Tag Archives: psychology

Instant Balance – Anuloma Viloma

Lawd knows I love me some pranayamSitali for cooling, ujjayi for warming, and anuloma viloma for boosting your energy (prana), focusing the mind and balancing the nervous system.  I find the practice is best done in the morning, bringing clarity and concentration for the rest of the day.  It’s been absolutely indispensable in this transition phase, a time full of visitors, traveling, meticulous logistics of moving, and the inevitable emotional fluctuations that follow.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Sit very comfortably.  This could mean any number of seated postures: padmasana, virasana, swastikasana, or even sitting on a chair.  If you’d like more room for your hip flexors to breathe, place a pillow under you sit bones.  Ideally, your spine is straight, giving your diaphragm and ribcage maximum mobility – thereby giving your lungs the space to expand (and contract) fully.

2. Close the eyes.  Tune into the breath.  Relax all the muscles of the face from the top of the forehead, systematically relaxing all the way down to the chin.  Relax the tongue, but allow the tip to make contact with the back of the two front teeth, right where they meet the gums.  Keep the eyes closed but bring your gaze to the space between the brows.

3. Bring your left hand to chin mudra (the connection between the thumb and index finger symbolizes the unification of self with greater Consciousness).

ChinMudra
Chin Mudra

4. Bring your right hand to Vishnu mudra. Vishnu Mudra is  meant to bring the three bodies (spiritual, mental, and physical) into alignment.  While the index and mid-finger are drawn into the palm, the remaining digits, associated with Earth, Air and Fire are left extended and engaged which can bring a sense of stability and focus.

vishnumudra
Vishnu mudra

5. Inhale in abundance, filling the belly, ribcage and chest.  Exhale in gratitude.

6. Bring your right thumb to cover the right nostril and inhale through the left.  Try inhaling for 4 seconds to begin with, then you can progress toward 5, 6, 7, 8 seconds.  This might elicit more ease-full concentration, and is a nice alternative if Vishnu mudra is not compatible with your hands.

7. Hold both nostrils and retain for 16 seconds.  The retention – khumbaka – is held for four times the length of the inhale.

8. Exhale right for 8 seconds, twice the amount of the inhale.

9. Inhale same side (right) – 4 seconds

10. Retain – 16 seconds

11. Exhale left – 8 seconds

12. Inhale left – 4 seconds, and continue like this.

General Tips

Start out doing four rounds.  If that feels comfortable, add more rounds.  The more rounds you do, the more significant the benefits.  According to Prahlad, the head of asana at Sivananda, it’s best to do more rounds of anuloma viloma than to try and add seconds to the counts.  Remember, the ratio to inhale-retention-exhale is 1-4-2.

You may wish to skip retentions, and simply inhale left – exhale right – inhale right – exhale left.  If you are 100% new to the pranayam, this is probably a good place to start.

noretention

In these directions, I’ve asked you to start inhaling through the left side; to finish the round you will end with an exhale on the left.  Other schools begin with an inhale on the left side; just be sure both sides are balanced when you’ve completed the cycle.

Be sure to keep the shoulder relaxed away from the ear; feel free to adjust if the body becomes uncomfortable.

Just what are the benefits?

The left nostril correlates to the parasympathetic nervous system.  Breathing in and out through this nostril will calm your nervous system, creating feelings of peace and spaciousness.  In yogic philosophy, this side stimulates the ida channel and is associated with moon energy, the cooling calming yin to the yang.  The right nostril is said to stimulate the pingala channel in yoga, igniting firey energy, more closely associated with yang.

Anuloma viloma balances the nervous system, trains one’s ability to focus, and increases lung capacity.

Science for the curious and skeptics

If you’re interested in reading studies on pranayam techniques from an empirical point of view check out a few from PubMed here:

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Generosity, baby!

Inspired by a friend who made it his mission to provide me with a full day awesomeness in Cold Spring – delicious food, hiking, good conversation, a jaunty ‘lil car ride – today I offer thanks to generosity.

Even the gift is happy.
Even the gift is happy.

Giving tickles the brain, igniting all kinds of elevated mood centers in the noggin’ – and what may come as a surprise, the giving brain is even more stimulated than the receiving (check out the article from Psychology Today below).  Being generous (doing things like taking the time to donate blood, for example) improves our emotional landscapes in a host of ways: increasing feelings of satisfaction, decreasing feelings of anxiety, and in the case of volunteering, enhancing our concepts of work ethic.

