Archives for category: Guided meditation

MikeI recently took a ‘Hot Pilates’ class. The format begins with one minute of continuous bicycle abs followed by a minute of mountain climbers.  We repeated this combination 6 times. So, 12 minutes later I was hoping this exact segment would not be repeated during this hour of exercise! What I did notice is that my mind was grasping for the next mountain climber segment, since this was easier to perform than the bicycles. I wanted relief from the demands of the bicycle exercise. You know what I am talking about: lying on your back with your elbows bent and palms holding your head, knees bent in table-top position, you alternate right elbow to left knee, left elbow to right knee. Your legs scissor back and forth. The object is to lift from your respective sides employing your oblique muscles, the muscles responsible for twisting and rotating our spinal column. This is a demanding process; done properly it is a very demanding process. A mountain climber is executed starting in down dog position, lift your knees to your chest repeatedly for the minute.

Question is, “How do we employ mindfulness during these demanding exercises?”  Our mind is actively processing the comfort or lack there of during each repetition. The instructor is reminding you of proper alignment and execution. Our self-talk is noting, “Am I lifting and twisting my chest high enough?” “Am I being precise enough?” “This is uncomfortable!” “How much longer will this go on?” There is relief when one segment is completed. Then the possible self talk when we have completed all 6 segments of each. “Wow, I did it!” “I want to do this class again!” “I am getting stronger.” Is this not mindfulness? It is not the quiet mindfulness when we pay attention to one breath. This is not the quiet mindfulness technique of counting our breath, four counts in, pause, four counts out, pause.
I would suggest that it is the same mindfulness expect for the physiological response of exercise. During the bicycle and the mountain climber exercises our breathing is increased, we are sweating, our heart rate is increased and we are moving our body.  During a simple mindfulness moment we may be stationary, not moving. Our physiological responses are going in the other direction. Herbert Benson termed the phrase, Relaxation Response. Heart rate slows, positive hormones increase and breathing slows. The combination results in feelings of comfort, ease, i.e. ‘relaxation’.

Like a boxcar on a roller coaster track, I had to corral my thoughts into a positive direction during this demanding class. I didn’t want to be negative; I wanted to inspire myself to perform as well as possible on that given day. It helped to keep me going. I often remind myself that, “What I focus on, expands”. So by ignoring the unpleasantness of the workout, I was able to have success. I left feeling better than when I entered the class. I felt as if I had accomplished something demanding.

In our mindfulness practice we can apply the same principles.  Choose a time of day or a routine event like walking to your car. Make it a practice to look around. As you walk this familiar path, notice everything around you. Employ all of your senses:  look at the sky, feel yourself in the outside world, smell the air and just generally be mindful in the present moment. This requires a type of endurance.  This focus will put you in the moment so that other mundane or disturbing thoughts are replaced. By practicing this sensory awareness focus, mindfulness will be enhanced. Perhaps gratitude will become part of the mix!

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

real face.2

 

In this moment I can fully focus and be present!

 

Mindfulness”  has become a new buzz word.

FlowerMeditation and Mindfulness are like clogs on a wheel. They are part and parcel of awareness.  Mindfulness is like the little sister of meditation.  She needs only short, frequent exercise.  The big brother meditation is like a body builder who increases the weight and number of repetitions over time to gain muscular strength.

Someone new to meditation spends say 5 minutes paying attention to their breath.  Over time that person is able to spend 20 minutes in and out of a singular focus.  Both of these practices have similar benefits.  Reducing levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, lowering blood pressure and stress reactivity as well as circulating youth enhancing positive hormones.

In Daniel Goleman’s Linkedin in article, “What Mindfulness is – And Isn’t” he describes how our mind is designed to wander.  Based on a Harvard study, Goleman writes,  “In fact the mind is wired to wander about 50% of the time…”  This idea that successful meditation or even successful mindfulness is based on stopping the activity of the mind is erroneous and sets up a false expectation.  We have all had the experience of being in the moment.  We are in singular focus and may not even hear the sounds around us.  When this happens it is a lovely experience.  Meditators will tell us that the discipline of “sitting” for a named period of time is the key to successful meditation.  Yes, the mind wanders.  Yes, that one item on your to do list all of a sudden becomes the most important detail of your life.  Yes, you must get up right now.  However, the practice of letting that thought go, and letting the next thought go for that determined, set time is what is the key.  The moment that you feel at peace, even for a few seconds, is the reward for your efforts.

