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Introduction to Meditation

meditation

A meditation practice is the most important habit you can have. Hands down.

The reason why meditation is so essential is that it’s the foundation from which everything else in your life is built upon.

If you care about your well-being, meditation should be as embedded in your daily routine as brushing your teeth, showering and getting dressed.

This article is an introduction to meditation.

What is Meditation?

Let me first tell you what meditation is NOT…

Meditation is not forceful concentration or any sort of mental effort. Meditation is more of a NON-DOING than a doing; more of a LETTING GO than holding on.

Meditation is simply a state of awareness. It is peace and stillness, blended with profound alertness.

Meditation is the practice of mindfulness. It is observing your thoughts without being engulfed in them. It is objectively witnessing the activity of your body and mind.

This state can be reached in many ways; not just by sitting cross-legged under a tree.

Meditation must be experienced to be truly understood. I can give you all of the poetic language you can read, but you won’t really know what it is until you start practicing it. That’s why I’m all about creating easy meditation routines.

Who Is Meditation For?

The short answer: EVERYONE

If you’re a human being, it’s beneficial for you to meditate regularly.

You don’t have to be some super-spiritual guru to meditate either. Anyone can do it, no matter who you are or what beliefs you have.

In fact, meditation is the most common habit shared among successful people interviewed on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Meditation is as useful and applicable to a corporate CEO in New York City as it is to a yogi in the Himalayas.

The Benefits of Meditation

meditation

Meditation comes with a seemingly endless number of benefits. When you’re aware of just how helpful it is for your overall well-being, you’ll find it hard NOT to meditate.

Physical Benefits of Meditation

  • Improves energy levels
  • Stress relief
  • Anti-aging
  • Increases immunity
  • Improves breathing
  • Reduces inflammatory disorders
  • Reduces asthma
  • Reduces premenstrual and menopausal syndrome
  • Helps prevent arthritis, fibromyalgia and even HIV
  • Mental Benefits of Meditation

  • Increases concentration
  • Increases memory retention and recall
  • Enhances cognitive skills
  • Enhances creative thinking
  • Enhances decision-making skills
  • Enhances problem-solving skills
  • Better information processing
  • Helps ignore distractions
  • Emotional Benefits of Meditation

  • Increases self-awareness
  • Increases happiness
  • Reduces depression
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces worry
  • Less impulsive behavior
  • Enhances self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Improves resilience against pain and adversity
  • Increases optimism
  • Helps prevent emotional eating and smoking
  • Helps develop positive social connections
  • Improves mood
  • Improves emotional intelligence
  • Those are just SOME of the benefits. There’s a lot more where that came from. But that’ll give you a good idea of just HOW POWERFUL MEDITATION IS.

    If you saw a commercial for something with all of those benefits, wouldn’t you buy it in a heartbeat? Well, meditation is free and always available to you! So why not do it? What’s your excuse?

    Consistency is Key

    meditation

    With meditation, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to have a regular practice.

    Consistency is more important than finding the perfect technique. Shorter, consistent sessions are also more effective than doing long, infrequent sessions (or none at all).

    Meditation is a gradual process. Remember, it is non-doing, meaning you can’t force or expect anything. You will have sessions where you’re in tranquil stillness and you’ll have sessions where all you do is obsess over what someone said to you at work 3 months ago. It’s all a part of the process.

    Here’s How to Get Started

    Focus on a system of a short, simple, daily meditation.

    That’s key. Yet this is where most people get stuck. Sure, pretty much everyone knows that meditation is beneficial and many have dabbled in it. But few people actually meditate every day.

    This is exactly why I created the 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE.

    Through years of trial and error, I’ve come up with the easiest way to stick to a daily meditation practice. It’s literally easier than getting out of bed in the morning. Along with how simple and easy it is, I provide a lot of unique tips to help you get the most out of your meditation practice.

    What do you have to lose? Actually a lot: fears, anxiety, worry, self-delusions, ignorance, resentment, over-thinking, regret, overwhelm…etc. That’s what you have to lose.

    Meditation is by far the most important habit to implement.

    Inner peace awaits.

    – Stevie P!

    ACCESS THE 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE BY CLICKING THE IMAGE BELOW

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    15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

    brain function

    The human brain is the most complex piece of hardware in the known universe.

    It’s an immensely powerful tool.

    The brain is also the device through which we decode and perceive reality. So to say that it’s important to optimize brain function is a severe understatement. I think we can all unanimously agree that it would be a good thing to improve brain function, right?

    Instead of rambling on with more poetic descriptions of the brain, let’s just get straight to the applicable information.

    15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

    1. Regular Practice – The brain, like everything else, is like a muscle. To strengthen it, it must be exercised regularly. Learn something new every day. Test your memory regularly. The more practice, the stronger it gets.

    2. Variety – While regular practice is the foundation, it’s also important to switch things up. Do new things. Engage in unique experiences. This keeps you on your toes, highly adaptive, thinking spontaneously and builds the skill of learning how to learn.

    3. Limit Sugar – Reduce your sugar intake (and processed, refined foods in general). Sugar is highly addictive and keeps you in the wired-then-tired trap of what I call “the insulin roller coaster.”

    Limiting sugar will help you have healthy gut flora as well, which is intrinsically linked with brain health.

    The brain can run on sugar (glucose) or fat (ketones). In both my experience and that of many other people, the brain operates optimally on fats.

    4. Eat More Healthy Fats – Some of the best healthy fats are fish/krill oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter, olive oil…etc. Coconut oil, for example, appears to be an ideal brain food.

    Here’s a challenge: Instead of starting your day with a carb-heavy breakfast, start with a cup of coffee (or tea) with a teaspoon of coconut oil in it. I call this combination “steroids for your brain.” Yes, it works. Try it out and feel the effects.

