Tag Archives: Meditation

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?

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 of a need to meditate regularly.

Change #1: No Caffeine

I never drink coffee or caffeinated tea, but for a while there I wasn’t eating or drinking anything caffeinated at all. Even small amount of caffeine have been known to make me feel anxious, so I’ll often go several weeks or even longer without having any chocolate at all.

When my mind is calm, I don’t think about meditation as often as I do when I need to consciously clear out my thoughts.

Now that I’ve started to occasionally eat chocolate again as a delicious result of post-holiday sales and my local grocery store suddenly carrying a whole bunch of new chocolate bars that I’ve only begun to start tasting, I’m expecting to mediate again more regularly in the near future.

Change #2: Nice Weather

Spring has arrived in Toronto, so there have been some beautiful days here over the last few weeks. Meditation is a tool I’m more likely to use during times of the year when it’s too hot or cold to spend much time outdoors at all. When the weather is warm and dry, I tend to take a long walk outside instead of sitting at home.

Nothing clears my mind more quickly than being outdoors. There are many quiet, shady streets in Toronto to explore, and I love walking up and down them with no particular destination in mind. Not only do you meet the most interesting people and places  this way, it’ll show you a side of the city that is rarely seen elsewhere. Some of the buildings here have been around since the city was in its infancy, and they have stories to share about that time period in history if you know how to listen and who to speak to about them.

The peacefulness of these walks is wonderful as well. When you don’t have to think about crossing busy streets or dodging folks who stand on the street corner and try to talk you into something, it’s easy to let your legs carry you down the street and soak in all of the beauty around you.

This leads me to a question that has been rolling around in my mind for a long time. Can walking be thought of as a non-traditional form of mediation? I’ve read articles that agree that it can, and others that don’t think this habit is disciplined enough to count as a meditation session. What I can say is that both meditation and walking give me similar benefits.

  • They clear my mind.
  • If my mind can’t be cleared, they help me to accept the thoughts that stubbornly stick around.
  • They help me to live in the present instead of the past or the future.

I’ll leave it up to the experts to decide if long walks can be a form of mediation. For now, I’ll accept the peace that I find in these activities and leave it at that.

Change #3: Boredom

There’s a fine line between falling into a comfortable routine and beginning to feel bored when you do the same things over and over again.

As much as I enjoy the benefits of meditation, sometimes I honestly do need a break from it. Doing it daily would be like doing the same exercise routine every single day. Some people may be perfectly capable of doing that without ever growing bored or wanting a chance to rest, but I need to switch up my routines sometimes.

Taking a break from something – even if it’s something I deeply love that I know is good for me – makes me feel more committed to going back to it after I’ve had a chance to try other forms of relaxation.

Try, Try Again

Now that I’ve had the chance to mull over it, I don’t think of my breaks from meditation as a failure. I’ve had an on-and-off again relationship with this practice for years, and I’ve more or less come to accept the fact that I will occasionally stop doing it for a while.

My meditation breaks are gradually growing shorter and less frequent, though, and that makes me happy. I’d like to imagine that this means my meditation practices are changing my brain for the better.

Think of it like training yourself to eat a healthy diet or exercise regularly. There will be times when you fall off the wagon, so to speak, for any number of reasons. You might become sick or injured and be physically unable to exercise for days, weeks, or months.  Other things going on in your life might demand so much attention that you don’t have the energy to juggle it all for a while. You might be travelling and have trouble finding healthy food while you’re out of your element.

All of that is perfectly normal. Such a routine might not work for everyone, but it does work for some of us. Rather than focusing on what happened yesterday, think about what you’re going to do today.  The nice thing about meditation is that no one is keeping track of how often you do it, and there’s no reward or punishment for doing it a specific number of times a week.

There is always another chance to try again. This is why I’ve returned to this practice so many times after taking a break.

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 your head.

It is a deliberate pause in your day that has a specific beginning, middle, and end. Think of it like brushing your teeth or doing some other routine

This isn’t something that can be multi-tasked. When you meditate, it is the only thing you’re doing at that precise moment in time. There’s no room for distractions or breaks during it.

Sometimes it even requires you to willfully continue to keep your mind clear of thoughts and focus on your breathing if you’re having a lot of trouble.

Mindfulness Is a State of Mind

Mindfulness, on the other hand, does not require this level of focus. It is about remaining aware of what’s happening to you at this precise point in time without living in the past, worrying about the future, or passing judgement on what I’ve observing.

I can and have practiced mindfulness while standing in line, listening to the rain patter against my window, waiting to hear the results of medical tests, feeling annoyed by a careless stranger who wasn’t paying attention to where he or she was walking, and watching a dog chase squirrels at the park.

There are usually other thoughts floating around in my head when I practice mindfulness. As long as I remain focused on whatever is happening in the present moment and aren’t making judgements, I allow my brain to think whatever it wants to think.

Often it begins to focus on the details of the room, park, store, or other place where I happen to be that day. I like the thrill of noticing little things in those settings that many people overlook like the color of a pet’s leash or how many pigeons were wandering around while they waited for someone else to feed them. I usually tend to rush past those things myself, so slowing down enough to pay attention to them is a wonderfully healthy thing for me to do.

You Can’t Have Meditation without Mindfulness

The biggest reason why I file the meditation posts under mindfulness here is that you can’t meditate without first learning how to be mindful. Every time I pause and pay close attention to my surroundings, I get just a little better at meditating as a result.

There is something so joyful about seeing how mindfulness affects my meditation practices. As I’ve mentioned in the past, meditation is something I struggled a lot with when I first began practicing it.

My mind really hated the idea of sitting quietly and doing “nothing” for any length of time. Learning how to quiet it without physically sitting down and participating in traditional forms of meditation was eventually how I learned to slide into this practice.

Mindfulness became a habit for me long before meditation did.

(Incidentally, I’ve also pick up some fabulous ideas for poems and stories as well by watching people! You’d be surprised by how much you can learn about writing dialogue as well as human nature in by quietly observing how they interact with each other in public. Perhaps this should be the topic of a future post? What do you think?)

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

There are certain stages people seem to go through when they first begin meditating. Today I’m going to walk through them with you, so buckle your seat belts and prepare for a fun ride. Stage 1: Confusion A lot of guides make meditation sound so easy. Sit down somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and clear your mind, they… Read More

How to Meditate in a Noisy, Crowded Place

Over the last few weeks I’ve been practicing something that doesn’t come easily to me at all. My spouse enjoys the energy of the crowds at the mall. He likes wandering around during the busier parts of the day and year. Here in Toronto we often have special giveaways, promotional booths, or other events put on by various… Read More

Mindfulness and Medical Procedures

In saying this, your mind is your biggest ally going into surgery. Your body and mind are very powerful machines–resilient and built for healing. Read on as we discuss the idea of “mindfulness” and share how you can pull the plug on negative thought patterns to set yourself up for success. – Source Without giving… Read More

The Downside to Living in the Moment

Last weekend my better half and I visited a mall that I like to think of as Toddler Alley. As you might imagine, there are 4391* malls in Toronto. This particular one seems to specialize in giving young families a safe place to walk around in when the weather is uncooperative. The first time I noticed… Read More