Add Bliss & Rapture to Your New Year – Meditate

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Add Bliss & Rapture to Your New Year – Meditate

Rapture: a feeling of intense pleasure or joy. “She listened with rapture.”

synonyms: ecstasy, bliss, euphoria, enchantment, delight

Shortly after learning to meditate in 1974, I was watching a videotaped lecture given by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He brought Transcendental Meditation® to the West, and I was receptive to much of his teachings. He frequently said “the nature of life is bliss.” This pronouncement, though, confused me; there wasn’t any bliss in my life.

Nevertheless, as a good student, I followed the instructions which were to meditate twice a day for 15 – 20 minutes at a sitting. I was told that my life would become more in tune with nature’s ways. Like floating your canoe downstream rather than paddling upstream against the current. That sounded promising to me.

At the age of 26, when I learned to meditate, my live was in turmoil. I had a promising career as an Industrial Engineer, and yet I was depressed and anxious. My hopes and plans had come crashing down with the recent death of my young wife. I was floundering to say the least. Just a few years earlier, I had graduated from college thinking that would solve my problems. Boy, was I wrong.

Fortunately, I decided one August evening to enroll in the meditation course that a friend introduced me to. I’m pleased to say that it’s been a game changer. Until the moment I learned to meditate, I never had such a deep experience of peace and inner calm.

During the meditation, I wasn’t thinking about what I had to do later in the day, and I wasn’t concerned about bills, or personal relationship issues. There were moments when I wasn’t thinking about anything and yet I was awake, not asleep. When my instructor told me that what I had experienced was meditation, I thought, FANTASTIC! I knew that I could recreate this experience. And, the best was yet to come.

Bliss to the Rescue

Two hours following this first class and meditation experience, I had lunch in a sandwich shop with a friend who started the meditation course with me. After eating, as I walked to the cash register to pay my bill, I felt a wave of euphoria and burst of energy. It was as if my brain lit up. I started skipping. It was just 1 or 2 skips, but delightful. I felt great, and was clueless as to why. Could it have something to do with meditation?

This pleasant experience continued to show up in my life although not every day. I was aware that I was smiling and laughing more easily. A year or so later, I had the thought, this must be bliss. By that point, I was hooked on the daily practice of meditation. I knew I was onto something good. I was certainly much happier since I had begun to meditate.

How to Find Bliss/Rapture

Bliss need not be elusive. To experience it, try some of the following:

• Be still, pay attention – listen, feel, and tune in.
• Spend time in nature. Stepping outside for a walk, after working on a computer, does wonders for the spirits in just a minute or two.
• Engage in creative pursuits such as painting, writing, journaling, or just playing. They help us get reflect and explore deeper levels of our lives
• Meditate

Perhaps no one in modern time said it better than philosopher, Joseph Campbell in his PBS interviews with Bill Moyers. To have a fulfilling life, he encouraged us to “Follow our bliss.” Pay attention to the voice of your soul.

The good news is that bliss is everywhere that we are. Finding it is not about doing more. To the contrary, it’s about BEING more. Many would say the simplest and most effective approach to bring more bliss and rapture into your life is to meditate.

It has worked wonders in my life. Effortless Meditation™ will take you into the domain of bliss and rapture every time you sit to do it. With practice, our nervous system refines and spontaneously we identify more and more with the good feeling inside. And our behavior, health, and sense of well-being improve dramatically.

We’ve got nothing to lose, and much to gain by reaching for rapture and bliss every day. Life was not meant to be a struggle. As the man said, the nature of life is bliss.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help you. I have been practicing and teaching meditation for over 40 years.

Greg Schweitzer
Stress Reduction Resources, Director

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Want to Lose Weight? Start here …

Joe, not his real name, knew that he needed to lose weight. His blood pressure was elevated and his doctor was “threatening” to put him on medication for it. His blood sugar levels were also high, and he was diagnosed as pre-diabetic.

