I tried something new this week…I floated.
I’m talking about floatation therapy. Great for stress management, pain management, sleep issues and much more. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a wonderful experience of complete relaxation and meditation, mixed with a bit of a nap. At least that was my experience.
It starts with a shower, then climbing into an enclosed pod that is approximately 8 feet long, 3 feet wide and 4 feet tall. The pod contains 10 inches of very salty water…saltier than the dead sea. Inside the pod it is quiet and dark. The water is the same temperature as your skin, so you aren’t warm or cold (perfect for Goldilocks). You lay back and float. That’s all there is to it. The water is so incredibly salty that you don’t have to think about floating…you just do.
I found that I was so excited to just get in and start, that I barely even looked around the pod, I think I actually closed my eyes before I even laid back. So what was it like? Well, at first, I struggled to relax. I became very mindful of my body, realizing every place I was still holding tension. As I slowly relaxed, my back started to ache…as if it wasn’t used to the lack of muscle tension. I felt every sensation in my body, until eventually I felt very little. My body was in a state of complete relaxation...I barely felt the water, because the temperature was so similar to my body temp. And because I was floating, there was no areas of pressure from laying on a surface…it was like being weightless…without gravity. For a while I felt a connection to my body that I had never felt before…I enjoyed a sensation of relaxation beyond words. Then very slowly I drifted away from my body. I was still in a complete sense of relaxation, but with no sight (it was dark and my eyes were closed), no sound other than my heartbeat and no feeling, I lost that sense of connection to my body. At that time I truly understood that we are spiritual beings, simply inhabiting a body for a time.
I spent 90 minutes floating in this tank. I didn’t move a muscle…I just floated. I had assumed my mind would be very busy, but it was quiet. I floated in what I must say, was the deepest meditation I have ever experienced. As my body continued to relax, I would occasionally notice a twitch…in an arm or a leg…but it felt so different than the twitches I get when lying in bed at night. I did eventually dose…slipping between meditation and sleep very easily…never moving, never opening my eyes.
When my 90 minutes came to a close, music started to play…a subtle and relaxing way to bring my attention back to the here and now. I slowly removed myself from the pod, showered again (I was covered in salt residue) and went back to the world, more relaxed and at peace than I have ever been.
If you live anywhere near the Rochester area, I highly recommend you check out The Rochester Bodymind Float Center (www.bodymindfloatcenter.com). If you live elsewhere, go online and find something similar near you! You won't be disappointed!
Namaste and happy floating -
I recently went on a lovely, week long, tropical vacation with my husband and a couple of our dearest friends. Before I left, I promised myself that I would spend the week in the moment or in a good book. No mindless internet, minimal email and absolutely no Facebook. Why was I so adamant about this? Because more and more, I find myself filling every down moment cuddled up with my smart phone. Standing in line? Better check my phone. A lull in conversation? Better check my phone. Sitting at a stop light? Better check my phone. You get the pattern here, right? I bet you do, because I see many of you doing the same exact thing!
I realized awhile back that this pattern was becoming my new normal, and I didn’t like it. So I started paying attention and realized I turn to Facebook every time I get a spare moment. All the time! I find this rather funny (in an odd way), because I love quiet and solitude. Why would I fall into a habit of avoiding it?
Truthfully, I have no idea why. There is just something about the constant contact that is addictive…maybe it’s the fear I might miss something “important”. But it really doesn’t matter why…the point is that I decided to take a break while I was on vacation. But I was seriously concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Are you wondering if I was successful? Are you a bit curious? Did I struggle or cheat? What did I think of it? You probably know the answer already...It was awesome! I checked for emails once a day, twice if I thought there might be something from my daughter. But I did not open Facebook, despite several emails from them. Facebook quickly became aware of my absence and started emailing me…to be sure I was aware of the growing number of notifications I was missing out on. LOL. I was pretty sure none were too earth shattering!
