Friday, November 22, 2013

Easy Gratitude Meditation: The Gratitude Game (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #23)

Gratitude Meditation Drawing
By Tania Franco

I practiced a simple gratitude meditation for 5 minutes. I turn it into a game trying to find the smallest things that happened in the day to be grateful for. Sometimes things we take for granted really do make our life better. I try to be thankful for the parking space that was right by the store,  the warm socks I am wearing on a cold day, the lady that smiled at me and made small conversation at the coffee shop, etc.

Many times this practice reminds me that my basic needs are met and that that is not the case for a large percentage of the worlds population. So I can learn to be grateful that I am warm in my home with food to eat and not take it for granted. It gives me perspective and grounds me.

Today I found that many great things happened even though it was an ordinary day. I sometimes forget that I am really blessed and this helps me to remember.

I felt grateful for the cuddling and laughter my son and I shared, having a good cup of coffee in silence while reading a book, finding great parking spots throughout the day ( I am grateful for parking especially after becoming a mom), meal planning and how that simplifies my life, having the luxury of going to yoga and having an hour and a half of connecting with myself, etc...

Simple Gratitude Meditation:

1. Sit comfortably with your spine aligned. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, on a sofa,          anywhere for 5 minutes. I f you don't have 5 minutes, take 3 minutes.

2. Breathe. Take deep breaths.

3. Practice Gratitude. Try to think of things you feel grateful for, beginning with the most superficial things and then moving on to the deeper.

That's it! It's that easy.

Another great recommendation is to have a gratitude journal and write 5 things you feel grateful for each day, if you have more than 5, great! Don't limit yourself write more than 5. I think I learned this one from Oprah years ago while still in school. It was life changing.

Tania Franco

Mantra Meditation : Thank You (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day # 22)

Thank you notes
Image by Tania Franco

I have been attending yoga classes more often than usual since beginning my yoga teacher training. Yoga is a movement meditation. While practicing I found myself repeating "thank you" silently in my mind throughout the class. Gratitude is powerful, it has been found to reduce stress and increase a sense of contentment in individuals who consciously practice it on a regular basis.

Through the years I have kept a gratitude journal and practiced and taught a regular gratitude meditation. I have found personally that the more I look for things to be grateful for, I find more and more things that I can be grateful for.

Today I tweaked my gratitude meditation by simplifying it. I focused on the words "thank you" as my mantra and breathed deeply. As I repeated the mantra I could feel my body shifting. With each repetition I felt a deepening of my gratitude. I spent 10 minutes this way.

I ended the meditation feeling open and grateful to be alive. This is another way to meditate. try a few different meditations and see which feel better to you.

Tania Franco

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Breath Meditation: 1-2-3 Inhale 1-2-3 Exhale (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #21)

Bridge in Bankers Hill
Image by Tania Franco

I practice a breath meditation. I count 1-2-3 during the inhale and count 1-2-3 on the exhale.As soon as I begin to meditate, I tense up. Having the expectation to be relaxed feels like pressure to me.I breathe and at about the 5th breath, I become more comfortable and at ease.

I notice I feel a bit restless, shift side to side. Sitting still feels like hard work at this time.I begin to argue with myself in my mind as to which breath exercise to do. Inhale 1-2-3-4-5 Exhale 1-2-3-4-5? Inhale on 8 count  and exhale on 8 count? Should I hold my breath at the bottom of the exhale? 

I find myself thinking "come back".This reminds me to center myself again and it relaxes me. The chatter quiets and I find I can now sit still.I begin to relax with each breath, inhaling on a 3 count and exhaling on a 3 count. I begin to feel heavy and as if I am floating. It feels good.

I notice wandering thoughts. I just allow them to be and they go away. Sometimes wanting a thought to go away, makes it stay. I find that accepting it makes it easier to let go.

I notice I'm thinking about a gruesome story I read on the news today. I think "Ok, Tania..." And that reminds me to come back to my breath and to the here and now.

15 minutes whizzed by! Felt eternal at the beginning and the middle and end just passed by.

Sometimes the hardest part is the beginning. Breath is an effective way to be in the moment. Play around with different breathing techniques and find which work for you.

Tania Franco

Art Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #20)

Art Meditation "Go With The Flow" Exercise
by Tania Franco
I practiced an art meditation. I dedicated about 30 minutes to it. I find that I can be very present through art and movement. I tend to learn kinesthetically (by doing), so  I find that movement is centering and calming for me.

I painted years ago and then stopped. Inspiration just left. The truth is that I painted when I was sad and conflicted but once I began to feel content, I found that I no longer cared for it. It's as if sadness had been my muse. It just got up and left. Well... After 5 years of painting.

A decade or more ago I painted something I loved and was very proud of it but then felt afraid of my next painting not being good enough. So I didn't paint for months. In order to get back on the horse, I decided to paint a "fun" painting where my task would solely be to enjoy the process and not be so invested in the outcome. I made a painting that I love and it hangs on my bedroom wall. It isn't the most beautiful but it reminds me of the experience I had making it.

As I mentioned, I had not painted in 10 years. So my meditation was to enjoy the process of creating something. I used oil pastels for the first time and immersed myself in combining colors and  being present with creating.I felt thrilled that I was allowing myself to go to this place that feels inspiring and nurturing.

Art is a great tool for expressing and releasing emotions, a way to go within and know ourselves better and create greater mind-body-spirit wellness. Channeling our creativity is another way to meditate. 

Tania Franco

It's Okay (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day#19)

"It's Okay" Mantra on my Mug
Image by Tania Franco

I sat down to meditate and checked in with my body. I try to do quick body scans throughout the day to see how I am feeling. I notice that I am a little bit anxious, so I decide to practice a mantra meditation combined with deep breathing.

Throughout the years my go to mantra has been "it's okay". I focus on this mantra for my meditation. As soon as I repeat these words silently in my head I automatically smile. It's as if we are good friends. My body calms down and shifts into a more relaxed state.

I find that intuitive answers found deep within are simple, when the answer is too complicated, it's the mind trying to give a rational answer.

In deep inner work "it's okay" comes up as my healing phrase and part of me wishes it was something a little more sophisticated. But it's not.

I dedicate 10 minutes to my mantra. Thoughts arise and "it's okay" helps accept my various thoughts and return once again to the practice. Breathing through each moment.

Mantras/affirmations can be used in daily life as a way to calm and center ourselves. I recommend that you find a mantra that feels good in your body and to repeat it often to yourself throughout the day.

