If Your Mind Wanders While Meditating, an Expert Says to Follow This Technique to Refocus

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Every time one of my friends brings up their meditation practice, I quickly reply with something along the lines of, “I wish I could do it, but I can’t focus.” I know that meditation isn’t about perfection, but being type A, it’s hard for me to do something if I’m not “perfect” at it. Lately, meditation keeps popping up in my circle, from badass friends who are constantly hustling to my sheroes like Robin Roberts meditating every day at three-something in the morning, according to an interview with The Cut.

I figured if Robin Roberts can wake up that early every morning and commit to a meditation practice, I, too, could wake up (a little later) and get my meditation on. I’m still a meditation rookie, but one thing I found helpful when my mind wanders, which is basically every minute, is mental noting. “Mental noting, or labeling, is a mindful awareness technique of noting and naming the thoughts and feelings that come up as you meditate,” Millana Snow, meditation teacher, energy healer, and founder of Wellness Official, told POPSUGAR.

“When your mind starts to go off into tangents, you can use mental noting to bring pause and awareness to those thoughts so that you can start to unidentify with them and become the observer of those thoughts and feelings.” If you find your mind wondering, make note of it — “I’m thinking about the big pitch I have on Friday” — then return to the present.

Every time my mind drifts and I find myself wondering what I’m going to eat later that day, thinking about how many clients I have to train, planning a trip to Colombia, combing my never-ending to-do list, and every other random thought that comes up, I revert back to mental noting. Some days, I have to do it a lot, but other days, I only have to do it once or twice during my practice.

If you’re already going, “Yeah, I still won’t be able to do this,” I promise you, you will. When I catch myself thinking about everything else instead of being in the present, I practice mental noting by focusing on my breath while thinking, “Breathing in, breathing out.” When Millana finds her mind drifting, she said she reminds herself to “‘come back to my breath’ or come back to noting what the moment contains: the sounds in the room, the smells, and the way my body feels. I find this helps me go deeper into awareness,” she explained.

The key word in “practice mental noting” is practice. “We must allow ourselves to be the observer of our thoughts, and to watch thoughts pass by like you would clouds in the sky,” Millana said. She also recommends noting and naming your thoughts “instead of identifying with them and making them distractions.” The key is to become more present and separate the thought from yourself.

If you gave up on your meditation practice before starting because you thought focus would be an issue, try introducing mental noting into your practice.

6 Ways to Use Mindfulness to Ease Difficult Emotions

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Mindfulness has become quite the buzzword these days, with impressive studies popping up in the news with regularity.

For example, research from the University of Oxford finds that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is just as effective as antidepressants for preventing a relapse of depression. In MBCT, a person learns to pay closer attention to the present moment and to let go of the negative thoughts and ruminations that can trigger depression. They also explore a greater awareness of their own body, identifying stress and signs of depression before a crisis hits.

Four years ago, I took an eight-week intensive Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at Anne Arundel Community Hospital. The course was approved by and modeled from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s incredibly successful program at the University of Massachusetts. I often refer to the wise chapters of Kabat-Zinn’s book, Full Catastrophe Living (which we used as a text book). Here are a few of the strategies he offers:

Hold Your Feelings with Awareness

One of the key concepts of mindfulness is bringing awareness to whatever you are experiencing — not pushing it away, ignoring it, or trying to replace it with a more positive experience. This is extraordinarily difficult when you are in the midst of deep pain, but it can also cut the edge off of the suffering.

“Strange as it may sound,” explains Kabat-Zinn, “the intentional knowing of your feelings in times of emotional suffering contains in itself the seeds of healing.” This is because the awareness itself is independent of your suffering. It exists outside of your pain.

So just as the weather unfolds within the sky, painful emotions happen against the backdrop of our awareness. This means we are no longer a victim of a storm. We are affected by it, yes, but it no longer happens to us. By relating to our pain consciously, and bringing awareness to our emotions, we are engaging with our feelings instead of being a victim to them and the stories we tell ourselves.

Accept What Is

At the heart of much of our suffering is our desire for things to be different than they are.

“If you are mindful as emotional storms occur,” writes Kabat-Zinn, “perhaps you will see in yourself an unwillingness to accept things as they already are, whether you like them or not.”

You may not be ready to accept things as they are, but knowing that part of your pain stems from the desire for things to be different can help put some space between you and your emotions.

Ride the Wave

One of the most reassuring elements of mindfulness for me is the reminder that nothing is permanent. Even though pain feels as though it is constant or solid at times, it actually ebbs and flows much like the ocean. The intensity fluctuates, comes and goes, and therefore gives us pockets of peace.

“Even these recurring images, thoughts, and feelings have a beginning and an end,” explains Kabat-Zinn, “that they are like waves that rise up in the mind and then subside. You may also notice that they are never quite the same. Each time one comes back, it is slightly different, never exactly the same as any pervious wave.”

Apply Compassion

Kabat-Zinn compares mindfulness of emotions to that of a loving mother who would be a source of comfort and compassion for her child who was upset. A mother knows that the painful emotions will pass — she is separate to her child’s feelings — so she is that awareness that provides peace and perspective. “Sometimes we need to care for ourselves as if that part of us that is suffering is our own child,” Kabat-Zinn writes. “Why not show compassion, kindness, and sympathy toward our own being, even as we open fully to our pain?”

