I went in not knowing what to expect – and came out not knowing what to think.
Is mindfulness just another trend, or could it actually have the power to change your life?
When I started craving a beer in the afternoon, I knew something had to change.
Nicole Daedone, a sprightly blonde, is the unofficial leader of the Slow Sex Movement which started in San Francisco twenty years ago and is starting to pop up everywhere. Most famous for her TED talk, Nicole Daedone’s Orgasmic Meditation movement is gaining popularity.
At a dinner party recently, a couple in their late forties described attending one of Ms. Daedone’s workshops. His wife was thrilled with the experience and the husband was more circumspect. Ms. Daedone’s workshops are about inducing a religious epiphany, or Samadhi, or trance state, through the female orgasm. A volunteer lays on stage with her legs spread and Ms. Daedone strokes the volunteer’s labia, explaining to the audience the various quadrants and hidden treasures, “The upper left quadrant is the nirvana-spot” etc. The volunteer may or may not have an orgasm; the point is that the ‘pussy’ is revealed as the portal to enlightenment.
“It was pretty confronting, actually,” The husband said of the experience. “We’re all just sitting in the audience, watching her stroke a woman’s vagina.” The wife found it a revelation and can’t wait to go back.
Nicole Daedone began this journey when she was in her mid-twenties and studying meditation. She was two-weeks from entering a monastic retreat for the rest of her life, when she met another monk at a party (this is San Francisco in the early-nineties remember) and he took her back to his monastery. He told her to take off her pants and her underwear, spread her legs and he will just touch her with a single finger. By the second stroke, she entered a state of total euphoria. Her studies as a nun were abandoned and she has since developed a community of people who live and practice together. It’s been coined the Orgasmic Meditation, or OM practice.
Women lay down during a workshop, covering their faces and take off their underpants. A man, whom they may not know at all, simply strokes the woman. Orgasms may or may not happen, the journey is for a woman to let herself experience her own pleasure. The penis never makes an appearance. Ms. Daedone says she chased this early euphoric feeling she got with the monk for three and a half years, wondering where those early highs had gone. What happened instead was she wept. She wept for all the past traumas she had been through. The rejections, the bad sex, the good sex, the fear of her own pussy’s look and smell.
A friend once told me he met a woman on a dating site, went back to her place to have sex and discovered it was one of Nicole Daedone’s OM centres. Instead of the romp he was expecting, he was invited to participate in a pussy stroking workshop scheduled every morning. He voiced his total disdain and quickly left. But the idea of devoting hours, in Ms. Daedone’s case ten thousand hours, to the art of pussy stroking is radical. The focus of sex is usually the penis-in-vagina model, ending with the climax. Five minutes of this single finger-stroking would be radical for a lot of women. Even laying down and spreading one’s legs in front of their partner with the lights on might be a first. What can’t be denied is how popular orgasmic meditation is becoming, even if it’s just a dinner party conversation.
Image via galtime.com
Spring is upon us! So it’s time to kick all of that stagnant, winter energy out of your life and invite rejuvenation and balance back in.
Not sure where to start? Here are our top 5 tips on how to detox you mind, body and soul – just in time for the warmer weather.
They don’t call it a ‘spring clean’ for no reason! Now is the perfect time to throw away anything that might be weighing you down. Go through your clothes, draws and cabinets, and toss out (or give to charity) anything that you haven’t used or worn in over a year. It’s been said that decluttering invites new energy into your life and clears any blockages.
With the change in season comes a change in produce – and appetite. Ditch the hearty, winter lasagnes and hot pots in favour of fresh, spring salads and grilled proteins. Also, make the most of the lush, seasonal fruits such as honeydew, mango, lychees and apricots. Your body will thank you for it later!
Get some sunshine
With the weather warming up, it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and soak up some of the sun’s rays. Why not grab a friend, a coffee and a picnic rug and head down to your local park for the afternoon or take a stroll on your lunch break? Experts say that sunshine has a profound effect on people’s mood due to its ability to increase the ‘feel good’ hormone, serotonin. You’ll be surprised at how revitalised and recharged you’ll feel afterwards. Be sure to slip, slop, slap though, ladies!
Drink more water
In winter, our desire to drink water decreases. What you may not realise however, is that h20 helps to flush out any toxins from the body and can also help to speed up your metabolism. Make a conscious effort to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day going into spring. While it might seem tricky at first, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your body will adapt.
They say that our power lies within the present moment, therefore it’s important to remember to bring awareness to it on a daily basis. Practising meditation is a great way to do so, however something as simple as a ten minute body scan can also be effective. Set aside some time in the morning – or on your lunch break – and listen to a guided scan (check out Smiling Mind in the app store). Not only will this help you to relax and de-stress, according to research it promotes a sense of inner balance and self-awareness.
It’s a roller-coaster of emotions when you conceive a “rainbow baby” – a baby born directly following a miscarriage or stillbirth. At first, you’re incredibly happy and relieved and then the cold, hard fear and dread creeps in. A rainbow baby will never erase the pain or the memory of the lost baby, but it’s a beautiful, new beginning.
For the loss of a baby through miscarriage and/or a stillborn is an incredibly devastating and debilitating life event and can take you much time to grieve. It’s as though your mind/body/spirit has undergone such massive stress and gut-wrenching upset and sadness, you wonder if you’ll ever heal.
Pregnancy loss is then worsened, at times, by society’s ill-treatment of the bereaved; your no doubt well-meaning friends, family and work colleagues will want and expect you to recover very quickly, as well might you may. But, in my experience, after two miscarriages, the grief process can take some time and you can think you’re well recovered until something sets you back: a friend falling pregnant; a violent reaction to seeing a newborn in the street; and/or you’re pregnant again and you’re overcome by fear.
I fell pregnant with our first child just four months after the soul-sapping horror and heartbreak of finding out our much-wanted, 12-week baby had no heartbeat. Of course, my husband and I dearly hoped we’d fall pregnant again quickly and we were very blessed that it did, but I wasn’t quite prepared, either physically or emotionally, to fall pregnant again so soon. I felt incredibly scared and numb.
