Our thoughts and words have direct consequences on our lives. At times they may appear insignificant, but they can actually have drastic repercussions. There is no need to praise meditation as it has been widely touted and most of us are already well aware of the many benefits. But let me ask you a question: do youmeditate? Are youmindful throughout the day? Do you pray? Do you actually take the time to do these things? I know how it is: it’s just like exercising and eating a balanced diet, you are aware of their benefits but how many of you actually do it? If you always wanted to meditate, feel curious of the benefits and outcomes, why not decide this week to establish a meditating routine? Make an effort to pray more often, spend some time with your GOD, whoever he might be for you, and be more mindful throughout the day. Make a real commitment! If you decide to take up meditation, prayer or mindfulness, it has to be as important as eating or sleeping. And, come to think of it, in a way these techniques provide essential food for your soul; so, make the extra effort to find the time! To help you get started, here are a few questions and answers that might interest you.
What is meditation? What is mindfulness? What is praying?
The dictionary defines meditation as: a continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature; or contemplation of spiritual matters. I prefer:
Meditation is that space of silence in between two thoughts
The dictionary defines mindfulness as: the trait of staying aware of (paying close attention to) your responsibilities. I prefer:
Mindfulness is a state in which you are fully aware of the moment and at the same time are capable of observing yourself “being fully aware of the moment”, you see the scene from up close and in its entirety.
For the dictionary praying is: addressing a deity, a prophet, a saint or an object of worship. I prefer:
Praying is not asking or begging. Praying is when you open your heart and accept with absolute faith whatever it is you are going through, no matter what the outcome might be.
For certain people, praying is simply the act of reciting a prayer or asking for something. However, when praying you should be connecting your entire being, “mind, body, and spirit”, to a higher purpose; you should be in total osmosis with who you are, and your inner self. Once you enter this state, you can ask, be receptive and capable of receiving.
Over the years, I have practiced meditation, mindfulness and prayer but have come to the conclusion, that they all serve the same purpose: they allow you to step back and have a moment of communion with yourself. In such a state, one is more receptive to what is happening inside and around them. Thus, one becomes more capable of responding to “LIFE” the right way. For this reason, I have merged all three of them together in one change. I understand that they are all different and it’s up to each and every one of you to choose what works best for your needs.
I honestly believe that although we need alone time to get to know ourselves, if we desire inner growth, the best school ever is being amongst others. Alone time is necessary to find your inner-calmness, reconnect with yourself and feel centered. It becomes like a reference point you try to return to during the rest of the day. With time, you slowly learn to be in a constant state of self-observation as well as observing others. Finding out who you really are, how you and others react and interact is one of the best ways to gain inner wisdom and peace of mind.
To meditate, pray or be mindful, the absolute requires no school, no technique. They are innate, and they simply need to be done. Just like you don’t necessarily have to be a Christian, Muslim or Hindu to pray. All you need is faith. And you don’t necessarily need a place to worship such as a church or a mosque: your body is your temple and you simply need to commune with yourself. Meditating, praying or being mindful can be done anytime and anywhere: just do it, do it right now, at this very moment, wherever you are. Be fully PRESENT.
Start by seeing, observing, listening without a word. Do it without judgment or emitting any criticism. Do it with an open loving heart. I even feel like saying, lovingly. When you pay attention and let all of your senses awaken, you reach a beautiful state of inner quietness and peace.
Note: Stop finding excuses and start meditating. Countless times I have spoken to friends and colleagues and they always hold the same speech: “I don’t have the time” or “I have tried and I can’t stop my mind from blabbering” or “I would love to meditate but I need someone to guide me.” Just as you surely would benefit from hiring a personal trainer to exercise properly, you don’t however need one to learn how to walk or go out for a little jog. Without a doubt, you will most likely benefit from a qualified yoga instructor. But if you don’t have the time, the money, the knowledge, you can also start by simply sitting down quietly, breathing calmly and observing what happens.
Why do it ?
With the lives we lead today, both our minds and bodies need a break. Time often seems to be an issue. Although it may seem contradictory at first, meditating will actually allow us to save time by calming us down and increasing our faculty to concentrate. While rushing through our days without taking the time to exhale and breathe, we tend to do things quickly, impulsively, while not allowing ourselves to see the complete picture. Indeed, to make the proper decision, it is really important to see things objectively, in their entirety. How can we do this when we are always on the go, in a hurry or busy? When we do things too quickly, we make hasty decisions. Allowing our body and mind a little time to slow down and relax while meditating, praying or being mindful, allows us to collect the information gathered, sort it out and see the situation we are in, in its entirety. Then, we can see things as they really are and make more sensible decisions. But meditation also…
What are the benefits?
