Who knew I could learn so much about myself in just three short days of sitting in silence.
Mindfulness can help us learn to accept what is - to accept our life experience as it unfolds. As Eckhart Tolle likes to say, we must accept the "isness" of our lives. When we are mindful, we begin to observe whatever we are experiencing - our physical body, our thoughts, and our emotions - and simply notice our experience as it is happening. We notice our bodies: tightness, tension, openness. We notice our thoughts: "Why did I do that?" "I can't do this." Or, "I'm never going to get his all done." And, we notice our emotions: fear, sadness, joy.
One myth of mindfulness is that it eliminates all the bad stuff and leaves us to simply relish in the pleasant, joyful moments of life. Mindfulness does not eliminate difficult emotions. Instead, we become more skilled at self-awareness and better at understanding our experience without judging it or becoming overwhelmed by it. We learn to be with whatever is there and feel it fully - the pleasant, the unpleasant and the neutral. Rather than trying to get rid of it, fix it, or figure it out, we learn to sit with it, see it for what it is and accept it fully.
In this process, we begin to recognize that some things are simply out of our control, like other people's actions, illness or even our own feelings that can arise in response to those things. But by sitting with our experience, by observing what is there, and acknowledging it, we can begin to accept it as it is. We can be with our sadness, our frustration, our anger or our feeling of powerlessness, and simply recognize that those are all OK to feel and they are justified simply because we are feeling them. No judgment, just observation. Acceptance does NOT mean that we have to agree with the situation or that we have to like it, it simply means that we accept that it is happening.
While mindfulness helps us recognize that many things are outside of our control, it also helps us learn that there are many things within our control. We can begin to exercise our power to choose how we want to view our situation, we can choose how we want to respond to it and we can choose which actions we want to take to move forward in a healthy and meaningful way.
Mindfulness strategies we can use when faced with challenging situations:
(1) Focusing on A Pleasant or Neutral Present Moment Experience.
Sometimes accepting your current situation can be incredibly difficult, particularly when you are facing great challenges. Often that difficulty brings up strong emotions like fear or anger. When we are feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty sitting with strong emotions, it can be very helpful to direct our focus and attention to something neutral or pleasant. This is when our mindfulness practice gives us the insight to know that we are struggling or feeling overwhelmed, and the ability to place our attention on something more positive while our minds and bodies settle down.
Simple mindfulness practices like placing your attention on your breath, mindfully drinking your coffee, listening to the sounds around you or going outside and enjoying the full sensory experience of being in nature, can help you get out of your thinking mind and into your sensory world of experience. This can be at the very least a neutral experience and at best a quite pleasant one. Taking time out to take a few, deep, mindful breaths can also help activate your Rest and Digest response and turn off your Stress response. Practicing mindfulness in this way can help you relax, settle your mind, and add some pleasant, more joyful moments to your day. I love this poem that beautifully expresses how we can move mindfully through our day . . .
Walk Slowly (Danna Faulds) It only takes a reminder to breathe, a moment to be still, and just like that, something in me settles, softens, makes space for imperfection. The harsh voice of judgment drops to a whisper and I remember again that life isn't a relay race; that we will all cross the finish line; that waking up to life is what we were born for. As many times as I forget, catch myself charging forward without even knowing where I'm going, that many times I can make the choice to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk slowly into the mystery.
(2) Accepting What Is.
This may be much easier said than done, but it is the key to lowering our suffering. In Buddhist teachings, suffering is caused by our struggle against what is. Life can be painful, but our true suffering comes from our struggle against what we cannot change. We don't have to like it, we don't have to agree with it, we just have to accept that it is happening. This shift in mindset can help us move forward and take the necessary steps to cultivate a healthy approach to how we can move on in a healthy and productive way.
When you are feeling ready, you can simply sit with whatever you are feeling and allow yourself to feel it fully. Invite it into your meditation, as we say. You can simply label it - anger, sadness, disappointment, etc. Notice how it feels in your body. And, simply notice how that feeling may change by simply observing it and accepting it as it is. Soften into it. One of my mindfulness teachers likes to point out that the word emotion has the word "motion" in it for a reason, and that is because emotions will move through us if we allow them to.
One critical part of all mindfulness practice is self-compassion. It is OK to feel anger, it is OK to have trouble accepting what is. Be aware and be careful not to add on a layer of self-judgment and self-criticism to what you are experiencing. By using your mindfulness practice to simply see what you are experiencing, to feel it fully, to acknowledge it and to accept it, you can begin to move forward. This self-compassion is a critical part of your self-care. Remember, we are not trying to eliminate, suppress or "correct" our emotional response, we are simply trying to recognize what we are feeling and accept it fully. We are human and our feelings are real and justified simply because they are there. In doing this, we can allow our emotions to move through us so we can move on.
(4) Acceptance and Mindful Parenting.
