Deep Breaths of Gratitude & Appreciation

Animals that have the capacity to breathe slowly and deeply tend to have longer lifespans. Take the giant Aldabra Tortoise for instance, living to 152 years old.

When you inhale, your lungs expand to hold the incoming air.   How much air they hold is called lung capacity and varies with a person’s size, age, gender and respiratory health. The maximum amount of air an average adult  lungs can hold is about six liters (that’s the same as about three large soda bottles).

Deep, slow breathing has many benefits.

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1. Breath = life. The better (fuller) you breathe, the more energy you will have. Taking deeper breaths will bring in more oxygen into the body and improve your energy levels.

2. Deep breaths = less stress and better digestion. Slow deep breaths help to activate parasympathetic nervous system which is when the body gets the chance to recuperate, regenerate, and heal..

3. Deep breaths = less inflammation. Deep breathing is said to reduce the acidity level of the body making it more alkaline reducing your risk of infection

4. Deep breath = more awareness. The more awareness you have in the present moment, the more likely you are to connect with your intuition or internal teacher.  It is a matter of learning to listen to that voice and understand it.

5. Slower breaths = better relationships. Most relationships would be better if people were less reactive. Can you imagine if instead of saying something mean, you were able to mentally step back and chill before talking?

Notes from The Hindu Breathe Like a Tortoise, Live Like a King
List of longest living animals and organisms 

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Kiss your life today. Accept it as it is. Right now. So that those moments of peace, happiness and joy you are waiting for don’t pass you by.

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Featured Artist

Marisa Veerman on Instagram

Stillness

Somedays we just have to listen to our bodies. We must become more sensitive to what our body is trying to tell us. Madeline Johnson

Let us be silent,

that we may hear the whispers of the gods.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Somedays we just have to listen to our bodies. We must become more sensitive to what our body is trying to tell us.

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Featured Artwork

Rie froehlich

Be Still Where You Are

Go slow and savor your life by Madeline Johnson.

It’s better to be slow and cautious in the right direction than to be swift and careless on the wrong path.  Savor the Moment. This one right now.

louise moma

This savoring (of life)… it’s a magical act.

how to savor life

Ask Leo Babauta

Quote

“Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.” 

Future Read

the dance

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Dance: Moving To the Rhythms of Your True Self 

More Featured art

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Louise Bourgeois

Untitled Date:(1943)Medium:Ink on colored paperDimensions:8 7/8 x 11 1/2″ (22.5 x 29.2 cm)Credit Line:Gift of the artistMoMA Number:174.1995Copyright:© 2013 Louise Bourgeois Trust/Licensed by VAGA, NY

Emotions Over Thoughts and A Softer Way to Communicate

How to follow your intuition by becoming more mindful.

Three things I am working on right now.

Soul Singing

Question: What does my soul say today?

My soul doesn’t speak in thoughts. No, not at all. These thoughts that clutter my mind are just residual pain left over from the things I haven’t let go of yet. Thoughts of conflicts yet resolved.

My soul speaks in feelings, emotions, images, sounds, clues.

My soul speaks to me when I feel deep sadness, frustration, anger, contentment and happiness.

I can feel, see, taste, touch and listen to my soul when my mind is silent.

That’s why I meditate.

Weeding my mind garden so there is more room for a soul orchestra.

Good feelings can’t grow from grudges. Pure thoughts don’t come from residual pain.

These are the feelings from stories feared.

Letting these thoughts drift on by, help me weed my mind garden and clear the soil for a more softer, gentler and more compassionate state of being.

Recovering from the violent ways in which we communicate.

Judging, blaming, demanding, critiquing, name-calling.

Talk about your karma baby.

Softer thoughts lead to kinder words. Seeking more non-violent ways to communicate.

Inspired by Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss & Turning Your Mind Into An Ally by Sakyong

Mipham

Going from Anxious Type A to a More Self-Healing Nature

I’m not sure when I adapted such a stressed out, hard-charging approach to life, but I did and it sucked and I am over it. I don’t regret much, but I do feel as if my fretful, grinding approach to work and life has exhausted me with very little more to show for it.

All that grind, all that toil, leading to very little added reward.

What a waste of energy.

Sure I feel successful, but I have over exerted my energy and worried my way to fatigue. The added busy motion, flying headlong into my days, pressing to get things done quickly, hasn’t adding anything of value to my life.

I could have had so much more fun enjoying the process.

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So now I am on a mission to change the habits that have led me to feeling exhausted and sometimes even sick.

Make it Simple, But Significant

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Everything is related to everything else. How stressed or angry you are, and how you interact with the world, is contingent in large part on your personality style,” says Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. “And that is going to have an enormous impact on your health.”

