Running and Meditation

young fitness woman runner running on trail

young fitness woman runner running on trail

“Life Isn’t a Matter of Milestones but Moments” ~ Rose Kennedy

I began running when I was fourteen after meeting Persian woman who’s son I babysat. We instantly became friends. She and I would have long, intimate conversations. Our nightly runs and strolls through the hilly neighborhood streets gave us the opportunity to become quite close. Her husband and my mother were often away for work. Endorphins and close communications soothed our sorrows as did our friendship.

Even after I moved, I continued to jog through other neighborhoods. Running became my sanctuary. I explored new territory and escaped the pain living at home. I didn’t realize it until many years later that my regime of running was a form of meditation. It was my solace. It was the one place where I had control. I could be with my thoughts and feelings without anyone else telling me I was wrong or stupid. I gave myself the respect to listen while others were too busy to pay attention.

I reaped many health and psychological benefits from running. Running increased my lung capacity, my muscle strength, muscle tone, and my endurance.

For some regular running increases metabolism for weight reduction, promotes good mental health, and overall mind/body/spiritual health. Jogging releases endorphins a natural painkiller and mood enhancer. It increases the capacity to focus, practice perseverance, and dedication. It’s no wonder runner enthusiasts exist everywhere.

Meditation

Meditation offers many of the same advantages as running. Meditation is deliberately paying attention moment by moment. It is being acutely aware of what is happening inside and outside of our body and mind. Meditation is listening to our minds chatter, sensations in our body, and the connections to our surroundings.

Meditation and Running

Although most people run while being plugged-in, stopping to check and respond to our mobile mail, or listening to our iPod, taking a brief break from our digital worlds has tremendous benefits.

Mindful running is unplugging, paying attention, and making the choice to focus internally and externally. It entails suspending any agendas, goals, deadlines for the moment and enjoy the full experience of running free. Running while meditating gives the opportunity to sort through problems, find solutions, and let go of any frustrations of the day.

Mindful running is a practice. It is not a performance, a comparison, nor a pre-determined result. Mindful running is directing our attention. Soak in wisps of the wind as it softly tickles the hair on your skin. Take in the sweet smells of fresh blossoms in the air. Taste the saltiness of the ocean air if you are so fortunate or the sweat that bubbles above your lip. Bask in the warmth of the sun and delightful sights as your body swiftly sweeps through the streets. Each stride is an opportunity to notice all that we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and think without criticism, judgment, or evaluation. The regime for mindful running calls for soothing kindness and curiosity.

Personal Time

There is so much to learn from our thoughts and feelings. Running provides self-reflective time for greater awareness. By paying attention, creative solutions can be discovered. And curiosity while roaming in nature and natural surroundings can create a spiritual connection. The next time you run leave your ear plugs, your mobile, or any other digital device at home. There is a whole world to discover and experience not only outside but in your mind.

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10 Ways to Get Things Done

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

“If you think you can, you can.  If you think you think you can’t, you’re right.”  – George Bernard Shaw

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.” – Baba Amte

“Practice is the best of all instructions.”  – Publilius Syrus

achievementIt’s another year gone by.  Bloggers, editors, and writers are scripting about resolutions, goals, and fresh starts.  Each New Year seems to bring a surge of renewed energy to make this year the best year yet.  Yet come February/ March that enthusiasm fades.  Why?  What is it about the New Year that brings a desire for change but then it quickly dwindles?

Change is hard.  Breaking old habits takes a consistent effort.  Casting your magic wand doesn’t just make it so.  It takes action, accountability, dedication, repeat and do it again.  Research supports it takes at least 21 days, some say 8 weeks to replace a bad habit.  It really depends.  It depends on the new habit, how long you have been doing it, the benefits of continuing, the immediacy of the payoff, and how often and automatically you perform the behavior.

To break the cycle, it is imperative to be conscientious of your thoughts and behaviors around the routine you desire to alter.   It takes consistent modifications every minute, hour and day.  For how long, well depends. Just repeat the desired change.

Wow! That seems overwhelming, huh.  It doesn’t have to be. Write.  Put your desired behavior modification on paper.  Post your desires on a visible spot that you see daily like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door.

Take some time (as much as you need) and reflect on the past year.  Look at what you achieved, what you learned, gained, and liked.  Review what you didn’t accomplish.  What were the blocks that prevented you from achieving those marks?  What do you need to make them happen in 2014?   Now write this down and keep it in a safe place to review often.

