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A Day Visit at Yosemite National Park

“It is by far the grandest of all of the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” – John Muir

I recently did a day trip to Yosemite National Park. It was a perfect August day. The temperature was at the high 80s. I took Route 120 into the park. My first impression was the park is filled with interesting rock formations. However, no one rock is like another. The park is also full of Ponderosa Pine. The cinnamon-red bark of these pine trees are handsomely marked with irregularly shaped plates separated by dark crevices. Ponderosa pine lives to 300 to 600 years.

I felt my worries from the week melted away simply by being in this beautiful park.

Tenaya Lake

Around lunch time, I arrived at Tenaya Lake. The lake is surrounded by granite domes and forests. The water is blue and clear. I got a sense that I could see every rock in the lake because the water is so clear. When I looked out to the lake, I felt quiet and peaceful. I secretly wished I could sit by the lake for the rest of day. It was around lunch time. Lots of people were picnicking and enjoying their sandwiches by the lake. Quite a few people were swimming in the lake. Of course, almost everyone was taking a picture of the lake using their smartphone. I was very happy to see so many people were enjoying nature and having a good time.

Tuolumne Meadows

The air is pristine and crisp. The area is quiet. The meadow, creeks and surrounding granite mountains are spectacular with remarkable rock formations. Every rock seems to be just at the right place. It is tranquil and peaceful. It was also a good break from the crowds. I spotted two young mule deers with their mother on the meadow. It was an amazing feeling to see three deers up close and personal. It was a highlight of my trip.

Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome is a gigantic rock formation situated at the east side of Tuolumne Meadows. The dome is hugged by Tuolumne River and surrounded by Alpine trees. On a sunny day like the day I visited the park, with the blue sky as the backdrop, it is simply a Kodak moment. Lember Dome trail is a moderate to strenuous hike because of its elevation and rock climbing to the top. Once you get to the top of the dome, it will afford you a panorama view of the Tuolumne Meadows.

Yosemite National Park is truly a magical place. I sincerely hope you have an opportunity to visit this amazing park in the near future. The visit will transform you.

Link to the August 19th online meditation class: http://bit.ly/2upf3ql

You Can Change Your Life in 7 Minutes and Here Is Proof

what to do before meditating 

Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think about success, then you’re likely to find it. If you feel like you can’t succeed, then you won’t find success.

To change your life in 7 minutes, the first step you need to do is change your approach. I look at this process like the approach one makes when shopping on Black Friday. You plan out what stores to shop at, which deals are the most important to you, and then you decide to make things happen.

The same thing can be done with this morning routine, if you’re willing to give it a try.

#1. Prepare for your day before it starts.

Find a quiet place. Don’t be like me and think your desk is the best quiet place there is. Eliminate all distractions. Then bring along a journal or diary, a writing utensil, and a watch or a timer. After all, if you’re going to change your life in 7 minutes, it helps to have proof that it can actually happen.

#2. Clear your head.

This isn’t about meditation, prayer, or any form of religion or spirituality. In our modern world, clearing your head means shutting down your devices, ignoring your email, and stopping the social media notifications. I find that it is helpful to spend just one minute of being mindful of what is happening in this very moment.

#3. Breathe.

Deep breathing has a naturally calming effect on the body. No matter how much stress you might be experiencing, a deep breath can offer some relaxation and provide you with a better focus. I try to spend at least one-minute practicing deep breathing. Try to get 7-10 good deep breaths in during this 60-second period.

#4. Express yourself.

Now spend time with your creativity. This is what your journal or diary is for. Spend three minutes writing, drawing, or expressing yourself in this private book in some way. I personally like to doodle in mine, drawing animals, flowers, or whatever else strikes my fancy at that moment. There are no rules here except for this one: let your creativity flow.

Don’t think about it. Heaping pressure on yourself to write or draw something specific will result in a creativity blockage. Just grab your pencil or pen and put it to use.

#5. Debrief.

Once you’ve spent three minutes with your journal or diary, you are ready to review your work. I find it helpful to close the book before starting the 60-second debrief. This small transition helps me to shift gears from creativity to analyzation.

