benefits of meditation

Mindful Monday: Reality

Good morning, mindful friends!! Let’s get REAL this morning!

Reality.

Reality AS IT IS, not how you think it could or should be.

Not your opinions of it.

Not your preferences and projections.

Not your thoughts about it.

Reality. As. It. Is.

The truth is that the universe is always conspiring to keep you alive. To make you happy. On so many levels.

Think about all that must take place for you to survive this entire day! Think about it … your body alone must perform tiny miracles each moment: providing enough proteins and lipids to fuel your body, your mental faculties alerting you to dangers, your spleen regulating immune system. And that’s just on the micro level!

At the macro level, you need fresh, clean water; the Sun continues to shine and provide energy and life to everything on the this earth. You maintain a roof over your head and have plenty to eat.

I invite you to meditate on just how interconnected you are to the Earth’s ecosystem and to realize how important you are on this planet.

When we see just how miraculous and amazing each moment actually is, why do we spend so much time being paranoid. Anxious. Annoyed. Upset. Envious. Disdainful. Sad. Lonely. Depressed. Dissatisfied. Bored. Down on ourselves and those around us? Living in the past …

The universe has and always will provide you with exactly what you need in each moment. You are enough. You are sufficient.

The next time you start to feel anything but grounded in the present, in your body, in reality, take three deep, deep breaths and ask yourself ….

What in this moment is lacking?

Right here, right now, what is lacking in this moment?

As you close your eyes and deepen your breath, you come to the realization that there’s nothing lacking right now. You have and always will receive exactly what you need to get through each moment of your life.

Now that doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but you will always get what you need.

And the more we understand that all of life is this moment and each moment, the less we have the need to project and judge life. As we relax into each moment, we accept life as it unfolds with so much gratitude.

Expectations begin to fall away, thus freeing us from heartache and disappointment.

We truly have the opportunity to embrace life and all its lessons.

Your life is right now. Reality is your next breath.

Mindful Monday: Zanshin

Aloha and good morning, my yogi friends! I’m writing this blog from our 50th state, Hawaii, and I’m overflowing with gratitude for simply being alive in this moment. And while it’s still pretty early morning here, I should really be wishing you a good afternoon! Here is my early morning view as I write this blog.

We are on the fourth week of a series about four Zen states of mind. It’s important to note that there are many other Zen mind training techniques and mental states than the four I’ve focused on these past weeks. I’ve chosen to highlight these particular states, because we can begin to apply them to our yoga practice and daily lives. This is in no way an exhaustive list!

Read more about the first three Zen states here:

Shoshin

Fudoshin

Mushin

Now, let’s move to our final state of mind called Zanshin.

Zanshin literally translates to “remaining mind” or the “mind with no remainder.”

Zanshin is a general and constant state of relaxed awareness or perceptiveness. This state means that although you’re not actively watching out for things, you are constantly aware of your surroundings and situation. Think of a public safety officer or a first responder: they are always sizing up situations even when off duty. Constant situational awareness.

The concept of Zanshin is that one should be fully present in whatever action is at hand. When eating, eat. The mind is fully engaged in the action of eating. When practicing yoga, practice yoga. When standing, stand. When writing, write. It is being in the here and now, totally immersed in the task at hand, and there is no “remaining mind” to think.

And to take it one step further, every action and every thought in the here and now must be right and harmonious. Every routine, mundane action is important and should be done with Zanshin.

A beautiful example of Zanshin:

Roy Suenaka, the author of Complete Aikido, tells a story about aikido’s founder that is the epitome of this concept. They were seated on the floor face to face having tea and talking when Morihei Ueshiba, without turning his head, casually reached behind himself and then held something out for Suenaka to see. “Ah, a young cockroach,” he said, before gently putting it to the side. Only later did the significance hit Suenaka. How was Ueshiba so aware that even when focused on their conversation could he not only sense the presence of something so small but be able to know exactly were it was so that he was able to pick it up without looking?

