Monday, December 28, 2015

The Brain Before and After Meditation

Scientist’s Brain Scans Show How Meditation Literally Increases The Size of Your Brain

Most people seem to think meditation is only a spiritual practice that spiritual people use to ‘find themselves’. This could not be further from the truth.  When practiced correctly it has amazing effects for both your mental and physical health.

In the video you are about to watch neuroscientist Sara Lazar carried out an experiment which showed how meditation can actually change the size of key regions of our brain, improving our memory and making us more empathetic, compassionate, and resilient under stress.

Based on the findings in Sara’s experiments it was found that meditation practice can actually slow down and even prevent the natural age-related decline our brain suffers as we get older. So not only is this ancient practice backed by science you only have to speak to anyone who has meditated and they will tell you that it is a wonderful practice for both mental and emotional development.

People who meditate will tell you how they feel more connected to the world around them and more at peace with themselves. You will probably notice how they deal with stressful situations better than most and are able to appreciate things in life that perhaps most people take for granted.
This is no longer spiritual mumbo jumbo but science confirms – Meditation is good for you and it literally changes your brain for the better!
Article c/o
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Monday, December 21, 2015

Mindfulness Meditation & Addiction

Causes for addiction and how mindfulness meditation can help with them.

One of the first steps in dealing with addiction is to discover the emotional cause of it, whether it is fear, depression, anxiety, or pessimism. Many times these unwholesome thoughts and beliefs come from what I call the “wanting mind.” In wanting mind, we feel that our current state of unhappiness could be cured if only we could have the money, job, relationship, recognition, or power we had and lost, or never had and strongly desire. Often we cause ourselves suffering when we ache for something that lies out of our grasp or cling in vain to something that has already passed away. Sometimes, wanting mind involves tightly holding on to something negative: an unwholesome belief about how things ought to be or should have been, or an unwholesome emotion such as anger, sadness, or jealousy. Mindfulness practice helps us develop the capacity to see clearly exactly what we’re attached to so that we can let go of it and end our suffering. The hidden areas of resistance that emerge into our awareness can be noted and examined later so that we can make the conscious choice to reject them.

You can never completely avoid the wanting mind or any other hindrance. Desire is part of being human. It causes us to strive toward bettering our lives and our world, and has led to many of the discoveries and inventions that have provided us with a higher quality of life. Yet despite all that we can achieve and possess, we can become convinced that we won’t be happy or contented unless we acquire even more. This unwholesome belief can lead to competitiveness and feeling resentful toward, or envious of, those who seem to have an easier life.

If I have a patient who is using drugs or even food to manipulate their moods I first refer them to a nutritionist; a psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist; or a holistic doctor, such as an integrative medical doctor, to break this habit. In addition to this I recommend mindfulness meditation, yoga practice, and regular exercise as they are all excellent to help mood regulation. These types of activities lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, increase your interleukin levels (enhancing your immune system and providing you with greater energy), and streamline your body’s ability to cleanse itself of chemical toxins, such as lactic acid in your muscles and bloodstream, which can affect neurotransmitter receptors and alter your mood (Chopra 1994; Rossi 1993).

The challenge to altering addictions is the fear that you can’t change which can push you into denial and cause you to minimize the consequences of your unproductive behaviors. Whatever you discover about yourself and however painful your discovery, dramatic breakthroughs are always possible. Research on mindfulness meditation indicates that qualities we once thought immutable that form temperament and character can actually be altered significantly. By retraining your mind through mindfulness practice, you create new neural networks. If you’re aggressive, you can find ways to temper that aspect of yourself, becoming assertive and clear about your boundaries without entering into a competitive and possibly even hostile mind-set that will sabotage you.

For many years, scientists believed that the brain’s plasticity, that is, its ability to create new structures and learn, was limited after childhood. However, new research shows that we can alter the structure of the brain and reap the benefits well into adulthood. Sara Lazar, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, discovered that the more one practices mindfulness meditation, the thicker the brain becomes in the mid-prefrontal cortex and in the mid-insular region of the brain. Changing your mind (or thought processes) actually causes changes in the brain (Lazar et al. 2005). Lazar found that, while people who’ve practiced meditation for ten or twenty years are adept at quickly achieving a state of concentration and mindful awareness, newcomers who engage in mindfulness meditation as little as four hours a week can achieve and sustain a state of mindfulness that leads to creative flow, or what I call “open-mind consciousness.” She discovered that even beginning meditators in their early twenties were able to achieve advanced states of concentration and insight (what I refer to as “mindstrength”) equal to that of senior meditation practitioners. Intention and attention of focus were the keys to reaching these states, not the number of hours spent on a meditation cushion (Lazar and Siegel 2007). From my own experience and work, I know that regular mindfulness practice allows us to set aside distractions and enter the transformative state of open mind.

