Meditation: Relax Your Mind In The East Village
Meditation is like an acceptable version of napping—it recharges you, clears your head, and helps you escape your daily stresses. The practice is the perfect way to unwind, silence a frantic mind, and cope with the downtown pace of life. How can you pass that up?
You feel the essence of who you really are when you are in stillness, says yogi Alan Finger of Ishta Yoga in the East Village. The static in your mind settles; and you can can see your life more clearly. Meditation removes your fears and anxieties while keeping you happy throughout your day for no reason at all. Sounds like the cornerstone of true bliss and cheaper than therapy.
After your silence ends, you’ll be surprised at how easily these new-found senses of stillness and calm stay with you during your bustling day. “While the effects of other stress-reducing techniques wear off,” says Ethan Nichtern, director of the NYC-based nonprofit Interdependence Project, “meditation teaches you how to remain peaceful in the midst of living in the city—not just escape it.”
If you have have trouble getting to a quiet personal space on your own like most New Yorkers, sign up to meditate with a group or guide. The goal is to get in at least 20 minutes of meditation daily.
Here are some popular meditation spots in the East Village:
Allan Finger Sessions at Ishta Yoga
56 East 11th Street
302 Bowery NY, NY
Classes Ana Fox @ Dance Forum NY
20 East 17th Street
19 Clinton Street, Suite 205
Ilana Donna Arazie is a blogger and vlogger based in NYC who chronicles stories about living your best life in a big city. Her stories have been featured on the Associated Press, Chicago-Sun Times, Yahoo, The Travel Channel and other media outlets. She is the founder of Downtown Dharma.com , a site that is a bit of Cosmo meets Deepak Chopra, offering deep yet fun insights into finding peace and meaning.
4 Tips To Stress Less & Smile More
OK, I’ll admit, this may be because “Annie” was my favorite movie as a child, but I’m of the opinion that you’re “never fully dressed without a smile”. This dawned on me when I was writing an Employee Handbook, and the subject of dress code came up. Of course, at work we should be neat and presentable, but shouldn’t we also be positive and happy? So, I threw in a line about smiling!
I tested my theory years ago on a client who was really unhappy at work. She came to me because she hated her job, and wanted to explore new possibilities. She didn’t know what she wanted to do, so she wasn’t exactly in the position to quit tomorrow. It could take months or years to tackle career change, but she was MISERABLE at work. She said her co-workers were nasty, and it was causing her a lot of stress. I suggested smiling more at work until she was ready to begin her new business venture. Why spend the next year miserable, right?
She thought I was nuts. “Smile, more? How can I smile when I hate it there?”
But, desperate to get out of her funk, she decided to take my advice. Within a few weeks, her attitude toward work had done a complete 180! Her work relationships improved, and she was also assigned a new project that she was really excited about.
Why does a simple smile matter? Well, to be honest, I started thinking about the “smile factor” again when I was writing this handbook, and realized that without fail, every time something was going well in my life, I was smiling. And every time something went awry, I was not. This is true for every aspect of our lives: work, relationships, wellness. You name it, and the “smile factor” plays a role.
For example, think about the dreaded word “diet”. Most people can’t say it and smile at the same time. As a matter of fact, most diets I’ve tried have failed simply because I hated being on them!! Wellness works for me because I enjoy living well without being bound by the “on” or “off” chains of dieting. And I smile more when I’m not running to the scale.
Follow these simple tips to get positive and you’ll soon see the power of a smile:
Check your “favorites”
The things we are drawn to are merely a reflection of what we’re thinking. If we’re drawn to negative things, perhaps it’s a sign we can’t ignore. Look at the people you gravitate to and the things you like to read, watch, do, listen to and take inventory. Do you spend most of your time surrounded by people/things that are positive? If your favorite television shows are filled with drama and sarcasm, or your favorite tunes are dragging you down, try switching the station. You’ll get amped up in no time!!
