Tag Archives: meditation


Last week, I came home from a lovely bike ride along Lake Michigan to find several news trucks lined up at the end of my block.  A woman had been grabbed and “assaulted” at 6 a.m. Tuesday August 8 on Howard, a very busy Rogers Park street which separates Evanston from Chicago.

My first reaction was to tell everyone in my neighborhood – knock on doors.  Instead, I told the woman walking down the street with her dog and posted the event as a HIGH ALERT on Facebook and Twitter.

My emotions were mixed: fear and anger.  Fear that now I couldn’t leave my home to go dance tango because I’d have walk through a dark backyard from my garage. So there I sat frozen on the couch texting my boyfriend who’s out of town and encouraging me to stay home because they didn’t catch the perpetrator.  Just a few weeks ago in a nearby neighborhood, a man had broken into a woman’s home, midday and assaulted her. Not the same guy.

Yes I live in a big city.  But this is all very too close to home. I close and lock my windows at night, lock my screen doors during the day, despite the fact that I have a Great Dane mix. Woof.

I also thought about what I could do: organize a self-defense class, check in Alderman Silverstein and the Ward’s police to see what could/should we do? Might be a good time to try Krav Maga.

I feel anger because I am controlled by an unknown brute. I think about how women have to jump through hoops to stay safe. We have to consider where we walk down a street, how we dress, take precautions in hotels. Things men don’t have to give a second thought to let alone a first. I just want to go dance and socialize!

Then I told a tango friend I was feeling spooked and didn’t want to go out. He offered to drive and I accepted his graciousness to shuttle me to the Milonga. I realized the best of human nature often arises during crisis big and small.  As an introverted and fiercely independent woman I want to fight it alone, rant at the injustice. And I do. Speaking up and altering neighbors is the right thing to do.

But I also discovered that the right thing for me to do is soften and allow the genuine kindnesses offered to me to dissolve the fear.

I opted out of Krav Maga for now and instead went to a meditation about becoming a Buddhist Warrior.  An amazing meditation by Heartwood Center’s President Nancy Floy.  A place of peace, a meditation in gently setting personal boundaries led by a woman with power, vulnerability and wisdom.



In the July edition of Shamabala Sun I read an article by Norman Fischer titled, What is your body?  In it is that familiar concept of we are all one with the earth.  I’ve never been able to connect with that  – until now.

“Our bodies too are the Earth.  They rise up from her, and are nurtured, fed, and illuminated by her.  Our bodies are in constant touch with Earth, and return to Earth, from which they have never parted…Even our most abstract ideas, like freedom, justice, and happiness, are nothing more or less than Earth’s urge, the thought of wind, sky, water, and light. Nothing we think or do could ever be more profound or true than these natural elements which are literally more or less than our own bodies.”

Soil = food, water = drink, air = breath. We literally sprout from the earth. I imagine us all as plants now with our roots deep into the earth, all of us, standing next to each other. Green. And reaching toward the sun.

To me, the earth is not a deity and my thoughts of god are fuzzy – can’t quite get solid with it.  What I do know is there is life consciousness within and of the earth.  Recently, the State of Illinois passed a bill to allowing fracking.  A process which fractures the earth, forces chemicals into in order to extract any found gas or oil.  Sigh.  It just makes me sad that with so many alternative methods available and in development that short-sighted, fearful politicians make such a poisonous choice. As resilient as nature is I don’t believe it can withstand our endless abuse.

I met a man recently who after 9/11 fled the mainland United States to live in pristine Kauai.  A few years later, one of his sons’ died there.  There’s no escaping our fates.

As I get older, I am challenged with keeping a faith in myself, my own ability to keep life interesting.  To not give in to complacency and cynicism.  Some days I win the battle.  Some days I do not.  What I find most helpful are the simple pleasures.  Brushing my dog, teaching him new tricks, listening to the birds while sipping coffee, feeling of warm sun on skin, enjoying conversations with old friends.



The other day I attended a very different kind of meditation which the practitioners called, Flowing with Musical Expression. Essentially it was people making all manner of odd sounds, chirps, whistles, hums, ooos and ahhhs – randomly and loudly for 30 minutes.  I thought I was in room with people who had Tourrents. It was distracting and uncomfortable. According to literature at the center, the founders said that Westerners always need to be “doing” something.  So their active meditations were a response to that.

There are of course, many different ways and reasons to meditate.

