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Meditate Regularly for a Great 2009!

Meditate Regularly for a Great 2009!

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    I was a sporadic meditator at best for years, only to really commit to meditation when, just after turning 39, I discovered a mass in my right breast.

    From the point of discovery of the mass to getting the necessary tests, waiting for results, waiting for surgery, waiting to see if the newly diagnosed cancer had spread to lymph nodes, waiting to see what treatment I would have, and so much more, there were times that I didn’t think I could physically tolerate much more anxiety. I knew I had to do something to manage the stress and that I would need to make it a way of life. One of the weapons I chose was meditation.

    Now before this, my thoughts about meditation followed the lines of, Everybody says that this is a healthy thing. I probably should be doing it. Some of the people who talk about meditation seem a little flaky. I guess I sit here and watch my breathing. Am I doing this right? Is this doing anything at all? Oh, look, there’s another article on the benefits of meditation. I guess I should give it another try.

    After the diagnosis of cancer, I began meditating regularly. Sometimes I missed a day or two, but I kept returning to the practice. What I found was that, while I didn’t notice results overnight, eventually I noticed a few improvements:

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    • A calmer mind. If my mind was frantically hopping from thought-to-thought (“monkey mind” or “wild mind”) at the beginning of a meditation session, by the end, it was always at least slightly calmer.
    • A brief rest from being anywhere other than the present. When my mind was filled with anxiety, it was always about that moment of time in the future that I might die or hear that I’d lost my job or something else. While in meditation, time and thought ceased.
    • Increased awareness of mental and physical state. I became more aware of my emotional reactions. A benefit of meditation is that it can help you almost step outside of yourself during a crisis and note things like “my stomach feels tight” or “my agitation over my boss’s email is really escalating.” Meditation seems to make you more aware of the choice to slow down and choose your reaction rather than just be helplessly tossed by patterned waves of emotion.

    Fear and the Unknown

    I had the opportunity to speak with spiritual counselor and meditation teacher Don Simmons about meditation, and he echoed my findings about meditation and fear. “Meditation can help someone move through fear. When you deal with the unknown, meditation helps you observe everything that takes place without judgment. Then you move from reaction to action.”

    Right now, most of us are dealing with a great deal of the “unknown.” With ubiquitous reports of a failing economy, layoffs, and families in despair, we may wonder if we’re going to be the next casualty.

    As Don told me, meditation enables you to tell yourself what is real and what is not. When you focus on breathing, you are focusing on one of the most basic ingredients of life. You are silently reminded that “My fears are not reality. I am here, right now. This is what truly matters–that I am alive, that I have wellness, that I feel good.” A wise friend once told me, “any time you worry, you are living someplace other than the present.”

    Surprise: Meditation Helps with Productivity!

    I would wager that many interested in productivity don’t immediately think of meditation. After all, you’re just sitting there, aren’t you? How is that productive?

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    What I have found is that there can be as much false economy with time and energy as there can be with money. If I work four, 16-hour days in an attempt to get ahead, I’ll ultimately wind up more tired and less productive than if I maintain balanced days.

    In discussing this phenomena with Don Simmons, he described humans as having a masculine and feminine side. “It’s not about being straight or gay; it’s about listening and talking, hearing and creation.” Your feminine side is that which dreams, incubates, and expands. Your masculine side is the action and manifestation. Don illustrated this with a boat: The rudder (feminine) guides the boat and asks the question “where do I want to go?” whereas the  engine (masculine) follows through with the physical action to get you to your destination.

    The key, says Don, is to be in perfect harmony.

    And surely you’ve experienced harmony. Do you remember a time in which everything just seemed to click? You were “in flow.” You seemed to have the Midas touch. You were on top of the world! This balance, this flow, is necessary for continued productivity without exhaustion.

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    So How Do I Meditate?

    I have a few techniques that I use, but the most basic is simply to sit in a chair or on the floor and focus on my breathing. I use a digital timer that I set for 10 or 15 minutes. What does it mean to focus on your breathing? Literally, focus on each breath as it enters your nose, slowly expands your lungs, and then leaves your body. Breathe naturally. If you wish, you can tailor this to your desires, such as saying silently, “I breathe in peace; I exhale stress.” This is a simple technique but very effective. Later you can become more advanced and read about hand positions (mudras), sitting positions, etc., but they are unnecessary for a successful beginning meditation practice.

    What is absolutely necessary to meditate:

    1. Choose a position that will respect your practice and keep you from falling asleep. Honor your body and bring integrity to your practice. Don says that “when you are in meditation, you are meeting yourself.” If you were meeting someone you respect, you would likely make sure your body is clean and neat and dressed in clean clothes. You wouldn’t slouch.
    2. Try to meditate daily. Meditation, like learning a language, isn’t for the weekend warrior. It is better to have short sessions of 5-10 minutes daily than sporadic, long sessions.

    How Do I Know I’m Doing it Right?

    Did you fall asleep? Did you get up before your time was up? Do you feel at least slightly better after meditation than you did before? You’re doing it right. The goal is to simply focus on your breathing, releasing thoughts as they come. Attempt to stay in a state of compassion and nonjudgment.

    Don shared an interesting illustration of work he has done as an animal trainer. As soon as the dog finally performed the trick, he was rewarded, and the training for the day abruptly ended. Why? Because the dog “got” it. You want to end on a positive note. Essentially, “you are training your mind for success,” says Don.

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    Training your mind for success–an idea that’s absolutely in harmony with productivity! And If you still feel meditation is a little too “out there” for you, then consider the recent research that reveals actual physical changes in the brains of those who meditate compared with those who don’t. Here are a few supportive articles and sites that may help convince you that meditation is a worthwhile habit:

    The Benefits of Meditation – Psychology Today

    For Stress Reduction, Just Say Ommm – CNN

    How Monks Find Their Happy Groove – CNN

    The Mystic Path – Don Simmons

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    Last Updated on December 9, 2019

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

    Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

    Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

    1. Get Rationally Optimistic

    Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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    This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

    In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

    The result: no more mental stress.

    2. Unplug

    Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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    How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

    It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

    Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

    3. Easy on the Caffeine

    Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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    Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

    4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

    That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

    How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

    • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
    • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
    • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

    While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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    5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

    This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

    The result: mental stress will be gone!

    So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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    Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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