Modern Meditation Profile – Shalini Bahl

Shalini Bahl – “…what was left, was the most profound silence I had ever experienced.”

In many ways, Shalini Bah, the founder of The Mindful Universe, is like myself. She is like so many of you. She pursued a conventional path until she faced an awakening of sorts; within a shaman’s circle in the jungles of Costa Rica.

It was, as she put it, “a pivotal point in my life. It is where I started breaking down my barriers and discovered my true calling.”

Shalini grew up in a very loving space, and a very comfortable environment in Kuwait. She got married and started on the path that was expected of her, but not one she necessarily chose for herself. Her marriage was not what she thought it should be, and increasingly dissatisfied with the life before her, she asked for a divorce – something a woman in India simply did not do.

After her divorce she began to question what she had grown to accept in her world. It was at that time that she, by her own admission, came out of a very dark place in her life. She moved to the United States to pursue a PhD. It wasn’t until several pauses occurred in her life, that she began to reflect upon all that she had gone through.

She remarried and began following a traditional path, when she had an opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with her second husband and son to take part in a Shamanic ritual. Upon arrival there they were explained that the ritual involved drinking Ayahuasca and would last all night long.

As someone who grew up in a culture where alcohol was shunned, let alone hallucinogenics, she was skeptical about trying it. Her husband decided not to participate. She remembers thinking that she “should not” drink a hallucinogenics when a small voice in her asked, “says who?” She felt that she was there for a reason and had to go through it, even though it was the most frightening thing she had done in her life – sitting with 100 strangers in the middle of the forest for an all-night ceremony that involved drinking Ayahuasca.

The first time she joined the Shaman’s circle and drank the Ayahuasca, she felt her senses open up for the first time. It was enough of a taste that she decided to attend the second ceremony. On the second night she received a larger amount and within minutes could feel the energy being pulled out of her body. She felt like she was being asked to jump off into the unknown at the end of a dark roller coaster ride. As she put it, “I could hear my very academic voice, my parental voice, giving advice that this was not real, but the fear was real. I could feel my fear of death, my fear of life, echo within me. I resisted all night and eventually in the early morning hours I gave in and surrendered to it. What was left was the most profound silence I had ever experienced.”

“I realized the noise of my mind, a noise I had relied upon my entire life, that everything I had prided myself on was meaningless. I realized how so many of the conversations that we have are there to show how smart we are. I was always an “A” student, and suddenly here I was in a place where a lot of that was without importance. As were a lot of my ideals – right or wrong.”

It left her feeling shaky and ungrounded. She knew her experience was not real, but then she began to ask, if that was not real, then what is?

When she returned to the United States and to U Mass, she used her experience as a subject for her dissertation. It was during the writing that she realized what the various voices were. They were the same voices we all have, that compete for our attention.

The title of her dissertation was; Multiple Selves and The Meanings They Give to Consumptions

Her dissertation was published in a top marketing journal. It led to a job on the faculty of a well known university. All was going well, but her changed perspective on her experience kept coming back to her.

She was somehow changed by her experience in a way that others began to notice. Even her son, at one point, commented on her new ability to remain open and say “that’s interesting. Let’s explore that,” instead of shooting a new idea down.

“When things are going fine, you don’t ask. It is only when things begin to turn upside down that you begin to explore the source of your suffering and very often you are the source.”

It was not long before her second divorce was finalized, “when I wondered what I should do, I realized it was not my husband, it was me who had changed. I was not trying to be a rebel, but realized that the choices I had made in the past lacked awareness of who I was and what I wanted in a relationship,” she recalls.

“I was stuck on a track I had been set on by society and by my family. Never once did I ask what I wanted in life. It was only after leaving my job as a tenure track professor to marry and this time with more awareness, did I ask myself, if I could do anything, what would it be and the answer was clear, it was to teach mindfulness.”

Because of her academic training and business experience she chose to bring mindfulness to business and academia and started to look for a training that would be secular and accessible to these audiences. “The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program was ideal for what I had in mind and was only 45 minutes away from where I lived, so I underwent my training there. I remember the first time trying the choiceless awareness meditation and finding it so clinical and boring. Immediately something within me realized that all along I had used my practice to find bliss and get into a particular state rather than be ok and fully present with what ever is arising. In that moment I was able to see my striving even in my practice.” It opened a new door – a level of peace and calm, away from all the striving – and allowed her to just feel what was.

Earlier on she had explored Zen and different forms of Meditations. Neither really fit her life or her style. Neither aligned with her views, or her need for a less dogmatic approach. After leaving such a formal growing up, she did not want to be tied to any specific doctrine. Like many of us, she wanted a touch of spirituality but she also needed to fulfill the scientific approach she had grown with, to create a solid foundation from which to launch. The mindfulness meditation gave her the freedom to explore each experience for what it is with curiosity and compassion and has been her practice of choice since then.

“When I feel that I am tight, I can contemplate what is going on around me and understand how that relates to what is within me. Once I identify the dominant thought in my life, I can then choose what I want to do with that thought instead of the thought dictating my actions on autopilot.”

Today, it is these times of mindfulness that bring her back to a sense of balance. It affords her a point of balance with which to calm herself and enhance the quality of her awareness. Creating the quality of her awareness so that she can understand what she needs in that moment.

She laughs, “I still get triggered in certain situations, but I find I now step back to pause, so that I can return to a state of objectivity. This can happen before sending an email or enjoying a true dialogue. I find that I bring my practice of non-judgment and of curiosity so I can respond more skillfully to the world and the people around me. It is amazing to see the mind – and realize how you still cannot be objective.

“I realized at one point, that you can live your life without seeing past the blind spots, without even seeing the blind spots. They are blind spots, so by definition you cannot see them. But with the training of meditation we can confirm our own experiences. So when an experience triggers the wrong response, we can create a change in the actions that we take while being kind to ourselves.”

“Only 5% of decisions are made consciously. The rest are made based by our subconscious mind, which is very often in a fight or flight mode, which can lead you down the wrong path, to make the wrong decisions. But this is nothing to be afraid of. In the end we can be relieved to know that we all make mistakes. We are all human. It is how we learn.”

This is one of the lessons found within her new project and her new website – The Mindful Universe.

 

[learn_more caption=”Click to See The Full Interview”]

What drew you to yoga and meditation?

What drew me to meditation was my suffering. There were personal transitions in my life in India that I didn’t take the time to process at the time. Once I moved to the US I found myself in a new country without my usual support system – family and friends – that left me feeling empty and void. This feeling of emptiness was the start of my search for answers to questions I didn’t have. I naturally fell upon meditation as a way of quieting my mind to access answers that were beyond my usual thinking mind.

Soon after I experienced my first spiritual breakthrough at a shamanic journey in Costa Rica, where I experienced complete silence of the mind after going through a night of near death experience. That broke away many beliefs I had held all my life as reality and opened me up to experiencing life in an entirely new way. I came back from that looking for a formal meditation practice and teacher. This was way back in 2002 and have been meditating since then, albeit more regularly in the past 8 years.

How have they changed your life?

Mindfulness practice has touched every aspect of my life.

The most important discovery for me has been to see the limits of my thinking mind and how mindfulness – a curious and compassionate attention to what is – helps me expand my lens to get a bigger perspective and choose more skillful responses even in challenging situations. And when I fail, this training has taught me to learn from my failures and be kind to myself.

Being an academic and researcher by training I love the inquiry based framework it offers to view my experiences with open curiosity and kindness so I continue to learn each day about places I am still stuck in autopilot, very often without my conscious knowing. It is such an aha moment every time to see that – I had no idea that I was living that aspect of my life in a limited and reactive way. We are blind to our blind spots and this practice is helping me see my blind spots.

The other thing I am working with is how can I have impact while living with ease. I am finding that once I have clarity around what it is I truly value then all I have to do is align myself with that vision and get out of my own way. Breaking away from dogmatic principles and practices.

How should a practice make someone feel?

Mindfulness meditation is an exploration into what is going on for you in this moment. When we explore with an open, gently and curious mind we reconnect with our mind, body and emotions with clarity. With this clear seeing we have access to more information about us and can make more skillful choices indtead of running on autopilot. The practice is a little counter intuitive in that we come closer to even the negative sensations and discomfort without trying to push it away. In learning to be with whatever is arising, we see our own reactivity and how we might choose differently to be a little kinder, a little more aware, toward ourselves and others.

There are times when you want to retreat to your own comfort zone, but the practice is there to see if there are any attachments you are holding onto or striving for, that can hold you back, or push you away.

People often talk about whether they are a good or bad meditator.  How does this resonate with you?

There is no wrong way to meditate. Just your intention to sit is the practice. That will help you develop the tools to be more present, more curious, more kind. You should always ask yourself if you can be more kind, more gentle, more quiet. It is okay if your mind is racing, and when you notice that you come back with kindness again and again. It is all about coming back to the present with the quality of compassion and equanimity.

The practice is about showing up each day. At a macro level, mindfulness is not a panacea for all of our problems. However, it offers a foundation for exploration in all sectors of our society. It is a broader lens for people to see the bigger picture and interconnectedness of all our actions so we may work toward finding solutions to make this a better world for everybody.

At what point did you decide to teach others?

This was a natural happening. It is not something I thought of doing but was natural to who I am in that situation. I was an assistant professor of marketing at a business school and ended up speaking with many stressed out students. At some point it became inevitable bringing in what I know about meditation and started organizing the Science of Breath seminars on campus and helped introduce the Art of Living classes on campus and in the community. Interestingly, at the time I was told by my colleagues it wasn’t my job to teach mindfulness or worry about the students’ stress and now it is my full time job. I changed my career from being a full time academic to part time and my main focus now is in bringing mindfulness to business, academia, and my community.

