Monthly Archives: March 2017

Why Meditate?

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I’ve just returned from Dr. John Preston’s Brain Conference on Positive Emotions. He shared research on brain health–linking it to foods, medicinals, and what else? meditation. He suggests 10-15 minutes a day.

Why meditate?

Stimulating the front lobes suppresses activity in the amygdala. The amygdala is impulsive, reactive, prone to false alarms, and loves to ruminate. Worry, impulsive behavior, bad moods, and anxiety are your amydala running the show.

Whenever you calm yourself down, interrupt negativity, or stop yourself from impulsive behavior, you’re frontal lobes are activated and excreting BNFD (a protective hormone). A feeling of calm and well-being can replace negative states of mind. Whats the best way to get lots and lots of this feeling? Meditate.

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Practicing detaching from your thoughts,  can be protective to your brain’s health. Protective. Strange, huh?

Our amygdalas get coated with early experiences in our families, creating high sensitivity and pattern recognition to stimulus. Small things can make us freak out with emotional reactivity. Its responsible for a lot of negative self talk and relationship drama.

Our frontal cortexes need training to exert “top down control.” Meditation is the most effective, powerful tool for increasing your capacity to regain~and maintain equanimity.

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There are several ways to meditate, if you think about it. Walking meditation, eating meditation, laying in bed meditation, riding the bus meditation, sitting on the lawn meditation.

Don’t get stuck thinking you have to sit a special way or wear yoga pants. Phooey. As long as you follow these two ideas, you’re meditating and receiving the benefit:
1. breath slowly and deeply
2. detach from your thoughts, watch them, but don’t follow them, just for 10 minutes, let them go by. Repeat #1.

Anywhere you go, you can fit in a little meditation. Next time your up in the hills on a hike and see a beautiful view, sit down and empty your mind. Now you’ve exercised your body and protected your brain.

At the brain health conference, 200 of us closed our eyes, practiced detaching and breathing several times during the day. It was kinda powerful. Try adding little meditations through your day?  Getting present this way activates your frontal lobes ~and your well-being.

Animals do it all the time!

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Accept Yourself Now

Take a look at these faces. Mirror neurons allow you to feel what they are feeling: Mirror neurons live inside the brain, allowing humans to read each other in split seconds. What are they feeling? Depressed, worried, sad, frustrated?

This is an article on performance, anxiety and depression. Its about growing up in a family where love was conditional.

Jennifer Santos Madriaga, writes:

Prove yourself. “For years my life was defined by deep feelings of inadequacy as well as concurrent actions of striving to keep those feelings at bay. Even as a young child, I felt nothing I did was good enough, and I can still recall feelings of intense anxiety, sometimes terror, at simply waking up and knowing I had to go to school.  While my parents meant well, I was inculcated with the belief that to be loved meant having to prove your worth each and every day, which meant doing things in a certain way—staying quiet, doing what you were told, getting good grades, taking certain subjects.  In other words, I was given a supposed checklist of success, which would supposedly lead to this elusive state called “happiness.”

I must not fail. I was taught to be competitive, to believe that my self-worth was directly tied to accomplishment. I could not be of value unless I achieved something. This is a belief system embraced by many, and for me, it only served to deepen the feelings of emptiness and downright devastation that I experienced, especially if I failed at something. When one lives in a constant state of competition, there is no such thing as ever being good enough. One lives in a constant fear that you have to PROVE yourself at every turn.

Is this all there is? Even as I continually achieved and collected accolades, I suffered from constant panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression. Therapy and anti-depressants would provide short-lived respite. However, even as I spent most of waking time dedicated to “doing,” part of me was suspicious of what the point exactly was to all this “doing.” A secret voice was always asking, “Is this all there is?” Part of me was deeply ashamed that this voice even existed. After all, society was reinforcing that I was doing things the “right way.” I dutifully checked off the items on my checklist of success, completely believing that once I completed each task, I would be closer and closer to that state called “happiness.” However, with each accomplishment, I only felt empty.

