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MINDbannerI’ve never really been into incense. The only people I knew who used incense with stoners or hippies, or stoner-hippies — basically that one dude with dreads in the dorms who everyone wished would stop using “earthly oils” and finally just take a damn shower.

Andy Samberg. Spot on brother.

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However, my views on incense changed after my cousin gave me this pack of Tibetan Sandalwood incense as a Christmas present. $14 on Amazon for 30 sticks.

The product description is hilarious. Check it out and you'll know what I mean.

The product description is hilarious. Check it out and you’ll know what I mean.

This stuff works.

More than just a scent, it soothes the mind and body by helping melt away anxiety.

How I use incense to bounce back from an anxious state. 

Whenever I feel any tension or anxiety, I like to retreat to my meditation cushion for 10-15 minutes. I light one of these babies, plug in headphones and listen to either soothing classical or meditation music. I give myself permission to just sit, breathe, and observe my current undesired situation without any judgement.

Within minutes, my initial short shallow breaths transition into deeper, relaxed breaths. With each deep inhalation, I absorb the calming effect of the incense and music, and find my way back to the stillness that comes with full acceptance of my reality as it is.

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This is my gratitude journal.

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For five months, I came up with three new things to be grateful for everyday. I wrote them all down on a giant sheet of paper on my bedroom wall.

The Results

During the first few days, the gratitude journal was too easy. It didn’t feel meaningful because to start, I just rattled off the most generic things to be grateful for–“#1. A great family, #2. good health, #3. great friends etc.” It was only when I couldn’t come up with any more off the top of my head when things got interesting. Remaining committed to the challenge quickly began to positively affect how I experienced my daily life.  Read the rest of this entry »

continued from part 1

What you can expect to happen:

As you practice Anapana Meditation, you will notice that it will be very difficult to stay focused on the simple task of observing your breath. Thoughts will spontaneously pop up and beg for your attention. Your mind will wander towards past events, or things that you anticipate happening in the future.

This is normal. This is the nature of the mind that we are all born with.Buddha_Homer-876x1024

What to do when your mind won’t shut up. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m an ’80s kid. We had the best cartoons and children’s TV shows of all time.

I like to believe that Sesame Street was at its prime back then too.

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When I was three or four years old, I used to always watch the Sesame Street Stories and Songs VHS to help me fall asleep. I wanted to do a Sesame Street throwback and share my favorite classics. Do you remember them?

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“Everybody Sleeps”

Bert & Ernie “Dance Myself to Sleep”

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Anapana is a simple meditation technique. All you have to do is stay focused on your breath. Sounds simple enough, right?

Getting started:

  1. Find a quiet space and sit in a comfortable, upright position. No need to be in Lotus position; a chair is just fine.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Begin breathing through your nose.
vader

Vader is Zen.

How to meditate: 

  • Breathe normally without trying to regulate it in anyway.
  • Put all of your attention on the sensations of inhalation and exhalation through your nostrils.

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Continued from part 1

Experiencing more creative bursts.

Being joyful is the best way to increase instances of creative moments. Joy is our optimal and natural state of being. This is evident by how dramatically our perception of the world changes when we are joyful. Our confidence peaks in this state. Life feels effortless and abundant. We feel invincible. Everything seems possible. Maintaining this inner state assists in the creative process because it heightens our awareness of the present moment. This alertness allows for the spirit to be receptive to the all channels of inspiration without judgment (a direct thought, a coincidence, noticing something for the first time etc.). Joy accelerates flow.

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Ask and Receive

Just as with seeking creative solutions through dreams, the first step in receiving meaningful messages is to ask for an answer to a specific question. Continually hold onto this intention with patience and with NO EXPECTATIONS of how or what the answer may be (expectations allow the influence of the egoic mind to creep back in with its obsessive need to control with its plans). In time, an answer or sign will present itself. If it feels like inspired thought, accept it with gratitude and begin making plans to take immediate action. This process should be exciting, but in an effortless manner, like a kid who accidentally discovers his first egg during an Easter Egg Hunt.

Start today!

