7 Ways to Deepen Your Meditation Practice

Face it. We’re all neurotic and stressed out to some degree.

That’s the culture we live in right now.

Because of this, it’s incredibly difficult to just sit cross-legged and be “one with the Universe.”

I don’t know about you, but it takes me at least a few minutes before I stop thinking about something a kid said to me back in middle school. That’s the human mind for ya.

It’s not all chaos and craziness though. There are certain practices that make it easier to drop into deep meditation. I call them “meditation on-ramps.”

These are things you can incorporate into your life that will allow you to go deeper when you actually sit down to meditate.

7 Ways to Deepen Your Meditation Practice

1. Breathing Exercises

Any kind of breathing practices beautifully set the stage for meditation. Deep, conscious breathing causes your thoughts to settle and your body to relax, which allows for a peaceful, meditative state.

In the yogic tradition, breathwork is called Pranayama. There are many, many breathing exercises to do and all are fun to experiment with.

I personally do some deep breathing before every meditation session I do. I take about 7-10 long, deep breaths, then release into meditation. This helps clear my mind and relax my body.

Try it right now: Take 3 deep breaths into your belly, let go of the stress you’re holding and feel the changes in your state of being.

2. Nature

This one is obvious, yet few people use nature as medication. A quiet, peaceful place in nature works wonders for stress and the chaotic assault of daily life.

Spending some time in nature brings peace and balance to your being. If you take some time out in nature before or while you meditate, you will find that it greatly enhances meditation.

3. Intentional Movement

Consciously moving your body and releasing tension will definitely deepen your meditation practice. This includes yoga, stretching and walking outside.

Engaging in intentional movement before meditating allows you to relax that much more deeply. There’s a reason why they do savasana at the end of yoga classes.

4. Daily Practice

We’re creatures of habit. This can be leveraged to our advantage, if done consciously.

Meditating every day (especially the same time every day) helps you get “in the zone” more reliably. It builds meditation momentum, if you will. When you meditate every morning, your mind will be conditioned to let go during this time.

5. Meditating in the Morning

It’s really effective to meditate in the morning for several reasons:

  • The state between sleeping and waking is highly conducive to meditation
  • Your mind is clear first thing in the morning
  • Allows you to ease into your day
  • It gives you positive momentum to start your day
  • Makes you more peaceful, focused and mindful throughout the rest of the day
  • 6. Being Healthy In General

    Being healthy makes everything easier and more effective. Eat real food, walk outside, exercise, stretch, drink water, spend time in nature, watch less tv, consume less sugar, breath deeply, dance, express yourself, feel gratitude…etc. These are all simple practices, but they need to be practiced daily for optimal health.

    Your brain works better, your mood is more stable, you have less aches and pains, more energy and everything becomes optimized. Basically, when you’re unhealthy, you have more distractions in the way of your own inner peace.

    7. Prioritizing Your Well-Being

    If you make something a priority, you get it done by any means necessary. If you don’t make something a priority, you’ll find any excuse NOT to do it.

    Prioritize your well-being. Prioritize your peace of mind. Prioritize meditation. Once that intention is there, nothing will stop you.

    How to Actually Meditate Every Day

    Don’t know where to start?

    Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. You don’t have to meditate for hours a day to start seeing the benefits of meditation in your life.

    There’s a ridiculously EASY way to meditate every day. And it’s literally easier than getting out of bed in the morning.

    You don’t have to be an om-chanting yogi or a kale-munching vegan to meditate. Meditation is for anyone, anywhere.

    Want to learn how to meditate every morning? (and do it effortlessly, without it seeming like another thing on your to-do list)

    Join the 7 Day Meditation Challenge. It’s the easiest way to start meditating. Even if you already meditate, it will help you stick to a daily routine as well as give you tips to deepen your practice.

    CLICK HERE TO START THE 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE

    Find bliss within and share it.

    One love.

    – Stevie P!

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    Do You Even Feel, Bro?

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    Here’s your life…

    Think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think.

    All you do is think.

    You’re so caught up in your head that you’ve forgotten how to FEEL.