Check in with your body's sensations. If you notice tension in your body, say your mantra to yourself silently a few times and notice what happens. Does the tension shift?

Mantras/Affirmations are wonderful ways of managing stress and another effective way to meditate.

Tania Franco

Friday, November 1, 2013

Holding Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #18)

Love for Teacher Rita
Image by Tania Franco

When I originally began meditating I bought a round jute mat and I sat in it each time, imagining that it was infused with a peaceful energy due to my practice. As my practice grew, I felt calmer just sitting there. My mat fell apart after many years and I never found another mat like it. This year I purchased a papasan, a round chair, with the intention of meditating on it. It's shape makes the person who sits in it feel like their being held.

I was meditating on the papasan practicing a body scan and breathing deeply. As I breathe I notice that my breath isn't as shallow as when I'm stressed but not as deep as when I am relaxed. While I am meditating, my son walks into the room and crawls into my lap. Immediately I notice that my abdomen relaxes and that my breath deepens.

I meditate for 10 minutes this way checking in with my body's sensations and breathing deeply, thankful that my son can hold very still especially for a 4 year old. My body feels warm and heavy, I could easily take a nap.

Embracing my son or husband deeply relaxes me. I am particularly curious about hugging and holding because one of the most healing things I have practiced is holding as a form of therapy to heal hurt and sadness. I even dedicated a year and a half to studying it and it has been an important part of our household. I dedicated a lot of time to baby wearing when my son was an infant and now we dedicate a lot of time to cuddling.

When studying Psychology I was intrigued and disturbed  by research conducted in the mid 20th century where affection was withheld from infants and how many of them died due to the lack of touch. I was also fascinated with research conducted in the late 20th century with premature infants and how being held for long periods of time and massaged supported their health and growth.

I will write more in depth about ways to meditate by practicing holding but I will briefly mention them here:

1. Cuddling a pet, a dog or cat, while practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Pet therapy has been studied in the last decades, enough so that hospitals and homes for the elder incorporate it as another way to help their patients relax.

2. Cuddling an infant while breathing deeply.

3. With a partner. Laying on top of each other connecting your chakras breathing deeply without caressing or massaging. Breathing together and synchronizing your energies.

4. With a partner. Partner sitting upright against a wall with legs open, you sitting with your bottom between their legs facing towards the side in a fetal position with your head resting on their heart-space. Breathing deeply.

5. Alone, practicing child's pose (balasana). Child's pose is a way to feel held even when you are alone. I organically arrived at the use of this yoga pose with my individual clients and then later read research where it was identified as one of the best postures for managing a panic or anxiety attack while breathing deeply.

Holding or being held can be another way to meditate.

Tania Franco

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alternate Nostril Breath (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day # 17)

Cowles Mountain
Image by Tania Franco

For today's meditation I chose a relaxation technique called Alternate Nostril Breathing. I dedicated 5 minutes to this exercise. I usually see it as a way to feel like you would after a great massage.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

  • I took a few deep breaths.

  • Then I closed my left  nostril, breathing deeply through my right nostril.  (I use my middle finger, index and thumb to help close my nostrils. I use the middle and index finger for my left nostril and my thumb for my right nostril)

  • I closed my right nostril and exhaled through my left nostril, then inhaled through my left nostril.

  • I closed my left nostril and exhaled through my right nostril then I inhaled through my right nostril. And continued this way for about 5 minutes.
As I begin my meditation I notice that at first I feel anxious and after a few deep breaths I am able to settle down and go inward.

I noticed I could take fuller breaths through my right nostril than my left nostril. I once read that we don't breathe equally through each nostril, that we can breathe 70% of our air from one and only 30% from the other. That's why this breath exercise can be helpful to balance our breathing.

I inhaled counting from 1-8 then exhaled counting from 1-8 throughout the meditation. Even though I could take long breaths, I felt my breath was fuller when doing so on my right nostril.

I was able to relax and even began to yawn at the end of the meditation. Breathing exercises are great because they can be practiced almost anywhere, especially in high anxiety causing moments.

Tania Franco

Body Scan Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #16)

Take a deep breath today.
Image by Tania Franco

I chose a simple and effective relaxation technique for this meditation. I dedicated 15 minutes to practicing a body scan.

A body scan is a way to relax your whole body by bringing awareness to your body parts. I usually begin at the feet and slowly work up to my head. I try to notice differences and similarities in the sensations. For example, if there's more weight on one side than the other, if a certain part feels lighter than another, etc. I also try to sense if something feels full or empty, light or heavy. Breathing deeply throughout the meditation.

I would focus on a body part and then drift off, return to the body scan and shift between sensing and drifting off.

I felt a comfortable heaviness at the end, one attributed to relaxation.

This can be practiced at the beginning of the day in order to start the day off in a good mood, at the end of the day in order to have deeper sleep or throughout the day. I dedicated 15 minutes, you can dedicate 5 minutes or 30 minutes.

This is another way to meditate. One of my favorite books that come with a CD is "Total Relaxation" by John P. Harvey. I highly recommend it. It includes 4 different relaxation techniques, one being a body scan.

Tania Franco

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Meditation Isn't Perfect: Letting go of the Ideal Scenario (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #15)

Mandala by Tania Franco

I relaxed and enjoyed making a mandala so much a few days ago that I decided to practice another mandala meditation. 
This time using a pre-designed mandala from a mandala coloring book.

I have adult and children mandala coloring books at home. As a mother, I find it to be a great way to introduce a child to the concept of meditation. 

Mandala means circle in Sanskrit. It is a spiritual and ritual symbol that represents the universe. Creating, coloring or observing a mandala is an ancient way of meditating.

I spent 20 minutes meditating. The phone rang, my son awoke and went back to sleep ( nap time), I moved from the dining room to my room. It wasn't an ideal setting. But isn't life that way? I love silence and enjoy having things unfold exactly as I plan them yet it is important to be able to relax through change, through awkward situations. 

What did I do? I breathed and let it go. Breathed again and let the next thing go. I sound super easy going but in reality this "simple" act of letting go, which isn't as simple, occurred due to practicing meditation for the last 15 years. Here is where I see the fruit of my labor.

Years ago all these little nuances would have ruined my experience. All those years of sitting and doing nothing, I was achieving so much.

