Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘meditation’

Happiness is a Learned Skill

There is a new branch of psychology entitled, Positive Psychology. Rather than the more traditional study of the field that looks at unhappiness or dysfunction and attaches a label and recommended therapy to the circumstance, this branch of psychology does just the opposite. It examines happiness and recommends activities to optimize feelings of well being. It gives us specific findings from studies of human behavior that can help us learn to increase our own happiness level and experience the elusive butterfly of happiness as a permanent resident on our shoulder.

Supporting the Positive Psychology movement, a documentary entitled, ‘Happy,’ interviewed people in various countries of the world to determine where the greatest happiness or lack of happiness existed. Interestingly, Japan was listed as the country with the lowest level of happiness. Interviewing Japanese workers and their families it became apparent that due to the demanding expectation of their culture to work harder, longer and achieve more has left the Japanese people too physically and emotionally exhausted to enjoy life. Their faces told the story of their plight. It was shocking to hear that the Japanese are working themselves to death. Conversely, the random faces of the people in Denmark, Bhutan and even those living in the slum housing of India portrayed a completely different story. They were ranked much happier by comparison to the Japanese! Why?

Well, we are social creatures by nature. Time spent with family and friends gives us a sense of belonging and joy. We feel both valued and loved by the significant people in our lives. When we give and receive unconditional love, the rest of life is kept in perspective, our heart sings and our happiness soars.

Creating more happiness in our lives includes regular physical exercise, relaxation and variety in our daily activities – even changing the route we take to work or on a walk is important. Trying new experiences gets the synapses in our brain to function in new ways. Change expands our comfort zone and keeps us sharp, energetic and creates more self confidence.

As the Dalai Lama has said, compassionate regard for others, and making the world a better place also increases our own happiness index. It’s true, we make ourselves happier when we take the time to care for others.

Next, taking even 10 minutes a day in meditation or simply quiet time in contemplative thought allows our minds to relax and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for in the Universe. It helps us right ourselves with the world.

These findings from the studies on happiness are important factors to consider incorporating into our lives. They can help us create a happier more positive view on life and our own capabilities. When we engaged in these activities our brains release dopamine which is an important element to our overall mental and physical health. As a result, as the inevitable challenges surface in our lives we are stronger and better equipped to handle them.

Greater happiness is a learned skill. By personally applying some of these research findings on happiness life becomes the gift as intended and not a burden to be carried. The challenge is to expand our repertoire of happiness experiences and not simply do more of what we are presently doing. Just as the phrase implies, variety truly is the spice of life.

Have a great few days!

Let Go and Live

In my book, Just Behind the Door, I shared the many messages I have received from my son on the other side. It has been a long journey through the process of grief and there have been so many lessons presented especially on the topic of forgiveness. When I work with others who have lost a significant person in their lives it is not uncommon for them to be angry that their loved one ‘left them.’ Please know that you were not abandoned by your loved one. It was their time- as crazy as that may sound – and ‘All is as it should be.’ God or the Universal Energy does not make mistakes.

If your past memories are dominating your present life it may be time to consider the importance of changing your thinking.

Holding on to the past hurts whether it be the loss of someone dear to you or simply negative events that have found their way into your memory limits your energy and restricts the possibility of happiness for your tomorrows. If you think of your brain as simply a vessel that holds things, how much space are you using up with sad or hurtful memories from the past? I’ll bet you can remember incidences from your life as far back as elementary, middle and even high school that caused you mental anguish. Add to those memories any situations in your recent past that have caused you anxiety or hurt. Think of the negative weight you are carrying around in your mind. Can you just imagine how much more energy you would have and happier you would feel if you made a conscious effort to rid yourself of these hurts from your past.

To let go takes work. If you could simply say to yourself I’m done with that and move on that would be like hitting an ‘easy button.’ Learning to let go of the hurt, loss and emptiness necessitates that you spend active moments working on it. For instance, make a list of the 10-20 events that have happened to you in your life that rocked you to your very core. The things that hurt so badly that at times you didn’t know if you could go on. Write them out, look at them and think about how much energy it is taking to keep those sad memories alive. Are you ready to let go of them?

