Music and meditation

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.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments!

Why Omni meditation benches are better!

Advantages of an Omni meditation bench

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.

Want to know more? Check out our products page to find out.

Nondirective Meditation and Memory

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

Which can help me – 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

Mindfulness 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

How does one start 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.

Benefits of meditation chairs

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.