Category Archives: Meditation

Be the Change You Wish to See. Breath and Meditation for Turbulent Times Week 1:

Note from Tracy: Recent news articles and social media threads inspired me to create and teach a yoga series at Whole Life Yoga called Yoga for Turbulent TimesFor those of you not near Seattle, I’ve decided to share the breath practices and meditations from this class as I teach them. I hope you find them useful.

Yoga for Turbulent Times Week 1:

The yoga teachings tell us that we can’t control the world around us. We can, however, control how we react to it.  More than that, we can act with active compassion whenever we see suffering in the world around us. Active compassion implies that we take action to reduce the suffering of others. There’s a catch though: We have to do so without joining the suffering.  A tall order on the best of days.

On the worst?

Gandhi gives this advice (bold added by yours truly):

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.

In other words, the first–and arguably most important–step in changing the world is changing ourselves. The breath and meditation practices below may help.

Breath practice:

Bring to mind a quality that would help you create inner balance, regardless of turbulence in the world around you.  Give that quality a name.  If a word doesn’t come to you, give it a picture, a sensation, a sound, a light.  Be open to whatever image, word, or thought your mind provides you. Keep that quality in your awareness as you begin this breath practice.

  1. Lengthen your inhale and exhale, making them approximately equal.
  2. After 6 breaths at that lengthened breath, add a 2-second pause after both the inhale and the exhale.
  3. If the breath in step 2 is easy for you and you’ve practiced pranayama before, lengthen both pauses to a count of 3 or 4.
  4. Remain at this breath for several minutes. With each inhale, imagine the quality you chose entering your heart. In the pause after inhale, imagine it taking root inside you. With each exhale, offer that quality back to the world. In the pause after exhale, imagine that quality within and around you.
  5. After several minutes, release the pauses and continue breathing with a lengthened inhale and exhale.
  6. After several more breaths, return your breath to a normal rhythm. Carry the energy of this breath practice to meditation.

Note: If you notice breathlessness, anxiety, or strain at any time, reduce the lengths of the pauses or go back to the lengthened breath in step 1.

Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up toward the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, or if this is too challenging, keep your eyes at “half mast” gazing quietly at a place below and in front of you.
  3. Notice your breath without intentionally trying to change it. First notice the warmth and coolness of the breath as it enters your nostrils. Notice the movement of your rib cage and belly. How does your spine move with each breath? What other sensations can you feel?
  4. After you feel comfortable and relaxed, bring to mind  the quality you chose for the breath practice and ask yourself the following question:
    • For the next week, how can I embody the quality I hope most to receive?  (For example, if your quality is “peace,” the question would be “How can I embody peace?”)
  5. Don’t try to audit or evaluate the answers that come to you. You may hear words, see images, feel sensations, or experience emotions. Allow whatever you experience to float across your consciousness.
  6. If your attention wanders at any time during the meditation (and it will!) simply notice it, then invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath. When you feel ready, ask yourself the question again.
  7. Continue this meditation for 10 – 15 minutes.

Enjoy and may you find whatever you need amidst turbulent times!

Tracy Weber

My newest Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder is available now  in e-book and paper back copies everywhere! Check this link for some local ideas. http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy_premeditated.html

Softening the Belly Meditation

Welcome to Week 5 of my Meditations to Change Your Life series.  I love this meditation because it helps you be present in your mind–and your body.  Enjoy!

Flachwinkelige Ganzkörper-Ansicht einer auf dem Rücken liegenden jungen Frau in einer Variante der Yogaposition "glückliches Baby" (anada balasana) auf weißem Hintergrund.

Softening the Belly Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable and your spine is in “neutral”.   This meditation may also be done lying on the floor, if desired.
  2. Allow your eyes to close or keep your eyes at “half mast” gazing quietly at a place below and in front of you.
  3. Allow your awareness to gradually settle into your body, by noticing the breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils, then your chest, then finally down to your belly
  4. Allow your belly to soften, and imagine the breath moving gently in and out of it.   With each successive breath, allow the belly to soften a bit more, as if you were letting go of anything you’re holding in that area, be it tension, sadness, fear, or anything else.
  5. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of softness in your belly. Try not to criticize yourself. Instead congratulate yourself for bringing the attention back to the point of focus.
  6. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Arriving Home Meditation

Welcome to week 4 of my Meditations to Change Your Life series.  We all have special places–places we call home.  The great news is that we don’t have to travel to find them.  This meditation will take you there.  Enjoy!

happy Young romantic couple sitting on sofa in front of fireplace at winter season in home

Arriving Home Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling.
  2. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, bring to mind a real or imaginary place that has all the best qualities of “home” to you. A place where you feel safe, secure, where you really belong and can truly be yourself. Hold the qualities of this place in your heart as you continue the meditation.
  4. Then begin a mantra meditation with subsequent breaths. Each time you inhale, mentally think the word “arriving”, and as you exhale, mentally think the word “home.”   Continue this mental repetition with every breath. Each breath, “arriving home.” When your attention wanders, just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose.   Then return to reciting the phrase “arriving home” with every breath.
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

A Meditation for Finding Peace (Or Anything Else You Might Want!)

