Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Got time on your hands? Learn to meditate!


When I became trained as a meditation teacher last year, I did so because I wanted to share some of the peace and contentment I had discovered through mindfulness. I could never have imagined the situation that we are faced with today... an entire world united in fear, anxiety and isolation.  If ever there was a time to try meditation, this would be it!.

The benefits of meditation have been confirmed through rigorous scientific studies and are proven to reduce stress, control anxiety, improve sleep, decrease blood pressure, increase happiness, strengthen your immune system, improve productivity and cognition, enhance empathy… to name a few.


Right now, as we "shelter at home" because of the Corona Virus, you probably have more time on your hands than you've ever had in your life… you may even feel anxiety about how much free time is staring you in the face. So why not pause for a few minutes, and try to connect with your inner self in a way that can provide a comfort and calm you've never experienced before. 

Experts estimate that the average person thinks 60,000 - 80,000 thoughts per day. In our current situation, we can assume that many of these thoughts involve worry and fear. And worry and fear require you to visit the past or the future to access those thoughts.

Mindfulness asks you to exist in the present. 

That is where the peacefulness comes from. As you read these words you are focused in the present. You may notice you are not feeling anxiety or agitation while reading. That is because you are fully present. You are not drifting off to memories of the past that may spark fear or worrying about a future that you cannot control. Why not find ways to prolong that feeling of calm presence? 

There is so much to be gained by immersing yourself fully into the present moment… which, coincidentally, is the only real moment available to you. There is absolutely nothing productive, that comes from imagining negative outcomes in the future. “Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.” (Abraham HIcks)

My personal experiences of tragedy and loss, and the depression that followed, pushed me to look for a better way to live. I've been meditating for five years, while learning more about the philosophies of mindfulness and Buddhism. But I am no different than any of you… life brings great suffering to all of us at one time or another… and there is a path to acceptance and peace. And there is an easier way to live your life with less stress, anxiety and fear by practicing the simple steps of meditation and staying mindfully in the present.


You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

If are ready to accept this challenge, please set aside anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes a day to practice your meditation. You can sit or lay down. You can do it alone, or you can invite others nearby to join you. There are more online resources available to you than ever before. Many practitioners are offering free meditation sessions via Zoom or other meeting apps.

There is no wrong way to meditate. You cannot fail at this endeavor. Simply try any of the options I've listed below and see what feels right to you. It may seem a little scary at first, but over time you will discover that this is one of the most comforting and secure places you can be. Sink back into the arms of the present, and enjoy the peaceful, quiet and deep connection to your soul.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert on any of the above, and I don't have all the answers. Can I maintain my calmness all the time? Absolutely not. I would estimate that 90% of the time I'm able to experience great ease and contentment. And when faced with fear, I can often return to calm by using my deep breathing techniques learned from meditation.

Please write me here or at my email: carol@abramdesign.com if you have any questions.

Wishing a calmer, more peaceful state of being for all of you.
Carol


Resources

For all of these meditation exercises, find a quiet place in your home where you will not be disturbed. You can sit on the floor or a mat, you can sit in a chair, or you can lay down. You will breathe deeply from your belly and inhale and exhale from your nose.

Thoughts will appear in your consciousness as you meditate. Try to imagine them as clouds drifting overhead. You see them, but just acknowledge them and return to your attention to your breath. Over time you will find they become quieter and less distracting.

Option 1: App 
Download, an app such as Insight Timer. It is free and you can choose how long your meditation will be, with or without music and if you would like it to be guided by a teacher. You can also focus on a specific subject, such as “Learn to Meditate”, “Coping with Anxiety”, “Managing Stress” and many more. I suggest starting with ten minutes and continue to add time over the next few weeks. Other popular apps are Calm and Headspace.

Option 2: Counting Breaths
You can play some calming instrumental music that you can find in Spotify under meditation or access Insight Timer and use some of their sounds. Breathing deeply from your belly and as you exhale slowly say the number “one” silently. Inhale again and on exhale silently say the number “two”. 
Continue on this way until you reach 10, and then start over again.

