Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

Reduce Stress and Win Your Life Back

Whether you are an overworked executive, a fast-moving soccer mom, or an athlete with limited time for cross training, you need to find a way to reduce your stress.

For me, I practice the moving meditation of Tai Chi most every day.

Others successfully use sitting or standing meditations.

Even sitting still for as little as 10 minutes watching your breath may be enough to get the effects of meditation.

Meditation experts Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, recently debunked the 6 reasons why meditation appears to be difficult in a Huffington Post blog.

Below Jeff Cannon, a certified meditation instructor and the author of the fine book The Simple Truth: Meditation for the Modern World, gives his take on stress and provides you with some exercises on how to reduce it:

REDUCE STRESS AND WIN BACK YOUR LIFE

Stress is part of life.

But it does not have to ruin your life.

Let it out.

Release it.

Fill the empty space it leaves with the kind of positive energy that will help you live the life you love living.

The next time you feel your blood pressure jump or your brain starts to spin out of control, hit the pause button, slow the world down, and have it start spinning at your pace.

Here are some easy exercises that can be done anywhere to help you do just that.

Breathe 8-2-8.

I cannot stress enough how beneficial proper breathing is.

If you feel your heart start to race, take three deep breaths into your stomach as you focus you attention on your belly expanding and contracting.

Feel it move against your clothing as you slowly count to eight on each inhale, let your breath settle for a count of two, and then exhale for a count of eight, again letting your breath settle for two before inhaling again.

It will center you and help you regain your mental footing.

Ground yourself in your setting.

Rather than trying to escape, close your eyes and listen to the world around you.

Listen to the hum of the lights, hear the sounds of the people and equipment wherever you are.

Embrace your environment as a reality, but not your reality.

Know that you are separate from it, that the fear and angst it breeds is not something that you need to be a part of.

Relax in the knowledge that when you open your eyes it will all be there, but that it will only touch you if you let it.

You, and only you, have control over how you respond to the world around you.

Learn Your Triggers.

Identify and monitor the triggers that cause you stress.

The next time you feel your stress growing, think about what happened to cause it.

Turn your mind inward and review the emotions that were set off when that trigger was activated.

Try to remember another time in your life when you had the same emotional response.

Remember, the way an event affected you is as much a part of your past as it is your present.

Use that insight to help you separate the present event from past associations to reduce the way you escalate a small event into greater stress.

Own your stress.

Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Admit to it and embrace it.

Then let it go with a great big inhale.

Running from a problem only makes it worse, and only prolongs the stress it brings.

Invest in Yourself, Not Derivatives

In the wake of Gary Smith’s resignation as an executive director of Goldman Sachs, I particularly enjoyed an essay entitled “Investing in Ourselves” by spiritual thinker and Tai Chi advocate Arthur Rosenfeld.

Here’s an excerpt from Rosenfeld’s essay, which appears in the March 2012 Issue of Yang-Sheng:

“A bit of meditation, a bit of quiet consideration, and we all come to realize that the things we can’t take with us are not nearly so worthy of our investment—restoring, protecting, maintaining—as is our state of health and our state of mind.

While it makes good sense to be “green” about our important material possessions, it makes even more good sense to make strong efforts to avoid illness and decrepitude—along with depression, frustration, envy, disquiet, alienation, loneliness, and a lack of any sense of unity or belonging—by attending first and foremost to the needs of our body and mind.

Make a little change today.

Choose to work out instead of polish.

Choose to meditate instead of repaint.

Choose to stretch instead of shop.

Make a mind/body practice your focus, thereby maintaining and restoring and protecting not your automobile, but yourself.

Read up on nutrition rather than woodworking, on brain exercises rather than video games.

Redirecting yourself thus, little by little, will set in motion a process that will yield great dividends in your longevity and your ability to enjoy life.

Spread the word.

Share these ideas with a friend.

Every individual who moves from external compulsion to internal awareness, from materialism to spirituality, contributes to much-need global change.

If we all do this, we can truly expect a new economy and a revivified society too.”

Meditation for the Modern World with The Simple Truth

The brain is an organ built to last, and change, even well into later life.

Scientists call the ability of the brain to change or remodel itself neuroplasticity.

This brain remodeling helps you meet the ever-changing physical, cognitive, emotional, and environmental demands that you are exposed to over the course of your life.

One way to change your brain for the better is through meditation.

Jeff Cannon teaches contemporary meditation and mindfulness to help business and community leaders meet the realities of the modern world.

In his book, The Simple Truth, Cannon shows readers how they can find their own Simple Truth, that is, act in accordance with who you are and follow your own path wherever it leads.

