Tag Archives: meditation

7 Reasons to Meditate: The Benefits of Mindfulness

7 Reasons to Meditate: The Benefits of MindfulnessMeditation is sometimes seen as a woo-wooey practice reserved for new age hippies, actors who are “spritual”, self-help gurus, and hardcore yogis, but the truth is meditation is for everyone. Just like yoga, which brings the body in alignment with the mind and helps to quite that incessant babbling of thoughts we have going daily that frequently get in the way of our true happiness, meditation cleans house. It’s like setting the reset button for a few minutes daily, that allows you to truly go with the flow, promotes inner peace, feelings of oneness with others, empathy, service, and even boosts creativity. I have experienced firsthand regular daily meditation can be a catalyst for amazing things happening in your life. As you practice and get deeper in the flow of life, synchronicity or seeming miracles became normal every day occurrences.

Going back to daily practice has re-awakened my love and appreciation for meditation as a scientific tool. Every single time you to sit to practice, you are literally rewiring your brain, and tapping further into THE SOURCE of all. As a result of this you may find yourself extremely calm in usually stressful situations, generally happier, optimistic, and attracting people and things that help you achieve your dreams, effortlessly. There are a bunch of meditation naysayers out there who feel like it’s quackery, or object to meditation because they are afraid it contradicts with their religion. This is not the case. Meditation and mindfulness practices have been practiced and incorporated by every major religion. In the Bible it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” My favorite Deepak Chopra quote is: “Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening.” Indeed the silence speaks volumes. Creativity can increase and intuition begins to guide daily decisions more strongly. It sounds like a gimmick until you try it. The only way for you to feel the shift in yourself is to sit down and meditate and stick with it consistently. It does not take weeks to start to feel a shift. Each day, you will begin to notice little things. Oh meditation, mediation, how I love thee! Let me count the ways. Below are seven of many reasons (backed by scientific research) why sitting down in silence daily is good for you. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Namaste. -XoXo Raw Girl

  1. Stay in the Stress-Free Zone. The journal of health psychology published research that not only does meditation make you feel less stressed, it actually reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  2. Rewire Bad Habits. One of the first thing I noticed was that when I kept up with regular meditation it started to shift my emotional responses to situations that were previously aggravating. Going within helps us require bad habits as well as observe our actions and reactions in a way we may have never done before and make conscious adjustments.
  3. Boosts Your Mental Performance. Research conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara found that college students trained in mindfulness performed better on verbal reasoning sections on the GRE and also had improvements in retention of material. The outcome of the study suggested that mindfulness improves overall cognitive function.
  4. Can Keep You From Going Cray-Cray. Mental illness and emotional wellness are two issues that are usually highly medicated when you visit a doctor to address them. Well, according to researchers from the University of Oregon, mediation techniques in the form of integrative body and mind training can result in brain changes which protect against mental illness. Due to meditation practice protective tissue increases as well as signaling connections in the brain.
  5. Sleep Like a Baby. A University of Utah study found that mindfulness training helps people sleep better at night. You know how sometimes you can’t sleep because of the “monkey mind” that can’t stop making to-do lists and generally stressing about whatever happened that day? Well meditation shuts the monkey up long enough for you to get adequate rest and wake up feeling refreshed.
  6. Gives You a Major Dose of Happy. In general meditation helps to balance out emotions and moods, and has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of depression. It’s great for pregnant women struggling with post-pardom, teens, and really anyone of any age.
  7. Boosts Your Immunity. By now you should know that optimal health has to do with emotional, physical, and mental wellness. Just paying attention to your diet alone may still leave you at risk for major terminal diseases if you do not manage your emotions and stress in a healthy way. Meditation and mindfulness practices calm you the heck down, so that you can avoid toxic emotions that may cause disease later on.

The Social Media Fast

Last Sunday I was feeling for spiritual and life reasons like I felt a fast coming on. Before I could clearly set that intention, at church my pastor spoke a word that rattled me up enough to try something new. Ever heard a sermon or talk and you feel like someone is speaking directly to you? This was the case last Sunday, and I had to stop myself from squirming in my seat, because then I’d be sure everyone would know the message was hitting home with me. My pastor was talking about fasting, and how for some giving up foods isn’t really that challenging (I squirmed), and that fasting is about SACRIFICE, and we should be creative in finding things that take up our time. During a spiritual fast then, we replace the things that were taking up our time with things that bring us closer to God (prayer, meditation, reflection etc).

