How Often Do You Look In The Mirror?

A thought for today that comes from the Four Foundations in Mindfulness class:

When was the last time that you really looked at yourself in the mirror? If you have looked in the mirror, it was likely to shave, put makeup on, style your hair, or check your clothing choice. It seems vain to look in the mirror for any other reason. However, it can reconnect you with your body to stop for a few seconds and really take a look at who you are.


Try this out when you are feeling disconnected. Look in a full length mirror at each side of you, even
taking a moment to think about what you look like from the back.

Some things to consider:

1. How do you take care of your body?

2. What does it look like, really?

3. How do you feel and how are your feelings expressed in your body?

4. How connected are you to your body?


~ Jillian Avey,


Meditation and Lifestyle

What is the inter-relation between meditation and your lifestyle? How does one effect the other? This may include your job, your diet, your family, and how you chose to spend your time. You may be surprised to hear this story recounted by Shinzen Young on his website, “I once heard a group of Americans invite a Japanese Zen monk out for dinner. 'What do you like?' they asked. 'I not like mac-ro-biotic. I like mac-do-nald,' was his reply.”


Often when we begin meditation routines, our lives begin to take on deeper meanings and follow more enlightened paths. In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle talks about interweaving one's outer purpose with one's inner purpose. He says that our outer purposes (such as being an accountant or a student) don't really matter as long as we do them in a way that expresses our inner purpose. However, once we begin to live deeper, more meaningful, spiritual lives, often our old outer purposes have lost meaning. It is not uncommon to find that after a spiritual awakening a new career is in order. It's nice, of course, when our outsides can match our insides and vice versa. If daily meditation is prompting you to make changes to your job, go for it.

When it comes to diet and nutrition, you'll find meditators of every persuasion—as the quote says, from macrobiotic to MacDonalds. Many strict Buddhists do eat vegetarian, vegan, or other special diets, and if you are so motivated such a diet would certainly not harm you or your meditation practice. Again, the longer we meditate, the deeper meaning our lives have, and the more important it becomes to treat the body as a temple. In meditation, we reach our hands out and feel the precious gift of life. Upon feeling that, it's hard not to treat it with the utmost respect. Just like many lose the desire to sit in a cubicle shuffling papers all day, some also lose interest in junk food and other unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking. As these things stand in direct opposition to the entire point of meditating, they are good things to evolve past.

Have you also noticed that meditating has affected your family life? Some may find that they are a better parent—more patient, more loving, more accepting, more tolerant, more fun-loving. Meditation might also give you the inner-strength, peace, and courage to repair old family hostilities and grudges. It is hard to justify harshness towards one's children or holding on to family dramas when one is simultaneously devoting time to mindfulness and attaining greater serenity.

Furthermore, the more involved you get with your meditation practice, the more you may find other aspects of your life also changing. For example, you may be less interested in watching TV and playing video games. Perhaps you'll find yourself reading more or spending more time working in the garden or on other outdoor hobbies.

There is no right or wrong way to live as a meditator, but as long as you are being true to yourself, then your practice has meaning.

~ Jillian Avey,




Being a Better Listener Through Meditation

Although there isn’t any real scientific proof on this, I believe that one of the benefits of meditation is that it can help you improve your ability to be a good listener. One of the key elements of being a good listener is, of course, paying attention. If your mind is racing and full of distraction, clearly this can interrupt your ability to give your full, undivided attention to the speaker.


What is good listening? There are many qualities that fit under this umbrella. For example, a good listener is able to focus completely on the speaker and his/her words without interruption. A good listener also asks empowering, thoughtful questions to clarify and gain a deeper understanding. A good listener is empathetic and often tries to walk a mile in the shoes of the speaker. A good listener will often provide a safe, private, quiet environment for the speaker to open up and start talking (possibly by turning their TV and cell phone off or stepping away from a loud, crowded area if the conversation is over the phone). A really good listener will mirror the body language of the speaker, either consciously or subconsciously. An extra good listener will use these three simple steps when it is the appropriate time to respond to the speaker:

1)    Listen actively (described above)

2)    Validate the speaker (“Oh, that is horrible,” “I can see why that was frustrating,” or “Yes, you had every right to be angry.”)

3)    Give options, not advice (Often asking the speaker what their options are is quite empowering. They will frequently solve their own dilemma, which gives them control back and begins their healing.)

