Modern Day Meditation: Finding Peace Anywhere
The other day I was reading Metro and came across an interview with a “meditation consultant.” Is this really a new line of work? What do meditation consultants do? Sit with you and breathe away stress? Where do I apply?
Then I read on. The interviewee, Andy Puddicombe, is a former monk who studied in monastaries all over India, Thailand, Nepal, Australia, and Russia for ten years. Even if I shaved my head to look like him, I wouldn’t attract his clientele—I’d only kill my love life.
Last year, Andy started a non-denominational initiative called Headspace in London, which introduces frenetic professionals to the benefits of meditation. He hosts events in cool spaces, conducts one-on-one private sessions, and even meditates with his clients online and via mobile phone. Since Andy and his partner launched Headspace, the London press has been all over the story. He’s been featured in Vogue, Time Out and other popular publications. He also just signed a book deal and has a TV show in development.
Hmm… maybe I could pull off a sexy bald ’do after all?
I had to meet Andy and talk more about his modern day meditation project.
Andy and I scheduled a call over Skype. Even through the small video screen, he casted a spell—he was jovial, warm, and extra smiley. The bald look really works for him. He’s not technically a monk anymore, and the position of “lady friend” is already filled.
We talked about my experience with meditation: which usually translates into feeling like I smoked something illegal. I explained how after I meditate, I feel present and grounded, glad to have my anxiety and fears vanish for at least a good day or so, before my next sitting.
Andy explains to me that scientific research suggests that after fifteen minutes of stillness, blood flow increases in the area of your brain associated with positive emotions.
The challenge for me has always been getting my butt to meditation classes at least 2–3 times a week. However, Andy promises that once you take his workshop, you will have the tools to practice on your own. He breaks down his lessons into three parts:
1. Approach: Andy offers a philosophical explanation on the importance of having the right attitude in life. For example, meditation is no different to life. To want things to be different from how they are now is to resist reality. When we resist reality we struggle with life. It’s a move away from acceptance. This applies to meditation because if you sit there trying to actually stop your thoughts and emotions, you move away from acceptance and, ultimately, away from peace of mind.
It’s a common mistake to make though, and explains why so many people get frustrated or anxious when learning meditation. So meditation is less about ‘changing’ the mind and more about ‘understanding’ the mind. When meditation is approached in this way, the potential for benefit is huge!
2. The Act of Meditation: Andy recommends sitting still for 10–15 minutes in the morning, so that meditating doesn’t become just another stressful item on your day’s to-do list.
3. Integration: You can integrate the practice into your daily life if you consider that meditation is about compassion and awareness. On the subway, use your commute as an opportunity to be mindful and present. Andy say’s that you have a choice: You can either sit there wishing you were somewhere else, or you can use a meditation technique to cultivate awareness and empathy for your fellow commuters. (Well, maybe not the flashers and disheveled, smelly teenage hipsters—best not to be too aware of some things.)
We both agreed that meditation would become the new yoga and sweep through the West. I asked him to teach me his secrets, so that I could become his disciple and start my own meditation business one day. He explained that although he has thought about going that route, right now he doesn’t feel comfortable claiming guru status and training other teachers.
Rats. I guess I’ll have to train with the Bhuddas directly. I wonder if any of them can be interviewed by Skype? Let me do some research and get back to you on that. Until then, catch ya on the subway.
Top Photo: Flickr
Ringing In The New Year: 5 Reasons To Raise Your Glass
Here’s a novel thought… we choose to be happy… Know that? So why are you still lazy, sick, selfish and unhappy? The US alone ranks well over 100 on the scale of global happiness. Choosing to be happy can lead to serenity, bliss and joy. Aiding in chemical-free treatment of depression and so many other free and easy benefits. So stop complaining so much, ditch the prozac, stop being such a victim, or an ass, stop the whining. It’s obnoxious. Start making change. Create change within and reap all of the benefits of being happy!
