Monthly Archives: April 2014

Top Ten Ways To Meditate

Top 10 Ways To Meditate


            Why should you meditate?  The benefits are endless and profound.  There is actual science to back up the indispensible benefits of meditation.  The benefits include stress & anxiety relief, improved immune function, it can actually reverse heart disease, reduce inner conflict, improve relationships, increases compassion, keeps you looking young, improves attention, improves creativity, reduces pain, and many more deeper benefits.

I’m sure when you think of meditation you probably imagine some monk, sitting cross-legged chanting some weird song.  But there are many ways to meditate that you can incorporate in your daily routine.  You also don’t have to meditate for hours on end; you only need a few minutes per day.  The investment is minimal compared to the limitless benefits.

Here is the list and it is not listed in any particular order, any method can be very effective.  The key is to develop a daily habit, try to always meditate at the same time, and in the same place and preferably in the morning.  Why in the morning?  Because your mind is usually calmer in the morning, it hasn’t had a chance to get fired up about anything yet. You also have to view meditation as a practice.  When you see it this way you take the pressure of yourself of trying to be “successful” during the meditation.  There is no success or failure, there is only the doing of the meditation, and the goal is to develop your awareness.  The goal is to become more aware both internally and externally.  Internally you must become more aware of your self, of your body, your emotions, and of your mind.  Externally, you must become more aware of the people around you, of your surroundings, of nature, and more especially of the beauty that is always there.  Are you alive right now? How do you know? Have you ever stopped to check that you are alive?

Number ten.  You can use music as a form of meditation.  You can either listen to music, sing a song, or if you play an instrument, use the playing of it as a form of meditation.  If you decide to listen to a certain song, try to pick a positive song, a song that relaxes you but at the same time doesn’t get you sleepy.  As you listen to it, sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.  Try to hear one instrument at a time, and then focus on a different one, and then try to hear them all at the same time.  It’s also a good idea to pause the song after a minute or so and then pay attention to your breathing, just notice one or two breaths then play the song again.  As you listen, observe whether you are thinking or not, and whether all your attention is on the song, or whether your attention is shifting from one thing to another.  If it is shifting, don’t worry or stress about it, just noticing it is good enough.  When you notice yourself shifting, just come back to putting your attention on the song.  If you decide to sing, do the same thing as listening to a song, sit in a relaxed position, start singing your song, then pause after a minute or so and listen to the silence.  Then start singing again, but it’s very important that you notice your body.  What parts of your body are you using to sing? How do they feel?  Do you notice your inhales in between the lyrics?  The key is to become more and more aware yourself.  If you play an instrument, you have the pitfall of getting lost in thought as you play a song or melody you know pretty well.  The reason is that it can become second nature to play an instrument, you just let it happen, thereby freeing up your mind to wander away.  If you decide to meditate with a musical instrument, play close attention to your body as you are playing.  Can you sense your ears, nose, tongue as you are playing?  Are you making any faces, if yes, can you sense which face muscles are being used to do so? Become aware of as much as you can, pause the playing, notice your breath, then play again, and repeat.

Number nine. You can use a partner to help you meditate.  Meditation is always taught as an individual practice, but many people often have trouble either sticking to the habit, or they have trouble just sitting down and being still.  Using a partner can be helpful since you’ll have the responsibility of being there for them.  It doesn’t have to be of a sexual nature, you can incorporate a partner into any of the ten methods described.  If your partner is just a friend, you can both sit quietly and read positive material to each other.  Find a book or quotes you both like, preferably short quotes or short readings.  Sit in front of each other quietly and read something to one another.  Whether you are the reader of the listener pay close attention to the words, if you are the reader, read slowly, leave a space in between the words.  Once you’re done with the first reading, pause for a minute or two and focus on your breath, and then switch roles.  And again, if your mind starts to wander, try to notice it, and come back to the reading or listening, and come back to your breath.  You should eventually do your own individual practice, but use a partner as much as you both feel the need to so that it can jumpstart your daily meditation.

