15 Quiet Minutes: Beginning

One of the goals I set for myself this month was to take fifteen quiet minutes each evening to meditate, pray, check-in with myself, write in my journal, etc. I’ve been enjoying it so much, and thinking of so many ways to use that time, that I’ve decided to create a series of blog posts called “15 Quiet Minutes”. I will share ideas for meditation, spiritual practices, nature practices, and creative practices that will help us all take fifteen minutes for ourselves in the evenings to relax, unwind, still our minds, and connect with our hearts, our creativity, with nature, and with the Sacred. I plan to publish a new post around each full and dark moon. I wanted to leave a couple of weeks between posts to give us time to try out each new practice and see how it works for us. I have lots of ideas, so the series will continue for several months at least. I hope you will join me in taking 15 Quiet Minutes for yourself each day!

Today’s post is about beginning. First, figure out when you can fit this practice into your life. Take a look at how you spend your time, and see where you may be able to claim fifteen minutes for yourself. I am doing my practice in the evening as a bracket to my morning spiritual practice, as a way to end the day the same way I start it, with some quiet time to sit with myself and with Goddess. However, if evenings are not possible, find a time of day that will work for you. You may do it in the morning if you don’t already have a morning spiritual practice, or in your car or at a park during your lunch break. Choose a time that will work best for you and your schedule.

Next, set a goal for yourself, and make it as realistic as you can. If you think you will only be able to take fifteen minutes for yourself twice a week, then choose that. It is better to start small and be successful than to set an unrealistic goal, fail to meet it, and then give up altogether. My current goal is five evenings a week. I’ve kept this goal before, so I know it is doable for me, and it gives me a couple of evenings a week to be lazy and spend too long watching Netflix without feeling like a failure.

Whatever goal you choose, write it down. Write it in your journal or in your planner or on a sticky note stuck to your bathroom mirror. Writing down goals really makes a difference! I like to put little check boxes next to my goals so I can check off each time I do the practice (so if I plan to do it five time each week, I make five little check boxes). If you love checking things off lists, this might work for you, too. If you tend to be more motivated by being held accountable by other people, then you might want to tell someone supportive about your goal, and let them know when you accomplish it each week. Do whatever you think might help you be successful.

You’ll also want to figure out where you can take fifteen minutes to yourself. If you already have a room to retreat to, that’s perfect. If you have an altar, that may be the place where you’ll choose to do a lot of the practices. Some of the practices will be done outside, and the creative practices will require a bit of space on a table, counter-top or floor to spread out your materials. If the only privacy you can get is in your bathroom, or in your car, that works, too! You’ll want  a quiet place where you can put your phone on “do not disturb” and turn off the TV and music.

The first practice is one of the simplest, and one of the most challenging—meditation. If the word makes you cringe a bit, I understand. I’ve tried doing simple meditation by following my breath so many times over the years, and I just end up frustrated and bored. I’ve found that I need some other kind of focus, like a visualization, in order to sit quietly for any length of time.

One of my favorite visualizations is to see my breath coming in as a wave of golden, sparkling energy, and as I breath out, that energy moves out through my skin, so that I am surrounded by a cloud of golden light. You may even imagine yourself dissolving into this cloud of golden light.

Another visualization that I have found really useful is to see myself floating in space among the stars. Just floating, without a care in the world, surrounded by the darkness of space and the beauty of the stars. You could also visualize yourself floating on the ocean waves, or in a still pool, gently rocking in a hammock, or laying in field of flowers. Choose a visualization that makes you feel absolutely calm and at peace, and focus on that for fifteen minutes. Bring your attention back to the scene you have created—feel it, smell it, hear it—whenever your attention wanders.

If you prefer guided meditations, I’ve used this one several times and really enjoy it. This is a great loving kindness (or metta) meditation. You can do a search on YouTube for other guided meditations that you might like.

