Category Archives: meditation

lotus flower - meditation tips

Ten Tips For Meditation Newbies

Why meditate?

Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is getting a lot of attention these days.  As people begin to really understand and accept the idea of a mind-body-wellness connection, this practice is becoming more popular. And studies show that meditation has a wide range of health benefits:

  • reduces stress
  • reduces anxiety
  • increases focus
  • improves self-awareness
  • may help with memory
  • may help reduce addiction and addictive behaviors
  • improves sleep
  • has been shown to help reduce pain

Getting started

Many people can be hesitant or nervous about starting a practice. That’s because most people equate meditation with sitting still for hours, possibly in lotus position (if your knees bend that far), hands in a mudra position, all while chanting Om and clearing your mind of all thought. While that can, as does, work for some people, for many other’s that simply isn’t going to cut it.

We tend to forget that we are all bio-individual human beings.  Mind and body. So just as one particular diet is not going to work for every single human on the face of the planet, there is no one single meditation practice that works for everyone either. It’s important to find a practice that works for you, that means one that you are comfortable with and are willing to continue to practice.

Meditation is not meant to be overwhelming. It can be simple and enjoyable. It can even be something simple like a gratitude practice one to two times per day. If you want to start or improve your meditation practice without stress, however, there are a number of things you need to know. Getting a good start will help you enjoy the process of learning, support you while you find what works for you, and increases your ability to maintain a balanced meditation practice.

Tips for meditating

  1. Start slow Most people seem to think that they need to jump into an extensive practice, meditation for 30 minutes or an hour at a time. It’s better to begin and develop a practice, even a short one, that you can stick with. Starting with even as little as two to three minutes can be a good start. And you’ll feel so good about it that you’ll want to continue.
  2. Stretch first Especially if you’re new to a meditative practice, sitting or lying still, even just for a few minutes, can get, well, a bit fidgety. If you move your body first, stretching, bending, even just jumping in place if that’s what you need to do, you’ll be much more likely to clear your energy enough to be able to be calm for your practice.
  3. Remember to breathe Sometimes the easiest way to get started is to simply focus on your breath. Breathing helps you maintain awareness and connects you to the present. It also allows you to focus on breathing deep into the belly for full relaxation and oxygenation.
  4. Counting helps If you’re having a hard time focusing on your breath you can add a simple counting practice which has the added benefit of creating just a little more awareness.  One popular method is called box breathing. This is where you breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, breath out for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four.  Repeat.
  5. You’ll still have thoughts Clearing your mind of all thought is extremely difficult. Instead of trying to not think, simply let your mind float. When you have thoughts come up, and they will, acknowledge them. Don’t focus on them thought, simply recognize that they are there and then return your focus to your breath..
  6. Get comfortable You are not required to bend yourself into a pretzel shape in order to achieve some sort of meditative nirvana. If you’re doing a still meditation (which is what most people start with), simply sit or lie comfortably.  Adjust your body to make sure you don’t feel cramped or crooked. Rest your hands comfortable, at your sides, on your belly, on your lap, whatever works for you. Making yourself comfortable first means you won’t get distracted from your practice by discomfort in your body.
  7. Use a timer Especially in the beginning, the temptation is to keep cracking open your eyeballs to peek and see how much time has passed.  Yes, even if you’re just meditation for two minutes.  If you’re not used to it, two minutes can be a long time.  A timer allows you to let go of that concern because once your time it up it lets you know.  You may find yourself surprised at how quickly the time passes when you don’t have to worry about it.
  8. Try meditating multiple times per day By trying different times of the day you’ll find the time that works best for you.  You’ll probably also discover that, especially in the beginning, it’s easier to do 3-4 mini sessions while you work your way up to a longer one. s
  9. Be patient Like anything new, in theory, it would seem that it should be really easy to meditate.  Especially if you’re only doing it for a few minutes. But we’ve become conditioned to always being busy, especially with technology and our always-on social life. It takes time and effort to break this habit. Be kind to yourself, be patient and know that you will get there.
  10. Keep it up Make it a habit to set aside time every day for meditation.  The more you do this the more you’ll come to appreciate the restful break from our overscheduled and busy lives that meditation provides. Don’t push yourself to move too quickly. Simply acknowledge that you are building a new skill, and that takes time.

     Bonus tip

     Unless you’re using one of the meditation apps listed below, be sure to turn off your cellphone so that
are not interrupted while you’re trying to meditate. Even if you are using an app, set it to do not
     disturb so that you won’t be in the middle of a session when your phone goes off.

