9 Powerful Meditations You Need To Try
24Apr 2017
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Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
– Buddha

We all know the power of meditation.

Some of us have experienced it firsthand. Others may have dabbled in it.

Yet, regardless of the known benefits, nearly everyone has a difficult time making meditation a consistent daily practice.

In our modern culture, our minds are trained to work around the clock… and indeed, they’ve become addicted to it.

With countless distractions drawing our awareness away from our own center — and endless gadgets and tools with which to consume information — we condition our minds to process, evaluate, react, and repeat, without ever breaking the cycle to rest and recharge.

It starts first thing in the morning, when most people turn on their smartphones to check email, Facebook, and surf the web – all before they are fully awake, arrived in the body, and out of the bed. It continues throughout the entire day and into the evening, typically ending with a glowing television screen right up until bedtime (and more and more commonly, through the entire night as a “sleep aid”).

All day long, our minds are both confronted with, and in search of, information to consume.

This causes tension, struggle, uncertainty and frustration in every area of our lives. Because as we know, our mind creates our reality.

A cluttered, burdened, troubled mind = a cluttered, burdened, troubled life.

Modern humans have made mental busyness our most ingrained habit — and it can be seriously difficult to break.

This is the real reason people don’t meditate. And, perhaps, that they haven’t found a form of meditation that resonates deeply enough to provide the profoundly tangible and far-reaching benefits inherent to the practice.

It’s time for all that to change…

Are you ready to devote yourself to the cultivation of a practice that will continually clear your mind, elevate your consciousness, and awaken your spiritual life in unimaginable ways?

In this article we will discuss the true purpose of meditation, and explore 9 unique ways to practice. Some you may have heard of, and others are more “outside the box.”

In this way, you can explore the terrain of your consciousness by choosing the pathways that resonate most with your level, your style, and your ultimate goal.

Whichever method you choose, we encourage you to commit to a daily exploration of meditation techniques, in honor of this month’s Intellectual focus.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet.
It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there –
buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.
– Deepak Chopra

Meditation is essentially a state of pure consciousness without content.

Ordinarily, our consciousness is filled with all kinds of rubbish, like a mirror covered with thick layers of dust. The mind is in constant traffic — with thoughts, desires, ambitions, emotions, and opinions in constant motion. Day in and day out, the mind is functioning, evaluating, preparing and reacting, with little or no resting period in between.

Meditation is a ceasing of the traffic — a calming of the fluctuations, and a stillness of the mental “content.” It is within this stillness and silence that our deepest truth can be realized, and our highest Self can be remembered. In the highest state of meditation, known as Samadi, we learn to flow in unimaginably ecstatic and blissful union with the divine energy of love and light, which we come to realize is our essential nature.

If you want to find God,
hang out in the space between your thoughts.

– Alan Cohen

In this article, we’ll explore 9 different approaches to meditation (some of which don’t even seem like meditation!), to help you experiment with what works best for you, and develop a deepening practice of mindfulness, presence and bliss in your own life.

The you that goes in one side of the meditation experience
is not the same you that comes out the other side.
– Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

9 Powerful Meditation Practices

GUIDED MEDITATION

Meaning and Origin

Guided meditation (otherwise known as “guided imagery” or “creative visualization”) has been used for centuries as a medical therapy. Evidence shows Tibetan monks began using guided meditation as early as the 13th century, imagining Buddha curing disease.

In guided meditations, either live or recorded, one is voice-guided step-by-step through a meditative experience.

Guided meditations are a wonderful place for beginners to start, as they require less effort and pressure to “get it right.” After all, meditation is the practice of deepening our relaxation and awareness.

Once you get the hang of it, and wish to take your practice to the next level, you can begin to explore other methods of meditation (some of which are listed in this article).

How to Do It

Guided meditation usually comes in the form of audio (youtube, file, podcast, CD), and sometimes video. You will find that any guided meditation will fall in one of below categories (with some overlap, of course).

