Jun 252016
 

For over two years, I have been leading weekly mindfulness meditation classes at Bank of America. We recently began taping some classes, and I am thrilled to share them with you!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to never miss a class!

I will not be posting the classes regularly here, so be sure to subscribe on YouTube. Just look for the “Mindfulness Meditation” playlist. There you will find my Bank of America Classes as well as some additional mindfulness talks that have been recently recorded. Enjoy!

Oct 042014
 

MindfulnessFor many years, standard practice to treat anyone suffering from an addiction might have consisted of something along the lines of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or a 12 step program, designed to help wean you away from harmful substances such as drugs, nicotine or alcohol.

These, for many people worked very successfully, but not for all. You see, our brains have changed little – if at all, from the times when we were natural hunter gatherers and our fight or flight responses were put into practice to shield us from harsh situations in which we were under attack from predators. These days, our lives are no longer based around foraging for food or running away from dangerous animals, the modern stresses we have are accompanied by modern ways of dealing with them and addiction figures high in this.

In an aid to find increasingly beneficial ways of tackling addiction Doctors are turning to mindfulness as a way of treating these conditions, with startlingly successful results. Individuals presenting with substance misuse problems are encouraged to think about their cravings, to think about the way they make them feel, to understand the thought processes behind them and to also think about how they feel before, during and after taking their substance of choice. From this, they can then try and actively break their habit by re-programming their brain to become disenchanted with what they’re doing and thus break the destructive cycle.

The way it seems to work, and work so well, is because it’s tackling something called “the core addictive loop”, encouraging people to simply ride their cravings out, rather than rashly and impulsively act on them, thus keeping the cycle going and keeping the need to take more and more substances to get the same feeling again and again.

More in depth and thorough research is needed but the initial results are very promising indeed and show that in an increasingly hectic and fast paced world, the calm and deliberate methods of mindfulness have a place to help people battle past their addictions.

Contributed by Laura Harper

 

Aug 282014
 

Join me at the Stress Busters Holistic Health Conference! I’ll be doing the keynote presentation on “The Power of Mindfulness.”

This experiential full-day of holistic health education will feature some of the region’s experts in mindfulness and stress-reduction practices. You will walk away from this day with effective tools for managing stress in your daily life through Yoga, Meditation, Visualization, Qi Gong, Jin Shin Jyutsu, and so much more!! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to connect with local teachers and healers for a full day of small group master classes.

When: October 25, 2014, 10am – 4pm (full & half day packages available)
Where: Sand Hills Community Wellness Center, Kendall Park, NJ
Tuition: $98 full day / $68 half day

To register, choose “Stress Busters” from the menu: http://omcentraljerseymassage.fullslate.com/

Mar 112014
 

Take a Technology Detox Mindfulness Meditation NJIf you were a child in the 1980’s or earlier, you have a gift that younger generations today do not have. You have had the experience of living life without a cellphone, email, computer, or text messaging. Remember that? Oh it was so long ago…

Even if you were a child in the 1980’s or earlier, you are just as susceptible today as anyone else to being swept away into a swirl of busy-ness, often times fueled by our connection to technology and a never ending to-do list.

Obviously technology is useful, necessary, and in many ways makes life easier. I will certainly not be giving up my laptop anytime soon! Yet do you know anyone who has more free time as a result of our wonderful modern-day gadgets and devices? Typically, our electronic devices just speed up our lives. More comes at us and there is more to respond to.  The cycle of busy-ness grows bigger.

Taking a technology detox means that you set aside a fixed amount of time to stay off of your computer, the internet, email, Facebook, etc. It should last for at least 1 day, and up to a week or more to feel the full benefit. Taking a detox means that you temporarily say goodbye to your Facebook family, you set an away message on your email saying that you’ll return messages when you are back online, and you let your family and close friends know that if they need to reach you, they should pick up the phone and call you. Syncing your detox with some vacation time from work is ideal.