He was frustrated because he really tried to control his food consumption. Breakfast was a bagel and cup of coffee, sometimes consumed on the drive to work. Lunch at work was minimal. If time allowed, he might have a cup of soup and small salad while working at his computer.

Listening to him in a Wellness Coaching session, I thought, Joe must be really hungry so I asked what he ate when he got home from work. He responded, “anything that’s not nailed down.” When we are that hungry, our stress levels are off the charts and we’re not thinking clearly. In that frenzied state, do you think that we make, healthy food choices? It’s unlikely.

There’s never enough food for a hungry soul – a missing piece

What is Joe to do? The answers that we all seek in order to return to a healthy weight, however lies beyond the foods that we eat. We need to adopt a lifestyle that supports our weight goals. Certainly, we need to bring down our stress level. And, exercise and movement are important ingredients. Yet, exercise alone will not do it. Personal fitness trainers say that you can’t out-train a poor diet.

An often overlooked and yet essential piece of the success formula is our awareness, a calm mind. It supports healthy weight by being stable in the midst of stress. Then, when the going gets tough, we don’t grab for candy bars and alcoholic beverages. While these two choices along with others may dull our stress and anxiety, they come with a high price. When used routinely they add to the weight problem. They are empty calories, i.e. calories lacking nutritional value – “fake” food.

With a calm mind, one that supports expanded awareness, Joe makes better choices. For example, he’s drawn to eating an apple as opposed to a bag of cookies or potato chips.

Another benefit of lower stress levels and a settled mind is that science has shown us that digestion slows under chronic stress. The food that we eat, even if it’s healthy food, doesn’t metabolize properly when our mind is agitated. All of this promotes weight gain, and yet there is hope.

Ancient wisdom brings relief

Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of natural medicine, tells us that when and how we eat is just as important as what we eat. We are encouraged to eat in a settled environment, with our attention on the process of eating. Our conscious awareness has power.

Rushing, watching TV, texting, or reading while eating, weakens our ability to digest and metabolize the food we are consuming. Weight gain is just one of the undesirable results of such behavior. In contrast, meals have traditionally been a time for people to gather together to eat nutritious food while participating in light enjoyable conversation. Meal time ideally nourishes our body, mind, and spirit.

The challenge is how do we make such big changes in the way we live our lives today? If having a settled, fulfilled, stable mind is at the basis of a healthy life, how do we get there? You say your mind is never still. So many thoughts, worries, and tension.

Here’s the really good news! Meditation practice will turn that around. It is an antidote for a turbulent agitated mind that is so common today.

Meditation for a healthy life – the science is in

Had Joe had a regular meditation practice, he would be more in touch with the needs of his body. With growing awareness, he would eat when he is hungry and his food choices would satisfy his need for real nutrition. This alone would significantly reduce his stress level.

Meditation is a proven foundation for a healthy live. Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D., an integrative neurologist and author discusses this brilliantly in her insightful new book, The Prime: Prepare and Repair Your Body for Spontaneous Weight Loss. She was introduced to meditation at the age of nine by her parents when her mother was being treated for a serious illness. Dr. Chaudhary has continued the practice throughout her life, saying that meditation impacts not only what she eats but who she is as a person.

While obesity is at epidemic proportions in our nation, there’s ample good news. The science on meditation is in and growing. Hundreds of rigorous scientific studies over the past 40 years have validated its impact. The benefits of meditation are today discussed in all forms of media. That was not the case when I started the practice in 1974.

If you’d like to know more about Effortless Meditation™ or wellness coaching, or if you need assistance to deepen your experience in either area, I would love to talk. Call 610-670-6700.

Greg Schweitzer
Director, Stress Reduction Resources

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Energized by Life: a personal transformation

In September, 1974, my life took a significant turn for the better. I learned to meditate.

I was 26 years old, and my life was in turmoil. Just four years earlier, I thought that graduating from college and getting married a week later was going to fulfill me. Boy, was I naive. My prized industrial engineering day job was a drudge. And who knew that marriage could be so difficult? The worst, however was yet to come. On a July evening, I came home from work to find my young wife asphyxiated from carbon monoxide poisoning. My sadness and trauma were intense. It was surreal. I was lost.

