Author Archives: Peter Catizone

As the believer believes

My friend Henry Caruso always took the mayonnaise labels off his jars. When people came over for lunch he delighted his friends by telling them he had their favorite mayonnaise.

In Hinduism there are 3 parts of the basic levels of consciousness — Earth, Astral, Causal — the Causal being pure thought and final stage of development before re-uniting with the heart of God.

There will be a celebration for the souls completing the final stages of development.

God will then relabel his image as the believer believes.

If the believer is Christian, God will relabel as Jesus; if the believer is Jewish, God will relabel as Moses; if the believer is Hindu, God will relabel as Krishna; and so on. 

Out of love, both God and Henry relabeled their jars to not shock the believer’s belief.

One is essential to the other

Power in transition is relevant to the goal, one being essential to the other. 

Becoming Vegan was more important then being a Vegan because it gave me the opportunity to become something else (which is why I’m no longer Vegan!).

Tibetan Buddhist monks may be incorrect in their thinking that only the transition/ journey is important and not the goal. Because one is essential to the other, and wouldn’t exist without the other. They are blatantly disregarding the goal in order to prove a point of being in the moment.

Autobiography of an Italian Yogi

September Little Italy, the historic North End of Boston: I was born. My mother, narcissistic mean cruel and abusive, was perfect for me.

The streets were violent — perfect!

I’ll explain …

I was 7 and too young to leave — could I breathe in a particular way to change my feelings, thoughts and how I felt?  I made up different breathing ways, rhythms and techniques to no avail.

At the age of 12 years, I would sit in the family attic for 8 hours at a time watching the Sun move through the room, thinking, I didn’t want my happiness to be derived from who I thought I was or should be. Happiness shouldn‘t be attached to an idea or concept.

If it wasn’t for my violent  mother I wouldn‘t be working on the parallelisms of Hinduism, Christianity, and Metaphysics. The origins of thought, motion, creation …

If I had a happy soccer mom, it may not happen.

When Buddha realized Buddhism it was because he left the safeness of the family compound into the world of misery.

If Buddha had a happy soccer mom we would only have soccer.

Horseback in Oregon

Being from the North End of Boston, I didn’t know vegetables came from the ground, I thought they came from Rosario’s Fruits and Vegetables on Parmenter St.

As I was cutting down trees, I needed to find a way to transport them to the building site.

Around the same time I befriended a blacksmith in Merlin, Oregon who gave me a logging fitting for a horse using a single yoke.

Never having ridden before I decided to buy a horse that was 300 pounds overweight. She was a 9.5 year old mare that hadn’t allowed anyone to ride her in years.

She ate 24/7. I was not surprised. I knew Italians from my old neighborhood who did the same.

Not having a saddle I learned to ride her bareback. We became one, controlling her with my hand on bridle and mane.

She would constantly buck in an effort to throw me, upward, rear, jumping cliffs, downing mountains, with lightning speeds abruptly turning 90º.

She’s large. I needed a rock or stump to mount her. She figured it out and would stop 5’ from anything I could step on.

Quickly I learned, dive over her back, then rotate facing forward.

She and I would ride into the mountains early mornings, visiting old gold and copper mine shafts where would gaze on tools left by miners of the past.

The higher we climbed the more piercing the silence.

Meditation and sleep

You’ve all counted the minutes that seemingly crawl by when you’re trying to sleep. Sleep is usually in short supply as our lives collectively get busier. Our minds tend to dwell on the pressures and stresses of the earlier day, or the next day. Also, infuriatingly, our minds have an unwelcome tendency to make sleep more elusive when we’re exhausted. It’s not an uncommon saying to hear around the office: “I need a nap”.

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue, leading to weight gain, depression and a host of other issues. So, how do we get more sleep? Short of rebalancing your entire day, life and work schedule, you can also improve the quality of your sleep. Indeed, there is a positive correlation between meditation and sleep. Research shows it. Recently a study in the JAMA Internal Medicine publication further backed up this claim.

The study, which tested the sleep patterns of 49 participants, studied the effects of mindfulness meditation on older adults with sleep disturbances. The study itself focused on adults over the age of 55. One group studied and practiced mindfulness, nothing more. The second group utilized professional sleep techniques — such as avoiding distractions such as television. Participants reported their sleep behaviors and patterns over the course of a full year.

The results aren’t surprising to us — it tells us what many of us already know: meditation leads to a more focused, calm state that helps with sleep. The group that practiced mindfulness reported better sleep, especially considering the less interrupted sleep patterns experienced by the participants. Meditation can calm your brain’s arousal state, helping you get to sleep and stay asleep.

