A Creative Toolkit of Meditations has twenty meditations that assist you in mastering the two styles of meditation: inquiry and mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation subdues our monkey-mind thoughts. Inquiry meditation asks Inner Silence for an answer to painful relationship and work issues.
A Creative Toolkit of Meditations provides a deep understanding of our underlying cultural conditioning and introduces an innovative approach to using meditation to reduce emotional stress and achieve self-realization.
Bill Blake’s A Creative Toolkit of Meditations is a superb read. His distant family member, the poet and artist William Blake, wrote a phrase that describes Bill’s book: “Energy is eternal delight.”
Dr. Stephen Kierulff, clinical psychologist and author of (with Stanley Krippner) of Becoming Psychic
In his classes using his book, Bill’s extraordinary method of making meditation highly accessible is truly miraculous. I can honestly say it did change my life! I now can call myself a meditator, when all other attempts made over decades had fallen short.
Amy Lacombe, artist and designer of arts and crafts
Bill’s book and classes have offered me a toolbox of rewarding ways to relax my monkey mind. These meditations have helped me get through some stressful times. I now have a rich daily practice.
Diane Monteith, retired educator
This book provides you with tools to achieve the following objectives:
Increase conscious awareness of your surroundings
Recognize and experience yourself as consciousness/energy
Effectively communicate with others
Connect mind and body
Identify healthy and unhealthy emotions
Probe and manage your deep-seated, childhood-based beliefs
Experience and then release anger
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Creative Toolkit of Meditations
By William Blake
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 William Blake
All rights reserved.
WHAT IS CONSCIOUS AWARENESS?
The problem of how to be mindful is actually resolved not through stressful effort but by relaxing, allowing, and observing what is already there.
Rodney Smith, Tricycle, Winter 2011
Mesmerizing Focal Points Are Everywhere
After stepping into my complex's junior Olympic-length swimming pool, I shivered for a few seconds until pushing my head and torso below the water. I came up cold but refreshed. Then I swam my first lap and back, lay on the steps, and gazed ahead at the two eucalyptus trees outside the pool's fence. The left tree is tall and round. Hundreds of bright ash-green leaf clusters caught my attention. The sun's setting rays illuminated the cluster's complexity.
I thought, Can the work of any artist compete with this incredible tree?
What prompted me to bond with a tree and its leaves? For several years, my meditation practice had emphasized attentive observation.
We're captivated by physical beauty when great music or art frames our conscious awareness. An example of such framing was gifted to me during a South Rim Grand Canyon trip. Grand Canyon, earth's largest and most breathtaking crevice, has a visitor center called Watchtower designed by architect Marie Coulter in the 1930s. Watchtower, a circular tower with a winding staircase, takes visitors to four levels. On each level, dozens of Coulter-designed windows look out over the mile-deep canyon. Each offers unique focal points. Scores of brownish-red layers of rock stand unperturbed. A perfectly rounded granite cone thrusts up among piles of globular rocks. A cluster of mammoth, flat and smooth horizontal rocks abuts a canyon-deep vertical wall equally as flat and smooth as its neighboring rocks. Configurations of rocks and trees intertwine in oddly mesmerizing arrangements. These windows vacuum out intrusive thoughts, and thus we more directly perceive superlative Grand Canyon scenes. Becoming more mindful, we're shocked by their beauty.
Like Coulter's windows, some meditations provide frames or reminders of how to witness our surroundings. My appreciation of the exquisite details of my complex's swimming pool developed after several years of meditation grounding me in the recognition that my essence expresses itself as conscious awareness. Meditative practices, including this chapter's awareness of awareness, can propel us into more awareness.