It is how something makes us feel that is the true litmus test of the innate value of that activity.  Even if we don’t make time to sit and meditate, we can enhance our lives by being mindful.  I have written about “witness consciousness” in my earlier blog, Youth Enhancing Moments.  I have noticed that I repeat thoughts.  If these are past or negative thoughts I use a simple mindfulness technique I borrowed from Lisa Wimberger’s Neurosculpting.  First step, I notice that I am entertaining a repeated thought.  In my mind I spell out the word, “R E L E A S E” and tap my body with my non dominate hand.  It is a simple technique to disassociate from the non productive, repeated thought.  You can decide to use the word, “release”, “let go”, “enough”; whatever word has the most meaning to you.

If mindfulness or meditation are interests, I highly recommend Jon Kabat Zinn’s Sounds True audio program, “The Mindfulness Revolution”.  He describes the ability to be mindful as fundamental to the human experience and not a anomaly.  He goes on in this audio interview to say:  “The fundamental question facing all human beings: “Who are we?”  “What are we doing here?” “What is the meaning, calling, purpose of a body life lived?”  When we use the word, “mindfulness” we are referring to a way of being, a way of paying attention that leads to a more robust capacity to live inside of our awareness as opposed to being caught up in discursive thinking and emotional reactivity which is often blinding. This leads to a great deal of suffering or a sense of being lost, confused or out of touch with what is most fundamental. My work over the last 32 years, demonstrates that regular people are capable of training to a point that transforms the way they actually are in their internal and external experience.”  He says it all so perfectly!

real face.2 Whispers of the Breath Diva:

In this moment I am alive, awake and aware!

Yesterday, June 19 the moon started a new cycle of waxing.  The Summer Solstice is today, at 4:09 pm/pst,  the longest day of the year!

What actions, cycles and thoughts do you want to put in motion at this time of new beginnings?  By your thoughts and actions you create an expectancy.

What are you drawing to yourself?

What are you inviting into your life?

What creative impulses are you ready to initiate?

Is your Life enhanced by your thoughts?

Take an inventory right now.  Simple question:  What would you like to bring to fruition this summer?

Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?

A teacher of mine reminds me to do 5 simple things on a weekly basis:

Exercise

Have fun

Use Creativity outside of work – singing, dancing, gardening, cooking, entertaining, etc.

Gratitude – every morning – Thank you for my health.  Thank you for my family.  Thank you…

Journal of accomplishments:  write in a small book one or two sentences regarding your accomplishments for the day.  Feel into how good it felt to…finish a project, negotiate a deal, resolve an issue. Give yourself kudos for showing up.

The bumble bee pictured above was literally rolling in the California Poppy flower’s pollen.  I watched it move from blossom to blossom rolling in the beds of pollen.  It looked like fun!   You go bee!

What is your pollen?  What feeds you? What activities, relationships, pollinate you?  Make you flower?

The moments matter:  when nature ripples through you.  Those moments of being filled…with beauty, with the “A Ha”, with awe invite a cellular response.  These moments are health enhancing.

The following is a guided meditation that can be done seated.  Find a comfortable chair and allow yourself a few moments with your phone ringer turned off.

Seated comfortably imagine yourself closing your eyes.  Draw a protective circle around yourself, this is your private space.  Take a moment to breathe and center.  Tune into your internal space by breathing consciously.

Feel your feet anchored to the ground, spreading into the surface of the floor; feel the floor respond by holding your feet.  Drop an imaginary tap-root down out of your tail bone.  Let it slowly descend to the center of the earth.  Allow your shoulders to relax, to move away from your ear lobes.  As you breathe in, imagine the Earth’s energy rising and filling you.  As you exhale release fatigue and any uneasiness.  Imagine these seeping out of your body and dissipating into the Earth.  Breathe in the energy of the water and the minerals of the Earth.  Breathe these up through your legs into your trunk.

Feel your solar plexus area, directly behind your navel.  Inhale and breathe in the energy of the Sun/Light into this area of your body.  Feel the warmth, power and brightness.  Nourish yourself by breathing in this sun energy in just the right amount for you today, this new season, this time in your life.  As you exhale imagine any discomfort, tiredness being released at your lower back.  Do this a few times.  Fill your Solar Plexus and empty out.

Feel the energy rising up and spilling over your shoulders, rising up past the top of your head. Take a deep inhalation and feel the air element as it fills you.