So how can meditation help someone improve their listening skills? As meditation is a way of quieting one’s mental chatter through stillness and silent spiritual contemplation, that meditative serenity can be carried throughout the day. Meditating can provide a sense of peace that lasts hours or days longer than the short meditation period. If distraction is a problem for you while you’re trying to listen, meditation can help you turn the volume down on the ever-chattering voice in the head. Additionally, meditation teaches increased focus and concentration, which can also translate into better listening. If interrupting is a problem you have, meditation can help you gain control of that boisterous voice in your head wanting to interject comments and criticisms as someone speaks.

One thing science does prove is that meditation does change people’s brain structures to be more empathetic. Several studies have been done in which the brains of expert meditators with at least 10,000 hours of meditation time were compared to brain scans of non-meditators. The results showed that the expert meditators had actually grown the area of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) responsible for empathy larger. Not only were the limbic systems or emotional networks of the meditators stronger, but their pre-fontal cortexes were also highly active during meditation. So if empathy is where your listening needs work, meditation is a great tool.

Remember you have two ears and just one mouth for a reason!

~ Jillian Avey,


More information:

Using Your Senses During Meditation (Listening)


How Meditation Can Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever said something to your partner that you regret? Have you ever reacted to something your child said with anger that was really small and trivial? Have you ever wanted to be more patient in dealing with a behavior or situation with your partner? There are truly myriad reasons how meditation can help you improve your personal relationships.

RelationshipsMeditation brings a sense of calmness, peace, and tranquility. Think for a moment on how those gifts would benefit your relationships. It will help you to react in appropriate ways, rather than over-reacting. This means you can reduce or eliminate saying those things you regret. Calmness can mean there is less of a desire to nag and be consumed with unimportant “stuff.” These benefits can also provide a deeper tolerance and acceptance of one another. With that may mean more desire to sexually please the other or put more emphasis on foreplay. Perhaps greater tranquility will prompt you into being a better, more patient listener. As I said, the countless benefits abound!

Additionally, it is so often that the on-going dialogue in the mind spins out of control…Where is he? Why didn't she call me back? Is he wearing that because she's going to be there? Maybe I should glance at his cell phone and see what he's been doing? Meditation helps to turn down the volume on the often irrational voice in the head. Have you ever tried telling yourself, “My new rule is that I'm not going to react with anger next time I don't like my partner's driving”? Without a doubt, you're reacting angrily next time you're riding with your partner. The only way to improve this behavior is to be more calm, and you simply can not tell yourself to be more calm—that is something you have to do. If you're feeling like sometimes your relationship brings out a bad side of you rarely seen elsewhere, which sadly is not uncommon, meditation is definitely worth a try!

There are also a number of guided meditation CDs that focus specifically on having better, more loving relationships. These CDs will walk you through a meditation in which you might focus on a relationship-centered mantra, use visual imagery of loving and supporting your partner in a more healthy way, put yourself inside your partner's body and experience what it feels like to see things from his or her point of view (including how he or she sees you), and work to heal and forgive any past problems. The guided meditation CDs are really effective, soothing, and effective. Try doing one of these relationship-centered meditations with your partner—what a great way to strengthen your relationship.

You'll find that meditation is full of benefits for every aspect of your life—relationships just being one of many. 

~ Jillian Avey,


How Meditation is Used For Pain Management

Medical News Today recently reported on a study of the effects of zen meditation on pain management. The goal of the study was to see if experienced meditators experienced pain differently than non-meditators. Joshua Grant of the Université de Montréal who was in charge of the study said, “While previous studies have shown that teaching chronic pain patients to meditate is beneficial, very few studies have looked at pain processing in healthy, highly-trained meditators. This study was a first step in determining how or why meditation might influence pain perception.”

Birds In the study, 13 zen meditators with at least 1000 hours of meditation under their belts underwent a pain sensitivity test with a control group of 13 non-meditators. A heat source was placed at varying degrees of temperature on the calf muscles of the subjects intermittently. Not surprisingly, there was an observable difference between the two groups. The meditators breathed an average of 12 breaths per minute, while the non-meditators breathed roughly 15. The meditators also reported 18% less pain than did the control group. Grant concluded, “While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators.”

