Why Meditate?

“You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation. The old so-called techniques and the new scientific biofeedback techniques are the same as far as meditation is concerned. Meditation is not a byproduct of any technique. Meditation happens beyond mind. No technique can go beyond mind.” – Osho

 

Why Meditate?

 I’ve been meditating since I was a child. I use to walk into the sheep pasture and slowly trace the paths in which the herd had walked. Mindfully I would place my feet inside the lines of the path. Sheep spread out in the field but when they are traveling from one area of the pasture to the other they walk in a single file line and in time the field that is a lush green color has narrow brown lines marking the trails. I suppose these trails marked throughout the pasture were my labyrinth. I would ponder my worries, talk them out loud and sit in quietness amongst the herd, make up songs and sing as loud as I could. I enjoyed watching the behaviors of the animals, the texture of nature and the grounding of the Earth beneath me. As an adult, I learned that these behaviors were called mindfulness and meditation.

The psychological benefits of meditation are that it reduces stress-related conditions such as anxiety and depression. When we meditate, the brain and the nervous system undergo radical changes that cause the reduction and prevention of these conditions. Meditation increases stress resilience. Meditation popularity is increasing as more people discover the health benefits. Some other benefits of meditation are promoting emotional health, enhances self-awareness, lengthens our attention span, reduce age-related memory loss, can support us in generating kindness, may help you fight addictions, improves sleep and helps control pain.

For me, meditation helps me burn off the emotions that need to be felt and processed such as anger, sadness, disappointment, worry, anxiety, stress and enables me to have a deeper understanding of my inner-self. I have been able to gain a better understanding of my life’s purpose.

What is meditation?

Often I am told, “ I can not meditate I’m terrible at it, I just can not clear my mind!” I explain that meditating is not about clearing the mind to a state of nothing. It isn’t even about sitting in quietness to meditate. You could sit in the middle of Times Square and still meditate. It is about taking time to sit in your stillness and observe what bubbles up for you. We forget that the mind is an organ and its thoughts are its movement. The mind also shares inner wisdom and the ego can make a lot up. When we take time to meditate it allows us to discern which-is-which for us. The goal of meditation if there even is one is to go beyond the superficial thoughts of the mind and experience our true essential selves because we are not stressed, we are not anxiety, we are not depression and so on. The mind itself is often our biggest obstacle standing between ourselves and this awareness. When we are fixed on one particular belief or outcome than it impedes our ability to grow.

I also want to share that meditation isn’t about always having a positive and happy mind. I’ll use myself as an example. When I first started my yoga journey I thought wow this is a lifestyle method in which I will always be positive, positive things will always happen to me if I learn these techniques. As I am nearing almost two decades of personal practice I am learning that life still happens, challenges and storms still happen, and all emotions still happen. It is more about acknowledging the opposites and choosing a course that is in the middle

How does meditation improve mindfulness?

Meditation and mindfulness are a mental discipline. It is often started by focusing your attention on your breath, doing a body scan and focusing on a body sensation, or even an affirmation or word. You take an inventory of your thoughts, emotions, sounds that are arising from moment-to-moment and observing them without criticism or analyzing. If you find your mind drifting into the past, future or something that is not the theme that you picked you recognizing that and bring it back to the present moment. This act is an act of mindfulness. In the May 2011 issue of Neuroimage suggested that one effect of this focus and refocused is increased brain connectivity.  There have also been studies using MRI’s to document the changes in the brain and the relationship of the health benefits.

Research on meditation?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH), many studies have investigated mediation for different conditions and there is evidence that it may reduce blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, flare-ups for ulcerative colitis, ease symptoms of anxiety, depression and help with insomnia. Some research suggestions that it may physically change the brain and body to promote healthy behaviors.  Meditation is generally considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people with psychiatric problems.

Sara Lazar of MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology explains: “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist through the day. The study demonstrates that changes in the brain structure may underlie some of these reported  proves and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Brittain Holzel first author of the paper and research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany states: “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that by, practicing meditation, we can plan an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanism in the brain that facilitates this change.”

Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness, physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping, illness and enhancing overall health and well-being. Mind-Body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior. There are many types of meditation, however, there are some shared elements such as a comfortable posture, a place that you feel safe and offers fewer distractions, a focused attention, and an open attitude.

 

Resources:

 

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overviewhtm

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Get in Shape & Thrive: Intention

“Intentions are causes that create effect. Choosing an intention is the fundamental creative act. An intention is the reason or motivation for doing what you do. Every act has an intention….it comes from fear or from love.” Gary Zukar

Let’s face it, meditation is hard to prioritize, it feels embarrassing. What should I meditate on? How often should I meditate? Do I use certain words in my intention? Is it okay to use my intentions during meditation to ask for material things? Should I always use the same meditation and intention?  These many questions often get in the way of our actual action of setting time aside to meditate. Artha is one of the four desires in yoga philosophy (Dharma – duty, ethics, Artha – prosperity, wealth, Kama – pleasure, sensual gratification, and Moksha- pursuit of liberation). We can meditate on any of these areas as long as the intention is to support our soul’s dharma.

