5 Ways to Deepen Your Meditation Practice and Experience a Spiritual Transformation

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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.

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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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Video: What Do You Think Humans Will Look Like 100 Years From Now?

It’s hard to predict what the future has in store for mankind as a species. We can make educated guesses as to what life will look like for the average human 100 years from now--and a lot of it revolves around integrating the amazing technologies we’ve developed into the human body itself.

You’ve undoubtedly seen some of this technology already. Prosthetics for missing limbs, bones, joints, and even gadgets that keep our hearts beating regularly. We’ve seen scientists modify the genes of animals and plants.

Eventually, humans will have to face the morality of “chasing perfection,” so to speak. Or the dilemma we run into once we start to strive for a perfect biological human being.

Futurist and Harvard researcher, Juan Enriquez, is here to tell us that is chasing this “perfection” that will ultimately save mankind as a species from some sort of massive extinction event.

Events of mass extinction have already occurred on Earth at least five times, one of which completely wiped out the dinosaurs. Given this knowledge, we know that it is highly likely that mankind is up next on the docket--unless we can figure out a way to survive it.

Watch the TED talk below as Juan sheds light on humanity’s only hope for survival. He discusses how mankind will eventually start to alter the fundamental aspects of our own genetics, organs and cells to cope with extreme living conditions.

"If you believe that extinctions are common and natural and normal, and occur periodically, it becomes a moral imperative to diversify our species,” Juan explains.

Juan goes on to explain that if mankind wants to have any chance of living past just such an event, we need to become what Nikolai Kardashev calls a Type III civilization. Or, a civilization that is capable of harnessing all of the energy within our own galaxy--a civilization that has altered mankind so much, it would be completely unrecognizable by today’s standards.

"To become an intra-Solar System civilisation, we're going to have to create a Type III civilisation, and that looks very different from what we've got here,” Juan tells us.

By watching the video above, we can see that, should humanity rise to the occasion, mankind’s destiny is something most of us wouldn’t have imagined even in our wildest dreams.


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Maybelline's First Male Model Has a Ton of Critics--And His Father Just Shut Them All Down

Makeup giant Maybelline has gained their first male model, and as one might imagine, he’s received quite a bit of criticism from homophobic people on social media.

Like blogger Matt Walsh, who posted a picture of Maybelline’s Manny Gutierrez accompanied by his thoughts on the makeup company hiring a man like Manny:

“Dads, this is why you need to be there to raise your sons.”

This didn’t sit well with Manny’s father, who reached out to Manny to tell him to spread the word that he’s been an active participant in Manny’s life for as long as he can remember, and that he’s not going to tolerate such hateful ideas.

Manny proceeded to share a screenshot of the conversation Manny’s father wanted to have with people like Matt Walsh:

As you can see, his father handled the situation with the kind of class that people like Matt Walsh lack entirely. He doesn’t resort to name-calling or insults, but instead tells Matt that he suspects Matt doesn’t “[know] anybody from the LGBT community,” because if he did, he wouldn’t be saying the things he’s saying.

Then, Manny revealed that his father actually works for him and is a large part of his life:

Another great thing about this type of conversation?
Conversations like the one Manny’s father put forth have been seen to help create more accepting attitudes and perspectives from people who hold prejudiced views of the LGBT community.

Grad students David Broockman and Joshua Kalla recreated a controversial study that found increased levels of tolerance from folks who were asked if they had ever been discriminated against in their lives.

"Canvassers asked people to talk about a time they were treated differently. Most people have been judged because of gender, race or some other issue,” said Broockman to NPR last April. "For many voters, they reflect on it, and they realize that's a terrible feeling they don't want anyone to have.”

Still, Matt Walsh isn’t convinced. He wrote in The Blaze that he doubts male models hired by makeup companies (referencing CoverGirl’s first male ambassador, James Charles, and Maybelline’s Manny Gutierrez) had prominent father figures in their lives:

"I do not know the life story of our friends James and Manny. I’m told that at least one of them comes from an intact family where a father was present and active in the home. Perhaps that really is the case. It’s certainly possible — though unlikely, I would think — that a boy could have the best dad in the world and still turn into a makeup model."

