Mindfulness

Learn Mindful Eating through Meditation

Are your New Year’s resolutions already falling by the wayside? It’s very easy to write off your goals, continuing your old habits of 2018. Was losing weight on your list? While setting specific goals of pounds dropped is a valid approach, if you want to take care of yourself by reaching a healthy weight or living a healthier lifestyle, you may want to begin by establishing a habit of mindfulness meditation.

“Mindfulness meditation?  What does that have to do with success in weight loss when I can just (pick one) join a pre-packaged food plan/ drink those special milkshakes/ stay away from carbs/ go ‘Paleo’?”

Perhaps you have heard of “mindful eating”. Learning to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional hunger are the key. Physical hunger has cues such as your stomach growling and your body feeling low on energy. The hunger itself grows slowly over time and the food you eat is satisfying to you. Emotional eating involves very specific cravings which, when acted upon, cause lingering feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction. But how do you cultivate the awareness necessary to know the difference?

The answer is simple: through mindfulness meditation. “Are you kidding me?? How on earth can sitting every day in meditation, letting my thoughts come and go, help me lose weight?” It all boils down to clarity, being aware of not only what you are eating but why. Only you have those answers for yourself and, in order to retrieve them, you must be relaxed and peaceful inside.

Meditation = relaxation = clarity of thoughts = knowing the cause of your suffering = knowing what to do and what not to do with confidence and success going forward.

It’s that simple.

So perhaps your weight loss journey begins by first establishing a meditation practice instead of resolving to lose 20 pounds. Through a foundation of meditation you will connect with yourself, discover what makes you “tick,” and gain the self-understanding that is necessary to achieve any goal. Losing weight and being healthy are important, but inner peace and clarity are the essential first steps.

3 Ways to Outwit Social Anxiety During the Holidays

Guru Ranjit Deora’s recent interview with Mitra Malek offers mindfulness strategies you can use to help avoid the pitfalls of social anxiety during this holiday season. 

Feel overwhelmed? Of course you do. That’s the downside to this time of year: gift shopping, house decorating, coordinating schedules, planning meals, attending events. It all adds up, leaving you riddled with anxiety.

“Anxiety during the holidays is much more than in ordinary life,” says master meditation teacher Guru Ranjit Deora, founder of Charlotte Meditation, which has a program focused on treating anxiety. “There are more activities happening in your personal life, your social life, your work.”

One major source is holiday get-togethers. They often spark anxiety because so much is in play, Deora says. “There are people who are shy. They are not outgoing. They think, ‘my sister-in-law is going to say something to me I don’t like.’”

Or someone might feel inferior, that they won’t be treated as an equal, a common family-dynamic struggle. They might think, “If I make a pie, maybe no one will like it,” Deora says.

And there are those who fear things that might not even occur to another person: “Oh no, I have to go to my friend’s house for Christmas. She has two big dogs. I’m not comfortable with dogs,” he says.

The list of triggers is endless. The steps to combat them, thankfully, is shorter.

Deora suggests using mindfulness: “thinking or doing something with a purpose in the present, without judgment.”

“If you think something is going to be a problem, how can you avoid or solve that problem?” Deora asks. “Anxiety is fear of failure in the future. We are worried about the future: What will happen? How am I going to take care of it? If you use your mindfulness, you can find a way to handle it.”

In sum, people often feel anxiety because they believe they can’t get a handle on something. “Your mind is working. The mind wants something to think about,” Deora says. “It is the job of the mind to think. Whether you think negative or positive, it’s up to you.”

Here are three mindfulness solutions to anxiety-ridden scenarios Deora has found common:

1. Be nice

 Anxiety inducer: You don’t get along with a family member.

Mindfulness solution: “Instead of expecting some sort of negative thing and worrying about it, be nice to that person,” Deora suggests. “If you’re extra nice, the other person will have an extra hard time not being nice.”

2. Listen

Anxiety inducer: Your friend’s friend demands lots of attention, always talking (let’s be honest: bragging, maybe even makings things up) about himself.

Mindfulness solution: “Listen, accept, let it go,” he says. “Purposely, just listen to the guy, accept whatever nonsense you think he’s saying, and let it go. Everybody wants to tell their own story.”