He then went on to say he had ideas about some things that we could give up in our modern world that would cause more of a sacrifice. The first thing he suggested was social media. Imagine if you prayed or meditated as much as you were on Facebook. Interesting right? Obviously your relationship with God would strengthen tremendously, in that time you would’ve been lurking on pages, liking posts, and adding friends. As soon as the words social media escaped his mouth my heart skipped an extra beat and I was bordering on hyperventilating at the thought of giving up Facebook and Twitter. I mean, I’m a blogger for gosh sakes! Social media is one of my primary means of communication. At that moment I knew, there was my challenge. At first like any addict, I was like I’ll do two days, okay maybe three. Finally realizing that this actually may cause some sort of breakthrough for me I decided seven days seemed unfathomable, and therefore, I had to do it. I scheduled all of my blog posts posts for Raw Girl, and also posts for Facebook and Twitter in advance for the week. I ceased all the rest of my Facebooking and Tweeting  on my personal pages and also was not allowed to read other peoples posts, read or reply to comments, or check any notifications.

What a revelation! It’s amazing how automatic the reflex to check Facebook and Twitter is for me. I had to literally catch myself mid-typing from going to the urls. LOL. By the end of day one, I was amazed at how productive I could be without the distractions of social media throughout the day. Now that I’ve passed the seven day test, my eyes are open to my bordering on addiction to all things social media and I am determined to continue limiting my time on social media pages. Maybe I’ll stick to checking only on certain days. One things for sure, we are in a new world where technology rules all, and it is up to us to create some balance, especially if we are determined to live a life that is in tune with Mother Earth and the Source that governs all. -XoXo Raw Girl

Synchronicity: A Road Map for Blissful Living

Skeptics are quick to say nothing happens for a reason. All occurrences in life are merely coincidences devoid of meaning. As I delved into raw vegan living and increased spiritual practices of prayer and meditation the synchronicity in my life jumped off the charts. It happened all the time. There is something about the peace  induced by plant energy that can deepen your connection and awareness of the ultimate Source. I would think about doing something, going somewhere, or need something and it was almost like magic. Someone would appear seemingly out of the blue and give me what I needed, or be a connector to a certain person or place that was just what I was looking for. There is something about this unique concept, which was conceived by psychologist Carl Jung, that is extremely easy for some people and yet hard for many others to grasp. Jung called synchronicity ” an explanation for meaningful coincidences,” and this principle was meant to show the link between the mind and the external world of perception.

My thoughts, today, as I write this post led me to this principle. Specifically I started to think about how prayer and meditation are gateways to the unseen mystical side of our universe and God. If you cannot believe in a God or a force, you may have resigned yourself to believing that things just are the way they are, and that you are not meant to have the things you want or live the life of your dreams. Tapping into this gateway with spiritual practices or just the courage to believe, opens up your perception and becomes the catalyst for the good you seek to come to you. Just like the tale in the Alchemist, you may be led down unexpected paths or go through rough times, but all of these things teach you, strengthen you, and prepare you for that end goal. Or perhaps you are living your dream but devoid of true inner peace that real success brings. You may attribute everything in your life to mere luck or happenstance. It’s all about perception. With one shift, and a little bit of openness your same situation may be seen as a serious of “meaningful coincidences” that have brought you to the place you are right now. The only way you can know it, is it to give it a try.

The universe and God, are inherently good, despite the drama and chaos we’ve created in this world. Choosing to alter our perceptions can literally turn our lives upside down. I am a firm believer in the magic of synchronicity, and the power of God to lead me to my destined path and to help me fulfill the dreams and aspirations that were given to me by the Source. That dream you have is no accident. It is yours to fulfill, that is why it presses on your heart. I thought about this tonight as I near almost three years of writing on this blog, which once was just a dream. I hope today you may choose to take the first step towards a goal or dream you thought was dead and buried or challenge yourself further if you are someone who can’t believe in divine coincidence by playing devil’s advocate with your own beliefs. Renew your faith and chose to entertain the thought that anything is possible if you just believe. Then watch as the miracles and synchronicity begin to unfold, and follow the signs. -XoXo Raw Girl

Raw Girl’s 40 Day Soul Fast

“Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in Him a source of sustenance beyond food.” ~Dallas Willard 

About two months ago, I kept getting a “hunch” that I needed to do a fast. Not a fast for health reasons. A fast to confirm and deepen my relationship with God, the ultimate force.  Right at that time, a friend of mine who is actually a meat-eater, was doing the Daniel fast for 40 Days. The Daniel fast is based on the prophet Daniel’s diet  that consisted of only fruits, vegetables, and drinking only water for a period of 21 days. Additional restrictions include no wine, no breads, meat or sweeteners.