Mindfulness practice may positively affect the amount of activity in the amygdala, the walnut-sized area in the center of the brain responsible for regulating emotions (Davidson 2000). When the amygdala is relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system engages to counteract the anxiety response. The heart rate lowers, breathing deepens and slows, and the body stops releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream; these stress hormones provide us with quick energy in times of danger but have damaging effects on the body in the long term if they’re too prevalent. Over time, mindfulness meditation actually thickens the bilateral, prefrontal right-insular region of the brain (Lazar et al. 2005), the area responsible for optimism and a sense of well-being, spaciousness, and possibility. This area is also associated with creativity and an increased sense of curiosity, as well as the ability to be reflective and observe how your mind works.

By building new neural connections among brain cells, we rewire the brain, and with each new neural connection, the brain is actually learning. It’s as if we’re adding more RAM to a computer, giving it more functionality. In The Mindful Brain, leading neuroscientist Daniel Siegel (2007, 5), defines the mind as “a process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” His early brain research showed that “where neurons fire, they can rewire” (2007, 291); that is, they create new neural pathways or structures in the brain. He postulates that one of the benefits of mindfulness meditation practice is this process of creating new neural networks for self-observation, optimism, and well-being. Through mindfulness meditation, we light up and build up the left-prefrontal cortex, associated with optimism, self-observation, and compassion, allowing ourselves to cease being dominated by the right-prefrontal cortex, which is associated with fear, depression, anxiety, and pessimism. As a result, our self-awareness and mood stability increase as our harsh judgments of others and ourselves decrease. By devoting attention, intention, and daily effort to being mindful, we learn to master the mind and open the doorway to the creativity available in open-mind consciousness.

It’s entirely possible that the same effects can be achieved through other practices that appear to open up new neural pathways, such as tai chi, yoga, and other forms of meditation, but thanks to researchers studying mindfulness meditation, we now know that we can actually remap the brain and affect the way it functions, as well as the way it influences the body.


Article c/o Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. for Psychology Today 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Five Fascinating Health Benefits of Mindful Meditation

“Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Mindfulness meditation has been around for literally thousands of years, and there’s a reason for that: it works. Through science we’re starting to get a better understanding of why it is so beneficial. Everyday more research is drawing a clearer link between meditation and human health. Its effect on our mind body and soul is undeniable. People as diverse as David Lynch and the Dalai Lama have praised the benefits of mindful meditation, asserting that it can increase attention, combat stress, boost overall health, and even foster compassion. With that in mind, here are five interesting health benefits of mindful meditation.

1.) Stress & pain relief:
“What we have to learn in both meditation and in life is to be free of attachment to the good experiences and free of aversion to the negative ones.” – Sogyal Rinpoche

A new study in the journal Health Psychology shows an association between increased mindfulness and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Another study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist University found that meditation could reduce pain intensity by 40% and pain unpleasantness by 57%, compared to morphine which only shows pain reduction of 25%. As such, it lowers anxiety and depression by helping us feel, more than think, about that which conflicts us psychologically.

Meditation on the Brain

Anybody who has practiced mindful meditation long enough understands that meditation beats almost all other methods of stress relief, except maybe physical exercise. This is because being present with that which stresses us out turns the tables on the push-pull power dynamic between our daily troubles and our ability to withstand them. In the quiet spaces between our thoughts, stress itself becomes a thing for us to embrace and understand as opposed to a thing that controls us and dictates our happiness.

2.) Increased Gray Matter & Neuroplasticity:
“It is likely that the observed larger hippocampal volumes may account for meditators’ singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior,” –Eileen Luders

We don’t have to be Yogis to reap the health benefits of mindful meditation. It turns out that our brains are being molded in profoundly beneficial ways by daily meditation practices. In 2008 a team of researchers from UCLA compared the brains of long-term meditators with those of control subjects. In the brains of the meditators, they found larger volumes of gray matter in the right orbito-frontal cortex and the right hippocampus, regions thought to be implicated in emotion and response control.

Breathe in; Breathe out: Focus!

Sustained meditation can also lead to something called neuroplasticity, which is defined as changes in neural connections and synapses, both structurally and functionally, which are due to changes in behavior and environment.

Research by University of Wisconsin, neuroscientist Richard Davidson on Tibetan Buddhist monks has shown that experienced meditators exhibit high levels of gamma wave activity that seem to reflect the impact of meditation on attention and synchrony of high-frequency oscillations that probably play an important role in connectivity among widespread circuitry in the brain.

