November 2, 2016

Feeling distracted, disconnected, or disconcerted? Try grounding. [Meditation Tips from Jennifer Church]

When many of us meditate, we focus on breathing, releasing tension, and integrating our mind, body, and spirit.  Distinguishing from mind, body, and spirit may be difficult for us. We may choose to focus on our breathing.  We may use sound to calm and center ourselves.  We might scan our bodies and work to release our tension, body area by body area.  We might use a mantra. We might try different positions to more easily dissolve into our environment.  We navigate, in various ways, the distractions of our minds.

Another meditation tool is grounding.  This tool has been life changing for me. The person who taught me this technique is Jennifer Church, a licensed acupuncturist, massage therapist, health coach and intuitive energy healer.  Given the benefits I’ve experienced, I asked her to share her experience and insights about grounding.  What follows is our conversation:

Jen Avers (JA): What is grounding?

Jennifer Church (JC): Bringing your breath in alignment with the breath of nature.  Grounding is connecting to earth energies. Grounding is claiming your physical presence.  Grounding is saying, “I matter.”

JA: Why is grounding important?

JC: It’s important to ground because we are human beings, and we live on the earth, and we need to connect to that energy. There is a lot of influence in the world that is preventing us from connecting to that energy.  As we connect with the nature around us, it allows us to connect with our own true nature.  It’s important to acknowledge the earth that we live on as a sentient being. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the money we carry, everything comes from something made from the earth.  When you meditate, you bring to the forefront what you want to focus on, what you want to cultivate for yourself.  The key for doing that is to focus on your breath and to get grounded.

JA: People who practice energy healing use the terms “energy fields” and “vibration.”  These terms are sometimes used in guided meditations or in describing our connection with the earth. Would you help define these terms?

JC: We have an energy field because we are made of chemical and electrical signals. Anything that has any kind of electrical impulses will generate energy.

There is a scientific definition which references oscillation.  In the energy healing world, we think of it as the kind of vibe you carry – heavier, lighter, positive, more negative.  Are you allowing your vibration to resonate with love and light, or are you allowing something else in? Vibration is about resonance.

JA Note: Here is a link to some information about vibration and resonance: You may find more information online from individuals who reference and translate this scientific understanding of vibration and resonance to our unique vibrations, personal expressions of self, and resonance with others.

JA: As a practitioner, what do you see when people aren’t connecting with the earth?

JC: I see anxiety, stress, over-thinking, worrying, and emotional imbalances.

We live in a society that doesn’t see the value of grounding and the connection with the earth.  There is a lot of interest in keeping people disconnected from their true nature.

JA: How do you guide people to ground themselves? 

JC: Get your bare feet on the ground.  Feel that contact, the skin-to-skin connection with the earth.  It’s important to anchor your own energy field into the earth. There are many ways to do that.

One example: Imagine roots growing out of your feet down through the earth’s crust and its layers and anchoring into the core of the earth.

You can leave the roots there or you can make a deeper connection, and you can send gratitude to mother earth from your heart down through those roots.  And you will start to feel, and you can consciously draw energy up through those roots into your energy field.

The energy coming up through the roots could be anything. You can specifically ask for what you want – whatever you need – being supported, being focused, abundance, centering.

JA: You often use stones and essential oils to support your clients' well being.  What do you suggest in terms of other resources, besides meditation, for grounding?

JC: Obsidian is a dark black stone made of volcanic glass that helps you connect to the fiery energies of the earth; it is warming and grounding.  Black tourmaline is another stone that helps negate the negative effects of electro-magnetic radiation and is grounding. As far as essential oils, Vetiver smells like earth and its one of the deepest grounding oils I know. It’s an earthy sweet note – because it has a sweet, earthy aroma, it helps bring you into grounding in a loving way.

JA: When people meditate, do you have suggestions for how they position themselves?

