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What If You Hit the Pause Button on Your Day?

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What If You Hit the Pause Button on Your Day?

Have you ever watched a movie that follows the same character, but explores the different life choices that “could have been?”  I just watched Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda. And how about Gwyneth Paltrow’s movie Sliding Doors from the late ‘90s?  The entire premise of these movies is based on “what if.”

We watch as two parallel lives play out, based on series of chance events.  What if your life could be a romantic comedy or a tragedy? What if she had just made that train?

We’ve all visualized the “what ifs” in our own lives — from big ones (what if I had taken that job transfer?) to the small ones (what if I had stopped for gas?).

For example, think of your morning.  For many, getting out the door is hectic.  Any small chain of events can lead to missed trains, spilled coffee, or forgetting your keys.  Throw kids or pets in the mix, and it all escalates.

Now, imagine your parallel life.  Your morning is just as busy, but what if you made the train or your coffee stayed in the mug?  What if you still miss the train and your coffee spills, but you’re different? What if you stay calm amid the chaos? What if you’re able to smoothly move on with your day?

No, your “parallel you” didn’t get a prescription for Xanax or pour a shot of Bailey’s into your morning coffee.  Your “parallel you” practices meditation.

Meditation? I thought you understood my crazy morning?

I do, I promise.  My life is hectic, too.  I have a family, three jobs (one that requires traveling about 100,000 miles per year), and I try to exercise nearly every day.  It’s a challenging schedule. Managing it thoughtfully with kindness, calm and patience is not always easy, and I’m not always successful. 

A cousin, who leads an equally frenetic life, has been meditating for years and suggested I try it.  I was curious and knew I needed a way, aside from rosé, to chill out.  I took his advice. What I’ve found is:

Meditation trains the mind to pay attention to all the details in the present moment.  It’s the mental conditioning of your right and left sides of your brain and how they communicate with each other.

When you meditate, you hit the pause button on the world around you.  You take a little time - and it can be little - to re-focus and re-group.  You don’t “empty” your mind as much as you are strengthening it.  You are learning to be conscious of every thought in order to process all of life’s distractions. Meditation isn’t about incense, chanting, or religious undertones unless you want it to be.

If you aren’t chanting or emptying your mind, how DO you meditate?

 

Think of how you might approach exercise. One day, you run on your own.  The next, you join a group class. Another day, you might meet with a trainer.

Meditating can be the same (and take less time than your workout).  There are several resources, from books to websites, to learn self-guided meditation.  You might focus on your breath, your body, your thoughts, or visualization.

For someone new to the practice, a little guidance is helpful. This was the genesis of Chill.  Until recently, dedicated meditation studios were only found on the coasts. Chicago needed a space where beginners and seasoned meditators alike could find a pragmatic approach to their meditation practice.  Chill’s modern wellness model hopes to do just that.

Why is meditation the answer? Don’t I just need more sleep?

You don’t sleep well?  Do you wake up with racing thoughts?  Do you have a hard time winding down?  Meditation helps you sleep better, which in turn, helps you manage your day.

Beyond sleep, several recent studies have proven direct links between meditation and reduced stress, chronic pain, and blood pressure just to name a few.  Harvard University researchers learned that mindful meditation actually increases the densities of your brain’s gray matter. Gray matter keeps you sharp and focused, especially as you age.

So, this is just one more thing that I should be doing? One more thing to squeeze in?

You’re busy. I know it! So is Oprah. And Ellen. And Kobe Bryant and Arianna Huffington.  So are hedge fund titans Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones.  And Jerry Seinfeld.  Even our Sliding Doors movie star Gwenyth is busy.

More importantly, employers realize how busy you are. Google, Apple, Nike, HBO, and even my beloved Chicago Cubs are among the many organizations that have implemented meditation practices for employees.

As the Harvard Business Review published last year, “Mindfulness should no longer be considered a ‘nice-to-have’ for executives. It’s a ‘must-have’ — a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.”

What if you pressed the pause button on your day to meditate? What would happen? In subsequent posts, I’m going to explore these two questions in-depth.  With your input, I’ll share how meditation can impact everything from work-outs to relationships, from job performance to health.  The goal is to offer tangible insights that are meaningful in your everyday.  

