Meditation Resources

Need a 2014 Resolution? Take This “Think Clearly” Pledge with Bruce Kasanoff

The “Think Clearly” Pledge From Linked In Influencer Bruce Kasanoff

Yesterday I skied 10″ of fresh powder in Vermont, and as I neared my house at the end of the day, I simply took off my skis and lay down in the snow. After about 20 minutes of doing nothing but let snowflakes fall on my face, an idea occurred to me and I took this photo.

Here’s the idea: every day in 2014, I’m going to take at least 10 minutes to do what I did yesterday: stop, empty my mind, and do nothing at all.

In return, I hope to think more clearly the rest of the time.

Over the years, I’ve meditated off and on, and have often exercised or simply walked to clear my head. I’ve also observed that my best professional ideas come in the days right after a vacation. But I’ve never pledged to spend ten minutes in silent inaction every single day for a year.

Will you take the pledge with me?

I ask you this in the spirit of enlightened self-interest. The more people who take the pledge with me, the more likely I am to abide by it. But also the more people who abide by the pledge, the more people it will help.

Look around you, and you will see countless people who live in a fog. They don’t listen to what you say, they don’t understand what others are trying to communicate to them, and they don’t understand reality; instead, they operate within their own distorted sense of reality. As a result, they make a lot of bad decisions, and they miss numerous opportunities.

Here’s the really bad news: the same is true for you and me. We live in a fog, too.

Truth is, I’m not sure that ten minutes a day is enough to free either one of us from the fog, but this is a step in the right direction, and it is a modest enough commitment that – with the help of others – we can actually stick to it for this entire year.

To help both of us stick to the Pledge, I just created the Think Clearly group on LinkedIn. If you are taking the Pledge, please join the group.

Update, 3:45 p.m. Friday: Went back to the same spot today. This is the view. The temperature outside was -7 fahrenheit, but I still enjoyed the break. 425 people have already joined me to take the Pledge…

Related Post: https://karahpino.me/the-sacred-shadow-self/the-zen-of-going-to-the-rest-room/

Responding to A Call to Wholeness with Attentive Awareness: an Homage to SN Goenka

I had the opportunity to sit in Vipassana meditation last month over Thanksgiving.  It had been three years since my last course which was during my pregnancy.  Motherhood has been an amazing challenge and finding ways to meditate throughout the day has been difficult, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to revitalize my practice again.

These are the notes I made in the clarity after 3 days of meditating 12 hours a day, observing my breath, observing my physical sensations and observing all the roiling thoughts in my mind that were taking my attention from the present moment.

You are lost in thought again: your thoughts, the thoughts of others, thoughts started in the distant past, thoughts unfinished.  Thoughts re-crafted over and over of what you might have done or what you didn’t do.  Thoughts of the future, the distant future, the immediate future, thoughts of a possible future if only you act now.  Thoughts of people, of circumstances of dreams and expectations.  Thoughts of passion, of regret, of emptiness, thoughts of what might have happened if only you had done or said something different than what  had happened.

These thoughts boil and churn, tumbling over one another again and again, perhaps with slight variations as you reinforce them with your creative mind.  If only, of only, of only…..

These thoughts grip your mind, freezing it in a static stasis of immobility.  If only, if only, if only.  But…but…but…

Resist the temptation to reinforce the past you are trying to correct, it is impossible.  Practice being aware of these thoughts without engaging them.  Observe how they rise.  Observe yourself engage them.  Observe how your physical structure reacts to this process.  And then observe yourself observing all this.

Be still.  Observe awhile and eventually you will see the spaces between thoughts.  Continue observing with attentive awareness and those spaces of clarity will expand.  As you observe, you will see how thoughts arise into the spaces and you will observe yourself engaging those thoughts for awhile before letting them go and watching them fade away.  Do not become elated at this fading away.  Do not expect the momentary peaceful clarity to last.  For, certainly, another thought will arise again.

We are not able to change our thinking by eliminating the thinking process.  We can learn to not react to thoughts and by not reacting to them.  It is inevitable that they will fade away as part of the nature of life which is always and unavoidably ever-changing.  The law of nature is that all is ever changing.

