Now you have a better understanding of how simple meditation can be, and yet how necessary it is for our everyday life. Just like you don’t want to live in a cluttered space, you don’t want to live with a cluttered mind. We are healthier, more present, and more productive when we take the time out to meditate, even if at first it is only a couple minutes a day in your car with your mind racing in every direction. Over time your mind will begin to slow down, you’ll clear through the mental clutter of the mind, and you live with peace and joy.
July 25, 2012 by
Do you clean your house daily? Have you meditated before? Do you do it as often as you clean your home? What is meditation exactly? I want to share how you can incorporate simple meditation into your daily life and show you why it’s as important as keeping your house clean. What is it like to live in a cluttered Home? You can’t find what you’re looking for, you can possibly injure yourself by falling over debris strewn across the floor, and there is mental stress from all of the unending to-do lists to clean the kitchen and organize the closets. But what about a cluttered mind? Your memory is bad and you can’t remember what you were thinking of because you have so many different tracks going on at the same time. There is no system in place to clean out the stress and experiences of the day, and we end up distracting ourselves with more stimulation in the form of sugar, alcohol and television. All of this excess stimulation and stress can eventually lead to long term diseases like Heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the United States. It’s overwhelming but it’s not too late, even if you have the double duty of cleaning out both your mind and your home. Physical activity like biking, running, and Yoga can help to relieve some of the stress and mess in the mind, but it can be superficial. It’s like we are wiping off the counters of the kitchen, when our garage is filled with old baggage that we no longer need. When we go from the more gross physical exercises, to the more subtle exercise of meditation, we are moving into cleaning out the garages and closets of the mind. We are unearthing deep set beliefs and patterns that keep us from living that life of abundance, health and peace of mind. Many people feel uncomfortable when they start meditating in silence because there is nothing to distract them from their unwanted feelings and thoughts. It’s like when you pick through that old baggage and find something that reminds you of a lost relative or a bad incident in your past. It’s so much easier to just let that stuff rot in the back of our minds than to face our inner demons. What is meditation anyways? There are many different techniques but we will focus on the simple technique of bringing our attention to the abdomen and feeling the natural breath expand and contract. Whenever the mind wanders to thinking about other things just return to the feeling of expansion and contraction of the breath. Sometimes I may get lost in a thought chain that goes on for minutes but once I rediscover that my intention is to follow the breath I return, and try not to be hard on myself for being easily distracted. It’s like when we are cleaning our house and all of a sudden we get a phone call and a friend is asking us about an event we have planned so we go to the computer and look up our calendar and tell them the date, then we find we have 7 new emails to read, and all of a sudden an hour goes by and were watching YouTube videos of monkeys juggling coconuts and remember that originally we had the intention of cleaning our house. Hopefully if we have time we will return to cleaning the house or following the breath. So how will meditation help us? It allows us to live healthier lives. Numerous studies have shown that stress exacerbates up to 90% of all diseases. With meditation we are teaching our mind to effectively deal with unwanted stress. We learn let go of things we can’t control, and let go of other people’s bad emotions that they try to push onto us. It allows us to be more present to our everyday life experiences. Have you found that days can go by as you are busy with work, answering the phone and the rush of all of the external stimulation, and then you take a moment and truly look out the window to the mountains. Everything else fades away and all of the sudden you are truly present to the beauty and awe of nature. This presence can be true with all aspects of your life. It allows us to be more productive. When our mind is clear it is easier to remember things, to focus our mind on projects, and communicate clearly with others. We prevent stress and emotional reactions from draining us, which leaves us with more energy available to work on what we are passionate about. Why YOU can meditate even if you think you can’t. Concentration – I used to think that meditation was difficult. In our western culture we want to “do things right” and when we’re given the task of meditation, where we are supposed to sit in silence and peace of mind, we feel that we have failed when our mind is flooded with thoughts. It’s called a “Practice” of meditation not a “perfection”. It doesn’t matter if your mind is racing the entire time you are meditating. What matters it that you have the intention of observing your breath and put in the time to practice. As you continue your daily practice your mind will begin to slow down. Just like the seemingly endless piles of boxes in the garage begin to disappear as you work on clearing out the clutter. Time – You don’t need an hour a day to practice meditation. One or two minutes a day is fine. As you continue your daily practice you may find that you want to meditate both in the morning and the evening. Allow that desire for more meditation to come up naturally instead of forcing it with self-discipline. Location – You don’t need a temple or special mediation room in your house. For your daily practice you could just sit in your car for 2 minutes before driving somewhere.