Yes, there are some who meditate for hours effortlessly. For me, some days three minutes is difficult and I want to avoid it at all costs and then other days forty-five minutes didn’t seem to be enough and it came effortlessly. Why is it easier to meditate in the storms of our lives? When tragedy such as grief and loss happen in our lives all the time, intentions, words, spring from us and we hope. The books that have helped me during storms in my life are How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Harold H. Bloomfield, MD, Melba Colgrove, PHD, and Peter McWilliams and The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma.  For many of us, meditation is a struggle because we focus on ourselves and control over life, rather than a higher power.

Rod Stryker, one of my favorite presenters, of the four desires (check out his book The Four Desires) says, “it pays to pursue the meaning of the word itself purusharthas. Purusha roughly means ‘soul’ – the essential Self that is unchanging, that isn’t born and doesn’t die, but belongs to the universe. Artha means ‘the ability’ or ‘for the purpose of.’ Purusharthas means ‘for the purpose of the soul; and the very concept asks that you take the broadest view of your life.”  Are your days balanced in such a way that you feel supported from your inner work? Our spirit is the nonphysical part of us that is the seat of our emotions and character.

Meditate often, honestly, unselfishly, and confidently. Challenge yourself to meditate often. Two books that help me meditate in the morning and evening is The Daily Om by Madisyn Taylor and First in the Morning by Osho. Meditate until you are clear, inspired, and your heart is on fire with love, kindness, and compassion. Now don’t get crazy and act all goofy with your new found energy and annoy your friends. Just allow your heart and mind to engage with your spirit on an intensely personal level. We do this by meditating daily on love, kindness, compassion, intention, and our soul’s dharma. We need to get fired up, meditate, because it is what magnifies the spirit in our lives.

You can do a burn and release session for setting an intention for 2016, then release control and let go.  Take a moment to sit, grounded feet on the floor in your best posture, find your breath, and then begin. Take a piece of paper and write everything you want to invoke. These are feelings and circumstances that you want more of. On the other side of the paper or a new one write your intentions. Start with the feelings or circumstances that no longer serve you, the things you want to release.

Now say something like:

I no longer need the lessons that these feelings, things, or circumstances would teach me. If I haven’t already, I vow to learn these lessons in a different way that feels better and opens my heart.

Burn the list!

I invite these emotions and circumstances into my life this time to serve my highest and best good. I intend that these things will fuel me to be of better service, to be more present and to keep open my heart.

Burn the list!

Suggested intentions to release might be: Thinking you are not enough, breaking promises, dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, living up to others expectations, comparing yourself to others, etc. Suggested things to invoke might be: fun, financial freedom, intimacy, connection, creativity, etc.

Meditation isn’t an option for those wanting to live with mindfulness.

Questions?

  • What priority do you place on meditation?
  • How do you show this?
  • How can you benefit from writing out your intentions?
  • What are the disadvantages to writing them out?
  • How sincere and honest are you in meditation?
  • How can you avoid doing meaningless meditation or having been nap time?
  • What should we practice and what should we avoid? Make a List!

Intention:

Developing meditation and intention toward our greater good draws people to us!

 

Taking a Fast Challenge:

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that powerfully directs our attention towards a higher power. Consider for the next two weeks replacing breakfast, lunch, or dinner with meditation.  Four ideas or places to start your meditation practice from could be:

  1. Candle gazing for 3 minutes daily.
  2. Transcendental Meditation for 20 minutes daily (repeating an Om).
  3. Doing a guided meditation from your iTunes account.
  4. Following your breath in and out for a predetermined amount of time.

Next Steps:

Meaningful-have this be quality time for you

Educate- yourself on what you should practice and should avoid

Discipline- to be honest, confident often, and to prioritize your practice

Intention-allow the healing process to be what it needs to be for your greater good

Try- keep trying, keep practicing

Appointment- make one to meditate

Train- physical movement is good & makes sitting for prolonged periods of time easier

Each- day ask how we can be part of the greater good

 

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Selfie Part 1 – Identity Crisis!

Selfie, Selfie, Selfie Stick, Selfie, Selfie…. A selfie is a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media. Selfies are very misleading because you can take a bunch of them and only post the one that you feel the best about… where as a canid shot is a better representation of what a person is really about.  A selfie allows us to be more perfect, sexy or swanky depending on what we are going after.  We see ourselves as one thing and others see us as something completely different because they don’t have our eyes and most of the time we only portray our highlight reel to the world with our appropriate mask on. I’ve done this for years and it is only in the last two years I have started to take the mask off and show vulnerability… which (I have to say) is more freeing and empowering.