I knew my soul was craving a 40 Day fast and  after speaking to my friend I thought that was it, I would do a Daniel fast for 40 Days too! But in the weeks after my encounter with her, I allowed myself to get lazy about it. It’s too long I thought. Then a couple of weeks later God made it pretty clear that I was not going to get away with avoiding a 40 Day fast. I was in New York at the beginning of May, and another friend  who knew nothing about my desire to fast and subsequent laziness, gave me a Christian book called The 40 Day Soul Fast. I almost laughed out loud. AHA! Here was another sign, and this time I knew that I could not ignore it. The next day, May 7, 2012, I began my 40 Day journey. During the 40 Days I chose to be 100% raw and read excerpts from the book, as each chapter was dedicated to a day of the fast. Funnily enough, at the exact same time by happenstance, my mother and father decided to embark on a vegan fast together for 40 Days.

During the fast, at times I would feel like I was going through the motions. Probably because I was. I ate raw food, focused on prayer, meditation once a day, attended Bible study, read the book, listened to an awesome CD of gospel tunes made for me by a friend. Nothing seemed to be HAPPENING. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I continued to go day by day and eventually my impatience was replaced with devotion to being present and engaged. The fast ended on June 15th and it seemed to happen so suddenly I was left wondering what I had gained although I had noticed the immediate effects of meditating. Now a week following I have been inundated with daily blessings, miracles, and a deep sense of peace. It’s an amazing sense of grace that has emerged from feeling an intimate connection with THE SOURCE. Post-fast, I am continuing to cultivate that relationship with continued daily practice of meditation. Health is beyond just the body, it’s the soul/spirit, body, mind. All must be nourished in order to create optimal wellness, so it’s important to find what mindfulness practice works for you an incorporate it.

I happen to be Christian, and in the Bible the power of fasting is advertised regularly through the struggles and triumphs of many biblical figures. Across all religions examples can be found of how fasting unleashes extraordinary power and connection with THE FORCE. The great news for veggie lovers is that the way we eat already connects us with the divine flow. My mother, who after fasting for 40 Days on a vegan diet has now become a vegan, said that she is amazed by how at peace a vegetable diet has made her feel. Yes, we are what we eat, and when we eat plants we become one with the stillness of nature. A raw food lifestyle can accelerate your spiritual journey even further, intentionally or unintentionally. Years ago when I went raw and also happened to begin meditation simultaneously, I experienced an increase in synchronicity, heightened energy, and noticed that things I desired or thought about seemed to be drawn effortlessly to me. All that said, fasting is not for the faint of heart. Listen to your body, mind, and soul. If you are feeling cluttered, overwhelmed, disconnected, want to break bad habits, or just want to discover or renew your relationship with the Divine source, I highly recommend a spiritual fast. -XoXo Raw Girl

For more insights on fasting, check out this past post Wise Ones on Fasting.

Releasing from Restrictions of Role-Play

One of the things I do, is act, or role-play, so it may seem strange to take advice from me on  breaking free from what I love to do the most. When I say role-play,  I mean in the context of our daily lives. This includes our many faces as mother, sister, brother, friend, lover, or co-worker. We have those faces, and then we have the faces given to us by society or designated by our professions. For instance, the statement, “I am an actress.” Some other people may say, “I am an African American actress.”  People are thrilled by statements like these that include our daily descriptors of race, profession, and gender and are expected to limit the scope of a person.

You know those annoying, sometimes banal conversations you have during late night networking parties: “Oh, so what do you do?” You take a long sip of your cocktail before choosing to answer. “Oh, I am a lawyer.” The interrogator almost sighs with relief, because now he or she knows which box you fit in. 

When it comes to ethnicity, I am an interesting case study. Depending on the day, I actually might find it entertaining to watch someone struggle with where I am from.  I’ve heard everything: “Somalia, Ethiopia, South of India?” I shake my head to indicate, no.  “Then it must be Eritrea? Rwanda? Jamaica?” I shake my head again, and the inquisitor is completely baffled.  I have learned to stop telling the truth, because it’s not what they want to hear. They don’t want to know that I love that I could be from any of those places. What they are dying for me to tell them is some cockaninny story about me growing up in a one room hut in Ethiopia, but I usually just let them struggle. When I do tell them the truth, after being egged on way too long for a definitive answer, that I am neither Ethiopian, nor did I grow up in a shack, they are almost offended that I would utter such nonsense.  As if I somehow did something deeply wrong, by shattering their accurate perception of who I am. All I can do is shake my head, and walk away.

Getting back to creativity…It’s amazing that we do this to ourselves or allow others to do this to us, to minimize our entire essence into one title or label. Of course we do it because it creates a sense of order, and because if we said “Oh, I am an actress, who makes films, writes screenplays and also enjoys writing non-fiction and poetry from time to time, designing clothes,  belly dancing,  and occasionally I sing and write music?” People might think we were crazy,  scatter-brained, or may be so overwhelmed that they excuse themselves because it was TMI (too much information). Although, I do reply the typical “What do you do?” question with a label most times to avoid the judgemental  glare of some stranger, I never restrict my creative expression based on a label given to me by my profession, my peers, my family, or whoever. I know you are proud of what you do, but do you really believe that you should cling so tightly to your personal or professional label at the expense of gifts that fall outside your prescribed “box”? I dare say, no.

