Remember to Breathe

Run, rabbit run. / Dig that hole, forget the sun, / And when at last the work is done / Don’t sit down it’s time to dig another one. – Pink Floyd – Breathe

 

There will always be something else that requires your attention. There will always be another hole to dig, another hill to climb.

 

Slow down.

 

Breathe.

 

Today find something in the world that you didn’t notice before.

Make a note that it is there. Observe it. Appreciate it. Don’t try to change it.

 

Namaste,

Kevin

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Insider Mindset – Own Your World

insider-mindset-text

Ownership, of an activity, gives an interesting shift to experience. Ownership is powerful. If you feel ownership you care about the outcome. You don’t suffer the apathy of a spectator, you become a participant.

 

One of the keys to ownership is feeling like an insider.

 

Have you ever noticed in a good movie or book, that you care about the characters? Not just care, but actually identify with the characters and find a way that the story could be about you. Good storytelling takes time to introduce the characters and make them relatable.

 

I was watching the remake of Ocean’s Eleven, the other day. About 30 minutes into the movie a team of eleven people is assembled for a party to begin their scheme. I realized as the camera panned around the room, showing all the participants in the scheme, that I knew them all. They had taken the time to introduce each of the characters and I felt like I knew them, I was even comfortable in this group. It is a group of thieves, normally I am a little uncomfortable when surrounded by thieves, but the film had done a fantastic job of introducing each of the characters to me and making me care about what happened to them. I was invested. Regardless of the merit of their activity, I was an insider now, and I wanted them to succeed.

 

This is something a good manager does. Building up a good story and explaining it clearly to the team. When someone new joins a company or a team, it is important that they understand the motivation of the organization and the players involved. They need to be connected and emotionally invested.

 

Take a moment and look at your life.

Think about the activities that you own.

Where do you feel like an insider?

Where do you feel like an outsider?

 

Observe the differences between these two feelings and the results? Do you participate in more insider activities? Or outsider activities? Why?

 

In many ways being an insider is a choice. If you don’t feel like an insider you can point the finger of blame at the world. Often being an outside is a result of your own choice or perception of not fitting in.

 

Insiders are the game changers. They are the game makers. They are the backstage pass holders. They take the stage, while everyone else watches from the sidelines.

 

Shift your mindset. Remember, you hold the key. Find a way to become an insider. Own your world and begin to shape it.

 

You are the ultimate insider, nobody else is you!

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I would love to hear back on your epiphanies of ownership.

Namaste,

Kevin Goodman

 

Citta Vritti – Mind Chatter – Meditation Guide Part 6

The Sanskrit term Citta Vritti (pronounced: CHITTA VRITTIE) can be translated to mean mind chatter, or modifications of the mind. Sanskrit is an ancient language from India.

Imagine for a moment that your mind is a vast ocean. On a calm day when the surface is flat you can see deeply into the ocean. But on a typical day with waves and weather and all manner of aquatic activity the surface of the water becomes turbulent and cloudy. Our thoughts disturb the surface of our mental ocean. Too much mind chatter keeps our mental energies on the surface and prevent us from seeing deeply and utilizing our inherent wisdom.

Turbulent waters lead to poor visibility.

This also represents the filters that our minds process information through. These filters prevent us from seeing the truth of a moment. We have learned to perceive the world around us through filters. These filters and both subtle and gross. They both aid and hinder us. It is the use of these filters that allows us to see one detail but completely miss another. Just like shifting the focus of your eyes allows you to see the mirror, or the reflections in the mirror. So too, shifting the attention of your mind, allows you to see the moment or your interpretation of the moment.

It is often through seeing only our interpretation of a moment, that the truth of the moment is lost.

One example of this is language. When we hear someone speaking we have trained our minds to recognize patterns in the inflection of sound and process that into words. These words are then translated into definitions. Our mind processes each word into analogous objects till a root definition is found that we relate to directly. The words form sentences as they are pieced together and the mind translates the sound waves into meanings.

