Benefits of Meditation

Benefits of Meditation

"Research has confirmed what the yogis of ancient times already knew: Profound physiological and psychological changes take place when we meditate, causing an actual shift in the brain and in the involuntary processes of the body.

An instrument called an electroencephalograph (EEG) records mental activity. During waking activity, when the mind constantly moves from one thought to another, the EEG registers jerky and rapid lines categorized as beta waves. When the mind calms down through meditation, the EEG shows waves that are smoother and slower, and categorizes them as alpha waves.

As meditation deepens, brain activity decreases further. The EEG then registers an even smoother, slower pattern of activity we call theta waves. Studies on meditators have shown decreased perspiration and a slower rate of respiration accompanied by a decrease of metabolic wastes in the bloodstream. Lower blood pressure and an enhanced immune system are further benefits noted by research studies.

The health benefits meditation produces naturally reflect the mental and physical effects of this process. At the very least, meditation teaches you how to manage stress; reducing stress, in turn, enhances your overall physical health and emotional well-being. On a deeper level, it can add to the quality of your life by teaching you to be fully alert, aware, and alive. In short, it is a celebration of yourself. You are not meditating to get anything, but rather to look at and let go of anything you do not need."

Source: Mara Carrico, Yoga Journal, "A Beginner's Guide to Meditation", http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/

Meditation Postures

Meditation Postures

Sitting

Sitting is the most commonly recommended posture. There are a number of classic seated poses, but Sukhasana (Easy Cross-Legged Pose) is obviously the most basic. More flexible meditators prefer Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Sitting in a chair also works and is often the best choice for beginners. Be sure that your spine remains upright and that you feel steady and comfortable. To maximize comfort on the floor, place a cushion or folded blanket under your buttocks to elevate them and gently guide your knees down toward the floor. This helps support the natural lumbar curve of the lower back. Some people prefer kneeling “Japanese-style.” You can buy small, slanted wooden benches for this position.

Relax your arms and place your hands on your thighs or in your lap, with the palms in a relaxed position facing up or down. Roll your shoulders back and down and gently lift the chest. Keep your neck long and the chin tilted slightly downward. Depending upon which technique you are following, the eyes may be opened or closed. Breathing is natural and free.

Walking

A moving meditation—highly recommended by many teachers—may be an enjoyable option for you. The challenge of this form is to walk slowly and consciously, each step becoming your focal point. Destination, distance, and pace are all incidental. Relax your arms at your sides and move freely, coordinating your breath with your steps. For instance, you might breathe in for 3 steps and breathe out for 3 steps. If that feels awkward or difficult, just breathe freely. Although you can practice walking meditation anywhere, choose a setting you particularly love—the ocean, a favorite park, or a meadow. Remember, getting somewhere is not the issue. Rather, the complete involvement in the act of walking becomes your meditation.

Standing

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Standing is another meditation practice that can be very powerful. It is often recommended for those practitioners who find that it builds physical, mental, and spiritual strength. Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-distance apart. Knees are soft; arms rest comfortably at your sides. Check to see that the whole body is aligned in good posture: shoulders rolled back and down, chest open, neck long, head floating on top, and chin parallel to the floor. Either keep your eyes opened or softly close them.

 Reclining

Even though lying down is associated with relaxation, the classic Corpse Pose, Savasana, is also used for meditation. Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides, palms facing upward. Touch your heels together and allow the feet to fall away from one another, completely relaxed. Although your eyes may be opened or closed, some people find it easier to stay awake with their eyes open. A supine meditation, although more physically restful than other positions, entails a greater degree of alertness to remain awake and focused. Therefore, beginners may find it more difficult to meditate in this position without falling asleep.

Source: Mara Carrico, Yoga Journal, "A Beginner's Guide to Meditation", http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/

 

Physical Sensations

Physical Sensations

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Another way to meditate is to watch a physical sensation. Practice this with the same degree of detail as you would when watching the breath. In this context, you will look deeply at, or penetrate, a particular sensation that draws your attention, such as how hot or cool your hands feel. The increased sensitivity you gained due to your asana practice may provide you with other points of focus: the strength of your spine or the suppleness you feel in your lower body, for example. Observing a particular emotion or any specific area of discomfort is also a possibility. Whatever you choose remains your point of focus for the whole practice. You may find that observing a physical sensation can be more challenging than observing the breath. For most beginners, mantras, chants, and visualizations offer more tangible ways to replace or calm the scattered thoughts of our minds, which seem to be perpetually on sensory overload.

Source: MARA CARRICO, Yoga Journal, "A Beginner's Guide to Meditation", http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/

Curious about our approach?