Taking a technology detox can be therapeutic and healing, IF we don’t automatically fill up our “down time” with other forms of busy-ness. We live in a society of compulsive “do-er’s.”  Just “being” is a skill and a practice that we have to work at, because even if we’re away from our smartphone or computer, we might feel so compelled to keep up our fast pace, that a technology detox has little effect.

Therefore, I highly recommend that you take a technology detox and combine it with a commitment to practice BE-ing rather than DO-ing. Pull out your self-care toolkit. Enjoy some yoga, meditation, journaling, and take some time to get outside. Your body and your mind will thank you.

Jun 052013
 

Flowers - Jersey Shore Mindfulness - Meditation Monmouth County - MBSREvery day we’re faced with a myriad of experiences. Some of these experiences are stressful and cause us to feel de-centered, knocked off balance, and overwhelmed.

Even when our daily experiences are not stressful, we can still find our minds lost in thoughts about the past, or concerns about the future.  It seems easy to be anywhere but in the present moment.

We can easily get caught in a false belief that today is a “bad day” and think that once we’ve been challenged, we’ll remain that way for the rest of the day, until we “start over” with a night’s sleep, and hope for a “better day” tomorrow.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait until tomorrow to “start over.” You have 20,000 chances to start over today!

It has been estimated that we take approximately 20,000 breaths per day. Each time we take a breath, we have a chance to bring our awareness to our breath, to orient ourselves to the present moment, and “start over” right now.

It may seem too simplistic that taking a breath can solve our problems, but it can certainly change our relationship to our problems. Taking a mindful breath can calm the nervous system, and help us to come to see things differently through a fresh perspective.

Next time you feel that your stress response activated or you notice you’re feeling anywhere but the present moment, stop and notice your breathing. We may feel like we have endless daily opportunities to be lost in stress, but with 20,000 chances per day to notice that we’re breathing, we have just as many opportunities to become mindful and to calm our bodies and minds.

May 272013
 

Mindful Eating - Jersey Shore MindfulnessThere are many easy ways that you can bring more mindfulness into your day. Since we eat several times a day we therefore have multiple opportunities to practice being present with food. Mindful eating not only provides a chance to strengthen your mindfulness practice, but is also good for your body too because it helps encourage us to eat more slowly, thus enhancing digestion.

Now go get some food.

Focus on the food that you are about to eat. For example, if it is a sandwich, you can focus on one component of the sandwich that appeals to you. Perhaps you grew the tomato or lettuce in your own garden. Or if your focus is on the bread, pause and think about the many factors that were involved in growing the grain, the sun, water, and soil. Then think about the growth of the plant and then the harvesting. Follow with the picture of it being milled into flour, and then the many steps in making the dough to be baked into the bread. The bread was then packaged and shipped to end up on your grocery store shelf. You get the idea. All of these steps occurred, leading up to this moment.

Now you can experiment by following these steps to practice mindful eating:

  1. Take a moment to look at all of your food, using your sense of sight. Notice the various colors, the textures, the patterns, the highlights, and the shadows.
  2. Listen to any sound your food makes when you stir it, scoop it, move it, or even while you cook it.
  3. Next, use your sense of smell. Put your food near your nose and breathe in the scents that it offers. If you had to describe the smell in 1-3 words, what words would you choose? Sweet? Earthy? Tangy?
  4. If you can pick up a piece of food in your hands, what does it feel like? Use your sense of touch. Is it squishy? Sticky? Smooth? Rough?
  5. Place the food in your mouth and notice how it feels with your lips and tongue. Take three slow, mindful chews and then pause. What are you noticing? Does the flavor rush into your mouth? Is your mouth beginning to water? Use your sense of taste and be present to the flavors.
  6. Continue to mindfully chew your food, noticing when you start to swallow it. Imagine following that food all the way into your stomach.

