by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC

Whether you are new to meditating or a seasoned practitioner, I have summarized a list of commonly asked question that I have received about meditation which you should find useful. If you have questions that are not listed here, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

Can you customize a meditation for me?

  • Yes, I can customize a meditation to meet your specific needs. For example, if you are feeling stuck and need help moving forward, I can create a guided meditation for your particular situation so you may continue to progress in your personal development goals.

How do I know if I am progressing?

  • You know you are progressing if there are behaviors in your life that have changed in a positive way due to meditating. For example, if one of your goals is to develop stronger will power, you may find that you are able to stand up for yourself in situations where you could not before.  

Where is the best place to meditate in my house?

  • If you are meditating at home, I recommend that you designate a room specifically for meditation. The space should be quiet, clean, and uncluttered with minimal distractions. Over time, the ambiance of your meditation room will feel peaceful and become a positive reinforcement for your practice.   

Is it okay if I fall asleep while meditating?

  • There might be times when you fall asleep while meditating. Occasionally, this is okay as your body is needing rest at that moment. However, the goal of meditation is not to fall asleep but to remain in a calm focus. In this relaxed but alert state, your conscious mind and subconscious mind are forming a bridge which allows important information to enter your awareness. You may get a sudden insight to a long standing issue you’ve been facing, and you need to be awake in order to process it.    

Can you meditate while walking?

  • A walking meditation can be done and is pleasant to do. When you are walking, the goal is to simply be in-the-moment, observing your surroundings and enjoying the scenery without making a judgement or forming emotional attachments to what you are experiencing. This is the art of mindfulness. You are being an unconditional observer within your environment, whether it be listening to the birds chirping, noticing the scent of a flower, or feeling a gentle breeze upon your skin.

Can meditation be used to help study for an exam?

  • Meditation can help a person concentrate better and have more mental focus. Studies have shown that people who meditate on a regular basis have unique brainwave patterns which are dominated by the Alpha and Theta frequencies. Alpha and Theta brainwave frequencies are associated with the ability to maintain a calm focus which is ideal when you want to study for an exam.  For more information about brainwave entrainment, you can read my blog here.   

Can meditation help with weight loss?

  • Yes, meditation is a great tool for weight loss because it helps the body decrease the cortisol levels in our body, minimizing your desire to binge and overeat. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when we are under stress. It plays a beneficial role in regulating our metabolism, but when we experience chronic stress, our cortisol levels become too high which is a significant factor in weight gain. Please read my blog, How Meditation Helps with Weight Loss, for more information on this topic.   

Do you have to breathe “in-through-your-nose” and “out-through-your-mouth” for meditation to be beneficial?

  • Focusing on your breath will help to keep your mind from wandering. It is not necessary to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth to obtain this benefit. You can certainly breathe this way if it is more helpful for you, but the key is AWARENESS. Becoming aware of your breathing helps to cultivate a single-minded focus which helps to keep distracting thoughts from entering your consciousness.    

Is it better to meditate in the morning or night?

  • You can meditate in the morning or night depending upon your preference. I personally prefer the morning as I am more awake and rested, and I am creating a positive tone for the rest of my day. Some people prefer meditating before bedtime as it helps them to sleep better. It is a matter of choice depending upon what you would like to accomplish with your meditation.   

How do you handle distracting thoughts that run through your mind?

  • Having thoughts arise in the mind is a common occurrence while meditating. When you notice that your mind is being distracted by unwanted thoughts, bring your attention back to your breath. Keep focusing on your breath with each inhale and exhale. It is a good practice to simply observe your thoughts without judging or becoming attached to them. Just allow them to be and flow through you. With consistent meditation practice, you will notice that your mental chatter quiets down and becomes less and less of an influence.    

Can I use meditation to help reach my goals?

  • Yes, during your meditations you can visualize what you would like to manifest. The technique of visualization is based on the Law of Attraction which means that we attract and manifest what we consistently focus upon. This is a proactive form of meditation. I recommend reading this well written article by the Chopra Center, How to Use Meditation to Visualize Your Goals, for more information.

What are the benefits of meditation?

  • Better Coping Skills – When you meditate on a regular basis, you are better able to cope with the anxiety of everyday living and remain calmer during stressful situations. The ability to handle your emotional responses to daily stressors is improved.
  • More Self Awareness – You will be able to recognize and stop negative thought patterns that are sabotaging your personal growth before they get out-of-control.   
  • Keener Intuition – Intuitive insights are able to come forth during your waking consciousness much more easily and guide you towards wiser decisions.    
  • More Joy – You will naturally experience more joy in your life because meditation opens your heart and aligns you with your true, authentic self. When you open your heart, you are touching the core essence of your being which is imbued with love, appreciation, kindness, and gratitude.       

Interested in learning more?

 

 

Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC  is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Nutritionist, Reiki Master, Meditation Instructor, and published author. She is the owner of Inspire Your Journey and a Wellness Partner with Amare Global, the Mental Wellness Company. She is available for appointments at the SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, MA. 

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC

What is Guided Meditation?

Guided meditation is simply practicing meditation with the help of a guide. The guide can be a meditation teacher, a video, or a sound recording. Most guided meditations adhere to this general format: Your meditation guide will ask you to sit in a comfortable seated posture. You will then listen to your guide while they lead you through a series of relaxing visualizations. As you gradually relax and become more and more still, stress fades away, your mental chatter quiets down, and you are able to enjoy the present moment.

Almost all types of meditation have these four elements in common: (1) a quiet location, (2) a comfortable posture, (3) a focus of attention, and (4) a mindful attitude of allowing thoughts to come and go without judging them.