What do you find most rewarding about working with others?

Every time I teach I am touched by the experience of our shared humanity. It is in these moments I see how we are all one and the same no matter where we come from and what our personal history is. It has made me more empathetic in how I see people now. It is a rewarding feeling that no matter how challenging my day was, when I go in and let go of my strivings, which is an essential aspect of teaching, we all come out of the class feeling just a little more open or compassionate, in very small and big ways the difference it makes in our lives when we do this work together. It is humbling and empowering.

The other aspect of this work that energizes me is bringing mindfulness into corporate and academic settings because that’s where the rubber meets the road. Now we are not just talking about finding inner calm but how that inner calm can help us make better decisions. Exploring and seeing how mindfulness opens people up to finding their potential when they were feeling stuck or making decisions with more empathy and clarity to come up with creative solutions that maximize the well being of all stakeholders is very encouraging. It gives me hope that we can bring empathy and wisdom to make more skillful choices in education and business and now even in politics and other sectors of society.

What is your advice for someone just starting on their journey?

I know there are many self help books and programs but I recommend finding a teacher and a class that resonates with the person when they are starting out and then using the books to compliment and deepen their learning. This work and knowledge is subtle and many nuances can be missed when trying it on your own. It can leave people disillusioned or with the wrong impression that this is not for them simply because they didn’t know that what they are experiencing is normal and expected. So having a teacher who can guide through these misconceptions and the rich experience of learning from others in class and sharing in an open, authentic way is as important as the practice itself.

What should someone look for in a studio or an instructor?

I recommend trusting your intuition if the teacher’s style resonates with you. Try a free intro class with the teacher and see if it is the right fit. I would also add that humor, ease, and authenticity in the teacher typically are telling of the teacher’s embodiment of the practice. When checking out a teacher you may want to see where they got their training from since I am finding many people starting to teach mindfulness without sufficiently immersing themselves in the work. A final thing to look out for in a teacher is if they hold the interests of the participants up front or are their behaviors self-serving.

What does the term Modern Meditation mean to you?

To me modern meditation means a practice that is neither dogmatic nor prescriptive but works for every individual taking into account where they are and their personal needs. There is personal discipline involved even within modern meditation but the approach is fundamentally kind and flexible to accommodate the needs of the individual. The important question to hold gently is if the meditation is making you a little kinder, a little less reactive, and more aware in your life.

How have you adapted traditional meditation and yoga in your life outside the studio?

My formal practice of attending to the present moment with the attitude of kindness and curiosity is what I bring into life outside of the practice. It is not a striving kind of focus but a gentle awareness and presence that I remind myself to bring in my work, interactions and all activities.

How has expanding and deepening your practice, improved your life?

I lived the first half of my life without this practice and know that I lacked self awareness and agency to create a meaningful life. I ended up hurting others and myself, even when I didn’t mean to, because of my lack of awareness. This practice has changed my life and I cannot imagine living without it.

Research tell us that 99% of our DNA is shared. How can we use this concept to further humanity and the world?

The science of genetics and evolution is useful to remind us of our shared humanity. But I am always blown away with the authenticity of the connection that we feel when we come together to practice together. We all tend to judge, but at the end of an eight-week class we realize that we are all the same, we have all experienced the same emotions and want the same thing in life, to be happy.

There is an exercise I use all the time. It is to look into each other’s eyes, to acknowledge that this person across from me is just like me. They have suffered just like me. They have laughed and cried, just like me.

When I see people participate in this exercise, it is common to find people break down their barriers and cry, being moved by this person across from them. It is worth trying it. We call it Just Like Me.  It can be a very profound experience to bring out the natural state of empathy and compassion within everyone in addition to the intellectual knowing that we are connected.

What is your Simple Truth?

My simple truth is to live with open awareness, gentle curiosity and compassion. This reminder helps me to stay open to what is and notice where in my mind, body and thoughts am I holding on or resisting. What can I let go of so I may access the wisdom in this moment to choose skillful actions for the highest good of all involved? [/learn_more]

Monday Moments: Reset With A Meditation Outbreath

I know this may not be your thing, but I want you to give something a try.

I’ve been getting really great feedback from clients – including entrepreneurs and moms, executives and stay at home dads – on how good this is in breaking that thought loop and interrupting that mind chatter we all become trapped by.

It’s called the Out Breath, and it is something I wove into my meditations from a breath practice called Pranayama. Try it when the world starts to get too much for you, or when you simply need to reset.