    5. Intermittent Fasting – “Human and non-human animal studies have shown that IER (Intermittent Energy Restriction) increases synaptic plasticity (a biological marker of learning and memory), enhances performance on memory tests in the elderly, leads to the growth of new neurons, promotes recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury, decreases risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and may improve quality of life and cognitive function for those already diagnosed with these diseases. IER has also been shown to play a preventative and therapeutic role in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.” (Stanford)

    Want to try fasting? The best introduction I’ve come across regarding intermittent fasting is Eat Stop Eat. It does a great job of explaining the benefits of fasting and gives you a stupid simple protocol that gets amazing results. I’m actually doing a variation of Eat Stop Eat right now.

    6. Brain Boosting Herbs – Brain boosting herbs include Gotu Kola (which I personally take every day), Brahmi, Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba. There’s a lot more too. Do a little research and see which one is best for you.

    7. Learn a New Language – Learning a new language literally opens up a new world to us. When we expand our horizons, neuroplasticity kicks in and we form more neural connections.

    8. Sleep – Sleep is the ultimate recharge for our bodies and our brain is no exception to this. Everyone knows that their brain works better on 8 hours of sleep as opposed to 4. Prioritize sleep and reap the brain benefits.

    9. Focus – Limit distractions and cultivate focus. Being scatterbrained severely inhibits mental capabilities. Focus is the precursor to learning and problem-solving.

    Tip: When you need to focus, set a timer for a specific amount of time and only work on the task at hand for that block of time.

    10. A Morning Routine – Starting the day off on the right foot greatly helps with how our brains function. Having a peaceful, enjoyable morning routine gets us in a clear headspace, which allows us to operate with focus for the rest of the day.

    For more on morning routines, read my article The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual

    11. ExerciseExercise improves memory and thinking skills. It also boosts mood and reduces stress and anxiety.

    12. Walking – “Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits and combat declines in brain function associated with aging and increase performance on cognitive tasks.” – (Live Science)

    Walking also helps with creativity and generating ideas, especially when done outside.

    13. Positive Thinking – Stress and anxiety kill brain function. Research has shown that positive thinking, particularly in the future tense, speeds up the creation of brain cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.

    Also, when you’re in a state of fear, it activates the amygdala and shuts off higher brain function (like logic and reasoning). So positive thinking really does make us smarter.

    14. Reading – This one is so obvious. We learn by reading nonfiction and expand our imagination by reading fiction. And sometimes we learn by reading fiction and expand our imagination by reading nonfiction. Reading also improves vocabulary, memory, concentration and helps hone visualization abilities.

    15. Meditation – There are so many benefits to meditation, it’s ridiculous. A regular meditation practice reduces stress, improves memory, combats anxiety, improves concentration, helps kick addictions and increases productivity (along with a lot of other things).

    Meditation helps cultivate awareness of our thoughts and gives us the choice to indulge in positive thinking instead of energy-sapping, negative thinking.

    Meditation also has the absolutely crucial benefit of mindfulness. If you’re unaware of what’s going on in your brain, you’re unconscious and living in reaction-mode. This results in you being a slave to your brain, instead of the master of it. The brain is a powerful tool. It is in your best interest to learn how to use the tool without the tool using you. This is why meditation is so important.

    Learn more about meditation here: Introduction to Meditation

    Time to Apply

    Try incorporating some of these into your daily life. If you want to pick just one to start with, I’d strongly recommend meditation. Meditation is the habit that all other habits build off of, the skill which enhances every other skill and the practice that gets you in touch with the essence of existence.

    Want to start meditating? As soon as you wake up, hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and use that time for meditation. Sit upright, close your eyes, take some deep breaths into your belly and simply observe your thoughts without judgment. Do this every morning.

    With most of this list, it’s common sense that these things improve brain function. But knowing and applying are two different things. Most people don’t apply what they know on a daily basis. Take action and commit to a daily practice.

    Your brain is a miraculous tool. Treat it well and use it wisely.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

    Which of these do you apply on a daily basis? Did you learn anything new? Which ones do you want to start applying? Leave a comment below.
     

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    The Simple Secret to a Fully Fulfilling Life

    mindfulness

    We’ve all had those truly special moments in life: being on top of a mountain looking out at an amazing landscape, at a party singing with a group of our best friends, a wedding day, getting off of the plane in a new country…etc.

    Those are all beautiful moments in which we forget about our fears, leave our problems behind and bask in the blissful infinity of the present moment. We all chase this feeling throughout our lives. We fall into the trap of thinking “I’ll be so happy when [insert desire] happens.” Some of us even squander our present well-being for the mere potential of “that feeling” in the future.

    What if I told you that this feeling is available to you in every moment?

    I’m all for those cliché amazing moments listed above, but why can’t every moment be amazing in its own way?

    Well, every moment is. Each moment is brimming with bliss, peace, joy, love and happiness. We just never stop to see it. The secret portal is right under our noses and it exists within one simple word: Mindfulness

    Most people are so lost in thought that they hardly ever actually experience the present moment in its full brilliance.

    When we live with mindfulness, even the simplest moments are infused with that feeling of blissful presence that most people only experience a handful of times in their lives. It’s like living life in high definition, a much richer experience than just going through the motions while neurotically thinking about everything other than what we’re doing right now.

    Mindfulness is like a happy drug. It’s a happy drug that comes from within us, is inexhaustible, always available and has no adverse side effects. Who wouldn’t want that?

    The great irony of humanity’s plight is that we search everywhere except for within ourselves for that sense of fulfillment. The truth is that what we’ve been searching for has been within us all along.

    Happiness, joy, bliss, peace and love are not waiting at the end of some illusory rainbow. Those feelings we deeply crave don’t reside in the future when this or that will happen. They’re always with us in every moment, if only we’d pause, dip into the present moment and look within.