Would I miscarry again? Could I survive it? What if I just couldn’t carry a baby to term? All these hideous fears and more were clouding my heart and my head to the point it was overshadowing any pregnancy joy I was experiencing with my first child.
So, what did I do? Here are my tips, from my heart, on how to embrace having a rainbow baby. Below, you’ll also find top advice from a clinical psychologist I interviewed, who wishes to remain anonymous.
And did I get my happy ending? Yes – I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who was a whopper, born ten days overdue. And I’d venture dear reader, you’ll get your happy ending – a much-wanted child – just as I did, too.
My coping tips
- Keep busy: Working through my first pregnancy right up until week 32 (when I got too huge and cumbersome to travel) helped me stay sane and focused on something else outside my pregnancy.
- Get help: I got some very helpful short-term grief counselling from a clinical psychologist to help me better resolve my grief over losing the baby.
- Mind over matter: I practised a lot of pregnancy yoga and meditation to resolve my angst. There’s something so healing about both yoga and meditation and it’s good for your health too.
- Talk, talk, talk: Loved ones you can lean on, who offer wise, practical and sane advice, are who you need to surround yourself with right now. Stay away from negative people who regale you with pregnancy horror stories. And talk it out – I talked about my fears and stress a lot and it helped me no end.
Psychologist coping tips
“Miscarriage is a very distressing event,” says the clinical psychologist. “It’s bound to be followed by a period of grieving and sadness, making it hard to enjoy a subsequent pregnancy. But it’s so important to move on and allow yourself to feel the joy and optimism of a new pregnancy,” she says.
It’s not easy, but the psych says to try these suggestions:
- Discuss your fears: Tell your worries to a professional such as a nurse/counsellor, someone who can reassure you on the statistics of having a normal pregnancy this time around.
- Practice some mindfulness: Learn to be in the here and now and enjoy the moment – do something you enjoy and immerse yourself in that.
- Seek strong support: Be with friends and family who are supportive and positive, who will talk if you want to or just be there with you in a kind, caring and understanding way.
- Breathe in and out: If you are experiencing anxiety, try relaxing using slow deep breathing and picture the new baby, healthy and safely arrived. Imagine holding her/him and allow yourself to feel happiness. Hold onto that feeling.
Images via froufroumonkey.com, lendmeyourkite.com, inspirefirst.com, Pinterest
What do you think? Did you have a rainbow baby?
While meditation Experts state that even a couple of minutes of meditation a day can do wonders for our brain functioning, sleep patterns and stress levels, recent reports have challenged this and highlighted the potential dangers of meditation. Some experts suggest that meditation can actually take us too far into the recesses of our minds and do more harm than good in the process. However, one of Australia’s leading meditation experts and clinical psychologist, Dr Paula Watkins, argues that these occurrences are rare and that for most people, regular meditation is a safe practice that everyone can benefit from, when practiced correctly.
“Meditation helps to give us access to parts of the mind we may not have regular contact with. The theory is that in doing so, some people may become overwhelmed with feelings of depression and anxiety as a result,” says Paula. “Research shows that even the smallest amounts of regular meditation can result in significant benefits to a person’s wellbeing, but it is still crucial to recognise that no one form of meditation works equally well for everyone.”
“Individual circumstances and personality must be considered to determine whether a certain style will be positive for that individual,” she says. “It’s also vital that we have realistic expectations about what meditation can bring to our lives. It isn’t an instant panacea for everything that’s going wrong, but rather a way that we can better explore our minds, our feelings and our true selves.”
Scientifically proven and backed by years of research, Paula has shared the five things people should be aware of when meditating, in order to develop a safe practice that can be enjoyed for years to come:
Meditation doesn’t cure all
“Traditionally, meditation was used for spiritual development and considered a tool for deepening your perception of yourself and the world. Now, it is often called upon as a remedy for all our first world woes,” says Paula. She suggests that the key is to always be aware that the practice is not a cure to all our problems. “We need to be realistic. Meditation will not somehow eradicate negative thinking or problems from our lives. But research shows that it can help us change the relationship we have with our own thoughts and with the experiences of our daily life so that we are less reactive and resistant to them. We no longer enter into such a battle with reality” says Dr Paula.
Beware of intensive retreats
“When meditating, you are tuned into your physical, mental and emotional senses, and so you may start to release all sorts of pent up issues,” says Dr Paula. “People who visit intensive meditation retreats after years of blocked and suppressed emotions can sometimes experience a rude awakening. It’s crucial to know that meditation on these intensives is not all bliss. It can be kind of like a psychological boot camp. Proper guidance is crucial here. It’s also important that you research the technique and the teacher first to explore whether that particular retreat is likely to be a good fit for you”.
Meditation is not a substitute for therapy
“Many people look to meditation as a quick and easy fix for all their problems and get confused as to how to use it correctly” says Dr Paula. “While meditation may help with certain issues, I recommend not solely relying on this if you are mentally vulnerable and in need of emotional support.” It is always important to seek help or see a therapist to address any underlying problems, and Dr Paula urges meditation teachers to be upfront and honest about this when working with their clients.
It’s not a one size fits all approach
While people often ask Dr Paula which meditation technique she thinks is best, she stresses that there is no straight up answer for this – “I recommend trying a few styles and then practicing what feels right for you,” she advises. If you have a specific purpose for meditating, then it will be much easier to make the right choice. “For example, if you’re looking to relax then choose a style that deeply soothes you. If you want to deal with negative thoughts especially – mindfulness approaches are the best practice to take.”
Meditation is not for everyone
“We’ve become increasingly aware from years of research that for some people, mindfulness can trigger anxiety, depression or flashbacks to past traumas,” Dr Paula states. As a clinical psychologist herself, she advises that although meditation can be beneficial to happiness and wellbeing, it should be performed under guidance if you are working through any emotional or mental issues.