    “Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts.” – Qui-Gon Jinn (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace)

    Feeling is understanding. Feeling is both your inner guidance system and the means by which life becomes fully, deeply and totally experienced.

    Pause for a second and allow your awareness to drop from your mind and into your body.

    How do you feel? (This isn’t some ambiguous, hippie question to have you hold hands and sing kumbaya. It’s both practical and unfathomably important.)

    Ask yourself these follow-up questions right now:

    What sensations are going on in my body?

    What emotions am I feeling?

    What feelings or emotions are accompanying my thoughts?

    Establish a habit of asking yourself these questions, every day, in different situations and build your “feeling awareness.”

    Can You Feel Me?

    Fully inhabiting my emotional state was always difficult for me to do. I was so conditioned to always use my mind, to be consumed in thoughts and to (over)think things through instead of feeling things out (especially as a man being born in the US). Western people, and particularly western men, are so dominated by the mind that feelings and intuition are suppressed to the point that many of us aren’t even aware of them.

    I would always understand things conceptually, but I never realized that most of the time, I wasn’t really FEELING the truth of the matter. To reiterate the point from before, feeling is true understanding. There’s an indescribable feeling you get when you deeply know something to be true.

    Gratitude is a great example of something I’m finally learning to feel. I always thought that being grateful was merely thinking about gratitude (all in my head). But I rarely actually FELT gratitude. Now, when I’m grateful, I not only think it (in my head) but I feel it like waves washing over me (usually in my chest/heart center). And sometimes the feeling is so intense that I feel like I AM GRATITUDE. It’s a different world than just thinking about gratitude. It’s magnificently real.

    Why is Feeling Even Important?

    I’m a man (in this lifetime at least), so I’ve often wondered about the usefulness of feeling. Something like “I thought that feeling was some overly-emotional, feminine, drama-queen shit. How would feeling benefit me anyway?” And you might be thinking something similar, especially if you’re the product of western (mind-dominant) culture. I’m not saying to be a drama queen or a slave to your emotions, but just to simply be aware of your feelings. Here’s why:

    Feeling is your inner guidance system – Your feelings and emotions are your compass, your inner guidance system. It is through the awareness of feelings that you tune into your intuition. This taps into the wisdom of the heart, which perceives from a much more expansive perspective than the mind. As you know, the mind can be deceptive. It’s so easy to trick yourself with the mind, or let self-doubt restrain you from your full potential. Go into your feelings and access the wisdom of the heart. It’s the only guidance you’ll ever need.

    Feeling allows you to fully experience life – What is a sunset without the feeling of peaceful bliss associated with it? What is sex if you’re in your head, not feeling the ecstasy flowing through your being? What is hitting the game winning shot if you don’t feel it? The shot is taken through instinct, not by thinking about it, and followed by a feeling of tremendous celebration. Life is an experience, and experiences are to be fully felt, not merely thought about.

    Feeling supercharges your manifestation abilities – Most people are familiar with the law of attraction. What you focus on is what you bring into your life. Your thoughts help create your experienced reality. But, here’s the thing, thoughts are only powerful attractors when combined with passionate emotion. It’s the emotion that makes your focus a strong magnetic pull.

    This was something I never fully grasped until very recently. I would merely think thoughts, or write them down, thinking that I was attracting the object of my thoughts. And guess what? My manifestations have always been slow going. In contrast, many women I’ve been around are very powerful manifestors. Why is this? Because every thought of theirs is blended with powerful and passionate emotion.

    This is why visualization is so powerful. Visualization is imagining something you desire like it’s already happening. You feel it and all of the emotions that come along with it. Successful athletes have famously applied the power of visualization to excel at their sport. It’s a secret weapon of elite athletes and it works astonishingly well.

    Here’s an action item (if you want to improve your feeling, visualization and manifestation abilities):
    Take 10-15 minutes each day and visualize yourself living the life you desire. Feel it like it’s already happening. Go through all the facets of life; your body, your relationships, your career, your life experiences…etc. Visualize and FEEL it, and you will be a powerful magnet for whatever you focus on.

