GRATITUDE AS MEDITATION

Gratitude is a concept that has been thrown around a lot lately, but I don’t think it has been very well defined or that there has been a clear way in which people are saying you should, “be grateful.” I believe that it is helpful to actively feel gratitude for the very specific things that we might be taking for granted on a daily basis. If you are reading this, for example, you have a lot to be grateful for. The fact that you have managed to access an internet connection means that for sure, you are not lacking some of life’s necessities like, I don’t know, clean drinking water. Let’s face it, we live like royalty compared to most people on this planet.

I love the phrase, “First world problems.” It points out how fortunate I really am. Just the other day I was complaining to a coworker about my new schedule. I chose to work weekends and closing shifts at the restaurant so that I could take care of my four month old daughter during the day. It works out great because my wife works a nine-to-five and we can pass off the baby without having to put her into day care. I was complaining that I don’t get a day off with my wife and that I don’t get as much sleep as I’d like when I realized that, of course, this is exactly what we wanted. I love my life and I’m so grateful that I have a job that is flexible and that my six year old son is starting little league baseball, and we have air conditioning, and can afford to buy organic foods. The list goes on. There is so much to be grateful for!

My gratitude practice includes reflecting on what I am grateful for throughout the day and especially as I lie in bed before falling asleep each night. I run down the list of everything I’m grateful for from my family to my home and my job, and yes, I remember to be grateful for clean drinking water! How is that still a thing?! My gratitude meditation is very similar to a prayer. Some people keep gratitude journals where they write down one thing every day that they are grateful for. You might reflect on gratitude first thing in the morning. Whatever works!

The act of intentionally feeling gratitude is important to our physical and mental well-being. Research on gratitude has revealed some amazing benefits. Feeling grateful reduces stress and can help lessen depression. A daily reflection on gratitude has been shown to increase attributes such as alertness, enthusiasm, and determination. People engaged in the practice tend to get better and more sleep. They are also more likely to help someone else with a personal problem or offer them emotional support. There are also indications that a gratitude practice has benefits related to heart health.

Gratitude can be experienced as an object of meditation, just like the breath. When you feel grateful for something, hold the feeling, observe it like an object. Let’s say you’ve just had a wonderful meal at a nice restaurant and you realize that you are grateful. Hold that thought. Observe it. How does it feel emotionally and physically? Are you feeling happy? Do you feel energized? Explore the depth of the thing you are grateful for. Are you feeling gratitude toward the cooks that prepared the meal? Are you grateful that you have the money to eat at such a nice restaurant? Consider the server who gave you excellent service, the owner of the restaurant who had the vision to bring together the food and ambiance. Go even deeper. Think about the farmer who cared for the ingredients that were prepared and brought to the table. There’s a lot going on that we take for granted every day.

As we improve and strengthen our mindfulness, it is important to direct it at useful mindsets like gratitude and compassion. (I was originally going to write this post on both gratitude and compassion, but quickly discovered that they both merit their own posts.) These attributes further our own well-being in addition to that of our immediate communities, (families, coworkers, and people we encounter every day), and inevitably, they improve the world. As more and more people begin to experience meditation and begin to feel gratitude and compassion, we all become more whole, suffering decreases across the board while happiness increases. The effects are real. I somehow don’t think the skeptics will have read this far, so please, try this for yourself and see if you agree. Don’t take my word for it. And if you see a benefit here, please share what you have found with those people in your life who might need it the most. And be grateful.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am grateful.

Kenny J.

THE VISION: A MEDITATION CAFE NEXT DOOR TO EVERY STARBUCKS

This will happen. It is inevitable. Meditation cafes will spring up all over the place as the world catches on to the importance of the practice. Picture this: Emma is a busy professional. She is an attorney in New York City, the financial district. She works about a million hours a week at some big-time law firm. Despite that, she takes really good care of herself, she hits the gym every morning, eats healthy, and manages to get enough sleep most nights. During the course of a typical day, Emma will grab a smoothie on the way to work from the gym, meet with clients, meet with the partners of the law firm, you get it, she does lawyer stuff all day. She breaks for lunch and grabs a quick wrap from the corner deli, hits up Starbucks for a latte, and dips into the meditation spot next door for a quick twenty minute sesh to clear her head before heading back to the office. Whoa-whaa?! Like I said, this will happen.