Welcome to Week 3 of my series on meditations to help create–whatever you want!  Know that whatever you want to invite into your life, you can have it!  This meditation will help.

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Mantra Meditation:

  1. Begin with one of the breath focused meditations we learned in Weeks 1 and 2. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling
  2. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils or to the feeling of softness in the belly with the breath.
  3. When you feel ready, bring to mind a quality you’d like to have more of your life. It could be greater balance, joy, health, forgiveness, or any other positive quality. “Name” that quality with a word or short phrase.
  4. Then begin a mantra meditation with subsequent breaths. Each time you exhale, mentally recite your work or phrase, and feel the energy of that quality pour through your awareness.   When your attention wanders, just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensations of the breath.   Then return to reciting your word or phrase on every exhale
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

A Meditation of Hope and Light

Hi all!  Today is week two of my series of posts on Meditations to help you stay balanced in turbulent times.  Be well and happy!

Free happy woman enjoying nature sunset. Freedom, happiness and enjoyment concept of beautiful multiracial Asian Caucasian girl in her 20s. Image from Grand Canyon, United States.

Light visualization meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable.
  2. Focus your mind on the sensations of the breath just inside your nostrils.   When you feel ready, think of a quality you’d like to bring into your life. Imagine that quality is a bright white light entering your body through your heart center and spreading throughout your entire body—from the top of your head to the tips of your fingers and toes. This light can represent any positive quality you wish it to–love, joy, health, healing, etc. Imagine that each cell of your body is illuminated by this light, and that the quality you’ve attributed to it flows into every cell.
  3. Imagine that this quality is replacing everything that clutters your life–anger, impatience, stress, desire, greed. As the light grows brighter in your mind, visualize its pure radiance washing those negative qualities away.
  4. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose. Then begin to focus on the white, healing light once again.
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Staying Centered in Turbulent Times

Meditation: An Effective Tool for Promoting Inner Peace

No matter where you land on the political spectrum, I think most people would agree that the energy of our world seems more divisive lately.  The yoga teachings never promised us a peaceful world–they provided us tools to have more personal peace, in spite of what happens to or around us.  According to the teachings, the most powerful tool for developing inner peace is meditation.  Over the next few weeks, I will share some of my favorites.

The meditation below is simple yet powerful. Enjoy!

Simple Counting Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, start counting each exhalation. For example, when you exhale the first time, think “one”. The next time you exhale, count “two”.  Keep counting silently to yourself like that, until you get to ten. After you reach ten, then start over again from “one”.
  4. You’ll know your mind has wandered because you’ll lose count or notice that you’re thinking about something else. When that happens, (and it will!) try not to get frustrated. Instead, simply start over again by counting from “one”.   Notice how often you need to restart counting without judgment or frustration.   The goal isn’t to get to 10, but to keep refocusing whenever your mind wanders.
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Please visit us soon at Whole Life Yoga!

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Research Proves It: Meditation Strengthens Your Brain

human brain on a running machineYet another research study proves the benefits of meditation. Meditation research is hardly unusual.  This study, however, was the first to prove that meditation actually increases brain density—also known as gray matter—in as little as eight weeks!

The study appeared in the January 30th, 2011 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging and was led by senior study author Sara Lazar, who is a Harvard medical school psychology professor. Ms. Lazar and her affiliates at Massachusetts General Hospital took MRI images of study participants two weeks before and after they participated in an eight-week Mind Body Stress Reduction course. They then compared those scans to control group of non-meditators over a similar time period. The meditators self-reported spending an average of twenty-seven minutes per day on mindfulness-based activities during the study.

The results were impressive. Meditators had significant increases in gray matter density in the hippocampus—the portion of the brain associated with learning and memory. They also reported decreases in stress levels compared to the non-meditators. For more information on the study, check out this link at Harvard.edu.

And put that research to the test personally with this simple candle flame meditation.

Enjoy!

Tracy

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PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

 

A Wish for the Holidays

On Thursday I taught my annual Yoga of Thanksgiving workshop at Whole Life Yoga.  This year’s class was special, because it took place so soon after the death of my mother.  Rather than allow my first holiday without parents to be a sad one, I decided to make it a gift. I gave to my students the qualities I was personally seeking during this time of transition.  Our practice revolved around embodying those qualities.