 


Keys for a Successful Meditation

  • Time Management – Setting aside time for your meditation is one of the most important aspects of this practice. If you do not make conscious effort to setup a regular schedule to meditate, then the chances that you’ll actually practice are very low. This is nothing personal, but simply a reflection of our human nature. I recommend that you start with 5 minutes of mediation and slowly work towards longer periods of time. Ideally, it is great to meditate every day, but even a few times a week is better than none at all. Ultimately, it is up to you as to how often and how long you want to mediate. As with any personal development endeavor, it will require self-discipline and self-responsibility to accomplish the goal.
  • Quiet Atmosphere – In order to get the most from your meditation, it is best to immerse yourself in a quiet atmosphere. It is easier to access that place of calmness within you when there are fewer distractions. If you can meditate in the same place, then all the better. When you practice meditation in the same room over and over again, the energy within the space becomes magnified and helps to support your meditation efforts on an ongoing basis.
  • Being Present – Once you have set aside time to meditate and find yourself in a quiet place while seated in a comfortable position, allow yourself to be fully present in the moment. When you have completely surrendered to the NOW, you are giving yourself the gift to fully experience the benefits of meditation. If your mind is racing with anxious thoughts, imagine yourself placing all of your worries into an imaginary rock. Your problems will not magically disappear, but you can place them on temporary hold so that you can simply enjoy the moment.
  • Focus Your Mind When you give your mind something to focus upon, this makes it easier for your mind to stay present in the moment and not wander into the land of scattered thoughts. These are the tools that I use to help focus the mind: Breathing, Music, Toning, and Guided Visualization.  
  • Breathing

    If your mind starts to wander, come back to your breath. Be mindful of your breathing by noticing your breath flowing naturally in and out of your body. As you inhale, feel your abdomen rising. As you exhale, feel your abdomen gently go down.

  • Music

    Music can be a powerful catalyst and can help you enter into a meditative state more easily. Here are some of my favorite artists. I recommend that you do your own exploring to see which ones resonates with you: (1) Tom Kenyon, (2) EquiSync, and (3) PowerThoughts Meditation Club.

  • Toning

    The art of toning involves repeating a word or set of words over and over again. This technique helps to strengthen your intention and integrate the vibration of the words into your energy field. If you would like to develop more compassion and empathy, an example of a mantra that you could use would be: I Am Kind.

  • Guided Visualization

    Sometimes it is easier to access a calm state by listening to the soothing voice of a guide leading you through a meditative experience. It could be a simple 5-minute centering exercise, or a more involved meditation where you are taken on a journey to explore an interesting place such as the forest or a tropical beach destination.

A FREE GIFT FOR YOU

Two Minute Calming Meditation

Listen to Audio

Develop a Positive Mindset

Listening to this two-minute guided meditation that I voice recorded for your use will help you develop a more positive mindset.  You can download and listen to this calming technique whenever you would like to feel inspired and uplift your vibe. It is based upon the Quick Coherence Technique from the HeartMath Institute and I hope you enjoy it.

 

Script of Audio

This quick heart-centered breathing technique can be used to reduce nervousness before beginning a new task, dealing with stressful situations or if you just need a moment to pause and take a break from your daily activities. When you are ready, find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Pause. Focus your attention on your breathing. Let your breath flow naturally in and out. Allowing yourself to let go and completely relax.

Now imagine yourself breathing in and out through your heart.

As you breathe in and out through your heart, think of someone or something in your life that you are grateful for. Pause. As you recall this person or place that makes you feel happy, allow this feeling of gratitude and appreciation to flow throughout your entire being and into every cell of your body. On your final inhale, think about this moment and know that you can access this place of calmness within you whenever you need it. Pause. I hope you enjoyed this meditation and have a wonderful day.

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If you are interested in experiencing a guided meditation, you may contact me via phone at 508-282-7877 or email at susan@inspireyourjourney.com for a FREE Consultation today.  I would be happy to talk with you about the benefits of meditation and I can always customize a meditation to suit your particular needs.

 

With Much Gratitude,

Sue ?

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC

The purpose of this article is to illuminate the symbiotic relationship between nutrition and meditation and why it is important to get these two into proper alignment. The foods that you are eating on a daily basis will influence your ability to think clearly and meditate effectively, so you’ll want to be mindful of your diet as you begin to experience the benefits of meditation which include an increase in calmness, improved mental clarity, and the ability to soothe the stress and anxiety of everyday living.

Before we get into the dietary aspects, I would like to provide a bit of information about myself as I have always been interested in the world of nutrition starting from a very young age. When I was about 7 years old, I used to love to eat cold cereal. As I ate my bowl of Cheerios, I placed several other boxes of cereal in front of me so I could read their nutrition labels as I enjoyed my breakfast.

At this young age, I did not know the meaning of carbohydrates, protein, or fat but I was fascinated with the percentages and intently compared each box against the other. Thus began my interest in the wellness arena. Since those early days of reading cereal labels, I have since earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and continue to be mindful of the foods that I consume on a daily basis.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is a self-directed practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Eastern practices in India, China, and Japan. It has a long history of use for promoting physical relaxation, improving emotional composure, decreasing stress, and enhancing overall health and well-being.

There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: (1) a quiet location, (2) a comfortable posture, (3) a focus of attention, and (4) a mindful attitude of letting distractions come and go without judging them.

Your Dietary Habits Will Influence Your Mind 

As you begin to meditate, it will be important that you become aware of the foods that you are consuming on a daily basis because the quality of your dietary intake will have an influence upon your meditative experience. Feeding your body a nourishing diet is a key for success because this will give your system a steady stream of energy along with all the vitamins and minerals it needs to obtain optimal health.

If you consistently suffer from blood sugar highs and lows on a day to day basis, you will have greater difficulty getting into the meditative state and holding it there for an extended period of time. Ideally, you want to be able to ‘get into the zone’ as easily as possible and maintain that state of mind as you progress through your session.

If you experience a blood sugar crash mid-way through, your body will pull you away from that meditative state and take you out of the zone. With this being said, here are some health-giving tips that will help to keep your mind in that reflective focus. After reading this blog, you will have a better idea of how to eat right in order to experience the best meditation results.