In the first hours of Noble Speech once silence has been broken this past vipassana course, something that always comes up is the question of how it is that we have all come to vipassana as students.  Despite the wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, it is always interesting to learn that we each came to vipassana in response to an inner call to wholeness.  My story is similar to many others:  A friend was talking about her experience at her first vipassana course.  Her description of the meditation schedule, though rigorous, struck me as exactly what I needed at the time.

My practice has waxed and waned of the subsequent 10 years through graduate school, business and child-rearing.  At times the discipline was strong and I was able to weather intense times of change with easy breaths.  At other times the responsibility to others overwhelmed me and I did not make time to practice and the challenges of life became intense struggles.  But always the same call to wholeness resounded and I returned to find the lessons of attentive awareness once again.

After this past course, I noticed the difference between myself as an older student and the expectations of the newer students that I once shared.  As an older student, now, I no longer expect to have a sudden change of life that will enable me to maintain this clarity.  I don’t expect that I will be able to instantly be able to fulfill the directive to meditate for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.  And I can accept that without judgement.  I will do what I can do with gratitude for the moments of clarity that come as life keeps changing, changing, changing, ever-changing.

Karah Pino in meditation

Karah Pino in meditation

Vipassana Courses are offered around the world through the teaching of SN Goenka who transcended life this past September.  His recorded lessons teaching the technique and offering guidance to meditation ring true to new students and old students, young and old of all backgrounds and cultures.  Vipassana Courses are offered freely and donation of funds, time or other service are accepted but not expected.  To learn more, visit www.dhamma.org may all beings be happy.

Mindfulness Meditation for a Stress-Less Mind

Mindfulness Meditation for a Stress-Less Mind

We were listening to a radio interview we did recently, talking about the profound benefits of meditation. Deb had said, “Mindfulness meditation is revolutionary because it changes us simply by being fully present, completely aware of just this moment.” Which is absolutely true, but being in the present moment can be slippery, elusive — we want to be in Hawaii, start planning a Christmas shopping list, relive a disagreement with our partner, get distracted by the sound of the mailman outside or an aching knee. The possibilities are endless — all the many ways the mind can do something, anything, other than being present.

On average, we spend our time either living in what-could-have-been, what-might-have-been, or if-only, or in the expectation of what-could-be or what-might-be. But the truth is no matter how much we try, plan, plot, arrange, have things to do, leave the house at the same time each day, arrive at the office at the same time, pick up the kids on time, we can still never know what will happen in the next moment.

We used to live next to a glorious river in Devon, England and walked beside it each day. It was beautiful, but as much as it looked like the same river, even the same water, it was constantly changing — the water was never the same as even a second ago. Likewise, we may look the same but the cells in our body are forever forming, growing and dying; we are continually changing and renewing in every minute, we just aren’t aware of it.

Realizing the past is already gone and can never be relived, while the future is always ahead of us and consistently unknown, the only logical way to deal with this awareness is to be present with what is, whatever it is, as it is. Contrary to common belief, it can be immensely liberating to actually have nothing going on, to discover that the entire universe is contained in this very moment, to realize that nothing more is required than to just be aware and present. Imagine, what a relief! Finally, we can live without expectation, prejudice or longing, or the desire for things to be different than they are.

Being present invites a deep sense of completion, that there really is nowhere else we need to be or go. It’s impossible to think of somewhere else as being better, for the grass is vividly green exactly where we are. At a seminar someone once asked Ed if he had ever experienced another dimension. Ed replied, “Have you experienced this one?”

Right now, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. As you breath out, notice how your body feels, the chair you are sitting on, and the room you are in. That’s all. It only takes an instant to be present. Or, as a way of reminding yourself, put Post-its in strategic places around your home (on your bathroom mirror, the fridge, the inside of the front door, etc.) that say things like: NOW is the greatest moment, Be Here Now; Stop, smile and Breathe; Only this Moment Exists; There Is Just This, NOW!

