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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I Don’t Know What to Believe- Coming Out of The Fog

“The decision to believe is the most important decision you will ever make” Whitney Clayton
We all go through different seasons in our lives; various stages with differing scenes of drama come with each season. The thing to remember is that seasons come and go. The hard part is remembering that our mind needs to welcome thoughts, emotions, and feelings in. Your yoga practice helps to maintain equanimity of mind. Purity is staying neutral; not taking sides, keeping your calm, living in the balance between your opposites is the real secret of healthy and happy living. It is your birthright to enjoy peace and health. So welcome disturbance feel it in your body, observe your breath and watch the mind.
When you make a decision to be healthy, you needn’t expect it to go smoothly. If everything were smooth without challenge there wouldn’t be seasons; you’d never be tested to prove that you will stick to your decision. You wouldn’t develop the skills of grit and discipline. So when the tests come how you respond is how you pass the test thus the challenging situation has become an instrument for your personal growth.
Below you see some examples of health. How are you faring? Are you passing the test?
Four Pillars of Health
1) Diet and Supplements- examples, Vitamin C with E, Blueberries, Broccoli, Spinach Seaweed, 20% healthy fat, 40% lean protein, 40% complex carbs
2) Stress Management- examples, Meditation, Mindfulness, Guided Imagery, Breath Exercises, Self-Massage, Chanting
3) Exercise Body and Mind- examples, a minimum of 150 minutes per week Movement, Concentration, Involve Senses
4) Spirit Fitness- examples, Developing Psycho-Spirt Wellbeing, Socialization/Connection, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Patience, Compassion, Empathy, Self-Discovery, Life Purpose, Sense of something Higher than Self, Selfless Service Volunteering
If you do not have four strong pillars, you may be experiencing some unnecessary suffering. At the core feelings and emotions are feedback mechanisms sending you messages. These messages are designed by nature to supply you with information that is necessary for you to survive and thrive. You have the ability to come out of your fog, remove the muck and to be in control of your four pillars. The choice is yours. Find the self-care love and experience the vastness of great freedom in welcoming in your four pillars of health.

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Go First Be the Role Model for Others!

A role model is a person who serves as an example of values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with a role. You may have several role models in your lifetime for various aspects of your life.

Why do you need a role model? To help guide you in the right direction as you make life decisions, provide inspiration and support when you need it, provide an example of how to live a fulfilling and happy life. You may even be a role model for someone in some aspect of your life.  You want to pick someone that is further along the journey than you.

Seven characteristics make up a good role model.

1.)    Find a role model that demonstrates confidence and leadership.

2.)    Find a role model that isn’t afraid to be their unique selves.

3.)    Find a role model that can communicate and interact with everyone.

4.)    Find a role model that shows respect and concern for others.

5.)    Find a role model that is knowledgeable and well rounded.

6.)    Find a role model that has humility and willingness to admit mistakes.

7.)    Find a role model that does good things outside of their job.

Being a role model of health is difficult. Children mimic you and peers watch your behaviors which may be overwhelming at times. So stick to the 80/20 rule- 80% of the time work hard to be present and be spot on with your integrative sustainable movement and 20% of the time you can relax a bit because life does happen.

Here are seven tips for being a role model of health.

1.)    Take a chance to be physically active every day.

2.)    Keep a positive attitude because it is contagious.

3.)    Eat moderate portions from all food groups.

4.)    Drink water.

5.)    Never skip meals.

6.)    Practice open communication NVC and Empathetic listening.

7.)    Respect others even in a time of intolerance.

Find a community that you can be part of if you are having trouble sticking to an integrative sustainable movement. A mindful living community is one that supports each other in good and bad times, a place where members speak openly about their vulnerability and others listen to them without judgment.  Always exercise with a teacher that has their personal practice that addresses the physical body, emotional body, the breathing body, the intellect body and the spiritual body. If they are uncomfortable sharing their routine with you, then keep looking for another role model. Were you meant to be a role model for health? Are you already a role model for health? Do you need a role model for health? The Mind Body Balance community offers many options to support your goals.

Geertje Couwenbergh shares twelve suggestions to help us be a role model for health.

  • Stop Going, Start Flowing! Stop controlling every aspect of your life sit back and let the abundance of the world flow in.
  • Breathe in deep, Breathe out long! Your breath is your best friend take deep conscious breaths and allow the exhale to be long.
  • Gentle Power! Brokenness makes you gentle and wholesomeness makes you strong embrace both.
  • Do Things Differently! Be spontaneous, it can be as simple as try lying upside down in your bed.
  • Turn Poison into Medicine! Learn to regard setbacks as opportunities rather than obstacles. Everything is annoying you they are invitations for you to practice compassion and kindness.
  • Ask for Help! Asking for help isn’t weakness instead it is an indication of self-knowledge.
  • Be Ignorant! The wisest people know nothing so try knowing absolutely nothing about something.
  • Be Specific! Avoid cutting corners and be as specific as you can today.
  • Put Something in Your Mouth! No not literally. Allow yourself a mental oral phase today and see things, think or hear in your mouth how they taste to you.
  • No Plan! Today don’t tick off any boxes today let go of your plan at least once. Wander. Stare. Listen.
  • Why Not! Try Tara Brach’s philosophy on for a while accept this life, accept this moment, exactly as it is.
  • The R-Word! Don’t be right until you are blue in the face and miserably stuck in a rut instead choose compassion over being right!

You were Meant to Be a Role Model for Health!

 

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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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