow yourself to be one, you might even find that the gratitude becomes so big, unable to contain, a smile spills onto your face.

 

It’s such a simple practice that requires so little time or energy, yet has powerful, real results in lifting mood and focusing attention on what really matters.  But don’t take my word for it.   Give it a go, and then you’ll know.