[Self Discovery] The Power of Meditation

Breathing in – I know I am breathing in;
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

With the calamity and chaos in the world at large, intrinsically we have to understand that the only control we ultimately have in this world is of our own emotions and reactions. The best way to be able to control those are to understand our true nature, and that’s our nature without external stimulus – it’s the you at your core, without thoughts, without emotion – the you that just is.

Breathing in, my in-breath has become deep.
Breathing out, my out-breath has become slow.

It’s a simple task, but it most certainly doesn’t come easy; all it requires is you to be fully present in the moment and within yourself. That proverbial it that I speak of, that transcendental feeling you get from meditation. Whether you’re looking to expand yourself inward and engage in a personal evolution, or revolution; focus your mind and sharpen your mental state, or simply reduce your anxiety – finding time in your day to work in even a five minute meditation practice has proven mind and body benefits that permeate far more than just that moment.

Breathing in – I feel calm;
Breathing out, I feel at ease.

If you’re a morning person – when you wake up, grab your morning coffee, tea…wine…whatever, and start with just five minutes as you’re easing into the day. If you’ve got a yoga routine, meditation is like the icing on the cake at the end of your practice, simply add five minutes at the end of your yoga session to settle into yourself. If you’re a workaholic – schedule time in your phone or your planner, put a five minute meeting into your Outlook or Google Calendars. If you’re a writer – find a cute meditation journal for daily reflections. And if you’re like me and can’t sit still, get oustide and take a brisk stroll through the world while letting each of your senses become engaged with your surroundings. Either way you spin it – you most definitely have five minutes somewhere in your day to spare – so find it; I promise, you’ll be better for it.

Breathing in – I smile.
Breathing out, I release all my worries and anxieties.

The best way to start is to just…well, start; and start small. Find a comfortable spot with soft light, where you can sit tall and be at peace – whether you’re sitting cross-legged on the ground, or are propped up slightly with a meditation pillow. Let the moment wash over you as you focus on your breathing; marinate in that feeling as you notice the tightness in your chest and back, the restlessness of your lower body and weight of your head. Now, your mind – it’ll wander and wonder, but the point of meditation is to acknowledge when your mind is manifesting anything. You can try counting to ten slowly, or counting your breaths, or – using this poem that I learned from the book You Are Here by the esteemed Thich Nhat Hanh.

Breathing in – I dwell deeply in the present moment.
Breathing out, I know this moment is wonderful

The internet is a wonderful repository and I’m thankfully there are tons of digital resources available and at the tips of your fingers. If you feel strange about sitting with your own thoughts at the beginning, or simply don’t know how to begin or where to go with your practice – there are ample resources for guided meditations throughout the internet to help you find your moment of zen.

Here are some of my favorites.


For Beginners

Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Challenges + Guided Meditations

21 Day MC Creating Abundance - Chopra Center Download with Chopra ...

Whether it’s his 21 Day Meditation Challenges, or his guided meditations, Deepak Chopra has amassed an incredible amount of resources for the spiritually inclined. For those new to meditation – every few months the website offers a new 21 Day Challenge that intently focuses on one of many core emotional tenants. By the end of the challenge, you’ll be marinating in your mindfulness as you reap the positive benefits of meditation on the body, mind and spirit.


There’s an App for That

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There are a ton of different smart phone applications for those looking to take their meditation practice further. I’ve toyed around with both Headspace and Calm; and personally like the fact that both apps can be either iOS or Desktop based. But, a new favorite is Simple Habit – which is a free app, that you use for five minutes a day *ding ding*. Honestly, I enjoy what they all have to offer in terms of both length and type of meditation, but if you’re in the mood to shop around – here are a few other options that I’ve discovered:

Oak: Meditation and Breathing
Mindfulness: Meditation and Relaxation
10 Percent Happier


Go One Deeper with Spirit Daughter Moon Workbooks

Scorpio Full Moon Workbook from Spirit Daughter

For the astrologically inclined, I’m a die-hard fan of the Full Moon and New Moon workbooks from the mindful mavens at Spirit Daughter. Each one comes ripe with information about the celestial seasons, and have incredible resources for those wishing to either begin a meditation practice or develop theirs further.

With various subscription levels, including paper based versus digital, and monthly packages versus either their seasonal full or new moon books. I’m a bit old-school in that I love having things hand written, but I’ve heard fab things about the digital version as well!


