Category Archives: Meditation

The Power of Prayer

prayerI have always been interested in the potential of prayer. Did praying work, or is it just a pipe dream of the uninformed and naïve. When I was young, my southern-raised grandmas told me to pray. “To Jesus,” they would say. At night when I attempted a prayer I wondered, should I get down on my knees? Can he see me? Do I need to fold my hands in front of my face? Then I thought, “If everyone is praying and asking for something, how can Jesus keep track? How could he possibly answer all these prayers?” I doubted that he could.

By the time I was in college I had been questioning religion for several years and decided, while taking a course on world religions, that I was a Hindu, and not a Christian at all. Upon further study I decided I was, in fact, not a Hindu, but an atheist. My college years were spent questioning the role of religion in our world, while doubting the existence of God and refuting the relevance of prayer.

Over the next couple of years things happened that renewed my faith. Two of my closest college friends died in the same year, eliminating some of my naiveté and forcing me to reconsider my former disregard of God. I reconciled not with the Protestant God I’d been raised with, but a God who embodies both the masculine and feminine—a powerful energy of creation that suffuses all of life. It is with this view of the Divine that I researched prayer for my doctoral dissertation.

My interest in the power of prayer came on the heels of Dr. Larry Dossey’s research which he compiled in his book Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. This inspired me to research the effect of meditation, visualization, and prayer on a group of patients in England.

Those who offered their prayers were located in the United States and Canada. The study had statistically significant results, with the patients in the receiving group experiencing the most improvement.

One problem some people have with prayer, with asking the Divine for assistance, is that they won’t be heard. But I believe prayers are heard and answered. Sometimes the answer is not what we thought we wanted. Sometimes the answer is “not now” or “you don’t want that in your life—you just think you do.”

We can trust this answer. We don’t know all the unseen forces at work on our behalf, so we can have faith if the answer is “not now.” Although we want life to be the way we desire, we can’t always understand the higher vision. When we trust unseen forces, we can trust that our prayers have been heard and answered.

In my experience, the most powerful prayer holds the intent, “For the best and highest good of all.” For example, “Please help me to make wise choices, to expand my awareness, and to move forward in joy, for the best and highest good of all.”

My Thoughts on Doing a Silent Retreat

533796_3292120096307_1066899692_3043234_1472076028_nEvery year I do a silent retreat or two for at least a week at a time. And each time, people look at me puzzled when I tell them this is what I’m doing. After all, it’s so strange to not talk incessantly, or be talked to. Isn’t it?

Sometimes I join a group, other times I go solo. Often, in April, I like to do a solo retreat in Maui or Kauai (or both, let’s be honest). It’s my birthday month and I love to be immersed in the island vibe. But this April, since I was in Maui last September finalizing the last chapters of my new book, I decided to do a silent retreat in a place where I won’t be able to check messages because there’s no wifi, let alone cell phone service. I’ll be with about 100 others, who come together from distant places, all with a similar idea: let’s take a little breather from the madness, check in, tune in, and listen to what’s real and true, if only for a week.

I very much look forward to no talking, writing, reading, computers, television, or electronics of any kind. No checking email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no CNN, no Orange County Housewives. Am I in the minority when I think we’ve become a completely distracted, unbalanced society through this media? At any rate, there will be the sights and sounds of nature along with deer, turkeys, maybe a fox or two, hawks, lizards, sunshine and intermittent fog.

And, oh yes, I almost forgot—the sound of my own thoughts. The chatter of my inner 5 year old, my inner sullen teenager, and various other inner selves all interrupting my older, wiser self. There will be unexpected random memories, songs from 1983, compulsive planning, weighing the pros and cons of letting my hair go gray, living room redecorating, and ideas of what I should have said to someone 15 years ago. This chatter will go on at least for the first couple of days until it exhausts itself and my mind surrenders to balance and spaciousness.

The first time I attended a silent retreat, I had signed up for 10 days at a meditation center in the Massachusetts countryside. I’d been told by one of my professors that it was the best thing he ever did. Better than any sort of therapy. Incredibly transformational. So I jumped right in and attended the New Year retreat when we entered this millennium. It was lights out by 10pm on December 31, 1999. No fanfare, noise, champagne, nothing. We were awakened by the sound of a bell at 4:00am on January 1, 2000 to continue meditating. It was odd, but delightful.