  • Traditional Meditations — With these types of audios, the voice of the teacher is simply there to “illustrate” or “guide” the way for your attention, in order to be in a meditative state; there is more silence than voice in it, and often no music. Examples are offerings by Thich Nhat Hanh and Tara Brach, which are rooted in authentic Buddhist practices.
  • Guided Imagery — This makes use of the imagination and visualization powers of the brain, guiding you to imagine an object, entity, scenery or journey. The purpose is usually healing or relaxation.
  • Relaxation & Body Scans — This practice helps you achieve a deep relaxation in your whole body. It’s usually accompanied by soothing instrumental music or nature sounds. In Yoga this is called yoga nidra or “yogic sleep,” in which you are suspended between sleeping and waking states to achieve elevated awareness and deepened relaxation.
  • Affirmations — Usually coupled with relaxation and guided imagery, the purpose of these meditations is to imprint a message in your mind.
  • Binaural Beats — Binaural beats were originally discovered in 1839 by physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. He discovered when signals of two different frequencies are presented separately, one to each ear, your brain detects the phase variation between the frequencies and tries to reconcile that difference. This is used to generate alpha waves (10 Hz), which is the brain wave associated with initial levels of meditation. There is scientific research into why and how binaural beats work.

Learn more:

Every time you create a gap in the stream of mind,
the light of your consciousness grows stronger.
One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head.
This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously,
as your sense of self does not depend on it.
– Eckhart Tolle

VIPASSANA MEDITATION

Meaning and Origin

“Vipassana” is a Pali word that means “insight” or “clear seeing.” It is a traditional Buddhist practice, dating back to 6th century BC. Due to the popularity of Vipassanā meditation, the “mindfulness of breathing” has gained further popularity in the West as “mindfulness.”

How to Do It

There is some conflicting information on how to practice Vipassana. In general, most teachers emphasize starting with mindfulness of breath in the first stages, to stabilize the mind and achieve “access concentration.” This is more like focused attention meditation. Then the practice moves on to developing “clear insight” of the bodily sensations and mental phenomena, observing them moment-by-moment and not clinging to any.

Here’s a brief overview for beginnings. To learn more, explore the links below or consider a retreat or personal instruction.

Sit on a floor cushion, cross-legged, with your spine erect. If this is too challenging, you may also use a chair, but the back should not be supported.

Now focus all your attention, from moment to moment, on the movement of your breath. Notice the subtle sensations of the movement of the abdomen rising and falling. Notice the gentle expansion of the body on each inhale, and the contraction on each exhale. Notice the sensation of air passing through the nostrils and down into the throat.

As you focus on the breath, you will notice other perceptions and sensations appear: sounds, feelings or tensions in the body, emotions, mind chatter, etc. Simply notice these phenomena as they emerge in your field of awareness, and then return to the sensation of breathing. The attention should be kept in the object of concentration (in this case, the breathing), while these other thoughts or sensations are there simply as “background noise.” As you continue to be drawn out, draw yourself back in again to the breath. This is meditation.

Make “note” of what arises, without becoming attached to it. You can do this by identifying an object in general, instead of in detail. For example, if you become aware of a sound, you can label it “hearing” instead of “voices,” “cars,” or “barking dog.” If unpleasant physical sensations appear, such as tension or discomfort, you can label it “feeling” instead of “back pain” or “knee pain.” If you notice a scent, say the mental note “smelling,” without identifying the source of the smell.

In this way, you observe the objects of awareness without attachment, letting thoughts and sensations arise (as they inevitably will) and fall away naturally. Mental labeling (explained above) is often used as a way to prevent you from being carried away by thoughts, and keep you in more objectively noticing them.

Learn more:

Mental problems feed on the attention that you give them.
The more you worry about them, the stronger they become.
If you ignore them, they lose their power and finally vanish.
– Annamalai Swami

ZEN MEDITATION (ZAZEN or SHIKANTAZA)

Meaning and Origin

Zazen (坐禅) means “seated Zen” or “seated meditation” in Japanese. The aim of zazen is “just sitting;” that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them.

Zazen has its roots in the Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an) tradition, tracing back to Indian monk Bodhidharma (6th century CE). In the West, its most popular forms comes from Dogen Zenji (1200~1253), the founder of Soto Zen movement in Japan. Similar modalities are practiced in the Rinzai school of Zen, in Japan and Korea.

How to Do It

Zazen is generally practiced seated on the floor over a mat and cushion, with crossed legs. Traditionally it was done in lotus or half-lotus position, but a regular crossed legs position is more accessible for most.