JC: It’s most important that people are comfortable.  If people aren’t comfortable, they can’t connect. The general rule is that the spine, the highway to higher consciousness, is in alignment – so you can sit, lie down, whatever is comfortable, with your spine in alignment.
Grounding has positively and dramatically impacted my energy levels and abilities to deal with a range of less than optimal experiences.  When I have negative thoughts, feel scattered, or feel ill, my go-to is grounding. 

I breathe, envision my connection with the earth, and see the earth renewing me with energy.  Each time is different in terms of the visualization.  What is constant is the connection and flow of energy.  Whenever I ground, I feel more stable and able to manage whatever surfaces physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  Some specific examples include:

- When I’m upset and unsure about why I’m feeling a negative emotion, I ground and am more relaxed and able to more easily understand those feelings.

When I’m feeling affected by certain smells, second hand smoke, allergens, or other forms of air pollution, I ground and am immediately able to breathe more easily and fully.

- When I’m feeling nauseated and dizzy during monthly cycles, I ground and immediately feel relief and strength.

When I feel uncomfortable during interactions with individuals or groups, I ground (within), find my connection to the earth, center myself, and increase my vibration to remain present while more easily choosing not to feed into the negativity or awkwardness created by others.

I’ve talked about and practiced grounding with our daughter too.  She sees benefits as well.  She has noticed,  "It's kind of cool and helps me feel calm when I'm upset." I’ve observed the following when watching her ground through meditation:

- It’s easier for her to calm down when upset about a homework assignment, leaving her work for a bit to ground, and then returning with renewed confidence and focus.

- When feeling scattered and moving in multiple directions, grounding helps her focus and prioritize her movements and investments of time.

- When angry or upset with herself, her parents, or her friends, grounding centers and comforts her, providing her with a clearer perspective on her feelings and relationships.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with grounding. Please comment on the Blog or email me directly.

Here are some additional meditation resources from Jennifer Church:
~ Her website is  
~ Join Jennifer Church’s Facebook group for insights, affirmations, videos, and class opportunities:

Below you can enjoy a sound recording of one of Jennifer Church's meditations. If you have any trouble playing the recording, send me a note and I'll send along the file.

August 31, 2016

The Challenges and Gifts of Long Summer Days

This is our last week of summer before school begins. No more summer camps. No more sitters. Full-on mom and daughter time.

As I’ve been reading The Awakened Family, by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, these long summer days have offered me opportunities to practice some parenting techniques.  While Dr. Shefali’s mindful parenting resonates deeply with me, putting it to practice is not always easy.  In some cases, it’s more difficult.

For example, when Ainsley walked off in a huff and slammed the bathroom door in my face, it was extremely difficult not to erupt in anger and try to control her outburst.  My first inclination was to meet my child’s outburst with an outburst of my own. 

Taking a moment to breathe and walk away from the slammed door, I tried re-programming and let us both sit in this experience for a bit longer than I normally would have.  Eventually I offered, “Ainsley, please come out and speak with me about what just happened.  When you slammed the door, I felt very angry and disrespected.  Can you tell me what was going on with you when you did that?”  We talked and determined that her outburst came from an earlier interaction, and she wanted me to understand her feelings.  As we processed together, we both agreed to be more attentive to one another, and Ainsley agreed it was not respectful behavior to act as she had.

I get that some parents think that an “awakened” parenting approach is a no-discipline approach.  But I assure you, in the slammed door situation, Ainsley still received the message that slamming doors in mom’s face is disrespectful behavior.  What we both gained from the more mindful approach (rather than me screaming that slamming doors is unacceptable and causing her more tears and anger) was connecting on a deeper level and understanding each other’s intentions and reactions. 

Dr. Shefali guides parents to look inward at our own self-talk, our expectations’ programming, and our familial emotional blueprints. This is not unlike what many social workers, therapists, and spiritual gurus offer.  It is powerful stuff and transformative.

