Top Meditation Retreats in no particular order

Top meditation destinations

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 objects housed 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.

 

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Top meditation apps

Top meditation apps

Take a look at some of the top apps for meditation

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
Headspace
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
Calm
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!

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Use mindfulness when arguing!

Use mindfulness to calm arguments

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!

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Mindfulness and antidepressants

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.

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Meditation for kids

Meditation for kids

Teaching meditation for kids, to 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.

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Meditation and sleep

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.

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Meditation and depression

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 meditation and depression - can it help sufferers?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?  Let us know in the comments section below!

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Save your brain with meditation

Help your brain with meditation as you age

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!

 

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Meditation for busy people

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? Let us know in the comments below!

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Game of Thrones star advocates mindfulness

Mindfulness endorsed by Game of Thrones star

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? Let us know in the comments below!

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