5 ways to find a bit of serenity in your life

In a stressful world, it is nice to have some ways to relax and slow down. By learning how to relax, you will get more enjoyment and happiness. Here are 5 ways to find a little bit of serenity in your life.

1. Breathe easy: Relaxation begins with the breath. What happens when we tend to get overstressed is we hold our breath and we don’t realize we’re doing it. Most people are chest breathers, meaning they only breathe down to the level of the center of the sternum (around heart level). Breath should be going deep into the lungs. People who are depressed or feel a lack of whole-heartedness in their life should focus on their inhale, while those who are stressed because they are too busy should focus on their exhale.

2. Sweat it out: Exercise is typically touted as a great way to relax. Activities that focus on developing resiliency or agility are the best at helping people unwind.

3. Drink not eat: More often than not, people eat when they’re stressed, when really they should be drinking more fluids. What the water and hydration does for your body is make the cells of your body able to absorb nutrients better. Having enough water helps your brain chemistry and it helps your hormones.”

4. Drop the tongue: Gritting or clenching teeth is a common physiological response to stress. Focusing on relaxing the jaw may help. It is most helpful to instead concentrate on dropping the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. If you’re stressed the tongue is on the top of your mouth. It may seem a bit silly but the tongue drops naturally when smiling and releases happy endorphins into the body.

5. Smile more: smiling counteracts the effects of cortisol (the main stress hormone in the body) by signaling the release of other hormones like serotonin, noradrenaline and oxytocin. Smile more and you’ll get more happy hormones.

Meditation can be for everyone

Meditation is a very personal thing for most people. Some prefer to follow the breath while others choose to chant Om and merge with the sound. Still, there are others who get into meditation more easily by clearing their head of all thoughts and entering that quiet space where they can feel Eternity’s presence.

It is essential to remember that because we are in human form, we have our good days and our bad days, and on our good days, our meditation will transcend us to the ultimate level, and on our bad days, we will be too preoccupied or too fidgety to get into a deep meditation. On the days when your mind is too distracted to meditate effectively, get up and do something else for awhile. Then try again. Give yourself three attempts. If, on the third attempt, you are still struggling to quiet your mind, tell yourself that tomorrow is another day and give yourself permission to call it quits for today.

We often hear that spiritual people have to meditate at certain hours or that meditation can only be done a certain way, but that’s not true. There are many people who meditate at the prescribed times and who do moonlight meditations and special holiday meditations, but who don’t live spiritual lives. As long as you are meditating for yourself and not for an audience, it doesn’t matter when you meditate or where you meditate, the results will be the same. I truly doubt if Eternity cares whether you meditate at three in the morning or at nine in the evening, as long as your motivation is to seek her out.

During moments of stress when nothing is going right, you can change your vibration with a fifteen or twenty minute meditation, and that will change the outcome of your day.

I think meditation can be for everyone. It affects your health, your mind, your attitude, your interpersonal relationships, your productivity, and your life. Don’t worry about whether it will make you spiritual; if you are living according to the precepts of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you and also the converse: Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you, then meditation will help you attain God-consciousness. If you are not living that kind of life, then all the meditation, all the books, lectures, and seminars in the world will not move you to that level.

Meditation should be seen as a reward, not a discipline or a chore. It is a time of healing the human spirit and infusing a person with courage to get through the day; it is also the balancing of energies within the body, bringing mind, body, and spirit into perfect alignment, and it should not be confused with prayer. Prayer is when you speak to God; meditation is when you are still enough to hear God speak to you.

If you haven’t yet experienced the joys of meditating, start now. Find your own rhythm, choose a time of day or night that works for you and don’t be afraid to vary it. Use it to propel you to another level of spirituality or use it to help you sleep, to change your vibration, or to give you a quick spurt of energy, but use it. Rejoice in the myriad ways of bringing meditation into your life.

Source: Ezinemark.com

Everything is meditation

“The real meditation practice is life itself. The real meditation teacher is life itself.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Sitting meditation is just a chance to practice mindfulness and build concentration, the real process of mindfulness happens in your day-to-day life. Everything is meditation. Everything you do should be an act of mindfulness. Whether you are working, showering, cleaning your teeth, eating or waiting in line, everything should be done with awareness. This can take years of practice to remain fully aware throughout your day, but by making an effort to be fully present for a moment through the day, whether that is for just three minutes as your clean your teeth, as well as regular “sitting” practice, you will find that your clarity of thought, concentration and ability to cope with what used to seem like ridiculously difficult situations.

I found that by practicing mindfulness during the day, you will not feel as tired as most people when you come home. Most of our energy is drained by the thoughts that we think and the people that we associate with. When you become aware of these two important things, you will be on the path to living a more empowered life. I want to leave you with this quote that I heard a long time ago, “Positive thinking is better than negative thinking. No thinking is better than positive thinking.”

Source: Tortoise Knows Best

Evidence mounts for benefits of meditation

I found this great article about the benefits of meditation. If you have time you should read the full article. I found the following information below to be the main points of the article:

Meditation can be good for the mind and soul, experts say, and it is becoming a more common way to treat health conditions. While it is not fully understood what changes in the body during meditation, the practice has been shown in various studies to relieve stress and improve the physical side effects of anxiety.

Daily meditation helps to increase people’s attention span.

Meditation trains the brain to be more present-focused and therefore to spend less time anticipating future negative events.

The brain takes in information and the mind makes sense of it all. If people are able to stop worries and judgments, the mind is quieted, and the brain can get back to work.

 

Why an attitude of gratitude matters

I found this nice article on gratitude. I am reprinting part of it below.

Gratitude is a lifestyle. It’s a state of mind and the condition of your heart. Living a life of gratitude helps you to see the world in a positive light by changing your perspective, putting your priorities in order and helping you to put others first.

A life lived in gratitude is the gateway to happiness. When a person learns to be grateful for what they have and the people in their life in the here and now, they are able to be content throughout their lifetime, despite whatever struggles they may have to face. An ungrateful heart will only lead you down the road to despair, as you will never be satisfied with anything; always wanting “more” and never quite getting it all.

In this busy world, more and more people are taking everything in life for granted. While there are some people in this world who seem to have an overwhelming sense of entitlement that leads them to expect everything and give little in return, I do not believe this to be the case for the majority of us who take things for granted. I feel we often become far too comfortable in our daily lives and routines. We fail to consciously recognize the good fortune we do have and don’t often show just how much we appreciate it.

 

10 ways to increase your concentration

Most people in modern society have a hard time concentrating. One of the reasons is that concentration is a skill that we were never taught as a child. One of the benefits of meditation is that it helps people focus their attention and sustain it. Concentration is a skill that you can definitely learn. It will get better with practice. Below are 10 ways to increase your concentration:

1. First understand clearly what concentration is: “Concentration is taking your mind off many things and putting it on one thing at a time.”

2. Decide carefully what you want to concentrate on, for in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways, you become that which you focus on — that is, you take on the attributes of your chosen subject of concentration.

3. Everyone has had experiences in total concentration. Go to a good adventure film at a movie theater. In the middle of it, stop watching the movie (this might be hard, but do it anyway) and look around at the people in the theater. What are they doing? They are absolutely still, eyes barely blinking, and their breath is slower. It would take a really major distraction to break their attention stream. These physiological signs may give you a hint about ways to increase your own concentration abilities.

4. Some of the enemies of concentration skills are constant sensory input, multi-tasking, trying to do many things all at the same time, loud noises, and flashing light patterns. The human nervous system is a marvelous thing, but it is not built to function in the face of these things on a full-time basis. Attention deficit patterns come, at least to some extent, from the activities or situations which make concentration difficult to impossible.

5. Make it a point to put your full concentration on whatever you are doing. Don’t let anything distract you. It really helps to be in a quiet place, but you can learn to block out noise if necessary.

6. Understand the essential connection between concentration and energy. Deep concentration is a matter of increasing or directing your life-force or conscious, cosmic energy. The more of this kind of energy you have, the better. Scattered energy doesn’t help. It must be calm, focused energy. Learn to be calmly concentrated and be concentratedly calm.

7. Learn and practice some physical and mental concentration techniques. This is an important first step toward the ability to concentrate deeply.