Here are a few of his concepts on the path to the Simple Truth:

1. Changing your life with the little choices

Lives change not from decisions you make from time to time, but by the little choices you make every day without even thinking.

The concept of Living with CaRE is a way to stop, think, and make good choices that can steer your life in the right direction.

CaRE is more than an acronym.

It is a pause button to interrupt the auto-responses we all make in our lives – sometimes to our regret.

The next time you make a decision to do something, stop for a moment and think to yourself:

What is Causing me to make this decision?

What are the different ways that I can Respond to this situation?

How will my response Effect my future?

Most important, how can I act so that my Response is the right one for me to steer my life in the right direction?

By being mindful of the small choices we can have control over the life we want to live.

2. 8-2-8 Breathing Meditation

A great way to start a meditation practice is to set aside 10 minutes at the start of your day and simply to focus on your breath.

An 8-2-8 Breathing Meditation is a great way to do this.

During your meditation close your eyes, inhale through your nose, and feel your stomach expand for a slow count of 8 seconds.

Retain the air for a count of 2, and then exhale slowly through your nose for another count of 8.

Simply repeat this until you feel a sense of calm and focus to start your day.

3. Mini-Meditations throughout your day

All too often people hesitate to benefit from meditation because they think it will take too long.

With so many great things attributed to meditation, it’s a shame.

The key for success here is not to think of sitting for hours on end, but instead, to use mini -meditations throughout your day can help you retain focus and calm.

When you start to feel agitated or stressed, set aside 1 to 2 minutes to return to the calm you had.

Whether it is a meeting at your job, kids, or relationship stressors incorporating mini-meditations will keep you sane no matter what goes on around you.

I like Cannon’s concepts of taking CaRE and mini-meditations.

I know I feel more relaxed since I started doing almost daily Tai Chi more than two years ago.

I like to think that’s my body, and my brain, thanking me for the change.

Training Tips On Meditation

Meditation can generate many health benefits.

Those health benefits, according to Yang Yang, PhD, a noted New York Tai Chi researcher and author, include:

• kindness toward ourselves and the rest of the world

• enhancement of mental and physical agility

• better sleep, digestion, bowel function, and sexual function

• cultivation of tranquility, joy, and resilience in daily life

• awareness of our mind, body, and spirit

• awareness of reality

• acceptance of differences between ourselves and others

In the January issue of Yang-Sheng, Yang outlines how he cultivates awareness, which includes meditating on one or another of these maxims, choosing the one that best applies to the situation:

1. The world is yin and yang; we are all different.

2. Everyone is seeking his or her best interests or happiness, including ourselves.

3. Nothing is personal.

4. The meaning and purpose of life.

He also works on the following principles:

1. Gratitude.

2. Kindness and love.

3. Acceptance of differences between self and the rest of the world, and acceptance of imperfection in life.

4. Forgiveness.

5. The golden rule.

“There are no fixed ways to apply these maxims and principles,” Yang writes.

“You can apply one maxim and one principle on one day, and apply another on the following day until you apply all of them.

Or, you can apply more than one maxim and principle to the same situation.

However, one maxim and one principle may be easier for beginners.

After I have meditated through several of these notions, I feel energized, peaceful, joyful and ready to start out a new day to do something for myself, my family, and my community.

I find this method of categorized meditation leads me easily into quiet.

It does this not only by improving my ability to manage my daily stress, but also — and more importantly — by reducing the stressors.

Meditation helps me realize that I have created stressors through my rumination, and that those stressors should never have been stressors at all.

New stressors can arise every day.

The good news is that we can develop a habitual mental pattern to neutralize them.

In this way, we can make some stressors less stressful, and eliminate others entirely.

We can reduce the stress of our daily lives.

And we can make positive thinking our way of life.”

Tai Chi Comedy Moments

In my continuing personal study of Tai Chi and meditation, I recently thought of a line from one of my favorite comedy groups of the 1970s, Firesign Theater:

“How can you be in 2 places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?”

This month’s Yang-Sheng (Nurturing Life), a monthly E-magazine for all Qigong, Tai Chi, Yoga, Reiki, mindfulness and meditation practitioners, spiritual cultivators, and health seekers, contains some funny jokes in a special Comedy Moment.

Here are a few “good ones” (I’ve edited out the real groaners):

Two men meet on the street.

One asks the other: “Hi, how are you?”

The other replies: “I’m fine, thanks.”

“And how’s your son? Is he still unemployed?”

“Yes, he is. But he is meditating now.”

“Meditating? What’s that?”

“I don’t know. But it’s better than sitting around and doing nothing!”

Q: What happens when a Buddhist becomes totally absorbed with the computer he is working with?