Thankful people are happy people. No matter what our situation is, we can always find something in it to be thankful for, right? Make your list and keep it in plain sight. Add to it when things pop up, and have fun with it! Be thankful for that perfect cup of morning coffee- I know I am, with 2 little kiddies running around!
Do Something Silly
When we take ourselves too seriously, we can end up in a rut. Often when I find myself moving toward a funk, I do something super-silly to get myself out of it. So, jump for joy, dance around the room, sing loud in your car, climb a tree! Just have fun with your life, and you’ll find your fun is contagious!
Say Nice Things
Some of us are “complimenters” by nature. If I see something I love, I automatically comment on it. But sometimes, we’re in such a rush or so self-absorbed we don’t even notice the people or things around us. Be more present and say nice things. If the cashier is wearing a great pair of earrings, tell her! If your neighbors planted new flowers, just by noticing you can make their day! If we get outside ourselves and say nice things to others, we automatically can lift our own spirits, too! And, to get super-positive, up the ante by doing nice things! Karma is amazing.
Spring Clean Up: Make Your Home A Haven
Your home should be your haven, your place of peace from the stress in the world around you. Here are 10 simple & fun ways to add some “soul sparkle” to your domain…
1. Choose décor colors carefully. Pick colors that are conducive to what you want your space to be. If you want a serene room, stray away from red! Red is an energizer and may even stimulate your appetite! Greens are calming colors, perfect for a spa-inspired setting. Or, if you want a cross between calm and amped up, choose a shade of blue.
2. Rid energy drainers: fill holes, fix a squeak, or replace bulbs and batteries for a clean, updated look, and you’ll feel so much better.
3. Circles mean harmony and unity, so make sure you have a circle (wreath) on your door or even inside your home.
4. Choose a meaningful mug or plate. Using something special to eat off or drink out of is a great way to savor the food or drink.
5. Connect with nature. Being outdoors, having lunch outside, or even if it’s just to sit on your porch and watch the birds for a few minutes while you sip your morning coffee, is a huge lift to an overburdened spirit.
6. Take the day “off” and lounge in sweats all day.
7. Get dressed to the nines for no reason.
8. Have a carpet picnic with your significant other. Pick out a nice blanket, fill up a picnic basket with goodies, pour some wine, and stay in for a fun night at home.
9. Clear out your closets, basements, and drawers to make your home as clutter-free as possible. Use boxes to separate yard sale finds, items to donate, things you can re-purpose, and the junk that hits the recyclable bins.
10. Make a picture and hang it in a beautiful frame. Homemade artwork rocks!
Bonus Soul Sparkler!! Once you’ve read a book, write a note in the cover about your thoughts on it, your favorite part, something personal. Create a book-giveaway basket, and every time someone enters your home have them pick a random book without looking inside- whatever they choose is the message he/she is supposed to receive.
Solace In The City: Meditation Hot Spots
Seems like everywhere I go, people are talking up the topic of meditation. People want to be able to sit still but have no idea how to start. They hear it’s good for you, like vitamins or massage, but are anxious about how it all works.
You would think that sitting still and quieting your mind is the most effortless thing we can do, but for quick and speedy city people just the thought of it alone gives us anxiety!
I’ve sampled many meditation groups and sessions in this city and know what I like. I believe it’s best to start out meditating in a group, before you purchase a CD and do it at home yourself. Once you get into a meditation groove in a group, then it’s safe to take your practice home. Until then, everything in your apartment will be distracting!
Meditation relieves your worries, puts you in touch with your intuition, increases your happiness, and keeps you centered. No wonder it’s getting so much of attention. I personally do a double dose when I’m feeling especially moody. Look out! Here are some ways to reap the benefits of meditation in the city:
Ishta Yoga – Take a meditation class with Yogi Alan Finger 5:30 pm Monday and Wed or 9:30 am Tuesday and Thursday. It’s easy to follow with Yogi Alan Finger and a great way to get started — be prepared to do a few yoga poses before the meditation begins. Then you can buy Allan’s CD and do it at home.
