Category Archives: Mindfulness

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Mindfulness and Meditation

A few weeks ago I started a new series of posts on this blog about Twitter accounts that share the same theme. This week I’m going to be recommending accounts that are about mindfulness and meditation.

There aren’t as many mindfulness and meditation suggestions as there were for the science fiction and fantasy version of this series, but I’m tentatively hoping to eventually write a part two for this once I’ve found more high-quality accounts that talk about it.

If you have suggestions for specific accounts to recommend or topics for a future post in this series, I’d be quite interested in hearing about them.

@bunnybuddhism‬.

The cute rabbit pictures were what first drew me into following this account, of course, but one of the reasons why I enjoy the tweets from the woman who runs it so much is how insightful she is about topics like grief, death, and truly living in the moment.

‪@tinybuddha‬.

This is the official account for a Buddhist website by the same name. They tweet a lot, but their articles are well-written and full of helpful advice for people from many different walks of life.

‪@yogainspiresyou‬.

Ntathu teaches yoga and meditation. I love the positivity of her tweets, especially when it comes to the short quotes she shares regularly.

@SatyaRobyn‬

Satya is a Buddhist priest I’ve known online for years. She has a lot of interesting things to say about mindfulness and her belief system in general.

‪@calm‬

This is a meditation app I’ve used off and on for years. The guided body scans in the app itself are fantastic, and their Twitter account is full of good information as well.

Previous posts in this series:

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Science Fiction and Fantasy 

Meditating During a Heatwave

August in Toronto is a hot and humid affair. While this month did start out chiller than usual, we’re currently in the middle of a heatwave that’s been going on for a few days now.

I’m lucky enough to have fairly decent air conditioning in my apartment, but I’m still counting down the days until the heat of August fades away and the beauty of autumn begins because of how easy it is for the heat to sneak into my place on unusually hot days and how many places in this city don’t have good air conditioning.

One of the things I enjoy the most about meditating during a heatwave is what a fantastic tool it is for dealing with the weather as I step outside of my home and feel that first puff of hot, stale air.

There are several different lessons I’ve taken from my meditation sessions and applied to experiences like those at this time of the year. I hope all of you are feeling milder temperatures than I am, but I thought this would make a good idea for a blog post for anyone else who feels like they’re walking through an oven right now.

Breathe

Now that I’m meditating again more regularly after my break from it last spring, I’m sometimes surprised by how calming it is to breathe deeply and focus on nothing in particular at all.

My brain is slowly being trained to focus on my breathing when I step outside and inhale steamy August air. I do my best not to think about the temperature, the future, or anything else at all. All I need to do in that moment is breathe in and out again.

It is such a simple yet helpful reminded to stay in the present and focus on those things you actually do have control over.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Live in the Moment

Autumn is still seven weeks away, and even the fall solstice isn’t a guarantee of cooler weather immediately. Last year we had hot, summery weather all the way through until the beginning of October.

It’s tempting to wish away the end of a season. I know I often give into this temptation at the end of winter when it feels like warmer weather will never arrive, but this summer I’ve been making a genuine effort to live in the moment instead of fantasizing about what the weather will be like a month or two from now.

There are positive and negative sides to any season – literal or metaphorical –  we find ourselves in, and I’m telling you this as someone who doesn’t always grok this right away. It’s easy for me to imagine the worst or to spend so much time thinking about what could or might happen in the future that I forget to live in the now.

Notice Sensations Without Judging Them

Confession: I am not always very patient when dealing with months of humidity. There comes a time nearly every summer when the humidity has been so high for so many weeks that I honestly want to go jump into Lake Ontario, grow some gills, and spend the last month of summer swimming around with the fish to stay cool.

Noticing and acknowledging sensations without immediately deciding what I think about them is definitely something I’ve had to work to do during my sessions.

To give you an example that isn’t weather-related,  I had a sore muscle in my neck and shoulder last week. It was the first thing my mind jumped to every time I sat down to meditate because of how it was affecting the way I moved and the kinds of things I wanted to do. (No worries, though – it is all better now).