8. Take breaks. Go outside and breathe deeply or take a brisk walk. Make yourself do this often and you’ll be able to return to your task recharged and ready to focus more creatively.

9. Meditation is the most powerful of all concentration enhancement techniques. Learn a few simple meditation techniques and practice them at least five minutes daily.

10. A first step in the concentration aspect of meditation is to focus on watching your breath — not controlling it in any way, but just observing it. This helps to train yourself in taking your mind off of many things, and putting it on one thing at a time — in this case the breath.

How exercise can eliminate stress

When people are under stress, the first thing that usually goes out the door is eating healthy and maintaining a regular exercise regime. But this amazing article that I stumbled upon gives convincing reasons why it is important to exercise when you are under stress. Please do read it if you want to eliminate stress in your life. Some of the interesting lines from this article:

According to the American Psychological Association, a whopping 75% of people in the United States feel stressed out. Almost half of us eat unhealthily because of it; 47% of us can’t sleep because of it; it makes one in three of us depressed; and for 42% of us, it has gotten worse in the last year.

Stress is associated with just about every chronic disease we know.

Exercise may be the most effective antidote.

Exercise is like free medicine.

Through regular cardio, you actually change your brain, so it takes more and more stress to trigger the fight-or-flight response

10 time management tips for stress reduction

Do you feel like there is never enough time to do everything you have to do? Do you feel overwhelmed at work and at home? Do you have information overload? Welcome to today’s modern society. Here are some time management ideas to reduce stress:

1. Make a plan. Using a to-do list is the most powerful way to get control of your time. Spend a little time at the start of each day or week making a list of what you need to accomplish.

2. Prioritize. Once you have made a to-do list, rank each item by importance. Some people use a system of high, medium and low. Concentrate on things of high importance or urgency. Move those that are medium or low to the bottom of the list.

3. Be realistic. Allow a reasonable amount of time for each task. Don’t schedule every moment. Leave some space in your day when you can take breaks or fit in the unexpected.

4. Include time for yourself. Your health and well-being are important, so make sure you allow time for good meals, exercise, relaxation, meditation and your family and friends.

5. Review your to-do list every day.
Check off items as you finish them. This can give you a sense of accomplishment. What you don’t finish one day can be moved to the next day.

6. Avoid procrastination. Putting off things you need to do just creates more stress. If you feel overwhelmed by a task, break it down into smaller parts. Tackle one part at a time. Give yourself a little reward when you finish each part.

7. Get help if you need it. See if there are tasks you can delegate to someone else. It can pay to give up some control in exchange for a less hectic schedule.

8. Learn to say “no.” Accepting more and more responsibilities is guaranteed to increase your stress. If you already have a full plate, don’t take on more.

9. Get organized. Spend a little time setting up your workspace so you know where things are. Choose a spot where you put your keys, briefcase, purse or other items you use every day. Then use it every time. This can save a lot of frustration and hours of wasted time.

10. Beware of time-wasters. You know what you do everyday that wastes time. Be a little bit more disciplined and try to minimize or eliminate these time-wasters so that you can get better control of your life.

10 most common questions about meditation

Below are some of the most common meditation questions we get in class. I hope this will help other people who are new to meditation.

1. When should I meditate?

The best time to meditate is in the morning after you wake up because your mind is less active. By meditating in the morning you will carry some of the energy and peace of the meditation into your daily life. Evenings are also a good time to wind down and meditate after a busy day. The exact best time to meditate depends on your lifestyle, job, etc.

2. How long should I meditate?

If you are new to meditation you can start with 5 minutes a day in the morning or evening. After regular practice for awhile, you can increase the length of time. The point is to make a commitment that you know you will keep.

3. What should I do with my thoughts during the meditation?

It is natural and normal to have many thoughts during meditation. The key is to not follow your thoughts.Be an observer of your thought rather than a participant.

4. Should I use music while meditating?

I recommend you play meditation music while you meditate so that you can block out the noise of the world. If you are meditating at a quiet place music is not necessary.

5. Can I meditate lying down?

No. When you lie down there is a good chance you will fall asleep. This is not meditation. When you meditate you want to be alert.