Breathing

Breathing

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Breathing as a point of focus during meditation is another technique used to maintain attention during your practice.

How do you incorporate breathing into your practice?

Count your breaths and notice the sensation it produces.

In this instance, the breath becomes the sole object of your meditation. You observe every nuance of the breath and each sensation it produces: how it moves in your abdomen and torso, how it feels as it moves in and out of your nose, its quality, its temperature, and so on. Though you are fully aware of all these details, you don’t dwell on them or judge them in any way; you remain detached from what you’re observing. What you discover is neither good nor bad; you simply allow yourself to be with the breath from moment to moment.
— MARA CARRICO, Yoga Journal, "A Beginner's Guide to Meditation"

Breath observance is the predominant technique in “insight” or “mindfulness” meditation.

 

Gazing

Gazing

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Gazing is another popular way to meditate. Maintain an open-eyed focus upon an object. This focus is referred to as drishti, which means “view,” “opinion,” or “gaze.” Focus on a an object, a flower in a vase, a statue, or a picture of a deity.

Use this technique with your eyes fully opened or partially closed, creating a softer, diffused gaze. Many of the classical hatha yoga postures have gazing points, and the use of drishti is especially emphasized in the Ashtanga style of hatha yoga. Many pranayama techniques also call for specific positioning of the eyes, such as gazing at the “third eye,” the point between the eyebrows or at the tip of the nose.
— MARA CARRICO, Yoga Journal

Source: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/

Use of Imagery

Use of Imagery

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Visualizing is a good way to meditate; one that beginners often find easy to practice. Traditionally, a meditator visualizes his or her chosen deity—a god or goddess-in vivid and detailed fashion. Essentially any object is valid.

Some practitioners visualize a natural object such as a flower or the ocean; others meditate on the chakras, or energy centers, in the body. In this type of meditation, you focus on the area or organ of the body corresponding to a particular chakra, imagining the particular color associated with it.

Source: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/

Use of Sound

Use of Sound

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Mantra

Mantra yoga employs the use of a particular sound, phrase, or affirmation as a point of focus. The word mantra comes from man, which means “to think,” and tra, which suggests “instrumentality.”

Therefore, mantra is an instrument of thought. It also has come to mean “protecting the person who receives it.” Traditionally, you can only receive a mantra from a teacher, one who knows you and your particular needs. The act of repeating your mantra is called japa, which means recitation. Just as contemplative prayer and affirmation need to be stated with purpose and feeling, a mantra meditation practice requires conscious engagement on the part of the meditator. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation (TM) espouses the practice of mantra yoga.

Chanting

Chanting, an extension of mantra yoga, is a powerful way to enter into meditation. Longer than a mantra, a chant involves both rhythm and pitch. Western traditions use chants and hymns to invoke the name of God, to inspire, and to produce a spiritual awakening. Dating back to Vedic times, Indian chanting comes out of a tradition that believes in the creative power of sound and its potential to transport us to an expanded state of awareness. The rishis, or ancient seers, taught that all of creation is a manifestation of the primordial sound Om. Reflected in an interpretation of the word universe—”one song”—Om is the seed sound of all other sounds. Chanting Sanskrit often and properly produces profound spiritual and physical effects.

Many beginners find using a mantra in their meditation very effective and relatively easy. Chanting, on the other hand, can be intimidating for some people. If you feel awkward chanting on your own, use one of the many audiotapes of chants on the market, or participate in a group meditation where a meditation teacher leads the chant and the students repeat it. Although chanting in Sanskrit can be powerful, reciting a meaningful prayer or affirmation in any language can be effective.

Source: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/

What is Meditation?

What is Meditation?

An exquisite methodology exists within the yoga tradition that is designed to reveal the interconnectedness of every living thing. This fundamental unity is referred to as advaita. Meditation is the actual experience of this union.
— Mara Carrico, Yoga Journal

When does this union occur? When the mind becomes quiet. This mental stillness is created by bringing the body, mind, and senses into balance which, in turn, relaxes the nervous system. Meditation begins when we discover that our never-ending quest to possess things and our continual craving for pleasure and security can never be satisfied. When we finally realize this, our external quest turns inward, and we have shifted into the realm of meditation.

By dictionary definition, ‘meditation’ means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate. It can also denote a devotional exercise of contemplation or a contemplative discourse of a religious or philosophical nature. In the yogic context, meditation, or dhyana, is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness.
— Mara Carrico, Yoga Journal

Expanded State of Awareness

When we are grounded physically and mentally, we are keenly aware of our senses, yet disengaged at the same time. Without this ability to remain detached yet observant, it is not possible to meditate. Even though you need to be able to concentrate in order to meditate, meditation is more than concentration. It ultimately evolves into an expanded state of awareness.