Living externally A part of me resigned myself to believing that perhaps what I really wanted could never be attained, that it was elusive and outside myself. But even as I tried to give into resignation, that voice and its question “Is this all there is?” continued to plague me. I had become an adult and done everything that was expected of me. And I was completely miserable. “Is this all there is?” became an accusation. But I busied myself with tasks to which I attached great importance. I cooked gourmet meals. I traveled to faraway places. I did yoga. I went through the motions of what a good life was supposed to be, never realizing in all those years that what I had longed for resided within myself. My self-worth still resided in the external— from accomplishments and material possessions, in the need for validation from others. It never occurred to me that I could give myself validation because I had never been taught that.

Self acceptance. I remember back in 2001 discovering a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he spoke about suffering. It struck a chord with me, but I could not understand it. For he said to lessen suffering in the world, you had to reduce suffering within yourself. That concept seemed completely foreign to me. I did not understand how lessening MY suffering could possibly lessen the suffering of others. So even when we are well-meaning in focusing on the suffering of others, it only serves to distract from addressing what needs to change within ourselves.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Fast forward to the present, I now realize that we cannot possibly give or receive love without knowing love within ourselves first. And how did I finally understand this? It was when I heard the words, “Who you are… is enough.”  I don’t know from whom or exactly when I heard this, but the concept was so revolutionary to me that I shed tears. And for the first time, I felt free. I have heard this mantra echoed numerous times from many spiritual teachings and teachers since hearing it the first time, but I finally understood what Thich Nhat Hanh meant.

I have dedicated the past few years to releasing my old belief systems related to worthiness. When the inner voice asked the question “Is there all there is?” it was really asking, “Are you good enough?” And the answer has been and always will be, “I am enough.”

Fresh Start?

You know you need a fresh start.

Here’s some excerpts from Dana Claudet on Fresh Starts. If you’ve been feeling stuck, blue, or bored – a fresh start may be exactly what you need.

A fresh start can fill us with optimism and excitement.
It’s not always convenient to make a fresh start. After all, there’s already so much going on and so many things we’re committed to.
Here are a few signs that a fresh start may be overdue:
1. You’re always late.
Lateness is often a big sign of chaos or disconnection from the day. It’s a sign you’re not as committed as you could be.
2. You feel perpetually uninspired.
When you can’t find pleasure in simple things– or even big and splashy things, this reflects that your deepest self may be deprived.
3. You’re waiting for a breakthrough because you’re tired of the way things are.
Monotony doesn’t end through magical acts of intervention by the universe, like a big lottery win or meeting your twin flame soul mate. Most of the time, you have to actively choose to break out of the rut you’re in!
4. Clutter overwhelms you.
All around your spaces, your car, your room, is peripheral mess. Try organizing it, getting rid of it, paying attention to it: it moves energy.
5. You feel drained by your days rather than energized by them.
If your routine takes the life out of you rather than bringing you fulfillment, you may need a fresh start.
6. You’re tempted to make excuses and blame people for how you feel.
When the boredom, drained energy and chaos carries on for too long, I notice that’s typically when responsibility flies out the window and its everyone else’s fault. But, can you be clear how you are responsible for creating something that feels really exhausting, repetitive or dull? It will help.
7. You have a lot of mood swings.
This is when the roller coaster ride of chaos seems to really be setting in and it’s become a habit to feel cluttered, overwhelmed and drained. The misperception is “I never have time to do what I really want”- which isn’t true.
8. You perpetually talk about making a big change, but don’t do it.
The breaking point usually comes when it feels far better to take a risk and dare to break old habits/make a fresh start– than to stay miserable.

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joshua tree, CA

You probably want to know how to start making that fresh start?

