John Kaweske

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In today’s day and age of interconnectedness, it seems we are always multitasking, forever emailing while talking on the phone, texting while eating, and perusing Facebook while waiting on anything and everything. We’re connected, but we’re distracted. Our mind is always in one place while our body is in another. We are paying more attention to the ten-inch screen in front of us than to the immense world surrounding us—and it’s not even necessarily a conscious decision.

It can be difficult to escape the nearly overwhelming hand of technology. It permeates almost every aspect of our everyday lives. Whereas twenty to thirty years ago the workday ended at the office, it now ends, well—never. We can always see our email and check our phones, so it is always present. It is a perpetual presence in our lives, which is why it’s so important to learn how to take a step back, inhale deeply, and remember where you are. Remember who you are.

That’s why it makes sense that mindfulness is becoming so popular. By practicing “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” we are able to pull our head from the clouds (literally?) and come back down to Earth. Instead of stressing over flustered clients and looming deals, there are a few things you can do to properly cope. I’ve listed them below:

Pause for a moment and actually recognize your thoughts. Acknowledge them.

“What are you thinking about?” It doesn’t have to just be a question from a soon-to-be-angry rom-com girlfriend. Sometimes, we are so entrenched in planning our day or week, or so caught up reflecting on the past, that we neglect the present.

There is no need to judge these thoughts as “good” or “bad.” Just notice them. If you want, pretend your thoughts are clouds floating through the sky—and you are just watching them. There is no need to chase them, just to see them. If you do end up chasing them, that’s okay as well. After all, it’s only natural.

Practice an easy breathing exercise.

A breathing exercise is an excellent way to anchor you to reality. It forces you to concentrate on the moment. For instance, count the time it takes you to inhale, and then make your exhale last slightly longer. Every time you breathe out, you are actually signaling the parasympathetic nervous system (which is what regulates your rest and relaxation response).

In fact, you should also try placing one hand on your heart and one on your stomach. When you inhale, you will feel your stomach inflate, and it will help further your draw your attention to the now.

Practice yoga.

As cliche as I’m sure it sounds, yoga is a fantastic complement to mindfulness and aid to cope with anxiety. By being forced to do something in the here and now,you are coming back into your own body. Moreover, there have actually been studies conducted that persuasively suggest that yoga helps regulate stress response by decreasing physiological arousal (as in lowering blood pressure).

These are just a few of the many mindfulness practices that can help anyone and everyone. The next time you feel the tide of anxiety welling up inside of you, breathe it out. Take a step back— and institute a few of these simple tips to help cope. The change will be noticeable, palpable, and immensely helpful.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely loud and incredibly close. The title of the 2011 Stephen Daldry film depicts our contemporary culture quite well. Sights, sounds, whirling colors, and pungent smells punctuate our presence on this planet on a daily basis. With our exponentially increasing global population, it seems this commotion is unlikely to stop, and rather will increase as time wears on. As a result, or rather, as a possible result, anxiety disorders have emerged in full force, afflicting both mature adults and less experienced, more vulnerable children. In fact, more than one in four adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 are diagnosed with such a mental disorder.  

Recognizing this issue, our well-intentioned doctors and pharmacists prescribe and refill various antidepressant medications to help these anxious children to cope, but the effects of such medicines are often not entirely understood, and at times can even have negative side effects. With this in mind, a team of researchers at The University of Cincinnati set out to discover new options for treatment. What rose to the top of the list? Mindfulness. Exercises like meditation techniques, yoga, and implementing a nonjudgemental outlook on life are all proving to reduce stress in afflicted children to an unprecedented extent.

This is fantastic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is speculated that as many as 80% of children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and 60% of adolescents diagnosed with depression do not receive the treatment they need. However, although the above evidence and research is in its early stages, it does appear that mindfulness can go a long way in alleviating the stress associated with said disorders. Without having to pay for medication, and instead teaching children to practice some form of meditation, adults may be able to solve their children’s problems without any expensive prescriptions.