    • Peace: Both existential peace in our often-crazy world and security in ourselves, our homes, and our relationships. Symbolized by our connection to the earth and the root chakra, which is the seat of security and safety.
  • Joy: Which comes from creativity and play. Symbolized by the belly, which houses the seed of all that is creative within us. Joy is so important, because when we have it, we can share it with others.
  • Hope: Which, I believe, comes from courage.  Finding hope during tough times isn’t a gift or a given. It’s a practice that takes concerted effort. Hope, to me, is symbolized by the solar plexus, the seed of confidence and courage.
  • Love: The ability to both give and receive love, not only to others, but also to ourselves. Symbolized by the heart.
  • Faith: This is a loaded word for many, but it represents the ability to connect with something beyond ourselves—something that gives us guidance and helps us strive to be better. It’s symbolized by the crown of the head, seen as the connection point with all that is beyond us.
  • Light: Which provides guidance to find our way in the world, but also serves as a reminder that even in the darkest days of winter, we have within ourselves a clear blinding light. We symbolized that light by reaching our arms out to the side.

At the end of the practice, each student selected one or more stones that I had specially created for that day. Each was engraved with one of the qualities we had embodied in our practice. That stone will hopefully serve as a reminder to live the above qualities on those not-always-easy days outside of the yoga studio.

The true power of yoga lies not in the postures.  It lies in intention.  The meaning we give to our practice.  I hope the Thanksgiving practice helped my students plant seeds that will guide them, not only during the holiday season, but for the rest of their lives.

May those qualities live within you, too.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Preorder my newest mystery, KARMA’S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble or a bookstore near you!

Check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

A Meditation to Find Joy

woman drop leaves in autumn park

We all have within us the ability to experience joy, if only we remember to look for it. The meditation below is one of my favorite tools for clients experiencing anxiety or depression. I recommend keeping a journal nearby, so you can write down thoughts, ideas, and commitments to yourself when you finish.

  • Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up toward the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable.
  • Allow your eyes to close, or if this is too challenging, keep your eyes at “half mast” gazing quietly at a place below and in front of you.
  • Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. First notice the warmth and coolness of the breath as it enters your nostrils. Notice the movement of your rib cage and belly. How does your spine move with each breath? What other sensations can you feel?
  • After you feel comfortable and relaxed, ask yourself the following question:
    • What brings me joy?
  • Don’t try to audit or evaluate the answers that come to you. You may hear words, see images, feel sensations, or experience emotions. Allow whatever you experience to float across your consciousness.
  • After a few minutes, change the question to:
    • How can I invite more joy into my life?
  • Again, there is no “right” response. Sit quietly with whatever comes to your attention.
  • If your attention wanders at any time during the meditation (and it will!) simply notice it, then invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath. When you feel ready, ask yourself the question again.
  • Continue this meditation for 10 – 15 minutes. Note any thoughts, ideas, or personal commitments in your practice journal.

I hope you enjoy the practice!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)And if you want to show me some love, you can preorder my newest mystery, KARMA’S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.

Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

Sunsets, Suffering, and Finding Peace

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Why is it that every time I write about life’s suffering, I’m thinking about my dog? I adopted Tasha-dog eleven years ago this week. I was missing something in my life, though I wasn’t sure what, exactly.  I had a lovely husband, a fulfilling career, four (yes four!) cats, and lots of friends.

But I was still lonely. I had been pining for a German shepherd for approximately thirty years, since my family rehomed the German shepherd of my childhood. My visions of Tasha were laughable, in hindsight.  Perfectly behaved, she’s not. Healthy, she’s not. Cat loving…well, let’s not even go there. She was everything I thought I didn’t want, but ended up being exactly what I needed, and more.

She is the biggest source of joy in my life.

And the source of my most debilitating anxiety.

The other night, I was thinking about how many times Marc and I have almost lost her, due to the many diseases she’s had to live with or overcome.  Her imminent death has been predicted countless times, by vets I usually ended up firing.

But now that she’s eleven years old in a breed whose average lifespan is ten to twelve, even I have to admit, she’s approaching the sunset time of her life.  In the past three weeks, she’s been plagued by a neurological issue of unknown origin.  It may resolve; it may not. It may stay the same as it is now, or it may decline until we have no choice but to end her suffering.  We continue to do tests, but as of this writing, all is one big unknown.

Oddly enough, the most challenging part of this for me is that her neurological status cycles, and my mental health seems to cycle with it.  One day she seems better, the next worse. One day I’m optimistic and happy, the next, devastated.

The Yoga Sutras clearly predict my suffering. You see, I’m attached to this girl. I hesitate to say she’s like my child, because that’s not how I think of her.  But she is as important to me as any living being has ever been.  And I will inevitably have to say goodbye. I knew that the day I adopted her.  As crazy as it seems, I signed up for this.

My work now, as Tasha and I walk down this sunset path together, is to not be attached to the good days, because the good days won’t last forever.  If I can somehow learn to be present without gripping the good, perhaps I’ll have more peace during the inevitable challenges.

Then again, maybe I won’t.

Maybe grief is simply part of life’s process. Another obstacle to overcome that helps us appreciate the blessings of life while we have them.

Regardless, the Sutras say that meditation helps overcome suffering, so it’s time for me to reignite my practice.  If you care to join me, this is one of my favorites.

If you’re willing, please send Tasha happiness, her doctors wisdom, and me peace.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)And if you want to show me some love, you can preorder my newest mystery, KARMA’S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.

Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere