[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

Headspace logo

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?

[Self Discovery] The Serenity of the Sea

 “My life is like a stroll upon the beach, as near to the ocean’s edge as I can go”
— 
Henry David Thoreau —

Summer in SD

Ever just feel the need to get away? Not to necessarily escape from life, but to take a midweek vacation from all the humdrum stress of your vocation and whatever else might be plaguing or mentally exhausting you.  Lately, there’s been this large itch to jump in the car and not be home – maybe it’s the incredible heat waves we’ve been having in Los Angeles proper, maybe it’s the fact I’ve formally lived in Los Angeles for a decade now; irregardless, lately I’ve had this distant itch that I’ve needed to scratch from sandier locations.

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I work from home and have been working from home for the last five or so years.  It’s a wonderful life, but at the same time – it can make for some stir crazy mornings and cabin fever-esque afternoons.  Thankfully, for the last few weeks, I’ve been blessed enough to tag along while my dad goes on a few work trips down to gorgeous and sunny San Diego, and every now and again I’ve also been jumping in the car with Danny and working from anywhere that cell phone service exists along the Southern California coast.  From Santa Monica, to Long Beach, San Pedro down to Orange County and San Diego – the California Coastline down here has a bevvy of beautiful beaches, ripe and ready for adventures.

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With seventeen miles of coastline and nearly 5000 acres of land, San Diego boasts an incredible amount of beaches per capita, each with their own unique charm, from Ocean Beach to Encinatas and back to Moonlight Beach – you simply can’t go wrong as you bounce from one sandy piece of heaven to the next.  Yes, of course beaches will be crowded – have you met Summer in SoCal?! – so be sure to head there with plenty of time to spare and plenty of sun and sand to be had.

Travel up the coast a bit and you’ll hit the beautiful beaches of Orange County and Newport, including the stunning 1000 Steps Beach.  But I’ll be honest, the only version of the OC I like is the show – and it’s primarily because I can put it on mute. Anyhow, just a hop, skip and a jump up and you’ll reach shores of San Pedro and Angels Gate Park, where notorious scenes from my all time favorite movie were played out in the 90’s.  Can you name the movie? I won’t give it away!  Nestled between two coastlines in a sprawling green park that overlooks the coast, you’ll find the fabled ‘Koren Friendship Bell‘ in all of its vibrant glory and impeccable hand crafted detail.

Los Angeles itself is known as much for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as it is the menagerie of beaches against its coast.  Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Point Dume – you simply can’t go wrong.  Now, it’s definitely a personal decision, but Danny and I typically off for the off the beaten path locations with less people – the more of a tourist trap it is, the less peace, quiet and space you’ll have, you know – if you’re into that sort of thing.

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“Don’t underestimate the healing power of these three things:
music, the ocean, and the stars.” 

Hypnotically beautiful with brooding turbulence underneath, the Ocean water mimics the human condition: meeting new highs and pulsing lows, bringing rocky baggage ashore and washing herself clean of the past, pulling new ideas back undertow and ingraining them in her personality. Summer in SD

It’s as if the waters have found themselves in the midst of mindful meditation that you can’t help but immulate: with this wave – I’m breathing in, with this wave – I’m breathing out.

 

No matter the mood or emotion I bring to the water’s edge with me, it’s always washed away and I’m left feeling rooted, as the soles of my feet and tips of my toes edge their way in and around millions of grains of sand that each have thousands of years of stories to tell.  Twisting my head to and fro to see as far as the eyes can see, I’m inexplicably drawn to the cascading of blues that measure where the sky and sea are drawn together in an almost hand painted gradient.  It’s here, that I shed my snakeskin of the past to the salt and air and become again.

Where do you go when your soul needs to refresh?

 

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom] Get Your Zen On

Even though the month is only halfway through – to say that it’s been a long, or emotionally charged last few weeks would be an enormous understatement.  The good news, is that every situation provides a catalyst for change provided we’re honest with ourselves about our intentions, both past, present and future.  Over the last few years, I’ve found myself more and more enthralled and in touch with my spirituality – and since I was never raised within the construct of organized religion, I’ve been coveting the small moments that I feel truly connected and at one with the universe surrounding me, as well as within me.

A lot of thanks is due to Depak Chopra; it’s not that I know the man personally (though, I’d love to sit down with him and pick his brain), but through his website he offers a free, 21-day guided meditation course – often topical, with focuses on personal intentions, love, etc. Though it’s only for a few minutes a day, it provides a wonderful jumping off point for anyone unfamiliar with meditation.  The first time I completed a course was two years ago when I ventured off to Arkansas for a work trip, and ever since – I’ve noticed a wonderful, peaceful shift in the way I approach the world in times of chaos, as well as times of calmness.   Sometimes, when I meditate on my own – I use a little literary inspiration; here’s a collection of my favorite quotes on seeking peace, finding tranquility and establishing your internal equilibrium.

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[Oh, Snap!] An Afternoon at the Huntington Botanical Gardens

Between my father and step mom being in town, and Danny’s mom heading down for the day – we’ve been inundated with family time, and it’s been perfect! Last night we went out on the town with my family, grabbed some sushi and enjoyed downtown Pasadena. Today, we thought we’d try something new so we cruised down to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens for a beautiful adventure.  Revered as one of the world’s epicenters for culture, research and education – the Huntington itself is a Non Profit institution founded by Henry Huntington back in 1919, almost a century ago.  During his lifetime, Huntington procured and collected an immense collection of art, classic and historical literature and my personal favorite – an assortment of botanical gardens from all over the world.  From the Australian outback to the Jungles, to Chinese and Japanese Gardens to the Rose and Herb Gardens, and with over 120 acres to the Huntington – there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

To start, we wound around to the Chinese Gardens to admire the lush vegetation, incredible architecture adorned with sacred geometry and the most delicious iced jasmine tea I’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping down.

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After spending an hour meandering through the Chinese Gardens, we waltzed down by the running river and into the Japanese Gardens, to find an area adorned with the most extensive assortment of bonsai trees I’ve seen in my entire 30 years of existence.  I swear, some of the trees were nearly a century old and so incredibly miniature!

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As we exited we were pulled into the canopies by the rose gardens while we caught our breath (it was almost 100 degrees out, mind you) and wouldn’t you know it but we stumbled right upon the full glory of their rose gardens, with so many different and beautiful hybrids.

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Finally, as we left four hours later we had to stop and smell – and eat! – the edible herb garden; I tasted a flower that tasted sweet and peppery – I so wish I remembered the name right now, but it was as beautiful as it was delicious.

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With the size of the Gardens themselves, here’s simply no way to see everything on the grounds but boy, did we ever try.  Do you have a favorite local botanical garden that you enjoy? Whether it’s in the Southern California region or across the globe, I’d love to get some ideas on other amazing botanical garden’s to fawn over.