Meditation resources

There are a number of resources out there that can help you as you learn to build your practice. These include meditation apps and books. Don’t forget to invest in a comfy pair of yoga pants, and maybe even a yoga mat or a zafu meditation pillow, if you’re going to do a more traditional style of meditation.

The beauty of meditation is how many different ways there are to practice it and how easy it can be.  By incorporating a meditation practice into your life you’ll achieve both physical and mental benefits. Using the tips and resources listed above you’ll become skillful at this wonderful practice, developing a healthful habit that you can enjoy for the rest of your life.

Six Reasons To Love Adult Coloring Books

Coloring for adults

When you first think of coloring, you might picture children with bunches of crayons excitedly coloring in books with their favorite cartoon characters. But there’s a growing trend of adults that enjoy coloring. This has brought about the release of more complex coloring sheets and books designed exclusively for adults.

Many adults have discovered that not only is coloring fun, it also has health benefits, too. As a form of self-care (and self-care is one of my “ingredients for a healthy life“) coloring books are right up there for a simple, easy way to take a break.  If you’ve been thinking about adding coloring books to your self-care strategy, here are some of the ways this hobby can help support better health:

  1. Stress reliever
  2. Elevates mood
  3. The Un-tech Effect
  4. Improves focus
  5. Anyone can color
  6. Highly portable

According to a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring in mandala or geometric patterns appears to lower stress and anxiety levels.  

When your body is stressed it produces cortisol.  In small doses this hormone can be beneficial, helping you get through a nerve-wracking speech or boosting your energy when you’re in the middle of a crisis such as a car accident. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. Problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

While coloring doesn’t prevent you from producing cortisol, it’s believed to help lower your cortisol levels. This may be because coloring allows you to get into the creative zone and focus on something enjoyable, rather than worrying about your problems. This, in turn, can help you to relax and release the tension in your body.

One of the conclusions of the Art Therapy study was that “It seems that the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety.”

Besides easing stress, coloring can also improve your mood. This could be due in part to the fact that no one is judging your art. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for adults. It may also be because coloring can lead to something called flow. 

Developed by positive psychology cofounder, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the concept of a highly focused mental state. When in a state of flow you are removing outside distractions.  Using coloring as something to create that flow, you let go of stress (as mentioned above) and are focusing the simple act of coloring. This can provide space which allows you to unwind.  Your flow state can then boost creativity, productivity, and positivity.

Let’s face it, our lives are immersed in technology. Your phone, your watch, your computer, tablet, and television are all highly technical and always pulling for your attention.  Even our homes are becoming smarter and more high tech. Doorbells, lights, heating systems, refrigerator, and more are requiring us to tap into technology. All of that technology interface can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and somewhat stressful. It feels like you are always surrounded. That’s because you are.

Yet with just your imagination, some paper, and a few coloring tools you can set aside some me-time and take a break from all that technology. Your brain will actually function better after a break and you’ll feel calmer too.

Another advantage of coloring is that it improves your focus. Many people find that coloring while listening to webinars or lectures makes it easier to absorb the information. Some of this may be due to an innate tendency to be a kinesthetic, or hands-on learner. But even those who aren’t typically kinesthetic learners may benefit. Many people find that keeping their hands busy, means their mind is less likely to wander.

Because coloring gives you better focus and more clarity, it can also be a good activity to do before you sit down to set goals or develop new strategies. Many highly creative people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, found answers to problems they were working on when they took a break and didn’t focus on the problem. The creativity required for coloring may help you think of new ways to tackle your goals and get the results you’re looking for.

Many people suppress their artistic impulses telling themselves that they simply aren’t creative. The truth is we are all creative. We all have that spark within us. The beauty of adult coloring books is that when you’re coloring it’s a no pressure situation. You’re not expecting to have your coloring pages hung in a famous museum. You’re simply coloring. And you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to. You can make green clouds, pink skies, or anything your imagination can conjure up. It’s a totally personal choice of what you color, what colors you choose, and how you put everything together.

Coloring is one of those activities that can be done anywhere. There are even small books or tiny coloring kits that can be tucked into a purse or a backpack to have at the ready. Perfect for long waits at the department of motor vehicles or alone at a coffee shop. Wherever you are and whatever time you have available, coloring can fill in the gaps and give you a healthy break.