Researchers say that these finding can apply to everyone that brings meditation into their lives, especially those with a fast paced lifestyle, stressful job, or those that have anxiety that disturbs their sleep.

Top meditation retreats (in no particular order)

Sometimes, you just have to get away. Or, if you’re like me, you want to combine two things you love: in this case, travel and meditation. The world is a big place, and some locales have built and host some truly unforgettable destinations that are also focused on or very meditation-friendly. I’ve not been lucky enough to visit all meditation retreats on the list, but I’d like to tell you all about a few of the most memorable ones:

Spirit Rock Insight Meditation Center

Spirit Rock Meditation Center focuses on Insight Meditation, which encourages meditation participants to follow Buddha’s path of liberation. Instructors and staff focuses on wisdom and compassion for the betterment of the world. Retreats are available in day long stays and longer, but also feature events and classes in the Practice in Generosity. Spirit Rock also hosts a full calendar of events to pique your interest.

Tushita Meditation Centre – Dharamshala, India

Tushita Meditation Centre, in Northern India, is a truly unforgettable pilgrimage. Dharamshala is located in the seat in exile of His Holiness the 14 Dalai Lama. Tushita is dedicated to the teachings and knowledge with meditation as in integral component of the Dalai Lama’s wisdom. Tushita also hosts a wide amount of classes and retreats, from one day, all the way to three or more months. There are also many holy objectshoused at Tushita, helping to inspire you to your path of enlightenment.

Kripalu Meditation Center – Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Kripalu in Massachusetts boasts the most varied options for following enlightenment through meditation. It sets the mood on their expansive grounds to pave the way for an enjoyable experience. Kripalu has a heavy focus on Yoga, and offers many classes on how to incorporate Yoga teachings into a meditation-enhanced lifestyle. However, there are many other classes and events on their calendar, ranging from Mindfulness to Psychology.

Top meditation apps

In today’s high tech world, there’s a bit of technology for everyone. Meditation is no different. Many of us rely on our phones and tablets for many aspects of our lives, and there are some great apps for aiding in meditation. In this blog post, we examine some of the more popular meditation apps on the iTunes app store. Keep in mind, these are just a few of the apps available, and they are in no particular order, just a few that are popular right now.

Simply Being
This app features simplicity, which is the basis of all meditation, isn’t it? Users have the option to use guided meditation, and have the option to have music, or silence. Nature sounds are also included. Guided meditation is offered in 5 to 30 minute sessions. $1.99, iTunes, Google Play

The Headspace app delivers mindfulness and meditation in a tutorial form. It promises to teach meditation in 10 minutes a day, which sounds appealing to newcomers or busy individuals. Headspace offers numerous meditation sessions, both guided and unguided, and up to 60 minute sessions. The app is free, however users have the option to buy further sessions. iTunes store, Google Play

An entry for Android platform, this app is available on Google Play. Calm promises to help you meditate, sleep and relax, taken from their byline. What they do offer is many guided and unguided meditation sessions, music to help you meditate, and nature sounds. Free, Google Play

Music to help you meditate
With the onset of streaming and browser based music services, there are many alternatives that can be free for users. Pandora and Spotify are two choices that users can use to incorporate relaxing music and/or sounds to aid in their meditation. If you use any of these apps or services, let us know in the comments section!

Use mindfulness when arguing!

We’ve all had many, many experiences where we are forced to argue.  From disagreements at home, with your spouse, with a friend, at work, almost anywhere, at any moment, someone can strike up an argument with you for myriad reasons. However, arguing isn’t usually a good thing.  Only a select few actually feel at home arguing: some attorneys, professional negotiators, and the like. Well, for the rest of us, it can really lead to harmful side effects in the form of stressors. Luckily, mindfulness can help us deal with these argumentative people and situations.

Use mindfulness to figure out what you’re arguing about

One of the principal tenets of mindfulness is to always be present in any situation. Too often in an argument or confrontational situation, high stress levels are due to both parties fearing any kind of escalation. The threat of the unknown is the thing that causes anxiety. This anxiety comes out in stress. The stress escalates the argument, and that produces more stress. This whole situation escalates and becomes out of control very quickly.

Use mindfulness to bring the tension level back down

Mindfulness reminds people that they are to focus on the situation at hand. Furthermore, “mindful listening” uses mindfulness in conjunction with communications skills to accurately decode another’s speech and nonverbal communication. Many conflicts or disagreements can be solved when both parties understand each other. Mindfulness, as well as mindful listening, can help achieve that understanding.