Figuring out how to acknowledge that part of my body without immediately jumping to thoughts about why it was sore or when it would heal wasn’t easy. Relaxing helped, and so did focusing my attention on it for a brief moment before returning my mind to a state of rest.

It’s been interesting to transfer this mindset to something like standing on an overcrowded subway car or walking down a street that doesn’t have much shade at all.

Unless someone suddenly gives me the power to control the weather, there isn’t a single thing I can do to change the temperature or the humidity outside. It is what it is.

There is definitely something to be said for noticing perspiration forming on your skin or a hot breeze skimming your hair without immediately judging those sensations.

How does summer affect your meditation? How has meditating affected how you handle uncomfortable weather?

What Minecraft Has Taught Me About Mindfulness

Minecraft was frustrating when I first began to learn how to play it. It’s the kind of game that has a steep learning curve, so my avatar died in a lot of silly ways in the beginning.

I am not a big gamer in general, but Minecraft is one of those pastimes that I keep cycling back around to. I’ll play it for several months and then take a long break from it. No matter how long I’m away, though, I always come back to it eventually.

Recently, I’ve started to play it again. The other night I began to think about the lessons this game has taught me as I was putting up a stone fence around the home that some friends and I have been working on.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I got lost in Minecraft when I first began playing it. If you happen to wind up in the middle of a biome, every hill looks the same after a while. This can make it difficult to find your way home before dark when the monsters begin to spawn and the game becomes dangerous for anyone who wants their character to survive the night.

To be honest with you, I’m still not an expert at navigating my surroundings. I have gotten a lot better at knowing where I am relative to home base, though, and it’s much more rare for me to get totally lost than it used to be. A big part of the reason why this is so is because I’ve learned to pay attention to where the sun is in the sky and what landmarks are close to my home.

Even something as simple as a patch of flowers or an oddly-shaped tree can potentially be a clue that you’re almost back to a safe place to spend the night.

Live in the Moment

Minecraft is the sort of game where everything can be peaceful one moment and a life-or-death battle with an army of skeletons the next. You never know what a day will bring to you, but you also won’t progress at all if you spend all of your time assuming that there’s a skeleton lurking behind you.

Sometimes I like to watch videos of what other players have built in this game. The homes I’m able to build at the moment are simple, but I dream of the day when I, too, will be able to build a mansion without using any cheats.

In the meantime, I enjoy the skills I’ve picked up so far. I’m learning new things almost every time I play it, and I see a lot of improvement from where I was as a player when I first began.

Photo credit: Andy Dingley.

 

You Can’t Prepare for Everything

Just because the monsters usually spawn at night doesn’t mean you won’t come across any of them during the day. One time I was collecting wheat near my home when a creeper (see photo above) snuck up behind me and exploded. My avatar was injured and a piece of the fencing around the wheat was destroyed.

I’d followed all of the rules the night before by going to bed as soon as the sun set. Doing this is supposed to dramatically reduce your risk of running into a monster as they won’t spawn if you’re asleep.

You can’t prepare for everything, though. Sometimes Minecraft and real life throw you curve balls. Accepting that anything could happen at ay moment wasn’t always easy, but it did make for a better playing experience once I started to do it.

Stay Peaceful

Photo credit: Gilda from London, UK.

Like many other things in life, Minecraft operates on a cycle. It has a steady cycle of day and night modes, of course, but it also seems to shift between times when there are many monsters and when there are fewer of them.

The number of friendly creatures in this game seems to change, too. There have been times when I’ve found valleys full of sheep and pigs and other times when it was hard to find any of them at all.

Once you grow accustomed to the ebb and flow of it, it’s easier to accept that sometimes things aren’t going to go your way. A hunt for the sheep that my farm still needs might be unsuccessful today, but that doesn’t mean I won’t find any the next time I go searching for them.

If you play Minecraft, what lessons have you learned from it?

How Mindfulness Helps Me When I Wake Up too Early

As I’ve mentioned on this site before, my circadian rhythm is strongly affected by how many hours of daylight we have in Ontario. I can’t help but to wake up when the sun rises no matter what part of the year it is.