6. How should I sit?

You can sit on the floor or a chair. Whatever works for you. Meditation is usually done in the lotus or half-lotus posture where a person’s legs are crossed while sitting on a cushion close to the floor. The key is to be comfortable. The most important thing is to keep your back straight to allow the energy to flow more easily.

7. What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothes so that you are not distracted during meditation.

8. What should I do with my hands?

There are many ways to place your hands, each one having a different meaning and purpose. You can fold them or interlace them. You can rest them on your lap, palms up or down. Choose one that feels natural to you. There is no need to hold your hands in a certain way.

9. Where should I meditate?

Meditation can happen anywhere, as long as it’s tranquil or peaceful. Pick a quiet, clean and comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. It is helpful to designate a specific place purely for the purpose of meditation. You can establish a habit and an association in your mind with that place.

10. Should I meditate with my eyes open or closed.

Try both and see which one works better for you. You can start your meditation with the eyes open focusing on an object of concentration such as a candle or a flower. After a few minutes, you can close your eyes for the duration of the meditation.

5 mistakes in establishing a daily meditation practice

In our meditation classes, we talk about establishing a daily meditation practice at home. We feel that meditation is something that anyone can do but it does require a little commitment and willingness on your part. Here are some ways that people sabotage their meditation practice:

1. Procrastinate starting your daily meditation practice:

Many people who talk and read about religion, spirituality, yoga, meditation, etc. never actually start a personal meditation program. They even come to me and discuss these matters in great detail, but, never get down to doing it. Meditation in this regard is just like exercise, you can read every book on fitness, but, until you break a sweat you will have zero benefits. You have to get started, you have to do it, there is no other way. No one can do your meditation for you. The biggest mistake is to procrastinate starting your practice. There are endless excuses to delay, there is just one solution: START NOW.

2. Don’t prepare your meditation environment:

Once you have decided to start your daily meditation practice the first thing you should do is create the necessary environment to make doing your daily practice easier. What does this mean? It means, at the minimum, the following:

1. Create a space in your home where you will practice your meditation. The space should be quiet and exclusively used for only meditation and spiritual matters if possible.
2. Get a meditation cushion and/or mat to help you sit. If you need to start with using a chair that is fine too.
3. Place some items that inspire you in this location (picture, idol, saying, symbol, etc.)
4. Get a stop watch or setup another convenient time device.
5. Make a silent, firm commitment to do your meditation practice regularly.

It is very important to do this. This is because it is very possible that at the time you decide to start you daily meditation program you are in a highly inspired state, which might not be sustainable over time. Having the meditation environment set-up will make it easier to maintain your consistency even during these “uninspired” periods. Having everything in place, believe me, dramatically increases the chance that you just plop down on your cushion and do your daily meditation.

3. Don’t set a definite time for your daily meditation:

This is similar to mistake #2 in that setting a definite time for your daily meditation is a significant psychological factor in getting you to be consistent with your practice. Just trying to find random times in the day to do your meditation will generally work once in a while and usually only for a short period of time. You must set a time and if possible set this time to early in the morning, before all the distractions of life begin.

4. Think meditation is too hard and give-up:

Forget about all you have read with regard to how meditation is supposed to work and instead just do your best. Given that just sitting still and focusing on your breath can be hard, it is fully understandable that one is going to have trouble watching the swift and subtle mind. We all fail and fail repeatedly and there is no shame in that. The only mistake is to not get back up the next day and try again. So don’t give up, just keep going and your mental muscles will develop. They have no choice. If you exercise them they develop. So don’t judge yourself harshly and keep the golden rule of meditation all the time in the back of your mind, it is — Keep Going!

5. Look for immediate results:

In our age of instant gratification, trying to get the fastest results possible with minimum effort seems to be the mantra. Diet pills, cosmetic surgery, mega millions lottery, medications for everything under the sun, recreational drugs, constant electronic stimulation, etc, etc. have made trying to get “the kick” the prime objective. Well sorry, meditation is like getting wet while walking in a misty fog. You don’t even realize you are getting wet, but, if you stay out there long enough you will be completely soaked. Meditation is the blossoming of goodness. It will happen on its own, in its own sweet time. Don’t worry about the results just put your best foot forward and keep marching ahead. Soon you will find yourself standing on Heaven’s Doorsteps.

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