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Exploring Womanhood
   
from the book
"Women's meditation insights and needs are very different from the traditional methods used for centuries by men in monasteries... Meditation Secrets for Women teaches you how to meditate with full access to the emotions and body wisdom that are part of the Divine." - Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom

From the book:

"Meditation is a feast for the senses. It is outrageous and extravagant, like a banquet of exquisite delicacies with the best company, the finest orchestra, the perfect dance partner, the most elegant ambiance... The pleasure of meditation induces a dilation of the senses. It is a state of heightened appreciation that enhances our ability to see the details of life with fresh eyes." - Meditation Secrets for Women

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Interviews

Exploring Womanhood > Interviews

Exploring Womanhood Interviews
Camille Maurine & Lorin Roche, Ph.D.

We're very pleased to present Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche, Ph.D., authors of Meditation Secrets for Women. This husband and wife team talked with our members about meditation, their book and their very interesting work. Please take a moment to read Exploring Womanhood's review of Meditation Secrets for Women, an empowering, revolution in traditional meditation. We women now have a meditation guide that works in harmony with our way of being!

Jen: I've dabbled with meditation before, but never in a way that was focused on or designed for women. How are your meditations different, or geared for women? Thanks!

Camille & Lorin: Jen, your question goes right to the heart of why we wrote this book. Lorin and I asked, "What helps women to thrive in meditation? Why do so many women quit, often feeling bad about themselves because they "can't" meditate? Meditation can be one of the best forms of self-care when it encompasses and supports your female way of being in the world, but until now, women's needs and strengths have simply not been addressed. For millennia, meditation techniques have been created and practiced almost entirely by men in austere monastic traditions that subtly denigrate the body, sensuality, emotion, and the passions of life. For women to thrive in meditation, we must honor our feminine wisdom, body rhythms, and emotional truth, not repress them to fit into some abstract ideal. The twelve secrets we offer show you how to enter whatever is going on physically or emotionally as a doorway into your deeper self. In this sanctuary, you can cultivate healthy pleasure and integrate your experience. Depending on your mood, energy level, hormonal state, and relationship, family, or work concerns, you can choose from a variety of techniques movement meditations in addition to sensuous breath, sound, and imagery that lead into profound regenerative states. After being with yourself this way, you then return to the world with renewed vitality and joy.

Julie: I have had a lot of problems with intimacy in my life. My therapist has suggested doing things like yoga to help me get back in touch with my body and the sensual side of myself. (I tend to be very analytical and "stuck in my head" a lot of the time.) Do you think the techniques in your book might be helpful for me, in terms of getting back in touch with what it means to be a sensual person? And if so, how? Thank you.

Camille & Lorin: Julie, it takes courage to move through our barriers to intimacy, and we all can use some support. The suggestions in Meditation Secrets for Women are designed to foster intimacy with yourself, which is the foundation for intimacy with others. The essays and instructions will help you to get in touch with your body, feel more sensual pleasure, move with your emotions, and be tender with yourself. There are also journaling exercises to do before and after meditating. We recommend reading a few paragraphs of the book and then experimenting with one of the meditations that sounds interesting until you find a few that you really enjoy. Sitting there in meditation, in a safe zone, you practice being intimate with your breathing, with the flow of breath and life through your body, with the flow of thoughts, and the flow of sensations. It is very challenging for most people to learn to let the thoughts come and not control them, just return to your breathing and watch the thoughts go by and notice the impact they have on your bodily sensations. As you relax and let go, any fears and insecurities that have been in the background are bound to arise.

This is the healing movement of meditation, so it is important to accept this process and have compassion for yourself. Every woman needs to learn how to witness her emotions, sort them out, and see where they are coming from. That is why meditation is a useful adjunct to therapy, and also vice versa therapy is a useful adjunct to meditation. Share what you experience with your therapist. Gradually you will become more at home within yourself, awakening inner resources that will allow you to move through the obstacles into more relatedness with those around you. We predict you will soon discover the wealth of love that is waiting to flow into and through you.

Tina: I sit quietly with my legs folded on a blanket in the lunch room at work for about 20 minutes each day during my break when no one else is around. I close my eyes and imagine some of my favorite places in the world. I take long deep breaths and try not to think of anything else. It refreshes me and gets me through the rest of the day. Would you call this meditating?

