Water Meditation

Interested in mindfulness and meditation? Check this out.

Sup pups? I wanted to kick off the week with a Monday morning meditation. A few weeks ago we focused on the trees and this week I’m thinking water.  Remember, our goal is simple mindfulness or awareness. We’re noticing the sensations in our mind, heart and body in the present moment. Watching without judgment. If you can watch yourself and your actions you can control them or at least begin to understand them more fully.

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Similar to the tree meditation, we simply want to notice water. Recognize the significance of water in your life. If you think you’re already there, try giving thanks or offering gratitude each time you receive the positive benefits of water. It’s practically impossible, yeah? It would consume your whole day. Afterall we are more water than blood.

After you finish reading this post, be mindful of your interactions with water today. Think about how you’ve already made use of water. Did you brush your teeth? Make coffee? Wash your face? How will you use water during the next few hours? Maybe you’ll flush a toilet, wash your hands, or do a load of laundry. Beyond using water today, what are you wearing, eating and using that has already consumed water? It takes 1,800 gallons of water just to grow enough cotton for a pair of blue jeans and that doesn’t take into account the rest of the process. A single pound of meat takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce. Water is our lifeblood and yet we take it for granted.

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We tend to only pay attention to water if there’s a problem or scarcity. Water is seen as expendable and probably will be until shortages impact each of us directly. We water lawns, wash cars and maintain golf courses in the desert. We are running the earth dry and it’s starting to become apparent, just read about the disappearance of the Aral Sea pictured above.

Embrace the precious nature of water and treat it accordingly. Katie and I have a sister between us, Kristin, and her and her husband Ryan had a very touching elopement ceremony in which they incorporated a glass jar of water. A few of us were gathered in the snowy Pennsylvania woods one February while Kristin and Ryan held up the glass jug and explained the importance of water in their relationship. Water to them is symbolic of life. When they share their water with each other or their friends, they are quite literally offering them life. Kristin and Ryan never take their offering of water for granted and in turn are touched each time they share sips. Then they each took a sip of water before passing the jar around to each of us in attendance. After hearing Kris and Ryan explain it this way, I’ve never looked at water any differently. Each time someone offers me a sip of water, I find it to be a deeply meaningful gesture. An offering of life.

We all know that water is significant, but do we recognize it fully? Are we grateful? Do we do anything to ensure clean water for our future besides paying the water bill? Try your hardest today to begin to simply appreciate the role of water in your life. No matter the beverage, with each sip, stay present with how the water in it nourishes your body. When you wash your hands, really feel the water on your skin instead of rushing to dry it off. When you move throughout the world today notice the water around you whether it’s a miniscule amount in a plastic bottle or the coastline of the Pacific, but most of all notice that it’s there. Consider yourself lucky. Over 700 million people world-wide do not have access to clean water. Notice the abundance of water in your life and recognize that you are privileged.

 

Photos : 1+2 / 3

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Yoga Postures for Sleeping

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Good morning! Did you get a good sleep? I’m the best sleeper I know, always the last to drag myself out of bed. I think of sleep as a great luxury in life and I treat it as such, treasuring each moment. I love you sleep. There, I said it.

Moving on.  Often times when I lay down in bed at night, I assume a yoga position to fall asleep in. Nothing crazy like a headstand, more like the postures that are meant for rest, I bet you can think of a popular one… ding, ding, ding, shavanasa better known as corpse pose. Let’s start there:

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Tree Meditation

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Happy Mindful Monday 🙂 Any excuse to use alliteration? I’m there! I thought it would be cool to start things off on a positive note, something to bring awareness to your day and potentially the rest of the week. Mindfulness is simply awareness. I like to think of it as noticing the sensations in your mind, heart and body in the present moment. It’s basically watching without judgment. It’s tough. How well you watch yourself and your actions gives you control over them or at least a starting point in understanding them more fully.

Mindfulness can be practiced and honed in a many ways, but today I’ll share a single exercise for you to work with all week. Notice the trees. It sounds simple and it is, but how often do you do it? Do you have a favorite tree in your town? No?! Why not? I’m sure there is one that is more attractive to you than the rest, this week you should find it. I have favorite trees all over the place and I can’t tell you how many people have laughed at me when I pointed them out, but it’s true. Notice the trees and you’ll realize you too have favorites. If you live above the treeline or in an area without trees, you may notice any greenery: grasses, bushes, cacti, etc.

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Yoga For The Eyes

 

Yoga for the eyes is a meditation made up of eight eye exercises. The routine is an easy one to memorize and practice any time, any place. I think of it as a mix between asana and meditation because the world easily falls away when you are focused on the slow controlled movements of arms and eyes paired with deep belly breathing.  This video is meant as a general guide, not a session in real time. Usually this practice takes me a half hour with a little stoppage time for dance breaks. Read on for step-by-step instructions.