    More Ways to Hone the Power of Feeling

    Cultivate body awareness – Practice bringing your awareness into your body. When you have a thought, go into your body and feel the feeling associated with it. When you feel an emotion, notice the corresponding feeling in your body.

    Yoga – Yoga is meditative movement, bringing you out of your head and into your body. The practice of yoga is one of the best ways to cultivate bodily awareness. You will naturally be able to intuitively feel things out more. In addition, many yogic poses are heart-opening, opening you up to the world of feelings/emotions (and positive ones at that).

    Do anything to get out of your head – Meditate, express yourself creatively, write in a journal, exercise, walk outside, go for a hike, watch the sunset…etc. Anything that helps you to get out of your head will allow you to become more aware of your emotional state.

    Drop into your heart-space – Practice bringing your awareness out of your head and into your heart-space (the heart chakra in the center of your chest). Allow your consciousness to reside there. I’ve been doing this a lot recently and it’s been profound. I’m more intuitive and a deep feeling of love pervades my being when I drop into my heart-space. For phenomenal resources regarding this topic, check out the HeartMath Institute.

    The mind is a phenomenal servant, but a terrible master. Let your heart be your guide, but don’t forget to take your mind along for the ride.

    So I’ll leave you with one question: Do you even feel, bro?


     

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    Overcome Stagnation with This 3 Minute Trick

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    I just spent the whole morning writing. And I definitely sat down for too long, so I was feeling stagnant and utterly uninspired. I wasn’t just physically stagnant, but mentally as well (they’re intimately interconnected).

    You know that feeling, right? It’s that eye-rolling combination of being drained, dreary, exhausted and indecisive, with no mental capacity or motivation to do anything.

    I knew that I had to do something about it. I needed to create a shift somehow or I would feel like a rusty wheelbarrow with a flat tire for the rest of the day.

    So I did the following, and in about 3 minutes I felt anew and reinvigorated.

    3 Minutes to Overcome Stagnation

    Step 1) Put on a song you love – Play any song that makes you feel good.

    Step 2) Take 10 deep breaths – Breathe deeply into your belly. Feel the energy flowing within. Remember this: Shallow breathing makes you feel like shit and deep breathing makes you feel awesome.

    Step 3) Do some stretches, yoga poses or any mobility exercises – Do whatever comes to you, whatever your body feels like doing (listen to it). Just get your body moving, release built-up tension, get your blood pumping and your energy circulating. Break out of the rigid rigamortus. Open up and bring your body back its healthy, supple state.

    If you’re a complete newbie to this stuff, try Elliott Hulse’s Bioenergizer Warmup.

    Step 4) Dance – Feel the music. Let loose and let your body creatively express itself. This is cathartic physically, mentally and emotionally. Don’t underestimate the power of dance. A few minutes of dancing like you’re possessed by the music will shift your momentum for the rest of the day.

    By the time the song’s over, you’ll feel like a new (wo)man.

    This is a quick and simple strategy to help you overcome the inertia of stagnation and set your momentum in a positive direction.

    From there, you’ll feel like you can do anything. After putting this technique to use, I had so much energy that I went right into an intense workout. It felt amazing.

    Try out this technique the next time you’re feeling stagnant. It really works.

    Life is movement. No movement, no life. Know movement, know life.

    Keep flowing.

    – Stevie P
     

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    The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual

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    Do you enthusiastically jump out of bed every morning, ready to attack your day?

    If not, take a step back and think about why you’re taking a new day of life for granted…

    If you wake up, complaining about “another day,” get ready in a grumpy haze and rush to work, well, chances are the rest of your day won’t be too fun. What you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. That’s why it’s so important to start the day off in an empowered, inspired state of consciousness (if you want to live a happy, fulfilling and successful life). It’s no coincidence that the most successful people in any industry are avid advocates of morning rituals. It’s secret-weapon-level effective. What you do in the first hour of your day is the hinge point from which everything else swings. Here’s how to leverage it:

    This is exactly what I do every day, as soon as I wake up. It’s the by-product of a lot of research and self-experimentation, inspired by the highly effective techniques of several others. I call it “The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual”:

    1. Reiki – As soon as I wake up, I practice reiki on myself for a few minutes. It makes me feel simply amazing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I discuss reiki in more depth in this post.

