Posts in Meditation
Why I Do What I Do - Creating Safer Space

On Valentines day I was invited to go see a performance at a school. I showed up and realized it wasn’t just a bunch of little kids performing something cute… It was young women performing poetry and monologues bringing awareness to violence to women around the world. While it was a bit of a recalibration to realize the topic was so deep and painful, it was inspiring and eye opening.

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A Guided Remedy For Being Hard On Yourself: Loving-Kindness & Mindfulness
  • Could you use some spacious time to come back to your heart?
  • Are you stuck in your head and not feeling very connected to your body?
  • Have you been bombarded by criticism, judgment and shame?

This 26-minute spacious guided audio practice offers simple instruction in mindfulness meditation and includes offering loving-kindness (Metta in Pali) for yourself.  It has been said to be an antidote for fear, hatred and greed.  A protection from all those negative, critical and judgmental thoughts the mind creates.

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From Helpless to Kindness: Food, Emotions & Me

This post was written by me (Shelby Leigh) and originally shared by the AMAZING women doing incredible work over at Be Nourished in Portland.  They're helping folks learn about health at all sizes and they're known for the ways they help people learn compassion, acceptance and Body Trust®.  "Our passion is helping people lose the weight of body shame to create the change they seek from a deeper place."

Here is their introduction: "We are hearing a lot about gastrointestinal disorders these days. For years, it was leaky gut syndrome. Now SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) seems to be the diagnosis of the day. Researchers are just beginning to understand the complexity of the gut microbiome. While health care providers give lip service to how anxiety and stress impact the gut, treatment usually focuses on restrictive diets, supplements and medications. We believe it is important for providers, and the people they serve, to keep a wide lens when looking for answers to what might most support healing. When we start to mess with people’s food, we also mess with their lives. For many, what begins as a seemingly harmless experiment turns into years of disordered eating and a diminished quality of life. As providers, our first ethical guideline is to do no harm. So how do we help without harming?

In her blog “From Helpless to Kindness: Food, Emotions & Me,” Shelby Leigh shares how she made peace with food by listening to what her body wanted, not her mind. Shelby writes, “I believe my unhealthy gut bacteria thrive on low self-esteem, self-doubt, shame and lack of meaningful human connection and affection.” We found this perspective so refreshing—and sorely lacking—in dialogue about healing gut complaints."


From Helpless to Kindness: Food, Emotions & Me

I’ll never forget that night when I was walking up SW Morrison Street towards 12th. It was dark early then and very rainy – as it often is that time of year in Portland. It was many years ago but the moment is crisp in my memory. I remember feeling an incredible sense of helplessness and hopelessness around food and feeding myself.

I remember being incredibly hungry and in a hurry and at a loss for how to find food I could eat without going all the way across town to my own kitchen. I remember feeling so depleted I could barely keep myself standing – my impulse was to curl up in fetal position right there in a doorway of a closed shop wishing and hoping someone would come save me, fix my body and tell me what was wrong with it. Why was I allergic to almost every food I put in my body? Why couldn’t I take in any nourishment?

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What's A Fierce Heart, Anyway?

In this moment, I’m sitting here looking out my window at the trees and the grass after a very long rain. The sun is coming out and the drops on the trees are fresh and shimmering in light. My heart feels full and relaxed and I feel a deep gratitude for all of the abundance available to me here in this very moment.

There’s a lot happening right now in the world. There is so much suffering and fear and separation between people and communities and hearts. And, a lot has happened in the past year in my life. More loss than I ever thought I’d be able to handle. With all of that, my heart feels more full than it ever has. And I feel more clear and grounded in my purpose and body with a great warmth that encompasses it all.

THIS is what a Fierce Heart feels like.

Being able to continue to keep my heart open amidst all of the ups and downs that this human life brings.  Staying committed to deepening into love and healing a covered heart amidst so much tragedy and confusion. THIS is what a Fierce Heart Feels like.