In order to come to the above conclusion, the team of researchers in question recruited nine participants, each of whom was between nine and sixteen years of age and had been previously diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The conditions were not the exact same; some had a bipolar disorder while others had a social disorder while others had separation anxiety. Over the course of 12 weeks, each subject experienced functional magnetic resonance imaging (aka fMRI) while partaking in traditional mindfulness exercises like meditation or something of the sort.

Afterwards, each adolescent reported decreased levels of stress. Although this is not entirely conclusive, it is certainly indicative of the potential benefits mindfulness has to offer children as well as adults. Additionally, the researchers found that there was increased neural activity in the cingulate (the section of the brain that is known to help process cognitive and emotion information). Just as well, there was a surge of activity in the insula, which helps to monitor how the body feels from a psychological standpoint.

It would seem that while mindfulness may not outright cure such disorders, it could potentially go a long way in helping children and struggling adolescents to cope with the overwhelming world around them. Finally, science is catching up with the practice.

While the benefits of meditation are numerous, well-known, and widespread, there is still an incredible reluctance across society to partake. Personally, I think this is largely due to several pervasive myths that unfortunately but effectively modify general belief regarding meditation. In light of these misconceptions, I have elected to put together a list of the most prominent myths so that I can debunk them with evidence, examples, and substantiation.

You must sit cross-legged.

Ridiculous but widely held as a seeming tenet of meditation, sitting cross-legged is not, in fact, required for meditation. An abundance of Hollywood films misrepresenting oriental culture is likely the culprit for this discouraging perception, and by no means should sitting cross-legged continue to be upheld as a dogma of meditation. You need to be comfortable, and if sitting criss-cross apple sauce is comfortable for you, then do so; but if not, then don’t!

You could be lying down, sitting in a chair, standing, or even walking and meditating at the same time.

You must have a blank mind.

While, yes, this may be the ultimate goal, it is not, in the slightest, expected for newcomers to meditation. To achieve a perfectly blank mental slate takes time, effort, and practice. It is not something where you can just close your eyes and miraculously be taken away to a place of pure tranquility. That’s unrealistic, to say the least.

Actually, a fantastic place to start for beginners is to participate in what’s called guided meditation. As the name might imply, you have a mental ‘guide’ who keeps you and your potentially easily-distracted mind from getting off track. In fact, you don’t even necessarily need a guide in-person. If you want, it could just be a recording.

Just so you have an idea, guided meditation generally involves a lot of visualization exercises like full body relaxation. One such exercise is referred to as “earth breathing,” which is essentially when you imagine your body is sinking into the ground beneath you. Ideally, ‘Earth breathing’ is supposed to induce a grounded body sensation and lightness of mind feeling.

You can only meditate alone.

Absolutely not. While it’s certainly an option, and favored by many at that, that in no way means it’s the only way to find some peace of mind, especially if you’re just starting out and are slightly unsure of how to proceed. By joining a meditation group, you are providing yourself with the resources and knowledge of people who have been successfully meditating for many, many years. There is no reason to not take advantage, regardless of what some silly notion about meditation may claim.

While these are only three, there is a whole slew of false beliefs out there about meditation just waiting to be disproved. You can see some more here.

5 Meditation Methods for People Who Hate Sitting Still

When most people think of meditation, they conjure up an image of a serene looking person sitting cross legged with their eyes closed in some kind of beautiful beachfront scenery. While this kind of meditation is great, it’s not the only way to meditate.

In fact, you can meditate without sitting or closing your eyes at all. When people hear this, they are often intrigued. Most people have heard of the mental and physical health benefits of meditation by now (including preventing disease, reducing stress, and treating depression), but many people still hesitate to try it simply because the idea of sitting still with nothing to do but look at the inside of their eyelids for even a few minutes seems entirely unappealing.

Luckily, you don’t have to learn to like sitting still in order to practice and reap the benefits of meditation. You just need to find an alternative form of practice.

Here are five alternative methods of meditation you should try.

Qigong

The word Qigong is made up of two Chinese words: Qi (pronounced “chee”) means life force or the energy that flows through all things in the universe. Gong (pronounced “gung”) means accomplishment or skill that is cultivated through steady practice. Together, Qigong means cultivating energy.

Qigong is an integration of physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions practiced for health maintenance, healing, and increasing vitality. The focus on intention and breath gives the the practice it’s meditative quality.