    That feeling we’ve been searching for is right here, within us. It always has been. It always will be. All we have to do is be fully present.

    mind full or mindful

    6 Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness

    1. Meditation – Engage in some kind of meditation practice on a daily basis. If you’re a beginner, try my 7 Day Meditation Challenge. Meditation naturally begets mindfulness. The benefits of meditation are seemingly endless and well-documented, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to have some kind of regular meditation practice.

    2. Practice Mindful Eating – When you eat, just eat. Don’t watch tv, don’t look at your phone, don’t walk, don’t drive. Just eat. Focus on the taste of the food, the subtle textures and smells. When you do this, you’ll enjoy food like you never have before.

    Also, mindful eating builds awareness regarding what you eat, helps you listen to your body and helps in overcoming unhealthy eating habits. You can even create a practice of blessing your food before you eat to create more mindfulness around eating.

    3. Try Phone Fasting – Smartphones can be weapons of mass distraction. Everyone knows that the constant notifications, social media scrolling and email checking makes focus almost impossible and sucks you right out of the present moment.

    Here’s a solution: Make a practice of taking some time to not use your phone. I personally don’t look at my phone for an hour before I go to sleep and an hour after I wake up every day. At night, this creates time to unwind, undistracted. In the morning, this creates time for me to engage in a morning routine and start the day off peaceful and centered, instead of instantly leaping into the fray of distraction. Another strategy is to not use your phone for a day (you can take a day off once a month or even once a week). Both of these practices are surprisingly freeing and cultivate focus, empowerment and mindfulness.

    Phone fasting creates a pattern interrupt. It allows you to become more aware of your phone usage and helps you transcend the habit of mindlessly looking at your phone.

    4. Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Situations – Practice being completely present in conversations, while walking outside, while listening to music, while drinking coffee or during any other day-to-day activities. So many of us live life on auto-pilot. A bit of mindfulness makes life more vibrant and exciting, as if you were a kid again.

    5. Practice the Five Sense Walking Meditation

    6. Read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

    Try out all of these and make mindfulness a part of your daily life. Like everything, mindfulness is a muscle. The more consistently you practice it, the stronger it becomes.

    Meet each moment with blissful totality.

    – Stevie P
     

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    28 Benefits of Floatation Therapy

    floatation tank

    Floatation tanks (aka float tanks, isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks) are lightless, mostly soundproof tanks filled with Epsom salt and water at skin temperature, which makes you float on the surface of the water.

    In this setting, you experience little to no external stimuli and are able to relax your body far more than otherwise possible. These conditions provide the space for an incredibly unique experience of stress relief, tension release, self-awareness and journeys into peaceful nothingness.

    I’ve personally been floating for the last two months and have experienced its many benefits. Floatation therapy has the tension release qualities of a massage, the stress relief qualities of drinking a glass of wine in a jacuzzi, the state of self-awareness comparable to psychotherapy and the trauma/fear release potential of ayahuasca. Floating also makes it relatively easy for anyone to dip into the infinitely blissful void described by experienced meditators and yogis. Essentially, floatation therapy provides the space necessary for self-healing on all levels of being.

    28 Benefits of Floatation Therapy

    1. Promotes total calm and peaceful relaxation
    2. Eliminates fatigue and jet lag
    3. Improves sleep
    4. Alleviates stress (mental and physical)
    5. Reduces or eliminates depression, anxiety and fear
    6. Facilitates freedom from habits, phobias and addictions
    7. Facilitates an acute awareness of thought patterns
    8. Stimulates left/right brain synchronization
    9. Shifts brain waves from beta to lower frequency alpha, theta and even delta
    10. Creates mental clarity, alertness and mindfulness
    11. Increases creativity
    12. Enhances problem solving ability
    13. Heightens visualization ability
    14. Deepens meditation (you’re able to go into much deeper meditation than when you’re sitting on the floor)
    15. Expands awareness
    16. Enhances all senses
    17. Enhances hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis
    18. Decreases the production of cortisol, ACTH, lactic acid and adrenaline
    19. Reduces pre-menstrual tension
    20. Reduces post-natal depression
    21. Increases production of endorphins
    22. Speeds up rehabilitation, recovery and healing
    23. Relieves pain (arthritis, migraines, injuries…etc.)
    24. Boosts immune function
    25. Improves circulation
    26. Reduces blood pressure
    27. Improves athletic performance
    28. Makes you feel amazing afterward 🙂

    Fun Facts About Floating

    • The first floatation tank (or isolation tank) was developed by the neuroscientist John C. Lily in 1954. He used it as a form of psychotherapy, often in combination with LSD (when it was still legal).
    • Carl Lewis used in-tank visualization techniques to prepare himself for his gold medal long jump at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
    • John Lennon reportedly used a flotation tank in 1979 in an attempt to kick his heroin habit.
    • Two-time NBA MVP, Steph Curry reportedly floats every 2 weeks.

    Try out floating for yourself. Experience peace like you never have before. Experience your true self.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

     

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    Alcohol Mindfulness Meditation

    craft beer

    Note: This is the same general practice as the Coffee Mindfulness Meditation, but with some slight variations.

    Are you living your life consciously or through unconscious patterns?

    Are you mind-full or mindful?

    If you’re mind-full (lost in thought), you’re living life on auto-pilot, unconsciously reacting to everything that comes your way. It’s essentially sleepwalking through life while being entirely possessed by your own thoughts. Mindfulness is the solution.

    Mindfulness is the practice that everything else hinges upon. It allows you to be completely present, establishes awareness regarding your thoughts/emotions and puts you in a position of empowerment to choose your actions in every moment.

