Music for meditation

Old zen saying

I used to be somewhat of a purest when it came to meditation preferring that it be done in silence or at my house something close to that. I also tried guided meditation, but that drove me kind of crazy and I decided it was just too prescriptive and didn’t allow my thoughts to flow as I was just listening to whoever was speaking.

Now if silence or guided meditation works for you then who am I to say that you shouldn’t just stick with what works. More recently I’ve found some pretty good meditation music from Yellow Brick Cinema that seems to allow my thoughts to come and go without distracting me. You will have to find the music that works for you, but there are so many choices available and it might just take sampling a few before you find exactly what works for your. I eventually built up a pretty good YouTube playlist. Here is the link to the playlist:

My Meditation Playlist

Give it a try and let me know if you found meditating with any of these music videos helpful.

Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

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How Yoga & Meditation saved my life

Yes, this title is a bit dramatic, but there is more than a little truth to it. I am also somewhat ashamed that I haven’t posted any of my own writing for some time, and I’m working on getting something posted, once a week.

women doing cobra

After some time off work, I joined a company, and found myself more unhappy than I have ever been at work. It turned out to be a combination of extremely poor leadership at the company and work that I didn’t enjoy. My stress levels were skyrocketing, and I leaned on some familiar ways of coping including a lot of binge drinking, which of course did little to relieve the growing anxiety and displeasure with my situation. When I wasn’t medicating myself, I began delving into other ways to help control my emotions, including reading about Buddhism, adding yoga to my daily routine, and meditating in the morning. I even started to listen to things like The Law of Attraction or classical music on my way into work to prepare me for the mental war that was being waged in my mind while working.

My somewhat sporadic use of yoga and meditation, finally turned into a daily ritual, and then it replaced drinking as a way of coping with my situation. After a couple months I quit drinking all together. The stress at work only increased, but my negative reaction to it began to become less severe and the amount of time I was upset by it started decreasing. There have been other times in my life when stress and anxiety were my close companion, but never to this extent. I can honestly say that my utter dislike for this work situation was probably a blessing in disguise, and led me to making a really sincere effort to cope with it. I really had two choices at the time; quit the job or find a way to deal with the stress. While this job led me to a regular yoga and meditation practice, which allowed me to cope with this situation, it also made me more resolute to do something about it. This led to pursuing other opportunities and I recently landed a new job and resigned eliminating the stressor part of the equation, well at least that one.

The question is why do I credit yoga and meditation for allowing me to cope and even take action. I won’t go into all the physiological reasons why yoga and meditation seem to work so well, as you can Google that yourself, or read some of my earlier posts. What I can say is there is a synergy when combining yoga and meditation. Your yoga practice is the perfect precursor to meditation as it depends upon an awareness of your breath, relieves tension through stretching, and thus sets the stage for sitting in meditation for 10 – 20 minutes. I find it much easier to meditate after my yoga practice, allowing me to reach a calmer state of mind much sooner than without it.

I don’t think that my experience of dealing with stress, anxiety, and other forms of mental anguish is unique. In fact I’m not sure anyone is immune to the stimulus that manifests itself in negative thoughts, sleepless nights, and all the self torture that is often the result of how we decide to cope with it all. Notable exceptions might be monks, young children, and those of you in the 1% category that have your shit together. For the rest of us that might want to consider another way of coping; I can heartily recommend giving yoga, followed by 10 – 20 minutes of meditation a try. Be committed to your practice, and within a couple weeks you begin to the see results. Here a few things you can expect from your yoga and meditation practice:

  • You will be calmer, little things that really pissed you off just don’t anymore
  • Your ability to cope with stress improves
  • Having a new coping mechanism can free you from those habits that were destructive and didn’t really work
  • It is inexpensive or free to pursue a yoga and meditation practice
  • Your ability to think with a greater level of clarity will improve
  • You might even begin to be a little more tolerant of other human beings, act more compasionate, and be more empathetic
  • Last but not least you will be healthier as you do something good for your body and your mind

Namaste

How long should you meditate?

The question I have asked before is how long should you meditate? There appears to be no right answer, because it can depend on how quickly you can rid yourself of a busy mind. I was sitting this morning and set my timer on my cell phone for 20 minutes, but after only a couple of minutes I had cleared my mind of all thoughts and just listened to my heart beat and breathing. I only meditated for 10 minutes because I was able to reach a calm and peaceful state so quickly.