Acceptance is critical in mindful parenting. Too often we try to correct our children or tell them why what they are feeling is not valid or why they should not feel that way. For example, we may catch ourselves saying, "One day you will realize how silly this is." Instead, we need to listen fully and attentively, offering them our open, nonjudgmental attention. We must turn off our mental running commentary and hear what they are saying. Try not to interrupt. Just listen. Be aware of your own thoughts and judgments and how those may be interfering with your ability to simply listen and absorb. Accept what they are feeling simply because they are feeling it. Finally, we need to validate what they are feeling and let them know that we hear them. For example, we can simply say, "Wow, that must have been very hurtful." Simply listening without judging or trying to solve a problem, accepting fully what your child is feeling and validating those feelings can create an open and meaningful channel of communication. It fosters deep connection and a safe space for them to feel heard and understood. It also allows them a healthy roadmap to process their own feelings.
When I first tried meditating several years ago, I remember struggling between trying to still my body and my mind. At first, I found it incredibly difficult and physically uncomfortable to sit still, which was then followed by my many thoughts, “My knee really hurts . . . My back aches . . . I am feeling restless . . . I am uncomfortable,” which only made my physical discomfort more deeply felt. Other days, I would have no problem physically sitting still, but my mind was the source of my discomfort, refusing to be still. Over the years, I have learned that it is best to “make friends” with my discomfort. I try not to struggle against whatever is distracting me, or figure it out or beat myself up for having these distractions. I use them, instead, as an important part of my meditation. I try to approach my discomfort or distraction with a sense of curiosity and interest, no longer trying to do anything with it. I simply observe what I am experiencing with a friendly, loving and gentle attention. I look at my experience, whatever that may be, as an opportunity for self-awareness, rather than an obstacle to it.
It would be nice to report that each time I sit down to meditate I find myself enjoying twenty minutes of sheer bliss. What I have found, instead, is that each meditation is different. Somedays I have an ache or a pain, some days my mind is extremely busy, and other days my mind and my body are peaceful and still. In essence, this is what the practice is all about. Learning to sit and simply get to know myself, to have some sense of control over where I place my attention, and when I feel out of control, to simply let it be and watch without becoming overwhelmed by it.
Just like my meditation practice, my days are not all the same, and certainly not always peaceful – – – people can annoy me, my children don’t always listen to me, my house is not always clean, my back sometimes aches, people close to me get sick, and the evening news continues to report great tragedies around the globe. I find that I can now look at all of these things with a sense of presence, openness and curiosity, just like I practice on my cushion each morning. Instead of getting swept away by what is happening, overwhelmed by it, or trying to figure it out, I can connect to my own inner stillness and allow myself to feel whatever comes up fully (anger, sadness, frustration and, yes, great joy) and just be with it. All this from simply sitting on my cushion for a few minutes a day.
On to Week 2!
This blog is part of Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. In the month of February, you can join over 12,000 people around the world who have committed to sit each day and give meditation a try! You can learn more about the challenge, join in and read what people are saying by clicking here.
Announcing 2bpresent's All New You Tube Channel!
We are thrilled to announce our new You Tube Channel! In the coming months, we will continue to add new videos explaining the science of mindfulness, the “How To’s” of integrating mindfulness into your life, Mindfulness for Children, and lots of new Guided Meditations and Videos to help you lower stress, improve your focus and concentration, overcome test anxiety, get a better night’s sleep, prepare for that big game, and so much more! Be sure to sign on to our newsletter to get updates on what’s new and subscribe to 2bp TV.
What if you could be more peaceful with yourself, those around you and your world? Join us on a journey to finding real happiness as we explore meditation and mindfulness, and learn how to incorporate them into our everyday lives. Mindfulness can help you lower your levels of stress, stay focused and calm, and live your life with a greater sense of ease and happiness.
This course is an introduction to the fundamentals of mindfulness and meditation, and will help you gain a deeper understanding of these practices.
Join us for contemplation, meditation and action-based exercises. This is a five week class. We will meet for one hour each week.
Evening Class Dates & Time: 10/8, 10/15, 10/22, 10/29 and 11/5 from 7 pm to 8 pm.
Location: Groove, 108 Chatsworth Avenue, Larchmont, New York.
THIS CLASS IS NO LONGER ACCEPTING REGISTRATIONS
About the Instructor . . .
Cheryl Brause is the Co-Founder of 2bpresent. She has practiced meditation and mindfulness for many years, and has worked in the field of teaching mindfulness meditation for the past four years to adults, teens and children. Cheryl has studied meditation and mindfulness under with many leaders in the field. She has completed her Level I and II Meditation Teacher Training from Om Yoga. She is trained in Learning to BREATHE - a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents, and completed her K-12 Mindful Schools Curriculum Training. Cheryl teaches mindfulness and meditation privately to children, teens and adults. She has also created and taught programs in our community to train teachers and students in stress reduction techniques and mindfulness tools to help them thrive.
What people are saying about 2bpresent classes and workshops. . .
"Every now and then you come across a class or a person who helps you to be a better person. Cheryl offers just that. I am a better person because of all the things that I have learned- I am a better spouse, a better mother, a better friend, a better co-worker, and actually even more compassionate with myself. And what’s the best part? That I got all this by simply learning how to slow down and calm down. I will be forever grateful!
