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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.

 

Learn to Meditate with Your Third-Eye Chakra

Please join me (Charlene) to learn how to meditate with your third-eye chakra to bring more clarity and focus into your life by watching this video. Give yourself a gift of three-minute vacation by meditating. If you’d like to learn more about how to meditate, please click here to sign up a free introduction to meditation class. Happy meditating! May your week be filled with joy and peace.

A Three-Minute Vacation: Learn to Meditate with Your Heart Chakra

Please join me (Charlene) to learn how to meditate with your heart chakra by watching the video below. Give yourself a gift of three-minute vacation with a heart chakra meditation. If you’d like to learn more about how to meditate, please click here to check out & sign up my upcoming online meditation classes. Happy meditating! May your week be filled with love and joy.

A Three-Minute Vacation: Learn to Meditate with Music

Please join me to learn how to meditate with music by watching the video below. Give yourself a gift of three-minute vacation by meditating with music. If you’d like to learn more about how to meditate, please click here to check out & sign up my upcoming online meditation classes. Happy meditating! Have a joyful and peaceful week.

About Charlene
Charlene has over 20 years’ experience in the art of meditation and mindfulness. For over 15 years, she leads meditation classes around the U.S. to inspire others to experience joy of their own beings through the practice of meditation.

 

 

5 Ways to Boost Your Meditation Efforts Today

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Do you wonder if you’re meditating in the right way? Or feel disappointed because your time with meditation feels imperfect? Believe it or not, these are feelings that even long-term practitioners of meditation struggle with from time to time. I still experience them on a regular basis.

Instead of focusing on the way you think you “should” be meditating, embrace your own experiences every day. Stay committed to the process, incorporate meditation boosters, and it will become a little easier.

#1. Get into meditation right away. There are a lot of distractions that can eat into my meditation time. I might want to find a more comfortable pillow. The light might not be just right. I could be thinking about my deadlines instead of trying to focus my mind. I’ve found that when you just get into meditation right away, the need for perfection tends to go away. Having a meditation time that is “good enough” is, well… good enough.

#2. Don’t overdo it. I will always recommend striving toward at least 20 minutes of daily meditation. I’ve found that this amount of time tends to provide some of the best benefits. Sometimes, however, I just can’t put together a 20-minute block for meditation. Instead of forcing the situation, reduce the time commitment for that day. Instead of 20 minutes, try 10 minutes instead. If 10 minutes is too long, try for five minutes. If meditation is stressing you out, then it won’t be providing the mind with many benefits.

#3. Keep an open mind. I used to think meditation was a bunch of baloney. Once I opened up my mind to the possibility that meditation could be real and beneficial, it sparked my curiosity. I began to explore a little more of what it was about. We often seek to become masters of the skills and talents we embrace, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Meditation can be fun. You must be willing to allow it to be fun before that will happen.

#4. Give yourself a chance to succeed. I face a few challenges every day when it comes to meditation. I hate getting up early in the morning, but that’s the best time for me to meditate. So I structured my day to accommodate how slow I can move in the morning. I get up 15 minutes earlier and then made it so that I can come into work 30 minutes later. I take a half-hour lunch break instead of a full hour to make up the difference. When you give yourself a real chance to succeed, you’re one step closer to success.

#5. Take it one day at a time. You might try to meditate, but then forget about making time for it. Or you might sit down to meditate and nothing happens, so you give up. This is okay. Just try again tomorrow.

Meditation shouldn’t be a headache. It shouldn’t be a stress trigger. These are the ways I’ve found that help me to be more consistent with my meditation time.

How do you manage your schedule to accommodate meditation?

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?

Meditation and the Holidays: 5 Reasons to Give This Gift to Yourself

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How have you been doing with your holiday shopping this year? I’ve been on it. When Black Friday hit, I was already about halfway done. Thanks to the online deals that were available, I’m finished and the gifts are wrapped and under the tree.