Try Meditative Tarot

At the end of the day – each of us is going to have a mindfulness or meditation practice that is as unique as they are. I’m more of a yoga-journal-active meditation type of gal; I like to be more engaged than simply ruminating in the feeling – I also seem to have the attention span of a goldfish. So if I’m going to sit and journal my meditations, I eventually start bringing out either my tarot cards, spirit animal cards or rune stones; the whole practice brings up ideas, patterns and emotions that I’m more open to exploring with a clear head – often leading me to an existential epiphany that brightens my mood, day, or both.


What are some of the most useful tips and tricks you’ve learned that have helped you with your meditation practice?

[Health Rx] Taking Care of Your Care Takers

Back a few months ago when my parents were visiting for Christmas break, we broke into one of our typically deep dinner-prep conversations that usually span topics like life philosophy, religion, love, politics, and basketball.  Basically, any of those topics that you were always told to steer away from – that’s where we go, immediately. Over Thanksgiving when my family first met Danny, one of the first group discussions we got into was answering my aunt’s question: “What’s your vice?”.  Not that we’ve ever cared about taking turns, but this time it was definitely mine – as we sat around, glasses of wine and beer in hand, I turned to them and whimsically wondered “When did you first realize that you were an adult?” After some bemused chuckles in the room,  we finally got to some answers that ranged from when they paid off their first car loan to when they got the keys for their first apartment.  Up to the end of last year, I can’t say that I felt much like an adult in any way, shape or form but that’s all been flipped on it’s head in the last few months.

One of the biggest psychological issues that we all deal with as we grow up is the idea of mind-body duality: I am a conscious entity, and I’m being expressed through a separate physical body.  Our entire life feels like a reconciliation of these two ideas as we learn to live with both in perpetual symbiosis. As we age past midlife, the crux of our life’s parabolic function, the more our lives revert back to mirroring infancy and the older we get the more the mind body duality tends to re-separate, and their relationship seems to be in revolt: My consciousness feels fine, while my body is anything but.  It’s one thing to recognize this in ourselves, but quite another entirely when it’s happening to a parent, when you have to take care of your care takers

Let’s face it, we’ve been the ones that have had to be cared for…up until now. But somewhere along the way to the rest of our lives, we just had to grow up.  We got older, we evolved, we matured into ourselves and we started figuring out how to be adults. Child, sister, brother, teenager, adult, wife, husband, mother, father, grandparent…of all the roles that we either briefly or permanently assume over the course of our lives, the most inevitable role – the one that we’re least prepared for – is the part of care taker.  All egos included in the scenario are off kilter – more often than not, our parents and peers don’t want to accept care from their children.  We’re the people they looked after with gleeful and conscious delight for our whole lives, they cleaned our scraped knees and wiped away our tears….and now, we’re supposed to be their strength?  In short, yes.

Self Care + Proper Proper Prioritization

Maslow had his hierarchy of needs, and you do, too.  While we stress about taking care of those we love, we often forget to take care of our number one – ourselves, so let’s talk about you and how to best take care of yourself in these difficult times. In order to maintain any semblance of normalcy and or sanity, you’ll want to keep some semblance of your old schedule, at the bare bones minimum you’ll want to focus on maintaining a comfortable routine.When it comes to taking care of loved ones, chances are you’re going to have to rearrange the order of parts your pyramid of priorities.

Mind, Body and Soul

Your well being and the well being of those your caring for now catapult to the top of your list, and a lot of things will fall to the wayside – for now, it’s okay to let it. Your social circle and the social circle of those that you’re helping need to be aware of what you’re going through so they can figure out the best way to be supportive of what you’re experiencing. It’s not the most fun, but be prepared to put-off your less permanent plans while you get some necessary nesting in.

Beyond your metal health and emotional health, your physical health is equally important.  Make sure you’re maintaining your daily meals and getting in the necessary calories, because you can’t take care of those you love if you’re not taking care of yourself.  If you can make it to the gym, go ham – if you can’t, don’t stress!  Try your luck with a local yoga studio, or get up, get out and go for walk around the neighborhood.

The Value of a Support System

Life can be tricky, but having a good support system makes it a hell of a lot easier for everyone. We’re not just talking about those you’re taking care of, but you.  Be honest with yourself on what you need, and between your pride and your ego: don’t be afraid to ask. You have people in your life that love you to the moon and back, and would want to be there for you any way they can – let them. Whether its a quick phone call at lunch, an impromptu dinner date or a little text that just says they’re thinking of you, having people in your life that you can depend on to love you when you need it is everything.

