Be Like a Tree in a Storm, by Thich Nhat Hanh

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A strong emotion is like a storm. If you look at a tree in a storm, the top of the tree seems fragile, like it might break at any moment. You are afraid the storm might uproot the tree. But if you turn your attention to the trunk of the tree, you realize that its roots are deeply anchored in the ground, and you see that the tree will be able to hold.

You too are a tree. During the storm of emotion, you should not stay at the level of the head or heart, which are like the top of the tree. You have to leave the heart, the eye of the storm, and come back to the trunk of the tree. Your trunk is one centimeter below your navel. Focus there, paying attention only to the movement of your abdomen, and continue to breathe. Then you will survive the storm of strong emotion.

You should not wait for emotion to appear before you begin practicing. Otherwise, you will be carried away by the storm. You should train now, while the emotion is not there. So sit or lay down and practice mindfulness of the breath, using the movement of your abdomen as the object of your attention. I am positive that if you do this exercise for twenty days, ten minutes per day, then you will know how to practice whenever a strong emotion comes up. After ten or twenty minutes, the emotion will go away, and you will be saved from the storm. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Tips to Reduce Stress

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I feel a little stressed out lately. I think my stress and anxiety comes from a combination of starting a new school semester, grieving the death of my father and two good friends, and worldly events. I had a few sleepless nights and a few panic attacks. I knew I had to get myself back on track. The best way to reduce stress is through self-care.

My self-care includes slowing down, staying home and resting, taking a bath, eating well, taking the time to reflect, getting a massage, listening to a relaxing podcast, meditating, doing yoga, walking my dog, and spending time with good friends.

Here are a few more tips for reducing stress (taken from Ridgeview Medical Center, Home Care and Hospice, Minnesota):

  1. Stress reduction in five minutes. Mediation, deep breathing, and yoga increases oxygen, moves your body, and focuses your mind. Just take 5 minutes twice a day (morning and evening) to do yoga and meditation. Studies show that this lowers blood pressure, releases healing hormones into your body, increases creativity, increases productivity, and increases your ability to handle stressful situations.
  2. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. Walk your dog, walk at lunch, or set a treadmill up in your living room so you can exercise and watch your favorite show while you give your body life. Discover new exercises such as Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong. Death rates from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, are much lower in people exercising 30 minutes a day. Exercise lowers the risk of strokes, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
  3. Laugh as often as possible to release healing hormones such as endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Do not buy pills for your stress. Rent a funny movie or go online to a humorous site daily. Laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and boosts your immune function.
  4. Play and re-establish “child-like” qualities. Science tells us when we play; it increases our immune cells that combat disease. Playfulness also increases creativity and optimism at home and work.
  5. Pay attention. When we daily pay attention and learn to live a life of awareness and mindfulness, we become aware or our emotions, our choices, our relationships, our home life, our work, we can begin to live a rich life of awareness. Practicing mindfulness reduces anxiety and depression.
  6. Eat breakfast. Breakfast eaters are healthier and live longer than non-breakfast eaters. Research has shown that people who live to the age of 100 were consistent breakfast eaters or they consumed breakfast more frequently than non-breakfast eaters. People who eat breakfast consumed less fat and had a higher intake of essential vitamins and minerals, and lower serum cholesterol, which leads to a lower instance of heart disease.
  7. Get a pet. Studies reveal there are benefits of owning a pet, such as reduction of blood pressure and inducing a relaxation response in our bodies. Pets are emotional lifesavers, they help people experience intimacy and help with changes and loss in our lives.
  8. Create Friendships. Friendships are strong indicators of mental, physical and spiritual health. Friendship is not a luxury but is essential to work-life balance and your health. Studies show that isolation decreases immune functioning and increases mortality risk.
  9. Attitude of Gratitude. It is physiologically impossible to be grateful and experience stress at the same time. Research shows grateful individuals report having more energy and less physical complaints than their non-grateful counterparts. Studies tell us daily gratitude exercises resulted in high levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy.
  10. Altruism and philanthropy. A generous soul lives a rich, abundant life. Altruism neutralizes negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function. Altruism creates physiological responses or “helpers high” that makes people feel stronger and more energetic and counters harmful effects of stress.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. Blessings.

Namaste, world.

Meditation is Simple!