Dr Paula has recently launched a nine week online course which offers weekly training modules that include easy-to-follow videos introducing you to the technique for the week. There is guided audio to help you practice, e-books that share the psychology and neuroscience behind the techniques and workbooks, journals and calendars to help you track your progress and stay committed to your meditation practice.
Dr Paula will also be hosting a live workshop of the course at the InYoga Studios in Surry Hills from the 9th – 30th August. For more details please visit www.inyoga.com.au/whats-on/event/calm-conscious-connected-1 Membership to Dr Paula’s Calm, Conscious and Connected course costs $199 as a one-off payment, or $55 over four instalments. This fee provides six month access to the course, as well as the exclusive members-only forum where people can interact with Paula as well as other participants. For more information or to sign up, visit: www.calmconsciousconnected.com.
Got a nasty case of the winter blues? Fret not, sister – help is at hand here, so put down that bowl of ice-cream and Game of Thrones DVD box set.
The winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a mood disorder which causes people to experience depressive symptoms in the winter, or in some cases, summer. Although why you’d ever be unhappy about warm weather is beyond me, but then again, I am a proud Queenslander.
Winter blues is a well-known phenomenon, particularly in the northern hemisphere where the poor peeps go for long periods without seeing any sunshine. Lack of direct sunlight (and consequently vitamin D) is known to cause depression. In Australia, we don’t have that problem to the same extent, but it seems people increasingly feel sad or depressed during winter – why?
Mental health experts say this could be due to physiological factors, for example: being in enclosed rooms (to keep the warmth in) leaves us more susceptible to catching colds and flu, leaving us feeling miserable. And there are psychological factors at play too, such as not going out and socialising as much when it’s colder, leading some people to feel lonely and isolated.
So, what can you do to ward off the winter blues? Here are five quick fixes:
- Little Miss Sunshine: The obvious one – get your coat on, baby, and get outside to catch some rays in the warmest part of the day. For Vitamin D will boost both your mood and your health. The “sunshine vitamin” is good for strong bones and teeth, fights disease and helps you feel sexy, vital and alive.
- You gotta keep moving: Winter is no excuse to stop exercising and start carb-loading as if your life depended on it (bugger). Get a personal trainer if your budget allows and if your motivation is sorely lacking; join a group exercise class, buddy up with a bestie or hit the weights/cardio equipment at the gym – anything which will boost your mood, give you happy endorphins as you sweat and make you look and feel great.
- Let’s talk about sex, baby: In an ideal world, sex would be a nice way to start the day, if only the likes of tiredness, toddlers and work commitments didn’t intervene. A good, early-morning session with your lover will provide immeasurable health benefits, plus it’s a form of exercise, right? And if you can reach the Big-O – this will instantly put you in a good mood even if it’s crazy cold weather outside.
- Let’s stay connected: Winter is no reason to neglect your close friendship circle and become BFFs with your doona. So, pick up your iPhone and make a date to catch-up with your friends – cocktails for all! Surround yourself with positive people who make you feel happy – not Debbie Downers – ain’t nobody got time for that. Alternatively, join a class, go to a library and/or a café – being around other like-minded people will boost your well-being.
- Mind, body, spirit: The colder weather is a great reason to try an indoors exercise class like yoga, body balance (yoga, pilates and tai chi) and/or take up meditation. Your mind, body and soul will love you for it and it will bring instant calm and relaxation benefits. I’m doing a lot of yoga and body balance classes at the moment and I’ve really noticed how much happier and more zen this makes me. Repeat after me, ommm…
What do you think? How do you combat the winter sads?
Images via good-kovka.com, hercampus.com
Are you struggling to establish a daily meditation practice? You might feel that you don’t have time for it; it’s boring, it’s not for you, or you simply forget. Yet, the benefits of meditation are profound: It relaxes your nervous system, brings clarity, increases your vitality and connects you with your intuition. Who wouldn’t want that in their lives?
1. Start small
If the thought of spending 20 minutes meditating seems daunting, try 5 minutes. Everyone has 5 minutes a day that they can invest in themselves, whether it’s immediately after you wake up, in your lunch break or just before going to bed. As you get used to meditating regularly, you can gradually increase the time.
2. Choose what works for you
There’s no one right way to mediate. You can focus on your breath or a mantra that you’re saying to yourself, listen to a guided meditation, or try a walking meditation. Experiment with different ways to meditate and choose what you enjoy the most.
3. Everyone can meditate
Are you concerned that you have all kinds of thoughts in your head and that meditation is not working for you? It happens to all of us and it doesn’t mean you can’t meditate. Simply acknowledge your thoughts as soon as you notice you’re thinking and go back to your focus – whether it’s your breath, your mantra or the movement of your body.
4. Create a routine, but don’t get attached to it
If you’re able to pick a time to meditate every day, great! It’s much easier to remember your practice when it’s on your schedule and it’s easier to turn it into a habit. But sometimes things will happen that disrupt your schedule, or you might be struggling to create a routine in the first place. Don’t let that take you out, just watch out for the next available time and use it for your meditation.
5. Don’t give up
Feeling bad that you’ve missed a day or two? Not many people will stick with it every single day. Don’t be harsh on yourself about it; simply return to your daily mediation practice on the next day or as soon as you can.
Image via Pixabay
Teaching mindfulness to kids has a lot to do with staying out of nature’s way. Children have the innate ability to live in the present moment. They’re aware of what’s going on in their bodies and express their needs freely. They let go easily, they cry when they’re hurt and they can laugh the very next moment when they’re not feeling the pain anymore. The simplest objects can capture their attention for a long time.
As they grow, they learn to dwell on the past, worry about the future and keep their minds busy with outside distractions like we do. To some extent this is inevitable – no one is mindful all the time. But we can make sure that our kids can call on their mindfulness skills when they need them, and here are some ways to do it.
Share your own mindfulness practice with your kids
To teach your kids about mindfulness, first you must practice it yourself. You can choose something easy to share with your kids like a 5-minute meditation, or a mindfulness walk where you guide them to notice the feelings in their bodies and what is happening around them in the present moment.
