Why I Love Meditation Retreats

Sukkhothai Retreat

If you are one of those people (just like me) who always seek for something else than just relaxing holidays far away from daily routine, then you should consider this kind of retreat. Not only will you enjoy cosy accommodation, beautiful surroundings and delicious healthy food, but also precious time to have a real encounter with your true-self.

Suggestion from a cousin

When I used to think of holidays, I always imagined going away from daily life, resting an endless amount of hours, and lying on the beach. Basically, doing nothing. And I was lucky enough to do that many times. But sometimes I ended up more tired than when I arrived. Why so?

Because my mind did not take rest seriously. While I was drinking coconut and sunbathing, my mind was still jumping agitatedly from one thought to another. I was recalling everything I had left behind, stressing myself even more just because I had more free time to overthink.

Therefore, I always ended up having this taste for more. But what was it exactly that I was searching for?

Just randomly as awesome things happen in life, a cousin of mine suggested me to take a look at an article about a retreat taking place in Thailand. Although I had never participated in a meditation retreat before, I decided to take part in the one organized by WPI in January 2016. That was when I found a perfect balance: impeccable combination of relax, re-energizing activities and life wisdom. Later on, I participated in many more.

Connecting East and West

I felt this retreat was a synthesis of many aspects of my life that had always been there, latent, hoping to be awakened. Taking part in it gave me the opportunity to look back at myself, my emotions, and my essence. To enjoy some silence and be able to listen to whatever my body, my mind and my soul were trying to tell me.

Sukhothai Retreat view

Organized in a delicate way, the retreat made me feel relaxed, comfortable, encouraged, inspired and embraced at the same time. My wandering mind had no chance but to finally surrender to the possibility of taking some rest.

What’s more, I had always been interested in learning about different cultures, connecting Eastern and Western philosophies. The retreat gave me an incredible chance to gain valuable knowledge about life from Buddhist wisdom.  Face-to-face lectures with Teaching monks allowed me to find pragmatic keys to have a different approach to my problems. I learnt about the way my thoughts, emotions, and actions are interconnected and how responsible I am for my own sake of mind.

Creating my reality

Basically, meditation taught me that I am the creator of my reality. Difficult and challenging situations will always be there and I cannot change them. However, I have absolute responsibility of the way I am reacting to those situations. Hence, I have the chance to build up my reality from a perspective connected to peace, freedom, truth and dignity. In this way, I am creating my own reality, I can stop assuming myself as a victim of external circumstances. Consequently, I am able to start considering myself as an active agent of transformation of my own life.

I understood that meditation actually requires just a little investment of time that brings countless benefits to my life.

If you are also passionate about diving into profound life experiences and would like to give rest not only to your body but also to your mind in a precious and tranquil environment, I would highly recommend you to take a look at this 7 Day Mindfulness and Meditation holidays for ultimate happiness that will take place in Thailand in July.

Be sure to enjoy the fulfilling experience of nourishing your true-self.

Catch The Good Waves In Life

When talking about waves, the first thing that comes to my mind is the ocean. Surfers catch them one after the other and get a short but intense rush after experiencing each ride. They travel the world looking for the best waves that oceans can offer, and take a couple of minutes to enjoy that “one special ride”. But what if we don’t need to surf the ocean to experience waves in our life?

Waves are everywhere

Waves are not only a phenomenon seen in oceans. They are found to be an essential part of the tiniest particles we know, – atoms. When measured, atomic activity has a wave-like behaviour. Physicists believe atomic activity to affect different dimensions of reality in a way that we could only imagine decades ago.

Having said that, we can embrace the idea that waves are literally everywhere, from radio signals to water and even in thought patterns. Moreover, have you heard about the Heat Wave, the Age Wave, the Yeezy boost 700 Adidas “Wave Runner”, or sound waves?

Whichever you choose, a wave ultimately is a disturbance that travels freely through a medium from one location to another with an equilibrium position, considered to be the centre.

Connecting to the same wavelength

Thoughts have a wave-like behaviour too. If we centre our mental state in one position, our thought wave will freely move around that specific mental state. As we experience life, we shift our mental state enough to make the wavelength larger or narrower, depending on how open to new experiences we are.

Not in vain, the terminology “wavelength” applies to people who connect easily. Have you ever used the expression: “We’re in the same wavelength!”?

That is exactly what I mean when catching the good waves in life. No matter what your mental state is, catch the positive ones, the highest ones. They will take you to experience new mental states as waves stretch up and become higher.

