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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.

Why Mindfulness Can Be an Excellent Diet Plan

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 Around the holidays, food seems to be everywhere. Then, when the new year comes along, resolutions for weight loss become popular.

Sometimes food is used for comfort. It’s a brief moment of joy in a world of sadness.

Whether you’re always dreaming of what you want to eat or you’ve just been to one too many family events this year, the solution to the expanding waist line could be mindfulness. I find that when I’m more aware of the world around me as I eat, I’m more conscious of the reasons why I am eating.

I also pay more attention to what food goes into my mouth.

If you’re thinking about how to apply mindfulness to your eating habits, here are the 5 steps I follow with every meal.

#1. Give thanks.

I think it is important to be grateful for a meal. Not everyone gets three meals per day in our world. Food is often taken for granted. Whether you say grace, thank the universe for its bounty, or have another spiritual or personal ritual that you follow, embrace it. Be present in that moment.

#2. Get rid of the distractions.

I used to like to watch the news while I ate dinner. I felt like I was multitasking. Then I realized that I stopped caring about what I was eating because I was more concerned about what was on the TV. Maybe for you it’s the smartphone. Or it could be the internet. It could be this very article. Whatever the case may be, I’ve found that by getting rid of the distractions, it becomes easier to enjoy the food being eaten and that makes every meal more satisfying.

#3. Use all of your senses.

Eating is more than just flavor. It’s even more than just its smell. How the food looks, what it feels like, and even its savory components are extremely important to the eating experience. Allow your body to enjoy every moment of a meal with every sense. For me, I’ve found that embracing umami, the sixth tasting sense, has really helped me to stay present in the moment. Find what can work for you in this area and your approach to mindfulness will change.

#4. Have the courage to stop.

This one is simple. Once you feel full, stop eating. I grew up in a home where you had to clear your plate in order to be excused from the table. Allowing myself to be finished with a meal where there was still food present was one of the toughest things I’ve ever taught myself to do.

The opposite is also true. If you’re still hungry, then get more food. The goal is to be satisfied.

#5. Keep a journal of what you eat.

By understanding what you eat, it becomes easier to control how much weight you are able to lose – or gain. Sometimes we eat certain things without giving them a second thought. I’m that way with certain candies. If you keep a journal, then you become more aware of what you are eating… and that allows you to make healthier decisions.

How do you stay mindful when eating? Do you have any tips that have helped you stay present in the moment while you improve your eating habits?

How Mindfulness Can Rejuvenate Your Career

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Everyone has a bad day or two. But maybe you’re stuck in a bad month or two. Or maybe it’s been a year or two. These things happen.

Mindfulness isn’t a magic pill you can take to fix everything. It is a form of meditation that can help you gain more control over your thinking. This is important for those times when you’re stuck in a rut because thinking leads to feelings. Feelings lead to choices. Choices lead to actions.

If you try to stop a poor action by making a different choice, but do not address the thinking and feeling behind the choice in the first place, then your odds of success will be quite low. Mindfulness can be used to address those thoughts and feelings so that your career choices can be better.

This is why mindfulness can make a bad day better. It can even rejuvenate your entire career.

Why Is Mindfulness So Popular in Today’s Workplace?

There are many reasons why mindfulness meditation has become popular in today’s workplace, but the top reason is that it provides a retreat for the busy professional. By scheduling in time for mindfulness, you’re really scheduling time for yourself.

When was the last time you had 30 minutes without an interruption? Without your phone, computer, or TV? Where you could just sit in silence and not need to worry about what is next on your schedule?

It doesn’t happen often. Since almost 3 of every 4 dollars in the US is spent on stress-related expenses, it needs to happen more. We’re literally working ourselves to death. That’s why mindfulness is being embraced by many companies today.

It’s not about making people more productive. It’s about saving people so they can actually have a career.

How Come Thoughts and Feelings Need to Be Addressed?

We could talk about how mindfulness improves your focus or boost your creativity, but the real benefit comes with an improvement in your emotional intelligence. This is how you manage your behavior, both personally and with others. When you know how you are thinking and feeling, then you can make a better choice to take a more effective action.

If you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, you probably reach for the coffee pot first, right? Or maybe it is an energy drink. I tend to crave waffles in these circumstances. Our choices are not the same as they would be with 7-8 hours of sleep because our thought patterns are affected by fatigue.

The same principle is found in the modern workplace. People are fatigued at work. They feel burned-out.

What mindfulness meditation is able to do is help you and I be able to recognize this fatigue, identify problematic thoughts that may be generated because of being tired, and then stop those thoughts from becoming feelings that we all act upon.

