Sunday, March 13, 2016

Walking the Dog--For You and Your Pups

Walking the Dog is good for your social, emotional and physical health...

It's also great for your dog....

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Top Three Guided Meditation Websites

Before I started meditating, I was a moody mess, living a life with a mood disorder. Meditation has helped me to make an incredible transformation. One of mine, and many other people’s problems is not always having people to meditate with. I have, therefore, spent lots of time finding online guided meditations. Following are a few of my favorite sites

Relax For a While is one of the sites that I discovered recently that has it has helped me change my life. The 10-12 minute recorded meditations are wonderfully soothing with beautiful background music. The association between gratitude and happiness is strongly scientifically proven. Joanne has two slightly different gratitude meditations during which you focus on various aspects of your life with an emphasis on how people and things contribute to your well- being and why you are grateful for them. In her Cozy Room with a Fireplace, she guides you into a room with the sound of a crackling fireplace in the background. Her breathing meditation is one of the best I’ve heard. For those of you who like progressive muscle tension and then relaxation meditations, she has several of these (although not my favorites). Instead, I love her Passive Relaxation to Manage Anxiety and Stress where she guides you through a more passive guided body scan, warming and relaxing each part of the body without first tensing the muscles. There’s also a sleep meditation and a healing meditation.

A friend of mine said that when your anxiety is an 8, 9 or 10 that meditation is impossible, but that just isn’t true with Joanne’s YouTubes. I’ve found that when I’m most stressed or anxious, I turn to Joanne for a wonderful, peaceful feeling. It’s a great way to end my day.

UCLA MARC Thursday Meditation Podcast
I believe you will agree with me that Diana Winston, the Director of Education at UCLAs Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (MARC), is a fantastic guide. She presents the mindfulness podcasts recorded from a weekly mindfulness meditation that takes place on campus at UCLA and is available a few weeks after the live meditation at Diana, or a guest facilitator, introduces each of the topics for about five minutes, sometimes with stories, most recently stories of Diana’s adventures as a Buddhist Nun, and sometimes just an introduction to the guided section of the meditation. She then leads a silent breathing or sound meditation with basic instructions.

Diana finishes the last 10 minutes or so with a guided meditation based a variety of topics. The diversity is inspiring. She has her own perspective on having more wisdom in your life. I love her interesting takes on loving kindness meditations. As with Joanne, she has several gratitude meditations. In the beginning of each year, she guides her meditators through an intentions practice, whereby you set intentions for the New Year. (Sort of like resolutions.) She does a lot with equanimity or balance and has taught me about appreciative joy as the anecdote to jealousy. Throughout, with specific meditations focusing on difficulties with meditating and during her other meditations, she normalizes the challenges of meditating. She is energetic and kind, and I find her meditations brilliant.

Finally, I’d like to introduce my own pet-centered meditations (Petitations©) available on my website As with everyone I know who meditates, I started out of necessity. For me, it was emotional pain. But, in the beginning, I couldn’t even sit for the five minutes required at the beginning of a support group without wincing in oppositional pain.

As I tried to meditate, my oldest dog, Pago, barked and whined and scratched at the door until I finally let him in in exasperation. He jumped in my lap and licked my face. I sighed as I exclaimed to Pago. “I’ve been trying to meditate. My doctor says I should quiet my mind and try to focus my attention on my breath. It’s so frustrating--my mind is all over the place. First it’s on laundry--the mountain of dirty clothes in the bedroom, next it’s what to cook for dinner, and the shopping I still have to do. Then it’s the episode of The Big Bang Theory I watched yesterday. I just can’t focus on my breath.”  I started petting Pago gently on his belly, softly moving my hand in circles. Twenty minutes later, a timer went off. I was thrilled and finally felt content. “I just meditated for twenty whole minutes. It was so much easier to pay attention to your fur than to focus on my breath. I never realized how soft you are.”