3. Make an effort.

Anxiety inducer: Your boss is a bear, always faulting you, and now you’ve got to spend out-of-office time with him at a party.

Mindfulness solution: “When the boss is nasty, you avoid him, and you don’t want to talk to him,” Deora says. “But you are creating more of a barrier. It’s better to engage.” And it can be simple: Start today, by walking by your boss’s office when you get to work. Say “good morning.” Say “good night” as you leave work. You’ll likely see a shift within two weeks, Deora says. If your runway before the office fete is much shorter, nourish your new habit during the festivities, going out of your way to say “hello” and “goodbye.” It’ll make the party more pleasant, and then you can reap the rewards of your cumulative effort in coming weeks.

This article was originally published at https://www.vitacost.com/blog/home-family/wellness/holiday-stress-and-social-anxiety.html

Journalist and yoga teacher Mitra Malek regularly writes and edits content related to personal health, including for Yoga Journal, where she was an editor. Learn more at mitramalek.com.

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~

Weaving a Tapestry of Laughter and Joy around the Pillars of Your Life

Carrying Guru Ranjit’s words as inspiration, “Breathing and meditation are the two pillars of life that make the building solid,” I walked in to a local elementary school, excited to begin my first solo lesson of the fall as a certified meditation teacher. Representing Youth Meditation (the non-profit arm of Charlotte Meditation), I hoped to provide these children with tools they can use in order to build a solid life of clarity and peace. Instead, through my interactions with the first and second graders during my first week of classes I rediscovered another essential tool of my own – laughter and joy. By weaving these materials around my pillars of breathing and meditation, I infuse my entire life with a sense of safety, companionship and warmth.

In our Youth Meditation curriculum, we traditionally begin our eight-week sessions with laughter yoga, using the exercises to build an open environment where we can laugh and feel comfortable with each other, ready to have fun with the next eight weeks of practice. Laughter yoga has been around for thousands of years, beginning in India as a way to bring villages together – and yes, while there is something inherently awkward and uncomfortable about forcing foolishness with each other, the awkwardness almost immediately gives way into authentic laughter. By the close of a good laughter yoga session, I end up engaging completely, dropping reservations and finding delight in nothing but the joy of laughter with others. In my Youth Meditation classes, students who were initially reserved, nervous or withdrawn bloomed in front of my eyes as I gripped their hands and looked deeply into their eyes before breaking out in to a smile, chuckling with each other for no reason besides “it’s fun to laugh together.”

This experience with the children impacted me in a powerful way. As someone who has spent a large amount of time in a troubleshooting field, seeing errors and anomalies without even looking (four leaf clovers have always been an easy find!), I often struggled to see positives when a negative was present. Guru recommended the practice of intentional meditation so I practiced purposefully being aware of all things good, positive and right surrounding me instead of the things that weren’t. I was amazed at the immediate difference it made in my interior life and in the way that people related to me and felt in my company. So many wonderful things that were ALREADY present in my daily moments slipped outside my notice when I trained my attention on the failures of myself, the world and others for the sake of “continuous improvement.” I finally saw that the potential for laughter, joy and positive connections with others was present in every mindful moment.

I stand by Guru’s statement that breathing and meditation are the pillars of life – but my experience with my students reminded me that cultivating and maintaining laughter and joy is the next essential step.  If I weave laughter and joy around my pillars of breathing and meditation, I find myself surrounded by contentment and happiness. The positive is ALWAYS present, but I have to maintain openness within my mind and body in order to truly embrace it!

~Ashley Moye~

Stop Waiting and Start Living

I get up in the morning.  I look at my calendar.  I have an appointment at 2 PM.  So what do I do?

I unconsciously slip into a state of “waiting”.  Thinking about what’s ahead.  Am I prepared?  Are all the ducks in a row?  Looking at my navigation app to make sure I know where I need to be in six hours.  In my head I calculate how much time this appointment requires. Anticipation sits like a heavy cloak on my shoulders.  “Gotta jump through that 2 PM hoop then I can move on to….”