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Quiet The Mind – Why You Should Meditate

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“Quiet the mind,” this is how I start most of my meditation practices. Take a moment to settle, to arrive, to quiet the mind. What does this mean? It’s such a tough task, for you and for your mediation teacher alike. It gets easier of course, but some days hurtle a thousand thoughts in your direction and you get caught up in trying to hold onto them, to dissect them, to attach to them, to figure out what exactly they mean.

The initial goal of meditation is to separate yourself from your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. Your brain is a muscle that is constantly flexing, it’s comfortable in a tornado of thoughts whether they’re useful or not, your goal as a meditation practitioner is to sit in a calm state with all these thoughts swirling around you. To stay centered while tiny tidbits and major revelations are trying to pull you off your seat. Eventually the thoughts will start to fall away. They’ll live in the periphery and you’ll sit comfortably knowing you can engage if you see the thought as valid or useful, but also knowing you can allow the madness to swirl around you while you relax. These are the benefits of a consistent mediation practice. Internal calm even when the world around you is going up in flames.

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Monday Meditation Challenge

BREATHEHappy Monday! I feel bad for Mondays. While everyone is busy hating them, I’m going to make an effort to be mindful of Mondays. Poor Mondays. I’ll keep you.  Last year we talked a tiny bit about mindfulness and  meditation. I will be the first to admit that I’m not an expert on meditation.  I just know I feel darn good after a few minutes of peace and mindfulness.

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I’m giving myself a meditation challenge and I thought I’d mention it here in case you want to play along.  I’m going to meditate every day for the next twenty-eight days. I’ve tried to get into the habit of meditating, but I always end up practicing before and after yoga only.  If I skip class for a week, I’ve gone a full week without focused meditation. I try to practice walking meditation whenever I think of it, but it’s less than once a day.

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So here goes, guys. Twenty-eight days of meditation.  I’m starting small. My plan is to meditate for two minutes a day for the first week! I really want to succeed and I think if I get in the habit of sitting down and keeping my mind quiet for just two minutes a day, it will be a real victory.  The next week I’ll work on five minutes a day.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself so that’s all I have planned for now.  I’ll keep you updated.  Are you going to try it too?  I’ve been using this website to help get in the zen zone.

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I also created a few images to remind myself to relax, breathe, repeat my mantra and meditate.  For the past few weeks, my mantra has been patience and compassion.  I hate when I cut someone off, get impatient or irritated so I’ve really been trying to work on that.  Wish me luck!

Katie here : Good luck, Sarah! I think this is such a great challenge! I finally did some yoga this weekend with a few minutes of focused meditation afterwards (after a couple of weeks without any), and it felt so good. I used a 20 minute class from YogaDownload that I had on my phone, so I didn’t have to leave the house and could easily squeeze it in during Alex’s nap. The point is, that short dose of yoga and meditation had me feeling good for the rest of the day and left me determined to fit more of both into my days, so I’m excited to take on this challenge with you… I’m going to make one of your images my desktop background as a little reminder to step away from the screen and meditate :-). 

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This Isn’t Your Monk’s Meditation

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I’m sure a lot, if not all of you, already meditate in some form or another.  Maybe you clear your mind while you exercise or while doing the dishes or while taking a shower.  When you are alone with your thoughts you’re beginning to meditate.  Over the past couple of years, I have read a few powerful books about mediation and self-discovery and I believe they have had a big impact on my overall happiness and upbeat attitude.  I’ve learned to direct and guide my thoughts in a constructive way instead of arguing with myself.  Self-love is always in season so from time to time we’ll be sharing a little bit about our paths to self-discovery and tips for your own, in a series called Grey Matters.

First let me start off by saying I don’t identify myself as a Buddhist per say and I’m not here to promote any one religion.  I do however think that the Buddhist religion has some really great insights into how to become a better individual and how to pass on that goodness to those around us. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, founder of San Francisco Zen Center, said it best, “The purpose of studying Buddhism is not to study Buddhism, but to study ourselves.” Buddhism informs us that we should identify the intention behind our actions and whether those actions will have a positive or negative effect on those around us.  If you identify with a particular religion or not, I think the Grey Matters series will be helpful to you as you walk on your path to self-discovery.

In this first installment of Grey Matters I thought it could be helpful to give a little primer on meditation and setting an intention for your day or week.  When you let your mind rest you are beginning to practice meditation.  You don’t have to venture to a secluded spot and sit in the same position for days on end without talking to a soul.  This isn’t your monk’s meditation.  It’s a tool for self-reflection that we can all utilize.  Mediation has tremendous power in that it helps us identify the motives of our actions and reactions.  It helps us to expand our minds and hearts and allows both to more easily accommodate the obstacles we all face from day to day. If the word meditation makes your eyes roll then think of it as constructive thinking.  Sometimes life feels like you’re climbing Mt. Everest with no coat when it should feel like you’re strolling along a beautiful beach.  Taking the time to reflect while setting an intention and motivation for your day can help you transform that mountain into a plain.  Meditation is a helpful tool in reducing stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia and many other uncomfortable conditions of the human mind.  At first the goal of meditation is to have an open and clear mind.  You can’t solve all of your problems during the first week of meditation.  It’s a process so start small.

