Meditation is For Everyone

Zen

I don’t know a single soul that couldn’t use meditation for the betterment of their life. The simple act of sitting still and releasing thoughts as they come. I honestly think this is what our pets are doing most of the time. Eckhart Tolle, a renowned spiritual influencer once said, “I have lived with several zen masters – all of them cats.” and I really do believe it. Animals have a much easier time staying in the present moment than us humans do. Whether it’s because they have no societal pressures, or an understanding of past and present, we can’t negate the fact that these creatures have mastered something so simple yet humans struggle with it all the time.

Here are some tips for anyone looking to find the breezy, blissful meditation your pets have so naturally mastered.

  1. There is no “trying to meditate” there is just being. When we go into mediation with a mindset of accomplishing something and or trying to find inner stillness, we are already setting ourselves up to fail. It isn’t about putting in effort but rather letting the effort go.
  2. You are your breath. The breath is the center of meditation. It’s what we feel. Our nostrils opening up to allow the oxygen to slip down into the depths of our lungs, filling up each pocket with new life force energy, the same stuff that is coursing through our veins, through the trees and the waters surrounding us. It’s the rhythm that grounds us. A good way to be present is to count your breaths through your meditation.
  3. Thoughts are just little clouds. Think of your thoughts like clouds passing by in the sky above you and meditation as you laying on your back on a lush green field looking up at the sun. As you are looking at the sun you notice a cloud approaching. The more you focus on the cloud, the closer it gets to blocking the sun, the light, the present moment. You notice that once you acknowledge the cloud and accept it for what it is, you can let it go. Thoughts are just like clouds. Accepting and letting go of your thoughts is what makes them disappear. The more attention you give them, the more they will linger and block your light. Focus on the sun and let the clouds go.
  4. Start the day this way. Meditation in the morning is an excellent way to start your day. It allows you to clear your mind and tune into your body before facing the world. You will see how your interactions with other people become brighter and more fulfilling after your meditation sessions. It helps you see things in several different perspectives. Meditation can ultimately help you improve relationships, work ethic, and overall attitude about life.
  5. Find your comfort spot. Getting comfortable in your environment is crucial and makes all the difference in your meditation experience. You want to find a spot that is relatively quiet, seclusive and peaceful. The more ideal you can make your environment, the more benefits you’ll receive from your meditation session. You might even want to light a couple of candles or incense, use sage to smudge the room and maybe incorporate some healing crystals in your space. The more personal and quiet your area is, the better you will feel going into the mediation. Make your space your own.
  6. Body Boost. Meditating in the morning is often favored because its a great way to start the day, however, a lot of people choose this time for the fact that their bodies are fresh. Since meditation requires you to have as few distractions as possible, people do a good job of clearing a space for themselves physically but miss the opportunity to prepare their bodies. You may have heard that meditating on a practically empty stomach helps you with your practice because digestion isn’t happening. And it is true! To have a more impactful practice it is recommended to mediate before a meal.  
  7. Just get started. Why wait? Take 5 minutes out of your day to just be by yourself with nothing but your breath. Don’t tell yourself you don’t have the time. Tell yourself how worthwhile it is to refocus and build awareness. Set time out each day to meditate if only for a few minutes. Spend the time to improve your life.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Enjoy your practice. Enjoy yourself and just grow.

If you have any meditation tips leave them in the comment section below! I would love to hear what other people are doing in their practice and how it has improved their lives.

8 Reasons to Go Vegan

Lifestyle

The Animals. It goes first because in actuality, these innocent living beings are put last. In a world where we see hate, violence and unnecessary cruelty, going vegan is the most compassionate way to live. The animals that are being bred and raised in factory farms are only a small group of species humans have decided over decades to domesticate and abuse for nothing more than palate pleasure. Meanwhile, we respect and protect other species we find more valuable and even consider them part of the family. The treatment of cows, chickens and pigs in America would simply never be tolerated if the same treatment were applied to dogs and cats.

 The animals that end up on our plates are not the only ones who die.