I have a daily meditation practice and (I have to admit) without it I’d be even a hotter mess than I am today. I always ask: Please give me the guidance to know the right question to ask. What is it that I need to know today? I usually get a response in the near future as to which direction, question, answer I was looking for… it just took getting quiet and putting it the hands of the “me” and the  universe. My bell has recently been rung and I am in a huge, painful lesson of having my faith challenged and trusting my path… that I’m in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances. I am struggling and wobbling… clinging to hope. I’m sure you have experienced something similar.

Deep down I know there is something greater than me in this universe.  I’ve known this since I was a small child. I recall my first experience at the age of seven while riding my horse Nugget. I know that as an adult I need not see obstacles as obstacles and put up resistance, thinking that I am a bad person. Instead, I need to meet obstacles with grace, know that a tuff growing period is on the horizon and that I have the wisdom available to me if I get quiet (and in the right time and sequence of events) the divine order will be presented to me.

Justification is the action of showing something to be right or reasonable. Think of the grass.  It grows when it wants to grow. We get impatient, but patience is a working process for us. It is a procedure of refining where we must honestly be aware of our own shortcomings. How sick are you in your physical, emotional and spiritual body? A bacterium is horrible and to be honest we will probably die of a bacterial infection because not a lot of research goes into this area because it isn’t profitable. Why isn’t it profitable?  Our bodies and the bacterium adapt and within two years the serum to treat the bacteria is no longer affective? Our negativity… our thoughts… infect us just as bacteria do.  70% of our thoughts are made up, so why do we base our thoughts on fear rather than hope? Our bodies are over 80% water and negativity affects the crystals of that water.  If our cells are swimming around in a swamp of poor choices then how can we expect to be healthy in our physical, emotional and spiritual body? The great thing is that we can leave our past in the past and know that we are becoming aware of the damage we are doing to our “self.”  We can choose to create new patterns. Do you really and truly understand how you are hurting yourself?

An identity crisis is a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society. What makes up your identity?  Well, they are things that make you stand out in a crowd. We usually have a public self and private self. So things like appearance, style, personality would fall under our public self while thoughts, feelings, daydreams, fantasies fall under our private self. Our social identity would include things like kinship, ethnicity, nationality, self-esteem, morality, vicarious elements, respect, praise, affection, power, ability, and performance.  Are you working on your outer house or your inner house? Are you creating your identity by what others think of you, your material objects, etc. this is a vicious circle that we can’t win when we seek our identity by external sources only.

You See:                                              Others See:

Failure                                                 Success

Imperfection                                       Perfection

Coward                                                Champion

Spiritual Wreck                                   Individuality

We are wonderful spiritual beings having a human experience. We are perfect just as we are.  We don’t need to become anything other than what we are, yet we try to become perfect which causes stress and strain.  I am an individual expression of life. Don’t let someone or something dull your sparkle.  You are beautiful and whole. Be curious about life and feed your soul. How are you getting in your way? Selfishness, greed, lack of self-care, worry, fear

My mom taught me to appreciate my food and how to cook. She taught me about having good cookware and that good cookware grows better in time as the pans are seasoned. I kind of had “pan envy” as she made it look so easy, yet now I’ve come to appreciate the art of cooking. Pans need cleaning, seasoning, attention, dedication and they get better over time.  You run out and get a cheap set that is non-stick it isn’t a lot of work and the non-stick just lasts short term because it wears off. Insecurity will stop sticking to you and others perceptions will stop sticking to you when you do your work and grow you.

Meditation daily is a tool that you can use to get out of your way and get into living your soul dharma code… your life path. I cherish my meditation times. Meditation is a time to get quiet, to listen to your inner wisdom so that you can approach your life as an adventure with confidence and trust in your decision.  Let the old you out and the new you be ready to rock. Home is where your identity resides. Have you ever noticed that you are sad to leave your old home, you get settled into your new home and you get an opportunity to go back to the old home and it doesn’t feel like it is your home at all? That is because it isn’t the home that makes you; you make the home.  Your uniqueness makes your space in which to reside. Our inner and outer homes are places of beauty and peace. At little cleaning in your home goes a long way, it is the same when we clean our mind.  One choice to change our thought goes a long way; one choice to be consistent in our integrative sustainable movement discipline changes our health.

Quantum creation by Josh Peck lets us see clearly with love I see in every direction. Get out of your way and get into your plan. Become a priority in your life. Be a voice, not an echo.  Be centered, courageous and adventurous so that you can grow in joy.

“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” Buddha

Are you comfortable with your self-worth? For me, not really but I’m working on it.  I appreciate that I have the opportunity to shift an unhealthy belief to a healthy belief, to let go of an old limitation and pick up a new healthy pattern all because I am worthy of having the life I want. I was born with that worth.  We all were.

Today ask yourself what you need to improve your self-care (walk, Thai energy session, read a book, meditate, play with a dog, yoga, pilates, etc.) and give it to yourself.

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