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Guided Meditations

I’ve tried numerous guided meditations and the majority are rubbish. Hemi-sync is fine. Well, I tell myself that since I have the entire set. However, it is more for attempting out-of-body experiences than real meditation. Many years ago I did try one guided meditation CD, it was in a group setting, that simply talked the listener into a deeply relaxed state and it was very effective. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the name of the CD but I am mentioning it to let you know that good guided meditations do exist, but at least in my experience, they are few and far between. What I think we need to consider is that the idea that guided meditations are untested Western inventions, and perhaps have little to do with a proper meditation practice. Guided meditations are a recent invention. They are a useful device, and certainly help maintain interest in meditation, but they are training wheels at best. On the one hand, modern experimentation is great and to be encouraged – biofeedback, apps, online teachings and the like. On the other, it’s important to be on the lookout for sham meditation – often via CDs and mp3s – being used to make money for people who have very little interest in our long term well being. Meditate without any guide as soon as possible. At some point you had to learn walking without someone holding your hand too.
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What Gives: Buddhist Meditation and Hinduism

Meditation in the West tends to come from the Buddhist, not Hindi traditions and as such has a much more focused spirituality. When I started I was clumsily referring to ‘yoga’ as practiced in the west losing its spirituality there rather than meditation, and meditation in the context of traditional Hindu yoga practice being a part of yoga that the west largely ignores. I don’t know Hinduism in any great detail, though even buddhism in the west has been popularly co-opted by materialist secularism as the mindfulness movement – not necessarily a bad thing, but I think we have a lot to discover that our skeptical, over-rational minds have long dismissed. Some systems of Buddhism are more focused on logic and things that are more easily provable. That can make it easier to remove the spirituality from Buddhist meditation and turn it into generic “mindfulness”. Yoga is the cessation of the mind fluctuations. What people call yoga in the west isn’t even technically yoga. When we say we are going to do yoga, usually what we mean is that we are going to practice asanas. Exercise. Asanas is the physical conditioning aspect in the Yoga system. Yoga is generally focused on methods, not ideologies. That’s why hatha (“gym”) yoga works whether you understand it or not. The theories that yoga is based on have nothing to do with Western science, yet studies show that yoga is very effective. From Patanjali’s sutras. This is the de facto definition of yoga but of course it’s up to interpretation because a sutra is a thread of a thought designed to be passed down in an oral tradition. Yoga meditation tends to have less accessible spirituality for many westerners because it focuses more on esoteric methods such as pranayama and chakras to generate spiritual experiences. The experiences generated are then their own “proof”. By the technical definition of yoga, yoga is meditation. Yoga is union. It’s goal is to bring about union/harmony in the mind, in a literal sense, typically referring to the skill/cohesiveness of ones concentration. Hinduism is what the British empire labeled the myriad of spiritual practices they found in India. I have heard there are millions of god’s and goddesses in India because originally you could create a god from anything you chose to worship. People miss the point that everything contains the ultimate source. It’s the Western world that needs to label the world around them. There is a lot of spirituality found in India but you won’t find a central definition or establishment like other religions of the world. What is more apt to call Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma which is Sanskrit for Eternal Natural Way. It’s not a label is a vague definition because there isn’t one right or wrong way to reach an enlightened state. Ancient Hinduism originally known as Sanatana Dharma is the oldest religion on Earth.
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In Yoga Terms

I didn’t realize how much a desk job would take out of me. My dad worked his whole life in construction. When I say whole life I mean it. His father owned a company and so he was right there in the thick of it from a young age on. He had aches and pains. And yet it never occurred to me that I would also ache after work. My legs feel a little fatigued sometimes right after sitting. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a few poses of yoga to help aide in getting the blood flowing going when this happens. But the same can happen if I meditate, too long. It was because for a long time I wasn’t really practicing meditation or yoga. What we westerners call yoga is mere the 3rd step out of the 8 steps in classical yoga — asana or posture. Asanas (physical postures) traditionally is to make the body healthy and stable for meditation, wherein the yogi would have the experiences of the higher states of consciousness and eventually become enlightened. Even though westerners don’t actually believe in enlightenment, they found that the yoga poses – based on the yoga system of body energy – gives excellent results in terms of creating peace and health in the human body. For excample, studies have proven that yoga is more beneficial in reducing anxiety than other forms of exercise. The term yoga has meant union or yoking the individual consciousness with the experience of the entire universe. A yogi was one who had accomplished this union or at the very least was aspiring to it and using a systematic method of accomplishing his aim. A yogi named Paramahansa Yogananda came to the West in 1920 and wrote the Autobiography of a Yogi which became quite well known and inspired the careers of many well known yoga teachers. Classical yoga has spirituality as its base, which many of us are allergic to. I was pretty skeptical myself in the beginning, but through the yoga methods they taught I learned to prove to myself the value of these systems in a step-by-step systematic way. The organization he started explains the classical purpose of yoga here and goes deeper into explaining the eight steps of yoga. A good yoga set will get you closer a meditative state. You can meditate during yoga. But when you practice yoga first, it warms up the spine and quiets the mind. Stillness includes movement and movement includes stillness. The stillness of meditation requires a certain kind of circulation, an ease of body-and-mind. It can be quite difficult to focus on meditation while also doing yoga. I found it took me about 4 months of practice (doing yoga every other day) before I was physically adapted enough to be able to perform the poses without getting flustered, out-of-breath, etc. and I was then able to focus more on ujjayi breathing and drishti and be able to have a good meditation session while doing yoga postures. Classically, yoga is primarily focused on meditation, and asana is just a good preparation for that.
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I’m There For You