If you love to color and are looking for new sources of coloring material be sure to check out my ebook, Mira’s Marvelous Mandalas with forty-two ready to print beautiful mandala designs to bring you hours of creative fun and mindfulness.

mindfulness, the word of the year

The Word Of The Year – Mindfulness

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of choosing a word to serve as my intention for the year.  This year the word is mindfulness.  As I go through each year I reflect frequently on my word and see if I am meeting my reasons for having chosen it.  

Choosing a word

In past years it has sometimes been a struggle to come up with a word.  There are so many to choose from! And finding just the right one that resonates is not as easy as you might think.  Usually I wind up taking the time from Christmas until somewhere after the New Year to identify a word.

This year, as I worked on my new book on meditation I kept coming back to the word and it really resonated with me. Each time I thought about it, wrote about it, saw it on my desk or my computer it caught my attention and made me stop for a moment. 

I realized that it flows well from my previous word of Focus.

The dictionary defines mindfulness as

1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.

2. Psychology.

  1. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them:
    The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
  2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique


Benefits of mindfulness

One of the things that appeals to me about choosing this word is how much it resonates with our need for self care.  When I work with clients I encourage them to be more mindful about their eating which, of course, has an impact on health. I encourage some sort of self care practice, breathing, meditation, yoga, all of which require a degree of mindfulness.

Moving forward into the new year there will be more of that.  Both for them and for me.  While I am a holistic health practitioner and I support others to achieve their wellness goals, I know I benefit from these practices as well.

The truth is that mindfulness is a very supportive piece of our overall health and wellness.  Studies have shown that it can help lower stress and reduce blood pressure. This, in turn, is good for heart health. [1]  Mindfulness can also help with nutrition, satiety, and even weight loss.  There are a number of studies about this and even a book on the subject

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life








In the year ahead I’m looking forward to deepening my own sense of mindfulness.   And I’m excited to share with others, supporting them to develop their own mindfulness practices as part of their wellness plan.

Words from past years

If you’re interested these are the words that I’ve chosen in the past.  I find it fascinating to look back at previous years, at the reasons I chose certain words and reflecting on the growth that brought to my life.

I’d like to encourage you to pick a word of your own. It’s an interesting exercise and can have some amazing results. If you want to take it one step further you can even go to OneWord365 and put it out there into the universe.

* * * * *

[1] Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension 


On My Mind Monday 09.10.12

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Meditation in the corporate world – According to this article more major corporations are recognizing the value of having employees take a break — to meditate.  Meditation is known to have a variety of health benefits including lowering blood pressure as well as allowing the mind to refocus.   While we don’t teach meditation techniques (and there are many) in the US, it may be something that becomes more and more common in response to this sort of corporate acceptance.

A new twist on urban gardening – in Chicago city lots are not just being used for urban farming.  Some are being converted to orchards where heirloom varieties will be grown.  The time investment to plant, nurture, and eventually harvest an orchard is significant.  The hope is that residents and even restaurants will be able to use and eat these heirloom fruits.  This will be an interesting project to watch, it could be a novel way for other cities to make use of public spaces.

Corn syrup in what? – This very cheap sugar finds it’s way into an amazing array of foods, even those that would not necessarily be thought of as sweet (such as pizza).  The only way to avoid it in your food is to read the label.  Another important thought to remember, corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops in the US.  So any products with corn in them (unless marked organic or non-gmo) are quite possibly genetically modified.

National Yoga Month – is September.  And there are lot of different kinds to choose from.  Yoga is a great form of exercise for people who cannot do impact exercises all the way up to those looking for a vigorous workout.  It also offers a wide range of health benefits.

Calorie restriction may not extend life – starving mouse studies seemed to indicate that mice fed 30% less than “normal” lived as much as 40% longer.  There are a number of people who follow calorie restriction in the hopes that the results will be the same for people.  Recent studies appear to indicate that it doesn’t work for Rhesus monkeys.  However the monkeys did have a better quality of life with lower rates of diabetes and cancer.  I wonder what would happen if results were examined again to look at the quality of the food that the monkeys ate.

It’s back to school time.  Unfortunately for a lot of teens and older kids that may mean a temptation to reach for energy drinks to try to stay on top of their hectic schedules.  Unfortunately this is not a good choice.  Here’s a video from my friend Karen that talks about energy drinks and their effect on the adrenal glands.

photo:  mconnors


Meditation For Children (and Adults)

May is National Meditation Month. Recently I saw this article online, Why Our Children Should Be Taught To Meditate In School.  This falls into the ‘why didn’t I think of that’ category.  If I had known or thought about this I would have encouraged my children to learn how to meditate when they were younger.