The most important aspect of the practice is keeping the back completely straight, from the pelvis to the neck. The mouth is kept closed and eyes are kept lowered, with your gaze resting on the ground about two or three feet in front of

Internally, it is usually practiced in two ways:

  • Focus on breath — Focus all your attention on the movement of the breath going in and out through the nose. This can be made easier by counting the breath in your mind, or by gently tapping your thumb to each fingertip on both hands. Beginners should start with an inhale of 5 seconds, and an exhale of 5 seconds, and work their way up, always keeping the inhale and exhale equal in length. If you get distracted and lose your count, gently bring back the attention to #1 and begin again.
  • Shikantaza (“just sitting”) — In this form the practitioner does not use any specific object of meditation (such as the breath), but instead remains as much as possible in the present moment, aware of and observing what passes through and around the mind, without dwelling on anything in particular. This is a type of Effortless Presence meditation.

Learn more:

Self-Enquiry is not asking you to believe or to trust –
it is putting a mirror in front of you and asking you to look.
– Mooji

LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION (METTA MEDITATION)

Meaning and Origin

Metta is a Pali word that means kindness, benevolence, and good will. This practice comes from the Buddhist traditions, especially the Theravada and Tibetan lineages.

Observed benefits include: increasing the ability to empathize with others; development of positive emotions through compassion, including a more loving attitude towards oneself; increased self-acceptance; greater feelings of competence about one’s life; and increased feelings of purpose in life.

How to Do It

Arrive in a comfortable seated position. Keeping your spine erect, allow your entire body to relax and surrender around it. Close your eyes and bring your attention inward. Bring you awareness to your heart center, and begin to generate feelings of kindness and benevolence. Typically, you will work your way through 6 “objects” onto which you will radiate loving kindness:

  1. Oneself
  2. A close friend
  3. A “neutral” person
  4. A difficult person
  5. All four of the above equally
  6. And then gradually the entire universe

The feeling to be developed is that of wishing happiness and well-being for all. Spreading the light from your own heart outward to the whole of all existence.

This practice may be aided by reciting specific words or sentences that evoke the “boundless warm-hearted feeling”, visualizing the suffering of others and sending love; or by imagining the state of another being, and wishing him happiness and peace.

In this article, Emma Seppälä, Ph.D explores the 18 scientifically proven benefits of Loving-Kindness meditation.

Learn More:

When you realize how perfect everything is,
you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.
– Buddha

MANTRA MEDITATION (OM MEDITATION)

Meaning and Origin

A mantra is a sound or word, usually without any particular meaning, that is repeated for the purpose of focusing your mind. It is not an affirmation used to convince yourself of something.

Many masters insist that the choice of word, as well as its correct pronunciation, is very important, because of the vibrational power associated with sound and our energetic field. Others believe the mantra itself is only a tool used to focus the mind, and the chosen word is actually irrelevant.

Whichever you choose to believe (and we recommend experimenting with both!), mantra meditation can be a powerful way to enter into deeper states of relaxation and consciousness.

How to Do It

As in most type of meditations, mantra meditation is generally practiced sitting upright, with spine erect and eyes closed. Then, you are to repeat the chosen mantra in your mind, silently, over and over again for the duration of the practice.

To deepen the practice, you can match your breath to the mantra in your mind, coordinating the pacing of the two to unify your physical and mental rhythms.

“As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.

Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe.” (Deepak Chopra)

Here are some of the most well known mantras from the Hindu & Buddhist traditions:

  • om
  • so-ham
  • om namah shivaya
  • om mani padme hum
  • rama
  • yam
  • ham

You may practice for a certain period of time, or for a set number of “repetitions” – traditionally 108 or 1008. In the latter case, beads are typically used for keeping count.

As your practice deepens, you may find that the mantra continues “by itself” like the humming of the mind. Or the mantra may even disappear, and leaving you in a state of deep inner peace.

Learn More:

Meditation is offering your genuine presence to yourself in every moment.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

KUNDALINI YOGA

Meaning and Origin

“Kundalini” is an ancient Sanskrit word that literally translates to “coiled snake.” In the yogic tradition, it is believed that each individual possesses a divine energy at the base of the spine. This energy is something we are born with, but we must make an effort to “uncoil the snake,” thereby putting us in direct contact with the divine. Kundalini Yoga is the practice of awakening our Higher Self and turning potential energy into kinetic energy.

The exact origin of Kundalini Yoga is unknown, but the earliest known mention dates to the sacred Vedic collection of writings known as the Upanishads (c. 1,000 B.C. – 500 B.C.). Historical records indicate that Kundalini was a science of energy and spiritual philosophy before the physical practice was developed.  The word “upanishads” literally translates to “sitting down to hear the teachings of the master.” The first Kundalini classes were just that. Masters sat down with students and gave oral recitation of spiritual visions. Over time, the body science of Kundalini Yoga was developed as a physical expression of the Upanishad visions.

