Stillness

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My mind goes a mile a minute. At any time of the day, I have at least 3 things going through my head. I am constantly trying to figure out, fix, plan or contemplate something. I used to pride myself on my brain’s capacity to multi-task until I realized that I was actually less effective in each task because I wasn’t giving each one the full attention it needed.

This whirlwind of activity also caused stress and anxiety when I couldn’t figure things out or when my plans didn’t go as expected. I knew something needed to change and this is when I started to recognize the power of stillness in the form of prayer, meditation and visualization.

I grew up in a home where prayers were said daily at the dinner table and at church. I knew that prayer was supposed to be my direct line to God. Although I thanked him for my food daily and asked for forgiveness for my mistakes, I never really felt connected. There were certain rules and a structure I was told to follow and as I prayed, I remember going through the checklist in my head to make sure my prayer was complete and all the boxes had been marked.

As an adult, I found my prayers becoming less structured and more free flowing. I left the checklist behind and allowed myself prayers of ecstasy to flow through me when I came upon something beautiful that took my breath away. I allowed prayers of desperation, full of run on sentences and tears when I felt at the end of my rope. I allowed prayers of gratitude that welled from my heart and gut when I just knew that sometimes the most normal things were the most amazing things.

The more I allowed myself to veer from the structured prayers of my youth, the more I felt connected to something greater than me. 

Connection was what I was craving. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone. I wanted to know that there was purpose to my existence and that my desires, worries and emotions were validated. The more I prayed, the more I felt connected to something greater than me.

Then, I started to practice meditation to calm my mind even deeper. I knew that prayer was effective, but I also wanted to learn how to still my mind and just allow my breath to course through me without the interruption of words.

At first, meditation was difficult for me to learn. I thought that I needed to get my mind completely still and that I would have mastered the practice once I could sit without a single thought or word enter my brain. But, I was wrong. I learned that meditation provides the space and time for stillness. Thoughts will come and go, but the key is to let them go.

Mediation taught me that thoughts will never cease, but my attachment can dissipate with practice.

Attachment to outcome and expectations is where a lot of pain is rooted. There is a myriad of possible what if and maybes but the important thing is coming back to the present moment. Meditation is a tool to bring presence into each day.

I enhanced my practice by visualizing the things that I wanted and the feelings I wanted to feel. If something was very important to me, I spent time seeing it as if it had already happened. This practice exercised my trust in the universe and brought a sense of peace. When I was able to see and feel what I prayed for and meditated on, I let go of my need to control and allowed whatever was meant to be happen in its own time.

Visualization released the vibrational energy into the universe saying: “I am ready to receive.” 

When I regularly practice stillness, my mind slows down and calm arrives. The need to control falls away as well as the anxiety attached to it. In fact, on the days when I don’t create stillness, I am off and quickly recognize the correlation. For me it is important to begin each day from a place of centering stillness. Stillness sets the stage for a dynamic day and calibrates the mind and body to be present and react less.

Here are some of my favorite meditation tools to jump start or end each day:

Calm (an app with lovely graphics, guided meditations and soothing sounds)

Headspace (another mindfulness app with options to focus on certain areas of life)

Deepak Chopra 21-Day Meditation Experience (free 4 times a year)

Moonlight Gratitude (my meditation book coming March 15th)

The Power of Prayer

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One of the themes that comes up often with spiritual coaching is prayer. I have coached a few people who have left the religions they grew up in and are seeking ways to connect with their spirituality. Each of these experiences have their own path to understanding. Since I have gone through a similar process, I appreciate and acknowledge the desire to slough off strict religious conditioning to embrace a search for meaning and spiritual practices.

This is my story about prayer…

When I was a child, I learned how to pray. I would confess my sins, express gratitude and request things from a God that seemed so far away. I remember spending most of my time wondering if my prayers were effective; if this giant force in the heavens was hearing me. I never really understood prayer much further than confess, give thanks and ask. It seemed rote and methodical.

I also remember learning the structure of a “proper” prayer. But sometimes, it was hard to follow the structure because I was sobbing through my words trying to find meaning, direction and hope. I would lay all my questions, pain, confusion and pride down to just bear my soul.

As I left the religion, prayer came with me, but in a different capacity. I noticed that prayer has always been a comfort to me and recognized the power that it holds.  I wanted to learn more about this ritual and find a more meaningful explanation than what I had learned as a child. There are different types and purposes of prayers and each religion has their own ritual around prayer. And although prayer has religious undertones, I wanted to discover a more personal practice to this ritual.

Looking back on everything that has transpired in my life, there are certain events that I can pick out that turned out better than I could have ever imagined. This is grace and it’s powerful. I recognize that I did a lot of hard work to achieve goals and get places, but I found strength, clarity and guidance with prayer during those times.

The more I willingly opened my heart and mind to this practice, I noticed a shift in my mindset. I was able to stress less and trust that the universe had my back. Every single time that I had great stress and anxiety, I realized it was because I was trying to tackle the issue on my own.

Here are the things I have experienced from prayer:

  • Having direct communication to God where I can pour out my heart is overwhelmingly sacred.
  • My mind is more focused on gratitude and I stop when something wonderful happens just to offer thanks. I notice beauty all around me because gratitude is a key element to prayer.
  • Knowing that I can have a conversation with God, no structure, just talk and process is very comforting and deeply personal.
  • There is no room for guilt because I can come with a contrite heart and receive grace and forgiveness for myself and others.
  • I can feel an energy shift during and after my time in prayer.
  • Letting go is easier.
  • Clarity often follows especially when sitting in meditation after prayer.
  • Stress and anxiety are reduced

There are so many powerful attributes to prayer and I love learning more and evolving my practice. If you find yourself trying to shed strict religious conditioning or would like to delve deeper into your spirituality, please email me at emily@soulsadventures.com.

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It does not change God – it changes me.”

-C.S. Lewis