Dharma Punks – Free meditation sittings on Tuesday nights for the hip, downtown East Village crowd. Everyone is welcome though and look forward to a large group. Meditation is followed by a Dharma talk by a punky spiritual leader with tattoos and all.
Shambhala Center – This Buddhist retreat in the middle of the city offers free meditation sessions and classes. They use a traditional Buddhist method where your eyes are half open — which can be hard. But you can also meet with a meditation counselor there to check in at any point to get help with your specific practice.
Bhavani Lorraine Nelson at Kripalu – Bhavani Lorraine does an amazing meditation workshop three times a year the Kripalu retreat in Massachusetts. Find out when and where she teaches on her website here. Once you take her fabulous workshop, buy her CD and continue the peace at home.
Also, to stay motivated at home, take the Chopra 21 day meditation challenge. It started about a week ago but you can sign up late and start it any time. It is a daily online recording about 15 minutes long.
Enjoy the silence!
Check out Ilana’s blog, Downtown Dharma for more zen tips in the big city.
Redesign Your Life
I was speaking with a client the other day, and she was overwhelmed. She said she comes home from work, and her mind is still racing with news headlines, work overload, and day-to-day tasks. Simply put, she could not relax. I’m sure you can relate!! I think every one of us, no matter what phase of life we are in, is busy with lots to do and lots on our minds! Whether working inside or outside of the home, with children or without, married, single, man, woman, busyness has become standard in the fast-paced, always connected world we’re in!
Believe it or not, busyness can be fun, too, if you learn to embrace it, and find your own sense of balance! Since we spend so much time at home, positive energy and balance can easily begin there, just by creating your ideal living space to fit your budget. Being positive will open the door to amazing things, so follow these simple tips to “redesign” your life!!
Set the Stage First things first, go through your surroundings and take inventory! Is there a room that you aren’t crazy about? wallpaper that’s screaming 2 decades ago? a light bulb that just doesn’t seem bright enough, or maybe a bit too bright? It doesn’t cost much to slap on a coat of paint, or replace bulbs and batteries for a fresh, updated look, and you’ll feel so much better! And, if design isn’t your thing, flip through a magazine to find a picture if a room you’ll love. Recreate the look yourself, and you’ll save tons!
Choose Colors Carefully Keep in mind colors affect us more than we think! Pick colors that are conducive to what you want your space to be. If you want a serene room, stray away from red! Red is an energizer and may even stimulate your appetite! Greens are calming colors, perfect for a spa-inspired setting. Or, if you want a cross between calm and amped up, choose a shade of blue!
Tackle Your To-Do List We all have mental to-do lists, but now’s the time to put it on paper and check it off! Make a list of the things that have been on your mind, like organizing a closet, filing cabinet, or drawer. Tackle the items one by one. Clearing clutter clears your head, too!
Store No More! Our closets, garages, and basements are havens for hidden treasures we may have written off too soon! You can go green and save green by refurbishing old furniture (it’s amazing what furniture treatment and new hardware can do!), using old clothes to cover pillows, pocketbooks, or accent your windows! Get creative, and you can design a whole new space with items you already own!
Organize to Organize If you’re trying to get organized, it may be overwhelming at first. Start simply by getting 3 bins together: “Use, Donate, Shred.”
Items in the “Use” bin should be put to use now! Donate unwanted items by picking an organization of your choice. Many even offer free same-day pick up services, as long as you pick up the phone to call them!! The only items we should be tossing are paper such as non-essential paperwork. Shred private information and recycle it!
Article By Jennifer Tuma-Young
Breathe Your Way Through Holiday Stress
With that long a holiday shopping list, I bet you’re wondering how you can ever fit in a few minutes of meditation. Amazingly, you can actually meditate with your eyes open and it will have the same benefits as an eyes closed meditation. And it’s as simple as breathing.
Try this mindful exercise the next time you’re standing in the line at the cash register, sitting in a holiday traffic jam, or chopping a zillion carrots in the kitchen:
- Breathe out all the way
- Now just let the in-breath flow in naturally.
