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,




Living in the Present Through Meditation

Living in the present is a true gift that frees us from our pain and anxiety.  When we focus on the present moment, we gain control of lives that can be spinning out of control. In the present, we are liberated from the mistakes, regrets, guilt, and traumas of the past. In the present, we are liberated from the worries, anxieties, and overwhelming tasks from the future.

During meditation, we connect to the present moment because we are momentarily not distracted by our racing, chattering, ego-driven minds. We cannot have the peace and serenity we have during meditation while we aren't meditating because the voice in your head can run non-stop. One of the many tedious and arduous things about the voice in your head is that it is almost never present. The mind loves to bring up past hurts, to dwell on things we cannot change from the past or the future, and to obsess with worry about tomorrow, next week, next year, and even death.

You might think that living in the present is a pop-psychology band-aid to today's problems, but it isn't. Being present doesn't promise that you will never suffer. Being present does have the power though to help you gain acceptance and understanding, to surrender to what is. By focusing our attention on the “here and now,” much of the discomfort, pain, and agony we experience dissipates. Being present is an invitation into the stillness, which is where peace, serenity, and long-lasting happiness can be found. This is where meditation comes in. 

During meditation, one steps away from the hustle and bustle of normal living. By quieting our minds, we may not realize that what we are then doing is living in the present. With the voice in the head silent, we are unable to let our thoughts drift anywhere but to the present. When we realize, as spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says in his popular book The Power of Now, that we are not the voices in our heads, we then see that we only ever exist in the present. This means that 90% of that mental chatter filling up our minds is not us. Living in the present moment has that kind of power.

  ~ Jillian Avey, 


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From the Pure Life Mediation bookstore: The Mirror of Mindfulness by Tsele Natsok Rangdrol

Do You Have Intrusive Thoughts When You Meditate?

Welcome to meditation! Evidence suggests that the conscious human mind is only able to hold onto one thought for a maximum of about 3 seconds. On the flip side, this explains why intrusive thoughts can be such an interruption during meditation. Of course, the whole point of meditation is to turn the ongoing, chattering voice in the head off for a few minutes. The ongoing dialogue in our minds is responsible for almost all of the anguish we experience—it makes us stressed, worried, anxious, angry, jealous, and even crazy.

Todo list

The general rule when meditating is if an unwanted or intrusive thought pops into your mind, simply acknowledge it and re-focus back on the meditation. While it can be frustrating for that song you heard last night to keep popping into your mind or to want to keep adding to the to-do list, allowing yourself to succumb to the frustration will only get you further and further away from the peace and serenity you are seeking through the meditation. Have the awareness that even if an intrusive thought arises, it will not ruin your meditation. It is something that happens to every meditator—let it go.

Another great way to stop the thinking mind during meditation is by focusing on being present. This is why breathing can be an essential tool for meditation. As you very consciously breathe in and out, focusing on this simple, life-affirming activity, your mind will be able to relax. Presence is about being here and now. That means the mind has not drifted off somewhere else (there) and is not obsessively worrying about upcoming events or painful past traumas (then). This is why Buddhist teacher Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now is an international best-seller. Being present, in the now, brings the peace and serenity sought through meditation simply by quieting the voice in the head.

Some prefer to ward off intrusive thoughts by repeating an affirmation or mantra as they meditate. You might think in your mind, focusing your energies on this, “I am unconditional love. I am open to love. I believe in love.” Perhaps you prefer, “I am relaxed. I am calm. I am free. I am patient.” By directing your energies towards a specific desired mantra, you can help keep your energies away from undesired thoughts.

If you experience intrusive thoughts that are violent or flashbacks of traumas you have endured, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a trained professional to help you work through these issues. Meditation may not be appropriate for you if you are experiencing flashbacks each time you try to close your eyes and relax.

~ Jillian Avey,


Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief #3

Have you ever felt stressed and just don't know what to do about it? Maybe you don't have the time to exercise more or the money for that spa visit. Meditation can help relieve some of that stress in just a few minutes a day. 

This is the third in a series of stress relief techniques through meditation. Please come back – or better yet, subscribe – to learn more through the weeks.

Raisin Stress Relief Technique #3 – Focus on an Object 

Focusing on an object is also a popular meditation for stress relief. A popular one, for example, is to place a raisin in your mouth and observe all of the sensations as it dissolves. You don't chew it, you just explore through your 5 senses the object. The raisin passes through many stages before it disappears, challenging many of your senses. This technique, like the the previous ones discussed here, relieves you of any burden of having to face a meditation session without any sort of “agenda” or mantra, which should take the edge off any anticipation you feel. You can focus on an object you hold in your hand with your eyes closed, an object you look at with your eyes open, or an object in your mind's eye. 