Separate Yourself from the Pain

People who have suffered years from chronic illness tend to define themselves by their illnesses. Sometimes their identity is wrapped up in their symptoms. Kabat-Zinn reminds us that the painful feelings, sensations, and thoughts are separate to who we are. “Your awarenessof sensations, thoughts, and emotions is different from the sensations, the thoughts, and the emotions themselves,” he writes. “That aspect of your being that is aware is not itself in pain or ruled by these thoughts and feelings at all. It knows them, but it itself is free of them.”

He cautions us about the tendency to define ourselves as a “chronic pain patient.” “Instead,” he says, “remind yourself on a regular basis that you are a whole person who happens to have to face and work with a chronic pain condition as intelligently as possible — for the sake of your quality of life and well-being.”

Uncouple Your Thoughts, Emotions, and Sensations

Just as the sensations, thoughts, and emotions are separate from my identity, they are separate from each other. We tend to lump them all in together: “I feel anxious” or “I am depressed.” However, if we tease them apart, we might realize that a sensation (such as heart palpitations or nausea) we are experiencing is made worse by certain thoughts, and those thoughts feed other emotions.

By holding all three in awareness, we could find that the thoughts are nothing more than untrue narratives that are feeding emotions of fear and panic, and that by associating the thoughts and emotions with the sensation, we are creating more pain for ourselves.

“This phenomenon of uncoupling can give us new degrees of freedom in resting in awareness and holding whatever arises in any or all of these three domains in an entirely different way, and dramatically reduce the suffering experienced,” explains Kabat-Zinn.

 

How I Finally Made Meditation A Daily Habit

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Meditation has been shown to have numerous benefits to our mind and body such as stress and anxiety management, emotional wellbeing, improved focus and better sleep. Many successful people cite meditation as a valuable tool. For years I’ve recommended it to my clients, and yet, I struggled to make it part of my own routine.

There was always some excuse: an unpredictable schedule, events, deadlines, lack of time. Probably the sneakiest excuse for me of all was that I did yoga so did I really need to meditate on top of that?

I’d interview people and hear them talk about their meditation routine and think, “That sounds nice, but I could never do that. I’m too busy—and besides, I do yoga.”

How I finally made meditation a daily practiceJESSICA CORDING NUTRITION

My studio was like my second home. Aside from being a place where I’d made friends and even business contacts, it had given me a safe place to go work things out in my head. Yoga had seen me through break-ups, career shifts and even my father’s battle with cancer.

Then about a month after my dad died, the studio announced they were closing. This sounds like a total First World Problem—and it is—so I tried to stay positive, calling it a challenge to become more adaptable. Still, as a healthcare professional, I know taking care of myself helps me better care for my clients, so I was anxious to see how this shake-up to my self-care routine might impact my business.

In the midst of all this, I was writing a book, pulling late nights and early mornings. I found myself trying to multitask rest time with meditation time. I often fell asleep while trying to focus on my breath. Unfortunately, a fitful catnap did not have those same mental benefits. The combination of grief, poor sleep, and the loss of that baked-in mindfulness made me feel like my brain was short-circuiting.

You’re probably thinking, “This is New York—why didn’t you just find a new studio?” I was out there trying different places, but building a new routine takes time.

Which brings me back to meditation.

This winter, a friend of mine who was going through a different brand of tough stuff shared that getting back into meditation was helping him. After months of trying to keep my struggle to myself, I opened up about it. He suggested we do regular meditation check-ins to keep each other accountable. I’d never considered this approach but was willing to try.

It took about a week for it to feel like a daily thing, but I quickly noticed the benefits. I became more aware of when my mind started to wander, making it easier to refocus or redirect so I could stay on track with projects. If a situation stressed me out I was better able to identify exactly what was gnawing at me and respond calmly and thoughtfully. I found it easier to prioritize—my daily to-do list got smaller and I felt less pressured to respond right away to every single email. I also did a lot less online shopping.

Meditation has been shown to have many benefits, yet it can feel hard to make it a routine.GETTY

Perhaps the biggest benefit I noticed, though, was that when I got bad news or found myself awake at night with my mind on an anxiety loop, rather than let it hijack my brain, I focused on steps I could take to deal with the situation.

Making meditation a habit turned out to be easier than I’d imagined. Here’s what worked :

-I Started Small

I started with three and then five minutes. Soon 10 or 15 felt doable. On Valentine’s Day I even went to a 30-minute self-love meditation that flew by.

-I Made It Convenient

You don’t have to use an app, but I found the support of a tech tool (I chose Headspace) extremely helpful in staying consistent and tracking my progress to help motivate me. I set reminder alerts for times of day I would be likely to be in a place where I could sit quietly.

-I Found A Time That Worked

I tried out different times of day to see what felt doable. It turns out I’m still not a morning meditation person, but an afternoon reset or end-of-day wind-down works great.

-I Added An Accountability Component

This was huge for me. I’d often thought of meditation as a solitary practice, but checking in with someone every day actually helped me stick to it. Just be careful if you get competitive—it should feel like a supporting, encouraging relationship.

