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30 Day Meditation Challenge – 5 Ways Daily Meditation Changed My Life

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

I like to think of myself as a healthy person. I exercise regularly, drink infrequently, and prepare plant-based, whole foods-derived meals every day. I also, however, suffer from IBS, and accordingly am no stranger to things like bloating, stomach pains, and infrequent bowel movements. Through trial and error and a great deal of self reflection, I have come to learn which foods trigger these reactions — gluten, dairy, fried foods, sugar — and generally manage the condition quite well. But it is also triggered by stress and lack of sleep (two obviously correlative problems), and thus far in my life I have neglected to include stress management in my health regimen.

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Or rather, up until a couple of months ago, I had. It feels strange to look back now and try to understand why I was so reluctant to try different stress management techniques (other than exercise, which of course is one of the best). I think what it boils down to is something I like to call ‘selective laziness.’ I would not call myself a lazy person by any means, but trying something new and difficult, with no guarantee of success, just, well… seemed like a lot of work.

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But I also enjoy a challenge. Or rather, very much dislike the idea of not being able to do something. I took up running at the beginning of the year for the sole reason that I was terrible at it, and couldn’t equate the notion of being fit with being unable to run for more than five minutes without feeling like my chest would cave in. Several months and a lot of effort later, I now run several times a week (and it’s awesome!).

My attitude toward meditation underwent a similar shift. I am surrounded by people who swear by meditation — my coworkers at CE, my loving partner, my friends — and who have been gently (or not so gently) urging me to try it for some time. My previous attempts were half-hearted at best, resulting only in feelings of pent-up energy and frustration. Each time I would find myself suddenly desperate to move my body, to be productive, to be doing anything other than absolutely ‘nothing.’ It was remarkable how fidgety and impatient I would immediately become when trying to quiet my mind.

But a couple of months ago I finally got fed up with trying to manage my IBS symptoms through diet and exercise alone, since despite my best efforts, they still plagued me at seemingly random times. I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying something new, so I set myself a goal of meditating every day for 21 days. I had heard that it takes 21 days to establish a new habit, so that seemed a good place to start. If, after 21 days had passed, I still hated meditating and noticed no improvements in my mental or physical well-being, I would decide from there whether to continue or not having made an informed decision.

To help myself along, I turned to an app called Headspace, which features guided meditations on a variety of topics, and a 30 day Foundation Pack to get you started. I don’t want this to turn into a product promotion, but I do highly recommend the program for anyone who is interested in incorporating meditation into their own daily routine. It’s a wonderful resource and you can access some of the content for free. After completing the foundation course I elected to buy a full-year subscription, and absolutely plan to renew when the year ends.

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On their website they offer a comprehensive, easy to understand outline of the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. I won’t go into in detail here, as we have covered this topic extensively, but I encourage you to spend some time with their research section and read some of our articles on the subject.

5 Ways Meditation Has Improved My Life

Stress

As someone who likes to plan (and control) every aspect of her life, it would be a gross understatement to say that stress and I are on familiar terms. I used to wake up every day and jump right into the swing of things, checking work emails and paying bills, catching up on social media, and hopping into the shower without taking the time to really centre myself and relax a little before going about the business of the day. It was always “go go go.”

I’ll admit that urge is still pretty strong some mornings, as I am by nature a busy bee, but setting myself this challenge and seeing the benefits I’ve experienced as a result has made it fairly easy to overcome those urges. Now I start each day feeling calm, relaxed, and happy. I may still wake up with buzzing thoughts, but after I’ve taken the time to meditate everything within me slows — heart rate, thoughts, feelings, worries. It’s like waking up a second time to a day with infinite possibility.

And that wonderful sense of stillness extends its reach across the entirety of the day. I tend not to sweat the small stuff nearly as often, and get over it more quickly when I do.