Where the instinct comes from is still up for debate – is it a prosocial evolutionary technique?

One thing is certain: as soon as we can let go of those feelings of “not enough”-ness, or those niggling reciprocation concerns, we’re free to act as if we’re larger than life, giving with abundance, making other people’s lives better, and relishing in the joy that follows.

The Psychology Behind Gift-Giving and Generosity

By Maria Konnikova | January 4, 2012

What determines the value of a gift?

A few weeks ago psychologist Dan Ariely, inspired by the holiday frenzy, pondered the hows and whys of gift-giving. Reading his piece—an endorsement of a behavioral economics view that challenges the rational economic contention that gift-giving is a largely irrational dilemma—at once brought to mind the story that has to me (and, I suspect, to many others) always epitomized the spirit of gifts and generosity: O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”

Only a few pages long, the story may be O. Henry’s most famous, its title almost a byword for a certain type of present. Say it, and chances are people will at once realize just what kind of gift you mean. A gift that is the real embodiment of quality over quantity, the value of thought over any amount of expenditure. A gift that puts the mere mention of a Holiday Wish List to shame. As O. Henry writes, “Eight dollars a week or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer….Two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest.”

Recent work suggests that O. Henry may have been more right than he knew. The gifts that Della and Jim gave to one another may have actually been the wisest even from the most rational—at least in the evolutionary sense—of views, despite the fact that for a homo economicus, their value would have been worse than nothing, as bad an economic exchange as could be expected: humans may be wired to be overly generous, and that proclivity can actually confer a large survival advantage.

A group of psychologists from UC-Santa Barbara set out to test the long-standing conundrum that even in anonymous, one-shot games—in other words, in situations where you know that (1) you will never again encounter your partner and (2) no one has any idea what decision you’ve made—people more often than not choose to incur costs themselves in order to allocate benefits to others; an irrational behavior by traditional economic standards if ever there was one. In their model, the team managed to isolate an asymmetry that had previous been ignored: in an uncertain world, it is far more costly to incorrectly identify a situation as one-shot when it is in fact repeated than it is to mistake an actual one-shot encounter for a repeated one. Put differently, it is better to always assume that we will in fact encounter the same partners over and over. So costly is it to make a mistake in the opposite direction that, even absent any reputational or other mechanisms, it makes sense for us to behave generously to anyone we encounter. As the study authors conclude, “Generosity evolves because, at the ultimate level, it is a high-return cooperative strategy…even in the absence of any apparent potential for gain. Human generosity, far from being a thin veneer of cultural conditioning atop a Machiavellian core, may turn out to be a bedrock feature of human nature.”

So, it makes perfect sense for us to be as generous as we can. In fact, we may even like giving gifts more than we like receiving them—Jim’s joy at seeing Della’s happiness at her present was likely greater than his enjoyment of his own gift, and the opposite holds true for Della. In one study, subjects were given the choice to receive a very tangible material benefit to themselves—up to $128—or to donate money to a range of charities. Each charitable donation would decrease their own monetary endowment, while each choice that focused on their monetary interest would maintain their earnings.

Brain activation for monetary reward and donations. Figure and caption taken directly from Moll et al (2006).

Not only did the researchers find that all participants consistently chose to engage in costly donations, anonymously giving up an average of 40% of their endowment (around $51) for charity, but they also discovered surprising differences in neural activity for decisions that involved donating money versus receiving money. Specifically, while monetary rewards activated the mesolimibic reward system, including the dorsal and ventral striatum and the ventral tegmental area—as would be expected of something that gives us positive reward—when people donated money to a charity, the same network showed even greater activity—and the activity spread to the subgenual area (implicated in social attachment), which had remained inactive in the pure monetary reward choices. While we may not always agree, our brains seem to suggest that the joy of being a gift’s giver may eclipse that of being its recipient.

But “The Gift of the Magi”—and Ariely’s point—goes beyond simple generosity, to the thought that lies behind the gift itself. The act of giving is itself part of the gift, to be sure, but giving thoughtlessly is not enough. The actual value of a gift—which, in the story, ends up being negative in the immediate term to both Jim and Della—stems from the calculation which went into its choice: what will it actually mean to the recipient?

