How to meditate in 5 simple steps

Most people like to make meditation into this complicated activity. I like to keep things simple. Below are 5 simple steps to get you started on meditation.

1. Eliminate Distractions. The first thing you want to do is make sure that no one is going to bother you while you are meditating

2. Determine how long to meditate. I recommend you spend 5 minutes a day to meditate if you are a beginner. Even 5 minutes every day will show some tangible benefits in your life. If you have been meditating for a few months you can try to bump it up to 15 minutes or 30 minutes once or twice a day. Remember, it is not the quantity of time but the quality of time that counts in meditation.

3. Relax. For some that might mean doing some aerobic exercise before meditating. For others it means taking a nice shower or bath. Stretching before you start will also help you relax and be more comfortable while you are meditating.

4. Get Comfortable. Once you’ve relaxed your body, it’s time to find a place for you to sit. You can sit in whatever way you want, just make sure your spine is straight and you are comfortable. Always meditate with your back straight, which has a positive effect on the flow of mental energy through the body. In addition, an alert body makes for an alert mind.

5. Focus. Your mind will want to make this more complicated than it is, so be prepared for that. Once you’ve settled in, pick one thing to focus on, such as your breath, a mantra, a candle flame or whatever feels appropriate to you. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Focusing on one thing is easy and an excellent place to start.

10 tips for mindful driving

I do a lot of driving. Driving in Southern California can be very stressful dealing with traffic and boredom of commute. You can turn your drive time into a practice in mindfulness. Try one of the following 10 tips for mindful driving next time you hit the road:

1. Switch off the radio and experience the silence.
We often drive along while listening to the radio. Just as an experiment, try seeing what it’s like to have the sound turned off. It might seem at first as if something is missing, but you’ll quickly learn that the silence gives you an opportunity to fill your awareness with other perceptions, some of which are more enriching.

2. The extra attention that’s freed up because you’re no longer listening to the radio is now available to notice other things. You can notice any tensions in your body, such as a knot of tension in the belly, or your hands gripping the steering well, or a clenched jaw. Notice these experiences, and let your body relax more. Notice how your experience changes and becomes more enjoyable as your muscles let go.

3. Slow down. As an experiment, try driving at or just below the speed limit. Most of us tend to want to push the speed limit, driving just a little faster than allowed. Driving just a fraction under the speed limit can take away a lot of tension. Shift over into the slower lane if necessary.

4. Notice your attitudes. Often we become competitive while driving, and this leads to tension. Make a practice of noticing cars trying to enter the road, and adjust your speed so that you can let them out if it’s safe to do so. Notice if you’re in a hurry. How does this make you feel? How does it feel if you let the pace slacken a little?

5. Practice being more aware of the other traffic around you. Sometimes we become very focused just on what’s around us, but it can be very fulfilling (and much safer) to develop an all-round awareness, using our mirrors as well as what we can see in front on us.

6. As drivers pass you, wish them well. Repeat, “May you be well, May you be happy” as cars cut you off.

7. Use every stop light or any other necessary stop to practice a fuller mindfulness of your body. When you’ve stopped, it’s safe to let your awareness more fully connect with your breathing. At those moments you can also notice what’s around you — the sky and the trees, and other people. Wish those other people well.

8. If there are other people in the car with you, wish them well. As you drive, a part of your mind can be repeating “May you be well, may you be happy”.

9. Take deep breaths. As you get into your car, before you switch on the engine, and before you get out of the car, after you’ve switched off the engine, just sit for a moment and take three deep breaths, really letting go on the out breath.

10. If you don’t drive, but take public transport instead, then wish your fellow travelers well, radiating loving kindness towards them.

3 ways to live a more grateful life

Most people are always comparing themselves to others. When they do, they will see their shortcomings. We are unhappy because we do not have what someone else has. We also take people and things for granted. Sometimes we need to stop and just appreciate all the wonderful people and things in our life. Below are 3 great ways to live a more grateful life:

Appreciation is one of those emotions we tend to forget. We’re so busy running around living our lives without taking into consideration how we manage to get everything done, where the energy comes from and how we stumble on all those exciting opportunities. People take everything for granted and that leads them to feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life and everything around them. Appreciating the small things can help you lead a better life with more happiness and prosperity.

