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In a time of uncertainty, stay in the present with excerpts from these incredible books that offer tips for meditating, letting go of anxiety, and creating rituals that restore balance to your life, body, and mind.


C O N T E N T S Excerpts from these books

All books are available wherever books are sold. Learn more about each on PenguinRandomHouse.com.


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Living in Balance

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The alive person is always moving in polarity: Osho helps us to understand the importance of the interrelationship of polar opposites and how, in terms of the totality of our being, all aspects of our experience—­the days and nights, the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows—­need to be accepted. In today’s talk, Osho comments on the art of balanced living. Life may be an experience of uncomfortable extremes, but an attachment to the middle, as an ever-­static state, may also not be a very good idea. In the meditation that follows Osho’s talk, we’ll learn how to accept and relax with what we call the “negative” and, paradoxically, how our negative parts add to the taste and spice of life. OSHO’S INSIGHT

Life consists of extremes. Life is a tension between the opposites. To be exactly in the middle forever means to be dead. The middle is only a theoretical possibility; only once in a while are you in the middle, as a passing phase. It is like walking on a tightrope; you can never be exactly in the middle for any length of time. If you try, you will fall. To be in the middle is not a static state, it is a dynamic phenomenon. Balance is not a noun, it is a verb; it is balancing. The tightrope walker continuously moves from the left to the right, from the right to the left. When he feels now he has moved too much to the left and there is fear of falling, he immediately balances himself by moving to the opposite, to the right. Passing from the left to the right, yes, there is a moment when he is in the middle. And again when he has moved too much to the right—­there is fear of falling, he is losing balance—­he starts moving toward the left. Passing from the right to the left, again he moves through the middle for a moment. This is what I mean when I say balance is not a noun but a verb—­it is balancing, it is a dynamic process. You cannot be in the middle. You can go on moving from left to right and right to left; this is the only way to remain in the middle. Don’t avoid extremes, and don’t choose any one extreme. Remain available to both the polarities—­ that is the art, the secret of balancing. Yes, sometimes be utterly happy, and sometimes be utterly sad: both have their own beauties. Our mind is a chooser; that’s why the problem arises. Remain choiceless. And whatsoever happens and wherever you are, right or left, in the middle or not in the middle, enjoy the moment in its totality. While happy, dance, sing, play music—­be happy. And when sadness comes—­which is bound to come, which is coming, which has to come, which is inevitable, you cannot avoid it—­if you try to avoid it, you will have to destroy the very possibility of happiness. The day cannot be without the night, and the summer cannot be without the winter, and life cannot be without death. Life contains both: it brings great pain, it also brings great pleasure. Pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. If you leave one, you have to leave the other, too. This has been one of the most fundamental misunderstandings down the ages: that you can leave pain and save pleasure, that you can avoid hell and have heaven, that you can avoid the negative and can have only the po­sitive. This is a great fallacy. It is not possible in the very nature of things. The positive and negative are together, inevitably together, indivisibly together. They are two aspects of the same energy. Can’t you see any beauty in sadness? Meditate over it. Next time when you are sad, don’t fight with it, don’t waste time in fighting. Accept it, welcome it—­let it be a welcome guest. And see deep into it, with love, care. Be a real host. And you will be surprised—­you will be surprised beyond your comprehension—­that sadness has a few beauties which happiness can never have. Sadness has depth, and happiness is always shallow. Sadness has tears, and tears go deeper than any laughter can ever go. And sadness has a silence of its own, a melody, which happiness can never have.

A Course in Meditation by OSHO

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Live life in all possible ways; don’t choose one thing against the other, and don’t try to be in the middle. And don’t try to balance yourself—­balance is not something that can be cultivated by you. Balance is something that comes out of the experience of all the dimensions of life. THE MEDITATION:

ACCEPT THE NEGATIVE AND THE POSITIVE We have to learn to live with the negative parts of our being as well as the positive; only then do we become whole. Usually, we want to live only with the positive part. But both need to be accepted. This is how life is—­both together. In this meditation you practice understanding and accepting all the aspects, good and bad, and allowing a harmony to arise. When you do this meditation in your own time, take five minutes for each of the three steps. Right now you can have a little taste already, just a few moments for each step.

The Technique the first step: Close your eyes, and start by looking inside your body, your mind, your feelings:

in this moment, where can you find the negative part? It is always there, so just find something “negative,” however small it is. And when you find it, don’t do anything to get rid of it. Maybe you are feeling restless: so be restless. Or maybe you are feeling cold: so shiver and enjoy it. Or you are feeling hot, so perspire and relax with that. Or you are unhappy about something in your life—­be unhappy! Don’t make much fuss about it, just be unhappy. Or there is a pain somewhere in the body: let it be there, relax with it. Whatever negative parts you can find, for this moment, relax with them. the second step: Now let those negative parts go, and, still with eyes closed, start looking inside your body, your mind, your feelings: in this moment, where can you find the positive part? It is there, the other side of the polarity, so find it, however small it is. And when you find it, don’t do anything to make it bigger or to hold on to it. Just relax with the positive. Maybe it is the feeling of sitting here comfortably, so enjoy it. Or the fact that you can feel this moment is just for you: relax with it. If a certain memory arises of well-­being, or a feeling of lightness—­enjoy it . . . and don’t make much fuss about it. Accept it in the same way as you did the negative. the third step: Now let the positive parts go as well and, with eyes still closed, simply be—­allowing the harmony between your dark and light parts, allowing the contrasts, the polar opposites of your being. Accepting the dark, accepting the light, understanding that because of the contrasts, life becomes a harmony. For these few moments, just be. Now you can open your eyes again, and get ready to enjoy the rest of your day with the understanding that balance is something that comes out of the experience of all the dimensions of life.

A Course in Meditation by OSHO

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Exercises to Soothe Stress and Eliminate Anxiety Wherever You Are

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S U RRO U N D YOU RS E LF WI TH WAR MTH Anxiety is infectious, especially if you are already in a vulnerable place. Try this: Take a moment. Close your eyes and think of a person – a good friend or your partner, perhaps. Do you get an “up” warm feeling when you think of them? Or do you get a “down” cold feeling? Notice your reactions. If they are cold or heavy, limit your contact, even if you care for them. It’s important to learn how others affect you – and to protect yourself, thoughtfully. If you feel like you’ve had enough of someone, then you probably have. Do you really want to conquer your anxiety? Even if it involves you changing your habits, challenging your way of thinking, behaving and responding? Or even changing your friends and contacts?

A SIMP LE C ALMING EX ER C ISE Find a quiet spot in your house or workplace where you can sit and be comfortable on your own for five minutes. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out. Notice where the tension lies in your body: your belly, your back, neck, head, jaw . . . where? Just notice and breathe deeply, in and out, five times. Breathe into the places that feel tense, and imagine them melting, like soft butter or marshmallows in heat ... Then open your eyes, stretch like a cat and go on with your day.