I imagine that meditation cafes will look like day-spas, sleek and modern, with a receptionist to greet you. Would you like a bottle of water? You’ll be shown to a small, private meditation room, large enough to accommodate a comfortable chair or a cushion on the floor. The room is sound proof and you have access to a tablet that allows you to set a timer and control the lighting. You can pull up audio programming like guided meditations, soothing music, or nature sounds. You’ll do your thing and leave refreshed and ready for whatever the world wants to throw at you. You can have a membership or pay by the minute.

Sensor deprivation tank at H2Om FLOAT in Jacksonville, Florida h2omfloatjax.com

I’m so excited about the future of meditation! (Ya think?!) There are already “float centers” across the country where you can experience full sensory deprivation. They use tanks that resemble giant futuristic eggs. You float inside in ten inches of highly concentrated salt water solution that is warmed to body temperature. These tanks offer an amazing experience that I am looking forward to trying out soon! I’d like to see these tanks turned upright, without the water, for a seated meditation.

As it is, the “Float” sessions take more time, which makes sense because they offer a much deeper experience. They require the user to shower before and after floating. The meditation centers I envision would include one or two of these sensory deprivation tanks for extended sessions, in addition to the main meditation pods. The idea is to be able to pop in and out quickly getting your fix on a lunch break or on the way to or from work. There would also be a separate studio where guided group meditations could be led by an instructor.

I like the idea of a membership model, like a gym or yoga studio, where you can become a member or pay for drop-in sessions al a carte. The concept behind GuruMojo is to be the preeminent meditation brand. The “Starbucks of meditation” (lol, I know!). Someday you may find yourself dipping into a GuruMojo Dojo for a quick twenty.

Don’t get me wrong. Realistically, this concept won’t fly for another ten years or more. Maybe twenty, maybe thirty! For this to work, meditation will have to be as popular as going to the gym. That’s where I come in. My goal is to introduce as many people as possible to the practice in a way that convinces them to try it for themselves. Meditation is vital. Meditation is for everyone. I’ve got the rest of my life to keep singing that song. I don’t even know how to stop. Why would I?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I can’t wait to tell you why I’m thinking about using a cartoon chicken for the GuruMojo logo! Do you even meditate, bro?

Kenny J.

MEDITATION IS NOT SPIRITUAL

So many people miss out on meditation because they think it is some flaky, mystical, woo-woo nonsense. Others think that meditation is strictly religious and might conflict with their own religious beliefs, (or lack thereof). The truth is that meditation is more sciency than all that. This is brain stuff. Meditation is more like lifting weights for your brain. When you lift weights your muscles get stronger; when you meditate you brain gets stronger. Meditation is really just a fancy name for awareness training. That’s all it is. My mission here is to introduce people to a practical, simple meditation, and to convince you that it is good for you, no matter who you are or what you are in to!

I think it is worth mentioning here that meditation is not prayer. Meditation is a tool that can be used to enhance prayer. It can enhance anything that requires attention and being present. Literally any human endeavor can be enhanced when meditation is practiced alongside it.

In sports, for example, it is widely accepted that the game is 90% mental and only 10% physical. Focus and clarity are what allow players to perform at their highest levels. It’s no wonder that top athletes are turning to meditation. Athletes who have been known to meditate range from basketball legends, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, to Olympic gold medal-winning volleyball players, Misty May-Trainor and Kerri Walsh, and even the entire University of Michigan basketball team, led by their coach! These top-performers are serious about their sport, and they realize that meditation is the key to reaching their full potential.

Some of the most successful and influential business leaders have also discovered the value of awareness training. From Ceo’s to top-level entrepreneurs, meditation has proven itself to be an integral key to success. In a world where numerous personal growth practices are debated, meditation is generally accepted as an effective tool. A small sample of this group includes: Marc Benioff of multi-billion dollar giant Salesforce, Arianna Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post who has been meditating since she was a teenager, and Jeff Weiner, former Yahoo exec and current Linkedin CEO, who meditates daily. The clarity of mind and reduction of stress are essential for success in the business world.