Camille & Lorin: Tina, what you describe is a classical technique, and you have created a way to meditate that works well for you. Our only suggestion is to soften the thought "try not to think of anything else" and instead simply keep returning to pleasure the sensory details of those favorite places you are visiting inside. That way you will not be struggling with the natural movement of your thoughts. It's a rhythm welcome the "distracting" thoughts, then return to your focus.

Tracy: What is the role of emotion and prayer in meditation?

Camille & Lorin: Tracy, you may have heard the old adage: "Prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening." Prayer can be a beautiful way to begin a meditation, evoking the presence and safety of a higher power. You could say a prayer out loud or with your inner voice, and then let go into the silence, the movement of your breath, or the feeling in your heart. Emotion, especially for women, is an integral part of meditation because it is the movement of our soul, our responsiveness to life. Sorrow, joy, anger, and fear will all lead us back to the source if we let them, bringing us into balance and opening us to greater compassion for others and ourselves. What we need to know is how to allow, move with, and learn from these primal energies. Ride the waves of emotion, and notice how they change second by second. In this way, the life force we call emotion can give us its vitality, wisdom, and truth.

Tracy: Should meditation be done "effortlessly?"

Camille & Lorin: Yes. Everyone has a way of meditating that is natural to her but that often goes unrecognized or unvalued. Lorin points out that meditation is actually instinctive, a survival strategy that is built in to the nervous system. When you find the ways that suit you, meditation feels effortless because you are "just being yourself." Most people have a hard time believing that's enough, so they try harder, make it complicated and strain, which keeps them from relaxing and letting go. That's why books such as ours can help you find and support your native ability so that you can get the deepest benefits. Choose a focus that is pleasurable and that you love to do. Whenever you catch yourself making an effort to try to block thoughts, noises, or to try to make your experience change stop, take a breath, even open your eyes and look around, as a way of interrupting that habit of straining. Then return to meditating. Straining is just a bad habit. It's not meditating.

Francine: Just how different are your techniques? How long do they take? Can they be done while chasing around a toddler or caring for an infant? And would my husband stand to benefit in some way if I try your meditations?

Camille & Lorin: Ha! Let me respond backwards, Francine. Yes, your husband will reap great benefits! After all, the woman he loves will be taking care of herself, happily humming along in her deep energies, being more in touch with her sensuality and power, and sorting out her thoughts and emotions in meditation and thus less likely to take frustrations out on him. Nothing to sneeze at, if you ask me, which you did.

As for meditating while chasing a toddler well, no. It is possible to have meditative awareness in action, but to get the deepest benefits, you want to be able to really let go. However, in the midst of activity you can pause for a minute here and there and take a conscious breath or two, which is very renewing. In Meditation Secrets for Women we give many suggestions for such mini-meditations that busy women can do throughout the day (supermoms are the busiest!).

When caring for your children you probably experience many moments, especially quiet times together, when you are suffused with love and tenderness. These are natural doorways into meditation. Even 5 or 10 minutes set aside for yourself can make a huge difference in the way you feel.

The Secrets are what we have learned from successful women meditators who have customized meditation to suit their own needs, along with a lot of supportive material. Some of the techniques are similar to the hundred or so classical ones, but our approach is unusual in that it is geared towards what women actually experience, endorsing their inner authority and feminine wisdom. The ways that women's bodies and psyches differ from men's are celebrated: our sensuality, emotional sophistication, hormonal rhythms, attunement to the cycles of nature, natural instincts and relatedness. Every woman needs a handful of techniques (like different colors to wear), not just one, so the book shows you how to choose meditations to meet yourself where you really are instead of how you "should be." There are meditations to cultivate deep pleasure, follow your instincts, love your body, and ride your rhythms into more vitality. There are subtle movement meditations, plus a wide range of expressive explorations. You'll find meditations for PMS, menstruation, and menopause. There are techniques to take any emotion, including "depression," and let it lead you to the wisdom at the depths of your soul. These are all ways to come into balance so that you can live with more health, passion, and freedom, empowered to be your best self.