How to Do It

Meditation in the Kundalini Yoga tradition contains specific, practical tools that carefully and precisely support the mind, and guide the body through the use of breath, mantra, mudra (hand position), and focus. The range and variety of meditation techniques in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is very large.

Breathing, stretching, moving, jumping, chanting, meditating, focusing… Any given Kundalini kriya contains a variety of activities. A typical class is focused on control of breath, expansion of energy and alignment of the chakras.

The typical class is 60-90 minutes, structured as follows:

  1. 5-10 minute warm-up (often including spiritual teachings from the instructor)
  2. 30-45 minute kriya (the moving meditation)
  3. 5-15 minute Savasana relaxation
  4. 11-31 minute seated meditation

According to 3HO, the following guidelines should be followed during each Kundalini Yoga class:

  • Tune-in with the Adi Mantra: Chanting “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” three times before beginning any warm-ups, kriyas, or meditation.
  • Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of awareness. Listen to your body; do what works for you.
  • Challenge yourself to extend just past whatever you think your limits are. For instance, if you think you can only do one more minute of an exercise, then try for one minute and ten seconds.
  • Follow the directions! Keep the order and type of posture. Do not exceed the stated times. If you wish to shorten an exercise, shorten all exercises in the kriya proportionally (i.e., cut all times in half or quarter).
  • In a class, feel free to ask for clarification on an exercise or other aspects of the practice.
  • Drink water as needed between exercises.

The best way to experience Kundalini Yoga for the first time is in a classroom setting, with specific instruction from a trained teacher. Alternately, there are recorded classes available online at yogaglo.com or gaia.com for a small monthly membership fee.

Learn More:

Touch your inner space, which is nothingness,
as silent and empty as the sky; it is your inner sky.
Once you settle down in your inner sky, you have come home,
and a great maturity arises in your actions, in your behavior.
Then whatever you do has grace in it. Then whatever you do is a poetry in itself.
You live poetry; your walking becomes dancing, your silence becomes music.
– Osho

TONGLEN MEDITATION

Meaning and Origin

Tonglen is a Tibetan word which means “giving and taking,” or “sending and receiving.”

Tonglen meditation is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation that is meant to connect you with suffering in an effort to help you overcome it. In the West, we are often taught to avoid suffering, sometimes through seeking pleasure, which is the exact opposite of how Tonglen teaches you to manage suffering and challenge.

The practice can be traced back to 11th century Tibet, and the Kadampa school of Buddhism founded by Dromton Rinpoche. Dromton credits his teacher, Atisha, with training him in Tonglen practice, and tradition holds that Atisha learned it from his teacher Serlingpa, in Sumatra.

In these meditations, you develop an attitude of openness toward suffering, let go of negativity, practice giving and receiving, and cultivate compassion and empathy through the breath, visualization, and intention—for ourselves and others.

How to Do It

Tonglen can be practiced either as a formal sitting meditation, or practiced anywhere, anytime, as you go about your daily life. For our purposes, we’ll first discuss the formal method, as that is the ideal way to learn the practice…

First, center yourself and become present in the here and now. Once you have fully “arrived,” call into your mind someone who is suffering. See them as vividly as possible, imagining how hard it is, and what they might be feeling. The aim here is to try and feel their pain like it is your own, so that you may allow compassion to crack open your own heart.

Next, imagine that you can relieve them of their pain, by taking it on yourself. Imagine their suffering as a dark cloud of ash and smoke, and breathe it in, welcoming it all and accepting it as your own. As you do so, you may say silently in your mind, “May you be free from suffering.”

Now take all of that pain and suffering you have invited into your being, and move it into your heart center. This is where pain and suffering is transmuted, purified and transformed. Witness the cloud of pain and anguish transform with the pure light of awareness, and recognize that the other person’s suffering is not all that is transformed… but so too are your own ignorance, selfishness, and egocentric perspectives.

As you exhale, send positive vibrations of pure white light and the energy of love, freedom and peace to the person. Visualize the energy moving into their bodymind to completely heal and rejuvenate them. As you exhale you may say, “May you have happiness.”

Repeat these steps for as long as you wish, with as many people as you wish.

Learn More:

Whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.
What is soft is strong.
– Lao Tzu

ECSTATIC or TRANCE DANCE

Meaning and Origin

For as long as we can remember, and certainly throughout all of recorded history, music, dance and storytelling have been used as fundamental tools for healing and spiritual connection.

