10% Happier – Book of the Month

Continuing with the topic of meditation after my last post: Meditation Explained! I would like to introduce a wonderful book for further reading. A good friend of mine gifted me this book a few weeks ago and I really loved it: 10% Happier by Dan Harris

dan-harrisI have read many books about meditation, but one thing I really liked about Dan Harris’ book is that the author is the epitome of skepticism, and he became a meditator in spite of all the resistance he initially had about it. He realized that by meditating his entire life transformed for the better.

As a known TV anchor, Harris had access to many of the leading teachers of meditation and gurus of self help in the country, so he shares his personal encounters with Deepak Chopra, Eckart Tolle, Tara Brach, amongst others.

Harris has a way with words, his writing style is enjoyable, insightful and funny. It is an easy read and a very light book, as opposed to many meditation books that can be hard to grasp or heavy to read.

He represents a large part of the population that have many misconceptions about meditation, or that get turned off by the spiritual lingo that often accompanies this practice.

I believe this book is of great value to anybody, regardless of their knowledge or interest in meditation; it is the story of one man, who was confronted with his human struggles and found meditation, which, in spite of his initial skepticism and cynical view came around and understood and experienced first hand the benefits of the practice.

Here below is an excerpt that sums it up:

“until we look directly at our minds we don’t really know what our lives are about… everything we experience in this world goes through one filter – our minds – and we spend very little time bothering to see how it works”

He shares tips and ideas that he received from experts in the field, and he uses a language that is really accessible to a wide audience. For people who are more familiar with meditation, this book is still a great read, and he offers new and interesting insights like for instance the RAIN methodology for applying mindfulness, given to him by Tara Brach.

Once you start practicing meditation and mindfulness, you can use this practical methodology called RAIN.

R: recognize, A: allow, I: investigate, N: non-identification

First you just recognize and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, the next step is to allow them to be, this means not fighting neither your thoughts nor your feelings, letting them be without resisting them, the third step is to investigate them, to see how they are affecting you (how are your thoughts connected to your emotions or bodily feelings, what is happening in your body, etc. and last but not least not identifying with your thoughts and emotions, not letting them rule over you, understanding that your thoughts and emotions are not you, they do not define you, they are just waves that come and go and that you can simply observe without engaging nor identifying with them.

I highly encourage you to take a look at this book, it is a great read and an eye opener on meditation!

Have a Great Week!

Meditation Explained!

Last week, I attended a talk about TM (Transcendental Meditation) and it reminded me that my last post about meditation was almost 3 years ago! So, I decided to write about this incredible resource today again, and go a little deeper in the explanation of how it works, and how it can help YOU.

brainwaves

I started my journey into meditation about 10 or 11 years ago, it was a slow process for me, and it took many shapes and stages, but along this journey I learned so much about what meditation really is, and it has without any doubt positively shaped the person I am now, and it continues to do so everyday!

I feel, without any doubt, that it is the most powerful tool we can use to live a happier, healthier and easier life. In my experience, meditation is the one practice that will change the world, one person at a time, and I can guarantee you that if you talk to anybody that practices meditation regularly, they will agree with this.

Describing meditation is not a very easy endeavor, as it is one of those things that, in order to be fully understood, it needs to be experienced first hand… but I will try my best to explain it.

Basically, our brain vibrates at different frequencies, a frequency is the rate at which a vibration occurs that constitutes a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light), usually measured per second. The states of our mind and brain are very different depending on which frequency they are vibrating at.

If you look at the picture above, there are currently 4 brain frequencies detected by an EEG (although now they are talking about a 5th one called Gamma, but for now we will just focus on the 4 pictured above.)

  • Beta: you are awake, consciously alert, active, fully awake, going about your day.
  • Alpha: you are awake and aware but in a state of physical and mental relaxation.
  • Theta: you are in a state of somnolence with reduced consciousness.
  • Delta: you are unconscious, in deep sleep.