Ariely singles out this type of gift as one that makes the mental leap from your own vantage point to that of someone else. It’s a leap that is incredibly difficult to take—exhibiting empathy, let alone perfect empathy to the point of complete confluence with the mind of another person, is a tough feat even in the most conducive of circumstances—but that may be worth taking all the same. For, even if you fail to make it as accurately as you may have wanted, the effort will be noted. The actual accuracy is somewhat beside the point. What matters is that you try to make the shift from your own mindset to someone else’s, that you make the effort to think about what present would be best suited to another person. It’s a generosity that presupposes generosity of time, not just of material expenditure: you may not have thought it out quite correctly, but at least you’ve taken the time to think.

True, a time investment may seem not worth the hassle. After all, isn’t it easier to just ask what someone wants, or go online to check what they want, and leave it at that? Won’t everyone be better off? Not necessarily. Generosity of time and thought may actually pay off in more ways than we think. Not only is the gift recipient likely to be appreciative, but we ourselves may benefit. Generosity—which in this definition actually includes generosity of time and generosity that is both unexpected and spontaneous (in stark contrast to the list-variety of present)—is one of the top three predictors of a successful marriage, a surprising addition to the expected culprits, sexual intimacy and commitment. It can make us feel better about ourselves. It can help us actually be happier and see the world as an overall better place. In short, it might be an initial investment that is worth making.

And, at the end of the day, it may well go further than any “ideal” present that was purchased off of an Amazon Wish List but required no actual thought of your own ever could. If Jim and Della had both officially requested their gift, they may have avoided the result of their overly generous impulses, but the effect would have been taken away entirely. The sheer fact of verbalizing the desire would have taken the resulting gifts out of the Magi realm altogether. As Ariely puts it, “Instead of picking a book from your sister’s Amazon wish list, or giving her what you think she should read, go to a bookstore and try to think like her. It’s a serious social investment.”

Giving—and thoughtful, generous giving at that—may be more rewarding than receiving on numerous levels, from the neural, to the personal, to the social. And would a more generous, so to speak, gift be even more rewarding than a less generous one? While that remains to be tested directly, I’d be willing to bet that Jim and Della’s ventral tegmental area and striatum went all sorts of crazy when they picked out one another’s presents. And isn’t it just the type of gift you’d most want to receive yourself?

Jnana Yogis

(The second in a series of catch-up blogs inspired by a weekend at the Omega Yoga Service Conference.  Check out the first blog on Nikki Myers, Addiction and Authenticity)

There was no shortage of knowledge (or wisdom) at the  Omega Yoga Service Conference this weekend.  Two jnana yogis (jnanins) in particular really lit up the room lecturing on key topics for service yogis.

DSC06597Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University (the top ranked uni for graduate psychology programs in the US), delivered a brilliant presentation on compassion, some of the neurophysiology behind it, and how people in the helping fields can strengthen this powerful skill.

We were treated to summaries of findings by Paul Gilbert and host of other leaders in psychology and compassion research (Fiske, Goetz, Longe, Slovik, et al.) – years of scientific mining filtered down to the gems of their labor (priceless for the lay people in the audience, including myself!).  And despite the limited time, we were offered several hands-on exercises to nourish our own compassion, or to utilize in a clinical setting.  Kelly’s presentation was practical, clear, and absolutely inspirational as both a yogi and an aspiring academic.

“Kelly McGonigal is a leader driven by compassion and pragmatism.” – Forbes.com 20 Inspiring Women

bessel1Trauma was a big theme throughout this conference and Bessel Van der Kolk closed the gathering with a presentation on Yoga, Neurobiology, and Trauma.  Bessel’s approach was a comfortable mix of personal sharing as a clinical psychologist and the intriguing new research emerging about which areas of the brain are most affected by trauma.  He opened with a few aesthetic representations of trauma, including a video clip from shell-shocked WWII veterans in Europe – otherworldly and fundamentally disturbing.

We were later shown brain imaging scans of PTSD patients just a few years back – illustrating almost complete lack of activity in their temporal parietal insula and parietal cortex areas.  For PTSD patients, sensations from the body were almost totally blocked.  Their brains no longer wanted them to physically ‘be,’ their trauma had been so severe.  Bessel described pranayam as the only known technique to regulate the brain stem, the part of the nervous system in charge of automatic functioning.  He also discussed the importance of the vagus nerve, which contains 80% efferent fibers, nerve communication going to the brain.