Caryl: What specific kind of meditation have you found works well for most women? Can you give an example of one or two that you recommend?

Camille & Lorin: Caryl, we find that women have a profound ability to love. Most women we know give a great deal of energy out in caring for the world around them, so one meditation that most women enter easily is to breathe with what you love, both giving love and receiving. Here is a brief version. Who or what do you love? What moves your heart in joy, tenderness, longing, or inspiration? It could be a person, animal, or place in nature anything. Bring what you love into your awareness; perhaps you'll see a picture inside, or simply have a feeling. Notice the impressions as you ponder the love: your emotions, what you sense in your body, the sensations in the center of your chest. As you inhale, draw the substance of love into your heart and body. Let it permeate you completely, nourishing every cell. As you exhale, send your love out to the world. Imagine your breath streaming out to tenderly touch everything you love. Keep breathing this way, inhaling and exhaling love. This conscious circulation of love flowing in and out weaves you into deeper connectedness with all life. It also activates endorphins and other healing substances from the body itself.

Violet: Do you have to be alone to meditate? I ask this because I often rock my daughter to sleep at night, and it can be a very peaceful time that I use to reflect on my day. Would this be considered a meditation of sorts?

Camille & Lorin: Violet, you indeed have found a beautiful, natural, and very female way to meditate. And no, you definitely do not need to be alone. In fact, meditating with others is very powerful and creates synergy, or a combined energy field that can help people go deeper. Meditating with loved ones, family, and friends is a great way to commune and creates a stronger bond with each other. Both ways, alone and in "shared silence," are wonderful.

What you describe is a spontaneous meditative state arising from your motherly love. You may already be aware of your body sensations of melting and warmth, for example. If not, explore body awareness too in those precious moments with your daughter. You will be receiving even more relaxation and healing, and her little body and psyche will be absorbing the nourishment that you are consciously generating.

Rachel: I have a hard time blocking out noise in my head when I try to meditate. I hear things like tinnitus and ringing, then I give up. Help! I would LOVE to meditate.

Camille & Lorin: Rachel, I'll let Lorin respond to this one. He writes: "Have you ever read a book or watched television when there are other things going on around you? If so, then you can meditate when there is noise in your head or noise in the room or outside. What will happen is that sometimes you will find yourself listening to it, and other times you will forget about it. When your attention goes to a sound or noise, there is nothing you can do about it. It's just like when you are reading or watching TV and you think you hear a knock on the door, for example. You listen for a moment and then realize that it wasn't, and you go back to what you were doing."

"I once had a student who worked in a beauty salon. Even when meditating at home, she would play the radio, just so that she didn't become addicted to silence. She wanted to be able to slip into a room at the salon during the late afternoon and meditate for 20 minutes. And she did the noise of all those people just on the other side of the wall was no problem for her. So it's actually a decision."

"In 1971, I was at a three-month long meditation course on Mallorca, and after I was there for a couple of weeks, they started dynamiting next door, because they were building a new hotel. At unpredictable intervals, an explosion would go off, rattling the building I was in. After a few times of being shocked, I started to enjoy it. I had a lot of explosions going off inside my being, so the outer sounds were a match for my inner reconstruction. There was nothing I could do about the construction, so I just decided to accept it."

Frances: Can you tell us what drew each of you to study meditation? How did you first get interested in it?

Camille: "I started meditating in 1972 when I was studying dance-theater at NYU. Some friends suggested I get initiated into TM (Transcendental Meditation), so I did. In New York I also met an eccentric elder woman who became my mentor in spiritual studies for many years. Because of my dance background, I also began to explore and teach movement as meditation. I then became a bodyworker, and in 1983 I got involved in something called "Continuum," which is very healing subtle movement, sound and breathwork. Through the years I also studied Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, plus Jungian depth psychology. Over time my work developed as an integration of all this: movement, meditation, psychological awareness, and creative expression."