More importantly, I now have a resource within myself that I can turn to when stress really does take hold. If I find myself getting really worked up about something, I can either close my eyes and take some deep breaths until my heart rate slows, or actually take out my headphones, pop on a guided meditation, and go through the exercise, wherever I am. The crazy thing about the human mind is that you really can “fake it ’till you make it.” If you create the physiological sensations associated with calmness, your brain will begin to feel calm. If you smile for long enough, your body and mind will respond as though you are happy. So rather than giving free reign to your stress, you can actively work to reduce it by tricking your brain into thinking the stressful situation has passed.

Digestion

I spoke about my digestion issues earlier, though I neglected to mention that it was not at all uncommon for me to go two or three (sometimes four or five) days without having a bowel movement, particularly during times of stress or poor sleep, especially when travelling. We spent two months backpacking through Europe last year and I can count on less than my 10 fingers how many times I went to the bathroom during that trip. So I was hoping, quite desperately, that reducing my stress was the thing I needed to do to turn things around, but I’ll admit it felt like a last-ditch effort at helping a hopeless cause. I was, nevertheless, determined to at least try, if only to say that I had.

Prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.

The very first day I meditated I had a bowel movement almost immediately after. Cautiously optimistic, I decided to chalk that one up to coincidence. No point in getting my hopes up this early in the game, right?

The second day also saw me gratefully visiting the washroom, and nearly every day after that.

I was completely blown away. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine such a profound, tangible change would occur from doing something so simple. This shift might not sound like much to those of you who have perfectly regular bowels, but for someone who has struggled with incontinence for a great deal of time, let me tell you — what a relief. Since starting this challenge, the only time I’ve had trouble going to the bathroom has been on days when I had to be up incredibly early (and therefore did not leave myself time to meditate, and did not get enough sleep).

Focus

Meditation trains the mind to simultaneously focus and relax, and I have definitely reaped the benefits of this training. I feel more present when participating in day-to-day activities and am less easily distracted while doing work.

More importantly, my strength of will has improved significantly. Just two weeks after starting this meditation challenge, I embarked on another, infinitely more difficult one which, prior to doing this mindfulness work, I never would have imagined attempting.

I decided to quit sugar. As I mentioned before, my diet is quite healthy and clean, but I have always had a love affair with sugar. I was pretty good at avoiding the refined and processed stuff, but definitely enjoyed baking with honey, maple syrup, and dates — all lovely in moderation, but not very beneficial when consumed daily and in large amounts. I had a nagging suspicion that my love for all things sweet was contributing to some of my digestive complaints and hindering my efforts at the gym, but the thought of going without my daily treats was truly terrifying. I attempted it once several months ago and gave up after a week, literally shaking with the effort it took to resist.

I believe meditation helped me develop the mental fortitude required to set a goal, create a plan for realizing it, and then follow through. I believe it strengthened my willpower and improved my confidence, endowing me with the unwavering belief that I could indeed accomplish anything I set my mind to. I believe it fostered a stronger connection between my mind and body, starting me on a path to better wellness which inevitably was going to lead to this necessary lifestyle change.

And so I set myself a 30 day sugar elimination challenge. And it was hard — harder than anything I’ve ever had to do before. But I am here, several weeks later, a changed woman. My cravings are gone, my energy is through the roof, and my post-meal bloating is (almost) non-existent.

Relationships

Meditation has produced a much more subtle effect on my relationships. It isn’t as though I went from having daily arguments with my partner or parents to an idyllic existence with them; my relationships were in good shape to begin with. But my relationship with myself is changing. Meditation is a form of self love, and in practicing this type of kindness, I am learning gratitude and acceptance — acceptance of my strengths and of my weaknesses, gratitude for everything I have been given in life, or achieved, or have yet to achieve. And this attitude towards myself cannot help but extend outward to everyone else in my life.

If I feel happier, so too does my parter, who shares the same space with me. If I judge myself more forgivingly, I will do the same for those around me, and they in turn will feel more comfortable, more accept-able, more loved. And if I focus on gratitude instead of lack, my life will feel more abundant (and perhaps may very well just be), and I will be more inclined to generosity (the practice of which is proven to make people feel good about themselves). It’s like an endless happiness cycle that ripples outwards to everyone I come into contact with. We respond to and are affected by the energies of others, so being healthy and happy truly is the best thing you can do for the people who love you.