The Importance of Carbohydrates

Eating the right type of carbohydrates can not only boost your health, they can help you to concentrate and meditate more efficiently. According to the American Diabetes Association, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. We also intake energy in the form of protein and fats. For this discussion, we will be spotlighting our attention on carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are important for many functions within our body, including brain performance and blood sugar optimization.

Through research that has been performed over the years, it has been discovered that not all carbohydrates are created equally. Choosing the right kind of carbs to consume in your diet will have a beneficial impact upon your meditative experience.

Carbohydrates:  The Good vs. Bad

In general, there are two types of carbohydrates that we consume in our diet: non-processed (good) and processed (bad). The processed or simple carbs are found in candy, soda and syrups. These foods are made with refined sugars and typically do not have vitamins, minerals or fiber. This is why they are frequently called “empty calories.”

The non-processed or complex carbs are often found in starchy foods such as beans, peas, potatoes, corn, and whole-grain breads and cereal. These carbs get absorbed more slowly into our systems, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels, thereby providing a more sustained energy level.

Processed carbs, on the other hand, cause bursts of energy much more quickly than complex carbs because of the quicker rate at which they are digested and absorbed. The processed carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels causing “sugar highs” which in turn can also cause “sugar lows.”

Common Sources of  Non-Processed Carbs:

  • Whole Grains
  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Beans & Legumes
  • Meat, Poultry, Seafood

Common Sources of Processed Carbs:

  • White Bread & Pasta
  • Soda & Syrups
  • Donuts & Pastry
  • Candy & Sweets
  • White Rice

Maintaining Homeostasis

If you eat two donuts and drink a can of soda at the same time, you will experience a temporary boost of energy. This is due to the insulin rapidly taking the sugar from your bloodstream and bringing it into the cells so the sugar can be used as energy. But, as that sugar is removed from the bloodstream, you’ll then suffer from a significant blood glucose crash, which will probably leave you ravenous, irritable, and very unable to concentrate.

The above explanation is a simplified version of how refined sugar is assimilated in your physical body, but it gives you an idea of how simple carbohydrates, such as white sugar, can influence your mood due to the way they are metabolized in the body. This is why it is important that you are not over consuming refined or processed carbohydrates, especially right before you begin a meditation.

It is best to focus on getting primarily unprocessed carbs in your diet, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. These types of carbs will aid the body in maintaining an environment of homeostasis which is defined as the stable state of an organism. Natural, wholesome foods provide a healthy source of fuel for the body, and they also contain a bounty of essential nutrients.

Light Meals Beforehand

There is a reason why meditation teachers and seasoned practitioners recommend waiting 1 to 2 hours after eating a meal to begin a meditation. This general rule has to do with the digestive process. If you try to meditate immediately after eating, you might feel sluggish and struggle to stay awake because the body streams more blood to the digestive system, and the brain releases serotonin that causes drowsiness.

Eating a large, heavy meal before meditating might be the most significant blunder that you could make as you settle into a comfortable position to begin your meditation. You want to make sure that you are feeling content, but not over satiated as this could cause lethargy.  If you are going to eat within 60 minutes of doing your meditation, keep it to small portions that contain around 300 calories which is more like a snack. Fresh fruit, a handful of almonds, or drinking a nutritious smoothie are all healthy choices.

Closing Thoughts

Meditation is part of a collective health and wellness program which includes taking care of your physical body while nourishing a strong mind. By eating right, you can maintain better concentration throughout your meditations.

Consider meditation as exercise for the mind, the same way that a jog or a session of yoga can help to strengthen your body. If you think about what you eat before you meditate the same way that you think about what you eat before you do physical exercise, you will be in good shape.

For overall well-being, it is best to choose wholesome and healthy foods that comprise the majority of your diet. Incorporating meditation into your daily life, even if it is just for five minutes a day, will cultivate centeredness and mental equanimity. By aligning these two elements, proper nutrition and meditation, you will experience a more consistent state of health and balance.

Interested in learning more?

For additional information on proven exercises that you can use to boost your mental strength, please check out the actionable guide by Cleverism, 8 Proven Exercises that Boost Your Mental Strength.

 

Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC  is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Nutritionist, Reiki Master, Meditation Instructor, and published author. She is the owner of Inspire Your Journey and a Wellness Partner with Amare Global, the Mental Wellness Company. She is available for appointments at the SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, MA. 

 

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA,CPC

The Present

I am standing in the supermarket line, and I am doing something extraordinary. I am patiently observing the cashier as she scans each grocery item of the customer in front of me. I am, non-judgmentally, browsing the headlines of the tabloid newspapers that are displayed within reading distance.

I am inextricably part of this life experience, yet not absorbed in it. I am not creating emotional opinions about the people nor the environment which surrounds me. I am not wishing that the cashier would work faster. I am not thinking about my next errand.

I am here now, paying attention to this sacred moment; acutely aware of the freedom that I am feeling by not holding judgments or expectations of the experience itself. The realization is eye-opening, and I feel grateful for being cognizant of it.

The event that I just described is the very essence of mindfulness. It is being mindful of your present situation without forming a strong attachment to it, especially on an emotional level. The concept of mindfulness is simple but can be challenging to execute on a consistent basis due to the busyness of our daily lives.

Even though the gist of mindfulness is straightforward, most people have different definitions regarding its meaning. When I first heard of mindfulness, I thought that it meant to have a mind full of something – whether that be anxieties, worries, and to-do lists or happiness, joy, and peace. Each time that I repeated the word to myself, it seemed to imply that a ‘full mind’ was a beneficial quality to develop, and, depending upon the scenario, this mental state can be useful.

For example, if you are preparing to write a thesis paper, you will need to perform major research in order to accumulate large amounts of evidence to support your proposition. This type of task does require one to fill their mind with knowledge, statistics, and scientific facts in order to establish their hypothesis.