Good Riddance to the Strain, Struggle & Strife

Eliminating the Need to Over Exert my Energy

My plan is to transform my Type A personality to a self-healing nature that is more curious, secure, constructive, responsive, and conscientious. These traits translate to enthusiasm for life, emotional balance, and strong social relationships. Read more about how your personality traits effect your life here.

busy

Barring any states of emergency that require immediate action, I ban all short and unreasonable deadlines. No more guarantees, pressure to promise results or setting up impossible goals.

I will only take on projects that I am exited to tackle and that I will enjoy completing.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t creatively challenge myself.

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If there is anything I regret, it is having spent so many of my years moving through my days, huffing, puffing, red-faced to get the maximum out of every day.

I could have done it without the pain.

Rushing ruins the whole thing.

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I want to move with more grace and elegance. I believe that with a calmer approach, much of my day can be effortless, enjoyable and effective.

How?

  • I will stop when I begin to feel stressed.
  • Take more time to think.
  • Look for ideas, not immediate answers.
  • Make obstacles work in my favor.
  • I won’t take the pleasure out of doing a great job because I am rushing through it.

More ways to eliminate the stress from your life.

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JR x Blu

In 2007, JR collaborates with Italian artist Blu on a mural installation in Berlin.

 

Additional Credits

 

Artist Nick Cave

 

Something to Smile About

smiling_cat_small1Meditation is not just all breathing and quieting the mind. There are many types of meditation techniques including my absolute favorite, Smile Meditation. So, in honor of #worldsmileday  I share with you a simple way to lighten up and spark joy.

To begin the inner-smile meditation, sit comfortably on a pillow or chair with your palms on your knees. Straighten your spine, lifting it up from the top of your head. Then relax the muscles in your neck and throat. Take a few deep, slow breathes.

Close your eyes. If you are tense, gently move your neck from side to side and take one or two deep breaths that fill your abdomen and chest, then slowly exhale.

Next, smile outwardly. It might be helpful to use a positive memory to evoke the feeling of joy. Once you have a grin on your face, it’s time to smile inwardly.

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Picture a smiling face in your mind. Bring the smile to the space between your eyebrows – your third eye or “yin tang” in Chinese medicine – and allow it to rest there for a few breaths.

Now take the smile and glide it in turn to each part of your body. You can imagine your body as hollow and the smile as a glowing ball of light filling every dark corner. Alternatively, you can picture every organ, tissue and bone smiling. If your smile gets stuck or fades at a tense or painful spot, breathe gently into that part of your body. Imagine inhaled breath moving into that area.

o-SMILING-ANIMAL-facebookNow, try to maintain the sensation of the inner smile throughout the day. #worldsmileday

Read more about inner smile meditation here.

True Grit, The Act of Envisioning and Living to 100

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I am adding yet another new daily habit of 30 minutes of focus and deep concentration by journaling precisely what I want to create in life with the honest intention of being in service to everyone I meet.  I imagine and behold a (super) better version of myself, eliminating any negative thoughts including envy, hatred, judgement, selfishness or cynicism. No matter what, I will carve out this time to make sure this becomes a ritual in my life.

“. . . in applying one’s whole soul to doing right and speaking the truth. There remains only the enjoyment of living a liked succession of good deeds, with not the slightest gap between them.”  – Marcus Aurelius

Study: Meditations (Hardcover Classics)

marcus-aurelius-quote-fridge-magnet-2_largeSystem Restore -A Metaphorical Moment

The other evening I was pulling my hair out while trying to free up some space on my computer with Daisy Disk (not worth the $9.99, a total waste). After backing up my laptop I had to restore my operating system. Not something I wanted to be doing at 11 pm at night. I have no patience for this, but it’s like laundry and cleaning the kitchen, it just needs to get done. But I had a moment of true realization while I waited for my Mac to restart with a new blank desktop –  I am also in the process of refreshing and restoring my operating system.  Some call it reinventing ourselves.

The Act of Envisioning the Future

The way I see it, we can worry about the future or we can focus on creating a better story for tomorrow. Recognizing that the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually transform themselves into physical reality, I have committed to concentrating my thoughts on precisely who I want to become and I am creating a crystal clear picture of that person each day, by writing a new future. This also helps with incessant useless monkey-mind worry because I am putting my thoughts to better use. I highly recommend you try it for yourself.

True Grit

Just like building a start up or pursuing any dream, this life project of mine requires deliberate practice and focus and as many have come to understand a great dose of grit. Grit defined as perseverance and persistence coupled with an unwillingness to wilt, complain, or cry about my current state. It’s the ability to accept my reality and make the best of it, never wishing I was somewhere else, or in someone else’s shoes.