Meditation is a wonderful way to help recalibrate your thinking. It is a powerful approach to use on the topic of forgiveness. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and think about each of the things on the list and decide if you are ready to be free of the burden of keeping it alive. Send the memory out to the Universe each time you exhale. Just think to yourself, I no longer want to keep this negative memory. I send it out to the Universal Energy with love. I choose to live surrounded by positive energy for a better tomorrow. You will need to repeat this activity many times before your mind will truly let go of them. Be patient. They have been building up over your lifetime and it will take a little time to unearth them. There is no substitute for putting in the time necessary to release the hurts of all your yesterdays. But it is so worth the effort.

Have a great few days!

Are You Worth 5 Minutes?

An interesting article on meditation appeared recently in The Week magazine. The editors have a way of informing readers without adding more stress to our lives. They engage the reader without the fear factor that seems a large part of most news coverage. Anything that can help us reduce stress in our lives is important. That is why the article on meditation caught my eye.

Many people think that they don’t have time to meditate daily because of the demands in their daily schedule. I would hasten to point out that your ‘to do’ list will always exist and you will be more effective in completing the tasks if you feel both physically and mentally better. Finding a no cost way to help ourselves – really help in many different ways – is a big deal.

Starting with even 5 minutes a day sitting quietly and breathing deeply will help you get started. It is a form of meditation that works for me. You may choose to increase the time later as your schedule allows but just getting started is the most important step.

Meditation has been promoted to help us get in touch with our higher self, find a greater sense of peace and well being and even help us connect us with our loved ones who have passed on. But imagine my surprise when I read about the positive effects of meditation in relation to heart attacks and strokes!

According to the article, sitting quietly and clearing our minds can ‘dramatically improve heart health.’ The researchers involved in this study divided 200 people with known heart disease into 2 groups. One group was taught to meditate for 20 minutes daily and the other group was taught to use the same amount of time exercising and preparing healthy meals. After a decade the researchers found that those who meditated reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by 66 percent compared to those who didn’t meditate. The meditators also reduced their blood pressure and said they felt better able to control their anger! “What this is saying is that the mind-body interventions can have an effect as big as conventional medications,” said Robert Schneider, director of the Institute of Natural Medicine and Prevention reporting to

Although they are unsure of just how meditation works, cardiologist Michael Shapiro said previous studies have also shown that meditation can reduce anger, stress, and increase happiness.

I think it is worth a try – don’t you?

12 Minute Meditation That Works

Loss, stress, and aging take a toll on our mind and body. We all have moments when we can’t remember something. At first we may dismiss it and think that we have too much on our minds. However, when the frequency of memory lapse seems to be increasing, it is time to get serious and do something about it. Fortunately, there are leading neuroscientists discovering ways that can increase our memory function, attention span, information processing, problem solving and social decision making skills.

A proactive way to increase brain function is explained in the book, How GOD Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Waldman. It is called Kirtan Kriya meditation (KKM). A short synopsis of the technique is that it involves 3 things; breathing, sound and movement. The four sounds of sa, ta, na, ma, are chanted or sung out loud to whatever notes you want to give them. While you are singing each sound, touch your index fingers to your thumbs for ‘sa’, middle fingers to thumbs on ‘ta’, ring fingers to thumbs for ‘na’ and little fingers to thumbs for ‘ma.’ The authors recommend doing this daily for 12 minutes before getting out of bed in the morning.

As I started practicing this type of meditation I noticed that it quickly stops that monkey chatter in my mind. You can learn more about this through Newberg’s book, or googling Kirtan Kriya. There is even an 8 minute YouTube video demonstrating the technique.

In addition to all of the other benefits, meditation helps us become more in tune with the Universal Energy source and can further open our channels for hearing, seeing and feeling from our loved ones on the other side. In my book, Just Behind the Door, I have shared a decade of conversations I have had with my son, mother and sister who have passed on. During my book talks people have asked me how they can learn to communicate with their loved ones. I feel that the Kirtan Kriya meditation technique makes sense. I know it works. Give it a try- even for a week- and let me know what you experienced.

Have a great few days!

