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A Three-Minute Vacation: Peace Meditation

Please join me (Charlene) to learn how to meditate on the quality of peace to bring more peace and stillness into your life by watching the video below. Give yourself a gift of three-minute vacation by meditating. If you’d like to learn more about how to meditate or deepen your meditation practice, please click the link below to sign up a meditation class. Happy meditating! May your day be filled with peace and joy.
Link to the August 19th online meditation class: http://bit.ly/2upf3ql
Link to the video: https://youtu.be/mLCGVy-eI6g

3 Tips to Celebrate Summer Solstice 2017

Happy solstice! Today is the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. Summer solstice is a very powerful time, which means there is extra energy during this time of the year. In India, there are tons of celebrations through meditation, chanting, scripture reading/recitation/discourse to welcome the beginning of the summer.

For practitioners of meditation and mindfulness, how can we best use the energy of summer solstice to accelerate our practice?

  1. Re-start your meditation practice

Shunryu Suzuki says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Take a fresh look at your meditation practice. Examine every detail. For example, is your meditation space neat and clean? Your physical surrounding is a reflection of your mind. It is a good time to tidy up your meditation space. Another example, if you meditate with music, how about using different meditation albums that you have not used before to bring in new energy?

  1. Review and set your career goals for the next 90 days

Direct the energy you gain from your meditation practice to your career (or work, school work, projects that you’re working on). Use your career as a focus and concentration exercise while you’re not formally sitting down and meditating. Write down your career goals (including your educational goals) for the next 90 days. You can further break down your goals to the monthly goals and weekly goals. The study shows people who set goals tend to accomplish more (click here for the details of this study). Goals give you concrete targets to focus your energy. If you’d like, you can place a copy of your written career goals on your meditation table.

  1. Radiate love and kindness

Endeavor to have positive thoughts, speak positive words, and have positive actions throughout the day. For example, give the biggest smile you can when interacting with cashers at the checkout counters. Send silent prayers and blessings to everyone you meet (either online or in person) today. Hold the door open for someone today when you go to Starbucks. These random acts of kindness will fill you with love and joy and make the world a better place.

May your summer 2017 be filled with joy, love, and peace. What is the first step you’ll take today to implement the tips listed above? Please share your comments below.

6 Tips to Open Your Heart Chakra to Welcome Joy into Your Life

1) Exercise before you meditate

In general, you’ll have a better meditation experience if you exercise before you meditate. We recommend yoga, running, swimming and walking. Please check with your doctors first to determine a particular exercise regimen that works for your current health condition(s). The key is consistency. Doctors recommend working out at least four to five times per week and at least 30 minutes per session for a healthy adult.

Yoga has roots in helping meditation practitioners improve their meditation practice. Body, mind and spirit are interconnected. Through yoga movements, your body achieves a state of relaxation prior to your meditation practice.

Running is great. Not only do you increase your heart rate, but you also let go of your day.

Swimming is a whole body workout. Swimming is exceedingly beneficial when you have a lot of stress in your life. When you swim, you immerse your body in water. Water neutralizes your energy body. After a swim, you feel the weight lifted from your body.

Walking in a park gives the benefits of exercising and spending time in nature. Studies show spending time in nature reduces stress.

2) Volunteer

Volunteering is a key to open your heart chakra. Volunteering is an act of selfless giving. When you engage in an activity for the sole purpose of the welfare of others, it transcends your state of mind and makes you happy.

Pick a volunteering event that is close to your heart. We volunteered at Second Harvest Food Bank (http://www.shfb.org/) in the past. We believe everyone in America should be fed and sheltered. Through this volunteering event, we learned more than 250,000 people rely on food from Second Harvest Bank every month in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, including 100,000 children. As a community, together we can end the hunger.

The miracle of doing volunteer work is that you feel the openness of your own heart. Volunteering is selfless giving. When you give selflessly, your problems and concerns fade away temporarily. You realize your problems and concerns are insignificant compared to others’ suffering.

You realize it is a privilege to help others. The goodness you feel through volunteering will carry you into a state of gratitude and joy. Try it. It works!