While I’m now meditating daily, I have to admit I’m still on the journey, learning as I go. Like so many things, I’ve found, it really is about learning to be where you are and be open to making changes one small step at a time.

 

To learn more about how to streamline your healthy living routine and enjoy a more balanced relationship with food and exercise, visit JessicaCordingNutrition.com.

5 Ways Sexual Meditation Can Help You Have Better Sex

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By now, you’ve likely heard that mindfulness and meditation come with a bunch of health benefits. The practices have the potential to reduce stress and anxiety, ease pain and fatigue, help you make healthier food choices, fight premature aging, and even boost your immunity.

But that’s not where the perks end: An emerging body of research suggests that mindfulness may boost your sex life, too, increasing desire (and even lubrication), helping with sexual satisfaction, and your confidence.

“What we’re bringing together is the mind and the body—the physical, sexual response,” says Cheryl Fraser, PhD, a clinical psychologist, sex therapist, and author of Buddha’s Bedroom. “Meditation is essentially the ability to focus our attention, our concentration, and our mind on whatever the chosen meditation object is—and great sex is all in your head.”

But what exactly is sexual meditation and how can you put it to use for, you know, better sex and more orgasms? Ahead, experts explain:


What is sexual meditation, exactly?

First, sexual meditation isn’t quite a term used by experts in the field. They refer to mindfulness and meditation more broadly, studying how the practices apply to sex.

Terminology aside, the idea is all about bringing the skills of mindfulness into a sexual context, explains Lori Brotto, PhD, director of the University of British Columbia Sexual Health Laboratory and author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire.

To this point, sexual meditation can be many different things: It can simply refer to a general mindfulness or meditation practice, a more mindful approach to sex while you’re in the moment, partner exercises that have sexual and mindfulness components, or specific mindfulness work that could have particular payoff during sex.


The benefits of sexual meditation

Both general mindfulness and meditation can have big benefits for your sex life. These are five of the biggest ones, according to experts:

It reduces stress, which makes sex more enjoyable.

“Sex is stressful for a lot of people,” says Brotto, who notes that this is especially true if you have sexual difficulties, such as pain during sex, insecurities, or communication issues. “During sex, all sorts of worries and preoccupations can create stress and that is reflected in the stress response system in the body,” she explains.

And as that stress response becomes activated, it becomes difficult to feel aroused. “We know when we can manage this response, we’re much more likely to experience arousal,” Brotto says. Mindfulness naturally decreases stress, since it helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, balances out your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your stress response. The result: You enjoy the moment more.

It teaches you to focus on the present, leading to better orgasms.

“Focus intently on what you’re doing” is not a profound or complicated instruction, admits Fraser. But anyone whose mind has wandered to dirty dishes or the kids’ homework during sex can agree that it’s not always the easiest order to follow.

“Meditative focus makes your senses blaze.”

“Meditation is the ability to focus the mind and we’re really lousy at that,” says Fraser, adding that “meditative focus makes your senses blaze.” Learning how to hone in on the here and now—a kiss, touch, or other sensation—can help you be more present.

The benefit: “Sex itself can be a better, hotter, more sensual experience,” Fraser says. When you’re better able to tune into your partner stroking your leg or running a finger along your neck, you’re able to experience more intensity. Brotto adds that meditation can also increase activity in parts of the brain linked to interoceptive awareness—or how aware you are of different body parts.

It can increase your sex drive.

Really. Research finds that a mindfulness practice can help increase sexual desire and how much you want to have sex, says Fraser. “You’re more likely to initiate if you’re practicing mindfulness and applying it to your sex life.”

It’s not that a little Om is suddenly going to turn you on, but rather that the qualities of mindfulness—the ability to pay fairly close, focused attention to what’s actually happening, which in turn allows you to be more present and enjoy those happenings more—can build off of one another, strengthening your drive.

“When people start a mindfulness practice, they tend to continue over time because they are so motivated,” adds Brotto.

It can make you closer with your partner.

How much you enjoy sex matters. But often, sex is also about that connection and love for your partner, says Fraser. And if you’re able to root yourself in the present moment, you’ll also be more acutely aware of the other person in the room, allowing you to reconnect in a more meaningful way.

Sex will feel fresh again.

“If you can train your mind to show up, it creates novelty, it creates excitement, and it creates a type of connection that generally we have only experienced early on in our love affair,” says Fraser. That means, in many ways, retraining your mind via meditation and mindfulness can recreate that honeymoon-type feeling you may not have felt in a while, instilling a new sense of excitement in your sex life.


How to practice sexual meditation

On your own or with your partner, there are multiple different ways to pick up a sexual mindfulness or meditation practice. Here are a few ways the experts suggest you get started.

1. Start a simple, daily mindfulness practice.

If you’re not meditating or creating any moments of mindfulness at all in your average day-to-day, it’s time to start. “I advocate really strongly for, first and foremost, a general, structured mindfulness practice,” says Brotto. This might include simply sitting quietly to meditate on your own and focusing on your breathing or it could involve meditating with the help of an app such as Calm or Headspace.

Building skills and learning to focus on your breath, the moment, and other sensations can help you adopt your newfound habit in the bedroom, she notes.