- Breathe out all the way again; let the in-breath flow in naturally.
- Keep repeating this: actively breathing out, effortlessly breathing in.
- As you breathe in this way, pay attention to the movement of the breath in the body: the abdomen sinking in as you breathe out, the chest gently rising with the in-breath, the feel of the air as it passes through your nose.
- Notice how a sense of calm begins to take the edges off the rushed, harried, perhaps tense feeling you started with.
- Now allow a gentle smile across your face as you thank the cashier, or the driver who gave you the parking space, or the farmer who grew those carrots.
Top Photo: Flickr
Finding Peace Within The Storm
“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm.”
I love this quote; it has meant so much in my life. A simple American Indian proverb that I have posted on my refrigerator serves as a way to keep me grounded during turbulent times. After all, life can not be free from turmoil at times. We are often tested, thrown curve balls – no one is without ups and downs. We are all different – our experiences, our journeys; yet we are all the same.
In a class I was teaching, I asked the ladies what the most common cause of stress is for each of them. One woman responded, “Stress comes from other people. People cause me stress.” She then went on to list the various things people have done that have caused her stress. All valid, all beyond her control simply because we cannot control what other people do. Another woman said “finances”, another “time”, another “expectations”, and the list went on.
Stress is hard to define, even the dictionary has more than 10 definitions for it. Yet, often we let ‘stress’ define us.
Case in point, what can you do if you have a child who is bulimic, a father who is an addict, a friend who doesn’t seem to care about you, a boss who keeps piling work on? Do you disown your family and friends, quit your job, and move to the nearest bubble? Hmmm…maybe you’ve felt like it, but obviously unrealistic, right?
Ok, so maybe the scenarios above are a little extreme. Let’s try this one: your husband lost his job, you are 2 months late on all your bills, your kids are in a million activities, and you have volunteered for one too many PTA fundraisers. You’re not going to move to an island and seclude yourself from the realities of life, right?
So, how does one stay inspired and calm during the roller coaster we call life? How can we just be at ‘peace within the storm’ as the American Indian proverb suggests?
Stillness must be practiced, regularly just like brushing our teeth. It is hard to quiet the mind with all that is flowing through it from past worries, future concerns, daily to-do lists. Find a space to just “be”, perhaps try sitting under a tree in your yard, kneeling by the window, sitting on your front step, soaking in a warm tub. There are no rules – find what feels peaceful to you. And remember, stillness includes listening. We may not know the answers, but sometimes when we listen, we hear the next step.
Be Open and Embrace
I’ve learned you have to detach yourself from the problems and embrace them in the moment as an integral part of your life. We usually think about the “lesson” after the problem has been resolved or enough time has passed to come to terms with it. Be open to the lesson. Show gratitude, and give yourself space for tears, venting, and acceptance. Be gentle with yourself and others.
Detach from letting the situation define you, connect to the world around you. For example, if the economy is personally affecting you (as it is millions of Americans right now), you can still have fun with your family, dance around the room, watch a great movie, laugh, say hi to a stranger. And, if a loved one is struggling with something – illness, personal issues, anything at all- spend time with him or her, read together, reminisce, create. Remember, each moment carries perfection and imperfection – both beautiful in their own right. Our circumstances should not stop us from loving life. It is a gift, after all.
John Of God Healed Me…I Think
I guess I needed healing. Why else would I sign up to see John of God from Brazil, who made his way to the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, N.Y.? Though what I’m healing exactly, I’m not sure.
I only learned about the big spiritual macha John of God a few weeks ago from an online radio show hosted by Dr. Wayne Dyer. People from all over the world travel to Brazil to find themselves in his presence. He heals the sick, the blind, the old and dying — and apparently a few neurotic chicks like me.
He and his spirit guides do these “interventions” which are spiritual operations. They go into your body and repair what needs to be fixed. Then, seven days after your “surgery,” they visit you in the night and remove your stitches. Sounded wild enough that I had to try it.