June 18, 2012 by
In this exercise we allow the body to express itself freely. We stop thinking about how to do the movements, wondering if we are doing them correctly, and just let the body guide us. I enjoy setting my timer for 2 to 5 minutes, and allowing my body to move in whatever way it wants. Some small twists, lifting the arms, and just moving without thinking about it. There are three principals of Qi Gong that I like to keep while going into this “free flow” state.
Think less, Just move.
This is big. So many times we can get caught up in doing a certain Qi Gong or Tai Chi movement or Yoga posture “correctly” or not. With this stop thinking about that, and just allow the body to show you where it wants to go. Keeping this principal in mind, the next two are optional, but will tend to allow the movements to be safe and healing for your body.
Feel the breath as you move.
Without trying to change the breath, just notice how you breath naturally. Acknowledging that if you start to move faster, or do more difficult movements, your breath naturally expands and takes in more oxygen and energy to compensate for the exercise. Notice how soft the breath is when moving slowly or in stillness. Without thinking about, or judging the breath just let it be and aknowledge it.
Keep one foot on the ground
You can jump if you want to, but I recommend at least having one foot on the ground at a time. This is more grounding, and you are less likely to injure yourself by twisting an ankle or falling down. By having one or both feet on the ground you are able to move from your center more easily, and the flowing movements will feel more relaxing.
These are just some tips that I use when I do my free form movement practice. Below you will see a video of me practicing my free form video for 2 minutes. As you can see it really is just following whatever my body wants to do. It doens’t matter if it flows together nicely, just keep moving with the mind focused on the breath.
May 31, 2012 by
This post is inspired by my latest trip to New York City. Many people say they don’t have time to do meditation, or Qi Gong, or Yoga. That they have too much to do during the day to spend time at home before they jet off into the world. This post is to share with those people to explain how you can take those small free moments to listen to your body. Waiting at the street light, standing on the subway, or in line at the bank or grocery check out are perfect opportunities to check in with our body and bring greater awareness and healing. Here are the three exercises. You can download these exercises to your computer below. Joint rotation Moving the joints while keeping our awareness there is lubricating the joint, increasing the range of motion and decreasing pain. An easy example is the hand and wrist. You can start by slowly rotating the wrists in a circle. Then changing directions, moving slowly and feeling areas of tension or blockage. Then spreading the fingers and pulling them in towards the palm. Opening and closing from fist to open palm. This simple exercise helps to bring circulation and energy to the hands and wrists. Breathing into areas of tension Any area of pain you can bring your awareness, and your breath into. For example, if you have lower back pain you can breath into the area, breathing in a healing light. Exhale visualizing any tension or pain going down the back of the legs and into the earth. Weight shift Many times we carry our weight more on one foot or the other. This can lead to all kinds of imbalances going up through the hips and shoulders and neck. With this exercise, you shift your weight from right to left, and forward and back. Bending the knees just slightly. Noticing how you hold yourself in gravity. Is it easier to lean forward or backwards? Are you more comfortable on your left or right foot? Then you can bring your weight into center, feeling all of the corners of the foot connecting with the ground. Bringing this awareness to the feet can make huge changes throughout your whole posture. If you listen to an iPod or mp3 player you can follow these exercises on mp3 by downloading them below. Right Click and “Save Link as…” to download to your computer. Intro Joint Rotation Breathe