The Anxiety Journal by Corinne Sweet

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A N X I E T Y A LCH EMY Anxiety tends to be described negatively, even derogatorily, but such labels are unhelpful and pessimistic. There’s no getting around the fact that chronic anxiety is incredibly difficult to live with, but it’s important not to let it damage your self-esteem. How might the negative descriptions below be considered positive traits? Consider your own personality, your own anxiety, and add descriptions that can apply to you. For example: Worrier > Attentive to detail Hyper > Energetic Frightened > Careful Now try it yourself. Think of some words people use to describe your anxiety symptoms, and turn them into positive characteristics. As much as possible, try to implement this optimistic viewpoint in your day-to-day life, whether it’s others’ attitudes or your own that are getting you down. Anxiety Words

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F I V E M I N U TE DE-S TRESS EXE RC ISE Set a timer for five minutes. Sit comfortably in a quiet place and notice your thoughts. Close your eyes and visualize them as ping-pong balls, pinging off the walls. See them bouncing around, buzzing away from one topic to another . . . Focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out, and notice your thoughts, but don’t follow them, let them go. Let them bounce out of view, out of the room, one by one. Keep breathing. Bring your attention back to just behind your forehead, in the middle, and let your thoughts calm, noticing them retreating, and don’t pay them any attention. Keep breathing and actively notice your chest and abdomen rising as you breathe in and falling as you breathe out. Think “rising” as you breathe in, “falling” as you breathe out. When the timer goes off, open your eyes slowly. Notice where you are. Breathe and be aware that you feel less stressed now.

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W H AT I S A N XI E TY FOR? We are all hardwired with complex neurophysiological reactions to danger. When we are under threat, our autonomic nervous system leaps into action. Hormones from the endocrine system are released and our hearts work faster, palpitating in order to oxygenate our blood. Our kidneys secrete adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream so that our muscles can work faster and our limbs can work harder for longer. Before we have a chance to think, we react in one of three ways: • fight • flight • freeze These physiological reactions might make us feel stronger – more able to fight or run away. Alternatively, we might hold our breath and freeze. In this case, our minds are racing, pumped up on the adrenaline and cortisol, but we are so over-pumped or shocked that time slows down, or even stands still, as we tense every muscle to stay motionless. What are your experiences? Have you ever felt threatened or been in danger? How did your body react? How did your mind react? What did you do? How did you feel afterward? Notes

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“We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” —Marcel Proust

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A N X I E T Y A F TE RMATH After experiencing the flight, fight or freeze response, due to perceived threat or actual danger, there is usually a “cooldown,� when the body has to process all the biochemical reactions to danger and when the brain deals with what has just happened. There can be an overload of chemicals in the blood, meaning the body has to readjust to get back to normal, so this can lead to anxiety aftermath. This manifests itself in a number of ways such as feeling jittery, sweaty, unable to sleep or very sleepy, unable to eat or very hungry or irritable or withdrawn. It might come on immediately after your anxiety episode or hours, days or even longer afterward. Your physiological and emotional response depends on how long the threat lasted, whether it was brief (like being threatened on the street) or sustained (such as being in an abusive relationship), and whether it was avoided or it was actually experienced. You need to remember that what goes up must come down. Even in the midst of feeling fear, and its aftermath, you will feel fine again later.

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C ON QU E RI N G PAN I C If you have never had a panic attack before, it can take you by surprise. In fact, even if you’ve had a hundred, they can still feel terrifying. Try these tips for reducing panic: 1)Familiarize yourself, if you can, with your usual symptoms that signal an attack – the more you understand your triggers the better prepared you will be. 2) Understand that you are safe! Even though you are feeling panicky, you are, in reality, safe and there is no need to be frightened. You won’t die even if you feel terrified. 3) Breathe. Concentrate on your breathing. Blow out slowly. Then breathe in and blow out again, to the count of ten. Do this several times, breathing deeper each time (but try not to hyperventilate). Slow your breathing, and breathe more shallowly, if you start feeling dizzy or light-headed. 4) Stamp your feet on the ground. Feel how solid it is.

6) Tell yourself, “I can do this. I can get through this. This will pass.” 7) Count slowly from one to ten, and then from ten to one. 8) Slow down your walking, stop driving or leave the room, the bus, the train and breathe some air. Don’t rush, but get yourself some space. 9) If the feelings continue, try singing (especially in a private space like a car or your home or in the toilet), just ‘La la la” or something simple like a nursery rhyme or favorite song. Loud singing can make you feel cheerful and cut the panic pattern. 10) Take a walk. Even if it’s just to the other end of your office or room, but ideally outside somewhere. 11) Continue breathing. Stretch your fingers and toes, breathe deeply. Congratulate yourself for getting through what felt life-threatening – and notice three nice things in your environment (a pot plant, red shoes, the sky, etc.).

5) Hold something like the arm of a chair, a bannister, even your own hand.

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A B RI E F TA STER CBT stands for: COGNITIVE – how you see things/events (your perception); BEHAVIORAL – how you react to events (or perceived

events) and how this impacts on your thoughts and feelings; THERAPY – how you test yourself to change your

thinking and your behavior.

C BT: AN EX AMP LE You have a belief about yourself (cognition) that you can’t stand spiders. A CBT therapist would test this by getting you first to estimate how scared you are of spiders (scream! 100 percent!!!) and then show you a spider (or even just a picture of one), maybe at a distance, to get you used to being in the room with one. The CBT therapist would ask you to estimate how scared you are now, and most of the time the fear has come down (say, to 80 percent), as being faced by the reality is often not as scary as you imagine. Eventually, you might get near the spider, or even have it on your hand. In the end, you might have no fear at all. You might have a pet spider! CBT gets you to face your fears, step-by-step, and to keep assessing how you feel. You can change your behavior (i.e. having the spider on your hand), which then changes your feelings and sense of yourself (cognition) – “I’m not afraid of spiders.” This is how CBT works. By making you face your fears, and deal with the feelings, you can tackle anxiety in all sorts of forms: phobias, obsessions, fantasies, panic attacks (see Further Reading for more information).

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C B T AT H O ME CBT is best taught by a professional but there are certain new habits you can try adopting yourself to ease your anxiety. The key is to distinguish between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Try this ABC: A: an ACTIVATING EVENT – for example, you have to stand up and give a talk at work. What has triggered your anxiety today? B: your BELIEFS – the way you think of yourself (your morals, personal rules, views, etc.). For example, I can’t do this, I failed at school, I’m a terrible public speaker. C: the CONSEQUENCES – your feelings, behavior, thoughts, physical experiences, alongside your emotions. For example, you feel fear and anxiety so your nerves get the better of you or you avoid giving the talk entirely. My A, B, C’s

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Rituals, Reiki & Self-Care to Heal Burnout, Anxiety & Stress

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A N I N V I TAT I O N I don’t always make the best choices, but today I choose compassion over intolerance, sympathy over hatred, and love over fear. —L . J. VANIER , CANADIAN PHILOSOPHER AND THEOLOGIAN

My journey began with back pain—­searing, debilitating back pain. The more I ignored it, the worse it got. The more I pushed through it, the more paralyzed I felt. I was in my early twenties, and I didn’t connect this pain to my crushing stress, my high-­pressure job, my troubled family, my toxic boyfriend, my pushing, my exhaustion, or my unwillingness or inability to express any of my deep feelings. I just thought, “My back hurts. Gotta push through.” I was so wrong.