Taking the beginning meditation class is the single most important thing I have done for myself in the last decade. I can honestly say that my family and I are all happier because of my taking this one step to learn how to be calmer and more mindful." - Psychologist, mother and participant in Real Happiness and Mindful Living
"Cheryl's class taught me not only how to meditate, but how to incorporate mindfulness into everything that I do. Cheryl is extremely knowledgable about the practice of mindfulness and has a teaching style that is very easy to understand and accessible. It was a truly life changing experience. I can't wait for my next class!" - MBA, mother, participant in Mindful Living
"I took Cheryl’s mindfulness class last spring and the effects have stayed with me. The tools and techniques she showed the class were fun and easy to use and the discussion really brought everything down to a real level that can be applied. Cheryl has a unique way of speaking about mindfulness that is very insightful and practical. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and would highly recommend it!" - Organizational Development Consultant, mother, participant in Mindful Living
I am truly enjoying watching the 2014 Winter Olympics, as I marvel at the athleticism, mental toughness and bravery of the Olympic athletes. They seem to be able to do things with their bodies that would be impossible to most mere mortals, while facing both physical and mental challenges with such incredible courage and composure. Their secret is out, however, and all evidence points not only to incredibly disciplined physical conditioning, but also to training their brains to conquer their fears and mental roadblocks which could keep them from performing at their highest level. Using techniques such as guided visualizations to imagine themselves achieving their Olympic goals, daily meditation practices to stay calm and focused, and mindfulness exercises to learn to handle their negative thoughts that serve as roadblocks to optimal performance, Olympians are including their brains as a key part of their daily conditioning. Brain-Training Secrets of Olympic Athletes And, how about those Seattle Seahawks? I must admit that I did not have a favorite team going in to this year's Super Bowl, nor did I pick a team to root for once the game began. (I was more interested in selecting the best Superbowl commercial.) I was, however, blown away by the sheer force, focus and seemingly unstoppable performance of the Seahawks, led by quarterback Russell Wilson, on Super Bowl Sunday. It was no surprise that I later learned of the incredible Seahawk training regimen that includes daily yoga, meditation and mindfulness training. (Lotus Pose on Two, ESPN Magazine, August 2013)
What was once the purview of Buddhist monks and yogis, yoga, meditation and mindfulness training is now becoming an important part of melding physical and mental conditioning to optimize an athlete's performance. Trainers, coaches and athletes alike are seeing that one of the most important parts of the body to train is the brain.
Thoughts from Week 2 of the Real Happiness - 28 Day Meditation Challenge . . .
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This Native American Cherokee story was told to me three times in one week, by three different people, in completely unrelated situations. A message from the Universe, heard loud and clear. I love this story because it relates so beautifully to the practice of meditation and mindfulness. We are motivated either by love or by fear. The amazing part of a meditation practice is that we can begin to observe our patterns of behavior, thoughts and emotions, to see them for what they really are -- fear based acts or acts of unconditional love. Once we become more aware and see ourselves more clearly, we can decide how we choose to act -- an amazingly powerful process. The other incredible benefit from a meditation practice is that we can cultivate a different attitude or lens through which we see the world. We can choose to act from love rather than from fear, and practice creating positive neural pathways (the scientifically researched approach) or practice lovingkindness (the 2500 year-old Buddhist meditation approach). However one chooses to explain the process, we can choose to act from love rather than from fear. In doing so, the world becomes a different place (kinder, gentler, more loving), and we begin to move in it with greater joy and greater ease. So, this week, as I continue Week 2 of my Meditation Challenge, I look deeper at which wolf I feed, and continue to choose love.
Mindful Living: An Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation
In this course, we will explore meditation and mindfulness practices that can be used everyday to help reduce stress, increase a sense of calm, clarity, and connection, and create greater contentment in our lives. Each class will consist of a discussion of mindfulness tools and the developing research on the neuroscience of mindfulness, as well as group mindfulness practices.
“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation include:
- Increased attention, focus and concentration
- Decreased levels of stress
- Increased sense of calm, balance and equanimity
- Improved mood
- Greater ability to regulate emotions
- Improved sleep patterns and overall sense of wellbeing
Class Dates & Times: Four week session begins February 26th. Classes will meet from 8 pm to 9:30 pm on Wednesdays, February 26, March 5, 12 and 19. Snow date will be March 26th.
Location: Groove, 108 Chatsworth Avenue, Larchmont, New York.
To Register click here.
We are thrilled to welcome back Sharon Salzberg to our mindful community for a fall evening exploring Lovingkindness in the Face of Adversity
Wednesday November 13th from 7:00-9:00pm
Mamaroneck, NY (location to be sent upon confirmation)
Sharon is one of America’s leading spiritual teachers and authors. She is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work.
During this evening we will explore the power of lovingkindness when we face our own physical challenge or illness, emotional upheaval, negativity from others, or unfairness in how we are being treated. We will look at lovingkindness and compassion as strengths rather than as submissive states, and talk about joining them with discerning action, wisdom, and our often untapped capacity for resilience. We'll practice meditation along with dialogue and discourse. Suitable for both beginning and more experienced meditators.
To Register Click Here
Most of us make time each week to workout at the gym, attend a yoga class, or go for a run. Inspired by the effects of aging on our bodies, we are compelled to work out to stay healthy and fit. As we age, our metabolism slows down, our energy levels wane, and we notice sagging and wrinkles in areas that shouldn’t sag or wrinkle. These physical changes inspire us to hit the gym to combat these signs of aging. Not only do our bodies show the signs of aging, so do our brains. Although brain aging is not visible, and therefore less apparent, our brains shrink or atrophy as we age, and we lose our memory and our thinking abilities. But there is hope. New studies of the brain and aging have shown evidence that we can slow down brain aging and even strengthen our brains with the age-old practice of meditation.