After one morning of her whining and disinterest in any of the activities I suggested, I calmly told Ainsley we were going on a hike.  She remained disgruntled, but I kept quiet and turned on the car radio as we made our way to the park trail.  As we hiked, she opened up, relaxed, and we both started laughing about her grumpiness.  Rather than getting frustrated with her for her emotional state, I went through it with her and got out of her way.  It wasn’t easy – I was annoyed, but I breathed, and I went inward and did my best to hold space for her to be grumpy.  Later that day as she worked on a sewing project and unrolled reams of tinfoil to make Barbie runway ensembles, I chuckled that this was the same kid from the morning.  

I’m sure that if I hadn’t allowed her to be grumpy, an afternoon of messy tinfoil and sewing projects wouldn’t have been the pleasant experience it was for us. What a difference it can make to be present and let our children’s emotions unfold. 

Dr. Shefali writes in The Awakened Family:

“Our children need us to contain them, but not control them.  Their true self knows they require this, and it needs to happen on both a behavioral and emotional level.  Even though our children need to feel secure in the knowledge that we will contain them if their behavior goes too far afield, and they practically beg for such containment, we can do this for them only if we have addressed our own fear of conflict and need for boundaries.” 

How do we go about addressing our own fear of conflict and need for boundaries?

For me it’s been a mix of centering, mindfulness, meditation, and finding a supportive community of people who help me understand and affirm my true self.  This helps me see our daughter clearly and detach from her behavior.  It’s a work in progress for sure, yet worthwhile as it has incredibly positive outcomes for me, our daughter, and our larger family unit.

I offer this final reflection from Dr. Shefali:

“Our children automatically sense our acceptance or lack thereof.  When they feel that we understand their basic temperament, they release the energy they had stored to protect themselves from our criticism.  This release of energy brings about a renewed commitment to their own growth and expansion.  When we understand the power of our role as our children’s spiritual mentor, we honor the throbbing spirit within them that longs for actualization.”

As always, I’m eager to hear from you about whether or not and/or how this resonates for you and your family~

I italicized control and allowed earlier because both are illusions....

April 18, 2016

Mindfulness and Meditation: Try Me!

Musings on Mindfulness and Meditation 

I think a lot.  I analyze why I’m thinking what I’m thinking.  As one friend astutely offered, my thinking process is systemic.  Lucky me!

At times I convinced myself that constant thinking was powerful – a sign of high intellect, a defense mechanism should anyone question me or present an idea that warranted analysis. My thinking was a means for insight, the preferred way to innovate and produce, and the way to get ahead.  Other times, well, most of the time, this thinking was also depleting, restrictive, judgment laden, and suffocating.

Recognizing the burden of my thoughts, I considered meditation.  But I resisted what I understood to be traditional meditation.  Sit, clear the mind, let go of thoughts, release negative feelings, and "be" for a really long time and wait for an epiphany.  Sit for a long time?  Clear the mind?  Release feelings?  Way too hard.  I was bound to fail. 

Gratefully I’ve discovered incredible friends and books and experiences that have revealed for me an easier way.  And it has been transformative.   

Once I got over the resistance and started meditating I've found that I’m a lot easier on myself.  I’m a lot easier on other people.  I’m a lot more comfortable with feeling my feelings, whatever they are and whenever they are.  I’m a lot nicer and calmer as a wife.  I’m a lot nicer and calmer as a mother.  I’m hopeful I’m a better friend.  Sure, I make mistakes, and mistakes will continue to happen, whether I acknowledge them or not.  Mindfulness and meditation have helped free me in so many ways, I'm compelled to share.