Feed yourself with these elements.  Feel your strength, your grace, your place on Earth.  Notice that which is grounded in you.  See your self blossoming, producing, exchanging, communicating, living.   Allow the movement.  What needs to fall away, to be expressed?  You as a living entity experience the cycles of the Seasons.  Acknowledge and embrace these cycles.  Feel the growth enfolding within you!

Gently open your eyes and notice how your feel.

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

Live in your body and celebrate your Life!

When asked to evaluate your mood or “attitudinal climate”, do you have a vocabulary for your “state of mind”.   Do you have a glossary of adjectives at your disposal…energetic, harried, frantic, tired, happy, productive?  Take a brief inventory right now!  What is your energy level, low to high?  You can use a scale from 1-10.  Do you feel focused or diffuse, melancholy or present?  Do you feel you have the ability to alter or to change your state of mind?  If so, do you do this through: positive self-talk, a quick telephone call to a friend, a walk?   Have you used a fitness class, a yoga session, a guided relaxation tape or a simple breathing exercise to shift your attitude? All of the above are viable alternatives.

The most direct method is to simply follow your breath.  Through breath awareness, we enhance our well-being.  We, in effect, create a ‘youth enhancing moment’ by just simply giving attention to our breath, i.e. by taking a slow, conscious breath.  Two mind/body principles are activated here:  breath centering and introspection.   At the end of the yoga classes I teach I remind my students:  “In any moment throughout the day you can inhale and receive:   energy, vitality, peacefulness.  And, in any moment throughout the day you can exhale and release: tension, fatigue, fear.”

Our limbic system responds to our thoughts.  Popular Deepak Chopra, MD, author and “Mind/Body Guru” points to the studies that indicate that when we have sad thoughts we dispense sad cells throughout our systems.  Sad cells can adhere to our liver or other internal organs.  We once assumed that our mind contained our thoughts and emotions.  Now we know that our mind is a non-local point; our intelligent systems communicate holistically.  If our limbic system is flowing with ‘good hormones’ those happy cells are floating and adhering to our organs – we feel a strong sense of wellbeing.  If we are centered on ‘fight or flight’ thoughts, the opposite is true.  This stress contributes to the aging process.  It is the continued exposure to the adrenal hormones such as cortisol that weakens our system.  There is a reason you feel good when you laugh, when you smile, when you remember that special moment of intimacy or of success!  Good hormones are released into your system and bathe your healthy cells.

By employing simple mind/body techniques, breath-awareness, centering and introspection, we not only witness our state of mind, but more powerfully, we author that which we choose to focus upon.  I have developed a simple exercise to keep my attitude in the healthy zone.  When I react to another person, even in my mind by being curt or negative I simply create one or two more positive responses. For example, if another driver cuts me off, I may react by glaring at this driver and saying out loud “ You Jerk!”   Next, I check myself and say quietly to myself, “Please be careful!”   You get the drift- very different underlying meaning here.    I use this for thoughts too.  I may think as I walk by and catch a glimpse of my thighs in the window and indulge in self-criticism, “Your thighs look big!”  Next I substitute a self-acknowledgement, “All of the cycling I have been doing is making my thighs look strong!”

Exercise does enhance our state of mind; a simple walk can change our attitude almost immediately.  The increased breathing, the simple range of motion movements, even the change of scenery, can all lift our spirit.  You can create these youth enhancing moments by employing your active imagination.  Try adding some active imagination to your walk.  Think back to a peak experience.  Many years ago I met and talked with Kevin Costner.  All I need to lift my attitude quotient is to remember the details of that experience.  His eyes, his smile…I can do that now!

Or see or “feel” yourself exactly where you want to be – at the apex of a desired accomplishment for instance.  Imagine how that would feel!  How are you holding your body, what expression is on your face, who are you with?  Can you imagine yourself on the Ellen Degeneres Show?  Or better yet, exposing your talent, product, book to the hundreds of thousand viewers of Ellen’s show?  See yourself right now laughing and sharing your ideas and expertise with Ellen!  I must note that if you do not like to be on stage you would not find this a pleasant experience; being in the national spotlight would produce the opposite.  Remember a roller coaster to one person is a joyful experience; to another person it is fear on wheels!

Give yourself permission to develop and to own your dreams!  We know that our emotions are powerful generators of energy.  If we are passionate about something, we create. Energy is not static.  Each time we think about something we lay down a layer of energy.  That is why it is often stated that what we think about, we create.  See or feel yourself being drawn to your desires.  Deepak Chopra tells us  that when we desire something we have the mechanics to create our desire.

