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Get Rid of Stress, Improve Productivity

I don’t know too many people who enthusiastically declare, “I just LOVE every single part of my job!”  More often I hear comments like “I enjoy my work most of the time, but I wish I didn’t have to (x,y,z) as part of it.”  For many people, the “x,y,z” has become such a stress-ball, it creates a negative cloud over all aspects of their working life and, since Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world, this can be a pervasive problem.

While my employment experience is not in the traditional “corporate” world, as a teacher in a private school for 29 years I have certainly felt the pangs of increased accountability, intense clients (picture “life or death panic mindset”), 24/7 unlimited email overload, impossible expectations from many agendas and “to-do” lists that never got shorter no matter how fast I peddled.

The result?

Feelings of inadequacy (“Hey, I was valedictorian of my class, my college GPA was 4.0 plus and I have experience….why do I feel so incompetent??”),  depression over not having enough time to complete any task thoroughly, fear that something would slip through the cracks, horror that my attitude was morphing into “me vs. you/ them”,  moments of paralysis,  a slowly boiling anger that I had been put in an unrelentingly stressful environment, and disappointment in myself that I couldn’t find my way out of this whirling vortex.  Whew!  I am exhausted just putting those words on paper.

So how DOES one find the way out of this personal inferno?  It is easy to think that downright QUITTING would solve the problem (and sometimes it does, I can’t deny that), but for most of us, dealing with what’s in front of us is the real job to be done.  And so I turned to mindfulness meditation.

While not an overnight cure, I look back at how my meditation practice has changed my work attitude.  (1)  I am not nearly as emotionally attached to results.  You know how everything in a corporation/business/school is all ABOUT results???  What a mind-blowing concept to simply do the hard work in front of you and then let it go, knowing the results will come.  (2)  This leads to more relaxation, focus and creative thinking.  My mind feels refreshed and I see options; it’s as though a thousand-pound weight about yesterday and/ or tomorrow has dropped away.  (3)  I am more able to listen openly to colleagues and administration without going right to “blow a gasket–right/wrong–me vs. you” mode. (Meditation is proven to increase compassion!)  Add to that not being attached to the outcome (see #1) and communication is immediately improved.  (4)  I am learning that cheesy, old-school lesson about putting myself first and, as much of a work warrior as I am, it is the key to my positive mindset.  Being aware when I am feeling anxious, then taking breaks to breathe and reflect or to put emails on hiatus and give me MY space to regroup are an essential part of the daily routine.

It took mindfulness meditation to re-set and re-energize myself in the workplace.  Sure, there are days when directives from top-down make me think, “Well, THAT’S totally impossible” but instead of jumping immediately to anxiety about the future and how things MUST turn out, I breathe deeply, relax and carry on, focusing on the present tasks at hand.  Research shows that mindfulness meditation in the workplace leads to resilience, productivity, camaraderie and happy, peppy people.  Why not give it a try?

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Reduce Your Stress, Improve Your Love Life

“My love life would totally improve if S/HE would just ______ (fill in the blank).” Listen to me? Show some emotion? Not complain about 24/7 sports on the tube? Stop leaving used dental floss on the coffee table?? Although I acknowledged I played a role in our imperfect relationship, I cannot tell you how many times I was quite certain that HE needed to change a few (thousand) things to fix it.

Then mindfulness meditation came along.

Just when I thought it was all HIS fault, I started learning how to connect with myself and discovered “the cause of my suffering.” In the process of mindful exploration, I became very aware how much I lacked self-love. Yup, cheesy but true. My lifelong habit of helping others AT THE EXPENSE OF MYSELF was affecting all areas of my life. I uncovered the anger I felt as I allowed others to drain my spirit. (Keeping a smile on my face while wanting to rip someone’s head off takes a LOT of energy.) That old adage about “charity starts at home” began to make more sense than ever and meditation gave me the freedom to let it happen. After all, the most important relationship is the one I have with myself.