During any particular experience, we can notice focal points. A focal point attracts us and vibrates for us. The tallness and roundness of the big tree was my first focal point observation. The second was the bright, ash-greenness of the leaf clusters. The third was the awesme complexity of the leaf clusters. These focal points did not detract from my overall awareness of the big tree itself. I saw the entire big tree and the entire little tree next to it. These trees were obviously outside the fence of the swimming pool. Yet my attention on the tree's three successive focal points emotionally and physically connected me to the tree and the entire environment. I became more alive. Each of these experiences was unique. In spiritual language, I was "present" or "here and now," "mindful." Most importantly, I was aware that I was consciously attentive, one after the other, to the tree's ovular form, then to the bright ash-greenness of the leaf clusters, then to the clusters' complexity, and then to the tree's location outside the fence. This form of awareness I call "conscious awareness" because we're self-aware of being aware of something.
My yoga teachers command students, "Be fully aware of each movement, posture, and breath." These teachers often use the term "mindfulness" for pure or conscious awareness of an activity and its focal points.
What keeps us disconnected from conscious awareness of our environment and its successive focal points? One answer is unconscious negative beliefs that continuously shoot out negative thoughts and feelings. I call these semiconscious negative thoughts and feelings add-ons because they're a nuisance added onto our otherwise happy lives. Chapter 2 provides extended definitions and examples of negative beliefs and their add-ons.
Last year at my church, a liberal, inclusive denomination, I taught forty minutes of this chapter's awareness of awareness meditation to a Coming of Age class for youngsters eleven to thirteen. I took twelve of them down the street until we reached an area with abundant trees and bushes. Then I guided them through the awareness of awareness meditation at the end of this chapter. When finished, we returned to their classroom, where I questioned them about their experiences. I began with, "When you were aware of being aware, did you see an object more clearly?" One boy's answer was, "I don't care about all those trees and flowers. I only care about cars. The cars did shine more when I knew I was looking at them. The colors especially." A girl responded with, "I felt a bit more ... how do I say it? There! I was there with what you asked us to look at." A boy, who I later learned has a neurological disorder, reported, "I loved it. I was one tree. I was one house. But I couldn't do it for the two minutes you asked for. My mind kept screwing up with ideas." My reply to him was, "Great! If you do it only for one minute for each object, or only for ten or fifteen seconds, do that. Whatever works for you." He nodded with a smile. All the children spoke about their enjoyment of the meditation.
The following Sunday during the coffee break after the service, the Coming of Age teacher spoke with me. She shook her head in amazement. "The kids were excited after you left. They talked about the exercise the rest of the class. Only positives. No normal sneering at all."
I wondered, What would these kids' lives be like if they took an awareness of awareness class during the entire last year of primary school?
Base Awareness and Conscious Awareness
Base Versus Conscious Awareness Base Versus Conscious Awareness Working with awareness of awareness meditation, we recognize the distinction between base awareness and conscious awareness. When we're not present with objects and their focal points, we're in base awareness or on automatic pilot. We can drive a car for five minutes without being aware that we're actually driving. If we kiss our mate while on automatic pilot, our relationship has momentarily tanked. The kiss becomes merely a pleasurable sensation, like a quickly downed mouthful of beer. What is she for me? Just a physical kiss? Where is my affection, appreciation, and attraction for her?
Nevertheless, with base awareness we're somewhat attentive. Otherwise, no one would qualify for a driver license or a marriage certificate.
Why am I making a distinction between base awareness and conscious awareness? The answer is that the spiritual journey is about stabilizing our conscious awareness, our mindfulness. When we become mindful, trees shine with their contours and colors—their focal points. With pure, intentional, or conscious awareness, we knowingly connect with the outside world of objects and people, plus our interior world of thoughts and feelings. Doing so, we lose our emotional attachment that keeps us in base awareness. We're fully experiencing some reality, but we're free of any expectations about it, any judgments about it, or any fears about it. I expect my wife will arrive home by four o'clock. But I don't mentally fixate, or emotionally attach, to her arrival. Below is a summary of base and conscious awareness.
Base awareness—the automatic, involuntary, mechanical operation of our five senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, plus what Buddhists call the "sixth sense" of thoughts and emotions.
Conscious awareness—intentional mindfulness or self-awareness of the serial focal points of our experiencing. The more we're consciously aware of our inner and outer worlds, the more vibrant and enjoyable our experiences become.
