“Our true nature is stillness, the source from which we come, the deep listening of pure contemplation is the path to stillness. All words disappear into it, and all creation awakens to the delight of just being”.

Fr. Thomas Keating

Stillness, it seems like such a simple word. Stillness, to sit still and just be, how hard can that be? As a Reiki Master and mindfulness and meditation teacher, I can assure you it is no simple feat. You can ask a person to talk about themselves and most will divulge their passions, their family history and their stories. Ask them to be silent and still with you for five minutes and watch the fidgeting, the facial expressions and the body language that tells you they would rather be anywhere but sitting still for five minutes. Why is that, I often wonder, why are we so uncomfortable to just be? Is it because we have to face our fears, our worries or our shadow self? The side of our personality that contains all the aspects of ourselves that we don’t want to admit to having.

Meditation is the one place that you can sit with your being and sort through so many of your issues. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to be with yourself or how to use your mind for your own purpose. You can use meditation to climb deep into your mind and face your shadow self and do so on your own terms. To understand your shadow is to give you a more purposeful mind and peaceful soul. Combined with counselling or therapy, meditation is a powerful source to reach a peace of mind and well being which can transform your daily life and help you lead a life with more purpose. To list just a few of the proven benefits of meditation: lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, decrease pain, ease symptoms of depression and improved sleep.

When I first started meditating, I often felt worse after my meditation session because I would beat myself up about the fact that I couldn’t meditate without a cloud of thoughts and worry coming in and out of my mediation session. I came away frustrated and feeling like a failure at sitting doing nothing. Monkey mind gets to all of us. It is said that the average person has six thousand thoughts every day. Honestly, I think I have double that amount of thoughts in one day and those thoughts often take over my peace of mind while I am trying to sleep. Fear, worry and insecurities love to invade our conscious as we try to rest and recover from the day’s events.

My mother was a worrier and I use to say to her, “mom, all the worrying will not change the outcome.” I often think of that advice I gave her as I lie awake worrying about things that I can’t do anything about at that moment or even worse, about things that haven’t even happened. Frustrating as it’s a total waste of time and it seems when we are at the peak of those worries, meditation can be very difficult. However, through meditation you can change the language you use with yourself even during those sleepless nights where it seems like every fearful and insecure thought has robbed you of your sanity. By simply going to your breath and focusing on your breath you can feel your breathing getting softer and the tension leaving every fibre of your body until before you know it, somewhere in that darkness you are given a bit of light and you find your peace to go to sleep.

There are many types of medications you can take to numb the mind and the body to help you sleep, but using your own mind through meditation gives you a greater sense of freedom and strengthens your resolve to master your mind for a more purposeful sense of being. Meditation is like sleeping as we often take sleep for granted, yet the more we sleep the better we feel and meditation is the same. I often feel I don’t have time to meditate but I’ve learned that I can stop and meditate anywhere just by slowing down my breath and focusing on my being. I try to meditate for at least twenty minutes each morning and night. The first time I tried to meditate for twenty minutes, I felt like it took forever, now I find before I know it the twenty minutes are up and often go back to meditating for at least another ten minutes.

I practice spiritual, focus, progressive relaxation, mantra and visualization meditation. My favourite time is to meditate is in the morning, especially if my mind is well rested. First thing in the morning everything is anew and you don’t have an entire day of thoughts sitting on your brain. It’s during this time that my senses and mind are clear, more focused and images, visions and thoughts just seem to come to me out of the blue.

The other morning as I was using my mind to scan and relax every part of my body by imagining a source of white light shining through every part of my body and being when suddenly I envisioned the back of an indigenous man on a horse. He was riding bareback and the man’s long dark hair was flowing in the wind in tune with the horse’s mane as they rode as one. I wasn’t riding on the back of the horse with him but I was part of the scene as if I had jumped through the screen of a tv and was experiencing the moment, but I wasn’t really there. It was a surreal experience as I was aware of every muscle in the man’s back as he and his horse were riding furiously through a meadow of wildflowers and I was in awe of the colours and as I looked ahead, the sky seemed to be a sea of never ending blue and white as the wisp of clouds went sailing by.

At the moment I was not asleep, nor was I dreaming, I was given a vision and within that vision I was aware of just being. The man on the horse was completely one with the horse, the meadow, the sky, the clouds and the valley and it was then that I realized the importance of that vision. We are one with the universe and with each other, yet we look to distractions to take us away from our purpose; gossip, judgment, politics, unhappiness, sadness, dissatisfaction. Yet, that moment spent with the indigenous man riding bareback on the horse through the brilliant meadow into the unending sky where man, beast and earth was one, was the most astonishing moment I’ve ever known.

You may be saying to yourself “but the moment wasn’t real” and this is true but until you experience meditation in it’s full form, you will understand when I tell you that the moment was as real as if I was riding on the back of that horse. That day I made it a point to notice my breath, to notice my movement as I walked, to notice the trees and the sky as I drove to work. Usually, the trees are all but a blur as I drive by to get to my destination. That day not only did I notice the trees but I noticed the birds that inhabited those trees. So many birds filled those trees and I noticed one tree was full of crows and the next tree was full of smaller birds and few blocks down I noticed a barn where there was a crowd of seagulls sitting on the barn’s roof gazing toward the sky as the day was opening allowing the light to flow; our source of energy, our source of being, showing us how to just be and let the day unfold.