Number eight.  For how long can you stay in the present moment?  Meaning, for how long can you just focus on where you are at, on yourself and your body and what you are doing, without thinking about something that has passed, or something that is going to happen?  This is a practice that you can use anywhere and anytime, and it can help you enjoy even the most mundane moment.  If you have a consistent morning routine, use that as a way to practice being in the moment.  As soon as you get up, take a few deep breaths, notice the inhale, notice how your lungs expand, notice your lungs filling up with air.  Notice your exhale, how does it feel as the air leaves your lungs, and exits through your mouth or nose?  As you walk towards your bathroom, or where ever you walk to in the morning, notice all your steps.  Notice how your weight shifts from foot to foot, which part of your foot first touches the floor first, the back or the front of the foot?  When you go the bathroom, pay attention to your bodily functions, notice all your body parts that are currently working.  When you wash your hands, notice how the water feels on your hands, and how the soap feels.  When you brush your teeth, pay attention to all the muscles you are using in your arm, notice how the tooth brush feels on your teeth and gums.  Notice how your toothpaste just wakes you up with its minty fumes creeping up through your nostrils.  You have to become engulfed in that moment, yet be alert to your surroundings.  You can practice this throughout your day, for example when you are talking to coworkers, when you are driving, when you are cleaning, when you are working, and so on.  You might find it very surprising how much we miss throughout our day since our minds are still stuck in some passed event, or even more so, engulfed in fictional future events.  Pay attention to yourself, notice when you are gone, take a deep breath, and come back to the here and now.  Anytime in your life when you are waiting for something, or waiting in line, or stuck in traffic, make yourself see that as an opportunity to become present.  Don’t reject the situation and try to get it over with, use it to your advantage, use it as the perfect time to practice.

Number seven.  Prayer, can be a very effective way to meditate.  You can use whichever prayer you know from whichever religion you practice.  In case you don’t practice any religion, you can write your own prayer also.  But again, it’s very important to be alert during the prayer.  I know from personal experience, that since we pray the same prayers all the time, it’s very easy to loose focus and have our minds wander all over the place.  Besides praying in our places of prayer with our fellow religious members, it’s important to pray individually at home.  Begin with setting your time each day, sit quietly (or use any position your religion requires), take a few deep breaths, pay attention to them, and start praying.  Try to pray slowly enough that you can notice the space between the words.  It’s also important that you pause in between a few sentences or in between prayers.  And during these pauses, notice your breath, pay attention to whether you are thinking or not, and come back to the pause, come back to the breath.  If you find your mind wandering too much, just shorten the pauses and keep praying.  You can speed up the praying just enough that you can put your focus back on it.

Number six.  Have you ever noticed how quick we are at judging things, especially other people and ourselves?  We just love to judge people what we consider different from us or different from the norm.  For example, I’ll be on a social network, someone posts a video of someone dancing, and right away everyone takes out their proverbial label maker, and puts their individual label on the comments.  It’s a habit that is just engrained in our society, it’s always amazing to see how quickly we react to people and situations by judging them.  The problem with judging is that it creates a lot of noise in our minds, it creates more and more ripples of unnecessary thoughts.  And this almost obsessive thinking just abducts us from the present moment, we are literally gone, we are lost in thought.  Even if you judge things as positive, it just means any situation that is unlike that one will invariably be negative.  By not judging something you have a clearer view of what actually is.  You can practice non judgment by first just noticing when you do judge something or someone.  Pay attention to what you think, and to what you say throughout your day.  And be on the lookout for judgments, and notice where they come from, notice how they make you feel.  Don’t try to change your habit yet, the first and important step is to begin to notice it.  Just notice it, don’t force yourself to change it, don’t try to change it, all you have to do is notice it when you do it.  It’s also a common misconception that not judging things means we will become passive and just sit there and not take action.  On the contrary, once you just observe things for what they really are, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Number five.  Effective meditation doesn’t mean just sitting there doing nothing, it can be un-engaging for some people.  But you don’t have to sit there quietly; you can incorporate physical movement into your practice.  The most meditative of these practices is Tai Chi, and Yoga.  Most gyms have these two practices readily available.  The drawback if you do these practices at a gym is that most of us see them as a form of physical exercise, and they are usually thought of that way, by both students and teachers.  And they are certainly great forms of physical exercise, but it’s up to you to make them a form of meditation.  I took Tai Chi classes when I was younger but was never taught to pay attention to my body or to quiet my mind, I was never taught to use it as a form of meditation.  I do Yoga regularly at a gym but hardly any teachers put enough emphasis on noticing ones breath, paying attention to your body, or to being present.  If you decide to take up one of these practices, make sure you try to remain present during the entire class, pay attention to your body, pay attention to your breath, pay attention to your thinking.  Notice which muscles you are using, try to be aware of your entire body, especially the parts you can’t see.  Try to notice the energy inside yourself as you move.  If you can only take a class a few days a week, that’s ok.  You can practice at home yourself, and it doesn’t have to be for an entire hour.  Just set your time, start with a few breaths, and then begin your practice.  Do a basic movement, and put more emphasis on your awareness of your body and mind, then on doing exercise.