So, basically, meditation is the capacity to go deeper and deeper into these frequencies, by maintaining awareness, it is the capacity to lower the activity in our brains to the point that our mind is thought-free (or almost), and therefore we can create a space of total stillness and clarity within, a space in which we are still awake and aware (as opposed to falling asleep or deeply asleep.)

There are of course different levels of meditation, the more you practice, the deeper your meditation can be. There are also many techniques used for meditation, but the goal is always the same: to quiet your mind and become the “observer” of your mind. You can learn more about all the different techniques by looking at the related articles and books listed below.

Amongst many spiritual traditions it is believed that this space of stillness is where we meet the divine, where we understand who we are, and where the source of all beings becomes one. It is the space also where we can connect to our intuition, our inner knowing, etc.

However, for those who are turned off by all the spiritual lingo, it is important to remember that you can practice meditation and get all the benefits from it, without attaching any spiritual meaning to it.

How can meditation help YOU?

Well, nowadays people all over the world are suffering from a constant state of stress no matter how subtle it is, we are slaves of what Eckart Tolle calls: Psychological Time, our minds are very busy all the time dwelling on past events or speculating about future outcomes, but very seldom focused completely, a 100% in the moment, therefore, our mind chatter is constantly interfering with our reality and this creates inevitable stress.

When we are stressed out (by our own thoughts) our bodies are in a constant state of fight or flight* and therefore our brain is not working at its optimum capacity, and we are more likely to make the wrong choices and react to events in less than desirable ways, let alone the consequences that linger in our bodies (tension, high blood pressure, etc).

Meditation, by the virtue of slowly but surely training our minds to quiet down, will help us regain control over our brain and our body, and be in a state of constant calmness and clarity, as opposed to a state of stress and hurry.

Committing yourself to the practice of meditation will likely be the most important decision you make in your life!

Don’t think that you need to spend thousands of dollars or travel to Asia in order to learn how to meditate, there are wonderful resources that can help you learn without spending your life’s savings. But ultimately it all comes down to how committed you are to improving your life for real.

The 21-Day Meditation Challenge is one of those great online free resources to get you started, and it is going on RIGHT NOW, so you are still on time to join, I highly encourage you to do it, even if it is just out of curiosity, it won’t take more than 20 minutes of your day and it will give you a taste of what meditation is. Register Now

If you live in the DC area, drop me a note and I will be happy to send you a list of the local resources in this area, but wherever you live, I am sure you can find organizations, groups or institutions that offer free classes and workshops on meditation.

Have a Great Week!

*fight or flight and modern stress response explained here

Related Articles Great Books
Meditation, an Incredible Tool (How I discovered meditation) 10% Happier by Dan Harris
A true story and a great approach for the skeptic
8 Basic Kinds of Meditation Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg A great introductory book with a program and a bonus CD
The Chopra Center Meditation Resources How to Meditate by Pema Chödrön
A wonderful beginners guide by a seasoned Buddhist Nun
What are Brainwaves Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield A great beginners book

Announcements

    • 21-Day Meditation Challenge with Deepak and Oprah started 11/03/14 Register NOW you are still on time to join!
    • The Divine Ordinariness of St. Teresa of Avila, Free online Teleseminar starts 11/08/14 Register NOW

Worries, worries and more worries…

How can we possibly get rid of our worries?

worry

Worrying is a very common thing, and depending on our personality we can be more or less of a worrier, but most people do worry about many different things, whether they admit it or not.

Our worries can be big or small, and they can take up some of our time and attention or they can take up a lot of it. People worry about things like not having enough money to pay bills, getting sick, their kids not doing well in school, loosing their jobs, etc… There are a million things we can worry about on a daily basis.

But worrying is always about our mind projecting into the future, imagining things, it always involves fear of the future, fear of being in a place or a situation that we consider negative, scary. But if we look closely at the things we worry about, in many cases they are unrealistic projections that may never happen. Or even if they are realistic, we often blow them out of proportion.

“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Mark Twain

Indeed, our minds are so incredibly powerful, that their projections can make us experience tremendous fear that can take us away from what is real, from what we have, from the people we love, from the good things around us… If our mind is consumed in fear and anxiety, we are NOT present, we are not living fully and we are missing important things.

