Meditate to Reset and Relax

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There is a growing meditation movement happening around the world. Meditation is mainstream and no longer on the fringe. Hip-hop moguls are writing books about it, movie stars blog about it, the yoga studios are packing in stretched bodies with quiet minds. There is a long list of Western spiritual gurus spreading the word too. Balance is the word and meditation is the way to get it.

As stress builds up in our body, we begin to experience sickness, tension, and fatigue. Our emotions become strained and our mind fills with fear and negative thoughts. The convincing link between the mind and body is well established and health and wellness advocates in the medical profession promote reducing stress as a way to avoid disease.

According to mental health research, intense feelings of anxiety and stress can cause a nervous breakdown. The nerves don’t actually break, of course but it’s a signal to shut down and reset. We have become out of balance.

How to Reset:

Closing the eyes and limiting the sensory input will immediately start to slow things down. Deep breaths combined with a meditation exercise will lower the brain wave frequency to a synchronized, more focused level of mind.

Simply put, the brain is like a broadcasting and receiving transmitter running on electricity. Like a radio station it operates on different channels where one predominates at a time. Alpha waves were the first to be discovered by scientists due to its slower, more powerful signal. If hooked up to an EEG machine while meditating, it would register an alpha/theta reading depending on the depth of our meditation practice.

Meditation, due to its positive stress relieving side effects, is being considered as part of a prescription for a growing number of ailments that are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritually based.

The reset button isn’t just needed for excess. Balance needs to be reset due to a lack of something in our lives too. Meditation can fill a spiritual void where there is a lack of purpose, meaning, peace and love. When we move our awareness from the physical body, calm our emotions and still our thoughts, what remains? The answer to that question has ancient philosophers and New Age gurus searching through words to label something there are no words for. We just have to try it for ourselves.

There are many types of meditation to choose from. All paths lead to the same place of inner peace. Finding the one that fits our lifestyle is as important to our health as daily physical exercise. The mind and body are interconnected, so remember to apply the reset button to balance our inner work with our physical work out.

Sitting in silence can become a battle with what the Buddhists call, the ‘monkey mind’ as our thoughts jump from one branch to another, interrupting the flow of peace. A great way to start meditating is with a guided meditation. The benefits are many and even the most experienced meditator will always benefit from a little guidance that can lead us gently to that peaceful place in an efficient manner.

Focusing on a mental picture is similar to focusing on a mantra or on the breath. We do as we are told by the voice and before you know it, no more body, no more thoughts…just peace.

Peeling away the layers until there is nothing but the inner self, doesn’t have to be a struggle or a chore. Just like exercising our bodies in a fun way with a sport we love, meditating can be fun too. We can look forward to putting on the headphones to tune out the stress and tune in to our happy place anytime. There are longer guided meditations with full body scanning relaxation that is an indulgent treat, as well as shorter pick-me-up versions. It doesn’t matter if we are sleep deprived and happen to drift off during the session because the subconscious mind never sleeps so we can still benefit from the affirmations on a deep level. The positive words in a good, guided meditation will feed our soul in a way we couldn’t do by ourselves without monkey mind waking up.

Try a few to find a voice to live with happily ever after, while discovering that peace is within. It is the easiest way to reset and balance our body and mind for a long and happy life.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kathryn Remati, a Boston based meditation facilitator, creator of the Tranquil Spectrum App for Apple devices. Kathryn completed graduate and post-graduate studies in Humanistic Psychology (BA) and Organizational Behavior (MA) in Australia where she taught Alpha brainwave training techniques. For more info go to: http://tranquilspectrum.com or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Bliss is Not an Attitude

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For me the reality of bliss within is not just a nice, fanciful New Age idea. It is not a mood, or an attitude of happiness. Bliss is a way of being in the world, and can be established as an achievement from meditation and one’s own personal development. Inversely, trying to create happiness on a surface level is not sustainable and can even create strain, especially if one actually feels bad, but is pretending to be happy.

Trying to be happy or positive can foster an insincere and disingenuous state of mind, or mood making. Mood making is not healthy for our emotional state and can tend to put others off.