This process begins at about 5 a.m. in June and July, so I’m up very early indeed in mid to late summer. Since the sun doesn’t set until about 9 p.m. now, I also don’t get tired until fairly late at night as well.

That means that I don’t get as much sleep at this time of the year as I get in November or December when there are 14 to 15 hours of darkness at night.

On a positive note, I’ve experienced so many of these summers full of early mornings of that I’m now pretty used to them. It’s a cycle that will slowly begin to change now that the days are growing shorter again.

I also occasionally get to sleep in past 5:30 or 6 a.m. if the sky is overcast. The rest of the time, I do the following things to stay mindful and wait to see what will happen next.

Staying in Bed

Unless there’s a pressing need to get out of bed, I stay in it for as long as possible.

I won’t lie to you. There have been a few times when the sun woke up me so early that I deeply wanted to go back to sleep for a few more hours.

This isn’t something you can force your body to do, though, and I’ve found that the best way to encourage a mind to fall back asleep is to avoid giving it too much stimulation. I may read a book to pass the time if I truly can’t fall asleep again, but even that can be too much for my mind depending on what I’m reading.

The important thing is to stay quiet and still while I wait to see how my body reacts.

Living in the Moment

Early mornings are such a peaceful time of the day. I often hear trucks rumbling, cars honking, and all kinds of other urban sounds in the afternoon and evening, but even someplace as enormous and busy as Toronto grows quiet as night turns into morning.

5 a.m. is the perfect time to clear your mind of any thoughts of the past or the future. The only things I focus on are the ones that are happening right now:

  • The feel of the cool sheets against my skin.
  • The sound of my husband breathing as he sleeps.
  • The occasional call of a bird or other nature sound that even the city can’t erase.

Of course, this isn’t always an easy thing to do. There are times when I have to gently remind myself to stay mindful if my mind begins to jump all over the place.

Having No Expectations of Going Back to Sleep

Here’s a riddle for you: why is it so much easier to fall asleep when you’re not trying to do so?

I remember tossing and turning for a huge chunk of the night once years ago because I was so excited about a vacation to visit my parents and siblings that was beginning the next day. Some of that sleep had to made up the next night after I’d had the chance to give everyone a hug and settled into our visit.

The mornings during the summer when I close my eyes and attempt to will myself into dreamland are almost always the ones where I’m up for good at the crack of dawn.

If I can lay down quietly and neither try to stay awake or fall asleep, my mind will often settle down again and let me catch another hour of rest before the day begins for good. Even if it doesn’t happen, that quiet time is a nice way to adjust to daytime.

Putting It All Together

I’ve actually kind of come to enjoy my silent mornings now that I do my best not to expect anything from them. This is a part of the year that passes by all too quickly. By the winter holidays I’ll be sleeping like a log every night, but in the meantime….

Maybe I’ll fall back asleep in five minutes.

Maybe I’ll drift in and out of sleep so peacefully that it will all feel the same to me.

Maybe I’ll have some time to truly live in the moment before beginning my day.

Any of these options are acceptable, and only time will tell which one I’ll receive on any given day. I’d love to know how practicing mindfulness has had an effect on your daily life. Come tell me all about it on Twitter.

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3 Reasons Why You Should Meditate Outdoors

I’ve slowly been trying to incorporate more meditation into my routine after the long break I took from it earlier this spring.

This spring has been a chilly, wet one so far here in Toronto. We’re only now beginning to have a few days in a row where it hasn’t rained and the temperature has been above 10 degrees Celsius (or 50 Fahrenheit for those of you who live in the United States).

Along with continuing to meditate in noisy places, one of my goals for this summer is to sit and meditate outside once the weather warms up a few more degrees and it’s no longer quite so uncomfortable to sit still on a cold bench on a cloudy day.

I’ve been meditating during long walks in the meantime. It’s actually the first technique I used when I began meditating years ago, and it’s still something I find soothing when I’m having trouble staying focused while sitting down.