It’s also essential that, as neuroscientist Brian Jones teaches, you tune down your sympathetic nervous system (the flight and fight response) and tune into your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and relaxation response). You can do this through breathing and mindfulness techniques and can learn more atrevolutionarymindfulness.com

Mindfully Meditating In the Moment 
Mindfully meditating on the flow of the breath naturally brings us into the present while bringing our awareness inward, rather than being focused outward. The breath is just breathing, and yet it is never the same, each breath is completely different to the last one. You can simultaneously silently repeat, “I am here, I am now, I am present! I am here, I am now, I am present!”

Practice: Being and Breathing Meditation
Sit comfortably with your back straight, hands are in your lap, eyes are closed. Spend a few minutes settling your body, being aware of the room around you and the chair you are sitting on.

Now bring your focus to your breathing, just watch the natural movement of air as you breathe in and out. Silently repeat, “Breathing in, breathing out.”

Stay with watching your breath. If your mind starts to drift just see your thoughts as birds in the sky and watch them fly away. Then come back to the breath.

Anytime you get distracted, bored, or lost in thinking, just come back to the breath, to this moment now. Silently repeat, “I am here, I am now, I am present! I am here, I am now, I am present!”

You can do this for a few minutes or as long as you like. When you are ready, take a deep breath and let it go, open your eyes, and move gently.

What keeps you from being mindfully here and now? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs by checking Become a Fan at the top.

Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World. See more at RevolutionaryMindfulness.comand EdandDebShapiro.com.

What Mindfulness Isn’t … And What It Is – Wildmind

What Mindfulness Isn’t … And What It Is

woman_eating_thoughtfullyMindfulness is all the rage, but there are many misconceptions. It isn’t a form of relaxation, a technique, or even a meditation practice. It isn’t about doing things slowly or emptying your mind; it isn’t Buddhist, and it isn’t scientific. It isn’t easy … but, then again, it isn’t difficult. And it isn’t a fad. So what is it?

1.     It’s not about relaxing
A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course is about reducing stress, and that means trying to relax, right? Well, not exactly. Mindfulness just means noticing what’s happening, including the things we find difficult. It doesn’t involve listening to panpipes to escape your worries.

2.     It isn’t a meditation practice
On a mindfulness course you’ll learn meditation, but mindfulness is a practice for the whole of life. It means finding a different way to respond to experience throughout the day.

 3.     It isn’t a technique
Mindfulness isn’t something you do. It’s a way of being. You could say it’s a faculty, or a quality of mind that we all have to some extent and can develop further through practice.

4.     It isn’t a way to fix your problems
Mindfulness can help you address stress, anxiety, depression or chronic pain, but not by fixing them. Mindfulness really means living with appreciation and curiousity. Then we can relate in a new way to the things that trouble us, rather than trying to make them go away.

 5.     It isn’t about doing things slowly
Mindfulness courses include things like eating a raisin very slowly. That helps you notice details that you otherwise miss, and shows up our tendency to rush or do one thing while thinking about something else. But that doesn’t mean that you should do everything slowly. Sometimes slower is worse – like when you’re driving. And some people, who have to do things really fast, like racing drivers and tennis players, are exceptionally mindful. With mindfulness, things can feel slower, even when you’re moving quickly.

6.     It isn’t about emptying your mind
Meditation doesn’t mean emptying your mind of thoughts, like a bucket. Minds produce thoughts – it’s what they’re built for – and keep producing them even when you’re meditating. But you can still become calm and settled by learning to let thoughts go. And exploring your thoughts lets you see what’s bugging you, and even how your mind really works.

7.     It Isn’t Buddhist
The mindfulness practices used in MBSR and MBCT are drawn from Buddhism, but no one owns mindfulness: it’s simply a capacity of the mind. That’s why mindfulness is being re-expressed in secular forms. However, Buddhism embeds mindfulness within its own, distinctive set of values and a wider path to liberation and if that’s what you’re looking for it’s worth finding out more.

8.     It isn’t scientific
Research into the effects of mindfulness and its impact on the brain is impressive. It’s a big part of what’s bringing mindfulness into the mainstream. But although you can measure what mindfulness does, you can’t measure what it is. That’s requires feeling, intuition and sensitivity. Measuring mindfulness is a science; practising it is an art.

