Sometimes when we’re beginning the journey of meditation it’s difficult to know if we’re meditating the ‘right’ way.

We might have been practicing for a few weeks or months, or maybe in a year or more, but it’s hard to know if we’re making progress.

Often the advice out there can be really confusing, a quick Google search and we end up with more questions than we started with.

How important is posture?

Should I breathe through my mouth or nose?

Eyes open or closed?

In silence or guided?

Should I practice alone or in a group?

How can I deepen my meditation?

You may have heard that you’re going to have good days and bad days and that you should just get on with the practice.

This is true, but it’s also true that it can become stale.

Those who are living a monastic life may be able to keep on with a very one dimensional practice because their brain remains engaged – this is because spirituality encompasses the majority of what create meaning in their lives.

For most of us however – especially when just starting out – we may become disengaged. As a result we’ll spend hours on the mat not really meditating but kind of in a half dazed state just going through the motions.

The way to overcome this disengagement is to add an element of variety and creativity into the practice and interrupt the pattern. Remember though that should be done sparingly, you shouldn’t be changing your routine all the time just because you’re getting distracted.

Here are 5 ways to deepen your meditation practice and experience a spiritual transformation.

  1. Deep Yogic breathing

There are various ways to practice yogic breathing or Pranayama.

For a basic method try to start by placing your hands on your stomach with interlaced fingers. Inhale deeply so that they separate slightly as your stomach fills with air, followed by your ribs and finally your chest. When exhaling simply follow the same sequence in reverse.

You can incorporate this into your meditation session at any time so that if you notice that you’re getting distracted more than usual or your mind isn’t engaged you can do 15-20 breaths to return your center.

If you’d like to learn more about yogic breathing and don’t have access to a teacher, there are a number of videos that explain the various techniques.

  1. Consciously interrupt the flow of your day

When we tell ourselves a story about our life we usually group our day into different activities.

I was sleeping then I was eating then I was showering then I was commuting then I was working for example.

But when we run through this experience in real time, we often forget that we’re transitioning from one thing to another, until we reach the end of the day and it can seem like we’ve just spent the last 12 hours on autopilot.

Paul Wilson, author of the Calm Technique, recommends that we take a conscious pause between each daily activity, be that one breath or ten minutes.

When moving into another action, simply take a moment to pause and recognise the transition before carrying on with your day.

  1. Introduce active meditation

When we start to make meditation just something we do in the morning or afternoon, it can cease to become a way of being and start to become a chore.

The aim of practice is not to elicit a sense of deep calm and mindfulness for a certain period of time, but to make your entire life a meditation. As Jack Kornfield has said, “meditation is training wheels for real life.”

To deepen your meditation practice, choose one activity that you do habitually every day, this can be walking, eating, waiting for a bus, brushing your teeth, cleaning the dishes – and make it a meditation. Commit to it so that every day you’re making the meditative experience flow throughout your day as opposed to coming and leaving in designating chunks of time.

Once you’ve started to remember to do this consistently for at least a month, then you can start adding more activities.

  1. Practice the fire breath

This is another yogic breathing technique that is quite different and comes from both the Hatha and Kundalini traditions.

It is used by superhuman Wim Hof to generate a meditative state that allows him to withstand extreme temperatures.

The technique can be relatively intense, so it’s advised that you start slow unless you have an experienced practitioner guiding you.

To perform the fire breath, close your eyes and breathe out through your nose in short powerful bursts. When inhaling you should let the air come in naturally – the intensity should be lighter than on the exhale.

Start by performing 10 to 20 of these breaths and work your way up to more over time, you may experience tingling or light-headedness.

  1. Perform mini-body scans when we get distracted

Sometimes when we meditate we get so focused on the object of our attention that we completely forget to keep our body relaxed.

What we need to understand is that the ability of the mind to relax is dependent on the ability of the body to relax, so the depth of your physiological relaxation will limit the depth of your meditation.

If you find yourself distracted or disengaged, go from your feet to your head placing your focus on each muscle group and relaxing them slowly before returning to your breathe.

Adding variety to your meditation can deepen your state and set the ground for a true spiritual transformation. Have you had any experience with these techniques? Let us know in the comments.

Attention Expanded Consciousness Readers!

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Ben is a freelance writer, and the co-creator of Project Monkey Mind—a blog that helps you learn practical ways to live a productive, fulfilling and world-changing life in the digital age.

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It's Official: Researchers Say We Should Only Be Working 4 Days a Week

Those of us who have had, or currently have, a 9 to 5 job know incredibly well that the 3 o’clock crash is a very real thing. So many people work hard all morning only to find themselves bored, burnt out and killing time for the last two or three hours of the day until they’re off. Yet, people continue to crank out 60-70 hour work weeks.

K. Anders Ericsson, a prominent scientist in the field of work psychology, has done the experiments and says that most people are only capable of doing about 4 to 5 hours of work that is actually productive. Once they reach their productive “limit,” they become less productive and less focused.

"If you’re pushing people well beyond the time they can really concentrate maximally, you’re very likely to get them to acquire some bad habits. What’s worse, those bad habits could end up spilling into the time people are normally productive," Ericsson says.

CEO of Treehouse, Ryan Carson, decided to test this theory about ten years ago in 2006. He put in place a 32-hour work week and hasn’t gone back since. His employees are not only happier, but much more productive. This resonates with Ericsson’s findings that shorter work weeks helped boost productive output, worker retention, and overall personal and professional happiness.