There are three basic reasons why I love outdoor meditation so much, and today we’re going to explore them.

Reason #1: Natural Background Noises Aren’t as Distracting

When I’m meditating at home, I might hear thumping music from the apartment next to mine, a distant argument from the other side of the hall, the thud of something heavy being dropped on an uncarpeted floor, the ding of an elevator door, or any other number of other miscellaneous noises. The building I l live in is wonderful in many other ways, but preventing sound from travelling is not one of them.

Can I filter these things out when necessary? Absolutely, but I find the rustle of leaves or a bird singing to be much less distracting than the sound of other humans living their lives. If I’m already struggling to focus on clearing my mind of all thoughts, it’s nice to remove that extra layer of stuff that is competing for my attention.

I don’t know about you, but I also find it easier to tune out the sounds of nature in general. My brain might register that birds are tweeting, but I don’t consciously think about them the same way I would if I heard a conversation happening in the background that I could almost – but not quite – make out.

Reason #2: Nature Is Soothing

Few things lift my mood faster than going somewhere where there aren’t any buildings, roads, shops, or billboards to be seen. I love taking a brisk walk on a shady path or watching squirrels run around looking for food.

There is something incredibly relaxing about being surrounded by so many different species of plants even if they have been planted, manicured, or kept up by humans in some way. Visiting a large national park where everything there looks more or less the same as it did a thousand years ago is exciting, but I also find joy in visiting parks that have sidewalks, benches, and large fields of recently-mowed grass.

This is one of the many reasons why I love trees. Other than trimming off the occasional dead branch, there aren’t a lot of things you can do to a tree to make it less wild. A mature oak is going to look roughly the same no matter where it’s growing or what has happened around it. There is something beautiful and soothing about that.

(I’ve joked about being a friend of the Ents in the past. Maybe there is a kernel of truth to that in the sense that i have a strong affinity for trees.)

Reason #3: It’s a Smart Idea to Practice Meditating Under Many Different Circumstances

The biggest reason why I began occasionally meditating in noisy places last winter is that I wanted to expand the number of places where I could meditate.

You will not always be able to meditate in a cool, clean, quiet room that is free from every distraction.

While no one in my family is currently ill, I want to be able to meditate in a hospital waiting room if necessary while we wait to hear word from the doctor.  I also want to be able to meditate in cramped airplane seats, hard park benches on warm summer days, dusty rooms, and anywhere else I could possibly need to slow down my thoughts and live in the moment.

Meditation isn’t something that’s only supposed to work when you’re having a good day. The benefits of it extend to every part of the human experience if you do it regularly.

Hopefully I won’t have to meditate when I’m feeling physical or emotional discomfort anytime soon, but I’d like to be well-accustomed to breathing through all kinds of different circumstances when that does happen again in the future. Think of it like practicing a speech over and over again before you present it to your audience. You’ll probably still feel nervous when the big day comes, but at least you’ll know the material inside and out.

If you haven’t tried outdoor meditation yet, I hope this post has encouraged you to give it a try. It is a wonderful addition to all of the other forms of meditation out there. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I’ve only just begun to explore its possibilities!

 

Confessions of a Meditation Dropout

I have a confession to make: I haven’t meditated in weeks. It took me a while to figure out why I’d stopped. The slowdown in my routine was so gradual that I didn’t realize it was happening at first, but there have been some changes in my life recently that have lead to me feeling less… Read More

What Twitter Can Teach You About Mindfulness

Something fascinating has been happening to me recently on Twitter. Social media definitely isn’t the first place I’d expect to grow more mindful, but I’ve been learning more about what it means to live in the moment when I use this particular site for several different reasons. Reason #1: The Case of the Missing Tweets Every once in… Read More

What Is the Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation?

Both of these terms regularly get tossed around on this blog. I recently realized that I’ve never defined them or talked about the subtle differences between them. It’s high time to change that! Meditation Is an Action Meditation requires you to arrange your body in a certain position and actively clear all of the thoughts from… Read More