So last week I drove myself to Omega and found myself in a huge tent filled with what seemed like a couple thousand people. Only, I didn’t get the “Wear All White” memo, because I was the only one dressed in black. They told me afterwards that John of God sees your energy better in white. Oops!
We were told to meditate in the tent until we were called to pass by John of God. That was a bit hard — I was distracted by all the many faces around me: The young children with shaved heads who had cancer, the ladies who seemed too young to be using walkers, the young boys shrieking from their Tourette’s and the regular spiritual seekers who could use some peace of mind like me.
Finally row by row we were sent in to pass by John of God. I walked into a room and saw an older man sitting in a peaceful, dream-like state, accompanied by men and women acting as ushers and translators. I noticed that he spotted me from down the room. Maybe it was my bright green sweatshirt? Or was he just a big spiritual flirt?
I finally walked in front of him and put out my hand and smile again. He told the ladies next him in Portuguese to have me sit in the room in front of him and to order me up a spiritual intervention at 2pm. Just what I needed?
After lunch I returned back for my healing. Again, I was led in a big line to a room and asked to close my eyes. Only this time I felt a deep force or energy around me. When I opened my eyes, they actually stung a bit — though I wasn’t scared. I just sat still. Then a woman told us to put our right hand over our heart and think about all things we wanted healed. Oh brother, here I go.
I thought, “Give me patience, keep me kind and loving, find any problems in my body and fix them, oh and can you make my PMS go away?” After about 5-10 minutes John of God walked in, recited a prayer and said that we had concluded the healing. The room felt intense and I wondered what I had done to my body.
The experience with John of God was pretty exciting. I’m glad I tried something new and opened myself up to some intense positive energy! But I know the real healing and answers still have to come from inside me. As great as John of God is, my true nature is more powerful. Then again, let’s see how I feel after the stitches come out!
About the author
Ilana Arazie is a documentary filmmaker, video producer and blogger. She blogs weekly at her own DowntownDharma.com, which is featured on The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Arazie is known for keeping a video camera on her person at all times – sometimes in the strangest places – in order to capture footage for her syndicated inquisitive video series, Downtown Diary. Her stories have been featured on the Associated Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Travel Channel, Gawker, Yahoo and other media outlets. She lives in peace in NYC.
Making Change Happen: Tips To Transform Your Life
Change is hard. Or so we commonly believe. We become comfortable in our daily routines, we get used to our habitual ways and so we resist change. And yet, we deeply want it. We yearn for a deeper relationship, a different job, to lose weight or to begin a new healthy habit. Of course we do…
Change is natural. It is part of the biorhythm of life. Just look outside at the bright red and yellow leaves that are beginning to appear. Consider how a woman’s body changes to become a mother. In fact, according to research at Stanford, our skin completely regenerates in 7 days and all of our cells are replaced every 7 years. Put simply, change is as essential and organic as living itself, so naturally our bodies and brains and souls crave it.
But how do we make the change we want? Often, we’ll wake up one day and say “That’s it – no more sweets!” Or we’ll hear a friend say “Forget it – I’m done with men!” And then weeks – or even days later, we find ourselves just having a little bite of cake or back online looking for a guy. So what’s going wrong?
I propose that we aren’t respecting the natural process of change. Change is not instantaneous. We don’t see a tree go from fully green one day to suddenly bright red the next. Change takes time. We need to honor this natural cycle and apply it to our own lives. As my friend and colleague, Louis Alloro says, change can be “full of ease and grace.”
First, we must be clear about the change we are hoping for. Not just that we want a different job, but specifically, what attributes of a workplace and colleagues matter, how do we want to feel about the work we do? Positive psychology, the scientific study of well-being, tells us that hope is very powerful in igniting change because it gives us agency to make change and it empowers us to develop the pathways to change. And change is made by creating new pathways.