Option 3: Mantras
This method involves the reputation of a word or group of words. It is helpful in keeping your mind focused. Some common ones are “Om" (the sound of universal vibration)” or “So Hum” (translates to “I am”). Repeat the mantra continuously to yourself while breathing deeply.


Here are some books that can provide more basic information, and are easy to absorb:

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

How to Meditate by Pema Chodron


Online meditation groups can provide a great synergy and sense of community. Please check my Facebook page as I will be updating links to online meditation events there: Carol Abram Facebook





Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020: A Time to Look Inward

This new year, 2020, is loaded with meaning for me. 20/20 is the well-known designation for normal eye vision, but it suggests something much deeper to me. As my body declines with age, my optical system joins in the downward spiral. Once blessed with stellar vision, it has been a long road to acceptance of these new weaknesses. But beyond the interventions offered up by modern medicine, there is no way for me to stop the process. I have made peace with aging and that has pushed me to focus inward to find a much more powerful vision that resides within me.

My blog, Lookology, allows me to observe and share the myriad of visual delights I see in the world around me. The images I view daily will always captivate me... from a delicate sleeve of ice on a winter branch to a breathtaking piece of art. But the truest place of observation, for me, is within my soul. It is here that I find stillness and contentment that was not available to me when most of my time was spent gazing outward.

Without practicing awareness, our brain is largely dominated by egoic thought, which flourishes easily in the unconscious mind. The ego causes us to be laser-beam focused on how we are perceived by others.  Am I smarter? Richer? Thinner? More athletic? Our society reinforces this system of comparison and often our daily lives are fully controlled by these thoughts... although we are usually unaware.

These non-productive thoughts and feelings that dominate our daily lives leave little space for the introspection that might lead us to self-awareness. In order to access the authentic self that lies dormant within most of us, we need to shift our perception from the loud, frenetic, external world to the calm, quiet, inner landscape within ourselves. This is not an easy task, but it is obtainable for everyone with effort. The most accessible pathway to this authentic place within yourself is through the practice of meditation.

Meditation has been touted for thousands of years as a powerful and productive technique for accessing inner peace. It has endured because it is effective and has guided millions of people to a more peaceful way of living their lives. When you meditate, you bring yourself to the present moment. Most of us live anywhere but the present. Unknowingly, we are immersed in the mire of the past... reliving anger, feeling regret, replaying the stories over and over and over. And, at the same time we dwell in the future, perseverating about the unknown. One of my teachers once asked if I was a fortune-teller, and was I able to predict the future. Clearly I am not, and I laugh now when I think of the wasted hours I spent predicting the greatest and worst outcomes for my destiny. The future is largely out of our control and will only reveal itself when it arrives here, in the present.

In a universe where reality is constantly being questioned, the undeniable truth is that you only have one moment that is real. And that is the present. The past does not exist, except for the importance you allow it within your mind. Memories are also notoriously inaccurate as the ego often adjusts the recollections according to its own agenda. And the future, of course, hasn't even arrived. Still, many people focus solely on what they plan for and hope to achieve in this unknown space we call the future.

Either way, the only moment that is authentically here to be lived, is in the present. Please take a chance in this new year and stop to experience the present moment. You may surprised at the simple, sweet joy you will find there.

To learn more, please feel free to come visit the Foxboro Mindfulness Meetup Group that meets every Wednesday night, 6:30-8:00pm in the basement of the Foxboro Universalist Church, 6 Bird Street,  Foxboro, MA. Join us under the fairy lights and see what you discover.  
https://www.meetup.com/foxboromindfulness/events/hmgzhrybccbcb/

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on any of the above, I just read and listen to a lot of Buddhist and mindfulness teachers and practice daily. This process has helped me in my quest to find a happier life... and I want to share my experience with you.




Got time on your hands? Learn to meditate!

When I became trained as a meditation teacher last year, I did so because I wanted to share some of the peace and contentment I had d...