As journalist and meditation evangelist Dan Harris suggests, this path can’t solve all your problems, but it could make you 10% happier.  Exploring "what if" isn’t about making wishes.  It’s about taking that first step in imagining a better way.

written by Laura Sage, Chill Co-Founder

originally published on The Huffington Post

Have you tried meditating? What happened? Are you a skeptic? Please share with me at info@chillchicago.com.  The goal is to address your experiences and help you use meditation to find calm in the chaos.

 

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5 Benefits of Meditation for Breast Cancer Sufferers and Survivors

5 Benefits of Meditation for Breast Cancer Sufferers and Survivors

As a pre-teen I watched my mother battle breast cancer for about five years. Consequently, as an adult, I spend a considerable amount of my personal time trying to find a cure for the disease. My family, friends and I started a foundation in my mother’s honor devoted to this cause. We suggest we want to find a cure, but ideally, we’d prefer to find a way for fewer people to contract this horrible disease. And, of course, we want those that are sick to get the best, most progressive, effective and least painful treatment options available. We work with universities such as Northwestern University to ensure that the funds we raise are placed in the best and brightest medical hands. Our researchers are steeped in contemporary Western medicine.

But, there are also “non-medical” options that shouldn’t be overlooked for breast cancer patients. Tried and true practices that have been honed for thousands of years and have proven medical benefits exist. Countless friends and survivors have been utilizing these techniques with tremendous success.

The battle through breast cancer is overwhelming and it’s common to feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Exercise and fitness have been shown to have tremendous health benefit for breast cancer patients, but it’s not always an option physically or logistically when you are sick to hit the gym. However, stress, anxiety and fatigue can be decreased with another gentle alternative; meditation. Meditation is extremely effective, completely safe, 100% natural and takes little physical effort. You can also practice in the privacy of your own home.

When you find yourself overcome with emotion, worrying about recurrence, or unable to properly sleep, you may benefit from meditation. The mindfulness of this practice helps to address many emotional aspects that linger after visits to the oncologist or on treatment days.

Meditation may be self-guided, or shared in a group, and involves concentrating on mindful and gentle thinking while focusing on your breath. It works by exercising your brain. It can be done anytime and anywhere, provided you are someplace comfortable where you can relax. It may take some time to clear the mind of random thoughts. Our minds race these days, especially in this electronic age and especially after a diagnosis of cancer. But, with practice, meditation teaches us to acknowledge these thoughts and move on. With practice, the mindfulness of meditation can be integrated into our everyday lives and provides a myriad of mental health benefits including reducing anxiety and depression. Enduring treatment is not only unpleasant, but time-consuming and expensive. Meditation is one method that can be extremely beneficial throughout the healing process. Like many illnesses, breast cancer can be worsened by stress. Meditation can help you reduce stress levels throughout the day.

Here we explore some of the benefits of meditation for those affected by breast cancer.

1. Meditation is a natural boost for wellness.

Meditation can be used in conjunction with your medication. (Of course, always consult with your professional health care provider). There are absolutely no negative side effects to meditation and it’s completely safe. It works by simply calming the centers of your brain. Meditation has been used for thousands of years and its benefits don’t stop when your session ends.

2. Meditation can be done anywhere and at any time.

Provided you are comfortable and in a location where you can relax, you can meditate. There is no need to go to the hospital or doctor’s office for sessions. You can practice in the safety of your own home or with a like-minded group. You can also take the mindfulness you gain from meditation practice and apply it while in the hospital to help you through your stay, tests, doctors’ appointments and treatment.

3. Meditation works on your mind-body connection.

Meditation and guided-meditation can provide emotional recovery and relaxation. A reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and fear of recurrence can be greatly reduced through meditation. Meditation can also help with pain and difficulty sleeping. Mindfulness meditation works on calming your thoughts and its effects are immediate.

4. Meditation can help with those nasty hot flashes.

Attacks of intense warmness that may leave you sweaty and uncomfortable can be a side effect of hormone therapy for breast cancer. Meditation may provide help, especially when other methods fail. Specific meditation techniques such as paced respiration directly target the unpleasant symptoms associated with hot flashes. Paced respiration is a slow, controlled rhythmic breathing that is sustained for a specific period of time at the start of a hot flash.