I am certainly not speaking badly of someone who is trying to change his or her mood and be positive, but if it is forced it will not have a lasting effect.

Bliss: A Bi-product of Diving Within

It is astonishing to think that within every one of the 8 billion people on this planet exists an ocean of calm. In each one of us there is a field of bliss, whereby we can access true peace.

According to the Vedas, all of creation is ultimately made of bliss.

All Creation is Made of Bliss

The Vedas, the ancient literature from India, express that all creation is essentially made of bliss.

Out of bliss, all beings are born,
In bliss they are sustained,
And to bliss they go and merge again.

Anandaddheyva khalvimani bhutani jayante
Anandena jatani jivanti
Anandam prayantyabhisamvishanti
-Taittiriya Upanishad (3.6.1)

Bliss: Our Essential Nature

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought Transcendental Meditation out of the Himalayas and introduced this concrete experience of bliss to the world. He described bliss as our own essential nature and often quoted a Sanskrit expression that explains consciousness as sat, chit, ananda.

Sat means the absolute, non-changing reality of life.
Chit means consciousness, or wakefulness.
Ananda means bliss.

Bliss: The Message of all Great Teachers

Maharishi often said that “the purpose of life is the expansion of happiness” and that “life is here to enjoy.” When we experience our essential nature through meditation, this reality of bliss grows more and more as a state of Being. This inner experience of Being is not dependant on anything from the outside for its fulfillment.

All the great teachers throughout time have expounded this reality. Christ said, “the kingdom of heaven is within” and Buddha talked about nirvana.

We do want to follow our bliss in the outside world, as recommended by the great mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell. However, if we really want the deeper values of bliss in our lives we need to dive within and experience transcendence.

The outside world is always changing and moments of happiness will always go as quickly as they come. The bliss I am speaking of here is more than just a momentary experience of happiness in the outer world. It is a transcendental experience of wholeness, complete happiness, contentment, and heavenly joy. In its most stabilized form the continuum of bliss is a hallmark of the state of enlightenment.

Traveling to experience this bliss within is the first step on the journey toward enlightenment. The most beautiful aspect of this journey is that you don’t have to go anywhere. The Self unfolds itself, to itself, by itself, within itself, for itself. By enjoying the bliss within I very naturally and spontaneously live bliss more and more in my everyday life. It is this feeling, and this message I most want to share with the world.

Wishing you all peace of the truest kind,
Ann Purcell

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ann Purcell. Ann is an author and has been teaching meditation around the world since 1973. In addition, she has worked on curricula and course development for universities and continuing education programs. Her latest book, The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment, was released on March 13, 2015. 41Zk+UVxcPL

5 Ways for Urban Yogis to Live Their Yoga

urban yogiAHIMSA – Yoga Sutra Chapter 2 Verse 35 is one of the five Yamas, which are guidelines for how we can live in harmony with others. A traditional translation of Ahimsa means, “Do not kill or harm other people.” I’ve outlined here a more modern interpretation for today’s urban yogi.

  1. Lovingkindness

Ahimsa means that when connected to our heart we naturally share lovingkindness. Love is active and it is never too late to offer healing through loving thoughts and kind actions towards yourself and others.

  1. Compassion / Connection / Respect

In fact, we have an infinite abundance of compassion out of respect for the connection we have with all other creatures. “The greatest illusion of this world is the illusion of separation. Things you think are separate and different are actually one and the same. We are all one people.” (Avatar) Connecting to others without fear of being judged and dropping our judgment of them helps us expand beyond fear into a place of love and respect.

  1. Safety / Balance / Self-care

Fear feeds violence. Lack of safety makes us afraid (whether its real or imaginary). When we are chronically living from fear we become imbalanced. A return to balanced living is the antidote to violence. However, it requires constant sensitive adjustments to maintain. These come as a result of dedicated self-care. We all grow better in positive energy. Through this we learn the way we treat ourselves will be the way we treat others.

  1. Empathy / Choice / Forgiveness

Practicing empathy helps us to see the other person or situation with kind eyes. It changes the knee jerk reaction of fighting back. As a result we lose interest in justifying our need to be right. Ahimsa is the constant reminder of our freedom to choose between fear or love.