away Tension Weight Shft Otherwise the transcript of the audio is available below, and you are welcome to record your own version. Transcript of Audio: Wrist rotation – spread the fingers of both hands, squeeze them into a fist repeating two more times, inhale as you expand the palm, exhale as you bring your fingers into a fist. Next rotate both wrists in towards your body. Lubricating the joint with the movement. Rotate the opposite direction. Shake the hands out and feel how your hands and wrist feels after the exercise. Breathing into areas of tension – In this audio we will focus on breathing relaxation into the neck and shoulders. On your own time feel free to use this exercise on any part of the body that has tension. If you can, placing your hands on your shoulders can help us to direct the healing energy. Crossing the arms over the chest and holding onto opposite shoulders can be a good way to do this. Take a nice relaxed breath in. Allowing the shoulders to rise up into the hands slightly, and then exhale, allowing the shoulders to fall away from the ears, into gravity. Continue the breath in this way, breathing in your intention to relax the shoulders, and exhaling any unnecessary tension or stress. Exhale out of the nose if you feel tired and want to conserve energy, or exhale out of the mouth if you feel anxious and want to purge excess energy. Continue this exercise for as long as you want, returning the arms down to the sides when you’ve finished. Weight Shift – While standing, bring attention to the point of contact from the bottom of your feet to the shoes, and ground beneath you. Without changing anything just notice how the weight is distributed on the feet. Is there more weight on the left foot or the right? Do you lean towards the front ball of the foot, or the back heel? Now start to adjust the weight in your feet so that you feel more balanced. Finding your fulcrum point where you are balanced forward and back, and left and right. Even amount of weight on all four corners of the foot. Feel free to continue this exercise as long as you can, and when you’ve finished, start walking again with presence of your connection with the ground beneath you. Grounded.
November 25, 2011 by
From May 15th through to the end of Summer 2012 I’ll teach two classes a week at Meta Yoga Studio in Breckenridge Colorado.
Mondays at 8:45am (Qi Gong)
Thursdays 6:45pm (Restorative Yoga)You can follow along with a free sample class on the video section here.
What is Qi Gong?Qi Gong is an ancient Taoist practice which means “cultivating energy”. Tai Chi is a form of Qi Gong with a series of continuous flowing movements that combine into a form. In Qi Gong we repeat the individual movements, making it easy to learn and relax into a meditative state. My classes start with warm up exercises such as shaking, swinging, stretching and knocking to wake up the body and release anything that is unwanted. There are joint rotation and relaxation exercises that teach us to move from our core, and to relax our shoulders and arms. Then we go into flowing movements where we use minimal effort to make circular movements that mimic the energy flow in our body. I end with self-massage to leave you in a relaxed state of vitality for your day.
How will it help my ability to Ski?Improved balance, reduced recovery time, and learning to use the least amount of effort necessary, to increase endurance. My classes focus a lot on bringing awareness into the feet, and working with the structure and alignment of the ankles with the knees, with the hips, with the spine, and with the shoulders and head. Then next time you have a skiing lesson, you will have increased body awareness, and will be able to respond easily to instructions from your teacher, allowing you to progress and get the most out of your ski vacation!
What if I’m not flexible or strong?Unlike power vinyasa styles of yoga, Qi gong is suitable for every body, young and old. Qi Gong is prescribed to patients in Chinese Hospitals, and is the perfect exercise for seniors and elderly population. The fluid motions, and flowing movements help to pump lymph, increasing immune function and reducing the risk of injury because it’s performed slow and mindfully.