Stay Organized

With any health issue, comes pounds and pounds of paperwork to be sorted.  Some of it can be tossed – though, I emphatically believe that you shred personal information instead. My recommendation is to keep a detailed medical diary – especially if there are multiple medications to deal with.  Create a table with pertinent information, wound changes, medical dosages, etc and be sure to input any changes to their status in the diary. Beyond the health issues at hand, there are a lot of non-medical financial numbers and paperwork to handle when you’re in assist mode, so make sure you stay on top of it with some organizational help.  Draw up a bill calendar and make sure they’re on auto-pay to reduce stress of late payments and shut off fees.

Taking care of the people that have always taken care of you can seem like a daunting task, but know you are beautiful in your selfless sacrifice, in your vulnerability, and in your depth. Do you have any pieces of advice for those out there in care taker mode?  Let me know in the comments below.

Love and light to all of you.

Xx

 

 

[Self Discovery] Marinate In Your Mindfulness

As I’ve reveled in recent experiences, both on a personal level and a global level, I’ve recognized the need in myself to be mindful – to be aware of the present moment, less anxious about the past and unfazed by future worries.  When you truly wrap your head around the ephemeral nature of life, you’ll realize how many moments you’ve wasted by mentally occupying other temporal space. Though daydreaming is nice every once in a while, the perpetual wish to  be in another place, have another job, or be surrounded by different people constantly disengages the mind from your current reality, taking you out of the actual moment at hand.

 

As defined by both yogis and psychologists – the state of mindfulness involves an active focus on the present with purposeful attention to the moment at hand.  Living in the space of mindfulness means our mind is open to being in the now, while feelings and thoughts are processed impartially as nonjudgmental experiences. By engaging in mindful behavior, we’re actively raising our personal vibration and the vibration of the global, collective consciousness.

 

 

Mindfulness is a simple recognition that there is something greater than us that dwells within each and every conscious being.  There’s a light that we all carry inside our hearts, a light that pours into others and collectively illuminates the world – or a light that can be extinguished by others if misused or misplaced.  To me, the light that is in each and every one of us is our Spirit Molecule, our God Particle. God isn’t something beside is, outside of us or separate from us – God is within all of us, God is the spark of consciousness that acknowledges the world in all of it’s forms, God is the catalyst for us to live with respect, love and honor – for not only ourselves, but the world that we inhabit and the greater, global consciousness that we all play a role in.

To recognize and acknowledge this light within others, that’s what yoga practitioners refer to as namaste; for anyone who’s frequented the festival circuit or rave scene, it’s been passionately referred to as PLUR and for those simply meandering the world, you might just think of them as vibes; however you refer to them, they’re a collective call to the common good and a reminder that we’re all part of something greater than us.

In small ways,  we can practice mindfulness every day.  When your creative and mental juices are flowing, there’s no choice but to be fully immersed within the present moment: you’re drawn to the now.  Whether it’s a visual art like painting, pottery or graphic design, dance, flow arts, singing, practicing yoga, creating music, or delving into a hobby like crocheting, gardening, photography, writing, baking or cooking – you’re building upon what has been created while evolving the craft carefully; sometimes with expert timing but always with an artistic vision and passionate drive.  Life itself isn’t very different.

Activate With Exercise

Whether you fancy a hearty run, a solid workout or a flow yoga class – by engaging your mind and body in synchronicity, you’re actively engaging in mindful behavior. C.S. Lewis famously said “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Whatever your personal thoughts are on the issue of mind-body duality, you can’t deny that in this lifetime we’re only allotted one physical body.  Our parents, gym teachers, athletic coaches and doctors have implored that our body is a temple and we should treat it as such.  But as we reach adulthood, more often than not that advice falls by the wayside while schedules climb into the far reaching corners of our calendar: we tell ourselves we can’t find the time, but the reality is we just don’t want to.  Somewhere, in our misaligned, personalized version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – whether it’s because of the stress of a demanding job, an overbearing social schedule, or potentially even anxiety or depression – our physical health has ceased to be a priority.  The good news is that now is the perfect time to change our attitude about how active our lifestyles are.

Exercise like strength training in the gym or running can eliminate any sort of stress or anxiety through the release of endorphins; hormones the body naturally releases as opioid activators that work simultaneously to enhance mood and reduce anxiety.  While engaging in weekly yoga and meditation practices have been proven to improve creative thinking and concentration while decreasing stress by calming the center of the nervous system.

