Why You Should Listen To Your Mother This Holiday Season

My recent visit to Walden Pond was a dream come true. I had always wanted to go scope out where Thoreau spent time in nature. Not only did I finally get to visit but it was even better to share it (on video) with a client having a private mindfulness retreat with me, too. Such a honot! 

My recent visit to Walden Pond was a dream come true. I had always wanted to go scope out where Thoreau spent time in nature. Not only did I finally get to visit but it was even better to share it (on video) with a client having a private mindfulness retreat with me, too. Such a honot! 

I was lying in bed trying to read a book that early Friday evening when the voice in my head threatened to nag me to death:

Don’t get too comfortable in your cozy yoga pants! Yes, you’ve had a busy week and are tired, but you promised you were gonna go to this sound bath meditation tonight. If you don’t go, you’ll be a flake and nobody likes a flake. You’ve wanted to do this for so long, so don’t bail out now, ok? Come on. You always flake out like this at the last minute when it’s a commitment to yourself. When are you going to stop being such a fraud?

I kept trying to ignore the snarky voice in my head.

But it’s guidance seemed so sensible. So practical.

Isn’t it important to keep your word?

You’re just being lazy.

If you want to succeed in life, you can’t just bail out anytime you don’t feel like it!

Come on. No one trusts a flake!

My mind was working in overdrive to get me out of my snuggly blanket to head out into the chilly (ok, for Palm Springs it was cold!) night air.

But then, as if a cry from an animal across the forest, I heard a sound. It was actually a deep groan. My ears couldn’t hear it, but my heart could.

As I brought awareness to this presence, it became clear what it was: my body was saying no.

How many times had I ignored this soft, furry animal and demanded it conform to the expectations and demands of my mind?

Far too many to count here.

This sound though got my attention, and brought me back to a conversation earlier in the day with a client about the seismic shifts and earthquakes in our culture around the role of women today, and feminine energies in particular. How this much needed shift was coming after centuries of ignoring and reviling not just women, but just as importantly, the principle and energy of the feminine in our lives. And all of this to the detriment of women, men and the planet.

More than two thousand years ago, a sacred wound occurred.

Among others, the Ancients Greeks who revered the nous (or rational intellect) separated the mind and psyche - the traditionally masculine energies - from the messy body, intuition and emotions, the realm of the feminine. So many of the consequences that ail us personally, politically, environmentally and spiritually today are a result of that sacred split.

And that split is often represented in other spiritual traditions as well, including those from the east.

Even in mindfulness and Buddhist meditation communities, this split is easy to spot. It’s the meditator who is above everything and seems aloof, disembodied and rather cold, and who thinks he or she is making great spiritual progress; what’s commonly referred to as a spiritual bypass.

Buddhist psychologist, author and former monk Jack Kornfield writes about how common this is:

The near enemy of equanimity is indifference or callousness. We may appear serene if we say, “I’m not attached. It doesn’t matter what happens anyway, because it’s all transitory.” We feel a certain peaceful relief because we withdraw from experience and from the energies of life. But indifference is based on fear. True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things. Equanimity embraces the loved and the unloved, the agreeable and the disagreeable, the pleasure and pain. It eliminates clinging and aversion.


This is enormously helpful for re-balancing what we give importance to in our daily decision making: the mind or the body.

If the mind is associated symbolically and spiritually with the sky and the masculine principle, yang energy and aggression, it is only by bringing balance with the body, the feminine, the earth, yin energy and receptivity, that a true state of balanced equanimity and authentic vitality can occur.

For me, in that moment of trying to decide if I should go to the event or not, my mind was screaming that I should. But with mindful awareness of thoughts and sensations manifesting in the body, I was able to hear different guidance. This time from the body and what seemed to be mother earth herself.

Stay home. Rest. It’s ok.

The masculine energy of the mind and the feminine energy of the body were in conflict once again in me. And that’s when it hit me:

Here was my chance to take a tiny, but radical stance in favor of righting the imbalance on the earth of masculine and feminine energies. Rather than merely talking about equality and the importance of affordable child care, parental leave and equal rights for women, with this one small action, I could help to energetically shift the world into greater balance.

All of a sudden my decision to stay or go wasn’t about me being lazy, not keeping my word or being a flake. Framed this way, I was taking one small action to listen to the feminine principle of the earth. I could honor mother nature in my own body and make a decision from that place of listening to her, rather than continuing to allow my decisions to be solely dominated by the linear, rational mind.

The more I reflected on it in those terms, as a matter of balancing feminine and masculine energies through mindful awareness of the body and mind, the more excitement, empowerment and joy I began to feel.

Rather than feeling bad about myself because I was simply too tired to go out, I could see one moment as a radical act in favor of the kind of sustainable world I want to see.

A world where all men and women are valued equally.

Where the earth is cherished.

Where compassion for self and others determines our political policies.