Start making a conscious effort to identify the activities that bring the highest amount of joy in your life and make a continual effort to remain fully present as often as possible (I’ll be posting about developing mindful presence in the future). These two steps are the foundation to release your creative potential. Creativity is innate. Each person has infinite creative potential and the desire produce something of value. Genius is simply in a dormant state for most people. However, in time you may begin to surprise yourself with flashes of brilliance. Once this happens, make sure to use those moments to fuel greater belief in your abilities and continue to grow in greatness.

 

The world depends on you to discover your heart’s path and to share your talents to the best of your ability.

 

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The origin of creative thought is a mystery. While creativity seems to arise spontaneously like a flash of lightning, the creative Source can actually be accessed at any time.

Inspired thought cannot be manufactured by the analytical mind, it can only be received by the spirit. Collecting data and trying to fit the pieces together like a puzzle will not result in an original idea. While gathering information is important, the creative thought that connects everything together in a meaningful way can only be received when in a state of no-mind, or no thought.

Homer Brain

Too much thinking shuts off creative flow. This happens for three main reasons:

  1. the mind loves to judge and categorize thoughts and experiences as good or bad, right or wrong, smart or dumb.
  2. the mind tends to over-analyze every detail.
  3. the mind obsessively creates plans, makes assumptions, and stubbornly adheres to them. The ego loves to stick with only its plans, because the unknown cannot be controlled and is therefore perceived as a threat.

Each mental tendency contributes to the same result– the building up of mental resistance to any idea judged as unworthy or foreign to the ego. Dependence on our ego’s judgments and plans cuts off our connection to the creative Source and our ability to perceive the infinite avenues by which a solution may present itself.

homer mind

The Solution:

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Are you curious about meditation, but deep down still think that it’s only for monks or hippies?

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Take the practical approach. Learn how to meditate and discover its tangible benefits as explained by a Google engineer.

Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan is the best introductory book that I’ve read on meditation and mindfulness. The material is presented in a very simple and generally humorous manner (his style is corny, but it works). Meditation just make logical sense after reading this book.

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Continued from part 1: 

Here is an example of one of my entries. I typically write in greater detail, but I’ve been getting a bit lazy with that over the past month or so.

April 6th. A Sunday.

5, 8, 10. A crappy start followed by continuous improvement.

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The handwriting skills of a 3rd grader: the third star says “Great session” not “great sex,” although both would definitely qualify as A+ star material.

A breakdown of the day:

(-) = when I felt off

(*) = actions taken that had a positive result

  • I woke still sick. Wasted most of my morning trying to recover and was very unproductive in the process. (-)
  • Had a simple lunch of brown rice with steamed kale with pastured butter and soy sauce. It was a satisfying and energizing lunch. (*)
  • Started shedding off the sickness during my pleasant 25 min (probably bumping some ’90s hip hop) drive to Dublin to tutor my econ student. (*)
  • Had a very productive and fun tutoring session (*)
  • Decided to drop by Lowe’s to pick up a plug for the bathtub (the lever in the bathtub was broken (*)
  • Made an awesome korean pork belly feast with grilled veggies and a homemade sauce to use with the collard greens wraps. It was the first time I used steamed collard greens instead of lettuce. A definite upgrade in nutritional value and flavor! (*)
  • Took my first bath in a year or more. Added coconut oil for the first time. Soothing. (*)
  • Watched an inspiring Netflix program on Coach John Wooden and his success philosophies. (*)
  • Meditated for 30 minutes (*)

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This is my happiness journal.

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On New Years Day I put up a giant sheet of paper on my wall and since then I have been closing each day by recapping all of the events that happened and how I felt throughout the day.

How to Make a Happiness Journal:

1.   I start by summing up the day using three numbers on a 1-10 scale.

  • The first number represents how I felt the moment I woke up. A high number suggests that I slept well and felt fully rested. A low number might mean that I didn’t get much rest because I was worried about something, or I drank too much the night before and woke up a bit hungover (more likely).
  • The second number sums up the entire day. Was it a generally more positive day or was it an off day?
  • The third number captures how I feel the moment that I’m writing on my happiness journal and about to go to bed. Was I successful in rebounding from any stressful events/failures and able to restore peace and calm within? Or is my imagination spiraling downwards, inflating unnecessary worry, and still replaying doomsday scenarios in my head?