Vacation came to an end and we returned home. A day later, I finally logged in to like something I knew my husband had posted. I didn’t care to look at anything else, so I didn’t. The next day (2 days after return) I logged in to acknowledge a post I had been tagged in, but I didn’t care to look at anything else, so I didn’t. 3 days after my return I logged in, did a quick 5 minute scan of my notifications, liked a couple pictures people posted for Father’s Day and that was it. I am really loving less Facebook in my life. Over a week later, I am checking Facebook 1-2 times a day, for 5-10 minutes. Does this give me time to see everything in my newsfeed? Nope…and I’m okay with that.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Facebook has some wonderful qualities!! I love seeing pictures of friends and family I can’t visit often enough, I love my friend’s inspirational posts and I love some of the funny ones as well. I love learning of new books from my favorite authors, meditation programs offered by my mentors or herbal tidbits posted by other holistic practitioners. All of this stuff is great! Luckily, I have made it a habit to unfollow people that post things I don’t really appreciate, so my newsfeed tends to be pretty positive and happy, but it still seems like many of us are falling into the trap of confusing Facebook with real life.
So I am making a commitment to myself, to increase my mindfulness…and the only way to do this is to decrease time spent in mindlessness. I am committing to minimal Facebook. I encourage you to do the same. Maybe your Facebook isn’t your thing. What is your mindless poison? Too much TV? Twitter? Pinterest? Instagram? Snapchat?
Could you spend a little more time being present in the moment rather than reaching for your computer, tablet or phone every time you have a moment to yourself? Maybe instead, just sit and enjoy that moment of peace. That is certainly what I’ve been doing, and loving every minute of it.
Here in the U.S. we have a holiday weekend coming up. Consider putting social media in timeout for the weekend…to just relax and enjoy living in the moment. Try enjoying real, live socialization with friends and family, or get out in nature for a solo walk. Enjoy some introspection, read a book or watch some fireworks. Often, life is better when you live it unplugged!!!!
Enjoy the peace!
Meditation is nothing more than mindfulness. We can turn any activity into a meditation if we simply do it in a very mindful way. This means concentrating on the task at hand and experiencing the moment with all of our senses. When we do this, we find that our brain is focused on the here and now…letting thoughts of past and future subside. You can do this washing your hands – feel the temperature of the water, smell the soap, see the suds being created, hear the water running into the sink, notice if the smell of the soap brings with it a slight taste. It may only last for 30 seconds, but this is a form of meditation.
Now imagine the same thing occurring over a cup of tea; hear the sound of the pouring of the tea, see the color of the tea, feel the warmth of your cup in your hands, smell the aroma of the tea, taste the tea…take the time to really appreciate each sense…repeat. Notice the feel of your body as you drink your tea; notice how you are sitting, if you are relaxed, feel the warmth running down your throat into your belly. Resist the urge to check your phone or make a to-do list, simply sit in the present moment, doing nothing but enjoy your tea. Thoughts may pop up, just let them go. You can think about those things later. Right now, you are simply in the moment…lingering over the details of your tea.
This is a simple practice that can be done for 1 minute, 5 minutes, 20 minutes or an hour. Practice sitting still…in silence…in the present moment. This helps calm your mind, center your soul and bring you to a feeling peace.
Start slow. Use fruit juice if that entices you more than tea. Find a way to make this practice your own. Reap the benefits of this simple, but effective mindfulness meditation.
Recently I have been contemplating how connected I am. I’m not talking about my connections with friends and family, I’m talking about my continuous connection to the world via social media With my wonderful smart phone, I am constantly connected via email, text and Facebook. It occurs to me that while I have made many changes in my life to increase my mindfulness, my smartphone continues to be a hindrance to this.
I cancelled my cable to decrease my TV time. I have committed to my daily meditation practice and have incorporated mindful moments into my day. However, I still find that when moments of downtime arise, rather than sit with myself for a moment, I instinctively reach for my phone to see what’s happening in Facebook-ville. I have done a pretty good job in designing my newsfeed to pump in lots of uplifting, spiritual and happy posts, but even so, this habit interferes with my ability to just sit in silence. I often find myself so distracted by my newsfeed that I lose productivity in areas of my life that I truly enjoy. Now, Facebook isn’t all evil. It has allowed me to reconnect with people that I may never have connected with and it is a great vehicle for sharing pictures and stories with family and friends. However, I have realized that, overall, I allow the negative to outweigh the positive.