Following her death, I lived for nights and weekends. Parties with friends were frequent. Reflecting back, most of us were self-medicating to dull the pain of our stress filled lives. At the time, I was unaware of how dysfunctional my life had become. It all seemed normal. Wasn’t everyone’s life like mine?

Then just one month following this tragic event, there was a breakthrough. My good friend Bob, invited me to join him at an introductory lecture on meditation at the local community hall. During the teacher’s talk, he said that there was something missing in most people’s lives. What’s missing is inside; it’s not out there in the world. I was intrigued, maybe this guy was on to something. So, I signed up to take his course. I had never done anything like this before.

Meditation: an energy booster

A revelation that things were changing for the better came to me in just the first few weeks after learning to meditate. Actually, the first clue occurred just a couple hours following my very first meditation class.

That afternoon on our drive home, Bob and I stopped at a local sandwich shop for lunch. After eating, I caught myself skipping to the cash register to pay my bill. What’s happening? It was spontaneous, a burst of exhilarating bliss. Could meditation have something to do with this great feeling? I didn’t know, however I had a glimmer of hope.

From that day forward, I chose to meditate everyday as my instructor suggested. Usually twice a day for 15 – 20 minutes at a sitting, before and after work. After just a few weeks of daily meditation practice, it was obvious I was more awake, alert, and happier. During the work day I was looking forward to meditating when I got home. Meditation gave me a daily boost of energy that lasted for hours. It wasn’t until I began this practice that I realized how much fatigue was impacting the quality of my life.

When we are tired, our brain is in a fog. Imaging techniques show us that the synapses of the brain are negatively impacted by stress and fatigue. The CEO of the brain, the prefrontal cortex goes off line under chronic stress and the knee jerk, fight of flight response dominates our actions. Meditation practice brings the CEO, the wise and intuitive decision maker back into the game of life. Even during the early days of my meditation experience, I felt meditation was depositing money in the bank, and I was the bank!

Adrenal fatigue be gone

I’ve now been teaching meditation for over 40 years, and will always remember the highly respected gynecologist, Helene Leonetti, M.D. saying: “I have a zillion patients suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, and I refer them all to you.” Many are anxious, exhausted, irritable, in chronic pain, moody, and lacking motivation. She strongly encouraged them to attend an introduction class, then learn the technique of Effortless Meditation™ and practice it.

The deep rest of our meditation practice heals and restores our adrenal glands. When they are overly taxed by chronic stress, they burn out and the above symptoms result. For relief, look inside. There is nothing to do, other than sit with your eyes closed and use this simple mental technique. Effortless Meditation will “do” you. After short periods of meditation, the benefits spontaneously show up in our daily experience.

A new client recently declared, “everything is better with meditation in my life.” Echoing those sentiments, William Blake, the famous poet and philosopher said, “to enjoy life more, clean the windows of perception.” Here’s a tool to do just that.

If you’d like to know more, or wish help getting started, or if you need assistance to deepen your experience in meditation, I would love to talk. You can call me at 610-670-6700.

Greg Schweitzer
Director, Stress Reduction Resources

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Need to Lighten Up? Here’s how…

Not many would dispute that the pressure and pace of our daily lives is relentless and daunting. Taking care of personal, family, and work responsibilities can be a burden that easily overwhelms us. It’s no wonder that sales of medication for anxiety and depression continue to climb along with the self-medicating use of alcohol, caffeine, and recreational drugs.

There must be a better way, you say. All the above “solutions” come with a hefty price over time. Today, more and more are looking for healthier strategies to lighten the load we carry.

Happiness and Peace of Mind: It’s easier than you think

At the depth of our being, aren’t we all searching for happiness and peace of mind? And yet, the path to fulfilling these lofty ideals is fuzzy. So we settle for less, the familiar, medications, food, and items mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog. The good news is that fulfilling of our deeper desires is not difficult.