Let’s toast to the douchebags! Well.. wait….. Sorry that’s Kanye’s line.. still hilarious in itself… Let’s toast to you NOT being a douche this year and being GRATEFUL + HUMBLE and HAPPY! Word up.
Shall we reflect on all of the wonderful things to toast to?:
1- Your Health!: A priceless gem that most of us take for granted, until something unfortunately arises. But how “healthy” are you?? Take this simple, yet witty quiz. You have one precious mind, body and soul. Treat it, respect it, feed it right, don’t compromise!
2- Your Loving Friends and Family: Be grateful, thankful and happy they are in your life. Even if things are not always perfect (admittedly, they definitely aren’t in my world) you must learn that family is much like a bunch of apples… sweet and tart at the same time.. a few bruises…but nothing that you can’t turn into a sweet apple pie. So be grateful. Mom loves you. Read between the nagging, that’s love.
3- The Job that you Possess: Or don’t. Be grateful that you have a job in your hands… with the unemployment rate still at approx 8.6% that means that the other 91.4% of you should be grateful.
4-Somebody does LOVE you: Having love in your life is nothing short of amazing. (Take that from a girl who’s been single for almost 4 years.) I love nothing more than the feeling of a big hug, a smooch or a cuddle. Spooning anyone? The feeling from human touch is priceless. Isn’t that why we love massages/reiki? Shoot, I mean I do.. So give away some free hugs. Go tell someone you love them ______THIS_______ much. Get old skool and draft a card, a letter or call! Texting, BBM, Email, Facebook, DM, etc etc is all great, but social media ain’t got nuthin’ on a good BIG, warm hug. Don’t lose your clutch and be so digital. Who wants to date their BlackBerry? Not I.
5- The Good Life: I always say that life is full of great taste. And in this country? That’s nothing short of the truth. I have been to some of the poorest nations on this globe and they were so incredibly happy, with absolutely NOTHING. Imagine that? Kids in Indonesia played with sticks and old tires… plastic bottles and wore the same dirty clothes daily. And yet they were SO happy. So while we throw away tons and tons of food daily, pout about mayonnaise on our sandwich and how I wanted the French vanilla creamer in my coffee, not half and half… here’s a thought.. Shut the eff-up. Suck it up and change your thought process. Living the good life also means having a deep soul. It means enriching your life and others through happiness, comfort and joy.
Give Yourself an Inside-Out Love Makeover
I often find myself writing about self-love, simply because I know that that is the key to accomplishing absolutely anything we want in life. Self-love breeds confidence, and once we’re confident, the sky’s the limit! I think that we tend to overcomplicate things, or get “stuck in the muck” of what happened in the past.
Let’s really get down to the basics, if we love something we take care of it, right? For example, look at the way we love our children. We want them to achieve anything they desire. We nurture them, sign them up for all kinds of crazy sports teams, classes, mentorships … we want them to reach their goals, and if it’s within our power, we will help them. Why can’t we just do that for ourselves? Love ourselves so much, that we do whatever we need to do to be the person we want to be and live the life we want to live. Wow! Could all of our own answers really be found in a little self-love? I think so!
The problem with self-love is, although it sounds simple, a lot of women write me saying they just don’t know how to love themselves. Whether it be because of what’s happened to us throughout our lives, or that we just don’t like the reflection staring back at us in the mirror (no matter what self-help tricks we try), we as women, have a hard time with truly loving ourselves. I get it.
I know it’s not easy to always feel fantastic, especially when the media tells us we should be a size two, we should make homemade dinners every night, we should wrap our presents with pretty toppers, we should write daily to-do lists, we should be a super-woman! I know it’s easy to feel ‘less than’ when we compare ourselves to our past “remember when I was” self, our future “who I’d like to be” self, or the world around us “wish I could be” self, i.e. our neighbor “damn how can she wake up looking so fabulous?” next door. It’s hard to just be present and love the women we are meant to be in this moment. Okay, got it! Now, get over it! Read my last sentence, make it in the first person, and repeat it out loud, “I will be present and I love the woman I am meant to be in this moment.”