As I contemplate this, I realize that I give up moments of my life to Facebook. It is almost an addiction; that I might miss something…and because of this addition, I miss a whole lot…of real life.
Because I think there is a positive side to Facebook, both personally and for my business, I am not considering deleting my account and forgoing it completely. I am, however, going to seriously alter my use of it.
My first thought was to allow myself to check Facebook only 3 times a day, but I fear that might be a bit too severe…and I believe in making small changes (we tend to be more successful with small baby steps). In order to know where to start, I need to get an idea of where I’m starting from. For the next couple of days, I’m going to keep track of how many times I check Facebook. I will simply put a sticky note on the back of my phone and mark it every time I pick up my phone to check Facebook. Once I have a base line, I will slowly start to decrease the number, until I’m down to a fairly low number that I think is more appropriate. (I have no idea what that number will be).
Do you have an addiction to social media…Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or your RSS feed? Would you like to join me in decreasing the distraction and increasing connection to the real world around you and connection to yourself? I urge you to make this change. It doesn’t have to be big, in fact it’s better if you just start small! Disconnect, just a little at a time!
Ironically, I urge you to connect with me on Facebook. Where, during the specific time when we mindfully chose to connect, we can support each other in making better choices for ourselves!
Holistic Wellness is about balancing Body, Mind, Heart and Soul.
It is my mission to support you in this effort! If there is a specific topic you would like to hear about, let me know! (you can contact me via my website - www.holisticwellnesswithtracy.com )
I recently posted on Facebook regarding this topic…but want to elaborate a little. A few days ago, while enjoying a massage, I was talking to my friend/massage therapist about the importance of self-care.
I get a massage once a month. To many people this sounds like a luxury, and I suppose it is. However, without this “luxury”, I end up in horrible pain, downing copious amounts of Ibuprofen, walking around miserable and irritable. I am grateful every time I see her, that I have a friend I can trust to restore my muscles to their relaxed, un-knotted state. I am grateful that I have the means to afford it…although don’t get me wrong, I’m not rolling in dough. I work approximately 55-60 hours a week, I don’t have cable, I drive a used 10 year old car, my furniture is pretty old and pretty beat-up, my house could use new windows and a coat of paint….but, I have enough money in my pocket to treat myself to a something that keeps me from constant pain…my monthly massage. Could I put that money toward something more “practical”? Probably…but will I? No.
Some think this is selfish. I do not. How am I to be the best me possible…to give my gifts to my family and friends…to the world for that matter, if I am knotted up, undernourished and/or unfulfilled?
Women especially (but men too), tend to put their family’s needs in front of their own. I understand the need to be super-mom. I mean, you want to give your kids everything you possibly can! But if you are consistently giving to them, without finding a way to give to yourself too, you rob everyone of experiencing the best YOU. (You also teach them that self-care is selfish and soon they will be putting everyone else before themselves too). But it’s not just our families that we put first. Often we put our work, our friends, our church, our communities before our own needs…spreading ourselves so thin that nobody gets our full capabilities. We mean well, but our confused priorities often undermine our real intentions.
Ever fly on a plane and here the flight attendant say, “if the oxygen masks emerge, put your own mask on before helping others?” Why do you think they say this? Because you are no help to anyone if you are unconscious… So today, put your oxygen mask on first…do something for yourself because the world is a brighter place when you are shining with your full potential!!
Today, I challenge you to do one thing just for YOU!!
Need some ideas?
Take a bath (with a candle), take a the time to make yourself a nice healthy dinner rather than just stopping for fast food, go to bed early, spend ½ hour taking a walk, pick up that hobby you’ve forgotten about, meditate, attend an exercise class you have been meaning to go to, meet a friend for a drink, put on music that you love, read a book (just for fun), call to schedule that doctor appointment you’ve been putting off, treat yourself to a pedicure or an ice-cream, walk barefoot in the grass, take a nap in your hammock, go fishing…get the idea? It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be expensive…just find one thing you can do to make YOU happy today.