This example is just one of many reporting benefits of meditation on chronic pain levels. So how do you use meditation for pain management? A great way to begin is by thoroughly stretching out your muscles. This will help get your blood circulating. Once you are stretched out, get into a comfortable, upright, seated position in which your posture is good and your chin is up. Remove any distractions from the room. Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply. Breathe in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Draw out your breaths making them long and slow. Focus your attention on your breathing.

Many chronic sufferers prefer what is called guided imagery meditations to manage their pain. The easiest way for a beginner to do a guided imagery meditation is to buy a CD for this specific purpose and listen to it. The guided imagery meditation CD will lead you through the entire process from start to finish. These meditations are called “guided” because you are listening to a voice on the CD lead you through what to do. The term “imagery” refers to the meditation asking you to visualize and create mental pictures. For example, for pain management, often meditators will visualize the area of their pain being soothed by a protective bubble of soothing energy or their tumors being flushed out of their bodies and so on.

The techniques of Shinzen Young are also highly recommended for pain management meditation. Visit to learn more about his innovative techniques. Be sure to check out the synopsis of his book Break Through Pain under the “Articles” tab.

  ~ Jillian Avey, 



image courtesy of Axel Kramer

Should You Meditate if You Are Angry or Upset?

Nothing seems farther from our minds than meditating when everything is going wrong, we're distressed, and peace feels far away. How can I meditate at a time like this, you ask? It is interesting how we often neglect to do what will benefit us the most at the time when we need it the most. Yes, of course, you should meditate when you are feeling angry or agitated. Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth has much to say on this subject.

Path The first step to a successful meditation when you are angry is to identify the anger or agitation. This is where the all-important meditation practice of mindfulness can help. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness pioneer, defines it like this, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Rather than getting angry that you are angry, simply acknowledge the feeling—put your finger on it. For example, Eckhart Tolle explains about understanding the difference between, “I am angry,” and “Right now, there is anger.” This mindfulness can help you transition from the first statement to the last one. The anger you are experiencing is not you and is not a part of you, it is just there in your experience. Tolle describes seeing the emotion with a space around it, a cushion so to speak. In this way, you can see that the emotion does not have to permeate your being unless you let it.

Remember also that you are almost never upset for the reason you think you are. Use the feeling to dig deeper. What is underlying the anger? During your meditation, explore this. Is there a disappointment in childhood, a painful experience of abandonment, or some trauma or abuse at the root of your current anger? Another insight pointed out by Tolle is, “One of the most common ego-repair mechanisms is anger, which causes a temporary but huge ego inflation.” Are you upset because someone bested you, belittled you, or poked you in a vulnerable and sensitive spot? If so, focus on a mantra like, “I am. I am. I am,” during your meditation to re-connect with the vast, loving energy of the universe. This can help remind you of what you truly are–the essence of all there is–and thereby show you what you are not—the ego, the voice in the head incessantly thinking and chattering.

Another tip on meditating while angry that Tolle provides is nonresistance. He recounts a story of when he was counseling a woman who was angry about abuse her father had inflicted on her. He said to her, “There is nothing you can do about the fact that at this moment this is what you feel. Now, instead of wanting this moment to be different from the way it is, which adds more pain…is it possible for you to completely accept that this is what you feel right now?” As the saying goes, what we resist, persists. Use a meditation session to simply accept and stop resisting whatever emotion you are feeling. 

Remember that meditation does not always have to be the same old experience of “thinking about nothing” or focusing on a spot on the white wall. Make it what you need it to be. In this way, you can be feeling anger or agitation as you go into a meditation—because they don't all have to be loving kindness practices or communing with God. If you are experiencing anger, then do an “anger meditation” focusing on the things mentioned above. The chances are good that your anger will dissipate quicker than you know.

 ~ Jillian Avey,


Meditation for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a growing epidemic in the United States. As of 2007, 5.4 million American children and teens had been diagnosed with ADHD. American parents believe that as many as 25% of their children suffer from ADHD. While just 5.4 million kids were diagnosed, only 2.7 million were actually receiving treatment. According to PBS, 2 or 3 students in every classroom are taking medication for ADHD. Not only are the side effects of Ritalin and other ADHD drugs unwelcome, but many parents fear their children will have an ever-deepening, life-long dependency on these drugs. Additionally, many adults who suffer from ADHD report no benefit from medication at all. Is there another choice?