I have come to understand that people who value grit have a number of things in common. They appreciate everything in their lives and what they have right now.

small-daily-improvementsThe “gritty” among us also –

  • Remain cautiously optimistic.
  • Exercise their muscle of self-control.
  • Have a higher level of social intelligence.
  • Maintain the ability to preserver through even the toughest times.
  • Stay enthusiastic about the process.
  • Embrace the art of curiosity about everything. Even their problems.

Grit: harnessing the courage, the resiliency, and the power within.

Climbing Hills and Recreating Blue Zones

Barring heavy rain or deep wet snow, every day I take a 25 minute steep hill hike around my town. What I am trying to do is recreate the effect that blue zones have on the body.  Blue Zones are places in the world where people live to 100 and stay healthy.

The five blue zones are as follows:

  • The Italian island of Sardinia
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
  • Ikaria, an isolated Greek island

Ikaria_1428628iThe people in blue zones don’t need to artificially incorporate exercise into their lives with machines.  The exercise comes for free, already built into their daily lives naturally.  Common across all of the blue zones is that the people climb mountains, walk through the hills, work the land, and generally use their bodies in a constant grind as they perform their daily activities.  And it doesn’t have to be high intensity “run as fast as you can” exercise either.

To live long and healthy requires a constant, daily lifestyle of positive enrichment for the body and mind.  For many this may seem hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Read more about what it takes to live to 100 here.

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Read: The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People

Inviting Your Troubles to Tea

buddhaThe night before the Buddha attained final enlightenment he had a visit from the demon king Mara. Mara represented all the anger, doubt, fear, striving, craving and greed of the world. He came to tempt the Buddha.
Instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, the Buddha calmly acknowledged his presence, staying “I see you, Mara
He then invited Mara to tea as an honored guest.
It is suggested that we do the same when we are pained with trouble (whether real or imaginary). When we are feeling jealous, fearful, angry, frustrated, we examine these feelings with a compassionate heart, filled with self-love. We invite troubles to tea.
Instead of running from what troubles us, avoiding what is painful to face while only trying to seek happiness, we need to deal with all of life’s struggles head on, or they will continue to haunt us.
tea settingTea 101
Wake up with Matcha or Peppermint; Sleep with Kava or Chamomile; Ward off a cold with Echinacea or White Tea; Digest with Ginger or Lemon; Detox with Dandelion or Nettle; Soothe an upset stomach with Fennel or Ginger; Energize with Mint or Green; De-stress with Lavender or Ginseng.
tea
 Tea Supplies
 Soma-Water-Pitcher-01Filter your water

Soma Sustainable Pitcher & Plant-Based Water Filter

 bonavitaInvest in an electric tea kettle

Bonavita Dual Voltage 0.5L Travel Electric Kettle

My favorite morning tea

detox
Traditional Medicinals EveryDay Detox, 16-Count Boxes (Pack of 6)

kenko
KENKO Tea – Matcha Green Tea Powder – USDA Organic – Japanese Culinary Grade Matcha Powder for Lattes Smoothies Baking -100g Bag [50 Servings]

 

compassion A lesson a day from . . .

Teachings of the Buddha (Shambhala Pocket Classics)

Lightening Up, Sparking Joy and Creating Love

heartAs I read many of your blogs I can see that we are on a similar path of questioning our lives, bettering ourselves and pursing our dreams. As I seek to accomplish the same, mine is a three part story and also an endless loop of lightening up, sparking joy and creating love. Creating a life that I love and that inspires the world.

Success So Far

Some of the less exciting details. In the past year I have lost 25 pounds, toned and strengthened my body, spent five to eight hours a day examining my values, thoughts and inner-conflicts while embracing a new lifestyle mindset of mindfulness and minimalism. All with the help of some of the best mentors, teachers, authors and leaders I can find.

laoFilled with Mad Love

Without going through the harrowing details of my personal backstory, the most important thing to know about me (that I think can help you) is that on July 18, 2014 I had had enough. Enough of everything, including –

  • The exhausting “weight of the world” that I thought I held.
  • Managing clients with entitled attitudes and bad business models.
  • Rushing through my days without a moment to breathe.
  • Feeling like a worn, torn and tired door mat.
  • Arguing and getting enraged at my family because I didn’t know how to ask for help.
  • Tackling daily task lists that ran the length of a full page of Staple’s copy paper.
  • Trying to play the role of super woman while managing everyone’s mess but my own.

wavesThe monumental motivation factor was raging anger, a deep-seated mammoth-sized storm of anger. Not depression, not a feeling of deflated defeat, no, an exasperated tsunami convulsed with rage.

Change don’t come easy.

I honestly believe it takes that amount of anger, pain and/or strong emotion to push someone out of a rut and/or from the false sense of security that society is trying to sell us to creating and designing a life that you love.