3.) Increased Focus:
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” – Deepak Chopra

Have you ever wondered why meditation can make you feel more aware of yourself, others, and your environment, giving you that awesome sense of Zen? How we begin to notice details and textures that we never noticed before? How everyday life becomes clearer, sharper, and at the same time more spacious? According to a study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, it’s because meditation helps the brain to have better control over processing pain and emotions, specifically through the control of cortical alpha rhythms, which leads to focused engagement, body awareness, self-awareness, and the regulation of attention.

It even makes music sound better! According to a study in the journal Psychology of Music, meditation improves our focus, thus helping us to truly enjoy and experience what we’re listening to. Indeed, from Beethoven to Bon Jovi, Bach to Beck, mindful meditation seems to improve our enjoyment of music. Perhaps this is what Nietzsche was referring to when he wrote, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

effect of meditation
“The flowering of love is meditation.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

4.) Increased Empathy:
“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Spiritual traditions have suggested for years that mediation may boost our ability for compassion, but there has never been any scientific proof – until now. It turns out that mindful meditation can benefit non-meditators as well. This is because meditation can actually make us better people and improve our compassion for others.

According to a study in the journal Psychological Science, researchers from Northeastern University found that meditation is linked with more virtuous behavior. “The truly surprising aspect of this finding,” researcher David DeSteno said, “is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous – to help another who was suffering – even in the face of a norm not to do so.”

Couple these findings with the discovery of mirror neurons, which constitutes our powerful system of empathy, and we see exactly how influential we can be as social creatures. When we see another person suffering, we can feel their suffering as if it is our own.

When we’re able to think more deeply about what others are going through, it can lead to some profound learning. “Mirror neurons,” writes Lea Winerman, “are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action.” Daily Mindful meditation on these neural correlates of empathy could have a profound effect on our evolution as social animals.

At the end of the day, I can end up just totally wacky, because I’ve made mountains out of molehills. With meditation, I can keep them as molehills.” – Ringo Starr

5.) Better Sleep
“Sleep is unconscious meditation. Meditation is conscious sleep. In sleep we get limited energy. In meditation we get abundant energy.” – Anil Kumar Singh

Have you ever wondered why you seem to sleep better when you consistently practice mindful meditation? According to a 2013 University of Utah study, mindfulness meditation can not only help us better control our emotions and moods, but it can also help us sleep better.

Study researcher Holly Rau said in a statement, “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress.”

Meditation practices were also reported to regulate cortisol and catecholamine, and increase melatonin levels. Meditation increases melatonin concentration by slowing its metabolism in the pineal gland.

Diurnal melatonin levels were found to be significantly higher in Vipassana meditators than non-meditators, concluding that meditation practices could enhance melatonin levels and hence quality of sleep. Perhaps this is what the Dalai Lama was referring to when he said, “Sleep is the best meditation.”

Article c/o Fractal Enlightenment


Monday, December 7, 2015

4 Ways to Breathe Through Overeating Urges

4 Ways to Breathe Through Overeating Urges



We hope everyone fully enjoys the holidays and treats themselves on occasion, but do you feel the urge to overindulge regularly or throughout an entire season? Discover the science behind that drive in Hunger, Hope, and Healing by Sarahjoy Marsh and learn how to counter it with your breath. Here’s your holiday-party, home-alone-with-the-pie pranayama practice.

Each year as the holidays approach, my students—and people everywhere—find themselves facing food dilemmas. These aren’t limited to whether to serve cranberry sauce or not. No, the sorts of dilemmas my students face are the ones that can downward spiral into surges of regret and despair, spike into anxiety and panic, and may last for hours, overnight, or even careen out of control for months (Halloween candy started in September!). While the lure of the New Year taunts with its tempting resolutions, the kinds of resolutions that promise retribution, re-centering, and, yes, some weight loss, I am honored to teach my students how to better navigate the holiday season on behalf of their sanity, health, and vitality.
For any of us who’ve struggled with food or body image, the holidays become peak times for stress. Our vulnerability to our usual triggers may heighten. Our thoughts (“I’ll eat nothing all day because of that party tonight with all the appetizers and the buffet”) may be in conflict with our wisdom (“Maintaining balanced blood sugar makes my moods more stable. I’ll be more present if I’m not starving myself all day and feeling frenzied about indulgences at the party”).