So here I am 13 years later, still longing to get immersed in my week of silent meditation. Still looking forward to not knowing what’s happening in the outer world. It feels a little defiant, actually, in this information age, to simply turn my back on it all and ignore it. I won’t speak for a week, or be spoken to. I won’t hear my neighborhood’s leaf blowers, screaming children, or the Harleys going down Hwy 1 on Sunday. Instead, I’ll have the opportunity to engage inwardly, locate my deepest center, learn to love the rhythm of my own breath, and release a bit of what doesn’t belong to me.

When it’s over, I’ll return home with greater inner peace, with more love to share, and a greater tolerance for all that is noisy and alive. Now why would anyone not want that?

Self-Healing with Energy

lightThe earth offers us food, clothing, and shelter, and it also offers healing energy. The idea of drawing healing energy from the earth might sound odd, but when we connect deeply with the earth and either imagine, sense, or hold the intention to fill ourselves up with its energy and light, a natural balancing occurs within us. We become more serene physically, mentally, and emotionally.

One method you can use is to stand tall and imagine roots extending from your feet, anchoring you deep into the earth. A more powerful and healing way to do this is to stand barefoot on the ground. Feel the bottoms of your feet connecting to the living planet beneath you.

Another way is to imagine dropping an anchor of light into the center of the earth extending down from the base of your spine. Then, imagine drawing bright light energy up from the earth into your body. Alternatively, sit on the ground, “drop anchor,” and absorb earth energy upward into your body.

Just as you can pull energy up from the earth, you can also pour light into yourself from above. Simply visualize light pouring into you. It can be golden, blue, green, silver, or whatever color you imagine. See or sense it as energized, refined, and uplifting, filling your entire body.

These practices can be used by anyone regardless of their beliefs. Whatever your image is of God, the universal awareness, or even if you don’t consider yourself to be spiritually connected at all, you can use light and energy from the earth to heal and balance you on many levels.

Why Meditate?

meditationThe most immediate way I integrate spirit into daily life is through meditation, the simple practice of quieting the mind long enough to become aware of the here and now, to become aware of what is within. Meditation reconnects us with ignored parts of ourselves.

Our souls live through our bodies. To connect with the soul we connect with the body. Through this connection, excess mind chatter, worries, and fears die down so we can settle into the present moment.

One basic, widely-used meditation technique is to sit with your eyes closed. Bring your attention to your breath without changing it in any way. Observe the inhale and exhale. Note when the in-breath stops and becomes the out-breath. Do this for several minutes twice a day. It’s that simple!

Sometimes, however, it’s not so easy, and there are reasons for this. During meditation your mind races, your breath is sometimes quick and shallow, you might feel frustrated or restless and don’t want to focus on your breath. You want to think instead. Sometimes people I work with say “I’m just a big thinker.” That’s true! This is what our minds do. They think about the past, what someone did, what you yourself did or didn’t do, what you’re going to eat for dinner, how your knees ache while your sitting quietly. The mind will do this. It generates thought, continually. Despite this, basic meditation practice is about bringing your focus back to your breath and quieting the thoughts.

Your mind will master you if you don’t master it. Meditation is a simple way to develop mastery over the mind.

Connecting with Spirit Guides

I’m frequently asked how to connect with spirit guides. More people than you might realize want to have divine guidance, especially when it’s individually tailored to their own life path. Many people I work with have benefited from connecting with spirit guides. These guides don’t intervene until you ask, except in the case of your Guardian Angel. This angel makes sure your path is in alignment with your Higher Self and the blueprint for your life.

You might feel you have to manage life yourself, but you can hand a lot over to spirit guidance. Connecting with a guide brings relief, inner peace, and a feeling that life is not being lived alone. The guide can work on behalf of your healing, giving you answers and reassurance. It goes forth into the world on your behalf.

Sometimes spirit guides come in meditation. When your mind is very quiet, one will just slip in and you find perhaps it’s been there all along, waiting for you to get quiet enough to listen. You can also connect with a spirit guide by asking for it to come in. However, it’s still beneficial to be in a meditative state. Get quiet, calm your thoughts, and ask your highest guides to show themselves to you. If this proves difficult to do on your own, an energy healer or intuitive healer will help you make the connection.

Here are a few requests you might bring to your guide (or guides).

Please make the decision clear for me.
Please bring me greater inner peace.
Please make the right path clear.
Please help my body, mind, and spirit be in a state of balance and ease.
Please help me go with the flow of life.
Please guide me to a place of deeper well-being.
Please show me what I need to know to get beyond this… (fill in the blank).
Please make this process quick and easy for me.
Please let me know you are listening to me.
Please help me walk through life with strength.
If this decision/person/situation is not right for me, please give me a clear sign.
Please give me clarity of mind, strength of spirit, and physical vitality.