YO U H AV E A C H O I C E What I now know is, there is a path out of pain, anxiety, burnout, fear, grief, sadness, and that feeling of complete overwhelm. When I was experiencing the peak of my back pain, I had no idea that repressed emotions and the stress they cause could manifest as physical pain. I had no idea that my pain could have had anything to do with my exhaustion and burnout, my desperate need for change, my endless list of to‑dos, and my feeling that nothing in my life would ever change. I remember complaining about my back to my father, a physical therapist, and he said, “Maybe it’s stress.” I’d never heard of stress causing pain. I thought everybody had stress, but obviously not every­ body had back pain so severe they sometimes questioned whether they could go on living. Back then, I didn’t get it. Now I know that what finally cured my back pain wasn’t a drug or physical exercise or surgery or any other external intervention. What cured my back pain was acknowledging the truth of how I was living, becoming aware of how out of harmony my life was, and finally giving myself permission to recognize that my life was my choice and that I also had the choice to do something different. This led me to seek out the energy healing practices that helped get my body, my health, my mind, and my emotions back into alignment—­Reiki, EFT, yoga, and other practices you will read about in this book. I’ll tell you more about my path throughout this book, but suffice it to say that I wasted a lot of time looking outside of myself for answers to my problems and cures for my pain. It was only when I looked inside that I saw what was happening in my life and owned it. That’s when I understood what was wrong for the first time: I was trying to control everything about my existence so it would be “okay.” I was refusing to admit any of my uncomfortable feelings. I was denying my true nature. I was living as the person I thought I was supposed to be, rather than the person I really was. What I needed to do, I finally realized, was to let go, to surrender, to admit, to acknowledge, to accept, and to be myself—­my true self, no matter what anyone else expected. To move at my own pace, live in my own way, and nurture the inner flame that had almost been extinguished deep inside me.

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That was the beginning, not just of my healing, but of my freedom. That was how I learned that I could shine my own light from my own heart without shame or hesitation. It didn’t happen overnight. It happened slowly, over the course of years, as I learned and grew and shifted, bit by bit, trying new practices, working with new teachers, and always questioning: Is this me? Is this right? Is this what I believe? Is this where I want to go? As I kept moving away from external pressures and toward myself, my body changed. As I took more pressure off myself to do and achieve and prove my worth to everyone but myself, my pain faded. As I practiced saying no to the things that didn’t serve my greater good, my mind (and my schedule) cleared. As I stopped expecting perfection from myself, I gained confidence, compassion, patience for my journey, and kindness. As I made myself and my health my number one priority, my daily joy increased exponentially. And when I finally recognized myself in the mirror again, I realized that I could turn around and help others find their way back to themselves, too. Right now, you might feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, sad, in physical pain, or just completely burned out. There is help for you here. This book is not a magical cure for burnout and it’s not going to suddenly erase all your pain or anxiety, but what it will do is help you look within to find your own magical cure. Your impulse may be to deny your pain, avoid it, fight it, numb it, freeze it, medicate it, or believe you have no choice but to endure it. When you give yourself permission to use tools to start shifting your energy, you can meet yourself in the actual physical present moment and honor where you are right now. Your mind will always have you believing that you just have to do a few more things, or maybe even just one more thing, to finally be happy, at peace, healthy, successful, worthy, and joyful. Do you feel that you are so close to happiness, but you can’t maneuver those last few steps? You don’t need to step outside yourself to reach happiness. You need to follow the path that leads you inside yourself. We are going to work on you finding your peace and your joy and your burning bright, even when stress is part of your life. You’re never going to completely eliminate stress because sometimes stress comes from the outside, but you have infinite resources within you that can help you manage it so it doesn’t cause harm. Without anything else in your life changing, you can find harmony in your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t have to get anywhere or achieve anything first. You are already there. Just as you are right now, you can start burning bright. But in order to start negotiating with your stress, I want you to understand how powerful and relentless stress can feel and why you experience it the way you do, even if your stress response is different from anyone else’s. I want you to see the pain stress causes, not just in you but in your family, your friends, your community, your country, and the world. We’re going to bring awareness to stress and what it does in your body—­how it launches you into fight, flight, or freeze mode, which can make you angry, or in denial, or paralyzed and unable to move forward in life. Stress can put you on constant alert, so you become ready to pounce on (fight) anyone who makes a “wrong” comment. Stress can cause you to avoid any confrontation (flight) because you are so afraid of speaking your truth that you run away from who you really are and how you really feel. Stress can keep you stuck in a job or a relationship or a place you loathe (freeze). Stress can kill dreams and aspirations, or make them feel so unattainable that you stop chasing them. It can make you resentful. It can make you so concerned about everything outside of yourself (like the environment or politics or whatever it is you use as an excuse not to look inward) that you can’t see that sometimes what happens outside you mirrors what is happening within. It can take you out of your body, out of the present moment, and separate you from your own core being, your own wise inner voice, your own intuition. You don’t have to experience any of that. You have a choice. In this safe place, we’re going to look underneath all those heavy feelings you have, even if you haven’t been allowing yourself to feel them. We’re going to do a deep dive into you, to see what emotions, memories, and patterns are going on that have spiraled into those painful impulses you experience from stress. We’re going to figure out what it all means for your life. We’re going to think

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about what your pain tells you about who you are trying to be, and what it says about who you really are . . . and aren’t. We’re going to figure out what you would rather be feeling and doing and being than what you are feeling and doing and being right now. And then you can make a choice: Do you want to be who you think you should be or do you want to be who you really are? Do you want to live in fear or do you want to live in love? You deserve a life of harmony and health. You deserve a life of fulfillment and fullness. And you can have it. All those things you want, those things you dream about, those things that are hard for you to even admit you dream about, are accessible to you. We’re going to get you connected to how you want to feel. Your direction will become clear. No more fighting. No more fleeing. No more freezing. We may live in an age of anxiety, but in this book we’ll create a space for us to work together. You can choose to live in a wondrous age of physical, mental, and spiritual freedom, in which you live your own life and not anyone else’s life, with ease and grace and personal responsibility for everything you feel and do and desire. If you’ve had anxiety or burnout for a while, this will be a process. I still struggle with anxiety myself—­I regularly sense anxiety or overwhelm creeping into my mind, but it’s easier now for me to move through it because I have learned to take responsibility for my needs. I have tools to work with my fear, instead of letting it override my whole system and take control of my mind. In this book, I’ll share those same strategies and tools with you, and as you align with your priorities, you’ll watch your joyful life unfold. All the noise and chaos trying to get your attention will fade away. You will learn, step by step, just as my students and clients have—­just as I have—­to be you, and nobody else. And it will be delicious. So welcome, beautiful one. I invite you into the sacred space generated by this book, where we will build a solid ground on which you can feel safe, ready, and supported, and from which you’ll feel sturdy enough to explore the true nature of your limitless self. In this expansive space, I want to help you give yourself permission to feel your feelings, to trust yourself to do less, and to believe in your own intuition. You will heal and grow into the existence that is most in harmony with who you really are, what you came here for, and what you want your life to be. Exploring the micro-­changes I suggest in this book with curiosity, and trying out these spiritual practices, can create a macro-­shift in your daily life.