But in the area of self-help and personal development, the word mindfulness denotes quite another meaning. Because of my own ambiguity surrounding this topic, I will help to clarify this practice by sharing another a-ha moment that I experienced while taking a yoga class.

What follows are the notes that I jotted down immediately afterward, when I was feeling gratitude and appreciation for what had just transpired.

A-Ha Moments

About half-way through today’s yoga class, there was a shift in my perception. My awareness became heightened as I completely focused my attention within the present classroom environment. The moments elongated as I reveled in the simple joy of the experience. Yes, time appeared to be stretching itself to maximum capacity. There was only the uplifting atmosphere and motivating presence of the yoga teacher.

All else was blurred from my perception. I was hyper-concentrated on the here-and-now which was blissful and sweet. Like a light bulb brightening a room, the realization illuminated my awareness. I felt thankful for the gifts that were right before my eyes.

At the very end of this class, we did the final Shavasana pose which consists of lying down on our backs in complete relaxation to rest our bodies after the workout. I have done this pose hundreds of times, but the instructor said something interesting as we were preparing to enter the posture. She eloquently stated, “stillness awaits you, now is the time to lie down in Shavasana.”

The words “stillness awaits you” struck a chord of remembrance within my being. Suddenly, the posture felt brand new. I felt so welcomed by these words that I could not wait to be embraced by the peace that awaited our participation. I thought, yes, stillness awaits us because it is already within us. This is what the instructor meant by “stillness awaits you.” If we take the time to tune into our center, our soul, and our divine spirit, then we will connect to the true essence of our core being which is stillness.

After class, as this awareness was moving through my consciousness, my mind kept flashing back to the days when I first started doing yoga. As a beginner, I was impatient and found it difficult to cultivate a sense of inner peace. It took some time to get to this beautiful feeling that I was experiencing today, but the good news is that it is attainable.

Before fully surrendering to this act of mindfulness, I was in a continual mode of anticipation instead of appreciation, wondering what time the class would be over instead of savoring my time within it. My consciousness was not perceiving this session as a gift to be enjoyed, but rather a chore to be performed.

All it took was a change in perception for the gifts to be revealed, for the gratitude to be released, for the experience to be relished. In truth, harmony and stillness are an inherent part of our being. These innate qualities are simply waiting to be acknowledged for their wonderful presence, and the tool of mindfulness allows us to be aware of their existence.

The Past

In 2014 and 2017, the cover of Time Magazine highlighted the topic of mindfulness, showing just how prevalent this topic of discussion has become throughout mainstream America. But mindfulness has been around for much longer than our current timeframe. Did you know this topic is one element of the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddhist tradition? Buddhism was founded in approximately 6th century B.C., and here we are, still talking about mindfulness. So what exactly is all this discussion about?

Here is a brief overview of the eight Buddhist practices of the Noble Eightfold Path:

  • Right View – being aware that our actions have consequences; this awareness allows us to possess the insight to karma, rebirth, and the nature of our reality.
  • Right Resolve – having the right intention, i.e. giving up worldly desires such as power and greed to adopt peace, kindness, and compassion towards our fellow human beings.
  • Right Speech – our words have consequences. Thoughtful communication helps to unite others, heal dissension, and move us closer to everyday compassionate living.
  • Right Conduct – living in a moral and ethical way. This step on the path also includes a whole approach to the environment, with right action being taken to safeguard the world for future generations.
  • Right Livelihood – job/purpose/service-to-others. Certain types of work were discouraged by the Buddha such as those dealing in weapons, and those harmful to animal or human life.
  • Right Effort – right attitude. Akin to the strings of a musical instrument, the amount of effort should not be too tense or too impatient, nor too slack or too laid back. In order to produce Right Effort, clear and honest thoughts should be welcomed; feelings of jealousy and anger left behind.
  • Right Mindfulness – All forms of Buddhist meditation help to develop mindfulness; Buddhists train themselves to stay alert to the present experience. They observe their thoughts then release them without judgement.
  • Right Samadhi – a “single-pointedness of mind”; concentrating the mind on a single sensation or object to the point of absorption. All sense of “self” disappears with the subject and object becoming completely assimilated into each other.

The Buddha mentions four frames of reference in mindfulness: (1) mindfulness of body, (2) mindfulness of feelings, (3) mindfulness of mind, and (4) mindfulness of dharma.

Mindfulness of Body is being fully aware of your bodily functions, your muscles, and your breathing. The breath is an important factor to mindfulness of the body. During meditation, it is common practice to focus on your breathing. This is usually the first “exercise” for training the mind.

We discipline our mind to follow the natural process of breathing by allowing ourselves to merge into the sensation of breath, following it through exhale. If you practice meditation regularly, you will find yourself returning to the breath throughout the day. When you feel stress or anger arising, acknowledge it and come back to your breathing. It’s very calming.

Mindfulness of Feelings is the practice of recognizing and acknowledging your feelings without being attached to them. By not attaching to your feelings, you are acknowledging that the feeling or sensation is not a “thing” that you possess. There is just a feeling passing through you.

It is healthy to be aware of your own emotions and not suppress them. As human beings we are very good at ignoring emotions that we don’t want to feel, but doing this could cause problems and can even make us physically ill. If you are feeling a less-than-happy emotion such as anger, it is best to acknowledge the sensation, observe it, and then allow it pass through you without judgment.

Mindfulness of Mind is the process of observing mental states as they come and go, realizing how transitory and temporary these states are. Awareness of the mind involves paying attention to yourself in a detached way. Is there calmness, or agitation? Is there focus, or distraction?  Do not analyze your thoughts or form opinions. Simply observe.

Mindfulness of Dharma is being aware of your state of self-realization. Dharma encompasses a wide definition. It has been described as the force which upholds the nature of the universe as well as the ability to enter Nirvana and attain personal enlightenment. To the extent that it can be explained, dharma can be interpreted as both the essential nature of reality as well as the teachings and practices that enable the realization of that essential nature.