I’ve found the Meditation Timer app useful for timing my meditations (it looks like it is only available for iPhone, but there are lots of other meditation timer apps available for Android). Another great resource is the Beginning Meditation audiobook by Sally Kemper, which includes several different types of meditations to try.

Don’t worry, if you absolutely hate to meditate, there will be many other suggestions for things to do with your 15 Quiet Minutes. If you don’t want to meditate, but want to start taking fifteen minutes for yourself now, you might try just sitting still and letting your mind wander for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen minutes of peace, of doing nothing, of telling your “to do” list that it can wait, and watching the world go by. Ahhhh, doesn’t that feel good?

Until the next post, I wish you blessings upon your 15 Quiet Minutes, however you choose to use them. Enjoy!

An Elemental Centering Meditation

elements

Air, Fire, Water, and Earth

When I’m feeling scattered, or I just want to take a moment and connect with the world around me, I like to do a centering meditation by focusing on each of the elements and how I am experiencing them within and around me.

To do the meditation, take a few deep breaths, get comfortable, and open your senses to your environment. You can keep your eyes closed or open. I tend to do both, closing my eyes to sense the element within me, but also opening them to look around and see where I find the element around me. When you feel ready, turn your focus to each of the elements, one by one.

Air. Feel the breath moving in and out of your body, the temperature of the air upon your skin, the feel of the wind as it moves around you. Hear the sounds around you, smell the smells. Are there creatures of air around you such as butterflies or birds? Feel their presence. Imagine the trees absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, sense the animals and people around you who are also breathing the same air as you are. Feel how air flows and moves through you and through everything around you. Air.

Fire. Feel the spark that keeps your heart beating, the chemical reactions taking place in the cells of your body, producing warmth and nourishment, keeping you alive. Feel the fire around you, the warmth of the sun, the chemical reactions in the cells of the plants, trees, and animals near you, their beating hearts, the flame of life in all of us. Find the fire around you, the heat, the warmth, the energy. Fire.

Water. Sense the moisture in your body, the blood flowing in your veins, the saliva in your mouth, the liquid matrix of your cells. You are flowing with water, rivers of life within you. Feel the water around you, the water in the clouds, the dew on the grass, the humidity in the air, the moisture in the soil beneath you. Reach out to any water around you—puddles, bird baths, creeks, rivers, the ocean. Feel the water flowing through the trees and plants, the fluids carrying life in all the creatures around you. Water.

Earth. Tune into the structure of your body, your bones, your teeth, the walls of your cells, the foundations that give you substance and solidity. Feel the soil beneath you, supporting you, and the rocks. Sense the trees, the wood of their trunks, feel the structure of the plants around you, the stems, the petals, the blades of grass. Sense the bones of the creatures that surround you, the underlying structure that gives them solidity, just like you. Earth.

Spirit. Sense Spirit within and around you, giving life, soul and spirit to all things. Can you feel it in yourself? Can you feel it in the world around you? How to do you sense it, this enlivening energy that moves through all things? Tap into it, feel it. Spirit.

You are centered, you are connected. Take a few more breaths, and you are finished.

This can be a relatively quick meditation to center yourself if you don’t have a lot of time, or you can really take your time with it. You can do it indoors, too, sensing the elements in everything that surrounds you: the carpet, the walls, your furniture, your pets and family. I’ve even done it while driving (obviously, I don’t close my eyes in this case!), sensing the elements as they exist in my car, in the cars and drivers around me, as well as in the landscape I am driving through. Don’t do this, of course, if you tend to trance out, but because it is more of a centering meditation, I find it generally brings me into the present moment and helps me focus.

This is also a great way to tune into the elements as they exist in different seasons. What does Air feel like in winter? What does Water feel like in summer? I recently did this meditation to tune into the elements as we move into winter, and it was interesting to discover that Water is very active in the winter here through falling rain and full, rushing rivers. However, if you live where it is very cold, you might find that Water is very still and quiet as it falls as snow, and as creeks and rivers flow sluggishly under thick layers of ice.

May you feel blessed and centered as you connect with the world around you!