On the mat, we practice choosing love as a visible expression of how we do the poses. Remember your Yoga shouldn’t hurt. It is not a punishment and you are not trying to “win”. At the end of class, during savasana, we forgive ourselves for times we weren’t as compassionate as we could have been. We recognize we are imperfectly perfect, doing the best we can. Forgiving ourselves strengthens our capacity to love the full spectrum of who we are, shadow and light. This builds our empathy muscle and in turn our ability to be more easily forgiving of others off the mat.

  1. Peace

When we live in Ahimsa we’d rather be happy than right. We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of love, we know we are love (aham prema). Our natural state of peaceful joy is how we are meant to live. It is our birthright; it is everyone’s birthright. As a result, we stop comparing and competing, we start promoting peace in all that we think, say, and do and life feels like we are on easy speed. We are at peace with our pleasure.

My experience of Ahimsa:

Personally the one thing that pulls me out of balance the most easily is over-working or simply over-doing. This inspires fear that I am powerless. As long as I make time to stay balanced by getting enough sleep, meditating daily, practicing yoga, going for walks, drawing, and relaxing then I live my Ahimsa. I’ve come to realize that the antidote is making sure to leave enough open space and free time to equally give my mind, body, and spirit time to rest before they get tired.

Just like anything else the benefits of applying Ahimsa can only be achieved if you actually practice them. Today, before you head out the door to face the day, pick two categories and really commit to creating a new pathway of lovingkindness, compassion, safety, empathy and peace.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at http://www.alchemytours.com ; or http://www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: Manduka Yoga on Instagram

5 Simple Tips for Becoming a Master of Meditation

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Want to take on meditation?

Here’s 5 tips to help:

Sit.  Learning to sit can be a challenge. Do some light stretches before sitting down and then start off with just 5 minutes of sitting–see how it feels. Remember there are many different ways to sit. Find a seat comfortable for you, in a chair, on a block, sitting on the heals, sitting on a blanket or a pillow. Make sure that you are sitting in a place you’ll be happy to sit. For me there’s a room in my house where the morning light comes in magically. I like to sit in there.

2.  Watch your thoughts.  The mind is always going, in the beginning the goal is not to just turn off the mind (because that isn’t possible and you’ll drive yourself crazy just trying), but rather watch it. Don’t allow yourself to run off with the thoughts, always return to a very natural breath. It is only in watching the thoughts that you begin to realize that you are not these thoughts. You actually are the observer of the thoughts. Once you realize that you are not your mind, that is when the mind begins to settle, but this is a process so don’t beat yourself up if your meditation in the beginning is a crazy mind journey.

3. Let the mind entertain Some complain that meditation is just boring.  However, watching the crazy mind is quite entertaining! Then comes the shapes, sounds, different voices, mountains and endless deep blue lakes, light that shines right through the third eye and expands and contracts all around. In the stillness of sitting, one may find freedom from all thoughts, suspended in the galaxy of nothingness. For everyone, what happens in this space is different, but it’s definitely not boring!

4.  Make and take time to meditate.  Oh time you funny thing…how we are always trying to race you, yet you stay strong and we always seem to lose the race. We must make and take the time to meditate. If mediation could end the inner war going on inside you, would you make the time? If mediation could end your insomnia, anxiety or depression, would you make the time? If mediation could lead you to forgive, if mediation could remove that burden of weight you’ve been carrying all your life, could you find the time? If meditation could make you happy, truly happy would you find the time? Remember that time is an excuse made by the ego to keep you from facing the true you.

5. Just do it! Sounds cliche, but it takes 21 days to form a habit. That means that after doing it for 21 days, it will become part of your regular routine.  Just keep doing it and your well on your way to a happier, more conscience you.

Big hugs,
Lisa

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Lisa Sochocki from Haleiwa, Hawaii.  Her motto is, “Be the light, to light the world.” Lisa’s motto runs true to her actions and spirit, living the life of a yogini filled with love and abundance. With 17 years of yoga experience and 11 years as a devoted Yoga Instructor, Lisa decided to make spreading yoga not only her passion, but her full-time job. Lisa is the Owner of Yoga Loft Hawaii  and Hawaii School of Yoga, where she spends her days diffusing yoga love into the Oahu community.

