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Mind and Mood (3)

A New Year’s Resolution with Purpose

There is a Sanskrit word ‘Sankalpa’ which means will, purpose or resolve. For many, it’s a yogic resolution. Unlike our traditional New Year’s resolutions focusing on things we may be doing wrong or material things we think we need, Sankalpa comes from our hearts rather than our ego. Instead we focus on our intention and a decision to move forward with purpose. For me, Sankalpa is more of spiritual journey rather than a To Do list of resolutions. It is an intention to let go of the past in order to connect with my heartfelt desire or life’s purpose. What a lovely thought to look forward to the New Year with hope for the magical possibilities to come rather than focus on what has gone wrong in the past so we can create rules for the future. Here are few ideas to help you celebrate the New Year as you find your own Sankalpa.

Listen to your Heart

Whether it’s sitting in meditation, taking a quiet walk in nature or simply resting quietly in comfortable place at home, we all need time to step away from the constant busyness of our lives in order to hear our inner voice. So take some time to yourself. Shut off the noise and still your mind. As you’re in this relaxed state, take a moment to celebrate where you are at this very moment in your life. Then let go of anything that no longer serves you. Now think of what you would truly like to do – is there a personal goal or dream that you keep setting time because it isn’t practical or you just don’t have time. Find that dream. Let it settle in your heart. Think about what you would need to do to make it come true. What would be your next step? Now imagine yourself on your path to that dream. Don’t think about how long are difficult the path while be, just take that first step and then maybe the next one. 

Enjoy the Journey

While your Sankalpa may be profound, it doesn’t mean that every moment along the way has to be intense and serious. Remember to take time to look at the scenery. Have fun. Laugh. Connect with people who share your joy. Smile. You’ll find the whole world becomes much brighter when you share your light.

Trust, Trust, Trust

There is no wrong path. So stop looking over your shoulder thinking about what might have happened if you took the other road. You’re not going that way, you’re moving forward. Release the worry when you come to a fork in the road. Trust that you will know which road to take and it will be the best road for you. And if the road becomes treacherous and difficult, trust again. Keep going. You can do it. You won’t know what magic awaits you until you get to the other side.

Be Open to New Possibilities

You are now carrying your dream in your heart. You have started your journey to fulfill it. Life is still busy, but you’re focused and on track. So far so good. But what happens when you discover another dream? You didn’t plan for this. Time is limited. Do you keep walking? Ditch this dream for a new one? There can be more than one dream in your heart. Sometimes the possibility of one dream opens the door to more exciting opportunities. That doesn’t mean you have to entertain every single one of them. But step away and take some time to think about the new possibility. Allow yourself to truly feel it in your heart. You’ll probably find that it will lead you along a similar path to further enrich your journey.  

It will be a Happy New Year. And the world will be a much richer place because of your Sankalpa.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go





"Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom."Buddha

In this fast-paced world, we are constantly on the go – rushing to and from work and trying to keep up with the busyness of our lives. With so many demands on our time, we’re often exhausted and stressed because we can’t seem to squeeze in a quiet moment to just breathe and relax. Meditation is a popular relaxation technique to calm the chatter of your mind and help you relax. At first it may sound like one more thing to add to your day, but recent research studies suggest that meditation may be good for the brain and the heart. So setting aside 30-minutes a day to meditate may be just what the doctor ordered to live a longer, healthier life.

According to a research study presented by Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging in January 2011, people who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measureable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. Through another study conducted at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa, researchers found that meditation is also good for the heart. Meditators tended to remain disease free longer and reduced their systolic blood pressure by five millimeters of mercury on average.

Participants in the second study practiced Transcendental Meditation. According to Dr. Robert Schneider, M.D., lead author, researcher and director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, participants found Transcendental Meditation easy to learn and practice. “Fortunately, it does not require any particular education and doesn’t conflict with lifestyle philosophy or beliefs; it’s a straightforward technique for getting deep rest to the mind and body,” he said. “It appears that Transcendental Meditation is a technique that turns on the body’s own pharmacy – to repair and maintain itself.” There are many Meditation techniques from which to choose. Here are a few brief overviews of some basic meditation techniques to help you decide which method would work best for you and your lifestyle:

Transcendental Meditation

The Transcendental Meditation technique is based on the ancient Vedic tradition of enlightenment in India, knowledge that has been handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. The Transcendental Meditation technique involves the use of a sound or mantra and is practiced for 15-20 minutes twice per day. While it is considered a relatively easy technique to quickly settle the mind into a meditative state, today it is taught by certified teachers through a standard course of instruction.

Guided meditation

Guided Meditation is a great option for starting out your meditation practice. It involves listening to someone guiding you through a visual meditation. As you listen to the words, either with a live person or a CD, the voice and the story leads your imagination on a journey. The words help you shut out your own chatter in your mind. Guided meditation CDs are available online or through music stores.

Breathing meditation

Breathing meditation quite simply involves focusing on the breath. It can be practiced for 20 minutes at a time in quiet place. Using Yoga-inspired breathing exercises, this technique helps calm the nervous system and focus the mind. Here is a simple exercise to start a breathing meditation practice.
Sit quietly in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Become aware of your breath and the subtle sensation of the air coming in through your nose and filling your lungs. Notice the exhale. Does the inhale match the exhale? Relax your body while staying alert and focus on each breath. If your mind begins to fill with chatter, try to push your thoughts away to focus on your breath filling your body. This helps you stay in the moment and let go of your worries of past or future.