Health

I’m not going to belabour this point much. I think the fact that my health has improved is pretty self-evident, given all of the above changes. Meditation, quite literally, improves everything in your life. It effectively improves the well-being of your mind and your body, which then improves your relationships, your creativity, and your work life, all of which work together to create a better, happier, more balanced you.

Take the word of this one-time skeptic and do yourself and your loved ones a favour — give yourself a little headspace!

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Consciousness

Why Hugging Is Powerful: Especially When We’re So Isolated

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CE Staff Writer 6 minute read

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

When’s the last time you had a good hug? Can you even recall a time when one lasted longer than 10 or 15 seconds? Hugging releases oxytocin, a bonding hormone, as well as serotonin and endorphins. These hormones are a big part of what makes us feel good and build a sense of community and connection with others.

When we hug our friends or family, or even spend a good few hours with them, we often don’t know what exactly the mechanism is that makes us feel good, but often times it’s touch, eye contact and reading facial expressions.

Throughout COVID, once we got a sense of what it feels like to not have as much touch, see smiles, see our friends or family, we might have gained a greater awareness of how important this really is. Intense isolation, like we’ve all experienced, leads to touch deprivation, and one could argue, has led to collective traumatization throughout the course of this pandemic.

Humans biologically need touch, it’s built right into our physiology. When we are babies, touch is a crucial part of our ability to regulate our nervous systems and feel safe. When we’re very young, our bodies have not yet built the ability to self-regulate (feel safety and comfort), and thus our caregivers play the important role of not only touching to bring regulation and safety, but also using facial expressions to send the message that ‘all is OK.’

Further, humans thrive in a sense of community and connection. When we are too isolated, without a deep and dedicated practice like monk’s might do in a cave in Tibet, we begin to lose the benefits of co-regulation, and in turn our psychology can begin to suffer over time. Humans have built incredible things – together – when in community, and touch plays an important role in that.

It most cultures around the world, hugging is part of daily life. Other cultures might decide to greet one another with cheek kissing instead, but touch is often a common denominator. But it’s true, there are places that may be ‘less touch-y’ and will certainly find other ways to connect.

One thing I can say though, especially during this unprecedented time of isolation, make it a point to hug those close to you when you can. Make it a good one, 15 or 20 seconds! Pay attention to how you feel after.

As mentioned, hugging is not the only way we get a sense of co-regulation and connection. Looking into one another’s eyes, sensing facial movements and reactions are also important. We have millions of mirror neurons in our brains that are constantly reading what is happening in another person, and sending information to areas of our brain, subconsciously, that tell us how a person might be feeling, for example. When we witness someone taking an action, neurons in our brains respond to that action in the same way as if we were taking that action ourselves – hence ‘mirror neurons.’

This might mean that when we watch a nervous moment in sports for example, although we are not playing, we might take actions like covering our mouths or holding our chest, feeling the nerves the players are likely feeling. As you can imagine, this is not a perfect science. Sometimes we are nervous but the player is cool as a cucumber, but generally, mirror neurons tend to help us connect to what others are feeling or doing, giving us a sense of empathy.

It goes even deeper. Research from Institute of HeartMath has shown that the human heart emits a measurable electromagnetic field that contains information other people can pick up on and decode in their brains. Regardless of how ‘new-agey’ this might sound to some minds, it’s a reality of our physical bodies.

Just think, have you ever walked into a room with multiple people in it and noticed the energy of it? Perhaps you noticed right away it was very tense or very jovial. This sense likely comes from having an awareness of how our electro magnetic field is interacting with the collective field of the room.

What you’re feeling is how someone’s general emotional state is affecting the field they emit. The more we feel tension, anxiety, or depression for example, the more we also put that signal out into our communities. Now, this isn’t a call to get stressed out about how we’re affecting others, this is simply a realization of what’s going on.

In our current chaotic world, it’s quite common to feel anxious or uncertain about what’s happening, and acknowledging that is OK is perfectly fine. The next question becomes: how can I manage my emotional state and create a a felt sense of calm? (Which of course will change the field you emit as well.)