Catch them the same way surfers catch them in the water. Be aware though, the negative or lower waves can equally take you to more negative mental states, just like when a surfer is caught beneath a wave, things can get rough on the lower end. Waves always expand to both sides, make sure you catch the higher end!

 

Where Is Your Center?

In the midst of work storms of the modern world, we normally forget where our mind is centered. The mind is at ease when it locates itself at a single point, however our peace or distress largely depends on where the mind actually rests.

Different centers

Imagine it is the weekend and you have promised your kid to take him to a fair ground. Your boss asks you to stay at work to do some arrangements for the upcoming event. You may doubt what to do and at last you accept to spend your weekend at the office postponing the fair to another time. If something like this happens a lot, you are probably work-centered.

The issue is not always with the job. Imagine there’s a sound inside you that constantly calls for the joy and party, drinks and night life. You are mostly in the clubs or you have long hours of staying awake playing and enjoying and probably trying to convince yourself that you are happy and free. In this case, you are joy-centered.

Many people’s mind is totally dependent on other people. For example, you are obsessed with your partner’s behaviour. You adjust everything to satisfy him or her. You constantly analyse their actions to see if they are happy with you or not. Honestly speaking, you are partner-centered.

It is the same for friends; your plans depend on your friends’ plans; if you are alone for a day, you feel lonely and depressed. This is labelled as friend-centered.

Let’s contemplate it more. In some cultures showing respect to the family is greatly encouraged and it is truly a universal goodness. However, many people might not think that being too much attached to the family may hurt them someday. Life is always changing. It’s unsteady and it has never promised to stay the same. Life is changeable and so are the people! Can you be a hundred percent sure that your family is immortal? Or they will never embarrass you or even choose a way which is totally against your life-style or your life philosophy? When you are in such a situation and you are family-centered, it is the time to re-evaluate your values and fix them mindfully.

Silencing the mind

This list is endless. We might be self-centered, product-centered, fashion-centered, church or mosque-centered, status-centered and so on…But the big question is where the mind should be and how we can gain peace of mind? Many philosophers, mind masters and even neuroscientists advise us to provide some moments of silence for the mind; when the mind is silent but alert! This is a good practice to train the mind to be free from all thoughts and worries of life.

There are numerous techniques of meditations and yoga which help us do so. A very useful type of meditation which I personally practice is to take the mind to the center of the body. The center of the body is the center of gravity. It is approximately located two finger width above the navel. Meditation is not a magic and it needs to be practiced every day. We brush our teeth every day for two or three times. Meditation is also one of our daily routines which we need to do to keep the mind healthy and free. It is a mind exercise to position the mind in its right place. When our mind is at the center, we avoid spending lots of energy to center the mind on purposeless things around us. We need to take care of our mind and by doing so we gradually become professional in taking mindful decisions and enjoying a balanced life.

Inspired by the book: The seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

Mindfully In Love Or Madly In Love, Which One Do You Pick?

As a teenager I used to believe that if I found true love and got swept off my feet falling in love, I would be the happiest. Because what would make one happier than loving and being loved, right? I think you too might have believed the same or maybe you still do. Either the way, hear me out.

We are created with minds and hearts, both very strong and capable of leading us through life: living, loving, building, creating and achieving but moreover – making choices. We are gifted with our hearts for their great ability to love but usually we forget how strong and capable our minds are especially when we are in love.

Mostly when you love, you forget about your mind and you let your heart take the lead. But here is the thing, you weren’t created with both so that you would only use one, right? Love is the most unique human feeling, and it’s so sophisticated and complicated that only something as strong as the heart can handle it. However, decisions made by our heart aren’t always and ultimately what’s right and suitable for us. They usually go too far loving and they forget about everything else. For that the mind comes in need.

I think we can all say that most of us who would label themselves as “Madly In Love” would agree that the heart is taking the lead while the mind is involved a little bit. In that kind of love, sometimes the happiness we feel is just an illusion and only few times it’s real. And I am ready to bet that those whose happiness is real don’t just use their heart in their relationships, they use their mind too. Each one of us uses their mind with different percentage when in a relationship. In fact, how much we use our mind goes directly proportional with increasing our level of happiness. However, when you only use your heart there’s quite a big risk to end up with a heart break or a life that revolves around the person you love and believe me, – that’s trouble! You would never want to lose yourself loving someone so that when they leave, it hurts so much that you would want to die. Because yes, madly in love brings this kind of suffering, and only your mind can help prevent your suffering. Hence, in this “Madly In Love”, your mind is taking a long nap.

