Tag Archives: meditation

Discovering God in Movement

I’ve discovered in my foolish efforts to move faster, through exercise and life, that happiness alludes me. The more I try to align my purpose with the values of this world (my image, finances, and outward success), the more spiritually depleted I become. The more my spirit suffers, the more my physical and emotional health precipitously decline. The inner parts of me [and you] are interconnected. That said, the best part of discovering my weaknesses is that I’ve witnessed an eternal strength of God, who serves as my backbone during the movement of life, even as I am spinning in its tornado. These are just a few examples to ponder, when my body and mind were swept away by the hurried pace of life, but my spirit was called back to place of staying grounded.

…There are different ideas about meditation. Common Eastern meditation practices are a way of clearing the mind and simultaneously opening it up to receive the eternal, energy, detachment from superficiality, whatever the specific practice or belief encourages. You probably find a lot of these meditative forms in yoga classes. As an exercise professional who teaches yoga, I’m well acquainted with them. The Christian view of meditation is fixing one’s mind on scripture or the way of God, and allowing that to guide one’s adoration and intentions. Some Christians believe Eastern forms of meditation are “corrupt” because they don’t focus specifically on God and thereby open the mind to “satanic” and Godless thoughts. Yes, I’m a Christian. But no, I don’t believe Eastern forms of meditation are corrupt. In fact, I have experienced the Spirit through both forms of meditation, and have seen firsthand how each has a positive and transforming power; how God can be in written words, in the stillness of opening one’s mind, and in the focus on eternity. God is omnipresent. I’ve also experienced spiritual growth through another, less-talked-about form of meditation: movement.

…It all started when I was in high school. Field hockey tryouts were every August, so the summer evenings were spent running the hilly road that my family’s house was on. As I ran up and down, one hill after the next and my heart racing, I felt like life tilted just enough to see it from the right angle. Juvenile worries faded and my mind wasn’t distracted by the whir of emotions that accompany teenage years. I felt like I was one with God, the universe, life. Some might call it a runner’s high and attribute it to endorphin hormones, but if you’ve experienced a similar spiritual experience then you know just as well as I do that it’s more. So much more.

My running became less routine during my first year of college. Evening runs were traded-in for “pre-gaming” frat parties or cramming for morning exams. I lived in a cloud of stress and under a haze of booze, wondering if my pre-law coursework was really taking me in the direction I was supposed to go with my career and life. After my first year of college came to a close, I resumed running that hilly route on summer evenings, even though making the field hockey team was a thing of the past. I pined for the feelings of connection to God that I experienced on those high school runs and hoped I could find Him again that summer. The faster I ran and the harder I tried to force it, the less I could see of that Great Spirit. I was devastated. Where did God go? Had I been abandoned?

One evening run, mulling over my directionless academic experience and dim prospects for personal happiness in practicing law, I hit a different cadence. Instead of running fast and furiously, I just ran steady. My breath matched my step and a rhythm established itself. With every exhale, my mind began to clear of the stress. With every few steps, I felt more calm and began a true communion with God, there in that moving meditation with my feet loud on the pavement but His words whispering softly to my mind. It was in that moment of moving meditation when I let go of the things of the world, the lies I was telling myself about what “success” should look like. In letting go, I fell seamlessly into a new purpose. I realized I wanted to help other people feel amazing in their bodies, like I did in that moment. I didn’t even know about the Exercise Physiology degree option at that point in time, but I understood I had to figure out a way to help people move and find freedom for their bodies and spirits. So, that’s what I did.

Since that day, when my entire future turned on an axle, I’ve found it surprisingly easy to connect with God via exercise. It’s been my favorite form of meditation. It’s in the other forms of life’s movement that being spiritually centered has been a challenge. The hurried movement from one deadline to the next, from email to email, and all the busy-busy stuff in between that takes up mind and heart space. But, I’ve found that even though its undeserved, God is still there amidst the distracted movement of life.

…It was my last walk-through of my post-college apartment in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. My now-husband and I had just made the decision to begin our lives together. We were making engagement plans, picking out furniture, and feeling the initial butterflies of settling in together. I walked through the apartment and felt stale feelings prickling up. Memories of the sleepless, scared and lonely nights in that space caused my throat to tighten. I had lived there three years and almost every experience had been marked by extreme growing pains. Late nights panning through spiritual books, trying to understand how to approach the “real world” as myself. Afternoons collapsing into my bed to nap, my body inflamed and suffering, before waking up to go back to work for another evening shift of clients. I heaved a sigh of relief that I was finally moving on. As I finished sweeping the last room’s dust bunnies I remembered that I hadn’t swept my bedroom’s closets out. I walked to the back of the house, opened the glossy black closet doors and began sweeping. A faint clatter sound on the ground caught my attention. As I knelt to inspect, I discovered the top piece of a broken prayer box that I’d long forgotten about, laying in the heap of dust. Someone had been with me through all the tears and loneliness, even when my unintentional inclination was to leave Him hiding in the closet.  