9.     It isn’t difficult … or easy
Mindfulness is simple, but life is often complicated. So how does it work? The mindful approach is that you don’t have to work out everything all at once. You just have to be aware and manage what’s happening in this moment. So it isn’t difficult … but it also isn’t easy. What’s happening in this moment might be scary, so mindfulness requires patience and resolve as well as openness and gentleness.

10.  And it isn’t a fad
Mindfulness is certainly popular, but isn’t a fad? Mindfulness is a quality of the mind that has always been there and we’re now learning to harness. And mindfulness is more and more relevant because it counters the speed, distraction, superficiality and general mindlessness of so much modern culture and is causing an epidemic of mental strain and illness. Mindfulness is here to stay.

How Mindfulness Meditation Works | IdeaFeed | Big Think

How Mindfulness Meditation Works

June 30, 2013, 2:51 PM
Mindfulness

What’s the Latest Development?

Mindfulness meditation, a process through which the practitioner becomes more aware of his or her own thoughts and emotions, is gaining in popularity across the US, with medical studies and productivity reports behind the practice. A report issued by the German Justus Liebig-University and Harvard Medical School suggests that “mindfulness meditation operates through a combination of several distinct mechanisms: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and a change in perspective on the self.” When the processes combine, an enhanced capacity for self-regulation is achieved.

What’s the Big Idea?

The process of achieving greater self-awareness, and therefore greater self-control, has three main phases: awareness of the mind, awareness of the body, and finally, a dissociation between thought and identity. In a culture that continually emphasizes the cultivation of the self, this may be the most profound lesson that mindfulness meditation has to offer. “According to the Justus Liebig-University and Harvard Medical School report, upon achieving a strong sense of internal awareness and the ability to ‘observe our mental processes with increasing clarity,’ we begin to see the self as something that is continually arising, rather than fixed.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at The Atlantic

How Mindfulness Meditation Works | IdeaFeed | Big Think.

College Prep: Meditation 30-Day Challenge

This first time meditation experience is common to many who try meditation without finding the right technique for them. After teaching meditation to college students the last 5 years, I have found that all techniques work equally well, so long as you find the one that is easiest to fit into your life.  See my comments at the bottom.

-Karah Pino

Meditation 30-Day Challenge

So my office is really obsessed with 30 and 100 day challenges. The 100 day challenges are definitely more on a more personal level, but we tend to group up for 30 day challenges.

The curl challenge was super fun and definitely an eye-opener. It also felt good to actually stick with it. I didn’t even use our one “It’s Okay to Straighten for New Year’s Eve” cheat day.

I was really looking forward to our latest 30 day challenge. Maxie and I planned to meditate every day for 30 days. We were inspired when a career coach gave us a quick and easy 10-minute guided meditation. I’ve done mediations from time to time in the past, especially during extreme periods of stress.

I thought that committing to spending a month getting in the habit of meditating that I would be much happier, more relaxed, and generally feel better.

via

We both failed.

I tried to carve out the ten minutes every day to meditate, but it ultimately started to feel like a chore. And I simply began dreading it. It was a chore and I was absolutely horrible at it. I would sit down in a comfortable position, close my eyes, and follow the meditation guide.

Then the thoughts would start…. and they were loud, clear, and oh-so-annoying. I would ask myself how long had I been meditating. When was the ten minutes up? What should I wear in the morning. The tape tells you that it’s okay to have wandering thoughts, but to try to pull them back in to be centered. And instead, I would start thinking how dumb I felt sitting in my room with my eyes closed.

Meditation certainly works for some people. I’m not going to write it off completely, but this 30 day challenge definitely didn’t work for me. Three weeks in, I sent a text message to Maxie asking when this whole ordeal would be over… even admitting that I’d skipped a few days. I felt so guilty to let her down, but it turns out that she was similarly struggling as well.

What I did learn though was that it’s important to figure out the best way to sit down and think or let go or be present.

For me, I find that true-zen-tuned-into-myself mode when I’m showering and when I’m working out. (SoulCycle was the best meditation I did this month, but even just walking through the park alone is wonderful.)