Spiritual dancing is a cross-cultural phenomenon, a testament to its power and authenticity. Cultures from every continent on this planet simultaneously embraced unique dance forms based on the animals and elements of nature present within their domain. Their purpose in dancing was to enter the consciousness of, or embody, the spirit of the sun, moon, and various animal and plant life. Through these dance rituals they believed that the spirits within nature could empower them with abilities such as courage and compassion, as well as reveal insights into the future.

Today, conscious dance can be seen as a doorway to the soul. Through absolute surrender to the body and the beat, we can free ourselves from the bondage of the mind, discover parts of ourselves we didn’t even know existed, and enter into ecstatic union with our spirit.

How to Do It

With eyes partly closed, allow your body to move as it wants to move to the music. Do not control your movements, or even be a witness of what is happening. Just be completely in the moment. Dance as if possessed. You are possessed by your own soul, fully inhabiting your body.

Let the dance flow in its own way – don’t force it. Follow your body. Allow it to unfold in its own time, on its own rhythm. You are not doing something very serious, you are simply playing! Playing with you body, playing with your life energy, playing with the universe. Allowing it to move you, and move through you.

Forget the dancer at the center of the ego, and become the dance. The division must disappear in order for it to become meditation. If you are standing aside, looking at and judging and planning your own dance, the division will remain. If the division is there, then it’s simply exercise – good, healthy, but it cannot be called meditation. The dancer must go until only the dance remains. Until it is not something you are doing, but something you are being.

Learn More:

The fastest, cleanest, most joyful way to break out of your own box is by dancing.
I’m not talking about doing the stand-and-sway.
I’m talking about dancing so deep, so hard, so full of the beat
that you are nothing but the dance and the beat and the sweat and the heat.
Put your body in motion and your psyche will heal itself.
– Gabrielle Roth

CANDLE STARING

Meaning and Origin

Candle meditation has been around since candles were invented; and before that, its origins must certainly date back to the first time a human being stared into a fire.

Fire is hypnotic, and can quickly create a state of trance – if you have a fireplace or wood stove at home, or if you have ever been camping, you know how mesmerizing a fire can be… or if you’ve ever sat in a room lit only by candles, you have experienced how peaceful and relaxing the warm glow of candlelight can be.

How to Do It

Candle staring meditation (also known as Trataka) is simple, gentle and totally accessible to anyone. The practice is incredibly simple. In essence, you simply stare at a candle (or fireplace or bonfire).

Here are some simple steps to create the most potent experience…

Create a quiet, dark space. If possible, place the firelight at eye level. Make yourself warm and comfortable, by wearing relaxed clothing and adjusting the temperature of the room (if possible). Remove any possible distractions or disturbances.

Sit on a chair, with your feet making flat contact on the earth beneath you, and rest your hands gently in your lap. Alternately, you can sit cross-legged on a floor cushion. Keep your back straight and centered throughout the practice.

Draw your attention to the flame. Focus on smoothing, lengthening and deepening your breath. As you continue to breathe, gaze softly at the flame, breaking eye contact only to blink occasionally. Allow your thoughts to come and go like clouds in the sky, and keep your entire awareness on the flame of light. Remain aware, focused, concentrated on the flame.

When you are ready (usually after 10-30 minutes), slowly begin to come back into the space surrounding you, first noticing the sounds, then the smells, and the finally begin to lift your gaze and re-familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Move slowly, and take a deep clearing breath. Give thanks for your practice, and all that it has offered you.

Learn More:

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this lifetime.
– Sogyal Rinpoche

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Sources:
http://liveanddare.com/types-of-meditation/
http://www.fragrantheart.com/cms/free-audio-meditations/spiritual-awareness/candle-gazing-meditation
http://www.oshorajneesh.com/download/osho-books/Meditation/OrangeBook.pdf
http://www.shityouregosays.com/sat-nam-the-secret-history-of-kundalini-yoga/

More…

20 Ways to Eliminate Stress From Your Life
18Apr 2017
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The internet is overflowing with articles on ways to unwind and relax after a stressful day, which can be very useful… but an even more powerful strategy is to get to the source of the problem, and cut stress out before it even happens.

By careful editing of your life, and changing certain habits, you can eliminate most common sources of stress in your life.