    Here’s yet another fun way to practice mindfulness: with alcohol. Now before you think I’m telling you to go chug a 12-pack, let me clarify a bit.

    Alcohol and Mindfulness

    The combination of alcohol and mindfulness almost seems counterintuitive, as alcohol’s effects beget less mindfulness and less conscious awareness. But when mindfulness is applied throughout the process of consuming a single drink (yes, just one), it is one of the best and most enjoyable mindfulness practices. You get the enhanced sensory experience of drinking the alcohol with complete presence. You also provide yourself space to actually feel the light buzz slowly infuse your system.

    Alcohol is by far the most heavily abused substance in our modern Western culture. It’s a legal drug, a multi-billion dollar industry and an enhancer of many harmful acts. Also, it’s called “spirits” for a reason, but that’s another tangent. Like I said, alcohol’s effects make us less mindful, and that’s why it’s even more important to apply this mindfulness practice. We should be able to consume anything we want (freedom!). But without a foundation of self-mastery, anything we do can become extremely imbalanced and problematic.

    It can be argued that some forms of alcohol are beneficial in the range of 1-2 servings, but beyond 2 drinks alcohol is undeniably toxic and damaging (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). So remember, if you’re consuming more than 2 servings (or even one if you’re small), you’re choosing to poison yourself.

    If you’re completely mindful, you’ll have no interest in binge drinking anyway. From a state of mindfulness, you will be able to hear your body’s signals loud and clear. So instead of mindless, unconscious consumption (which is the mode most people operate in), you’re presented with the choice to mindfully enjoy what you’re drinking. Again, choice is a superpower.

    The Alcohol Mindfulness Meditation

    I recommend doing this with a good quality alcoholic beverage that you enjoy the taste of. I’m talking about a good craft beer, glass of wine or your favorite liquor on the rocks. The goal here is enjoyment and being mindful of the effects, not drinking for the sake of drinking. My preference for this is a strong, tasty IPA.

    1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to yourself to sit – Make sure there are no distractions, leave your phone alone while you do this.

    2. Mindfully drink your drink – Focus on the subtleties of the taste, the texture, the smell…etc. Deeply immerse yourself in the experience.

    3. When you’re finished drinking your drink, close your eyes and just sit for 20 minutes, observing your body (you can set an alarm for something like 25 minutes before you drink your drink if you want).

    4. Relax completely – Let go of any tension. Let go of your to do list. Let go of the past. Let go of the future. Relax into the present moment.

    5. Feel the changes in your body – Notice any tingling, flowing, rushes of energy, warm and fuzziness or any other sensations. Focusing on the body also has the benefit of getting you out of your head. Most people are lost in thought 24/7 and they don’t even know it.

    6. After 20 minutes, get up and go about your day or night with a renewed sense of mindfulness.

    Like with coffee or anything else you ingest, keep in mind that the effects really start to kick in at about the 15 minute mark.

    You can even do a loose version of this practice when with other people, just by being mindful while drinking and tuning into your body.

    Bringing a mindfulness practice to alcohol consumption is life-changing. It really is. Apply this practice and bask in your own journey of self-discovery.

    Find Your Balance

    My body usually tells me to stop after one or two drinks. Alcohol is poison after all. If you consume mindfully, you’ll enjoy it more. And you become hyper-aware of your body’s signals to stop, which makes it harder to binge drink. If you’re mindful, you’re literally forced to contemplate on why you want to continue drinking even though your body is telling you to stop. I guarantee that you won’t drink a lot if you’re completely mindful with each sip you take.

    People only get intoxicated to drop their inhibitions and forget about problems. There are thousands of other ways to do this without poisoning the body. Practice mindfulness every day and you’ll naturally learn how to troubleshoot your own fears and problems.

    For the last 3 months I’ve applied mindfulness to alcohol consumption. In doing so, I enjoy the taste much more (and only drink what I actually enjoy instead of for the purpose of getting drunk). When I go out, I’ll have 1-2 (sometimes 3) drinks, depending on how my body is feeling. I’ve also spent the last year actively stalking my shadows, releasing fears and letting go of limiting beliefs, so I don’t need alcohol to have fun or express myself. That’s freeing in and of itself.

    Live mindfully and enjoy yourself.

    – Stevie P!

    For more on meditation, check out my Introduction to Meditation.

     

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    Coffee Mindfulness Meditation

    coffee mindfulness

    Mindfulness is the very most important state to be in.

    Literally everything else in life is hinged upon mindfulness (or lack thereof).

    When you’re mindful, you’re fully immersed in what you’re doing, completely present and conscious of your own state of being. This not only allows you to more fully engage in life, but also puts you in a position of power to consciously choose your actions and reactions in every moment. So basically, when you’re mindful, you live life in high definition, immersed in each moment, while exercising your superpower of choice. Who wouldn’t want that?

    I mean, it’s no coincidence that the core philosophies of many spiritual teachers focus on mindfulness (Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Lao Tzu, Osho, Thich Nhat Han, Wayne Dyer…etc.). Even Tim Ferriss has found that a regular meditation/mindfulness practice is the biggest commonality among top performers in all fields. So yes, it’s that important and life-enhancing.

    Enjoy Your Mindfulness Practice

    A thoroughly enjoyable way to practice mindfulness is through eating or drinking, particularly with commonly abused substances which alter your physiological or mental state (coffee and alcohol being the biggest ones in modern western culture).

    The practice I’m about to share with you is a coffee/caffeine mindfulness meditation. Coffee is essentially an acceptable drug in our modern Western society. It’s an intrinsic part of our culture that is heavily abused in most cases. The caffeine in coffee stimulates the adrenal glands, which produce adrenaline and puts us in fight or flight mode (activation of the sympathetic nervous system). While this state can be beneficial in small doses, it can wreak havoc if it’s out of balance.

