Friday, April 5, 2019

Meditation vs Breathwork

Welcome to Spring!  

Our senses are on high alert, and that means awareness is at the tip of our nose, literally! So, how can awareness be helpful rather than a burden? A common question popping up in conversations, client calls and breath sessions recently is what is the difference between Meditation and Breathwork? Mindfulness, awareness, attention, focus and stillness are all terms directly related to meditation, and we all know the many benefits, yet we still struggle to sit still.  Why is it so difficult, to sit still, to focus, to pay attention to the breath? Because we don't know how to breathe! Here is where Breathwork comes in...

When we have a million and one things on our plate everyday, and we know how important it is to stop and watch the breath.  You tell your monkey mind, to sit down, shut up and then attempt to pay attention. What comes up is the very thing that makes you uncomfortable - a thought, or two, or three... then we start to react to those thoughts, our breath starts to change, our nervous system kicks into fight or flight, survival mode. We feel restless, irritable and discontent, which leads to more thoughts. We numb out the way that feels good, we say to hell with it, stand up from our cushion and go back to the grind.  We go back to the monotonous work that keeps our mind busy, scroll through social media, plant our head in the fridge, etc. The cycle continues. 

What happened? As beginners, we try to sit still, with nothing to keep our mind focused except the idea of paying attention to the breath, and we get trapped in thought, lots of thought. Unless we are extremely disciplined (which is what we are trying to learn in the first place) we give up, bail out, and claim meditation doesn't work. So we stop doing the very thing that will help us get better - we stop practicing. 

Meditation is an advanced practice. Of course, we can all follow along on a guided tour through visual images, bells, chimes and singing bowls, but what is really happening with our breath. We experience and explore how to manage the breath with "conscious, controlled breathing or Breathwork."  Breathwork is an active practice to keep you on the path of focus. 

Breathwork comes in many sizes, but for the purpose of this explanation, it is a tool that will teach you time after time how to manage the thoughts that turn into emotions, and the emotions that turn into reactions. It happens to all of us, at least once a day, everyday. So, why not build the muscle memory to respond to life rather than react to it.

Here is your call to action, start today with learning the basic fundamentals of breathwork via my 21 days of Breathwork. The very techniques required to start building emotional muscle memory. We also host a monthly Relax & Rejuvenate Breath Flow Class the 1st Wednesday of every month to help you learn the rhythms of these techniques. We want you to breathe better! Learn to find YOUR Breath of Wellness. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How do I control the random thoughts in my mind and focus on one thing?

The mind is built to wander. Just like the pancreas produces insulin, our minds produce thoughts. It’s the human way of surviving, making decisions, deciding on dinner options, choosing to marry the love of our life, etc. The good news is we can teach our minds to redirect from random thoughts to the present moment (or on one thing).
How - by practicing concentration. With mainstream media at our fingertips, most of our focus is the scrolling screens of our laptops, mobile devices and channel surfing. It’s penetrating into our frontal lobes and numbing us out of reality - out of the present moment. The first step in learning mindfulness is to practice concentrating on one thing. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally.
The practice of paying attention can be done with a candle flame. Here’s how:
  1. Start in a comfortable position, sitting in a chair - with integrity (spine straight), light a candle and place it approximately 2–3 feet in front of you in a secure safe position. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  2. Begin by taking 3 deep breaths (like you do when the doctor listens to your lungs) and exhaling fully with a sigh. After 3 deep breaths, begin breathing naturally, without forcing it and shift your awareness to the candle flame. Maintain a smooth breathing practice and continue to pay attention to the candle flame.
  3. When you “notice” that you aren’t paying attention to the flame and that your mind has wandered to what’s for dinner, I forgot to finish my report for work, I wish I wouldn’t have sent that text, or wherever the mind has wandered to, without judging yourself kindly say to yourself, “I'm thinking” and then gently redirect your attention back to the candle flame.
  4. When the timer goes off, thank yourself for taking the time to practice, blow out the candle flame, and mark your calendar for the next practice.
It’s ok that your mind wanders, remember that is what it is supposed to do. The practice is building muscle memory in order to control the mind. When we practice this for at least 7–10 minutes per day for at least 4–8 weeks we will notice that our minds don’t “wander” as much when we sit to practice. Remember that the wandering part of our mind doesn’t know that we are sitting to meditate. It is up to us to practice. The only way to do it wrong, is to not do it at all.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How rock climbing teaches us to meditate

How does one meditate without sitting still? This is the myth of today's mainstream idea of meditation - MUST SIT STILL. Although yes, sitting still and quiet is a wonderful way to find the breath, it is not the only way. A few days ago I accompanied a few rock climbers to a hidden gem in our own backyard. A patch of rock that has seen and experienced many personalities, many intoxications, many chalky hands over the years - we even saw some graffiti dated back to 1948! As I chose to be a spectator that day, I drew my hammock a few yards away and began to observe. Here is what I learned about meditation and rock climbing.