The first thing to do if you want to appreciate the small things is learn a very important word. ‘Thank you’.

It’s one of those words that is either overused and doesn’t really mean anything when said or not used enough when it’s necessary. A simple thank you to someone can make their day and show your appreciation. If you’re mom just made you a cup of tea or took your washing off the line, say thank you. If the driver has let you in to the heavily jammed lane thank them by blinking your lights or waving your hand. It’s these little things that make a huge difference to how our day pans out and our level of happiness.

Make a gratitude list to help you appreciate the small things in life.

What do you include on your gratitude list? Everything that you are thankful for and that makes your life easier and more enjoyable. Your health, family, friends, the ability to drive to work, having a job that pays, being able to see a movie any night of the week, having a roof over your head, clean water to drink, electricity to help dry your hair, a personal trainer, or public transport that makes commuting to and from work easier. All these things are taken for granted every single day and that’s a shame because once we forget about how lucky we are to have them, we stop feeling happy and satisfied and we gain a thirst for more.

Learn to give a helping hand to people who really need it.

Sign up with a charity organization to help others. Volunteer your time at a hospital or children’s home. Visit the elderly who are lonely in retirement homes. Doing things for others is a great way to learn to appreciate the small things. It will make you see what you have but also to be able to give something back and bring happiness and appreciation to other’s lives.

Walking meditation: The perfect 10-minute willpower boost

Walking is a great form of exercise. It can be done by nearly anyone. If you’re looking to develop your willpower, try walking meditation. Walking meditation is a form of meditation in action.

In walking meditation we use the experience of walking as our focus. We become mindful of our experience while walking, and try to keep our awareness involved with the experience of walking.

The practice of walking meditation can also be fitted in to the gaps in our lives quite easily. Even walking from the car into the supermarket can be an opportunity for a minute’s walking meditation.

Read this article if you are intrigued about walking meditation.

10 things you think will make you happy – but won’t

Celebrated Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard reveals ten common paradoxes that keep us from living our best lives.

1. Becoming rich, powerful and famous.

2. Treating the universe as if it were a mail-order catalog by expecting it to gratify our every desire.

3. Yearning for the “freedom” to achieve every last wish. This is not freedom, but being the slave of your own thoughts.

4. Seeking too much pleasure. Pleasurable sensations soon become dull, and often become unpleasant.

5. Maliciously taking revenge on someone who has hurt you. By doing so, you become like them and poison your own mind.

6. Assuming that any one thing will make you happy. Such predictions usually don’t turn out to be true.

7. Expecting all praise and no criticism. Without criticism, you won’t progress.

8. To vanquish all your enemies. Animosity never brings happiness.

9. To never face adversity. Refraining from doing so will make you weak and vulnerable.

10. Expending all your effort on taking care of yourself alone. Altruism and compassion are the roots of genuine happiness.

Source: Yahoo

11 steps to stress release

Are you feeling some stress in your life. Perhaps you need to do one or more of these steps to get some relieve.

Recognize what you are stressed about

Is it your health, work, money or relationship? You need to clarify what is causing you stress so you can do something about it.

Ask for help

Often people feel that they have to do it all on their own. If you are feeling that you need help in an area of your life, then don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Time management

People are often stressed because they have too many things to do. Take a pen and paper and make a list of what you can realistically do today.

Say No

Be realistic. Before agreeing to do extra work or help someone, ask if you have the time and the energy to do it. If you don’t and it will put extra pressure on you, just say no.

Take time out

The best way to deal with stress is to relax. Even short intervals of slowing down, resting, meditating or doing something fun, can help you let go of stress and change your focus.

Acknowledge your feelings

In order to release stress, you need to become aware of where you hold stress in your body. By focusing your attention within you will notice where you feel tense.