Funny, isn’t it, how people make such bold comments without knowing a single thing about the people they’re criticizing. What do you think about this recent feud on social media?

h/t Attn

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This Man Spends His Days Hunting Treasure Underwater--This Is What He’s Found

Treasure hunting is typically a profession only found in video games and fictional stories, but Jake Koehler has made it a reality for himself.

Jake spends most of his time underwater searching for the various things that often get dropped into the ocean. Much of it is not too surprising. GoPro cameras, smart phones, knives and guns make up a good portion of the items he typically discovers underneath the water’s surface. But, that’s not all Jake does.

Jake also keeps a small set of tools on hand with him when he dives so that he can help clean up the large amount of trash that litters the ocean. The types of trash that marine life often find themselves hindered by or even trapped under.

In the video, we can see Jake cutting turtles and fish loose from different fishing lines, hooks and pieces of trash that they’ve haphazardly wandered into.

Perhaps the best thing we love about Jake is that he rarely ever keeps anything that he finds in the water. Instead, he tries to find their original owners to return the lost items. And any weapons he finds are turned into the local police department.

“I was able actually to make a full-time job doing what I love to do and helping out the environment,” Jake says. “So if you guys have a dream, and you want to possibly help out the environment a little bit, go for it man! Give it a try.”

How cool is that?

Be sure to share with friends and loved ones who would love to hear about Jake’s awesome treasure hunting adventures!

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A Few Reasons Why Some People Are Starting to Snort Raw Cacao

No, your eyes do not deceive you. People around the world have started engaging a new practice that is typically only seen when doing drugs like cocaine--snorting raw cacao to gain a healthy boost of energy.

How will this affect you? Those who snort raw cacao report feeling refreshed, energized and fully awake, and these effects happen almost instantly. The best part? Unlike coffee, this energetic high won’t cause you intense jittery feelings accompanied by anxiety or nervousness.

This type of high is much different, and it’s leading many people to believe that it could replace many of the substances we regularly use today, such as caffeine and other recreational drugs.

Do a bit of research and you’ll quickly learn that snorting raw cacao is actually becoming a fairly common ritual in the European club scene. Entire parties and events have been based around the consumption of raw cacao in lieu of substances like cocaine, ecstasy and the like. Berlin has even seen a monthly gathering of ravers who dance the night away while maintaining a healthy raw cacao buzz.

Snorting chocolate?
You’re not actually snorting chocolate. Although raw cacao is an ingredient in chocolate, the chocolate we largely eat today is processed by mixing it in with milk and sugar. However, seeds from the cacao tree have been used traditionally by ancient cultures seeking to heighten brain function and clarity.

Raw cacao causes the body to release a strong amount of endorphins into one’s bloodstream, creating feelings of euphoria and happiness. Additionally, cacao contains tyrosine, a compound that affects dopamine levels in the brain. And, as many of us know, dopamine is the same brain chemical that gets altered by so many other drugs people consume today.

Kingston University, based in London, conducted a study using their team of cyclists and discovered that consuming raw cacao helped them to perform better. They were able to go faster and travel farther. The theory behind this is that epicatechin, a compound found in cacao, widens blood vessels, allowing for increased levels of oxygen consumption by the muscles.

Not into the whole snorting thing?
No worries. You can get the same effects of snorting raw cacao by simply mixing at least 2 teaspoons of the substance into a drink, like coffee or tea.

If you’re looking for a safe, effective, legal way to get a bit of a high going, raw cacao is definitely something to put on your bucket list.

There have only been a couple of people so far who advocate against the snorting of raw cacao. One of them is Doctor Jordan Josephson, who tells us that snorting anything isn’t really that great for you:

“Snorting chocolate powder is not safe, because the powder is perceived by the nose as a foreign toxic substance.” This can cause “damage [to] the microscopic hairs, or cilia, and membranes of the nose, causing problems with their ability to work correctly, as well as possible scarring.”

So, as with most recreational substances, practice moderation and control when indulging the senses. Otherwise, it’s worth a try!

Elephant Journal

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