Moving faster

In our ever-increasing-speed society children are being encouraged toward more distractibility, more tools, more stimulation.  There’s no down time.   Although he never really said it, Gandhi is attributed with saying, “There’s more to life than increasing it’s speed.”  Whether Gandhi said it or not it is a valuable sentiment.  Somehow, unfortunately, I don’t think our modern society is listening.

Everywhere we turn we are surrounded by messages that urge us to move faster, be more productive, encourage speed over mindfulness. There’s even a saying that highlights this point…”That’s so [insert number] seconds ago.”  I know it’s meant to be amusing but it highlights the problem that we face staying focused in our daily lives.  Everything is presented as needing to be instant, now, online, immediately.  It’s no wonder that rates of hypertension are rising among our young people.  They’re being stressed, pressured, and sped up beyond reasonable limits.  I personally believe this to be true for adults also.

Slowing down

Instead of joining in to the overwhelming frenzy for fast everything,  perhaps we need to re-evaluate things and slow down just a bit.  If we taught kids how to meditate in school it’s possible that their minds could stop spinning to frantically.  They could learn how to recenter themselves and focus.  And what a great tool to be able to take forward into adulthood.

Part of the problem is that those stressful and overwhelmed feelings don’t stop just because we become adults. Indeed for some adults it’s even worse. And we do it to ourselves. We allow ourselves to be sucked into the pressures and the stress that leave us feeling overwhelmed. What if instead of giving in we slowed  down. What if we made a choice to make a change?  For those of us who are already adults and feeling overwhelmed?  Stop for a moment.  Take a few deep breaths.  That in and of itself is a good beginning.  Need some guided resources?  Below are a few to get you started

Meditation Resources




  • Calm – Meditation to Relax, Focus, and Sleep Better
  • Headspace – Guided Meditation and Mindfulness
Treasure those small quiet moments.  Seek them out.  Teach your children to do the same.  I think the world will be a better place if we do.


On My Mind Monday 4.30.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in health, nutrition, and holistic living.  Read what’s on my mind.

Beef Cattle Become Behemoths – Antibiotics are not the only dangerous thing being fed to our livestock (dangerous because the overuse has negative physical effects for us such as helping to breed disease resistant bacteria).  Many conventional farms also feed animals hormones and other drugs to make them grow faster, grow fatter, and push their development all in the name of profit.  Many countries around the world, such as those in the European Union, do not allow this because of concerns about it’s effect on the people that eat the meat from treated animals.  When that animal is slaughtered all the hormones and drugs do not go away, they stay in the meat and the fat.  If you eat it you then are consuming those products as well.  Building ” bovine Schwartzeneggers” is not in the best interest of anyone other than the company that sells these drugs.  Now it looks like in addition to co-opting medical schools with research dollars and propaganda, pharmaceutical companies are, and have been, doing the same with agricultural schools.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many good pharmaceutical formulations and they can have great benefit.  I just don’t believe that this type of drug oversale is an appropriate usage, nor do I believe it is healthy for the animal or for those that consume it.

Watermelon’s Wild Cousins – A watermelon that grows in the desert?  And provides reasonable nutrition?  Who knew such a thing existed.  This article highlights the Tsamma melon which grows, amazingly enough, in the Kalahari in South Africa.  The description of use and nutrition in this family of melons highlights why we need agricultural diversity and not genetically modified commercially motivated mono-cropping.  This idea is further highlighted by a recent article I spotted about Vietnamese farmers changing melon crops due to drought conditions.  My take from reading the article is that they were choosing a different type of melon rather than a GMO melon; an agriculturally and environmentally positive choice. – A wonderful guided meditation site with fabulous audio/video presentations.  Two minutes that can lower your blood pressure, re-center you, and help you to feel better.

Feeding a city is something that we don’t often think about. But as we move to cities our diet changes, demand for meat and dairy goes up. And there’s food waste and food imbalance (larger and larger number of starving people as well as those that are overfed). This video highlights how food moves into a city and looks at ways to help solve some of the problems that cities face when it comes to their food.

Four Foods You Probably Waste – I bring this topic up a lot.  Food is more than just access to good, clean, nourishing products.  It’s also about proper utilization of what we have.  That means not wasting it.  Even though rotting food can be thrown into a compost heap to be turned into beneficial compost, isn’t it best to eat it?  After all, you paid for it.  Here’s a few simple and delicious looking recipes to help you avoid throwing out some of the most commonly wasted foods.