There is a samurai saying that roughly translates to: “When the battle is won, tighten your chinstrap.” This means that zanshin should always be practiced, even after a big success or goal has been met. Never rest on your laurels. Be prepared at any moment for another attack (if you’re a samurai). But also that the battle is never over until you stop striving.

If you’ve been working for years on a particular yoga pose, you don’t stop practicing once you achieve it! If you reach your PR in weight lifting or any other competitive sport or arena, it’s not the time to relax and start slacking.

There is a second component to zanshin that can be summarized with this beautiful thought: Everything is aiming.

There is a story of a master archer who consistently hits bullseye after bullseye, even splitting his own arrows in the middle of the bullseye, blindfolded and in complete darkness.

This is attributed to the process being of utmost importance, not the goal! Each and every small detail is preparation for the ultimate goal. But the paradox is that the ultimate goal is not the focus; each and every boring, mundane, repetitive task that is performed thousands of times is where focus lies. Once one has performed every minute detail ad nauseam, the goal is inevitable and can be reached without the luxury of seeing the target.

Have a great week, yogis! As always I love to hear your comments and feedback. And of course if there any topics you’d like covered in our weekly blog please let us know!

Mindful Monday: Fudoshin

Good morning and happy Monday!

Last week, we covered the first state of mind in Zen Buddhism known as Sho Shin or Beginner’s Mind. You can read more here.

Today, we move on to the second state of mind in Zen Buddhism, Fudoshin which means “Immovable Mind.

Fudoshin represents a peaceful state of total determination and unshakable will. It is the state of a spirit that is determined to win, and that is filled with courage, endurance and determination to surmount every obstacle that comes in its way. Fudoshin is associated with a feeling of invincibility, of a mind that cannot be disturbed by confusion, hesitation, doubt, or fear.

It is when your mind is in a total state of equanimity, characterized by mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Fudoshin is most commonly associated with martial arts, particularly the samurai warriors in feudal Japan. These warriors displayed a steadfast determination and absolute control over themselves. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean one in a state of fudoshin is being stubborn or angry. Rather a person in fudoshin is calmly resolute and cannot be swayed, tempted or concerned.

We channel fudoshin when we are holding our more challenging yoga poses. Visualize your strength, balance, determination and focus when you’re holding a Warrior III pose or an inversion! Total concentration, muscular engagement and a calm and peaceful countenance. No thoughts, just your breath and bodily sensations evoking a powerful sense of peace and stability within yourself.

In modern Zen practice, Fudoshin is the protection against the “Shikai” or four sicknesses of the mind: anger, doubt, fear and surprise. Through the disciplined practice of meditation, we learn implicitly to center ourselves and clear our minds, thus developing a Fudoshin mind.

There are so many opportunities each day to implement Fudoshin in our lives! Hopefully you won’t be facing a life or death situation, but one can never know what life is sending our way!

In this era of random acts of violence, road rage, bad behavior and other losses of self-control, development of fudoshin can contribute to a peaceful, more compassionate world.

Fudoshin means “unmoving mind/heart”or “immovable mind,” and connotes the imperturbability as well as courage of the truly mastered self. It is the mind/heart from which have been purged all impurities and weaknesses in the resolute process of forging artistic and self-mastery.

Have a great week, friends! Remember that fudoshin is just a few, slow deep breaths away.

Mindful Monday: Snow Day

Good morning, mindful ones!

Well last week’s blog was called Slow Your Roll, and it was about slowing down our instant-gratification-and-endemic-busyness-plagued-society by releasing expectations. How apropos that we had the very opportunity to incorporate that attitude with the huge snow storm that hit us late last week!

We were all literally forced to release expectations and slow down, because we had no other choice. Roads were treacherous and many businesses actually closed or opened late morning or early afternoon.

Things like huge snowstorms give us an opportunity to observe ourselves (without judgement) and to witness our instinctual and also conditioned reactions. And through our yoga practice, we have learned the precious art of finding that space between breaths and pausing before reacting. Then choosing our response.

One of my all time favorite quotes. Victor Frankl survived the Holocaust and several concentration camps, and he used his experience to help others find the beauty of life and the will to live.