Even if they just see you doing it, they’re likely to join in. I was struggling to find alone time for my daily meditation during the school holidays. So, I’d announce that I was going to meditate and the kids were not to disturb me, and I’d get on with it. More often than not, when I was finished, I’d find little people sitting next to me quietly with their eyes closed.
Gratitude is a perfect and easy way to notice and appreciate things that are right here and now. You can make it a formal practice at the same time every day (for example, before bed), or you can share things that you’re grateful for throughout the day and ask your children to do the same. It’s easy to turn it into a game, and the kids will quickly begin to notice more of the world around them and how it enriches their lives.
Use simple mindfulness activities
Ask your children to tune into their emotions and tell you how they’re feeling. Or listen to a piece of music together, focusing just on the music. Put on some guided mediations for kids (try the Smiling Mind app).
Teaching mindfulness to kids doesn’t have to take time out of your day. Each one of your daily activities can be turned into a mindfulness practice if you remember to focus on the present moment only, and invite your children to do the same.
Image via Pixabay
Using our intuition is not something we learn at school. Most of us have been taught to make decisions relying on logic and information that we receive from the outside world, but this is no longer a great strategy for a successful life. Information is everywhere and it can take us decades to get through it and arrange it in a logical way, and who has decades to spend on every decision? We need a shortcut and we need it now!
Luckily, intuition can provide this shortcut by helping us access our inner knowing of what is right for us in every moment. Successful thinkers and doers from all walks of life admit that developing their intuition has been vital to their success. Bill Gates, the richest man on earth has a popular quote: “Often you have to rely on intuition,” while Einstein said: “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
“But I’m not Bill Gates and I’m not Einstein”, you might be thinking. “What if I don’t have intuitive abilities?”
Everyone has intuitive abilities
Intuitive coach and energy healer Freya Dwyer explains that intuition is the part of us that guides us to bring love and grace to every situation, and it’s a part that we all have. Even if you don’t think you’re intuitive, you have probably experienced intuitive hits without realising it.
For example, you might be having a fight with a family member and you really want to say that one thing that will ‘get’ them, but there’s something in you that warns you not to go there. Or you might get a strong sense to eat a certain food or walk a certain path, and you don’t know why, but to do anything else feels wrong.
Why is it important to follow your intuition?
Your intuition offers the shortest way to personal fulfilment. “If we don’t follow our intuition when the voice is quiet and small, eventually your life will become so uncomfortable that you will have no other choice but to follow it”, Freya says. A bad relationship is the perfect example that comes to mind. We see and feel that something is off from the very start, but we choose to ignore our gut feeling, just to end up breaking up months or years down the track after a lot of heartache.
Freya tells a story from her own life when her intuition helped her make a decision that wasn’t comfortable, but it turned out being the right one. “When I was in my twenties I worked for a company that was very unethical. I didn’t have a lot of experience and I thought that must be the way things were in that industry, but it felt very wrong to me.
“One day I just walked out. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to pay my bills, but I knew I couldn’t stay one more day in that place. After I did that, I gained employment at a wonderful company and was able to build back my self-esteem.”
Developing your intuition
While everyone has intuitive abilities, using your intuition is like using your muscles. Train your muscles every day and you will soon notice that your body becomes fitter and stronger. Practice your intuition and you will start receiving clearer signals.
Freya recommends daily meditation as a way to develop your intuition. You can start with just 5 minutes a day and then gradually build up your meditation practice. Other activities that can help are journaling and yoga, or another physical practice to connect you to your body.
Self-care is extremely important when you want to hear your intuition clearly. When you’re stressed out and running around all day, you’re unable to discern between worry and intuition. Instead, take some time for yourself and do what relaxes you. With a calm mind it’s much easier to remember to pay attention to the signals in your body.
Stop and notice how you’re feeling throughout the day. Acknowledge the things that feel good, whether it’s patting the neighbour’s cat, smelling a flower, or drinking more water. Then notice how you feel when you do things that don’t feel right, like constantly checking Facebook or complaining. Get to know changes in your body as you go about your day. What gives you a feeling of bliss? What makes your stomach tighten?
The difference between intuition and fear
But wait, isn’t that tightening in the stomach just fear? Shouldn’t we ignore it and go for what we want anyway? Freya offers an easy way to distinguish between fear and intuition. Fear is about rehashing the past or trying to predict the future, while intuition is always, always in the present moment. Fear tells you that you have limited options. Intuition is infinitely creative. Fear tends to compare you to others and their situation, but your intuition knows that you’re entirely unique.
Connecting to your intuition is a discipline. Practice every day and little by little you’ll be able to experience greater flow and ease in your life.
Image via Pixabay
Imagine taking a vow of silence, cutting off all contact from your loved ones and the outside world, giving up grog and only eating vegetarian meals – all for the duration of a 10-day, live-in meditation course, in the name of personal enlightenment?
Personally, I’d struggle on all fronts – particularly with not being able to see my husband and two toddlers for that long – but for countless others, this is nirvana. For in the eternal quest for peace of mind and happiness, people are flocking to a residential meditation centre in regional South-East Queensland, set in landscaped gardens within 60 acres of bushland.
And once there, thousands of meditation students will, each year, willingly take a vow of “noble silence” for the duration of a 10-day adult course which caters for up to 70 people.
Participants must also eschew all modern luxuries, such as the use of technology, including all electronic devices. Eek!
Following the age-old technique of Vipassana meditation – one of India’s most ancient practices hailing back to the time of Buddha more than 2500 years ago – Dhamma Rasmi is located at Pomona, Queensland, about two hours north of Brisbane.
This Vipassana meditation centre is hugely popular with both men and women and even offers 20-day courses for “old students”. About 40 courses in total are run annually, including one-to-two day classes for teenagers and children, and pregnant women are welcome at the adult courses.
So, why on earth would you do it? The benefits of such a 10-day meditation course are said to include:
- It’s a practical way to achieve peace of mind and boost your happiness and productivity.