    This coffee mindfulness meditation will allow you to actually feel the effects of coffee like you’ve never felt before. Most of us drink coffee as we stare at our phones, computers or the tv, distracted to the point where we’re completely oblivious to our physical, mental and emotional states. Then after drinking coffee, we throw ourselves into the fray of distractions, work, technology and responsibility-juggling of life. This lifestyle of distracted consumption creates an unconscious, auto-pilot existence which often slides into imbalanced, disharmonious and destructive behaviors.

    Simply being mindful of what you consume is the solution. From this place of hyper-awareness, you’ll be able to thoroughly enjoy the effects of coffee/caffeine and become conscious of your consumption of it (if you choose to consume it at all).

    The Coffee Mindfulness Meditation

    1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to yourself to sit. – Make sure there are no distractions, leave your phone alone while you do this.

    2. Mindfully drink a cup of coffee – Focus on the subtleties of the taste, the texture, the temperature, the smell…etc. Deeply immerse yourself in the experience of drinking coffee.

    3. When you’re finished drinking the cup of coffee, close your eyes and just sit for 20 minutes, observing your body (you can set an alarm for something like 25 minutes before you drink your coffee if you want).

    4. Relax completely – Let go of any tension. Let go of your to do list. Let go of the past. Let go of the future. Relax into the present moment.

    5. Feel the changes in your body – Notice any tingling, flowing, rushes of energy, heat, coolness or any other sensations. Focusing on the body also has the benefit of getting you out of your head. Most people are lost in thought 24/7 and they don’t even know it.

    6. After 20 minutes, get up and go about your day with a renewed sense of mindfulness.

    Keep in mind that the effects really start to kick in at about the 15 minute mark.

    If you can’t feel anything, you’re either lost in thought or you drink too much coffee and have a really high tolerance. Take a day off from caffeine and try this meditation again after doing that.

    This practice is superb for cultivating a sense of mindfulness. It allows you to consciously enjoy coffee and its effects, and enjoy it more deeply than you ever have before. You may also realize that coffee/caffeine isn’t for you. That’s cool too. It’s vitally important to be in tune with yourself.

    I personally love the effects of one cup of coffee. It’s a profound and enjoyable experience when mindfulness comes into play. I can really feel my body tingling, my whole system ramping up and being infused with the yang energy of coffee. On the other hand, I’ve also realized that one cup of coffee per day is a good balance for me. Any more than that and I would be too far in fight or flight mode.

    Try out the coffee mindfulness meditation.

    Live mindfully.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

     

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    The Float Chronicles: A Journey into Nothingness

    floatation tank

    A Prelude to Nothingness

    “Only nothingness can be infinite; somethingness is bound to be finite. Only out of nothingness is an infinite expanse of life, existence, possible – not out of somethingness. God is not somebody: He is nobody or, more correctly, nobodiness. God is not something: he is nothing or, even more correctly, no-thingness. He is a creative void.

    Never for a single moment think that nothingness is a negative state, an absence, no. Nothingness is simply no-thingness. Things disappear, only the ultimate substance remains. Forms disappear, only the formless remains. Definitions disappear, the undefined remains.

    The awakening of a buddha is total. In that total awakening there is a luminous awareness surrounded by a positive nothingness. It is not empty, it is overfull. Things have disappeared… and what has remained is inexpressible. We try to express it as blissfulness, as ecstasy, as eternal joy, but these are just faraway echoes of the real thing.”
    – OSHO

    My Float Experience: A Journey into Nothingness

    Disclaimer: This is simply my float experience. Floatation therapy, like anything that consists of going within, is completely unique to everyone. So while I hope you find value in my personal experience, keep in mind that your experience could be different in every way. That’s the beauty of it.

    When I got in the tank, it took me a few minutes at first to find a position that “felt right.” After a little trial and error, the chosen pose consisted of having my arms above my head, elbows slightly bent (floating on my back of course). From this position, I relaxed into a state of acute awareness. This is the kind of awareness that is virtually inaccessible in our world of constant noise and distraction (to all but the experienced meditator).

    Soon enough, I became hyper-aware of facial tension I was holding onto, particularly in my jaw. I brought my awareness to the jaw tension and it dissipated a bit. It was stubborn though, so I opened my mouth as wide as I could, stretching my jaw and exhaling the tension out. Little did I know, this would become my release valve for the rest of the session. After I released this tension from my jaw, I moved through my cheeks, eyes, eyebrows and forehead. With the tension in those areas, all I had to do was bring my conscious attention to them and hold the intention of letting go.

    I relaxed back into the void again; pure awareness. From this second level of awareness, I became aware of a recurring thought pattern. I kept thinking of telling people about floating, how amazing it is, how “nothingness” is the answer to everything and playing out conversations in my head. Each time I became aware of these thoughts, I would immediately cut them off (almost with a sense of disdain).

    As the thoughts faded, I became aware of another, deeper layer of jaw tension. Again, I stretched my jaw open and exhaled the tension out. I knew it worked because I relaxed back into a third level of awareness.

    From this third level of awareness, I started dissecting the root of these thought patterns and this is when my float session revealed itself to be a bit of an internal scavenger hunt. I called this phenomenon of plotting futures scenarios “Reverse engineering from the future.” I realized that when I’m immersed in these kinds of thoughts, my mind is in the future and I’m reverse engineering that future until it connects with the present moment. This mindset can be useful (this is what allows for meticulous planning and much worldly success) but it robs us from the present moment. It takes away that gratitude for just being and replaces it with an endless chase for the illusory pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    Following this revelation, I noticed another layer of tension in my jaw. Yet again, I opened my jaw as wide as I could and exhaled. This created space for me to begin addressing some questions regarding these conversations that were playing out in my thoughts. I was now in a fourth level of awareness, but there’s no need to get hung up on the numbers.