Walking meditation

A 20-minute walk outside can also be used for meditation. Simply focus on your breath and movements as you walk. It is a great way to clear your mind while filling your lungs with fresh air and moving your limbs. Repeating a mantra while walking may help keep the mind focused. Or you may wish to listen to the sounds of nature – birds, wind, trees moving – and fill the wind or sun on your face.

People who practice meditation daily will quickly notice many physical health benefits, such as an improved immune system and an overall sense of well-being. It’s important to practice regularly to fully experience the benefits of meditation. It can take as little as 5 minutes but the studies suggest that 30 minutes a day may inspire the best results for your health. Choose the type of meditation that suits your personality and lifestyle. Pick an optimal time of day that works for you to meditate. An early morning practice helps you start the day off fresh and energized or practicing before bedtime soothes the mind and body before sleep. Find a quiet space, free of distractions where you will be able to peacefully meditate. Get comfortable – sit cross-legged, stand, lie down, or take a nature walk. Keep a gentle, mindful attitude towards yourself. Allow thoughts to come and go. Some days the chatter in your mind will be busier than others. Calmly refocus and keep your mind in the present moment through your breathing. Quite simply, meditation is about clearing the clutter from your mind and your life to simply be with your breath in the present moment. 


Breaking Old Habits

With the end of summer, many people look at the fall as a time for new beginnings. It’s the perfect time to break old habits. Many of our bad health habits are formed when we choose to regularly engage in behaviours such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol or unhealthy eating that we know will damage our health. But if we know these behaviours are bad for us, why is it so difficult to stop them? Unfortunately, many of our habits become ingrained in our daily routines and we find them rewarding, even though we know they’re unhealthy. This is why it’s so difficult to change these behaviours. So much so, that many people fail after a first attempt and then often give up their goal completely. Although changing a bad health habit isn’t easy, it can be accomplished.

Before making any changes in your life, try to objectively look at the habit you wish to change. If it’s smoking, what triggers you to smoke? Do you turn to smoking to deal with the pressures at work or at home, or do you only smoke when you are on a lunch break with colleagues?  How is it problematic to your health?  Once you acknowledge that you want to change your behaviour, you may still have doubts of whether you are capable of following through. You may also weigh the benefits and costs of changing your behaviour. How does it make you feel? You may continue to find the behaviour enjoyable. Even though you could probably recite the negative aspects of smoking, like the risk of lung cancer, you may still enjoy the social aspect of smoking with friends over coffee or a drink. If you still have the desire and commitment to change the bad health habit after reviewing the impact of your habit on your life, then it’s time to begin the process of change.

1.    Preparation

Establish plans of action to help you reach your goal. Talk to your family, friends, kids, life coach or colleagues about your goal to change a bad health habit. Social support can provide you with the encouragement and resources to help increase your likelihood of achieving your goal. Keep in mind, that while most people will offer positive feedback, some people may be negative about your efforts to change. Probably the best approach would be to steer clear of anyone with a negative approach, but that’s not always possible. It might be a good idea to plan your new healthy behaviour and how you will engage in this behaviour in different situations and with different people. This should include plans on how to cope with temptations in situations that may cause you to feel the urge to engage in your old habit. You can also plan how you will fill the void and manage your feelings, such as anxiety that may be initially present when not engaged in your old habit.

2.    Action

Replace the old habit with a new healthy habit. When you feel the urge to engage in your old habits, whether you’re in a situation or with people that trigger your old behavior, incorporate your new healthy behavioral patterns. For example, if a friend invites you for coffee when you’re trying to eat healthy and exercise more, suggest you meet for a walk instead. That way you can socialize while engaging in a healthy activity. Making a change such as this will bolster your self-esteem and strengthen your motivation to continue to make permanent changes.With repetition, your new healthy behaviour will be easier to maintain as it becomes part of your weekly routine. It’s also important to remember that if you fall back into your old ways once, you should stop and take a moment to realize what caused you to return to your old behaviour and learn from the experience so that you don’t repeat it in the future. Don’t get discouraged by a setback. Try to continue with your new healthy behaviour.

3.    Maintenance

Remember why you engaged in your bad habit. What was the reward in the habit? Perhaps you had a drink at the end of the day to help you relax. Or maybe you treated yourself to a cookie to get over an energy slump in the middle of the day. It’s important to find new healthy behaviors that also provide rewards to replace the old one so you’ll be more likely to stick with your new habit. Instead of a drink or a cookie, try some relaxing yoga stretches after a stressful day or take a walk to renew energy in the middle of the day. Most experts agree that daily repetition of a behaviour for approximately 28 days will ingrain that behaviour so that it becomes a habit. So, if you are able to engage in your new healthy behavior for just 28 days, this behaviour will soon become automatic and a part of your new lifestyle. Finally, it's important to step back and take a moment to acknowledge that you have successfully changed your behaviour for a healthy new you!

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