And as you can imagine, the world of entertainment is full of practicing meditators at the peak of their craft. Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Brand, Katy Perry, Clint Eastwood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Eva Mendez, Jerry Seinfeld, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern, Martin Scorsese, and … All right, you get it. The list does go on and on. I could have made a similar list of meditating CEO’s and sports figures, but the CEO’s aren’t as recognizable, and the sports list would just be too long.

Whether you are learning a new language, raising your kids, or trying to make partner at your law firm. Meditation will get you further, quicker. If you want to be at the top of your game, whatever that may be, you may want to take note of what is working for other top-performers. The fact that you’ve read this far is a good indication that you are ready to give meditation a try. But you can’t just take my word on it, this is something you have to try for yourself to see if it works for you. Thanks for taking the time! And don’t forget to breathe!

Kenny J.

MEDITATION FOR WEIGHT LOSS

Wait, what?! Meditation for weight loss? Shut the front door! It’s true, meditation can absolutely help you lose weight. Have I got your attention? Well, here we go…

We all know how lose weight, right? Good ‘ol diet and exercise. Time and again, diet and exercise. It’s not a magic pill, not a fad diet, and for sure not those electric shocker-thingys that zap your belly in place of sit-ups, lol! So what’s missing? Why do so many of us still carry around extra pounds? It all hinges on our self-discipline, impulsive nature, and emotional state. That’s where meditation comes in.

Stress eating is something most of us are familiar with. When I’ve had a rough, stressful day and reach for a couple of pieces of pizza at midnight, that little voice in my head telling me not to do it is very quiet, if there at all. If I do hear it I dismiss it immediately with the justifying thought that, “I deserve this after the day I’ve had!” It’s not even a contest. Did I mention there was pizza involved? A meditation practice can give you that space to be able to hear the voice of reason and respond. I’ve been doing better about that myself, and I’ve lost almost fifteen pounds from watching what I eat and exercising, and finally meditating. Over the past several years I had fallen out of the practice of a daily sitting meditation, and now that I’m back at it, the impulses are much easier to say no to. Big time!

Anxiety and depression are also major players in the “bad food choices” game. Meditation helps to lessen depression and anxiety. There is an udisputed link between depression and obesity. These toxic twins feed on each other. Depressed people can become obese and obese people can become depressed. Meditation, please! And can I get that with a side of “take it easy on yourself?” When we practice mindfulness, we find that we are much less upset by the day-to-day things that would normally get us down. We begin to see the forest for the trees. The big picture is beautiful and so are you! People who meditate are less depressed and have lower levels of anxiety.

It is also worth mentioning that meditation stimulates the part of the brain where willpower lives, that’s the prefrontal cortex for you sciency-types! The stronger our willpower, the better choices we can make. We are all better off when we make better choices regarding our diet and exercise. Period.

I’m sure you know by now that I’m not saying that you can sit and meditate and just watch the pounds melt away. Shah! I wish!! But there is a lot at stake here. Carrying extra weight shortens your life expectancy, and can give you anxiety that can lead to depression. Wow. Let me rephrase that and say that meditation can not only extend your life, but you will then live that longer life in a healthier and happier way! Think about making the time to sit quietly for ten minutes every day. It can change your life.

HOW TO MEDITATE: 8 STEPS TO A MUCH HAPPIER YOU! A SIMPLE MEDITATION ANYONE CAN DO

Well, now you’ve done it! You’ve gone and clicked on the simple meditation article. Congratulations! And welcome to the very exclusive club of people who have taken their wellbeing into their own hands. With just ten minutes a day. (Yes, just ten.) You will see changes in your attitude and demeanor that you couldn’t have imagined. Not to mention the health benefits. So get comfy, grab a timer, and prepare yourself for the new life that is waiting just on the other side of those nagging doubts…

  1. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably for ten minutes without interruption.
  2. Set a timer for ten minutes. Set it and forget it!
  3. Relax and close your eyes.
  4. Direct your attention to your breath. It is a good idea to either notice the feeling of the air moving in and out of your nostrils, or the feeling of your chest and belly rising and falling with each breath. Either way, you are only observing your natural breath, not controlling it in any way.
  5. Start to count your breaths. One exhale/inhale cycle is one. Pay close attention to where each exhale starts, how it continues, how it ends. Follow the inhale in the same way. Count one if you keep your attention focused for the entire breath.
  6. Count to only ten breaths and start over at one. This keeps you from getting distracted by how many breaths you count.
  7. When a thought pops into your head and distracts you, which it will, go back to the breath and start over at one. Just make a mental note and say to yourself, “thinking” or “remembering” or “planning”, and return to the breath.
  8. Repeat until your ten minutes is up.