Take a close look at what you’ve written or what you’ve drawn. Think about why that is what your mind felt was necessary to express. Then make a brief plan to accomplish an outcome that is associated with what your creative side expressed. Choose just one outcome. Address it. Focus upon it. Be intentional about finding a way to make it happen.

And that’s it. Using this routine will cost you just 7 minutes and it will change your life. Want proof? Implement it today and see what happens.

Have you tried this 7-minute routine? What results were you able to achieve?

Could Meditation Be the Answer to Cancer?

How To Not Turn Meditation Time Into Thinking Time 

Science is finally realizing what those who have practiced meditation have known all along: that the positive impact it can have on personal health is a powerful effect.

I’ve felt this effect personally in my life. There is a definite positive difference in my energy, my attitude, and my emotional stability on the days when I make time to meditate.

For more than 5,000 years, meditation has been practiced by those who are spiritual, those who are not spiritual, and everyone in-between. Yet despite these widely accepted practices, the idea that meditation can provide medical benefits is often dismissed without a second thought.

There are 5 key reasons why meditation could be the answer to cancer for some.

#1. Meditation naturally decreases stress. One of the risk factors for cancer development is the presence of chronic stress. Thanks to cortisol, the stress hormone, the body is unable to produce the number of T-cells it needs and this weakens the immune system. There are direct benefits to reducing stress as well, including less anxiety, better sleep, and a reduction in digestive tract symptoms.

#2. Meditation can improve cellular health. When compared to those who do not meditate, the molecular signature of those who regularly meditate is very different. Not only does this improve cellular health, but it also shows benefits for a person’s overall mental health. Research published in 2009 by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences indicates that meditation may even improve cell growth.

#3. Meditation allows melatonin levels to rise. This hormone helps people go to sleep, but it offers more benefits than just 8 hours of rest. Healthy melatonin levels help to strengthen the immune system, reduce the risks for heart disease, and are considered to be beneficial in the fight against cancer or even diabetes.

#4. Meditation improves your emotional state. This is the most powerful component of meditation in my opinion. Stress is essentially the result of an emotional trauma that occurs in your life. If your boss yells at you, that’s a traumatic event and causes stress. If your car breaks down, that’s a traumatic event as well. Although we can’t control these events, we can use meditation to limit the damage that stress can cause in its aftermath. Harboring hatred, anger, or grief can contribute to worsening health, but with meditation, these negative emotions can be released.

#5. Meditation helps you to make healthy choices. When I can meditate regularly, I find that many of my daily habits tend to reflect a desire to be healthy. I’m more active when I make time to meditate. I make better eating choices. I spend more time in contemplation and less time with mindless entertainment. Not only does this help to keep the weight down, but it also limits chronic stress triggers and the potential for future disease development.

Could meditation be the answer to cancer? That really is up to a medical provider to decide, but the bottom line is this: adding meditation can only help, no matter what you’ve got going on in your life.

Have you added meditation to your daily routine? What are the direct benefits you’ve seen come about from your daily practice?

Simple Routines that Make Life Better

 

Young woman walking away alone on a forest path wearing a red overcoat

On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I discovered the real definition of what it means to slow life down. There were fewer deadlines, less overall hustle and bustle, and an emphasis on enjoying what the day gave you.

Even in the rain, there were people strolling to the beach with their dogs. Kids were building sandcastles. Life for them seemed like a vacation.

And that’s when I realized that some simple routine changes in my life could create a “personal Island Time” of my own. Here’s what I decided to do.

#1. Consciously choose to step outside of the material world.

Money does buy happiness. For a short period of time, anyway. Maybe being wealthy can increase that amount of time. At the end of the day, however, it is our relationships and experiences that provide true happiness.

So focus on what really matters to you. Make time for the people you care about every day. Have dinner with your family with the TV off. Go shopping together. Take a walk together. Find your own beach and enjoy it, whether it’s raining or sunny, and make time to build sandcastles.