First, try to get clear about what brings you happiness and peace. After all, we want to invest our limited time and energy wisely. So, what is important to you? For instance, consider which of the following two items resonates more deeply with you; which of these would impact your life the most?

1. A new car
2. Peace of mind

Some go for the car in a heartbeat. Others realize that while a car is needed by most, its joys are fleeting and pale in comparison to having a mind that is calm and happy. However, without a good alternative we keep reaching for the familiar.

The question is where to turn? Life may seem too hard, and yet an antidote for our dilemma is close at hand.

The Grand Canyon and Inner Peace

Have you ever stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona? I had this experience for the first time 10 years ago. As I stood there looking out over the canyon, I was in awe as my mind took in the enormity of this geological wonder. All my concerns about the meeting I was to attend the following week in Phoenix disappeared. My mind was still; I was one, or close to it, with the antiquity of nature that stood before me.

In this quiet calm awareness, I was experiencing the serenity that lies beneath the 50,000 thoughts that we have each day. Fortunately, we don’t have to travel to Arizona’s Grand Canyon or anywhere else to experience the freedom of Unbounded Quiet Awareness. It’s the essence of who we are. It’s inside us, and is available to us when our mind is still.

Now, I realize many say there mind is never still, never quiet. They know that they have way too many anxiety filled thoughts. The good news is there is relief. Your life will be lighter and more joyful when you bring the unbounded peace of the Quiet Mind to your attention every day. For that to happen, I suggest you practice a mental technique, Effortless Meditation™, for 10 – 20 minutes twice a day. It’s easy to learn and effortless to practice.

Some describe meditation as a mini-vacation that they take every day. During EM, you transcend the tensions of your conscious thinking mind. Then, after meditation, some of the freedom and bliss of Unbounded Awareness stays with you. With practice, you’ll find happiness and peace of mind growing in your life. It’s a fool proof strategy to lighten up and enjoy life to its fullest.

In going forward, evaluate what is important to you. Then find healthy life supporting ways to fulfill those needs and desires. Pioneering psychologist Abraham Maslow stated it well when he theorized the hierarchy of human needs. Self-actualization, he said, is the highest level of need, the supreme motivator of our actions. If the quest to enliven your highest or true self resonates with you, Effortless Meditation practice will serve you well.

If you’re interested in knowing more about wellness and the practice of Effortless Meditation™, call me at 610-670-6700.

Greg Schweitzer
Director, Stress Reduction Resources

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Inner Peace, Health, and a Chair

Imagine you had a chair, and every time you sat in it you’d grow healthier and younger in spirit. Fatigue, anxiety and stress lifted; your blood pressure normalized; you slept better at night; and your relationships miraculously improved. The need for medication diminished, and you lived a longer, more focused, and happier life.

This is a magical chair. Everywhere you go, the chair will be. Does this sound too good to be true? It is not! For those practicing Effortless Meditation™, you have such a chair. Of course, this is a metaphor.

To gain these benefits from sitting in the chair, you need to do something, although not much. You close your eyes and effortlessly meditate. During meditation, your conscious awareness contacts the healing and revitalizing force inside all of us, deep rest. The results are magical.

And unlike most possessions that depreciate in time – cars, furniture, and appliances; this chair appreciates in value. The more that we sit in it (to meditate), the more valuable it becomes. Today, I get as much or more from each sitting as when I learned to meditate over 40 years ago.

Now, here are two simple questions. Knowing of the above benefits to sitting in this chair, would you make time to sit? Would these benefits or outcomes be important to you?

Meditation – It’s not all or nothing

You may be thinking, “I’d like the benefits, however I don’t have time to meditate.” I hope that assessment will not discourage you from trying. While 15 – 20 minutes twice a day is often recommended to adults, it might seem unworkable for you. That’s OK. There is something here for everyone.