This began the first Petitation, the Basic Petting Petitation. Similarly, during The Pet Scan Petitation, the goal is to stay in the present moment with your pet this time by focusing on your pet from ears to tail with your touch, sight, and smell. This is Pago’s favorite Petitation and results in an incredibly deep bond between you and your pet. The gratitude meditation is supposed to be one of the most important practices, but it’s hard to come up with something that I’m extremely grateful for every single time I sit down to meditate; I’m always grateful for my pups. So I created the third Petitation, The Gratitude Petitation, where the meditator is guided to focus first on how grateful they are to have their pet in their life. They then expand this to other people, beings and themselves. We all get angry and frustrated at our pets. Just a month ago Pago, got himself sick by getting into and polishing off a whole bag of everything bagels. In the Equanimity Petitation, the meditator is encouraged to develop mantras to use to create space between the offense and the punishment. Finally, one of the most difficult parts of owning most pets is that we are likely to outlive them. The grief we experience when we lose them is real and intense. It’s important, however, to hold on to both the positive memories and the grief at the same time, so we can move through the grief and not get stuck in depression. The Grief Petitation can help with this. All of the Petitations are set to music composed specifically for the Petitations.

Hopefully, if you are just beginning to meditate or intend to expand and enhance your meditation practice, you will find these websites helpful. Through these online guided meditations I have greatly deepened my own enjoyable meditation practice.

We would love to hear about your favorite meditation sites...

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Intentions

Every year I like to spend some time meditating about the past year and setting intentions for the new year.  This past year was a big one for me.  My family and I moved from the Bay Area to Sacramento and my Mom and I wrote a book on Petitations and submitted it to a potential publisher.  I also started  horseback riding again.

Since most people break their New Year's resolutions in weeks or months, intentions are a better bet.  Intentions are an overall goal, not specific objectives.  Focus on health--not going to the gym 3 days a week.

I would like to have a balanced year.  Lots of nature and city walks with my pups, meditation, writing, exercise, horseback riding and paying attention to my physical and emotional health.

Let's hear what your 2016 intentions are below.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mindful Meditation With a Horse? Is that Crazy Talk? The Answer is a Resounding NO!

I have Petitated with three horses so far and found that when I Petitate with them, they visibly relax--leaning on me and holding their necks near me for pets.   I am in the present moment with them—I stop worrying about the past of obsessing about the future.  How does this work? 

I have been participating in equine therapy over the past two months.  Each time I go, we are told to pick a horse that most fits with the exercise and spend some time with them before we do the therapy.  Today, it was working with a large exercise ball representing something we were dealing with, having the horse represent a strength and working with the horse to push the ball around a tree to move forward toward making an impact on the issue we were dealing with.  My teammate and I chose Flaming Jersey, a beautiful red mare with white spots on her butt, a brown flowing mane and tail and deep brown eyes. 

But, before we could do the exercise we needed to get into the present moment with Jersey.  I went over and practiced a Petting Petitation with her for a few wonderful moments, caressing her soft neck, stroking her muscular back, and patting her adorable nose.  As she calmed down, I did a quick Pet Scan Petitation with her.  I first checked her out visually from the tip of her ears down her neck, back, butt, legs all the way to her hooves.  I took in one of the most wonderful fragrances in the world, the smell of horses and talked to her about what to expect as we did the exercise.  Although she didn’t cooperate completely throughout the therapy (life always throws some curve balls), she stayed calm and persistent and about 20 minutes later we guided her to kick the ball against the wind around the tree and over the finish line.  Then it was more Petting Petitation and a quick Gratitude Petitation—I was truly grateful to have Flaming Jersey in my life.  

During the exercise I was able to move from worrying about my loneliness that I had been experiencing since I moved to Sacramento from the Bay Area four months ago to having a deep connection with another being.  I identified my strength, that of creativity and persistence to plan activities during the time between hanging out with the horses including square dancing that evening (something I had a lot of experience with and know of a local group with wonderful people), a writing group (I loved but had stopped prioritizing), an online writing group, and a writers’ wine party.   The persistence and creativity I showed with Flaming Jersey is quite symbolic of the persistence and creativity that I have been able to show on and off in my own life.  I also recognized that by verbalizing the plans to Jersey and the other people in the group, I had accountability, something that always helps me to move forward in a positive direction.

So no, Petitating with a horse to stay in the present moment, move toward a positive goal, and appreciate what I can have is not “crazy talk”—it is a wonderful reality.