I’ve found that mindfulness has helped me get through the toughest days at work because it gives me a better perspective of life. Work is important, but so are the personal moments with family and friends.

Have you tried mindfulness meditation to deal with the stress in your career? Has it helped you be able to save your job? Your career? I’d love to hear your story!

What Is Destroying Your Focus? Here Are Two Common Issues and How to Fix Them

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I wake up every morning and turn on my coffee maker. It’s my morning ritual. Sometimes I don’t feel the need for coffee, but I make some anyway just in case I might want a cup or two later in the morning. Without the smell of coffee in the air, it is difficult for me to focus on anything because I’m so used to that routine.

For many today, their habits and routines are destroying their focus. The last thing they do before going to sleep is to check for emails or notifications and then it’s the first thing they do when waking up in the morning. Sound familiar?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. In survey after survey, executives are reporting more anxiety and distractions than ever before. Their leadership is affected, your day feels unproductive, and no amount of coffee can solve the problem.

Here are the two issues we face when it comes to focus destruction:

Hyper-connectivity. The average person consumes digital content in some way for 12 hours per day. That’s double the amount of time many people sleep. It’s difficult to stay focused when we have virtually no time to recharge the mind, refocus our efforts, or even just process the information we’ve received during the day.

Meaningless interaction. Some employees spend up to 55% of their productivity time in meetings. This default form of communication with one another creates activities that most people will ultimately find to be meaningless. Now here’s the catch: when you’re in a group chat or a comment chain online, you’re really just having a meeting. It’s just a digital one instead of having everyone sit around a really big table in a really stuffy room.

For this to change, we must all focus on restoration in some way. I know when I can stay focused with the smell of coffee lingering in the air, there is an impressive amount of work that can be accomplished. In order to maintain that focus, I do my best to keep these “focus repair tools” readily available.

#1. Mindfulness. There is a lack of focus today because many of us have lost touch with ourselves. I know it’s easy to focus on others first when you’re checking in with family and friends online to see how their day has been. That’s important stuff – but so is checking in with yourself to see how your day has been. I like to give myself 20-30 minutes each day to do this through mindfulness meditation. Some days I don’t meet that time goal, but that’s okay. It’s the effort which counts more than the actual amount of time spent.

#2. Organization. I’ve been guilty of being disorganized throughout most of my life. Like many, I thought I was being organized, but what I was really doing was allowing everyone else to book appointments into my daily calendar. Instead of taking care of my to-do lists each day, I was taking care of everyone else. You need dedicated time to focus on yourself in order to be creative.

Then there needs to be a focus on boundaries. I feel more refreshed and confident when I decide to set aside my online connections for a few minutes every day. That break gives me time to process the information I’ve received, grab a cup of coffee if needed, and then jump back into the rest of my day.

Find your cup of coffee. Take control of your schedule. Get in touch with yourself each day. When you can do this, you’ll find that it will be very difficult to destroy your focus.

How have you worked to regain your focus in this age of information? I’d love to hear how your ideas or how you’ve implemented the strategies discussed above.

How To Focus When Feeling Unfocused

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Have you ever entered a room, intent on accomplishing some task, but forgotten what that task was? This happens to me all of the time. I’ll be struck by an idea that I feel is brilliant, get up to implement that idea, and then promptly forget it.

It happens to the best of us. The human mind wanders about half of the time it is awake and active. When we try to engage the world during these moments of wandering, the end result is typically forgetfulness.

What happens when you go back to the last point of focus? You often remember what you were supposed to be doing, right? This means you can encourage the mind to become focused once again, even if you are currently feeling unfocused.

Here are some of the ways I’ve discovered that the unfocused mind can decide to start focusing once again.

#1. Decide right now to manage your time wisely. Distractions are everywhere these days. Advertisements, social media notifications, text messages – the list is enormous. Each of us has certain distractions that pull at our focus. The best way to manage this issue is to make the decision to manage these distractions, these temptations, so a more focused control can be obtained.

Block websites you might want to visit. Unplug your internet if need be. Turn off your smartphone. Spend a specific time in your email each day and no more. The issue here is seduction. These distractions seduce your mind into believing that an unfocused state is better than staying focused. Your job is to convince your mind that the opposite is true.

#2. Take a moment to evaluate before taking action. Ever notice how some people are always throwing “word bombs” on their social media accounts? Written words are just as powerful as spoken words, maybe even more so, yet so many don’t give a second thought to what they post on their profiles. People will take you seriously when you say, “If you believe this, then don’t speak to me again.” Or “If you vote a certain way, you are no friend of mine.”

