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.
V’s Corner: A Year Of Purity?? Say What Universe??
So, I’m in yoga class this morning and during savasana (when I often have the most clarity when it comes to what’s what and really matters in life) I get this challenge from the Universe, God, my inner Spirit, whatever to change some things up. I know deep down that at times I am limiting myself, my potential, my happiness because of my own comfort or fear or whatever. But I also know that making changes (some times even small ones) could have a huge impact on life. So here’s the challenge, and my answer…..
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
5 Ways To Get Happy, Like Now.
Happiness is nothing but a state of mind. If you are not happy? Perhaps you just need to re-think that framework in your brain.
For years I have always pondered: Why they have it all? How did she get so lucky? How is it possible that everyone else found love by myself? Where is he? Why am I still struggling financially? Why am I still struggling to be happy and content with where I am at? I am so lonely, I am so sad, woe is me… Well, I’ve had to do some serious reassessing with my life and I am improving every day, one day at a time. I’d love to share a bit of my strategy with you…
1- Let go: Let go of bitterness, let go of jealously and let go of all the negative space in your heart. For if you are holding on to the negative, how can you allow sunshine into your life? Letting go will free you your soul and allow your heart to open and make space for new dreams and positive endeavors to come to life. I know many of us are looking for love, something that I find to be a not-so-successful part of my life, however I repeat this quote to myself daily: “If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; They will be waiting for you when you start doing the things you love.” In regards to finances: I once had another artist/friend tell me… “Candice, God must love us so much; although we are broke in the bank, we are so rich in character, how lucky are we?” I never forgot that. Thanks Shannon:)
2- Work out Daily, For Endorphins are FREE!: I have never been a fan of “happy pills” and I’m not bashing on meds here for there was a time; I have been there and done that. But did you know that moderate, daily exercise will give you the same endorphin release as any “happy pill”? I mean why not work-out for a killer, toned and slammin’ body and at the same time? I’m a huge fan of free endorphins, so get that ass into shape and do it because it makes you happy!
3- Laugh More: Hang out with that friend that cracks you up. Go watch “Coming to America”, “Napoleon Dynamite”, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “Beverly Hills Cop” go through an old album from college or high school.. and look at the disgusting clothes we wore! Whatever you need to do.. just laugh more. Studies show that communities and social circles that get together and laugh, support and love one another on a weekly basis live longer healthier, happier lives. If you want more insight on life longevity and true, deep-rooted cultural happiness? Read this book: The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner.. will change the way you think and feel about the parallels between health and happiness.
4- Be More Mindful: Be more mindful of yourself and others. Don’t worry about the past, or what you think were “mistakes” or “failures.” They are not. They are simply life’s free lessons to shape and mold your heart, soul and beautiful mind. Live in the moment. Be there present @ work. Live to reach out to others and make a difference. Live to be free! Be thoughtful, mindful and at the end of the day, when you are by yourself: Pour a cup of tea, zone out and read a good book, lay down on your soft, comfy pillow and say… “Am I ok with who I am today? Am I fulfilling my life? What can I do to help improve my life?” Be mindful of you, your actions and live everyday in the moment.
5- Scream out: YOLO!: And do whatever the eff you want! Cause all those rappers are doin’ it.. and they look like they are having a heck of a good-ass-time! Remember the meaning behind the silly phrase: ” YOLO”: You only live once.” There is so much more behind YOLO than we can even fathom. You have one life to live! You won the lottery in life my friends! We live in a beautiful world at a beautiful (mostly) peaceful time. We are safe, happy, healthy and blessed. There’s nothing better to be happy about but living the life you’ve always dreamed of. If you don’t accomplish all of your dreams and goals in this lifetime.. then when will you?? When will you see ALL of those big dreams come to pass?? YOLO. Word up. + Get happy, like, ummm now.
Balance Self: Goal Setting Simplified
A few months ago, a client told me she had a great technique for losing weight. She hung a big sign above her scale that said, “How will I lose the last 10 pounds?”
She weighed herself daily, sometimes even more than once a day, and the sign was meant to motivate her to lose more weight. I was curious about her method, so naturally I inquired more about it. She then went on to tell me, while the sign was meant to motivate her, she could not answer the question of “how,” which is what lead her to me.
With New Year’s upon us, we are setting goals more than ever. But if a goal leaves you feeling hopeless and frustrated, it may be time to re-think your goals, right?