    The question that came up was “Why do I even want to tell people about this?” Well, I want to inspire and help people help themselves. That’s my heart-based motivation, if you will. But my ego piggybacks on this motivation and uses it to make me look interesting and pioneering in the eyes of others. I also realized that the ego will always do this. It’s fine that it’s piggybacking, as long as my prime motivation is heart-based. As long as the ego is not my master, it can go on doing “ego stuff” while I amusingly observe it.

    This led to a second question, directed at my ego: “Why do I want to look interesting anyway?” Which really meant “Why do I want to win love or approval?”

    I instantly knew where this came from. When I was younger, my father put pressure on me to perform my best at everything I did, whether it was sports or tests in school. Because of this, I inherited a limiting belief that I had to perform or prove myself to gain acceptance. This is also one of the reasons why I constantly place immense pressure on myself. But I also realized and truly understood that my father had the best intentions. It may have came out a little intense-sounding at the time (he’s a fiery Italian), which was that good intention filtered through his own limiting beliefs, pain and imperfect perceptions. And what I did was take it on and apply it to myself in an amplified way. The term “belief amplification” came to me, so that’s what I’ll call it. As kids, any beliefs we inherit through our parents are amplified because they are essentially our superheroes and their words literally mold our psyches. Additionally, any belief that is applied to ourselves will be stronger than beliefs we apply externally. This is the phenomenon of belief amplification. With that mini-epiphany, I was able to forgive my father with ease.

    With my being permeated by forgiveness and gratitude, I drifted back into pure awareness. Out of that awareness emerged a theme of self-acceptance. “It’s ok,” became my affirmation. “It’s ok if I want to tell people about this. There’s no need to judge that part of me. It’s ok if my ego wants to look cool (as long as it’s not running the show). It’s ok if I don’t always perform up to ridiculously high standards. It’s ok. There’s no need to always put pressure on myself.” I basked in this dialogue of self-acceptance, feeling the love ripple through every part of my being.

    Note: This self-acceptance is why I’m able to share this right now. It’s ok to share. And if my ego likes it if people find value in it, cool. It can do its thing while I playfully observe it from my heart-space.

    The self-acceptance slowly transitioned into another mini-epiphany. I had realized that I was being my own therapist, shaman and guru all at the same time. While this initially felt empowering, I soon drifted into fear. “How deep is this going to go?” I asked myself worriedly. My state of grace quickly darkened to that of fear, almost panic. I had let myself plunge into the hell of endless chaotic thoughts. They violently swirled in and around me, to the point where it felt tangible. My heart was beating furiously in my chest. It felt like a distant drum whose drummer had gone mad. The only way out was in, in through the present moment. The phrase “here’s the now” came to me. It felt right. So I repeated “here’s the now” to myself over and over again, while taking some deep breaths, until I was back in a place of tranquil awareness.

    This is where yet another epiphany struck me. This game, this internal scavenger hunt, can go on forever if you choose to keep playing. The sentence that came to me was “If you’re looking for something, you will find it.” If you’re looking for problems, you’ll find problems (or even make them up). It’s also like what the physicists are doing at CERN. They’re always trying to find smaller and smaller particles, so as a result they’re always finding smaller and smaller particles.

    This insight made me realize that I didn’t have to keep playing this game forever. However, I became aware of one last layer of tension in my jaw. I also knew somehow that it was tied to a deep fear. It frightened me to even entertain what this fear was but I knew it had to go. So I tapped into the depths of my being for courage, stretched my jaw and exhaled to release the tension. As soon as I did this, a phrase popped into my mind, “The fear of nothing.”

    “Wow. The fear of nothing? That’s final layer of jaw tension? This “ultimate fear” was the fear of… nothing?”

    “There’s NOTHING to be afraid of!” I chuckled to myself and broke into childlike laughter.

    I repeated it again with even more amusement… “There’s NOTHING to be afraid of!”

    At this point I was overcome with delight. I wiggled around in the float tank, giggling like a little kid until the gentle music came on. The session was over.

    I lifted my head, ever so slowly out of the water. It felt as if I was being rebirthed into a new world.


    Let go completely and allow yourself to dip into nothingness, for that is where all possibility resides.

    – Stevie P!

    PS – I’m releasing a new online course soon, called “Primal Release.” In it, I give you the tools to release all kinds of unwanted baggage you’re holding onto, which goes far beyond what I did in this float session. If you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter below to be the first to hear about it.
     

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    How to Prioritize Self-Care

    self-care

    If you don’t love yourself, then how are you going to love someone else?

    If you’re not empowered, then how are you going to empower others?

    If you don’t grow an inherent capacity to give from, then how can you consistently give?

    In order to serve, you must first be fit to serve. This is why self-care is a prerequisite for any positive change externally. The cultivation of self-love must be a priority, or else everything else in life is compromised.

    Self-care is essentially anything that rejuvenates your being, facilitates your growth and helps you love yourself more fully. A wide array of things can be self-care: meditation, yoga, working out, walking, hiking, reading, writing, drawing, painting, knitting (if anyone still does that), dancing, baths, saunas, massages, reiki, acupuncture, qi gong, tai chi, stress-free cooking, watching something funny, watching something inspirational, learning (on your own accord of course), traveling and even sleeping. We all know what can be considered self-care by the reinvigorating feeling that comes along with such activities.

    The Importance of Self-Care

    You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

    That expression is so true, yet few people apply it. Fill your cup first and give from the overflow.

    Get over the limiting belief that self-care is selfish. It’s not. And neglecting yourself does no good for anyone. You can only give more by increasing your capacity to give! Self-care, being compassionate towards yourself, helps you to embody compassion in every situation you find yourself in.