Here are three simple, practical, and totally fun tips to give yourself an Inside-Out Self-Love Makeover:
Realize why everyone around you thinks you’re pretty spectacular.
Make a list of your top ten qualities. They can be serious like you are a great listener, or silly, like you always call people back, you have neat penmanship, your cookies are always the first to sell out at the bake sale. Keep copies of it in your wallet, in your car, in your nightstand. Use it as a bookmark; make a magnet out of it! “Affirmations” have been around for years, for a reason- they work! Once you realize that you are pretty unique and special, it’s so much easier to start lovin‘ yourself!
Get passionate about something, anything!
When we are passionate about something, we don’t have time to worry about things that really don’t matter, and we just feel good about ourselves! We become more attractive to others, and more importantly, we become attractive to ourselves!! So, whether we set a goal and get passionate about achieving it, or we take up a hobby and make it a part of our lives, we need to fuel the fire inside of us!
A little lip gloss goes a long way.
All right, this is why makeover shows are so popular! In reality, if we take just a few minutes on the “outside” we feel better! If we take too many minutes (aka spend hours in the mirror) we can get caught up in that stuff and become overly-critical or dare I say “shallow”! So, stick to some basic grooming 101: tweeze the eyebrows, whiten the teeth, press your shirt, wear clothes that fit, accentuate your best features … heck you can even stop in a department store on a not-so-busy day and ask the make-up counter to give you a little crash course in make-up. Trust me—buy a lipstick and they’re glad to do it!
I know that self-love can feel “selfish” when we have so much to take care of in our lives. But, if we feel good, everything we do gets done better, our attitude and relationships improve! Think about it- won’t your co-workers love it when you are smiling on a Monday morning instead of hiding in the cubicle grunting? I think the kids will have a blast with a mom who laughs out loud, and exudes confidence when trying to raise confident children. The point is spend some well-deserved “you” time on a regular basis, and you’ll start to see that self-love is truly possible even when we’re busy, with lots going on, and lots of other people to love!
Simple Tips, Big Results: Releasing Fear & Letting Go
I know it’s hard to just let go of our fears, but by focusing on faith and hope instead of fear and despair, we open the door to all good things.
Remember, where there is faith, fear can not exist. Keep these 2 things in mind, and you’ll be sure to untangle yourself from the worry web:
* Relinquish Control
Being fearful is just another way we try to control our lives. It’s like our hair- if it’s curly, we work hard to make it straight, but one drop of humidity or rain and we realize we just can’t control everything. Life can be filled with so much more joy if we can even cut our worry in half. So, relinquish your fear and let go of all that negative energy. The happiness we feel when we are weightless is a catalyst for more happiness to be welcomed into our lives.
*Detach, Don’t Stress Over the Results
When we really want something, we tend to focus too hard on it. This means we get caught up in trying to figure out “how” to make it happen. We wait and anticipate results quickly, and if it doesn’t happen, we get discouraged. Remember, if we work too hard like a bull, we’ll surely ram into stuff. All of this creates stress and negativity, and the response is echoed back to us with more stress and negativity.
Instead, detach from the “how”. Instead of working hard, work smart by taking inspired action. The question is not “if”, it’s “when”. Be still, and listen. The steps will unfold perfectly as they should. Bumps become lessons, not blocks.
Take a little time to recognize the weight of your mind. What are you fearful of? worrying about? Acknowledge it, and then do a visual exercise to wave goodbye to your fears and worries. Sail them out to sea, put them on a bus, watch them float away, disintegrate in your minds eye. Practice presence- what is in front of you in this moment.Connect with now.
Remember the worry mantra: “In this moment, I have everything I need.”