How to use mindfulness to understand each other

Mindfulness, with its focus on being present in a situation, enables you to truly listen to what the other party is saying, rather than thinking about how you’re going to respond, before the other party even says it! It helps you listen in a mindful way so you can understand and more importantly sympathize with the other party. The important thing is that this only works best if BOTH parties are willing to listen mindfully. So, next time you’re in an argument, think back to your mindfulness training, and truly try to understand the other party.  You’ll be surprised at how fast you can reach an agreement!

Mindfulness and antidepressants

In the past, we’ve discussed how mindfulness and meditation can have a positive effect on pain, anxiety and depression, three afflictions that are currently treated with medication, namely antidepressants. It’s great news that there is recent mounting evidence that mindfulness and meditation can help treat these afflictions.

Mindfulness and antidepressants — two sides to the coin

Although practitioners of meditation and mindfulness have believed in the benefits of their practice for millennia, the holistic approach to this form of treatment has been met with scrutiny. As with any form of medical treatment for serious problems and illnesses, the medical community, as well as the population at large, needs “proof” by way of medical support of any particular remedy. In a recent study published in renowned medical journal The Lancet, there is mounting evidence in the medical community that points to meditation and mindfulness being an alternative to antidepressants.

UK study links mindfulness and antidepressants

The study, conducted by University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, looked at 212 adults suffering from depression and taking antidepressants. The study also followed this group for up to two years, to monitor relapses. In this case a “relapse” is defined by a depressive episode after treatment. Out of this group of adults, 44% of the group that practiced mindfulness relapsed, as opposed to the slightly more 47% of those taking an antidepressant prescription. Although the numbers are too similar to deem a clear advantage to either treatment, it is a giant leap for meditation as an accepted treatment.

“Whilst this study doesn’t show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works any better than maintenance antidepressant medication in reducing the rate of relapse in depression, we believe these results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions.” – Professor Kyuken, lead author of the study.

Meditation for kids

In a recent article I was reading from Outsideonline, they were discussing the case for teaching meditation for kids in schools. Being a strong proponent for meditation and mindfulness in everyone, I of course had my interest piqued. It’s not something we’ve covered before, and children are not always the focus of meditation studies, but it’s nonetheless a great issue to discuss. Here’s why:

Kids are stressed out, too.

It’s no secret that we have, as a whole, too many stressors in life. Appointments, jobs, deadlines, etc, ensure that almost no one is immune to stress (in fact, according to the American Psychological Association, more than half of Americans state our lives are getting more stressful). Our children are hardwired to emulate us, to look up to us – so it’s also not surprising that many children are also subject to the same stressors that we see on a daily basis. It’s important to teach ways of dealing with stress that are healthy at a young age, so these coping techniques can be used early and be brought into adulthood.

Mindfulness can especially help children with certain issues where they lack focus. By teaching kids how to be present in the moment and focus on the here and now, kids may be able to naturally control impulsivity and pay closer attention to their tasks at hand. Increased patience in children is another benefit. These benefits of mindfulness, focus and attention, have shown to lead to an increase in cognitive testing in adults, but children have yet to be studied.

That brings up the biggest point, as well as the most contested one, too: should we be teaching meditation to kids? There is already a outspoken contingent that has so far kept it out of our curriculum, and its largely attributed to being misunderstood. However, as mindfulness and meditation’s benefits become more and more developed and known, I expect that our kids will come to adopt these practices in their curriculum.

Meditation and depression

There may be new findings linking the effects of meditation and depression. A recent study shows that mindfulness meditation can alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain. The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University, showed researchers that stronger studies must be conducted to show exactly how much mindfulness, concentration and transcendental meditation have on depression, anxiety and pain. However, the research is clear: meditation has a profound and substantial effect on depression, especially when compared to the effect that antidepressants have. More studies need to be done on this specific comparison, but so far, the results are promising.

Meditation as an alternative to antidepressants

Some sufferers of anxiety or depression know how crushing that affliction can be. However, even looking at how severe anxiety or depression can be, there are many sufferers that are unwilling or unable to choose antidepressant medication as a viable remedy to treat their affliction. Furthermore, there can be a resistance from certain sufferers against medication because there is a sentiment that antidepressants are often over prescribed. This is why alternate means of dealing with anxiety and depression is a much sought-after solution to this problem, which may affect more than 1 in 10 adults. With the main goal of mindfulness being acceptance of yourself, your station in life and your presence, it can train your brain to help anxiety and depression as much as medication, for certain sufferers.

Although more research needs to be done, there are many positive indicators that show this is promising news for sufferers of anxiety and depression. This is a remedy that has been practiced for millennia, and already has many other proven benefits. If you suffer from any of these illnesses, what do you use to cope? Do you use meditation?  Maybe you’ll give it a chance?