When I learned to meditate, I was single and had no children. It was relatively simple to make time for meditation practice before and after work. It was effortless to do and rewarding. For others however, the demands of daily life may be more intense than mine were. Not to worry.

If the benefits discussed here are attractive, and 15 – 20 minute periods are out of the question, chunk it down. It’s not all or nothing. Make a commitment to practice for 5 minutes at a sitting once or twice a day, no matter what. You are worth it! Then after a month see if you’d like to increase your time by 2 minutes.

After a few months you will most likely have increased your meditation time and the process will be sustainable. Congratulations. Routines become habits and this routine/practice pays huge dividends.

Most see some significant impact from their meditation in just the first few days – less stress, more energy, inner peace. However, even better news is that the benefits accumulate over a lifetime. Just keep leaning toward progress. You will be delighted that you stuck with it.

Greg Schweitzer
Stress Reduction Resources, Director

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Anxiety Be Gone

Perhaps you know someone like my mother. She was a poster child for worry. She worried about everything; anxiety about what might go wrong in the future dominated her mind. And there was plenty to be anxious about. What if …?

There were medical bills, rising food prices, jobs that didn’t pay enough, home and car repairs, relationship concerns. It was a long list. Her mind was distracted by all the pressures of daily life, and yet this seems all so normal, or is it?

As a child, I naturally thought, this is life. If you didn’t worry about the future, you’d be unprepared for what would come your way – vigilance is needed. Right?

Somewhere along the way, as a teenager, I found myself thinking that life should be better than this. My parents were taken back when as a teenager, I proclaimed that I would never live like they did – always worrying. I didn’t have a plan, I just thought my adult life had to be different, better.

The Transformation

Magic occurred. Forty-four years ago, at the age of 26, I stumbled upon and was introduced to meditation – a technique to culture the experience of inner peace and wellness. My teachers told me that anxiety, fear, stress and tension exist on the surface of our minds. They said there is a place deep inside the mind where this angst does not exist. Meditation, they proclaimed, is a tool that we can all use to reach this sweet spot; and reacquaint ourselves with our birthright – our calm, peaceful, balanced, stress-free nature.

Hearing this, I chose to give it a try. Looking back, I had little to lose. Sure, there was a course fee but it was a reasonable modest investment. I also had to stretch and try something new – there were no guarantees that this would work. And my life wasn’t filled with encouragement. When I told my mother that I was going to learn to meditate, she said, “Oh, you’re not!” I immediately laughed because she had no idea what meditation was.

The decisions to learn and then become a teacher of meditation were two of the best choices I’ve ever made. No matter how much stress or chaos is in my environment, because of meditation, I know how to go back to my true self and not get swept away by the turbulence.

Similarly, a recent client said that she feels like she has a thicker skin since she learned to meditate; the stresses of daily life are not penetrating her well-being as before. She feels more resilient. Another client, a physician, said, “Meditation is like a mini-vacation, and now I’m vacationing every day.” To that, I’ll add that as we continue to taste vacation every day in meditation, life after meditation becomes more vacation like.

If you are not meditating, this is a good time to start.

Greg Schweitzer
Director, Stress Reduction Resources

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When Stress Turns Serious: First Things First

Sprinting to catch up with my 2-year old grandson as he ran down the driveway toward the street, I was stressed, however this was “good” stress. The stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline provided the energy I needed to respond quickly to a potentially dangerous situation. I also recovered quickly because he didn’t run too far or too fast; and this stressful event occurred during a relaxed weekend family outing.

Stress, however, turns serious when we are exposed to stressors with a high degree of frequency. Our body and mind are not designed to be handle chronic stress well. We need breaks in order to recover and recharge. Without intervention and healthy lifestyles, stress accumulates mercilessly.