The purpose of language is to teach people a common way of thinking. This has the positive impact of opening communication. Our automatic translation of sounds into meanings enables us to focus on the word and dismiss extraneous details. But the nuance of a moment can often be found in the discarded context.

Language is one of the more commonly studied and analyzed filters we have. But there are thousands. And they operate in a very similar fashion. Processing an experience and breaking it down into meanings that we can hold onto. In this same way we often discard the context and lose much of the moment.

A simple example of this can be seen in the experience of a rose. It is easy to see a rose, perhaps even appreciate it’s color and smell, but from the level of filters we have labeled it ‘rose’ and moved on from the actual experience of that rose. Rose is a word we know, therefore we have understood the rose and experienced it. So we move on. When in truth this rose is a unique entity. There are no two roses in the world alike. And this rose will soon pass from it’s moment of beauty, and fade and die. The experience of this individual rose can be lost in the process of filtering and labeling.

Many of our filters formed in the first few years of our life. We have automatic response mechanisms built into us that predate our earliest memories of childhood. Response patterns we established before we even learned to hold our heads up.

We don’t consciously remember the cause, or the need for these filters, but they are still there, working for us, and against us, through every moment of our lives. These filters provide context and insight informing our interpretation of each moment. They also cloud the moment overshadowing what is really happening with your ‘perception‘ of what is happening, interpreted relative to occurrences from years past.

One of the goals of meditation is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. Breathing exercises can be a simple and quick meditation that can help quiet your citta vritti and empower you.

Breathing Exercise

Shift your awareness to your breathing.
It can help to focus on a single point in your inhale and exhale.

Either visualize the air as it passes in and out through your nostrils.
Or monitor the expansion and contraction of the lungs.

Simply Observe your breath

Notice the air as it passes through your nostrils, into your body
Notice the air as it leaves through your nostrils, out of your body

Now take a deep inhale through your nostrils

Slowly inhale to the count of 10 (adjust the time as needed to account for your physical abilities)
Pause at the top of the breath and hold to the count of 3

Slowly and fully exhale through your mouth

Again exhaling to the full count of 10
Pause at the bottom of the exhale for a count of 3

Repeat about 6 times.
Then return to observing your breath

 

Namaste – Kevin Goodman

 

Visualization – Meditation Guide Part 5

Picture yourself in a green meadow. The sun is out and there are white billowing clouds rolling gently over head. The tall trees at the edge of the meadow rustle gently in the breeze. The meadow is filled with long blades of grass that gently sway in the wind. Through the center of the meadow, winding back and forth is a small brook with water flowing over green rocks. The stream is lined with yellow daisies and golden-orange poppies. Butterflies whimsically flit about from flower to flower as the sun kisses the water splashing beams of light onto your face.

Visualization is a powerful technique. This can be used to bring yourself to a calm place. It can even be used to prompt your subconscious into a dialog with you. I will close with a visualization technique used for this latter process.

Visualization can be done in several ways. As with most techniques, you can’t really do them wrong, but you will find ways that work and ways that don’t. Some may be good with words and be able to craft an image in their heads. Others may require no dialog at all and simply piece the vision together wordlessly. And still others may find an outward source most useful.

For those seeking an outside source there are resources available that can help. Visually oriented people may find simply looking through a picture book with inspirational images gives their mind enough to work with and they can close their eyes and picture themselves in the image. There are also meditation groups that offer guided visualization. I have been in yoga classes that ended with a visualization that was very effective. Be sure to ask your yoga teacher before class if this is something they would be willing to do.

Higher wisdom Visualization

Follow the directions after reading through once or twice. It’s hard to read once you’ve closed your eyes. This is also a good meditation to do in a group where a leader reads the instructions and the rest of the group goes through the process.