- Brings peace of mind and allows you to reach a state in which you feel utterly happy •Makes you feel like a better person on the inside and, with time, you see yourself becoming a better one on the outside as well, as you slowly start integrating the notion of acceptance, patience and love •Allows you to understand the irrelevance of many issues that normally preoccupy you. Getting upset for certain things just doesn’t make sense anymore.
- Changes your vibrations, what you emit, allowing you to attract moments, events and people that vibrate more like you •Heals. Meditating brings peace and you reach a state where you understand that “Love” is all that matters. This feeling of peace and love heals you within.
- Will have you spreading more love thus contributing to making this world a better place
- Allows you to be more aware of your thoughts and actions. If you pay attention to what you say and think, to the way you do things and how you interact with others, you will soon see that you feel more in control of your life as well. Taking the time to slow down allows you to collect yourself, take a step back and analyze the situation. Isn’t it time you became the captain of your own ship?
- Rids you of your inner tension, leaving you less anxious about what lies ahead. When you are calmer, life is easier and you are more capable of handling others, you become more productive at work and have loving thoughts for the people around you.
- Allows you to sleep better. Meditation can really help if you have subject to insomnia or not sleeping enough. We often can’t sleep because we are thinking about our problems. By meditating regularly, you take the time to address these issues at a certain moment during the day, which will allow you to sleep better at night. A good idea would be to add a moment of visualization in which you envision yourself going to sleep and having a wonderful sleep and then waking up feeling energetic, radiant and ready to face the day!
- Will have you focus your attention on the task at hand, become more present and centered
- Will find you feeling more grateful! When you meditate, make an effort to spend a few minutes being grateful about what you have. Go over your day, or your life in general and give thanks for all the good things you have. Be grateful for the big things such as your health, your friends, your family, and your job. But be grateful as well for the little things, such as someone’s kind words or support, the drawing your child gave you, or having a little bit of time off to meditate…Taking the time to be grateful for everything you have, will remind you how lucky you really are and become more appreciative of what you have.
- Will Increase your vitality, leaving you completely energized. Meditation has a way of energizing you and making you ready to tackle what lies ahead!
- Gain control of your temper
- Feel serene and laid back
- Inner peace & silence
- Diminished need to overeat, smoke or drink
- Attunement with your intuition
- Awareness of your emotions and how certain events and factors affect you
- Improved patience with your spouse, children and co-workers
When times are tough, sometimes there is only one thing left to do: go with the flowand let life handle your problem. If you feel like you are struggling all the time and there seems to be no solution, take the time to meditate or pray. Decide to trust LIFE completely: life has its ways of taking care of things. Then get up and move on with your life… with faith that things will soon improve.
It’s important to understand that inevitably sometimes you will not be able to calm down and things won’t feel like they are flowing. You will be nervous, fidgety with thoughts constantly pouring in: accept it, relax, as it is all part of the process.
How to practice?
Finding the time
The hardest part is to actually sit down and do it. But, believe me, once you start reaping the benefits, you will be feeling so good that you won’t need any motivation to continue. You can also set an alarm for fifteen to twenty minutes, in case your time is limited or you can let yourself go and stop when you feel it’s the right time. Many times, people complain about the numerous thoughts that keep buzzing in their mind. Let me tell you something: if you wait for your thoughts to calm down, you will never start meditating. IT’S NORMAL to have your brain churning thoughts incessantly and pop from one idea to another. Learn to pay attention to recurring thoughts, since it’s most probably something that needs to be addressed. Quickly write down one or two words as a reminder on a piece of paper and once you are done meditating, get up and get that task done, if possible. That way it will be one thing less to think about during your next meditation session.
How to meditate
As I said before, if you wish to meditate and don’t know where to begin, I suggest you do not overcomplicate the whole process: start off by making some time for it. Various types of meditation can be done with your eyes closed or open, sitting or lying down, but can also be done while walking or being active.
Find your personal meditation style, see what works best for you or explore different ones, according to the time of day and mood. And remember: what works for you now, might not work later and it’s ok to change. However, in order to meditate successfully, normally people find it easier to stick to the same time and place. The key is to keep trying; it’s all a question of trial and error.