The trek was a firm designated pathway that showed signs of wildlife, years of footpoints, bugs, and plants - an beautiful opportunity for mindfulness. Being mindful is simply shifting our focus to the present sense of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. In this case I was mindful of my environment, the warmth of the sun, the hobo's den deep in the woods, the windy path we followed to get to our destination, the smell of summer and the sounds of creatures. When we arrived to our location, rock formations unfolded in the beautiful rays of sunlight. The rocks glistened with graffiti artwork, broken glass and the remains of many fires from late night gatherings. (Can I point out that at this moment in my journey, all my worries from the day, and life had disappeared).

The cargo for the day's' activities were crash pads carried like backpacks; black with outlines of sweat, dirt and chalk - they had seen many falls. A cleaning brush that would wipe away broken glass, twigs, rocks and other earthly elements not kosher for the backside. I also noticed a can of WD-40 and a lighter. This would come in handy later! Bags of chalk that climbers use to pave the way with traction and fashion. One was plain Jane, black and white, nothing fancy, but the other, a panda vomiting rainbows. I assume this is the feeling one attains upon climbing his route. These chalk bags are tied to the waist of each climber and is the glue - an unconscious dip as the eyes peruse the next path of transition. The shoes - oh those fancy shoes! Tight, uncomfortable, painful, and necessary. Mind over matter.

Upon the first climb, one will lace up, chalk up, brush away the unwanted debris from the earth, then throw down the crash pad. The mind has been cleared, it has been offered the treasure of the breath, the present moment. It is now engaged in timeless joy, the top of the rock, the visual queue of the path of most resistance is the way. The inversions, the grabs, the holds, positive and negative just like the way life shows up for us. In any given moment we can be faced with what we don't have control over - just like the way the rock forms. The meditation practice has begun, and we may not even be aware of it. The climb begins on mother earth, back to dirt, root to roots - the grounding. A climber hangs on with an invisible thread, and as each new transition unfolds it mimics the challenges of life. Just like when we want something to change we often are let down - the climber goes for the next hold and he wasn't close enough, or his foot slips, a spider jumps out and he screams and falls to the mat. The meditation is that times will be tough, climbs will be challenging, and we keep breathing - we stick with it. Because to get better is to practice and to practice is to just do it.

The day was full of laughter, consciousness, breathing, letting go, focus, concentration and presence - the main elements of mindfulness AND meditation. Whether sitting still on a cushion or following a route to to the top of a climb, one can participate in the presence of the moment. To just be. So go forth and climb - make it your meditation of the day.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The things you are passionate about are not random, they are a gift

I was reminded about my own passion, helping others help themselves. I do this by coaching, teaching mindfulness and breathwork and sharing my personal experiences. I recall what led me to Life Coaching, and it's not about the money, the prestige or the fame - it's about how I feel when my client finds a way through the thickness of ego, takes the leap into a new career, finds a balance with life and work by making a few simple changes or publishes the book she couldn't find time to write. It's a feeling of gratitude, excitement and happiness. My clients felt stuck, they didn't know where to start first, or which project was most important. The Breath of Wellness coaching program allowed them to explore their challenges, create doable steps to move forward with their vision and it gave them the tools to maintain success. These are the moments that remind me why I do what I do.

Life coaching is synergistic relationship that helps you tap into your fullest potential. It is a conversation that identifies what goals are important, what tasks are priority, and a partnership that objectively challenges you to dig deeper, work harder, and take the risk that will get you to the next level. 

My personal experience with life coaching has been true success. I started working with a life coach almost 4 years ago, and as a result I created a mindfulness practice that works for me, went back to school, started my own private practice and built a foundation of emotional awareness by learning self-compassion. Now, I may add this is all a work in progress.  My coach asked me those deep meaningful questions that ignited my creativity and offered me the space to decide what was most important to me.  I continue to work with a Life Coach on a monthly basis as it is important for me to grow professionally and personally. I often complete one project and quickly find another one ready to be explored. Two heads are better than one they say, and I have been able to make my dreams come true with having a Life Coach. 

These are just a few reasons my clients have chosen A Breath of Wellness, Integrative Life Coaching as their encouraging foundation of success. 
  • Gaining financial security and independence (want to save for that summer vacation)
  • Balancing your professional and personal life (if only there were more hours in the day)
  • Communicating with friends, family or colleagues (building the relationships you want)
  • Making that ideal career change (you know the one you would do if money were of no value)
  • Identifying your values and passions in life (are your hobbies on the backburner)
  • Getting organized (is tax season giving you anxiety)
  • Becoming more relaxed (trouble sleeping at night, monkey-mind)
Life Coaching allowed me to expand my passion and my gifts, it changed my life, and now I am able to bring the same blessings to my clients. By asking one question at a time, by taking one breath at a time together we partner an investment. An investment in you. Find your passion, find your gift, it's been there all along. 

A Breath of Wellness, LLC
Holistic & Integrative Life Coaching

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

3 ways to take care of our minds

It has been some time since I've written to you, as some of you may know the last few years have been dedicated to studying the latest evidence-based data, writing research papers, conversing with classmates through discussion posts, and yes learning how to bring you the latest and most efficient method of life coaching, mindfulness and breathwork.  The good news,  I've completed my graduate program and earned a Master's degree in Health & Wellness Coaching!!  I couldn't be more grateful. It was a ton of hard work, and it was all worth it! I write today not to spread my ego, but rather to share with you what I learned. The biggest lesson was to take care of my mind.

What I learned is to let go of what I can't control and to accept myself exactly as I am. Adding hours upon hours of coursework, pro-bono coaching, over extending myself in a new way of employment, all was very challenging and my mental and emotional well-being was beginning to decrease. It was easy to not eat dinner, not stay committed to my meditation practice, and engage in negative self talk. These things offered me no strength, motivation or willpower - ALL the things that are supposed to keep us moving ahead. So what I learned is to take care of myself, and here are 3 of the ways that I do just that: trust life's process, meditate, and journal my thoughts.

I have a mind that likes to wander and engage in worry and fear, and I have fought with it for years. These past 3 years were no different.  I overworked myself, then beat myself up because I was exhausted, my meditation practice would cease for days even weeks at a time, and I would get angry at myself, and I neglected to write (hence the first sentence of this blog). All the things that I know keep me happy, motivated and calm. It was a struggle.

So what do I do differently now? I commit to 3 simple things every day:

1. Trust - This is a fact of my life. Trust is about shifting worry, anxiety and doubt into faith, believing that all that I need is ALWAYS taken care of. This is a daily practice of letting go, accepting life's challenges as they show up and leave the results to your belief system whether that is God, the Universe or Nature. When the thoughts of fear arise, find an affirmation to recite over and over again. Mine is, "the Universe has me exactly where I am supposed to be." This way I can focus my attention on the beauty directly in front of me, or on a solution that I'm faced to ponder.

2. Meditate - I must recommit to meditation often, and this is something I share openly with my clients. Meditation is a practice and it's challenging. I consciously breathe with focus and intention 20-30 minutes a day (at least 7 minutes a day on a not so good day).  Meditation helps me learn how my mind operates, where it goes and how to sit in discomfort. The quote, this too shall pass is the mantra for many of my practices. The thoughts will keep us wanting to stop, and we learn to sit through it. Changing our thoughts one thought at a time.

3. Journal Writing - This is probably my favorite. Each morning when I wake up I have many thoughts, some good some bad, and depending on my hormone level or how life is currently showing up for me, will determine whether they are good or bad. What I have found is that if I write 3 pages every morning of just stream of consciousness (no agenda, just write what shows up), I am able to go about my day without worrying about it. Most of what happens in my head is just story and never really happens, so I write it out, just like a story and then as I re-read it, I chuckle because of the irrationality of what I am making up in my head. Does this make sense? Try it for a few days and see what happens.

Overall, these small 3 steps (along with many others) have allowed me to change the way I think. This in turn gives me control over what I have control over - my attitude and my behavior. It a slow but sure process. Stay with it and keep breathing consciously.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What are you grateful for?

Gratitude - an expression of acceptance of the things we have, and to fuel our experience of love, selflessness and service. I awake this morning full of gratitude and wanted to share my hearts perception on how this beautiful concept has changed my life. For years I was ungrateful on every level. I had so many beautiful people and miracles happening in my life, however I could not grasp the concept of what it meant to be grateful. I ALWAYS WANTED MORE! More of everything. If I had a brand new car, I wanted a different color; when I bought my house, it was just a matter of time when I wanted a bigger house, the job - well I was never satisfied (problems with authority in my younger years gave way to a much bigger problem here). And the non-material items, the fact that I woke up every morning and was able to take another breath never phased me. The point is no matter what I had I wanted something more. It left me feeling lost, crazy and spinning out of control.  I am here to share some basic ideas of how I remain grateful.

When I awake in the morning, I at most times have immediate thoughts of impending doom - that I am struggling in every aspect of my life. Thoughts such as I can't make enough money, how will I get through the day, this meeting I have at noon is going to ruin my life, etc. You get the idea. Your thoughts may be the same or may be different. Either way they are there - they are strong, all consuming and they have been known to set the tone for my entire day. Well there is hope! Gratitude has saved my sanity and brought peace back into my life. How does this concept work? I had the same question, and believe me even after all these years I still forget at times.

For me this is taking out a piece of paper and a pen, pencil, marker, or a computer - whatever captures your artistic spirit and I start writing. I write the question bold and underlined at the top of the paper or the screen - What in my life an I grateful for? What people, places, things and most importantly what experiences! I've learned that material possessions have not given me happiness in my later years of life. It is the love of people in my life, my awareness of life and the ability to be awake and living a life of purpose that makes me grateful. I may add I am extremely grateful for the roof over my head, the food in the fridge and the ability to make money to fund those hobbies of passion. The point to all of this is to rid our thinking of "what more do we need" and to begin shifting into "the gratitude for what we have."

Take some moments today, tomorrow and everyday to follow to find gratitude for your life! By doing this I promise you will find increased happiness. I'd love to hear how your practice gratitude - please share you journey!