If it hadn’t been for my few seconds with the man riding the horse through the beautiful meadow into the unending sky, the trees would have all blended into the background. I would have rushed to work to spend the day in a mist as I pushed through the work like a robot on a methodical rhythm as if numb to my inner thoughts and sense of space. Riding as one through this life can give us purpose in our everyday lives and meditation can take us there, we just have to give it time and space. “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness”. Mark Zuckerberg

Johanne Fraser

The Minimalist – Friday’s Phlog for November 14, 2014

log minimalist

 “Walking in the woods forces me back to nature, quiets my mind, calms my  spirit and quenches my soul.”

I’m entering this Friday’s Phlog in The Daily Post Minimalist Photo Challenge where you can view hundreds of photos.  The  minimalist theme appealed to me, after all I’m a minimalist at heart.  I took this photo during a walk in the woods; an up close view of a log with the forest blurred in the background.  We often walk by fallen logs without giving it a second thought.  Up close the colours and textures are beautiful and the fallen logs play home to many walks of life.  Walking in the woods forces me back to nature, quiets my mind, calms my spirit and quenches my soul.  I call it wakeful meditation.



Patience is not a word that I can use to describe myself.  I would like to say that I am patient but if you talk to my husband he will tell you that I’m bloody crazy.  If I decide I want a room painted,  I want it  painted yesterday.  I will focus all of my energy to get that room painted and if it takes me 24 hours of non-stop painting, I’ll do it.  My husband on the other hand can do one wall one week, another wall another week and another wall two weeks later.  Consequently, we would be painting all year round at his pace.  Do we butt heads about work and how it’s done – yup you better believe it.  However, as I get older something is happening to me; I have grown more appreciative of my husband’s patient nature.  As I look around the house and all the work that has to be done; cleaning out the garage, fixing the wall in our bathroom, painting the living room, fixing and touching up the walls in other areas, fixing or replacing our kitchen cabinets, the garden work and so on and so on, I’ve become more tolerant of waiting to get things done and not everything has to be done at once.  

I’m not sure if the real culprit of this  new feeling is that I’m overwhelmed and I’ve given up or I’m just getting smarter as I grow older, but lately I’ve started to say to myself, “if we don’t get this kitchen done until a year or more from now how is this going to affect my life?  The answer is “it won’t affect my life at all.”  I will still be busy running here and there, still trying to find the time to balance work, play and family, I’ll still be making dinner every night in my kitchen and even though it would be nice to be looking at a new kitchen it won’t make any difference to my life whatsoever.  Breathing is my latest thing, the simple act of stopping and breathing.  Sometimes at work when it’s especially busy and everybody needs something now, I sit at my desk and move away from my computer, drop my head into a relaxed stance and focus on my breath, meditate a little  and think of positive thoughts.  It’s amazing how two minutes of breathing and positive thoughts can help me feel less drained and empowered to tackle the work that just a second ago was stressing me out. 

Wish I had this attitude the other day as I was cleaning the house.  I decided during my cleaning that I would change some of the furniture from one room to another.   No one was home so I found myself looking at a big arm-chair and decided I wanted it out of the family room and into the  office located on the top floor of our house.  The chair wasn’t especially heavy but awkward.  Having no patience at that moment, I dragged the chair all the way up the stairs by myself and carried it down the hallway to the office, all the while sweating up a storm because it took way too much manoeuvering to get the chair to the door of the office.  Once at the office doorway I realized that the chair was a little too big for the doorway.  Not being one to take no for an answer, I proceeded to twist and turn the chair  through the doorway, when it didn’t work from the hallway I put myself in the office and tried to twist and turn the chair from inside the office.  It came through alright but I managed to wedge the bloody chair in the doorway.  It was stuck, really stuck and I was stuck on the other side and couldn’t get out of the office.    No longer was I impatient I was furious beyond belief, plus I had to be out the door in an hour to go to the rink to play hockey.  I tried the breathing thing, didn’t work because I was too sweaty and worked up, so I did what I do best, I grabbed that damn chair and pulled and pushed and twisted and turned all the while cursing and swearing and sweating my butt off.   Finally, after a half an hour and one too many turns the chair gave and it came through the door.

I made it out of the house to join my hockey team and when I got home later that day my husband noticed the furniture changes and wanted to know how I got the chair up the stairs by myself.  I told him the story and he asked me why  I didn’t wait?  I said “I can’t, it’s not in my nature.”  I believe you can teach an old dog a new trick but every now and then that old dog does what she does best and resorts back to being herself.   I’m learning and I might get to the place of calm, peace and patience one day, until then I have a lot more yoga and breathing to do to reach the realm of yoga and meditation.    Pray my house remains in one piece in the interim!