Exciting research now reveals that the way we use our brain and care for it can enhance its neuroplasticity. Scientists use to believe that the human brain was a relatively static organ. But emerging studies reveal that we can actually change our brain structure throughout our life. Changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, can actually alter the neural pathways and synapses in our brain, changing the way our brain functions. Exciting new scientific studies, such as one conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, use MRI scans to document before and after changes in the brain associated with mindfulness meditation. After eight weeks, the MRI scans revealed an increased density in areas of the brain associated with memory, self-awareness and compassion, and decreases in the amygdala, which is associated with fear and stress.
I recently attended the first Advances in Meditation Research Conference, where neuroscientists spoke of their recent research in which they studied the neurological effects of meditation on the brain. The results were inspiring. Although much of the discussion was highly scientific and too technical for my brain to fully comprehend, their conclusions were quite clear that meditation can have a positive effect on our brains. At the conference, researchers discussed their recent studies that showed evidence that meditation practices slow down the natural course of aging, effectively treat the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and alzheimers, and increase brain function in their test cases.
Mindfulness meditation, which requires focused attention for a prolonged period of time, may sound easy, but it requires tremendous effort and mental discipline. Anyone who has tried sitting quietly for twenty minutes knows that it is hard work. Just like going to the gym or running a few miles, meditation is difficult at first. Over time, however, that hard work pays off. Just like building biceps, we can strengthen our brain and slow down the effects of aging by committing to meditation and mindfulness excercises that are proving to be incredibly beneficial. So what are you waiting for?
Are you feeling tired, a lack of focus and concentration and out of patience? Do you want to learn ways to slow down, clam down and find a greater sense of balance and happiness in your life?
Join us for Mindful Living: An Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation
We will explore meditation and mindfulness practices that can be used everyday to help bring calm, clarity, connections and contentment into your daily life. Each class will consist of a discussion and practice.
Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation include:
- Increasing your attention, focus and concentration
- Understanding your own stress reactions and how to minimize them
- Increasing your sense of balance and equanimity
- Fostering a greater connection in your relationships
- Enriched appreciation of the ordinary moments of life
- Learning to listen with kindness to yourself and those around you
- Improved sleep
Class Dates & Times: Tuesday evenings, November 19, 26, December 3 and 10, from 8 to 9:30 pm.
Location: Westchester Jewish Center, Rockland & Palmer Avenue, Mamaroneck, New York.
Investment: $140 members and $160 non-members
*This class is a prerequisite for classes we will be offering in 2014 on Meditation and Spirituality.
**Registration opening soon for this class.
Why is it that during this joyful, festive time of year so many people are feeling anxious, depressed or depleted? All that gift giving and holiday cheer can be exhausting. There is pressure to be happy and full of joy. So when we don’t feel like being in the holiday spirit (or we may feel downright depressed), we become upset with ourselves and ask, “What is wrong with me?” First, there is nothing wrong with you. Throw away any judgment or feeling of disappointment in yourself. You feel the way you feel, and that is OK. It is an exhausting time of year. There is cooking to do, presents to wrap, gifts to give, roads to travel. You may also feel lonely or sad. In addition, there are always those complicated family dynamics to contend with, which are often even more intense this time of year. So, remind yourself that it is OK to feel whatever you feel.
Second, whether you are a regular meditator or have never tried meditation before, try this simple holiday meditation. It doesn’t take long and I know you will feel a little better after giving it a try. The great part about this meditation is that you can use it over and over again throughout the holiday season, as needed (no prescription required).
Find a quiet spot. Allow yourself to escape for a short time from the commotion. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, with your back straight OR lie down comfortably on your back in a resting position. Gently close your eyes.
Breathe deeply, in through your nose, then release that air back out through your nose. Simply follow your breath in through your nose, filling up your lungs and abdomen, allowing your belly and chest to expand. As you exhale, follow your breath back out through your lungs, your abdomen contracting, as the air flows out your nose. As you inhale, think of letting in a sense of calm, quiet, and stillness. As you exhale, release all of the tension in your body, and any anxiety or sadness you are feeling. With each exhale, simply let go. As you continue your breathing, exhale for a slightly longer time than you inhale. For example, inhale for two counts, then exhale for four counts. You can use any number you want, just try to make your exhales longer than your inhales. Fully release all of the air you are holding on to. After doing this several times, you will begin to feel more relaxed, calm and peaceful.
After you have done some breathing and are in a nice rhythm, continue your slow, steady breathing while you think about five things you are grateful for. These can be almost anything. Just take the time to remind yourself of a few incredible gifts, big or small, that you have in your life. For example, you may be grateful for allowing yourself to take this much needed time out from the holiday madness. I will give you the first five things that pop into my head.
#1 - I am grateful for my breath. As I breathe in and breathe out, I am so thankful that I can breathe freely, that my body works in a miraculous rhythm, naturally and rhythmically. I am grateful for my breath.
#2 - I am grateful for my children. I am incredibly lucky to have three beautiful, healthy, loving children who bring great joy to my life. I am grateful for my children.
