A Complete Guide to the Practice o Meditation

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Welcome Joy.

Joy lifts the heart and nourishes inner peace.

What’s the spark and what’s the fuel?

The Practice:
Welcome joy.

Why?

Positive emotions—such as feelings of gratitude, love, and confidence—strengthen the immune system, protect the heart against loss and trauma, build relationships, increase resilience, and promote success. Based on studies that have already been done, if a drug company could patent a happiness pill, we’d be seeing ads for it every night on TV.

Technically, emotions can be organized along two dimensions: intensity (how strong they are) and hedonic valence (how good they feel). Tranquility, for example, has low intensity but can feel really really good, a profound inner peace.

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Fear of Flying—Let Go, Let God

I used to be the classic “white-knuckle flyer.” I was in such a terrified state that I would clutch the armrests and tightly squeeze my partner’s hand to the point of cutting off her circulation. And this wasn’t only during episodes of turbulence; it was at every takeoff and landing and throughout the flight. Anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax or Valium had little effect. Wine only made me sleepy. Visualizations and positive affirmations couldn’t touch the core of my fear. I was convinced I was going to die at every sound or movement of the plane. It took courage to keep flying in the face of that, but I did. Still, no matter how I tried to reframe airplane travel, I remained stuck in my mind’s perceptual prison of danger and unease.


That is, until I met Panache Desai. It wasn’t just the expansive spiritual framework that he introduced me to. It was the experience of God that I first had through his programs and in his presence. The terror of infinity/eternity I had felt since childhood (which was probably feeding my fear of flying) gradually softened into tentative trust in something greater than my own singular life—and finally faith. I began to experience infinity as God, as a peace-filled spaceless space, which, if I surrendered to it, completely enfolded me in its loving embrace. It was an experience of the soul not the mind. That is what changed everything, slowly but monumentally.


I gradually began to fly without fear. At takeoff, I would relax into the power of the energy that was lifting me into space. It was exhilarating instead of terrifying. When the plane floated downward toward the landing strip, my consciousness floated with it. During the flight, I started to look out the window to see the worlds we were passing through instead of staring straight ahead or sitting rigidly with my eyes closed. Prairies and mountains, rivers and lakes, constantly changing clouds, sunrise and sunset, all were visible beyond the plane’s windows, and I had refused to look for years. Suddenly, I couldn’t stop looking, and I began to request window rather than aisle seats. I was Alice stepping through the looking glass into the full magic of life on (and above) Earth.

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Changing the Way We Think About Fear

As I travel around the country for my “I’ve Been Thinking…” book tour, I continue to be moved by the conversations I’m having with people along the way. This week, I was particularly struck by the conversations I’ve had with people about fear.

Fear. It’s one of the scariest and most complex emotions that we face as human beings. It can paralyze us and stop us in our tracks. Or, it can motivate us to keep fighting and keep pushing forward. Pushing through fear is not easy, I know. But it really is up to each of us to decide how to manage this nerve-wracking emotion that wreaks havoc on so many of us.

This week, I felt moved as I watched so many students push through their fear and use it as a motivator to stand up and speak out against gun violence, walking out of classrooms across the country. Rightfully so, these students and their parents are terrified of what is happening on school campuses across America. They don’t want to live in fear any longer as they sit in class or drop their kids off at school. These students and those who support them are using their fear to propel themselves and others into action. I am so inspired by their indignation and I admire the way they are using their voices.

My mother once told me that you are never too young to create an impact. You are never too young to make a difference. You may have to be 35 to run for president, but you don’t have to be that age to make a difference. That’s why I bow down to these students and I look forward to joining them next weekend as they mobilize again for “March For Our Lives.”

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Some Tried and True Steps For Managing Worry

You know what surprises me?  The numerous articles written on how to completely get rid of worry.
 

Please don’t get me wrong…I appreciate those articles and the suggestions offered, but I’ve never been able to rid myself of worry for good regardless of what I’ve tried. What happens; instead of just worrying, I then begin wondering what’s wrong with me that the authors of the articles can be free of worry for good, but I can’t?
 

Maybe I missed out on the worry-be-gone gene? Who knows? What I do know is that worry has been my walking partner for as long as I can remember.
 