Self-Realization

When we concentrate, we direct our mind toward what appears to be an object apart from ourselves. We become acquainted with this object and establish contact with it. To shift into the meditation realm, however, we need to become involved with this object; we need to communicate with it. The result of this exchange, of course, is a deep awareness that there is no difference between us (as the subject) and that which we concentrate or meditate upon (the object). This brings us to the state of samadhi, or self-realization.

Source: "A Beginner's Guide to Meditation, by Mara Carrico, Yoga Journal, (2007). http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/

Elusive Self

Elusive Self

In looking for my mind, I discovered that it seems to be in many different places. Sometimes it is drinking a glass of water, remembering swimming in the summer, feeling the breeze. In this contemplation, I observed that the self is more elusive than I thought.

By our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

See Blue

See Blue

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Within my mind, I live on a small blue planet. Everyone seems far away, no one seems close. Everywhere is blackness, yet abundant life consumes each moment. I wish and hope everyone could see this blue fragile life floating in the blackness–Next time they miss the bus, next time they forget to look and smile.

We are floating on a blue dot– We should all be frightfully concerned. No matter what you think, what I think, we will always be on this blue dot, unless we are the masters of darkness or the emperors of blackness.

Look at each other– Be kind. Stop. Look up. See blue. That color came from somewhere. It could be another color if we don't play our cards right. Our worst enemies we should hold, because even they love blue.

The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche
Paris, June 2002 on the occasion of a solar eclipse

Become More Human

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Become More Human

As the conceptual, material world increases its hold on us, and inanimate objects become more lifelike, we humans must become more human. Open hearts, kindness and care-these are our most precious gifts.
— Our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

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Why Don't We Think About Training Our Minds?

Why Don't We Think About Training Our Minds?

Many of us are slaves to our minds. Our own mind is our worst enemy. We try to focus, and our mind wanders off. We try to keep stress at bay, but anxiety keeps us awake at night. We try to be good to the people we love, but then we forget them and put ourselves first. And when we want to change our life, we dive into spiritual practice and expect quick results, only to lose focus after the honeymoon has worn off. We return to our state of bewilderment. We’re left feeling helpless and discouraged. It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet, and relaxation is a good idea, but why don’t we think about training our minds?
— Our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Stillness

Stillness

We humans have become multi-tasking productivity machines. We can work from anywhere, to great effect. We can do more, and do it far more quickly, than we ever dreamed possible.
— Christine Carter, Mindful.org

So, why do we always feel starved for time?

According to, “Starved for Time? Here’s a Surprising—and Easy—Solution”, by Christine Carter with Mindful.org, there is an obvious answer.

We have so much more work, and expectations about what we will accomplish on a good day have expanded, but the number of hours in that day have stayed the same…We have gotten really, really bad at just doing nothing.
— Christine Carter, Mindful.org

When you look around, what do you see people doing? Sitting idle, enjoying their surrounds? Looking up at the sky? Sitting in peaceful meditation? Let’s admit it, on most days we are checking our smartphones every 10 seconds, responding to the constant alerts, pings, and emails that are coming through or catching up on the latest news feeds.

So how can we take back our time to become more efficient and focused? One word -- Stillness.

Stillness—or the ability to just sit there and do nothing—is a skill, and as a culture we’re not practicing this skill much these days…We need stillness in order to recharge our batteries. The constant stream of external stimulation causes what neuroscientists call “cognitive overload,” imparing our ability to think creatively, to plan, organize, innovate, solve problems, make decisions, resist temptations, learn new things easily, speak fluently, remember important social information, and control our emotions.
— Christine Carter, Mindful.org

Be present, be still and remember to take care of yourself. Catch up on your stillness!

Source: http://www.mindful.org/starved-for-time-heres-a-surprising-and-easy-solution/. (i) Goleman, Daniel. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. New York: Harper, 2013. This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. 

Rejoicing

Rejoicing

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When we communicate power artfully, everyone feels included. We have each person’s interests in mind. We have fearlessly rejected self-absorption, so joy and celebration arise.

Celebration is an attitude. It is the ultimate appreciation of daily life. We’re not just in it for ourselves; we’re in it because we want to offer wisdom and compassion to others. They feel the power of our love and care.

As we overcome fear and aggression, there is less bickering, jealousy, and competition. Thus, as a group, we have strong windhorse, which makes us all-victorious.
— By our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Artful

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Artful

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Being artful means acting with great dignity. We continually examine the influences in our environment. If everyone in our circle flatters or agrees with us, our self-awareness will become cloudy like a faded mirror.