Save your brain with meditation

A recent study by the University of California Los Angeles Brain Mapping Center proposed that long term meditation may have some important positive effects on the brain: over the course of 20 years, participants who practiced meditation had higher brain volumes than those who didn’t meditate. This is strong evidence that you can help preserve your brain with meditation.

Brain volume and age

A loss of brain volume as you age is tied to certain age-related brain maladies, and the typical aging of the brain. Since a loss of brain volume may be a key indicator of aging, researchers say that more brain volume loss can signify an early or premature aging of the brain.  On the flip side, a larger brain volume, or a smaller decrease in brain volume than the norm can mean the brain is “younger” that it actually is – some may say, sharper.

Exercise your brain with meditation

However, researchers liken the improved brain volume, and proposed function, to keeping a muscle in shape by exercising it.  The interesting thing is that the study simply asked if those that practiced meditation did just that — practiced meditation. There was no specialization into nondirective or meditative methods, mindfulness, how long each session was, or how often the participant meditated. This could mean that meditating – any meditating — could be beneficial for your brain.

As we all know, meditation is an important aspect of our daily lives. Whether we practice daily, weekly or monthly, we’re very familiar with the many benefits of meditation: focus, mental and emotional clarity, a way to deal with the stress of daily life, and many more. Now, there’s one more added bonus of keeping your brain sharper as you age. The list of benefits keeps on growing!

Meditation for busy people

When you think about meditation, you think about sitting serenely for a period of time in a quiet place, listening to music or the sound of your breath. However, setting aside that period of time to devote solely to meditation doesn’t work with some schedules. As a parent, I know this as much as anyone. So, is there a way to practice meditation for busy people?

If you are one of these people always trying to make more time and organize your calendar, this article is for you. Meditation is most effective, especially for beginners, in the traditional setting. However, with practice, there are many alternatives to where, when and how you meditate so you can practice meditation while doing other tasks you enjoy or would otherwise be committed to. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few of those alternatives:

Meditating during yoga is a popular alternative. Yoga is very conducive to meditation, as you are focused yet calm and serene.

Many long distance runners, myself included, can achieve a state of helpful meditation while running. Focusing on the rhythmic beat of your footsteps or your breathing is especially helpful for reaching your meditation focus.

Those who enjoy the outdoors tend to prefer meditation while hunting, fishing or hiking. Being surrounded by nature is an excellent setting for a calming and serene meditation session.

Those whom are more musically-minded may find that soothing music of their choice can be a focus of a meditation session. However, the caveat is that music can’t be the focus of your attention, but the vehicle to enter a meditative state.

This very short list is only the beginning of suggestions. We can all find our activity or state of being that’s contributing to a mind state that promotes relaxation and serenity.

If you’re a busy person that doesn’t meditate the traditional way, in a seated position, (possibly using an Omni Meditation Bench) what do you do? What’s your secret for meditation for busy people?

Game of Thrones star advocates mindfulness

Game of Thrones star Jerome Flynn recently visited students studying mindfulness in the United Kingdom. A longtime practitioner of mindfulness, Flynn dropped by the GCSE students at Ygsol Dewi Sant. The students are currently undergoing an eight week course to help mitigate the stress that exams can bring. The school is located in the UK, as mindfulness has been recognized as an effective treatment for depression for more than a decade. Mindfulness, as with elsewhere in the world, is currently gaining traction as good practice to maintain a healthy mind.

Students taking the course have reported that mindfulness has allowed students to concentrate and focus better on their exams and the prerequisite studying, therefore reducing stress levels. What’s more, preliminary evaluations of exam results indicate that this year’s students that are taking the course are scoring better on exams than last year’s students, who did not practice mindfulness.

Jerome Flynn spoke to the students to reinforce the positive results they have already been seeing. “I remember leaving school as a young person and I had a sense of walking into the world unprepared. Mindfulness changed my life,” said Flynn.

Mindfulness is related to traditional meditation, but it differs in a number of ways. Mindfulness is the clinical term adopted in the medical community and psychology field. It focuses on living consciously and being in control of our thoughts and actions. The practice of mindfulness is gaining traction in the business world as well as all aspects of our modern society as it becomes more stressful and people constantly look for ways to keep focus on daily tasks. By practicing mindfulness, participants are able to refocus and gain a more relaxed perspective on daily stressors of life.

Do you use mindfulness in daily life? Has it helped you to focus and concentrate on the tasks at hand? 

Music and meditation

Music is arguably one of man’s greatest inventions. It can invoke many emotions and stimulate many different kinds of moods. When you think about a serene atmosphere, is there music playing? It’s very common in places such as yoga studios intended to calm one’s mind. However, in certain types of meditation, should music be part of your practice, or does it interrupt your concentration?