- A 10-day residential course with a qualified teacher gives students the opportunity to be “free from distractions”, according to the course terminology. This apparently helps you tap into your reality within.
- This technique is said to help participants “come out of suffering”.
- The course is non-sectarian and so suitable to all people, regardless of religion, gender, race or nationality.
- It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, and “dissolves mental impurity”, resulting in a balanced, uncluttered mind full of love and compassion.
And a word of warning, dear reader: this residential meditation course is a serious undertaking and not for the faint-hearted.
Before you apply, you’re encouraged to “read and accept the code of discipline”, including what is expected of you, lest you get chucked out. And note well: all journalistic attempts were made to interview a course convenor or teacher for this story, but all such requests were declined. Apparently, publicity is neither sought nor welcomed, hmph.
For more information, visit www.rasmi.dhamma.org or www.dhamma.org.au.
Images, in order, via www.dailymail.co.uk and www.popscreen.com.
We all know that meditation can help us relax, slow down and find an island of peace in our frantic days, yet, how many of us actually do it? We make up with all kind of excuses: that we don’t have time, we can’t sit still, it’s boring and it’s not for us. Most of these excuses come from misunderstanding what meditation is and what isn’t. Here are some of the most common myths we tell ourselves.
Meditation requires time and a quiet space
Meditation is a technique for slowing down the mind through focusing on a single thing and letting go of everything else. While it can be easier to escape distractions if you have a dedicated time and place for meditation, the single thing you’re focusing on can be anything – your breath, the movements you make, a scene in nature, a sound, the present moment. For your meditation practice, you can easily use your daily commute, housework or anything else that’s already there in your day.
You need to sit still with your eyes closed when you meditate
That’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word “meditation”, isn’t it? Someone sitting still in lotus pose with their eyes closed. I can understand why it wouldn’t work for everyone and it’s not for me either. I can’t do a lotus pose and, more often than not, the moment I close my eyes in a mildly comfortable pose I drift off to sleep. Yet, as I already mentioned, there are many alternative ways to meditate, from jogging to knitting to watching the sunset (and you’ll have a hard time doing either of these activities with your eyes closed).
It takes a long time to see any benefits
You’ll start experiencing the benefits as soon as you start practicing meditation. They may not be mind-blowing at first. You’ll probably not experience a huge shift of consciousness, but your body and your mind will get a change to rest, let go of stress and heal.
Meditation is just relaxation
While meditation is relaxing, meditation and relaxation are not the same thing. Meditation is about becoming more aware of the present moment and relaxation can sometimes be about escaping it – imagine watching TV or reading a good book, where you enter an alternative reality. In comparison to relaxation, meditation offers additional benefits: self-knowledge, clarity of thought, focus and resilience in stressful situations.
When it comes to meditation what you do is far less important than how you do it. As you can see, with intention you can easily incorporate meditation into your day and reap the rewards.
Image by suc via pixabay.com
Often we find ourselves thinking the same thoughts over and over again, going through the same to-do lists, worrying about the same problems. We get caught in the moment and we find it hard to stop, yet clearing the mental clutter doesn’t have to be difficult. Next time you find your thoughts going in circles, try one of these easy ways to declutter your mind.
Simple breathing meditation
Fritz Pearls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, said that “fear is excitement without the breath”. If breathing has the power to transform fear, it can no doubt help you get out of worrying, repetitive thinking and other unhelpful patterns. Take a few deep breaths focusing on the air coming in and going out of your body. Your mind will stray and that’s ok. As soon as you notice, gently return your focus to your breath. You’ll notice a calming effect very quickly.
In her book, ‘The Artist’s Way’, Julia Cameron recommends writing three pages longhand as a daily creative practice. You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from this habit. Write whatever comes to your mind without editing and without immediately re-reading what you’ve just written. At first you’ll notice that you’re writing the same things over and over again, just the way you’re thinking. Eventually you’ll gain more clarity and you’ll see the old patterns dissolving and new insights coming up.
If the word ‘art’ scares you, let me assure you that you don’t need any artistic abilities to benefit from art journaling. It’s just another way to connect with your inner world and it’s all about the process not outcome. You can express your thoughts and feelings through drawing, painting, collage or anything else that you feel drawn to and no one other than you ever needs to see your art.
Nobody likes a person that complains all the time, but sometimes it helps to talk things out. Find a trusted friend and share your thoughts. Choose someone who will listen deeply and show understanding, rather than a person who’d try offering one solution after the other. Once you clear up your mental space, your own insights will start flowing in and you’ll be ready to hear other perspectives, too.
Walking, running, swimming all help you take the focus off your thoughts and concentrate on what your body is doing. Activities with repetitive motion are great and can turn into a form of meditation, but tennis, games and team sports can also help you shift your attention.
These are just a handful of tools to help you release your mental clutter. Try the one you feel most drawn to or all of them and see what works for you.
Image by Unsplash via pixabay.com
Most of us feel the need to withdraw from our rushed, busy lives every now and then. A weekend retreat is a perfect way to experience a quick dose of peace, try something new and come back reenergised.
When I signed up for a meditation retreat at Nan Tien Temple, I expected a few hours of meditation here and there and lots of free time to catch up on much needed sleep. The vow of Noble Silence (no speaking) for the duration of the retreat also looked very attractive – I could participate in classes and group activities without having to engage in small talk, which, as an introvert, I often find exhausting.
After checking into my accommodation, a nice hotel-like lodge, I went to meet the rest of the group and our meditation teacher. To my surprise, I found that the retreat’s schedule was very full. There was a lot to squeeze into one and a half days – morning chants, a tour of the temple, a tea ceremony, a tai chi class and evening meditation after dinner, just to mention a few of the activities.
I felt overwhelmed when I looked at my schedule, but I soon understood the intention behind it. The Buddhist monk, who was teaching us, talked about how mindfulness and meditation were not something you did once in a while, when you had the right conditions (when you’d managed to get away from the city for a day or two for a retreat). Instead, our teacher’s goal was to have us pay attention to every activity we engage in and practice skills that we could take into our daily lives. So during the weekend we practiced being mindful in everything we did, whether we were meditating, walking, eating, drinking tea, doing tai chi or listening to the history of the temple.