2.   Under the summary numbers I jot down every emotionally charged moment that I can remember. I then pay more attention to the negative experiences by recalling the actions I took to try to get out of the mental rut and noting the results of those actions. Sometimes I am able to consciously shift my focus, thereby changing my emotions to a more desired state, otherwise a random coincidence (for ex. random texts checking in from a friend I haven’t talked to in ages) helps me regain perspective.

The Benefits: 

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Part 3: The Uplifting Playlist

TODO:

  •  Make a playlist of only songs that uplift you and makes you want to sing and dance

After waking up in a good mood, it’s only fitting to keep this energy up as you go through your daily morning routine.

I created a playlist on my phone called “Uplift,” and only included upbeat songs that pump me up and want to dance and sing. I do a lot of that in the bathroom: while brushing my teeth, showering/toweling off etc. I probably sing “I Believe I Can Fly” at least once a day.

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Space Jammin

It’s not the best rendition, but watch out karaoke bars, one day I’ll dominate! This routine has become so ingrained in how I live my life that my roommate knows that something must be off with me if he doesn’t hear me singing and blasting music from the bathroom :p.

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Part 2: The Gratitude Alarm

TODO:

  • Create a Gratitude Alarm.

I love how you have to spin the wheel and scroll to set the time on the iPhone. It reminds me of spinning a globe as a kid, stopping it on a random location with my finger, and wanting to learn more about mysterious countries such as Djibouti or Andorra. It also reminds me of Bob Barker.

price is right

As a way to surprise myself with a kind reminder to be more aware of the present moment and to feel gratitude, I use what I call a Gratitude Alarm every day. It’s very simple to do.

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  1. Before going to bed, spin the wheel and set the alarm for a random time during the day.
  2. Change the name of the alarm to a message to yourself to remind yourself to be grateful. Mine is titled “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you God.”

The key is to make sure that the alarm tone is the same as an incoming phone call.

During the next day my phone will ring randomly, and thinking it’s an urgent call, I will pull it out of my pocket to realize that it’s actually just a message from my past self to my present self.

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I’ve had many interesting experiences come from habitually using the alarm.

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One of the purposes of meditation is to focus the wandering mind and in doing so, restore awareness back to the present moment. This can be achieved by sitting in silence, or through full engagement in any activity. For me, I can experience this when I rap along to some of my favorite hip hop classics.

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When I was 12 years old, I heard “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” by Busta Rhymes for the first time, and my mind was blown by the hypnotic beat and mesmerizing lyrics. My brother and I would literally replay that same song ten times straight and rock the entire neighborhood with a bass that made our older Santa Barbarian neighbors wonder if they were experiencing cardiac arrest.

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PART 1: The Happy Morning Alarm

TO DO:

  • Set your morning alarm to a song that will put you in a happy/smiley mood to start the day

photoI have come to learn that a big part in strengthening the habit of happiness lies in your ability to remember who you are at your core, and finding comfort from acknowledging the many blessings currently in your life. We tend to become overwhelmed by stressful situations, and often forget this powerful sense of self.

I use my iPhone as one tool to systematically remind myself to focus on maintaining uplifting thoughts and feelings throughout the day.

The first way I do this is by using my phone to help me wake up with a smile and to start the day the right way—

  • With gratitude for the miracle of being alive and the opportunity to live another day
  • With optimism that today will be better than yesterday
  • And with a childlike enthusiasm for the unknown of the present day

I do this by choosing the perfect song as my morning alarm. I wake up to “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music, evoking feelings of love for my 85-year-old grandmother in Seoul every morning.

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Calm4

I came across this website a few months ago and thought it was an interesting and useful free service. Calm.com offers instant access to a simple, guided meditation to help take the focus off of the current stresses of the day and to try to restore balance back in the mind.

Essentially it’s a brief Anapana (breathing) meditation. Viewers have a choice between a quick 2 minute or a 10 minute track, and can also select between various peaceful background nature videos.

Sometimes all we need is a brief detachment from the situation consuming our attention in order to return to the problem with the clarity and composure to find the most effective solution.

Be well!

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