Number four.  You like to eat food don’t you?  Eating food is an excellent way to meditate, and can also help you control your weight.  Most of us that suffer from any ailment can usually track it back to our eating habits.  The worse of the habits is eating unconsciously, meaning, we are eating away but not paying attention to what we are eating.  It’s as if we have some parasite in our mind controlling us.  It tells us, “I want chocolate cake!” and we just go out and do it, we don’t even think about it.  To do the food meditation, choose your time of the day, and choose your food.  It’s preferable if it’s something simple, and hopefully something healthy.  It can be as simple as a cup of tea, and you can start your meditation with the making of the tea, you don’t have to wait until you drink it.  Start with a few deep breaths, paying attention to them.  Then start pouring your water, whether in a pot to boil, or a cup to put in the microwave.  Pay attention to your movements and to your breath as you are preparing the tea.  Listen to the water as you are pouring it, focus on it.  Pay attention as you are opening the tea bag, how does it feel in your hands?   Once you put your water on your tea, smell it, but smell it with all your attention, close your eyes and just focus on the smell.  Feel the steam rubbing your nose.  Once you are ready to drink it, be alert, as if you are trying to find out if there is any other taste you have never tasted.  Remember not to judge the taste, good or bad, just taste it for what it is.  You can use any food, from an apple to a doughnut.  The important thing is to notice your mind when you are choosing the food, what’s it saying?  How does the food feel in your mouth?  Don’t describe it with words, just notice it.  Can you feel it as it’s going down your esophagus? After you swallow, just pause, close your eyes, focus on your breath, and see if you can notice when the food reaches your stomach.  When you are done eating the food, pause again for a few minutes and notice how you are feeling now compared to before you started eating.

Number three.  Are you in touch with your body and emotions all the time, or just when there’s a problem?  Most of us only notice our bodies when some part of it hurts, and we only notice strong emotions and not the weak ones.  This meditation just involves sitting quietly and noticing your body, and or your emotions.  If you decide to start with your body, just sit in a relaxed position and start by noticing just one part of your body, for example one foot or both.  Without seeing or touching your foot, see if you can concentrate on it.  Can you sense it? Can you sense your pulse on your foot?  Then slowly move up your body, through your lower leg, then your thighs, then your pelvic area, then your torso, then your neck, then your head, and then the individual parts on your head like your ears, nose, eyes, and mouth.  You don’t have to notice them all at the same time, you can notice them one part at a time and then try to notice more and more of your body at the same time.  For this meditation it’s good to take on a more challenging position than just sitting comfortably.  You can try a cross-legged position, this usually puts a little stress on your knees or hips, making it easier for you to sense those body parts.  If you become to accustomed to noticing your body that your mind tends to wander off, then you can try to incorporate your emotions.  Even if you aren’t feeling any strong emotion like anger, look for what emotion you are feeling.  Imagine your emotion as a particular grain of sand on a beach, and you are looking for it, so you have to be very focused looking for it within yourself.  But there’s no hurry in finding it, the goal is the process itself.  Look for your emotion, then come back to the breath, then look for it some more.