Then there are other times where I sit for 20 or 30 minutes and may never reach a calm state, and my mind is overwhelmed by thoughts that I just cannot escape. Much of the literature I have read says the optimal time is 20 – 45 minutes, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot benefit from 10 very good minutes as I did today. If you are new to meditation I suggest you start with 10 minutes a day for a week, and then add 5 minutes each week until you get to 20 minutes. Maybe this will not be sufficient on some days and you may need 30 minutes. You need to adjust the times according to how you are feeling and how quickly you reach the desired state of mindfulness.

meditation-6

I am just beginning to add an evening session in addition to my morning meditation, so I cannot really speak to the benefit of this until more time has elapsed. My hope is that I will reap even greater benefits from mediation with a twice a day regime, but we will see.

References that expand upon my own opinions:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15885/how-long-should-you-meditate.html

http://www.wildmind.org/mindfulness/four/how-long-should-i-meditate-each-day

http://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com/how-long-to-meditate.html

Namaste

The Power of Zazen

In Zen Buddhism zazen means seated meditation. Without boring you to death zazen meditation is done with the eyes open and sitting in full lotus, half lotus, Burmese (legs crossed with ankles in front), or kneeling. I woke early today after somehow getting myself all worked up over my current living situation, full of anger, I decided to just getup, it was around 3:00 a.m., a couple hours earlier than usual. I was thinking about why I was so angry and feeling more upset with myself for losing control of my emotions. Now if this would have been the first time in a while it might be understandable, but this was the third time in as many days that I just exploded. I walked into my office and sat down, started up Pandora and listened to the yoga station, and began to meditate. It took me some time before I was beyond an angry state, and then other things came into my head, these thoughts lingered a while, and finally after about 20 minutes I was feeling better, and I had no thoughts. Sometimes I try to drown out other thoughts with affirmations or quotes. Here are a couple I used this morning:

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Bruce Lee

I repeat the Lao Tzu quote frequently during meditation, but for some reason the Bruce Lee quote was also meaningful today.

Regarding zazen itself, here is a good quote from one of the Zen Masters.

zazen_banner

It appears that my recent behavior indicates I am not as diligent with my zazen practice as I should be, and in my case it may be time to make it a twice a day habit. The power of zazen is that it can help you control your unhealthy emotions, and lead you to a calmer state of mind. There are many reasons to meditate, but if you are anxious, stressed out, angry, burning the candle at both ends, consider zazen as the way forward.

Namaste

 

The world belongs to you

I was thinking about a quote that I posted to Twitter and my blog yesterday. The quote is as follows:

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu Lao Tzu was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is best known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. Wikipedia

I hesitate to over analyze this quote as it is so well written, and I would never attempt to modify it, but we can at least use this time to appreciate what it is telling us. To be content with what you have may be best understood as to be content with the material possessions, vocation, and relationships. The next statement says to rejoice in the way things are, not be satisfied with the way things are but to rejoice in them. If one can find contentment in what they have and rejoice in the way things are it leads to a realization that nothing is lacking. If a person can then have an attitude that nothing is lacking then the world belongs to you. Breaking it down to something we could begin our mediation sessions with we might form an affirmation like:

  • I am content with all I have
  • I am overjoyed by the way things are
  • I lack for nothing
  • My mind is clear of distractions
  • I can accomplish anything

If my mindset consists of continuously wanting something, feeling depressed about not having it, comparing myself to others I will surely compromise any chance for contentment. All the shiny objects you desire fade away once they are under your possession, the new car feeling quickly fades, and you become a junkie to materialism looking for another fix. The endless cycle of desire, acquisition, and never enough, only begets unhappiness. Try to start each day with the affirmation above to begin reversing the years of your addiction to things and comparison to others.

Thanks Lao Tzu.

Namaste

Too busy to meditate?

There is an old Zen saying that goes something like this:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour”

I have been guilty of going not just days, but weeks without meditating because I claim to be just too busy. Going back to the Zen saying it becomes obvious that the busier you are the more you need to meditate. The world will not stop if you sit for 20 minutes, in reality there is nothing you can do to make it all go away. Your only respite in a busy world may just be the thing that you don’t have time for. The question is can you afford not to meditate? An existence that is so busy that you cannot find 20 minutes out of the 16 waking hours, is an issue unto itself. If you are feeling like a puppet on a string, then you have yet another reason to meditate so that you can be less overwhelmed by it all. It all comes down to how much you value your piece of mind. I like to refer to a quote from Buddha:

What have I gained from meditation

So it appears it is not what you have gained but what you will lose by meditating. As I mentioned before I have fallen prey to the I’m just too busy syndrome, and vow that this must be reversed.

Now I need to go sit for a while, come join me if you can.

Namaste