And if you find you really struggle to meet this challenge, I would suggest you check out the book "The Art of Extreme Self-Care", by Cheryl Richardson. It's a great book on this subject!!!
So until next time....take care of yourself!
My second post in this series of simple steps toward Holistic Wellness, is about meditation. I have written on the topic of meditation before, and I note there is always a lot of interest in the topic…but little follow-through. I feel this is often because of two things – people over complicate the concept of meditation and people underestimate the benefits of meditation.
When I talk of Holistic Wellness, I’m talking about living a balanced life. I often use this graphic to explain the four main areas of self and what they entail. It is not all inclusive, but should give you an idea of what I mean.
Now here is that same graphic, but it lists benefits of meditation.
I created this to show people how this one small action can impact every aspect of self.
I hear many meditation gurus say that you must meditation for 30 minutes, twice a day for it to be effective. While others, including myself, know this is untrue. In a perfect world, yes...an hour a day of meditation would be fabulous. And maybe one day, you can work up to that amount. But for a beginner, that is just completely overwhelming. Who has that kind of time? And if you are new to meditation, 30 minutes is just too much. In reality, just 5 minutes… or 3 minutes…even 1 minute is a great place to start and will be beneficial. In fact, I always recommend starting very slow. You can always meditate longer if it’s feeling good and you find yourself enjoying time in the gap…but you shouldn’t feel bad about only meditating for 2 minutes either.
So let’s talk about meditation. You don’t have to sit cross legged in a special meditation space (although you can if you want to). You can meditate in a dining room chair, in your car, at your desk, lying on the floor, on the toilet (for some people that’s the only place they can find peace and quiet)! You can even meditate while walking, hula hooping, eating or doing the dishes.
The simplest definition for meditation I have found is “mindfulness”. You can turn any activity into a meditation by simply being completely present. While you are washing a dish, focus completely on what you are doing. The temperature of the water, the way the dish soap smells, the texture of the dish cloth, the feel of the water running over your hands as you rinse the dish, the clang as dishes touch each other. Taking moments to be completely present in what we are doing is a great first step in meditation.
If you want something a little more formal, find a quiet area…sit in a comfortable chair with your legs uncrossed and your spine straight. Place your hands comfortably on your lap. Close your eyes and take a couple deep relaxing breaths, exhaling with a sigh. This will help you release tension from your body. As you breathe normally, simply focus on your breath. Feel the air on the space between your nose and your lips, feel the breath in you nostrils and on the back of your throat, feel your chest extend and contract, hear the sound of you breathing…focus completely on the breath. When your mind wanders (and it will, because minds are made for thoughts), just let the thoughts float away and bring your attention back on the breath. Do this for as long as you desire. When you are done, take a nice deep, cleansing breath in…you may want to reach your hands over your head for a gentle stretch…then slowly exhale as lower your arms and slowly open your eyes and bring yourself back to reality.
It’s not difficult, and it’s worth every moment. How can you be more mindful during your day?
Give meditation a try, and let me know about your experiences!
I have come across a few articles this week on the subject of people being so overly busy that they don’t make time to really take care of themselves. We do this, often because our society somehow seems to idealize busyness. Now, I myself am often very busy; working a full time job, spending time with my husband and daughter, building my own business, housework, communities involvement, time with friends, etc… etc…etc. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being busy, as long as you still make time to care for yourself. If you don’t have time in your day to allow for a little “me” time, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.
As I talk with people, it becomes clear that one of the first things people always seem to drop when life gets crazy, is sleep. In reality, when life’s craziness comes, sleep becomes even more important (along with meditation, but that’s another topic)! When we look to find extra hours in our day, sleep hours are always the first we steal! This is a very bad practice…sleep is too valuable to lose!
There is a long list of benefits of sleep, here are just a few:
· Sleep decrease inflammation. This decreases the likelihood or severity of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and more.
· Sleep is beneficial to your mood. Sleep deprivation leads to impatience and irritability.
· Sleep benefits your immune system helping your body avoid everything from colds, to allergies, to cancer.