I must say that motherhood has taught me to let go of the ideal scenario. I have learned to practice yoga with Caillou as my background music ( children's educational cartoon), do sun salutations having a child swinging/jumping/tickling me, and meditated the other night with my son staring at me (he was able to be very quiet).

So in reality, it was about 30 minutes or more since the moment I began to meditate and finished coloring my mandala.

I didn't feel as relaxed as I do after other meditations but I must say I did sense my body a bit more relaxed than when I started. And to be honest, got more out of this experience because I chose to recommit so many times through the practice.

Let go of the ideal scenario. Meditation isn't perfect. Many times imperfection can be the best teacher. 

Tania Franco

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Singing Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #14)

Image by Tania Franco

I think this has been the most fun meditation I have done since beginning the 40 Day Meditation Challenge. Actually, this and the recent mandala meditation are a tie.

I dedicated about 3 minutes to singing my heart out, breathing deeply and checking the outcome of my stress and relaxation levels on biofeedback. The Cranberries song "Linger" began. I LOVE  this song. I sang as loud as I could, I know the lyrics by heart, and breathed deeply in between my belting it out. 

I was able to prove that singing really relaxes me. I have toned (chanted), sung religious songs but I had not considered singing modern music as a way to meditate.

I noticed deep breathing and savoring the moment are key  in increasing my relaxation levels.

Identify what practices put you in a state of pure joy. They can be ways to meditate. Just add deep breathing and your set. Meditation can be fun and light.

Tania Franco

Monday, October 21, 2013

Savoring Music (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #13)

My Heart Shaped Rock Collection
Image by Tania Franco

I meditated to Van Morrison's song "Crazy Love". I am a big fan of Van Morrison. I decided to sit for 3 minutes and enjoy the song fully while breathing deeply. The twist was that I meditated while reading my stress and relaxation levels through biofeedback. Biofeedback is a way to physiologically read stress and relaxation levels through various sensors and computer software.

I was surprised to realize that I was completely relaxed by just savoring the music. I knew that Sound Meditation where various instruments are played can really relax me but not that hearing a contemporary song and breathing would be that effective.

The feeling in my body was of pure cherishing and it felt wonderful. I even thought that I would like to create a yoga class where I only play Van Morrison songs and that made me really excited about the possibility of creating so many new ways of sharing wellness with others and with myself.

Hearing your favorite music while consciously practicing diaphragmatic breathing is another way to meditate. I will definitely be repeating this form of meditation.

Tania Franco

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Special Place (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #12)

Image by Tania Franco

Today I practiced a guided imagery meditation that centers on  being at your Special Place. I dedicated approximately 7 minutes to imagining myself somewhere where I feel at peace, calm and safe. I have  a special place that I usually go to in my mind when I practice this meditation. I went there in my early twenty's and had a moment where I felt completely whole and at peace. I imagined myself there.

 Many people refer to imagery as visualization but imagery is much more effective, you engage your 5 senses trying to create a complete experience. Our mind cannot tell the difference between reality and what we imagine. When we think of past events, our mind believes we are re-experiencing it and that is why research has found that discussing a traumatic event over and over again can actually re-traumatize a person. Imagery can be used for creating wellness and relaxation.

While meditating I practiced diaphragmatic breathing, as I have mentioned before and cannot stop repeating that it is the most effective technique for reducing physiological stress. If you could only learn one stress management technique I would recommend it be deep breathing. And to practice, practice, practice.

When I imagine my special place, I try to make it as vivid as possible, noticing different colors, and using my 5 senses. Even subtle scents or sounds are enough to make it into a realistic experience.

I have various special places, so it's ok if you have one or if you have a few. Just pick one when you practice this meditation. A special place can be somewhere where you have been to, a place you have seen in images or a place you imagined. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable, safe and at peace here.

This is another way of meditating that I truly enjoy. Give it a try and see what you experience.

Tania Franco

Mandala Meditation: Coloring Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #11)

Mandala Meditation by Tania Franco

Today I practiced a mandala meditation. There are many ways to meditate using a mandala: 1. Coloring a pre-designed mandala 2. Making your own mandala 3. Staring at a already finished mandala.

A mandala represents wholeness, the all, etc. it is an ancient way of meditating.

I like coloring pre-designed ones or making my own. I set the intention to meditate 7 minutes, I ended up meditating 23 minutes. I did not feel the time pass.

I like to play soothing music and I always practice deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) when meditating.

I enjoyed using various colors and allowing whatever I wanted to draw to come up. It was centering and kept me engaged throughout. I find that drawing, painting, singing, dancing can really help me be much more present to the moment and have less thoughts than usual. Key word being "less".

I painted a few years and always felt a sense of relief. It's a way to channel anxiety, stress, anger and sadness for me. Enough so that I seriously considered studying a master's in art therapy. Art can truly be healing and the thing is to enjoy the experience not so much the outcome. Is it my prettiest drawing? No, not really, but man did I enjoy making it!

This is another way to meditate. Find what works for you. Remember that meditation is about allowing, releasing, being more comfortable with change. That's all. 

Tania Franco

Friday, October 18, 2013

Loving Kindness Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #10)

Art outside of Crest Café in Hillcrest
Photo by Tania Franco

Today I dedicated approximately 10 minutes to the Metta Bhavana, a Loving-Kindness Meditation. I read a quote the other day from Stephen Levine that said something to the like of "at first you cultivate loving-kindness and in the end it cultivates you". In the next part of my life, I want to grow in Loving-Kindness.

The Metta Bhavana cultivates this sense of love and kindness within. It is traditionally practiced where you focus on 4 different people: someone easy to love, someone difficult to love, a stranger and yourself. I was taught this meditation focusing on 3 people, leaving out the stranger.

I usually dedicate 5 minutes to each person and send them kind thoughts and wishes. Today I spent about 3 minutes on each.

When I focused on the person I find easy to love my chest felt light and open. Every time I practice this meditation I notice different things. It is never the same.

When I focused on the person difficult to love I realized that I usually expect to be much more tense than I really am. I thought "I am going to have like 3 knots in my stomach" and only ended up having a little tightness in my abdomen.

When I thought of myself, I felt almost as light and open as when I thought of the person I find easy to love. This has taken lots of work and practicing this meditation for at least 8 years. When I initially thought of myself I felt tense, uncomfortable and much more like I felt when thinking of the difficult to love person.

I encourage people to connect with their bodies and the sensations that occur when thinking of each person. There is so much wisdom in the felt sense and it can let you know more about what is occurring within.