To minimize our exposure to the impact of negative stress it is helpful to know and identify its developmental stages. They are:
• Burnout
• Burn through
• Meltdown

Some simple analogies will help you identify where you stand. Burnout is like having a flat tire at 1:00 am, and you’re sitting on the side of the road without a spare or cell phone. Burn through, the second stage, follows. You’re burnt out, however there doesn’t seem to be any options. You’re certain that you can’t do anything about it. You decide to keep driving with a flat tire, pushing ahead on your wheel’s rim hoping that you reach safety. Burn through is not sustainable. Without intervention, it usually proceeds to the final stage, Meltdown. Here, medical costs skyrocket as our health tanks, relationships suffer or end, and jobs might be lost. It’s not pretty.

Where are you? Most of us have been at the Burnout stage at some point in our lives. I certainly was early in my work life. I found little if any satisfaction from the work that I was doing as an engineer working for a Fortune 200 company. I’d come home tired and frustrated, make some dinner, go to bed and wake up the next morning to do it all over again. Then one day a good friend invited me to accompany him to a talk about meditation and its benefits. My life was never the same after that evening.

First Things First

During the presentation, I decided to enroll in the course that the teacher was promoting. He said that there was something missing in most people’s lives, and its inside not outside in the world. I was intrigued and realized that I had nothing to lose by giving this a try.

My meditation teacher used to say: Water the root, to enjoy the fruit. A skilled gardener knows that the plant or tree needs nourishment in order to thrive. And the place to nourish it is at the root. Meditation does this by taking our conscious attention to the deep quietest levels of our awareness. It was a game changer for me.

I found myself looking forward to returning home at the end of the workday to meditate. I would sit, then close my eyes and begin this effortless mental technique. My awareness settled down and my body began to rest. After 15 – 20 minutes, I’d open my eyes and feel refreshed and happier. The entire evening was more satisfying. The trauma in my life and the heaviness that it brought was melting away in each meditation. There was light at the end of the tunnel. I was so much happier.

My meditation experience also stimulated an interest in reading self-help books. One of the excellent books that I read was written by Stephen Covey, Ph.D. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Without intending to do so, I was developing one of the 7 habits – doing First Things First. Dr. Covey suggested that we decide what is important to us and then put that high on our priority list, i.e. take action on it.

When I assessed what was important to me, I put my health at the top of the list. You might have something else at the top. That’s OK. We’re all different and have different values and interests. Having made and prioritized the list, I took the next step and wrote action steps that would help me be healthier. Meditation was at the top of my good health list, and I was already doing that twice every day. It was obvious one item on my health list needed attention: exercise. From that day forward, I exercised more regularly and enjoyed it more. I committed myself to doing things that are important to me.

Now, here’s a challenge: how do you find time to do the things that are important? For example, people often ask me how I find the time to meditate twice a day. Well, it’s easier than you think.

First, take an inventory of the activities of your life. Then, identify what’s important and what’s of less importance. Also, look at the urgencies of your life. The things that are shouting at you to do them now. Make some lists. A key to finding time for what’s important to you is to minimize the things that have less importance to your life. For me, to make the time to meditate 10 – 20 minutes twice a day, means less TV, less shopping, less social media, web surfing. Is it worth it? You bet.

To get started, take it one day at a time – it’s a process. When you stumble, pick yourself up and begin again. You have nothing to lose by doing First Things First. Oops, I must correct myself, you will lose something – much of the stress in your life!

Greg Schweitzer
Director, Stress Reduction Resources

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12 Simple Lifestyle Routines for RESTFUL SLEEP

According to an international team of health experts known as the Global Council on Brain Health, more than half of Americans over 50 report waking up too early and not returning to sleep; and over 40% say they aren’t getting enough sleep. And yet, it’s a myth that adults need less sleep as they age.

Research validates that most adults need 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep to be at the top of their game. Skimping on shut-eye can lead to a host of serious disease such as depression and dementia. Without proper rest, we cannot adequately cleanse our brain and body of toxins let alone sustain the energy needed for the day ahead.

Deepak Chopra, M.D., a pioneer in mind body medicine, states that restful sleep is the foundation for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Rest heals and restores our body and mind.