2. Do this back-to-back partner activity together.

“Mindfulness exercises can be done with a partner and I often advocate doing them together,” says Brotto. One she likes: Sit or stand back-to-back and do a body scan, where you mentally scan how your body feels from head to toe, noting any parts that feel tense or relaxed. Focus on the points of contact between you and your partner. Hone in on factors such as texture, pressure, and temperature—things you can pick up on in sexual moments, too, suggests Brotto.

3. Open your eyes while you meditate, then try it during sex.

Closing your eyes during meditation can be helpful because it eliminates distraction from the visual field, says Fraser. But too often, a lack of eye contact in sex can keep us from connecting with our partner.

To refine this skill, Fraser suggests finding mindful moments when you keep your eyes open, such as sitting and looking out a window at a beautiful spring scene or staring at a plant in your apartment, taking in its different parts.

Focusing on something beautiful when you’re not in the bedroom can help you do it when you are, she says. In the moment, especially if you’re feeling yourself getting pulled elsewhere, try to gaze into your partner’s eyes. This can regroup you into the here and now, says Brotto.

4. Better yet, try this eye contact exercise.

At a quiet time during the day, sit face-to-face with your partner and gaze into his or her eyes for three full minutes, suggests Fraser. Better yet: Gaze into only one eye, which is not something people do very often but can actually be more intense than switching between both eyes, she says. It’s okay to giggle and feel uncomfortable but try not to talk.

You can advance the exercise by kissing with your eyes open, focusing in on the sensations. When you’re more comfortable simply looking at each other outside of the bedroom, it should come easier in the heat of the moment (playing up that connection factor), she says.

5. Take a distracting thought in a sexier direction.

If you notice your mind wandering during sex, drop the thought and swap it for a sexual one, suggests Fraser. While using your erotic imagination to think of something sexy isn’t exactly what it means to be in the moment, it’s something Fraser often suggests to people to help bring them closer to the sexual experience at hand. “Mental distraction is number one sex drive killer and this is a step in the right direction,” she says.

Eventually, with practice, you might not need this bridge and might be able to simply drop the thought to focus on the intensity of a touch or smell in the moment.

6. Try a ‘slow sex’ session.

In a crazy, fast-paced world, slowing down your mind is difficult. It’s also not something we do all that often. That’s why Fraser suggests that people have really slow sex from time to time (or that they practice really slow sexual activities).

Her advice: Have one session where one person is the ‘giver’ and one is the ‘receiver’ and simply concentrate on slow, erotic touch or seduction. Training your mind and body to slow down can not only improve mental focus but also curiosity, helping you to realize certain touches you might not have known you liked or sensations you hadn’t noticed before.

Freelance WriterCassie Shortsleeve is a skilled freelance writer and editor with almost a decade of experience reporting on all things health, fitness, and travel.

Deep Breathing Might Have Benefits We’re Only Beginning to Understand

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Sundar-Balasubramanian
Sundar Balasubramanian.
Balaji Parthasarathy

As a cell biologist, Sundar Balasubramanian never forgot his rural southern Indian roots, or the traditional practices his uncle, the village healer, exposed him to. Today, as a researcher and assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, Balasubramanian has turned his focus back to those roots — specifically, to pranayama, a deep-breathing relaxation technique. He’s showing that this ancient yoga practice is about more than relaxing — it can change us at the cellular level.

Q: What made you examine this technique through a cellular biology lens?

A: In 2005, I noticed while I was practicing pranayama, I was producing so much saliva that I was almost drooling. I wondered why and what the overall impact of that was. This led me and my team to study whether increased saliva production was a common response to the practice, and we found that it was.

Q: Most people wouldn’t think much of getting spitty when they focus on breathing and relaxing. But your 2016 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed this bump in salivation seems to matter. Why?

A: Saliva has numerous antibodies and proteins that do everything from suppressing tumors to regenerating the liver. For example, it contains immunoglobulin, which are antibodies that bind to germs, as well as DMBT1, a tumor suppressor that blocks the conversion of normal cells to cancer cells.

Q: Your 2015 study in International Psychogeriatrics showed that pranayama does more than just increase salivation. Can you elaborate?

A: Yes, it changes the makeup of saliva by increasing the amount of nerve growth factor (NGF). When NGF is produced, it’s transported to the brain, where it signals nerve cells to grow or survive longer. Increased NGF could have a major impact on aging, and specifically on some of the degenerative diseases of the day like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Q: Do you have any upcoming or ongoing research projects on pranayama?

A: We’re about to start a study on patients with scleroderma, a chronic disorder that causes the body’s connective tissue to swell and harden. We’ll look at how these breathing techniques impact inflammation and how this relates to disease symptoms. We’re also in the beginning phases of a study that will look at whether deep breathing can reduce pain, improve appetite and improve mood in cancer patients.

I Don’t Like Meditating. Here’s Why I Do It Anyway

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As much as I’m loath to admit it, I’m not a fan of meditation. It comes unnaturally to me, despite my 36 years of martial arts study and interest in self-improvement, health-hacking, and general enlightenment.