Careless words create disorder and mayhem because they are a result of an unfocused mind. Before saying something or writing something, step back for a moment and give it a second thought. How will other people perceive what you’re about to say? Consciously tell your mind to be focused. I’ve found this simple act can help avoid saying words that might be regretted one day and be able to return to the more important tasks that may need to be completed.

#3. Place an emphasis on mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere and at any time. Stop for a moment and feel the wind on your skin. Remember a favorite memory and experience every detail. Feel your breath move in and out of your chest. Endure the silence which may be around you.

This has been my biggest struggle. The unfocused mind rebels at the thought of being more focused just like your muscles rebel during a long workout when exercise has been neglected for a few days. If you keep your will strong and continue this habit, however, the rebellion subsides over time and a more consistently focused mind becomes the end result.

Sometimes we need to feel unfocused just so we can have an escape from the day. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a natural defensive mechanism. It becomes an issue when being unfocused interferes with the goals that we have in life.

These are the ways that have helped me to find my focus more often each day. How do you find your focus? I’d love to hear about some of the ways you’ve been able to focus when you’re feeling unfocused.

6 Ways To Make Mindfulness a Higher Priority

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Mindfulness allows us to really wake up and experience our lives. Instead of coasting through each day, looking forward to a point that we think might bring us happiness, mindfulness gives us a different perspective. It allows us to find what happiness exists in each moment that we experience. Making mindfulness a higher priority can be difficult when you first get started, so here are a few ways you can reach your goals.

#1. Be patient with yourself.

When society says that you deserve everything right now, it becomes an unconscious expectation that you reach your goals rapidly. Some goals, like making mindfulness a higher priority, can take months or years to reach their maximum potential. Allow yourself the gift of patience, take one day at a time, and look for the small successes that come your way.

#2. Get to know yourself once again.

The modern life has many demands. The amount of information that we share and absorb from others is astronomical. It can be easy to lose yourself in all of this data. Sometimes spending some time unplugged from the rest of the world to get to know yourself once again can make mindfulness easier to find.

#3. Be brave.

Prioritizing mindfulness can be very difficult sometimes because it forces you to face your darkest demons. We all have hidden recesses in our minds that we don’t like to access because there is guilt, regret, and pain lurking there. Mindfulness will eventually help you be able to heal from these difficult emotions, but it takes bravery to confront it head-on during the early days of mindfulness. Remember: three steps forward, but two steps back is still one net step forward.

#4. It’s not just about yourself.

One of the most unique aspects of mindfulness comes when it is combined with loving-kindness meditation. As you focus on the small moments that exist around you, think about how those moments affect others. Send blessings to family and friends as you ponder these moments and you’ll find that your emotional intelligence will dramatically increase over the coming weeks.

#5. Join a community for accountability.

We can justify our lack of mindfulness in many different ways when we practice it on our own. Maybe there wasn’t enough time in the day. Maybe the kids were sick. Maybe there is a project at work with a tight deadline that requires all of your attention. Pretty soon mindfulness takes a permanent spot on the back burner. By joining a community which focuses on daily mindfulness, your new friends will help to keep you accountable to its daily practice.

#6. Give yourself space.

Although mindfulness can be practiced virtually anywhere, it is still important to have a peaceful spot that is all your own. By creating a dedicated space for mindfulness and other forms of meditation, you’ll be naturally prioritizing it each day. Look for a space that will minimize distractions so you can maximize your results.

Making mindfulness a higher priority can seem like an insurmountable task sometimes, but with a little proactive work it can be easy to accomplish. Consider these ideas, add them to your routine as appropriate, and you may just find the path of least resistance to happiness.

How Leadership Improves With Mindfulness Meditation

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Executives are embracing mindfulness meditation in droves because they are seeing real benefits from this ancient practice in their lives. Not only does it make stress levels manageable for them, but it provides them with a number of additional advantages which are able to make them more effective at what they do for a living.

These same benefits and advantages also apply to everyone who may be in a leadership position. Here is why mindfulness meditation is quickly becoming a billion dollar industry and why you should consider adding this to your lifestyle in 2016.

#1: It makes you resilient. Mindfulness helps people to center themselves. When people are able to stay balanced, then anxiety levels are naturally reduced. Consistent balance makes people become more resilient against circumstances that can cause others to lose their composure. It gives people an outlet to find their own place of peace. Just 20 minutes of calm can make a world of difference.