To understand how to get better sleep, it’s helpful to recognize what gets in the way. Few of us would dispute that we live with chronic stress, hurry, hurry, hurry. Life today is fast paced, rapid fire. Turning it off at night is problematic for many. While everyone’s body is tired in the evening, we are more than a body. We also have a mind, and it’s in charge! The stimulated, overworked mind fights our body’s natural need for rest.

In order to gain restorative restful sleep, the busy thinking mind needs to disconnect at night. The good news is that we can help it disconnect and relax by bringing balance into our day.

This is key. According to Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of natural medicine, dis-ease results from imbalance with nature’s rhythms and cycles. To restore balance in our life, let’s explore antidotes for our sleep concerns.

Try these 12 simple practices & routines for restful sleep
• Early to bed and early to rise is timeless wisdom – wake up with the sun.
• Think of sleep as an appointment with yourself. A regular bedtime and waking schedule is important.
• Meditate early in the morning, if possible, before you engage with your day. The day’s challenges are much less stressful when you start with a calm clear mind.
• Eat a light and healthy breakfast.
• Breathe – when feeling stressed, just a few conscious breaths will help restore balance.
• Lunch –Your digestion is strongest around noon. If possible, make this your largest meal. Not eating lunch, or multitasking through lunch is stressful to your body, mind, and emotions.
• Outdoors – Try to get outdoors and in sunlight every day. That’s not so easy in winter months in the Northeast, however spending as little as 20 minutes in the sun and in nature helps keep us in sync with natural rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
• Meditate after work. When I began doing this years ago, I started looking forward to decompressing after the work day. It changed everything; life with less stress is calming and satisfying. Sleep comes more easily when we are relaxed and content inside.
• Eat dinner before 7:00 pm. Keep it light. If your body is digesting food in the late evening, it will be more difficult to fall asleep.
• Take an evening walk after dinner, wind down with some gentle exercise.
• Put away electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. It will prepare you for sleep. The brightness of their screens is counter-productive to settling down the mind.
• Close the eye’s to sleep by 10:00 or 10:30 pm. If this seems unworkable, move up your bedtime by 30 minutes and notice the difference in how you feel over the next few weeks. Then, bump it up another 30 minutes when you feel comfortable doing so.

Start from where you are

If this list is way too ambitious, not to worry. Start with what is workable. Chunk it down. Commit to implementing one or two items for a month, and see what’s changed. Then adjust, and build from there. Perhaps, you will want to add to your practices. We all want to wake up feeling refreshed, mentally focused, and energized for the day ahead. Implementing these healthy lifestyle routines will help significantly.
The rewards of restful sleep are profound. It will be well worth your while to make some of these adjustments to your lifestyle. If you care to, I’d enjoy hearing your feedback on what’s working. Sweet dreams…

Greg Schweitzer
Director, Stress Reduction Resources

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Your Cognitive Health: What to Avoid & Steps to Take

Most of us have seen the effect of cognitive decline in a loved one. As a child, I lived with a grandparent who repeated some of his life experiences over and over. The adults in my life said this unusual behavior was due to hardening of the arteries. Today, we see far more serious forms of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the incidence of its occurrence is overwhelming our health care systems. What can we do?

Maria Shriver, author and correspondent for NBC News recently said it well, “Talking about cognitive health is a conversation that we need to start having in our country, across all ages.”

Avoid Anything that Hurts Your Brain

The good news is there are practical steps that we can all take to protect our brain. Yes, we do have power over brain disease. You may have heard psychiatrist, brain researcher, and author, Dr. Daniel Amen speak on his insightful PBS-TV specials. He advises us to avoid anything that hurts our brain such as:

Recreational drugs & alcohol • Diabetes
• Obesity • Chronic stress
• Lack of activity • Emotional trauma
• Diet low in nutrients • Unhealthy peer group
• Insomnia • Denial: Ignoring your brain’s vulnerability
• Nicotine/Smoking • Environmental toxins
• Excess caffeine • Head injury

Lifestyle Choices to Heal Your Brain: an Action Plan

As you can infer from the above list, there is much that we can do to heal our brain through lifestyle choices. It’s never too late to take these important steps. Today we know that the brain grows new neurons (neurogenesis), and it adapts by rewiring itself (neuroplasticity) to reshape the mind and our life.