Think back to a positive memory or imagine a desired attitude.  Hold this thought while you do the laundry, drive to work, stand in line at a retail store.  Create your own ‘Youth Enhancing Moments” and enhance your life by adding this dimension to your inner world.  Be the author of your own well being!  By simply focusing on attributes that you want to live with on a regular basis: strength of purpose, self-knowledge, patience, love, ease, laughter, you will draw these attributes into your life.

I have created two products to assist you in this process:

First is the  E-MOTION MIND BODY FITNESS relaxation

a 16 minute guided meditation- a virtual power nap guaranteed to renew and refresh you so that your attitude is rebooted.

Second is Yoga Walk

a guided walking experience drawing you into all of your senses and your active imagination.

So make yourself smile right now – fill your mind with positive self-talk, with pleasant experiences or memories.  Imagine, play and say “No” to self-judgment and to self-criticism.  Be your own best friend!

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

Our sense of Self can be our treasure, can be a territory to explore, can be our friend.  By your thoughts and actions, you create an expectancy.

What are you drawing to yourself?

What are you inviting into your Life?

In this moment I can inhale and author my Life!

Meditation or  guided meditation?  Which do you prefer?  When we think of meditation, we think of sitting and clearing our mind for a specific amount of time.  We do this by either reciting a mantra (usually a non language of origin word) or clearing the mind by counting backwards from 10-1.  Each time a thought arises going back to number 10, repeating the process.   There are of course many ways to meditate.  In my previous blog, Routes into Relaxation, I mentioned Breath Awareness as a relaxation technique.

According to an article that appeared in Yoga Journal June of 2010, “Your Brain on Meditation”, written by Kelly McGonigal, “Science has proven that meditating actually restructures your brain and can train it to concentrate, feel greater compassion, cope with stress, and more.”  How and when do we do it?  Or do we pick a time to be led into a state of relaxation that trains the mind like meditation?  Do we use a guided meditation to glean many of the benefits of meditation.

In a study published online April 21, 2011 in the journal Brain Research Bulletin, the researchers found that people trained to meditate over an eight-week period were better able to control a specific type of brain waves called alpha rhythms. Christopher Moore, an MIT neuroscientist and senior author of the paper states: “Our data indicate that meditation training makes you better at focusing, in part by allowing you to better regulate how things that arise will impact you.”  It is noted in the study that the group that meditated listened to a CD to be guided through the process.

In the first video lesson of the site, What Meditation Really Is, we are instructed to  “Simply relax your mind!”  What a simple statement; how do we do this?  Obviously since meditation is called a, ‘practice’ perfecting the technique is a practice!  She sites that one of the benefits is getting to know our mind.  I appreciate what this female figure goes on to say, that the real objective of mediation is to become familiar with the  “Unchanging pure awareness that underlies our whole experience of life”.

Yoga Nidra is a yoga based practice which states a similar objective.   According to yogawonders.com, “Yoga Nidra is a highly powerful ancient meditation technique originated from the Tantras. It is the scientific way to eliminate the root cause of all the negativities.” In his Yoga Nidra CD , Richard Miller, PhD guides us into our internal space sensing into our body, breath, energy, feelings etc.  He invites us at the beginning his CD is:  “To realize the timeless wisdom that lies hidden within you, that your underlying true nature is unchanging heartfelt equanimity or  presence that is always present during every circumstance of your life.”

I love the word “presence”  since we are each a presence.  We bring to each circumstance all that we are in the form of our presence.  I love that meditation wants us to define ourselves beyond our roles, our chronological age, even our experiences.  It whispers to us, points to something more about who we are in totality.  Our state of mind seems to be a marker of how close we are, how often we touch the greater part of ourselves.

I personally have used relaxation CD’s for years.  I am currently alternating between the Yoga Nidra CD and a few others.  Sounds True is a wonderful site that offers podcasts and products that relate to Spirituality, Meditation, Psychology and Healing.  They offer a free weekly newsletter that features authors and includes an interview by Tami Simon called “Insights from the Edge”.

By training our minds with meditation, by doing yoga, by walking in Nature, by bringing our awareness to everything we do, we can practice mindfulness.  We can develop an awareness of that part of ourselves that is witness consciousness.

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

In this moment I am fully aware, fully conscious and ALIVE!