#2. Take personal control of inner being.

Finding time to make meditation a habit will also be extremely beneficial. When you’re in control of yourself, then it feels like you can be in more control of the world around you.

With that control, it becomes easier to set meaningful priorities. Watching a sunset until it’s over feels a lot better than rushing from personal deadline to deadline. Time will always want to have control over you. Be willing to explore a different approach.

Just 10 minutes of meditation per day can make a real difference. My personal preference is for 20-30 minutes each day, but even 5 minutes is better than nothing.

#3. Decide to keep it going.

If you’re anything like me, then you’re willing to let Island Time be available on weekends, holidays, and vacations right now. Once you experience a better routine, you must make a conscious decision to keep it going.

There may be some rebellion experienced when you slow life down, especially if everyone around you is operating at a hectic pace. They may want you to speed up because it is more convenient for them.

Sometimes you must do what is best for you and your family. Just don’t compromise away the benefits of a better life because you’re trying to please others. Sometimes you have to be Priority #1.

#4. Do something kind for a random stranger every day.

Kindness is something that makes a lasting impact on you, the individual(s) involved, and the people who happen to see an act of kindness performed. It gives us all hope for humanity.

So I’ve decided to incorporate at least one random act of kindness every day into my daily routine. It can be something small, like picking up trash in the park. It might also mean serving at the local soup kitchen on a Saturday. Or volunteering at the local food bank. Or spending an afternoon at the nursing home, talking to people who may have not had a visitor in years.

Be kind every day. Do it in your own way. And life will seem much better because of it.

When life feels like it is out of control, it’s usually because you’re staring at your own reflection. Take back control with these simple routines that make life better. In doing so, you’ll be able to find your own Island Time.

How do you slow life down when it seems to get too busy? I’d love to hear more about your own routines and how you discovered they could be so helpful.

How Meditation Helped Me Exercise Better

Exercise-Meditation

 I don’t mind exercising. It’s not the first thing I might choose each day, but it isn’t something that I actively avoid either. Yet when I go out for a run or I’m at the gym on one of the machines, there are many negative thoughts that try to creep into my head.

People are staring at you.

They’re judging you.

You’re not good enough.

Some might describe those thoughts as “losing their mojo.” I call it a good excuse to go get a smoothiea, head home, and maybe watch a movie.

Thanks to meditation, I’ve been able to work on those negative thoughts during my workout. When I start listening to what my body has to say instead of the negative self-talk that starts heading my way, there’s a certain amount of energy which appears. It can fuel a longer run, a stronger finish, and better results.

Timothy Olson, an ultra-marathon runner, has said this: “Running is my art and the mountains are my canvas.”

I would adjust that quote just a little for myself. Exercise is my art and meditation is my canvas. That’s because meditation while I exercise has brought me these benefits.

#1. I’m happier when I’m exercising. Some mornings you just don’t feel like doing anything. Just thinking about a run can make me feel tense. By including meditation before and during whatever exercise I’m planning on doing, I feel happier because the negative thoughts have been muted.

#2. I have a lot more energy. I’ve found that when I’m listening more to what my body wants and less to what is going on around me, I have much less tension. I can adapt throughout the exercising process and this helps to ease the tension that tends to build up in my muscles as I’m giving them a workout.

#3. I have less overall soreness. I used to be one of those people who always seemed to pick up a slight injury. It would hamper me for a day or two and affect my workouts. I used to attribute that issue to my desire to go 100% at all times. Through meditation, I’ve realized that I can adapt what I’m doing before an injury occurs because I’m more in tune with what is going on.

#4. I have less pain. Maybe it’s that I’m actually more tolerant of pain. I’m not talking about the pain cues you receive when an injury is about to occur. It’s that initial discomfort you have when you first start to exercise. Those moments when your body says, “Do I really have to do this?” Because I’m not fixating on that discomfort any more, it doesn’t seem so bad.

#5. It lets me do more. Thanks to meditation, my focus when exercising is now about moving forward.  In the past, I think it would be more accurate to say that my focus was on trying not to stop.