The stress of trying to find a nice gift is gone. It’s a peacefulness that is nice to experience.

Yet that sort of peacefulness is nothing compared to what meditation can provide when you’re in the midst of the holiday season. If there’s one thing you give yourself this year, make it be the gift of daily meditation. Here are 5 reasons why it would be a smart investment.

#1. It gives you a break from the holiday season.

My local stores started playing Christmas music before Halloween this year. My neighbor put up his holiday lights the week before Thanksgiving. Being in the holiday spirit 24/7 can be downright exhausting. Meditation gives you a break from it.

It also gives you a break from those moments around the holidays that can make you feel sad or mad instead of glad. If you struggle during the holidays, don’t turn to resentment. Turn to meditation so you can begin to let the difficult moments fade away.

#2. It allows you a moment to experience gratefulness.

I know it’s easy to lose perspective during the holidays. The hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, and planning a family visit makes us forget about the fact that there are some people in this world who would trade places within you and me in a heartbeat. Meditation slows you down so you can appreciate what really is good about your current life.

I find that this really helps me to turn my negative energy into something more positive.

#3. It gives you a chance to gather yourself.

Stress can be the cause of many health conditions. It festers in your heart, body, and soul until it unleashes its wrath. During the holiday season, it tends to build up more quickly than normal. I find that meditation gives me the chance to gather myself so that I can let go of what is trying to fester inside.

Once that stress is removed, you can focus on what gives you nourishment, like the love of family and friends. With meditation, you can clear out the mess to make more room for what really matters in life.

#4. It lets you push the reset button.

I dislike December because of all the pressure that exists. You’re pressured to get a certain gift. To give certain people a gift. To spend a certain amount of money. Many times these pressures are at odds with your personal values, so the conflict creates internal instability.

Meditation helps you push the reset button. It’s like turning your brain off and then back on again. The reboot allows you to refocus on what really matters to you at a core level.

#5. It allows you to find neutrality.

I compare meditation to the role that Switzerland plays in conflicts: complete neutrality. Opinions these days fly far and fast. People are unafraid to throw bombs and insults on social media, even to their family and friends. When you bear the burdens of your friends or your family, it can weigh on your soul like a heavy anchor.

Meditation helps you to explore the neutrality of every situation. It helps you realize that not everything is directed at you on a personal level. Even 5 minutes of daily meditation can restore your center and enhance your awareness so you can be more impartial.

With meditation, you can unlock something beautiful that has been waiting to break free. Give yourself this gift and you’ll find that the holiday season really can be a source of gratefulness.

How do you cope with the holiday season? What has meditation helped you be able to accomplish this year?

6 Ways to Make Meditation Work Better for You

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Life hacks

I have to laugh at the life hacks that get published sometimes. Some ideas are pure genius. Then there are the folks who duct tape their phone to a ceiling fan while playing Pokemon Go and it smacks them in the forehead.

Not every life hack works as intended. Just ask the folks with forehead bruises and broken smartphones. The same is true for those who struggle with meditation. To this day, there are times when I struggle with meditating. Over time, I’ve developed these “meditation hacks,” if you will, that have helped me stay focused.

Could these help you as well?

#1. Take a walk.

The best walks involve intention. Instead of taking a leisurely stroll, you have a specific goal that you’re seeking to accomplish. I pick one thing that I want to find on my walk. Then I focus on finding that one thing or experiencing it fully however I can. This approach helps to set the stage for meditating when I get back home.

#2. Turn on the shower.

Some people like to take a bath to relax. I prefer a hot shower. If I can’t get my mind to focus, then I hop into the shower and let the stinging needles hit my head. The solitude of the experience and the heat of the shower brings out the creative centers of my mind. Stress goes away almost instantly. Then I’m ready to spend some time in my designated meditation spot.

#3. Take a drive.

Driving relaxes me. It’s also somewhat adventurous, if you’re headed somewhere you’ve never been before. The key to having a drive be helpful for meditation is to create what I call a “Zone of Quiet.” Turn off the radio. Avoid traffic that could make you angry. And remember to keep an eye on the road at all times.