~ Jillian Avey,


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Top 5 Myths About Meditation

Meditation Myth #1 – You Don't Have Time to Meditate

We are busy Americans and pride ourselves on how much we can get done. We live in a country 
where a little more hard work can lead to a different situation for our lives. Self-made people are held in high regard. We are so very fortunate to live in a society where we have all this potential. However, it can lead us to feeling that no matter how much we do, it's never enough.

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Meditation Myth #2 – You Can't Change Your Brain

A popular myth about meditation is that it's just something to do for stress relief or to gain a higher spiritual connection, but few people actually realize that meditating can actually change your brain. There is an emerging new field of brain science in fact called “Contemplative Neuroscience,” or the study of meditation's effect on the brain.
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Meditation Myth #3 – You Just Sit There With a Clear Mind

Many people that I talk to say they can't meditate because they can't clear their mind. They say that their minds keep going from thought to thought when they try to sit still. The biggest myth about mediation is that to be good at meditation, thinking will stop. The truth is that no matter who you talk to, everyone has thoughts, all the time. Meditation helps to tame the mind but it doesn't stop thoughts from coming up. Ask a teacher who has been meditating for 30 years what their biggest challenge is in meditating and you will get the same answer: distraction.
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Meditation Myth #4 – You Have to Be Able to Sit Still

Meditation is a great place to learn how to manage discomfort and pain. By sitting through discomfort, we find a way to separate the feeling from the emotion that surrounds the physical signal. It can create quite a sense of accomplishment to watch that itch come and finally go away without responding.
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Meditation Myth #5 – Sitting On A Cushion Is Boring

When someone is meditating, it looks like they aren't doing anything. If they are just sitting there,isn't it boring? And if it is boring, isn't that a bad thing to be bored? Sitting still can be foreign to most people before they start meditating. While it might look like someone who is meditating is not doing anything, they are actually very active.

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Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief

Meditation is a great tool for stress relief. There are as many different ways to meditate as there are people meditating it seems. Which techniques are most effective for stress management? It would be easy to say that any meditation technique is appropriate to reduce stress; however, some techniques are more geared towards stress relief than others. People meditate for many different reasons. Some meditate in order to boost a certain personality trait they wish to strengthen, some desire to heal physical ailments, some seek athletic or financial success, some are reaching for a deeper spiritual connection. Each different motivation can be best served through the technique most conducive to that goal.

This is the first of a series of stress relief techniques through meditation. Please come back – or better yet subscribe – to learn more through the weeks.

Beach Stress Relief Technique #1 – Imagery

Imagery meditations involve using strong, specific images in your mind to help you tap into your relaxation. You might see yourself walking through a beautiful garden oasis. You might see yourself walking along a deserted beach at sunset. You might see yourself sitting on top of a mountain. Imagery meditations are particularly effective for stress relief because you don't have to have much of a meditation strategy or agenda. Often people get stressed out just thinking about having to do a meditation. They feel anxiety about how they are going to sit still for 20 whole minutes or how they are ever going to get their racing minds to be still. With imagery meditations, you give your mind something to do (creating and seeing the images), so it can be “less work” if that's how you choose to see it. The soothing, peaceful images also help create a relaxed, serene feeling.

 ~ 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, 





What is “Noting” Used For in Meditation?

What do you do when you are new to meditation and the idea of “not thinking” for 10 or 20 whole minutes is quite intimidating? Try the technique known as “noting” or “mental noting.” Noting is a popular technique for beginners (and even more advanced meditators when they have intrusive thoughts). It teaches the mindfulness and awareness that deep meditation requires. It helps to train the meditator to be able to see that all things, including intrusive thoughts, are fleeting and they are not really “us.” They are external and do not have to be identified with. This lesson in and of itself can transcend from your meditation practice into your life and work miracles.

Noting Noting means to merely name or label (i.e. “note”) any objects, thoughts, or feelings observed during a meditation. This does not mean to have an internal dialogue, to analyze, to judge, or any other such thing—just note. The very process implies acceptance, indeed requires it. Let's say, for example, in a particular meditation session, the voice in your head starts singing a song you had stuck in your head all day. Rather than thinking, “Focus, come on, get back into it,” you can merely observe or note, “singing.” 

Let me explain the process of noting in the example of walking through a zoo. Traditionally, our mental dialogue might be saying, “Oh, there are the snakes. Eeh, gross! Woa, that one is kind of looking at me. That really freaks me out…OK, there are the birds—that's better. Actually, the birds are kind of boring. But that buzzard is cleaning his feathers, that's neat.” Using the noting technique, one's same experience would sound like this in the mind, “Snakes. Snakes. Disgust. Discomfort. Birds. Birds. Buzzard. Feathers.” With noting there is merely a mindfulness and an awareness without the drama, the dialogue, and the mental chatter.