· Sleep also helps you learn and remember. During sleep, all the things you learned or experienced are cemented into your brain for later use. Being well rested also helps you retrieve those memories.
· Sleep keeps your metabolism and hormones balanced, leading to a healthy weight and less hormonal upsets.
Reason enough to get your Zzzzzs, yes? But, what if you are trying to get your 8 hours, but your mind and body just aren’t cooperating. There are many things that can interfere with our ability to sleep. Stress itself can keep the thoughts chattering away in your mind. Illness can keep sleep at bay, as well as that big cup of coffee you had to fuel your busy afternoon. And even though alcohol is a depressant, it too can interfere with your body’s natural rhythms and lead to restless nights.
To ensure a peaceful night, start with a calm evening. Avoid TV, talks with excitable people, fast music or anything else that gets your mind & body rev’d up. (sex is the exception here, because the hormones that come along with it will help you doze off into dreamland). Dim the lights, enjoy some quiet reading or maybe a warm bath. Consider a cup of tea…I recommend a nice herbal blend with Chamomile and Passionflower. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. You may need to consider a sleep mask and ear plugs. Lie in bed, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Use a progressive relaxation technique to slowly relax your body and mind. There are several ways to do this. You can find guided relaxation mediations on the internet; give one a try or simply breath deep while slowly focusing on relaxing your body, starting at either your head or your toes and slowly move toward the other end.
The Dali Lama once said “Meditate for 30 minutes a day; unless you are really busy, then meditate for an hour.” I feel this is true for sleep as well. When you are so busy and life is so hectic that you can’t even imagine spending 6 hours in bed, spend 8 hours there.
A good night’s sleep is a gift we give ourselves, so that we can be the best versions of ourselves tomorrow.
Not sure if you can really make the time for 8 hours of sleep? You don’t have to embrace this change right away…for tonight, just sleep on it.
Just recently I did a guest blog for Rochester Brainery to promote my upcoming class "A Beginner's Guide to Meditation" on Sept 30th. Check out the blog, then check out the class! Rochester Brainery is an awesome place to spend the evening learning something new!
Teacher Spotlight: Tracy Martorana
Want to meditate? ….just breathe.
By: Tracy Martorana, Nutrition & Wellness Consultant, Herbalist and Owner of Tracy’s Teas
Meditation does not have to be complicated. As a matter of fact, you can do it right now. Okay, you may have to wait until you are done reading this!
If you have never tried meditation, keep it short to start – 30 seconds is perfect. As you get the hang of it, you can slowly increase the time…try 1 minute….then 2….lost focus?…go back to 1 minute. The key is to work your way up very slowly. I promise you, 30 seconds of meditation can be all you need to ease your stress and bring a little peace and serenity back to your day.
How do you start? It’s simple:
1) Find some place quiet with little chance of distraction. This could be your bedroom, it could be outside in your garden, it may even be the bathroom.
2) Sit somewhere comfortable; you do not need to twist into a pretzel. Find a comfortable spot on a chair, a bench or on the ground. You could even lie down, but this sometimes leads to a nap!
3) Close your eyes.
4) Breathe….focus on the breath. Feel the air come in through your nostrils, feel it on the back of your throat, feel your chest and belly expand, feel and hear the air leave your body slowly. Pause between your inhalations and your exhalations to notice the lack of thought…the gap.
5) Thoughts will come. Don’t chastise yourself for having them, it’s natural. Simply let them go and bring your attention back to your breath.
6) Repeat for as long as you choose.
7) When you are done, I like to put my arms overhead and give myself a little stretch and feel some gratitude for this peaceful moment, as I take one more big breath in and out….ahhh.
Sounds easy enough, yes? So what are you waiting for? Go give it a try.
Today, make nourishing yourself a priority.
Want to learn a little more about Tracy? Visit www.holisticwellnesswithtracy.com
Tracy will also be teaching “A Beginners Guide to Meditation” on Monday, September 30th from 6:30-7:30pm. Check it out...
Tracy Martorana is a Nutrition & Wellness Consultant, Meditation Instructor and Herbalist...hoping to inspire you to live your life from a place of Holistic Wellness.