I realize this speaks poorly of me as a person, kind of like my opinions on aikido, jazz music, pumpkin pie, and “A Prairie Home Companion.” That I’m not fond of them doesn’t mean they’re bad, it means I’m not as good as I could be.

Worse yet, when I do regularly meditate, I find my life is better. Stress is lower, my health improves. I can focus more on my work, and am less likely to say things I regret to my friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Problems seem smaller. I seem bigger.

And I’m not alone. Over the past few decades, a host of research has supported the conclusion that meditation is good for us, and that we should all meditate a few minutes each day.

  • Meditation has been found again, and again (and again) to reduce stress, with all the physical, social, and emotional benefits that provides.
  • Multiple studies have found meditation can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • In 2003, researchers learned that regular meditation helped to boost immune function.
  • Meditation can help control pain, according to several studies, including these in 2016and 2017.

That’s just the tip of that particular iceberg. Bottom line: meditation is good for me, and for you, no matter how much we might not want to do it. Kind of like eating a vegetarian meal once or twice a week.

So, from one resistant but learning meditator to others, here’s what I’ve learned about meditation and how to make it part of improving your life.

You don’t have to just sit around

Non-practitioners sometimes imagine meditation to be boring — and perhaps if not done a certain way, it can be. But there’s more than one kind of meditation available, so you can easily find one that suits you. Here are just a few alternatives:

  • Walking meditation calms your mind when you focus on your strides and movement of taking steps (rather than, say, focusing on your breath). Walking in a labyrinth is a centuries-old practice of contemplation common among many spiritual faiths, including Catholicism.
  • Kata is the formal practice of martial arts, including tai chi. The motions of this practice are so complex it becomes impossible to think of other things, allowing for profound meditative focus. See also yoga.
  • Listening mindfully to music, especially music without lyrics, produces the same impacts of meditation by allowing you to be transported by the sounds, away from stray and extraneous thoughts.
  • Daily task meditation iswhere you take the process of a task — like doing dishes, cooking a meal, or getting dressed — and focus on it the way a kung fu master might focus on her forms.

Those are just a few examples. Other options for meditation include loving-kindness meditation, guided relaxation, breathing meditation, zazen sitting meditation, awareness meditation, Kundalini, pranayama…

The point is there’s a kind of meditation that works well with your needs, tastes, and general outlook. It’s just a matter of finding the right match.

Your brain might mess with you

Meditating is supposed to be a quieting of the mind, where you think about nothing in particular (or nothing other than the actions of the meditation) to allow that background noise to filter out and let you rest. That’s why exercise can be meditative: at a certain point you’re only able to think about the exercise.

But along the way, throughout each session of meditation, your thoughts are going to keep zooming in and trying to distract you. This happens all the time in the beginning, but here’s a secret: It happens all the time to the masters, too.

The trick with meditation isn’t to totally eliminate those stray thoughts. It’s to let them pass through your mind without you grabbing hold of them.

In the first stages of learning, you’ll fail a lot of the time. You’ll be meditating for a while and suddenly realize you stopped somewhere along the way to think about your to-do list and what you’re making for dinner that night.

Eventually, that will happen less and less, and you’ll start distracting yourself by getting frustrated that the thoughts intrude at all. You will ultimately be able to let them pass through and over you without taking root, so you can continue your meditation for as long as you wish.

Speaking of “as long as you wish….”

It doesn’t have to be for very long

Yes, I read the stories about Gichin Funakoshi (aka The Father of Modern Day Karate) meditating for an entire day while standing under a waterfall, and about retreats where people spend the entire weekend in some kind of a trance. And probably, some of those stories are true.

No, they don’t mean you have to meditate for hours to get anything out of meditation.

The studies I mentioned above had subjects meditate for less than an hour, in most cases less than 15 minutes, and even those sessions resulted in significant improvements to physical, emotional, and psychological health.

Some of the masters I’ve personally spoken with go one further, advising us to start with just one minute of meditation per day. That won’t be enough to reap huge, long-lasting benefits, but it has two advantages:

  1. You will succeed. Anybody can meditate for a minute, no matter how busy or distractible they are.
  2. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much of a difference it makes for the next 10 minutes of your life.

I personally found those two factors combined to be an excellent motivator. Under the powerful motivation of immediate success and feeling the short-term impact of that minute, I committed more fully to learning how to meditate.

You don’t have to be a certain ‘type’ of person to meditate

Meditation has shed the new age or ‘hippie’ reputation it once had. Anyone can do it. Here’s an incomplete list of groups that actively practice meditation or encourage their people to meditate regularly:

  • professional athletes in the NFL, NHL, and UFC
  • actors including Hugh Jackman, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • SEAL Team Six and other special forces branches of U.S. and worldwide militaries
  • an impossibly long list of CEOs and entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Elon Musk

If Randy Couture and the guy who plays Wolverine meditate, you can do it too. It only takes a minute — literally — and you can start today.