Number two.  The simplest method is to just sit there quietly and notice your breath.  As you might have noticed, the breath is very important in all meditation.  Why is that?  The reason is that the breath is who we are, we are life, and breathing is life.  Without breathing we die.  The breath is also a perfect example of the nature of our lives and of our world.  The breath has an inhale, and an exhale, two seemingly opposite actions.  That’s how life is, there is wakefulness and there is sleepiness, there is happiness and there is sadness, there is up and there is down, ocean waves come in and leave back out.  The comparisons are endless.  The breath is also something we can control consciously and unconsciously, unlike other bodily functions which we can’t directly control such as our heartbeat, or hormone functions.  Coming back to our breath is one of the simplest things we can do, yet can have the most profound effects.  Just sit quietly in a comfortable position, notice your inhale, pause for a microsecond, then exhale and notice the exhale, slight pause and repeat.  The mind will surely wander and start thinking, notice the thinking, don’t worry about it, and come back to the breath.  Maybe you just can’t stop thinking, and that’s ok, as long as you know that can’t stop thinking.  Slowly, you’ll notice that you can stop thinking for a microsecond, and later a second, and later a few seconds.  And just like anything we try to learn, we start improving with practice.  All you need to do is practice, there is no goal to reach, the practice itself is the goal.

Number one.  A very fun way to meditate is to do something you really enjoy doing and do it every day.  It seems pretty self explanatory; however, some people have a hard time with this one.  You have to explore within yourself and maybe think back to things you used to do as a kid.  What is something you just loved to do when you were a kid?  If you were five to ten years old right now, and you could do anything you wanted every day what would that be?  I’m always amazed by little kids that have just learned how to run.  As they run, they don’t care where they are, they don’t care who’s there, and they don’t care what people are going to say, they just run with reckless abandon, head tilted forward, arms back as if that’s going to make them go faster, ha ha ha ha.  It’s just amazing, they laugh so much, as if it’s the greatest secret in the universe and they have just discovered it.  And their laughter just pierces through to me and pierces through whatever I was thinking about at that moment.  And that laughter springs joy within me, and makes me laugh along with them, and I wish I could just drop what I’m doing and run alongside them.  But I’m not five, I’m an adult, I gotta get somewhere, I can’t be there right now, I’m going to be late for something, what would people say?  These are the hindrances we set against ourselves, so take the time to plan your fun meditation.  It can be as simple as playing catch with someone, bouncing a basketball, or playing with your dog, but it’s critical that you be there, that you are present, that you are focused on your body, on your breathing, on your emotions, and on your surroundings.  You don’t have to be focused the entire time, just at least the first 10 minutes or so, and then just let go and get lost in your activity if you’d like.  You’ll be as amazed at the benefits as a kid that’s just learned how to run.

Please post your thoughts or comments below, and help me spread the word by liking this blog through your Facebook, or share it through your Twitter account.

If you feel this article has helped you and you would like to support this website, feel free to make a donation.




Review of: The Inner Game Of Tennis

Review of: The Inner Game Of Tennis


The Inner Game of Tennis is a book written by author W. Timothy Gallwey back in 1972 and revised and republished in 1997.  The book explains that there are two games we all play, an external game, and an inner game.  The external game (of tennis in this case) has to do with your technique, your form, or any actual physical movement you have to make.  The inner game is what goes on in your mind, and even a little deeper than your mind.  The theme of the book is that in order to “succeed” in sports, and in life you must get your inner game in order, or you can use sports and life to “succeed” in your inner game.  The concepts presented here don’t only apply to tennis, and don’t only apply to sports for that matter; these concepts apply to life as well.