Water In a recent study of mindfulness meditation on both teens and adults diagnosed with ADHD, 78% of the participants were able to complete the study. This in and of itself is quite a victory as meditation requires physical and mental stillness for long periods of time. There are no adverse effects to meditation, and the cost is not prohibitive. 75% of the participants in the study reported a reduction in their ADHD symptoms with the mindfulness meditation regimen. Neuropsychological measures also showed improvement in the subjects after the course of meditation. Additionally, ADHD is often accompanied by mood disorders, and this study reported that meditation lowered those reported symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The mindfulness meditation used in the study consisted of three steps. You may try these for yourself or assist your children in utilizing this method. First, focus your attention on what is known as an “attention anchor” (such as a spot on the wall, one's breathing, or a piece of fruit you hold in your hand). Then, if and when your attention drifts from time to time, be aware that a distraction has occurred. Finally, re-focus back on the “attention anchor.” In this particular study, 10 minutes of meditation was done twice a day. Over time, the subjects were asked to “pay attention to their attention.” The intention of this last bit is to teach the ADHD sufferer that it is possible to be aware of when a distraction is occurring and to consciously re-direct one's focus back to the task at hand.

What about younger children with ADHD? Can meditation work for them too? The online journal Current Issues in Education reported a study on exactly this issue. In the study, a similar meditation protocol to the one above was used, except here students focused on specific mantras (“I am calm”) or sounds (“Omm”) as they meditated. The study included children from age 11-14 and reported, “'The effect was much greater than we expected.' Improvements were found in attention, behavior regulation, memory, and organization.” 

In cultures where Buddhism, mindfulness, and meditation are regularly practiced, rates of ADHD are minimal, says Dr. John Ranseen of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Perhaps you can encourage your children's school to implement a meditation program like the one at Toluca Lake Elementary in Los Angeles. The Examiner reported, “Schools have been turning to mindfulness for very practical reasons that don't concern religion, and their efforts have been supported by a recent wave of scientific results.”

  ~ Jillian Avey, 





Looking For Natural Stress Relief?

Buddha famously said, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” This is why meditating for stress relief is such a crucial part of anyone's plans to de-stress their life. Meditating is a way to turn off one's mind and tap into the infinite knowingness, order, and natural beauty of the universe. 

 What Is Stress?

There are good and bad kinds of stress. Since we are on the topic of relief from stress, we'll get straight to the bad kind, which is defined as a state of great anxiety, strain, or pressure–real or perceived. These physical and emotional strains are caused by our responses to pressures. Common stress reactions include inability to concentrate, irritability, headache, tension, increased blood pressure and pulse, strokes, and a weakened immune system.

Studies show that millions of Americans report being stressed at work—from 11 million reported a decade ago, the numbers continue to grow worldwide. Stress reduction is such a real problem that the US Public Health Service has officially recognized it as one of their top health priorities.

How Effective Is Meditation? Pileofstones

You may be surprised to learn that meditation and it's impact on people, places, and things has been
heavily studied. There have been at least 1500 individual studies conducted since 1930. Meditation also has wide-spread, scientifically-observable results. Some of the most commonly observed benefits include: reduced anxiety and nervousness, reduced fear of dying, production of the stress hormone Cortisol was significantly diminished, and it can even make you look and feel younger! 

Furthermore, people who have been diagnosed with heart disease then began meditating regularly saw a reduction in the disease's effects and some even reversed the disease. Medical insurance companies have even studied meditation and found that meditators were 87% less likely to be hospitalized for heart disease and 55% less likely to be hospitalized for cancer. Doctors have found that their patients who meditate regularly have more energy, more patience, and greater productivity. One chemical company in Detroit implemented a meditation program during the work day and, after a three-year study, found that absenteeism fell 85%, productivity grew 120%, injuries were reduced by 70%, and profits grew by 520%.

 Start Meditating for Stress Relief Today

If you have never meditated before, have no fear. Your first thought might be, “I have no time to mediate!” Remember what Peter McWilliams says, “Some people think that meditation takes time away from physical accomplishment. Taken to extremes, of course, that's true. Most people,
however, find that meditation creates more time than it takes.”

Stay tuned for my series on meditation techniques for stress relief.

   ~ Jillian Avey,