So how can we be deeply in love and have a balanced, happy and healthy relationship without taking the risk of having a heart break? How can we be committed, faithful, devoted and giving without losing ourselves in the process of love?

Here comes “Mindfulness In Love”. Madly in love brings you a feeling of enchantment, magic and bliss but it’s temporary like drugs. However, being mindfully in love would create just the right balance you need in your life. It creates a long lasting happiness and contentment with your life. When you love mindfully, you would know what to let into your system and what not. You would know how to give and how to receive love without getting too far loving. You would know your partner’s rights, your rights, which compromises are okay to make and which are not. You would know that your life has all other aspects other than your love life: it has yourself whom you should love ultimately, it has your career that you should invest time and energy into so you would reap the goods later, and it has your family and friends who are a huge support system and a huge source of love and happiness and who also need a quite big chunk of your love energy. But most importantly, it has you living as a whole human being who is all happy by himself/herself, capable of leading a beautiful balanced life.

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what’s going on deepens and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. “- Thick Nhat Hanh

I invite you all to start analyzing your relationships and ask yourself: Am I loving mindfully? Does my relationship allow me to have a balanced life? Do I give attention and invest energy in all my life aspects equally? Does my world revolve around someone and only that someone? No matter what your answer is, I believe that if you are conscious enough you would know that mindfulness is definitely something you either need to integrate in your life or need to keep increasing throughout your life.

For me, meditation is a great way to increase mindfulness and thus have a balanced, mindful love life or so I try. You can try for yourself and see how it helps increasing your awareness, mindfulness and consciousness. Then, you can decide what’s best for you. Although I am sure that if we compare our life to a pyramid, we would never want to build the pyramid’s base out of one stone only, our love life, would we?

Photo credits: Captured by Caity Photography https://capturedbycaity.wordpress.com

A Few Questions To Help You Care For Your Mind

Inner Peace Time

Our human elements need maintenance. Meditation theory understands that we, as human beings, are composed of body and mind that relate to each other as the hardware and software do in the computer.  And we know that if we don´t pay much attention to any of those elements, illnesses arise and our decaying process speeds up. Our body needs care – water, clothe, shelter, exercise, and nourishment. And our mind, our inner world, our consciousness, needs proper care too. This type of care can be called Mental Health, or, Psychological Care.

In order to sensibilize ourselves about our own health, we require experiencing ailment. There is no other way. Experiencing both sides of the coin gives us knowledge, and by getting sick we understand that we need to take care of a certain aspect of our health to which we didn´t pay attention before. In our body this is easy to see, few days with flu are uncomfortable enough to pay more attention to its causes and take some actions to prevent the same experience in the future. For our minds, when we are burnt out, when we are stressed out and collapsing, creating chaos in any aspect of our lives, is when we realize that we need to learn how to take care of it.

Meditation is one of the most effective ways, a good medicine, to heal our mind from stress and related illnesses (this Harvard Health post talks nicely about it). Relaxation is a key part of the process, it´s actually the foundation of our meditation practice because it is by relaxing that we learn to unload our mind from worries, problems, heavy emotions. Those things are a part of our daily life. Left unsupervised, they cause stress, anxiety, emotional problems, insomnia, digestive problems etc. The list is long.

Medicine is as important as prevention. The cycle of knowledge is not complete, the lesson remains unlearnt until we not only heal but also learn to manage and prevent the same unfortunate experience. We examine the causes and act upon them. If we know that A creates B, and B is not something that we want to experience too often, we develop strategies to prevent A. If I discover that I´m allergic to lactose, I check the sources of it and avoid them, or, if I can´t help it, I take a pill to decrease and manage the symptoms. As simple as that.

What we can do for our psychological health is to ask a couple of important questions in order to check how everything is going. These questions are not exhaustive (there are more that you can try), but these are a good starting point:

  • What gives you mental clarity and inner peace?
  • What stresses you out?
  • How do you relax after a long day?
  • How do you take care of your mind?

The answers to these questions are key to your psychological wellness and can help you a big deal to clarify where to act on to take proper care of your own mind. After all, the things that weigh on our minds have a great impact on the way we deal with our job/studies, relationships, duties and life in general. They can create chaos or peace, it´s up to us.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky” Rabindranath Tagore

How to Write an Action Plan to Achieve Your Goals

plan-goals

Did you ever notice how there are hundreds of books that claim they know how to make your dreams come true, and how there are thousands of articles like this one that claim to make your dreams come true. If they all worked, then wouldn’t they all say the same thing? One commonly believed key to success is: we need to create a strategic plan to make our dreams come true. We need to write down our aims, divide them into smaller aims, write down every step we should make, the time they will take. Does this strategy work?