The book starts off by explaining the difference between the outer game and the inner game, and the self-talk that exists within us.  You talk to yourself don’t you?  Most of us do, either in the sports world, or in our workplace.  Whenever we mess up what do we say? “Dam it! I could of got that! WHAT ARE YOU DOING! What’s wrong with you?!” This talk of course relates to a certain shot, or even to a missed sale at work.  Tim asks the question, “Who’s talking to whom?”  You might answer by saying, “Well, I’m talking to myself.” So who’s the I and who’s the self?  So Tim points out to us that we all have our Self1 and Self2.  Self1 is the ego, the self that wants to take credit for doing everything, the self that wants to show off, the self that always wants to be better than anyone else, the list can go on and on.  The Self2 is that deeper part of us that’s instinctive, that can do everything we need it to if we just let it.  Tim shows you a method for achieving harmony between these two selves and improving your game and your life.

Another important lesson is that of the perils of using judgment.  I had already read about using non-judgment as a way for self improvement, whoever, not in the unique way Tim explains it.  He says, “It is impossible to judge one event as positive without seeing other events as not positive or as negative.”  This was startling to me because we’ve always received the advice of trying to look at the positive side of things.  When you judge a situation as good, for example, “Right now I have a super great job!”  The next time you’re unemployed you’ll invariably judge your situation as bad.  Although positive judgment might be better than negative judgment, it can still have negative effects.  The book explains how to stop using judgment and just start seeing things for what they actually are.  When you judge something you create more blur in your seeing, you can’t see things for what they truly are, and you miss the limitless opportunities for growth that exist right in front of you.  For example if you have a backhand that you have labeled as your weakness, then you’ll be focused on the weakness, on the bad result, and you will fail to notice your actual swing.  You’ll be so focused on seeing if the shot is good or not, you’ll fail to see what’s actually causing it to be that way.  Once you stop labeling it, it will give you the freedom to actually examine the entire movement, and in life this can translate to everything we do.  If we loose our job, our marriage, our mortgage, we take out our proverbial labelers and print out an all caps “BAD” and put it where everyone can see, and we blind ourselves to examine the causes.

This book doesn’t just tell you what the real problem is; it also does provide you with step by step instructions on how to improve your inner game.  It also gives very good information on simple techniques you can use to improve your focus.  Your concentration and your focus are covered in the last half of the book.  Concentration is what Tim calls the ability to quiet Self1, so that Self2 can get to work.  If you are able to stop thinking indefinitely, then you no longer need to learn anything else, but as you may know, to stop thinking is very difficult.  But that is the key to improve.  We are always thinking about what has already passed, for example, a bad shot we hit a few strokes back.  Or we especially love to wallow in “imagined futures,” which are simply possibilities that more than likely never happen.  When we loose focus then the mental chatter starts.  And it takes our focus off the current shot, or in life, it takes the focus off the beauty right in front of us.

I highly recommend this book for anyone in any competitive field such as sports, however, you can use these techniques for your life in general.  You can use these techniques in the workplace or even in your inter relationships.   Do you judge your friends and family? Do they judge you? What happens when we judge or get judged? Have you ever gotten stuck thinking about past interactions with someone? Have you ever worried about something that might happen but never actually happens?  These are the important questions this book addresses.

Please post your thoughts or comments below, and help me spread the word by liking this blog through your Facebook, or share it through your Twitter account.

If you found this review helpful and would like to show your support, feel free to purchase the book by following the link below:

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance



Review- The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

The Art Of Learning is a deep self-help book written by Josh Waitzkin in 2008.  The book is semi-autobiographical, detailing his experiences with learning and competition at the highest levels of both chess and the martial arts.  Although semi-autobiographical, his experiences are excellent examples of the principles he teaches in the book.  These principles are very deep, and can be used in virtually any competitive environment and even our lives, from our day to day activities to our life purpose.  However, to internalize these principles you have to be very present when reading or you’ll mistake the deep pools of knowledge for mere puddles.

The theme of the book is that in order to perform at your very best you have to connect to the deepest part of your self, to that most internal of places.  However, the path that takes us there is wrought with thorns and most of us are barefoot; luckily Josh teaches us how to make sandals.