Have you ever meditated? What’s your method or trick? Do you have any great apps or podcasts to recommend?

xoxo

via College Prep: Meditation 30-Day Challenge.

Here’s My comment:

karahapinohoponoJuly 8, 2013 at 3:27 AM

I took my first meditation class in college for headaches. It worked so I kept at it until I forgot, then the headaches would return. Years later, I studied meditation as part of my masters degree in acupuncture. We learned four branches of meditation: Moving meditation (i.e.yoga/QiGong/dance), Visualization techniques (i.e.color/guided imagery/progressive relaxation), Sound techniques (i.e.chanting/clapping/singing) and Mindfulness (i.e.Zen/Dogchen/Vipassana) After teaching meditation to college students the last 5 years, I have found that all techniques work equally well, so long as you find the one that is easiest to fit into your life. For instance, I love Vipassana mindfulness technique when I have time to sit, but after having a baby, I needed something I could do quickly with child in arms, such as breathing techniques or chanting.

Motivational Video, Headspace: What Are The Benefits Of Meditation? (WATCH)

Why meditate? For one, to clear a cloudy mind. Find out other reasons to meditate from ‘Mind Man’ Andy Puddicombe in the video via Motivational Video, Headspace: What Are The Benefits Of Meditation? (WATCH).

The Difference between Tai Chi and Qigong

Difference between Tai Chi & Qigong

Often at retreats and from students the question arises; “What is the difference between qigong and tai chi?” In this article we will explore this question, understanding that this is a more complex matter than it seems, and cannot be fully answered in a few simple sentences. This is because there are literally hundreds of styles of qigong (chi gung) and five major schools of tai chi with numerous variations.

This is a lot of tai chi and a lot of qigong from which to make a simple statement. Accurately distinguishing between them is like separating out all the color flows and shadings within a single beautiful but complex painting.

Energy Gates Qigong Instructor Training in EnglandEnergy Gates Qigong Instructor Training in England

Cultural Translation Issues

There is another issue that muddies the waters and makes answering this qigong question diffi­cult. Many obtain information on the differences and similarities from a local qigong or tai chi instructor, or from a Chinese instructor who cannot translate from one culture to another easily, or who may not want to share what has been secret, etc.

The trouble is that instructors may only know details about the specific type of qigong they do, and not other types or its rela­tionships to chi-energy arts as a whole. This is not unusual, just as in the field of science, biologists often don’t know that much about civil engineering, and vice versa. As a result, misinformation and half-truths abound.

Comparing Qigong and Tai Chi

Anything of truly great value always has great subtlety, whether or not it looks simple and easy on the surface. Some other differences not mentioned here are too technical, and will not be covered as they may confuse rather than clarify. To bypass complex tech­nical issues, just as is done when you want common sense to tell you how computers work, we will look at the four most commonly given simple answers to the original question—what is the difference between tai chi and qigong?

Each answer gives a progressively more complete answer. All are only partial truths, but at least they are the most accurate answers that can be given without going into excessive detail.

Level 1: Tai chi is a form of qigong, or, qigong is tai chi’s parent

This is the most common answer.

The accurate part of the statement is this: the invisible chi or internal power aspects included within the tai chi part of tai chi chuan derive directly from one branch of the 3,000-year-old Taoist qigong tradition, whereas Taoist qigong does not come from tai chi. However, the statement is misleading because it omits Buddhist or Confucian qigong, which have little in common with tai chi’s roots in Taoist qigong or Taoism. Learn more about this in the Five Branches of Qigong.

This answer also involves a common error in logic: since to the Western ear it sounds as if the word energy is contained in both words, they must mean the same thing. Right? Wrong! The qi or chi of qigong means energy, the chi of tai chi does not. In tai chi the chi means ‘ultimate’.

To add to the confusion, the chi in tai chi and qigong are almost universally pronounced by Westerners as “chee,” which is accurate for qigong and inaccurate for tai chi (“gee”) chuan. Those who commonly both see and mispronounce tai chi as chee also tend to assume both mean the same thing, which they do not.

Confusion escalates and gets reinforced when you find out both tai chi and qigong work with chi-energy (however often in different ways) and have similar benefits. Adding to the potential confusion, although many people may have heard the name, most in the West have only seen tai chi or qigong in still photos, on television, or at the cinema.