Think of this – a man with a wrecking ball can make a hole in a solid brick wall. A man in a prison with a small steel pin can also make a hole in a wall. It is less about the method and tools you use, and more about your perpetual, repeated, unwavering will. Do you know what the biggest waste of time truly is? It is starting a race and not finishing it.

The Nine Elements Of Goal Setting

Make a salad with just lettuce and cucumber, and you can fill your stomach. Make a salad with lettuce, cucumber, salad cream, cottage cheese, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, celery, spring onions, pickled onions, egg, beetroot and watercress, and you have a nice meal that will fill your stomach. The point is that you can use one goal-setting element and succeed, you can use four and succeed, or you can use nine hundred. The more you add the more pleasant and productive your experience will be.

Here, I offer nine elements of goal setting:

1 – A clearly defined objective
2 – A clearly defined end date
3 – A detailed breakdown of every task
4 – A time budget
5 – A schedule
6 – A contingency plan
7 – Resources and requirements
8 – A reason to succeed
9 – A mental or visual representation of your success
10 – A lack of negative consequences

Some of the elements listed above are probably going to make you furrow your brow, so let us justify them right here. These tips are born from my experience, as well as lessons learned from books written by Napoleon Hill, Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Dennis Prager, Judge Judy and Bill Clinton.

A clearly defined objective

A shooter cannot hit a target if he or she doesn’t have a clearly defined target. You are only human, and you need a target if you wish to achieve something. A test needs a grade, a train needs a destination, and your dream needs a target. It must also be a very clearly defined target because that is what makes the difference between a dream and an achievable goal. Make it clear what you want in clearly defined terms.

A clearly defined end date

I will have X by X date. Your clearly defined end date should be something you consider after you have completed your plan. However, there are occasions where your deadline is hoisted upon you. Besides the Bible, the book that has sold the most copies was written by a man called Napoleon Hill. One of his biggest rules was that a plan could only work if a clearly defined deadline was in place. If you were told you were definitely 100% going to live forever, would you feel driven to achieve anything? Would you even bother getting out of bed in the morning?

A detailed breakdown of every task

You need to write down how you intend to complete each task and where you will get your resources. Japanese car makers were so successful in the 90s and 00s because they took apart each car, examined each part, and asked how they could improve it. Breaking down every task allows you to do the same. It allows you to repeat your success, examine your failures, and come up with protocols to help ensure that future tasks are successful.

A time budget

Within your strategic plan, you will need to break down each task and decide how long each one will take. This helps create your schedule, contingency plan and your end date. Learn from your time budgets so you may estimate how long a project will take, and use your time budgets as a standard to figure out if you are ahead of or behind the schedule.

A schedule

You know how long each task will take; you now need to put them in a schedule that accommodates the time taken for each task. You also need to decide in which order they will be done. Think of your time budgets as single bus routes, and your schedule as a complete bus map.

A contingency plan

Life is unpredictable, and the only way you can plan for the unexpected is to give yourself more wiggle room. Extend your time budgets, allocate more resources than needed, and fully consider all alternatives so that failure cannot occur. Add wiggle room with policies such as adding 15% to all expense predictions and lowering all income predictions by 20%. Plan how you will recover from single-task failures to ensure they will not drag down the entire project.

Resources and requirements

You now want to create a list of the resources that you need to write down how you intend to get them, and you need to detail any further requirement such as qualifications, staff members and so forth. Failing to do so is like failing to consider how much gas you need before taking a long car journey.

A reason to succeed

The goal doesn’t count as a reason. A woman doesn’t work hard to buy an ultra-expensive office chair because she wants the chair. She does it because her current chair hurts her back, because she wants a chair that reclines, or because she likes that new-chair smell. A reason to succeed that extends beyond material gain (or that sits besides it) will help maintain the project workers’ motivation.

A mental or visual representation of your success

A mental image of your end goal, or something visual or physical that you can look at to remind yourself of why you are working so hard. The work of Napoleon Hill is littered with examples of rich and famous people who were well-motivated by their visual representations of success; from the estate agent who looked at her large diamond ring whenever she felt down, to the boxers who dreamed about holding the champion belt in their hands.