I understand. Really I do. I know that it is tough to get moving first thing in the morning, especially for people who aren’t “morning people“. I was there. Morning people? That is a myth. It should be people with good habits. And you can be that person, too. It’s not impossible, though it might be hard at first. To make it easier do something you love first thing in the morning. Reward yourself. Seriously, you will learn to enjoy your mornings more, especially if you have demands on your other free time. All you need is the willpower to actually get out of bed. If it is an honest aspiration that keep going. It feels great reaching your goals!
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Changing Habits Is A Waiting Game

Don’t get frustrated if you can’t immediately shake a bad habit, even if you really want to. It takes longer than that to change your habits. It is a matter of determination and time. I broke my bad habit of getting stressed when I was running late in the morning. But I kept getting up early, avoided all caffeine after noon, got up early on weekends and vacation days. I had a problem that I could not fall asleep when I went to bed early, normally. Then I changed it so that I wouldn’t get into bed until I felt at least little drowsy since as you know yourself forcing it can make it harder. When I was working on getting into a better routine I read that it takes two full weeks for us to reset our sleep schedule. Then you need to work another week, so 21 days, before it becomes an actual habit. Otherwise you can easily drop it again. My caffeine rule is not negotiable. For me I react really pretty sensitively to caffeine. But I guess it depends on the person. If you can sleep fine with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon it probably isn’t a big deal. Also I skip screen time. Artificial blue light stimulates you as if it was a bright day and slows down melatonin secretion. For me this is worse than caffeine!
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Up Early

… out with the sun! You could say that your bed is comfortable, it is safe. Nothing can hurt, you, but you also can’t do anything from your bed. It is a cage that you have to be willing to leave. Are you willing? I am. Picture this a young woman at home sitting on comfy chair in front of window relaxing in her living room reading book. There‚Äôs something magical about the smell of fresh air in the morning. The stillness, the tranquility. You miss out on that if you are still under the comforter. So it is in bed early, up early for me. It really is that simple. There are so many great reasons that sleeping early is difficult to achieve on a regular basis. To do so consistently you must manage your time effectively. But it is as simple as that. Therefore getting up in the morning itself isn’t the only thing that will add to your productiveness. I believe that choosing the hard option is always best. Getting up early, at least at first is hard. Still if you are willing to get out of bed at 5 or 6am is going to provide you with so much more time than the rest of the world. It comes down to a sort of self-mastery. But only in the beginning. In a world where competition is the fruit of success, you must understand that getting up at these hours puts you ahead of pretty much everyone. If done successfully this will give you the slight edge in pursuing whatever you choose. You can argue that this is all subjective to the individual and maybe some people can get work done at night time. On the other hand I would argue that it’s actually a more intelligent act to wake up as early as possible. Why? Because you can take advantage of the quite hours of the morning. This time can be utilized to get more done and start your day off better. Staying in bed is self defeating. Defeating this obstacle reinforces a healthy mindset. If within the first minute of the day you successfully overcome this hurdle, you are more likely to do the same with your day. It is a pattern that will repeat itself in other aspects of your life as well. How common is it for you to be in a breakneck rush in the early hours, before work, university, whatever do for a living? For me it as like that all of the time, up, teeth, hair, makeup, food (no just coffee). This left me in a really stressful state with no ideal way to start the day. I made a change though so instead of the hectic rush to get out – picture instead – I have exercised, eaten some healthy food, read a book that I enjoy, had a refreshing shower. Research has always shown that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And exercise has benefits on our focus and concentration, even in our short term memory. It is also easy to use to use to our benefit. As humans are very habit oriented. That is to say that we fall into routines very easily. And while structure can provide great benefits, it can also go the other direction and that is the one most people choose. It is easy, fun, and comfortable. The longer that I do it has made one thing clear for me it really does make me more successful. No wonder some of the most successful people emphasize the importance of starting your day off early. Just remember eight hour of sleep. No more, no less!
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Wedding Update

 

