Meditation or Medication?

There is an ongoing story which has been captivating the attention of many.  Aimee Copeland has been fighting a flesh eating virus that has taken both hands and one leg.  Her story is inspiring.

What I found remarkable was the title and main concept of the most recent article:  “Victim:  No pain meds.  Ga. Woman battling flesh-eating bacteria opts for meditation.” 

Amy had been studying holistic pain management and did not like the effect the pain meds were having on her.

Many might wonder why meditation helps with pain.  It does not make the pain go away, yet it lessens the pain.  There are many types of meditation techniques and how I think it impacts pain is two-fold.

  1. When we quiet our mind we become less reactive, as our focus in within.   There is much evidence that supports the reduction of pain through learning how to ride the wave of pain, rather than judge and react to the sensations.
  2. With practice, meditation can quiet  your mind to the extent that the focus is no longer on the sensation, but it is deep within.  We are aware we have a body and thoughts, yet we are able to get beyond them to the vastness inside.

There are many articles and schools about meditation.   The medical community supports these practices and now refers to them as Complementary.  It is a viable avenue for dealing with stress, pain and illness and accessible to everyone.  

Let me know in the comments below if you have meditated and what your experience was.

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Valentines Day: Cultivate Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness is something that is easy for those we deeply care for, but more challenging for difficult relationships.  Our feelings toward others have an impact on our state of mind and how we perceive and react to the world around us.  There are times when a loved one is ill and we need a way to get some relief from worry and fear.

Whatever the situation, Loving Kindness is the antidote for all relationships, good or bad.

It needs to be cultivated and the practice of Metta is one powerful practice to help.  Metta means friend and gentle, and the practice embodies them both.

It is a meditation that consists of repeating a series of simple phrases with as much presence as possible.  There are many phrases that can be used.  The key is that you begin with yourself.  It is hard to wish for others what you do not want for yourself.

Here are some phrases you can begin with or you can find others that you like better.

  • May I (he, she or they) be happy.
  • May I (he, she or they) know peace.
  • May I (he, she or they) be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
  • May I (he, she or they) be free from suffering.

Try this every day for a few minutes and let me know in the comments below how it works.


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New Year, New Habits

Have you ever fully realized that life is, after all, merely a series of habits, and that it lies entirely within one’s own power to determine just what that series shall be?– Ralph W. Trine

At the beginning of the year we resolve to make changes at home and work and before we know it, we are back to the same behaviors and habits.

What I find is helpful is structure and making it approachable and inviting.

 If you are trying to begin a meditation and centering practice, try this:

  1. Find a space in your home or office and make it inviting and comfortable.
  2. Create a ritual:  It only takes s short time to create a habit.  Do your practice every day, even if you don’t want to.  Set up a time each day, the same time would be preferable but not necessary.
  3. As prep before meditation and centering practice, take a moment to prepare.  Do something to calm and quiet your mind. Some examples are: Breathing, yoga, listening to music, lighting incense, walking, etc.
  4. If this is a new practice, start at no more than 5 minutes a day and slowly increase to up to 30 minutes each day.
  5. Leave your watch and cell phone in another room. If time is a concern use a timer with a soft alarm.   

Let me know in the comments below how this worked for you and if you were able to create your space. If you did not, what do you think got in your way?

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Do You Live in Fight or Flight?

When you are in a Fight or Flight response, your heart rate and blood pressure increase and blood is shunted away from the digestive system, giving you the ability to react quickly.  The adrenalin rush provides strength you never knew you had.  This is extremely beneficial when there is danger.

The problem is that you are in a Flight or Flight response when you have a hangnail! 

Stress stimulates the fight or flight response and continued stress results in chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, digestive problems and increased heart rate. 

Research has been going on for years about this issue and H. Benson had coined a term called the Relaxation Response.  There are a multitude of practices using breath, movement, meditation and centering that stimulate this response and when it happens, your anxiety level decreases, impacting all the related systems in the body.

Custom Calm specializes in simple, approachable practices designed to lower stress.  All techniques have been researched in major hospitals with powerful results.

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Digest a Happy Thanksgiving!

Physical digestion is most effective when we take in nutrients from our food and excrete what is no longer needed. 

The same is true for digesting life.  When we embrace all of our experiences no matter what they are and then let them go, we live a centered life.

The problem is that we hold on to both the positive and negative.  Our mind ruminates on what happened, leaving no room for fresh new perspectives.  We overflow with information, emotions and thoughts and we miss out of the present moment.

It is important to find ways to clear away some of the clutter.  Think of it as rebooting a computer when it is not responding.  Practices of meditation, breathing and yoga are quite effective at helping to make room for new experiences. 

Thanksgiving is here and we will be around family and friends, which can bring up many challenges.  Our mind is so busy that we eat and do not even taste our food which took hours to prepare.

With each experience, let go of what is not needed and have a Thanksgiving with only the leftovers that you want!