Visit Lisa’s website at YogaLoftHawaii.comHawaiiSchoolOfYoga.com read her Tumblr Blog, or connect with her via Facebook and Instagram.

Going Creative – Meditation and Creative Consciousness

7097958115_c89680128f_bHumans are conscious beings. We are able to both analyze the creative spirit, discuss it intellectually — and also experience it.

When we meditate, we come home to our own creative fount, a sense of oneness that evaporates the ego-centred perception that we are separate beings adrift in a phenomenal world, doomed to die.

In meditation, we experience how humans are both creations and creators, and also how creator and the created are inseparable, one and the same. That we are about as separate from the rest of the world as a wave is separate from the sea.

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Creativity and The Con-Mind

To create, we need to overcome convention — the prior creations of what is usually called the ego mind. I call it “con”-mind, short for conventional, conceptual, conditioned and conformist (and, alas, a bit conceited, thinking it’s in charge of everything and a bit confrontational, seeing itself as separate and essentially alone, needing to defend itself. On the plus side, it’s good at construction and consistency, both essential to good creation.).

We all have a con-mind and we all have a creative mind and they inter-are.

Con-mind’s motivations are a desire to gain, reluctance to lose, or fear of choosing wrongly. In this mode, our mind is focused on the future outcomes of our present actions. If the outcomes are not achieved, we are disappointed and dissatisfied; if they are, we worry about losing them. Fear is the underlying driver and the inevitable outcome and what fear creates, mostly, is more of itself.

We are all more creative when we pay less attention to our con minds. When we take our attention away from the surface, our going and doing, and give it to the depth of our knowing and being. Or, deeper again, to the nothingness that interpenetrates everything.

This is where meditation comes in. When we take silent time to meditate, a shift happens, from thingness to nothingness. Our consciousness expands, our awareness deepens, we come into the presence of what the physicist Albert Einstein once described as “the most beautiful emotion we can experience… the [underlying] power of all true art and science.”

This power — our creative intelligence — is in us all. We don’t acquire it, any more than we acquire our fingers or our feet. Accessing it is largely a matter of removing the barriers we place between ourselves and this innate, powerful potential, allowing it to flow more freely.

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Dissolving Barriers through Meditation

Meditation dissolves those barriers. All meditation traditions hold that our conceptual mind is mainly driven by fear and wanting. Viewing and interpreting the world through those lenses leads us into a confused state. Patanjali, who wrote The Yoga Sutras, one of the oldest surviving guides to meditation, called the state avidya (ignorance) and speaks of it as a kind of veil that blocks spiritual and creative light from the mind. The object of meditation is to dissolve the veil, so conceptual mind and creative spirit are in direct and clear communication. Avidya disintegrates, the fog disperses, we can see clearly, at multiple levels, with our big mind.

This is very different approach to that taken by Western philosophy, which constantly explores the external world for information and knowledge, to discover practical answers to the fundamental questions. The eastern mind, the meditative traditions have always searched inwards, not for information for its own sake but for the sake of awakening not just knowledge but knowing. Creative consciousness.

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Creativity as Consciousness

Today, new technologies and understandings are confirming some, and changing other, long-held ideas about what those words mean. “Creative” is no longer applied only to a particular set of activities — writing, drawing, singing. It is now being understood as a condition of consciousness, a type of attention and awareness. You can paint or sing or draw or write in a conventional way. You can mop the floor, cook the dinner, do the filing or mow the lawn in a creative way. It’s an attitude, an inner condition brought to the present moment and the task in hand.

To “go creative” is to wake up, to allow your inner and outer senses to perceive, and thereby partake in, what is unfolding in a given moment. Creation is the act of turning up to the moment and, in so doing, making it new, fresh, alive and alert. It cannot be a creative activity, a creative moment without your creative presence.

You don’t have to do anything. On the contrary, in order for creative inspiration to arise, a part of your mind has to be in a state of “being” rather than “doing.” Guatama Buddha, sitting still under the bodhi tree, apparently doing nothing, was as creative as it is ever possible for a human being to be.