Managing Our Emotions & Energy

One very simple option is written at the top of the article we post here on The Pulse. It’s a simple technique I adapted from my training at HeartMath, but I added in my own flair learned from my trauma specialist training as I felt a greater focus on interception, our awareness of sensations in our body, was important to be in the mix.

As go move through your day, stop, take a breath and release the tension in your body starting from your head all the way down to your feet. Take a few moments on each muscle group if you like. Place attention on your physical heart and breathe slowly into the area for 60 seconds, focusing on feeling a sense of ease.

I wrote a much more in-depth article here, where I share more detailed steps and how this helps improve our overall energy levels as well.

Our bodies are filled with tools that sense anything from obvious to ‘unseen’ signals coming from others and our environment. These tools suggest we are beings of connection, and we thrive when we get enough of it. They also suggest it’s important to pay attention to more than just the material aspect of our world, as there is much that needs to be ‘taken care of’ in the ‘unseen.’ By that, I mean, as we manage our emotions and regulate our nervous system’s, our felt electro magnetic field communicates a different message to others out there.

What message are you sending?

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Aquarius: Rationality & Seriousness

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

We are having a Full Moon in Aquarius on July 23rd/24th. It will appear the brightest on the night of the 23rd throughout most of the world and on the night of the 24th in the time zones East of Japan. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began with a New Moon in Cancer on July 9th/10th.

The energies of a Full Moon are strongest in the days surrounding it yet its astrological configurations also play a part over the following two weeks. You may start to see its themes slowly build up after the New Moon prior.

This is a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Aquarius and the Sun in Leo. It can play out as either a conflict, an integration, or some sort of dynamic between the energies of both signs. The Moon reflects the expression of feeling and emotion while the Sun reflects the expression of ego and conscious self.

We may feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us; with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Aquarius side and others expressing the Leo side. In some cases, Full Moons can also reflect/trigger some sort of change or release.

Full Moon In Aquarius Opposite Sun In Leo

Leo season began 36 hours before the Full Moon and will continue until August 22nd/23rd. This is the sign of self-expression, creativity, love, affection, children, courage, vitality, passion, leadership, generosity, and playfulness. Ruled by the Sun, it is also about shining in our power and being in alignment with what really lights us up and gets us excited.

The negative expressions of Leo can be egotistical, self-absorbed, authoritarian, dramatic, stubborn, jealous, and hot-tempered.  As it is associated with seeking praise and attention, it can be demanding of respect and be boisterous without considering or caring about how others respond to that.

The Full Moon highlights and brings the energies of the opposing sign of Aquarius into this Leo backdrop. This is the sign of friends, networks, social dynamics, social issues, groups, teams, humanity, and being in the best interest of the collective. This energy is unconventional, idealistic, innovative, progressive, scientific, original, inventive, technological, reforming, and even revolutionary.

Negatively, Aquarius can be overly detached, aloof, unemotional, and very invested in the mind at the expense of the heart. Traditionally ruled by Saturn, it can also be unyielding when it comes to the ideas and perspectives that it has already decided on.

Both Leo and Aquarius have some similarities. They are ‘Fixed’ signs and therefore can both be determined yet stubborn. They are also both associated with originality and authenticity. In Aquarius, this comes from its unconventional and innovative attributes while in Leo it comes from being inspired by its heart centred self-expression.

Full Moon Quincunx Venus, Conjunct Saturn, & Square Uranus

This Full Moon is in a quincunx with Venus which has recently entered Virgo. Our feelings, emotions, needs, or domestic lives may be at odds with friendships, values, finances, pleasure, or matters of love. It can be hard to integrate these areas but being flexible and making adjustments can be the solution.

The Full Moon is moving towards Saturn in the same sign. This can reflect a serious energy and we may be faced with limitations, restrictions, delays, or obstacles. We or others may be emotionally distant, pessimistic, or reserved. However, this can be good for some sort of effort that requires discipline, structure, and orderliness. After the Full Moon period, some of these energies will be strong again on August 1st/2nd.