At the end of the meditation you imagine yourself and the other two people and feel a softening occurring between you, a loving-kindness that grows and you share this with the world.

I am glad I dedicated such a short amount of time to something that sets the mood for the rest of my day.

Tania Franco

Thursday, October 17, 2013

5 Minute Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #9)

Trees in Balboa Park
Photo by Tania Franco

There are times when I really want to meditate and there are times when I'd rather do anything else. It's strange, even though I know all the good I get from it I sometimes don't feel like doing so. Today was one of those days.

There are times when I don't know what I will find within and kind of don't want to know. Lately with the different yoga teacher training classes and all the extra yoga practice I have been doing a lot of emotional processing and getting clarity on some issues. I feel grateful for that but it can be tiring.

Today when I began to meditate I really just wanted a smooth, tranquil, "aha" free meditation. And that's what I got.

I sat for 5 minutes and set the mood by shutting the blinds and played relaxing music. Literally, the Pandora station is called "relaxation". I dedicated the time to breathing deeply just thinking breathe in and breathe out. I felt good, not as relaxed as other times but definitely more at ease.

I tend to get distracted easily so I try to work with this knowledge to ensure that I am able to stay focused. I imagine colors, words written out, backgrounds, you name it. This helps me stay engaged.

Since I have been meditating more constantly and practicing yoga much more than usual, which I consider to be a movement meditation, my starting point is much more relaxed than before. I am beginning my practice already feeling relaxed. In fact I notice that I feel more patient and more go with the flow in my day to day.

So even though I didn't want to meditate initially, I am really glad I did since I am noticing small changes in my behavior and overall mood.

Tania Franco

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wonder Meditation: Inspired by my Son (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #8)

The Little Rainbow
Photo by Tania Franco

Today I was walking with my 4 year old son and he saw the image above and yelled with twice as much enthusiasm as I could ever muster: " Oh my God! A little rainbow! I can't believe it!" Every moment is filled with so much wonder. He constantly teaches me to savor the moment.

I decided to do a Wonder Meditation. Wonder: a feeling of awe or admiration; marvel. I brought to mind a moment when I felt full of wonder, identified how wonder feels in my body and then tried to fill my body within and around with the sensation.

I began to do this meditation in the middle of the day in Viparita Karani (Elevated Legs Up the Wall) which is basically laying on the ground with your legs up resting on the wall. This was a bit too relaxing and I ended up taking a 15 minute nap. Either a leg cramp or snore woke me.

Later in the evening I tried to meditate once again hoping to stay awake. I did. I stayed awake and meditated for 10 minutes.

I was able to remember a moment when I felt full of wonder. In my early twenty's I traveled to Yucatan, Mexico. One of the sites I visited, a cenote, had us travel in a rustic cart pulled by a donkey through lush vegetation. As we were riding we came upon butterflies that were camouflaged in the surrounding plants, as we passed they started flying around us and suddenly we were accompanied by hundreds if not thousands of yellow butterflies. It was breathtaking.

I brought to mind that experience and identified the sensation in my body. I felt it in my chest and torso. It felt as if there was a warm energy that was flowing through and around me. Curiously I felt relaxed in my chest and legs. My jaw was tense, though. I tried sending the sensation of wonder that was radiating in my heart throughout my body but was unable to do so.

I accepted that part of my body felt full of wonder and another part did not. I then imagined a light switch and saw a hand turning it on. I thought: "wonder, on". I decided to light my sense of wonder from now on.

Tania Franco

Monday, October 14, 2013

Easy Mantra Meditation: "I Am" (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #7)

View in Ventura
Photo by Tania Franco

I was going to practice a sophisticated meditation so I could blog about it but in reality I wanted something  simple. I chose a mantra that always makes me feel good: "I am".

I really like "I am". There are no expectations, a lack of past and future just the now. That's why I find it so relaxing, it centers me in the present moment.

I had moments where I found myself thinking of really random things.I was thinking about a movie about soldiers in battle that doesn't even exist. I don't even like war movies. So I laughed it off and returned to my mantra and breath.

I also had moments where I was so relaxed, I was floating in space. I reminded myself to come back, it's a state right before going to sleep which in the evening could totally take me into deep sleep.

It was a 10 minute meditation that was soothing and mentally quieting.

We have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day, it is completely normal to have thoughts during meditation. The important task is to come back to what we chose to focus on over and over again. Noticing our thoughts and releasing them while practicing being kind to ourselves.

Tania Franco

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sending Love Meditation: Part of the Metta Bhavana (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #6)

1st oil painting I ever made Circa 1998
Painting by Tania Franco
My intention has been to practice the Metta Bhavana, a Loving-Kindness meditation so I can share with you this way of meditating but somehow I only stayed at the beginning. As I was meditating I realized that I didn't want to do the whole meditation just the first part.

In the first part of the Metta Bhavana, an ancient way of meditating, you focus on a person you find easy to love. Someone that when you think of them you feel light, relaxed and happy. It felt so good to be here that I decided this could be my whole meditation. When you focus on the person easy to love you think of good times that you have shared together, qualities you value in them and the good wishes you have for them now and in the future.

I thought of my son. There is a particular type of love that I have been introduced to since having him. It is a different type of love compared to what I feel for others. There is a profound tenderness that I recognize in me when I think of him.

My body feels at ease and melts into the chair I sit in while I breathe deeply and allow this sensation to grow. Meditation is much about allowing and letting go.

When we think of someone we love we fill ourselves with a loving energy that puts us in a healing state for mind, body and spirit wellness. I wanted to be filled with this energy. We can know the subtle shifts in our body that let us know what is occurring within. When I teach the Metta Bhavana, my purpose is to have my clients realize how our body sensations shift from thinking of one person to another. Just saying certain words aloud, our body responds differently. Say out loud the following words: Hate, Anger, Rape, War, Disease and notice what you feel in your body. Now say: Love, Peace, Gratitude, Happiness and notice what happens in your body.

Biofeedback is a way of learning to identify how stress and relaxation feels in your body through sensors that read different physiological responses through sensors that read heart rate, skin conductance, muscle tone, body heat. The thing is that our body can be used as our personal biofeedback machine. How does my body feel when I am with this person? How does it feel when I am with this other person? When I talk about this topic or that topic? Notice these subtle shifts and use this knowledge to your advantage.