The practices can actually be classified as martial, medical, and/or spiritual in nature. But regardless of your intentions, Qigong has many health benefits for all. The gentle, rhythmic movements reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. Practicing this ancient art form has been shown to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, and digestive functions, not to mention giving you all the health benefits that come along with regular meditation.

Yoga

Yoga requires a focused mind that utilizes breath, body awareness, and a total commitment to the moment to perform. This rhythmic synchronization between movement and breath gives this practice a meditative aspect, and it also helps you work up quite a sweat!

Not only will yoga give you the benefits of meditation, it will also increase flexibility, strength, stamina, and balance. When you incorporate meditation into exercise, your whole self wins.

Walking Meditation

Whether you’re taking a walk around the block or climbing to the top of a trail, walking can be a form of meditation, as long as you remember to stay in the moment.

Mindfulness is the mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Instead of letting your mind wander aimlessly as you traverse the world, focus each moment on the individual step you’re taking, breath you’re inhaling or exhaling, or the weight of your body. As you notice thoughts and feelings beginning to distract you from the moment, calmly acknowledge and accepting them and return your attention back to the moment you’re in.

Walking is great for your cardiovascular system, and incorporating mindfulness into your walk will help you reap those extra benefits.

Mindful eating

Most people don’t think of lunch time as an opportunity for meditation or mindfulness, but it is! In fact, every meal can be a practice in meditation if you want it to be.

Next time you sit down for a meal or snack, take your time to savor every bite of your meal. Explore every texture, taste, and sensation you feel as you eat. As with walking, don’t let thoughts and feelings about things you need to do later in the day or something that happened in the past distract you. Acknowledge any intruding thoughts, and simply return your attention to your food.

You’ll finish your meal feeling not only full, but more mentally refreshed, clear, and focused.

Being In Nature

There have been a ton of studies as of late about the benefits being in nature has on our minds and mental health. In fact, just 5 minutes in nature is enough for you to start feeling those benefits.

Instead of having lunch at your desk (again), spend your lunch outdoors in a nearby park. On the weekend, take a stroll along the beach or through the hills. You’ll feel more relaxed, improve your mood, and even your self-esteem.

Conclusion

Everyone is different, and that means it’s okay if the kind of meditation your friend likes to do doesn’t work for you. Anyone can benefit from meditation, but you’re way more likely to stick to the practice if you find an activity you like that incorporates it. Try out a few of these for you and see what works.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other activities you’ve found ways to incorporate mindfulness into!

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career and life, please visit his main website.

Meditation Secrets

Meditation is intended to be relaxing, and stimulate your mind by freeing it of thoughts and focusing on tasks ahead. Like everything, there a few tricks and secrets to take meditation to the next level and really help your body reach ultimate chi status.

1. Any Position

Sit comfortably, there is no need to sit in any position which is uncomfortable. According to the Huffington Post, “The lotus position is usually recommended because it helps you stay focused. But you can also meditate while sitting in a chair, laying down, or even standing! Whatever body position you choose, you should feel comfortable and relaxed.”

2. It’s So Simple!

Meditation can be as simple as observing breath patterns and different ways to relax the body. No need to follow a manual since everyone has their own way of relaxing and clearing the mind. Do what suites you best and try to improve and progress with every day of meditation.

3. Back On Track

It is very easy for the mind to loose focus and wander when attempting to think about nothing. Many times, people tend to let their minds run and cannot catch themselves back on track. The best way to recover from this is to focus on breathing and rather than thinking of getting back on track, to just relax.

4. Quick & Simple

Meditation does not have to consume your days or weeks like many stories you may have heard. Sometimes the best meditation can be ones that are simply ten minutes. It’s not about quantity, but the quality of relaxation that is felt. There is no need to sit down for hours, and not focus. It is more useful to get ten great minutes, than an hour of no relaxation.

5. Observe, Enjoy

Observe the change and relaxation the body feels and go with it. Embrace the fact that relaxation is taking place. Not only that, enjoy it and make sure to always perform meditation which is something that is looked forward to doing.

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career in renewable energy, please visit his main website.

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