Awareness in The American Heritage Dictionary has the synonyms of cognizant, conscious, sensible, awake, alert, watchful, and vigilant. Conscious is defined as, "Having an awareness of one's own environment and one's own existence, sensation, and thoughts," or, "Mentally perceptive or alert; awake ... subjectively known or felt." My term "awareness of awareness" is matched by the dictionary's phrase "having an awareness of ... one's own existence, sensation, and thoughts."
This distinction between being and not being aware of our awareness is so subtle that it escapes us almost the entire day. An urge to develop awareness of awareness is what keeps monks in isolated forest retreats for years. I'm certain that this capacity for awareness can be best fulfilled in an environment of ordinary work and relationships.
Is Conscious Awareness Supposed to Make Us Happy?
People love mindfulness when it pleases them. Paradoxically, most people go into fear, anger, doubt, or disappointment when they become consciously aware of a distressing thought or emotion. As a single man, it wasn't important that I dressed for a party in black slacks and a mild brown shirt. After I began living with my wife, Sophie, she'd exclaim, "No! No!" at such clothing choices. I felt abused. Although I was grateful for her astute criticism of my colors and styles, I suffered when I became mindful that my outfits were aesthetically lacking.
I meditated on this abused sense and unearthed a negative belief from childhood: trying to appear high-class attractive is not right because I'm not worthy of looking great. I dressed cleanly, at least, but not elegantly. Now that I'm aware of my dressing motivation derived from this childhood-based belief, I dress much better. I also appreciate—rather than loathe—Sophie's advice about my dressing habits.
Mindfulness includes conscious awareness of our suffering caused by negative beliefs. Therefore, we can wrongly identify mindfulness as the source of our suffering rather than identifying our attachment to negative beliefs as the source of our suffering.
We devalue conscious awareness when we confuse our negative beliefs with their expression through conscious awareness. Regarding high-class dressing, I'm not worthy was my deeply seated, unconscious belief. Appearing high-class attractive is not right was this belief 's add-on expression, which I initially considered an okay response. After I understood that this supposed response was actually a negative reaction to the belief I am unworthy, I let it go with, It's totally all right to dress elegantly. Sophie now appraises me as, "A lot more acceptable with your clothes."
In sum, mindfulness (even if uncomfortable) of a negative reaction can convert it into a positive response. If we comprehend this dynamic, mindfulness becomes 100 percent beneficial. Chapters 2 and 3 articulate negative beliefs, their reactive add-ons, and the path to terminating their harsh effects on us. The mantra is, Be fully mindful of both negative reactions and positive responses.
In spiritual literature, this period of conscious awareness causing emotional pain is called "dark night of the soul." Spiritual seekers (everyone is a seeker to some extent) must struggle through their dark night before arriving at awakening or enlightenment. After we blow through our uncomfortable dark night, intuitive knowing transforms us into more secure, friendly people. The seeker must realize that her dark night is not permanent. It's an essential and temporary phase of the self-growth journey.
Identical discomfort occurs with physical training. What if our body is aching and our gym coach commands us, "Five more push-ups"? We can relax our bodies with the thought, This is an okay ache. If I keep up this training, these aches will gradually disappear. Likewise, mental-emotional aching caused by meditation diminishes if we steadily perform our selected meditations.
Where does the lower self (suffering due to negative beliefs) and the upper Self (mindfulness or conscious awareness) contend for the prize of domination? This brawl occurs inside me. I am the main character of this incredible theatrical production, just as you're the main character of your drama. We (the main characters with all their misbehaviors) can solicit mindfulness to release and finally laugh at stifling beliefs controlling us. This same drama of ego versus conscious awareness occurs in all human lives.
At the summit of the spiritual journey, mindfulness takes over. Our self, our sense of separation or conditioning transmitted by our parents and culture, largely vanishes. Now mindfulness, or Self, vibrates with its inherent bliss, wonder, and silence.
Meditation on Awareness of Awareness
Carry out the details of this meditation according to your intuition. After mastering this meditation, you more fully will recognize your capacity to choose and to connect with worldly objects. You'll respect your own awareness of your awareness as the king and queen of your life's parade of experiences.