It goes like this:

  1. When you become aware that your mind is getting stuck in a loop, or you notice that inner voice getting to be too much, gently place your attention on your breath. Just rest your awareness on the feeling of your stomach moving against your shirt and feel the fabric as it moves against your skin.
  2. Once you have caught your own attention, take a nice, slow, deep breath and feel yourself relax. When you are comfortable tighten your diaphragm and quickly back it up and back to send a small huff of air out of your lungs and out through your nose.
  3. It should feel like you are pulling your navel back and up towards your spine.
  4. Your mind may panic for a moment, but simply smile into it and take one out-breath every second.
  5. Do not worry about your inhale. Your body will take care of that on its own. Start slow and simply focus on the air as it rushes out past your nostrils.
  6. Try 12 to 15 of these in a row before pausing to take a long, slow breath in to fill your lungs.
  7. With practice you will be able to do this exercise for minutes at a time, but to start simply relax into 12 – 15 breaths, drawing your mind away from the distractions of your day and into that little huff of air that you are pushing out of your lungs.

That’s it.

When you hear the silent emptiness where your mind-chatter once was, simply smile and continue your OutBreath for a few moments more, before returning to whatever it is you were doing.

It’s an incredibly powerful way to hit the pause button in your life, day or night, and get back to enjoying your life without anybody knowing what you are doing.

I would love to hear how this has helped you refocus on work or while on a weekend escape, before or during a meeting, in the middle of a date, even while on your daily commute…

Be well and enjoy –

Monday Moments: Meditation & Doodling

By definition, a doodle is “a drawing made absentmindedly.”
Interesting.

Perhaps it is time to update the dictionary.

Now that we know what is going on in the mind of the doodler, or at least in some of the minds…

In fact, research is tells us that the mind of a doodler, either absent minded or not, is active.  Very much so.

For some, the act of doodling helps them visualize the problems and issues that the subconscious is working on. For others, it is a way to free up the subconscious to enable it to explore unchartered areas.

Recent research in neuroscience and psychology shows that doodling can actually help people stay more focused, understand new concepts and retain information more readily. A blank page can serve as an extended playing field for the brain, allowing you to refine and improve on creative thoughts and ideas.

In fact, according to a 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology, people who were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read were able to remember 29% more of the information on a surprise quiz later, than those who did not.

If you’ve never doodled before, or you are not sure how, I want to introduce you to a classic exercise called Blind Contour Drawing. It is a classic intro-to-art exercise that involves drawing an object without looking at your paper while you do so.

No, you should not expect your drawing to look like a Monet or to win any awards, but you may be surprised at how alive it actually is. As some have said, “It is a way to see, without seeing.” Better still, it is a way to truly see the object before you, free from your own interpretations that might hold you back from your own creativity and from drawing what is truly there.

If at first this is uncomfortable for you, try taking a moment to find your seat and your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply as you fix your gaze upon an object in front of you. In time to your breath and without looking at your paper, reach out and pick up your pen or pencil. Clear your mind and begin to draw without look at your paper. If you do, simply smile, blink a few times, and begin again.

Refrain from looking at your pen or your paper. Instead, notice the lines and the angles of the object before you. See the curves  and the shadows, and allow your hand to flow freely.

Allow yourself to let go as you let your hand float for a few minutes. Do not worry, your mind will not allow you to go too long. It will bring you back; and when it does feel free to look down at what you have drawn.

At first you may laugh. But as you continue to look from paper to object, you will begin to see points of connection. You will begin to see where you hand took a turn that mimicked a turn in your object. That is your cue to smile. That is the point of connection between the object, your mind and the paper before you.

It is okay to set your drawing aside. It is okay to toss it in the bin. It is also okay to remember this exercise when you need to let go of the noise in your head so that you can focus on the task before you, as we all do from time to time.

Be well, and enjoy your Blind Contour Drawing.

A sort of doodling all on its own.

 

 

 

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Monday Moment – A Productive Mindset with Meditation

There is more to a productive mindset than being focused at your desk, because there is more to your work than the time you spend at your desk. Having a productive mindset is about creating a flow that connects your work, your play, you waking and your sleeping hours together.

Having a productive mindset is about a balance between your up-time and your downtime so that your subconscious brain continues to produce the aha moments in your life when you least expect them. And that does not happen if you are filled with anxiety, stressed, or worried about your life; personally or professionally.

Those seemingly random ideas that end up being the aha moments of brilliant breakthroughs you wait for? They do not come out of nowhere. They are not sitting on a cloud that you wander into. They come, like anything, out of the hard work of your subconscious mind, and that subconscious mind only works when the noise and distractions that so often clutter it are gone. so learn to let go, not just to relax, but to open your mind up to all the wonderful possibilities waiting.

Years ago, when I was producing or ran my own agency, I found that I separated my work into several categories. The hours I actively worked on a project – perhaps two hours a day – were the only ones that “really counted,” or so I told myself. The hours I spent researching, thinking, and developing creative solutions for my client’s issues somehow did not really count as “real work.” Oh, and those hours I spent pondering in bed or during my commute – it was as if those did not even exist.