Meditation versus relaxation

Meditation and relaxation may look the same on the surface, but they have very different goals. However, when one thinks of music playing in the background of a meditation session, that’s usually because its being confused with relaxation. The exception to that is if the meditator is practicing nondirective meditation, a subtype of meditation where the participant uses soothing sounds or music to help them meditate. However, another type of meditation, concentrative meditation, strictly forbids this, and the meditator only uses the sounds of his or her own breath to enter a meditative state.

Indeed, there are many sides to listening to music while meditating. Be warned, many experienced in the practice will tell you that music, by nature, produces emotion, dampening the effect of meditation by taking away from your concentration.

As opposed to music, one may try an assortment of relaxing but ambient sounds: a running brook, a forest or myriad other ambient sounds that can soothe and deepen meditation.

When was the last time you truly experienced silence? In this day and age, we have sounds all around us – at this moment, I can hear my dishwasher, dryer, neighbor kids playing and a dog barking. All of these sounds are drowned out as I type, but could distract from a successful meditation. Since the point of meditating is to concentrate on one’s self to reach a deeper relaxation and focus, I, for one, prefer to get away from the constant noise pollution that assaults me constantly.

Why Omni meditation benches are better!

We have written a lot about different ways one can meditate, the benefits and advantages one can find by meditating, and many related topics. But there’s one question that we’d like to bring up to answer a lot of questions that we get from our customers: What makes an Omni Meditation Bench better than the rest? We’re here to answer that today in the blog below.

Our meditation benches will fit you better

The purpose of a meditation bench is to primarily give you a comfortable, stable tool to facilitate your meditation. When you’re comfortable, it’s easier for you to transcend into a deeper level of meditation. That being said, many other meditation benches only offer one size, and if you’re anything like me, “one size fits all” usually means “it’s not really going to fit you”. We’re all different shapes and sizes! However, the Omni Meditation bench has two sizes to choose from, so it’s easier to find the one that’s right for you. We pride ourselves on how it will fit you. Try one out and see for yourself –— we offer a 30 day money-back guarantee, so you don’t have to take a risk — if it doesn’t fit, return it for a size that fits you better! Also, upon request, we make custom sizes — that’s something our competitors won’t do.

Our meditation benches are built better

We use hand-selected cherry wood to make our meditation benches to ensure a beautiful, yet strong and light bench for strength and portability. What’s more, after countless hours and trial and error, we have come up with a patented torque hinge that can stand up to many stresses — which is usually one of the weak points in our competitors’ benches. And, only Omni Meditation benches feature the rounded leg design for comfort. This design ensures your spine will be perfectly aligned for comfort and stability when you’re meditating.

Our meditation benches look better

We finish each meditation bench using hand-rubbed Italian lacquer to bring out the natural beauty of the cherry wood. And with brass-plated hinges, the Omni Meditation bench is not only comfortable and strong, but aesthetically beautiful as well.

Nondirective meditation and memory

In case you missed it, a recent study published in the neuroscience journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience links meditation to an increased function of the brain’s ability to process emotions and memories.
The meditation studied is classified as nondirective meditation. This differs from other traditional types of meditation, in this study called concentrative meditation. For those who don’t know, let’s define each:

Nondirective meditation

Nondirective meditation is classified as meditation where the participant uses sounds, such as a peaceful rainfall or even the sound of their own breathing to achieve a meditative state. The mind is then free to explore.

Concentrative meditation

Concentrative meditation, on the other hand, is meditation that is intended to suppress all other thoughts EXCEPT for exactly what’s being focused on – i.e., the soothing sound or breaths of the participant. It’s no surprise that nondirective meditation leads to increased brain activity during meditation. When only levels of brain activity were evaluated, there isn’t much difference between concentrative meditation and simply resting your mind. This is nothing to say about the benefits of either type of meditation, as both have their merits and benefits to all those who meditate, regardless of their style.

As part of the study, 14 participants were evaluated using MRI scans during both nondirective and concentrative meditation sessions. During the nondirective sessions, researchers found an increased level of activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain – you guessed it, the part of the brain that processes emotions and memories.

So, what does this activity mean? The activity when resting suggests that it is more efficient in performing the tasks that do not necessarily require our attention.

Regardless of your preferred method or purpose for meditating, Catizone Omni Meditation benches are there to make your meditation sessions as comfortable as possible. Please visit our products page for your handmade meditation bench for more information.