It is standard industry practice to kill wildlife predators – coyotes, foxes, deer, bears and many more native species to make room to graze livestock as well as protect profits. A lot of the wildlife end up suffering and dying before they are targeted by the meat industry due to habitat destruction. With the meat industry being a huge contributor to deforestation, water pollution, air pollution, climate change and drought, it wrecks the lives of innocent animals and the entire ecosystem.

Health. The #1 killer in the U.S.A is Heart Disease according to the World Health Organization. This is a disease caused by high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity, diabetes and especially poor diet. It is understood that heart disease is the narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup. But where exactly does this plaque come from?  Foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as meat, dairy and eggs causes cholesterol to build up in the blood stream and replacing those foods with plant based alternatives actually reverses those effects.(animal products are the only source of dietary cholesterol.) Our bodies naturally produce cholesterol leaving humans no need to consume it. By incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes into your diet and avoiding animal products, you are significantly lowering your chances of getting heart disease.

By avoiding animal products you are also decreasing your risk of developing various cancers. Since animal protein has a higher proportion of essential amino acids, it causes our bodies to produce higher levels of insulin-like growth factor-1. This hormone is responsible for cell-division and growth in both cancerous and non-cancerous cells which is why people with higher levels of IGF-1 are more prone to have cancer and other diseases. A study published in 2014 confirms that high protein intake is linked to increased cancer, diabetes, and overall mortality.

Besides a plant based diet helping to prevent diseases, it is also the way to eat if you are facing health problems present day. An incredible story about a man who beat cancer with raw foods instead of chemo-therapy is a success story many would never think possible yet the power of raw foods proves otherwise.

Climate Change. One of the biggest contributors to climate change is animal agriculture. A study conducted by environmental specialists at the World Bank concluded that livestock production is responsible for 51% of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Meaning the production of meat and animal products is heating the planet more than the entire transportation sector combined. Choosing to abstain from eating animal products is the biggest most impactful choice we can make in the fight to reverse climate change before it is too late. The study accounted for the overlooked emissions that come with raising animals for food such as respiration, land use, and under counted methane.

Leaving animal products off of your plate is arguably the only way to save the planet.

Water. One single hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce. This is because meat production requires gallons and gallons of water to operate the facilities and feed the animals. When we walk down the isles of our grocery store and see the final product, it is easy to forget the water it took to grow the food, the fuel it took to ship the food to the farm, the water the animal actually drinks and the waste that comes from raising that animal which ends up contaminating water and causing dead zones(large bodies of water that do not have oxygen to support marine life). Producing meat is a complete waste of resources for what yields only a small amount of food. Imagine the number of other ways  we could allocate the 80%-90% of US water consumption used to operate factory farms.

Deforestation. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon Destruction. How could so much destruction occur at the hands of man and more importantly why? Well in order to supply people with the ever growing demand for animal products, the space needed for the industry must grow too. I know it may seem like our earth is ginormous but the human population is growing at such a rate that our poor little planet cannot support our meat eating habits. Since the industry prefers to keep making money by chopping down our precious amazon, we are losing an immense amount of trees(our biggest natural carbon sink) as well as all of the wildlife that inhabits those trees are now on the endangered species list or have gone extinct.

The good news? You can save the trees by eating plants and leaving animal products off of your plate!

Social Justice. All oppression is connected. When we allow the belief that living beings should be abused, killed and commodified, we are sending the message that there is a line to be drawn between different lives who all feel pain and desire to live. That some can live and others should die and of course it’s easiest to do with the non-human animals who cannot speak our language. It makes it a lot easier to kill something when it can’t tell you “Hey! Please don’t slit my throat and boil me until my hair burns off! I actually would like to live and be a mother to my babies that I only have because humans impregnated me for their own purposes.” Meat eating stems from the core belief that humans are superior and non-human animals are inferior and it is this exact mentality that has fueled the genocides of our history. It’s the belief people had about one race or country that caused the deadliest wars and most human suffering.

There is a beautiful intersection that happens when one goes vegan. It’s the connection of all things living and an appreciation and respect for all life. We wouldn’t be here without the bees who pollinate our food, or the trees that supply our oxygen, so how could anyone ever create a superior species when we all depend on each other to survive?