The Science of Stress Eating

As we try to manage feelings, thoughts, fears, and stressors, our primitive brains are wired to come to our rescue by activating our “Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Submit” strategies in the face of threat (which very well may be tantalizing pie and eggnog, as opposed to a pacing mountain lion).
The Fight reaction is aggressive like a dog barking or attacking. Flight helps us escape, much like a cat fleeing a loud noise. Freeze immobilizes our decision-making as we stunned by a threat, like a deer in headlights. And submit mimics resignation or death, much like possums.
With food “dangers,” the brain employs these same hard-wired primitive reactions. We fight with ourselves—often experienced as the ruthless voice of the inner critic. We flee by taking leave of our body, our wisdom, or our self-care. We freeze when we brace against and clench in reaction to our inner or outer experience. And we submit when we collapse again to behaviors we later regret.
Although these reactions are biologically programmed to protect us, many of us have learned to over-rely on them even when there is no real threat to our biological survival. Feeling mentally, emotionally, or psychologically threatened (i.e., stressed) also triggers them. (The holiday season has countless triggers—small and large!) Shame and addiction set us up to feel threatened much more easily and frequently. This becomes a cycle to which we unknowingly acclimate. Our brain and body chemistry then promote anxiety, depression, and even food cravings. Getting a handle on how to shift this mind-body reaction empowers us to reduce our vulnerability and increase our resilience.

Why the Breath Is Your Best Intervention

The Fight-Flight-Freeze-Submit patterns are directly associated with particular breathing responses. The fight and flight reactions trigger the secondary respiration muscles—those meant for an actual physical emergency that would require our ability to ward off or run away from a predator. The freeze and submit reactions reduce breathing to shallow sips of air (mimicking death in life-threatening scenarios and encouraging a predator to lose interest).
The good news for yogis? Simple pranayama exercises can act as a direct antidote to these reactions. Shifting our breathing pattern back to diaphragmatic breathing—the breath of the relaxation response—reduces anxiety and calms both mind and body, shutting down the fight-flight-freeze-submit circuitry. By shifting how we breathe, we can regain leadership, confidence, and clarity.

4 Breathing Practices to Outsmart the Stress-Eating Circuitry

If you practice the following pranayama exercises on a daily basis, your body-mind circuitry will be better able to rely on these antidotes. If you only practice when you get triggered, the techniques will still be potent but will require more fervency from you to remember them, do them, and stick with them until the reaction dissolves and the remedy works.

For guided breath, click below and scroll down to the end of the article...
breathing through overeating urges


Monday, November 30, 2015

7 Pieces Of Timeless Wisdom To Help You Get Through Tough Times

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year for some, but they can also bring the feeling of loneliness, financial struggles, or memories of a lost loved one.  Here is a great article c/o, offering wisdom to help you get through tough times...


The wisest, most loving, and well rounded people you have ever met are likely those who have known misery, known defeat, known the heartbreak of losing something or someone they loved, and have found their way out of the depths of their own despair. These people have experienced many ups and downs, and have gained an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, understanding and a deep loving wisdom. People like this aren’t born; they develop slowly over the course of time.

In all honesty, when hard times hit, and the challenges you face are great, you can either let your situation define you, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you. The choice is yours to make.
It is my hope that the points made in this article will remind you of a few powerful, yet easily forgotten truths that will help you choose wisely and grow stronger even through the hardest of times…

1. Fear is an illusion, your fears literally do not exist.

During hard times it can be difficult to follow your heart and take the next step, but it’s essential that you do not let this stop you from progressing . The emotions generated by the illusion of  ’fear’ can feel overwhelming but you need to realize fear goes only as deep as your mind allows. You control your mind, so understand this and take control!
Don’t let your fear becomes a wordless, obscure darkness that you avoid, and perhaps even manage to briefly forget. Verbalize your emotions, do not hide from your feelings and face your fears head on.
You CAN beat fear if you face it. Be courageous! And remember that courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid; courage means you don’t let fear stop you from moving forward with your life.

2. Pain is just another part of life,  and it helps you to grow. 

So many of us are afraid of ourselves, of our own truth, and our feelings most of all. We talk about how great the concepts of life and love are, but then we hide from both every day. We hide from our truest feelings. Because the truth is life and love hurt sometimes, and the feelings this brings disturbs us.

We are taught at an early age that all pain is evil and harmful. Yet, how can we ever expect to deal with real life and true love if we’re afraid to feel what we really feel? We need to feel pain, just as we need to feel alive and loved. Pain is meant to wake us up. Yet we try to hide our pain. Realize this. Pain is something to carry willingly, just like good sense. Because you can only learn how strong you are when being strong is the only choice you have.

It’s all in how you carry the things that don’t go your way. That’s what matters in the end. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you – your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting the lies of insecurity destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel pain – to endure it – to own your scars – to deal with the realities of life and love, as you grow into the strongest, wisest, truest version of yourself.

3. Mindset is half the battle.

It’s okay to sometimes feel down, especially during tough times. We can’t always expect life to be wonderful all the time . However, when you recognize that life is full of highs and lows, you are able to let go and be at peace with the reality of these ups and downs. It becomes clear that life’s ups bad times in order for us to truly appreciate the good times.