It’s been a pursuit among countless philosophers, scholars, authors, leaders and the common man, probably since man has been able to recognize emotions. How to find happiness seems to be the key to everything in life. We disguise our pursuit of happiness sometimes with material goods, false goals or other things we think makes us happy.

But what really helps? Lately there have been books and movies, and even a top 40 song that tries to explain and spread happiness. But in our simple and humble blog, we’d like to spread just a few pointers that we’ve learned so you can live happily, too.

Surround yourself with positivity. Look at your social circle, either in your personal life or at work: do you surround yourself with people that are uplifting, or are you friends with people that are cynical? If it’s the latter, make a change. One of the best ways to have an instant happiness pick-me-up is to surround yourself with positivity. Positive friends will also serve as a support group that can help you find happiness as well.

Look at the bright side of things. There are ALWAYS two sides to look at an issue. It can be something as simple as changing your thoughts from “I got a speeding ticket today” to “I’m really happy that I was reminded not to speed, that habit could have put me in danger one day.” It might be tough to do at first, but always be looking for the upside of things.

Strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger. A pleasant conversation always brightens someone’s day. In today’s world of using electronic mediums to communicate, people appreciate human contact. Be that contact.

Meditate. Of course we’re going to suggest this! Meditation can help you lower stress and anxiety, two huge roadblocks in the road to find happiness. Meditation can also keep your life in focus, and regain perspective.
Realize that nothing is forever. Remember, if you’re having a bad day, week, or month, then you’re JUST having a bad day, week, or month. Every minute that you’re not happy is one minute closer until when you will find happiness again.

Of course, this just scratches the surface, but remember to grow and expand within this list. Soon, you’ll be able to appreciate a happier, more fulfilling life.

Meditation versus mindfulness

In our last post, we detailed how mindfulness at work can help you lower stress and improve your health. However, we’ve received a few emails asking for an explanation between mindfulness and our other passion, meditation. You’re used to seeing us discuss meditation on this blog, and there are some similarities especially with the end goal in mind.

Mindfulness is living consciously – that is, we are in control of our decisions. Decisions are not motivated by stress, fear or any other kind of negative reaction. Have you ever experienced a traumatic event, or sympathized with someone who did, and it caused you to look at things in a different light? Perhaps the petty stressors in life didn’t seem quite so daunting after that. That’s similar to the goal of mindfulness, without having to have your perspective changed by an unfortunate traumatic event. Meditation, on the other hand, is reaching clarity and mental focus, at the same time as feeling refreshed by reaching a relaxation standard through daily practice. Don’t be confused; mindfulness and basic meditation practices are very, very similar.

Mindfulness is the clinical term that’s been adopted by many in the psychology field. Meditation has more spiritual connotations, being more carefully intertwined in Buddhism and Yogiism, and goes back thousands of years. In science’s resistance to adapt to many ancient traditions, many of the core tenets of meditation were rebranded and focused to the stressors of the modern world. However, the concept now has valuable scientific and psychological credibility, and is gaining traction as a valuable tool to help everyday people.

In summary, there’s actually many similarities between meditation in the basic sense, and mindfulness. They both certainly compete to reach the same goal, that being a more peaceful, focused life, and each one can help you in gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of your life and all that’s in it.

Do you prefer one or the other?

How mindfulness can help at work

It’s no secret that many of us are stressed out at work. Looming deadlines, high workloads, rude customers and more all contribute to a stressful, and sometimes unfavorable, work conditions.  We spend a third or more of our lives at work. Spending that much of our lives means that we should make it as positive of an experience as possible, right? The term “mindfulness” in the stress-reduction capacity means being aware of your stressors. If you’re one of the 80% of Americans that report they’re stressed at work, you may be interested in mindfulness techniques to regain and maintain control of your life at work. Many of our stressors originate in our thoughts — and practicing mindfulness at work can keep you grounded in the present, saving you from the worry and preoccupation of things that you could worry about.

Roll with the punches. Much of our stress comes from an aversion to a bad situation. We can hide from a bad situation, and shy away from or totally avoid it. However, accepting a situation for what it is allows you to take inventory of what is causing the stress — and once you have accepted what the issue is, you can work on solving it and moving forward.

Just breathe. If stress is getting to you, there’s nothing better than forcing your mind to take a break and reset. Take a few deep breaths to clear your mind. Do this whenever you’ve felt like you’ve met “the point.” You know it — it’s when you mind is spinning and you feel like you are being pulled in too many directions. Taking time to take a few deep breaths will infuse your body with oxygen, helping to relax you, and the moment of clarity will allow you to refocus your efforts.

Take a break. Sometimes, getting away is the only situation. Along with taking a few breaths, getting up from your desk helps you see the big world out there — not just the one that’s on your computer monitor. Taking time step away lowers stress, spurs creativity and process information.