Consideration of others is the root of being artful. With artfulness, we open up a situation with wisdom rather than close it down with our own negativity. We want to draw people out, not suppress them. Instead of forcing our opinion on them, we try to create space. The questions we ask are often as important as the answers we offer. In that space, they can learn to use discernment and discipline to discover their own wisdom.
— By our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

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Karmê Chöling

Karmê Chöling

Owner and President of Authentic Body Therapy, Brandon Jellison, recently completed a 9-day retreat in the beautiful green mountains of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Karmê Chöling, a Shambhala Buddhist meditation retreat center and community in Barnet, Vermont. Karmê Chöling offers contemplation programs to inspire wisdom and compassion in our everyday lives. Accommodations include elegant meditation halls, an abundant organic garden and an idyllic setting to explore what it means to be fully human while deepening your connection to the earth, yourself and society.

 We sat down with Brandon to learn about his experience and how he prepared for the 9-day retreat, unplugged from technology and the outside world.

How did you prepare yourself? 

I have studied Tibetan Buddhism for about 18-years to develop the level of understanding that layers on top with each program retreat. This program was focused on the highest teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, the quintessential instructions. Before I left for the retreat, I focused on cleaning-house, so to speak. Organizing myself in the best way possible – cleaning up emails, organizing the house, communicating with my support team to tie up any loose ends. For me this preparation helps to support relaxation and having a trusted support system helps to take away any worries which lends to remaining in the moment and in the experience while on retreat.

What was the experience like?

Karmê Chöling is a beautiful space with gardens, fresh organic food, homemade bread. About 120 people from around the world attended this specific retreat. Our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche created a very warm and kind atmosphere. It’s interesting to notice the pattern of people becoming nicer and nicer, which speaks to the experience and lineage of the teacher.

How was it being unplugged from technology?

The first couple days of being away, you can’t help but have a knee jerk reaction to check your phone or computer, realizing just how strong those habits are in each of us. And then re-entering into the technology again after the retreat makes you more mindful about using technology to communicate and get things done. Thinking about when tasks are done not lingering too long on the technology, staying in the driver’s seat, not letting the technology indulge you. Thinking about it as having one serving of ice cream, not the whole container. For me, it was about coming back from retreat and having a healthy relationship to the technology, the same kind of relationship we strive to have with food.

For more information, visit https://www.karmecholing.org/.

Nantucket Summer Solstice Celebration

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Nantucket Summer Solstice Celebration

June is the month of summer solstice! We are looking forward to celebrating this day on Nantucket Island on Sunday, June 26 with a blessing and purification ceremony at 8 a.m. at Children's Beach (Harbor View Way, Nantucket, MA 02554). Please join us to celebrate the summer solstice!

This ceremony will kick-off the Nantucket Sunday Morning Mediation Classes that will be held every Sunday at 8 a.m. at Children's Beach throughout July and August for meditation and mindfulness. 

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Fearlessness

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Fearlessness

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In order to be truly powerful, the prince must take a great leap and jump into the ocean of the Rigden father’s fearlessness. We are fearless because we are beyond doubt about basic goodness. We are not afraid of the power of windhorse. This fearlessness has a gentle quality: it is rooted in unwavering compassion.

Trying to rule our world single-handedly, we are not really ruling. We may believe independence is a sign of power, but not wanting to work with others is a sign we haven’t conquered self-absorption. The reality is that we can’t handle our anger, can’t develop our patience, and we can’t cultivate our wisdom without working with others.
— By our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

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Reset Your Balance

Reset Your Balance

According to mental health research, intense feelings of anxiety and stress is what causes a nervous breakdown. The nerves don’t actually break of course, but it’s a signal to shut down and reset. We have become out of balance.
— Ms. Kathryn Remati, MindBody Network, Certified Meditation Teacher and Creator of Tranquil Spectrum

How do you reset?

Close your eyes.

This limits the sensory input  and will immediately start to slow things down.

Take Deep Breaths.

Combined with a meditation exercise, taking deep breaths will lower the brain wave frequency to a synchronized, more focused level of mind.

Meditation, due to its positive stress relieving side effects, is being considered as part of a prescription for a growing number of ailments that are physical, mental, emotional or spiritually based. The reset button isn't just needed for excess. A balance needs to be reset due to a lack of something in our lives too.