Basically, life isn’t perfect, but it sure is great. Your goal should never be to create a perfect life, but to live an imperfect life in an amazing away. Get up every morning and take a good look around you.
Take nothing for granted. Everything is extraordinary. Every day is a gift. To be spiritual in any way is to be in awe at everything .
Do not let the pain of a difficult situation make you hopeless. Do not let negativity seep into your life.. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Remember, all you have to do it is change your thoughts and you change your reality.

And mindset is especially powerful when it comes to accepting that…

4. You are growing through experience.

 Over time you will find that life isn’t necessarily any easier or harder than you thought it was going to be; it’s just that the easy and the hard aren’t exactly the way you had anticipated, and don’t always occur when you expect them to. This isn’t a bad thing; it makes life interesting. With a positive attitude you will always be pleasantly surprised.

When you stop expecting things to be a certain way, you can appreciate them for what they are. Ultimately you will realize that life’s greatest gifts are rarely wrapped the way you expected.
Experience is what you get when your plans don’t go as planned, and experience is the most valuable commodity you own – it builds your strength.

You have the power to turn your wounds and worries into wisdom; you just have to do something about them. You have to accept what has happened and use what you’ve learned to step forward. Everything you’ve experienced has given you the upper hand for dealing with everything you have yet to experience. Realize this and set yourself free.

5. The present is all you really have to deal with.

Life is not lived in some distant, imagined land of someday where everything is perfect. It is lived here and now, with the reality of the way things are. Yes, by all means you can work toward an idealized tomorrow. Yet to do so, you must successfully deal with the world as it is today.
Sometimes we avoid experiencing exactly where we are because we have developed a belief, based on past experiences, that it is not where we should be or want to be. But the truth is, where you are now is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to go tomorrow. So appreciate where you are.

Your friends and family are too beautiful to ignore. Take a moment to remember how fortunate you are to be breathing. Take a look around, with your eyes earnestly open to the possibilities before you. Much of what you fear does not exist. Much of what you love is closer than you realize. You are just one brief thought away from understanding the blessing that is your life.

Happiness is a mindset that can only be designed into the present. It’s not a point in the future or a moment from the past; yet sadly, this misconception hurts the masses. So many young people seem to think all their happiness awaits them in the years ahead, while so many older people believe their best moments are behind them. Don’t be either of them. Don’t let the past and the future steal your present.

6. Other people cannot validate you.

When we’re struggling to achieve something important, sometimes we look to others to validate our progress. But the truth is, they can’t…

You are not in this world to live up to the expectations of others, nor should you feel that others are here to live up to yours. Create your own path. What success means to each of us is totally different. Success is ultimately about spending your life happily in your own way.
You don’t have to be famous to be significant or be a celebrity to be successful. You don’t need to be validated by anyone else. You are already valuable. You just need to believe in yourself.
You can be quietly humble and still be amazingly effective. Just because people don’t fall at your feet and worship you, doesn’t mean you are a failure. Quiet success is just as sweet as loud, flamboyant success, and usually far more real. Success is how you define it, not what everyone else says it must be for you.

7. You are not alone.

In the midst of hard times, it’s easy to look around and see a bunch of people who seem to be doing just fine. But they’re not. We’re all struggling in our own way. And if we could just be brave enough to open up about it, and talk to each other, we’d realize that we are not alone in feeling lost and alone.

So many of us are fighting the same exact battle alongside you. We are all in this together. So no matter how embarrassed or pathetic you feel about your own situation, know that there are others out there experiencing the same emotions. When you hear yourself say,
“I am all alone,” it’s just your worried mind trying to sell you a lie. There’s always someone who can relate to you. Perhaps you can’t immediately talk to them, but they are out there.
If you’re feeling desperate right now, hear me: I often feel and think and struggle much like you do. I care about many of the things you care about, just in my own way. And although some people do not understand us, we understand each other. YOU are not alone!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Watch How Meditation Is Transforming Elementary Kids

Mindful Meditation is Transforming Elementary Kids: Parents, This is a Must Watch

post c/o
published 11/19/15

Finally! Mindful meditation is being practiced by students and teachers during school. Had I learned what these lucky kids are learning now when I was a kid, the amount of times I turned into a psychopath when my little brother got under my skin, might have been few and far between.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is teaching kids how to do mindful meditation. At first, the kids thought it was strange, but it didn’t take long for them to look forward to their meditation session after lunch and recess (the time when they seem to be the most unfocused).

The results have been incredible. The kids have become more available to learn and teachers have seen a huge transformation, in fact, students are now practicing mindfulness without being asked to.