It’s moments like this when I realize how important our mindfulness practices are. Not just for our own well-being, but for the consequences it has on the issues of environmental and social justice that matter to us most. How it turns us from passive witnesses of the daily headlines of sexual discrimination, to active participants in embodying something better and more truly sustainable.

I can’t imagine anything more important to think about this holiday season.

In invite you to think about what your body might have to say about your choices this holiday season. If you start to pay attention to it, by doing the body scan and other mindfulness practices for example, it will start giving you guidance.

A client who did a half-day mindfulness retreat with me on video while I was visiting Walden Pond recently was utterly surprised that, when she actually listened to her body, it told her exactly what she was feeling and what she needed.

Imagine asking your precious, furry, soft animal - the one that has been born witness to all of your experiences since you were born - what it wants this holiday season.

Whether it wants to go to your Uncle Leo’s for Christmas dinner.

Whether it wants to spend a small fortune on electronics that will be obsolete in a year.

Whether it wants to host New Year’s at your house (once again).

We have been taught to fear and control our bodies - God knows I spent decades trying to do so. That if we listen to them we will end up like wild animals, and do nothing all day but eat all the chocolate in the world, have deliciously hot sex and never go pick up the drying cleaning again. But that simply isn’t true, if you are genuinely cultivating mindfulness through moment-by-moment awareness of the present moment.

Perhaps you might start in this moment.

Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.

Place your heart on your belly and simply observe the weight and warmth of your hand.

Notice your body rising and falling softly.

Stay here like this for 10 minutes.

And listen to anything it tells you.

It’s your friend after all. And it has been here, waiting for you, all along.

Want to learn how to apply this mindfulness of the body in your life this holiday season? Join us for First Fridays with Felina on zoom video this Friday, December 1st at 10 am Pacific. This interactive call is free but you must REGISTER HERE

How Meditation Helped When I Went to the Electric Chair

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My first thought when I woke up that morning was of the dreaded date with destiny ahead.

There would be no more escapes, no more attempts to get out of what was inevitably coming. Along with the dread though, there was also a sense of surrender.

I knew there would be no way out and was resigned to what lay ahead.

The usual healthy morning breakfast was replaced by a Belgian waffle extravaganza, a luxury afforded me given what the day would bring. I had never put peanut butter, raisins, walnuts and syrup on a waffle before but I figured, “If not now, then when?”

My belly full, I was transported to the facility where my karma was scheduled to ripen.

I was greeted with respect and professionalism, and was exceedingly grateful for that. If I’ve learned anything on the path of meditation these years, it’s that everything is appearance to mind. I was glad that even though what awaited me on the other side of the door was a particular version of hell, at least these people seemed professional and civil. Perhaps they didn’t take masochistic pleasure in doing this to people. It was, after all, inevitable given the karma I myself had created through my own actions.

After some preliminaries and the requisite bureaucratic paperwork, I was escorted into the small room where two uniformed men awaited me. It’s funny how my whole life I’ve hated sitting around waiting but on this particular day, I would have gladly waited for hours.

I would have no such luck.

The two men, whose faces were partially covered by masks, had me sit in the dreaded chair. Wires and dangerous looking torture weapons surrounded the room. The harsh lighting and metallic surfaces made my senses even sharper as the clock kept on ticking down to the moment I feared the most.

I had spent so much time thinking about this very moment. Running away from it, dreading it, planning any last-minute fantasy escape I could. You could say that my levels of aversion were through the roof.

I recalled my training and preparation and felt a bit like Luke about to face Darth Vadar:

Keep the focus on your breath. No matter what they do to you, just keep the focus on your breath.

A conflict arose inside the body-mind continuum. The body tensed up naturally while the amygdala fired up with terror about what lay ahead. At the same time, the other part of the brain, the frontal cortex that had been getting trained for years, was doing something different.

Relax. Surrender. Focus on your breath. Don’t resist this, just accept it.

Bring your awareness to the left foot. Then the right foot. Come back to the breath.

Remember your training.

Surrender.

Surrender.

Surrender and accept the present moment.

Each time the electric drill started up again as the crown on my tooth was being prepared, the terror arose. There had been such trauma in the past in dental offices much like this one that my body involuntarily tightened and tensed up in resistance. And even with the topical anesthetic which actually eliminated most physical discomfort, the mere sound of the drill triggered the brain’s reptilian response.

Again and again and again, for what seemed like ages, the mind went on a loop. In slow-motion, it was something like this:

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Fear.

Dread.

Come back to the breath.

Relax.

Accept.

Surrender.

In an endless loop, again and again and again, the triggering event - the sound of the drill - was met both first with the involuntary reaction of the old brain, where the fight-flight-freeze response resides - followed then by a response by the newer part of the brain which could soothe it. As long as I sat in the chair, I kept practicing diligently.

I took it up a notch, too, by wishing the team working on me loving-kindness. Wishing them happiness, health, joy and all manner of good things. It felt good to do something to transform this opportunity into an occasion for practice.

After all, there isn’t much else you can do while strapped in the chair, so why not make the best of it, right?