    Creating a Harmonious Foundation for Everything Else

    If you don’t clear your own bullshit, everything you do is going to be from a place of fear, lack and delusion. Without a high level of self-love, you will consciously or unconsciously project your delusions and fears into all of your relationships. Without a practice of self-care, even giving will be a distorted version of itself. You will find yourself giving out of duty (as opposed to love), giving because you feel like you have to (creating bitterness), giving with strings attached (conditional love), or just not giving at all because you’re so internally depleted.

    If you don’t have a harmonious foundation within, all of your relationships will be based in disharmony and built on shaky foundations. So many relationships are dysfunctional because so few people do the inner work. Harmony and alignment within creates relationships based in harmony and alignment. Disharmony and misalignment within creates relationships based in disharmony and misalignment. Build a strong foundation first, or you will be living in a house that’s falling apart.

    Your internal state ripples across every aspect of your reality. Cultivate self-love and let compassion ripple into the ocean of your existence.

    How to Incorporate Self-Care into Your Daily Life

    1. Make a commitment to self-care – Make self-care a priority. In order to fully follow through with anything, you must prioritize it. When something is a priority, you will do it by any means necessary, but if something isn’t a priority, you will find any excuse not to do it.

    Make a commitment to self-care right now, whether it be in writing or a strong mental affirmation.

    2. Simplify your life – Cut out all of the unnecessary distractions. Let go of the asinine commitments you’ve taken on that don’t serve your highest good. Reduce the amount of stuff you have (less stuff = less to upkeep = more time for you).

    3. Focus on simple, tangible daily practices – Commit to daily habits of self-care, not vague promises of things you might do in the future. Create a system for yourself to implement to bring you in the direction you wish to head in. Simple systems are more effective than lofty goals, as they’re easy to implement on a daily basis and you’ll get a lot more done in the long run while enjoying the process.

    Pick one self-care activity right now that you can implement on a daily basis.

    4. Make time (don’t find time) – When you prioritize something, you make time for it, no matter what. If you’re really pressed for time or if you have young children, you might have to squeeze in your self-care early in the morning, late at night, on your lunch breaks…etc.

    5. Do it!

    Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
    – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     
    Make a firm decision to love yourself and prioritize self-care. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

    Cultivate unconditional love within and share it with others.

    Create a ripple effect of compassion.

    – Stevie P!
     

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    Spiritual Backbone: Could I Be a Good Counselor?

    spiritual-backbone

    Note: This is a guest post by Katie Kapro.

    Some of my closest – and most spiritually badass – friends are independent counselors. It’s a career that attracts sensitive, resilient, and altruistic souls. It asks a lot of them. And it gives them the opportunity to give back to their communities.

    The connection between spirituality and work is fascinating, and this counseling phenomenon can go unnamed no longer. Why are so many spiritually-inclined people drawn to counseling?

    If we better understand the connection between esoteric studies and counseling careers, then perhaps more would-be counselors will find their calling.

    Joshua in Cambridge, whom I met at a meditation retreat, sees his clients in a Persian rug laden office in his home behind Harvard Square. He’s been practicing for 40 years, helping one client at a time integrate mindful breathing, gratitude, and interconnectedness into their daily lives.

    He sees everyone from recovering drug addicts to stressed-out graduate students. Instead of offering them a list of medications, he offers them meditation practices.

    It’s pretty cool, and his work benefits countless people with all sorts of spiritual beliefs.

    Why are spiritually-inclined people so drawn to independent counseling?

    Spiritual people expend so much inner and outer energy practicing oneness and self-effacement, it only makes sense that they’d want to spend the majority of the day doing something beneficial for the world.

    Let’s face it, we live in a world of egos. The ego serves a purpose. To live fully in the world is to recognize and accept the ego for what it is rather than shun it or attach dogmatic meaning to it. Counselors are required to deal with the ego on a daily basis; they are realists if nothing else.

    When I consider how many of my deeply spiritual friends work in psychology, I think it must have something to do with self-awareness. When you accept the reality of your own ego, personality, and humanity, it’s only natural to want to help people navigate their own.

    Perhaps this sounds like you?

    What are the benefits of a spiritually sensitive counselor?

    First, let’s hone-in on what spirituality means in the context of therapy.

    It’s broader than religion, and it’s generally accepted to account for all “cognitive and philosophic areas of thought as well as aspects of emotions and behavior.” Meaning, in regular-speak, that spirituality is the way a person understands their nature, existence, and internal experience.

    For some people this means church. For others it means nature. It’s simply the act of awareness.

    There are different schools of thought when it comes to spirituality in counseling. Many therapists are supportive of integrating spirituality into their work, while others feel it’s a slippery slope.

    Psychotherapy in particular has had a historically rocky relationship with religious spirituality, starting with Freud himself who called religion “comparable to childhood neuroses.” But in more modern times, therapists have drawn a clear distinction between religion and spirituality, reframing Freud’s old biases against any particular tradition.

    This reframing allows modern counselors to reach out to their patients from a unified yet impersonal place, and grow the kinds of trust bonds that benefit the therapist-client relationship. They can adopt a “psychospiritual approach” that utilizes common ground and universal themes shared by all people, instead of trying to make the personal relationship do all the heavy lifting.

    If a counselor leads a client in an exercise about minding one’s breath, say, they both feel the shared sensation of meditating, which can be a pretty powerful feeling.

    Of course, finding the words to describe this sensation can be tricky. Many therapists fear that if they’re too open about their own values, they may unwittingly impose them on their clients. It’s important to choose one’s words carefully. The ability to navigate a client relationship with this level of sensitivity is vital to a healthy practice.

    Perhaps another reason why so many spiritual people are good therapists is because they have a tendency to be highly sensitive people (HSP’s). They understand the importance of sensitivity in human relationship.

    Can anyone be a counselor?