Get Up and Give Back

Love is boundless energy, and one of the only emotions that we can physically, mentally and emotionally both give and receive.  When we’re peace with our own love and able to love ourselves with every fiber of our beings, we’ll be in a prime position to both receive and give love to the world around us. Once you become aware of what you can give back to the world, it’s wonderful to realize that there are multiple ways to physically, emotionally and mentally give back to your immediate community – including neighborhood groups, community service and volunteer organizations. By actively opening your heart for altruistic activities and engaging yourself by assisting those who are less fortunate, you become an important cog in the wheel of life and an integral reason the loving world keeps turning and turning.

Websites like Volunteer Match and Create the Good will link volunteers up with a menagerie of local organizations that are constantly seeking volunteers; if you already have a hunch how you want to help,  a simple search for more prominent, national programs for the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club of America and the American SPCA will turn up cause specific opportunities at a local level.

Expand Your Mind

When I was younger, I could charge through a book in a under a week – sometimes even a day if I really fell down the literary rabbit hole.  Over the last three years as this blog has blossomed, I’ve found that the more I entertain the writing process – the less and less I’ve been reading.  So lately, I’ve taken it upon myself to really carve out some time in my day to sit and enjoy some good reads. Yes, books transport you to another location, whether antiquated or fantastical – but when you read, you’re fully immersing yourself in a moment, a moment that you can share with other book lovers and curated by the author.  Instead of rushing to the last page like the finish line of a sprint, consider yourself in for a long walk in the park – remember, the goal is to enhance mindfulness – not just your page count.

Not only are these books incredible on an individual level – it so happens that they all tie into each other very nicely.  Truth be told, I would recommend any book by any of these authors – but these five are my first picks.

Whether you’re reading, meditating or getting yourself into a lovely yoga groove, I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite music to philosophize, relax and marinate in my mindfulness to, including the likes of Emancipator, Bonobo, Major Lazer’s Robot Heart Sunrise Set, Random RabAeroplane, The Human Experience and more. As a pro-tip: anything labeled a ‘sunrise set’ is bound to be extra vibey, so strap in and let loose- as you set off on a blissful, audio adventure.

Through daily attention to yoga, meditation, literature, music and community service, I’ve rediscovered myself on my pursuit of mindfulness while finding ways to expand my mind, body and soul and better give back to the world around me.This is how I choose to spread my light – how do you choose to honor and spread yours? What are your favorite ways to practice mindfulness and inhabit the present moment? Let me know in the comments below.  To close, I’d like to leave you with some quotes from my favorite reads on mindfulness:

“Cultivate solidity. You are somebody; you are something. You are a positive factor for your family, for society, for the world. You have to recover yourself, to be yourself. You have to become solid again. You can practice solidity in everyday life. Every step, every breath you take should help you become more solid. When you have solidity, freedom is there too.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds”
Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

“Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”
Alan W. Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

“Do you really want to be happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got.”
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

“For every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree. To manifest individuality, every branch must have a sensitive connection with the tree, just as our independently moving and differentiated fingers must have a sensitive connection with the whole body. The point, which can hardly be repeated too often, is that differentiation is not separation.”
Alan W. Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Namaste.

[Artist Spotlight] Late Night Radio

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For the last few weeks while I’ve been moving, I’ve been making a point of slowly but surely migrating from the bottom right of the Lightning in a Bottle flyer up to the top left just so I could really understand the entire breadth of the line-up.  I made it about three lines up until I had to stop myself because my ears were swimming with a new sound; something that found it’s identity somewhere between the groovy rhythms of MoTown Soul, the raw emotions of Hip Hop and our new age electronic influences. Originally from Houston but now residing in Denver, Late Night Radio – known to friends as Alex Medellin – puts a fresh take on old favorites; transforming classics into revamped masterpieces in incredible Vinyl Restoration series as well as his EP’s – Far Into The Night and Concrete Collage.  They’re so funky and retro, but with a unique flare of Electro Soul that keeps you dancing minute after minute.

Each time I’ve gone back to the lineup, I find myself going right on back to LNR – and each time I listen to his mixes, I find a new moment to covet or song to obsess over.  I’ve even converted my boyfriend and our housemate into fans – and as it stands, we’re more excited about LNR at LIB than almost everyone else on the lineup.  His collaborations with Robotic Pirate Monkey are obscenely amazing but I’d have to say, my current favorites are ‘For Dreamers’ – and his latest mix in the VR series.

I can picture it now: a lazy Saturday afternoon in the beautiful, Monterey sunshine – hundreds of smiling faces, of every age and every type of music lover – grinnin’ and groovin’ to some of these LNR sounds…

Keep up with Late Night Radio across their socials –

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