As my awareness grew, I discovered the things I do that give me less stress and began to do MORE of those things. Feeling relaxed and cared for from the inside, I began to feel compassion and less judgment on the outside. And so it spilled over into my marriage.

I didn’t plan it that way. I just went to get lessons in meditation and, miraculously, by learning to take care of myself and relax, my marriage feels like an opportunity instead of a project to fix. Are things always hunky-dory? Not always, but most of the time and, if any conflicts do arise, I have my mindfulness tools to help me navigate those waters. What I know is that most days my husband’s dental floss on the coffee table seems like a funny habit I can laugh at now. Besides, why waste my time worrying? I am way too busy doing the things that give me energy and fill my soul!

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Happy Holidaze

“I should be basking in gratitude for my family and friends during this holiday season.  I should feel the joy of the loftier things in life.”  That’s what my rational mind tells me but right now I’m at the mall and I’m eyeing the other frantic shoppers, hoping they don’t get to the discounts before I do.  To heck with joyful and grateful.  My breathing is ragged, my heart is pounding; I am on the hunt for the Perfect Gifts and you’d better not get in my way. My spiritual practice has gone awry and I am totally caught up in a stress reaction.

A good idea hits me:  take a breath, lady.  Take a few breaths.  Settle down.  Relax.  Observe yourself like a movie. “I am ridiculously anxious.”  Let’s track this.  “I have to get the perfect gifts for everyone.  I gotta be a gift-giving Rockstar.”  Breathing in and out, the ah-ha’s start to hit me.  Time to remember my mindfulness tool kit.

1)  OK, just acknowledge that I am anxious because this is the holiday habit I have embraced over the years.  Now I can accept it, laugh a bit, and let it go.  (It might take more than one try!)

2)  There is a reason I am anxious.  Fear that I won’t provide the Best Holiday Ever?  Greed in wanting to get the bargain before other shoppers and show off as the Rockstar Gift Giver? Obligation to give others the perfect holiday? Yes, yes and yes.  Now I can let go of these attachments more easily.  Awareness rocks!

3)  Now that I know WHY I am anxious, it is time to accept my human nature.

4)  Expectations have ruled my holiday insanity since forever and are causing my stress.  See #1-3 above!

5)  I am projecting way ahead instead of just being HERE.  Will hubby like his new iPhone?  Will daughter approve of the color of her new scarf?  I remind myself to stay in the present and, by doing so, I will have clear, creative thinking (and shopping!)  By staying here and now, my worry about the future melts away and I start to enjoy my day.

I continue my shopping with deep breathing as my companion.  Staying in the present, I put less weight on choosing the “right” gifts or on creating the perfect holiday and more importance on taking care of myself right here, right now.   A new tradition?  I feel free.

–Kathy B

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The Studio

I walk into The Studio.  Been waiting for this for several days ever since the weekend went kablooey;  the fridge broke down (not the freezer, just the fridge….go figure), we found out the new and improved satellite TV upgrade doesn’t work for our tree-surrounded house, I broke my eyeglasses in a freak encounter with clear glass doors on the bookcase and the cat weighed in at a whopping 23 pounds requiring a diet that I don’t have time to monitor!  This week it was the fleas, not the elephants, that kept me on my mindfulness toes.

And then I walk into The Studio, that oasis of sanity containing soft pillows, calming candles, those amazing ginger chews (“Take one for the road!”), my most excellent instructor and lessons to be learned.  What makes this place so magical?  One hour to be, one hour to reflect, one hour to “mind meld” with my teacher, one hour to focus on myself.

One hour to realize that the lessons learned in this quiet space are not isolated to The Studio.  The seeds are planted and I take them (and that delish ginger chew) with me wherever I go.  “Accept and let go” seems like a tall order, but as a matter of fact, I didn’t freak out over the fridge food that spoiled, I was nice to the cable guy, I figured the broken glasses were a “meant to be” since I had a prescription for new lenses, and the cat?  He makes a terrific doorstop!

-Kathy B

Kathy Babula’s Bio
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4 Easy Steps to Achieve Peace of Mind

Relax, breathe, let it go and think positively.