Once you start your meditation simply relax and let your mind settle, and then observe your thoughts, your emotions. Are you feeling angry, stressed, excited or happy?
Now is the time to really get to know yourself.
How to be more mindful
Being mindful means being more present at every single moment. It requires you to slow down and give your full attention to everything that is going on within and around you. When you first try being mindful, you will quickly see that it is impossible to remain this way the entire day. For this reason, it might be better to choose certain moments throughout the day, such as when you are driving to work, eating, going for a walk, or putting your children to bed.
The key here is to do what you usually do, relax and be aware of what is going on around you, but also how you feel about it. Try to notice how certain things affect you and in which way: what annoys you, what leaves you indifferent, what makes you lose patience or on the contrary the things that make you feel good inside. As days go by, you will notice an increased ability of mindfulness throughout the day. You will also quickly notice that it is absolutely necessary to slow down in order to be more mindful. Slowing down and fully experiencing what you are doing, will, however, become truly satisfying and bring you more inner peace.
Mindfulness requires you to focus more on one thing at a time. For example, if you eat while working, are you focusing on your work or on the food? Probably both, which means you are not able to truly focus. Maybe you are working a little more and simply nourishing yourself without noticing it, without paying really any attention to what you are eating.
This is why so many people end up eating again only one or two hours after a meal: because even though they have already eaten, the brain was concentrating on something else and consequently, eclipsed the rest. If you want to become more mindful, keep your attention focused on to the task at hand. See yourself as the sun with all its sun beams. When you do something, you must direct all your rays to the ONE thing you are doing and then light it up. This way you are totally present and mindful.
Throughout the day, try to name the emotions you are going through. Pay attention to your thoughts and then tag them: That was anger, or jealousy. That was joy or compassion.
Try to be honest with yourself: it’s only between you and yourself. Being able to identify your emotions will help you in your quest of becoming more mindful. I often find that it helps me come to terms with the chatter in my mind. Once I admit that I am jealous, angry, or hurt I know what emotion I need to work on or replace and it allows me to move on with the rest of my life.
How to pray
As I said before, praying isn’t just asking or reciting a prayer. Prayer is a sacred act in which you come in communion with your GOD. Just as with meditation and mindfulness, you need to relax. Breathe deeply and feel your body becoming more peaceful and serene. Eyes closed bring to mind what is troubling you. At that moment, you can do two things:
Clearly and precisely, “say out loud in your mind” what it is that you are feeling: you have to literally hear yourself saying a clear and precise sentence that expresses your emotion. Then breathe and surrender. Tell your God that you trust him completely, that you have total faith in the fact that he is helping you to resolve your problem. Most of the time when you are in a challenging situation, it’s either that you fear change with the loss it implies, or that you don’t like the situation the way it is, and you would like it to change.
At some point, we all experience tormenting thoughts. Before tackling any problem however, one should first get rid of all the negative emotions. And the best way is to ask your God or your inner guide to help you remove and replace these feelings with their opposite emotions. So, every time a problem arises, name the emotion you are feeling, and observe it as it monopolizes your entire mind. Learn to replace it with thoughts of love, compassion, forgiveness and by affirming out loud in your mind“I completely trust God” or ”I unconditionally trust the Universe”.
It might take a day or two, but your heart will have loving intentions again. It is then time to come back and pray for help to finally resolve your problem. I think it’s always a good idea to show that we make an effort towards improving a situation before asking for help.
I love this prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi that helps you in this respect:
I always tell my children that when they are in a “difficult situation” there is always some form of action that can be done to avoid worsening it: saying they are sorry or letting the other person express themselves while remaining nice and calm are just two examples.
Another option is to choose to say absolutely nothing. What exactly are you feeling? What emotion has overcome you? Are you feeling pain? Are you suffering? Don’t answer with words. Instead let yourself feelthe answer. Acknowledge it and embrace it totally. Accept your pain, your hatred, your jealousy. It’s time to be honest with yourself. Breathe deeply and ask your inner Guide to help you accept and replace this negative emotion and find the right solution to your problem.
When you find yourself in a difficult situation, a thousand thoughts start churning in your head. That’s when fear or doubt kick in and take your mind under control. It can literally feel like “Hell” up there. Learn to become aware of these emotions and take immediate action: as soon as an idea, that expresses fear, doubt or negativity pops up, you must address it on the spot and keep at it incessantly until it loses all of its impact. See it, name it and then, just as a friend would, tell yourself some kind and reassuring words.