3 Simple Steps To Become More Productive
Like most people you have more on your plate than you can handle. There so much you want to accomplish in any give day or week, and the prospect of what you would like to do over the course of your life feels absolutely daunting. Take into account there are so many things to distract you, everything from office gossip to TV binge watching, it’s no wonder you’re looking for ways to do more in less time. Distractions and detours will come up so it’s important to ensure the time you spend working is fruitful and productive.
To boost productivity so that you have real sustainable results use the 3Ps framework for getting things done: Plan, Produce, Party!
Plan: First step is to plan your schedule each week and book events and appointments in a daily calendar. Add specific work tasks to be completed by blocking out time to work on those tasks as if they were key appointments. Review your schedule and fill time to eat, exercise and doing nothing. You have to fuel your body in order to be productive and time to rest is a key component in that equation too.
Produce: Once your schedule for the week is in place it is time to produce and that means holding yourself accountable for getting things done. Set reminders on your watch, phone or computer to alert you when it’s time to eat, exercise and work. Tell other people about your schedule and ask them to check in your progress. Literally check off your daily itinerary as you complete the items you have planned. The love for the checkmark is fixated in your mind from your formative grade school years and you’ll be motivated to see all the things you’ve accomplished.
Party: Once everything on your list is complete, it’s time to party and that means celebrating your accomplishments in big and small ways. Create a range of low costs rewards you earn for yourself. That can be anything from treating yourself to a day in the park, spending time with friends, checking out a new movie, getting a manicure or cooking your favorite meal. Enjoy rewarding yourself because you’ve earned it.
About the Author: Tanea Flanders is a Life Coach & Leadership Development and Organizational Consultant and works as part of the Live Well / Stay Well Program at Tournesol Wellness.
Photo Credit: Flickr
Looking To Be More Resilient? 3 Easy Steps To Optimize Your Well-Being
I often find myself questioning why it is that people exposed to the same set of circumstances frequently have different health outcomes. When all variables seem equal, some people get sick and others don’t. What else is going on behind the scenes?
Take PTSD in US veterans as an example. Why do some who experienced a trauma develop PTSD and some do not? According to an article published by the National Institute of Mental Health, each person has risk and resilience factors that may help determine whether or not they will get PTSD. The report states that those with good coping strategies and a tight network of friends and family are most resilient.
Sebastian Junger agrees, exposing the lack of cohesive and supportive community systems as the top reason our veterans suffer such a high rate of PTSD in his recent Vanity Fair article.
The link between community involvement and our health and happiness is solid and supported by scientific evidence. Here are three surefire ways to boost your resiliency right now.
1. Invest in Strong Social Networks
The National Institutes of Health reports that people with strong social bonds are found to live healthier lives and have a lower risk of death.
2. Join a Community
Whether it is a spiritual, religious or other supportive community, National Institutes of Health research also suggests that a sense of belonging is good for your health.
3. Give Back
A recent New York Times article revealed that in the Greek island of Ikaria, where inhabitants live extremely long and healthy lives, a key component of their longevity is their practice of contributing to the wellbeing of the community.
Community is a key component of our wellbeing and of the Tournesol model for lasting health. Many of our community members report that outside toxic community environments are barriers to optimal wellbeing and that they struggle to find healthier communities. Tournesol Live Well and Stay Well Programs, classes, workshops and events all offer the opportunity to become involved with a great community.
About the Author : Carey Davidson is the founder of Tournesol Wellness Center in Manhattan. Tournesol is an integrative health center dedicated to the cultivation, design and delivery of high impact holistic interventions empowering people to realize their full potential. Stop by the center, say hello and find out more. We’d love to see you.
Top Photo: Flickr
STAY RADIANT WITH TOURNESOL
How will you stay vibrant inside and out all summer long?
Join 3 experts for an evening of beauty tools, style tips and healthy treats.
Wednesday June 17th 6-9pm
At the lovely relaxing Tournesol Wellness
26 East 36th Street in Manhattan
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.
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