In the most wretched of human circumstances, Frankl observed that some people maintained their deep humanity through simple acts of sharing their last scrap of bread or still finding beauty in nature.

We, who have so much to be grateful for, can still catch ourselves reacting to unexpected circumstances with annoyance, impatience and even anger. Often we react without thinking. Our behaviors are acted out and reflexive rather than thoughtful.

Through our yoga practice, we have learned to breathe and pause. In this paused space lies our growth, happiness and freedom. With such awareness of this space, we find the freedom from both internal and external pressures and we choose our response.

I think of it as a game. I watch a strong reaction arise within, and try to pause and just look at it. And then I know I have a choice: continue on with the emotion or realize that’s it’s temporary so I can choose a less reactive response.

And we don’t have to wait for a huge act of nature to practice this. We have these opportunities all day long! Sitting at the breakfast table. Walking into a restaurant. Standing in line at the grocery store. Shopping for food before a huge snowstorm hits. Even on our yoga mats, we have sixty minutes to observe, pause and then respond.

It is in the little every day moments our true character is revealed to us. How we behave on our yoga mats shows us how we will respond off of our mats as well. How we train each day determines how we will handle the big stuff when it arrives.

Have a great week, friends! Be safe and I can’t wait to see you on your mats this week!

Mindful Monday: the American eclipse

Good morning, mindful ones! Wow!  Today’s the big day! Total solar eclipse! This is such a significant event astrologically, astronomically, scientifically and spiritually. On all levels of our human existence. 

This is an electrically charged time in our lives. Perhaps you’ve been feeling it over the past week building up to today?

I certainly had an interesting week. I was super edgy and agitated all of last week. I spent a lot of time trying to stay grounded and rooted. Even with my calming practices, I was supersensitive to a sense of chaos surrounding me. Many things came into my life to “trigger” some of my deep-seated and outdated mental and emotional patterns. 

Emotionally I vacillated between old patterns of anger and hostility to overwhelming sadness and despair. Many times last week I was caught off guard with straight up sobbing and ugly crying every time I went into a forward fold on my mat. I practiced being gentle  and being so compassionate with myself. And I also felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love and support surrounding and enfolding me. 

Which makes so much sense! This total  solar eclipse is comparable to the beginning of a new year. The energy of change and transformation is so abundant right now! We must feel and experience stale patterns in order to facilitate letting them go. 

Here are a few things you can do to take full advantage of this rare phenomenon. 

This is the time to write down new intentions and goals. Harness  this energy for self-transformation. 

If you have malas, let them sit outside and soak in this powerful energy. You can do the same thing with water and any healing stones you have.  I have mine all set to go today!

Meditate during this powerful time.  Get synced within yourself. And then sync up with the universe. 

Be safe! Only look at the sun with protective glasses on, please!

Connect with others. Truly meaningfully connect  with those around you. 

Take great care of yourself today. Stay hydrated. Protect yourself from stressful situations and people. Get a massage. Make sure you have enough downtime. Definitely take a yoga class!

Practice forgiveness. This is a fresh start for you. Release any resentments you’re harboring. This is for YOU to feel light and happy and free. That other person will deal with his or her own karma. It’s not for you to administer karma, right? 

Get grounded. Spend some time with your butt directly on the earth. Walk barefoot in the grass. 


I would love to hear from you about any rituals you performed during this auspicious time! 

Here’s to a fresh new start for us all!

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Samadhi

samadhi1

Happy Mindful Monday, friends! Wow have we been blessed with some beautiful spring-like weather these last few days! Such is nature and such is life, right? We never know what’s coming our way – well, sometimes the weatherman does actually get it right! – all we can do is make the very best of whatever life brings us.  Our yoga practice keeps us in tip-top shape physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – so that we have all the tools that we need at our disposal to truly seize each moment as it arises!

We’ve been covering Ashtanga yoga – the eight limbed path of yoga. Below is a quick recap of the previous seven limbs that we’ve discussed.