A Meditation on Observing Thoughts, Non-Judgmentally

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A Guided Meditation on Observing Thoughts

  • 20:22
  1. Take a few moments to settle into feeling the body as a whole, sitting and breathing, or lying down and breathing, riding the waves of the breath moment by moment, resting in awareness. An awareness that features the entirety of the body scape and the breath scape as they express themselves, moment by moment. Life unfolding here and now in the body, in awareness.
  2. And when you’re ready, if you care to, letting go of the breath and the body as a whole. Allowing them to recede into the background or rest in the wings, as we’ve been saying, still very much present but less featured while we invite the whole domain of thoughts and feelings and mood states to be center stage in the field of awareness.
  3. For a time attending to the stream of thought rather than being carried away by the content or emotional charge of individual thoughts, instead resting comfortably on the bank of the thoughts, river or the thought stream itself, allowing individual thoughts if and when they arise to be seen, felt, recognized and known, as thoughts as events in the field of awareness.
  4. Recognizing them as mental events, occurrences, secretions of the thinking mind, independent of their content and their emotional charge, even as that content and emotional charge are also seen and known.
  5. Seeing any and all of these fleeting thoughts as bubbles, eddies and currents within the stream, rather than as facts or as the truth of things, whatever the content, whatever the emotional charge, whatever their urgency or their tendency to reappear, whether they are pleasant or seductive, unpleasant or repulsive. Or neutral and therefore harder to detect at all.
  6. Expanding the metaphor, seeing any and all of these evanescent thought events more like clouds in the sky or bubbles coming off the bottom of a pot of boiling water. Or like writing on water, arising in a moment, lingering for the briefest of instances, and dissolving back into the formlessness from whence they came. Relating to their content as if it were of equal importance and relevance to say what you had for dinner three nights ago. Even if a thought is particularly compelling and insightful. Especially if it is particularly compelling and insightful.
  7. For now, just letting any and all thoughts come and go. Just let sounds come and go. Or sensations come and go. Not preferring some to others, nor pursuing some over others, not pursuing anything. Just resting in an awareness of thinking itself and the spaces between thoughts. Moment by moment, breath by breath, as we sit here or as we lie here.
  8. It might be helpful to be especially sensitive to the steady stream of commentary and advice you may be giving yourself as you sit here, and recognising it as such. As scaffolding. As running commentary, taking a position in relationship to it that resembles turning down the sound on a television set, so that you’re just watching the game and aren’t being sucked into the endless stream of commentary and interpretation and opinion that is so characteristic of televised sports events.
  9. Rather, you now detect the individual secretions of commentary on your moment to moment experience merely is more thinking as thoughts,, as judgments and rest in the recognizing of them in the economists attending to each event as it arises in the stream without being pulled into the past or into the future or into opinions or fears or desires, simply seeing them and knowing them as thoughts and as emotions as mental events, not as the truth and not as you watching them proliferate endlessly as they do watching the mind secrete them and throw them off.
  10. Watching how easily thoughts manufacture or fabricate views, opinions, ideas, beliefs, plans, memories, stories, and how easily they proliferate. If we feed them the one thought morphing into the next, then into the next, until we suddenly realize that we’ve been carried downstream and are no longer aware of the stream itself. The process of thinking and how in the noticing we are already back in the frame of attending to thinking, is thinking to thoughts, thoughts observing them, recognizing them, perhaps being carried away again.
  11. And if so over and over again coming back to this moment to this frame in this moment to the field of thought itself beyond all the content of the endless thinking and proliferating and fabricating and the emotions that accompany them springing from whether they are pleasant unpleasant or neutral and from what’s going on in your life in this moment.
  12. Allowing all of this to be held to bear attention in awareness moment on breath by breath as we sit here or live here resting in the awareness itself south taking up residence in awareness itself in the knowing of thoughts thoughts and feelings as feelings in the accepting of thoughts thoughts and feelings feelings whatever their content whatever their emotional charge just as an experiment in cultivating greater intimacy with your own interiority with what’s on your mind and in your heart. And with new dimensions of the possible.
  13. If we learn to observe carefully and rather than identifying with the content of thoughts and feelings to see them more impersonally as weather patterns as ripples and waves on the surface of the vast and deep ocean of the mind. As we inhabit the whole of the mind that boundless essence of mine that already knows before I thought underneath thought beyond thought that is bigger than thought. Bigger than any feeling however powerful that is capable of making use of thought and emotion without being caught and imprisoned by unwise and unexamined habit patterns developed over a lifetime of ignoring these aspects of the mindscape of the landscape of our own being of our lives unfolding.
  14. So for the remainder of our time together, until you hear the sound of the bells resting in an awareness of the arising and passing away of thoughts and feelings in the mindscape some overwhelmingly obvious, some quite subtle, some masquerading as commentary, others as scaffolding, others as neither, and simply returning over and over again to the frame, whenever the mind is carried off, not looking for thoughts or emotions or mood indicators, just resting in awareness and letting the mall come to you.
  15. Letting them arise on their own in the field of awareness to whatever degree they do. Moment by moment by moment, and breath by breath, as you sit here or as you live your life.

The Meditation Technique That Totally Transformed My Sleep

Author Article

Some aspects of healthy living just get easier with time. Meal prepping on Sundays, waking up early to exercise, avoiding single-use plastic—I’ve found it can all become second nature with enough practice and repetition.

I’ve always been daunted by one part of wellness, though, no matter how often I try to whittle away at it: meditation.