“If I’m ever like bad emotions or mad, I just think about breathing in deep and think about mindfulness. I think its very helpful to me.”-5th grader at Glendale Elementary School

“I can feel myself calming down and ya know, let go of the stress, ya know, let go of what was on my mind outside, and pay attention to what they (teachers) are talking about.”-5th grader at Glendale Elementary School.

Kids have astounding capabilities because their minds are still open, and its important that adults give them the opportunity to let their minds flourish. Mindfulness is the way!
This video might make you smile really big:


Monday, November 16, 2015

Meditation: It's Not What You Think

Meditation: It's Not What You Think
Excerpted from Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness
By Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
It might be good to clarify a few common misunderstandings about meditation right off the bat.  First, meditation is best thought of as a way of being, rather than a technique or a collection of techniques.
I'll say it again.
Mediation is a way of being, not a technique. 
This doesn't mean that there aren't methods and techniques associated with meditation practice.
There are.  In fact, there are hundreds of them, and we will be making good use of some of them.  But without understanding that all techniques are orienting vehicles pointing at ways of being, ways of being in relationship to the present moment and to one's own mind and one's own experience, we can easily get lost in techniques and in our misguided but entirely understandable attempts to use them to get somewhere else and experience some special result or state that we think is the goal of it all...
Second, meditation is not relaxation spelled differently.  Perhaps I should say that again as well: Meditation is not relaxation spelled differently.  That doesn't mean that meditation is not frequently accompanied by profound states of relaxation and by deep feelings of wellbeing.  Of course it is, or can be, sometimes.  But mindfulness meditation is the embrace of any and all mind states in awareness, without preferring one to another.  From the point of view of mindfulness practice, pain or anguish, or for that matter boredom or impatience or frustration or anxiety or tension in the body are all equally valid objects of our attention if we find them arising in the present moment, each a rich opportunity for insight and learning, and potentially, for liberation, rather than signs that or meditation practice is not "succeeding" because we are not feeling relaxed or experience bliss in some moment.
We might say that meditation is really a way of being appropriate to the circumstances one finds oneself in, in any and every moment.  If we are caught up in the preoccupations of our own mind, in that moment we cannot be present in an appropriate way or perhaps at all.  We will bring an agenda of some kind to whatever we say or do or think, even if we don't know it...
For meditation, and especially mindfulness meditation, is not the throwing of a switch and catapulting yourself anywhere, not is it entertaining certain thoughts and getting rid of others.  Nor is it making your mind blank or willing yourself to be peaceful or relaxed.  It is really an inward gesture that inclines the heart and mind (seen as one seamless whole) toward a full-spectrum awareness of the present moment just as it is, accepting whatever is happening simply because it is already happening...
Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere else.  It is about allowing yourself to be exactly where you are and as you are, and for the world to be exactly as it is in this moment as well.  This is not so easy, since there is always something that we can rightly find fault with if we stay inside our thinking.  And so there tends to be great resistance on the part of the mind and body to settle into things just as they are, even for a moment.  That resistance to what is may be even more compounded if we are meditating because we hope that by doing so, we can effect change, make things different, improve our own lives, and contribute to improving the lot of the world...
So, from the point of view of awareness, any state of mind is a meditative state.  Anger or sadness is just as interesting and useful and valid to look into as enthusiasm or delight, and far more valuable than a blank mind, a mind that is insensate, out of touch.  Anger, fear, terror, sadness, resentment, impatience, enthusiasm, delight, confusion, disgust, contempt, envy, rage, lust, even dullness, doubt, and torpor, in fact all mind states and body states are occasions to know ourselves better if we can stop, look, and listing, in other words, if we can come to our senses and be intimate with what present itself in awareness in any and every moment.  The astonishing thing, so counterintuitive, is that nothing else needs to happen.  We can give up trying to make something special occur.  In letting go of wanting something special to occur, maybe we can realize that something very special is already occurring, and is always occurring, namely life emerging in each moment as awareness itself.

