Monday, May 23, 2016

Meditation Monday: Accepting the Unexpected

By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC
In an effort to take the “manic” out of “Monday,” this weekly post explores techniques, issues, latest research, and other thoughts on meditation. Nancy facilitates two weekly meditation groups at The Awakening Center. For more information, contact her at 773.929.6262, extension 17 or

We all know the stereotype of a meditation practice—sitting with pretzel legs, eyes closed, palms on knees with middle finger touching the thumb. And that is a perfectly fine way to meditate. But for those who don’t think they can sit too long in that position, there are plenty of other options. Take, for instance, a tea meditation.

A meditation focusing on tea can take many forms. The idea is to mindfully attend to each step along the way—boiling the water, listening to the sound the water makes as you pour it into the cup, feeling the warmth, watching the tea steep, inhaling the aroma, savoring the taste. Each step stimulates a different sense.

And you can have some fun with the tea options. In a recent meditation group at The Awakening Center, we sat and mindfully watched Peach Momotaro blossoming tea as it unfurled in hot water. Well, sort of.

As the group leader, I wanted the experience of watching the tea bloom to be awe-inspiring. I imagined the participants being moved by the display. Needless to say, my anxiety was triggered when the tea didn’t cooperate. The tea bundles floated for a while … kind of looking like dead fish. It took all my will power to not start poking at them or jostling the vessel.

Eventually, they began to painfully slowly open up. And they were pretty. Just not spectacular.

 And that was OK. The joy of the meditation was finding our patience and acceptance. The purpose was to provide a focal point and sensory experience for the participants—not to impress them with my miraculous tea display. The light fragrance was wonderful and the peach flavor was subtle but enjoyable.

Once I let go of my own expectations, I was able to admire the blossoms as they were. Experiences like a tea meditation help us let go and accept the beauty in how things are—not as we wish they would be.

Enjoy your practice.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sowing the Seeds of Recovery

By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC

Gardening can be both extremely satisfying and utterly maddening. Seeds are sown with boundless hope. Sprouts are celebrated, nurtured, and tended. Exhaustive reading and research reveals how much sun is needed, when to water, when to transplant, how to protect against pests, when/if to fertilize. We can do everything according to the best gardening guides…and come up with nothing.

So why do we bother? Because we also might be rewarded with a bounty—herbs, berries, vegetables. So much, that we end up calling friends and family members: “Do you guys want some tomatoes?” “How about some cucumbers?” We then turn our researching skills to canning and preserves.

Even when our harvest is disappointing, though, gardening provides us with a chance to engage with our surroundings in a different way. The smell of the soil. The feeling of the soft earth. The tender way we handle seedlings.

Gardening can also help us learn to let go of expectations and control. We have to find satisfaction in each step along the way. We learn to tolerate disappointment and frustration. We also learn to receive and trust joy and satisfaction when efforts are rewarded.

The Awakening Center is starting a gardening group to help participants address their eating disorder recovery in an experiential and symbolic way. Each group session will center on a recovery theme that relates to the stage of our plants. For example, in our first meeting we will prepare our pots for planting. As we paint our pots, we will discuss what it means in our recovery to create a safe space for ourselves.

Other themes will include setting physical and emotional boundaries, nurturing our plants and ourselves, flexibility and patience as our plants and our recovery grows, and connection to the earth and to others. Through these topics, we hope to tap into meaningful processing and skill building.

If you’d like to join this group or if you want more information, you can contact Sheana Tobey at