So, the key to stop worrying is to learn to quiet our mind, so that eventually we can successfully shut it off when it starts going into all sorts of negative projections; and come back to the present, to what is real, to what we need to deal with.

This became really true for me, about a month ago, when I suffered from a heart attack. I feel God gave me the opportunity to see what I have really learned, because it is easy to stay calm when things are going well in our lives, but when things get rocky, that is when we really know how far we have come.

After all these years of working on my fears, meditating, doing yoga, trying to quiet my mind, be present, live in the moment, etc. I was suddenly in a situation of great fear: fear for my health, for my life, for my kids, for the future, etc…

As I was in the hospital, dealing with all the unpleasant tests and waiting for the Doctors to come to a diagnosis, I realized that I could easily sunk into deep fear and anxiety, or simply BE, deal with the moment, without projecting anything in the future. I noticed for example that as soon as I started thinking of my small children, I would start crying and feeling totally powerless and scared, so, as soon as their little faces or voices came to my mind, I just banished the thought and immediately I felt calmer.

Also, I had always been incredibly afraid of needles, and any sort of intrusive medical procedures, so when they told me they were going to do a cardiac cath, I felt my stomach contracting, I felt totally anxious, but again, I was able to shut off my fear inducing thoughts and just BE in the moment, calm.

As I was recently reading about what happened to me, called a SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection), which is a very rare type of heart attack, for which medicine has no answers yet, Doctors have no idea what causes it, how it can be prevented and if it could happen again. I realized I could worry about this all my life, wondering if it could happen again, or, I could just live my life, at peace, since nobody knows what can happen tomorrow, what is the point of worrying after all… So, I stopped reading about it, thinking about it, and I was able to let go of that worry.

Thanks to this experience, I have realized that all these years of personal work have paid off, I am gaining some control of my mind, at least now I know for a fact that our worries are nothing but the workings of our mind projections, AND we can control our minds. If I can do it, anybody can do it!

Of course, we cannot suddenly shut off our thoughts, but the first step is to realize that our thoughts are responsible for most of our fear and worries, and that our mind projections are not real, they are just projections and, we can learn to control our minds. Realizing this is huge!

The next step, for which we really need commitment, is to learn how to quiet our minds, how to clean our minds from the incessant stream of thought and external stimulation, so that in time our thoughts are less controlling, sparse and healthier.

One of my favorite authors: Eckart Tolle says that the longer the time between a perception and a thought the greater the presence, in other words, if our minds do not start thinking immediately about what our senses perceive, but we just experience the perception without any thoughts about it (judgment, labeling, projecting) the more we are present, and presence is real, it is all there is!

So, if you are a serious worrier, stop justifying your worries, instead, consider accepting the fact that you make up the projections that feed your fear, and you can get rid of them if you make some shifts in your life by changing your perception and working on quieting your mind. It takes conviction and commitment, but it is possible, it will transform your life for the better, and, it is never too late to start!

Have a good week!

Related posts:

Free yourself from fear

Fear: the source of all negativity

Taming our Monkey Minds


Announcements:

The Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge starts on August 5th. Register here. It is totally Free!

Wake Up Festival – in Colorado, August 14th – 18th. More info

Taming our Monkey Minds

For my US readers, I hope you’ve had a lovely Memorial Day Holiday!

Many of you have probably heard the expression: “Monkey Mind,” especially if you meditate or practice yoga. A monkey mind refers to the endless stream of fragmented thoughts that we have in a day. In average, human beings produce about 60.000 to 80.000 thoughts a day! Which means the talk in our heads is pretty much constant and incessant.

monkey mind

The problem with having a monkey mind is that only a tiny part of all the thoughts in our head is relevant to the present moment (which is the only thing that is true and real). On top of it, the vast majority of our thoughts are nonsense, we often dwell in the past or the future, we obsess about mistakes we might have made, we battle our guilt, we plan ahead, we worry, etc.