Mirror Neurons
Have you heard about mirror neurons?  They are amazing. You know that time after you had a massage and you felt physically so good about yourself and about life, and then you came home and your husband and children were excited to see you, and everybody started feeling super duper?  Or that time when you were frustrated with your husband, but you pretended to suppress those feelings and have an objective conversation about him helping with the dishes, and then he got defensive and the conversation blew up?  Turns out we pick up on each other’s emotions, feelings and intentions.  Neurologically, we mirror each other.  It’s one of those scientific findings that shouldn’t be so surprising but is affirming nonetheless.  In The Whole Brain Child, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson write: “At the most complex level, mirror neurons help us understand the nature of culture and how our shared behaviors bind us together, child to parent, friend to friend, and eventually spouse to spouse.” They go on to state: “Have you noticed that when you’re nervous or stressed out, your kids will often be that way too?  Scientists call this “emotional contagion.”  The internal states of others – from joy and playfulness to sadness and fear – directly affect our own state of mind.  We soak other people into our own inner world.” 

Takeaways: My brain state is powerful and it can affect others.  I am responsible for myself, and I get to choose how I feel and how I come into contact with others.   Why not choose an optimal state of mind when interacting with those I love?  Moreover, and sometimes even harder, if those I love come to me in a less than optimal state (angry, anxious, sad), I can see it for what it is, and (through mindfulness), I can make a commitment to find a calm and happy place for me, ideally helping to shift their less than optimal state……. simply by finding my inner peace. 

Finding Inner Peace
Okay, finding inner peace is not always easy but it is sometimes easy, and we can build from sometimes.  We live in a world with lots of stimuli and lots of less than optimal stuff coming at us from varied directions.  Mindfulness and meditation can help, and it doesn’t have to be what I initially understood it to be – long periods of stillness, release of all thoughts and feelings, and foreign mantras.  If you are cool with all of that, that’s truly fantastic.  Go for it!  For me, I’ve found peace and insight in minute increments, in paying attention to others and myself more intently, in being present when I walk and talk, and in acknowledging my feelings and thoughts and distractions.  I’m learning to press the pause button and make some decisions, in that pause space, about what I do with all that stimuli.  In Search Inside Yourself, by Google champ Chade-Meng Tan, he draws from emotional intelligence and mindfulness research (Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat-Zinn), and shares some of the following about self-regulation: “Self-regulation isn’t about denying or repressing true feelings.  Feelings carry valuable information, so if you deny or repress them, you lose that information….self-regulation is not about never having certain emotions.  It is about becoming very skillful with them.”

Because I keep gabbing to my friends about my mindfulness and meditation, some have asked me how to do it.  Many of them carry the same notion I did initially -- that being at peace has to be intense, hard work, prescribed in some certain way.  It doesn’t.  It takes practice, but it doesn’t have to be hard.  I don’t believe there is a wrong way to be mindful or meditate if you are coming to it with good intention and an open heart.  What’s great about 2016 is that there are a lot of people and places playing with mindfulness and meditation.  It’s no longer relegated to an alternative crowd meeting atop a mountain.  Schools and corporations are adopting mindfulness practices too. 

You can follow the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute on Facebook or Linked In for resources, conferences, and tips.  Oprah and the Chopra Center offer a lot of guided meditation online. 

If you’re in this area of New Jersey, Mary Lea Crawley offers classes on mindfulness for teachers, parents, and children (See ) and my friend Jennifer Church offers varied meditation opportunities too (See ).  If you want to go deeper to learn even more about energy and the mind and begin to play with and transmute emotions and thoughts in ways that will empower you and support those around you, check out Suzy Meszoly at

Hearing from you and building a community
I’m interested to hear how you might be practicing mindfulness and meditation, so please comment here, via Google +, or email me offline. 

I've seen mindfulness benefit our daughter, and I've seen it assist children with special needs stay more in the present moment than in the past, and I've seen it help many different kinds of kids worry less about the future.  Have you seen it positively impact your children?

For me, before I could get to a stronger place of practice, I needed help from others to address some of my personal hang-ups.  Janelle Hoyland and Jennifer Louziotis (Spiritual Happy Hour Radio on Facebook) were instrumental in this process, and I’m eternally grateful to them both. Don't hesitate to find your people on your quest for inner peace~