The Future

To envision the evolvement of mindfulness, I would like you to imagine a world where humanity is completely in tune with one another. Each person is telepathic which means that we can read each other’s minds and use this ability to create a positive outcome. Being telepathic is a wonderful way to communicate because we would, by default, be mindful all the time. We would not only be aware of ourselves, we would be aware of others as well:  their temperament, feelings, and most of all, their intentions.

The transparency would help to facilitate a world where darkness would not be able to hide because peoples’ true nature would be exposed. How can there be deceit if an individual’s motives are known before he or she has the chance to implement them? Imagine a humanity living in joy, harmony, and unity with one another because the ability to realize such a community will be supported by like-minded people interested in working together for the benefit of the whole.

If you think that telepathy is located in the distant future, then I will refer you to a study done by Yale Scientific in 2015. In this research, scientists were able to transmit words from the brain of one research participant in India to three other participants in France. This study marked the first time conscious thoughts were transmitted directly between individuals, offering foresight into the higher intelligence of the human race.

Closing Thoughts

In the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is seen as the practice of being aware of the present moment in a non-judgmental manner. It is bringing one’s complete attention to the here and now by observing the experience without forming opinions about it. From my perspective, this is mindfulness in its purest form: simply being in the present, alert and aware, yet releasing all preconceptions and expectations.

In our current world, mindfulness is alive and well. The great quality about mindfulness is that it can be practiced by anyone, regardless of religious background or beliefs. We can all benefit by feeling appreciation and gratitude for the everyday gifts that life has to offer: relishing the warmth of the sun on a cold winter’s day, hearing the unexpected laughter of a child, or savoring the stillness during a yoga class.

There are endless opportunities to be mindful of the moment, mindful of yourself, and mindful of others. If everyone practiced the concepts of this technique, our planet would reflect more harmony and prosperity for all of humanity. In the future, there will be additional ways to practice the art of mindfulness, ones that are in concert with our higher-self and elevated states of reality.

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA,CPC

A Balance Beam Act

When I saw my niece perform her balance beam act for her gymnastics meet, I was astounded at her ability to sustain her inner poise. Watching as a spectator, it is blatantly apparent that the beam is narrow. It is only four inches wide. For the gymnasts, it takes a great amount of concentration to stay aligned and upright throughout the entire act. As my niece was placing one foot in front of the other, I thought to myself, “Isn’t life like a balance beam act?”

When you are centered and in-sync with yourself, you have the capability to make decisions from a place of inner power and stability. Like a gymnast walking the balance beam, it takes a conscious effort to remain within this empowered state of mind. But the more you practice getting in touch with the core of your being, the easier it becomes to tap into this essence and realize the benefits with greater consistency.

The key to navigating your life with ease is to maintain your equilibrium within a world filled with dualities and endless activity abounding from every direction. In this blog, we will discuss the concept of duality along with a tool that you can use to develop your sense of equanimity, a state of mental calmness and stability, especially under stress, strain, or a difficult situation.

What is Duality?

Duality is an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something. As hinted by the word “dual” within the word itself, duality refers to having two parts, often with opposite meanings, like the duality of good and evil, peace and war, up and down.

Duality has technical meanings in mathematics and physics. In mathematics, the property of two theorems, expressions, etc., of being dual to each other. In physics, quantum mechanics has shown us that light can behave as both a particle and a wave. As Albert Einstein wrote: [1]

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.

Similar to the concept of duality is the Chinese philosophy of the yin and yang aspects of our lives that appear to oppose another, but can actually complement each other to benefit the good of the whole. When discussing the concept of duality, it is impossible to talk about the yin or the yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole. For example, there cannot be the bottom of a mountain without the top.

There are tangible dualities that run throughout all elements of our lives. From emotional states (happy vs. sad) to personality traits (ambitious vs. ambivalent) to physical sensations (hot vs. cold). It is important to balance these quality types in order to nurture our optimal well-being. When we harmonize our inner self, we can function with more efficiency and clarity.

To demonstrate the importance of balancing our dualistic natures, I will be using the example of the Type A and Type B personality types, including the yin and yang qualities that make up their character traits.

Type A and Type B Personality Theory

The Type A and Type B personality theory describes two contrasting personality types. People who are intensely competitive, highly organized, ambitious, impatient, aware of time management and/or aggressive are labeled Type A, while more relaxed personalities are labeled Type B.

This theory was developed by two cardiologists in the 1950s and had a significant impact on the evolvement of the field of psychology.

The Type A Personality

Type A people are known to be high-achievers, multi-taskers, status-conscious, and proactive. People with Type A personalities are often “workaholics.” They push themselves with deadlines and hate both delays and ambivalence. They are always in a race to achieve lofty goals and cannot rest on their laurels. They have an innate need to compete. If there is no obvious competition, they will create one.

As with all emotional attributes, there are consequences if these behaviors are taken to the extreme. A person with excessive Type A behavior may develop or experience the following: (1) free-floating hostility, triggered by minor incidents; (2) irritation and exasperation; (3) high stress due to competitive drive, and (4) severe edginess due to a sense of urgency.

The Type B Personality

Type B people typically live at lower stress levels and have a greater tendency to disregard physical or mental stress when they do not achieve. When faced with competition, they may focus less on winning/losing and more on enjoying the game. They are usually attracted to careers of creativity such as being a writer, counselor, therapist, actor or actress. However, computer and information technology managers, professors, and judges are more likely to be Type B individuals as well. They are free thinkers and enjoy exploring new ideas and concepts. They are often reflective and contemplate both the “outer and inner world.”

Taken to the extreme, the Type B personality may become too lackadaisical. They could lose the ambition to advance their careers or progress in their personal lives. They may become unconcerned with the details of their life because they often believe that ‘everything will work out.’ Due to this fatalistic attitude, they have a tendency to leave much of their lives to chance instead of taking the initiative to forge their own path.