To what?? To waiting for the NEXT commitment? To living five steps ahead of where I actually am?  It hits me:  this isn’t living, this is looking at life as a series of obligations to fulfill, events to check off a list, activities that are gateways to …. my real life?  This isn’t living; this is limbo.  A constant state of wandering in the future feeling disconnected and anxious.

The solution?  See what’s in front of me.  Bring my attention to this minute and then the next and then the next; after all I have 360 of them before 2 PM.

No longer in the waiting room, I am active, I am energized, I feel grounded.  Yes, THIS is living.

by Kathy Babula

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

To Do or Not to Do: Is THAT the Question?

I’m sitting with my guru in a “meditation + chat” session.  The conversation turns to my constant struggle with “what do I do next?”

“How do you feel when you THINK about doing something?” asks Guru.

“Anxious.”

“How do you feel when you are actually DOING it?”

“Relaxed.”

BINGO!  Light bulb ON!  In that short exchange, the heavens open and I discover clarity of mind.

All too often, the anticipation of “what I could be doing” starts feeling like STRESS.  (“Well, I could work on that project/ learn a new skill/ clean out the garage/ have that conversation with so-and-so.  But what if it doesn’t turn out the way I want it to?  What if I have to work harder/ make more decisions/ admit defeat?  Maybe it’s better if I just sit here….“)

Then along come the SHOULDS.  (“I should be able to go ahead and do XYZ instead of sitting here wasting time.  I should be able to make a choice and get on with it.   I shouldn’t feel so stuck; after all, this isn’t rocket science.”)

Anxiety about the outcome, anxiety about the future, attachment to predicting the unknown, “analysis is paralysis.”   Where’s the fun in that?

The minute I recognize my procrastination as fear and I decide to “take things lightly,” I move ahead and DO something with the notion that I will “see what happens.”  I experience a feeling of adventure, a camaraderie with the anxiety that was keeping me glued to my seat with inaction.  I feel at ease because I am engaged in the present “doing no matter how it turns out.

Let’s face it.  DOING is much more relaxing than THINKING ABOUT DOINGDOING is confidence in myself and everything that unfolds as a result of my action. So, go ahead:  JUST DO IT and see what happens!

February: Love Yourself First

After the beautiful chaos of the holidays, the bright and shiny New Year’s celebration (including all its expectations) and the recent unexpected frigid temperatures, I find myself in February, confronting some Winter Blues.  But, as “they” say, “it’s all curriculum” and is turning into nuggets of wisdom that remind me how to take care of myself in this month of love!

#1.  “This too shall pass.” This maxim has stood the test of time and while it can be classified as mighty corny, it’s true. If I have the patience to accept, let go and keep going, everything unfolds and shades of melancholy shift into satisfaction.  Works every time.

#2.  “Where am I?”  A good question to ask myself when I feel stressed.  Am I in the past, ruminating about a (stupid) thing I said or did or something someone else said or did? Am I in the future, making endless and overwhelming lists or attempting to control the outcome of a situation?   If so, my emotions will run the gamut from depression to anxiety with a side of doom ‘n gloom thrown in.  It is only when I am in the present that I have any chance of peace.

#3.  “All rise.  The Honorable Judge _____ (fill in your name) presiding.”  If only I had a nickel for every time I judged another person, a situation or myself…… bet you know what I mean!  The moment I am aware of my resistance and the judgmental thoughts that are attached, I can laugh at myself and start to let go of the ensuing tightness I feel in my body.

#4.  “Notice the Inner Eeyore”.  OK, this could just apply to me, but Sad Sack mode is often my default setting.  While yours might be Anxious Andy or Fearful Florence, the solution is always in the noticing of it.  When the spiral takes a downward spin, the sooner I am aware of it (“Whoa, here we go, Eeyore!”), the less power it holds.  What I love is that I don’t have to put energy into fixing anything, all I have to do is notice.  No heavy lifting required!

So, in this traditional Month of Love, while you’re buying Valentines and sweets for those you appreciate, acknowledge the person who stares back at you in the mirror every day. After all, the most powerful love of all is Love of Self.