W H AT A R E YO U M A D E F O R ? Does it sound too good to be true, that you already have everything you need—­that you don’t need to expend any effort looking outside yourself for answers because you really can “effort” less to get more out of your life? I was once skeptical, too. It’s funny, but all the tools, practices, and techniques I now hold so dear and teach to so many others are things I once found ridiculous. I grew up in the red state of North Dakota in a very Catholic family. We didn’t talk much about feelings. I was brought up to believe that the doctor had more answers about my pain than I did and that if a doctor didn’t know about it, it wasn’t worth my time. There was the body and its health. There was the mind and its stability. And there was the spirit, which was what you worked on when you went to church every Sunday. None of them had anything to do with the others. Until I was an adult, I didn’t know anything about Reiki or other forms of energy healing. I didn’t waste my time with spiritual yoga, and I thought meditation was something people in other countries did. I didn’t write feelings in a journal, I didn’t spend any time in self-­contemplation, and beyond the church services I loved, I certainly didn’t ritualize anything in my life. Many of the practices you will learn about in this book were just as foreign to me when I started them.

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When I first heard about some of these things, I (like many of my students today) was a true skeptic. When my friends started to tell me they were meditating, I almost scoffed at it. When I heard about energy healing, I thought it was BS. Yoga? Meh. Only if it’s a good workout. This is a normal reaction to something new and unfamiliar. What I didn’t realize was that these practices were paths to self-­awareness and healing beyond my wildest dreams. Since those early days, I’ve learned a lot and found many answers. I’ve been able to help guide thousands of other people through their own transformations, shifts, and healing in ways they never would have believed possible, by using the ancient tools and practices and knowledge I share with you in this book. My own life experience with pain, burnout, anxiety, overwhelm, and pushing myself to the breaking point led me down a path that is finally in line with who I really am and who I want to be. I’m not made for the high-­pressure corporate world. I’m made to be a teacher, guide, spiritual empowerment coach, motivational speaker, and energy healer. Without these practices, I never would have discovered that truth about myself. What are you made for? I have been where you are, and I have come out on the other side stronger and freer than I ever was before. I had to help myself first, and that is what I want to help you do, too. It has become my mission and purpose in life to guide other people to come into their own light by inspiring them to relate to and connect with who they really are, beneath all the noise and clamor of life in a high-­pressure world. I want you to feel able to live your life with purpose, joy, and balance, free of all the things that separate you from your true, precious, beautiful, benevolent self. No matter how anxious, scared, sad, frustrated, or burned out you feel right now, we’re going to get you burning bright. To me, burning bright is the opposite of burning out. Burnout comes from excessive, relentless doing, but the beauty of burning bright is that it is not about doing anything more at all. It’s really the opposite. It’s about learning how to know and trust deep within that all you desire is already inside you, and once you give yourself permission to unlock your heart and get free from the prison of your mind, you will understand that there’s nothing more for you to “do.” You can simply be, and that is your everything. When you have burnout, it always feels like there is more to do and more, more, more that you must give. In this book, I want you to see and feel that you are enough without any more doing. Instead, burning bright is about outwardly doing less, and, when you let go, how much more can come into your life—­such as unlimited love that, once you access it, will help you to breathe a huge sigh of relief because you will realize that you have always been enough. That there is nothing else to do but be who you are. When you are burning bright, you will feel a renewed surge of energy, clarity, and light. You will feel able to do everything you want to do with a sense of joyful, easy, and graceful commitment to your path. You will wake up in the morning ready and eager to start the day, without needing to control what comes. You’ll embrace your work, your loved ones, and your life. You’ll feel a sense of trust in yourself and your path and life’s bounty and support for you. You can be the bright flame at the center of a life of peace, love, health, and abundance. To burn bright is the opposite of the manic, overwhelmed, anxious, stress-­driven, worried energy so many of us associate with productivity and achievement. It is a clean, calm, pure energy, based in love rather than fear—­an energy that you can relax into, that feels timeless and dependable and as if it will never run out. It is an endless fountain of contentment that enhances and colors your participation in your own life. The word you associate with burning bright will be your own. How do you feel when you wake up in the morning, throughout the day, and at night? Right now, think of the word that describes or represents how you would like to feel in your life every day, even if it feels incredibly far away right now. You can even close your eyes for a moment and tune in. What word or feeling did you get? That’s your burning bright. For me, when I was in the midst of true burnout, I never felt free. I felt stuck with my back pain, with my family turmoil, with my stressful career, with my toxic on-­a gain, off-­a gain boyfriend. So, burning bright to me has always

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been about feeling free—­to remember that I always have a choice, that I am powerful, and that I can always make changes that support me and my life. That I am never stuck with what life has given me. We’re going to clear a path for you to connect to the radiant health and well-­being you deserve, your innate passions and purpose, and your deepest truth, so you can figure out why you are here, and then get out there and live according to that purpose. Throughout this process, I’m going to ask you to keep looking inward, to find new layers of trust and recognition within yourself. As you hold this book in your hands, know that I have infused it with healing and balancing Reiki energy just for you. The experience of reading this book in any form is intended to open you up to love and permission to burn bright. There is a magic and a divinity to this book—­on paper, this book has things to share with you and I wrote these words for you. But what you won’t see is the healing and light that this book carries within it, to be with you on your journey. When you hold this book in your hands, have it in your bag, on your desk, or next to your bed—­even if you are reading it from an electronic device or listening to it in your car—­know that I am connecting with you directly and on purpose. I am sending you blessings and healing from where I am to where you are. I am sending you access to your own courage and to your inner knowledge that you are deeply worthy of all you desire. This book is tangible and intangible. Even the team who helped write and edit this book shared with me that they could feel their energy shifting as they worked with it. You don’t need to know where this book is going to take you. Just know that it will take you where you need to go. Whatever it took to get you here, whatever you did to become willing to do this work for yourself, congratulations. That is huge. I am elated that you have chosen to spend this time with me, and honored to share this experience with you. I have so much yumminess for you here—­the ideas, the energy, the grace, the magic, and all that exists between and beyond the words on these pages. If you accept the invitation and decide that we can work together to go deep inside and release what hurts you, controls you, and limits you, then there is nothing you can’t do. The luminous gift of this work is the recognition that you already have everything you need to free yourself. You are in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. All the things that brought you here had to happen so you could arrive in this moment. No matter how you feel right now, know that you haven’t done anything wrong. Your imbalances, disharmonies, fears, and pain come only from not seeing yourself in all your fullness, completeness, rightness, and imperfect perfectness. This book has three parts. In the first part, we’ll explore the mess of being human, with all it entails: the stress, anxiety, and pain of life in the modern world, along with the many ways our experiences imprint on us and make us who we are in seemingly indelible ways. And yet, you can rekindle the flame deep within you, that you knew as a child was part of who you are. You are still that person. You still possess that flame. You can reclaim your joy and your energy with new tools and with deep growth. In part 2, we’ll work on all the ways to excavate your joy. I’ll introduce you to techniques and methods of rethinking your body, your mind, and your spirit, for a fuller and brighter experience of life, love, work, and connection. You’ll learn about many of the practices I use daily on myself and that I teach to thousands of others, including emotional freedom technique, or EFT (also known as “tapping”), to release pent‑up negative energy, and Reiki, the most powerful energy-­healing technique I know. Reiki is based on ancient practices but was first systematized in the nineteenth century in Japan by Dr. Mikao Usui, after a spiritual awakening he experienced while meditating, fasting, and praying on Mount Kurama. He went on to develop the healing practice of Usui Reiki, and opened a Reiki clinic in Tokyo in 1922. He passed on the knowledge to several masters he trained, and the techniques of Reiki have been passed on through a lineage of masters and evolved into a powerful and relevant practice anyone can utilize right now in the twenty-­f irst century. Reiki utilizes the flow of life energy that exists everywhere all around us and within all beings. We all have Reiki energy within us, and each one of us will experience it in a different way, but anyone can learn how to channel