I spent about 7 minutes in this meditation yet I felt completely different. I was filled with a loving sensation, I felt open and radiant. I will revisit the Metta Bhavana and share my full experience with it in a future post and how you can add this to your own wellness toolbox.

Tania Franco

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Easy Meditaiton: Counting Your Breaths (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #5)

Mandala Colored by Tania Franco

Today I chose a simple counting meditation. As I breathed in and out I counted. I would get up into the 30's and begin to count again. How this technique is usually recommended is that you count and when you get distracted you begin your count all over again. I do not do it this way. I have found that making meditation less stressful actually helps people relax much more. So anything that implies a lacking or inability to do something right is usually counterproductive.

I set the intention to meditate between 5-7 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to have meditated 13 minutes.

When I begin to meditate I usually notice that tension arises and after a few deep breaths my shoulders loosen and my breath deepens. I place my tongue on the roof of my mouth. It helps release tension in the jaw which is where most people hold it. I sit in half lotus pose because it is comfortable in my body and I place my hands on my knees palms facing upward.

I had a full day filled with learning, new activities and socializing so my mind was less active than usual, I was able to have many more moments of silence . I think it is best to practice yoga, go for a walk, exercise or practice Energy Medicine exercises before meditating. It sets you up for greater peace and relaxation.

I did have fleeting thoughts but they were uneventful. My body enjoyed sitting in silence. Silence feels like a luxury since becoming a mom so I tend to savor it when I can. I did notice that when I feel good I like to move my face towards the sky and imagine the sun shining on it. This imagery supports me in feeling happier and grateful for the present moment.

This is another way to meditate. What's important is to find what works for you and to practice that.

Tania Franco

Friday, October 11, 2013

Meditating in the Car: "Let it go" Mantra (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #4)

Picnic at Pioneer Park
Image by Tania Franco
Today I went to yoga and my teacher handed out a card with a thought to each person like an oracle. Mine read "let go". I thought that could be my mantra for today's meditation.

I was en route to the gym when my 4 year old son fell asleep. The practical part of me thought: "Great, I'll meditate in the car while he naps!" Yes, I can meditate most places. My mom likes to boast that I could sit in the same spot for hours when I was a child. So this is an ability I was born with. Now I should add that I have learned through years of practice to enjoy sitting down to meditate.

I parked the car and began to breathe. Suddenly I felt cold so I rolled the windows up, then I felt hot so I unzipped my sweatshirt and rolled the windows down. Continued to breathe and became very aware of the sounds around me. As I breathed deeply I was able to go within.
I began to think of my mantra "I am trying to let go" and then my body began to let me know that it was not true. I have worked many years with biofeedback, which is a way to physiologically detect stress in the body through various sensors. I have studied how many emotions feel in my own body and I can also tell when I am being honest and when I am not. Most of the time.

Part of my work is teaching others to learn to detect these subtle messages in their own body and honor them. I believe that everyone can learn to have this deeper communion with themselves with guidance and practice. 

After feeling how my body tensed with the prior mantra, I realized that I am not trying to let go. I can only begin to relax if I am being honest. So I worked on my mantra and thought "I am ready to let go". That was better but not it and then I thought "It's ok if I let go". That was it! It was true.

All of this happened in about the first 5 minutes. Then I was able to relax and ended up meditating almost 20 minutes.

Once we learn to meditate regularly in the comfort of a sacred space, ideally we can do so anywhere.

When a woman parked next to me I hoped she didn't think I was drunk since I was with my eyes closed..But I just had to let it go and continue meditating. Hmm... How relevant to my mantra!

Tania Franco :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Focusing Meditation: Finding Wisdom Within (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day#3)

Practicing Focusing in Baja
Photo by Edgar A. Morales
I was browsing Facebook and saw a picture of my mom's friends' son. He was surfing. The thing is this young man is paraplegic. He was in an automobile accident 10 or so years ago that left him without the ability to move from the neck down. And this has not stopped him from living a full life.

He just finished his Bachelor's and will begin to study his Master's in Psychology, he drives, he gives talks to people who have had accidents. When I saw his picture I became so moved that I began to cry. I was going to stop myself but saw it as a perfect moment to practice focusing.

I have mentioned in previous posts that focusing is one of my favorite ways to practice inner work. It's a very creative way of coming in contact with a deep inner wisdom. Eugene Gendlin, a renowned psychologist, studied some of his clients trying to identify why in some cases psychotherapy was effective while in others it wasn't. He found that the clients who were able to benefit greatly from psychotherapy were people who were able to connect with a felt-sense that was difficult to put into words, but had the key to resolving the issue.

Instead of stopping my crying in its tracks. I decided to sit with it and practice a focusing meditation. I connected with this feeling and began to sob. My body trembled. My throat tightened, and I sensed the color grey in that area. I reminded myself to breathe deeply throughout my practice. My breath is my guide as it allows me to connect with myself and move through the uncomfortable moments. I was feeling a mixture between awe and fear of life. I don't know how to explain it. I can imagine a scene from a movie where the young hero sees a luminescent light and is so moved by the sacredness of it that he must kneel before it.
After a moment, I calmed down while tears continued to roll down my cheeks. I felt the tightness in my throat ease, and the color grey turned a deep purple. It was a comfortable sensation. I asked this part of my body for a message and what came to me was: "Remember this".

I interpreted it as remember how much in awe you are of the spirit of life, of the sacred being expressed through this man's passion for life. I was able to release the emotion fully, which otherwise would have stifled. I was also able to understand more fully the impact of this moment within me. The whole experience lasted about 10 minutes, but the sobbing only lasted for 1 minute at the most. 

I mentioned a fear of life. I guess I felt embarrassed that I sometimes feel afraid of living fully and here's someone who in spite of the challenges he has faced, he chooses to say "yes" to life and its fullness.

May we all choose to engage fully in life.
Tania Franco

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Learning to Share (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #2)

Wisdom on the street in OB
Photo by Tania Franco
Today I picked a mantra that applies to my life, "Today I share myself". As I sat and thought this my body became tense. I felt tightness in my shoulders and upper back and a rigidness in my jaw. It took many breaths to ease the tension.

I shifted my mantra to "sharing" that felt much more welcoming. I noticed greater ease within myself as I breathed deeply and thought "sharing". Finally I ended feeling at peace with the mantra "we are all sharing".