The Importance of Balance

When viewing the differences between the Type A and Type B personality types, we see that there are positive qualities to both character traits when they are in a balanced state. When either type is taken to the extreme, this is when the irrational behaviors start to manifest.

The Type A goal-driven mentality can be balanced with relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness. The type B personality can be balanced by finding suitable work or hobbies that ignite their passion for living, creating a spark of enthusiasm.

Before we discuss the benefits of meditation as a tool that all people can use to maintain their equanimity, I would like to share a hypothetical story of three hikers and a mountain in order to illustrate the value of balance.

Three Hikers and a Mountain

Three hikers were getting ready to hike a beautiful mountain in Washington State. The skies were clear and the temperature was perfect. One of the hikers, Type A, was determined to reach the top of the mountain as quickly as possible. Type A was goal focused and knew she would reach her destination in exactly two hours. Another hiker, Type B, was determined to take her time to reach the top and not worry how long it would take to complete the journey. Type B was going to enjoy herself, and this was the first priority.

Balance, the third hiker, had a plan. She would arrive at the peak in approximately three hours. This would give her time to appreciate the breathtaking environment, but she would keep going at a steady pace until she reached the target. It was 8 am. If she reached the top by 11 am, this would give her enough time to explore the peak and eat lunch without having to rush. She would start her descent at 1 pm, leaving ample time to reach the bottom before it started to get dark.

Type A succeeded in reaching her goal in a quick two hours. She briskly walked the path with her eyes glued towards the ground, intent on the placement of her feet. The wild roses that were blooming in full grandeur escaped her attention. Their sweet scent drifting through the air, unnoticed by her senses which were completely devoted to finishing the task at hand. A majestic bald eagle was perched in a nearby tree, observing Type A as she strode by with steadfast conviction and singular concentration on the mission.

Type B reached the top of the mountain in five hours, but there was not enough time to eat her lunch and explore the environment. There was also the risk of darkness descending upon her as she hiked the long return. Type B enjoyed the delicate flowers, the bald eagle, the soothing streams, and the sauntering deer along the way. But her lack of foresight in planning this adventure was placing her in a dangerous situation of not reaching the bottom before dusk encroached upon her.

I use this example as a way to show that there are benefits to being goal-focused because Type A people get the job done. They are efficient and hyper-concentrated on the final target. But they tend to miss the joys of a life fulfilled by the heart. They forgo the simple pleasures in order to satisfy their sense of duty to complete the end objective.

Type B was able to reach the destination, but her lack of planning produced a stress-filled venture down the mountain. She thoroughly enjoyed the journey towards the goal but did not prepare for the entire show. She also was hyper-concentrated, but it was on the peripheral attractions, and not enough on the task at hand.

Balance employed a combination of both the Type A and Type B skillsets. She enjoyed the journey to the top but was also aware of the bigger picture. She was cognizant of the fact that she had to leave herself ample enough time for the return hike as well. This idea of being mindful of the entire experience, and not just focused on one element of it, can also be applied to the way we live our lives.

In this modern world, there can be many obstacles along the path towards fulfilling your dreams. These challenges have the potential to block or delay the attainment of your aspirations. Each one of us has different values, but if you can enjoy your life experience while cultivating your ambitions, then you have the best of both worlds.

Luckily, there are tools that you can use to strengthen your inner balance so that you can maintain your centeredness and focus. For this blog, I will be highlighting the benefits of meditation, a universal technique that can be practiced by anyone, regardless of personality type.

The Benefits of Meditation

In 2013, a Harvard Medical School Study [2] sought to verify the acute benefits of meditation after just one Relaxation Response (RR) session. The researchers were interested in discovering the molecular mechanisms that were responsible for counteracting the adverse effects of stress disorders. They measured acute transcriptional changes in genetic activity after participants listened to one relaxation CD.

Overview of Harvard Study:

  • Sample Size: 52 subjects, both RR veterans and novices.
  • Method: Listened to one relaxation CD, twenty minutes in length.
  • Blood Samples Taken: Prior, immediately after, fifteen minutes after listening to CD.
  • Results: There was an increase in energy metabolism, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance. A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration and prevents it from fusing with neighboring chromosomes. There was a decrease in blood pressure, inflammatory response, and stress-related pathways.
  • Conclusion: Human genetics are rapidly affected by RR techniques, such as meditation. Enhanced genomic activity causes physiological changes within our body via biological pathways that are linked to select gene sets. This study used advanced genomic testing to analyze transcriptional changes that occurred during one RR session. In molecular biology and genetics, transcriptional regulation is the means by which a cell regulates the conversion of DNA to RNA (transcription) which orchestrates gene activity.

The regulation of transcription is a vital process in all living organisms. The findings in this study suggest that RR techniques such as meditation can help to counteract the detrimental effects of stress-related disorders such as hypertension, anxiety, diabetes, and arthritis. It can also improve energy resiliency and cellular stability.

It is interesting to note that this study verified the short-term benefits of meditation. In other words, you do not have to be a seasoned practitioner in order to experience the positive effects of meditation. By simply listening to one relaxation CD, you can feel calm, centered, and peaceful. To have these effects last for a longer period of time, it is recommended to implement a meditative practice on a consistent basis.

Closing Thoughts

We live in a world of duality which is filled with opposing characteristics that are seemingly contradictory to one another. Even though there are yin and yang qualities that differ from each other, they are intrinsically bound to one another as parts of a mutual whole. For example, there cannot be the bottom of a ladder without the top.

Just as Einstein observed that the true nature of light can only be understood by comprehending its ability to behave as both a particle and a wave, so it is with human nature.

To understand our complex behavior patterns, we need to realize that there are dualistic principles that are present throughout all aspects of our lives. In order to maintain a sense of equanimity while navigating the avenues of life, mindfulness and meditation are tools that can be used to develop and preserve our inner clarity.

