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Managing Holiday Stress with Mindfulness and Gratitude

Starting around mid-November, my stress has a way of whirling itself into a tornado of chaos. So many things to prepare, to remember, to DO – people to reach out to, family relationships to manage, presents to buy, food to cook, errands to run! Traffic increasing, long lines at the store, bank accounts letting out more than they’re taking in… The tumult of the next six weeks is supposed to culminate in a joy-filled holiday break of reflection and celebration, infused with the spirit of giving. So HOW exactly do I maintain my peace in the midst of the madness? By finding the place inside of me where everything is quiet and still instead of expecting to find it outside of me, by depending on my own mindfulness practice of gratitude in the present moment.

Focused on gratitude, I ALLOW myself to feel the peace and happiness that accompany it. Guru Ranjit always says that stress is resistance within my body and my mind, so by ‘flipping the switch’ of my focus towards thoughts and emotions that are easy to embrace, I remove resistance and find a path of positive forward motion. When feeling resistance to an activity, I focus on performing the activity with all of my awareness, intentionally guiding myself towards thoughts of gratitude. For instance, when I resist the logistical nightmares of lining up multiple family gatherings and preparing adequately for each one, I guide my thoughts towards how lucky I feel to have so many loved ones with whom I share the holidays and how grateful I am that I have the resources to give gifts, food and time to these people that I love.

By releasing resistance within my body, I engage more fully in whatever task is at hand. At meals I focus on eating mindfully; I worry less about calories and instead appreciate the love and energy that has gone into every bite. During cleaning, cooking and running errands, I am mindful of my breathing. Most importantly, though, during all of my interactions, I speak and listen mindfully. Tense conversations and friction at extended family functions are an opportunity to be grateful for those you love and a chance to choose silence and a smile instead of jumping into the fray.

I find that when my heart is full of gratitude, kindness comes much more easily to me. I interact with others, focusing on the hope that they are loved, healthy, happy and safe. Self-care is easier with a heart and mind full of gratitude, and by practicing kindness towards myself, I have more to offer others. As Guru likes to remind me, I can’t give to others what I don’t already have within. That’s why true charity starts at home.

So this holiday season, when the stress rises to a fever pitch, I know to turn my attention first to my breath and then to my gratitude. Resistance fades as I let the happiness and peace associated with gratefulness roll in. Then I can focus on what I need to do and truly enjoy the ride to that joy-filled holiday break of reflection and celebration.

~Ashley Moye~

It’s All About the Crumbs

I used to think my mindfulness practice was measured by my patience in traffic, my skill in letting go of results or my ability to reduce judgment when interacting with stupid people.

However, I have lately realized that my barometer for mindfulness is all about the crumbs….my husband’s crumbs, in fact.

Every morning my husband gets up early and makes himself the same breakfast: cereal with almond milk, large glass of OJ, toast. Then he takes these items into the den, sits down in front of the desktop computer, and proceeds to scan the local newspaper while eating. Dishes in the dishwasher, a kiss goodbye and he’s off to work.

And I am left with crumbs. Crumbs on the swivel chair, crumbs on and in the keyboard, crumbs, endless crumbs. Every. Single. Day.

This habit has the potential to make me blow a gasket. “What is wrong with him?? Doesn’t he see the mess he leaves behind?? And now I must clean it up! I would NEVER be this thoughtless!”

For days I stewed over his disgusting habit with no end in sight. I pondered the consequences of confronting him or just letting it go. I meditated with crumbs on my mind and interesting thoughts began to show up. “This whole crumb thing is kind of funny. I mean, it’s just crumbs.” “I could look at them as evidence of my husband’s presence. There is LIFE in this place and here’s the proof!” “I can accept the crumbs; could be worse!” And, finally, “Oh by the way, remember the man has glaucoma. He probably can’t even SEE the crumbs!”

And so, the once-dreaded crumbs have morphed into a daily reminder of the presence of a person I love and appreciate. I no longer feel angry as I vacuum the crumbs from the keyboard. As a matter of fact, I consider it an amusing morning ritual and a unique way to measure my inner peace.

It’s all about the crumbs.

by Kathy Babula

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?

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!