Following the conjunction with Saturn, the Moon forms a square aspect with the disruptive Uranus in Taurus. This is activating the square between Saturn and Uranus that is happening throughout the year which I’ve covered in previous articles. Themes around ‘old versus new’, ‘restrictions versus freedom’, ‘the status quo versus revolution’, ‘commitments/responsibilities versus liberation’, ‘elder versus youth’, ‘progressiveness versus tradition’ and so forth.

Jupiter Going Back Into Aquarius

Jupiter entered its home sign of Pisces in mid-May for a short stint as it is returning back into Aquarius on July 28th/29th. The planet of expansion, freedom, beliefs, perspective, education, is unrestrained in Pisces and gets to express itself more ideally in this sign. We have seen examples of this as many jurisdictions loosened up covid related restrictions during this period.

With it going back into Aquarius, a traditionally Saturn ruled sign with Saturn currently present there, Jupiter will be more inhibited until late December when it re-enters Pisces again. It’s possible that during this 5 month period may experience more restrictive measures return or new ones implemented. We may also experience this in different ways in our personal lives such as not being able to expand the way we’d like to. However, this might not be noticeable immediately.

The combination of Saturn and Jupiter in Aquarius (which began last December) can be good for building towards something or planting seeds pertaining to some sort of technological integration, social networking, collective or social pursuits, activism, new scientific approaches to things, and innovation.

Venus Square Lunar Nodes, Mars Opposite Jupiter

Venus will be in a square with the Lunar Nodes which will be strong from July 28th-30th. We may be reflecting on the past and future, or perhaps at a crossroads, when it comes to friendships, love, values, or financial matters. We may need to complete something and address what is holding us back  to help us move on and take a step forward in an evolutionary way when it comes to these areas of life. Venus is in Virgo so therefore discernment, details, practicality, health, organization, or efficiency may be key.

At this time Mars will be switching from Leo to Virgo while in an opposition to Jupiter. We may begin to feel the need to apply ourselves in a way that is more productive, sustainable, healthy, and clean. However, we can overextend ourselves and take on more than we can handle. This can also play out as conflicts around beliefs, perspectives, opinions, or judgements.

Mercury’s Superior Conjunction

Mercury will be in its Superior Conjunction on August 1st/2nd which is in an important phase of Mercury’s cycle with the Sun. From this point onward we may have a better perception around certain things that were seeded or occurred in the previous two months which may also help our momentum forward. .

Circumstances and developments that happen at this time can help us gain more clarity or facilitate necessary realizations to help us make the right decisions and appropriate mental focus. During this conjunction, the Sun and Mercury will be opposing Saturn which can play out as hindrances or the need to be pragmatic as part of this process.

Things To Consider

How can you balance or integrate your personal passions with the needs of the collective? How can you resolve any conflicts between leadership and a team or group? Are you experiencing any challenges or conflict between your heart and intellect? What areas of your life do you need to be more orderly, structured, disciplined, or take more seriously? Is there anything that you need to separate from? How can you apply yourself in a more noble way?

These are just some examples of themes that could come up or ways to approach this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well.  If you wish to do any sort of intentional release, it is best to do so after it begins to wane following the peak or during the two weeks afterwards when it is waning before the next New Moon. The exact peak of this Full Moon is at 2:37am Universal Time on July 24th, night of the 23rd. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Consciousness

How To Embrace New Ideas & Envision A Better World

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CE Staff Writer 1 minute read

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

In this video I explore how to look in our minds and bodies for resistance towards new solutions and ideas. If we are to create a more thriving world, what has to happen within us? How do we use new and emerging solutions in a pure form, without applying the old dominance or capitalistic stories to them?

It can, very understandably, be hard to imagine something different than what we’re doing now. Especially when we consider we don’t know HOW things would change or what will happen to the current life we’ve built.

What if real global solutions involve shifting our long term plans? How do we gain a sense of comfort and stability in challenges we seek to solve at their core?

Every time I’ve been faced with some pretty big changes I had to make in my life, if I ever sensed resistance in myself, I had to find it in my body as well as navigate it in my mind.  I explain more in the video below.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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