Meditation can fill a spiritual void where there is a lack of purpose, meaning, peace and love. When you move your awareness from the physical body, calm your emotions and still your thoughts, what remains? The answer to that question has ancient philosophers and New Age gurus searching through words to label something there are no words for. You just have to try it for yourself.
— Ms. Kathryn Remati, MindBody Network, Certified Meditation Teacher and Creator of Tranquil Spectrum

7 Ways To Bring Meditation Into Your Life

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7 Ways To Bring Meditation Into Your Life

In our fast-paced lives, it is often difficult to slow down, listen to our bodies, take a moment to treat ourselves to a few moments of meditation to relax, recharge and realign our minds in the now.

Mind-body approaches like meditation open up the opportunity for true healing.
— Mary Shomon, The Huffpost

Many benefits include:

  • Stress reduction and management
  • Improved concentration
  • Better health (especially heart and immune system health)
  • Greater longevity
  • Greater self-awareness
  • An improved sense of happiness and life satisfaction

Attend to your health, try these simple steps to bring meditation into your faily life, as shared by The Huffpost, "7 Ways To Bring Meditation Into Your Life," by Mary Shomon.

1. Breathe!

The most basic meditation technique is to simply observe your breath. Close your eyes, and slowly take a deep belly breath. Feel the air and the energy it brings as it travels down to your belly. Notice the sensations the breath brings. Exhale fully. Again, notice your sensations. You can repeat this several times in a row, and several times a day. You may want to have some words that you say or think to go along with the breath. For example, breathing in: “I relax” and exhaling: “I let go.” You can also use a single word, like “peace” or “relax” for both inhale and exhale. Basic breath meditation is a perfect way to start and end your day, and can be done in bed. For a short introduction to breath meditation, 

2. Take Breathing to the Next Level: Pranayama.

Pranayama is a type of regulated breathing that is found in yoga practice. When done properly and regularly, it can quickly shift you from “fight or flight” mode into a “resting” state. A simple Pranayama practice would be to take a deep inhale through the nose and into the belly to the count of 4, hold the breath for 4 seconds, exhale to a count of 4, again hold the breath for 4 seconds, and then repeat. You can also do a 4-2-4 — where you breathe in for 4, hold for 2, and exhale for 4. 

3. Practice Effortless Presence Meditation — Grab Your Colored Pencils.

There is a type of meditation called “Effortless Presence.” The goal is to be doing something that allows your mind to be empty, still, and quiet. Many meditation techniques work towards this goal, but you may find that you can quickly achieve this meditative state — without meditation training or practice — by becoming absorbed in an activity that requires no mental focus, and allows your mind to be still. How? Try one of the new coloring books — nature, flowers, design patterns and mandalas are popular themes — and color away. If coloring is not your thing, you may find that activities like needlework, beading, crafting, or even kneading bread allow you to easily get into that place of “flow,” where the mind chatter quiets, and time both stands still and flies by quickly and peacefully.

4. Explore Loving Kindness Meditation.

Loving Kindness meditation is also known as “Metta Meditation,” and comes from the Buddhist tradition. Close your eyes, and focus on feeling kindness and love for yourself. You may want to repeat: “May I be peaceful, may I be happy.” Then, focus on kindness and love for family and friends. You can choose one person, or name them all in your mind. Again, “May my sibling/friend/child/parent/spouse/partner etc. be peaceful. May they be happy.” Move on to someone who triggers neither negative or positive feelings, and again, offer them love and kindness. Move on to someone you don’t like. “May he/she be peaceful. May he/she be happy.” Move on to all life on earth — pets, animals, insects. Finally, imagine yourself viewing the earth from space. “May all on earth be peaceful. May all be happy.” Then expand it out to the entire universe.

5. Shut Off Your Internal Radio With Guided Meditation.

I frequently hear from clients that when they try to meditate on their own, they find it impossible to shut down the internal chatter. Instead of a quiet or focused mind, they end up making grocery lists in their heads, ruminating about problems, and definitely can’t find a place of quiet calm and flow. One solution: guided meditation. With guided meditation, you close your eyes and listen, as an expert guides you through a carefully written and presented meditation. To get started with guided meditation, you can’t go wrong with two talented guides: Demo DiMartile, and Belleruth Naparstek.

6. Turn On to Tune Out.

Many of us need to turn off and tune out the computers, tablets, smartphones and television sets in order to reach a meditative state. You may find, however, that tuning in can be your pathway to effective meditation. 

7. Develop a “SuperMind.”

SuperMind explores the many ways Transcendental Meditation can help you reach an expanded state of consciousness, optimize body-brain function, achieve personal growth, and forget deep connections that create transformations in every facet of life — including health, relationships, success, and happiness.

Read more, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-shomon/bring-meditation-into-your-life_b_9995644.html.

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