When shown visually, if these arts are even named, usually narrators inaccurately call both tai chi, because they don’t know the difference. This commonly leaves the impression that qigong is tai chi or vice versa. The public subsequently has an association that slow-motion movements + Chinese something-or-other = tai chi. Consequently, the public and the media are more familiar with the name tai chi than qigong, and commonly do not make much distinction between them.

Tracing Acupuncture Lines with QigongTracing Acupuncture Lines with QigongLevel 2: Tai chi is a martial art, qigong is purely for healing

The accurate part of this statement is that qigong has specific techniques or styles that are particularly effective for specific diseases beyond the ken of tai chi. For instance, there are specific qigong methods for helping those with cancer and mitigating the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. In China one set used for this was Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong.

The misleading part is that although all tai chi powerfully heals and maintains health, only a tiny fraction of participants do any of its practical martial arts techniques. On the other hand, qigong also has within it practices for increasing the power you need to make self-defense techniques effective, even though qigong per se does not include the fighting techniques themselves.

Level 3: Tai chi and qigong have different movements

Although the first part of this answer can be a little murky, the second part is relatively clear. Both tai chi and some (but not most or all), aspects of qigong do what they do using flowing, fluid, slow-motion movements. To an untrained eye, all regular, smooth, slow-motion movements would tend to look the same, no matter how different they are in reality. Yet a casual observer would be able to clearly distinguish between different kinds of movements done at a faster speed. Nevertheless, slow-motion movements are only fast movements done slowly.

The second part of the answer is this: just because tai chi and qigong movements are done in slow motion does not mean that their movements must basically be the same. There is an exceptionally wide range of different movements, each requiring different kinds of physical coordination. Moreover, although the slow-motion movements of different tai chi styles may be somewhat different, on the whole they are basically variations of the same theme.

In contrast, slow-motion movements in a particular qigong style can look radically dif­ferent from either tai chi or other qigong systems. Take, for example, two well-respected members of the Taoist qigong tribe—tai chi chuan and Wild Goose qigong. Wild Goose has as many moves as a tai chi long form, yet looks radically different from tai chi. Likewise, non-Taoist medical and Buddhist qigong systems also contain movements not to be found in tai chi or each other.

There are many ways to move the body, as can be seen in the differences in the dance world between styles of ballet, ballroom, tap, disco, and hip-hop. Like dance styles, within the hundreds of qigong schools you can move in other ways besides regular, smooth, slow-motion movements. There are techniques which involve shaking, jumping up and down, vibrating, shouting, alternating speed with staying dead still, flapping like a bird, squatting flatfooted, and even moving freely and spontaneously in ways almost too strange to describe, while making weird, otherworldly sounds.

Above and beyond moving, qigong also has primary methods that specialize in:

  • Standing, either with your arms by your sides or in all kinds of positions.
  • Sitting, both on the floor and in chairs.
  • Lying down in various positions.
  • Sexual and all kinds of human interactions, including talking.

Although tai chi may use standing, sitting, and lying down techniques, they are ancillary to the primary technique of slow-motion movements for health, longevity, and stress management.

Using the Beak Hand in Dragon and Tiger Qigong to Move ChiUsing the Beak Hand in Dragon and Tiger Qigong to Move ChiLevel 4: Tai chi and qigong may work with chi-energy differently

Why are you doing these movements in the first place? From a purely physical viewpoint the body needs to move and exercise to prevent problems. A different perspective is that the movements are designed to specifically promote the flow of chi within you. Therefore, if you want to generate a specific chi flow in your body, one type of movement may make it easier whereas others may make it harder.

Tai chi is based upon the potential to fully incorporate all 16 parts of the neigongi system seamlessly into every movement; qigong normally tends to partially utilize some, but not all, of the 16 neigong components in any specific movement or entire form. In tai chi, although some specific moves may make it slightly easier to initially learn or solidly assimilate any one of the 16 components, for an advanced practitioner, the other 15 are ideally always present and integrated within each and every move of the form.