Observing Noble Silence wasn’t the only rule. No smoking and no meat were allowed on the territory of the temple, and all electronic devices were to be switched off. I broke one of the rules – I spent some time taking night photos of the temple (when else was I going to get that chance?) until one of the monks noticed and asked me to put my camera away.
Despite this little distraction, I still felt the power of mindfulness to transform stress into peace and I was amazed that it happened in such a short time. When retreat was over I didn’t want to go. I didn’t reach out for my phone or ebook reader (something I’d normally do when I have a free minute), I just sat at the lake and watched the fish for hours.
Image from muminsearch.com
By Tatiana Apostolova
Not only does yoga increase your strength and flexibility but it can also help you to lose weight, release tension in your body and calm your mind. The positive health benefits that yoga provides are huge which is why more and more people are turning to this spiritual discipline to improve their wellbeing. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert there are classes and retreats for everyone so here are some of the best in Australia.
Self-Discovery Yoga Retreat, Sue Hawkins Yoga Health Retreats
The Self-Discovery Yoga Retreat in Byron Bay is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for change and improvement in your life. Held next to Tallows Beach in 30 acres of bushland, this six day retreat aims to give guests inspirational direction and a positive life changing experience by using Core Energetics psychotherapy – a type of therapy that combines emotional, physical, spiritual and energetic development. As well as meditation, yoga, Pilates and Reiki sessions you can also enjoy a range of leisure activities and an incredible buffet of organic vegan meals each day.
Alpine Mountain Yoga Retreat, Australian Yoga Retreats
Nestled in the picturesque Snowy Mountains is the Guthega Alpine Inn which has panoramic views of the mountain ranges and Guthega dam. During Melbourne Cup weekend this alpine inn is home to the four day Alpine Mountain Yoga Retreat where you can enjoy twice daily yoga sessions, talks on yoga philosophy, pranayama and contemplative meditation. As well as the planned sessions there is plenty of free time for bushwalking and exploring Guthega village or Mt Kosciuszko. Dine on vegetarian cuisine and surround yourself with nature.
Desert Stars Yoga Camel Trek, Australian Yoga Retreats
If you’re looking for a different type of yoga retreat then consider the Desert Stars Yoga Camel retreat in September. This ultimate escape is a seven day outback trek through the Flinders Ranges where you will explore remote regions on foot and trek deep into the wilderness. As well as practising meditation and yoga each morning with an experienced teacher, you’ll also get to handle, groom and shepherd the camels that carry the food and supplies for the trek. Cook on the campfire, sleep in swags under the stars and go home with a true appreciation for nature.
Yoga Cleanse and Pamper Retreat, Radiance Retreats
Whether you’re a beginner in yoga or an expert, the four day Yoga Cleanse and Pamper Retreat in Byron Bay will leave you feeling invigorated, refreshed and relaxed. Held at the Sangsurya eco retreat you can enjoy twice daily yoga sessions, massages, nature walks, core strength sessions and organic vegetarian meals. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry – there are plenty of yoga facilitators on hand for some one on one attention to ensure that you are getting the most out of your sessions.
Week-Long Bikram Yoga Retreat, Tranquil Point Bikram Yoga School
If you’re looking for a retreat that specialises in Bikram Yoga (a series of stretching postures and breathing exercises performed in a heated room) then consider the Tranquil Point Bikram Yoga School, located in Cygnet, just 45 minutes from Hobart. This unique retreat has waterfront ocean views, private beaches, and an organic vegetable garden and orchard. There are a number of different retreats on offer including the week long Bikram yoga retreat where you will enjoy two yoga classes each day, massages and organic meals. In your spare there are a number of activities to enjoy such as kayaking, fishing and hiking, or consider exploring Cygnet township which is famous for its organic produce and artistic culture.
Image via soniawelch.co.uk
While meditation began as a spiritual pursuit, it has become an exercise of many non-religious practitioners as science and medicine continue to champion its benefits.
Meditation helps relieve stress and improve mental clarity. One of the most common types of meditation is the practice of “mindfulness” – focused attention on a singular aspect in the present, such as your breath or a particular body part. Meditation can help lower anxiety, maintain focus, assist creativity, improve your memory, and just generally lift your mood.
However, not everyone has the time and money to attend meditation or yoga classes. Instead, I prefer to take a few minutes out of my day, whether that is before bed, on my lunch break, or on the train, to plug in my headphones and practice guided meditation with the assistance of one of these mobile apps.
Simply Being – $0.99
Simply Being will help you relax and settle into the moment, by encouraging you to “simply be.” You can select long or short meditations (ranging from 5 to 20 minutes), and listen to your guided session with optional background music or nature sounds. The app is easy to use and great for beginners, especially those who have trouble sleeping.
Headspace – Free
Headspace founder, Andy Puddicombe, is a former Buddhist monk and a minor meditation celebrity. Headspace was built on the principle that dedicating just ten minutes per day to mindfulness practice can have miraculous effects on your wellbeing. The Headspace ‘Take 10’ program serves this philosophy, offering ten minutes of meditation over a ten-day period. An engaging, friendly voice guides the meditations, which are also accompanied by a fun animated video.
Buddhify 2 – $2.99
Buddhify is the most popular app of its kind and, not coincidentally, also the most expensive on this list. However, what is a one-off $2.99 in comparison to ongoing class fees? Buddhify has custom meditations befitting whatever you are doing in that moment. You can select an activity or mood from a colorful wheel of options, such as “walking”, “can’t sleep”, or “work break”. On top of a brilliant design, Buddhify also offers a stats page, social media sharing opportunities, and solo meditation for the more experienced practitioners.
Omvana – Free
Omvana claims it is “more than the Spotify of meditation.” It offers thousands of tracks created by musicians and authors from around the world, which you can add to your personal library and customise to your liking. There are all types of meditations that will help you sleep, lose weight, or just feel great. While the app is free and comes with some sample tracks to start you off, you will have to purchase any extras from the iTunes store.