Mindfulness, in this aspect, comes in the form of awareness. Being aware that we have a choice as to where we would like to live in our mindset. We can choose to operate on the periphery of extremes, or we can choose a more balanced approach and make decisions from the center of our being which is our place of empowerment.

As we saw in the hiking example, Balance chose to combine her goal-focused determination along with her sense of enjoyment to get the most out of her experience. She saw the bigger picture, and this expanded perspective helped her to select the best course of action.

During life’s most challenging and rewarding times, in the balance is where your power resides.

 


[1] Harrison, David (2002). “Complementarity and the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics”. UPSCALE. Dept. of Physics, U. of Toronto.

[2] Bhasin MK, Dusek JA, Chang B-H, Joseph MG, Denninger JW, Fricchione GL, et al. (2013) Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62817. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062817

There are two grocery stores within a short driving distance of where I live. The closest supermarket is less than one mile from my house, and the other is a few miles away. I consistently shop at the closest store as it is more convenient, venturing only to the other for specialty items when necessary. But on this particular day, I was sensing an inner pull to shop at the farther market. I didn’t understand the reasoning behind it, but I followed my gut and drove across town.

As I was perusing the food aisles, I suddenly remembered that this store had an activity billboard where local businesses are allowed to advertise their services. I decided to take a quick look at the board to see if there was anything of interest. My eyes scanned the brochures and business cards that were tacked upon the cork but nothing caught my attention.

It was then, as I was about to walk away, that I saw an advertisement for a meditation center that was located in an adjacent town. I was elated. I had been searching for a local venue that offered meditation classes but did not have success in finding one online. I made a mental note that I would visit this center within the next week.

As I was thinking about this coincidence, I knew why I was drawn to visiting this specific grocery store. My instinct was guiding me towards what I had been asking for all along: a community meditation center. I was lead to this information by my own inner compass which is innately intuitive and intelligent.

Each and every person has access to this type of internal wisdom, but what is the source of this unseen navigational system that has our best interests in mind and knows the most appropriate course of action?

What is Spirituality?

The topic of spirituality has steadily gained momentum over the years, but what does authentic spirituality represent and how does it impact our everyday lives? From my personal experiences and listening to other peoples’ perspectives on this matter, I believe that the core essence of spirituality involves the process of awakening to our spiritual nature and acknowledging that a higher power exists that is greater than ourselves.

This higher power has different names and labels according to one’s cultural background and beliefs. For myself, I call this force God, Creator, All That Is, or Divine Source. These are my go-to titles for an all-encompassing energy that is moving through our infinite universe and permeating our everyday lives.

Awakening to our inherent essence can be considered a universal human experience. Some people may have spiritual experiences that are transcendent in nature, but I believe that we all encompass a spirit that communicates to us through intuitive insights, synchronicities, and feelings. Our spirit is the energetic principle which gives life to our physical bodies, but also provides a direct connection to God or Infinite Source.

Within this dimension of physicality, any event that we experience by feeling becomes a reality for us. This is in contrast to simply observing an event as an outsider looking inward. When we get in touch with the essence of an event on a physical, emotional, and mental level, we enter that experience and understand it’s meaning on a deeper level. We are no longer on the perimeter, we are fully immersed into its presence.

A Transcendent Event

I became seriously interested in the topic of spirituality when I experienced an ‘awakening of consciousness’ during my senior year in college at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I explain this event in my book, A Spiritual Journey, but I will provide a recap here.

During my adolescent years, I had always been a seeker of knowledge, yearning to understand the mysteries of the universe. I was constantly asking questions, wondering about the nature of God and wanting to comprehend how I fit into this vast world that we call planet Earth. At the time, I believed in a higher power but did not tie myself to any one particular religion or faith.

In order to understand the context of the story, I will need to provide some additional background information. In 1987, when I was packing to leave for my freshman year of college, I was handed a book as an unexpected gift from a visiting friend of the family. As I gazed at this book that I was holding in my hands, my heart sank with disappointment, for it was a Bible. At the time, I thought that I would never open it. Truthfully, I had planned to leave it at home or give it away to someone who would appreciate its contents. But as I stood there looking at the cover, I suddenly felt compelled to keep it. I packed and repacked this Bible every year of college but did not read a single word. I did not know why I was doing this. It just felt right to have the Bible near me, even though I would not open it until four years later.

During my senior year at the university, I was living off campus in an apartment complex with three other roommates. On one particular night, I was writing an English paper but was having a hard time focusing, as I had a problem on my mind. I was trying to decipher the best way to handle a relationship issue I was having with my boyfriend at the time. As I pondered the situation, an image of the Bible suddenly appeared in my mind, and I had a strong inclination to retrieve the book. I intended to open to a random page and take a chance that the answer to my predicament would be located on that chosen page. I had heard of other people doing this experiment with some degree of success, but I did not have faith that it would work for me.

With some reluctance, I retrieved the Bible from my desk drawer. I looked at it for a moment and then propped it up on a wooden crate, before which I kneeled. I held the question in my mind and hesitantly opened to an arbitrary page. Astonishingly, my eyes fell upon words that described the solution to my dilemma exactly. I was amazed by this moment of fate, which seemed like a miracle.

But little did I know that there was more to experience, for while I was contemplating this occurrence, a brilliant flash of white light suddenly illuminated the room. I looked over my left shoulder since the light appeared to be originating from the upper-left-hand corner of the room, but I did not see anything unusual there. However, as soon as I turned back and faced the Bible, I was engulfed with waves upon waves of what I can only call unconditional love. I had no idea what was happening to me, but I felt completely embraced by a heavenly presence that was coming from all directions and infusing every fiber of my being.

At the same moment, in my mind’s eye, I saw numerous beams of light being directed toward my physical body. These beams looked like sun rays as their color was golden yellow. I instinctively knew that this cosmic light was the source of the divine love that I was experiencing. As the rays showered their magic, my very essence was imbued with sheer joy. I was stunned by this sudden display of affection, which left me speechless. Outwardly, my physical body remained unmoved, but inwardly I felt an expansion that was limitless and free.