1. Give yourself permission to relax.
Before you can sit down to meditate, you have to give yourself permission to do so. It’s simple but doing nothing isn’t something that’s valued in our modern culture where value is found in productivity. However, stopping to meditate is the very thing that will enable us to be more productive with better health and better attitudes. This is so simple, but it’s not easy so just stick with it. When a distraction comes up, acknowledge it and let it go. This way you can become aware of yourself and the world around you.

2. Take a breath.
Take one long slow deep breath. Then take another. Don’t worry about doing it right. There is no right or wrong. You will get what you need if you just breathe. Allow yourself to feel the calm that is already within you.  Your parasympathetic nervous system will take this as a sign to relax. Your mind will see it as an opportunity to become quiet. Simply allow yourself to slow down for five to eight minutes and breathe. That is the start to any meditation practice.

3. Let it go.
Realize that this time, your meditation time, is when you can let it all go. Whatever burden you are carrying around with you, dragging from room to room, whatever it is, just set it down and let it go. Emotions, fears, things others have said, LET IT GO. That is just your 40,000 year-old brain doing what it does, looking for danger and planning for demise. It’s time for you to take over and LET IT GO.

4. Fill the space.
Whatever you let go of, now decide how to fill that space. If you don’t, your brain will decide for you. Love is always a good place to start.  Every time you start to put someone down, worry about something in the future, criticize someone else or criticize yourself, you plant a seed. Stop yourself from those thoughts and plant a little seed of love and positivity. I realize it sounds a little Pollyanna but just as in riding a bike, you will go where you are looking.

So there you are, four simple steps to creating your own path to your own enlightenment, one that will happen right here, right now. Not tomorrow, not in the next lifetime.
It will happen in the ER, hospital ward, home and car, at the beach and on the street. It will happen in your everyday life. I know. It has happened in mine and that is Meditation.

Ranjit Deora
704-277-6049
ranjit@charlottemeditation.com
www.charlottemeditation.com

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Laughter, the best meditative medicine

Want the potential mental and physical health benefits of meditation without the work of chasing away all those intrusive thoughts and feelings? Try laughing, a study suggests.

Laughter — the real kind, associated with genuine joy and mirth — sets off brain wave patterns quite similar to those generated when experienced meditators ply their mindfulness skills, a new study finds.

Researchers know that when hooked up to an electroencephalograph, which measures electrical activity among neurons in the brain, those practiced in the art of meditation are able to achieve a brain state of what is called gamma brain wave activity: In it, virtually all of the brain’s higher cortical regions begin to operate on a common frequency, somewhere in the 30- to 40-hertz bandwidth.

Unlike the dreamless sleep in which alpha brain waves sweep across the brain or the cacophony of alert mental activity associated with beta brain waves, gamma waves tend to be synchronous throughout the brain. It’s the brain wave pattern associated with cognitive “flow,” with being “in the zone,” with the highest state of cognitive processing.

And the gamma brain wave state is as pleasurable as it is powerful: The neurochemical dopamine, the fuel of the brain’s reward circuitry, flows freely when gamma waves prevail. That makes gamma, once experienced, a state we want to return to again and again.

The research was presented in San Diego this week by Dr. Lee Berk, a psychosomatic medicine specialist at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine. Berk told the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2014 meeting that, for 31 university students whose scalps were rigged up with listening electrodes while they watched videos either distressing or comical, unfettered laughter was the thing that brought their brain waves most consistently into a mock-meditative state.

And fast too. “It took off like a rocket,” Berk said. After subjects were settled in front of a humor video they had pre-rated as really tickling their funny bone, the laughing out loud began. And in short order, cortical regions from front to back and ear to ear were humming on a single frequency: gamma.

The contrast was stark between that electrical brain state and that induced when subjects watched a one-minute video they found distressing. In those cases, Berk said, the brain’s electrical activity varied across regions, but it stayed on average at low frequencies.

“It was flat-linish,” Berk said, “a sort of shutting-down reaction.”