The Insight Meditation Workshop's Ven. Pannyavaro explains noting like this: 

“The noting is done by repeatedly making a mental note of whatever arises in your body/mind experience. For example, 'hearing, hearing', 'thinking, thinking', 'touching, touching', etc. And when focused on the abdominal movement, note 'rising, rising' and 'falling, falling'. This is a powerful aid to help establish the attention, especially at the beginning of the practice, when it is necessary to systematically note as much as possible to stabilize the attention. Otherwise, you are likely to get lost in unnoticed wanderings with long periods of inattention.”

Another great benefit of using the noting technique in your meditation is that it helps to see the transient nature of other far more perplexing issues, like broken hearts, physical suffering, bad news, and so on. Eckhart Tolle writes in A New Earth, “Nonresistance is the key to the greatest power in the universe. Through it, consciousness (spirit) is freed from its imprisonment in form. Inner nonresistance to form—whatever is or happens—is a denial of the absolute reality of form” (p. 208). With whatever record is playing in your life at the moment, simply note what it is with non-resistance and you will be freed from the drama and suffering that can eat away most of our lives.

 ~ Jillian Avey, 



Meditation Myth #1 – You Don’t Have Time to Meditate

We are busy Americans and pride ourselves on how much we can get done. We live in a country
where a little more hard work can lead to a different situation for our lives. Self-made people are held in high regard. We are so very fortunate to live in a society where we have all this potential. However, it can lead us to feeling that no matter how much we do, it's never enough. Americans are terribly sleep deprived because of how much they try to fit in a day. Now add on having kids, two-income families and the never ending litany of activities that kids are involved in to keep them active and out of trouble. Or maybe you are working two jobs or one that feels like two. Sometimes we get caught up in doing, doing, doing without thinking about giving back to ourselves and fueling the fire. 

Who has time to meditate with all that we have to do in a day? You do. 

Think of it as an investment in your sanity. Think of it as self esteem, self worth and confidence. Time Think of putting yourself first and giving yourself the gift of letting go. Think of it as the most important gift that you can give yourself each day.

How much time are we really talking about? Just 8 minutes per day. 

I remember listening to Deepak Chopra many years ago. While I regard him very highly, I just couldn't fathom what he was recommending. He said that people need to meditate for 1/2 hour twice a day. That kind of time commitment was completely out of reach for me so I put it out of my mind and moved on to other ideas. Even now that I completely understand the benefit of meditation and am a fervent advocate of the practice, I still don't have an hour a day to sit. 

There is a less-drastic approach for us busy Americans that is still completely beneficial. 8-10 minutes per day can change your life. The important part is to create a lasting practice, not how many minutes each session takes. Making the commitment to yourself is a powerful statement about self-worth. 

How do you find the time? 

  1. Get up 10 minutes earlier. Meditate before the day takes over. Does hitting the snooze button really give you more rest? 
  2. Take 10 minutes before you go to bed. It's a great way to wind down and prepare yourself for sleep. You may even find that you sleep better. 
  3. How much time do you spend watching TV? In the amount of time the commercials take in an hour-long show, you could have meditated. Watch your favorite show on DVD, On-demand or DVR. Skip the commercials and give yourself time to sit. 
  4. Schedule it in. If you don't put it on your schedule like any other priority, it won't get done. 
  5. Keep to your time allowance. If you let yourself go over time, then it will feel like it takes up more of your day. If you contain your sitting practice to 10 minutes per day or whatever you choose as your time allotment, it will feel like less of a burden. Sit, meditate, timer goes off, your are done. Easy. 
  6. Treat this time as an investment in yourself. Meditation is self-help at its very best. 
  7. Teach others to respect your time. Put a sign on the door and teach your family that this is your time, that it won't be long until you are done but that you are not to be interrupted. It will be a good lesson for everyone in making time for yourself, what a great skill to pass on to your kids. 
  8. Less e-mail, more time. Can you find 10 minutes of time by reducing the spam in your inbox? By unsubscribing to newsletters that haven't turned out to be valuable, creating rules or filters to automate organization or combining messages into daily digests or RSS feeds, you can save time each day and use your e-mail for communication, not a time-sink. 
  9. Meditate when you have insomnia. It's better than worrying and a great way to get back to sleep. 
  10. Take advantage of waiting. When your schedule fails you, find those few minutes to breathe when you are waiting to pick up the kids or see a doctor.  Do a walking meditation and practice mindfulness when you are walking the dog. 


 ~ Jillian Avey,