The book is divided into three sections, “The Foundation”, “My Second Art”, and “Bringing It All Together.”  In section one, what struck me the most was the two approaches to learning according to the field of developmental psychology;  entity and incremental learning theories.  This information is very valuable, especially if you are a parent, a coach, or any sort of instructor/teacher.  Your approaches to teaching young kids has a tremendous impact on their learning and hence their performance.  Another important lesson was about the downward spiral.  We have to recognize when we have made a mistake, and use that as an opportunity to sharpen our focus, instead of getting caught up in that first mistake and then making more mistakes.  This is very, very pertinent not only in performance environments but especially in life.  How many times have we heard someone’s story of their lives crashing down on all sides? “First I lost my job, then I lost my house, then I lost my wife…” It always happens because we don’t catch ourselves, and continue straight down at full speed.

In the second section the most important lessons are how we can invest in our losses, break learning down into the smallest chunks possible, and how to use adversity to your advantage.  Just reading these words is a lesson in itself; “Investment In Loss.”  You have a choice when you lose, you can feel sorry for yourself and just practice harder or you can see your loss as an investment for the greater good.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “learn from your mistakes” but the problem is most of the time we don’t know exactly what the mistake was.  Josh teaches us how to be introspective and not only correct the external performance, but your psychological performance.  Yes you made a technical mistake, but what was going on in your head when you made it? This lesson will force you too look inside, see your internal error, and use it to grow.  The next lesson is about how to break things down in to the smallest moves, the most basic of the lessons.  He uses the example from chess of practicing the “end game” first.  That’s when there are only very few pieces left, you start with those strategies and incrementally add more and more strategies and information, but you learn those basic moves down to the smallest detail. You internalize the strategies so much that eventually you don’t have to think about them consciously, they just become part of your instinct.  And I think the most important lesson here is using adversity to your advantage.  Rarely do things go exactly as we planned, you have to welcome change and welcome chaos, because that’s just how our world is sometimes.  When we fight this pattern is when suffer the most.

In the final section Josh briefly touches on the subject of meditation, which is just sitting there quietly and noticing your breath, and trying not to think, and if you do think, you just observe your thoughts, let them go, and come back to your breath.  I wish he would of highlighted the importance of this type of practice more obviously. I say more obviously because I believe most of what he talks about is in regards to meditating, as in Tai Chi, however, it’s easy to miss for the people that have never heard of these principles.

Here he also states, “The secret is that everything is always on the line.  The more present we are at practice, the more present we will be in competition, the boardroom, at the exam, the etc… It’s very important to always be present, especially in practice; you have to reinforce this habit. Presence must be like breathing.”  He is obviously pointing out the importance of practicing presence all the time, not just in clutch situations.  Doing this will not only help your game, but your life as well.

A principle he describes really surprised me.  Josh not only describes what ‘getting in the zone’ really means, but he shows you how to get in the zone at will!  People who have mentioned getting in the zone always describe it as something illusive, something out of your control, and something that takes years and years of practice.  But Josh, described a methodology you can put together and actually practice getting in the zone.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that does anything.  It can help you perform better in any type of competitive field, but also in your day to day life and your career.  The few drawbacks I found are that there is not enough highlighting of the important principles making them easy to miss.  Also, not knowing much about chess makes it challenging to understand some of his views.  But knowing now that adversity is positive, these ‘drawbacks’ are really opportunities for us to be really present when reading this book.  I believe the underlying principle is that we must see anything that happens (whether in a competitive field or in our daily life) as positive.  Imagine playing a sport against a cheating player, normally we’d see that as bad, but this book teaches us to see it as a positive thing, as an opportunity.  There’s a big difference between happy and positive, you don’t have to be happy about an adverse situation, but you can always be positive.  Did you get fired unfairly from your job?  Did you loose your house?  Did you have to go into bankruptcy?  These are all opportunities, be present, see them as positive, and you’ll see a world of difference in your life.  Learn more about presence here.

Please post your thoughts or comments below, and help me spread the word by liking this blog through your Facebook, or share it through your Twitter account.

If you found this review helpful and would like to show your support, feel free to purchase the book by following the link below:

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance