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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

It has been proven that meditation helps you lose weight, but how?

By regulating our cortisol levels, nourishing a balanced state of consciousness, and promoting a healthy state of mind, meditation is a powerful tool to help you shed those unwanted pounds.

Meditation helps to Regulate Cortisol

Cortisol is an important hormone released by the adrenal glands. It helps to regulate the body’s metabolism, especially when we are under stressful situations. Levels of cortisol rise during tension-filled times which is a natural part of our body’s “fight-or-flight” response to stress. It prepares the body by flooding it with glucose (blood sugar) and inhibiting insulin secretion, thereby preventing the glucose from being stored and making it available for immediate use by the body. After the stressful situation subsides, hormone levels return to normal.

However, when we are experiencing chronic stress, this can lead to chronic excess levels of cortisol which can cause weight gain. High levels of cortisol are known to promote storage of fat within visceral fat cells, those located under the muscle and deep in the abdomen. Chronically high levels of cortisol result in consistently high levels of blood sugar (along with insulin suppression) which leads to cells that are starved of glucose and crying out for energy. This scenario sends hunger signals to the brain which can cause overeating and any unused glucose is eventually stored as fat.

In a 2013 study conducted by the University of California, Davis (Saron et al), researchers found that mindfulness meditation had cut cortisol levels by more than half. Another study conducted in Thailand (Turakitwanakan et al) concurred that mindfulness meditation lowers the cortisol levels in the blood suggesting that it can lower stress and may decrease the risk of diseases that arise from stress such as psychiatric disorder, peptic ulcer and migraine.

Meditation helps to decrease Binge Eating

For many people going through emotional challenges such as depression, loneliness, or boredom, they often turn to food to help appease the emotional emptiness they are feeling inside. Comfort foods such as sweets, cakes, and pastries might make us feel ‘good’ for a couple of hours, but when the sugar crash hits, the desire to eat more sugary foods increases, and the vicious craving cycle begins. Meanwhile, the food has done nothing to truly mitigate the emotional distress that triggered the binge eating in the first place.

This is where meditation comes into play as it helps to soothe the stress and anxiety that is associated with our emotional roller coaster rides. Regular meditation practice increases our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which means that we remain calmer during stressful situations. We can better cope with the demands of our daily life and not get frazzled so easily. We can remain more even keeled during the taxing times, nurturing a balanced state of consciousness throughout the day. When we feel centered and more grounded with our emotions, we make better decisions and are less likely to react with the same binge eating impulse that we did before.

Meditation helps to Combat Food Addiction

The common traits of people with addictive behavior patterns (food, alcohol, drugs, tobacco) include: (1) lack of GABA, (2) beta waves dominate, and (3) dopamine levels rise and crash. The common traits of people who meditate on a regular basis, especially when combined with brainwave entrainment, include: (1) optimal levels of GABA, (2) alpha & theta waves dominate, and (3) dopamine levels increase but remain steady.

When there are optimal levels of GABA and our dopamine levels remain steady, the cravings for sugary food and the tendency to overeat will naturally diminish. Luckily, the science of brainwave entrainment can be used as tool to help steady our levels of GABA and dopamine.

To learn more about brainwave entrainment, please read my blog Using Brainwave Entrainment To Conquer Addiction.

  • Common Traits of People with Addictive Behavior Patterns
  • Lack of GABA
  • Beta Waves dominate
  • Dopamine levels rise and crash
  • Common Traits of People who Meditate on a Consistent Basis
  • Optimal levels of GABA
  • Alpha & Theta Waves dominate
  • Dopamine levels increase but remain steady

GABA: The calm brain chemical; reduces nerve cell excitability throughout the central nervous system.

Beta Waves: Normal waking consciousness.

Dopamine: The euphoria-producing brain chemical.

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. 

References:

Aronson, Dina. “Cortisol – Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy.” Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 11 No. 11 P. 38, Nov. 2009, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml

EOC Institute – Why Mindfulness Meditation Is Such A Powerful Weight Loss Tool (2018). Retrieved from https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/4-ways-meditation-is-the-weight-loss-key-healthy-mind-healthy-body/

Kjaer TW, e. (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. PubMed.  NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11958969

Turakitwanakan W, e. (2013). Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. J Med Assoc Thai. 2013 Jan;96 Suppl 1: S90-5. PubMed. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2372446

Saron, e. (2013). Mindfulness from meditation associated with lower stress hormone. Retrieved from https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/mindfulness-meditation-associated-lower-stress-hormone/

 

 

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC  


What are brainwaves? 

In the early 1900’s, it was discovered that our brain emits pulses of electrical signals that form distinctive patterns called brainwaves. The four primary brainwaves are Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta arranged from fastest to slowest frequency. Brainwave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second).

Each type of brainwave has unique benefits that are associated with specific states of consciousness. Our thoughts, moods, emotions, and biological chemistry are all impacted by our brainwaves which change according to what we’re doing and feeling.

Since most of us spend our days in the Beta state which reflects our normal waking consciousness, I will be focusing on the Alpha, Theta, and Delta frequencies and how we can incorporate the benefits of these brainwaves into our daily lives.

When are these waves present?

When slower brainwaves are overly dominant, we may feel groggy, sluggish, dreamy or tired; when faster brainwaves are overly dominant, we can feel hyper-alert and focused. Multiple brain waves may occur at the same time, but there is typically one brainwave that is dominant at any given time.

  • Alpha (7-13 Hz) – when you are in a relaxed state of mind; fully present in the moment. You are aware of your surroundings with a calm but alert focus.
  • Theta (4-7 Hz) – on the threshold of sleep, upon waking up from sleep, or deep meditation. You are aware of your surroundings in a trance-like focus.
  • Delta (0-4 Hz) – deep sleep, unconscious and subconscious realm.

What is Brainwave Entrainment?

Brainwave entrainment is a method that can be utilized to help you reap the benefits that each type of brainwave has to offer. It is a process of stimulating the brain into a specific state by using a pulsing sound, light, or electromagnetic field. The pulses elicit the brain’s ‘frequency following’ response, encouraging the brainwaves to align to the frequency of the given beat. This is called Brainwave Entrainment. I will be focusing on audio brainwave entrainment which uses sound, i.e. music, to deliver these frequencies.

How does Brainwave Entrainment Music work?

Audio brainwave entrainment works in two ways. The first method is delivering music incorporated with binaural beats. For this type, you need headphones because the left and right ears need to receive two separate frequencies for the brain to perceive the third frequency. Let’s say we feed 400 Hz into one ear and 404 Hz into the other. The brain then perceives a third frequency at the mathematical difference between the two, which is 4 Hertz. The brain then follows along at this frequency and is entrained. This is known as the frequency response process. Binaural beats have a rhythmic and hypnotic sound-like quality, which is well suited for Meditation and Reiki sessions.

The second is isotones. Isochronic tones differ from binaural beats in that they use a single tone, not two. Because they use a single pulsating tone to penetrate the left and right hemispheres of the brain, they do not require headphones. Isochronic tones have a sharp, pulsating sound quality.

How You Can Use Brainwave Music

There are two ways that you can listen to music embedded with specific brainwave frequencies in order to benefit from their qualities: with headphones or without headphones. Which is better?  

  1. With Headphones – In order to obtain the maximum benefit from your sound tones, you need to listen to the brainwave music with headphones as the binaural audio layer of the technology needs stereo headphones in order to work correctly. For those of you who are serious about healing yourselves and have committed to making lasting changes to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, I recommend using this method and contacting me for a free Health Coaching Consultation to find out more information about brainwave entrainment.
  2. Without Headphones – Listening to brainwave entrainment music without headphones still brings you the benefits of relaxation as the ambient background music has a calming effect on your entire nervous system. The isochronic audio layer of the technology does not require headphones and can work with regular open-air speakers. This method can be used by anyone who is curious about brainwave entrainment or as an introduction to the sound quality of the music. It can be used as an ongoing support system for both novices and seasoned clients.    

Overall Benefits

Relaxation – There are benefits that you will consistently feel from all three brainwaves (alpha, theta, delta) which include a soothing calmness and relaxation, leaving you with a feeling of greater inner peace and tranquility. They will help you cope with everyday anxiety more efficiently by helping you to stay more calm during stressful situations. This ability to handle our emotions more intelligently is a reflection of our state of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).  

Whole Brain Synchronization – In addition to increasing our Emotional Intelligence, meditation has been proven to strengthen the link between our two brain hemispheres, according to a NeuroImage study. The right and left hemispheres of our brain communicate via neural pathways which is known as neural plasticity. We have the ability to develop new neural pathways which means we have the ability to change our behavior patterns and develop healthier habits.      

Healthier HabitsResearch from the University College of London shows that it takes approximately two months to form a new habit. This is why practice makes perfect when it comes to changing behaviors, improving your thought process, or integrating a physical task into your daily routine such as exercise.   