This type of energized and emotional fuel is what takes you from reading your hundredth self-help book filled with life hacks to actually taking action.

picassoWe are what we do

We are not what we think, or what we feel or what we say, we are what we do. Actions do indeed speak louder than words. If you are unhappy with a particular part of your life, take a strong look at what you are doing to be happier.

My Story

Part 1 Lightening Up

Symbolically, I think the added 25 pounds that I gained were due to the heaviness of life, daily strife and stress and uncertainty. I was caught in the spin cycle of success. That compounded with sitting at my desk for 10 hours, eating a mindless lunch and  banging away at the keyboard with only face-to-screen interaction for most of the day that did me in.

My transformation began with

  • Getting up earlier each morning to make the time for me.
  • Changing my habits and designing result rituals – daily, repeated steps towards my success.
  • Remembering to rest, breathe and take a moment to come back to the present.
  • Counting calories while eating low-fat nutrient dense foods.
  • A powerful dose of daily cardio and strength training workouts.
  • Scheduling a 10-20 minute vipassana meditation practice daily.
  • Starting each day with a gratitude journal.
  • A never-ending commitment to reading, learning and expanding my mind.

Part 2 Sparking Joy (where I am now)

It’s all about letting go. Realizing that perfect is the enemy of good. While it is important to have control over our lives, it can be counterproductive to attempt to control our lives. The energy spent trying to be perfect can keep us from enjoying and appreciating all the good things that exist right before us.

Which also means letting go of thoughts, things, people and habits that no longer spark joy in my life.

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

tidying upWith no time to clean or organize (for reasons stated above), shopping for things I already had, my mind and home has become a disorganized array of clutter with stuff I don’t even like, yet enjoy.

I am in the process of –

  • Removing anything in my home and work environment that doesn’t give me a sense of true enjoyment.
  • Guarding my time and my mind with my life. (Note: The 7-Day Mental Diet helps with the mind part)
  • Detoxing my doubts and limiting beliefs about what I can actually achieve.
  • Saying no instead of yes to people who want my time, even if the immediate rewards seem really great. My new motto, “If I don’t feel it, I don’t do it.”

“The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Part 3 Creating Love 

For me, creating love in my life begins with forgiving myself and others, no matter what my ego says.

Forgiving ourselves is a process that continues our whole life. We are so used to replaying the story of what is wrong with ourselves and others that living with a resentful, tight heart can become our most familiar way of being.

Thousands of times we might find ourselves caught in stories of what we are doing wrong. Thousands of times we might drop under our blame to where the deeper pain lives. With each round of freeing ourselves through forgiveness, we strengthen our recognition of our basic goodness.

Quote from

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

416XVNN6NRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If you have decided to make a change in your life, I would love to hear about your transformational process – what is working for you, books you are reading, workouts you love, films that have inspired with you.

Your Standing Ovation

Mick Jagger Oakland 1969
Mick Jagger Oakland 1969

We have all had this anxious moment. The split-second before you post. You re-read your writing, watch your video for the 50th time, re-work a paint stroke or study your sketch and ask yourself- – Is this authentic enough?  Does it stand out in a sea of sameness? Is it “unique” enough for the world to appreciate?

Michael Port, Author of Steal the Show, said it brilliantly in an interview the other day.

You don’t have to be different to make a difference.

Must Read
Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life

Madeline Johnson's Top Book Picks
An inspiring read “Steal the Show” has great work and life performance advice.

In my mind, way too much cred has been given to creating “authentic” and original work in a “unique” way.  This thought can really stifle your creativity.  Worrying about the “authenticity” of your work will only blur your vision and mission. Instead, strive to create a higher caliber of work each day. Your best work. You see, the distinction is that you are already different from everyone else. You don’t need to focus on your authenticity, you are already unique, just as you are. Yes, you do stand out in a crowd, even if you do absolutely nothing.

It also really helps if what you are creating what truly inspires you. If you are bored doing it, then chances are someone else will be bored reading or watching it.

Driven to Perfection

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to tip toe to my grave safely. I want to take risks, chances, I want to soar through this life.

unicorn me

So I will let my fear be the fuel. The reality is, we all are afraid.

One of my favorite morning rituals is to listen to Brian Johnson’s Philosopher Notes. They are short, sweet, little bits of wisdom that can fuel your day. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

In one of my favorite mini-classes, he mentions taking a deep breathe when fear freezes you. Thinking back on my daily meditation practice, everything I have been learning and last night’s Vinyasa Flow Yoga class I find it funny and ironic, that the simple act of breathing has become such a “thing” in my new found intentional life.  Who knew something so mindful and simple could help so much.

Listen to Brian’s 10 minute video  for more tips on how to move through your fears. “How to Conquer Your Fear in 30 Seconds.