Do You Make These Six Common Mistakes When Meditating?

I remember the first time I tried to meditate and thought, “This is so not what I thought it would be!" I had a very clear image in my mind of what meditating was supposed to be—and what it wasn’t. And what I instead discovered is that my preconceived notions actually kept me from experiencing the true benefits of meditation.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why meditating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, perhaps you have some of the same misconceptions that I initially had.

To make sure we are reaping the true benefits of meditation, we first need to understand some of the most common mistakes people make when starting a meditation practice.

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Ever Wondered What It Would Be like to Give Yourself a Break?

For the past couple of weeks, I was in a real funk. I was in a state of malaise pretty much every day. And I felt frustrated with myself that I couldn’t figure out why. I over-analyzed it, worried about it, and tried to make it go away.

What I noticed?

The more I fought it, the more it persisted.

So I eventually tried something else—I let myself off the hook. I allowed myself to be in a funk. I gave myself what I needed in the moment.

Maybe you’ve been in a funk or given yourself a hard time for feeling a certain way before, too.

What I learned is that the greatest gift we can give ourselves during times like these is a break.

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3 Ways to Turn Your Yoga Practice Upside Down

For many people, yoga is more than just a physical activity. It is also a mental and spiritual experience — often described as being quite meditative. But if you’re anything like me — and many other people I see and hear in my yoga class — it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. Have you ever noticed that the much-desired zen experience feels more akin to frustration or defeat than to an enlightened state?

Well, the good news is that you can turn your yoga practice into a deeper, more enlightened experience by doing three simple things.yoga pose

I have been practicing Bikram Yoga for almost two years and it is amazing how it wasn’t until very recently when I realized that I could use these 90 minutes for more than just practicing the 26 postures and getting my body into shape. This was an amazing opportunity to strengthen my ability to be mindful and present.

As someone who loves to “get it right” and “be the best,” I struggled with turning my yoga practice into anything beyond pushing myself to be better, stronger, calmer and mentally beating myself up when I felt like I wasn’t living up to that.

Then I had a breakthrough. And I turned my yoga practice around 180 degrees by doing these 3 things.

Change the track I listen to in my head.

90 minutes is a long time to keep the mind from wandering off and getting lost in the top hits track of the day. My solution? First, I found when I focus deeply on the words the instructor is saying instead of boarding each thought train that raced through my mind, I remained more present. Secondly, I changed the track in my mind from saying things like, “this is so hard” or “I’m so hot” or “why can’t I hold this posture like I could yesterday?” to “I am here … in this moment … and in this moment … and in this moment” over and over again keeping my thoughts more constant and present and, therefore, being able to better listen to my body.

Change the mask I wear.

I can scowl and grunt and tighten up my face when the postures feel challenging or I can choose to keep my face relaxed and even squeeze out a smile during a challenging pose. By making this small shift, I allow myself to relax, breathe and stay present with my body in that moment. I also find that when I exert less energy on reacting to a difficult posture, I have more energy to give to that posture and it becomes easier.

Practice continuous compassion.

I remind myself that I am constantly changing and I am different each and every day. My practice today is going to be different than my practice two days ago. If I need to sit down or come out of a posture early today, that’s okay. And, if I can change the track in my head it is actually easier to hear what my body needs in each moment and then I can be compassionate with myself when my body needs something today that it might not have needed yesterday.

Whether you are an avid yogi or just a fan of staying limber, you can use your yoga practice to not only deepen your exercise of body and soul but also deepen your practice of living in the present. By doing so, your practice will enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine!

What do you do to make yoga a more meditative experience? Share your tips and tricks by leaving a comment.

Give the Gift of Presence: Try These Three Things

I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me. How often have you sincerely been able to say this? Or received this from another person?

Being able to truly be present when listening to someone else can be extremely difficult. It’s one thing to be present with oneself—noticing sensations, feelings and thoughts as they come and go. But, it is a whole other practice to do this same thing when in dialogue with someone else.

As Oprah Winfrey noted, people want to be seen and heard. And it is a great exercise for us to practice presence when given this opportunity.

We all can give the gift of presence when listening by doing these three things.

Attentive Listening

For all of the work I do to live a mindful and present existence, I still find it extremely difficult sometimes to be fully present when listening to another person. I’m either judging what they say or planning what I am going to say next or interrupting them to prove my point or negate what they said.

Sound familiar?

And, yet, none of these things are a practice in presence.

True presence requires me to refrain from judgment and simply observe what is said, felt or heard; to be in the moment and not be thinking about the future; to release expectations or attachment to specific outcomes; and to quiet my ego by detaching from my thoughts and beliefs.

"But who would I be if I didn’t argue that professional football players get paid a ridiculous amount of money?! I need to defend that and make sure everyone knows how I feel about it!”

Or … I could simply notice that thought for what it is—just a thought. And note that this particular thought causes my blood to boil and my heart to race—for some reason. And remember that this thought is not “me” so there is no need for me to defend or prove “myself."

One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another is our presence by truly listening to and hearing them. When we are completely in the moment and can release any attachment to our own beliefs and expectations of another, we can truly hear that person without the need to craft a response or interject with our own ideas or even feel the need to defend.

Next time you are having a conversation and want to practice the gift of presence, try these three things:

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

I know it keeps coming back to the breath but we often forget just how powerful it is. If you are focused on your breath, it’s kind of hard to speak.

Listen to what is said and notice how you react—then let it go. 

Acknowledge any judgmental reactions or remarks that cross your mind, thank your inner voice for sharing and then let the thought go like a cloud dissolving in the sky.

Recognize what is your responsibility. 

It is not your responsibility to “fix” or “change” another person. It is also none of your business what they think or feel. You are responsible for what you believe and how you react. Be aware of when you start taking on responsibility for others and then kindly resign yourself from that job.

It’s not to say that you will always agree with everything everyone says—or need to, for that matter. But when you practice being present and truly listening to another person and learn how to check your ego at the door, you honor that person and yourself while cultivating peace.

What is one thing you can do the next time you engage in a discussion with someone to practice giving your gift of presence? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Remember to Breathe - Lesson #2

Evolution is a process. Life is a journey, not a destination. Transformation takes time. As I continue growing, changing, learning, evolving, I find that sometimes I “fall short” and need to be reminded of the lessons I am trying to learn and strategies to move me forward. This week I am going to share one “lesson” a day that has recently come in handy for me and might serve as a helpful reminder for others.

Just breathe.

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When I find myself feeling anxious or stressed or impatient or angry or frustrated or annoyed, I breathe as many times as I need to while focusing on my breath to bring me back to the present moment, and to give myself a minute so that I respond instead of react. Taking the time to breathe creates the space for me to come from a more grounded, centered space and focus on the generative power of the life force contained within my body.

Can you recall a time when taking a few deep breaths provided you with the calm and centeredness you needed in that moment? Do you have another tool you use when needing to reground or refocus? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.