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it to ease pain, calm anxiety, and bring positive energy and light into any being, any room, and any situation. I’ll show you how you can benefit from these and many other practices to help yourself out of the darker places and into the light whenever you need them. Finally, in the third part of the book, I’ll share my favorite rituals celebrating daily life, big events, and the cyclical nature of earthly existence. From the dramatic to the subtle, these rituals will help you make your life feel more sacred. I’ll also share some additional practices with you, from working with crystals to yoga to my personal take on astrology, so you have tools to manage any situation that might come your way. Speaking of my personal take, it’s important that you know that the practices and information you will find in this book are rooted in both my personal life experiences with burnout, anxiety, and chronic pain, and the work I’ve done with thousands of clients and students. This is what I have seen and experienced in more than a decade of helping others to address and relieve these conditions. I know what pain and struggle feel like in this life. I am right here with you. And finally, what I want you to know before we begin, most deeply and from the depths of your soul, is that you are made for greatness. Everything that you seek is already inside of you and my deepest desire is for you to see how incredibly worthy you are right now of living a life you love and knowing what it truly feels like to be happy, healthy, and abundant. I know how hard this is. Two days before I signed and got my book deal, I completely self-­s abotaged. I didn’t believe I was worthy of receiving a book deal and I had to sit in my own fear and physical pain prior to that all-­ important meeting with the publisher who would ultimately love and accept this book. Even though I didn’t feel worthy, I was. And so are you. We all are here to burn bright, and it is our birthright. If you take nothing else away from this book, please take this. I also want you to know that the secret to burning bright is to accept that change and shifting and letting go are your new best friends. These are the keys to freedom, so get ready! We’re going to shake things up and knock things loose and move you out of your ruts and into a life that brings you joy. To prepare your mind and heart for this work, I have created a self-­discovery agreement that I would like you to read out loud, commit to in your heart, and sign. First, let’s take a moment to prepare. This is something I do in many of my workshops and classes to help create a mutual intention and quiet space from which to start our journey together. We’re going to agree on some things, so let’s get our minds and hearts aligned. Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down comfortably. Lower the lights. Light a candle or some incense. Get comfortable. Take three slow, deep breaths, inhaling for three counts, and exhaling for three to five counts. In your mind or out loud, say these words: I give myself permission to engage in self-­discovery. I give myself permission to receive the energy healing this book offers me. I give myself permission to acknowledge and recognize my worth and my innate value in this world and my worthiness to live a life of radiant health, abundance, and love. Bring your palms together in front of your heart in a prayer position, and take just a few minutes to sit and breathe and bask in a feeling of gratitude for the good things and blessings you have today, including the ability to explore your own consciousness as you seek out a life more in line with who you really are.

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H O M E D E T OX R I T U A L How do you feel when you walk in the door of your home or any room in your life? How does your body feel when you are in that place—­your home in general, or a specific room, like your bedroom or kitchen? Do you feel energized and open in that space, or do you feel heavy, cluttered, and depleted? Clearing the space around your body can help make you feel lighter, more at ease, and open to whatever happens to you during your day. I do this in my own home regularly and I recommend doing it on some cyclical basis, whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonally, in order to shift and uplift the energy in the space where you spend so much of your time. Fire energy is especially powerful for cleansing the spaces in your life. You might try what I consider to be a house detox. Get some sage or a clearing element like tuning forks, singing bowls, chimes, or a detox mist/spray. Hold it in your hand and walk around the room or the house, in the area you want to clear. Imagine dissolving the negative energy and the heavy vibrations you feel. Speak to your house and tell it you no longer need that negative energy and that you seek the highest good for your living space. Once you’ve walked through the space, thank the space for protecting and guiding you, and ask for its help in moving the negative energy out. Then, set an intention for the positive energy you want to bring into your new cleared space. Now, if using sage, light it. The bundle should burn slowly and release smoke. Walk back through the space again, moving the plant through the room, into the corners, and wherever you feel that the energy might be “stuck.” As you do this, ask the space to help you remove and release any energy that does not serve your highest good. When you feel that the room is cleansed, snuff out the fire. I like to then light incense and imagine that the incense smoke contains positive intentions for my space, coming in and infusing my home with the good energy I’m seeking. If you’re using sound clearing or a mist or spray, follow the same ritual, but either activate the sounds or spray the mist through the rooms, into the corners, and into the stuck places. I will often also open up the windows and doors to fully clear out and release the energy.

ANXI E T Y DI FFUSION R IT UAL Whenever you feel anxiety coming into your mind, try this ritual to support yourself in relieving the intensity. • Sit comfortably and get quiet. Take a few conscious breaths. As you breathe in, notice the quality of your breath. Is it smooth, shaky, broken, shallow, deep? As you exhale, take it slow and make it last. • Begin to count: Inhale for a slow count of four, and exhale for a slow count of eight. Do this ten times. • Say to yourself, out loud or in your mind: “I am safe and all I need to do right now is breathe.” Continue to breathe as you try to notice where in your body you feel the anxiety. • Keep breathing in for four counts, out for eight counts. • Place your hands on your heart and begin to send your breath to your heart space. Feel it expanding and filling with calm and peace. • Keep repeating, “I am safe and all I need to do right now is breathe,” until you feel a sense of calm come through your body. • Keep doing this until you feel the anxiety start to subside. Slowly and calmly reenter your day.

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ONLY ONE STRATEGY

I simply give you one small thing that has to be worked out within your heart—­and that is to be more alert. Do whatever you want to do: do it with more consciousness. Walking on the road, walk more consciously; keep alert that you are walking. Breathing, doing nothing, just breathe, conscious that you are breathing. The breath is going in—­be conscious of it. The breath is going out—­be conscious of it. Make every opportunity a device to become more conscious, and soon more and more consciousness will be flowing into you, will be flooding you; more than you were working for. Then you will see the hands of the divine helping you. And once those hands have been seen, trust arises. Then you know that you are not alone.

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A QUICK METHOD Get Tense . . . and Let Go! WHEN:

every evening, before going to sleep DURATION: 4 to 6 minutes

Every night before you go to sleep, stand in the middle of the room—­exactly in the middle—­and make your body as stiff and as tense as possible: almost as if you will burst. Do this for two minutes, and then relax for two minutes, standing up. Do this tensing and relaxing two or three times, and then just go to sleep. Remember: the whole body has to be made as tense as possible. Afterward, don’t do anything else, so the whole night that relaxation goes deeper and deeper in you. Remember, the first thing in the day sets the trend, and the last thing in the night also sets the trend. So begin your sleep with a deep relaxation, and the whole night becomes samadhi, the whole night becomes a deep meditation—­relaxed. Six, seven, or eight hours is a long time. If you live for sixty years, you will be in your bed for twenty years. Twenty years is a long time, and if you can change the quality of your sleep, you need not go to a forest to meditate.