…It was my last walk-through of our first apartment together before moving. We had just bought a town home that we were giddy about. As I walked through the apartment, I checked cabinets and corners, almost 100% certain that we had collected all our belongings, but the paranoid perfectionist in me beckoning one last inspection. I pulled back the mirrored closet door and looked through the now-empty space where clothes had formerly been stuffed on hangers. My heart caught in my chest. Again? On the opposite wall inside the closet hung a cross made from Popsicle sticks, one I had long forgotten about and hardly remembered hanging there. It was a gift from a friend I had made while working in Sedona, Arizona, the capital of “New Age” practices, as a personal trainer. That friend made the cross in prison, where he was now serving time for turning back to drugs after several decades of fighting to find freedom from them and enjoying brief reprieve that summer we met. When he sent me the cross, he included a note with the quote:

“Peace,

It does not mean to be in a place

where there is no noise, trouble

or hard work. It means to be in

the midst of those things and still

be calm in your heart.”

(unknown)

…It was a handful of months after moving into our new town home. When we bought the home, we were thrilled that there was a lot of green space in front of it – a unique find in the city, let alone just one block from public transportation. The green space reminded me of being back at my childhood home and made me feel more spiritually centered. When we did our first walk-through of the home after getting the keys (it was officially ours!), we videoed the empty rooms exclaiming over the things we loved and things we planned to change. I was walking in front of the camera, my husband filming me from behind, when I approached one of the front windows. “And this beautiful park!” I declared. “If anything ever happens to it, I’ll die.” I replayed that moment in my mind while standing in front of our home, tears streaming down my face as I looked at the spray-painted grass and miniature white flags butting up right next to our property. These marked where a construction company would soon excavate this slice of nature to carve out space for an underground garage and apartment building. I was devastated.

I was spouting my frustrations over the phone to my husband, regretting our decision to buy and worrying over what living with a crane over our heads would be like. He was calming me down and reassuring me that we were still going to love our home. My crying reduced to sniffles as he explained that this “misfortune” might be an asset for improving our home’s future sale price. As this thought sank in, I took another long look across the expanse of greenery before turning my attention down to the ground in front of our home. It was still a painful thought; that the green oasis would soon be destroyed. As I kicked my feet against some loose rocks and dirt, a cream color caught my eye. I reached down, thinking I would pluck a large rock out of our front planter. But what I unearthed was something unexpected. “Hold on, Casey…” I paused him mid-thought. What is this??

It was a miniature St. Joseph’s statue. I’m not Catholic so I didn’t know what this signified. After a little investigation, I learned St. Joseph is the patron saint of families and homes. Catholics bury the statue in gardens and yards to bless the sale or purchase of a home. I’m not sure if the former homeowners put it there for their sale of the home or to bless its buyers [us], but that home afforded us many happy experiences and a tenfold profit (from our modest down payment) when we sold it just five years later. I still have that statue in my bedside drawer, a selfish part of myself unwilling to part with it now.

…It was just a few months ago, my husband and I experiencing butterflies on the drive home from Richmond, VA where we had just walked through a home we felt excited about putting an offer on. Are we crazy for moving to a new city where we have no jobs? Are we uprooting our lives for no purpose? We were both voicing our doubts and worries out loud on that drive, even though both of our heartstrings were being pulled in favor of the home. As the waves of giddiness and nervousness passed over me, I looked upwards to the sky through the front window. The light that had been pouring in through the car windows suddenly seemed dim. I wondered if it was about to rain. As my eyes cast upwards, I saw that the entire sky was covered in billowy white clouds…except for one small patch of pure blue in the shape of a well-defined heart. I knew. While only caring about the future amid my busy plans, God was steadfastly with me in the present.

….

Whether I’ve been moving fast or slow, looking up or down, focusing on meditation or tripping through life absentmindedly, God has proven that He is always there. And when I realize that I’m more than the sum of my physical parts, thanks to something greater, it’s pretty awesome. It puts a bounce in my step as I hit the pavement for a good run.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

Advertisements

Mindfulness; It’s Not Just for Celebrities

I’m pleased to introduce you to Sarah Pike, our contributor for today’s guest post! Sarah and I share a lot of the same passions – women’s health, writing, health technology, volunteering, and working with children. Please enjoy the wisdom she has to offer. We’re SO happy to welcome her to WellnessWinz! 

mindfulness  only takes a moment

One thing you won’t find in a typical list of healthy “do’s,” is the use of mindfulness/meditation practices.

Before you roll your eyes at another “out-there” quack extoling the virtues of meditation, know that I too was once one of those eye-rollers. It’s hard to understand the benefits of something as intangible and difficult to measure as mindfulness. But after hearing Oprah, Deepak Chopra, and Arianna Huffington preach about the difference it made in their lives, I started to pay attention.