Detach. A recent story in the New York Times shows that constantly being plugged into your work email, and being constantly available to your job is bad for your health. Combat this by leaving your phone, and therefore your work email access, back at your desk when you go to lunch. Even better, consider turning your phone off when you leave work once in a while. This unplugging can mean worlds of difference to reduce your stress levels and improve your health.

Spring is springing (for some of us, at least) and with the change in the seasons is it a renewed appetite for exercise. Birds are singing, days are longer and with warmer weather, we’re lacing our running shoes, hitting the volleyball court and pumping up the bike tires. No matter what your sport is, meditation can benefit you. Already popular in the NBA (Phil Jackson personally has used our Omni Ergonomic Meditation Bench to help his athletes!) meditation can help you with one of the most important aspects of any athletic activity: the mental aspect. So, in no particular order, we’re bringing you ways meditation helps athletes:

  • Meditating gets you mentally ready. By putting you in a relaxed mind state, meditating can get you ready for the biggest hurdle in your workout: making your mind cooperate. By promoting mental clarity, you can visualize crossing the finish line or scoring the goal. It helps you focus on the game at hand, and helps you block out all the other worries, stresses or preoccupations one tends to dwell on.
  • Meditating helps you stay well. Meditation has been shown to improve and bolster your immune system. Your immune system not only helps keep you from getting sick, but when you do get a cold that you can’t shake, it helps you get better, quicker. And the faster you get better, the faster you can get back to training.
  • You can train more. Meditation may support muscle recovery. By recovering more quickly, an athlete can make bigger training gains during the course of a season. By putting yourself in a relaxed state, your body responds by tempering the pain found with training. As we all know, dealing with pain is one of the biggest obstacles that prevent athletes from training.
  • It keeps your head in the game. Ever hear of an athlete blowing a crucial shot, maybe costing him the game? Meditation prevents that by training your brain to focus. That mental focus and clarity can be used when you’re faced with being exhausted to keep your head in the game, and keep you focused on how you should be performing.
  • It’ll help you sleep. A good night’s sleep is crucial for any athlete, in any sport. The reduced stress levels that come with a meditation regimen will help you get your 7- hours of restorative sleep that your body requires.

Having a deep interest in meditation for more than 30 years, I’ve learned a few things. One of the most important, though, is how actively meditating has helped me every step of the way. A simple google search will result in everything from simply more relaxing to nearly curing the common cold (your results may vary). However, I’d like to share some of the benefits that I’ve personally experienced. Because of these benefits, I believe that everyone needs to meditate – that is everyone that wants to see improvements in health, mental focus and overall well-being. So, basically — everyone.

  • Improved mental focus: We have many distractions on a daily basis. Our way of life is to constantly be bombarded by external stimuli. Just like a newborn baby, we, as adults, are also susceptible to overstimulation. Worse yet, overstimulation is taken for granted, so much that we are unable to detect when we are overstimulated. As a creative thinker, I am painfully aware of the most grievous result of overstimulation — which is a lack of mental focus. By meditating, I can leave the external influences behind, and focus on regaining mental clarity.
  • Regain perspective: Getting stuck at a red light. Grounds in your morning cup of coffee. A tough day at work. All of our annoyances, anxieties and stressors that we encounter on a daily basis have a cumulative effect. Remember what your parents told you to do as a child, when you’re angry? That’s right, take a deep breath and count to ten. That sounds similar to a meditation mini-session to me. As an adult, that’s still what I do — however, my equivalent to counting to ten is now a 30-minute meditation. By meditating, I’m able to focus on myself and my being in the universe, which helps distract me from the “little things” that can have a negative but profound effect on my life and well-being. This also segues into my next point.
  • Less stress: Stress is a very toxic element of our busy daily life. I know many people who have been warned by their doctor to decrease the amount of stress in their lives. It can cause myriad adverse health effects, from chronic sleeplessness to heart disease. Meditation results in a deeper relaxation and a feeling of refreshment that can help reduce stress. Not only can a lower amount of stress in your life lead to a happier life, it can lead to a longer life as well.

My reasons are few, but profound. If you’re looking to start meditating, there’s no better time to start than now! And now you have three excellent reasons to give it a try. In an upcoming post, we’ll delve into how to get started in meditation.

How to begin meditating

In other posts, I explain about the many benefits of meditation. Chances are, with all the positive effects that meditation has, meditation is gaining popularity as a way to reduce stress and gain mental focus. I welcome all newcomers to the meditation lifestyle, and I’m happy to see so many new inductees. However, meditation can be hard to get into — it’s not like a game of basketball or knitting a scarf — there is no tangible “end product” that tells you if you’re doing it right or not. So, I’d like to take some time to help new students of the meditation discipline get started on the right path to helpful, relaxing and invigorating meditation sessions. I’m here to help you start meditating.