When I was studying Psychology I had a Psychodynamic (psychoanalysis) teacher that took me by surprise by telling me after seeing my painting exhibit that if I did not share the gifts I had within that it was a disservice to the world. She told me that my inner world was beautiful but it did not help others if I did not share. I was shocked at how passionate she became and have reflected on this thought many times through the years.

 I find sharing the deeper parts of myself hard at times and so I dance with the possibilities of sharing and not sharing. When I think of it as we are all sharing, I feel more inclined to do so because everyone is doing so. And so can I.

This was a short 7 minute meditation but left me reflecting for the rest of the day on my mantra.

Tania Franco

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Simple Breath Meditation (40 Day Meditation Challenge Day #1)

View of the ocean from Point Loma
Image by Tania Franco
Today I practiced a simple breath meditation. I used some tools that I have learned through focusing but it wasn't a focusing meditation. As I inhaled I thought "breathe in" and as I exhaled "breathe out". While I thought this with each breath, I practiced diaphragmatic breathing, which is a relaxation technique that has been thoroughly studied and been found to be the most effective way to relax.

As I first checked in with the sensations in my body I was able to recognize a bit of anxious energy in my abdomen. After 3 deep breaths I noticed a shift, a releasing of the anxiousness. 

With each breath I began to sense a rhythm in my body and mind and so I began to imagine ocean waves flowing within me and around me as I repeated mentally "breathe in, breathe out". I would also imagine the wind blowing. This allowed me to relax even deeper and sense an ease throughout my body.

At times I had thoughts like: " I should blog about this" but I would kindly say to myself "great idea, now come on back" and return to my breath, my statements and the sensation of waves and wind. At times I felt calm and peaceful and wanted to stay seated forever and then I'd feel uncomfortable and think I wanted to stop and get up. At the end of my 15 minute meditation I felt calmer and more appreciative of the moment I took to connect with myself.

I hope sharing my meditative experiences are helpful to you on your meditation journey.


Focusing Meditation (My 40 Day Meditation Challenge)

Sidewalk art outside of Happy U Namaste
Photo by Tania Franco

A few weeks ago, I encouraged my meditation students to practice a daily focusing meditation for a month and journal about it. Focusing is one of my favorite ways of practicing inner work both as a guide and as a student.We have been practicing focusing together and each time they've had profound and practical realizations.

Focusing is a psychotherapeutic technique identified by Eugene Gendlin from the University of Chicago in the 50's. He studied why psychotherapy was effective for some clients and not for others and found that it wasn't so much about the therapy itself as it was about an inner process that occurred within the individual. A non-judgemental awareness of an inner knowing that cannot yet be verbalized but that holds the key to the resolution. Gendlin created steps that support learning how to have this deeper experience with one self. I highly recommend "The Power of Focusing" by Anne Weiser Cornell and write a bit about it here

This last week my yoga teacher training teacher strongly suggested that we meditate daily. I meditate most days but not sure if daily. I realized that if I committed to blog about my daily meditations and shared this intention publicly, I would make time to practice every day.

So for the next forty days I will make time to meditate daily and share with you what meditation I practice and what I experience.

Welcome to my Daily Meditation Practice-My 40 Day Challenge.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mountain Pose: Connecting With Your Inner Strength

Image by Tania Franco

I have recently embarked on a special journey that will -at the very least- be life changing. I began yoga teacher training this month. I will be deeply involved with yoga theory and practice various styles of yoga the next few months and ideally everyday from now on.

I have shared in previous posts that I have been practicing yoga for the last 15 years and how it has been part of my personal wellness toolbox ever since. Enough so that I think it is of utmost importance that it be a family practice, I regularly do yoga with my better half at home, the park or the gym and have been exposing my son to classes and home practice.

I see the next few months as a spiritual retreat of sorts.

Although I will be home and with my family, I will be attending various classes throughout the week and really connecting with my higher-self more intensely, dedicating 15-20 hours a week to it. I am really excited to see what I will create for myself in these next few months in a state of flow.

I hope to share with you valuable teachings, experiences and "aha!" moments that arise during this time.

I have been remembering many of my yoga teachers and becoming much more aware of the gifts they each gave me and how I carry those with me today, noticing my strengths and shortcomings and realizing that I can work on them. They aren't set in stone, and connecting deeper with the complexities of each yoga pose I arrive at a deeper understanding and awareness.

This week we studied 5 basic yoga poses. One particular pose that I have been thinking about over and over again is Tadasana- Mountain Pose. This is a standing pose where you stand with feet hip width apart, looking forward with your arms at your sides palms facing forward. It can be written off easily because it seems so common and yet it isn't. As you stand there is an active energy to the stance where you engage your arms, legs, torso.

Have you ever seen a mountain and somehow felt in awe of its reagalness? Many times when I am in Mountain Pose I try to imagine that I am a mountain and that I am connecting with this powerful inner strength.

A mountain stands through the rain, wind and heat unshakable and immensely strong. As I imagine myself this way it allows me to connect with my own inner strength that many times I forget that I have access to. I encourage you to stand in Mountain Pose and to mindfully connect with your inner strength.

- Tania

Friday, September 13, 2013

Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Easy Kale and Spinach Green Smoothie

Easy Kale and Spinach Green Smoothie
Image by Tania Franco

As I have mentioned before, this year has been dedicated to reintroducing healthier lifestyle choices for me and my family. We have been exercising regularly, practicing yoga, eating healthier foods, eating more at home and taking "me" time (that would be spouse and I).

Before having my son I drank green juice once or twice a day about 5 times a week regularly. The juices were prepared by the staff at a Medical Institute I worked for which meant I just had to get myself physically to the kitchen. I never considered juicing at home daily. When I say juicing I mean a compliment to my daily diet: the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eat (not a juice fast).

Curiously I am now drinking healthy juices/smoothies most days. The following is one of the smoothies I make:

Easy Kale and Spinach  Green Smoothie

1 Cup of Kale
1 Cup of Spinach
1 Cup of Honeydew Melon ( I cut it up and freeze)
1 Cup of Orange Juice (you can always add more to make it less thick)
1 Green Apple (optional)
1 Cup of Cactus (optional)
1 Tbsp. Chia Seeds (sometimes 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. of Flax Seed Oil (sometimes 2)
1 Tbsp. of Spirulina

Blend it for a minute or two. It makes 2 large glasses. Drink right away.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Monday, September 9, 2013

5 Steps To Starting a Yoga Home Practice

Image by Tania Franco

A regular yoga practice can deeply impact your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. It is one of the most recommended practices for people diagnosed with chronic illness (heart disease, autoimmune, cancer, diabetes) and mental health issues (depression, anxiety, chronic stress, PTSD).