It’s important to note that a totally stress-free life isn’t possible (or even desirable). Stress is a natural response to challenges and growth in life, and a life without challenges or growth is too boring to contemplate. However, many of us can agree that most of the stress in our lives is unnecessary, and that it can be eliminated by taking some simple steps. It can’t be accomplished overnight — but it’s a rewarding and worthy goal.

Let’s take a look at an example — it’s a little extreme, but it exemplifies the typical stressors in people’s lives. Let’s say Fred gets up in the morning, waking up late, and now has to rush to get ready. He’s so rushed that he spills his coffee on his shirt and has to change, he nicks himself shaving. He heads out the door and then has to go back in the house because he forgot his wallet. He gets in the car and realizes he forgot his keys.

Now he’s on the way in to work and is in the middle of rush-hour traffic — and his temper starts to flare after someone cuts him off. He’s honking at people, cursing, and arrives to work late and in a bad mood. He snaps at someone and is surly all morning. His desk is covered in piles of paper, and he can’t find that report he needs to work on. His inbox is overflowing and his email notification is going off, and he sees he has 36 messages to respond to. He knows he’s late on two projects and his boss isn’t happy. He’s got to finish 5 tasks before the 11 a.m. meeting, and he’s got meetings all afternoon.

You get the idea. His day does not go well, and he hits rush-hour traffic on the way home. He gets home late, exhausted, completely stressed, his mind still on his late and as-yet uncompleted projects, his still-full inbox and email inbox, and all the stuff piling up that he has to work on tomorrow. The house is a mess and he snaps at his family. His kids have not put things away exactly where he told them to put them away, so he begins to yell at them. He has a quick, greasy dinner in front of the TV and zones out before falling asleep late.

Again, this is a bit extreme, but we can all relate to days like these. And many of these common stressors can be eliminated with just a little bit of thought, preparation and intention. More…

5 Ways to Sharpen Your Mind
11Apr 2017
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Welcome to the Lifebook Podcast!

In this episode, host Jordan River explores 5 cutting-edge ways to sharpen your mind.

We all know that exercising and eating right are great ways to improve mental focus… but many of us have the “basics” dialed in already, and are looking for deeper, more cutting-edge tools to add to their mental toolbox.

These methods were chosen because you can implement them immediately to improve the acuity of your mental focus…

Enjoy!

 

Click here to download the audio file (right click player and “save as”).

The Art of Aging Gratefully
21Mar 2017
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Written By Jessi Kohlhagen

It’s amazing how every memory — every experience we’ve ever had — is sewn into the very fabric of who we are.

Marks and moles, wrinkles and dimples, stiffness and softness, pounds gained and elasticity lost…

Every part of our physical being carries a unique memory on our timeline of moments gone by. We are living legends, and our bodies are our autobiographies.

When you really stop and think about it, aging is an extraordinary process; one that has been honored and celebrated throughout human history.

Nearly every indigenous culture in the world reveres and celebrates the process of aging. Old age has long been identified with wisdom and a closeness to God, and Native communities view the journey into elderhood as a sacred time when an individual has the most to offer their community, and the world.

Not surprisingly, these are the same communities that honor their intrinsic connection with the Earth, and seek to move in flow with the inevitable and beautiful cycles of Nature — of Life, Death and everything in between.

Different cultures have different attitudes and practices surrounding aging and death, and these collective perspectives have an enormous impact on our experience of getting older.

The truth is, aging isn’t just a biological process — it’s also a cultural one.

“While many cultures celebrate the aging process and venerate their elders, in Western cultures — where youth is fetishized and the elderly are commonly removed from the community and relegated to hospitals and nursing homes – aging can become a shameful experience. Physical signs of human aging tend to be regarded with distaste, and aging is often depicted in a negative light in popular culture, if it is even depicted at all.”
– The Huffington Post
More…

How to Achieve Your Health & Fitness Goals This Year
20Mar 2017
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Written by Paige Johnson

Each year, many people make resolutions to lose weight, get fit, or become healthier. Unfortunately, a staggering 80% of people end up breaking those resolutions and never reaching their goals.

Having a vision in mind for your health and fitness goals is important. Here’s how you can jump right into your health and fitness vision and come up with tangible steps to reach your goal. More…

40 Quotes to Help You Love and Embrace Your Body, Just The Way It Is
28Feb 2017
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One of the most essential elements that goes into loving, or being loved, is the experience of being seen.

Not seeing something as it once was, or as it “should be.” But seeing it as it truly is, right now, in this irreplaceable miracle of a moment.