Lorin: "When I was a freshman in college, I knew two women who I thought were interesting. One day I saw them talking in the hall, and they were both sort of radiant. I became incredibly curious what they were talking about that made them so luminous. So I went up and asked them. They didn't want to tell me at first, but I persisted. Finally one said they were talking about meditation, and they had just learned. They told me the name of the meditation center, and that it was in Westwood, near UCLA. I immediately went and grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down this information. That night, I called information, got the number, called the meditation center and made an appointment to learn. A couple of weeks later I was sitting in a room with a nice old lady from the South, named Beulah, and she started teaching me.

By the way, I have found consistently that women make up 60 to 70% of all meditation groups, and tend to be the real movers and shakers. They find out the best techniques and what's happening and tell each other. They create the groups and give them life. The teachers are mostly men, and mostly teach a mixture of good stuff and old, worn-out, obsolete superstitions about the superiority of the male guru tradition."

Ellen: Would meditation help me with my PMS? If so, how?

Camille: Yes, Ellen, I've explored this a lot myself, plus women I have worked with over the decades have found that sensual meditation definitely helps with PMS. I say "sensual" because it is important to include your body, honoring your menstrual rhythms, and listening to your symptoms as messages. PMS symptoms arise in large part from a congestion of energy. Often we need to slow down, soften into ourselves, deeply nourish and let go. Women in ancient times honored this and used to spend a week in the menstrual hut just letting themselves "be." This relaxation is not encouraged in our fast-paced culture, so we tend to push and override our body rhythms. Attuning to our natural cycles is one of the "Secrets" in Meditation Secrets for Women, so check out #7: Ride Your Rhythms.

Kristin: I've heard that first we need to learn how to breathe correctly before we can truly enjoy meditation. Is this true? If so, do you cover this in your book?

Camille: No, Kristin, you do not have to learn to breathe properly first. There are many ways to meditate and what is most important is finding meditations that you love to do. If you enjoy focussing on your breath, then find ways to enjoy it. We talk about breathing in every secret of the book, with many, many different meditations that approach breath awareness sensuously, simply, and even expressively. Also, Lorin has written an entire book on breathing, called Breath Taking, which is wonderful.

Lorin: Not only do you not have to breathe properly in order to meditate, you do not necessarily have to pay attention to your breathing during meditation. When you meditate, you relax spontaneously, and as you do so, your breathing tends to become healthier and more rhythmic. Many people meditate deeply for a lifetime and never pay much attention to breathing. It is very individual, and what works for one person will not work for another. There are very few of these rules that apply to everyone.

If you want to, you can make breathing a big part of meditation. Breath is a key to the integration of body, emotions and mind. For example, it is almost always tension that keeps you from breathing in a natural, relaxed pattern. When we are tense about anything, like asking for a raise, the body takes it quite literally, as if a leopard were in the trees above us waiting to pounce, and so we are supposed to breathe shallowly so as to not make any noise. When you meditate, you realize you are safe, and so your breathing becomes more even.

For some people, learning to breathe in a rhythmic pattern is a good pathway into meditation. They like the idea of controlling something, so they learn to control breathing. Then they start to feel safe in that rhythm. And then meditation starts to happen. Everyone is different.

Richard: Hope it is okay for a man to participate in this interview? My wife gave up meditation, but I still enjoy it. She says that she "can't do it because her mind wanders." I've told her that this doesn't matter, but she has no interest now. Any ideas?

Lorin: The ugly truth about meditation is that there is no good way to make your mind not wander. Nature has designed us so that when we rest and have access to inner peace, we will get a few seconds or minutes of that and then guess what anything that makes us unpeaceful and restless will come to mind. This is spontaneous healing, and it is supposed to happen. It's a visit to your inner therapist. To the extent that you are at ease in meditation, at home in yourself, and safe, all your personal demons will come over for a visit. You will be sitting there and some long-forgotten fear will pass through your mind. Or you will suddenly start crying and not know why. Or you will remember someone you have loved and lost. The memories can be extremely intense because your mind is so quiet otherwise. There in the safety of meditation, the fears and traumas you have experienced get released, combined with the peace you are currently experiencing. The healing that happens in meditation is often so deep that a few minutes later you don't even remember what you were thinking and feeling you just feel cleansed, as if you woke up from an incredibly deep rest.