Awareness of awareness meditation can be practiced any time during your waking hours. This active-time (i.e., anytime) meditation will increase your mindfulness of external objects. The instructions for this meditation appear complex, but after you do it a few times, they become quite simple.
Because it trains the mind, this is a mindfulness meditation.
At least fifteen minutes a day is recommended, but add minutes if your time restraints allow.
Several students from my classes practice awareness of awareness more diligently than any other meditation they learned. One in particular, Ruth, mastered utilizing it whenever she had a distracting thought. Ruth told the group, "When I think something negative, I look around and pick out a pretty setting. I focus on one or two focal points and quickly carry out awareness of awareness. Maybe it takes a few seconds or a half minute. Then I'm back to being present. At night, I do a longer version of it."
For this meditation, select any environment that appeals to you. It could be a corner of your backyard, your work desk, bedroom window looking out at trees and clouds, or a kitchen cabinet topped with items.
First be consciously aware of one central item of this setting. Second, be aware, one after another, of the eight focal points of this one object:
one through five: the five senses: sight, taste, sound, smell, touch
six: luminosity (degree of brightness)
seven: space around it
eight: space between it and you
Perhaps you choose the right kitchen counter as your meditation setting. Select objects on this right counter. Your first object might be a banana. Observe one banana's features (sight), peel it to hear it, taste it, smell the banana, and touch it. Next, observe the space between it and other objects on the counter. Finally, notice the distance between it and you. For each of these eight focal-point assessments, make sure that you're aware of your awareness of each focal point. Other terms for awareness of awareness are conscious awareness and mindfulness.
Next shift to a second object on the counter, perhaps a bottle of wine. Once more, play with the eight focal points of this bottle. Be aware of your awareness of each focal-point sensory experience.
For this meditation, you might choose one setting and then two or three objects, or focus on one object. Don't be rigid about observing all eight focal points for each object. Meditation is all about enjoying your experiences.
Below is the simplified paraphrase of "chewing meditation/ chew this over" from Awakening the Buddha Within, a bestselling book by Lama Durya Das. Most of the commentary and the italicized sentences are mine. It's a classic Buddhist meditation.
This meditation specializes in mindfulness. Like conscious breathing, chewing meditation makes our perceptions more vivid and satisfying. Its focal points are clear and pulsating.
Chewing meditation can be expanded to include all foods and activities. Several participants in my meditation classes have substantially dropped weight after spending a couple of months real-timing this meditation. They eat slower and, hence, less food.
Two minutes for each raisin might be sufficient for you.
1. Sit down and relax. Put three raisins in your right hand. One is for your spiritual community. One is for your spiritual guide. One is for your spiritual path. Play with these three raisins. Examine them closely. Feel them as if you've never seen one before.
2. With your left hand, pick up one raisin. Study its colors and shapes. Feel its surface. Smell it. Especially, be aware of any opinions about your associations with raisins and their taste. Do you usually gobble raisins? Throw them over your dish of fruits?
3. Place it in your mouth and chew it as slowly as possible. Don't swallow it. Just softly and lovingly chew it. Mindfulness is all about attention, so pay attention to your thoughts, such as, Wow! I've never tasted a raisin before. This is a ridiculous meditation. It's delicious—I want to swallow it now.
Excerpted from A Creative Toolkit of Meditations by William Blake. Copyright © 2013 William Blake. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Section 1: Growing Up....................
Chapter 1: What Is Conscious Awareness?.................... 3
Chapter 2: Belief Systems and their Add-Ons.................... 16
Chapter 3: Growing Up with OFRA.................... 38
Section 2: Waking Up....................
Chapter 4: Waking Up to What You Are.................... 55
Section 3: Integrating Growing Up and Waking Up....................
Chapter 5: Investigative Dialogue Serving Ourselves and Others............. 79
Chapter 6: Relationships—Another Growing Up Challenge.................... 93
Chapter 7: The Ultimate Challenge—Our Culture.................... 108
Chapter 8: The Dance of Vision—Creating Your Toolkit.................... 135