In order for a moment in your universe to be creative, it needs your presence, your alive, alert, awake attention. Then you have fulfilled your purpose in that moment. You have become a creative conduit, one of the conditions through which creative consciousness expands and spreads in our world. Though we are not always there for it, this creative consciousness is always there for us.

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Inspiration-Meditation-CoverEditor’s note: This is an extract from Inspiration Meditation, a “How To Meditate” Guide from novelist, poet, and Director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, Orna Ross. Inspiration Meditation explains the theory and practice of meditation — and introduces Inspiration Meditation, Orna’s own meditation method, which she practices daily and has taught to thousands of people through her Go Creative! books and blog.

Inspiration Meditation is designed to cultivate creativity, ideas and insights. It is not just for writers and artists — though they will find it intensely useful. Inspiration Meditation is for anyone who wants to master the art of conscious creation and apply it to any aspect of life.

A long-time teacher of creative and imaginative practice, Orna lives in London and writes, publishes and teaches around the globe. She has a dedicated belief in the power of the published word to transform and liberate. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her reading.

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As for the photos, I took them in the early spring of 2012 on a trip to Kyoto, one of my favorite cities because of its contemplative beauty. Hope you don’t mind my walk down memory lane…

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5 Tips for Practicing Walking Meditation

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It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return–prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again–if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man–then you are ready for a walk.

Walking by Henry David Thoreau

I have an admission to make:  I’m a terrible yogi.  My poses aren’t always exact, I don’t practice regularly, and I can’t stay focused.

While I often practice at home, I do have a couple of teachers I work with on rare occasion, both of whom remind me to accept where I am and to be at peace with my own yoga style.

In the past year, I’ve supplemented my yoga practice with walking meditation(which is exactly what it sounds like).  I work for myself and find it quite hard to truly relax and clear my mind, but with walking meditation, I get some clear head space and a bit of physical fitness at the same time.  Here are some of my lessons learned that you can incorporate into your routine.

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1. Choosing a route is really, really important.

On a good walk, when really clearing my mind and trying to deepen my breathing, I can totally zen out.  And, while zen, I have tripped over many curbs in my neighborhood.  Thankfully no bruises except to my ego!  I also prefer routes with fewer pedestrians and bikes, so I can enjoy the open space.

The best routes for a walking meditation are biking/hiking trails where you don’t have to worry too much about traffic or big curbs, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.  It sounds obvious, but I missed the memo the first couple of times.

2. Ditch the smartphone (or go airplane mode).

The urge to check my smartphone is so great that I really can’t go on a meditative walk with it.  But, I like to have the timer and be able to use the phone if needed, so when I do bring it, I put it into airplane mode.

Personally, I don’t like to go on my walks with music – I find my mind can slip into the zone much faster and longer without any tunes.  You might be different; I do encourage you to try a few walks without headphones before you write it off.

3. It’s about going deep, not walking far.

In my experience, it is better to do 2 laps around the neighborhood dog park and get a deep sense of clarity instead of walking a few miles just to get the mileage in.  This is a walking meditation, not a power walk.   Don’t worry about how fast you walk or how far you go.  Focus on what is happening on the inside.

4. Speaking of focus, start from your feet and end with the top of your head.

Walking meditation is a meditation, so the focus is internal.  Start with your feet – notice how they feel hitting the ground.  Notice the feeling, the rhythm, of your legs in motion.  How fast is your heartbeat?  Are your arms relaxed – how do they swing?

Just like in yoga, clarify your breathing: deep, steady breaths.  Focus on those feelings of your feet and legs and hands in motion, which will help clear your mind.

5. Make your walking meditation what you want it to be.

You have permission to make your walking meditation whatever you want it be.  Make it what you need.  Some people will say that it’s not really meditation.  But if you’re getting the peace of mind and mental relief you need, does it matter what anyone thinks?

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[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Andy Hayes, the founder of Plum Deluxe, a community of friends and family who enjoy life’s luxuries, big and small. Connect with him on Pinterest or Facebook.]