Trust me, I have made countless resolutions that never amounted to anything, because I simply didn’t think about the action behind the goal.
Basically, any type of goal should tell a story. It should give you a very specific action. When it comes to losing weight or getting healthy, the tendency is to set the goal at “lose 7 pounds” or just “lose weight,” which can work initially, but gets harder as you lose more weight or feel as though you are depriving yourself.
So by creating what I call a “story goal” you are actually giving yourself a task–something to do.
For example, you can set a goal of “Eat 4 veggies every day for 21 days in a row.” Now, you know exactly what you have to do to reach that goal, so it removes the frustration of “how.” As we all know, veggies are a healthy addition and will leave you feeling fuller faster while giving you great nutrients, antioxidants and energy.
The 7 pounds you’d like to lose will become a BENEFIT of your story goal. And you’re taking the focus off the scale, which is a benefit in and of itself.
Once you clearly see what you want, it’s easier to create your plan! Hey, you need a destination when you get in your car for a roadtrip, right? And if you don’t know how to get there, you need a map, too. Breaking down your vision into mini-goals is a great way to create real changes in your life.
S.M.A.R.T goals are commonly used by authors, trainers, employers and coaches. They are a proven, effective method. Try setting S.M.A.R.T goals for yourself. Remember they need to be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Tangible.
Keep this in mind when setting your mini-goals:
SPECIFIC: The more specific you are when setting mini-goals, the more likely you’ll zone in and achieve what you want. For example, a general goal may be to exercise. A specific goal is targeted: To ride my bike in Central Park four times a week for 20 minutes, and elevate my heartrate to my target zone.
That goal offers you a clear picture, a story line that’s easy to follow.
MEASURABLE: It’s a great tool to set criteria and ways to measure your goals. When you measure progress, reach your targets, feel and see results, you are inspired by your own achievements, and more likely to continue to work hard to create your vision.
To make sure your goal is measurable, ask questions such as: How long? How many? How much? How will I know when it is achieved? How will I know when it is accomplished?
ATTAINABLE: I am a firm believer that nothing is impossible to a willing heart. Believe in yourself and do the work. Commit to your vision and figure out the steps to make it happen. Think about the abilities, skills, resources and attitude you need to create changes. You’ll be amazed at yourself when a goal that once seemed out of reach has become your reality because you’ve stretched yourself.
REALISTIC: You have to factor in who you are as a person, your lifestyle and your current state. Your goals need to align with who you are at the core or else they just won’t stick. You can’t fit a square peg in a circle hole, right? So take the measures necessary to make realistic changes that you are willing and able to work toward.
TANGIBLE: Lots of internal changes need to occur when we create change. Most importantly, remember to keep a positive attitude and mindset. It helps to tie internal changes to tangible ones, so think of the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, hearing. This can help to make it specific, measurable, and attainable.
And remember, S.M.A.R.T goals should answer the six “W” questions.
Who: Who is involved?
What: What do I want to create?
Why: Why is this important to me? Identify purpose and benefits.
When: Set your timeframe. Hold yourself accountable.
Where: Establish a location.
Which: Identify your obstacles and strategize to overcome them.
Remember, celebrate your dedication and create real changes in your life!
A Spiritual Diet
Confession time: I just ate a grilled steak and cheese sandwich for lunch, followed by carrot cake. OK, so I shared the carrot cake with a friend. And beta-Carotene, even when processed into bits, counts for something. Right?
Twenty guilty minutes later, I find myself cozying up to the book “A Course in Weight Loss” by Marianne Williamson at Barnes & Noble — all the while secretly hoping the first chapter would read “cheesy meat, butter and cake fat are your friends!”
Not quite. Marianne Williamson is one of the first self-help spiritual authors who made it mainstream with her best-selling, loved-by-Oprah book “A Return to Love” — basically the CliffsNotes version of “A Course in Miracles.” I read “A Return to Love” two summers ago, when I was hopelessly single and sharing a Hamptons house mostly filled with somewhat anxious, 30-something bachelorettes. It was my beach bible and helped me find an inner calm, especially when the ovary freezing conversations came up at breakfast.
Now Williamson tackles weight loss in her latest book, which not surprisingly also has been embraced by Oprah, a woman who has seen numbers large and small on her own scale. The book doesn’t pitch a specific diet or share nutritional techniques. Rather, it encourages its readers to love their inner selves and allow their outer selves to take shape automatically. It sounds much easier than Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to me.