While I was experiencing this otherworldly bliss, I felt the abrupt sensation of being pulled up and out of my physical body. The sensation was subtle but something I definitely felt. In an instant, I seemed to be dissolving into the universe and becoming one with it. I swiftly found myself in the middle of an endless sea of deep space, but I felt very calm as I gazed upon the outstretched vista. Enveloped by a profound stillness, this nighttime panorama was quiet and peaceful. I saw distant stars decorate the great expanse, and most astonishingly, I could feel the infinite force of Life itself: perpetual energy, extending and continuing in all directions.

Eventually, I could not contain the power that was moving through my body, and I began to sob. I was crying tears of elation, for I was awed by this entire experience which lasted no more than a few minutes, but changed my life forever. Surprisingly, throughout this event, I maintained consciousness of my material body and its surroundings. I was simultaneously aware of my college room with its minute characteristics, but I was also cognizant of this other dimensional realm with its celestial nature. It felt like I was in two places at once with my perception intact in both places.

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons that I took away from that blessed night in college, but the one element that has stayed with me throughout these years is the knowingness that we all originated from a Divine Source. Our spirit would like us to become comfortable with this idea, and accept that, at our core, we are energetic beings having a physical experience in this third-dimensional reality of existence.

The Takeaways:

  • We are divine. Each one of us has a direct connection to God, or Source, regardless of our religious beliefs and backgrounds. If we wish to experience a more harmonious and happy existence, it is our job to remember this connection so that we may choose our actions based on love, kindness, and cooperation with one another.
  • We have a spirit whose wisdom is accessible when we listen to its guidance. Our spirit speaks to us through feelings, inner cues, and synchronicities. Being aware of this divine language can help us to activate the higher dimensionality of ourselves.
  • Our spirit is self-luminous, compassionate, and blissful. We ALL have an expanded aspect of ourselves that is supporting the wholeness of our being, whether we realize it or not. Attuning ourselves to this divine knowledge is what I call Spiritual Intelligence. Implementing its wisdom into our life is what I call everyday spirituality.
  • Each and every person has been born onto this planet for a reason. Your life matters and you are meant to be here during this time and place within Earth’s history. The key to finding your purpose is to finding your passion, i.e. those activities that make you feel alive, imbuing your life with inspiration and enthusiasm.

Why is Spirituality Important?

Most people can agree that there are high levels of stress and anxiety in today’s world. Our lives seem to be moving at a warp speed and there are multiple factors that have contributed to the unfolding of this energetic phenomena. With the advent of TV, social media, and the constant broadcasting of news via the internet and radio, how do we stay in touch with our inner harmony when there is so much noise and chaos around us? This is where spirituality shines its light, offering tools of wisdom for those who wish to experience inner peace, love, and happiness on a more consistent basis.

In my memoir, A Spiritual Journey, I describe methods that you can use to stay aligned to your higher self and innermost core being. I relay these helpful techniques by sharing personal stories about my own spiritual experiences. The ultimate goal is to inspire the reader with hope so that you may navigate your life with greater ease and efficiency.

There are many tools which can soothe the stress and anxiety of everyday living, but the one tool I would like to mention today involves the concept of mindfulness. In my next blog, I will go into more detail about this subject, but here is a high-level overview for now.

The Mindfulness Revolution

In 2014 and 2017, the cover of Time Magazine highlighted the topic of mindfulness, showing just how prevalent this topic of discussion has become throughout mainstream America. But mindfulness has been around for much longer than our current timeframe. In fact, it is one element of the Noble Eightfold Path, a set of Buddhist practices leading to personal enlightenment and liberation from samsara, the cycle of rebirth. Buddhism was founded in approximately 6th century B.C., and here we are, still talking about mindfulness.

So what exactly is all this discussion about?

In the Buddhist tradition, right mindfulness is seen as the practice of becoming aware of the present moment in a non-judgmental manner. It is bringing one’s complete attention on the here and now by observing the experience without forming any opinions about it. From my perspective, this is mindfulness in its purest form: simply being in the present, alert and aware, yet releasing all preconceptions and expectations.

From a spiritual perspective, we are practicing right mindfulness when we are focusing on the qualities of our higher-self versus that of our lower-self. Our higher-self encompasses the values of love, compassion, and kindness while our lower-self embodies the more base emotions of hate, jealousy, and discouragement.

Being mindful is being aware that we are responsible for our actions. We can choose to act with good-heartedness to uplift others, or we can act with indifference in order to benefit our own gain. This responsibility begins with our state of mind.

Just as spirituality is a universal human experience, mindfulness can be practiced by anyone regardless of their faith, religious beliefs, or background.

Closing Thoughts

Spirituality and mindfulness are global experiences that allow us to reconnect to our true essence which is essentially our divinity. By linking to our spirit’s intelligence, we will naturally experience more harmony in our lives because we are opening doorways to our higher selves. The key to unlocking these higher doors of wisdom is to listen to the guidance of our spirit who speaks to us through feelings, hunches, and intuitive insights.

Once we acknowledge the inner cues, the next step is to act upon them. As we saw in the grocery store experience, I paid attention to my gut feeling and this awareness produced a positive outcome. I could have easily ignored the nudge, but instead, I respected the information and followed its advice.

When we are centered, we can hear the wisdom of our spirit through the noise and commotion of our daily lives. This is what it means to be fully aware in the present moment, and mindfulness is a tool that can help us remember our spiritual heritage and stay attuned to our divine nature.

 

Please contact Inspire Your Journey, and we will be glad to assist you!

Susan Kapatoes
C: 508-282-7877
E: susan@inspireyourjourney.com

 

The author, Susan Kapatoes, MHA is the founder and owner of Inspire Your Journey, a holistic wellness company. She is a Wellness Partner with Amare Global, and an Independent Distributor with BEMER Therapy and Healy World.  She lives in Massachusetts.