Some Taoist qigong schools will teach the entire 16 components initially through a series of short qigong forms, each of which emphasizes two or three specific parts of the neigong, until the final form which encompasses all 16. After this the student has a complete background within which to engage learning the full energetic potential of tai chi. The Energy Arts Qigong Exercise Program, for example, does this in his teaching work, using five very short qigong sets plus Dragon and Tiger Qigong, the first five of which initially emphasize only one to three components of the entire 16 neigong components.

Qigong also often separates specific chi functions into separate movements or differ­ent forms. For example, while doing a qigong form, during one move you might direct energy through a specific acupuncture meridian (the lung or heart meridian for example), and in the next move you might direct energy through a different meridian. Or in one move, you might draw energy through a particular acupuncture point in your body, and in the next release the energy from a different one. Or within the same form during one series of moves you could deliberately only exclusively activate and work with one of your three tantiens or centers of energy, and later within the same form, in a different series of moves,deliberately solely activate a different tantien and its functions, or other specific elements of the Taoist neigong system.

Ideally, in tai chi, an experienced practitioner will not separate these energy practices in this way. So that provides you with four different ways of looking at the question. All have truth in them and help elicudate the difference between qigong and tai chi.

Article extracted from Tai Chi Health for Life Book.  To order this book click here.

The Difference between Tai Chi & Qigong.

Cindy Griffith-Bennett: Turn 5 Things You Do Every Day Into Meditation Moments

For most of us, a typical day begins when we get out of bed, wash, and then start our activities. At some point, we get a bite to eat, walk somewhere, and talk to someone. Often, by the end of the day we find ourselves stressed out and physically exhausted. It doesn’t have to be that way!

By turning everyday activities into meditation moments, you can bring more mindfulness, clarity, and peace into your day while energizing yourself and reducing stress. A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found: “Brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.”

These brief mindfulness meditations don’t require sitting like a pretzel or sniffing incense, not that there is any thing wrong with a traditional meditation practice if you have the time. But if you are like me, life keeps getting in the way! Here are five opportunities to add meditation without taking time out of your hectic schedule.

  1. When you get up in the morning, you usually wash. Let’s use washing your face for our first meditation opportunity. Feel the temperature of the water on your hands. Focus on the temperature as you add a little soap. Notice how the suds feel on your hand. When a thought comes in, think of it as someone else’s phone ringing. You hear it, but you don’t have to answer it. Next, feel your soapy hands or the washcloth on your face. Focus on that sensation as you wash your face. Next, feel the rinse water on your face — how does it feel? Is it too cold? Too hot? Just right? If your mind wanders, there is no need to judge, just go back to focusing on the feeling of the water on your face. As you towel off, feel the sensation of the air on your face. It’s that simple, you just meditated!
  2. As you go about your day, you are most likely waiting in line or in traffic, so take a moment to breathe. Everyone has to breathe, and there is no way the person in front of you in the coffee line will know you are meditating! Sense the breath coming in and out of your nose or mouth. Don’t worry about thoughts; you know what to do, think of your thoughts as someone else’s cell phone ringing. Some people like to label their thoughts as “thought” and then let them go. The important thing is returning to sensing your breath coming in and out of your body. You will feel your shoulders relax and your patience returning.
  3. Now it is time to grab some lunch. We all eat, don’t we? Another mindfulness meditation can be done while eating. Take a small bite and really taste the food. What is the consistency? What are the different flavors? Can you tell if there is salt or pepper added? Do you like it? Try to eat a few bites without talking. You don’t have to spend the whole lunchtime on this, but even 30 seconds or a minute will have interesting results. For even more relaxation and satisfaction, try chewing each bite until it is totally done before you take a drink. You will most likely feel fuller, and psychologically you will feel more satisfied. I love to eat a Peppermint Pattie one tiny bite at a time. The cool mint and chocolate taste even better! I also take a moment to be grateful for the food, the food preparer and, in the case of the Peppermint Pattie, for the chocolate!
  4. It is always healthy to take a walk after you eat. But even if you don’t have time then, you will have to walk somewhere today, maybe from the kitchen to the living room or from your car to the house. Take this time to do a quick walking meditation. Feel your feet as they touch the ground and lift up. If you have thoughts, label them or decide to answer them later. You may walk a little funny at first. You probably haven’t paid attention to your feet in a while! We all have to walk somewhere, and this meditation can be used for short walks or long ones. It is important to pay attention to where you are going, but besides that, simply focus on the sensation of your feet as they touch and leave the ground. Once you get good at this, you can add focusing on your breath!
  5. Lastly, you will most likely speak to someone during your day. Before you speak, ask yourself, “Are my words kind, useful, necessary and true?” What a wonderful opportunity to empower others with our words! This may not sound like a meditation, yet this technique uses focused attention. You really need to pay attention to your thoughts for this one! You can also give yourself the gift of paying attention to how you speak to yourself. Are your words to yourself also kind, useful, necessary and true? Often we have such negative self-talk. This is a wonderful opportunity to empower yourself!

So you now have five different opportunities to add meditation into your day and start to reap the rewards! Not only can you reduce your stress, increase your mindfulness, strengthen cognitive ability, and energize your body, you can also empower yourself and others without stopping your busy day! It just takes washing, breathing, eating, walking and talking — all things you do every day anyway.

For more by Cindy Griffith-Bennett, click here.

via Cindy Griffith-Bennett: Turn 5 Things You Do Every Day Into Meditation Moments.

 

Why a Little Bit of Stress Is Good For You | Greatist

There are times when I think I’d be much happier if I could spend the rest of my life lounging on the sands of the Mediterranean, having someone fan me with palm fronds while feeding me superfood grapes. In other words, life would be better without any stress. Or would it?

According to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, a little stress may not be so bad for us after all. While chronic stress may be harmful, acute (short-term) stress may actually boost our cognitive function. The findings are supported by other research suggesting a little bit o’ stress may have beneficial effects for our brains and bodies. The key, of course, is knowing when we’re too harried for our own good.

What’s the Deal?

Before we get into the science, let’s be clear that most of the research in this area involves rats, not humans, so it’s not entirely clear that the findings apply to people. For a while now, researchers have suspected that the effect of stress on the (rat) brain is like an upside-down U: Up to a certain point, stress boosts cognitive function; after that, it starts to take a negative toll [1] [2].

In this latest study, researchers wanted to see if short-term stress really would turn regular old rats into geniuses. So they subjected rats to acute stress by confining them in their cages for a few hours. The stress caused the rats’ corticosterone (a stress hormone) levels to shoot up for a few hours, and also caused the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory function.

Two days after the stressful event, the researchers tested rats’ memories, and found nothing had changed. But two weeks later, the rats’ memories had significantly improved. Then the researchers got super-techy and figured out that the cells produced after the stressful event were the same cells involved in learning during the second round of memory tests. In other words, the acute stress had made the rats smarter. The scientists concluded that acute stress has a beneficial effect on cognitive function.

Is It Legit?

Possibly. Again, we’re talking about rats here. And while the researchers behind the latest study believe the findings apply to humans as well, there’s currently no way to monitor neural stem cells in the human brain, according to study co-author Daniela Kaufer.

There’s some evidence that acute stress is not only beneficial for rats’ brains, but also for their immune system. Stress hormones released in response to acute stress may warn the immune system about upcoming threats such as an infection [3]. On the other hand, studies of humans suggest that if the immune system is chronically exposed to stress hormones, we may become more susceptible to diseases [4].

Together these findings imply that acute stress ­— think a job interview or even a ride on a scary rollercoaster — might actually be necessary for our physical and mental health. It’s chronic stress — like being stuck in a bad job or relationship — that causes our health to decline, contributing to issues as serious as heart disease and obesity.

Still, it’s worth noting that some forms of acute stress may actually cause serious damage, as in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The UC Berkeley researchers say it’s still unclear why some types of acute stress have positive effects, and others can be so damaging. It might just be a question of individual experience, so it’s worth figuring out where our own optimal stress level lies.

Do you think a certain level of stress can be beneficial? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet the author directly at @ShanaDLebowitz.

via Why a Little Bit of Stress Is Good For You | Greatist.