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The same healing process happens during sleep and dreaming, but we are unconscious so we can't resist it. And we have to sleep, so we get some healing every day. Because meditation is a deeper state of rest than sleep, the body and mind can heal very deeply. But some people need to go to a therapist for awhile, to get the hang of what catharsis feels like, to learn to trust that you can let go and allow your feelings to flow, even if they are feelings you have about past hurts.

So don't push anyone to meditate if they have given it up. And don't pretend to know why or what obstacle they ran into. Just meditate yourself, if you want to, and that is invitation enough. It is very likely that if you do not say a word, your wife will some day start meditating again, when she is ready.

Camille adds: Richard, I suspect your wife may not have found meditations that suit her and that she thus would truly love to do. Many women have expressed the same discouragement with meditation, but told us that by meditating with the Secrets, they finally have come home to themselves. It is extremely important that women learn ways to bask in pleasure, the deep pleasure that takes us into our essence, nourishes every cell, and connects us as creatures to the larger body of nature and the universe. Perhaps the book would support your wife to find meditations that honor her individuality, her needs and strengths, her woman's body and psyche."

Daneen: My favorite time to meditate is after sex. Am I odd, or have you heard this before?

Camille & Lorin: We like it too! Also before sex, and once in awhile, during sex. This is a profound way to discover the sensory pathways that take you deep into yourself and open you to life. We talk quite a bit about sex in the book.

Jade: Is it important to meditate in the same place each day? Are there pros and cons? Where do you meditate?

Camille & Lorin: We tend to meditate in the same place every day. There is this one small sofa that has the magic, and the cat, Camille, and Lorin all like it. And they get access to it in that order: the cat, Camille, and Lorin. So usually Lorin sits against the wall, using a big green ball as back support. Camille also likes to meditate on the bed when Lorin is in the living room working.

There is no down side to having a favorite spot to meditate, because it will help you to be consistent in meditation, and if you have been consistent for awhile, you will find you can meditate anywhere if you want to. Meditating outdoors once in a while, for example, can be very refreshing. Being able to adapt to circumstances is a good skill to develop, because we can't always control our environment.

Lorin worked his way through college and graduate school, which meant that he would leave the house early in the morning and come home late. So his afternoon or evening meditations had to be done somewhere else, often in his car, parked under a tree somewhere, or in an empty classroom, or in the research lab where he worked, or in a church, or at the beach near the university. You can learn to pick spots to meditate it takes some practice, like learning to find good restaurants in a foreign city.

Madeline: When I'm breastfeeding my infant my mind becomes trance-like. I relax and my mind goes into wonderful places filled with really lovely thoughts. During this time I feel stress-free. What are your thoughts on this? Am I meditating?

Camille & Lorin: Madeline, what you describe is a perfect example of how instinctive and natural meditation can be for women. The awareness of physical and emotional nourishment flowing through your breast and into your child can give a profound sense of connection and peace. This is a Madonna meditation you are the Goddess of Nursing. While you are giving life-giving milk to your child, the Great Mother, the forces of life, are feeding you the energy and love you need. You are being cared for. Learning how to relax back into this vast, supportive internal network will help you to be less exhausted, less harried.

You know meditation is totally male-dominated enterprise because there is hardly any mention of this sort of breastfeeding meditation in any book. You could read a thousand books on meditation and not find one hint of this.

There is a story in Meditation Secrets for Women, where Lorin went over to his sister's house to help her set up her computer. Her face was glowing, and he said, "You meditated. I know that look. When did you meditate?" She said, "No, I have three kids. I barely have time to pee. You know me. I don't have time to meditate." He said, "Yes you did. When?" She said, "Well actually, this morning at four am, I got up to feed the baby, and we sat on the sofa for half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, maybe an hour. I fed him and he fell asleep, and then I just sat there holding him. I could hear the whole world around me, everything was quiet. I could feel the entire neighborhood. I felt the entire house. I was aware of my other children sleeping, my husband sleeping, and I loved them all. I felt myself sitting here, and I drifted, not sure if I was awake or asleep."

Lorin said, "That's it, you were at one with the life force, you were merged into love. You don't realize it, but from the time you wake up in the morning until you go to bed, and even after that, your every minute is a labor of love. All your life energies are devoted to caring for others. When you were on the sofa, you were letting life care for you. You were in the arms of Nature, letting her caress you."