3) Chant

You can spend a few minutes chanting prior to starting your meditation practice. You can chant a mantra such as Om Mani Padme Hum (pronunciate as ohm mah nee pahd may hum). Om Mani Padme Hum means the jewel is within the lotus. Happiness and joy are within you. You can listen to this chant by Mercedes Bahleda.

You can chant devotional songs such as “O God Beautiful”. This chant, written by Guru Nanak, was translated into English and made known in the West by Paramhansa Yogananda.

4) Read books that inspire you before you meditate

Swami Brahmanada encourages us to read devotional scriptures before we meditate. Read a few pages from books and teachings that are written by enlightened teachers, such as “Whispers from Eternity” by Paramahansa Yogananda, “The Eternal Companion: A Guidebook for Spiritual Practice” by Swami Prabhavananda or “The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita” translated by Swam Prahavananda and Christopher Isherwood, prior to your meditation.

5) Meditate!

Mediation will make you happy and open your heart chakra.

6) Opening the heart chakra is a process

Opening the heart chakra is a process. It takes practice. It takes patience. Constant practice will open your heart chakra.

Pick a tip listed above. Practice it. If you have other tips that you practice to open the heart chakra, please share them via the comment box below.

 

Need a Vacation? Try Meditation!

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Sitting out on a sunny beach, cocktail in hand, with no worries in the world would feel good right about now. Some of my best memories involve the times I’ve made time for a vacation. It’s a way to kick back, relax, and leave stress behind.

The only problem with taking a vacation is that one day it will be over. We go back to the daily grind, with stress seemingly always on the mind. Wouldn’t it be nice to always experience the benefits of taking a vacation – even if you don’t really go anywhere?

Thanks to the power of mindfulness meditation, you actually can.

Regular Meditation Helps with Stress and Depression

We all know that regular meditation can help with stress. I’ve talked in the past about how it can help with depression when included in a thorough treatment plan. Now there are studies which have followed people over several months to show that not only are the improvements profound, but they are long-term in nature.

In fact, the people who benefit the most from regular meditation are those that have never really practiced meditation in the past.

Over the course of 10 months, a small study included volunteers who were divided into three groups. One group was experienced at meditation, the second were beginners, and the third group was told that they could just go on vacation. Everyone got to do some fun stuff in the sun, they listen to some health lectures that were probably a little boring, and practiced self-reflective exercises over the course of a week.

Then those given the “vacation” role in the study got to quit. The meditators kept on going. And in 10 months, here is what they found.

Beginning Meditation Offers Significant Improvements to the Aging Process

I think what is so striking about the results of this study is that it shows how any effort at getting away from stress will improve personal health. Even those in the “vacation” group showed significant benefits when they were away from their stress. The only problem was that once they stopped being on vacation, their stress-relief benefits stopped as well.

Those who were already meditating regularly also saw significant benefits in the 10-month study period. It was those who were beginners that saw the most benefits in this study. Not only did they experience the mental benefits of meditation, but there were physical changes as well. There were improved immune function marker and healthier aging indicators.

What does this mean? That if we can take just 15 minutes to meditate every day, then the mind is given the opportunity to go on vacation. You might be surrounded by the noise and stress of this world. Your mind, when meditating, has kicked back on a beach and is enjoying some sand, surf, and sun.

In addition to meditation, Yoga has been found to be able to enhance these benefits even further. So if you can begin to meditate or add some Yoga to your routine, you’re giving yourself a mini-vacation every day.

What has helped you find time to meditate every day?

Meditation Can Bring Joy and Contentment to Your Life

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Ever have that “overwhelmed” feeling from the moment you wake up?

In today’s world, it is easy to feel like you aren’t smart enough. Or good enough. Or beautiful enough. Dreams are meant to be chased, but only by those who qualify for the chasing.

With meditation, you can transform your life into whatever you want it to be. No matter what your story is, meditation doesn’t discriminate. You are smart enough. You are good enough. Your beauty on the inside and out is always present.