Clearly, I’m still connecting some of the dots; all this information, along with my discoveries in Health Psychology and Mindfulness and Meditation in Psychology this year, clarifies the “why” questions that pop up when I suggest asana, meditation and pranayam to my students.  The scientific research might seem redundant to hardcore practitioners, but is absolutely vital in locating the process of efficacy, what *exactly* is working, *how* is it doing what it does, do duration and frequency of practice make a difference, and if so, how much?

It’s also great fodder for recruiting new yogis (especially you skeptical lot!)  – something this yoga evangelist is very keen on (be warned! ;)).

jnanaJnana?  Really?

Already what I’ve written could be broken into *two* blogs, one about Kelly’s presentation on compassion/science and one about Bessel’s on trauma/yogic techniques/science.  But this is a blog on how grateful I am for jnana yogis.  Yogis like Kelly and Bessel who are discerning the Real from the unreal or illusory, yogis who exhibit the best of svadhyaya (self-study).  Their extensive studies and commitment to yoga provide great clarity in the grey areas that arise where Eastern philosophy meets Western science.

If you’re a traditionalist, you may find my definition of a jnani rather modern.  Kelly and Bassel did not give presentations on spiritual texts like the Bhagavad Gita or the Upanishads – and they made absolutely no mention of self-realization.  Would they call themselves jnanis?  I have no idea!  But they’ve shone a flashlight along my path, a light that came through their profound study, and so, for me, they are jnana yogis to be grateful for!

A Traditional Explanation of the Path of Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is considered one of the many paths of yoga (along with Hatha, Karma, Bhakti, Raja/Classical/Patanjali, etc.) – though the techniques and nuances of philosophy differ, they all lead to one state: samadhi (bliss, liberation, self-realization, etc.).  Jnana Yoga is known as the path for the intellectual.  According to Sadananda in his Vedanta-Sara, a fifteenth century text on jnana yoga, there are 4 principal means for attaining liberation on the path of jnana:

1. Discernment – viveka – between permanent and the transient

2. Renunciation – viraga – of the enjoyment of the fruit of one’s actions

3. The six accomplishments: tranquility (shama), sense-restraint (dama), cessation (uparati), endurance (titiksha), mental collectedness (samadhana), faith (shraddha)

4. The urge toward liberation (mumukshutva), similar to the bodhi-citta of Mahayana Buddhism.

(Feuerstein’s The Yoga Tradition, 31)

If you’re interested in diving into what jnana yoga is all about, the Bhagavad Gita (500-200 BC) is the first text to reference this path, and Swami Vivekananda is said to be the penultimate example of a jnanin.  His commentary, “Jnana Yoga,” published by Advaita Ashrama, though written in the language of the Victorian Era, is an elucidating read on the subject.

Breath: Linking Internal and External

Sweet sweet breath . . .

Ha in Hawaiian, anáil in Irish Gaelic, respiração in Portugese, ibuki in Japanese, breath is central to life.  I tell my students if we want to be great runners, it makes sense to practice running, if we want to be great artists, we could practice painting or sculpting or singing, and if we want to be great at living, we must practice breathing.

But wait a minute, do we really need to practice breathing?  If you’re alive, you breathe, so what more do you need to know?

Traditionally, Hawaiians would greet each other nose to nose and breathe in the same air.  This practice of honi, kiss, was an honorific way of sharing the same mana, life force.  Hawaiians and yogis view breath in very much the same way – as a sacred conduit for life force, known in Sanskrit as prana (mana, chi, ki, mojo, etc.).  The more scientifically minded may note this could easily be an ancient recognition of what we would later realize is the oxygen in our breath, fed to us via the respiration process.

The most famous of Hawaiian words, aloha, illustrates another subtly nuanced example of parallels between Hawaiian and yogic philosophy on breath.  It’s translated as love, compassion, hello, goodbye, and that je nes sais quoi unique to the islands, aloha spirit.  The first part of the word, “alo,” means presence, and the second part, “ha,” means breath.  So the Hawaiian frame of mind equates presence of breath with love (not dissimilar to the Hebrew “shalom”)!  (There is some linguistic debate as to the “ha” aspect of the translation; subject matter for another blog.)