#6. I focus on me. I used to count calories, track mile times, and be able to tell you what my heart rate would be at almost any given time during my workout. Now those things matter less and how my body feels matters more. By listening to what my body wants, my mind takes a new satisfaction in the ability to exercise effectively.

Sometimes you can meditate right there while exercising. You may need to find a spot with minimal distractions if you’re at the gym. Clear your mind, quiet your brain, and take inventory of how you’re feeling. Don’t judge yourself. Just observe. Then take some deep breaths, build up your endurance, and you’ll find that meditation might help you exercise more effectively too.

5 Essential Habits That Help You Find Your Zen

Rocks balancing on driftwood, sea in background

There are days when it seems like peace can never be found. Forget about finding your zen. You’re just trying to get through your day without letting your stress completely overwhelm you, right? These essential habits, when added to your daily routines, really do help you find your zen in even the most stressful of situations.

1. Just Do One Thing

Today we multi-task without even realizing what we’re doing. I’m listening to Billy Joel as I’m writing this. Although Uptown Girl is a great song, I’m actually doing 3 things at once. I’m listening to the music, writing these words, and singing along to the song in my head. Finding your zen means doing just one thing at a time. Pick a task, do that task, then move onto the next task. It is an elegant form of time management.

2. Always Give 100%

You hear athletes say all the time that they’re giving “110%” or “150%” or some other strange number to describe how they gave it their all in a game, during a play, or while at practice. It is an expression which really means you have 100% to give. If you’re only giving 80% of your passions to a project, step it up to give it everything you’ve got. By giving your all, you will focus your physical and mental energy to the task at hand.

3. Learn to Let Things Go

We must be willing to take care of ourselves before we try to complete our singular tasks throughout the day. A healthy mind and healthy body lead to more productivity and peace. To find your zen, you must be willing to let go of the extra tasks that can interfere with your well-being. Make sure that your schedule allows you to take time for your core needs. Have a cup of tea. Read a book. Go out with friends. This will allow you to see difficult tasks in a more creative way.

4. Make It Simple

Life doesn’t have to be complicated. We have many things we feel are necessary to complete every day, but far too often we confuse our wants and needs for the opposite. Simplify life so that you focus on only the essentials that are needed for a good quality of life. Eliminate the items in life that are non-essential, but rob you of precious time.

5. Feed Your Spiritual Life

You give yourself physical nourishment every day – even water counts. You take time to keep your mind healthy. Yet far too many people feel like there isn’t time to feed their spiritual life. We’re not talking about a specific religion here. We’re just talking about what your faith, your observations, your experiences, and your moral coding means to you. It is important to explore these aspects of life just as it is important to drink water or eat healthy foods.

Being able to find your zen can help you accomplish more every day. It can help you find peace in a world full of chaos. Adopt these habits into your daily routines and you may find that the stress which has bothered you for so long has finally melted away.

If You’re Tired of Painkillers, Then Try Meditation

painkiller

According to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the practice of mindfulness meditation brings people a greater level of pain relief than a placebo alone. The findings show that meditation changes the brain patterns of those practicing it when compared to people using a placebo cream to control pain.

Led by Dr. Fadel Zaidan, who has already noted that meditation affects everything from expectation levels to a person’s moral beliefs, the enhanced cognitive function of the brain that comes from meditation could be the key to experiencing pain relief when chronic pain is present.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation focuses on the recognition of momentary events. Every second offers us all something new and unique to discover. This discovery process can occur emotionally, through cognitive events, or even through a person’s senses.

Because time is relative, we often take these brief moments and expand them to make them seem longer than they are. Sometimes different what-if scenarios will also be included. Some people even expand these thoughts into an alternative timeline that they live in from time to time as a way to reflect on past choices. This process often leads to negative emotional responses, regret, and even pain.

Mindfulness meditation changes that perspective. Instead of allowing the mind to return to the habit of creating more time out of a moment, it allows people to see a moment for what it really is: a brief moment of time. Instead of expanding it, in essence mindfulness freezes that moment and allows it to be fully explored.