Sarah: When I think of meditating, I think of monks sitting on a cold floor, legs crossed, eyes closed and either silence or hymns and chanting. The description of your book suggests that there is something more to meditation. Can you tell me a little bit? Then of course, I'll get the book because I'm sure I'll be fascinated.

Lorin: Your image is correct. Historically, meditation has been the realm of sexually frustrated monks, trying to suppress all their life energies and sit in a cold dark room. These guys wrote 99% of all the books on meditation and kept the teachings alive. There for years, with not much going on in the outer world, they learned to let meditative states be their fire, their music, their dancing, their lovemaking, their inner family, their love life, their work, and their service to God. It was amazing. And this is still, for some people at some stages in their lives, a profound and wonderful thing to do. When I was 20, I was in a room meditating all day for about a year. I would come out of meditation every hour and do a full set of yoga asanas, and some breathing exercises, then start meditating again. After about 5 months, I wanted to stay there for years, at least 3 more years. It was the greatest sense of myself, of life, of being at home in the universe I had ever known. But my teacher would not let me stay, he sent me out into the world to teach.

Camille adds: Sarah, women's nervous systems are highly sensitive to life around us and we tend to be naturally empathetic we don't need rigid and ascetic practices to make us so. What we need is sanctuary to process this sensitivity, and techniques that help us to connect with our essence and feminine wisdom, which for women is grounded in the body. One very different image from the common notion you describe is to meditate with a sense of pleasure the deep organismic pleasure that takes us into the roots of our being. This sensuality can feel like a great taboo, almost sinful, hedonistic, or frivolous. But in fact, resting in pleasure literally nourishes every cell of our bodies, and aligns us with the forces of life. This profound benefit is generally neglected in buddhist and yogic practices, for example, which I have also studied and benefited from. I can't tell you how important this principle is, especially for women. Well, actually I can, and do in our book! May you discover those sensuous ways meditate and to enjoy your full being, shamelessly.

Rita: Does meditation center around religion or are they separate?

Lorin: Both. Most religions have some form of meditation built-in. Because meditation happens naturally, if you just sit and think a phrase from a prayer, you will tend to slip into meditation. The names of God in different languages and religions are all incredible mantras, focusing thoughts to use in meditation. Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Elohim, Krishna, Shiva. Take any of those words and chant them for five minutes, then close your eyes and just listen to the echoes in your mind.

Meditation takes you to the inner spaces religions talk about, and helps make your experience of prayer more profound. But some people are averse to any form of organized religion, and any form of religious thinking. They meditate just as well. So meditation and religion are separate as well.

About our guests

Camille Maurine has been teaching movement, meditation, and theater since 1975. With her husband, Lorin, she has long been exploring the experience of the feminine in meditation. Camille's work, called kinAesthetics, focuses on accessing one's inner life through meditation, and then expressing that life in movement, sound, and speech. She teaches at the Continuum Studio in Santa Monica, California, offering private sessions, workshops for women, and Moving Theater classes for men and women. Camille also travels to give performances and workshops, and is preparing a new presentation called "Secrets."

Lorin Roche received his Ph.D. in Social Science from the University of California at Irvine in 1987. His dissertation was about the maps that meditators develop to navigating their inner worlds and the language they come up with to describe their experiences. His Master's Degree work focused on the hazards of meditation and the crisis points in a meditator's development.

Dr. Roche has been exploring, researching and teaching meditation since 1968. Since then he has been developing an approach, which he calls Instinctive Meditation, that works with the fine structure of individual uniqueness, rather than imposing a standardized approach. He draws on insights into how people learn gained from the cognitive sciences, the Himalayan meditation tradition that TM is based on, Jungian dream work, and Tai Chi. This integrative approach results in simple ways for people to learn many different meditation techniques.

Instinctive Meditation tends to feel more like an innate skill that you are remembering than a technique that you are learning. Lorin's work is aimed at activating an individual's internal guidance systems and bringing forth your instinctive knowing, so that you can safely practice meditation without being dependent upon Gurus, systems or external authorities.

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