I highly recommend joining a yoga studio to be exposed to many styles of yoga and identify which feel right for you. There is a large variety from gentle hatha yoga to the more aerobic vinyasa flow. Many times I hear people saying that they do not have the time to go to regular classes or can only make it to one class a week. This is where a yoga home practice can be helpful.

A yoga home practice can help you regularly attain the benefits yoga is known for. Begin with the following steps:

1. Get useful material. I would definitely begin with a yoga DVD and a book to guide you. Read a bit about the yoga postures you are interested in and study the variations to know how to practice the poses. I try to have my book with me when practicing to be able to look up a particular pose and get it right.

I currently use the following books: The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga by Kathryn Budig and "Ashtanga Yoga" by Gregor Maehle.
DVD I use: GAIAM Ashtanga Yoga Beginners Practice

You can also use Youtube to find short 10 minute yoga sessions.

This is a practical online resource from Yoga Journal.

2. Practice. 5 minutes of yoga is better than 0. Dedicate 5-20 minutes of yoga regularly. I find myself practicing 20 to 40 minutes when I do yoga at home.

3. Learn 5-10 poses that feel good in your body and practice these for a month or two. As you feel more confident with your practice you can add or take away certain poses and dedicate longer time to being in each pose.

For the longest time I practiced the following sequence: 2-5 sun salutations, tree pose, chair pose, warrior II, triangle, standing forward fold, plank, cobra, cow, cat, child pose, seated forward fold, seated twist, bridge, shoulder stand, plow and savasana. It helped me feel relaxed and energized at the same time.

4. Breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing is essential in your yoga practice. Begin by taking 3 deep breaths in each pose and as your body strengthens and can hold the pose better, take 7 breaths in holding each pose.

Deep breathing helps you deepen a pose, get through uncomfortable thoughts or doubts about being able to do a pose and center yourself.

5. Honor your body. Listen to your body by noticing what feels good and what doesn't. Don't push yourself so much that you hurt yourself. Each pose has variations (easy, medium to high intensity). Do what your body is capable of doing. Part of the practice is to commune with your body and be in tune with what you need.

Remember that taking the first step is the most important part!

Tania Franco

Other books I have used:

"The Yoga Bible" by Christina Brown
"Power Yoga" by Beryl Bender Birch
"Light on Yoga" by B.K.S Iyengar

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Just Breathe

If you feel sad... Breathe.
If you feel mad... Breathe.
If you feel scared... Breathe.
If you feel happy... Breathe.
If you're at peace... Breathe.
By Tania Franco

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Inner Smile, A Guided Meditation

Image by Tania Franco

About a month ago my husband ran the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I went to cheer him on at mile 10 of the half marathon which happened to be mile 20 of the full marathon. As I stood watching and waiting I was deeply moved when people in special tricycles rode by on the side of the full marathon, they were missing one or both of their legs and were operating the vehicles by hand. To me this represented a profound desire to live. I was in awe and inspired by their courage and tenacity.

When I wrote this week's mindfulness exercise for my meditation group I had these athletes in mind. I wanted to share with my clients this awe and appreciation for each body part and how fortunate we are to have our feet, legs, arms, and hands.

As I guided the meditation I couldn't help become aware of the work that our bodies are doing every second. I hoped that each person felt that appreciation for their body.

We were working on many things at once: diaphragmatic breathing, gratitude, and awareness of body sensations.

Each person has a unique experience during these practices. Taking the time to share insights heightens learning and helps understand what to expect when meditating individually.

One member has had extensive dental work recently and realized that after dedicating time to deep breathing and sending an inner smile to her mouth, the physical discomfort reduced significantly. Belly breathing is key for pain management and stress reduction. It is one thing to know this intelectually and a whole other thing to experience it.

Another participant noticed that no matter how much they tried to relax, they kept feeling anxious and could not shake it off. I really enjoy when a member shares that they are feeling uncomfortable since this gives the rest of the group permission to feel this way and learn that ups and downs are just another part of experiencing the present moment.

Inner smile is another way to meditate and to create mental, emotional, and physical wellness. What is most important is to identify techniques that are effective and soothing to you and then apply them as often as possible. Making the time to practice a relaxation exercise daily can be life changing.

-Tania Franco

Monday, June 10, 2013

3 Books That Changed My Life

3 Books That Changed My Life
Image by Tania Franco

I love to read. I have gotten so much out of books whether it be a self-help book, a novel, or a biography. My view of the world sometimes shifts and it's as if a whole new way of thinking is possible due to a sentence or paragraph, and I am never again the same.

There are many books that I love but 3 come to mind when I think of gaining a new sense of awareness:

"You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise L. Hay
"What We May Be" by Piero Ferrucci
"The Power of Focusing" by Anne Weiser Cornell

What We May Be: Techniques for Psychological and Spiritual Growth Through Psychosynthesis

Great thinkers state that duality is man made and that it is non existant and even though I comprehend to an extent this thought, I come back to dual thinking over and over again. Every meditation and exercise in this book have great value, yet the subpersonalities exploration stands out time and again in my thoughts. Working with my sub-personalities in meditation and journaling about them made me comprehend at a deeper level how parts of me which I value as positive have their negative aspects and viceversa. It's as if the negative and positive cancel each other out and things just "are". It integrates the parts of ourselves that are at odds with one another and creates a sense of wholeness.

There are approximately 75 theories within Psychology and Psychosynthesis is one of them. I think it has great value and is not given the credit it deserves. It is beautiful and one of my favorite ways of practicing inner work. My crude way of referring to it is having peak experiences without the use of psychedelics, which I believe is a way that Assagioli (the creator of the theory) referred to it himself in a more highbrow fashion. And I can atest to that. It is a great trip without the drugs.

The Power of Focusing

I think the word "focusing" does not do this form of inner work justice. But how to grasp how ethereal and profound Focusing can be? I think it could be called a simple path to inner peace. What focusing has taught me is that there is a place within me that is completely still and peaceful and that through practice I can access it time and again. Anyone can. It is a loving and accepting place where I feel OK with who I am in the good times and the bad times.

I have guided many of my clients through this form of work and there is something sacred in being able to accompany someone into peace and stay there for 5, 10 or 15 minutes.