This unwavering act of presence and understanding is the most powerful gift we could ever give to someone… and, perhaps even more importantly, it is the most magnificent, life-affirming gift we could ever give to ourselves.

As Lifebook Member Dr. Joel Wade puts it in his moving post on love and visibility, “Love is fundamentally about seeing, hearing, and knowing another human being deeply. We cannot do that from within our own idealistic fantasy.”

This goes for loving ourselves as well.

To truly see, hear and know ourselves deeply, we must come out from behind our veil of forgetfulness, and look into our own true eyes. We must stand in simple understanding of ourselves, right here, right now. We must see ourselves, not with our eyes, but with our hearts… with our entire being.

We must create a benevolent cycle of visibility and trust within ourselves.

That’s when we get to feel that great resonance; that sublime emotion of being touched by the power of self-love and embracement, letting it fill us up from the inside out.

And, ironically, this is what constitutes true, radiant beauty.

In honor of this month’s Health and Fitness theme, and our personal quests to realize the power and potential of the glorious human form, here are 40 quotes to help you love and embrace your body, just the way it is… More…

Why You Can’t Touch Your Toes (and how you can!)
05Feb 2017
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Stand with your feet together, and slowly bend forward to touch your toes.

Can you reach them?

If not, it means your hamstrings and/or lower back are too tight.

The good news is… a little bit of conscious stretching goes a LONG way.

Stretching is an essential component of both exercise and health, as it helps to maintain flexibility and range of motion in your joints. When your muscles are more flexible, the body can perform activities and exercise with the correct form and alignment; therefore, stretching also helps to improve posture.

If you set the intention and practice for just a few minutes each day, you’ll be touching the floor in no time.

Here’s how…

In a perfect forward fold, your upper body should bend toward your legs like you’re closing a flip phone (remember those?). Both the upper and lower body remains straight, and the hinge comes directly from your hips.

There are several muscles involved, and knowing which ones need to be working can be the key to achieving a liberating and beautiful forward fold.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process:

Step 1

Activate (flex) your abdomen. This creates reciprocal inhibition of the lower back muscles, signaling them to relax.

Step 2

Activate the quadriceps (the front thigh muscle) to straighten (but not hyperextend) your knees. This creates reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings (anagonist to the quads), signaling them to relax deeper into the stretch. With your front body flexing, your back body can release deeper into the stretch.

Step 3

Tilt the pelvis forward by contracting the hip flexors (including the psoas, pectineus, and anterior adductor muscles). Keeping the back and neck straight and the spine long, hinge forward ONLY from the hips (not the ribs) until you can no longer maintain a straight back. If you allow your back to arch, you have lost connection to the key muscle groups, and are no longer actively stretching where it counts. This will prevent you from deepening the stretch and ultimately touching the floor.

Step 4

Keep your back straight and your spine long, lifting your tailbone up toward the sky. Even if you only lower a few degrees from your standing position, honor your body. Only with proper form can you achieve depth Once you reach your maximum forward fold with a perfectly straight back, place your hands wherever you can comfortably reach — on your thighs, shins or ankles — and draw your shoulders away from your ears.

Step 5

BREATHE – smoothly, deeply and consciously, sending energy to all the areas that are working. With each inhale, imagine your spine lengthening and straightening even more, and with each exhale see if you can deepen the hinge of your hips to bring yourself lower toward the ground. (Breath is the KEY to deepening any stretch. When consciously utilized, it creates space from the inside out, expanding and deepening the internal body to further release the muscles.)

If you do these five steps once in the morning and once at night everyday, for five minutes each, you WILL see noticeable results in just one week.

That’s the beauty of stretching… it’s highly rewarding.

In just ten minutes a day you can dramatically increase your flexibility, and connect more deeply with your body.

We’d say that’s a win-win for everyone. :)

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The Mother I Aspire To Be…
01Feb 2017
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By: Jessi Kohlhagen

As parents (even the extraordinary Lifebook kind) there is always room for growth. There’s always more we can do. But even more importantly than what we do, there are always different ways we can be with our children… new ways we can show up and be present in each unique gem of a moment.

So this year, I decided to write out some of the intentions I have for my children — these incredible little people that I love more than life itself.

As I do this, I become aware of two distinct feelings:

  1. I experience enormous pride and joy for the unbelievable blessings that my children are in my life… for what incredible people they are turning out to be… and for all the things I’ve done really, really well as their mama.
  1. I experience a yearning, a drive, and even a little guilt for *all* the things I want to be and do that haven’t come to fruition yet.