The benefits of the practice are what kept me in hot pursuit of it. Nearly every night for the past year or so, you could find me in my bed militantly repeating a mantra in an effort to quell anxietyincrease compassion, and refine my focus. And every night, after a few minutes of futile attempts to reel in my mind, I inevitably opened my eyes frustrated.

The point of meditating before bed was to let go of negative thoughts and worries from the day, but sometimes it left me even more stressed. I had the sneaking suspicion that I was somehow doing it “wrong.” I expected to start craving these nightly meditations after a while, but closing my eyes and coming back to the breath just remained another task on my to-do list.

The meditation technique that changed my relationship to the practice.

A few weeks ago, in the thick of my mindfulness rut, I journeyed to Costa Rica for a week of doing nothing but yoga, breathwork, and—you guessed it—meditation.

Expecting to meet the same kind of resistance in the jungle that I did in my Manhattan apartment, I figured I could just pretend to meditate during longer sits. (Nothing I hadn’t done before!) But on day two, a strange thing happened: Our leaders Erica Matluck, N.D., FNP, and Paul Kuhn, who put on healing retreats focused on the seven chakrascalled Seven Senses, told the group to essentially forget everything we knew about meditation.

For that day, which was spent in silence (no talking, no eye contact, no writing, no reading—no looking outside of yourself as a distraction), we were to leave our mantras and body scans at the door. These, too, Matluck, a naturopath and seasoned integrative medicine practitioner, explained, could be a way to turn the attention away from the self.

Instead, we were told to breathe normally and simply notice the physical sensation underneath the nostril, above the upper lip. That was it. The only directive.

Just like that, we were off. With nothing but a curtain of palm trees as a distraction, I was fully prepared to become restless and frustrated after a few minutes. But 10 minutes passed, and I was still content sitting with that feeling under my nose. Then 20, then 30. We were invited to stay for another 30-minute sit. And, much to my own surprise, I did.

It felt so much more gentle, so much less rigid, than what I thought meditation was supposed to be.

Instead of forcing my breath to be rhythmic, I allowed it to do whatever it wanted. Instead of clutching onto a mantra (and cursing myself when it escaped from my grip), I politely paid attention to the super-subtle sensations on that one area. It felt so much more gentle, so much less rigid, than what I thought meditation was supposed to be. It wasn’t a task but a delight—to catch my thoughts wandering and then happily return them to the moment at hand.

It’s the first time that I didn’t want a meditation to end.

Afterward, Kuhn, a sound healer, told us that this study in sensation was a reminder that physical feelings—like thoughts—are fleeting.

This lesson from Matluck and Kuhn, one of what felt like hundreds I picked up that week, really brought home the idea that thoughts don’t need to carry so much weight and power. Instead, we can choose to let them pass over us like a tickle on the skin.

How I’m keeping up with it.

Thousands of miles removed from the Pura Vida life, I’m still trying to keep up with this breath awareness. Since my trip, my nightly meditation routine has become less of a chore and more of a respite after long days.

I’m reminded of what mbg Collective member and class instructor Light Watkins said when he talked about making the breath an anchor. By tuning into the physical feeling of the breath, it has become easier for me to sit with. Some nights, if I’m lucky, I’m transported back to that special place where all there was to think about was the rustling of the jungle and the sensation of being alive. And what a meditative space that is to be.

How To Practice Yoga At Home If You’re An Absolute Beginner

Author Article

PHOTOGRAPHED BY MOLLY CRANNA.

There’s an image that comes across my Instagram feed about once a day of a wellness blogger in their light-filled apartment, surrounded by house plants, doing yoga and looking very casual about it. The thought of doing yoga at home sounds ideal; you don’t have to deal with people, spend any money, or even leave the house. But in actuality, when I try to do yoga at home, I get distracted and end up scrolling my phone in child’s pose on a yoga mat.

“One of the best things about yoga is that it can be done almost anytime, anywhere — including at home,” says Jade Alexis, a yoga trainer on the audio-based workout app Aaptiv. The problem is, without a yoga teacher around, or a proper app to walk you through the workout, it’s tough to know what exactly to do. You need to at least have a plan or intention each time you flow at home.

So, whether you also aspire to be an at-home yogi, or you just want to do yoga in private, ahead are some tips from Alexis and Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, yoga instructor and founder of Naaya Wellness (New York), a wellness collective for people of colour. With a mat and the right attitude, you too can be a yoga-flowing homebody.


1. Know a few basic poses.

When you’re starting out with your at-home yoga practice, it’s a good idea to have a vocabulary of postures that you can work with. Alexis and Dhliwayo suggest learning: cat cow, child’s pose, downward-facing dog, plank, cobra pose, upward-facing dog, warrior one and two, chair pose, and low lunge. If you know those, you can piece them together a beginner flow, like Sun Salutation B, Alexis says. Look up videos or images of the poses to get a sense of how they’re supposed to be done, but try not to get wrapped up in what they look like; how you feel is more important.

2. Listen to your body.

Form is essential in yoga, but without an expert to guide you through the poses or make physical corrections, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing it “right.” The best way to make adjustments or tell if you’re making mistakes is to just pay attention to how you feel, Alexis says. “Regardless of wherever you are, it’s important to listen to your body,” she says. “If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and ease of the posture.”