    2. Meditate – 5 minutes of meditation. I breath deeply, focusing on my breath until thoughts gradually stop popping up. Then I bask in the peaceful void of pure consciousness.

    3. Drink a full glass of water with lemon, apple cider vinegar and Himalayan pink salt – I squeeze half of a lemon, add about an ounce of apple cider vinegar and just a pinch of Himalayan pink salt into a glass of water. This cocktail provides a plethora of health benefits, including detoxification, stimulating metabolism, hydration (obviously), alkalinity, digestion, strengthening the immune system, enhancing skin health and much, much more. I personally use this water filter and Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.

    4. Vitamins C and D – I take these two with the water described above. Vitamin C helps with detoxing and vitamin D supplementation is crucial during the winter months of scarce sunlight. A quick Google search on vitamin D will leave you awe-struck regarding the sheer range of benefits it produces and how important it is for optimal health.

    5. Mobility/yoga – For about 5 minutes, I do some stretching, yoga and mobility exercises. This is done mostly intuitively, depending on what parts of my body are stiff. It breaks the bodily rigidity of sleep and gets the chi circulating.

    6. Walking – On weekdays, because I have less free time, I walk on the treadmill in my apartment building for 20 minutes. On weekends I like to walk outside more. These walks are always accompanied by podcasts or audiobooks so I can learn while walking. The benefits of walking in the morning are also far-reaching (especially in a fasted state). And another bonus is that walking stimulates a ton of creative inspiration. Many of the greatest writers and philosophers knew this and made a daily habit of walking.

    7. Cold shower – I start off with a warm shower. But for the last minute, I turn it as cold as possible. Doing this skyrockets my energy levels. Like every other step of this routine, cold showers have a whole host of benefits. These include increased alertness, better circulation, improved immunity, skin health, weight loss (through thermogenesis), muscle recovery, mitigation of stress, and relief from depression.

    8. Oil pulling – Usually as I’m getting ready, I’ll swish coconut oil in my mouth for a few minutes. You guessed it, oil pulling has a ton of benefits too, especially regarding oral health and immunity. There’s a reason why it’s been practiced in India for thousands of years. Read more about oil pulling here. Just remember not to swallow it, because it pulls all of the bacteria and viruses out of your mouth.

    Then I continue my day like a cross between Tony Robbins and Mace Windu.

    In doing this routine, I wake up ready to maximize my experience of a new day. I feel a sense of purpose and deep-seated empowerment. It is powerfully detoxifying and supercharges the immune system. My body becomes more supple, at ease and at the same time energized. The same goes for my mind, which begets a flood of creative ideas during and after this routine. I get more done throughout the day while retaining my sanity, operating from a place of peace and blissful gratitude.

    You don’t have to do all of that to get the majority of the benefits. I’m not going to tell you to go get attuned to reiki (though I highly recommend it) or buy everything that I personally use. But you can get started with a highly effective morning routine ASAP…

    The simple and easy “Quick Start Morning Ritual” that you can begin tomorrow and steer your life in the direction you choose:

    1. Upon waking, meditate for just 2 minutes. You can stay laying down or sit up, whatever is more comfortable. Breathe deeply into your belly, focus on your breath and simply observe and let go of your thoughts (without judgment) as they pop up. You are the sky, your thoughts are merely clouds passing by.

    2. Drink a glass of water with squeezed lemon, apple cider vinegar and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.

    3. Do Elliott Hulse’s Bio-Energizer Warm Up. It’s a good starting point for priming the body in the morning, as it’s relatively simple and feels awesome. He recommends doing each exercise for a minute, but you can get most of the benefits in as little as 20-30 seconds for each.

    4. Walk for at least 15 minutes. Either on a treadmill or outside. Listen to a podcast or audiobook while walking to learn while reaping the benefits. Don’t underestimate the importance of movement.

    5. Take a shower and make the last 30 seconds of it cold.

    Then get out there and make the most out of your finite time on planet Earth.

    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Gandhi

    Carpe diem.

    – Stevie P!