  1. Yamas – the guidelines for social behavior: clean your home
  2. Niyamas – self-disciplines: reverence for your home
  3. Asanas – yoga poses: start to settle into your home
  4. Pranayama – breath control, life energy: animate your home
  5. Pratyahara – the withdrawal of external senses, to rest in your home.
  6. Dharana – immovable concentration of the mind
  7. Dhyana – perfect contemplation of mediation

Dhyana sets the stage for Samadhi, which means harmony, “to bring together, to merge.”  Here, subject and object merge as one. This eighth and final stage of yoga brings on super conscious awareness. One loses a sense of “I” and enters this Samadhi state where the meditator, the process of meditation and the object of meditation becomes one. Samadhi is actually a series of states and experiences. Yoga Sutras describes various types of samadhis. One has to go through the different types of this Samadhi experience. Finally the practitioner reaches the highest stage of illumination called ‘Dharma Megha Samadhi’, which liberates the practitioner from all limitations of body and mind.

This identity without differences is a liberated soul that enjoys pure awareness. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of truth and unutterable joy. Which is the ultimate aim of our yoga practice.

Dear friends, wishing you a lovely week filled with mindfulness and increased awareness of all things.

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Dhyana

meditation

Happy Monday, friends! Well we’ve managed to get through another Christmas! Whether you absolutely love this time of year or are counting the days until your life goes back to its routine, time continues to march onward. Now is the time for contemplation of the year 2016 and goal setting for the year 2017. What things did you do great this past year? How will you build upon those successes? What were some misses this past year – and what are the growth opportunities you’ve identified? How will you choose to spend your last week of 2016? I just know that there are amazing things in store for you in the upcoming year!

If you’ve been following our blog weekly, you’ll know that we’ve been covering Ashtanga yoga – the eight limbed path of yoga. Below is a quick recap of the previous six limbs that we’ve disussed.

  1. Yamas – the guidelines for social behavior: clean your home
  2. Niyamas – self-disciplines: reverence for your home
  3. Asanas – yoga poses: start to settle into your home
  4. Pranayama – breath control, life energy: animate your home
  5. Pratyahara – the withdrawal of external senses, to rest in your home.
  6. Dharana – immovable concentration of the mind

Dharana sets the stage for dhyana, the perfect contemplation of meditation. It is total absorption into the object being focused on. This uninterrupted flow of concentration creates devotion. Dhyana distinctly differs from the one-pointed concentration of dharana in that it is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. In this quiet stillness the brain produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite impressive. In dhyana we dissolve separateness and experience the deep river of peace.

As you cultivate a consistent meditation practice, you will derive both mental and physical benefits in your life. Modern science and medicine are just now measuring the benefits of this ancient practice to explain how the body physiologically changes and how each of the trillions of body cells are charged with more prana (energy). Increased life force or prana results in joy, peace, and enthusiasm. Below I’ve listed a small percentage of the vast  benefits of mediation.

Physical Benefits

  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Decreases tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
  • Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
  • Improves the immune system
  • Increases energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy
  • Can assist with weight loss and other physical goals
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Can provide significant relief from asthma and allergies

Mental Benefits of Meditation

Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into a relaxed state that promotes healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation:

  • Emotional stability improves
  • Creativity increases
  • Happiness increases
  • Intuition develops
  • Increase in mental clarity
  • Sharpens the mind by increasing focus
  • Slows aging of your mind
  • Can help with improving relationships

How do you tell the difference between concentration and meditation? If there is awareness of distraction, you are concentrating and not meditating. The calm achieved in meditation spills over into all aspects of your life. Try practicing meditation during a hectic day at work, shopping for groceries, attempting to return/exchange holiday gifts, or even waiting in a busy queue of traffic!

As you set your goals for 2017, perhaps sitting in meditation each morning when you arise may be one of them! Start small; set your timer for five minutes each day and build from there. Imagine yourself at this time next year after a full year of meditating! You are 100 percent pure potential, my friend! Let’s talk more next year… On behalf of all of us at YBD, wishing you and your family a safe, healthy and prosperous new year filled with love, happiness, success,  yoga and meditation!