World Hunger. We have the food required to feed every person on this planet sufficiently. We are simply choosing to feed it to farm animals. In countries with the most starvation, people are growing plant based crops and sending them to affluent nations like the U.S. to feed to livestock. We lose an exponential amount of caloric potential and smaller yield through meat production. In other words, by growing the plants and feeding them to a cow for almost a year, we are left with a very small amount of food. If we took the cow out of the equation and fed people the grains instead of the cow, we would be able to feed a lottttt more people. In a study conducted in 2013, scientists reached the conclusion that if all food crops were fed directly to humans instead of animals, around 70% more food would be added to the world’s supply, which would be enough to feed 4 billion additional people.

Another reason to go vegan!

Save Money. Plants are the cheapest food source in every grocery store as long as you are buying whole foods like rice, beans, tomatoes, etc. While it is true that some vegan products such as mock meat and vegan cheese do cost a bit more being that they are a luxury food, you don’t have to buy them! Most vegans will spend a bit on substitute products in the beginning and then eventually stop buying them altogether, ultimately saving them money. Not to mention all of the money you will be saving from potential future medical expenses that come with a poor diet!

Well, there you have it. 8 reasons to go vegan! 

 

5 Self-Love Rituals for City Dwellers

Self-Love

When I tell people I live in New York City, I usually get a wide-eyed, charismatic “oh! that’s awesome. I would love to be in such an upbeat, diverse and creative environment like New York!” To which I respond, “haha yeah… I’m in a great city.”

Don’t get me wrong, New York City is a place of pure magic. Nonetheless, it is a chaotic, toxic, overly stimulating, hard-to-pick-and-choose-my-battles-on-the-subway kind of place. I admire the marvel of it all. Walking the streets with my de-stress herbal tea in one hand and metro-card in the other (Tea is a must for this environment!) The day begins a little something like this:

I speed through the station to get to work early this time. There are people all around me doing things – A businessman on his tablet, a baby crying (probably cause of the lack of fresh air and the sound of screeching rail wheels) a woman putting on her mascara as she waits to fill her metro-card. But mostly, these people are getting in my way. I know it’s not their fault but the city makes you believe each and everyone of these people conspired to make you late to work a second time this week. As I approach my platform, I am met with a border of bodies blocking every entrance to the train. Greaaaaat. And am I really sweating already? You quickly check the time to see if there is any possible way of making it but that hope is soon gone. You chug your tea and hope the next train really does get there in 6 minutes.

These 6 minutes seem like a lifetime, but in fact are a grace period for you. An opening for your mind and body to recalibrate, refocus.

Waking up to the sound of never ending construction and urine scented commutes, I knew it was necessary to make my world a little more pleasant with 5 self-love rituals.

Read and Write. Two beautiful creative outlets. We love to write, get our ideas on paper, feel connected to others who can relate to our situations. (um, yes this is what I am doing right now by writing this on living in NYC and how it gets overwhelming at times and how we can help ourselves realign with self-love. Heck, if I happened to stumble upon this blog while waiting 6 minutes for my subway I would probably think one of these conspiring subway people hacked my phone.)

Carry a journal and a book you like with you at all times. Write down your thoughts and experiences so that 1) You will remember them and 2) So you can see how much you have learned and grown. A book is never a bad idea. You can read it while you wait and hey, you might even spark conversation with someone around you who has already read it! Reading and writing are the two self-love rituals I use the most and I think other people do too. The only difference is that I consider these two things a form of self-love while others may just think of them as reading and writing. (Self-Love Tip: When you tell yourself you are doing things because you love yourself, you are reminding your mind and body that you are worth the time and effort. You are worth the learning and expressing.)

Get a Journal. Find a good book.

Music. Gives you all of the feels. I wonder if anyone else has sat down after a long day, felt this weird absence in their body and quickly realized how they hadn’t listened to music much at all that day. It might just be me, but I have played this game before where I trace back the really good days and think about what went differently and it comes up time and time again that music makes a difference. It has been the biggest determinant in my mood, mindset and outlook. For this reason, it has made it to my self-love ritual list. Everyone should have a wicked playlist to tune into anytime they’re feeling like they need a little love.