How Does This Reduce Pain Levels?

Pain is essentially communication to the brain. Mindfulness changes the brain’s perspective of that communication by activating certain regions, such as the orbitofrontal region, that affect a person’s self-control. Less pain is experienced because the signals aren’t interpreted as a severe warning like they normally might be.

According to Dr. Zaidan, it may only take four daily 20 minute mindfulness meditation sessions to begin experiencing this benefit.

This is exciting news for people who are dealing with pain on a regular basis. Instead of taking potentially dangerous medications, such as narcotics, to help control pain levels, they can use the power of their own mind to reroute pain signals so the discomfort can potentially begin to fade away. It won’t provide instant pain relief, but it could be an essential part of pain management treatment plans in the future.

Many studies involve pain-free research volunteers. More information and research about mindfulness meditation is still waiting to be discovered. Despite this, this research is incredibly exciting. There could be a lot of truth to the idea that you have the power to heal yourself.

Got Bad Habits? Meditation Can Help Eliminate Them

We’ve all got our vices. These are the things we do because they help us feel good, even if but for a moment. Unfortunately many vices also tend to be detrimental to personal health. If you’re trying to stop a bad habit, then meditation can help to give you the strength needed to overcome those decisions. Here are just a few of the bad habits that can be reduced or stopped with meditation.

#1. Eating Too Much

Boredom eating is a waistline killer. When we watch a TV show, movie, or surfing the web, food is often part of that routine. If we’ve got downtime, we eat. If we’re playing video games, we eat. If we’re driving somewhere, we’ll have a coffee calorie bomb from our favorite store. Meditation eliminates boredom by increasing personal awareness. Instead of focusing on food, you begin to focus on thoughts about the world around you instead.

#2. Poor Posture

If you’ve got neck, back, or shoulder pain after work, then your posture could be causing it. Meditation helps you refine your posture because you begin to notice those little aches and pains and make adjustments to relieve them. Posture for meditation doesn’t have to be the lotus position – lying down, standing up, or chilling out in the bathtub can all work. Don’t force yourself to be in a position that is uncomfortable. Listen to what your body needs and the posture will begin to improve.

#3. Too Much Screen Time

We’re approaching 8 hours of screen time per person, per day in the world today. This includes TVs, tablets, computers, and smartphones. Technology is an important part of life, but it shouldn’t be the dominant part of our life. Meditation can help you stop the addictive feelings that technology access causes so life can feel more normal.

#4. Insomnia

Insomnia happens to almost everyone at some point. Sometimes insomnia becomes a bad habit because we want to binge watch a show or stay up to read a book. At other times it just becomes part of life thanks to kids and responsibilities. To overcome the desire to sleep less, meditation can help your mind begin to quiet down so it can focus on rest.

#5. Worrying About Everything

We know the past can’t be changed. We know the future isn’t here yet. Despite these two known facts, we often feel worry about what has already happened or what could happen. Meditation takes the focus away from these worries to help you focus on the “right now.” You can improve your future. You can learn from mistakes made in the past. Most importantly: you can learn to forgive yourself.

Meditation isn’t a magical cure-all system that will make you instantly feel better. It is, however, a tool that can be used to help you overcome some very stubborn bad habits. Try it for 2-3 weeks to see how your bad habits could become a lesson learned from the past.

Could Regular Meditation Slow Down the Aging Process?

Man Meditating on a Rock at the Beach

Entropy is a normal component of life. As processes are used, they begin to wear down, slow down, or age. From a cellular standpoint, entropy occurs because the protective caps of the cells, called telomeres, begin to shorten as they wear down. When the telomeres become too short, the cells malfunction and can no longer divide.

People have an enzyme that helps to slow down this process, much like enamel helps to slow down or even prevent tooth decay. Called “telomerase,” it protects the protective caps on the cells. If you have a lot of stress in your life, then there is a corresponding amount of lower telomerase in your body. The result is that up to 10 years of your life could be lost because stress has reduced the cellular protections your body needs.