What I’m Reading

Make The Bread, Buy The Butter – I picked up the copy at my local library.  By the top of the second page I was hooked.  I like her writing style, we think the same way, and I have already bookmarked several recipes to try.  I was most impressed with her bread which uses 3 1/2 cups of whey.  That’s awesome.  I have lots of whey hanging around from straining yogurt; although I use it, I confess sometimes it gets fed to the dogs because I have too much.  I am occasionally tempted to make ricotta cheese from leftover whey.  The trick is you need 16 quarts of the stuff and if I tried to squeeze 16 quarts into my side-by-side refrigerator I’m pretty sure my family would be upset due to the lack of space for food.  And that 16 quarts of whey?  It yields less than 2 cups of ricotta.  I haven’t gotten to that part of the book but I’m guessing she recommends buying it.  This bread however looks to be a great use for leftover whey.  And I’m planning a tea party just so I can make my own clotted cream.  I’m also looking forward to reading the rest of the book which is definitely on my “to buy” list.

disclaimer –

Aromatherapy Field Trip

Steve and I recently took a trip into Houston.  We were headed for the Museum of Natural Science but would up making a little detour before visiting the museum.  Across the street from the Museum, located at One Hermann Street, is a garden that is open to the public.  One part of the garden is an Aromatic Garden.  Filled with raised beds of mints, culinary herbs, rosemary and other aromatics it is truly a delight for the senses.

We wandered through the beds delighting in the plantings and stroking the different plants to release their scents, admiring how many different kinds of mints and basils and thymes, and more there are.  The smell, the texture, the setting all combined to make a very relaxing and delightful stroll.  I confess that my hands smelled quite delicious by the time we were done.

Next door to the Aromatic Garden is the Rose Garden.  Abounding with blooms of all sizes and colors we wandered from bed to bed exclaiming over the different colors and scents.  Some of the showiest roses had no scent at all while some were so overpoweringly perfume-y that one small sniff was more than enough.  

I could feel my blood pressure dropping and a sense of calm envelop me as we enjoyed both of these gardens.  It was a moment of mindful meditation.  Even now, thinking about them as I write I find a peaceful feeling rising forth.  Such is the power of scent and beauty that it can help us to slow down and enjoy the moment.  Not for nothing do we have the phrase “take time to smell the roses.”

While I have aromatic herbs in my garden I’m now considering adding some roses to I can recreate a small dose of the experience we had this morning for those days when I can’t get all the way into the city.  If you have a small corner of your garden available you might want to consider doing the same.

photo courtesy of Stan Shebs | Wikimedia Commons

Guided Meditation

It is important for us to take time out of our hectic, frequently over-scheduled lives to decompress.  For many people that takes the form of yoga, journaling, or a spiritual or meditative practice.  I often have people tell me that they don’t know how to get started or they can’t focus enough to take those few beneficial moments to re-center themselves.  Guided meditations can be a good way to get started if you are out of practice or just beginning a centering practice of your own.

I’ve come across this guided meditation at My Own Healing Power and it’s free.  Take a few moments to do something positive for yourself and check it out.

Fifteen Minutes

As a Nutrition Educator with a holistic focus to my practice I believe it is important to do more than just pay attention to the food we eat.  We need to nourish our whole being; that includes our brains, our emotions, and our spirits.

I recently learned about Spring Forest Qigong’s gift to all of us.  In the hurry and flurry of post-holiday time, as we settle back into our normal routines and recover from any holiday-induced stress, we need to remember to take some time for ourselves.

Master Chunyi Lin has created a free fifteen minute guided meditation that is wonderful.  You deserve to take fifteen quiet minutes for yourself to listen to this amazing gift.

Unexpectedly Serene

My aunt was here visiting us, and we loved having her here.  She used to live in the Houston area 35 years ago, so one day we wandered down to Houston to visit a couple of places.  On the itinerary was The Rothko Chapel.  The chapel was built as an interfaith chapel, and Mark Rothko was commissioned to create the artworks. 

My first response when we entered the chapel was “huh?”  Fourteen enormous canvases of black or purple which appear to be solid.  Very strange.   But when you take the time to sit and contemplate them, shadings of light and dark appear.  The whole experience is very spiritual.
We all need to take the time to find serenity and calmness within ourselves and in those quiet moments of our life that present themselves.  Part of living a healthy life is taking that time for meditation.  It is serendipitous to find a space that so fully imbued with the energies that lead to that sort of contemplation.

I fully intend to go back and encourage you, if you are ever in the Houston area, to visit the chapel.

Be well.