Take Time to Fully Process Through You Grief

I read recently that forgiveness (of yourself and others) happens naturally when we embrace every part of ourselves that has been hurt from a loss. I thought about that for some time. It seems we hear about the necessity of getting on with our lives more frequently that anything else. I understand that the average person expects you to ‘get your life back together and move on’ about 2-4 weeks after a loss. Really? That type of thinking tells me they probably haven’t lived through a life-changing loss yet. ‘Yet’ is the operative word here because none of us escapes loss. It is just a matter of time. Loss of any kind (death, divorce, separation) creates feelings and emotions that cannot simply be brushed away quickly. When you try to move on or ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ the loss becomes buried in your entire being and will take a toll on you. It takes time to process through all of the ‘yucky stuff’ that surfaces in your mind and to make peace with it eventually. I am convinced if you don’t fully process through the hurt to discover the lesson, it will return over and over in your life until you ‘get it.’

Given the pace that we live at today, reflecting and processing the grief of our loss takes time that may think we cannot afford. However, as I have said in my book, Just Behind the Door, each loss seems to be like a rock in the back pack you are invisibly carrying around. As you hurry through the hurt, thinking that you just have to put one foot in front of the other, the back pack gets heavier and heavier. I visualize a person that is hunched over from the weight of the pack they are carrying. Those rocks (or boulders depending on the depth of the loss) do not eventually disappear on their own. Time does not, necessarily, heal a broken heart. It takes work to surface those boulders your are carrying around. By recognizing the hurt you still have down deep, and searching for the lesson(s) you have learned from the experience you will eventually feel whole. This is difficult work that may take a person trained in the field of loss to help you let go of the heavy load you are carrying. Please value yourself enough to seek help if you can’t seem to process the loss fully.

Everyone has their own special mission – lessons to learn – on this earth. No one seems to escape unscathed. Your friends can be a wonderful support system for you. They will listen to you no matter how many times you need to repeat the experience of your loss. Good friends care enough to be there for you no matter how long it takes.

I look forward to the day that we will all become so evolved that the learning through the suffering paradigm will be replaced by learning through love and joy. It may take us time but I believe we will get there.

Have a great few days!

Positive Thinking is a Work in Progress

Everything in the Universe is energy. We are each an individual universe of energy. You know certain people who make you feel energized and others who seem to drain your energy. Well, emotions, experiences, even colors and words also have energy. When you are positive, upbeat, and happy you DRAW even more positive energy from people and events INTO your life. Sadly, the reverse is also true. When you are negative, whining or blaming others about your life circumstances, you will experience even more negative energy coming back to you. It’s like a boomerang – you get back what you throw out. Remember the phrase, ‘Like attracts like?” Well, it really does. Right now, you may be experiencing loss, grief, hurt, rejection, lack of funds or any one of a million other life challenges. You don’t have to like them but remember you signed up for this curriculum in this huge classroom called, ‘Life on Planet Earth.’ Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what lessons you are learning from the circumstance you are in? Once you learn the lessons – really learn them, the circumstances resolve themselves.

An important question to think about is, what are you saying to yourself and others about your situation? Remember, the more you repeat the thought or voice the negative emotion, the more negatives will be drawn into your environment. Recently, I heard someone say, negatives are like being unplugged from the Universal Energy source/God. Think of an electrical appliance in your home. If it is unplugged it simply won’t work. Well, when we allow ourselves to get unplugged through negative thinking we stop fully functioning and life looses its luster. Everything seems to be a greater chore than usual. The burdens keep adding up until you can’t see, much less think about, the possibilities of tomorrow.

The beauty of all this is that you can recharge – replug yourself into the energy source many different ways. A few examples are: meditation, prayer, listing all of the things for which you are grateful, exercise, doing something to help others (even a phone call or email) to brighten their day. Basically, any activity that gets you back into a positive energy flow will stop the negativity from magnifying itself and its’ effect on you.

The challenge to you is to recognize that YOU are responsible and in control of how you feel, act and respond. The second challenge is to realize that, as humans, we need to WORK at staying positive, it is a constant, perpetual ‘work in progress.’ No one can do it for you, but I promise you, it is worth the effort.

Let me know if this makes sense to you! I would love to hear your thoughts.