    Further Information:
    A great podcast discussing morning routines and productivity:
    http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/early-morning-routine/

    Yoga: Essential For Every Body?

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    Heyheyhey, Namaste.

    I spent this past weekend at Kripalu for a yoga retreat. Kripalu is nestled in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts and the energy of the place is so peaceful and positive. It was a great experience, so it only makes sense to write about yoga right now.

    Yoga came into my life full force this Spring. I started taking yoga classes in April and immediately loved it. The feeling you get during and after yoga is simply amazing. You know that feeling after sitting in a car for 8 hours? (Tense, constricted, anxious..etc.) Well, yoga makes me feel the exact opposite of that.

    What is yoga?

    To me, yoga is the art of bringing every level of being into harmony through the means of the physical body. It’s leveraging the physical body to optimize the totality of self.

    The practice of yoga is like a fun manual for inhabiting a human vessel. It’s a tool-kit for these flesh vehicles we’re piloting. Basically, if you have a body, it’s in your best interest to do some yoga. And I think yoga it’s so fundamental that it should be one of the first things taught to children. (But that’s another tangent.)

    Don’t give into the stereotypes surrounding yoga. It’s for every ‘body’ (see what I did there?), not just middle-aged housewives. Plus it’s fun to break out of comfort zones and shatter realities. Just the concept of being a young, muscular guy at a yoga retreat shattered some realities in and of itself. Especially when I let my guard down during a little writing workshop and read my freewriting aloud. The subtle reactions of people were priceless.

    Awareness

    The practice of yoga tremendously strengthens the mind/body connection. It creates body awareness, making you far more in tune with your body. This allows you to know what your body is telling you and what it needs. On another level, yoga helps with awareness of thoughts. Because it’s a meditative practice, it cultivates a higher perspective, allowing one to witness thoughts without attaching to them. This perspective is crucial in mastering your reality.

    Yoga also fosters breathing awareness. As you probably know, deep breathing is ridiculously beneficial in a lot of ways. Breath is the gateway to self mastery.

    Carryover

    You can draw from yoga to enhance so many aspects of life. Being aware of your body and its needs helps in maintaining optimal health. Being aware of your breath, and breathing deeply, can immediately reduce anxiety. Increased flexibility from yoga will make you more resistant to injury. (Think about how many people hurt their back just picking something up from the floor. I ain’t ’bout that life.)

    Yoga positions are done instinctively by athletes as well. Think about the positions a pitcher goes through, or a basketball player preparing to jump for a rebound, or a sprinter crouched at the starting line. Yo, that’s yoga!

    Another great benefit of yoga is that it begets structural integrity. It corrects imbalances and creates harmony in the body. So this means that yoga can provide a solid foundation for you to build upon. A foundation for increased strength, power, speed, muscle…etc.

    What it doesn’t do:

    It’s not going to get you jacked (though it will help). Yoga will definitely build strength. If you’re looking to get strong and muscular, you need to incorporate some resistance training. However, yoga will provide you with the structural integrity to take your strength training to the next level.

    It’s not going to shed off of a ton of fat (though it will help). As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen. Why are there so many chubby yoga enthusiasts (and even instructors)? Because the vast majority of fat loss is based on diet. For fat loss, I highly recommend diets along the lines of Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet or the Carb Nite Solution. (Both have worked well for me.)

    It won’t allow you to eat like a fat kid and stay lean and ripped. Yoga doesn’t give you the same hormonal effects as deadlifts, for example. A heavy, compound movement like a deadlift creates a hormonal cascade in which you can eat a whole pizza after and have it go to muscle cells instead of fat cells. (Look into Carb Backloading for the specific types of resistance training that produce the most conducive environment for indulging.) So back to the point above, your diet has to be on point if you want to be lean.

    All in all, yoga is a practice that is fundamental in inhabiting a physical body. Any ‘body’ can benefit from it, and in my opinion, it’s crucial for any form of self-improvement.

    I strongly encourage everyone to explore yoga. Take some classes, hit some poses, whatever floats your boat. Try it out. Get acquainted with your body.

    Optimize your vessel and maximize your fun.

    Namaste.

    -Stevie P!