Looking back, I remember the stress and the anxiety. I also remember how there were never enough hours in the day for all the work I had to do. I remember how my anxiety often prevented me from coming up with the kind of solutions my clients so badly wanted.

Oh, how wrong I was. For it was in those seemingly wasted moments that my brain was actually free to work in its own way. It never occurred to me that the flashes of brilliance that came while listlessly staring out at the ocean on a weekend, or while feeling the water splash on my face while in the shower, only came when I felt calm and balanced and open. Rarely did they appear when I was at my desk, in my mind, “actually working” the few hours each day that I actually gave myself credit for.

It is funny, in a way, that is wasn’t until I was able to step away from my desk that I was able to see the solution that was there all along, waiting for me.

To fixate the results that end up on your desk to the time you spend at your desk is to dismiss the real work you put in all along the way. And, I equate that mindset to the post-war, industrial world most of us grew up in.

Yes, when we were an industrial nation, work was a much more physical task. The time that mattered was the time you actually spent farming, or fishing, or building. But this is the 21st Century, and your physical labor is often not what drives your results. The decisions you make at home and at play, with friends and family all influence your frame of mind, no matter what your occupation. And if your mind is filled with anxiety and distracted by the noise of your life, then there is no way that you will be able to come up with the solutions that equate to success in today’s world.

If instead, you are calm and rested, the solutions will come to you whether you are at the office every day or not. So learn to balance the different aspects of your life; both personal and professional. That includes finding a thread between work and play, health and finances, family and love and spirituality, even with your own sense-of-self. It is there waiting for you, if you know what to look for.

Only when those elements are in balance, will you be free enough to truly deliver the kind of results that you can be proud of. Only then will you be truly productive, feel accomplished, and satisfied every day and every week.

Remember that having a Productive Mindset is about more than being productive at your desk.  It is about creating a thread throughout your life in a calm and focused way.

So breathe, smile and remember to give yourself a break from time to time.  That is what will create a focused sense of calm across all of your efforts; at work or play, with family or friends, or even when you are all by yourself.

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Q+A – Meditation & Anxiety in the Modern World

A student asked me, “Why is there such angst and anxiety in the world today, and how do I cope with it?”

“Why do I worry about Russia sending warplanes over the Baltic Sea? Why do I worry when our government begins to break down? Why does my wife take a tone sometimes? Are these the same?”

My first answer is yes, they all basically come from the same place. They come from a place of fear. It is how your old brain was programmed to respond to everything in the world around you; and while you cannot change the way your brain works, you can change the way your brain processes and responds to that information.

Instead of having to respond with your fight or flight auto-response, you can train yourself to pause, to contemplate – even if for a second – and choose to take a different route than the one your primordial brain has laid out for you. In truth, you can choose to live your life your way.

The net/net is that the brain creates pathways that you live by.  We call them habits. Neuroscientists call them auto-responses; but they are so much more. They are the responses that you live your life by, and they can often lead you down a path that you will probably regret later on.

Neurologists have a saying – neurons that fire together, wire together. Eastern Philosophers have another saying, you are what you think. They are the same.

All that nervousness, that anxiousness, that angst? It is the result of the patterns that have been developed over eons of evolution. And this is the problem. Many of them date back tens, and even hundreds of thousands of years. They worked wonderfully in the past, they got us to the top of the food chain, but in the modern world you now live in, most of them have little relevance in your life.

The fear that rises when you read about other countries becoming more aggressive is no different than when a primal ancestor saw a shape moving on the horizon. The fear that rises to anger when you read about our government is no different than the worry that was felt about a field of crops failing. And the perceived tone that your wife is taking? Again, it is your old brain preparing for the worst.

If you doubt this, just think about what your brain scrolls through when any of these events take place. They are always worst case scenarios.

Always remember, there are two parts to your brain. There is the old brain that has just one objective – your survival. Then there is the modern brain, the part that most of us think of when someone asks us about the brain. It is that magnificent organ that sits on the top, the part that is responsible for the executive functions in your life.

The old brain becomes uncomfortable with anything that implies risk – taking a new route to work, watching as a new employee enters your workplace, hearing your loved one take a tone. It jumps at every ping and chirp from your mobile device just as it did when a twig snapped in the forest thousands of years ago. It keeps getting distracted by all the things going on in the world around you, looking for danger; even though most of them are completely irrelevant to your survival.

When you begin to get involved in any higher-level thinking, preparing a report, reviewing a PowerPoint file, or looking toward the future, your modern brain focuses in on the task at hand. But, your old brain is still working in the background. It kicks in when it hears a ping, sees movement out of the corner of your eye, or detects a tone. At that moment it begins releasing adrenaline and cortisol.

It starts slowly, preparing you for a potential threat, but as you respond by getting nervous, it elevates your threat-level and starts to release larger and larger amounts of these hormones [adrenaline being produced by the adrenal gland]. It is what happens when your boss calls you into a meeting out of the blue. It is what effects an architect when a client changes a floor plan.