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A METHOD to Deal with Chaos and Confusion

“Since I started meditating, the confusion in me has largely increased. What is happening?” It is a good sign. Something is happening—­only then does one get mixed up, confused, otherwise not. If you just go on living the way you have always lived you have a clarity—­not the clarity that I talk about, but you have a certain clarity. You go on following the old habits, the same pattern, and you move smoothly. When you come in contact with a person like me, and if the contact really happens, you will feel confused and mixed up because the new will start happening and the old is still there. You will be hesitating, wavering as to whether to continue with the old or take a jump into the new. Everything will become a chaos—­that’s a good sign. My whole effort is to help you to come to such a critical point where you have to decide either for the future and gamble with the whole past, or to completely close off the future and move with the comfort and convenience of the past. That’s why you are feeling mixed up. So don’t feel in a hurry to settle things. Allow this confusion to go to the very roots of your being so that you are divided, clearly cut into two parts. In the beginning it will feel almost as if you are becoming schizophrenic, becoming split, but this split is needed. Once you have decided to get out of the past, the confusion will disappear, and clarity will come. Simply wait, watch. Let the confusion be there. Don’t try to sort things out, don’t try to figure things out, because whatever you do is not going to help now. Simply watch. This is a great parting of the ways. The way you have walked up to now is no longer going to be your way in the future. You have come to a crossroads. A great decision, a moment of decision is bound to create much turmoil. Simply watch. There is no need to do anything now. You can do this meditation for fifteen days, every night before you go to sleep:

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The first step Just sit on your bed—­sit in a relaxed way—­and close your eyes. Feel the body relaxing. If the body starts leaning forward, allow it; it may lean forward. It may like to take a womb posture—­just as when a child is in the mother’s womb. If you feel like that, just move into the womb posture: become a small child in the mother’s womb.

The second step Just listen to your breathing, nothing else. Just listen to it—­the breathing going in, the breathing going out; the breathing going in, the breathing going out. I’m not saying to say it—­just feel it going in; when it is going out, feel it going out. Just feel it, and in that feeling you will feel tremendous silence, and clarity arising. This is just for ten to twenty minutes—­minimum ten, maximum twenty—­and then go to sleep.

Practice this for fifteen days. And about your confusion, remember: just let things happen as if you are not the doer. For fifteen days become completely dead to it. That will be necessary for the fruit to ripen and to fall on its own accord. So don’t make any effort to fix it or do anything about it. Just be dead to this confusion.

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ny s

Be Calm. Be Present. Be Happy.

unplug A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers SUZE YALOF SCHWARTZ Founder and CEO of Unplug Meditation Studio with DEBRA GOLDSTEIN

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The Unplug Meditation Time it takes: Less than 1 minute Ideal for: A quick reconnect with yourself

Use this when: You want a little hit of that meditation magic Each of the other mini meditations you’ll find below is for a specific purpose, but this is our quickie classic that sums up all of the other meditations in one. Think of this as your basic go-­to whenever you have sixty seconds or less and want to do a centering check-­in with yourself. Bonus: It’s supereasy to remember! Here are your steps, which spell out the word UNPLUG: 1. U = Unplug your devices and from any tasks you’re doing. 2. N = Notice how you’re feeling. 3. P = Pick a point of focus (your breath, or a mantra, object, or visualization). 4. L = Let it go. 5. U = Understand that thoughts will come and go. 6. G = Get on with your day!

The Savoring Meditation Time it takes: 1 minute Ideal for: Slowing down, appreciating the moment, and experiencing food joy

Try this when: You’re beginning a meal or snack Eating is something we do every single day, usually mindlessly. Be honest: How many times have you sat in front of the television and gone through an entire bag of potato chips, or eaten a cookie and wondered, Where did it go? Not only does this take us out of the present moment—­it also packs on the pounds because we’re not paying attention to what we’re shoveling in our mouths. Eating and meditating at the same time allows you to notice when your body says, Okay, that’s enough now. I tend to chow down quickly and eat three times as much as I need because I don’t give myself the opportunity to notice I’m full. So by the time I get done, I feel sick. This savoring meditating forces you to slow down, which tunes you back in to how much and what you’re eating. Even better, you get to actually enjoy your food. You can do this quick meditation anywhere, anytime, with any food. I’ll show it to you here with a raisin, which is how I learned it, so you get the idea. If you even do this for one meal or one snack a day, it’s a chance to steal a moment back and do something good for yourself.

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Here’s the how-­to for the savoring meditation, step-­by-­step: 1. Grab a raisin. 2. Look at the raisin and ask yourself, How did this get from the earth to my fingers? Think about it. Someone planted the vines, picked the grapes, dried them into raisins . . . ​imagine all the steps it took for this little raisin to travel all the way to you. 3. Lift that little raisin to your ear. I know it sounds weird, but when you squeeze a raisin, it makes a snap, crackle, pop sound. Spend a few seconds listening. 4. Put the raisin in front of your mouth with your lips closed. Notice you’re salivating a little in anticipation. It’s so weird how that happens, but it really does! 5. Place it in your mouth and feel the texture with your tongue, then begin to chew as slowly as you possibly can. Notice as you chew how the skin separates from the sweet inside. I’m sure you never chewed anything slowly enough to notice how your tongue moves all over on its own. There’s a party going on in your mouth with every bite that you’ve been invited to all along . . . ​you just never bothered to RSVP! 6. Swallow, smile, and go on with your day.

Walking Meditation Time it takes: 3 minutes Ideal for: Getting grounded; also great for anyone who has trouble sitting still

Try this when: Life feels chaotic, overwhelming, or out of control We all have those moments: Nothing is going right at work, your kids are driving you crazy, and you just lost your keys for the sixth time this week. To get regrounded amid the chaos, try this walking meditation: 1. Stand up. You can do this meditation in flat shoes, socks, or, ideally, barefoot. 2. Feel your feet. Wiggle your toes and connect to the sensation of the soles of your feet on the ground. 3. Very slowly, lift your right foot and take a step with your right foot. Land with your heel first, then slowly roll onto the ball of your foot. 4. Take your next step with your left foot the same way, in slow motion. Notice how your weight shifts forward and your body and knees work in tandem like a machine, propelling you forward. Keep your eyes open and softly focused on a point slightly in front of you; closing them will make you nauseated and dizzy. Some people do walking meditations for a whole hike, but I don’t have the patience for that. Three minutes does the trick for me. I really should have called this book “The Impatient Person’s Guide to Meditating”!

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Mood Lifter Meditation Time it takes: 1 minute Ideal for: Shifting out of a bad mood

Try this when: You’re feeling sad, toxic, or annoyed Gratitude is the instant antidote for a bad mood. You literally cannot feel grumpy and grateful at the same time. Here’s how to go from feeling icky to inspired in under sixty seconds: 1. Close your eyes. 2. Think of three people or things you are grateful for. Don’t phone this in! You want to choose three things you genuinely feel grateful for. It might be someone special in your life, someone who gave up their seat for you on a crowded subway, your kids’ health, that it’s not raining today . . . ​it doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small—­it all counts. Coffee is sometimes on my list, for instance. 3. Open your eyes. Done! It’s that easy.

Feel the Love Meditation Time it takes: 3 to 5 minutes Ideal for: Increasing or restoring good feelings toward yourself and others

Use this when: You’re feeling down on yourself or angry/upset with someone else This is a classic meditation, often called a “loving-kindness meditation.” Whatever you call it, the basic principle is feeling love for yourself and others. It’s helpful to use when you’re at odds with someone in your life, because it helps you find your way to compassion and back to love. And, really, there’s no better feeling than love. Here’s the step-­by-­step of how to do it: 1. Close your eyes. 2. Turn your attention to yourself and list three things you love about yourself. Are you kind? Are you smart? Are you creative? Do you make people laugh? 3. Next, think of someone who is very dear to you. You probably have many people you love, but for the sake of this meditation, pick the one who is in this minute front and center for you. Imagine yourself hugging them and sending them love. 4. Next, think about a friend who needs a little love. Maybe they’re struggling or going through something tough right now. Imagine sending him or her love in the form of a letter; picture them opening it, reading, and then smiling.

