Creating Focus

I realized the power of meditation when I experienced intense pain

Last week, I had to undergo an unexpected surgery. An intense pain developed over the weekend which sent me straight to the Urgent Care who sent me to see a surgeon. The reason I am telling you this is because it happened just before my March 27th presentation which is all about navigating pain through meditation.

Now, I felt that I was fit to talk about this subject because I used to have extremely debilitating menstrual cramps for years before I began using meditative techniques to reduce the pain and stress. But life had a different plan. 

Before the surgery was conducted, I went through excruciating pain over the weekend with nothing but my meditation practice and a loving husband to get me through it. Having never gone through anything like that before in my life, this was a brand new territory for me and a very potent learning ground. I hope to tell you more about the fruits of that experience in a future blog (or if you are in the Boone, NC area then on March 27th), but all I want to leave you with is this:

Meditation is not a luxury. It is a vital tool for navigating the real mess this life we live. Everything may be going well for you now so you may not feel the urgency of developing a meditation practice - I get it. We, humans, tend to do things only when we are fully convinced of its value. And if everything is going well for you right now, then that's really good. Take the opportunity of good conditions and practice meditation as much as you can.

It was when I could continuously place my attention on my breath, that I could feel relief from the intense physical pain. It was in those moments that I realized how far I still need to go in my practice. But I also became aware of how far I had come. Had I not been practicing meditation so far, the pain would have been completely overwhelming for me. 

Meditation is a balm that you can apply now so you can handle any injuries in the future with ease and find relief from suffering.


10 Steps To Building A New Meditation Habit

10 Steps To Building A New Meditation Habit

Photo by  Jay Castor

Photo by Jay Castor

We all know the benefit of meditation, especially a daily meditation practice. It has good effects for our health, our mind, our relationships and practically every aspect of our lives. So if we know it is good for us, why can't we do meditation every single day, without struggling to fit it into our daily hectic lives?

There are many answers to this question. We may intellectually know that meditation is good but don't have enough personal experience with it to seal the deal, so to speak. Or we may not have easy access to a meditation practice. Or we may not know how to go about picking a meditation that fits our life. Or we may not know how to build a daily habit. We may think that because of physical illness we cannot do meditation. Or that we need to sit cross-legged in order to do it in the first place. And there are plenty more reasons...

So how does one go about navigating this new world of meditation? Here are some tips that can help you tap into the juicy benefits of a daily meditation practice that await you.

1. Try different kinds of meditation

If you are just starting out, I highly recommend that you take a taste of the various kinds of meditations there are out there. You can try breath awareness, yoga nidra, mindful walking meditation, body scan technique, creative visualizations (I've got tons of free videos on my YouTube Channel for you here), shamanic meditation, anapana meditation, loving kindness meditation, gratitude meditation, vipassana meditation and so on. Try meditations with music or without music. Just see what you feel drawn to and start there. You don't have to try all. Just find one that you like to begin with and then you will find that the right practice will emerge for you in time.

Here's one

2. Start small

An important tip that can help you on your meditation journey is to start small, especially if just the idea of sitting for a long period of time causes you unease. Even just one minute is good enough. You can always progress into longer sessions. But what is more important in building a practice is consistency. So I'd suggest that I'd rather have you meditating 1 min every day of the week rather than an entire hour once a month. You will find it much better to ease into a longer practice by being aware of your current needs. Here's an example of a short meditation in a moment:

3. You don't have to sit cross-legged

This one is such a big myth. You don't have to be an acrobat or any where close to accomplished in twisting your body in any way. You do not have to sit cross-legged during meditation. Yes, sitting with a straight back vs hunching over is a good idea. But what's most important is to sit comfortably. Find a position that your body feels good in and start there. It That means, you are allowed to sit on a chair or a couch or a bed or anywhere that feels good. You can lean against the wall, use cushions and any support you need to keep your body relaxed. And now point 4 is the big one:

4. You can change your position

There's such a misconception out there that during meditation you've got to sit in one position without moving and force yourself to stay still. This is not a gentle approach and in my experience not beneficial in building a practice. See, if you need to move, move. You need to stretch your legs, do it. You need to change your position do it. Over time, it will become easier to sit in one position for long stretches of time. But don't force yourself into it, especially not as you are starting out. So be gentle and move when you need to.

5. You don't have to get rid of your thoughts

This one was my biggest hurdle for the longest time. I heard Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle talk about the gap or the space between thoughts and it just frustrated me because all I experienced was a series of thoughts. No space between the thoughts! It felt like a far away dream to have no thoughts during meditation. Thankfully, I found out that meditation is not about getting rid of thoughts, rather it is about observing them. You observe the arising and disappearing of thoughts. Over time, the frequency of thoughts naturally declines and you get less and less thoughts. But that happens organically, naturally. You don't have to get rid of your thoughts - that is once again forcing things to be what they are not. So, don't get rid of thoughts, just observe them!

6. Do live in-person meditation sessions at a yoga studio

A really good way of starting a meditation practice is to go to an in-person studio where meditation sessions are held. A possible starting point is your local yoga studio or your local YMCA. For those of you living near Boone, North Carolina, you can try out Neighborhood Yoga Studio. They have many possibilities for meditation sessions. You can also come to my in-person workshop at the Appalachian Regional Library in Boone where I am doing free workshops (sponsored by the Library). 