    –Kathy Babula

Pumpkins and Turkeys and Gifting, Oh, My! Eight Phrases to Bust Holiday Stress

As the weather gets cooler, my mind tends to race ahead to all the obligatory holiday expectations that are just around the corner.  Then I tell myself, “I am committed to a mindfulness meditation practice.  Don’t go there, stay here to reduce stress!”  That is all well and good, but sometimes I need a swift kick in the pants to remind myself!  Browsing through all the notes I have taken over ten years of “consultation” with my guru, here are some phrases that help me let go of expectations, relax and enjoy what is happening NOW!

  1. “Charity begins at home. Practice focus with dedication and devotion to self.” (This is my #1 life-saving mantra.  When I take care of me, I have more patience and energy for others.)
  2. “The longer you breathe, the longer you live.” (This one always gives me a good chuckle and is simple, but true.  When stressed, breathe deeply!)
  3. “Be mindful when looking for appreciation.” (Oh, right, that expectation thing!  Cook the turkey to cook the turkey, not because I am seeking praise and the title “Top Chef.”)
  4. Be attached to the effort, not the outcome.” (Get that turkey ready to the best of my ability and then….fuhgeddaboudit!!!)
  5. Work today for tomorrow, but don’t be IN tomorrow.” (Another version of #4. Trust me, I need as many versions of this one as I can get.)
  6. Sit outside of the pool.” (Caught in the holiday rush at the mall?  Houseguests and/or relatives bickering?  Observe the craziness instead of engaging in it or, at the very least and without judgment, observe myself participating!)
  7. “Self-restraint is a strength.” (When the family get-together becomes a bit tense, I don’t have to fix everything for everyone like I used to.  This is called “freedom”!)
  8. “Just see what happens.” (Simply by practicing awareness, things have a funny way of working out without my attempts to manipulate a solution.  That means less stress for me!)

So, go ahead, grab a phrase or two!  Tape ’em to your bathroom mirror, stick ’em on your steering wheel, place ’em in your meditation space or just memorize them and enjoy the awareness that a few “kick in the pants” holiday stress-busters might provide. ‘Tis always the season for a mindfulness meditation practice!

 –Kathy Babula

The Best of Intentions, Spiritually Speaking

My Experience with Meditation for Self-Discovery

For many years, I was happy to meditate the way I had been taught:  deep breathing followed by fifteen minutes of letting my thoughts come and go, morning and evening. (Note:  Sometimes I skipped because life happened and sometimes I skipped quite deliberately; just want to make sure you know I am human!) I became a calmer mom, wife and employee.  I noticed more self-compassion.  Those “annoying” people in my life seemed to improve their attitudes!  I understood the joy of being content.  However, after a while, I felt my satisfaction slipping away.  Anxiety over “my purpose,” days of preferring to be a hermit followed by days of loneliness, inability to meditate consistently, feeling either uber-fidgety or low and depressed while hating myself for it….

What was wrong with me?  I questioned spirituality itself.  Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this stuff?  Maybe the mindfulness ride was over?  Perhaps I was just destined to live out life with a slightly melancholy mindset.  Blame it on my DNA and, you know, you can’t beat Mother Nature.

Then my guru told me about meditating with INTENTION.  My internal cynic said, “Yeah, sure…. sounds like a gimmick to me.” Meditation with intention, meditation for self-discovery.  He instructed me to do the usual deep breathing but, as I slipped into the minutes of meditation, I was to set a deliberate intention by asking a specific question that needed an answer.  Eventually I landed on this:   “What is getting in the way of my spirituality?”  (“No expectation; let’s see what happens…”) So, as instructed, I meditated with intention…. once, twice…..and by the end of that second sitting I had three clear, real answers that had popped into my consciousness.  I was simply astonished.  In a short intentional space of time I discovered that my spirituality was compromised by (1) often worrying about results, (2) spending too much time on digital distractions (Facebook, news on the iPhone) and (3) lack of faith in the answers I have inside. Specific answers, to the point!

Learning about myself has been one of the greatest joys of my mindfulness journey.  Having this simple tool of meditating with intention gives me yet another avenue for self-discovery.  With awareness of what was getting in the way of my spirituality, I am finding even more contentment and gratitude in every day of my life. “Doing is believing!”

    –Kathy Babula