Steps

Close your eyes
Picture a small sphere of white light entering your body through the crown of your head.
Visualize the sphere running down your back to the base of your spine and then back the top.
Slow move the sphere through this path 2 or 3 times. At the end rest the sphere over your heart.
As you breath deeply and fulling in and out, picture the sphere expanding with your inhales
till your entire body is surrounded with this white light sphere.
This sphere is your vehicle,
Trusting your instincts allow the sphere to transport you to a safe place.
You are surrounded by Love.
At this point you will be in a safe place of your minds choosing.
Exit your vehicle and walk through the new surroundings.
Take a few minutes to experience this world.
Off to the side you see a circle of elders, they are here to assist you.
Approach the elders and follow your insticts.
You can engage in dialog. Embrace silence. Or ask a simple question.
Take a few minutes to allow this to happen.
Slowly walk back to your sphere of light, enter and gently return to your starting point.
Slowly open your eyes and rest absorbing the moment

I have found it helpful to journal about this experience or dialog if in a group setting to help process the outcome.

I am always open to hearing about your experiences if you want to share, please feel free to email me.

Namaste,

Kevin

 

Mantra Mindfulness – Guide Part 4

In Celebration of Mantra Minder’s release, I wanted to focus today on Mantra Meditation and Mindfulness.

mantra   [mahn-truh]

noun

1. Hinduism . a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. An often repeated word, formula, or phrase.

Shift your mind back for a moment now, to when you were first learning how to drive. I personally remember happily driving down the road, and then something off to the side would catch my eye. I’d look over for just a moment and then look back at the road. Often, to my horror, I would find that my eyes had lead my hands and the car was now off angle headed towards the side of the road instead of straight down the road as I’d intended. I’d make a course correction back to the road and continue on my way.

Often in our lives we are heading down the road towards our goal and we get distracted by something off to the side. Sometimes we are not even aware we have changed direction, or thinking, but we are headed towards the side of the road and unaware that we’ve changed course. In this way a mantra is a tool used as we’re navigating our path down the road. The mantra can act as a reminder for where we are going and help correct our coarse.

The mantras we surround ourselves with are powerful. In many ways they are both a guide and indicator, sending our thoughts in a specific direction and indicating where we are likely to go. Pause for a moment and think about a typical day for yourself. Over the course of the day are there any phrases that seem to repeat themselves? Coming from computer software I was surrounded by mantras and catch phrases that guided our thinking. “Work smarter not harder”, “Look for our synergies”, “It is, what it is”. Sometimes these were useful, and sometimes they were a form of release, but they connected with a larger thought or idea and when used in the appropriate context would connect with a state of mind and help shift us back to our goal. This is the power of the mantra. And this is why we should choose our mantras carefully.

As you can see, thinking about your own mantras and phrases that float in your head, they are both indicative of your thought processes as well as directional guides for your thinking. This gives them a great deal of power. And yet, many mantras that we use have come across our path unintentionally and stuck to us. With the power of these mantras it is a very good idea to apply discernment and awareness. So now that we understand the tone they are applying to our day we can in turn shift our focus to the mantras that empower and have a positive impact.

Choosing a mantra

Choosing a mantra is important. There is no set length content or format. I personally have an “I am …” phrase that I repeat the reminds me of my core essence and purpose here on this planet. But I also have many other mantra’s. When I’m paying my bills I find it helpful to remind myself that “I am abundant”. When I am trying to meditate and move into a more spiritual plane, my mantra is simply “Ohm”. Find something that reflects who you are and the kind of thinking you want to foster in yourself. You can start simple “I am positive”, “My world is at peace” or even “I Rock!”. Have fun with it and find something that resonates with you as both a message you need to hear and one you can believe in.

Using your mantra

Now that you have mantra, put it into practice. A simple way to start with your mantra is incorporating it into a quick 5 minute meditation. You can begin with chanting your mantra 5 times to shift your thinking. Then connect into your breath with 5 deep inhales and exhales (done slowly with pauses between). Then end the meditation with 5 more repeats of your mantra. I would suggest you say your mantra aloud in your most powerful voice. Give the mantra power. But it can be okay to think loudly too, especially if you’re doing this at work. Sit up straight, breath deeply, and own it.

Another tip is to find a tool that will remind you of your mantra throughout the day. Write it on your hand (nontoxic writing tools please). Or tie a string around your finger. Or find a tool that will work with your mobile device such as Mantra Minder.