I’ve worried about...
…losing friends
…people not liking me
… what others think
…money, the making it and the saving it
…losing what’s important to me and
…I’ve even worried about other people’s problems.
 

While I’ve gotten better about not worrying so much (and about so many things), there’s always room for improvement.  And so my desire for improvement has led me on an expedition in search of ways to better deal with worry when it decides to come along for a walk.
 

The first thing I’ve learned during my expedition is that I will never be able to completely rid myself of worry. Worry is always going to be walking with me in some form or fashion and that’s OK. And here’s why…
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Speak Up. Don't Suffer In Silence

Too many of us suffer in silence.

Pretending it’s okay…pretending we’re okay.

We keep ourselves stuck by silencing our inner voice and not utilizing our outer voice. Out of shame and fear we don’t ask for help and we don’t share our stories. Instead we seek isolation in an effort to escape the hurt, memories, shame or pain.

What you fail to realize is that you are NEVER alone in your experiences. There have been a multitude of people who have felt the same way before you and there are countless people who are feeling the same way now. You may not know them or see them, but they have the same feelings of anger, sadness, heartache, despair… They feel what you feel. You share each other’s fear.

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One of My Favorite Healing Techniques-Processes

Have you ever heard of the Write and Burn process? You may have heard of Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” ritual, that invites you to journal stream of consciousness thoughts for ten minutes each morning. It’s a great way to get the funk and the junk out of your subconscious so you are more capable of being creative, intentional and free. Write and Burn, is similar, but different. It invites you to get honest with the feelings that don’t feel good … so honest that you are willing to move them out of your head and heart and onto paper. It is an extremely powerful process that I have been doing for years. I find it so helpful that I suggest it to about 90% of my clients at one time or another.

Writing to heal is scientifically proven. I knew I always felt better after I had written in my journal, especially the painful yucky stuff, but I didn’t know there was “real” science that backed up what I felt. Not until I read an article about James W. Pennebaker, a psychology professor. He became deeply interested in the physical and mental benefits of what he called self-disclosure and created an experiment to test out his theory. He gathered a group of students who were asked to write about their own traumatic experiences for 20 minutes, on three consecutive days. Serving as a control group were an equal number of students asked to write about unimportant matters.

The results showed that there was a marked difference between the two groups in terms of the impact of the writing exercise. In those who had written of trivial matters, there was no change either in their physical or mental health. In contrast, those who had written about traumatic experiences and painful memories showed a marked strengthening of their immune system, decreased visits to the doctor and significant increases in psychological well-being. These findings were measured using physiological markers, behavioral markers and self-reporting. In another study in the 1990s of people with AIDS, those who wrote about their diagnosis and how it had affected their lives experienced a beneficial increase in white blood counts and a drop in their viral loads.

I found that fascinating … and it made sense as to why I always feel better after a writing and burning session. Writing and burning is not meant to take the place of regular daily journaling, gratitude lists or dreams and desires. It really is just for the YUCK stuff. I often refer to it as hate mail … that never gets sent … which is a VERY good thing. Writing and burning is for the pain and anger and resentment and jealousy. It’s for all those feelings of insecurity that hold you back in ways that you may just be discovering. It’s a safe time and place to write all your pain, your problems, your challenges and yes, even your hates. Once a day or once a week … whenever you have emotions that you want to release from your mind and body in a healthy way. It is so much better to write it out than yelling and screaming, stuffing the body with food and alcohol, letting the critical voice take over or simply ignoring and denying the feelings. Writing and Burning allow you a place to get honest with yourself and your pain. A place for you to allow yourself complete freedom to write whatever you want. No one else but you will ever see it, so you can swear and curse if you feel the need and write down everything that you feel about the person or the situation that is affecting you.

Wanna try it yourself? Take some time right now. Give it a shot … What do you have to lose?

 

Write & Burn Journal

 


Steps to Writing & Burning

1. Get yourself a journal (check out my latest creation) or just a plain notebook you feel comfortable tearing the pages out of. Find a quiet spot where you are free from distractions. Turn your cell phone off. Get away from your computer. This is your time to RELEASE AND HEAL.