After all, if such successful people are advocates of this practice, then maybe there’s something to it. These days everyone from Katy Perry to Kobe Bryant sing the praises of meditation and mindfulness practices. But I wasn’t one to simply take a celebrity’s word for it. Neuroscientists have proven that there are real, positive effects to engaging in meditation.

Beyond a sense of calm and general well-being, a group of neuroscientists from Harvard were able to measure improvement in learning, memory, emotion regulation, and sense of self. They found that regular mindfulness practices can actually change your brain and increase overall well-being and even improve quality of life.

practicing mindfulness

Meditation for Beginners

Testing the waters of meditation can be intimidating. I had images of sitting cross-legged for hours, chanting strange words while Eastern music played in the background. But mindfulness doesn’t require uncomfortable positions or unfamiliar words.

The main goal is to practice focusing on one thing at a time. Usually the easiest way to start is to pay attention to your breath. You can follow Huffington’s advice and start with just a few minutes, and then work up to longer durations as it feels more comfortable. If your mind tends to race with non-stop thoughts, you can use that to your advantage in meditation as well.

Instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your thoughts. When you catch your mind wandering, instead of getting caught up in each thought, simply let them go. Over time, this practice will help improve concentration and your ability to be present in the current moment.

10 apps for mindfulness

The Top 10 Apps to Improve Mindfulness

The good news is that you don’t have to jump into meditation all by yourself. If the thought of counting your breaths or figuring out how to let your random thoughts go is intimidating, try an app to help you get into a mindfulness routine. And, contrary to what you might think, using technology to help you meditate isn’t contradictory. In fact, it’s been found that there’s a correlation between connectivity and happiness.

Here are my 10 favorite apps to help jump-start your meditative life and get you on the road to feeling more holistic, healthy, and happy.

  1. Emojiary

If you’re not quite ready to sit quietly and breathe, this app can help you get into the general mindset of meditation, which is increased awareness of how you’re feeling at any point in time. This app checks in with you throughout the day and asks you how you’re feeling. All you have to do is pause, consider, and answer with the appropriate emoji—a great way to get your mindfulness practice started.

  1. Stop, Breathe & Think

This is the perfect app for beginners. The whole idea is to teach you how to meditate with customized programs that help you identify how you’re feeling before you start. It also tracks your progress over time and helps you easily expand and extend your mindfulness practices as your comfort with the process grows.

  1. Centered

Another great resource for beginners, Centered helps you manage stress and increase mindfulness with daily reminders and meditation timers. It even syncs with Apple Health to help you track all of your healthful activities in one, convenient place.

  1. Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell

If you’re ready to expand your meditation practices, this app is a great tool. In order to bring mindfulness to all of your daily activities, the Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell sends you reminders in the form of bell tones throughout the day. When you hear the bell, you are reminded to breathe, pause, and take in the current moment.

  1. Calm

For those whose meditation level is intermediate, Calm offers a variety of guided meditations lasting anywhere from two minutes to half an hour. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, this app can also offer help to get you that restful night you’ve been craving.

  1. The Now

This app offers another great way to bring mindfulness into all of your daily practices. The goal is to help you live in the present moment. Using push notifications as cues, this app helps you remember to take in your environment, focus on what is currently happening, and look at people and situations with compassion and empathy.

  1. Athlete Minder

If you’re looking for a way to track the health of your mind, body, and spirit, this app might be your new best friend. Athlete Minder helps you keep track of your exercise habits and state of mind before, during, and after workouts. What you learn will let you make the right tweaks and changes to your routine to maximize the benefits.

  1. The Mindfulness Diet

Exercise isn’t the only aspect of your health routine that can benefit from mindfulness. This tool helps you add focus and awareness to your eating habits. And, thanks to helpful reminders, you will be encouraged to slow down and truly savor each bite.

  1. Guroo

For mindfulness pros, this app sends you random reminders to catch you off-guard and give you the chance to re-set your perspective throughout the day. Whether you need to knock their socks off in a presentation or be calm during a parent-teacher conference, this training app will help you fine-tune your mindfulness to make sure you’re at your best in every situation.

  1. Meditation Experience

This 21-day experience is designed for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or have been meditating for years, this interactive program designed by Oprah and Deepak Chopra will quickly move you to a more tranquil state of mind.

With so many easy-to-use resources at your fingertips, now is the time to add meditation to your daily health regimen. Give one of these apps a try and see the difference a few minutes of mindfulness can make!

Thank you again, Sarah! I can’t wait to try a few of these out and I’m sure readers feel the same! Good luck being mindful, ladies! ~Maggie

————————

Contributor Bio:

Sarah Pike is a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee and a college writing instructor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next vacation. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

wellnesswinz logo 2