Transform Your Life is different from the other apps on this list, as it does not provide guided meditation clips, but rather written meditations for you to contemplate over the course of each day. You can set a reminder on your phone to receive a daily assignment in “awareness practice”. The ultimate goal is to help you see past the social and cultural conditioning that might limit your happiness and mental clarity. It is great motivation for those seeking a long-term exercise in compassionate and mindful living.
Image via globalone.tv
The death of a loved one, relationship breakdown or loss of employment or finances? If you or a loved one is experiencing grief and loss, we have some survival tips to help you through it.
Although grief is a universal experience, we simply aren’t taught how to deal with. It is powerful, personal emotion which can make others feel uncomfortable about what to do or say. Instead of providing support, people often avoid individuals experiencing grief. Mourners therefore feel isolated and very alone in their suffering, even if they share the loss with others.
If this sounds like you or someone close to you, it is important to know that grieving is a very natural process. Everyone will experience it at one time or another and each person will do it differently. Some will grieve for a short time and other will grieve much longer. Some will cry and display their grief while others with hold it within. There is no right or wrong way as long as you let yourself experience it and ride though the pain.
Sometimes the significant loss we experience leaves an empty feeling within us and we crave to fill it. Initially drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or other addictive behaviours will fill the void and this is why so many people turn to addictive behaviours at the onset of grief. Unfortunately, these behaviours only mask the pain and when the behaviour is removed, the grief will rise to the surface.
Avoiding these types of behaviours and grieving in a positive way will not only get you through the intense feelings at the onset, but also allow you to move on as time passes. The following tips will help you grieve in a more positive way:
- Understand what you are feeling is completely natural. It is ok to be sad and still be able to laugh.
- Take each day as it comes and remember that as each day passed; the pain will eventually ease.
- Be kind to yourself and don’t eat yourself up over the past. Instead focus on the present and the future.
- Talk to friends and family about your loss. Although they may not have experienced grief themselves, they can be your best support so don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
- Look after your physical health; sleep, eat health, drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol or sleeping medication. Looking after your physical health will ultimately help maintain your mental health.
- Keeping busy is great but don’t do so to avoid your feelings.
- Yoga, meditation, gardening, writing or things that you usually do to relax will help you stay mentally strong.
- Avoid major decisions like moving or selling your home. As time passes you will have a better perspective.
- If you are experiencing isolation, joining a support group will give you access to others experiencing similar emotions and the opportunity to share your experience.
If your grief is prolonged or if you are having trouble coping, you may need to talk to a professional. The following contacts are an excellent place to start:
Lifeline 24-hour counselling 13 11 14
Kids helpline 1800 55 1800
By Kim Chartres
You’ve heard of all the benefits of meditation. You’d love to be more peaceful, relaxed and present. Maybe you’ve even tried to meditate and you’ve lasted for a day or two… So have I. Meditation is a practice of focusing on a single thing in order to release everything else and quiet your mind. Sitting meditation seems like the easiest way to do this – all you need is a place to sit and your breath. But for many of us it’s not as easy as it sounds and it’s certainly not the only way to meditate. Any other activity that helps you focus on one thing can become meditative practice.
Often focus on the breath can be achieved much easier when breath is accompanied by rhythmic movements. In most forms of exercise, focus on the breath also promotes good technique so it’s a win-win. You get a clear mind and you get your workout done at the same time. Jogging and swimming are prefect examples of activities with repetitive movement where focus on the breath is essential for good technique.
Knitting and crochet
If you’re crafty, you’re probably already familiar with the relaxing effects of knitting and crochet. Now you can take it one step further and turn it into a meditative practice by fully focusing on what you’re doing. Pick yarn that’s comforting in colour and texture. Chose a simple project so that you don’t have to check the pattern constantly, but one where you still need to count and concentrate. Then let your craft project emerge while you’re giving your mind a break from any thoughts and concerns.
Connecting with nature
Go for a walk or stay still admiring the view while giving your full attention to the sounds, colours and smells around you. Notice the shapes of the leaves on a tree and the way they move from the wind. Observe a wave braking at the shore, then slowly drawing back in. Or simply turn your gaze upwards and watch the clouds.
When it comes to mindfulness and meditation, it’s more important how you do things than what it is that you’re actually doing. Try one of these alternatives to meditation or create your own. The key is to stay focused and in the present moment as much as possible. And remember, you don’t have to do it perfectly to reap the benefits.
Image by Lynn Greyling via PublicDomainPictures.net
By Tatiana Apostolova
Are you usually annoyed or irritated? Do you often feel like you are stuck at the wrong place at the wrong time? Do you usually pick arguments? Well, before this starts sounding like one of those useless, annoying online marketing advertisements, I believe if your answer to the questions is a yes, your chakras are probably screwing with you.
But it’s never too late. Yogis around the world believe that messier your chakras are, the more the yoga and meditation practices work on you. And the best part is you don’t need a master.
Knowing your chakras
Imagine a kitchen with half eaten cake left on the counter, scattered uncapped bottles, unwashed plates with leftover food waiting in the washbasin, and ketchup spilled on the floor. Our minds and bodies are in a similar mess. Everything’s scattered and out of place. Just because you don’t see that, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. So let’s start aligning things inside us. Trust me it’s more important than the kitchen mess you worry about every day.
Get in a line
No, I am no talking about a queue here. This line refers to a 90 degrees invisible arrangement of energy points from your tail bone all the way up to the crown of your forehead. This line houses your seven chakras. Chakras are counted from bottom to the top, so the first one is the root chakra on the tailbone, followed by sacral chakra on the reproductive organs, solar plexus chakra on lower abdomen just above the navel cavity, heart chakra, throat chakra, brow (third-eye) chakra and the crown chakra on the head.
When one or more of our chakras move away from this sequence, we are faced with problems ranging from health, spiritual, mental to social. Each of the seven chakras, with a specific color and sound frequency, will only open to give out energy once it gets back to its right place.