2. You may want to begin with a statement,
 intention or prayer asking to help you in clearing any negative emotions you have within your mind, body or spirit. Is there someone in your life (alive or deceased) that you have negative feelings toward? It could be an ex-lover, parent, spouse or colleague – anybody that conjures up negative feelings. Perhaps it is an experience that you need to let go of to move forward in your life. Whatever it is, bring it to mind as you make this statement of release.

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When the News Makes Us Miserable: Remembering a Fuller Presence and Larger Truth

People ask me regularly about how spiritual practice can guide us in responding to the state of our society. They tell me that while the teachings of compassion are alive and helpful in other parts of their lives, they seem out of reach when they read the headlines each day. In a recent e-mail from one of our DC community Spiritual Friends groups, members asked:

  • How do we stay compassionate when it feels like so much harm is being caused to vulnerable people?
  • Isn’t acceptance a kind of complacency? Isn’t “letting go” like condoning?
  • How do we call on meditation practice when we’ve become fearful, angry and disheartened at the hatefulness and viciousness that is so evident in our society?


I’ve had many waves of anger, fear and aversion in reaction to the harm being perpetrated in our society. In my own practice, it helps to keep starting right where I am, not judging my own reactions, thinking “I shouldn’t feel this.” Rather than trying to let go of these feelings, I often reflect that “this belongs,” it’s the inner weather of the moment. Then I can feel the fear or aversion with acceptance and kindness.

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The Inconvenient Truth

In the past few weeks I have been fixated on the news and stories surrounding the world of USA Gymnastics. Like most of us, I have looked on with horror, disbelief, and heartbreak as well as a profound sense of admiration for the 156 women and girls - "the army of survivors" - who shared their victim impact statements and testified against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. I also cheered when Judge Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison and so matter-of-factly said, "It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You don't deserve to walk outside a prison ever again." Just yesterday, Nassar was sentenced to an additional 40 to 125 years in prison after a second sentencing hearing where more than 60 young women and teenagers read or presented victim impact statements. 


Like many of us, I can't help thinking about the other people and organizations involved in this situation who were told or put on notice about Nassar's behavior and did nothing to stop it. Whether it was Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, or private training facilities, I am a huge proponent of the investigations that are and should be conducted as to how these entities and people - these enablers - ignored or mishandled the sexual assault complaints lodged against Nassar. It's chilling to realize that he could have been stopped decades ago. 


Being a mother of three daughters the same age range as many of the women I watched testify, what stops me in my tracks are the victims and survivors who shared that they told their parents what was going on and, for whatever reason, their parents dismissed or minimized what their child was saying and did not advocate or did not advocate strongly enough to put a stop to Nassar's sick, destructive, abusive behavior. 


Although, I would like to think that as a parent I would have listened and taken charge, and now there is no question that I would, 15 years ago when I was a newly divorced, single mother of three girls trying to juggle so many aspects of life, the truth is I don't know how I would have responded...And that haunts me. Doing a good deal of soul searching, I have been asking myself questions like: 
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How To Forgive Yourself and Let The Past Go (Video)

We have all done things that we felt bad about and judged ourselves for.


Whether it was:


Bad relationship choices.


The way you handled a break up.


Unwise financial decisions.


What are you still judging yourself for?


Maybe you have been holding yourself hostage, thinking you are a bad person or that God is judging you?


Consider this:

God doesn’t forgive.

Because God never judged you.


And if this is so, then why are you still judging you?


Judging what you did in the past keeps you stuck in the past. You can’t change the past no matter how much you judge.


Holding yourself a prisoner to your past only robs you of your present and limits your ability to create your future.

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From Monkey Mind To Mindfulness

Although it feels like New Years was weeks ago, we are still very much in the conversation of "New Year, New You!" Even though every January we tend to engage in a dialogue about what we can do to revamp or upgrade our lives, each year we see a few new concepts or practices added to the "what's trending now" lists. In the past few years, the concept of mindfulness or being mindful has become a crucial part of the self-care conversation. 