Here are a few tips to practicing meditation:

  • Choose a consistent, comfortable, clean and quiet space in your home.  I put a pillow on the floor in my bedroom; it’s as simple as that.  Some people have a space set aside specifically for thought.  Maybe it involves a comfortable cushion and a couple scented candles in front of a sunny window or maybe you’re not sold on the idea of meditation and you choose to sit at your dining room table with a cup of coffee.  However you choose to begin is fine.
  •  Minimize distractions and focus within.  If you’re sitting on the ground, sit up straight in a comfortable position and rest your hands on your knees or thighs.  If you’re sitting on a chair make sure both feet are touching the ground.  When you breathe in you should feel uplifted and when you exhale you should feel balanced and grounded, it’s easier to feel grounded when you’re making contact with the earth.
  • Close your eyes or soften your gaze and focus on your breath.  You don’t have to alter your breath, it shouldn’t be a distraction to you, but rather an anchor to the present.  We are practicing being present and not letting our thoughts carry us to the past or future. Change is possibly the only constant in our lives; let your flowing breath be a gentle reminder of that.
  • If thoughts pop into your mind simply exhale them away. Continue to focus on the sensation of your breath traveling in and out. Try not to get caught up in thoughts of your to do list or the fight you had with your friend.  Don’t beat yourself up about all these random thoughts either, simply acknowledge that you’re thinking and then exhale the thought and return your focus to the breath.
  • After five minutes feel free to leave the cushion.  It’s important to keep your meditation short and regular.  If you find yourself successfully freeing your mind of thought and meditating every day for five or ten minutes then you’re ready to address various issues through meditation.

After all, meditation breeds mindfulness, which is simply paying attention to what’s going on around you and not getting hooked by strong emotion.  If we’re being mindful we can begin to identify our intentions and begin to work with them.  We’ll save problem solving and addressing emotions for the next Grey Matters installment, but let’s start setting short-term intentions for our days and weeks.

Your intention is a thought or motivation for how you’d like to live your life.  It’s kind of like a New Year’s resolution without all the pressure.  You can shape your intention daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly.  We’ll talk about setting long-term intentions in the next Buddha Brain post, but let’s stick to daily intentions right now.

Tips for setting a daily intention:

  • Think of a positive word, feeling or focus that will guide you through the day or week.  It can be a goal like writing and photographing x number of blog posts, completing a project at work or a gentle reminder like taking a nap when one is needed. It can also be an overarching, nonspecific theme like practice patience or be generous or persevere.  Think about what you’re lacking, what you’d like to work on or what your body and mind really needs and create your intention.
  • Repeat your intention. After meditating for five to ten minutes, repeat your intention, aloud or internally, three times with passion and motivation to carry through with your intent.
  • Take your intention with you. Now it’s time to go out into the world always knowing that you have your own special guidelines by which you’ll live your life.  You can repeat your intention whenever you’re feeling like your day is going off track.  Know that above all else something is guiding you even when you feel lost.

If your intention was to get enough rest than you’ll feel better about working harder when you’re awake and sleeping sounder during naps or at night.  You won’t have to feel guilty if you need nine hours of sleep instead of eight because you’re paying attention to what you really need to live a happy and fulfilling life.  If your intention is to be more patient, it will be helpful to repeat the word patience when a coworker is talking out of turn during a meeting, when your kids are misbehaving or when the line at the grocery store is a mile long.  Setting intentions is another small way to take control over emotion and immediate behavior.  It’s a tool for shaping our actions, reactions and even the way we talk to ourselves.  It’s a reminder that you live by your own rules.  It’s time to stop feeling guilty, upset or uneasy about the choices you make.  It’s time to stop judging yourself so harshly and instead knowing there was a reason for why you did whatever you did.  You intended it to be so and that’s all the reason you need.

I really hope you enjoyed this Grey Matters post and learning a bit about meditation and setting intentions.  I always felt like I had it all together, but once I started to peel away my emotions through meditation I realized I had a lot to learn about myself.  I’m able to communicate my thoughts so much clearer than in the past and I feel like I actually know why I’m experiencing strong emotion instead of just getting wrapped up in it.  I feel free from my own self-doubt and it’s really refreshing.  If you’ve ever felt the effects of guilt, anxiety or doubt I encourage you to try some of the tactics in this post.  I think you’ll feel a bit if not a whole ton.

Now go live lives of purpose!  Whether your purpose is to take a walk in the woods, cook a delicious meal, rekindle a friendship or get a promotion at work.  It is all just as important and integral in living a happy and fulfilled life.

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