And although this experience at the dentist was no walk in the park, the terror of the electric chair was somehow mitigated through the practice of mindfulness and meditation that day.

So many people struggle with meditation because it really does take some time to actually be able to start receiving some of its greatest benefits. Habit-patterns in the mind are so strong that practices like mindfulness (otherwise known as insight meditation or vipassana) take time to develop. And in an era and culture of attention-deficit, it’s hard to create motivation to meditate daily.

Each of us has to face this daily challenge of sitting down to meditate and take our seat, or do something else. When the to-do list is long and time seemingly short, motivation to simply do nothing can be hard to find.

In my own experience and serious squeamishness about medical and dental procedures, I’ve found meditation exceptionally beneficial for dealing with such trauma - and so have my clients and students. It’s something I can do both before the procedure to relax, calm down and prepare my mind, and during the procedure when it seems that nothing else is within my control. Given how many of us postpone much needed medical and dental visits,  exams and procedures -- oftentimes to significant peril to our own health - meditation can be a powerful tool to help us cope with such stressors.

Indeed, even inmates on death row through projects like the Insight Prison Project at San Quentin Prison, have found the practice of meditation profoundly transformative.  

Most of us will never have that kind of an extreme experience. But we each have our own versions of hell. And with regular practice, even those can be transformed.

When the procedure was over, I walked out of the dentist’s office to the reception area.

The receptionist was holding a tiny baby. She couldn’t have been more than 3 months old. There were little white booties on her tiny feet, and she wore a sparkly purple bow that covered half her forehead. She asked if I wanted to hold the precious baby for a moment and I gladly agreed.  

We locked eyes and held the gaze of one another in a reciprocal dance of awareness.

Consciousness looking back on itself, and nothing less.  

She was at peace, and so, alas, was I.







 

 








 

Is There An Easy Way to Develop a Daily Mindfulness Practice?

Meditating with this group of young fashion models in Europe reminds me that time is passing each precious day. How we spend our moments is how we spend our lives. Better to do it mindfully and on purpose. 

Meditating with this group of young fashion models in Europe reminds me that time is passing each precious day. How we spend our moments is how we spend our lives. Better to do it mindfully and on purpose. 

One of the things I hear most often from people who ask me to work with them one-on-on or come to my classes and workshops is how hard it is to develop a daily mindfulness and meditation practice

I hear that. Believe me I do.

It IS hard! 

For years, I struggled, too, with developing a daily practice and really reaping all of the benefits mindfulness has to offer 

Benefits like "better relationships, less stress, increased resilience, and fewer instances of feeling overwhelmed, " and "improved concentration, better sleep and better health as you age". 

In response, I decided to create an easy-to-follow daily e-course just for my subscribers, to help you cultivate mindfulness not just while you are meditating, but at work, home, when you scroll through social media, when you eat, move and all of the other things you do daily.

The feedback from this course was SO great! 

Here's what one participant, John C., wrote to tell me: 

I had been interested in learning more about Mindfulness, it’s a term we hear often these days, so when I got Felina’s email about 45 Days of Mindfulness,

I said, “Yes, I’ll do this!”

And it has been a revealing experience. I have become aware of aspects of my personality that I was not aware of before. For example, I realized how I respond to requests from others, both personal and business, and I have made a conscious decision to respond differently.

My normal response had been with resentment and anger. But early on in this 45-Day exercise, I saw that I could respond with love and kindness and enthusiasm instead, and when I do, I feel better about myself.

I’m looking forward to learning more and changing more as this process continues.

Way to go, John!

And because he, and so many others have loved the free e-course (even though I hadn't planned on it) I've decided to make it available as a FREE downloadable e-book, 45 Days of Mindfulness: The Easy Guide to Developing a Daily Practice 

It's my very first book on mindfulness and I'm SO delighted to share it with you! 

With easy to follow daily practices, I give you guidance on how to bring mindfulness
into your life in practical ways: at home, at work, while eating, using digital technology and
social media, exercising, and more. By starting with just one minute of practice on the first
day, and building slowly, day by day, you're shown how to build a lifetime mindfulness
practice in just 45 days while, at the same time, enjoying its benefits from day one.

Why am I so passionate about helping you to develop a practice for life?

Because I have seen the results of what regular mindfulness and meditation have done in my own personal experience and that of so many others. You deserve to have "more peace, more joy and less overwhelm", too. 

Because the world needs you now more than ever. 

My 45th birthday is this week and, with age, I've been taking a look at the world around me and what we are creating for our children.

I know you care as much as I do about contributing to the social, political, environmental and other challenges we face today. And by cultivating mindfulness, you will inexorably be part of the solution to the pressing problems of our times. Slowly and imperceptibly at first, but powerfully and inevitably. 

For your benefit, and for your kids.

Our kids. 

And our planet, too. 

I hope you'll enjoy this FREE downloadable e-book, 45 Days of Mindfulness: The Easy Guide to Developing a Daily Practice.