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Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Meditations: Three Simple Meditations by Brenda Blanco

There is a lot of misconception about what meditation is. Often, people think meditation has something to do with being enlightened or going off to a magical place in your mind…
Plain and simple, meditation is about being present. Here. Now. It’s the practice of sitting still and being in the present moment. It’s challenging because your monkey mind wants to race about, worrying about what happened yesterday and what we have to do later. The more you can practice quieting your mind, the happier and healthier your mind and body will be.
I know that can sound daunting so here are a few simple meditation techniques you can try.
For all of these, start out slow, put a 2-minute or 5-minute timer on your phone (I like the free Insight Timer app) and work your way up to 10 to 15 minutes after weeks or months of practice. Meditate in a positive place that is clean and free of clutter. Use light incense to purify the space. It is best to have a corner in the house reserved for concentration and meditation and meditate at the same time every day. The best time to practice is first thing in the morning. The mind is calm upon waking, and one slips easily into meditation at this time. Do not think that sleep is being sacrificed, as meditation imparts far greater benefits than sleep. You can sit on a chair, on a pillow or against the wall as long as you can maintain good posture comfortably.
Meditation Techniques
Third-Eye Meditation: Sit comfortably and bring all your attention to the space between your eyebrows. This area is known as the Third Eye or Seat of the Mind. You may see brilliant lights, colors, or mental images. Don’t judge what you experience. Just continue to observe. Focusing all the attention here will stimulate the Pituitary gland, which controls the sixth sense, deep in the brain.
So-Hum Meditation: Sitting comfortably with the eyes closed, bring all of the attention to the breath. Listen for or imagine that during every inhalation the sound “So” is heard, and within each exhalation, the sound “Hum.” So is already an integral part of each inhalation and Hum is an organic part of each exhalation. Sohum is Sanskrit for “I am that. That I am.” – that being the Supreme Self. 

Study of the Self: Sit comfortably and watch the mind. Leave the body by itself and leave the breath by itself. Witness the thoughts that rise like bubbles of gas in liquid, and remain unconcerned as they float to the surface and pass away. Observe all the activities of the mind and their effect on the body and the senses. Who is watching? The mind, of course. This is very powerful form of concentration / meditation.
BRENDA BLANCO has been featured on the Dr. Oz Show and is an ambassador for yoga and wellness brands like Lululemon and SheaMoisture. She leads yoga teacher trainings and international retreats as well as group and private yoga classes in the Northern NJ. She is also a wellness blogger and author of the upcoming book, Career Yogi, a guidebook for new and aspiring yoga teachers. Learn more about Brenda at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Meditations: 3 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress

Please enjoy this wonderful guest post by T. Hilda White, MD and Co-Founder of Upstream: A Center for Mindfulness Practice and Holistic Mental Health

3 Quick and Easy Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Techniques

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes teach students self care skills to enhance awareness of and acceptance of present moment experience. In MBSR we call this innate human capacity "mindfulness," and it can be cultivated through practice. Why cultivate mindfulness? With this increased acceptance and awareness skill, you are able to notice, in your inner and outer world, important elements that create stress for you which you might otherwise miss.

Several skills we teach involve awareness of breathing, awareness of the body and release of tension in the body if possible and gentle stretching movements. If you are you a person with many demands on your time and it seems impossible to come to an MBSR class for two hours a week, here's a way to begin to touch into these powerful practices.

Try these three moments of self care throughout your days:

1) Set an hourly reminder on the device of your choice. At that moment, stop what you are doing for 3 minutes. Sit or stand tall with dignity and take 3-4 deep breaths, making sure you expand your chest and belly with the breath.

2) Throughout your day, try this delicious stretch: sit straight but relaxed on the edge of your chair with your feet firmly resting on the floor. Bring your attention to your shoulders and let them drop away from your ears. Bend your arms as if you were going to rest your forearms and hands on your thighs. Now, imagine you are trying to press your elbows into the floor, very firmly, and hold this for a count of five. You should feel a stretch in the top of your shoulders where we all hold so much tension. Let go after a count of 5 and feel the release of tension. 

3) Once a week, eat lunch or supper alone in a quiet place if possible. When you eat, put your fork down between each bite (or your sandwich or glass) and focus on the experience. For example, what does the food feel like in your mouth, how does it taste, what happens when you chew, or swallow. If your mind wanders, as it surely will, just come back to your experience of eating your meal.

You may have noticed these practices all involve an intimate connection with your body. Your body is a wonderful source of information for how stress may be affecting you, for example breathing with shallow breaths, holding muscle tension that drains you of energy, or feeding yourself in a hurried and unconscious way. Try these simple ways of checking in and letting your body give you important feedback you can use for increasing self awareness and healing.