I’ve tried meditation before, but it’s too hard. Will my mind be too busy for Qi Gong?Qi Gong is a great way to focus your mind on your body, and release mental stress and worry. Meditation can be difficult to jump into, as the mind finds it difficult to focus on one thing(or nothing) for a long time. With Qi Gong, the mind is focused on the movement of the body, and the flow of the breath. The class will also include many exercises to release mental and physical tension(shaking, swinging, and knocking) before we go into the more meditative flowing movements. If you find yourself in Breckenridge Colorado, stop by Meta Yoga Studios on Ridge St. and join me for a Qi Gong class. Mondays at 9am or Fridays at 4pm. I also offer private lessons, and you can find out about my massage services here. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about my classes or other services. Travis 831-588-5833
October 4, 2011 by
Fall – Return to your roots As trees lose their leaves, and retreat to their roots, as the days get shorter, and the weather gets colder, we can feel that there’s a tendency to return to the essence of life. To spend more time indoors, with intimate family and friends, and to start looking at our lives in a more introspective way. I believe one way that we can embrace the season of Fall is to clear the clutter in our minds and bodies. Transitioning out of the busy, rushing, abundant nature of Summer we can take some time to rest and rejuvenate. Sifting through our mental identities, the mind chatter, and the accumulated tensions and stresses on our body and mind. Because that stress in our mind translates into our body. We get tight shoulders that carry the world at our ears, jaws that clench at what we feel we can’t express, and backs that carry our anger, grief, and emotions we fear to face. By practicing relaxing and introspective exercises like Yoga, Meditation and Qi Gong, we can clear that excess and learn to focus on the essentials. When we practice Yoga we are able to release tension that is held in the body. We can breathe into the commonly held tension in the neck and shoulders, relaxing the hyper tense areas and learning to strengthen the imbalanced weak areas of the body. When we release that tension, we can let go of emotional baggage, bad habits, and other forms of excess. We return with awareness to the essentials of a happier body and true Self. Qi gong flowing movements are similar to Tai Chi forms. We learn to move with effortless power. We teach the body and mind to move without holding onto stress. When we practice these movements regularly, we can find that our mind can start to flow and focus with ease. We learn to root into the earth, and flow with life’s challenges, instead of being tossed around. Meditation clears the mental chatter. Even if it feels like an endless tornado of thoughts and distractions while you are doing your meditation, it releases that accumulated stress by listening to it. We observe the mind as if we are looking at it from a distance. Look at that thought. Oh yeah another one. Oh I got caught on a train of thoughts now I’ll come back to focusing on the breath. And repeating that process of observing the mind, while continually returning to the breath. When we become aware of losing that focus and find ourselves lost in an alternate mind universe, the breath is the constant. All of these practices are about coming back to the present, and rooting our awareness in the body. The mind can help us to figure out all kinds of different tasks, but if left to it’s own accord, it will continually keep us busy and frustrated. We need to develop that awareness of the body in order to declutter the mind and body, and increase peace, happiness and good health. Namaste. You can find free Qi Gong videos here, and guided meditations here.
May 8, 2011 by
I walk out my door to take a 30 minute jog through nature. I wave hello to the oaks, sequoia, and redwoods as I pass, the grass under my toes, the sand from Henry Cowell slipping beneath me. I jog out into the wilderness and find an Oak tree to connect with. I stand quietly, with my arms facing towards him. I send out a loving thought and intention, feeling back to see if he responds. The feeling is mutual, and I come closer to feel the aura of the tree. We connect, creating a cycle going up through my feet, out of my head, and into the tree, through it’s roots, into the earth to be renewed, and back into my feet again. This cycle goes on for several minutes, and I decide to physically connect with the tree by climbing. The tree’s branches go out in all directions. Reaching out to others, it’s limbs are easy to stand on. As I walk on the tree, I can feel the strength; the years and years that it’s been here, cultivating it’s strength, growing out from it’s roots, and expanding towards the Sun. Spending time with Trees is very beneficial for us. Trees are always meditating. When we quiet our minds and intend to connect with them, the trees can help us with many ailments and unbalanced energy. Just