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

Tantra Yoga: Relax your mind and improve your love life

Relax your mind and improve your love life

Tantra – A loving and kind meditation

Love yoga, perhaps the most popular and yet most misunderstood of all yoga teachings today, is a vast ocean of ancient wisdom for enlightening the Mind and Body.

Tantra can give you a new perspective, a new way of looking at yourself and at life, a new way of living in harmony with existence…for Tantra is not an intellectual proposal; it is pure experience.

Tantrica, Tantra or Sacred Tantric Practice, in its purest form, describes both the processes and methodologies for the resolution of all conflicts of opposites.

The word Tantra in Sanskrit , the sacred language of  Veda’s derives from the root word tan, which translates as “to extend, expand, spread, continue, spin out, weave; to put forth, show, or manifest.” Like the universe we inhabit, Tantra is continually expanding, spreading, and manifesting itself like a “cosmic weave,” made up of different energies. We are part of this weave, as are our forefathers and foremothers, all life, and every type of energy and matter. This includes thoughts, actions, and all physical matter.

Tantra says yes to life. It is not a belief or a faith but a way to live life wholly. On this path, pleasure, vision, and ecstasy are celebrated rather than repressed. It embraces and enhances all forms of creative expression, such as movement, Breathing, meditation, massage, healing, dance and music.

These are some of the concepts that can be realized through the “Couples Yoga class.”

  • Love is not about better communication; it’s about connection

 

  • You will never attain a closer relationship with your man by talking to him like you talk to one of your girlfriends.

 

  • Male emotions are like women’s sexuality; you can’t be too direct too quickly.

 

  • There are four ways to connect with a man- touch, activate, sex, routines.

 

  • Men want closer relationship just as much as women do but not if they have to act like women.

 

  • Talking makes women move closer; it makes men move away.

 

  • The secret of the silent male is this; his spouse supplies the meaning in his life.

 

Guru Ranjit is presenting Couples Yoga Session a Valentine’s Day Special

On February 14th, 2013 from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Sleep Soundly: A secret to restful sleep

If you aren’t getting enough sleep each night, there is a good chance that the lack of sleep is negatively affecting your performance. Losing as little as 1 1/2 hours of sleep can reduce your alertness by 1/3 the following day and it can even lead to anxiety and depression.

Getting a good night’s sleep is hard for many adults and that often means poor health, lower productivity, more danger on the roads and a lessened sex life. When we sleep, our bodies heal and recharge. Even just a small amount of missed sleep means less recharging and healing and even if you don’t notice the side effects right at first, they are happening and they will catch up to you.

Symptoms of a sleep problem include:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking a lot during the night
  • waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep
  • waking up feeling not refreshed

Peaceful Sleep through Meditation: Techniques to Try Tonight

Anyone who’s ever experienced a fitful night of sleep knows that “just relax” is easier said than done. But do-it-yourself meditation practices may help you prepare for rest, and put worries or discomfort behind you.

”These techniques work best when done right before bed, in a quiet, calming environment. But you can also practice them several times a day” recommends Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine.

“If you can keep your stress levels under control during the day, you’ll sleep better at night,” Walsleben says. “You can even do them at your desk or on the train.”
Learn Techniques for a Peaceful Night’s Rest

Experience the power of breathing through meditation techniques and extraordinary healing techniques that includes a guided session in the practice of Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep).

Guided meditation with bed-time rituals of breathing exercises and meditation can help you sleep better.

Relaxing meditation, dedtime rituals of breathing exercises and Ayurvedic diet can help you sleep well.

  • A calming yogic breathing practice; which are a sequence of exercises that can be done lying in bed and a deep relaxation practice.
  • Meditation and its natural healing effect on the mind and body help you sleep soundly again.

Cultivate peace of mind while you fall asleep. Before bed, take pleasant breaths, then use therapy and relaxing scents to induce sleep.

“Mindful meditation improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety, and promotes inner peace”

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Benefits of sleep meditation:

  • Improved quality of sleep- experience a deep, relaxing sound sleep
  • Improved mood
  • Enhanced memory
  • Healthier heart
  • The ability to lose stubborn pounds and maintain an ideal weight
  • Lengthen your life