But back to the breath, back to the point, back to the center of it all . . .

pranayamaSoft and romantic just behind the ear . . . a lasso to bring monkey mind back to focus . . . a tool for embodiment . . . the wave of existence . . .

These days, using breathing exercises like kapalbhati, ujjayi and simhasan, I’ve been excavating myself from winter hibernation – albeit slower than I would like.  It’s 50 degrees farenheit today, raining and windy, so mother nature is providing special challenges to my quest!  Today I’m grateful for breath, for being aware of its importance, and for the capacity to share techniques and perspectives that help make our breath – and lives – abundant, nourishing and generous.

Articles on pranayam from Yoga Journal

Article on breathing and mood from Psychology Today

The study cited in article above, exploring joy, anger, fear and panic and the breathing patterns used to elicit these emotions

Pranayam improves asthma

Other physiological benefits of pranayam (for hypertension, diabetes, etc.)

“The Science of Pranyama” by Swami Sivananda (free books on the Divine Life Society website!)

Yoga and Buddhism

Comparing Buddhism and Yoga could be the study of an entire lifetime.  I had fifteen minutes to filter it all down for a presentation in Mindfulness and Meditation in Psychology.  Thankful for the opportunity to present in public (it had been over ten years, save my time in the classroom and yoga spaces), I spent a good few hours on this bad boy.

The power point below contains most of what was presented: a very brief history of how the two philosophies developed, a comparison between the Yoga Sutras and Buddhism, and a few shared techniques.  Both emerged around the same time and share many distinct similarities.

Fast forward 1300 years and comparisons between Tantra Yoga and Vajrayana Buddhism (especially the Vijnanavada and Yogacara schools, Sahajayana, Kalacakrayana, Cha’an and Zen) would be interesting to explore.  A more in depth analysis would include an illumination of the psychological theories within each practice, and their appearance in Western psychology (Aurobindo, Jung, Wilber, and Kabat-Zinn, although a good portion of our psychology class was already dedicated to the latter).

Buddhism and Yoga Power Point

Integrating aspects of Buddhism into yoga classes for the last several years, this subject was of particular interest to me.  Admittedly, I was also motivated to define yoga for the class after observing several misconceptions of it both in psychology texts and journal articles.  I also recently found out that there is a 500-hour yoga teacher training specifically integrating mindfulness practice in California – and a few new yoga friends just graduated!

It was amazing to participate in public speaking again – even if it did feel like the octave of my voice ran somewhere between Minnie Mouse and Pee Wee Herman . . .

Spontaneity!

Despite this icky cold festering in the back of my sinuses, I have a lot to be grateful for today (and the past several days I took a break from the blog).  Since I’ve already written about libraries, I can’t blog about all the meditation books I found at the Brooklyn Public Library yesterday.  And since I’ve already blogged about baby smiles, I can’t be writing about that, despite the hearty dose of toddler grins on Easter.

So for the April Fool’s Day’s blog, I’m grateful for spontaneity in the form of: an Impromptu Dinner Chinwag (The history of yoga!  A nuclear Japan!  Are publicists evil?  Subject matter to keep the candle burning well into the night …) and an unexpected Trip to the Central Park Zoo (How often does it happen that your best friend from the age of 13 is in the *exact* same neighborhood as you in New Yorkazoid – at the exact same time – with their whole family while visiting from Seattle, without a single shred of a plan?  Synchronicity sure is a theme in my life . . . )

Yes, April Fool’s was all about spontaneity … and for that, I am grateful.  Check out Part 5 in a Psychology Today series on the awesomeness of spontaneity . . .

Published on Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com)

The Wisdom of Spontaneity (Part 5)

By Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.
Created Apr 22 2009 – 11:02am

 Spontaneity and Happiness

Despite considerable research on the topic, I’ve discovered very little explicitly relating spontaneity to happiness. Admittedly, it’s doubtful that any straightforward, one-to-one correspondence actually exists. Still, what various theorists have said about this ideal state of consciousness suggests that, however indirectly, spontaneity does play a crucial role in its achievement. For whether these writers talk about the importance of living in the moment (or “mindfulness“), liberating oneself from self-consciousness, or even “being in the zone,” the underlying notion of living more spontaneously to foster a greater state of well-being is generally not far below the surface.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has become eminent in the burgeoning field of happiness research for his ideas on “flow,” which he defines as “the psychology of optimal experience.” To the author, an individual “in flow” is so satisfyingly immersed in an activity (mental or physical) that all awareness of space and time simply disappears. Such a state is now commonly recognized as pivotal to a basic understanding of happiness dynamics. And Csikszentmihalyi’s elaborate characterizations of this state reveal much about its essentially uncontrived, unforced nature. Similar to spontaneity and happiness, it can’t be “commandered” into existence–but it can be cultivated, and the author suggests numerous ways of doing so.