If you’re ready to change how you see your reflection in the morning so you don’t always feel overwhelmed, here’s how you can make that change happen through meditation.

#1. You get to start your day on a positive note.

Some people spring out of bed before the alarm goes off. I’m not one of those people. I’ve replaced alarm clocks because I’ve broken the snooze button on them.

With meditation right away in the morning, you get to begin a day with positive energy. This is because you’re taking time to center yourself. Something as simple as stopping, breathing deeply, and focusing on something which doesn’t cause worry can really change your entire day.

Life can seem like it’s out of control sometimes. Morning meditation helps me wrestle back that control.

#2. You can become more energetic.

If you think that meditation makes you sit in a specific position or hum something you have no idea what it means, then let’s explore an alternative.

There are literally hundreds of different types of meditation. Some people walk. Some like to meditate while they stay in bed. I know a fellow who meditates with the TV on in the background because he can’t focus well in a quiet environment.

Everyone is different. That means meditation which focuses on you can improve your energy.

#3. You will notice an uptick in your confidence.

I found success when I found my confidence. It was difficult for me to find my confidence until I found meditation.

When you meditate, there’s a certain authenticity about the experience that cannot be duplicated. There’s no need to pretend to be something you are not. In that moment, it’s all about you.

The realization that what you can do and who you are is enough is a profound experience that supports you through even the toughest of days.

#4. You will feel less anxious.

“Good job, you stupid idiot.”

Negative self-talk is incredibly destructive. Many times it is our own inner voice that is our own worst enemy. This negativity comes from a feeling of anxiousness or fear. It’s literally part of our fight or flight mechanism.

With meditation, you can access the mental tools necessary to deal with the triggers that cause this negative emotion. A few deep breaths will naturally calm the tense nerves while the mind shifts the focus off of the emotional reaction to the fear.

Then, even if you do make a mistake, meditation helps you to say, “Let’s try this again,” instead.

#5. You get to know yourself better.

We all hide things from ourselves.

There are difficult memories. Poor choices. Moments we’d long to forget. Meditation helps us to stop forgetting these things. It transforms these difficult times so we can see how they have shaped us. Helped us to become the people we are today.

It’s not always easy to get to know yourself better. I still have moments I’d like to forget. But now I can use those moments to my own daily advantage.

How do you cope with a difficult day? What have been your experiences with meditation? I’d love to hear how you self-manage difficult circumstances.

How to Meditate When You Hate Meditation

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The benefits of meditation have been proven repeatedly. Yet for so many people, the idea of actually meditating is one that they hate.

I know I had this love/hate relationship with meditation when I first began to practice it. I loved the idea of what it could do for me. I hated the fact that it made me sit still. It seemed like such a waste of time.

As the days and weeks passed, however, I began to discover that there were other ways to bring meditation into my life so that I wasn’t forced to find a quiet place to sit somewhere and feel like I was doing nothing. It has helped me to hate meditation less, love it more, and I’m feeling better because of it.

So here’s how you can meditate if you hate meditation like I once did.

#1. Incorporate meditation into your current routine. What I finally decided to do one day was meditate while taking a shower. I bleached the shower floor first [who wants athlete’s foot on your posterior?], then plunked myself down until the water turned cold. It was an amazing experience! That’s when I realized that meditation could happen while taking a walk, while eating breakfast, or even while washing dishes. Being more mindful can happen at any time and in any location, so try to incorporate meditation into your current routine.

#2. Meditate on a single point that’s actually interesting. Like many, my first attempt at meditation was to stare at a lit candle. That was the most boring experience of my entire life – and I once had a 17-hour layover in Buffalo, NY without any cash to my name. So then I began to think. If I just need to focus on a single point of something to meditate, could it be anything? I focused on poetry the next time because I love Hemingway. It was much more rewarding. You could focus on prayer, scriptures, music – anything that is important to you. This makes meditation a lot easier.