#3 – I am grateful for my husband. I am so thankful to have a supportive husband who loves me unconditionally every day. I am grateful for my husband.
#4 – I am grateful for my own wellness warrior, my mother. My mother spent all of last year fighting lymphoma. Every day she faced very difficult physical and emotional challenges with incredible strength, optimism and courage. Through the most difficult circumstances, she was an example of the importance of being present in each moment, taking each day as it came, one moment at a time, and, sometimes, one breath at a time. I am grateful for my mother.
#5 – I am grateful for my friends. I have so many people in my life that love and care about me. I am truly blessed to have them in life. I am grateful for my friends.
Smile and continue to breathe. After taking the time to think about a few things you are grateful for, return to your breath. Try smiling by simply turning the very ends of your mouth upwards, to allow some happiness in. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” (Thich Nhat Hanh) Focus on your breath, on that feeling of gratitude and on letting go. Take this time for yourself. Be present, let go and simply breathe this holiday season!
Let’s begin by lying down in a comfortable position on the floor, with your arms resting gently on the ground, and your eyes closed. Feel the weight of your body as it rests on the earth. Feel the earth supporting you. Feel your feet resting firmly on the ground. Pretend that you are an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and simply melt into the ground. Rest your attention only on the sound of my voice. Let all of the other sounds in the room fade away.
I am going to lead you on a scan of your body as a way of getting centered and relaxed - a reminder that you can be at home and at peace in your own body.
Start by settling your attention on your feet. Feel the weight of your feet as they rest on the earth. Notice the position of your feet, the sensations inside the feet, travel along the bottom and tops of your feet to your toes. Just notice what you feel there. . . . Notice each toe and move your attention from toe to toe noticing how they feel. Notice the space between the toes.
Now bring your attention to the tops of your feet and then to your ankles. Bring your attention up your shins and around to your calves. Notice how the backs of your legs feel. Now, bring your attention to your knees, the front of your knees and the back of your knees. Notice how they feel.
Bring your attention to your thighs, the front of your thighs and the back of your thighs. Now move your attention up to your hips and see what sensations you feel there. Notice how your lower back is resting on the earth.
Move your attention to the back body, to the lower back, to the mid back, to your shoulder blades. You may feel stiffness or tension, whatever you encounter, simply notice it.
Keep moving your attention around to the front of your body, to your abdomen and rib cage. Notice how that feels as you inhale and exhale. Slowly move your awareness to your chest, noticing any sensations you find there. Notice the lungs themselves, as you breathe . . . Does the breath reach into all areas of the lungs? Notice the heart itself, and the sensations and movements within the heart. Notice how it feels. . .
Move your attention back to the tops of your shoulders. Slowly move your awareness down the upper arms, feeling your elbows, your forearms. Let your attention rest for a moment on your hands - the palms of your hands . . . the backs of your hands. See if you can feel each separate finger, each fingertip. . . .
Slowly move your attention back up to the top of the hands, back up the arms to your shoulders and neck. Notice your neck and your throat. Notice any tension or tightness . . . notice the feeling of breath as it passes in and out with ease.
Bring your awareness slowly up to the front of your face. Be aware of what you encounter. Tightness, relaxation, pressure. Turn your attention to your eyes as they gaze inward, and feel the weight of your eyelids as they rest over your eyes . . . Move your attention to your nose. Notice the feeling of air as it passes through your nostrils. Is it warm or cool? Feel your cheeks and your jaw. Is your jaw clenched or loose? Just notice what you are feeling and continue to breath through these sensations. . . .Feel your mouth, your teeth, your lips, the light pressure of skin on skin, softness, coolness.
Bring your attention to the back of the head, over the curve of your skull, notice your ears as they buffer the sounds of the room. Now, bring your attention to the top of your head and simply feel whatever sensations are there—tingling, pulsing or the absence of sensation.
Now bring your body as a whole into your awareness, and take a moment to scan through your entire body. Allow your breath to become more full, taking a few deep breaths. . .
As you end the meditation see if you can continue to feel the world of sensations and all of its changes, moment by moment, as you move into the activities of your day.
Gently and gradually regain awareness of your surroundings. When you feel ready, open your eyes.
We are going to go on a little trip right now. Like tele-transporting us to another place and another time.
Gently close your eyes. Relax your body. Take a few deep breaths. Breath in for 5 slowly, then out for 5 slowly.
Now, think of your favorite place to be in the whole wide world. Take a moment to think about a place where you love to be, where you feel a deep sense of peace and calm.
It can be a beach, on a mountain, in your bed, anywhere you feel really safe and calm, and completely relaxed. Somewhere you love to be.
It may be somewhere you have been recently or a while ago.
Once you have chosen your favorite place, imagine yourself there right now. (pause for ten seconds)
Notice how you feel in this place. (pause)
Look around and notice what you see. (pause)
Notice the colors and the shapes of things around you. (pause)
Notice if you hear any sounds . . . any smells . . . (pause)
Are you standing, sitting or lying down?
How does it feel . . .notice what your hands are touching and how it feels . . . Notice how you feel in this special place . . .
Slowly come back into the room and open your eyes.
How did your body feel when you are in that place? You can go visit that place any time. Enjoy!