jump for joyBy way of qualification, I should mention that our basic personality structure itself partly determines our potential for spontaneity. For example, the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI) posits that there are essentially two ways of orienting toward the outer world. So-called “Judging” (J) types tend to live in a controlled, self-regulated, orderly fashion; more adaptive “Perceiving” (P) types prefer to live in a more flexible, unscheduled–i.e., spontaneous–way. Nonetheless, the very capacity for spontaneity hinges mostly on how much individuals are able to trust themselves. Absent this self-trust, neither a “J” nor “P” is likely to feel comfortable enough to demonstrate much willingness to act extemporaneously. As I’ve already indicated, becoming more self-confident, as well as developing more faith in one’s decision-making, and being prepared to take some risk in this wondrous adventure called “life,” all seem inextricably linked to happiness.

Whether we’re “J’s” or “P’s” on the MBTI, happiness–like spontaneity–is nothing that we can ever take for granted, or directly plan for. Nor is it anything we can contrive, arrange, or manipulate. By its very nature, it’s unforeseen and unpredictable. But although most theorists today have concluded that regularly experiencing this state is at least fifty percent biological, virtually all of these writers also believes (again, like spontaneity) that it can, to a considerable degree, be “courted” or “nurtured” into being.

Much of the abundant literature on Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology, for instance, focuses on helping individuals learn how to increase their odds of attaining happiness. There’s also an increasing amount of literature on such things as volunteer work (and giving to others generally), and embracing an attitude of gratitude–as both these practices can assist us in experiencing an improved sense of well-being. Neither of these behaviors can bring about happiness directly, for (as has already been emphasized) such a mental/emotional/spiritual state doesn’t directly depend on anything, nor does it have any formal prerequisites. But such pro-social, or life-affirming, practices do promote feelings of happiness, even though the state itself always exists in the spontaneous here-and-now.

happiness icon flowers and fruit It might be asked, “How does counseling or therapy relate to all of this?” If most people report feeling happier after undergoing therapy, it’s not simply because they’ve learned new techniques and skills to cope more effectively with their problems. It’s that the process of their self-work has led them to feel better about themselves in general. Liking themselves more, having higher self-esteem, their “enhanced,” more assured sense of self permits them to become less rigid–or more spontaneous–in both word and deed. At the same time, this altered self-image also contributes to a greater sense of well-being. And, too, this new (or at least “restored”) sense of who they are enables them to break free of irrational self-constraints, place more trust in their intuition, and express themselves more freely with others. In short, greater self-acceptance permits greater spontaneity.

Therapy at its best is a liberating experience. And it might be said that, as much as anything else, what is being freed is the individual’s spontaneity. Herein lies the path to that self-actualization which I believe almost everyone implicitly links to happiness. And whether an individual finds this path through therapy, or quite independent of it, it is a path that reflects the ultimate wisdom of spontaneity: the faith and abiding trust in one’s self from which only good things can come.

Note 1: Here are links to Parts 123, and 4 of this extended post.

–I invite readers to follow me on Twitter.


 

Real Happiness

For a class I’m taking at the New School, Mindfulness and Meditation in Psychology, we’re utilizing an array of published psychology studies and meta-analyses, as well as three brilliant books in cultivating mindfulness.  I’m spoiled for inspiration.  One of these light-shedding books is Sharon Salzberg’s, Real Happiness.  It’s accessible, down to earth, and pulls from decades of solid personal practice.  Sharon Salzberg is rocking my world.

She’s currently presenting meditation workshops at the yoga studio a block from my house and I’ll definitely be heading over there soon to meet her in person.

The book breaks down several different kinds of meditations, based in the Buddhist tradition.  There are four meditation practices on the CD that comes with the book – breathing, walking, emotions and loving kindness.  Something for everyone!

If you’ve never meditated before, and you’re looking for a nice gateway practice, check out Real Happiness for practical advice and encouragement along the way.