You have the power to guide your path. Use your mantra to make a positive impact on yourself and the results will ripple out to the world around you. Be the change that you want to see in the world.

Namaste,

Kevin

 

The Power Of Breath – Guide Part 3

The power of breath

Breathing is often taken for granted in our culture. The breath is a gift that is so often forgotten, because it is so fundamental to our being. The bodies use of the breath to revitalize itself and then expel toxins is critical to life as we know it.

In this day of smog filled air and high pollen counts it’s even more amazing that we simply keep breathing. Our bodies operate automatically on a subconscious level and it will not allow us to forget to breath.

This autopilot mode is an important piece to understanding the breath. When we become stressed and overwhelmed our breathing becomes rapid and shallow, our pulse rate increases, and our whole physiology changes to accommodate the signals coming from the brain. The mind is telling the body that we are in crisis and we must be vigilant and ready to respond to the attack that may come at any moment. But the attack never comes… Instead we sit in that state of high alertness and our body suffers from the minimized breathing activities as we continue to be ‘ready’.

The good news is that our nervous system is a two way street. Just as the mind can tell the body how to respond, the body can inform the mind. So shifting into a state of mindfulness and adjusting your rate of breathing and the fullness of your breath can in fact shift your mental state. Slowing your breath and deepening your inhale and exhale will cause your heart rate to stabilize and slow down and can reduce feelings of anxiety and agitation. As with all states of mind, the first and most crucial step is becoming aware.

So this leads to the first meditation process, simple breath awareness. This can be a very short process with the goal of observation or it can be part of a longer meditation. Find a comfortable position in which you can meditate for a short period, as stated you can do this for a minute or, as you become more advanced, much longer:

  • Shift your awareness to your breathing.
  • It can help to focus on a single point in your inhale and exhale.
    • Either visualize the air as it passes in and out through your nostrils.
    • Or monitor the expansion and contraction of the lungs.
  • And simply observe
    • Notice the air as it passes through your nostrils, into your body
    • Notice the air as it leaves through your nostrils, out of your body

That’s the whole technique. Simple Breath awareness. You are performing two activities here:

  1. You are increasing awareness of your breath and thus awareness of your mental state
  2. You are giving your mind something to focus on other that it’s endless chatter Chitta Vritti (Sanskrit for fluctuations of the mind, or mind chatter)

This simple process of becoming the observer and shifting the focal point of your mind can create a change in your breath and mental state that is beneficial to you.

This technique can then be augmented with breath control. In breath control exercises you are actually informing your physiology and your mind that we are no longer in crisis. By controlling the breath and gently bringing yourself into a calm state through breathing the body is informing the mind that everything is okay.

This can be accomplished through alternate nostril breathing, as highlighted in part 1 of the meditation guide.

Another technique is simple deep breathing.

  • Shift your awareness to your breathing.
  • It can help to focus on a single point in your inhale and exhale.
  • Begin by fully exhaling and pressing the air out of your lungs.
  • Now begin slowly breathing in through your nostrils to the count of 5
  • Fully inhale and then pause for a count of 2
  • Next begin to slowly exhale through your nostrils to the count of 5
  • Now pause at the bottom of the exhale for a count of 2
  • Repeat for 3 or 4 full rounds
  • Then release and allow your body to resume breathing normally
  • Become the observer and watch your breath as it passed in and out of your nostrils

As you can imagine this technique can be easily customized to suit your personal meditation needs.

I look forward to receiving feedback on your personal experience with these techniques.

Namaste,

Kevin

 

 

Meditation Guide – Part 2 – Eating Mindfully

In this installment of the meditation guide I’d like to discuss eating, specifically mindful eating.

If you step back for a moment and consider how much of our time is spent eating, thinking about eating, or searching for food, it’s a pretty big chunk of time. When you step back even further, you can think about how blessed we are that we don’t spend even more time. Frequently our food is grown for us, prepped for us and presented to us. Whether you’re talking about highly processed food like a granola bar, or very basic food like a head of lettuce, a lot of work has gone into getting the food to you.