Find a comfortable position either sitting or lying down. If you are sitting, sit with your spine straight, your shoulders relaxed, your feet resting gently on the ground and your hands resting comfortably on your lap. If you are lying down, feel the weight of your body resting gently on the earth and melt into the ground. When you are ready, you can gently close your eyes or gently soften your gaze downward. You may hear sounds in the room, just hear them. Simply listen to them.
Now bring your attention to your breath. Take a few deep breaths. Take a deep breath in and release a deep breath out. As you breathe, feel your chest and your belly filling with air and rising. As you exhale, feel your chest and belly falling.
Now, breathe normally. As you breathe normally, notice where you feel your breath in your body. Is it in your nostrils? Your lungs? Your abdomen? Simply feel it, one breath at a time.
(pause and allow the child time to experiment with this feeling)
You may find your mind wondering a bit. When you notice that you have forgotten about your breath, simply bring your attention back to the feeling of your breath.
Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this.
Simply bring your attention back to your breath and breathe normally. Continue to pay attention to where you feel your breath in your body.
How does it feel as it enters your body?
How does it feel as it fills your body?
How does it feel as it leaves your body?
Don’t try to control the breath. Don’t do anything to it. Just be aware of your normal, natural breath. See if you can be aware of the beginning of each inhale . . . The feeling between your inhale and your exhale. . .the feeling of each exhale.
See if you can feel the beginning of your exhale. Feel the rising and the falling, the in and the out.
You may get distracted. It’s OK. Simply return your attention to the feeling of your breath.
(You can pause or repeat these instructions as you feel is appropriate with your child and adjust the length of the meditation accordingly.)
Now, feel your body on the chair or on the ground. Feel the earth beneath you. Feel your feet touch the ground, your hands resting gently on your legs or on the earth.
Simply be here. In this quiet moment.
As we end our meditation, you can bring your attention back to any sounds in the room. You can slowly wiggle your hands and your feet. When you are ready you can gently open your eyes.
We are thrilled to have an ever-growing community of like-minded people right here in Westchester, with whom we are traveling along our journey in meditation and mindfulness. Our dear friend, author and New York Times reporter, wrote about the positive impact that her meditation pracitce has had on her life in Taking the OM on the Road. We hope you enjoy it!
It's been a glorious summer for us at 2bpresent. We took time from the normal school year schedule and lived weeks in a very unstructured unscheduled manner. As we are now in August, we have been struck by the reality of returning to a school and life schedule that is drastically different from the way we have lived for several weeks now. In pondering this shift that is going to have to take place the following lyrics from En Vogue seemed apropos to share with all of you. Back to life, back to reality. Back to the here and now, yeah. Show me how, decide what you want from me. Tell me maybe I could be there for you. However do you want me? However do you need me? How, however do you want me? However do you need me? Back to life, back to the present time. Back from a fantasy, yeah. Tell me now, take the initiative. I'll leave it in your hands until you're ready... Summer is a break from the reality of the hectic schedules that we have during the school year. People asking of us and us pouring ourselves out to those we love and the causes that we support. We are wanted and needed and needed and wanted 24/7. By breaking from that for summer we are able to refuel and come back recharged. The transitions from one to another are not without anxiety for us or for our children. For our children they have shifted from school schedules to summer (camp or unstructured chill time) and now what they focused on so much is coming to a close and the hectic school schedules that they have are approaching them once again. Can we incorporate the best of what they love from the summer into their normal school year schedule? Can we put a little less on all of our plates this year and have more time to just be together as a family? Will they miss something if they aren't as busy? Will we?
September also coincides with a climatic shift as the sweltering warm days start to turn cooler. We go from shedding clothes to adding layers to stay warn. As we look toward this transition, can we add mindfulness and meditation into the layers we wrap ourselves in? Incorporating a mindful practice into the way we interact with those we love the most and those who we just barely touch. Mindfulness can make those shifts be they seasonal or from summer back to school smoother and easier for ourselves and our families.
If you are interested in learning more about beginning a practice of mindfulness and meditation, please join us as we once again journey to find Real Happiness following the work of Sharon Salzberg and other experts in this field. Click here for more information on this upcoming course and on our event hosting Sharon Salzberg in our community.
Join 2bpresent for an evening with
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sharon is one of America’s leading spiritual teachers and authors. She is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work.
Happiness that is not shaken by conditions begins with imagining that such stable and open happiness exists, and could exist for us. We also need wisdom in order to know how to make such happiness real. This implies patience, perspective, and an ability to see things as they are. During this evening we will explore our notions of happiness, strength, aloneness and possibility. We'll practice meditation along with dialogue and discourse. Suitable for both beginning and more experienced meditators.
To register for this event click here
For more information about Sharon please visit: www.sharonsalzberg.com
Ready? . . . 2bpresent?
Join us for
Foundations of Meditation
with Janaki Pierson
Semi-private training in the theory and practice of silent, seated meditation in the yogic tradition. Topics include: benefits of meditation, application to stress management, posture, the relationship between breath and the mind, the power of mantra and the evolution of consciousness.
Perfect for beginning meditators or for those who want to deepen their meditation practice, restart their meditation practice or learn more about silent, seated meditation.
Join us for the entire 6 week workshop, or just try the first session.