This is why it takes commitment and dedication to rewire our brains so that we can make lasting changes to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The good news is that you can form healthy habits and break unhealthy ones once you’ve made up your mind that you will persevere. Over time, the new behavior will start to happen automatically.   

Specific Benefits

In addition to the overall benefits, the Alpha, Theta, and Delta brainwaves offer specific benefits as they have a direct impact upon our state of consciousness and physiology. As a result, there are certain conditions that these brainwave frequencies have the potential to dissolve, eradicate, or lessen:

Alpha Waves (7-13 Hz)

  • Alpha waves are known to help with concentration, studying, and learning. They help to focus the mind by quieting mental chatter. When we are able to maintain a calm focus, we can think more clearly and make better decisions.
  • Alpha waves can help to dissolve phobias and release fears, especially dysfunctional thought patterns that are sabotaging your personal growth and self-confidence.
  • Studies have shown that Alpha waves can help people to release addictive behavior patterns. See more information below on how brainwave entrainment can help to combat addiction.

Theta Waves (4-7 Hz)

  • Theta waves are known to help combat depression and boost inspiration. They allow intuitive insights to flow to the forefront of our consciousness while in this deep state of calmness, giving us access to our own higher wisdom.
  • Theta waves can help to dissolve phobias and release fears, especially dysfunctional thought patterns that are sabotaging your personal growth and self-confidence.
  • Studies have shown that Theta waves can help people to release addictive behavior patterns. See more information below on how brainwave entrainment can help to combat addiction.

Delta Waves (0-4 Hz)

  • Delta waves are known to help with insomnia as they are present during stages of deep sleep. They offer a refreshing sleep, allowing the body and brain to rest and repair.
  • Delta waves can help us feel younger and combat the effects of anti-aging as we release the most Human Growth Hormone (HGH) when Delta waves are present.
  • Delta waves can help us to restore our immune system and make it stronger. These waves offer deep healing to the human body and a sense of renewal.

When To Use these Brainwaves

ALPHA  – Use Alpha brainwaves when you want to study for exams, focus at work, be more present, increase your creativity and problem solving skills, release fears/phobias/addictions.

THETA  – Use Theta brainwaves when you want to feel inspired, combat depression, strengthen your intuition, increase your creativity and problem solving skills, release fears/phobias/addictions.

DELTA – Use Delta brainwaves when you want to sleep better, have more energy, restore your health, feel younger, rejuvenate your immune system.

ADDICTIONS

A 2005 study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (Scott et al) looked at 121 patients going through an inpatient substance abuse program. Alpha & Theta brainwave entrainment technology was used to put the patients’ brainwave patterns into the Alpha & Theta states. After one year, 77% patients were completely drug free.

  • Common Traits of People with Addictions (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, food)
  • Lack of GABA
  • Beta waves dominate
  • Dopamine levels rise & crash
  • Common Traits of People who Meditate (especially with brainwave entrainment music)
  • Optimal Levels of GABA
  • Alpha & Theta waves dominate
  • Dopamine levels increase but remain steady

GABA: The calm brain chemical. Reduces nerve cell excitability throughout the central nervous system.

Beta Waves: Normal waking consciousness.

Dopamine: The euphoria-producing brain chemical.

  

Using Brainwave Entrainment 

Do you suffer from addiction? Are you feeling sluggish due to a lack of motivation? Do you feel tired upon waking from a full night’s sleep? Are you combating bouts of depression? Do you need to study for an exam and have problems concentrating?

Brainwave entrainment technology can help to improve these conditions and more.

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. 

 

References:

EOC Institute – 7 Compelling Reasons Meditation Can Conquer Any Addiction. (2018). Retrieved from https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/7-reasons-meditation-can-naturally-beat-addiction/

EOC Institute – 7 Key Meditation Chemicals: Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA, DHEA, Endorphins. (2018). Retrieved from https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/dhea_gaba_cortisol_hgh_melatonin_serotonin_endorphins/

How long does it take to form a habit?. (2009). University College London. UK Health Behaviour Research Centre. Retrieved from https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0908/09080401   

Luders, E., Phillips, O., Clark, K., Kurth, F., Toga, A., & Narr, K. (2012). Bridging the hemispheres in meditation: Thicker callosal regions and enhanced fractional anisotropy (FA) in long-term practitioners. Neuroimage, 61(1), 181-187. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.02.026

 

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

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

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