Also, a great percentage of these thoughts are negative, often based in fear of the future, resentment of the past and so on.

We are often drifting into fantasy, negativity and fiction, which means, we are constantly missing the point of life: being fully present each and every moment.

In short, most of these thoughts do little to help us live and function well but rather the opposite, they slow us down, make us less alert and less present, and in many cases can bring negative outcomes into our life.

Most people don’t even consider taming their monkey minds, because they think that this constant mind chatter is “normal,” and even if they think otherwise, they do not know or believe that they have the power to change it, the power to quiet their minds down!

The great news is that all of us CAN quiet down our minds and we must do so! because by doing it, we will be more alert, more present, less stressed, calmer, happier, etc… the benefits are endless!

Both, the quality and the quantity of our thoughts are very important!

My very first newsletter back in February 2011: Paying Attention to your Thoughts, will give you a little glimpse on the importance of the quality of our thoughts.

As for this particular posting, I would like to focus on the quantity of our thoughts.

The overwhelming amount of thoughts we have leave little room for true clarity and presence, so, by lowering the “amount” of our thoughts and quieting our minds we can start to see positive changes in our life. Why should we do this?
Well, because, if we don’t control our mind, it controls US! and the results are never glorious.

I once heard a very nice analogy that compared the untamed mind to a wild horse. Imagine riding a wild horse, a horse you don’t control at all… you will be at its mercy and most likely shaken until it throws you to the ground. In contrast, if you ride a tamed horse, you hold the reins, you are in control and you can choose the pace.

How do we quiet our minds?
It is a process, but the very first step is to become AWARE of our monkey mind, if we are aware that our mind is out of control (which in most cases it is) we are one step ahead, then we have to believe that we can change it. The process may take more or less time depending on every individual and their own level of awareness.

I would like to share some things that have helped me, quiet my mind:

First and foremost, the practice of meditation
Meditation is one of the best tools you can use to quiet your mind.
If you wish to read a little more on this, I wrote about this in my posting: Meditation, an incredible tool

For some people meditation may seem daunting at first and hard to understand. It is possible, however, to start by using other approaches until you feel ready to give meditation a serious try.

The practice of Yoga or another eastern discipline like Tai Chi
The idea of these disciplines is that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the body helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity that you can then apply to your everyday life.

Developing awareness of your senses
By tuning into our senses we can be more present. The more our senses become heightened, the more we can really feel, smell, taste, see and listen to what life is telling us in every little moment. I had a posting on this recently too: Your Senses, a Gateway to the Present Moment

Mindful activities
Another good exercise to quiet your mind is really concentrating in small tasks that we usually do automatically. For instance, next time you are cooking, walking to work, etc. try to breath deeply as you do what you are doing and solely focus on the task at hand and your surroundings.

Let’s take the example of cooking: feel the vegetables in your hands, smell the garlic you are using, look at all the colors of the ingredients, immerse yourself fully in what you are doing.

Watch your thoughts
If anything, you can start by “watching” your thoughts, do not judge them or elaborate on them, just witness them as if you are an observer that acknowledges the thoughts but does not get involved with them.

Have a great week!

Announcements:

* Fundamentals of Deep Tissue Detoxification Starts May 28th (but you can still sign up!)- Learn How A Safe, Effective Cleanse Will
Eliminate Deep Toxic Build-Up & Restore
Your Energy, Vibrant Health and Digestion!

* Silva Intuition Training (for DC Metro Area residents). June 30 – July 1. For more information, call Diana at 703-866-4030 or email her at:
silvamethod@cox.net. The Silva Method is a wonderful system to improve your life in a long lasting way, I highly recommend their programs and I personally know Diana to be a wonderful teacher, mentor, friend.

* Lighten Up for Spring This is a wonderful program offered by a friend of mine, it is a do-at-your-own pace program and will help you balance your brain chemistry, clear out the junk, and begin to shift your relationship to eating and your body… so you can have more energy, more peace and more freedom to do what you love!