Breathe consciously

When you breathe shallowly, your body tightens, your thinking becomes limiting causing you to feel anxious and fearful. By slowing down your breath, you can calm yourself, let go of negative thinking, sharpen your concentration, relax your body and experience an increase of energy.

Eat healthy food

Most people know what constitutes a healthy diet. Yet in our stressed and busy lives, it is easy to go for fast food, which usually contains lots of fat, sugar, caffeine and unhealthy chemicals. To help our bodies cope with stress we need to make sure that we are eating healthy, nourishing food.

Exercise

Move your body and make it fun. Create an exercise program that you enjoy such as walking, swimming, dancing, doing yoga, going to the gym or jumping on a home trampoline.

Bring more laughter into your life

The more you can see the lighter side of life, the less stress you will feel. Laughter is one of the best remedies for releasing stress, dealing with depression and reversing the ageing process.

Focus on what you desire

The more you focus on what you want rather then what you don’t want, the more positive you’ll feel and the more likely you are to manifest it.

Source: Helium

Why resting is as powerful as sleeping

A new book by eminent U.S. sleep specialist Dr Matthew Edlund suggests if you can’t sleep, a rest can be just as curative as sleep. The key is how you rest. Dr Edlund describes four different kinds of active rest below:

SOCIAL REST

This is defined as spending time with friends and family. No matter how busy you are, it is vital to build this into your day. Just chatting with others has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones and provide hormonal and psychological benefits.

MENTAL REST

Today we all try to do too many things at once – texting while driving, eating while watching TV – and we’ve lost an understanding of the brain’s need to focus on one thing. Give your brain a break by doing one thing at a time. Slow down a bit. Your brain can only absorb so much at any one time.

PHYSICAL REST

This is about actively using the body’s processes, such as breathing, to calm body and mind.

The best way to do this is to stop and take a few really deep breaths. Breathing deeply fills the lungs with oxygen, opening up collapsed air spaces, sending richly oxygenated blood around the body.

SPIRITUAL REST

Meditation allows us to slow down and smell the roses along the way. It recharges our body, mind and spirit. It renews and energizes us. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Meditators are able to get in touch with their deeper selves.

Source: Daily Mail

Interesting information about the common cold

I get sick a few times a year especially during the colder months. I found this NPR story very helpful in understanding how we get the common cold. If you want to minimize your chances of getting the common cold, here are a few things you should know:

1. Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with your hands unless it has been washed thoroughly.

2. Wash your hands frequently.

3. The most common cause of the common cold is most commonly spread with objects or hands contaminated by the nasal secretions by someone who is infected.

4. Not getting enough sleep and chronic stress increases our chances of getting a cold.

5. Colds are not caused by cold weather but by viruses.

6. Vitamin C has no effect in preventing the common cold.

Meditation Tip: Don’t try too hard

Meditation is a natural process, and whenever you find yourself trying too hard, just let go. Don’t make a big deal out of this. It is the easiest thing that our mind can do … perhaps that is why it is so powerful. Meditation is a process of allowing yourself to relax and let go of physical tension. Consciously let go of your thoughts of the day, of work, of relationships, of verbal and physical interactions with others. This is your time for yourself.

Why meditate?

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who went from a scientific career as a molecular biologist in France to the study of Buddhism in the Himalayas 40 years ago. His article talks about why should we meditate. These are some of the lines that I liked:

Our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. The aim of meditation is to transform the mind. As things stand now, our mind is often filled with troubles. We spend a great deal of time consumed by painful thoughts, plagued by anxiety or anger. It would be such a relief, if we could master our mind to the point where we could be free of these disturbing emotions.

The goal of meditation is not to shut down the mind or anesthetize it, but rather to make it free, lucid and balanced.

Research has shown that it is possible to make significant progress in developing qualities such as attention, emotional balance, altruism and inner peace.

Other studies have demonstrated the benefits of meditating for 20 minutes a day for a period of eight weeks. These benefits include a decrease in anxiety and in the tendency toward depression and anger, as well as strengthening the immune system and increasing one’s general well being.

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