How to begin meditating

The most difficult obstacle for new students of meditation to overcome is how to ignore the background noise that’s prevalent throughout our daily lives. Cell phones ringing, car horns honking, microwaves beeping and more all serve to clutter our attention. All of this noise serves to distract a person, which prevents a person from reaching any state of meditation. Beginners must train their consciousness to detach from these distractions. As with all types of training, it gets easier the more you do it. However, when you start meditating, be sure to follow these additional tips to keep you headed on the right path to the right meditation practices:

  • Find the right place to meditate. Make it a place that you can be relatively free of distractions. If you have a room that has a window that overlooks a busy street, it would probably be best to try to meditate with the window open. You also may choose to designate an area that’s dedicated to meditation. Feel free to furnish it with soothing scents, rushing water, a meditation chair or bench, and other items that will make it easier to relax.
  • Make sure you’re in the right state of mind. Meditation is a deep relaxation, and it’s not easy to relax when you’re wound up. Don’t try to meditate when you’re anxious, angry or stressed. It’s uncomfortable to try to sit still in this state of mind. Clear your mind before meditating. You’ll get more out of your session that way.
  • Be comfortable. You’ll spend a good deal of time in a meditative state, so it’s best to make sure you will be comfortable. If you have back pain, we recommend investing in a meditation chair with a back, or better yet, an Omni Meditation Bench that will help to align your spine to find its natural curvature. You may also want to look into a meditation cushion.
  • Don’t rush it. Like all new endeavors, meditation is something that takes time. Keep trying, clear your mind, and work to relax and find a meditative state you can hold, increasingly longer as you go. When finished with your meditation, transition to wakefulness slowly and gradually. A jarring snap of your eyes opening can undo the clarity you’ve attained. Don’t give up! It gets easier as you go, and you’ll soon be on your way to increased mental focus and the reduced levels of stress that meditation can bring.

The benefits of meditation chairs

We’re all aware of the benefits of meditation, but what about the obstacles that those who meditate, newcomers and veterans alike, come across when meditating? Nearly by definition, the simple act of meditation is intended to be a comfortable, relaxing endeavor. However, too often, our bodies are too accustomed to be in motion – which can work against the serenity of meditation. Simply put, meditation chairs help your body find its comfort zone while meditating. But what exactly can they help with? If you’re experiencing back pain, poor circulation and a painful seated posture, a meditation chair can help.

Back pain

  • By far, one of the most common complaints we hear. This is one of the reasons why people seeking serenity through meditation started using chairs. By finding the correct curvature for your spine, Omni Ergonomic Meditation Benches relieve back pain by removing stress on the pressure points created in your back after short and lengthy periods of meditation. The natural way to stop back pain is, of course, to strengthen your back and core, and our rounded leg base allows one to comfortably do so. Your back and core are strengthened the more you use the Omni Bench, as it is a more “active” way of meditation — meaning, you are using more muscles than simply sitting in a recliner or sofa.

Loss of circulation

  • To retain our simplistic design that optimizes aesthetics and functionality, Omni Ergonomic Benches do not come with cushions. However, if you are experiencing pressure points that result in a feeling of numbness in your legs, you may want to invest in a meditation cushion. These can range from $10–$20, and can alleviate these symptoms.

There are a number of different chair styles that you can try:

Back Support Chairs

  • This option is for those who have extreme concerns or discomfort in their lower back when meditating. The seat uses a back support (hence the name). However, these chairs are not usually portable, unlike Omni Benches. How often do you meditate in the same place, every day? Do you have a place dedicated to meditating? These are considerations you must ask yourself before investing in a back support chair.

Full chairs

  • Like back support chairs, these also feature support. Built for comfort over any functionality, these are also cumbersome to move. However, full chairs tend to be expensive, due to their high customization options — you may have a full chair made to your exact specifications and features.

Meditation benches

  • What Omni Meditation Benches feature. These blend functionality, portability and aesthetic qualities. Benches work to support your back not by artificial means, but naturally, by allowing your spine to find its natural resting position, while strengthening your core muscles. These are also designed with maximum portability, and fold up so you can be equipped for a meditation session on the go — on vacation, at the office, and so forth.
  • Choosing a meditation chair can appeal to veterans and newcomers to meditation alike. However, before you choose a style, make sure you ask yourself why you need a meditation bench. With the many options, there is one for you and your personal goals and comfort level with meditation.