$45: Introduction to the Foundations of Meditation
Wednesday, May 30th from 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 pm
Larchmont, New York
$251: Pre-registration for 6 week workshop
May 30, June 6, 13, 27, July 11, and 18 from 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 pm
Larchmont, New York
For more inforation and to register, please contact us at email@example.com
Space is limited for the 6 week course, so please register today.
Foundations of Meditation - This class starts with an introduction to meditation, followed by an in-depth course on the Foundations of Meditation. The course will help establish the participants in the daily practice of meditation to experience the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits. Discussed in the course, such benefits include anxiety, stress and pain management, normalizing blood pressure, deep, calm peaceful sleep, improved personal satisfaction, contentment and inter-personal relationships, and sharpened decision-making ability. Additional topics included in the course are: meditation posture; the relationship between breath and mind; the power of mantra; the evolution of consciousness; and the mind and attention. Each class is 90 minutes and includes a 20 minute meditation.
Instructor Janaki Pierson has taught silent, sitting, yogic meditation using mantra for over 30 years. She has been established in her own daily practice for 36 years. She teaches throughout New England and Pennsylvania in medical, educational, corporate and community settings. She has taught up to six meditation classes weekly through various departments of Greenwich Hospital over the past 18 years, as well as weekly classes at the Woodbury Yoga Center for 30 years.
“Vacation, all I ever wanted. Vacation, had to get away. Vacation, meant to be spent alone.” Well, maybe not alone, in fact with 13 other people, but what a vacation it was! After returning from an amazing vacation a few weeks ago, I can’t seem to get that classic 80’s tune from the Go-Go’s out of my head. (Yes -- I was/am a huge Go-Go’s fan.) In fact, I can’t seem to get my head back from vacation. This was no ordinary vacation. I spent six days living at sea on a sailboat with my family of five. Along for the adventure were two other families, dear friends, sailing across the beautiful blue Caribbean sea in their own boat, meeting us at remote islands each day to hike, kayak, snorkel, swim and play on the beach.
I realize that this was a very unique vacation, a vacation that is probably not for everyone, and one that was totally my cup of tea (or my cup of rum punch as the case may be). Each day I enjoyed watching the sun rise and the sun set. I kayaked each morning over the still, calm water before cooking and eating breakfast with my family. At breakfast, we talked about the beauty of the crystal blue water around us and imagined all the pirates and explorers who had sailed on these seas before us. After breakfast, we sailed on to our next destination, thrust forward only by the power of the wind as it caught our sails.
It all sounds heavenly, but it was not all luxury cruising. During our sailing time, we all pitched in to help hoist the sails, swab the deck, check the lines and clean the galley. We had limited water onboard, so water conservation in toilets, showers and sinks was a challenge and a necessity. No cell phones, no internet, no cable TV. Our time was spent reading, talking, swimming, snorkeling, exploring, and simply enjoying the beauty of our surroundings. We were on our own, no captain and no crew, just us. For me, it was the ultimate exercise in getting away from it all.
Now that I am home and back to a busy life in suburbia, I find myself with the same feeling I have after a wonderful yoga practice and blissful shavasana (for non-yogis, shavasana is done at the end of a yoga class when you lie on your back with your eyes closed, breathing deeply, as you relax the muscles that you just worked and you melt into the ground beneath you). After shavasana, I often ask myself, how can I keep this deep state of calm, quiet and relaxation going off my yoga mat? Since returning from my sailing vacation, I have been asking myself, how can I hold on to that blissful, relaxing feeling of my vacation now that I am home and back to my daily routine?
To figure out the answer to this question, I made a list of what it was about the vacation that helped me to feel so connected, relaxed and rested. I concluded that if I could come up with a list of what made the vacation so fantastic, I would work to incorporate those things into my life at home in an effort to enjoy each day in a more relaxed, less stressful and less exhausting way. Why not make a little part of each day like a mini-vacation? Why wait for those few weeks a year to truly unwind and nurture myself? Short of magically creating the beautiful blue sea, ocean breezes, rum punch on a sandy beach, and a beautiful boat to sail on, here is what I came up with:
(1) Start the day with some time for peace, quiet and contemplation
(2) Get exercise everyday - keep that body moving
(3) Connect with Nature any time you can
(4) Eat healthy, fresh food and get some rest
(5) Spend quality time connecting with family and friends
If I could treat myself to these five things each day, would I feel some of that vacation state of mind back home? I will say that I have tried it and, although it is not quite the Caribbean around here, it has been wonderful to take time each day to indulge in what makes me happy and more peaceful, and to take a mini break in an otherwise hectic day. Most importantly is the idea that instead of pushing through the unpleasant business of each day and simply dreaming of the next opportunity to take a break from it all, I have tried to truly enjoy each day as it comes by incorporating into each day some of what makes me feel happy and peaceful. Here are some observations I have made along the way and suggestions for how to incorporate these five things into your life.
First, it is interesting to me that once our lives get busier and more stressful, the first things that we “have no time for” are the things we need most. The first thing to be cut from our schedules are often the things that I listed above. Ironically, these things are needed most when we are busy and stressed. By incorporating them into our lives, we will feel less stressed and better able to cope. We will also have more energy to tackle our long “to do” lists. If we include in our days the five things listed above, we can maintain at least some of that calm that we had on vacation and we won’t need to begin the count down to our next vacation the moment we return home from our last getaway.