Your modern brain realizes that taking a calculated risk is often the safest path to a secure future. Your old brain does not, and that is where the problem begins. One still thinks that the old way is best.  The other knows that in today’s world the new path is more often the right one. The result is you feel doubt and insecure as the two battle it out.

The key is to remind yourself of this when you start to feel anxious or when you feel self-doubt. Remind yourself that all that angst is simply your old brain trying to keep you safe, and bless it’s heart, what it thinks is safe is dated by more than 40,000 years.

This is why you should step back the next time you feel off and take a meditative breath to calm yourself. Then acknowledge whatever it is that is before you and label it for what it is. It may sound like “boss calling me into his office,” or “client changing something that we agreed on,” or “the one I love is using a tone with me.”

Breathe into the issue that is before you. Take a moment to contemplate just how serious it is, and then let it go. Let each issue go for now as you return to whatever it is you were doing right before it came up. Smile as you give yourself a moment to calm down before responding. If it’s on text, give yourself an hour; email? a day, because the moment you are in is probably different than the moment your old brain sees you in, even though it is right here, and right now.

Monday Moments – The Sounds in Your Life

You live in a tactile world, yet not everything is soft.

You touch the granite of the buildings as you pass.

You touch the cold glass and steel of the car before you enter.

You enjoy the hard foundation that Terra Firma provides you.

So why do you allow yourself to grow angry at the hard sounds of your life?

Perhaps it is time to rethink your approach to them.

Instead of turning away from the harsh sounds, embrace them and welcome them. Allow them to flow into the wonderful cacophony of white noise that is your world. Instead of viewing the experiences of your life as good or bad, begin to see the world as it truly is.

Learn to limit the noise in your life as you create harmony in the sounds that are all around.

  • The people talking at the table next to yours? Let it go.
  • The noise of the traffic? Let it go.
  • The annoying pitch of your boss’s rant?  Let it go.

See the world as it is all around you.  Refuse to let your brain weave patterns for you as you grow aware of the substance rather than the noise.

Take the time taste the air with every breath. Smile at the scents as they play upon your tongue. Enjoy the thoughts your mind creates. Just do not feel the need to live in them. Be aware of each, without feeling the need to respond.

Hear, taste and smell the details of the world you live in – then decide what to focus on and what to let slide into the background of your world.

Are you actually nervous, or are you smelling the pheromones of an ancient beast about to attack?

Is it your ego playing on your response based on 40,000 year old programming, or is there really a modern day threat?

Make sure the choices you are making are truly your choices, and not some pattern created by that fight or flight response that kept our ancestors alive.

Be aware of the noise in your world, and choose what you want to let it and what you want to let go.

It truly is up to you…

After all, it is YOUR life.

Why not live it as YOU want?

Modern Meditation Profile – Dina Proctor

Dina Proctor

From the start, Dina’s life wasn’t so different from yours or mine. She spent her 20s running after the same things everyone is after; a good job that meant something, a loving relationship, a sense of purpose, a sense of stability. But the more she looked outside herself for her answers, the more she realized it was the void within that she was trying to fill.

She did non-profit work in Africa, Guatemala, and with juveniles in jails – helping to heal others in an effort to heal herself.  She changed jobs every 9-months.  She changed boyfriends and moved just as often. Each time telling herself, “if I can just get a bit more money, if I can just find the right guy, if I just save one more person, it will all be better.”

It wasn’t until she moved into a new living situation in that her two worlds were forced together.  Her roommates were social drinkers and at first her life was a party. Then it spiraled.  Within weeks she became a daily drinker.  In months, she became a round-the-clock drinker.  After years of battling clinical depression and thinking, “if I don’t wake up in the morning, I’m okay with that,” she actually chose a date to take her own life.

That was 2008 and she had hit rock bottom. She did not so much pull back in that moment, as she realized she was sick of being sick of her life. She thought of suicide, but before she ended it all, she decided she at least wanted to see what real drunks looked like. That was the day she wandered into an addiction recovery meeting; “just to see.” Listening to them, she realized she was far worse than any of them.

At one point in her recovery she was introduced to meditation. She was asked to sit for 20 minutes. Her body was still detoxing, her head was spiraling, and sitting still for 20 minutes was physically impossible for her; she found she could sit still for about three minutes at a time. So she decided to sit in three minute increments until she reached the 20 minute mark. That was something she could do.

It was hard, but she was able to do it.  Then, about eight weeks into her meditation practice she had an out of body experience.  For the first time in her life, her mind was free from chatter, free from the inner voice that had haunted her. Everything she looked at was pristine and beautiful.  It was an absolutely full presence, a spiritual and physical moment that she remembers vividly to this day.