NOT DOINGBahaiTempleFacingNorth
I thought of a dear Baha’i friend who once said to me that meditation does not have to be formal.  It can be during a walk with your dog, a simple stopping to appreciate the beauty in a cloud, architecture or perfectly made crème brûlée.   For me, it is about the stopping. I think and do way too much as it is.

Poetry helps me to stop and to savor. One of my favorite poets is Mekeel McBride who I met at women’s conference just after I graduated from college.  I’ve memorized many of her poems; the pages of her book all dog-eared and yellowed now.  I’ve never been one to keep books pristine.  I underline, highlight, and bend the pages.

“… Just that some people love words
as much as a locksmith loves the machine
that duplicates keys, allowing the lost
to once again enter familiar rooms,
touch the chipped blue china cup,
stand quietly in the sun-drenched kitchen,
amazed that such return in this word is possible.”
From The Going Under of the Evening Land by Mekeel McBride



How many times have you heard that adage that people are your best teachers?  That when something bothers you about someone else, it’s a reflection of something you don’t see in yourself?  It’s not an uncommon spiritual teaching.  Which of course doesn’t make it any less challenging to deal with. In this talk, ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, sheds light on how troublemakers can help you.

Understanding where you have work to do is a big part of any spiritual journey.  Troublemakers, as Pema calls them, will be the ones to point you toward your own neurosis.  Noticing how and when you get provoked is an important life lesson. Awareness is the first step. If you can laugh about it; so much the better. Unhook yourself and you are on the path toward personal freedom.

Awareness comes through slowing down your mind. All that chatter and noise. All the automatic response patterns – many we’re not even conscious of.  The to-do lists, the shoulda, gotta, didn’t – oh no!  Once you start the practice of noticing and slowing down your thoughts, you’ll be amazed how such a seeming simple task becomes a lifelong adventure.

Here are a few simple ways to bring more mindfulness into your day:

  • Set an alarm for 10-mintues and watch your thoughts
  • Notice what’s happening in your head when you’re at a stoplight
  • Waiting in line anywhere can be a great time to check your thoughts

Stop the incessant need to multitask.  A real challenge in this day of smart phones where all around us people are neurotically checking their phones, in cars, walking down the street, and when pushing baby carriages.  Can you just stop for moment to be in the moment? To see? Smell? Touch? Listen?

JoAnn Milivojevic

Losing Your Mind

Have you lost your mind?  If you’re like most people, you probably have – and more than once in the course of an hour. According to mind experts old and new, the natural state of the mind is chaos.  Eastern philosophies call this “monkey mind” – your thoughts swinging aimlessly through the trees carrying you and your emotions on a bumpy ride seemingly against your will.  Western positive psychologists call it “chaos mind”.  Left to its own devices, the mind will drift off, often into negative daydreaming territory like a needle stuck in dirty, broken record.

We’ve all been there; thought that.  And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that it’s probably no fun to be out there caught in a negative stream of consciousness. I also hope that like me, you might find some comfort in knowing that mind’s natural state is chaos.  We’re all predisposed to chaotic thinking.  So let’s chuckle at those crazy thoughts. Because in the end, most of us have the wherewithal to harness the inner beast of mind for our own greater good.  And it can be a fun and interesting experiment to try.


The mind needs something to focus on. Meditation is one way to focus it. Mediation is a consciously controlled state even when your goal is to simply observe your thoughts.  The second part of that instruction is observe your thoughts – but don’t judge, indulge, suppress or repress. Let thoughts come and go like clouds in the sky.  Easier said then done.  That’s why, as I said, there is conscious control in meditation.  You are consciously watching your mind your mind is no longer controlling you.

On the less life-enhancing side, consider masochistic behavior.  Pain it seems is better than the chaos that seeps into an unfocused mind. Hurting oneself physically or emotionally ensures attention can be focused on something that we control because we are the ones who created it. Think drug and alcohol abuse, compulsive sex or gambling. Suffice it to say that those acts aren’t going to lead to happiness in the long run.


Sure we all need to relax.  That’s what 8 hours of good sleep are for.  Try an experiment sometime.  Instead of doing the habitual TV/wine/late night snack, try something that requires a modicum of skill and engagement:

  • memorize poetry,
  • work with wood,
  • really listen to piece of music,
  • look deeply at art – or paint something yourself

It might take a little push to get out the door so speak, but just see what happens when you make the effort.  You never know what can happen if you take a different path.

Leap and Net Will Appear,