#3. Nothing happens during or after a meditation session. I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe magical unicorns spraying tension removal dust on my brain while singing songs about rainbows. When I first started meditating, I expected real, tangible, and immediate outcomes. Instead I didn’t experience anything. Over time, I’ve learned that a wandering mind while meditating can be a good thing. Sure – come back to your focus. But also let your mind wander. That was you always feel like you’ve been productive while meditating.

#4. It’s always a to-do list while meditating. I still have this problem from time to time. My mind wanders to the chores in the house that need to get done. Or my project at work that has a tight deadline. As I generate a mental to-do list, my chest fills with that all-too-common feeling of worry. Instead of taking a deep breath and trying to let that list go, finish it. Otherwise your focus will be on the list during your meditation instead of your single point of focus. Once finished, then you can set it aside.

#5. Find your own starting point. Sometimes you just have to staple your pants to the ground and begin to meditate. Throw on some music if you wish. Sit in a beanbag chair. Do whatever it takes to create a comfortable environment that makes you want to meditate. Even if that means the only place you meditate is in the shower every day.

What struggles have you encountered when trying to meditate? How did you overcome those challenges? I’d love to hear your ideas!

5 Ways Meditation Helps with Everyday Life

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Life gets busy. Super busy.

Even when I compare what I’m doing today with what I was doing just 5 years ago, there is a definite increase in the amount of work that I’m doing. It’s not just professional responsibilities either. Every aspect of life is more active than I can ever remember it being.

Life might seem like a non-stop race, but even racers get to take a pit stop every now and then to refuel. This is what meditation can be for each one of us. When you decide to take the trip down pit lane to make a stop for meditation, these are the 5 benefits you’ll be able to potentially receive.

#1. There’s a deeper connection to who you are. When you meditate for just 4 days in a row, you’ll begin to notice that you have a better, deeper connection with your body. You notice when you start slouching in your posture. You feel each breath you take. Some people even report better digestion and more energy. Others say they understand their thoughts better. The bottom line: you’re spending time with you while meditating, so the end result is a feeling of embodiment.

#2. You can implement coping skills with more regularity. There are a lot of good reasons to be angry in this world today. War, abuse, socioeconomic injustice – the list is seemingly endless. The only problem with anger, even when it is justified, is that it is like an iceberg. You see a teeny tiny bit of the emotion on the surface, but miss the bulk of it hiding below. Anger causes reasoning to be reduced. With meditation, you can counter the negative effects that anger brings and be able to implement the coping skills needed to restore your balance.

#3. There is more confidence. Meditation allows each one of us to take control of our lives. We’re empowered to embrace the truth that is around us. Moments of perfection are in everything, but we often miss them because we’re so focused on what we’ve decided is more important. You will have the confidence to embrace the positive things life has to offer much more often.

#4. You create a place of peace for yourself. There are many shades of chaos that hover around us. It pushes us toward these environments where we feel like we’re out of control. Whether it’s a chore that needs to be completed or a work project, I know I’ve often placed needless deadlines upon myself and that restriction created havoc instead of peace. With meditation, we can all find that place of peace we need from the storms life tends to generate for each of us.

#5. There is calm. How many tabs are up right now on your internet browser? Personally at this moment I have 6 open. That means there are six different opportunities to have my focus distracted. Each is demanding my attention. Meditation takes all of those open tabs in life and closes all but one of them. You focus on one thing only: thoughts, emotions, breathing, a single point of light – it doesn’t matter. This single point of focus creates calm because the multitasking mind finally gets to take a break.

Life is always going to be busy. There’s nothing we can really do to change that fact. What we can do is adapt to those changes so we can maintain good health. This is why I’ve embraced meditation for everyday life. It has helped me find the calm path on my journey through the storms of life.

Common Misperceptions About Meditation

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The alarm clock sounds. You stumble downstairs, grab a cup of coffee, and make your way back upstairs to take a shower. After downing half of the coffee, you hop into the stinging warmth of the water. You take a deep breath, maybe a few more, and your muscles begin to relax.

You start to feel awake. Your mind begins to organize itself for the rest of the day. And through this process there’s a good chance you’ve been meditating – maybe without realizing it.