Although you may not follow every step listed with each bite, you can be fully present to the sight, the scent, the feel, and the taste of the food in your mouth. Practice being present to the sensation of chewing.  If you notice that your mind drifts elsewhere while you’re eating, practice reining it back to the rich and sensual experience of eating mindfully. Bon Appétit!

Jan 262013
 

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer" - Albert Camus

Sometimes the winter (especially the mid-winter) can be a drag. It’s cold, it’s grey, and it’s dreary.

For years I wished that I could be anywhere but the northeast during the winter. I dreamt of escaping to the south. I strongly disliked feeling cold, and I enjoyed snow only if it melted within a day.

One day my husband gave me this quote, which he clipped out of a magazine:

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

“How nice,” I thought. And how lofty that sounded. I still hated the winter, but I hung onto the quote in my jewelry box for years, hoping that I would be able to embody the meaning of the quote one day.

It was only after developing a deep commitment to a mindfulness and spiritual practice that the quote started to come alive for me. I discovered that there IS an invincible summer inside, and it comes from inner peace.

Here is how you can find your invincible summer:

  • Recognize that dreary days don’t exist. “Dreary” is a perception and a judgment. Therefore it is subject to change and not a fact.
  • Recognize that inner peace doesn’t come from anywhere outside yourself. Therefore it doesn’t come from the weather.
  • Be willing to approach the winter weather with a sense of adventure and curiosity. Try something new. Build an igloo. Walk around outside while it is snowing. Go snowshoeing. Feed the birds. Examine a snowflake.
  • Bring mindfulness to the winter. Notice how the crisp air feels on your cheeks and how the air smells clean.
  • Recognize there are still many things you can do in the winter that you do in the summer. You can still walk on the beach or in the woods. You can go for a brisk walk or a run. I found that with brisk walking I can raise my body temperature enough so the weather feels 20 degrees warmer. Nice!
  • The days are shorter, but notice that the crystal clear stars come out earlier.
  • Practice meditation to find the “quiet still place” inside of your mind. It is there. And it is so powerful to find that you can carry your “invincible summer” within your mind no matter what month of the year it is.
Jan 262013
 

Do you ever feel lonely while on Facebook?Every year, when I’m teaching college freshmen in their first semester of school, we talk about mindfulness and social media. Even in the quietest of classes, with the most soft spoken students, discussion explodes when I ask this simple question:

“Have you ever noticed that Facebook makes you feel lonely?”

While on Facebook, you see pictures of people you know smiling, having fun, and bonding, and you’re not in them. Everyone looks like they are having more fun than you are, more success than you are, and more joy than you are.

What you are looking at are images, reflecting something to you that is in your own mind: A desire for love, a desire to feel connected to others, and a desire to belong.

We find satisfaction in these areas in one way – by being fully engaged with our lives in the present moment and working towards what it is that we want. Fulfillment comes from a sense of being present to this very moment. “This” moment doesn’t exist on Facebook, because you’re looking at and getting absorbed in images of the past.

When we notice that Facebook is making us feel down, the best thing we can do is take a breath, and ask ourselves, “What is this bringing up in me?” “How is what I am seeing making me feel?”  “What purpose does it serve for me to be on Facebook right now?” “Am I procrastinating? Bored? Avoiding something?”

If you notice the Facebook-loneliness link, it is time to reconnect with your life and your relationships in the now.  You have the ability to connect with others. You have the ability to belong. You have the ability to give love to the world.

Try picking up the phone and calling (not texting) a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Or write someone a letter that you send through the mail – the “old fashioned” way. Commit to doing a random act of kindness next time you are around people. Connecting and helping others, even if they are strangers, can help us feel like we matter, and that we belong.

Facebook can serve a positive purpose – it helps us keep in touch with people we know. If you ever feel lonely while on Facebook, the positive “purpose” of Facebook has been lost. If you feel lonely, chances are people you know do too.  Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and tell them you are thinking about them and wishing them well. The best way to receive love is to give it.