For the brain-wave-reading sessions, subjects were offered a range of comic and slapstick videos from sources such as YouTube and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Much of the comedy was presented before an audience, heightening, for some, the sense of infectious hilarity. Dark or derogatory humor was not among the choices.

Among the distressing videos were snippets of horror stories. Among the most commonly cited as most distressing was the raw opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan,” in which the Allies’ landing in Normandy, where thousands of soldiers charged to their death, was depicted.

Meditation, with its well-established benefits, may not be for everyone, Berk said. But humor is certainly within reach for all of us, and in the interest of our health, he said, we should dose ourselves regularly.

“I’m serious about laughter,” Berk said in an interview. It’s medicine, he said. “We need to tune into it and reap the reward.”

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UNC Charlotte’s laughter yoga workshop helps students relax

(reprinted from Charlotte Observer)

By Lisa Thornton

guru-ranjitRanjit Deora, a laughter yoga instructor, teaches students at UNC Charlotte ways to use laughter as a means to de-stress.

Ranjit Deora scanned each face in the circle of a dozen people in front of him, set his sights on one and then walked over to introduce himself.

“Hello. I’m Ranjit Deora.”

“Hi. I’m Holly Hauser.”

What happened next caught everyone off guard: a guttural, hearty, infectious, comical laugh from Deora so pleasant that it seemingly sucked any sadness, stress and anger out of the room.

It’s called laughter yoga: a form of yoga that uses voluntary laughter to relax and de-stress the mind and body.

UNC Charlotte’s Religious and Spiritual Life department invited Deora, who runs Charlotte Meditation off Providence Road, to the UNCC campus during finals week to help students ease tension with laughter so they could then focus before their exams.

Hauser was one of a dozen students who showed up for the session for a reprieve from studying.

“I have one paper, two exams and a vocal jury because I’m a music minor,” said Hauser, 20, whose major is psychology. “I’m stressed a little bit.”

Inside room 200 of the student union, though, muffled bursts of hearty laughter could be heard from behind the thick wooden door as students picked up the lessons Deora shared.

“The other yoga is physical fitness yoga, where you are serious. This is natural,” he said. “Relax. Have fun. Enjoy. Get out of the funk.”

There’s no humor in laughter yoga. It’s not a comedy session where jokes are told. People in the class simply look each other in the eyes and laugh.

According to Laughter Yoga International, the body can’t differentiate between real and fake laughter, so the benefits are the same: reduced blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones and a host of other benefits.

More often than not, though, the forced laughter eventually turns genuine as the belly laughs become contagious.

“I faked it at first, but after awhile it came natural(ly),” said Laura Hendrick, 20, an earth science major and religious studies minor. Hendrick came to the session to momentarily forget about the two exams and three research papers she had to complete.

After 15 minutes of laughter, she already noticed a difference.

“I feel better,” she said.

Laughter yoga clubs began springing up in the mid-1990s, and today more than 6,000 clubs exist in 60 countries. Of those, 500 are in the United States.

Deora, who emigrated from India, quit his corporate job in 1992 to become a meditation teacher. In 2002, he started offering free laughter yoga sessions every other week in his Charlotte studio.

Studies show that the average child laughs between 300 and 400 times a day, but adults laugh only 15 times a day. It’s a part of being human that we need to reclaim, said Deora.

“Laughter is in each one of us, a god-given gift,” said Deora. “It dives down somewhere in our gut because of our circumstances of life – as a child, as an adult – so then we forget to laugh. But it is natural in each one of us.”

Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at lisathornton@carolina.rr.com.

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My Guru

You remember in a very recent post with the Holy Grail being laid out as three simple words:

 

Relax

Live Longer

Well, I was too tired to lay it all out and explain this subtly complex but ridiculously simple belief system.  But I’ve got the energy now.  The point in life is not to obligate yourself or discipline yourself or put expectations on yourself but just live.  That’s it.

Breathe and meditate for 15 minutes morning and night.

Eat well.

That’s it.  Just live.  Relax and live.  Long life will follow.