From the boardroom to the kindergarten classroom to centers and apps dedicated to the practice, mindfulness trainings are widespread and have become mainstream. Credited with reducing stress and anxiety and having several other physical and mental health benefits, mindfulness is often defined as the practice of bringing your full mind to a singular object or situation or, as Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and leader in the field of mindfulness, defines it, mindfulness is "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally." 

Although being totally present to one thing for even five to ten minutes might seem like a no-brainer, for many it is a challenge. Described as a practice that takes practice, many beginners are encouraged to practice mindfulness by bringing their attention to day-to-day activities, even something as simple as drinking a cup of tea or eating food. We are urged to smell the food, taste the food, chew the food, and truly be in the experience of the food. 

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My fresh start to 2018- My journey from forgiveness to freedom

I started my new year with the commitment to forgive everyone in my life and drop all the "baggage" that I have carried for all my life. As January 1st was a full moon day, I decided to do a full moon forgiveness meditation as per my spiritual teacher's teachings. My intention resulted in many emotional roller coaster rides throughout the day complete with numerous instances of being triggered. I was very angry and impatient with my son for not getting ready on time, and then later on, I was angry and resentful at myself for my behavior. That evening, in presence of the beautiful full moon I started my full moon forgiveness meditation with four mantras to help me with my intention.

1.     I love myself and everyone unconditionally.

2.     I accept myself just the way I am and I accept everyone just the way they are.

3.     I forgive myself and everyone easily.

4.     I am grateful for myself and everyone's contributions in my life.

The next morning, I woke up again to the beautiful full moon –the first sight from my bedroom window. I felt that this was the sign that my forgiveness meditation was successful and I had dropped all my baggage.


On my drive to work, I was guided coincidently to listen to Panache Desai's Grace online immersion about forgiveness. According to Panache, there is nothing to forgive, because everything is unfolding in Divine order. Instead of forgiving, it is important to feel everything that is arising and respond, instead of react. It is not about forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves for our immature and unconscious reactions to others in the past. All we need to do is to meet ourselves with compassion, as we did the best we could with the awareness we had at that time.

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Do You Have a Guilty Conscience?

It’s something you hear in this season, when so many have to face that they are not going to fulfill that well-meant New Year’s Resolution.


Is that your conscience, or do you just feel guilty?


Conscience is something bigger, the sense of Right and Wrong. It seems to be innate, but flexible to nurture. Admittedly, some people appear not to have one, or have resisted it long enough that it doesn’t impinge on their actions.


When I was a kid watching the (original) Mickey Mouse Club, Jiminy Cricket had a song, moralistic as much of Disney was, about conscience:


      “Take the straight and narrow path

      And if you start to slide,

      Give a little whistle…Give a little whistle…

      And always let your conscience be your guide.”

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Let Us Not Forget the Healing Power of Touch

With the recent #metoo and #timesup movements, I’ve been thinking a lot about touch.


The focus lately, of course, has been on the wrong kind of touch.


The kind that makes us feel shame and fear and anger.


Used, violated, helpless, traumatized.


Powerless.


The uninvited kind.


The kind that crossed a line.


The kind that has put women on guard, time and time again, and made them leery of being touched.


The kind that destroys a healthy relationship with touch.


A world full of women are walking around with PTSD of one level or another from being touched inappropriately.


And yes, many men, as well.


Say what you will about social media, but it has helped birth a movement which is determined to change this story of power and disrespect.


But today I want to say good things about touch.


How it heals.


How it’s a basic human need.


How living without it can make us emotionally and physically sick.


I learned a great deal about touch when I studied Ayurveda.

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Empowering Bad Behavior - #TimesUp Now!

Happy New Year! I have been thinking a lot about this first newsletter of 2018. In a perfect world, I might be using this post to share with you some profound, uplifting, spiritual experience that I had ringing in the New Year and setting the tone for the upcoming year, but the fact is I cannot. I rang in the New Year experiencing emotions that ranged from horrified, shocked, and speechless to feeling victimized.

I was at what I thought was going to be a sweet get-together which quickly got hijacked by the bad behavior of a 40-year old woman who, in a nutshell, was committed to proving that she was right and everyone around her was wrong because they were not adhering to her demands and doing and acting as she wanted them to. Although I've only known this woman for a relatively short time, from what I have seen, this woman's bad behavior had nothing to do with New Year's Eve. It has been on display since the day I met her and from what I have heard from people closest to her, it has always been ever-present in her life – igniting toxicity, trauma, and trouble where ever she goes and with whomever she is with.