Upstream brings mindfulness practice to Columbia, SC, in an 8-week class series format, focused on teaching self-care techniques for stress relief to students of all ability levels. Upstream co-founders Hilda White, M.D. (pictured here, and author of this post) and Jemme B. Stewart use the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) toolset to help busy individuals combat stress, anxiety, sleep issues, pain and more.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Meditations: Texture

I took this picture the other day when I was running in Italy. I literally stopped in my tracks, so taken by these layers of texture in nature. I took a few minutes to just gaze at the beauty and to really experience what was in front of me. 

The puffy white clouds, so light and airy, seemed almost tangible. I imagined myself reaching out with my fingertips and pinching off a small piece of cloud, like cotton candy, to dissolve in my hand. The distant mountains softened the edges of the horizon while the trees and shrubbery added form, color, and perspective. Their rougher texture contrasted with the clouds, the grass field, and the rolls of hay.

I could hear birds and crickets, I could see grasshoppers jumping in the field, and could feel a slight breeze that gently rustled the trees behind me. 

Wherever you are, you will always have an opportunity to notice the textures around you. Don't close your eyes for this meditation. Keep them open, but also see with your hands, with your breath, with your ears. Appreciate the differences and variances that make our world so interesting.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Italy Summer: Sardinia

This is part of Cocoon's Summer In Italy series. 

After we settled into the village for a few days, we went with some friends to the island of Sardinia. From the airplane I could see how mountainous and huge the island is. Known for it's turquoise sea and white sandy beaches, Sardinia also boasts strong Pecorino cheeses and produces 80% of Italian cork. 

We stayed near the city of Palau, a bustling little sea port from where you rent boats to explore the surrounding islands. One day we did exactly that. The water was the clearest blue I've ever seen, and jumping from the boat and swimming to the shores of various islands was such a treat! We also tried out windsurfing, ate a lot of shell fish, and did a lot of sunning and swimming.

The most unforgettable place on Sardinia? Porto Cervo. Oh. My. God. If I had to use one word to describe it? Decadent. I mean, the multi-million dollar yachts, the Bugatti sports car display, the temporary Harrods boutique along the water, the mansions on the hills, the colorful architecture, the Gucci, Versace, Missoni, (I could go on forever with designer stores) boutiques...Wow. Unbelieveably, grotesquely, jaw-droppingly, mouth-wateringly, over-the-top in a hugely pretentious, yet, gotta touch it/gape at it/lust after it, if only for a second, kinda way.

Enjoy these photos, and see more Italy Summer 2013 pictures here.

Porto Mannu where we stayed

Our gang on our island boat tour
Capturing the beauty of Sardinia

We're in luck!

Porto Cervo

Porto Cervo

Porto Cervo

Porto Cervo
Porto Cervo

Beautiful Bugatti at Porto Cervo

Even Batman in Porto Cervo

Family Shot

Dreaming in Porto Cervo

Skull of Diamonds?

Porto Rafael
Sardinia Bay

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Meditations: And So I Sit

Enjoy these beautiful words from Claire Colbeck. I found this on Elephant Journal - one of my favorite blog spots!

And So I Sit. ~ Claire Colbeck

Via Claire Colbeckon Jul 10, 2013



An opening; followed by a closing.

A pattern revisited again and again.
Year to year; moment to moment.
Where tears once flowed, are now dried remnants of their path.
Where heartache once resided, is now a smooth rhythm.
Where once hoped for difference, is now at peace with what is.
There is a lull in the shift; a closure, where once was broken open.
I question in which state it is easier to move through the world.
There is something about heart-bursting, palpable discomfort.
There is something about knowing everything will be okay, and discovering why that is.
Like working with your hands—there is connection in the motion and movement.
In the doing. In the creating and exploring.
In scraping the idea and starting again.
In following the path of your medium as it unfolds in your hands.
I watch my heart open, and close.
I watch my mind wander, and wonder.
I watch my storyline unfold, like a tale to be told through the ages.
And then I return.
To the place it started; to the place it’s always been.
An opening; followed by a closing.
The ebb and flow.
Like ocean waves, who uncover, and recover, again and again.
Baring it’s soul upon the sand.
Tiny fragments piece together the story, like a tale to be told through the ages.
And then it returns.
The ocean becomes an ocean again; it’s sole purpose to uncover, and recover.
And to exist in the space between the two.
Where the lull happens in the shift; a closure, where once was broken open.
To trust that the pause is infinite; and yet is it?
…and so i sit.

Ed: Bryonie Wise
{Photo: via Pinterest}
Words are, and have always been, a way Claire Colbeck explores what she discovers in this world. You can find her most alive in the simplicity of nature, exploring the world with others, or at her second home – where she moves through and guides yoga. One day, she envisions “looking out at trees both far older and wiser than me, as I place words down on paper…”