Love yourself. Make a playlist, or many!

Since this is a list of self-love rituals for city dwellers, I wanted to make sure the first two rituals could be done anywhere. A train, on the sidewalk, at a park. The beauty of reading, writing and music is that they can be easily accessed by anyone at anytime. I also believe that self-love rituals can be more profound when in the comfort of your own home, so the next three will require you to be there.

Soul Food. When most people think of soul food, they can almost smell the image that comes to mind. Mac & Cheese, Mashed potatoes, the stuff that feels good in your belly. Well… the kind of soul food I’m talking about is a little different. It feeds more than your appetite for fatty, greasy, delicious plates of homemade dishes. It is the nourishment of the mind, body and soul that come from simple, whole and organic foods.

Self-love begins with what you are made of, and if what you are made of is heavy toxic foods, then you are going to feel heavy and toxic. On the other hand, if what you are eating is coming from the soil and nurtured by the sun, you are going to feel that difference in your body. If our body is being taken care of, then our thoughts are going to be a lot clearer. My definition of soul food consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and purified water. The self-love moves into the kitchen when we keep high energy food around and then moves into the body when we prepare and eat our food.

Preparation is just as important as ingestion. Take your time with your nourishment and growth. When we look at our lives in a span of a lifetime, we can see that each meal we have ever consumed has quite literally, become us. With this understanding, we can see that how we prepare and ingest our food makes a difference.

Try to buy organic local foods, rinse food with purified water, try to use as little heat as possible to conserve nutrients(heat kills vitamins) cook with family, make your food look as appealing as it is nutritious(make art with your smoothie bowls) think about the resources it took for your food to be on your plate(the sun, water, farmer, love) All of these elements bonded together to make you grow. Be thankful and share the meal.

 Share a wholesome meal with those you love.

Herbs. Wow. Our planet is seriously something special. Of course we all know there are tons of wildlife in the forms of animals, plants, fungi and a whole lot more I don’t exactly know about. But damn, we have it all. This mystical world actually has plants that help us heal in many different ways. Herbs are under acknowledged in my opinion. I believe a lot of us use these plants without even knowing we do. In our food, medicines, beauty products, and so much more.

I believe that by not just simply using these plants in our daily lives, but actually forming a connection with each type and understanding it’s power we can build a lot of self-love. This is one of my favorite self-love rituals for the simple fact that it includes the natural world. The power of self-love multiplies when you let the power of our feminine earth connect with our being.(I may be losing you to all the hippy talk but I felt that writing in this way was most authentic and revealing of this ritual.)

Chamomile for relaxation, Lavender for restful sleep, Rose Hips for glowing skin, Passionflower for anxiety relief. The list goes on. Now tell me, would being relaxed, getting good sleep, and having glowing skin not be a beautiful case of extreme self-love? You can use them for tea, run a bath with them or both. Vital for living in the city and a great way for outdoorsy people to bring the plants back home.

Herbs are a gift to us from the earth. Use them.

Unplug. Is this the 3rd or 4th article you’re reading on the web? Have your eyes been glued to your screen for quite sometime now? I can feel the guilt from over here. Don’t feel guilty. Just do something about it. Turn off the screen. Be by yourself.

The city can be stimulating and hectic by nature and now we have technology that allows us to be on several different social platforms that pretty much do the same thing but only exist because it’s another place for marketers to place fat ads in your face that won’t go away unless you find the little ‘x’ on the bottom left of the screen. It’s just this constant stimulation that we often times get so wrapped up in we let our days slip away, as well as our minds.

This self-love ritual is one I take kinda seriously. A lot of people might not like to agree with me that we are addicted to our phones, computers and TVs. The kicker is we believe these gadgets are keeping us happy and in the loop, when in reality… its not reality.

Go for a run, meditate, hike, talk to a stranger(in the right setting), walk your dog, practice any of the above rituals to get you back into your mind and body.

That’s the extraordinary thing about being in a city, you have every reason to unplug.

There are plenty more self-love rituals out there and I’m sure you can create your own personalized rituals that adapt to your life and needs. I hope this has been helpful to you and if you know someone who could use these rituals, well, spread the love!