Yet, just as troubling as this woman's consistent bad behavior has been the reaction of everyone around her. Not wanting to have to "take on her stuff," they let her stuff dictate and infect every move, moment, and mood. That was until New Year's. Seeing the horror, hurt and humiliation reflected in the eyes of people like myself and others who were bystanders as we watched the events of the evening unfold, the people closest to this woman could no longer ignore the proverbial elephant in the living room. It was painfully obvious that the air and joy was being sucked out of the room and that their tendency to choose "harmony" over truth had landed them in hell and empowered bad behavior as well as a negative, venomous presence in the space. 

Interestingly, if I have seen any theme so far in 2018, it has been very much in keeping with the one I just described. I have already received numerous calls and messages from people who can no longer tolerate accepting or enduring the bad or inappropriate behavior of others to rule the roost, be it their children, spouses, co-workers, employers, or friends. They've had it with living in denial, turning a blind eye, trying to make it better, or being blinded by their own wishful thinking. The cost of living in an environment of constant judgment, righteousness, and pessimism has not only brought them down, but also been downright depleting. 

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How To Let Go of Negativity and Be Happy

Negative thinking is a prison that leads to a limited life.

The more you focus on the negative, the more you give power to what you don’t want.

The more you give power to what you don’t want, the more what you don’t want will manifest in your life.

How you view a situation, person or place will determine your reality. Your reality is created by how you see it.

If you are not conscious, your mind will rob you of happiness and cause you suffering.

Negative thinking serves nothing other than to keep you from being open to possibilities and keeps you small.

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Spiritual Growth and Sexual Abuse

A new kind of power – authentic power – is replacing the old kind of power – external power. Authentic power is the ability to distinguish love from fear within yourself and choose love no matter what is happening inside you or what is happening outside you. External power is the ability to manipulate and control.

From the perspective of external power villains are powerful and victims are powerless. From the perspective of authentic power, the callous lust of one who abuses others to satisfy his (or her) destructive desires and the rage of those who are abused are both experiences of powerlessness. There is no power in abuse or revenge.

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Discovering the Divine Gift and Abandonment Isolation

For many people who are experiencing rapid spiritual growth, isolation may be a necessary part of the learning curve. One reason for this is that the cellular pain comes to the surface it is hard even for those who are consciously aware not to project it to those around them.  Another reason for the isolation is that company can distract us from facing what we need to so we can move on.

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The Power of the Moment

The other day, I was sitting at lunch with my kids as they started to discuss the Texas shooting and started to wonder why the news had moved on from this story so quickly.


My son said, “Wow, that Texas story was wild. Why aren’t more people talking about that? Isn’t it weird that it just came and went?”


I thought about that. Stories used to stop us all cold in our tracks. Now, they just seem to come and go. Moments that used to bring a collective sense of grief—a collective sense of oneness—now seem to come and go without landing.

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How The Divorce Diet Became The Integrity Advantage

As you may know, this past week, my first book, The Integrity Advantage, was released. It was a pinnacle moment filled with a smorgasbord of emotions. It quickly turned into a somewhat surreal experience watching this baby being birthed out into the world, seeing people holding the book in their hands, and knowing that they would soon be reading my words.


Many people have asked me why I committed to this concept of integrity as a way of life a few years ago. I was recently invited to write a guest blog addressing what motivated me to write this book and what I hoped the reader would get out of it. Since it was my own pain and chaos of living out of integrity that brought me to living and realizing the advantage of living an integrity-guided life, I thought I would share the blog here. 

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Anger: Responding, Not Reacting

Anger is natural, intelligent and necessary for surviving and flourishing. Yet when we are hooked by anger, it causes great personal and collective suffering. This talk explores how to transform patterns of reactivity by bringing a mindful and compassionate attention to the unmet needs that underlie angry reactivity. When we learn how to pause and connect honestly with our inner experience, we are then able to respond to others from our full intelligence and heart.


“Getting angry with another person is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.”  Buddha

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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