A lack of negative consequences

Workable plans have no negative consequences. Contrary to popular belief, a fear of negative consequences is not a good motivator, (try it a few times by setting up terrible consequences of your own doing, they are rarely a motivator). Instead, set contingency plans in place so that if one idea doesn’t work, you have an alternative idea planned and ready to do. Some people work better under pressure, and others do not. If you crack under pressure, then create plans where you always have an alternative route to success.

 

Last but not least, a mental or visual representation of your success is a sadly underrated element, so here is a little advice that you have never heard before. Your visual/mental representation needs to be your go-to place whenever life kicks you. Let’s say your visual representation is a thermometer image showing how much money you have saved (like the sort of thing you see in church funding drives). The next time you think about something evil that somebody did to you, clear your mind of it and think only of your thermometer image. Force yourself to think of your visual representation and your goal every time life makes you sad. Force your mind to stop wasting time on thoughts that make you sad.

5 Ways Writing Can Lead You to Mindfulness

writing mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique that helps you let go of your worries and concerns, and live in the here and now. If you find you’re often upset or anxious, then mindfulness can help you let go of the ‘what ifs?’ and come back to the present.

Writing can be a fantastic way of practising mindfulness, and it needs nothing more than a pen and paper. If you have those, and a willingness to try it out, then you’re ready to go. Here are 5 ways writing can help you achieve peace in your life.

1. Use a journal

When it comes to writing, many people start on a computer or laptop. After all, you spend all day at a computer, hence typing on a keyboard is basically second nature to you. However, the best way to practice mindfulness is to write using a pen and paper. This is because it forces you to slow down and really think about what you’re writing.

If you want to get started, buy yourself a nice journal and pen and use that to write every day. This book will be the place you’ll go to when you want to relax and understand yourself better. Make this investment now, and you’ll feel the benefit.

Of course, if you’re really not comfortable, it is alright to use a computer to write. When you do write, ensure that you’re taking your time over it. Give yourself the time and space to really explore how you feel.

2. Try writing exercises

So you have your journal. Now what? If you’re not sure where to start, try some writing exercises. They’re the best way to get the creative juices flowing and start expressing yourself on a paper.

For example, try using photos as inspiration to start writing. Fridge poetry words are another good option, as they can be mixed up, then two or three can be selected and used as a prompt. You can even write the phrase ‘I remember…’ then write whatever comes to your mind. Just see what comes out.

Don’t worry about how the writing comes out. The point is, you’re looking to just get anything down on a paper. If you want to edit it afterwards, use software such as Hemingway Editor, Academized or Pro Writing Aid to help you.

3. Use free writing when you’re stuck

If you’re really struggling and the writing exercises can’t help you, the best way to start is with free writing. This is when you set yourself a timer, and just start writing whatever you’re thinking about. Set a timer for ten minutes and just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

At first, you’ll find yourself writing things like ‘I have no idea what to write about’ and ‘this is ridiculous.’ However, your mind will soon start making connections and you’ll not notice how ten minutes fly by.

If you’re worried that what you write is nonsensical, it’s not a problem. Just get it written first, then edit later. Readable or Big Assignments will help you get it looking good.

4. Decide if you want to share with others

This step is really up to you. Some people like to share their writing with others, and discuss what they’ve learned through writing it. Others like to keep their writing for themselves, and use it for personal reflection. Either way is fine, but you need to decide what’s the best for you.

If you decide you want to share with others, then editing your writing will be important. That way, it’s easier for others to read what you’ve written and give you honest and useful feedback. If you want help, tools such as Write My Assignment or UK Writings can all lend you a hand.

Sharing with others can be a really uplifting experience. Writing can help you work through your feelings, and put names and words to those feelings. When you share them, you’ll soon see that you’re not alone in how you feel.

5. Take your writing further

If you’re finding that you’re having success with your writing, then you want to expand on what you’re doing with it. There are several ways that you can use your writing in order to help yourself and others. For example, if you’re under the care of a mental health professional, you can take it to them and share it. You can also use blogs and articles to share your findings.

If you choose to do this, your writing will need to be polished first. Use Easy Word Count to sweep for errors, and Cite It In to cite any sources you use properly.

If you’ve found that writing has helped ground you in the here and now, you may have the skill to communicate this to others. Try describing the prompts and techniques that you’ve used in the past, and how they’ve affected your mindset now.

Writing is just one tool that you can use when practising mindfulness, but it is a powerful one. Put it to good use and you’ll see just how much it can benefit in observing and understanding your mind.