Thursday, July 24, 2014

Meditations to Decrease Stress and Inflammation!

yogi doing meditation
A recent study at UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences demonstrated once again that even short meditations, when done consistently, have positive effects on both the body and the mind. The study evaluated 49 caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Almost 50% of these caregivers experience clinical depression, and they are also twice as likely as the general population to report high levels of stress.
The study divided the caregivers (who ranged in ages from 45 to 91) into two groups: one that practiced a 12-minute meditation daily for 8 weeks, and one that spent 12 minutes each day for 8 weeks relaxing while listening to a relaxation CD.

The meditation group showed several benefits over the group that listened to the music:
  • Significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms
  • Improvements in reported mental health
  • Improvements in cognitive functioning
  • Increased telomerase activity in the blood (an indication of decreased cellular aging)
  • Significant decreases in blood proteins associated with inflammation.
All these benefits from just 12 minutes of meditation a day!

This specific study examined a chant and meditation practice called Kirtan Kriya, but prior studies on meditation have shown similar mind-body benefits with a variety of meditations. In short, any meditation practice you do for 10 minutes or more daily is likely to achieve similar results.

The meditation below has been used in other studies on meditation’s “relaxation response.” But remember, the most effective meditation practice is one you will actually do. Hundreds, if not thousands, of meditation techniques exist and are easily found on the web. Experiment and find the one that works best for you.

Simple Counting Meditation:
  • Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up
    to the ceiling.
  • Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to
    change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath
    at the tip of your nostrils.
  • After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, start counting each exhalation.
    For example, when you exhale the first time, think "one." The next time you exhale, count "two."  Keep counting silently to yourself, until you get to ten. After you reach ten, then start over again from "one."
  • You’ll know your mind has wandered because you’ll lose count or notice that you’re thinking about something else. When that happens, (and it will!) try not to get frustrated. Instead, simply start over again by counting from “one.”  Without judgment or frustration, notice how often you need to restart counting.   The goal isn’t to get to 10, but to keep refocusing whenever your mind wanders.
  • Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.
I’ve outlined two other methods in prior blog articles: a simple Meditation for Inner Peace and a Breath Focused Meditation. I will post additional meditations in the future, so keep checking back. Remember not to worry about "being good" at mediation--just by the act of meditating, you are inherently good at it regardless of how often your mind wanders as long as you keep bringing it back.


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Meeting a Deadline

Last week, I mentioned my August 1 deadline for the first book in another new mystery series.  That date is fast approaching, and so's my trip to San Antonio for the Romance Writers of America National Conference. 

The good thing is that I've finished an edited draft that I think is about ready to go.  But I didn't want to feel rushed so I'll wait till I come back and take another look at it before I send it off. 

I also need to finish the related parts such as an acknowledgment and dedication.  And in this one I include recipes, so I need to polish them a bit, too! 

Then I'll need to look at my calendar to figure out when my next deadline is--December 1, I think.  And then I've got another on February 1, 2015.  In the meantime, I'll be doing a lot of promoting on my upcoming Superstition Mystery as well as family stuff.  But I take deadlines seriously and never want to have to ask for an extension, at least not if I can avoid it. 

How about you--what are the deadlines in your life?  And, BTW, because of my travel plans I may not be able to respond to your comments for a while...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Must Set Sail

Captain E. Griffin died in 1767 in Madison, CT.  His grave is marked with this little poem:
Tho Broeas’ blasts and Boistrous waves
Have tost me to and fro
In spite of both, by God’s decree
I harbor here below
While I do not At Anchor ride
With many of our Fleet
Yet once again I must set Sail
My Admiral Christ to meet.

Ellen did not come home last week, but probably will tomorrow or Thursday.  I have been getting the apartment ready, having ordered from a rental company a shower bench and a “lift chair” – you know, one of those lounge chairs that gently rises to put you on your feet – and other things.  Today our maintenance man will come in to install grab bars in the bathrooms.

She looks and acts completely well, and I have to remind myself that she’s still healing, and held together with staples, stitches and a steel wire.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get back into writing mode, and finding it a little difficult.  I’m still distracted.  I played a really bad golf game last Thursday and that made me realize I’m not back from this episode any more than Ellen is.

But I’m going to go to Chicago in August, to attend a regional meeting of the National Needlepoint Guild and made a short speech at the start, sign some books, visit the Art Institute and do a little sightseeing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Mystery Event

The other evening we went out to eat at a eatery called the Stonefire Grill. I would call it casual dining which to me means you order the food at a counter and it is delivered to your table. You can order an individual portion or family style. The menu seems to have something to please everybody and the food is good along with being reasonably priced.

The place was busy when we got there and we chose a table in the far corner of the restaurant that looked out on a patio. The door to the patio had a sign that said private event. I had a seat by the window and a good view of the goings on. Being my usual nosy self, I wondered what kind of an event it was. People were still arriving, but there was a weird vibe about them. No one seemed to be talking to anyone but whoever they came with. I immediately ruled out birthday party, anniversary party, well, just about any kind of party.

At first they were just sitting in small groups with drinks. I was trying to figure out who the hosts were, but there didn’t seem to be anybody working the room. I did notice a woman with a list and then thought perhaps it was a work related event. But the people seemed even too distant from each other to work at the same company. It was like they’d never met before and weren’t mingling now.

It got weirder when some of the restaurant staff started taking out plates of food. The reaction of the group was to crowd the server and take pictures of whatever was on the plate. I know everybody takes pictures of crazy stuff with their cell phone. But I had to wonder how dull a life these people must lead if they were flocking to photograph a plate of half sandwiches. Were they going to show them off to their friends and say what? “Look at the tuna sandwiches at the party I went to last night.”

Instead of setting up a buffet with food being brought out, the servers just kept bringing the plates around and served a portion to the guests. It seemed like odd service in a casual dining sort of place.

By now we were all curious what was going on. So, when a platter of cauliflower quarters went by, we stopped the server and asked.

It turned out to be another part of the new online world. And suddenly it all made sense. They were all food bloggers and the restaurant had invited them to sample some of their new offerings.

What a great gig. I’d be great checking out all the vegetarian options. I wonder how you sign up. Hey Stonefire, does writing about the event put me on the list?