A: He enters Nerdvana.

BUMPER STICKERS:

No matter where you go, there you are.

What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?

Can we ever truly know when our philosophy assignment is due?

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

If reality wants to get in touch, it knows where I am.

If there were no hypothetical questions what would this say?

How to Reduce Stress and Work Better

Want to work better and harder?

Try Tai Chi, meditation, or yoga or other stress-reduction techniques.

That’s what Mayo Clinic researchers suggest after they examined the relationship between stress levels and quality of life at a work site wellness center.

The researchers, led by Matthew M. Clark, a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, conducted a survey of more than 13,000 employees joining a wellness center, asking them about stress, health behaviors, and quality of life.

A total of 2,147 of these employees reported having high stress levels, according to a study in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Those under high stress had statistically significant lower quality of life, more fatigue, and poorer health compared with employees with low stress levels.

They were also more likely to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and to be overweight.

The study showed the biggest differences between stressed and non-stressed respondents were in fatigue levels after a regular night’s sleep and in current quality of life.

The researchers concluded that tailored stress-reduction programs would be beneficial for these employees.

Mindfulness exercises, which include Tai Chi, meditation, and yoga, can increase positivity, said Margaret Moore, MBA, founder of Wellcoaches Corporation, at a Harvard-based academic conference on coaching that she co-directed last year.

“Positive emotions matter,” said Moore.

“They lead to flow experiences.”

Positivity makes you thrive and uncover your strengths and talents, she said.

Corporate wellness programs typically focus on physical fitness and weight loss initially, but personal wellness coaches also address other domains of wellness, including stress management, work/life balance, spirituality, and resilience.

Your boss may ask about your productivity and how you are adding to the bottom line.

A return on investment of wellness is tougher to calculate.

But reducing stress may help boost your health and resiliency, and therefore make you a better worker.

Your Brain on Exercise, and with Meditation

I’ve got exercise on the brain as I try to get in shape for the upcoming golf season, and two new studies caught me eye, one about the effects of exercise on the brain and the other about how meditation reduces pain-related activation of the brain.

Exercise increases the growth of brain cells and improves brain function, says Terry Eckmann, Ph.D, professor in the teacher education and performance department at Minot State University in Minot, ND.

“Exercise balances brain chemicals, hormones, and system functions,” says Eckmann.

“Research suggests that every system of the body functions more efficiently with regular exercise. Exercise is medicine and can make a difference in disease prevention and management.”

A protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is “like Miracle-Gro for the brain,” she told the American College of Sports Medicine’s 15th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Anaheim, CA, on April 14, 2011. The protein helps to grow new neurons in the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation. The protein also aids transmission of information across the synapses of neurons.

Recent studies show that students with higher fitness levels score higher on academic tests and show an improved ability to focus.

Scientists have also documented the ability of exercise to help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage in Alzheimer’s disease.

The second study reported in the April 6 issue of the The Journal of Neuroscience shows that a little more than an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation.

In this small study, 18 healthy volunteers who were new to meditation were taught a meditation technique known as focused attention, which involves paying close attention to breathing patterns while acknowledging and letting go of distracting thoughts, says first author Fadel Zeidan, PhD, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The volunteers were subjected to heat on the skin of their thigh to induce pain during brain imaging, both before and after they had practiced meditation.

The imaging showed that, after just 4 20-minute sessions of meditation, pain intensity ratings were reduced by an average of 40%, and the pain unpleasantness rating was reduced by 57%.

Meditation engages multiple brain mechanisms to reduce activity in key pain-processing regions of the brain, concluded the researchers.

These studies have emboldened me to ride my bike and speed walk more often and continue my Tai Chi classes (which is like meditation in motion). It should make me feel better, if not smarter, and maybe I’ll feel less pain the next time I knock a golf ball into the woods.

Know Your Chi Flow 24/7 with iPhone App

Like a 21st Century version of the mood ring, an iPhone app can give you a reading on your chi (qi) throughout the day.

What’s more, the 24/7 Chi application will lead you through a series of pressure point manipulations, meditation exercises, and stretches to help you wind down the day and try to connect with your natural rhythms and cycles, says inventor Matt Harrigan in a recent community blog post.

An inventor and student of alternative therapies, Harrigan had created a Chi Watch that enabled people to observe their 24-hour Chi cycle on the watch’s face. This apparently was based on the traditional Chinese medicine concept that we all have a diurnal clock inside us that regulates body rhythms to allow our bodies to function more efficiently and to defend against illness.

When the iPhone came along, Harrigan decided to take advantage of the new technology to update his concept, and his 24/7 app first appeared last fall.

