Day 8 of the Feast
Dear One,

I was the Tenzo (cook) in a Zen Buddhist training center. And my daily work practice consisted of menu planning, shopping, chopping, cooking, making bread, serving and washing pots and pans. I was good at that. But I used to think I was sitting wrong. That's what Zen Buddhists call meditation. Sitting, or zazen.

During our meditations, I used to look around the zendo and think, "Ah, they all are having a great experience, and I'm failing in some way."

While everyone else looked like they were achieving some sort of nirvana, I was reminiscing and planning. Thinking of past loves, or what I was going to cook, or how sore my back was.

I knew what to do when I caught myself thinking, rather than doing my practice. I would refocus my attention on my posture, and then, my breath, and resume counting my breaths from one to ten. That was my practice for years.

Eventually, I came to realize that thoughts in meditation can be an indication that stress is being released, and they are also an opportunity to stay present with the activity of my attention.

We all have to meet our own mind, and its activity has nothing to do with whether you are a good meditator. I think the most important aspect of meditation is your willingness to keep going. So please, do!
Thank you for putting your spirituality first during this time of deep practice. I am practicing with you.

Love, Sarah

Sarah McLean
Director, Feast for the Soul, Inc.
Sedona, Arizona
Meditation Teacher Highlight
Rabbi Diane Elliot, based in the Bay Area, is a spiritual teacher, ritual leader, dancer, and somatic therapist who inspires her students to become clearer channels for Presence through awareness and movement practices, chant, and nuanced interpretations of Jewish sacred text.She melds embodied awareness, mindfulness, chant, prayer, and imagery from the kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). She leads you into a beautiful meditation to connect to beingness and to work with the nervous system.

Spiritual Practice Tip

Simple Breath Awareness Practice. You can do anytime during the day. It involves inhaling vitality and energy, and exhaling fatigue and tension.
Set a timer f(not an alarm) for a few minutes. Sit comfortably. 
With eyes closed, you can tend to notice you are a little more aware of the sounds around you. Welcome everything you hear. Notice how sounds arise from the silence and return to the silence, just like my voice. Welcome everything without getting involved in any stories that these sounds might generate. 
Now turn your attention to the gentle rise and fall of your chest. Give yourself a deep breath through your nose, breathe in fully and slowly, feeling your ribs expand around your back and sides, and breathe out slowly and fully, exhaling and feeling the air leave your body. Give yourself a few more long, slow deep breaths through your nose. And as you give your body the air it needs, imagine yourself becoming completely full of energy on the inhale. And exhale slowly releasing any tension or fatigue you might feel. Inhaling vitality, exhaling fatigue. 

After the period ends, let your breath return to its natural rhythm. Slowly begin to open your eyes, always taking your time, moving back into the activity of the day slowly and with awareness.
 Notice how you feel right now and bring this sense of calm and relaxation throughout the day with you. 
Living the Feast
Say thank you and mean it. Feel the gratitude.

Being grateful makes you feel good. When you’re feeling grateful, your mind is clear, you have a dearer relationship to the universe and its creator, and you become more aware of the big picture. With gratitude in the forefront of your awareness, it is difficult to see the world as something to be dealt with; rather, it becomes your friend, your ally, and your supporter. It happens for you. According to the latest research, grateful people really are different. "Practicing gratitude helps people extract the most out of life. People can also experience an overall shift to a more benevolent view of the world. Practice gratitude today. See the world as on your side.

I think it's kind of a spiritual shift for some people because it makes them more aware of life as a gift,” says psychologist Dr. Robert Emmons of U.C. Davis. who wrote the book, Thanks.

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