She had two revelations in that moment.  First, there is no such thing as time.  Time is something we transcend.  Second, everything in the physical world is just a reflection of the mind. At that moment she just knew that all she had to do in life was maintain the state of mind she experienced, and she could be grounded and open in the way she had always wanted.

She continued her meditation practice which eventually settled into three minutes, three times a day. In days she reached a point of ownership and non-resistance in her life. She wrote a book called Madly Chasing Peace: How I Went From Hell to Happy in 9 Minutes a Day, that turned into a best-seller, and now she teaches her style of modern meditation to hundreds of people who want to find the kind of peace that she discovered for herself.

Hers is a message of strength, empowerment and transformation.  It is one worth discovering for yourself no matter where you are in your life.

 

[learn_more caption=”See The Full Interview Here”] What drew you to yoga and meditation?

I don’t think I would say I was drawn to meditation – more like I was dragged kicking and screaming! At the end of 2008 I hit rock bottom in my life – I was suicidal and clinically depressed.  I was also horribly addicted to alcohol. I had tried countless changes to fix the emotional black hole I’d felt inside for years – moving cities, changing jobs, upgrading my boyfriends, individual therapy, group therapy, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications – you name it I tried it. But nothing worked to fix how I felt.

In hindsight (and obvious to everyone but me), I was constantly moving but always taking myself with me. Meditation was an instruction given to me when I finally fell apart. I remember balking at the idea of meditating for 20 minutes – wondering how on earth sitting in a floaty, wistful sort of way would do anything at all! But at that time I had run out of my own answers. So I tried it. And it ended up changing everything about everything (about everything!) about my life.

How have they changed your life?

There is not a single area of my life meditation hasn’t transformed. When I first started meditating I was in addiction-and-suicidal-thought withdrawal and could not physically or mentally sit still for longer than about 3 minutes at a time. Since my instruction was to meditate was for 20 minutes total I would sit for 3 minutes several times a day so I could meet my quota. After about 8 weeks of this messy 3 minute here, 3 minute there practice, I had an experience in what I can only call a state of higher consciousness.

For 3 entire days my conscious awareness was outside of my body – hovering above my body, yet tethered to it, everywhere I went! I had no thoughts in my head, absolutely zero mind-chatter, and everyone and everything was extraordinarily beautiful.

During that time I realized 2 things: that there is no such thing as time (really!) and that everything that exists in my exterior world – my body, my relationships, my financial situation – is simply a reflection of what was going on inside of myself; my world is basically a direct reflection of the quality of my spiritual life.

That 3-day experience profoundly changed my life perspective and I knew that these 3-minute meditations held the key to changing my entire reality.

At what point did you decide to teach others?

Teaching others was something I heavily resisted at first. About 8 months after my rock bottom point I had people approaching me asking me to teach them how I had used what had evolved into what I call 3×3 Meditation (3 minutes, 3 times a day) for the practical results I was achieving (a healed relationship with food and with my body, transformative relationships at home, work and with my family to name a few) and I didn’t feel ready.

I thought I needed to have it all figured out and picture-perfect before I could help guide someone else. But my mentor at the time advised me to share what I’d learned with others as soon as I was asked to – because only in giving it away is it something I can keep.

What do you find most rewarding about working with others?

There is nothing in the world more fulfilling to me than to share 3×3 Meditation with others and seeing them achieve their own results! I’ve recently started certifying people to become 3×3 Coaches and that is also deeply rewarding.

To share something I developed at my toughest point with people who use it to transform their lives is a rare and precious gift. I always knew helping others would help me help myself but when I was in my twenties I went about it all the wrong way. I worked at homeless shelters and third world aid organizations – went to the poorest parts of Africa and south America to bring food and supplies for students but even that good work I was doing did not fulfill me nearly as much as sharing a practice given to me by something greater than myself with people who are desperate to change their own lives.

What is your advice for someone just starting on their journey?

First I want to tell you that you are not alone! For so long, and especially at the beginning of my journey, I felt so isolated, so past the point of help. That feeling of isolation and hopelessness was killing me.

It stunned me when I realized that others had been where I’d been, had bettered their lives from the exact point where I stood. If you are just starting out, be gentle with yourself, accept and be open to the journey, and look forward to a life that is better than you could have ever imagined.

What should someone look for in a studio or an instructor?

The most important thing in choosing a mentor or teacher is feeling an emotional resonance. I’ve learned so much more from people without distinctions and degrees than I did from well-intentioned people who tried to help me from a more intellectual perspective. Don’t get me wrong – those who have knowledge and training are infinitely valuable and are of service to so many, but I didn’t experience my truest healing from all my doctor and psychiatrist visits – I experienced it from people who had been where I was. I will always have a mentor (or two!) and the first thing I look for – well, really feel for – is a sense of true, deep connection and a feeling of being completely understood and accepted exactly where I am.

What does the term Modern Meditation mean to you?