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10-Days Meditating in Silence in Joshua Tree, California

One week ago I emerged out of the desert from my sixteenth meditation retreat – also called a Vipassana or Insight retreat.  This particular retreat was 10 days, however others I’ve attended in this tradition range from 5 days to 1 month through Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Against the Stream.  Retreats are humbling, challenging, nourishing and eye opening for me. One might think the higher the number, the easier they get but that has not always been my experience.  However, it has repeatedly been 100% worth the challenge, time and money. 

Some things do get easier like getting in the rhythm of the schedule and knowing that the discomfort in my body will pass after the first couple of days from sitting for more than 6 hours a day (thank GOODNESS for an hour of Qi Gong each day).  The body starts settling in and remembering how good it feels to be still after a few days and then the mind generally tends to follow in its path.

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How to work with difficulty using mindfulness IN THE BODY

I can hardly believe our retreat was a month ago!  In this talk and meditation from the final night of our Metta: Fierce Heart Women's Retreat, I share some personal experiences and practices around how to work with difficulty using mindfulness IN THE BODY.  I offer a meditation practice that helps us pull apart the stories from the reality of what's actually happening which will lead us much more often to feeling more spacious and at ease and possibly even more joyful.

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How to Stop Getting Hijacked by Your Mind & Emotions: A Talk From Retreat

Here's another opportunity to peek into our life on retreat last month and listen to our evening talk.  We had an incredible weekend of exploring the inner landscapes of our hearts and minds and the outer landscapes of Cedar Ridge which was gorgeously sunny and inviting.  I can hardly wait for next year's retreat!

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination...  This was the motto of the college I went to nearly 20 years ago - Prescott College.  I sure thought I knew what that meant at the time and I've realized over the years that it's not just about getting in the car and running off on adventures and never settling down.  

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Longing for contentment & connection but stuck in fight/flight/freeze? A unique view from retreat.

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel like you "should" be enjoying yourself and feeling peaceful but you're stuck feeling everything but that?

This talk and meditation was given on our lovely retreat a few weekends ago.  If you didn't get to join us...  you can listen in now.

We so often long to be able to be present to the beauty around us and to feel like we're truly there instead of stuck in anxiety or disconnection.  These topics of Mindfulness, Neural Pathways & better understanding the Fight/Flight/Freeze/Collapse/Attach mechanisms inside our brains and offer important information as to why we're wired the way we are and how we can move towards more and more freedom with the right kind of mindfulness and therapy. 

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Missed the retreat? I've got your back... listen in and drop into your heart.

This next several weeks of blog posts are a window into our very special retreat land.  We had a beautiful time out there in Vernonia last weekend meditating, basking in the sun by the river, chanting, doing yoga and mindfully connecting.  A genuine, fierce, and heart-felt group of self identified women came together to practice Mindfulness and Metta (Pali word for Loving-Kindness or Unconditional Friendliness).  If you couldn't make it... we missed you!  

Here is the first opening night's Welcome talk, Meditation and a Short Teaching as an invitation to all of us right here & right now to put down the distractions and drop our minds into our hearts and simply listen.

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Will a meditation retreat be too triggering for my anxiety and/or PTSD?

I get it... I was one of those people who would shut my eyes and feel more chaotic.  I felt more anxious and sometimes very frightened and agitated.  Meditating seemed to make things worse rather than better. I muscled my way through the practices because I heard it could help.  And I was sure I'd already tried everything else.  

The way meditation was taught when I first found these practices 15 years ago wasn't trauma-informed. 

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Tolerating Stillness

It’s like clockwork.  Nearly every time I tell people I teach mindfulness and meditation, they respond looking inspired while at the same time saying… “I could never sit still that long” or “I’ve tried it but I just can’t get my mind to stop.”  And every time, I say to them… “that’s what I thought too! and… that’s really not what it’s about at all”. 

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