I consider myself fortunate to have I stumbled into a healthier way of life 43 years ago when I was introduced to meditation. One evening a good friend told me he was going to an introductory lecture about meditation, and I accepted his invitation to join him. To my surprise, I was excited about what I heard in the evening’s discussion and decided to enroll in the meditation course.

Within just one week of adding two short periods of meditation to each day, I was feeling less tired and more alert. I looked forward to the end of the work day so I could sit down and meditate. I was also happier, and more confident and enthusiastic. I was sleeping better, and in the coming months, I realized that I was making healthier food choices. This frequently happens; when you heal in one area of your life, you begin to be drawn to other healthy behaviors.

Positive change begins to snowball. Some people for example, after learning to meditate, begin to exercise or move more. They may go for walks, do yoga, or work out in a gym. Others, like me, begin to eat more nutrient rich foods, and less sweets and processed foods. Stress levels decrease as a result of such positive lifestyle changes; we grow calmer and handle the challenges of life in a healthier manner. Spontaneously we begin making better decisions, and negative influences such as smoking, overeating, and self-medicating with alcohol and drugs become less attractive.

These lifestyle changes are simple action steps leading to a healthier brain and improved cognitive health. I say simple, however behavioral change does requires discipline or commitment. Be patient, it’s about progress not perfection. A good place to start is with a meditation practice because it a mental technique dealing directly with the brain. Whatever we choose, however, we begin where we are, and progress one day at a time. So, if sitting 15 or 20 minutes to meditate seems unworkable, go for 5 or 10 minutes. After a month, you may find yourself adding to your meditation time as you experience the value of that quiet time.

The good news is that you will have a healthier brain and life by embracing some of these strategies and thoughts. The rewards will be gratifying. It is after all, cool to be healthy.

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Follow Your Passion in 2018

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Rumi (poet)

These powerful words sound simple enough, but what is it that you love? For many, it’s not so obvious and we get stuck in a less than fulfilling life. Sound familiar?

The clock watcher – a life without passion

In the beginning days of my working life, I was a clock watcher. Frequently glancing at the clock to see how much longer till quitting time. I lived for nights and weekends. Work was a necessary evil, something that I did for a paycheck and nothing more.

Wasn’t this the way it was for everyone? It was for most everyone I knew. There was a growing dissatisfaction with my life. Did I struggle through college for this?

For me, life bottomed out a few years after college. I was bored and frustrated with work, and my marriage was difficult. Then, one evening, my young wife of three years died tragically. Any passion in my life was gone.

Transformation – finding your way

Surprisingly, things turned around just one month later when I stumbled into an introductory meditation lecture being given near my home in Reading, PA. The meditation teacher explained that most people lacked a basic element in their life. He called it our true or higher self that we experience at the source of thought. While these were new terms, he ignited a spark of wonder inside me. What if this actually worked like the teacher said?

I took his course and continued to meditate daily. Within a short time, I was experiencing brief moments of bliss and delight every day. It was obvious that meditation was having a good influence. It became a part of my daily personal hygiene – cleaning up the inside of life. Then one evening a teacher hearing me complain about my engineering job, said “you know you could become a teacher of meditation.” That was 40 years ago, his comment was a total game changer because I acted on it.

Nature has a way of pulling us in the direction of our passion and love. Listen. Passion is there for you, and as Rumi states, the strange pull of what you really love will not lead you astray.

Pay attention to what brings you joy, to that which you love and have passion for. Look for ways to include those things in your daily life. Meditation practice, if you choose to do it, will aid you in your quest. And be patient, this is not an instant fix but one that will uplift every day of your life.

Greg Schweitzer
Director, Stress Reduction Resources

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