Start the day off with a few minutes of calm.
On vacation, we have physically removed ourselves from the distractions and aggravations of our everyday lives. When we are "away from it all," we are able to focus on truly being present and enjoying every moment of our getaway. We are able to experience fully where we are and how relaxed we feel both physically and mentally. When we return home, we find ourselves back in the thick of it, our minds twirling with what we need to do next, no longer able to enjoy being where we are. With some practice and a little effort, however, we can foster our ability to bring that focused, relaxed feeling into our lives everyday by simply taking the time to recreate that vacation state of mind wherever we are.
Most of us hear our alarms each morning and like a good thoroughbred at the starting gate, the bell sounds and we are off to the races. We dread getting out of bed because what follows is often unpleasant -- yelling at the kids to get up as we rush through our morning routine, hurrying and scurrying to get everyone out the door. Tomorrow, try something different. Set your alarm half an hour earlier and enjoy a few minutes of quiet time before the busyness of the day begins. Stretch your body while taking a few deep breaths, sit for a few minutes just taking some slow deep breaths in quiet meditation while concentrating only on your breathing, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or tea while taking in the view out the window, or sit outside for a few quiet minutes if the weather is nice. Notice how good that feels, how peaceful, how vacation-like. Those wonderful moments of quiet each morning can set you up for a calmer, less stressful and more enjoyable day ahead. Think of it as a treat for yourself, a little pampering, a chance to center yourself before the busy day begins. Don’t use that time to go through your “to do” lists, watch the news or check your e-mail. Instead, use it as a time to really relax and take in the peaceful quiet and stillness of the morning. You deserve it and the few less minutes of sleep will pay off in a calmer, more peaceful you.
Get your blood pumping and enjoy the outdoors
Too often, we cut out our time to exercise when our day is crammed with meetings, appointments, and a giant “to do” list. Instead, it is when we are the busiest that we need to carve out some time, whether it is a ten minute walk, a yoga class or a quick jog, to get our blood pumping and the oxygen flowing in our body. This will increase your energy level and your productivity, which will help you to get all that work done. Research shows that exercise helps reduce the physical symptoms of stress in the body, which will also help you to feel calmer, better able to focus and be more productive. One great trick that I often use is to find little ways to get more physical movement into my day, especially when I don't have time for a full workout. For example, park your car in a spot far away from the store and take a longer walk to the door (rather than circling a few extra times to find the closest spot). Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Walk or ride your bike to your destination instead of taking a cab, bus, subway or car.
You can use this same strategy as an opportunity to spend some time outside where you can enjoy the fresh air and the nature around you. Many studies have shown that simply being outside, and enjoying nature can bring great physical and psychological benefits to people. Try not to be preoccupied by your thoughts -- your “to do” list and your schedule. Rather, take a break from the torrent of thoughts and be fully present in your surroundings. You may be amazed at how nice that can be and how refreshed you will feel.
Eat Healthy Foods and Get Some Rest
When we are busy, we too often cut out the simple pleasure of eating slowly, joyfully, and healthfully. We grab what we can on the go, and often that “fast food” is unhealthy food. In addition, we often reward ourselves when we are stressed with food high in fat and sugar. Unfortunately, the pleasure we feel from eating these foods doesn’t last long and we soon are left feeling bloated, tired (the crash of the sugar high) and upset with ourselves for eating what we did. Instead, we need to remember to fuel ourselves with fresh, healthy food that will make us feel good not only for the short time we are eating it, but for the rest of the day. Eating a healthy and nutritious snack will not only give us the energy that we need to get through the day, but it is something that we can do to nourish our souls by treating ourselves to something that is good for us. Think of eating healthfully as a way to pamper yourself, to treat yourself with great care by filling your body with what it needs to do all that important work and to feel good while doing it.
In addition to eating well, we need to be sure to get plenty of rest. When we are on vacation, we often feel like we can sleep for days. We are simply exhausted from our extremely busy schedules at home. At home, many of us fall into that caffeine trap of needing that morning and afternoon pick me up to give us the energy to make it through the day. Often those caffeinated drinks are also loaded with sugar (again a sugar and caffeine high followed by a big crash). Just be aware that your body is telling you that you need to rest, not drink more caffeine. A good night sleep can do wonders for your body, mind and spirit!
Connect with Family and Friends
Finally, we need to make time to connect with our families and friends. We need to make a conscious effort to have quality family time when we are home and to connect with those special people in our lives. This is more important than most, if not all, of the things that we put in the way of that time together. Most of us have heard about the many studies that show that children who have family meals are much less likely to become involved with drugs and alcohol, have better social skills, better grades, and a closer connection to their family. Those alone are enough reason to take time out to have a family meal. But taking the time to connect with your family and friends will have incredibly positive effects on you as well. It makes you feel loved and connected to those closest to you.
After my wonderful sailing adventure, I realized that we don’t have to live for vacation, to count down until the next opportunity we have to treat ourselves well. We don't need a vacation to enjoy some quiet time or to create quality time with our family and friends. We can incorporate a little vacation time into every day and treat ourselves to those simple pleasures that will nourish our minds, our bodies and our spirits.