Take it slow
Like any other exercise, it is always good to start one by one. Exerting too much pressure on the body for quick flexibility can leave you injured, and so can an attempt to align all chakras at the same time can be too much for a naïve yogi. It’s always good to work on one chakra at a time through yoga postures and meditation.
Add some colour to your life
Each chakra has a colour: red, orange, gold/yellow, green, turquoise, purple and violet/white. You can simply mediate by imagining a lotus-shaped glow moving in a circular motion at the point of the chakra, like a wheel. Just remember to sit cross-legged, with your eyes lightly closed and your arms kept away from your body so that your upward-facing palms rest on your knees with the index finger touching the thumb. With every breath chant the words ‘Om’ or ‘hmm’ starting from when you start breathing out and stretching the word till you are ready to breathe in again.
With a greater effect, you can also download ‘music for mediation’. You will be surprised to see that there’s a specific frequency for each chakra.
With the right colour and movement imagination and music, you can do yourself wonders by meditating just 20 minutes each day. And the good news is, you can meditate for every chakra a day, completing your cycle in a week and then repeating.
So let this colourful journey to inner peace begin.
Images via innerswift.com and worldofpeace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/iStock_000010960212Small3.jpg
By Ayesha Hasan
Ok, so you’ve tried a walk through the nearby garden, made yourself a cup of herbal tea and tried enjoying it on your terrace with a view of falling leaves. You’ve also talked to a friend and intensively googled DIY techniques to relax. You’ve also given sleep a chance or two. But nothing seems to work. Have you tired making peace with you soul lately? Let yoga do that for you.
Believe me when I say it works. I have seen it do wonders for me.
Soon after my return from Afghanistan last year, where I had been on a war reporting fellowship, I realised that while I had gained something professionally, I had lost some, too, personally. My soul was bruised from the misery I had witnessed and the agony I had seen the local people go through. Their pain concealed from the eyes of the world, to which the only way to peek into the sore country is five minutes of media reports.
Every night, I would close my eyes to return to images of mutilated men and women and underfed, underdressed children trembling in cold, most not making it through the night. That is when I knew I needed some magic, and tried this phenomenal thing called yoga.
Over thousands of years, yogis have been trying to find an answer to this spiritual mystery, but all they have found is peace and so did I.
Apart from the established health benefits of everyday yoga, this practice is a great way to mediate and cleanse one’s inner self, by aligning one’s chakras (seven energy points in the body that should be aligned in a 90 degree angle from the head to the backbone) that are mostly disturbed, unknowingly affecting the entire way we think, process and react to situations.
Man has articulately developed a cage around him and trapped himself inside it, oblivious of the damages it is doing to his natural freedom. He has created each cage rod with the lust of money, sex and power. He is stuck and desperate to set himself free. It is important to revive the butterfly inside us, and trust me yoga can do that for us.
The biggest freedom is to smile and not think about what brought it. Can you smile without giving it a thought as you read this and then feel good about it knowing you did not have a reason to do it? Can you start your day without the ‘fear of the unknown’ that might take moments like these away? If your answer is no, the question is what have you been waiting for? Just remember:
- It won’t cost you anything but the benefits are valuable.
- You don’t need to have any religious affiliation or formal registration with an instructor to begin your yoga sessions. You just need 30 minutes of your day.
- You don’t have to be an expert. You can start at home and begin with simple yoga positions, or called asanas, that should not last more than 30 minutes to begin with. The timings can be increased by 10 minutes every week, taking it to an hour and then keeping it that way.
- Always treat your body tenderly and never push yourself more than what you can take. The first few weeks will add flexibility to your body, especially the back. You just have to be committed to yourself and the strength will come itself. I promise you’ll feel the ‘lightness’ in your soul the very first day.
- Using a yoga mat is preferable, but if you don’t have one, you can also start using a thin mat/rug on a flat, non-slippery floor. And, don’t forget to download some mediation music for free.
Since practicing yoga, I have not only learned to be more relaxed and happy, I have also miraculously learned to manage my anger issues. I have less back pains than before and I sleep like a baby. Coupled with the will, you don’t have an idea what gift you are about to present to your body and soul. And the next time you smile without a reason, thank me.
Stay tuned for more on the magic of yoga, simple positions and how to mediate for each chakra. Till then, stay happy and start warming up.
By Ayesha Hasan
We used to roll our eyes at friends that meditated, but today more and more people see meditation as an essential part of the day, like eating and exercising. Meditation is a practice where you train your mind in order to reduce stress, clear your mind, or become more effective critical thinkers.
By learning more about meditation and different techniques, you’ll be able to cope with all the challenges life throws at you, stay calm in difficult situations, and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
There are a many helpful meditation techniques – try some of these below.
1. Walking Meditation
One great technique you can employ as you master the art of meditation is to practice walking meditation. This is such a simple meditation technique that is very effective for women who find themselves perpetually stressed out. Take a walk and pay attention to things such as the feeling of your toes touching the ground as you step. Observe all sensory details like the sound of birds, the swap of trees, and scent of flowers. Concentrate on slow breaths in and slow breaths out. You’ll find yourself slowing down and being in the moment, a perfect example of mindfulness.
2. Meditate Mindfully
Speaking of mindfulness, one of the most effective techniques you can use to make the most of your meditation time is to be a mindful meditator. Along with walking meditation, you use the practice to observe your own thoughts. Stop working about the past or the future; slow down, and focus on the present. While making dinner, don’t stress out about an early morning meeting you might have the next day, concentrate on chopping, stirring, tasting your dinner with a smile – you’ll not only enjoy your dinner more, but you’ll feel your other stressed melt away.
3. The Attitude Of Gratitude
Although there are a variety of things you can think about while meditating, remembering all the things for which you are grateful can be particularly effective. There are several things you can reflect on, including a great friend, your health, or your last holiday. To make the most of this technique, do it in the morning shortly after you wake up. This will set you up to have an absolutely amazing day.