Here’s a sneak peek into the running list of intentions I have for the future of my family…

This is the mother I aspire to be:

I want to release any expectations I have of them, and fully embrace what they already are.

I want to drop whatever I am doing when they engage with me, and give them my undivided attention.

I want to stop looking at them, and start looking into them. I want to focus on their pupils, observe the color of their irises, notice the subtle changes in their faces as they speak.

I want to explain less and ask more.

I want to teach them to hear the whisper of their spirit, and to trust their inner sense of wisdom, insight, goodness and rightness — above all else.

I want more silence and stillness together, observing and being present.

I want to get dirty, hang upside down, do cartwheels, and roll around on the Earth with them.

I want to climb more trees, and watch more sunsets together.

I want to be less focused on their future, and more in awe of their present.

I want *all* of my maternal thoughts, feelings and actions to be driven by love and faith, instead of fear or doubt.

I want to say YES — all the time, as much as I can.

I want to honor their feelings, and fully embrace all sides of their dynamic human experience.

I want anything and everything to be cause for celebration or ceremony.

I want to honor each transformation with powerful, symbolic rite of passage.

I want to show them how to stay comfortable in their own skin, and feel like they belong on this planet, in this place, in this body, in this moment.

I want to demonstrate the importance of loving and respecting all bodies, most of all their own.

I want to breathe and flow through sticky situations with grace, unwavering calmness, and unlimited compassion and empathy.

I want more cuddles, more wrestles, more hair-braiding and bedtime back scratches. Lots more.

I want to be better animals together, taking more care and responsibility for our interconnectivity to Nature and the world around us.

I want to reduce our wastefulness, increase our positive impact, and devote more energy and awareness to the causes we believe in.

I want to read & read & read together everyday, voyaging to the most vibrant literary worlds ever imagined.

I want a home exploding with creative energy – a living art studio overflowing with paint, colors, plants, crafts, crystals, song & dance, storytelling, passion and imagination.

I want to never stop giving thanks together.

I want to show them everyday what it means to be mindful, happy, grateful, inspired, strong, accepting, open and free.

These are my greatest wishes for the coming years. What are some of yours?

With a full heart and overflowing gratitude,

-Jessi

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The Power of YES: How Agreeing Can Change Your Life
28Jan 2017
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Saying YES can be intimidating. It’s as if we’re changing our entire lives with one little word.

And indeed, each time we commit to something new and uncomfortable, we shine a light into our shadow side and move into our resistances, making us more dynamic, more balanced and ultimately, more at home within ourselves and the world.

So this year, we have an invitation for you…

Stop hiding behind the word “No” and say “Yes” as much as you possibly can.

No longer let fear or ego be the primary guiding forces of your life. Surrender yourself, moment to moment, with the belief that each and everything you meet is a key to your awakening, if only you would say YES.

When we agree to participate in (and make room for) the things that are trying to make their way into our world — whether enjoyable or unenjoyable, easy or challenging — we create vast spaciousness within ourselves and our lives. We begin releasing our constricting grip on life, and learn how to move in flow, as if we are being led from one abundant moment to the next.

Synchronicities start to occur, and before we know it, we experience ourselves living a magical existence where everything we need just appears and the next step is obvious.

Of course, we can’t say yes to everything. We have real responsibilities to attend to, and only 24 hours in a day. The idea is to start saying YES to the things you would normally shy away from out of fear, nervousness, stress, discomfort, busyness or any other experience of limitation and resistance.

Challenge yourself to change your patterns this year — change how you meet the world — and see what happens.

Here are some things to start saying YES to!

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Amy’s Big, Magical Home Transformation
27Jan 2017
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After talking with Jon and Missy about our top three goals at our Lifebook Ultimate weekend, we determined one of them was Home Environment.

Jon recently encouraged us to start thinking about our Family Room and to start designing it based on how we want to spend our time as a family.

We have done a lot of thinking and planning in these areas, which has been awesome, but it has also spurred on some additional transformation in the last week or two – in our game cupboard, music closet and home office (which also is a chiropractic room), craft closet, linen closet and toss-all room. I wanted to record my experience this morning because it was so powerful.

I have been getting up early and working on getting rid of anything in these rooms that does not move me toward my life vision.

I ask myself, “Does this bring joy to my life? Do I love it? Do I need it? Do I use it?” More…