Monday, November 9, 2015

When Schools Teach Meditation, Something Amazing Happens

Enjoy this article c/o

I am sure a lot of you have experienced the fantastic practice of meditation.  Boasting a wide variety of benefits, meditation is proven to have a massive impact on your mental and emotional well-being. Burdened with stress, and facing something has been challenging you, meditation is an excellent way to relax and gain insight in your daily life. Could you imagine if the practice of meditation was taught to you as a child? The impact on your life would have been drastic.
There are countless benefits to teaching children meditation. A few years ago, the school district of San Francisco was searching for a way to help troubled teens in their schools. After much thought and deliberation, they went forward with a program called "quiet time". The program gave students the opportunity to practice transcendental meditation, which involves the use of a sound or mantra within the technique, for 15 minutes a day. The school board had hopes that this would assist students in letting go of stress and confusion in their lives. The school saw  a 79% decrease in suspensions, a 98.3% increase in attendance, and an increase to student's GPA by 4, only four years after the start of "Quiet Time", according to Collective Evolution.
If we started teaching meditation to our younger generations, would it prevent fighting and bullying, would drop-outs dwindle in numbers? Would it maybe give them a head-start to provide them with the necessary life tools for a more peaceful, successful life?
The wonderful organization called Tonic For The Soul recently started a campaign to fundraise in support of instilling meditation time during school hours for kids and teenagers. Their goal is to "empower the youth with the tools that bring calm, focus and happiness" to give them the best start to life.
The money that is raised will help with the production of a guided meditation series, a website, and a table at a major Health and Wellness Expo.
The children of today will be the leaders of the future- imagine how this one simple practice could shape our tomorrows for the better.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

4 Steps To A Conscious Relationship


We are approaching a period of time when relationships are ready to go through a major redesign. The current paradigm isn't working. People are unsatisfied in love. They don't know how to make relationships work.

This is not a bad thing. Because when systems break down, that's when they change. This break down is guiding us to move toward conscious love.

This is a romantic relationship in which both partners feel committed to a sense of purpose, and that purpose is growth. Individual growth. Collective growth as a couple. Growth that makes the world a greater place.


This is the path to a Conscious Relationship...

1. The conscious couple is not attached to the outcome of the relationship: growth comes first.
This doesn't mean we don't care what happens or we can't fantasize about how the relationship will turn out. It means that we are more committed to the experience of growth than we are at making the relationship "work". The reality is, we are here to grow: physical, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. When growth stops, we automatically feel like something has gone wrong. Because it has. Without growth we are not fulfilling our soul's purpose.

Unfortunately, most relationships tend to stifle growth more than enhance it. We want our partners to act a certain way, we repress ourselves to please others, and soon enough, we feel small, oppressed and puzzled about what we've become. This inevitably makes the relationship feel like a cage we want to break out of. But the truth is we've caged ourselves. The conscious couple values growth above anything else because they know this is the secret to keeping the relationship alive.
2. Each person in the relationship is committed to owning their shit.

Conscious couples know they all have wounds from the past, and they understand that these wounds will be triggered, especially in a relationship. They expect they will feel abandoned, trapped, rejected, and any other shitty feelings that arise when we get close with another person.

Most people still believe that relationships should feel only good, and when bad feelings surface, something has gone terribly wrong. They fail to recognize that these issues are not caused by our partners, they are caused by our beliefs. The conscious couple is willing to look at their past and present issues because they know that by facing these beliefs systems, they can evolve into a new relationship reality. Dysfunctional patterns will dissolve, but only when we take responsibility for them first.


3. All feelings are welcome, and no internal process is condemned.

In a conscious relationship, there's room for feeling anything. Not only that, there's room to express those feelings and fantasies to your partner. This is an edgy territory that's not easy to accomplish, but it's also one of the most healing things we can experience in a partnership.

It's rare to be completely honest about who we are and stretch yourself to let your partner do the same. You may not like what you hear; in fact, it may trigger the hell out of you. But if you're willing to be triggered, it means your partner can be authentic. 

We are used to molding and changing ourselves to please people we love because we don't want them to stop loving us. This stifles the love out of our connections. The only option is radical honesty, revealing parts of ourselves that are hard to share and letting our partners do the same. This leads to feeling known, seen and truly understood. This will automatically enhance Love.


4. The relationship is a place to practice love.

Love, ultimately is a practice. A practice of acceptance, being present, forgiveness, and stretching your heart into vulnerable territory. Love is a journey and an exploration. It's showing up for all varied nuances of our relationship and asking our selves: what would Love do here?

The conscious couple is fiercely committed to being the embodiment of love. And through their devotion and practice, love shows up in their lives and relationship. 



Monday, October 26, 2015

10 Foods That Are Hurting Your Brain

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In our world today, we constantly get bombarded with images and commercials advertising delicious, tempting, unhealthy foods.


Our society seems more focused on making ends meet, even at the cost of having an overweight, nutrient-deficient, lethargic population. Many of us work long hours, and don’t feel like making healthy foods when we get home. We want something quick, easy, and readily available to us, which usually means TV dinners and fast food.
Staying on track with a diet can seem utterly impossible when you walk into a store filled with more toxic, chemical-laden, nutrient-poor foods than healthy, nutritious, nurturing foods. However, even though having some things in moderation won’t really damage your health, consuming them on a regular basis can cause serious, even fatal, diseases. To have optimal health, you should avoid the following foods at all costs, or at least eat them very sparingly.