Think about it. Perhaps it’ll feel scary, or you may seem crazy to others, but stretching the boundaries of your own idea of who you are and what you are meant to do in this life, may just save your life. You may find yourself stumbling into new realms a novice, but this time away from your claimed “identity” leaves you so inspired that it revitalizes your daily work and provides a new sense of freedom. Each moment builds upon the last and the last, just as each new experience builds upon the latter. It’s not up to you to make sense of why you are a lawyer who is also very skilled at juggling. It is also not your business to avoid juggling, and be jealous of all the jugglers you meet. It is just, simply, your God-given duty to juggle if it brings you pleasure, and share that gift with others.

The Dream-Killer Fast

We all know dream-killers. These are the people also known as playa-haters, jealous drama queens and kings, or staunch conventionalists who cling the holy grail of mediocrity and expect that you should too. The dream-killers that come in those forms are loud and ostentatious, but the worst kind are the silent dream-killers. These agents work with stealth, they are your peers, your family members, your close friends sometimes, maybe even your mate who slowly and methodically erode your dream with doubts by allowing their own personal discontent or jealousy to poison your ambition, by discrediting or comparing your brilliant progress to other “more successful artists”, or by responding to your enthusiasm with a shrug.  Both kinds of these species are equally  dangerous, but the latter, can enter and leave your world in so much of a tailspin that you can’t find the driven, positive person you once were staring back at you in the mirror. Or if you escape in time, like I always do, you may find a startling sense of creativity unleashed by the release of that negative influence in your life.

As important as fasting via food consumption is for the benefits it has on our mind and body, we can’t forget that certain kinds of life crises and stumbling blocks demand a spiritual fast, in this case a dream-killer fast. That means just as you would put that Twinkie down before you ruin your diet, you decide to not pick up the phone and call that “friend” who wallows and whines, makes you feel like a victim when you know you are powerful, or who throws a sarcastic comment your way whenever you mention your “crazy goals.”

In this dream-killer fast, you make a conscious choice to avoid people and situations that you know are spiritually toxic, and you choose to work on the person who is most often your worst dream-killer, you. That’s right. Weren’t you the one who decided you were too old to take that interesting art class, or stopped playing the instrument you loved cause you don’t have time for hobbies? Maybe you once dreamt of taking a leap of faith and starting your own business, or changing careers. Perhaps you have resigned yourself to a life devoid of passion, slaving away each day at a job you despise and have forgotten than once upon a time you had a real zest for life. The good news is, today is a new day. And it just might be the day for you to start fasting.

When embarking on this fast proceed with caution. Dream-killers are known to be ruthless, and have a keen sense for when they are about to be kicked to the curb. So kick hard,  fast, and run for cover.

Chasing a Mirage of Dreams

Most of us go through life chasing things. We chase after money. We chase after fame and recognition, the ideal mate, our dream career. If you live in New York City, you might chase and choose to forcibly push someone out of your way.  Or you might be the unlucky receiver of the push, forced to swallow another incident that “made your day.” We chase and chase and at the end of the race we are dead tired, and out of breath. As we stand there frustrated by plans that went awry, panting, and clutching our chests from the rejections we faced, finally we are still. The funny thing is, that right there, in that place of stillness and surrender is usually where the tide begins to turn. 

As I began my journey of eating raw foods, I found myself more comfortable in the silence, in stillness. They say we are what we eat,  which is probably why the stillness, calm, and vitality of living foods seems to work deeper than just the physical level…it begins to permeate the spirit.  We forget as we chase and hunger for things or to get somewhere other than right here and now,  that everything originates from silence, everything is born from some form of stillness. 

It took awhile getting used to the idea that I didn’t have to chase.  I was lead to practice daily meditation because of a series of happenings, one of which was stumbling upon the book by filmmaker David Lynch “Catching the Big Fish.”  Immediately, I  began to notice, that the act of going within regularly, brought a sense of peace to my everyday, increased my creative output,  and let me go with the flow in a way I never had before. Synchronicity, or as I call it the hand of God, became beautifully apparent. I would think of something I wanted to do, or be in need of something to complete a project and the right person, the right form of inspiration, would fall into my path effortlessly.  Sometimes we choose to forget that this toxic crazy world we live in, is truly divine underneath it all.  We chase our mirage of dreams, only to finally grasp them and discover they are fleeting. All that remains is the silence.