For many, Lent is a time to give up something for the purpose of honoring the 40 days Jesus was said to walk through the desert, lured by the devil on many occasions. Christian or otherwise, Lent can be observed by anyone wanting to experience discipline, inner strength and conviction. Whether it is a vice we’ve been battling with, an addiction we need to curb, or simply the wish to deny ourselves our favorite luxury, the essence is in finding the devotion and dedication to let go of the inner demon of temptation.
Forty days is a long time to live without something you’ve been used to doing or having. Some of us make it easy on ourselves, while others will go all out in an effort to really challenge themselves. I have heard vegetarians say they are going to give up meat for Lent, and just recently my father told me he was going to give up listening to his Wayne Newton albums. Both are absurd, the prior for obvious reasons, and for those of you who don’t know my dad, he is definitely not a fan of Wayne Newton.
But for those of you who are actually going to give up something that will make you squirm, cringe, and want to renounce your devotion, the following meditation will help you stay the course.
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Many people will be hitting the ski slopes over President’s Day weekend, and lift lines will continue to grow through spring break and beyond. The air may be thin at the top of the lift but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to breathe. In fact, Anne Anderson, a certified ski instructor from Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut, takes advantage of the fresh mountain air by teaching her skiers breathing and meditation practices as part of her lesson plan.
Snowga, a combination of the two words ‘snow’ and ‘yoga’ is the latest hybrid yoga class to hit the slopes. A blend of yoga and skiing, Snowga helps to improve your downhill skiing skills by incorporating yoga poses, breath work, and meditation. Created by Anderson, Snowga also helps skiers face their fears of the mountain and stay calm and relaxed on difficult terrain. “Yoga has a natural benefit of healing. It calms the mind and body and is a true compliment to snow sports education,” Anderson told Fox News in a recent interview.
Anderson is not the only skier who practices yoga on and off the slopes. U.S. Ski Team freestyle mogul skier Heather McPhie adds a little yoga to the days she skis. “It is so helpful in keeping my body more physically prepared and is a wonderful pause in my day where I get away from everything else and just center,” McPhie also explained in her interview with Fox News.
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Hastily responding to every cell phone beep, email alert ding and news feed notification bing are the familiar ways a lot of us spend our waking hours every day, whether we are at work, or worse, at home spending some down time with family.
“The speed at which information is coming at us can get overwhelming,” says Google’s Gopi Kallayil, a marketing manager for Google+. Kallayil, also a yoga teacher, says she sees more people in Silicon Valley, the heart of the high-tech industry, turning toward yoga and meditation as a way to find a centering reprieve from the stressful blitz of the fast-paced digital world.
With the physical and mental health of these computer-habituated people at risk, many high-tech industries have adopted wellness programs that go beyond a gym membership and a monthly massage. Recognizing the hyperactive tendencies of those caught in the whirlpool of tweets, status posts and microblogs, companies such as Google and Twitter have incorporated “urban-wellness” programs that include yoga and meditation specifically designed to allow people the time to unwind, unclutter, and most importantly, unplug.
“Twitter is really into this,” says Deborah Burkman, meditation teacher for Twitter. “There is a whole mindfulness program they’re trying to build there. Like a lot of companies, they’re concerned about the well-being of their employees and they’re big believers in trying to have people be consciously connected.”
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While the mortality rate of women with breast cancer is decreasing, the incidence of depression in women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer is on the rise. As many as 50% of all women who are affected with the disease will experience some kind of post-recovery melancholy. Thankfully, researchers from the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri have brought to our attention a specific meditation technique, and suggest how it can help breast cancer survivors revive their zest for life.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a type of mindfulness training that uses the mind to combat anxiety and bring about a sense of wellbeing. It includes mental practices that heighten physical awareness, as well as yoga and time spent in quiet, reflective meditation. Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, MBSR helps people foster their own mind-body connection, as well as create a deeper awareness of how thoughts and feelings can affect physical and emotional health.
The MBSR program consists of eight to ten week group sessions including practice in meditation skills, stress response and coping techniques. The University of Missouri’s team of researchers gathered data from the participants during and after the group sessions. Measurements of blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate were recorded. Not surprisingly, the participants’ physical responses to MBSR were favorable. Blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate all decreased, suggesting a lowered stress response. In addition, the subjects said their mood improved and their level of mindfulness increased.
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The results of an experiment conducted by a team of researchers at UC San Francisco suggest mindful eating and meditation are factors in helping people control their junk food cravings and lose weight. “By recognizing what you are feeling before you act [eat] you have a greater chance of making a wiser decision,” claims researcher Jennifer Daubenmier.
Dr. Catherine Kerr, a meditation expert at Brown University responded to the findings of this study by saying it was consistent with several other brain studies that suggest mindfulness brings about changes to the part of the brain responsible for food cravings. She further explained that mindful eating and meditation actually rewire the brain to tune into the body in a healthier way.
If you are skeptical because you find it hard to believe that just sitting quietly in meditation is going to melt the pounds from your hips, why don’t you give it a try?
Before a meal, take at least 10 minutes to sit in a comfortable position, free from distractions like the computer or telephone. Close your eyes and pay attention to sensations throughout your body. Perhaps you are very hungry, and you feel your stomach growling as it pines for nourishment. Be present with the sensations that you are feeling and resist the temptation to give in to any one of them. If you find yourself craving a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy, instead of going for it, get familiar with how it feels to crave them, without trying to change those feelings. Accepting how you feel without resistance is very important. This will help you avoid succumbing to your cravings so you can realize your weight loss goals.
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