We always complicate things, don’t we?

When someone tells you your terminal cancer is growing like a Colorado wildfire and another person tells you shark cartilage plus aloe plus an acid killing agent is THE KEY, you go for it.  Right?  Wouldn’t you?  Even if it cost over $1,000 but had some good track record data?  I mean, this guy tells me sharks never, ever get cancer.  I found out much later, after I’ve ordered the crap, that they do, indeed, get cancer.

When someone tells you this person is a great healer, you want to believe it when you pray together over the phone…and you even take away some useful things and visualize accordingly.

When someone tells you you have terminal cancer you will open up your pocketbook to any charlatan, snake oil salesmen and well-intentioned goofball on the planet.

Almost all of them convince you their cure will be the one.  (Except my guru.) They are always careful not to make you think it’s a silver bullet because who believes in Silver Bullets?  But when I was up in Wilkesboro the chiropractor there told us his vitamin C treatment was the only one to penetrate the blood-brain barrier.  That’s some serious she-yot if that’s what was actually happening.  What was most likely happening was that the vitamin C, a wickedly high anti-oxident, especially at his 5-hour infusion 5 times a week dosage, was just counteracting the oxidizing effects of my chemotherapy, Temodar.  You see, almost all chemos use oxidization to kill cancer cells.  We think of oxygen as great but in this case you need to think of it as rust.  Oxygen is actually one of the most destructive compounds on the planet — hence the obsession with antioxidents.  My chemo was meant to rust my cancer but I was putting tons of vitamin C to offset that rusting process.  I was killing the killer of my chemo.

So, the point is, that when you feel you’re on death row you’ll open up your wallet and devote hours and hours a day (Hell, Whatever It Takes!) doing some “alternative,” natural cures, if it might be the one, it just might NOT be the one more often than it is actually THE ONE.  The fact is that being an alternative, natural guy, these things appealed to me and sounded silver-bullet-esque in the face of death.

Not so says my Guru.  Chemo is the answer.  No alternative “healer” has ever said that to me.  Chemo.  Good?  Whaaat?

He’s probably the only guy who tells me he has no cure for my cancer.  Even the acupuncturist tells me the acupuncture world is not allowed to say they have a cure, implying that repeated visits will result in a cure.

He’s not one to foist ideas on you.  Instead, he asks, “do you have any questions for me, Adam?”

QUESTION:  I am tired of all the stuff in my house and tired of the clutter and want to keep things neat and uncluttered.

EXPECTED RESPONSE:  Yes, there is much worthiness in an ascetic lifestyle and an ascetic home.

HE THROWS ME A RIDICULOUS MARIANO RIVERA CUT FASTBALL:  No, that is not important.  In fact, it is irrelevant. Buy more stuff!”

QUESTION:  I have a hard time emptying my mind when I meditate.

EXPECTED RESPONSE:  It takes years to get to that point but we’ll get there.

ACTUAL RESPONSE:  What is the the brain’s job, Adam?  To think.  Your brain creates over one million thoughts in a day, most of which we aren’t even aware of.  Why stop something from doing its job?

QUESTION:  I’m supposed to breathe in for 7 seconds, hold for 4 and breathe out twice as long through my nostrils for 14 seconds.  At least that’s what I learned in yoga.

EXPECTED:  Yes, that is what is preferred.

ACTUAL:  Just breathe naturally.  (He then shows me how to breathe in and out.  It is SO natural).  NOTHING FORCED!!!!  Not at all disciplined like yoga.

In talking he offers up this comment:  “This lady comes to me and says which of these supplements should I take?

EXPECTED RESPONSE:  A, B, not C but definitely D.

ACTUAL RESPONSE:  Eat a healthy diet and you don’t need supplements.  In fact, they’re worthless.  Throw them away now!

MY RESPONSE:  So I should take my shark cartilage and aloe and…

RESPONSE:  No.  Just meditate and eat well.

Relax.  Live a long life.

A-ha!  The sneaky bastard was promising longer life.  He just didn’t offer something HE could give to ME.  I would have to find it.  With his caring guidance, of course.