“Neither poor diet nor lack of exercise are the cause of your excess weight,” Williamson writes. “Mind is the cause; body is effect. The cause of your excess weight is in your mind. The cause of your excess weight is fear, which is a place in your mind where love is blocked… The purpose of this course is to root out your fear, and to replace it with an inestimable love… Only the power of love can overcome the power of hate, and make no mistake about it: your unhealthy eating is an act of self-hate.”
Williamson offers 22 spiritual lessons for addressing your weight forever in this book. One of her lessons teaches you to love the not-thin you — she even suggests you write her a letter. Because she won’t go away until she is listened to. (Oh, snap!)
And since she is known for giving amazing, thought-provoking and inspiring lectures, I was excited to have the chance to see her speak at the B&N this past week. An attractive, petite little thing, this spiritual way to diet clearly works for her. She’s soft-spoken, but her words are powerful and moving. When I got home, I took out my carrot sticks started writing my letter.
“Feel free to continue eating cheesy meat and cake,” I wrote my less-than-perfectly-thin self. “Just make sure it’s food that you’re really hungry for, okay? And pay attention to what you pull out of the freezer — strangely, it might look and feel like ovaries.”
Top Photo: Flickr
Check out Ilana’s blog, Downtown Dharma for more zen tips in the big city.
If You Vision It, It Will Come
If one more loon tells me they have a vision board, I might lose it. Everyone and their best friend’s brother has one, it seems. Umm. Including me.
I signed up for a visioning workshop this past weekend put on by Kristina Leonardi, one of my favorite career coaches. I’m guilty; I’ll admit I like the idea of vision boards. If you can see it, you can believe it, right? And as soon as you believe, you can begin manifesting those visions. You’ve read or heard about The Secret; you know the drill.
Kristina’s workshop was based on the book Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams by Lucia Capacchione. Here’s how it worked. About 17 women gathered in a space, each equipped with bunches of magazines, tags, scissors and glue sticks. For about an hour, we sifted though O Magazine, Self, Cosmo, Yoga Journal, cutting out every image that grabbed our attention. In silence, no less, with instructions not to over think it too much. A hard task, especially for us ladies.
Kristina insisted we use our right brains instead of our left. She explained that we use our right brain for our intuition and creativity, but our left brain is analytical, practical and used mostly for survival. In our city, we overuse our left brain and give it way too much power.
So there I was, flipping through mags and squinting my right eye in an attempt to squeeze something out of my right brain. I must have looked pretty awkward, but nobody was about to comment in a room of silent women, so what did I care?
At the end of our day, everyone presented their collages. Mine looked pretty serene in comparison to the others. But, then again, I am looking for peace of mind; isn’t that what this blog is about? I cut and pasted a lot of greenery, lovely homes surrounded by lush nature, anything and everything yoga, and empowering statements like Be 100% You! I also couldn’t resist an image of a bride in front of a hot dog stand, getting proposed to with a hot dog! Don’t ask what that means!
I’m supposed to look at my board every day and wait for something to happen. “If you can dream it, you can do it!” Kristina wrote on our take-home flyers. “Your collage serves as a motivational magnet. Pay attention to clues and opportunities, and take action based on vision. The courage to grow is noticed by the Universe.”
OK, then. Here I go. My vision board is propped up on my armoire so that it’s the first thing I see when I wake. I’ll just have to hide it when guests come over, because I cannot have them thinking I’m one of those sweet loons!
It’s strange, though. Ever since the workshop, I’ve been really craving hot dogs.
Top Photo: Flickr
Check out Ilana’s blog, Downtown Dharma for more zen tips in the big city.
Join Us: Oprah & Deepak 21 Day Meditation Challenge
Miss. O is up to it again. Another good challenge for folks interested in bringing in a little more peace, balance and love into their lives. Check out her new meditation challenge, and join them for free. Details below!
ALL-NEW – Register and participate for FREE!
Log in or register here to begin.
Fall in love with yourself. Fall in love with life.
Join us for Miraculous Relationships, a transformational three-week guided meditation journey into the heart of true love. Discover the wonder that exists within and then watch all of your relationships unfold effortlessly, easily, and miraculously. Participation is FREE. It’s not too late–register here!
In our interactive online program we invite you to meditate and journal with us each day to embrace your true essence, expand your understanding of divine relationship, and experience unparalleled connection with the world around you.
We encourage you to register now for our all-new 21-Day Meditation Challenge – Miraculous Relationships.
Oprah & Deepak
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.