#4. Offer gratefulness.

When I think of gratefulness, I actually think more about humbleness. There’s this willingness in an attitude of gratitude to sacrifice your needs for others. In this action is the heart of one of my favorite forms of meditation: loving kindness. If I’m really struggling to meditate, then I look for ways to help others. In the process of looking, I can often find meditation. I also gain the opportunity to make a positive difference.

#5. Seek technical assistance.

If things really aren’t working and I can’t get into the right state of mind, then I have a series of guided meditation downloads which will help me out. The best guides offer one-part encouragement, one-part visualization, and one-part natural sounds to encourage relaxation. When the guide can help me let go of the deep stresses that are preventing me from meditating, I can then proceed on my own.

#6. Set a timer.

One of my biggest struggles has always been timing. Some days it’s really hard to set aside 30 minutes to meditate. But, like with most things in life, you make time for what really matters to you. To encourage meditation, I set a timer for 15 minutes. Then I just get started meditating to the best of my ability. If I feel good when the timer goes off and there isn’t anything demanding my attention, I’ll set another 15-minute timer to repeat the process.

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, but it sure can be frustrating. These are the ideas that I use to help me meditate. What are your own meditation hacks?

Why Mindfulness Meditation Could Help You Stop Insomnia for Good

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Ever crawl into bed, feeling completely exhausted, yet sleep never seems to come your way?

It certainly happens to me, more often than I’d probably like to admit. I’ve seen 3am roll around far too many times for my liking. Racing thoughts and planning to-do lists in the quiet of night can create many sleep disturbances.

And even when sleep does come, I’ve found that those racing thoughts can invade my dreams, managing to wake me up anyway.

Then, when the demands of the day come about, the best way to describe how I feel is “lousy.” Do you struggle with feeling tired and lethargic after a poor night of sleep? And the cravings for the junk food…

There’s some good news if you suffer from insomnia like me. Published in the February 2015 JAMA Internal Medicine, a small study of middle-aged adults showed that a mindfulness awareness program which taught meditation could have a profound effect on insomnia, tossing and turning, and the other sleep disturbances that can rob someone of their productivity.

What Were the Results of the Study?

According to the study’s author, Dr. Herbert Benson, two groups were included in the study. Half of the participants completed the mindfulness awareness program. The other half completed a sleep education class that taught sleep habit improvement skills. Each group met 6 times, once per week, for two hours per session.

The results were clear: those who were taught mindfulness meditation skills had less insomnia, lower daily fatigue, and fewer feelings of depression at the end of the sixth session compared to the group that was taught sleep habit improvements.

There are many ways to invoke the relaxation response within the human body. I particularly like having a cup of hot tea (caffeine-free, of course) at the start of my bedtime routine as I settle into a few moments of mindfulness meditation. But it’s not the tea that actually eases stress, pain, or even high blood pressure.

It’s the practice of mindfulness meditation itself, even if done in an imperfect way.

How You Can Include Mindfulness Meditation Each Night

If you’ve been struggling with insomnia and feel like you’ve tried everything, then I invite you to give mindfulness a try – or a second opportunity, if necessary. There are two simple steps that you can use to help initiate the relaxation response you may need to be able to get a good night of sleep.

Step #1: Choose a focus of calm. You might feel ridiculous sitting on your bed, humming an Om repeatedly. My cat looked at me like I was crazy the one time I did that. You can focus on a peaceful word, phrase, or just focus on deep breathing if you prefer. The sounds can be repeated audibly or in your head.

Step #2: Choose to let things go. You must decide to let stressful events go. You must choose forgiveness. If your mind begins to wander, bring yourself back to your focus of calm. This will help the tension release.

Mindfulness meditation can be an essential tool for sleep. Include it with your next bedtime routine and let me know what results you were able to achieve.

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