like how trees take in the Co2 that we breath out, and give us fresh oxygen, trees also take in our excessive yang energy, and balance out yin energy, allowing us to be more grounded and at peace. They can also help with all kinds of dis-ease. The tree’s roots go down deep, while their branches and leaves reach towards the heavens. Receiving nutrients from the water in the ground(yin) and the sunlight in the sky(yang). They are perfect models for our Qi Gong practice, teaching us how to connect with heaven and earth to initiate healing within ourselves. Sitting with a tree can be very healing. Breathing in the healing energy, and allowing disease to flow out into the earth. Make sure to always keep the highest intent for the tree as well, keeping it a beneficial relationship for the both of you. Don’t choose a tree that looks sick, or is too small to transform your energy. Look for a medium to large size tree, one that you have an affinity towards. It’s good if it’s a tree near your home that you can keep visiting every day. Then your connection will become stronger and you will be able to share and connect more easily with the tree. It’s actually easier to connect with trees that are used to having many people around, versus trees that are hundreds of miles away from civilization. They’re already used to human energy, and would be excited to have one of the people consciously connect. Another way to connect with trees is to climb them. Sitting or laying down on their branches you can feel supported by the safe embrace of the tree. Be sure to be aware and conscious, and as you climb higher up the tree, you can ask it if it is safe to continue. This is a great way to see the world from the trees perspective. I climb a redwood tree is my backyard, and I’m able to see what it’s like to look over the neighborhood from 30 feet above the ground. If you have a fear of heights or of climbing the tree, you can start by doing a standing or sitting meditation with the tree. This will help to ground you, and will improve your physical and mental balance. Declare your gratitude for the tree, thank it for the experience, and for teaching you how to heal and recycle your energy. If you want you can ask what it’s name is, so that you’ll feel more of a personal connection with him/her. Listen and go with whatever pops into your mind first. Remember to return to the tree over the next few months/years, continuing to meditate and connect with this tree. Trees live on a much longer time frame than us, and will open to us more deeply when we see them frequently over a long time.
You can use this practice to connect to the healing energy of nature, balancing yin and yang, quieting the mind, finding inner peace, and refining your senses to pick up more subtle feelings.For more Qi Gong exercises with Trees: How to befriend a Tree
March 5, 2011 by
Yin Yang Guided Meditation
In my last post I described the everyday benefits of balancing the active and passive aspects of your lifestyle, and with this guided meditation you will be able to balance yin and yang in your body and mind. This meditation helps to bring awareness to the yin and yang aspects of the breath. The inhale is yang: expansive, light, and full. The exhale is yin: sinking, dense and contracted. This recording goes through the contrast and then combines the two energies in the heat, with yin energy rising from the navel, and yang energy sinking down from the third eye center. This combination creates a healing elixir within you, seeking balance and coherence within your physiology. It increases communication between your nervous system, blood, organs and other aspects of your body to facilitate the healing process. This also helps with balancing emotions, reducing excesses and increasing awareness of how you truly feel. This guided meditation is perfect to use if you have trouble falling asleep. In the beginning and end I encourage you to sink and relax into the surface that you’re laying on. Encouraging peace of mind, stillness, and silence as you drift into a sleeping state. Enjoy this balancing guided meditation, and look for a yin/yang Qi gong video to be released in the next couple weeks. Transcript: This guided meditation will help you to tap into vitality, healing and peace of mind by combining yin and yang energy within yourself. It will end in a calm and relaxing way, so if you need to be awake and aware after this meditation, you may want to set an alarm for 30 minutes to make sure you get up after the session has ended. Find a relaxed position, laying on your back on a bed or floor. You can place a pillow under your knees if you have any discomfort in your lower back. As your body settles into this relaxed position, adjusting as necessary, your mind begins to slow down. Scan your body from head to toe, noticing where you feel energized and flowing, and areas where you may feel discomfort and stagnation. As you scan your body, notice how heavy you feel. Feel the power of gravity pulling you down, deeper and deeper into the cushion. On