There are several common misperceptions about meditation that continue to thrive in society today. People picture monks dressed in elaborate robes, playing with meditation beads or incense, and spending hours in solitude.

Meditation isn’t a luxury experience or one that requires a deep spiritual nature to enjoy. Anyone can meditate. All you need to do is be willing to take a few deep breaths in a moment of silence to really start the process. Well… that and you need to be willing to dismiss the misperceptions of meditation like those that follow.

#1. Meditation requires a clear mind. Even those who consider themselves experts at meditation admit that they’ll get 1-2 minutes of clarity in a 30-minute meditation session. It’s virtually impossible to complete clear out your mind. You’re always seeking, striving, and thinking. The goal here should be to engage your focusing mechanisms back to meditation when you feel your mind start to wander.

#2. Meditation requires a lot of time. Many choose to avoid meditation because they feel like they don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to its practice. The fact is that if you make meditation a priority, then you’ll find time to do it. A good way to increase the priority level of meditation in your life is to include it a little bit at a time. Start with 5 minutes each day. Increase it to 10 minutes after a week or two. Then just keep adding 5 minutes every 7-14 days as you feel comfortable until you reach your target time.

#3. Meditation is expensive to do. It’s true that there are a lot of expensive trends available to people in the world of meditation. Many people are seeking instant solutions in a world of immediate gratification, so money gets thrown at those who offer that possibility. The fact is you can sit down anytime, take a few deep breaths, and you’re meditating for exactly $0. Fads come and go. The chance to meditate is always there.

#4. Meditation accomplishes nothing. Science proves that meditation does tremendous things. It helps to decrease anxiety, helps with chronic pain, compliments anxiety and depression treatments, resolves insomnia, and may even help with cardiovascular disease. Even if it did none of these things, you’d still be getting to take a break from the stresses of the day and that’s a worthwhile benefit for sure.

Maybe meditation isn’t necessary for some, but it is a skill that can be learned in a relatively short amount of time. It requires no tools, yet can improve your health, sleep, and stress relief. That’s why it is so important to recognize and then dismiss the common misperceptions that still exist about meditation.

What have been some of your struggles in beginning a meditation routine? I’d love to hear some of your stories about how meditation has changed your life.

4 Ways To Increase the Strength of Your Willpower

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I love to meditate. The process helps me to figure out my day, plan for uncertain situations, and give myself confidence to face the unexpected. I can label thoughts, sort emotions, and handle stress effectively because I’ve taken time for myself.

The only problem is that I don’t always love the process that is required to get myself into my meditation zone. I might be running late for work. Or there might be a TV show on that I want to watch. I might be hungry. Summoning the strength to actually meditate tends to be more difficult than actually meditating.

Here’s how I work on improving the strength of my willpower so that I can enjoy the process of meditating that I love so much.

#1. Getting enough sleep every night is important.

Whenever I get about 5 hours of sleep or less, my decision-making skills go out the window. I eat snacks I shouldn’t and I don’t care about the consequences. My attitude tends to be one of anger first if something doesn’t go my way. Should I meditate? Of course I should – but that cheesecake at the store looks so good…

Without enough sleep, there isn’t enough impulse control. This means you’re tempted to do things you normally wouldn’t do because the fatigue you carry in your body drains you of energy. Instead of long-term goals, you’re focused on short-term survival. So when I get enough sleep, I noticed a dramatic reduction of the cravings that can tempt me away from meditating.

#2. Be willing to forgive yourself.

Not every meditation opportunity goes perfectly. There are times when I focus on the neighbor grilling hamburgers more than the stressful issues I’m facing. Or maybe my leg falls asleep and all I can focus on are those pins and needles. If I can forgive myself for not being perfect, I find that it is a lot easier to reach my daily goals.

It doesn’t take long for meditation to be effective. I shoot for 90 minutes each day, but 10 minutes can be good enough. If you aren’t meditating right now, I would highly encourage you to give it a try. It was very difficult for me to forgive myself of my failures when meditation wasn’t part of my life.