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5. Now think about someone you feel neutral about. For me, I always think about the receptionist at my kids’ school. She’s lovely, but not someone I know well. Send this person a little love, visualizing sending them a meaningful appreciation card as a surprise to make them happy. 6. Lastly, think about the person you find the most challenging right now. It’s hard to send someone you don’t like love, but by doing it, you’re actually letting go of your own toxic anger and moving forward. Imagine what it is like to be them, even if that’s not something you would want to be. Send them peace, love, it’s all good thoughts. This last step cuts away your difficult emotions so you can move forward. Forgiveness or letting go of negative feelings toward someone (or toward yourself ) is usually a hard thing to do, but if you follow these steps, it’s much easier because you’ve already cultivated that feeling of love in your heart in steps 1 to 5. For other variations on a loving-kindness meditation, you can find two of my favorites from Sharon Salzberg or Tara Brach on YouTube.

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Meditation for Kids

You can hear all the science and experience all the phenomenal changes within yourself, but when you see meditation at work in your child, it takes it to a whole other level. Sitting still and breathing isn’t something that sounds particularly fun to kids, and most have to be talked into trying it. I can honestly say that talking my boys into it is one of the best things I’ve done as a parent. All three of them tried meditation reluctantly, but once they sat down and did it, they liked it (kind of like a lot of adults I know). Do they practice now every day? Not at all. But do they know how to use it on demand, as a tool to self-­regulate when they need it? Absolutely. When I used to tell my son to turn off the Xbox, he’d throw a fit and toss the clicker at me. Now he takes three breaths and just walks off. So much better than flinging electronic equipment, right? If my meditation studio burned down tomorrow, it would have all been worth it just for that! I asked Laurie Cousins, who teaches our kids meditation classes, to explain why it’s such a beneficial practice for kids. Here’s what she had to say: Meditation can be a wonderful tool to help children regulate themselves emotionally, to be less impulsive, and to bring their attention to something they want to focus on rather than being distracted. It teaches them to breathe when they’re feeling anxious, and to see their anger and work with it in that moment. It helps them get in touch with their body, and their heart. They can find a sense of kindness and connection to themselves and others, which helps in their social relationships. It’s very helpful for middle and high school students, specifically. They understand the sense of self and self-­consciousness; to be able to be aware of their inner dialogue is so valuable. The more they tune in and explore this relationship with themselves, the more they can hear their own wisdom and insights and choose actions that are helpful to them as opposed to carrying out unconscious habits that are not. I see it all the time: children being able to turn to themselves in a healthy way versus seeking unhealthy ways to manage what feels unmanageable. With the stressors, structure, and expectations that go along with being a kid today, meditation gives them ways to slow down and identify that they’re stressed, that there’s pressure, and to choose how to attend to it in a helpful way. There are two “tricks” to getting your kids to meditate. The first is to live by example. As Laurie says, “Kids watch what we do more than what we say. If they see us taking the time to pause and breathe and do something that is quiet—­or even just focusing on one thing at a time, consciously—­they will observe and want to do it, too. As soon as we impose it on them, they feel our agenda and don’t want to do it.” The other way to get your kids to meditate is to make it fun. Try short, guided meditations, or even a walking meditation if they’re super high-­energy. To most kids, words like calm and stillness sound like torture. There are so many great meditations for kids out there, but here are my three favorite to get you started:

MEDITATION IN A JAR

This meditation is a great visual tool to show kids how their brain works when they’re amped up versus when they’re calm. Plus, it’s sparkly and tactile—­t wo things most kids love. Here’s how to do it:

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1. Fill a ball jar with water and glitter. I’m partial to purple glitter, but use any color they love. Be sure to screw the top on tight. 2. Explain how the mind is a jar and that the glitter represents thoughts and feelings. 3. Shake it up and explain how this is what the mind looks like when you are angry, or in a hurry, or stressed. 4. Ask your child to slowly breathe in and out along with you, and show them how when we breathe, everything settles and becomes clear—­just like the water in the jar.

THE CALM DOWN A CRYING CHILD MEDITATION

This meditation comes from Susan Kaiser Greenland, the author of the highly acclaimed book The Mindful Child. Susan is considered one of the leading teachers of mindful awareness for kids and teens. This meditation comes from her acclaimed Inner Kids program, and is a brilliantly sneaky way to get your child to slow down their breath and get calm: 1. Have your child imagine that they are standing in a garden filled with beautiful roses. Tell them to smell the flowers around them, inhaling through their nose as long as they can. 2. Next, have them place their pointer finger out in front of them at arm’s length. Tell them to imagine their finger is a candle and to blow gently to make the flame flicker. The goal isn’t to blow out the candle, but to exhale slowly and gently for as long as possible. Do this ten times and watch the shift.

THE GO TO SLEEP ALREADY MEDITATION

This is another Susan Kaiser Greenland meditation that is frequently taught by Laurie Cousins, who runs our kids program. It takes the torture and stress out of bedtime and turns it into a calming routine that kids really respond to. Do this practice for three minutes and they’ll slip into sleepytime like magic. 1. Ask your child to choose a favorite stuffed animal. 2. With your child lying down in bed, place the stuffed animal on their belly. 3. Have them watch the animal rise and fall as they breathe in and out. The thoughts and worries of the day will disappear as they focus on their toy and breathe.

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DON’T

HATE

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meditation:

Y O U R D A I LY S T R U C T U R E

NOTE

We’ll be adding to this throughout the book, but this is the basic structure that you’ll use moving forward.

When you’re ready, start by setting an alarm for however long you’re going to sit in meditation. Ideally this is fifteen to twenty minutes. I use the Insight Timer app to keep time, but anything soothing works fine. If you want to add music to your meditation, you can, but pick a neutral instrumental that doesn’t evoke any particular feeling. (The Insight Timer app has ambient music options, too.) Make your environment as quiet as possible (remember to silence your phone), knowing that the sounds of the outside world will absolutely join you in your meditation and that it’s okay when they do! If you want to light a candle or incense, take a moment to do that as well. Once you’re finished prepping, move into a comfortable seated position with your back supported, and place your hands together in your lap or resting on the top of your legs. Sitting with your palms facing up is receptive to energy, and palms down will feel more grounding. Then, gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Use these first few breaths to become present and, most importantly, give yourself permission to rest in that space for the remainder of your meditation. Really feel into your breath. As you breathe, notice where you feel it in your body. With each breath, let go a little more of anything that doesn’t exist with you in that room, in that moment. Allow your breath to then move in and out gently through your nose at a pace that feels relaxed. Next, begin to check in with your physical body, moving from the crown of your head down through your toes, and actively soften and relax any areas of tension or tightness. When you’re ready, begin silently repeating the mantra “SO HUM.” If linking it with the breath is helpful, feel free to do that: with each inhale repeat “SO,” and with each exhale, “HUM.” Continue the effortless and silent repetition of the mantra. If your attention drifts to another thought in your mind, a feeling in your body, or a sound in your environment, simply notice that your mind has left the mantra and bring your attention back to the mantra. Continue the repetition until your alarm goes off, and then take several deep breaths to gradually bring yourself out of your meditation. When you’re ready, open your eyes and take a few moments before you resume any activity. Boom. You’re a meditator.