The answers to the questions above help you analyze past behavior, learn from successes and failures, and make fresh intentions.  The best way to accomplish this thorough investigation of your life is to break it down into professional, relational, body, and spiritual goals.  Again, write your thoughts down!

Next set small goals with specific due dates.  Break down those big ideas, dreams, and aspirations into tiny, manageable, and achievable goals.  Ensure they are realistic.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.

Find support.  Join a team or involve friends and family.  Tell them your aspirations, the due date, and ask them to follow-up and inquire upon your progress.  Involving others ensures accountability, support, and friendly reminders.

Here is a list of 10 Ways to Make Ideas Happen:

1. Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary.

2. Focus on the possibilities instead of the limitations.

3. Remember that there is a solution for every problem (some are just harder to find than others).

4. Write it down and set a deadline.

5. Allow yourself to receive help (there is no reward for doing it all yourself).

6. Be open to feedback and suggestions.

7. Learn how to enjoy the process (it may take you a while to get there, so you might as well enjoy it)!

8. Reward yourself often.  Be proud of even the tiniest steps of progress.

9. Hang around with people who make their ideas happens.

10. Start even if you don’t know how you are going to finish.

11. REPEAT.

Principles of Prayer and Meditation

prayer-meditationStep 11 – Through prayer and meditation I seek to improve my conscious contact with God as I understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for my life and the power to carry that out

The principal of the eleventh step of Alcoholics Anonymous is prayer and meditation.  Taking a few minutes a day breaking away from everyday frustrations, distractions, and multitasking’s for self-examination can change your life.  Spending just a little time each day consciously connecting with your higher power can directly influence your thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.

For most people, serenity is far off in the distance due to those day after day interruptions, obligations, and disturbances that cause chaos and clutter. Making prayer and meditation a daily routine is your path to new hope leading to a more serene life.

Whenever you are feeling stuck, confused, need help, or don’t know what to do next, take a few minutes to talk to your higher power.  Ask for guidance and help.  At first, it may feel awkward talking to a force you can’t see or hear.  Stay with the uncertainty and within a short period of time you will see results.

There are many books, articles, and literature on how to pray and meditate.  Most religions have formal guidelines for prayer.  Religious guiding principles include confession of wrongdoings, asking for forgiveness, expressing gratitude, asking for guidance, asking for blessings on family, friends, and loved ones or trying to love.

Choose your own religious ritual or spiritual pathway that works best for your lifestyle and beliefs.  Select a regular routine that will enable you to continue and make it a habit.  Pray in nature, taking a walk, in the shower, or on your knees by your bed.  Meditate in a group.  Bow your head, clasp your hands, or close your eyes.  Or sit alone, quietly and just think.

Talk out loud or write entries in a journal dedicated to your higher power.  Dictate a long prayer in the morning, night, or recite short messages throughout the day.   Whatever the method, you have the autonomy to choose your own process for prayer.

Whatever your course is for prayer and meditation ensure it is one you can do consistently.  During this time for yourself, you can address self-care, including how to nurture inner peace, when to reach out to others, and how to find a way to embrace a perplexing task and really own it as yours.  You can reflect upon ways to carry through on good intentions, where to make time for fun, and to be present for your feelings.

Prayer and meditation is a time to be open and receptive to whatever comes up.  Honor the process by being with and allowing your feelings to move within and through you at their own pace and timeframe. Stay with the practice trying not to change, distract, distort, or numb what is happening within.

Respect what is happening inside by mindfully acknowledging your thoughts, emotions, and perspectives.  It may be a good time to reach out to a trusted friend, your therapist, or your sponsor for validation.  Eventually you will get to a place of acceptance, understanding, and a renewed sense of relief and peace.

With an inner sense of tranquility, the hurt, anger, and helplessness is diminished.  When the walls of fury are dropped, the gates are open to a pathway for love.  You are more receptive and able to connect to those you love or trying to love. Your connections are expanded because you set free your loving presence to soar.

Cultivating a deeper prayer life provides new opportunities for reflection, affirmation, and lasting change in your relationship to yourself and others.  The eleventh step of Alcohol Anonymous is one that is encouraged to practice every day.  With diligence and consistency, a spiritual consciousness awakens a fuller, robust life with rich, meaningful relationships.

Here is a prayer to get you started.  It is a recovery prayer based on Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Thank you for keeping me straight yesterday.  Please help me stay straight today.  For the next twenty-four hours, I pray for knowledge of your will for me only and the power to carry that through.  I pray that you might free my thinking of self-will, self-seeking, and wrong motives.  I pray that in times of doubt and indecision, you might send your inspiration and guidance.  I pray that you may send me the right thought, word, or action, and that you show me what my next step should be.”