#3. Get outside and take a walk.

I’ve found that my self-control increases exponentially when I can find time to exercise. Whether it’s a walk around the park or 60 minutes on a treadmill, every little bit counts to strengthen my willpower. What’s great about exercise is that the strengthening process is also contagious. When you feel strong, you want to work on becoming stronger.

#4. A good input is required for a good output.

 There’s this old song I was taught growing up that goes something like this: “Input. Output. What goes in is what comes out.

When it comes to my dietary choices, that is very true. If I eat junk food, I get junk results from my willpower. If I take care of myself by eating healthy items, even if I’m craving Skittles like mad crazy, then my willpower is stronger because I’ve made a stronger eating choice.

By avoiding caffeine and sugar spikes, I can avoid the crashes that come which can demotivate me to meditate.

Finding ways to increase the strength of your willpower might seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Something as simple as getting a little exercise each day and substituting one sugary item for a healthy one can give you the energy that is needed.

What are your strategies for keeping your willpower strong? I’d love to hear about what you’ve discovered that has made a difference in your life.

The Stuff About Meditation That No One Discusses

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Meditation is supposed to be a simple, calming process. The only problem is that it tends to be frustrating and complicated for many, especially in the first days of starting a regular meditation routine. I’ve found that some of those frustrations may not go away for quite some time, even when fully committed to the process. It makes me wonder about the validity of all those meditation blogs out there.

The problems caused by humanity can also be fixed by humanity, so let’s get that process started today. Here is some of the stuff about meditation that I wish had been discussed with me when I first became interested in this ancient practice.

#1. Meditation isn’t always relaxing. This was especially true for me in the first days. I wasn’t expecting to find a personal nirvana, but I was hoping to have my anxieties and stress melt away from my body. I could sit there for 30 minutes, however, and think more about why my butt was falling asleep than finding any clarity. So if you’re struggling through a meditation session, my best advice is this: don’t give up. It’s just part of the journey.

#2. Clarity is different than a blank mind. How many times have you heard that meditation is supposed create a “blank mind?” I would sit for minutes trying to suppress random thoughts that would come my way while meditating. Some of the thoughts were about things I hadn’t thought about in decades. The fact is that you’re never going to have an empty chalkboard up there in your head. Thoughts happen. It’s more important to observe those thoughts than try to suppress them. Over time, you may find that the time between thoughts expands and it is in those moments that clarity can be found.

#3. There doesn’t need to be a specific meditation position. Whenever you see meditation posts online, you see someone in the lotus position. That made me think that I had to do the lotus position as well. Yeah – it didn’t work so well. It’s just not comfortable for me thanks to an old sports injury. The truth is that you can be in virtually any position or location and achieve a good meditation session. You can even meditate with your eyes open if you want. I know of folks who meditate in the shower, while lying in bed, or while hiding in a closet at work. Find your spot, find your comfort zone, and meditation will follow.

#4. You don’t always need to meditate for 30+ minutes. Now I will say this: there is a definite improvement in my overall day when I can meditate for 30-45 minutes. That doesn’t mean every meditation opportunity must be that lengthy. I’ve found that meditation times tend to be accumulative in nature. This means if you meditate 6 times during the day for 5 minutes, then you achieve similar benefits as someone meditating once for 30 minutes. It’s more important to put in whatever time you can instead of demanding a specific amount of time out of your schedule.

#5. Meditation works better when it’s a habit. The struggle is in making it a habit in the first place. I know when I skip a day, it becomes easier to skip another day. Not every meditation opportunity is going to feel awesome, which can make it even more tempting to stop, but I would encourage you to keep going. Daily meditation creates a routine that eventually you’ll look forward to enjoying.

I think we don’t talk about these things a lot because we want to present the good side of meditation to everyone. We want to show everyone how perfect meditation can be. Yet there is also beauty in imperfection, which is why I think we should discuss this issues more often.

What has been your greatest challenge to establishing a daily meditation routine? I’d appreciate hearing your stories and be able to learn from your personal experiences so together we can keep improving with each opportunity.

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