There’s no instruction manual for the fresh start you specifically need, but lots of life coaches focus on getting to a deeper part of yourself. Grab a journal or notebook and begin by jotting down responses to these questions:

1. Analyze your happiness:
What have been the 10 peak experiences in your life so far? (Include times in childhood). Who were you with? What were your thoughts? What were your emotions? Analyze your happiness.
2. Analyze yourself in relationship to others:
Who are your favorite people? How do they make you feel? What do you value about them? Who are you when you’re with them?
3. Analyze your days:
What the part of your day where you feel most focused, alert, engaged? How would you enhance your awareness and deepen your experience in that part of your day?
4. Analyze and deepen your creativity: When do you feel most creative, imaginative, full of ideas, or like your brain is energized? What are your I textual or artistic creative outlets? How can you enhance their place in your daily life?

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Here are a few Basics to generate energies for a fresh start:
-Clean your house/office/studio
You’d be surprised how much a detailed, clean space can do for your mind! Read up on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
-Water is the element of fresh starts. You might want to take more baths or swim if you can. Ice baths have been proven to create euphoria for up to 5 hours after soaking in water with 2 bags of ice!
-Go Adventure
It’s one of the best ways to get rid of bad habits and habitual thought patterns. Hike in the woods. Take a long, long walk. Vacation.
-Create
Create art, write songs or poetry, take photos, paint, garden, write your biography, design food, sculpture, or sing. There are tons of guides and tutorials online to support you. Your creative energy is the best–and endless–source of living a great life.
What ways do you create a fresh start for yourself? Share…we all need to hear the encouragement.

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Journaling~ prompts for dialoguing with yourself

“Above is a photo of all the journals I’ve been writing in since about 1981.  I have more from high school and earlier, in a box, in my dad’s attic. Why keep a journal? To catch your ideas, process your feelings, and know yourself.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” —Jack London.

Austin Kloen, author of “Steal Like an Artist” has a helpful video on journaling to capture your creative ideas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pktz3rPM2QI. I’ll share my personal favorite tips in a minute.

Its important to journal, because you’re talking to yourself, you’re focusing on your thoughts, and your inner life. Lots of daily life is passively watching stuff outside ourselves. Journaling is a chance to stay connected to your inner self. If you’re in transition, physically or emotionally, keeping a journal handy–keeps you processing with yourself.

When I was 14, I would journal about 14-yo issues such as my wonky emotions regarding boys, and all about my best friends and our insane gossip and worry about everyone. When I was 18, I started trying to write poems,  wanting to sound like  Jeff Jewell and the Beat poets–not many original thoughts or images, but lotsa heart. When I went to college, I used journaling to process heady, philosophical thoughts, and liked to pretend I was an intellectual. In my mid-20’s, I used journals for annotating every book I read. There were a couple of travel journals in there (England/Scotland), full of memorable little drawings.  A journal can be a friend who goes everywhere with you, a little buddy to pour your heart out to.

By my 30’s I was back to annotating books, capturing favorite quotes, and writing lists of creative ideas. Ah lists. This is now my drug of choice. Lately, I have been making these lists inside my own handmade books.   Making inspirational lists is so hopeful,  and tickles my A.D.D. bone so hard, that’s its unlikely I’ll ever stop.

Here are my favorite journaling ideas/prompts by Mr. Kloen, along with a few of my own. I would argue that these enhance your inner dialogue with yourself and help optimize you and your relationship with YOU:

-write down 9-10 things you’d like to learn to do

-write something to cross out. That’s right, get used to generating ideas, not necessarily ones you’ll fulfill, but that keep you generating ideas. Take the top idea, and formulate 2-3 steps towards it.

-doodle until you get an idea (I like to think a word is a doodle). Or, doodle a feeling, until you want to write about it.

-write what was the best moment, day or month of this past year and why. Notice how this exercise focuses you on what you care about.

-sit in your studio or office, look around, write about the most interesting thing you see

-write about the sublime and the mundane…what are you taking care of? Diet? Pets? Plants? What needs to be let go of?

-hang onto mementos, cards. Use a little envelope glued to the inside of the back flap to keep these…what are the feelings they generate? Do those feelings tell you about whats important in your life?

Become a journalista, for processing and reflecting on the most important relationship you have: the one with inner self.