Let me know in the comments below how your Thanksgiving was.  Were you able to stay present and let go of what you did not need?  If not, what do you think stopped you?

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Lesson No. 1: Learn to Relax

This was the title on the front page of a recent issue of the Living section for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The article focused on a new required course for freshman at Emory University- Yoga.  They are using yoga as a way to help students with stress and time management.  This is happening throughout the country and it helping to prepare students to handle the lifelong challenges of stressful situations.

I often hear people say, “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible enough.”  That is the exact reason to do yoga!  Yoga poses are important but is just a small part of what yoga is about.   Yoga teaches you to be flexible in your daily life.

Through breath, meditation, other centering practices and poses you gain direct access to your inner resources, enhancing your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well being.

At Custom Calm we realize that some cannot get on the floor and have other limitations, so poses are adapted to meet the individual where they are at.  It is a “work -in”, not a “work- out”, with the focus on living a happier, more peaceful life.

How different our lives would be if we started yoga practices when we were in college!  It is not too late to begin at any age.

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Meditation: An Attitude Adjustment

The purpose of meditation is to relax the body and quiet the mind. Think of your mind as a jar full of liquid.  If you keep pouring more in it will overflow, making a big mess. 

First we need to clear our thoughts so we have an empty vessel to reset our attitudes and outlooks.

Meditation is simple, but not easy.  Simple, because all you do is concentrate on a single point to focus.  Not easy, because the minute you try to quiet your mind, you see just how crazy it is!

Every morning, try this for a few minutes:

  1. Get in a comfortable position- it can be a chair, the floor, or the bed (dangerous as you will probably meditate yourself to sleep!)
  2. Focus on your breathing, without changing it in any way- simply notice you are breathing
  3. Find the most noticeable part of your breathing cycle: For example-The expanding and relaxing of your belly, the breath moving in and out through your nose, or your full breathing cycle.
  4. Keep focused on that area.
  5. If your mind gets busy, gently and kindly guide it back to focusing on your breath.
  6. Practice this daily and work your way up to 5 minutes. 
  7. Keep practicing, even if you do not think it is helping.  I promise, it will!

Let me know how this worked for you.  If you did not even try to do it, what do you think is stopping you?

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Avon Team Building Sessions a Success


Creative avenues to explore to increase sales and support employees overall health and wellbeing.

What was Presented and How it Helped:

Custom Calm tailored two mind-body sessions for our team-building conference of over 100 employees.  They engaged the rather reluctant group in simple practices to adapt into their workday.  After the first few minutes Ellen and her team had our full attention and participation.

They were professional and communicated clearly with warmth and humor. They effectively integrated their presentation into the overall theme of our program. This provided continuity for the week and ensured our team was able to gain long term application from the mind-body exercises taught by Custom Calm.

I also contracted Ellen Sichel to work with my core sales team at our monthly meetings to provide mind-body techniques that targeted our needs based on excessive car travel and high stress.  The sessions were presented in a clear, inviting, professional manner and Ellen inspired my team to consider how they can manage their stress throughout the day to be more productive, healthy and of course – Sell more. 

What You Can Learn:

There are creative ways to present material that is relatable and inviting.  The practical, simple implementation of practices including breath, yoga and meditation can be customized to meet specific needs of the client with communication that motivates and engages everyone in the room.

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Article: Market Stress? Try Yoga-It Might Also Relieve Your Asthma, Ailing Back

Exciting evidence based studies have been made for over a decade.

The medical community is supporting and recommending practices of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, breathing as complementary therapies to traditional medicine.

This article from the Wall Street Journal in 2002 supports these practices.  

Physicians in the US and abroad did studies in three areas:

Chronic back pain:  Studies showed that after 3 months the results were reduction in pain by 80%.  The study spoke of “therapeutic yoga”, which is quite different from some of the more aggressive traditional styles that are practiced.

Mental Health:  The article studied yoga’s focusing practices and found significant improvement in adults suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder.

Cardiovascular Diseases:  Yoga practices showed a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate and improved cardiovascular endurance.

All of Custom Calm practices positively influence medical ailments. Custom Calm therapeutic yoga and yoga therapy is a gentle, supported yoga designed to decompress the spine.  All practices are accessible to everyone.

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Studies Show Decrease in Menopausal Symptoms

Studies were held in the Department of Anesthesiology and Peri-operative medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.

The Yoga of Awareness program was studied for menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors.  Studies showed significantly greater improvements relative to the control group in hot-flash frequency, severity, and total scores and in levels of joint pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, vigor, negative mood, relaxation and acceptance.  

The program included practices of gentle yoga, meditation, mindfulness, breathing practices,  relaxation and calming techniques. 

Conclusions of Study:  Provides promising support for the beneficial effects of a comprehensive yoga program for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in early –stage breast cancer survivors.

Custom Calm practices include Yoga of Awareness practices along with other minfulness- based techniques. The research of these practices are supporting the powerful results that many students have already reported. 

The practices are very simple and empowering for patients suffering from side effects of cancer.

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