Open up and say ‘neigh’: Horses Help Teach Med Students

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Video: For America’s next generation of doctors, bedside manner can fall by the wayside in the first few years of medical school. But one doctor in Arizona is hoping to change that by offering a first-of-its-kind class using horses to instill compassion. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

For the next generation of doctors to develop a better bedside manner, it’s important to spend some time in a stable.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Allan Hamilton of the University of Arizona Medical Center, Tucson, is using his ranch for a first-of-its-kind class to help train first year medical students, bringing the humans in close contact with large flighty four-legged patients who can’t talk and who can be highly — and violently — reactive to doctors who aren’t attuned to their patients’ body language.

At his first “lecture,” Hamilton shows this year’s class how to safely approach a horse. He slowly walks up to one of his horses, running his hand over the animal’s body as he moves around it.

“I put my arm around him like this so the whole time, even when I go through his blind spot, he knows exactly where I am,” Hamilton tells the students and NBC chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

The slow, careful contact with the animal is not only for self-protection — the reaction of a startled horse can range from bolting away to spinning and kicking out at something it perceives as a threat — but also as comfort and reassurance.

The idea for the course began when Hamilton caught himself approaching a patient too abruptly and without the right amount of sensitivity.

“The whole thing started one day when I was in a hurry,” he said. “I was delayed getting to clinic and we just burst into this room because we were in such a hurry and this woman, she just screamed when we walked into the room because we came in so fast. I just remember thinking to myself, ‘boy I never would have done that if that was a horse.’”

The concept makes a lot of sense to Snyderman, a horsewoman herself. “As a physician I hear from medical school professors all the time who say that the students come in eager and passionate about helping others, and leave as cynical and harsh doctors,” she said.

Riley Hoyer, one of the first-year medical students who signed up for Hamilton’s innovative class, recognizes the skills he’s learning.

Right now, “I’m studying books instead of focusing on patient care and so this was just one class that I could do as an elective to try and better learn how to interact with animals and learn how to use my body language to interact with patients,” he told TODAY.

Because horses can’t talk, students need to learn to read their body language to set up a “conversation.” They need to have a rapport and develop trust before the horse will stand still to have its heart monitored with a stethoscope or to get an inoculation.

Snyderman watched as one of the other students connects with a horse. “And now he’s making eye contact with you because you approached him in a very sensitive way,” she said. “It’s a lot like [approaching] a patient.”

Hamilton believes that the program can build better doctors, helping them to overcome fear and improve confidence.

“Probably even more important is it saves doctors,” he said. “Our salvation is going to be to go back to what really makes us fulfilled, which is this essence of human-human interaction and the ability to take somebody in the most dire of circumstances and say,’grab my hand I know we’re going OK we’re in this together.’”

Hamilton’s class has been offered since 2001 and it’s gaining attention around the country. Stanford University and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey are now offering similar courses.

Hamilton didn’t get his horses with a plan to teach students a better bedside manner. “I moved out here specifically to do neurosurgery by day and horses by night,” he said with a chuckle.

5 Ways to Improve Your Conscious Listening

active-listening_pinkTaken from Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better | Video on TED.com

Conscious listening is understanding sound.   It increases empathy, connection, consciousness, and peace.  Listening externally improves relationships.  Listening internally increases awareness of inner wisdom and self-sabotaging talk.  Read on to learn ways to uplift your capacity to hear with clarity.

1. Sit silently for three minutes a day to recalibrate and hear the silence again.

2. Listen and count the many channels of sound (i.e. count birds chirping or the different depths of sound listening to the flow of a creek, or the clasps of the coffee machine being worked at Starbucks as you stand in line).

3. Savor mundane sounds.  Turn the sound of a washing machine into a waltz.

4. Listening positions allow room to navigate, see different perspectives, and find solutions.

  • Active | passive
  • Reductive | expansive
  • Critical |empathetic

5. R A S A is an acronym to simplify the rules to listen better.

  • R = Receive, pay attention
  • A = Appreciation, thank for sharing
  • S = Summarize, use so… frequently
  • A – Ask, pose many questions

Listening is a rare art form that takes practice, dedication, and consciousness.  Notice how slowing down to listen to others and yourself can help transform your relationships, decision-making, and peacefulness.