Keep in mind that each and every one of your thoughts, words or actions has an effect on your body, mind as well as environment. Indeed, when you feel stress, anger, resentment or keep emotions bottled up, your body is clearly affected. When facing these types of emotions, it is obliged to leave its state of homeostasis to adapt and adjust accordingly. But your body can only accept up to a certain point. When pushed out of its comfort zone too far or for too long, it ends up reacting – you no longer breathe the same way, the energy doesn’t flow freely anymore, your organs and various body parts become stressed and contracted – and that’s when you start receiving certain signals such as various aches and pains, feeling tired or having skin problems.
So, isn’t it time you grabbed the reigns and took control of your mind? It takes a bit of practice but, sooner than you think, you could be spending your days channeling and harboring mostly positive and loving thoughts. Once you do, you will be, on a more regular basis, in a state of inner peace which can only, in turn, have a positive impact on your exterior environment – how and when you interact with people around you. Think of the benefits that a simple mind-shift can have, as it can go far beyond anything you have ever imagined. In this entire process, meditating, being more mindful and praying become essential tools as they allow you to push the pause button, put things back into perspective and reach a state of inner calmness.
The minute you are diagnosed with cancer, all of those thoughts going on inside your mind become very difficult to handle. Indeed, you can quite easily find yourself totally overcome by fear. And it’s understandable. For this reason, I really wish to share a few of the things that truly helped me to accept the situation along the way, and experience it in a more peaceful manner.
Gratitude for the treatment and medication.
Accepting treatment and medication
Every time I was administered or had to take some form of medication, I always did it willingly, not only with acceptance but also in a state of gratitude. “This medication is a gift here to heal me.” I would always take a moment, eyes closed, to give thanks for the treatment I was about to receive. Not too long ago, a person I know who was undergoing chemotherapy, told me that she had a hard time accepting the fact that they were injecting “poison” into her. Her words were very violent but that’s how she really felt. Although I can understand her point of view, I believe it’s essential to tackle the situation in a different way, by being open and receptive in receiving your treatment. If you believe it’s poison, your body will inevitably tense up as you take it and be unwilling to receive its benefits. Thus, the importance of practicing acceptance and giving thanks. Every time I would receive an injection or undergo radiotherapy, I would close my eyes and imagine beautiful pink or rainbow-colored hearts entering my body. I would envision thousands of tiny little colored ones flowing into me and spreading throughout my body. It was the way I found of transforming these difficult moments into happier ones.
You are not being punished
Never once did I see my cancer or tumor as a form of punishment. Never once did I ask myself: “What have I done to “deserve” this?”. The way I see it, cancer was simply the way my body chose to express itself. Something was not right. I had turned a blind eye and avoided a situation and I was not living “my truth”. Had I tackled it earlier, I most certainly would not have had this cancer. From the beginning it was clear that it was a message, sent not to harm me but to “save” me, and that it was now time to start dealing with it.
Meditating when you have cancer is an essential part of the treatment. It’s a moment that allows you to bring more peace and love into your world. Since I had breast cancer, I imagined a bright light, the “light of love”, flowing in and out of my breast. As I inhaled, I consciously breathed in love, and upon exhalation, I let all the love go back out into the world. The idea is to let it flow freely back and forth, by receiving the gift of love, but also spreading it out into the universe, without ever clinging onto it. Indeed, this flow of love must always remain in constant motion.
Note: I already developed this idea in a previous change, but I would like to remind you of this important aspect. Many times, I read that one needs to inhale good things, such as love or a healing light and exhale everything that is negative or bad. I have a real problem with this, since it is my belief, that our surrounding world is a beautiful place and not a trash bin into which we can dump our negative emotions. You might ask: what does one do with all that negativity they have built up inside? My answer is quite simple: There is no need to get rid of it. All you have to do is replace it. Change fear into faith, transform thoughts of sickness into thoughts of health, hate into love. That way you can receive love, but also spread it back out into the world. With today’s growing concern about our environment, it’s important to make a conscious effort to preserve it. What better way than spreading more love back into our world.
The world is polluted enough as it is. Let’s avoid dumping negative thoughts into it as well, and focus on spreading more love. Love and a thousand hugs to my father for this beautiful drawing. Illustration by Georges Ratkoff