It Was Rather Rustic

Last night was the big day. Not for me. I don’t see marriage on my schedule for a while. For me it is about self exploration and development. It is the only way you can know how you are, and what you want to focus on in your life. If you recall I was invited to an old friend’s wedding. We have been friends since junior high but sort of lost contact during our time in university. One of the main reasons we have stayed in contact is because our mother’s have remained connected. Mainly through Facebook. So even though we were not as close as we had been and only talked on occasion we still knew what the other was up to so it didn’t feel like we were really out of touch. But then she came up with the rustic wedding theme and I was sort of thrown off. This was not the same girl I was friends with during high school. You had the usual, and with usual I mean the Pinterest/Istagram/Facebook photo set:
  • Burlap runners? Check
  • Mason jar vases? Check
  • Wood signs? Check
    • Those sign makers must be really doing a lot of business now
  • Barn esthetic? Check
    • And this was no easy task in the city, which is why it ended up being held in Harvard, IL. You can’t beat having the rolling hills of Wisconsin as a backdrop.
Well, for the last point, this is coming from a point of view that is a couple years out of date. I really haven’t been keeping up with the trends of the Windy City. And so I guess that is why it felt like a little bit of a surprise. We didn’t have a lot of time to talk, the wedding had about 200 guests. Through that you really don’t have a lot of time to talk. But we did “catch up” even if for only a few minutes. From what she told me, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to plan the rustic wedding. She bought most of the supplies locally, but the ones that she couldn’t get, or could get cheaper online she did. For one she didn’t like the offers of invitations that she found. They were either very basic, which apparently isn’t very rustic, or they were outside of her budget. She found options to create her own by combining things that she liked. Apparently it was a lot more satisfying and gave her the opportunity to focus on the aspects that were really important to her and her groom-to-be. I had mentioned before in a previous post that I suspected that the groom might be more of a country boy. I didn’t know him, for all I knew he could have grown up in South Bend (rural, primitive, at least to a Chicagoan). But as it turned out, he was himself a native. They had both just embraced the country trend that has been growing in popularity. As she put it, she had always sold the genre of music short. That is a little bit of an understatement, but the recent change in her opinion has done a lot to make amends. From what I could tell the entire wedding, from venue (Royal Oak Farm in Harvard, which if you don’t know the state is in Northern Illinois) to decor (see above) had been selected against this trait. If anything was out of place, if it would have stood out in an Indiana barn wedding, you could have fooled me.

My Lasting Impression

When I got back I realized something very important about the whole thing. A rustic wedding is something that gives you a sense of satisfaction, I couldn’t have seen this going it, but after the fact it was the impression that will stay in my memory. Weddings are a lot of different aspects combined together to form an event that acts as a whole. An impression of those people saying I do. They are tying the knot, and if the cord was made up of anything less that the fibers of their being the marriage will have a rough start. Like this though? I think that they are off to a very promising start.
Here is wishing you: Baily & Sean, all of the best for the start of your new life together!
That was the toast that I never had a chance to give. Thanks for giving me the chance to share your special day with with. You were an amazing friend in school, and you have worked hard to get to where you are today. I wish the two of you all of the happiness in the world!
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Clack Clack Clack Ting

My creativity seems to be most potent when I have something else to do. To phrase it better, I would say that I am more motivated to write when I am actually not able to write. My brain uses its potential for creative thought, especially when I am not able to sit down any and actually write. I use my phone for shorthand notes. I think we call it procrastination. It’s a productivity technique. One where you get stuff done by procrastinating on something else. I had been holding back on cleaning out the garage it kept going until it was time to do my taxes. What would you know, our garage is now spotless. That sudden cleaning, our spotless garage only really sounded like a good idea when I had more pressing things to take care of. I’ve always felt that it was simply a desire to not be in this situation right now. I think we call it procrastination. I do a lot of writing at work. Writing and my creativity as a whole is more personal for me. I know you may have heard me say it before but it is sort of fantasy, used for escapism. Every book that I write gets my full attention. They could be published today if I were to pursue it. I don’t. Still I enjoy having the idea of publishable work. Something that I could show to people even if I never actually do that. At least not outside of a small group of friends.
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Awareness

Meditation? It’s great! I’m less anxious, more aware of my bad habits and it gives me a chance to get totally out of my head. Anxiety was my default state but as I meditated more and more anxious thoughts became much less prevalent and even when I do get anxious I can mindfully refocus on whatever I want to. Something common among people with depression/anxiety is repression of emotions via excessive intellectualization. I lived alone and far away from my family and friends and I find I spend way too much time inside my head, ruminating on things. But meditation has helped me to pull away from that and focus on things that are tangible and right in front of me. The biggest thing it has given me is that most of the time I can turn off most thought pretty easily. The peace and quiet is nice, and it helps me think better when I actually need to. The brain is part muscle just like any other body part. It took me a lot of regular meditation to really hone it down. I started mediating two years ago and have been meditating off and on since then. When I first started I couldn’t close my eyes in a dark room for more than a few minutes, I thought something was going to come for me, I was a frightened and very paranoid person. For me this was the manifestation of my anxiety. The distance from my family and friends and the fact that I was alone came out when the lights were off. It’s the first time I’ve ever observed my brain in action. Since that time meditation has helped grow tremendously and made me realize where a lot of my misguided emotions were coming from. It has brought me into a better place in my life. Meditation provides a much needed time for self-reflection. Whether it was always pursuing a romantic relationship in an effort to replace a perceived void left by the absence of a parent’s affection or letting others take advantage of me emotionally. In today’s world where we’re being pulled a hundred different ways, it’s nice to have some time to sit down and listen what’s going on within ourselves. It’s not all peaches and roses though. I have bad days. Even then, the skills you gain through meditation should help you there. Be aware of your emotions and thoughts, but try not to attach to them nor reject them.