the every breath out feel the abdomen sink deeper, allowing more space for the inhale to fill your belly, mid drift, chest, and lungs. A full yogic breath, giving your body all the relaxing benefits of deep breathing. As the breath deepens, the exhale continues to help you sink lower and lower, down into the earth. A sense of peace, silence and returning home is present within you. On your next inhale, notice the contrast of growing, expanding, filling yourself with light, love and sun energy on every breathe in. The breath out slows you down, sinking into silence and peace. The breathe in you are floating on a cloud, the sunrise light shining through you, expanding and overfilling you. The sun sets on the breath out, your body caressed by a half-moon that floats you down to the earth. Continue this practice, of floating and sinking, expanding and contracting. This is yin yang awareness through the breath. The boundless energy of yang; expansive, universal, light and vast. Contrasted with the dense energy of yin, still, peaceful, quiet, and settling. With your next breath in allow the yin energy to rise from your lower abdomen, and exhale the yang energy to sink from your 3rd eye and crown, combining in your heart center. The moon rises as the sun sets, spiraling in your heart. A full yogic breath, from your lower abdomen, up above your chest to your lungs. Allowing the yin and yang to create a white and black spiral in your chest. Breathe in and Concentrate in your heart, and with the breath out let the energy expand beyond your body, filling your entire consciousness with this healing elixir of yin and yang. Continue this visualization, cultivating and overflowing with this healing energy. The combination of the yin and yang is like home away from home, peace with power, silence with action, expansive and grounded, lighthearted and determined, playful yet disciplined. Release the visualization and allow your attention to come back to the body and breath. Scan your body once again, from heat to toe, feeling the deep peace you’ve cultivated within yourself. If you wish, you can allow your mind to wander, finding a deep, restful sleep. Slowing down, and sinking deeper and deeper into the earth. At peace and at one with the universe.
November 23, 2010 by
I know I’ve said these words: “I love the effects of daily meditation, but it is very difficult because while I’m doing it my mind wants to do everything except for observe my breath.” Why would you choose to meditate? The many benefits include stress relief, more restful sleep, lower blood pressure, developing self-discipline, and a peaceful, focused mind. I chose to meditate because I wanted a clearer mind, more lucid dreams, and to develop self-discipline. I started with practices of concentrating the mind, including counting deep breathes, focusing on a candle flame, and recorded guided meditations. When I started mindfulness meditation I found it much more difficult. My mind had nothing to control. It only had to focus on the natural form of the breath. Mindfulness meditation is observing your breath, mind’s thoughts, body’s sensations, and emotions without becoming attached to them. This type of meditation is very practical because you become more aware of how you are feeling throughout the day, and can respond consciously instead of reacting to situations. On my 10-Day Vipassana retreat, on day 5 or 6 I was becoming very frustrated with myself. I thought that this is so simple; you just sit and observe your breath. Why can’t I do that silently for even just 1 minute? I talked with the meditation teacher, and learned a lesson that I continue to learn every day. I need to observe the voice that judges myself, and learn to integrate it. I was judging myself for my mind being too busy and becoming frustrated at myself. This is something that I bring into my every day life as well, I have high expectations of myself, and if I don’t meet those expectations a voice in my head will say I’m not good enough or that I’m not trying hard enough. Through meditation I have discovered issues that I need to resolve within myself. All of us have a similar lesson that can be learned through our meditation practice. Why do you find meditation difficult? Do you have a voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough? Are you looking into the past and blaming yourself, or looking to the future with worry? Learn how your personality might take part in self-sabotaging your meditation experience. The last 3 months I’ve been contemplating my self-judgment more and have learned a lot about my self. I’ve opened up and become aware of feelings that I’ve tried to stop. I’ve talked with my self-critical voice to learn what it has to teach me, and to cooperate together. Being able to work through this has helped my meditation practice, allowing me to accept that there are thoughts, without blaming myself. So while my mind still wants to do everything except for observe my breath, I no longer find it difficult because I am not as attached to the outcome.