3. Try an online class.

The internet is full of tons of free yoga classes and resources for you to take advantage of — arguably too many. Dhliwayo is a fan of yogis Sara ClarkRocky Heron, and Dianne Bondy. The beauty of taking an online class is that you can stop it at any time, or rewind a section if it gets confusing. And of course, the Aaptiv app has lots of audio yoga classes that you can try that are varying lengths, styles, and levels of difficulty.

 

4. Get some gear.

You don’t need much to do yoga, but ideally you’d have a clutter-free space to practice, a good yoga mat, and most importantly a positive attitude and patience, Alexis says. Blocks can also be super helpful if you’re just starting out, because they essentially bring the floor up to you, which is imperative if you don’t have flexibility yet, Dhliwayo says. Other props like blankets help you be more comfortable in a pose, and can be nice to have during a restorative practice, she says. Music and calming essential oils can also help make your home practice feel more special, but those aren’t must-haves.

 

5. Don’t stress the names.

Often in yoga classes, teachers will use the Sanskrit names to define yoga poses, which can make it seem way more confusing. “Many people are concerned with knowing the names of poses, but that comes with time and I tell beginners to not worry about names when they get started,” Alexis says. Instead, just find beginner classes that will walk you through the individual poses, she says. With enough repetition, it’ll eventually click.

Here’s How Meditation Can Help With Loneliness & Acceptance Of Your Emotions, According To Science

Author Article

Loneliness is something that everyone experiences at one point or another, but of course, just because it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. Whether you’re living in a brand new city away from your hometown, or you landed a job that requires you to work remotely instead of in an office, that feeling of being alone can be overwhelming at times. If you’re struggling with these emotions yourself, it might comfort you to know that meditation can help with loneliness, according to the results of a new study.

For the study, The New York Times reports, researchers gathered 153 adults who described themselves as “stressed out” (which, per the news outlet, was meant to distract the participants from the real focus of the study, i.e. loneliness). To establish a baseline of where the participants were at in terms of their mindset at the beginning of the study, the researchers asked them to fill out a survey that included questions about their interactions with others, their social networks, and whether they regularly deal with any feelings of loneliness.

Additionally, the researchers monitored the participants in real time over a period of three days by texting them questions about “what they were doing and with whom,” according to The New York Times — you know, kind of like how your parents would always ask you to tell them what you were doing with your friends when you were in middle school, except, hopefully less lame?

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After those baseline measures, the participants were given an app to use on their phone, and the researchers randomly divided the volunteers into three groups: In one group, the app gave the participants some general tips for dealing with stress. In another group, the app taught the volunteers about mindfulness and the practice of “paying close attention to the moment and focusing on breathing and other sensations,” per The New York Times. In the third group, the app taught the participants the same mindfulness techniques as the second group, with additional instructions to “take note of and say ‘yes’ aloud to all sensations,” according to the news outlet. For instance, if a participant noticed that they could physically feel their tongue on the roof of their mouth, or even if they mentally noticed a feeling of sadness, they would then have to say “yes” out loud. The researchers called this approach to mindfulness “equanimity.”

Each group was told to use the app for 20 minutes, then practice their respective techniques for another 10 minutes on their own, every day for two weeks, per The New York Times. To measure any differences between the participants’ baseline mindset and how they felt after using the mindfulness strategies for a couple weeks, the researchers gave them the same survey questions, as well as the same three-day text monitoring.

Volume 90%

 

The results of the study, which have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, showed that the general stress management and mindfulness techniques had little to no effect on the participants who practiced them — but here’s where things got really interesting: According to The New York Times, the participants who practiced “equanimity” meditation were “measurably more sociable,” engaged in “several more interactions with people that lasted at least a few minutes,” and their survey responses showed “a decline in their feelings of loneliness.”

The researchers told The New York Times that they believe the equanimity aspect of meditation was “key” in making a difference in participants’ feelings of loneliness. And it kind of makes sense when you think about it, right? As the researchers wrote in the abstract of their study, developing an “orientation of acceptance toward present-moment experiences” — even when those present-moment experiences are uncomfortable or difficult to accept — can make a huge difference in dealing with feelings of loneliness. In other words, actively accepting negativity when it comes to you, rather than squashing it down, pretending it doesn’t exist, or worse, judging yourself for having those feelings in the first place, seems to be an effective way to deal with these emotions overall.

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Counselor and relationship expert David Bennett (who was not involved in the study) says that meditation in general can help with “emotion regulation.” He tells Elite Daily in an email, “It can help you avoid the emotional ups and downs that come from reacting to the various events in your daily life.”

In a sense, Bennett explains, meditation can help to ground you in “something deeper than just feelings that come and go,” and being grounded can not only help you feel less lonely, it can help you take steps toward avoiding loneliness — like reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile to meet for coffee, or asking a co-worker you get along with if they’d like to join you for happy hour drinks.

Again, loneliness is something that everyone deals with, so don’t be ashamed if you’re struggling with it. Consider practicing this type of acceptance meditation the next time these feelings overwhelm you, and remember, if you need a little extra help, it’s always OK to touch base with a professional about what you’re going through.

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