At first you will notice that your thought are all over the place. You will think of something and your attention will cling to that thought and you will spend what seems like a long time thinking about it before you remember that you are meditating. Great! That’s what is supposed to happen! This is meditation! It’s funny how wrapped up you can get in a simple thought like, “After this I’m going to go to the grocery store.” You go over your list, think about what to cook for dinner, taco night? How you will need to stop for gas on the way, do I need an oil change yet? Then, BAM! Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be meditating! Return to your breath. Begin again.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Don’t beat yourself up when you realize that you forgot you were meditating. Being distracted by your thoughts is not only normal, it is the exercise of meditation!
  • When you realize that you have been distracted by a thought, begin again. Begin again without judgement, without a care in the world. This is your time. Enjoy it. Allow yourself to be amused by how distracting our thoughts can be. It’s funny.
  • Since ancient times, meditators have used the trick of placing the tongue into the roof of the mouth as a sort of reminder not to become attached to their thoughts. You will find that the more you meditate, the less thoughts arise during the practice. I use the tongue trick when I find that I’m having a challenging time and clinging to my thoughts for much too long. It seems to slow them down.
  • Try not to move around or fidget during a session. It can help sometimes to direct your attention to a part of your body that feels discomfort, like if your leg is uncomfortable where it is. Often time, placing awareness on the troubled spot will cause the discomfort to disappear. That being said, if your leg hurts, move it.
  • Just before starting a session, I like to mentally note that, “I am dedicating this meditation to the benefit of all beings.” This, for me, is a reminder that if I can better myself, I am benefitting the whole world. When you are happier and more balanced, the people around you sense it and benefit from your wellbeing. Then, in turn, the people who encounter them will benefit, and so on.
  • Ten minutes is great, but thirty minutes is mo betta! After you get a taste of what is possible from ten minutes of sitting quietly, I have to tell you that thirty minutes has an increased benefit well beyond tripling the time. Maybe try thirty minutes once a week and experience the difference yourself. Again, only ten minutes a day will change your life.

WHY DIET AND EXERCISE ARE NOT ENOUGH!

Everyone knows that diet and exercise are the way to lose weight. Period. For those among us who find the self-control and discipline to actually pull that off, the desired results can be stunning. Besides that, our bodies need to be cared for. Our health depends greatly on being fit. But this is only one piece of the puzzle. In order for us to be truly healthy, we must also focus on our mind. And here comes what you are hoping I’m not going to say…. Yup… You’ve got to meditate, bro.

When we practice meditation regularly, some interesting things start to happen. Life doesn’t seem as stressful. That jerk that cut you off in traffic doesn’t get the horn or the finger, they just pass right out of your life without pissing you off. You might even chuckle to yourself and wish them a safe trip to wherever it is that they need to get to so quickly. You begin to notice that there is a little space between a negative action and your reaction. In fact, you begin to act instead of react.

Physically, meditation is a game-changer, that’s right, a game-changer! It has been shown to lower blood pressure, slow aging, improve cardiovascular and immune health, as well as increasing happiness. And this is the very short list of the benefits of meditation. Wait, did I mention that it makes you happier?! I did.

Listen. Here’s the deal. Meditation has been called, “The new yoga.” That’s a good thing, it means it’s catching on. Just like going to the gym and making peace with eating right, people are starting to realize that sitting quietly for ten to twenty minutes a day is important, if not vital. Meditation is for everyone. And it doesn’t have anything to do with religion. You don’t have to believe in god or the Buddha or the afterlife; you will never have to hug a single tree. Promise. You can sit in a comfortable chair wearing normal clothes, it’s all good.

Best of all, meditation is super-easy to learn! The very next blog features easy instructions for the most basic-b meditation out there. It is really all you need to get started. And seriously, if this is the only one you ever practice, it will be all you need to live a happier and healthier life starting now. Namaste home and meditate!

Kenny J.