You Can Heal Your Life

You can heal your life, but you have to work for it. I learned to listen to my self-talk, to speak to myself like I would to good friend and not how I would speak to someone I dislike. In fact, I learned to be my friend. I followed the exercises and stuck to it even though at the beginning I could barely do them. Little by little with determination I began to see important changes in me that let me know it was working. Now when I listen to my inner dialogue it is kind and uplifting.

Although I enjoy reading different genres, the books I mention in this post are self-help books. One thing to take into consideration when reading these type of books is that the benefits will not be in the theory, it will be in the practice. Try out the different personal growth exercises recommended so you are able to fully understand them and make them a part of your toolbox. The previous books were so helpful to me because I practiced the different techniques over and over again.

What we choose to read can transform us. Books allow us to learn from others experiences and expose us to different points of view this way expanding our own perception. If you are looking to create important changes in your life, these are excellent options and there are many more self-help books that can be healing. What books have changed your life? I would love to know.

-Tania Franco

Friday, May 31, 2013

Easy Almond Flour Bread Recipe (My Favorite)

Easy Almond Flour Bread Recipe (My Favorite)
Image by Tania Franco

With the intention of creating healthier lifestyle choices for our family I decided to bake a wheat and gluten-free almond flour bread. The last couple of years since having my son I would walk into the kitchen and my mind would go blank, so the kitchen has not been where I feel the most comfortable.
I thought I would try it and if it didn't pan out I can just buy a healthier loaf of bread from the store.

I have found the almond flour bread recipes I have made to be easier than I could have imagined. My son and I have been baking our own bread for about 2 months now and I can see ourselves continuing to do so since it's practical and simple. Everyone loves it.

The following recipe is adapted from The Cooking With Trader Joe's Cookbook: Dinner's Done, one of my favorite cookbooks.

Easy Almond Flour Bread Recipe:

Preheat Oven to 325 degrees
4 1/2 cups of Almond Meal or Almond Flour
2 Tbsp. Sugar (Xylitol or Stevia)
1/2 tsp. of Salt
1tsp. Baking Soda
1Tbsp. Baking Powder
5 Eggs (whisked)
1/2- 3/4 cups of Plain Yogurt
Slivered Almonds (any type of seed, this is for sprinkling the top of the bread)

Mix dry ingredients (almond meal, sugar ,salt, baking soda and baking powder) in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients (eggs and yogurt) in a separate bowl. Then mix both together. I mix it with a wooden spoon and it takes a minute or two to come together. Then I put the dough in a greased loaf pan (5x9 inch). Before putting it in the oven I add the slivered almonds to the top of the mixture. The bread takes 55 minutes to bake. Let it cool off. Once cooled I put it in a storage bag. I slice the bread as I use it so it keeps its shape and doesn't crumble. I recommend putting it in the refrigerator or in the freezer so it lasts longer. Ours typically runs out by the end of the week. It's that good!

Our daily lifestyle choices impact our health greatly. We are empowered in each moment. You can begin where you are and remember to celebrate your triumphs whether big or small.

-Tania Franco

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Make Homemade Deodorant

My Homemade Deodorant
Image by Tania Franco

Before having my son I worked at a Medical Institute in Mexico and was exposed to extensive health and wellness information. I learned the importance of using beauty products that were paraben, phtalate, sulfate and petrochemical free. I went perfume free and stopped lathering up in body lotion. I also went deodorant free most days and only wore it on certain occasions.

Once I got pregnant with my son I started using regular shampoos and deodorants. I did feel a bit of remorse since I knew it wasn't the healthiest of choices due to the countless chemicals in these products.

When my son was 2 years old I began to have allergies to many of these products. Parts of my skin would become itchy and suddenly I would have rashes. I changed my hair care products, moisturizer, body lotion and cosmetics. I began to use natural products. This ended the allergic reactions completely. I also made diet changes since nutrition is essential in any health issue. I will write more about this in another post.

One evening we were entertaining friends at our home and I was sharing about the allergic reactions I had had and how difficult it had been when I joked: "I almost began to make my own lotion". After saying that out loud I thought why don't I? The following day I began to research what I could begin to make. I had read some of these recipes before but had not considered making my own until now.

After reading thoroughly I realized I could begin making my own deodorant.

I have been using my home made deodorant for approximately 2 months and I am happy with the results. The deodorant was perfect from day one. I have been hiking in 90 degree weather and I smell great!

3 Ingredient Homemade Deodorant Recipe:

6 Tbsp. Coconut Oil
1/4 cup of Baking Soda
1/4 cup of Organic Cornstarch (Arrowroot is much more recommended)

I left the coconut oil out of the refrigerator for an hour so it was soft and easier to use. I put the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mixed them with a wooden spoon.
Afterwards I placed it in a glass container.

This is one way of creating healthier lifestyle choices.
-Tania Franco

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Walking Meditation: Learning to Enjoy Being

Hiking in North Park San Diego, Ca.
Picture by Tania Franco

This weekend I taught a walking meditation class. It's one of my favorite meditations because it teaches us so much about ourselves.

How often do we allow ourselves to slow down and enjoy every aspect of being?

Being aware of how the actual movement of our body feels when walking.

Allowing a deep appreciation for the beauty that is around us, colors, objects, nature.

Listening to the sounds that are part of our day.

Feeling the grass on our feet in each step we take.

Smelling the wet grass and dirt.

Becoming present to how one's body feels by checking in with areas where stress and relaxation symptoms occur.

Yes. All this happens in a walking meditation and more. These questions are essential to creating greater awareness and helping us know ourselves better but are not automatic thoughts that we have.

One of the essential principles in Humanistic Psychology is learning to savor the moment. We all are here temporarily, that's why learning to enjoy the fullness of each moment can create greater happiness. And just like anything you want to learn, practice is crucial.

Many times we are in a hurry when in reality there isn't a real reason to be in a hurry. When we are rushing from one activity to the next we are not present and miss out on creating greater peace and wellness. Consciously choosing to enjoy each moment whether you're at home, driving, or walking is an important step to achieving it.

Practicing walking meditation taught me to slow down, to "stop and smell the roses". In reality I don't smell the roses but I do smell the patch of jasmine flowers I walk by regularly and feel a sense of awe for nature and it's beauty. It has taught me to savor the moment in a way that I would never have thought possible and that is why I teach this meditation to my students.

What better gift can I give another human being than teaching them to enjoy the beauty of this moment?

-Tania Franco