That’s what it’s all about.  Relax.  Live long life.

This guy offers Laughter Yoga tomorrow and since laughter stimulates the immune system much more than anything they’ve ever found, I’ll be there.

Just ready to bust a gut!

TODAY’S POST

I’m Staying Put

Written a minute ago

At the first appointment, my guru claimed he couldn’t cure me of cancer.

Today I told him I knew fear and stress were the main enemies of the immune system and I’ve been afraid and stressed.

He tells me I’m staying put.

We talk through it.  Why would you pack your suitcase for New York if you’re not going.  You’re staying put and do nothing to prepare for going anywhere.

We meditate.  He answers a few questions.

I think he’s right.

Wooten & Adam

Link to Adam’s Obituary from Observer

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Staring Over the Abyss…Just Jump!

You’re either going to fly with angel wings or land on human feet.

AdamI used to think 1+1=2 was the simplest thing in the world.  Not so, my dear friend.  I learned today that the simplest thing is so simple no one ever gets it or ever really does it.  It may be the simplest thing to realize but I’m wondering how simple it’s going to be to pull off or to get across in this post.  I’ve talked to my dad, my mom, Wooten, a friend and the “discussion” always seems to take much explaining.  But it’s simple.  You know why?  Life is simple.  So simple, it’s silly.  There are really only two things that matter. Drum roll please for something that is so much more than Charlie Bucket’s Golden Ticket.  It’s the Grand Prize.  You know, the one Charlie wins when he gives back the gobstopper because he proves he’s the only kindhearted one in the story.  Just three words.

Relax

Live long

You notice the “poetic” title I came up with as I sat down to wrestle this writing beast?  You know what?  I was going to wind this tale all the way to that.  Truth be told, I’m tired.  It’s late.  This piece of enlightenment made me realize I should only do things I really feel like doing.  And if you want to know how I came up with this or who told me this you’ll just have to wait until I’m really to sit down again.

Because right now…I’m trying to let go of discipline.  Discipline is something I’ve never been good at but something that always haunted me because I wasn’t good at it.  So, I’m letting go of that.  In fact, me NOT finishing this is part of my training. I’m going to pick this thought up when I feel like it.

But I would strongly encourage you to look at those two things and see if you can add to them, argue with them or find a flaw in any of the logic presented here.

On that note, good night.

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How to Live Mindfully

Mindful living is an ancient practice which is very relevant for life today. Mindfulness is a very simple concept.  Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:  on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.  This presence increases awareness and clarity; it frees us from the anxiety and worry that robs us of joy and peace.  When we are living in the present we are not living in fear of the future or in the regrets of the past.

Mindfulness Exercises
The following exercises will help you to develop a Mindful awareness of your environment, body, breath, thoughts and emotions.  You can practice the exercises as a whole, or in parts – using any part of the exercise.

  • Be kind to yourself
    Encourage rather than criticize yourself.  Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend in the same situation.
  • Relax
    Make time for yourself.  Allow yourself to chill out and relax.  Find something that suits you – different things work for different people.
  • Learn to Meditate Daily
    Meditation gives clarity of mind. Wisdom brightens and opens our lives.
  • Breathe
    Imagine a balloon in your belly, inflating and deflating as you breathe in and out.
  • Balance sleep
    Get into a healthy sleep routine – including going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
  • Diet/ Nutrition
    Listen to your body and modify your eating patterns. As you explore what your body truly needs, you’ll discover new ways of moving, breathing and eating that will help you realize your ideal life.
  • Connect with others
    Stay in touch with family and friends – make regular and frequent contact with them.

Guru Ranjit has been teaching mindfulness meditation, corporate wellness programs and Laughter Yoga in major cities, such as New York and Charlotte for many years. Ranjit has educated many professionals and businesses, on how to use meditation therapy to manage stress, anxiety and sleep disorder problems.

Phone:  704-277-6049 Rdeora@charlottemeditation.com

(image from Mikko Luntiala)

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