The application can be downloaded at MEDL Mobile’s website or on iTunes for $2.99.

As described on the MEDL Mobile website, chi keeps the rhythm and sets the pace of our daily lives by traveling throughout our bodies along energy channels known as meridians. Chi flows through each of the twelve major meridians during a specific 2-hour period of the day.

The spleen meridian (between 9-11 a.m) is the best time for hard work, intellectual challenges or handling emotionally burdening tasks. The heart meridian (between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) is the time to pursue your most meaningful and enjoyable activities. The kidney meridian (between 5-7 p.m.) is the best time to relax, unwind, and decompress.

The 24/7 Chi application includes three therapy options to improve your chi flow.

The first is acupressure used to relieve anxiety by manipulating the body’s pressure points with the fingers.

The second is Chi Kung (qigong), which involves standing still, breathing, and slowly moving the body.

The third is meridian stretching, 6 stretches that focus on the body’s 12 meridians.

The app also allows you to add any meridian, therapy treatment, or specialist to your favorites, and has a GPS Google Maps locator for the nearest alternative health specialists.

It sounds like a lot of fun, and probably works better than the old mood ring I’ve got stashed somewhere in a junk drawer.

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

I recently watched the hit movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts, based on the best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert, and learned the Italian phrase “il dolce far niente,” literally “sweet doing nothing.”

Gilbert learned the phrase from new friends in Italy on her year-long journey of self-discovery. In Italy, “il dolce far niente” means sitting in a café talking with friends, perhaps enjoying a bite to eat along with a bottle of wine, or just watching the world pass by.

This type of mindfulness reminded me of meditation guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, who in this YouTube lecture calls it “much to do about almost nothing.”

I decided to explore the pleasure of relaxation in carefree idleness over the long Presidents’ Day weekend. To get out of the mind set of being totally plugged in, 24/7, I purposely did not check my e-mail for 3 days. We took a family trip to East Hampton, where we walked on the sparkling, snowy beach, played board games (Apples to Apples, Risk), went bowling, and ate comfort food (meat loaf for dinner, pancakes for breakfast).

I felt refreshed, recharged, and reconnected.

How do you experience “il dolce far niente”?

Meditation vs Medication – One Letter Apart

There is a rich body of research showing that meditative exercises like Tai Chi can change the structure and function of the brain, and that focused concentration and non-judgmental moment-to-moment awareness in and of itself (without overt exercise) may modulate multiple aspects of health, including pain, immune function, and mood.

A new look at ongoing studies at Harvard in today’s Huffington Post suggests meditation may help to physically train the brain. Just as pumping iron trains muscles, meditation trains the brain by pumping neurons, writes Aditi Nerurkar, MD, Integrative Medicine Fellow at Harvard Medical School. She notes that studies show meditation can benefit patients with hypertension, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Tai Chi is commonly referred to as “meditation in motion.” One of the key features that distinguishes Tai Chi from simple movements using only your body weight for resistance is its rich, integrated set of meditative movements.

One of Tai Chi’s active ingredients relates to becoming more aware of, and at greater ease with, what is going on within your body and mind at any given moment. “Inner focus on moment-to-moment sensations allows you to train and hold your attention or mental focus, providing you with a tool to manage distracting thoughts and incessant mental chatter,” says Peter Wayne, PhD, Director, Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Programs at Harvard Medical School. “As a result, you are more fully engaged and therefore more efficient with the physical tasks at hand and more in the moment.”

Unlike other Eastern practices, Tai Chi training does not teach meditation within the context of sitting on a pillow but through practical body-centered exercise. This may make what you learn more translatable to practical, everyday activities of daily living. One of the grand masters of Tai Chi, Wolfe Lowenthal, quoted Cheng Man Ch’ing in his book There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man Ch’ing and His T’ai Chi Chuan: “The difference between yoga and Tai Chi is that even if you get it (meditative relaxation) studying yoga, there is nothing you can do if someone tries to knock you off your cushion.”

Other meditative traditions encourage the complete clearing or emptying of one’s mind of all thoughts. In contrast, Tai Chi is more of an active focused meditation. “During practice, when the mind wanders, you gently refocus it back to noticing practical and functional bodily sensations in the present moment,” says Wayne.

“One metaphor I commonly use during resting meditations is to think of the fabric of the body as a paper towel. Just as a paper towel naturally absorbs and holds water in its highly absorbent pores without effort, let the mind rest into and be held in or cradled by the body,” he says. “The spirit of this active ingredient is nicely captured in a clever phrase I saw on a bumper sticker and that I commonly cite in Tai Chi class: ‘Meditation—it’s not what you think.’”