Less Stress Means More Telomerase

It’s a logical progression: if there is less telomerase in people who have stress, then there will be more telomerase who have lower levels of stress. Research from Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn into this phenomenon proved that regular meditation actually slows down the aging process. When stress isn’t as present in a person’s life, their telomeres are better protected. This creates improved cognitive abilities, better overall health, and a longer potential for life.

Dr. Blackburn believes that if people had more knowledge about the essential functions of telomeres, they would be more willing to embrace meditation as part of their daily routine. Although environmental and situational factors still could create variations in the results, studies that Dr. Blackburn have conducted show that meditation does indeed have the power to change a life and slow down the aging process.

You Don’t Need To Meditate For Long Periods of Time

In a small pilot study that occurred in Northern Colorado over the course of 3 months, it was discovered that just 12 weeks of regular meditation could increase the amount of telomerase activity in the body by up to 30%. Another study that was conducted at UCLA showed that just 12 minutes of meditation per day for just 8 weeks showed a 43% increase in telomerase activity compared to those who chose not to mediate at all.

Listening to relaxing music or doing something you enjoy doesn’t count as meditation, according to the research of Dr. Blackburn. It has to be some form of meditation. It could come from chanting, mindfulness, or just regular traditional methods, but it needs to be conscious meditation.

If you can spare 12 minutes out of your day, then you could extend your life by up to 10 years. That one amazing fact is enough to inspire many toward the practice of regular meditation. If you haven’t gotten into a routine of meditating daily as of yet, then keep working at it. Don’t allow distractions to get in the way because the rewards, as Dr. Blackburn have shown, are well worth the effort.

Can You Actually Develop Willpower Through Practice?

Develop willpower

Willpower is the foundation of any good, positive choice that is made. Sometimes choices can be hard and willpower might seem like it isn’t around, but that just isn’t true. It just means you may need a little more practice in this skill. That’s right! Willpower is a skill and it can be developed through practice. Then, through that process of development, you may just find that you can achieve anything!

How could practicing willpower daily help improve your life?

Through greater relaxation. Why does stress come about? It often arrives through the form of worry, anxiety, or fear. It might be nice to crash in front of the television for awhile with a pint of triple chocolate fudge ice cream, but that’s not true relaxation. Practice using willpower to actually force yourself to relax! Take a few moments in a quiet room, breathe in deeply with your favorite music, and begin letting the tensions go.

Through better positive self-talk. Self-deprecation when in a public speaking role can help break the ice and get a point across. Self-deprecation in the form of negative self-talk when something doesn’t go the way you expect? That will drain your energy and ambition faster than anything else will! Practice using willpower to tell yourself the positive things you’ve been able to accomplish and you’ll be more likely to stay on the straight and narrow path.

Through proactive decisions. There are always going to be times when the decision to give in will rear its ugly head. When the willpower is strong, not weak, is the time to counteract that issue! Practice using your willpower to proactively make good decisions when you might be in a weaker state down the road so that you can keep going. If you love potato chips, for example, and you’d eat a whole bag and destroy your diet, then use your willpower now not to stock the house with the problematic item.

Through a better knowledge of oneself. One of the common ways people try to practice willpower is through the blocking of problematic thoughts. The problem is that the more a thought is shut out, the more it will keep coming back to haunt you time and time again. Even if it is a negative thought, you can acknowledge its presence without giving that thought validity. You choose your own actions and one of the best is to add meditation to your daily routine. Through meditation, you can begin to control the actions that are associated with bothersome thoughts and keep yourself in a positive mental state more often.

Through tiny, daily successes. Long term goals might seem far off in the distance, but short-term goals are met every day in some way. Instead of focusing on how far away the ultimate achievement is, take a moment at the end of each day to look at the progress you’ve made toward that goal instead. Each step on the straight and narrow path is a goal that has been met and should be celebrated!

With practice, the skill of willpower can help you achieve anything! Start practicing today, even if it is the first time, and you’ll begin to become more resilient to the negative and make consistent, positive choices every day. You can do it!

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