meditate on it One of the biggest intentions of this book is to give you a sense of confidence in yourself and your ability to look within to find what you need. There’s that saying, You know what you know and you know what you don’t know. What I want to offer is that there is a whole lot that you don’t know you don’t know, and that’s okay. okay As we’ve already established, meditation is the core practice of this book and how I redrew the road map I live by. So, let’s get into how we use meditation to go into ourselves instead of basing our well-­being, happiness, fulfillment, and needs solely on whatever is happening outside of us. At the beginning of my journey with meditation, I heard one phrase repeatedly. Countless master teachers, including Deepak Chopra, when hearing my elaborate (and might I add well-­thought-­out) questions about life, happiness, peace, and love, would say the same three words in response: meditate on it. That’s it. The three most unhelpful words someone battling with a question could possibly hear. As I continued my deep dive into meditation, though, this phrase became a beacon in my life, and it’s something we’ll explore in this book. When we’re stuck, riddled with a choice, or have questions about how to move forward, the first thing we do is look to our mind. We start shuffling through all the mental files filled with recycled past answers, hoping that there’s one in there that we missed, that holds the key to whatever it is we’re searching for.

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We do our best to think really really hard for the answer and continue to find that the answer isn’t there. As Albert Einstein famously said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Your question has revealed itself as a thought stemming from the most constricted part of you: your mind. The answers that serve you most and are most effortlessly accessed come from somewhere far less conditioned. They come from that level of your being that resides just beneath the surface of your mind: your soul. I ask myself all the questions all the time. Questions like, “Who am I beyond the roles that I play?” “Why am I alive and what am I here to offer the world?” “What is it that I need to let go of so that I can be the best version of myself ?” “What do I want?” You know, the “easy questions.” I used to think a lot about these questions. I would try to think of the answers or come up with systems and lists to try to find the clarity to move forward. As I started meditating, it became abundantly clear to me that my previous plan of attack was beyond ineffective. It was at that moment in my journey that I stopped trying so hard. After all, it hadn’t gotten me anywhere all that spectacular. It fueled worry and anxiety more than inspiration and creation. So I started embracing the complete discomfort of just being and trusting—­two words very foreign to me. Instead of asking the questions with an agenda, I just asked them. I asked them over and over and over. And nothing happened. Until it did. As I continued meditating, I started feeling more in touch with myself and began to see glimpses of answers. These answers would show up as subtle thoughts, as things I would see in my world, as things other people would say to me without knowing they were reinforcing that subtle wisdom the Universe was whispering to me. When I “meditate on” something now, I silently ask the question or bring to mind the situation I’m stuck in. With complete detachment I repeat the question in my mind and imagine that I’m dropping a fishing line down in that space between my breaths. Full disclosure: My mind immediately pictures that late-­1980s children’s toy that involved a tiny plastic fishing rod with a magnet at the end. You would take this tiny fishing pole and dip it into a little plastic pond, trying to secure the fish that had magnets in their mouths. Each question you ask is like that magnetic fishing rod. When you release the question and stop trying to find the answer, the figurative water can settle and the answer that will most serve you can find its way to you, to become a new thought. Annoyingly, in my experience, the answers aren’t immediate. Sometimes I have to hold that line for hours, days, weeks before I hear the answer. But those answers are always the best. Those aha moments that represent the subtlest whispers of my soul are the ones that guide my life with the most clarity, fearlessness, and integrity and authentically represent who I am at my best. Throughout this book we will be “meditating on” a lot of topics—­questions like, “Who am I?” “What is the story I’m telling myself ?” and, “If I wasn’t concerned with the mechanics of its creation, what would I want?” When I ask these questions now, I envision myself casting a fishing line into the stillest water at the deepest level of my being. When we are in that state of trust, the water remains still and we can feel the subtle tugs on the line. When we are “doing” and “trying” and “forcing,” the water becomes more turbulent, sediment is kicked up from the bottom, and it’s harder to feel the subtle tug. You don’t hear the whispers; you hear the Universe only when it’s screaming at you. Looking back at my life, I can see so many times when I missed the whisper and didn’t hear the message until I was sucker-­punched and given virtually no choice but to get in line. Those messages, though louder, never felt as potent as the ones I’m blessed to sometimes hear now. I tell you, there is nothing more beautiful than that still water.

Don’t Hate, Meditate! by Megan Monahan

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The meditations in this book will guide you through the practice of “meditating on” all the things. You’ll explore who you are, your life, and the elements of your life that are perhaps holding you back. You’ll cultivate a sense of comfort in listening for the answers and clarity that you have within you.

consciousness doesn’t have a punch card Have you ever had one of those coffee shop punch cards, so ten coffees and forty-­five dollars later, you get one free drink? It always makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something when I reach that tenth punch. As if all my past (overpriced but totally worth it) almond milk cappuccinos have been leading me up to this moment. Whether it’s a free juice or a free coffee, I always experience that sense of joy and satisfaction. This is what I’ve been working toward! All roads led to this moment and I’ve arrived! Consciousness isn’t like that. There isn’t a linear path that is being artistically documented by punches or stamps. Other people can’t reference a card to see how far along you are in your journey. The journey of awakening to higher states of consciousness and awareness isn’t clean, doesn’t follow rules, isn’t easily trackable, and certainly isn’t quantifiable. I had a client once who worked in finance. (I’m not going to elaborate any further here because we all know that unless you actually work in finance, you have no idea what those jobs mean.) Suffice it to say, his world was about numbers and results that were extremely black and white. In so many ways, he was the picture of the perfect student. When we started working together one-­on-­one, he bought a special notebook, which he dated and took notes in every time we met. Once he started meditating, he bought another notebook in which he cataloged all his meditations. He wrote down what time and the length of time he meditated and made a little mark in his calendar as well so that he could visually see that accomplishment. And then a few weeks into his practice, he asked me, “When does it start working? I want to make sure I am tracking that progress.” I had to break it to him that it’s always “working” as long as you’re doing it. That there will never come a day when you get to move on because it’s worked and you’re done. He didn’t love that answer. He kept going, though, and used his organizational skills to keep him consistent in his practice. And as we kept having conversations, he began to organically notice the subtle shifts that his meditation practice was creating in his life. Once you accept that there’s no fixed destination for your meditation practice, the more you can relax and enjoy the unknown of the journey. journey The less you obsess about where you’re going and how to track your progress, and the more you sit in the present, the more you’ll embrace the uncertainty of the path. So, leave the punch card to tracking how much you’re spending on your coffee habit. Let how you feel, how you’re seeing your life, and how you’re treating others be how your ever-­expanding consciousness tells you that it’s working.

TAKEAWAY REFLECTIONS:

meditation

M  editation is not about “stopping your thoughts.” N  othing needs to “happen” when you meditate.  he experiential benefits of meditation don’t show up while you’re meditating. Meditating is the mental T workout that breeds results in the rest of your day. I t doesn’t have to “feel good” to work. I encourage you to be connected with why you’re bringing this practice into your life. B  e consistent.

Don’t Hate, Meditate! by Megan Monahan

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