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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 January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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