Try my Daily Live Sessions:

7. Go on a 9 or 10 day retreat

I dabbled in meditation for five years before I went to my first 10 day meditation retreat. Of course, as much as I'd like to have done it earlier, I had to arrive at the right time for it to happen. This retreat was pivotal in my meditation journey because it was total immersion in one type of meditation; in this case, it was vipassana. A full-immersion meditation retreat that is all about learning and practicing meditation. And that's a great way to get started as a beginner because you learn the foundations of the practice from step zero and then go on to build it. You also find out quickly if this type of meditation jives with you or if you should rather move on in your search for a meditation practice.

Two recommendations:
1. for 10 day meditation retreat to learn vipassana meditation inspired by S.N.Goenka, Burmese Indian follower of Burmese teacher U Ba Khin and his teacher, Burmese Monk Webu Sayadaw. They have retreats all around the world.
I've done three of these retreats in the past two years (two 10 day retreats as participant and one 5-day retreat as a server).

2. Buddhist Society of Western Australia: 9 Day meditation retreat in the tradition of Thai Forest Monks led by Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Brahmali.
This one I'd like to do in this year.

8. Use triggers and tracking to build your new habit

Once you've honed in on the one meditation practice that you want to focus on, use the best information out there about building a new habit. Leo Babauta with his Sea Change Program and Shawn Achor in his book, The Happiness Advantage teach how to build new habits. What has worked for me is a two-pronged approach to building my habit: 1: use triggers and 2: use tracking calendar. Create a system in which you use triggers to build your habit and then track it every day. A trigger example: After waking up in the morning, brush teeth. For me, I apply this to meditation. After breakfast in the morning, meditate one hour. Use the tricks and processes that productivity and personal development masters have identified to build your new habit. Blog: How to use systems to build your meditation practice.

9. Try guided creative visualizations.

I've found, both for myself and for the individuals in my live workshops, that creative visualizations are a great place to start. A lot of us begin our meditation journey by going straight into a silent meditation practice. If it works for you, great. But for many of us that seems really daunting. We are overpowered by our thoughts and feel frustrated by the process. You can always give silent meditation a try but don't allow the challenges you face there to deter you from doing your meditation practice. Just give guided creative visualization a chance. These are great because they serve as a stepping stone to silent meditation
They are much easier because you are using the voice of the meditation guide to literally guide your mind to focus on a a limited set of thoughts. If you don't connect with creative visualizations, that's fine too. Just go with other guided meditations such as the ones by Abraham Hicks or Jon Kabat-Zinn. See Blog: Why guided meditations are a useful stepping stone to silent meditation practice.

Here's one example of a creative visualization:

10. Be in nature

Take time off to be in nature as often as you can. Stroll around in a park or in other natural settings and just watch the sky, the trees, the waves, streams or the landscape. What does this have to do with building a meditation practice? Well, nature has an amazing effect for calming the mind. The effect of being in nature continues to help you when you sit down to meditate.

11. Be kind to yourself

Finally and, I'd even say most importantly, it's crucial that you stay kind to yourself. Meditation is habit and a new enhancement of your lifestyle. There will be challenges but you've got to help yourself trust the process. Don't use meditation to hurt yourself. As you move through the habit building phase, let go of expectations and be kind to the process of calming the mind. Be especially, kind and patient when you miss a day of practice. I used to be filled with guilt when that happened and now I am much more kind to myself in that regard.

So, my friend, I hope these 10 tips are helpful to you as you build your meditation practice. Feel free to jot down your questions in the comments. Let me know what challenges have you face when building a new meditation practice.

Inner-Peace Chats: Get My Help To Carve Your Meditation Habit Plan

Building a daily meditation habit has been a life-changing phenomenon in my life as I see its healthy effects in all aspects of my life, including a big drop in mental and emotional stress, almost zero worrying and a deeper sense of ease about life and its many challenges.

I want to create resources on to help you live a more harmonious, peaceful life. And so I'd like to help you create your customized Meditation Habit Plan. This is part of my Inner-Peace Chat series where I speak with you via a video call (such as on skype or zoom) and find out a bit more about your lifestyle so we can customize your meditation habit plan. 

This is something very useful if you are starting out brand new or have been dabbling in meditation for a while but now want to get into a daily habit. I will identify how you can build a system to make meditating a no-brainer activity. And I will also share from my meditation journey of 8 years so that you can understand why it's been challenging to build this habit. At the end of our one hour session, you will know exactly what to do in order to incorporate your unique meditation practice into your life.

Based on what you need in the moment, in this Inner-Peace Chat, I will guide you through a process and a meditation to help you understand what is blocking you from building a daily habit and how you change it to truly benefit from a continued practice.

I invite you to take this opportunity, which at the moment, is the only way to get one-to-one time with me. 

So are you in? Go here to see a bit more detail and reserve your spot.

On being present with our own big dreams

On being present with our own big dreams

Why is it that we get distracted? Not when we don't know what we want in our life but precisely when we get clarity and understanding of our life's mission, it seems that distraction rears it head.  I share with you some things you can do to reduce distraction and get really focused on accomplishing your goals and intentions.

The Focusing Question: How to transform your overflowing schedule

The Focusing Question: How to transform your overflowing schedule

As the year comes to a close, I look back at all the projects and activities I have undertaken. I am filled with satisfaction for the personal and business goals that I have worked towards. But I also have this feeling that as Fall rolled in, things got a little out of hand and I was drowning in work and commitments.

Did you have that experience?