Let’s quickly follow a head of lettuce from start to finish. At some point seeds need to be gathered. These seeds then need to be planted, watered, nurtured for months. The plants need to be protected from bugs, especially lettuce which looks particularly tasty to a passing snail. Then when the lettuce head is ready it is cut from the garden. If you’re lucky enough to grow it yourself, it’s almost on your plate. Otherwise it is carefully boxed, stacked, and carried from the field. Delivered to the market as delicately as possible. Then someone has to put it out for display so you can find it. You procure the lettuce from the market, bring it home and wash it up for a nice salad.

Processed food like a granola bar goes through even more steps which I won’t go into here. But think about all the different ingredients that go into it. All the different steps, cooks, processes, quality controls (hopefully), and all the other steps involved in readying the food for your consumption.

Which now brings us to you.

Did you know that chewing is a vital activity for the health of your digestive tract? It’s true, good nutrition getting into your body actually starts with you being aware and taking the time to chew your food. It’s the first step in a chain of processes that involves breaking food down into it’s individual nutrients so your body can use and benefit from those nutrients.

So in this hurried world of too much to do and too little time. It’s critically important to stop, reflect, and be mindful, while you’re eating.

There are several activities that can help you mindfully engage in eating. The most basic is simply to be aware as you’re eating. Focus your attention on the action of chewing and be aware of the food in your mouth. If you need to, put your fork down between mouthfuls and focus on chewing what you have in your mouth. You will notice that simply being aware of what is in your mouth and focusing on chewing it well before swallowing helps prevent you from rushing through your meal and swallowing whole chunks of food.

Another very important approach to mindfulness eating is gratitude. If you think back to the above illustration of the food being grown. There are so many hands involved in bringing food to your plate. Sometimes these hands are from people around you that you know. And sometimes these hands are with people that you will never even meet. But sending out gratitude and appreciation while you consume your food benefits the universe at large and can help you as well. Take time to appreciate everything that went into bringing the food to you. For some this can take the form of thinking through the steps involved in the foods growth and the people involved. For others it can be a simple as glowing with gratitude over the abundance of eating a meal. How blessed are we simply to have food? It is truly amazing when you stop and think about it.

A third approach that can be helpful when eating is visualization. You can step through the digestion process in your mind and visualize the steps as your body breaks down the food into the nutrients that are needed to keep you alive. In this process you can express gratitude, or even wonder (whatever moves you), regarding that bodies ability to process the food and utilize that food for energy and vital processes. If you are interested in learning more about the processes involved in eating and a healthy body, I recommend this book that I am currently reading Accidentally Overweight By Dr Libby Weaver. There is an excellent introduction on the digestion process and it addresses an individuals health and weight in a very approachable and educated way.

Making each meal a moment of reflection and appreciation can do wonders for your stress levels and increase your appreciation of the world around you. I encourage you to try these mindfulness techniques. I would love to hear back from you on your experiences and insights gained from this process.

Namaste,

Kevin

 

 

Beginner’s Guide to Meditation – Part 1

Meditation has many goals, there are various processes and results that can come from meditation. Meditation is simply a tool and a tool can have many uses. The goal of the information I am providing is meditation for mindfulness and awareness. This mindfulness and awareness leads to stress reduction and a new prospective on life.

One of the primary benefits of awareness is the ability to see the truth of a situation. When involved in stressful or intense situations it is easy to get pulled into the emotion of the moment and incorrectly interpret a single event to be the deciding factor in our survival. Fundamentally we are creatures of instinct. And those instincts have taught us to handle stressful situations with responses of our nervous system.

Typical responses include fight or flight. Either of these responses will cause adrenaline to course through our systems preparing us for battle or for a high speed run. But in our daily lives it’s frowned upon to battle everyone. Additionally if we left every business meeting 5 minutes in by running out of the room, we’d start to develop a less than favorable reputation around the office.

I will cover more on stress and responses in later installments. But this gives a general feel for the type of situations meditation is intended to assist in. When we have prospective on these situations we can see clearly that our in most situations our survival isn’t at stake. Better yet, when we don’t jump into survival mode, we are better able to handle each situation calmly and appropriately.