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“Life is complicated, but meditation is simple.” – Bhante Kamalasiri (www.triplegem.org)

Life can be complicated. We have our jobs, bills to pay, children and elderly parents to take care of, household tasks, etc. But meditation is simple! When we sit on the cushion, we must remember not to make it complicated. Just sit on a cushion or a chair, close your eyes, and watch your present breath. If thoughts come into your head, just observe them, and then return your attention back to your breath. Don’t worry if you’re not doing it correctly or not sitting long enough. Just sit. Make it simple!

Namaste, world.

Doorway Meditation

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Doorway Meditation, by Penney Peirce

The next time you approach a doorway, use it as an opportunity to set your intention. Every door is a passage between experiences, between dimensions of awareness. As you enter the arch of a doorway, pause a moment. Enter the feminine mind and the warrior’s attention. Let yourself feel the subtle difference between the space you are leaving and the space you are about to enter. Is there a difference in height? Spaciousness? Color? Temperature? Comfort? What was your consciousness like while you were in the space you are now leaving? Feel into the new space. Prepare to enter the new state of awareness, to welcome whatever it holds for you. When the moment is right, step through.

The Meditation Challenge

Challenges

This past week I went on a 4-day silent meditation retreat. It was the hardest retreat I have ever been on. I was challenged on every level – mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional. After the first full day, I wanted to leave. My suitcase was packed and I was planning to leave early in the morning.

Then I stopped. I realized that I always run from things when the “going gets tough.” I decided to stay for the whole weekend. I had several friends at the retreat and I wanted to fulfill the commitment. I instilled in my mind a resolve and stayed.

This retreat was like a meditation boot camp. We were on a strict schedule; which wasn’t my plan going into the retreat. I was looking forward to some meditation and a lot of relaxation. Instead, I had to wake up every morning at 5:00 and be sitting on my meditation cushion at 5:30. The days repeated with the same schedule: chanting, group meditations, walking meditations, yoga class, and teachings of the Buddha. I led the yoga classes.

TGN

This retreat reminded me of a sweat lodge experience I had about 18 years ago. I was invited to an Native American sweat lodge. It was an honor to have that experience. A good friend of mine had connections with a Native American tribe. Before the sweat, my friend educated me about the sweat lodge rituals. I had to prepare my body by fasting one day before the sweat. I also made tobacco prayer bags to hang in the sweat lodge. I remember creating the tiny bags and dedicating each one to my family members and friends. Before the sweat began, I gave the Native American elder a bag of tobacco as a gift.

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The sweat lodge experience and mediation retreat were similar because of the challenge. Each experience challenged my whole being. It was difficult to stay and not flee. In the sweat lodge experience, I had to connect with my breath – just like sitting in meditation. The thick, hot, moist air forced me to go inward and focus on my breath. Also, in each experience I had to overcome the obstacle of fear. In the sweat lodge, I feared dying because I could hardly breathe. I remember laying down in a fetal position and putting my face to dirt floor so I could breathe better. I prayed to God that I would survive. The Native American elder helped me to stay connected with my inner journey as she chanted with the drum. In the mediation retreat, I feared losing my mind or fainting from sitting too long. The second morning of the retreat I sat in a group meditation for about two hours. As I sat, tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t help but cry. My hips and legs hurt, my mind was swimming, and I was grieving the loss of my dad (he has Alzheimer’s disease).

After wiping my tears, I acknowledged my emotions and refocused on my breath. After this moment, I felt better. I changed the position of my legs and I sat with clarity and focus. My body felt lighter and my mind tranquil. I had overcome one of my toughest challenges during the weekend.

I also survived the sweat lodge experience. Each of these experiences created a new me – I was reborn. The sweat lodge is round, wet, and warm like a mother’s womb. The large, round rocks that baked all day in the fire pit warmed the lodge. Water was poured onto the rocks and my body sweat like it was raining. The heat scorched my body and my heart beat along with the drum. I laid in a fetal position trusting God and the Universe. Several hours later, the flap lifted and fresh air rushed in. I stepped out of the sweat lodge wet and slimy like a newborn. The cool, fresh air refreshed my body, mind and spirit. I felt a sense of accomplishment and gratitude filled my heart.

I was reborn after the meditation retreat too. I am a different person because of the meditation challenge. This challenge created determination and resilience inside me. Now I must go forward and remember keep my light shining bright…because I am radiant and strong.

Namaste, world.

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”   — Rainer Maria Rilke

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