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5 Quotes About Mindfulness by the Dalai Lama

 

 

There are days when the words of wise teachers can remind us to return to a state of mindfulness. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is one such teacher! As the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama has studied buddhism and mindfulness his entire life and now leads followers from around the globe by his own example. If you ever feel like you are losing sight of what it means to be mindful or why you should practice mindfulness meditation, here are 5 quotes by the Dalai Lama to bring you back to your practice and to a calm and peaceful mind.

  1. Having a calm or peaceful state of mind doesn’t mean being spaced out or completely empty. Peace of mind or a calm state of mind is rooted in affection and compassion and is sensitive and responsive to others.
  2. The inner peace of an alert and calm mind are the source of real happiness and good health.
  3. Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.
  4. We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
  5. Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously, and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort.

 


A Mindfulness Meditation Practice for Beginners


“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.

-Shunryu Suzuki; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind


What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mindfulness as: “the practice of maintaining a non-judgemental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” (merriamwebster.com). It seems simple, right? Now think about your daily life. How often are you able to orient yourself in the present moment with attention and awareness? The modern world moves along at an increasingly fast pace, and if you struggle to remain in the present, you are not alone!

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that is meant to guide you gently back into the present moment. Over time, this can help you regain balance and experience less stress, without becoming overwhelmed by emotions such as fear, anger, sadness or uncertainty. You do this by focusing on the breath and letting go of judgement and attachment.

This January, we will ring in the New Year with posts exploring the shallows and depths of mindfulness, beginning with a simple mindfulness meditation practice that you can try at home. Even if you sit for 5 minutes a day, that will be a great step forward on your mindfulness meditation journey!

A Simple Practice in 6 Steps

Step One: Prepare. Find a quiet place to sit. You can either sit on a pillow or blanket on the floor, or you can sit in a chair if that works better for you. If you are on the floor, try to sit cross-legged. If you are in a chair, allow your feet to connect with the floor.

Step Two: Adjust your posture. Lay your hands gently in your lap; they can rest either palm-up or palm-down. Straighten your spine as if a string is gently tugging upward from the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest.

Step Three: Soften your gaze. Allow your gaze to rest about a foot in front of you on the floor. Try to keep your eyes open if you can, as this will heighten your sensory awareness. Let your gaze soften.

Step Four: Focus on your breath. Begin to focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale naturally. Feel the soft breath of air beneath your nose as you exhale and the way the cool air feels as it passes into your nostrils. Can you feel it travel all the way down to your belly? Follow these sensations through several breath cycles.

Step Five: Let thoughts and emotions come. It is natural that thoughts, emotions and images will begin to pass through your mind at this time, and it is okay to let them! The trick is to not get attached to any thread of thought or feeling. Simply observe the thoughts as they pass, and let them go as they leave your consciousness. Return to observing your breath.

Step Six: Don’t Panic. All kinds of uncomfortable physical and mental sensations might come up during your practice, which is why it is perfectly fine to only sit for a short time at first. If your back aches, acknowledge it, and let it go. If anger arises, do the same. Always return to your breath to stay in the moment, and watch how the pain recedes and the anger fizzles. Repeat often!

 

Happy New Year, and happy sitting!


Movement for the Mind: How Exercise Impacts our Mental Health

“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” 
― Martha Graham (American dancer)

Get Moving in 2019

Here we are at the end of another year, and the time has come when many people reflect on the past and make plans for a healthier or happier future. If your New Year’s resolution includes getting moving with an exercise plan, research suggests that your physical and your mental health will benefit!

Your Brain on Exercise

If you have ever experienced sadness or depression, you have probably also noticed that going for a walk or getting some exercise helps lift your spirits. Did you know that there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon? 

According to research, exercising triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins into your body. Endorphins not only interact with receptors in your brain to reduce your body’s perception of pain, but also contribute to a mental “euphoria” or “runner’s high” sensation, resulting in an uplifted mood and an enhanced sense of overall well-being.1 Exercise also increases blood flow and neuronal activity in certain areas of the brain including the hippocampus, the area of the brain directly related to memory, emotional regulation and learning.2

Enhancing our physique can be one powerful motivator for committing to regular exercise in the New Year, which, in turn, can boost self-confidence. In addition to relieving stress and producing feelings of euphoria, regular movement can raise levels of self-confidence, according to some studies. 3

Mind-Body Medicine

When you hear the word “mind-body medicine”, you might immediately think of sweaty yoga studios or groups of people practicing tai chi in the park. If you are not a yoga aficionado or a martial artist, have no fear! As you can see from the data above, all exercise is, in essence, beneficial for the mind and body. If you love running, commit to jogging three times a week. If you are a swimmer or a dancer, try to hit the pools or the dance studio more often in 2019.

When we consider the body and mind as integrated, holistic entities, it is easy to see how physical exercise can have a profound impact on mental health. In a recent article published in Psychology Today, the author writes, In fact, increasingly robust evidence suggests that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness.”4

The moral of the story? Exercise in ways that make you happy, and be prepared to reap the physical and mental benefits in 2019!

Happy New Year!

 

 

1https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

2https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

3https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

4https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1


3 Ways to Greet Winter

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

As the sun sets and the longest night of the year begins,  take a quiet moment to greet the darkness not with trepidation but with acceptance and gratitude. Allow the early nighttime to envelop you in warm, dark arms, and permit yourself the space to rest, to conserve, to nourish and to prepare for growth. 

In Chinese medicine, winter is the season to root down and to store. The growth that comes with the springtime requires a lot of energy and focused attention. By resting and nourishing our bodies throughout the dark and cold winter months, we will have the energy to blossom in the spring.

During the time of the druids, the Winter Solstice was marked by celebration. Here are three ways to greet the winter gracefully and without fear of the dark or cold. 

  1. Light candles or a fire: As the sun sets, light a candle or a fire and turn down the electric lighting. Pull your favorite book off of the shelf or simply sit in silence, letting the warm light wash over you. 
  2. Permit yourself to rest: Tonight, put away the cell phone and computer and treat yourself to a nourishing ritual, like taking a ginger bath or a bubble bath with calming essential oils. Then, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” Or, at least for 8 solid hours!
  3. Make an altar: It might feel nice to make an altar in honor of the Winter Solstice. This can be as simple as putting some winter greens in a vase and lighting a white candle. Let yourself sit for awhile in front of the altar, reflecting on the year and feeling the warmth that surrounds you. 
A simple Winter Solstice altar