#2: It boosts emotional intelligence levels. Have you ever had a co-worker or a supervisor who always seemed to know what you were thinking or feeling? There’s a good chance that this person was regularly practicing mindfulness meditation. Being mindful of each moment in each day brings us an awareness of how others are feeling around us. This allows us to work better in teams together because we can focus on our strengths and not be stepping on sensitive emotional cues.

#3: It enhances creativity. Mindfulness meditation taps directly into the creative centers of the brain. When the mind becomes bogged down by stress, anxiety, or responsibilities, then one of the first things that shuts down is the creative parts of the mind. Even fatigue can be enough to stop creativity. Mindfulness brings creativity back because it gives the mind a real chance to rest.

#4: It can improve your relationships. Stress creates tunnel-vision. It makes people miss all of the things that are happening around them because they’re so focused on one solitary negative element. When your mood is boosted because of mindfulness meditation, then the connections you have with others are increased as well. The end result is a stronger connection that is focused on compassion instead of self-preservation.

#5: It improves your focus. During the average day, you face an average of 20,000 decisions. Many of these choices wind up being distractions that take you away from work that needs to get done. Mindfulness meditation helps you choose to stay focused instead of checking Facebook for status updates or reading through your list of emails again.

So why is mindfulness meditation so difficult to include in the modern lifestyle? Because it is often seen as another task which needs to be completed. We refused to find time for it because we see life as already being “too busy.” Why add another responsibility? Yet when mindfulness meditation is embraced, the results can begin to be experienced in as little as 4 days with 20 minutes of daily meditation.

This is why mindfulness meditation enhances a person’s leadership qualities and abilities. If you’re not including this practice into your daily routine, then give it a try this week. You might just find the results you experience to be life-changing.

5 Essential Habits That Help You Find Your Zen

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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.

6 Tips To Give the Gift of Mindfulness This Year

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The holiday season is filled with plenty of stress. From finding the perfect gift to dealing with your uncle’s terrible jokes, there are multiple ways that the holiday season can break us down. This is why giving others the gift of mindfulness this year, even if they don’t know that they’re receiving it, can bring you a higher peace as you go about your day. Here are 6 easy tips to begin giving this gift.

#1. When Driving

You’re stuck in traffic during the morning commute. Some dude just cut you off and made you slam on your brakes. There’s a pedestrian in the crosswalk when you’ve got the green light and they’re just standing there, staring at you like it’s your fault that they can’t move out of the way. Driving can create a lot of stress. By giving these strangers the gift of mindfulness, you can let this moments of frustration go. Let’s face it – will you remember what happened on the road today even a month from now?

#2. While Eating

Grandma might be making her syrupy sweet tea. Your father might be camped out in front of the TV watching football, spreading cheesy puffs everywhere. Your plate might be full of turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, and everything else. Instead of inhaling the foods just so you can get through them, try to find one thing you appreciate about every meal, snack, and treat you get. There’s even something great about Grandma’s tea, even if you feel like you need a visit to the dentist afterward.

#3. While Speaking

One awesome way to give the gift of mindfulness is to practice active listening. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to try to interrupt someone because there is an important point you have to make “right now?” Hear what people are telling you, repeat it back to them so you know you’re on the same page, and you will have a delightful experience.

#4. While Relaxing

It’s fun to zone out sometimes in front of a favorite movie. You might be eating snacks during the big game without a second thought. Relaxing is the perfect time to give the gift of mindfulness. Enjoy how your body relaxes. Observe how others are relaxing around you. Take a few deep breaths if you’re in the middle of a football triple-header. It will bring everyone closer together.

#5. While Working

Your boss is giving you the stink eye. Your mother wants you to help wash all the holiday dishes even though you cooked most of the meal. You have a project that is overdue and your client is breathing down your neck. Mindfulness in this circumstance means putting yourself into the shoes of the other person. See life from their perspective. Feel what they are feeling. This understanding can then give you the boost of energy you need to get through any task.

#6. While in the Moment

There is no limit to your giving the gift of mindfulness. It can be extended at any time. If you feel stress, anger, sadness, or other difficult emotions or circumstances are close, then utilize what mindfulness can provide.

Of course you will be controlling and experiencing each moment when you give the gift of mindfulness. The end result is that your interactions with others will be calm and consistent. Don’t let the varying stressors of the holiday season get to you. Use mindfulness to get through the tough times and you will indeed have a happy holidays.

If You’re Tired of Painkillers, Then Try Meditation

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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.

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