The idea has also been tested in a school environment, as 4th and 5th grade students in Colorado were part of an experiment that saw their school week drop from five days to four. The results? Reading and math scores for the 4-day school week students went up by 6 percent and 12 percent when compared to students in the traditional 5-day school week.

"I think the idea that children will be fully concentrating during all their classes is unreasonable," Ericsson explains.

Much of the evidence suggests that simply finding new ways to redistribute the workload over the week can have major benefits for both schools and professional work environments. Many places have already begun doing so by offering their employees four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days. This not only gives people an extra day off, but also allows them a greater chance of avoiding rush hour traffic.

What do you think? Would you prefer a 4-day work week?

h/t BrightSide

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Photos: Stray Miniature Schnauzer is Taken in by Monastery, Becomes a Monk

It’s not everyday you see a miniature schnauzer dressed up like a monk. The adorable pup you see here is Friar Bigotón (Friar Moustache), and he’s the newest member of St. Francis Monastery located in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Friar Moustache was once a stray dog wandering the streets until he was taken in by the kind monks at the monastery.

“His life is all about playing and running,” says fellow friar Jorge Fernandez. “Here, all of the brothers love him very much. He is a creature of God.”

Friar Moustache was even given a special ‘habit’ to wear around the monastery, denoting his status as a friar like the other monks. He can be seen regularly attending to his chores around the monastery, which includes giving sermons to the fish.

“If only all the churches of our country [would] adopt a dog and care for him like Friar Bigotón,” writes local animal rescue, Proyecto Narices Frías (Cold Nose Project). “We are sure that the parishioners would follow his example.”

How cute is this little monk dog?

Please share with friends and family who would love to see Friar Moustache’s new home at the monastery!

h/t BoredPanda

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5 Photos Showing Strange Things Happen When Bookstore Employees Are Bored

People tend to get creative when they’re bored and need to entertain themselves. Like the good folks at the Librairie Mollat in France, who actually started an Instagram page dedicated to their new favorite pastime: finding books that match up perfectly with their patrons’ faces and bodies.

We can see just how good they’ve gotten at pairing the right faces with the right books--the result being something that is different, yet still artful in its own capacity. Not to mention, it’s kind of hilarious and unsettling at the same time.

Perhaps even cooler is the fact that this particular bookstore was the first independent bookstore to open in Bordeaux, France, in 1896. Its employees are clearly set on only furthering its reputation of independence.

Check out the pictures here, let us know which ones are your favorite, and then head over to their Instagram account to see more!








h/t Bored Panda

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3 Things You Need to Know About High-Functioning Depression

Depression is a very complex mental condition that affects everyone differently. Those of us who have suffered from depression before know just how insufferable it truly is.

For some, the condition is just like many people believe it to be: feeling apathetic towards everything, feeling fatigued and unmotivated, crying, avoiding people and friends, etc. For many others, depression hides behind a happy face and a well-to-do attitude--masks that cover up any trace of unhappiness.

These people are suffering from high-functioning depression. And it’s important to know the difference.

High-functioning versus low-functioning depression

Unlike people with low-functioning depression who struggle to get out of bed or even take a shower, high-functioning depression is when a person is seemingly quite well on the outside, but on the inside they are consumed by sadness.

Professor of psychiatry Carol Landau says that she typically sees high-functioning depression in people who have relatively good (or even enviable) lives who have achieved a lot.

"People often say being high-functioning is better than being low-functioning, but that’s not really true because the most important thing is for a depressed person to get help — which a high-functioning person is limiting herself from," Landau says.

It’s often kept hidden because of the stigma surrounding it

So many people in the world today live with high-functioning depression. Some have been doing it for almost all of their lives without anyone ever noticing. One of the main reasons this is has to do with the negative stigma surrounding depression as a mental health condition.

Have you ever told someone you’re depressed and they ask why you can’t just be happy? Or why can’t you just stop being depressed? Depression is a largely misunderstood condition and people automatically become uneasy when you tell them about how lifeless you feel inside and how nothing changes it.

Landau says she sees it a lot in women because of their need “to be caregivers,” something that contradicts them “admitting [that they] need help.”

Learning how to recognize depression

”You might have a friend who is cranky all the time, or who people think of as a “bitch,“ but inwardly that person is really struggling. Other subtle signs to look for: ironic or morose jokes or often seeming out of it. For me, it was irritability,” explains Landau, describing how depression can manifest in a person differently than we tend to believe.

If you think someone you know or love is battling with depression, the best ways to reach out are by asking simple questions, like “How are you doing right now?” followed up with neutral phrases like “you seem kind of out of it lately” or “you don’t seem like yourself.” People with depression often just want you to listen to them.

If you feel that it’s a good time to offer suggestions or advice, come prepared with recommendations for a therapist or something that might help them get out of their head-space. But, be prepared for them not wanting your help or to leave their depressive comfort. Many people will take it the wrong way when you suggest them seeking out help.

“There are so many different types of therapists, medications, apps, and other tools. That’s why it’s tragic that so many people don’t seek help.”

Mental health is something many of us take for granted until our own begins to decline or suffer. It’s a terrible feeling and one that is hard to shake. If you’re depressed, do not be afraid to reach out for help. If you think someone might be depressed, listen to what they have to say and see if you can help.

Above all else, we must take care of each other.

h/t Brightside

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