Here are 10 foods that are hurting your brain:


1. Tuna  

In a study performed earlier this year, University of Michigan researchers reported that mercury levels in yellowfin tuna had increased almost 4 percent annually from 1998 to 2008. Regular exposure to mercury can cause serious, sometimes irreversible, brain and nervous system damage. Our oceans have become contaminated with a dangerous cocktail of environmental pollutants, which the marine life inevitably absorb. When we consume seafood nowadays, most of it will contain several toxic heavy metals which our bodies simply don’t digest or absorb properly.
An analysis by health experts at the magazine Consumer Reports found that a 140 pound woman would exceed safe mercury exposure by consuming just 4.5 ounces of tuna per week. A 48 pound child who eats more than one-third a can of tuna per week, or the equivalent of the amount on a single tuna sandwich, could suffer permanent brain damage from mercury exposure.
If you do choose to eat tuna, go for canned light tuna rather than albacore, as this kind contains less mercury. Better yet, you could cut out seafood entirely, or go for shrimp, scallops, sardines, or wild and Alaskan salmon, which all have low levels of mercury.

2. Partially hydrogenated oils

If you see hydrogenated oils on a label, please do yourself a favor and put the product back on the shelf. Hydrogenated oils have no place in the human body, and some studies have even found that the oils leave scars on the internal walls of the arteries due to nickel often used in the hydrogenation process. That’s right; partially hydrogenated oils contain a catalyst of some sort in order to heat the oil up faster, and nickel, platinum, or even aluminum are used in the process. Heavy metals such as these have been linked to Alzheimer’s and other mental problems, so anything with partially hydrogenated oils should be avoided at all costs.
Hydrogenated oil is only one molecule away from plastic, so think about the adverse effects you could experience from consuming this toxic man-made concoction.

3. Sugar

Of course. naturally occurring sugar from fruits and starches is perfectly fine to consume, but when it is extracted and added back into processed foods, then it becomes a problem. Refined sugar, for one, doesn’t contain any nutritional benefits, so it’s just empty calories at the end of the day. In various studies, refined sugar has also been linked to an increase in anxiety, depression, and addiction, and a decrease in learning and memory. 

4. Fructose

Naturally occurring fructose found in fruit will not harm your health; it only becomes an issue when you eat fructose out of its natural state, such as in boxed or canned foods. Consuming too much processed fructose can lead to insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, a fatty liver, high blood pressure, and much, much more. Not to mention, fructose can cause neural activity to stagnate for up to 20 minutes, according to a 2011 study on the impact of glucose and fructose on the brain.


5. Saturated fats

Most people know that a diet high in saturated fat can clog the arteries and contribute to heart disease and strokes, but did you know that a diet heavy in saturated fat can impair cognitive function as well? A study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that consuming large amounts of saturated fat can lead to reduced cognitive function and also a dulling of the dopamine reward system, increasing dependency and addiction to unhealthy foods.
According to Stephanie Fulton, a professor at the University of Montreal’s Department of Nutrition, “Our research shows that independent of weight gain and obesity, high-fat feeding can cause impairments in the functioning of the brain circuitry profoundly implicated in mood disorders, drug addiction, and overeating — several states and pathologies that impinge on motivation and hedonia.”


6. Processed foods

Processed foods usually have a laundry list of chemicals, some of which have been linked to mental and behavioral disorders. Aside from the dangers of the ingredients, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2012 found that consuming a diet high in fatty processed foods can even lead to damage in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates hunger and thirst levels.


7. Fast food

More and more studies have been published about the detrimental effects of fast food on the body, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise why fast foods can cause so much damage. These “foods” have been stripped of almost all nutrients, and altered drastically from their natural state. A better way to describe them would be “food like substances,” because these culinary inventions really don’t resemble food at all. Fast foods lack many vitamins and minerals, including iron; iron deficiency might lead to poorer scores on tests in students who regularly consume fast food.


8. Microwave popcorn

Another highly processed food, this one causes even more damage due to the way in which one must prepare it. Not only does the popcorn contain toxic chemicals and additives, but popping it in a microwave strips the food of any nutrients that might be left, increases white blood cell levels, and creates carcinogens. Not to mention, the radioactive emissions generated from the microwave can lead to a slew of mental health problems.


9. Cookies and chips

Another form of refined, processed food, cookies and chips have pretty much zero nutritional benefits, but add on unnecessary calories. If you want a snack, go for some fresh fruit or vegetables to avoid all the chemicals and extra sugar in these highly addictive foods.






10. Corn syrup

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, consuming drinks or foods with high fructose corn syrup disrupts the part of the brain that tells us when we’re full, which leads to eating or drinking unneeded calories. Also, consuming free fructose (not in fruit) has been proven to be just as addictive as drugs, which means food marketers all over the place know this, and use this to take advantage of us.

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