According to research out of MIT, habits are neural pathways, or patterns, formed in our brain to quickly respond to certain triggers. This means that when your brain senses the trigger (ie: walking by a bakery), your brain is prompted back to the old habit. Routines or habits you’ve formed took time to establish and now you must take time to change them. You must begin to create NEW neural pathways – new habits. When you walk by the bakery and your brain thinks “let’s eat!” – instead say in mantra, “I am healthy”. Do this every time you walk by a bakery and begin to see the habit change.
Autumn is a natural time to reflect on the change you want in your life. I hope you use this cyclical gift of nature to get more of what you want in life.
Ready to make real changes?
Negative Dialogue: How is it affecting you?
A couple of years ago one of my twin daughters, who was 5 years old at the time, said to me, “Mommy, I am having a really bad day!” I looked at her and said, “You know what will happen if you say that, right?” She looked back inquisitively, yet somewhat knowingly and questioned, “I will get more of a bad day?” Quickly I answered, “Exactly!”
With an obvious desire to not let that be the outcome of her day she asked me, “Then what do I do to change it?” I told her she had to hit the mental reset button by deleting her old negative thought, replacing it with a positive one like, “I only have good days!” To help her better understand what I was trying to say, I decided to give her a visual to work with and tapped my hand to the middle of my forehead saying “delete” three times. Then I continued to tap and repeated the positive phrase, “I only have good days!”
She began walking around the house tapping on her forehead in an extremely focused manner repeating, “I only have good days”. After saying it about five times she asked me, “How many times do I have to say this?” I said, “Until you truly believe it.” She continued chanting the phrase about a dozen more times, until her twin sister came flying by on her scooter and ran over her foot. With an astonished look on her face, she looked at me, then her sister and indignantly she said, “C’mon! I only have good days!” At that moment I could not help but laugh. She looked at my very seriously and asked, “If I said I only have good days, then why did she run over my foot?” I smiled, and said, “Ahh, you were being tested; you didn’t really believe it yet. To know how deep your faith is and how strong your positive thoughts are, you will always be tested.”
We are all tested as we grow and evolve; in fact the tests are what make us continue to grow and evolve. Life always has its challenges and “bad days”, but it’s all about the perspective that you bring to the circumstance and more importantly the conviction in which you bring your beliefs that can change the outcome–almost instantly. Whenever a negative thought arises, you have the power with in that moment to “delete it” and replace it with a positive, empowering thought.
There is a famous quote by Peace Pilgrim, “If you knew how powerful your thoughts were, you would never think a negative thought”. And if you have approximately 3000 thoughts in a day, how many of yours are positive? How many would be negative?
People are often not even aware of how much negative dialogue goes on in their heads, let alone how much impact those thoughts have that they are projecting out into the world. The first step to change is always awareness. I challenge you today to become more aware of your thoughts. Are they predominately empowering or mostly disempowering? If you want authentic happiness and desire to attract positive people and circumstances into your life more consistently, you must radiate that energy in which you hope to attract. That energy is initiated by your thoughts. Learning to “hit the mental reset” button the moment a negative thoughts pop into your consciousness, instantly short-circuiting it and re-programming your thought patterns with something positive will become one of the most simple, yet powerful tools in your tool box. Even through the inevitable hardships will be presented to you in life, knowing that there is good to come of it (such as strength, wisdom, courage) allows you to evolve more easily and transform more readily because of them.
Trust me, I have had many, many moments in my life that have challenged me to the core and could have made me want to stay down for the count but it’s through those times I have learned how to get back up and how to cope more easily through the challenges and have faith that everything has a purpose in my life for my own evolution. I have learned that I control my perspective no matter the circumstances and I can focus on the good or the bad. Anytime I have thoughts that I feel are not productive enter my mind, I instantly picture hitting a “delete” button then envision a blank space.
And in that blank space I can start over by putting something there that is worthwhile. In order to live to my fullest human potential, I choose to make those thoughts ones that I know are in alignment with my goals, desires and intentions. And no matter how big those may be or how challenging they may seem to achieve or how many obstacles stand in my way—I chose to begin with the perspective that, “I only have good days!”
top photo: Flickr