    Yes and no. Not everyone should be a counselor. Use your imagination. Who would want to go to a counseling session led by Donald Trump? Not me.

    It takes a very specific skillset to flourish in this particular job 1) without burning out and 2) to actually help people. But if a person feels the impulse toward counseling, it’s always worth exploring. Work in therapy allows a unique amount of independence from the mainstream work model – many counselors set up their own LLCs – but candidates must first demonstrate their ability to navigate the ins-and-outs of academia by obtaining the proper education and getting licensed – a process which varies from state to state – and then complete an internship or practicum. Becoming a licensed therapist is not a quick and dirty process, for obvious reasons. Again, Trump. It takes time and commitment.

    That being said, the path is easy when the work is something that fits your character. Counseling can be a deeply rewarding career for someone who is naturally self-aware, patient, compassionate, and nonjudgmental.

    It’s a way to bring one’s spiritual practice off the mat and into the wider world.

    About the Author
    Katie Kapro is a Sufi and writer in the Intermountain West. When not writing, she can usually be found burying her face in sage in the foothills behind her house. Follow her on Twitter @kapro101

    Stevie P’s Postscript

    This article is incredibly relevant for both myself and everyone reading this, as I just launched the Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great Mystery School. It’s essentially a modern, online version of the ancient mystery schools that will help you integrate spiritual concepts into your daily life. The general “curriculum” (I use that term loosely) is based upon recurring themes I’ve had with individuals which they’ve found great value in, so I’m sure you’ll find value as well.

    Click here to find out more about the Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great Mystery School

    Much love.

    – Stevie P
     

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    6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Focus

    focus

    Today’s world is an endless, omnipresent circus of distraction.

    We’re in the process of learning how to integrate all of this new technology into our lives. It’s trial and error on a gigantic scale. Because ubiquitous technology is so new to our species, we’re overwhelmed; bombarded with emails, Facebook notifications, text messages and unlimited information at all times. Perhaps the biggest casualty of this has been our ability to focus.

    Technology isn’t going anywhere, so we must learn how to master it as opposed to being a slave to it. So instead of passively letting our world of distraction deteriorate our focus, we must proactive maintain mental mastery or suffer from scatterbrained madness.

    Training yourself to consciously focus on one thing at a time is transformative and freeing. The ability to focus brings you into the present moment, allowing to peacefully and deeply engage in whatever you’re doing without being assaulted by the daunting worries of the past and future. A focused mind is far more relaxed, clearer, and sharper than a wandering, distracted mind that wastes energy on minutiae.

    Life becomes simpler when you’re focusing on what you’re doing in the present moment. Life is chaotic and overwhelming when you’re worrying about everything at once.

    Here’s a little secret too. If you consciously focus on one thing at a time, you’ll get a lot more done without any of the paralyzing anxiety, worry, regret, fear…etc. This state of conscious focus is what Buddhists call the one pointed mind.

    Think about the situations in your life where you were fully immersed in whatever you were doing, completely undistracted and in the zone. Didn’t it feel great? It’s like you freed yourself from the heavy burdens of the past/future and dipped into the peaceful ocean of the present moment. In addition to the serenity is a sense of clarity and sharpness that is far beyond the murky and turbulent waters of a distracted mind.

    There’s no need to believe that focus consists of grinding effort either. Focus simply means that your point of attention is being consciously directed towards something. Focus should ideally be effortless, a natural byproduct of a clear mind.

    Everything is a muscle that can be strengthened through practice. Here’s how to build your focus muscles.

    6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Focus

    1. Gazing Meditation (Trataka) – Sit and gaze at a specific object (most people use a candle) for a certain amount of time. Then close your eyes and visualize the object in as much detail as possible. The practice of gazing meditation hones your powers of concentration and visualization. It is the ultimate one pointed mind builder.

    Really, any meditation practice helps with focus, but gazing meditation is the most effective if your goal is specifically to improve your focus.

    2. Set blocks of time for specific tasks – Choose a specific task, set a timer and only focus on that task for the allotted time. This is essentially an agreement with yourself, a commitment to focusing on only one thing. Close your email, turn off your phone and all other distractions while doing this. Start with a small chunk of time, like 15-20 minutes, but no longer than 50 minutes.

    I set myself blocks of time to write and it has produced amazing results. I get deeper in the zone (flow state) and produce many more words per minute (and better quality writing) than I did before using this technique.

    3. Read more books – Remember those things called books? Start reading them again. While reading a book, you focus on that book and that book only for significant amounts of time. This greatly hones your focus.

    If all you do is read click-bait listicles online, watch silly cat videos, read tweets and creep on people’s Facebook photos, your ability to focus is going to be pretty pathetic and you’ll be relegated to the mediocre purgatory of ceaseless, unfulfilling distraction.

    4. Practice presence – Practice being present in everyday situations. If you’re with someone, or eating dinner, or going for a hike, or playing with kids or your dog, turn your phone off and put it away. Be completely present in the moment. This will teach you to focus on what you’re doing and deepen your experience of the present moment (which is all we ever have).

    5. Listen to music – When you listen to music, just listen to music! Don’t do anything else. Listen mindfully and hear the subtleties that you’re usually oblivious to. This is an easy and enjoyable way to hone your focus.

    6. Make sure your body is healthy – A healthy body makes everything easier. It also optimizes your mood and cognitive function, which will naturally enhance your ability to focus.

    Eat well and exercise regularly. Eat real food and healthy fats for brain function, walk a lot, hike, do yoga, resistance training, HIIT workouts, kettlebell training (my personal favorite)…etc. A healthy diet (like this one) combined with exercise allows your mind to function at its highest capacity. If you’re eating fast food and sitting all day, your mind isn’t going to work nearly as well as it could.

    Now focus on applying those.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!
     

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