I would define Modern Meditation as whatever practice works for individuals as they navigate their everyday busy lives. Meditation is deeply personal – just as every workout isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, some folks prefer one meditation method over another. It’s so amazing there are so many to choose from. Modern Meditation means bringing a sense of calm, peaceful presence to everyday situations – being present as you shop for groceries or wait in line at the bank – it’s cultivating who you be not just on the meditation cushion but out in the nitty gritty of the real world.

How have you adapted traditional meditation and yoga in your life outside the studio?

Outside of my structured meditation practice (which of course only takes 9 minutes a day), I hold an intention to touch that space of inner space as I coach clients or write articles or record videos or wash dishes or clean the bathroom or eat lunch or reconcile my bank account or run errands. My life purpose is to be the fullest expression of my innermost self in my physical form, and to accomplish that I need to bring the space and peacefulness within my being to every aspect of my everyday life.

How has expanding and deepening your practice, improved your life?

It would be a much shorter list to make a list of how it hasn’t improved my life – because it has enhanced, improved and transformed every single aspect of my life. From healing addiction and depression to releasing weight to refreshing my relationships to writing a book to quitting my day job to teach this full-time and find financial stability, my meditation practice has been the key to every one of these achievements.

What is your Simple Truth?

My simplest truth is remembering and living from the perspective that my exterior world is only a reflection of what’s going on within me. If I don’t like the reflection I see in a mirror I don’t seek another mirror, I realize that I need to change the source that’s being reflected. It is all up to me.

Simple.

Empowering.

Liberating.

Inspiring!  

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Meditate to Embrace Your Emotions

Embrace your emotions
Without feeling trapped in having to pursue them.
That is the goal and the path to the calm you seek.

Emotions are not the problem.  It is how you deal with them that is.

If you lose yourself to the emotions you feel, then they become your master.

The next time you feel an emotion rising.  Love or Hate.  Anxiety or Comfort.  Lust or Disgust.  Do not respond to it immediately.  Stop.  Breathe.  Separate yourself from whatever it is that is triggering it.  Train yourself to contemplate what you are feeling even if for a moment.  Acknowledge it, label it, contemplate it, and then ask yourself if responding is really what you want to do.  Or do you simply want to let it go?

It is not the emotion that is the problem.  That is simply your brain telling you something out there is about to effect you, in here.

It is up to you to decide how you want to respond.

After all, it is your life.  Living in a meditative manner is the difference between pain and anguish, Love and joy.

 

 

Q+A – Recognizing Your Habits is The First Step To Changing Them

I met with a student last night who was overcome with the seemingly endless list of habits she was now noticing within herself.  “My God, it never ends,” she exclaimed.  “I almost wish I had never started to meditate.  Now, I see all of these auto-responses that I am living my life by.”

I smiled. Not with humor, but in understanding.  Yes, deep meditation will remove the layers that you hide behind. It will open you up to the light of truth.  You will have moments of enlightenment like this, when you see the reality of your life through the fog you have been living through; and this is not a bad thing.  Because before you can get rid of the old habits that are holding you back, you must first be aware of them.

It is usually a shock when you first see how little of your life is YOUR life, and how much of it is lived through the choices that others have impressed upon you.  The question is quickly not “why do I have so many habits dictating my life?”  It becomes “what will I do with them.”

Will you continue to live your life making the same mistakes and living by the same auto-responses that you always have, or will you begin to peel them back and start LIVING THE LIFE YOU WERE MEANT TO LIVE?

So many people turn back when they first recognize a bad habit for what it is.  That habit of yelling before thinking. Or reaching for a drink before you know why you want it.  That habit of asking for the food that, while it may satisfy you in the moment, you will regret eating for days to come.  Even that habit of listening to that small voice inside your head that leads to self-loathing.  All of these come from the same place.  And you recognize all of them through the regret that you inevitably feel after you have followed them.

The good news is, you can change, because as doctors, neuroscientists, and psychologists have found, the brain changes every day, based on the input you allow into it.  If you allow your brain to respond in anger to everything that goes on around you, you will become a very angry person – at the world and with yourself.  If you look down and deride others to feel good about yourself, you will begin to see all the ugliness in the world and in yourself, while seeing none of the beauty that is within and all around.

So the next time you feel regret for your actions, smile as you acknowledge that you have just recognized a bad habit that you can change.  If you feel yourself act out of emotion instead of logic, smile that you noticed it, and recognize that you can make a different choice in how to act in the future.

Congratulate yourself that you have taken the first step toward enlightenment.  Then stop, breathe, acknowledge whatever it is that you have done or are about to do, and let it go.

Then repeat a short mantra to yourself.

MAKE GOOD CHOICES

Because that is the way to change your life.  Simple make good choices.

Take a meditative approach to life and start living the life YOU were meant to live – TODAY.

Stop, breathe, acknowledge, and let it go.