5. Meditation has physical benefits, too.

Researchers in Canada have found evidence to suggest that meditation can alter cellular activity of cancer survivors. Telomeres are proteins at the end of chromosomes that naturally become shorter over time. Research suggests that longer telomeres are associated with the likelihood of surviving several diseases. Stress is known to accelerate the shortening process. Meditation may lessen stress, influence cortisol levels, and therefore help to preserve a cancer survivor’s telomere length.

It’s worth mentioning that the benefits of meditation extend beyond those fighting illness, which is why it’s an amazing practice to cultivate at any stage in your life. I’ve been practicing and studying meditation intensively for about a year now and see directly how beneficial a daily practice can be in terms of decreasing anxiety and increasing patience. In times of stress and illness these mental benefits are exacerbated, but the benefits extend to regular old work days too.

 

If you or someone you know is a cancer patient or caregiver, please join us for our monthly, complimentary Thrivers class.  Wherever you are in your healing, you will find space to breathe and connect.

 

written by Laura Sage, Chill Co-Founder / The Lynn Sage Foundation Co-Founder

photo credit Ezgi Polat / Instagram

originally published on The Huffington Post

Mindfulness and happy hour do, in fact, mix

Mindfulness and happy hour do, in fact, mix

We know it sounds cheesy, but Chill really believes life is better together.  What’s better than bringing together new friends to shake off a long week?  Not much, in our humble opinion. 

Chill members joined Lululemon Chicago employees for Darrell Jones’ meditation session this past Friday evening. With his guidance, everyone could create some space from any of the week’s lingering frustrations. That space was perfectly filled with cocktails, music, and a lot of laughter. Between the Seasons Soda-sponsored bar and DJ Kareem’s solid vibe, Chill’s growing wellness community enjoyed everything from our now-iconic swings to sharing best practices. 

It’s modern wellness, the Chill Meditation and Massage way. The more, the merrier.

 

Come chill with us. Learn more about Chill meditation classes, our no-need-to-get-naked massage, or the very unique experience of hosting a client event or special occasion in our space

Chill in the news... We never mind when people talk about us

Chill in the news... We never mind when people talk about us

Or write about us. Or blog about us. Or take their picture in our swings and post all over social media. We love it! It's fun. It's flattering. And it means that the community we dreamed of building here in Chicago - the one where people come in / chill out / leave less stressed - is actually happening. So, thank you to our early advocates, interested journalists, and partners in wellness for spreading the word about Chill Meditation and Massage.

 

The Chicago Tribune

CS Modern Luxury

InsideHook

Chi City Fashion

Lizzy Fay

Cassandra Buckalew Interiors

Modern Luxury Weddings Chicago

 

Come Chill with us and experience our space for yourself. Contact us with media or private event inquiries.

 

Meditation is the secret to intentional parenting

Meditation is the secret to intentional parenting

As the mother of a toddler, I’m in a unique space. The roller coaster of discipline has begun and I appreciate how time is passing quickly. Yet, I still remember what I thought motherhood would be before it was my reality.  Is it ever exactly what we expect?  Of course not. That’s the beauty of it. 

One of the biggest surprises - so far - has been realizing that I am constantly aware of my child.  Regardless of the task at hand, he is always in my consciousness.  There is never a “break.” I spend time away for work and enjoy evenings out with friends... but, he is always with me.

And, I love it.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Still, it was a surprise.  Which is ironic because part of my job as a yoga instructor of 20 years is to teach awareness.  I couldn’t have known how my yoga and, specifically, meditation practices would help me as a mom.  

Why meditation?

The benefits of meditation are well documented — less stress, more focus, improved physical health, just to name a few.  It can be as simple as taking a few moments each day to hit the pause button before life explodes.  Admittedly, there are other ways you can try to reduce stress or improve your health.  But, I’ve learned that it is meditation that directly impacts my parenting.  

Meditation enables intentional reactions

We set the tone in our homes.  When we’re stressed, our children are stressed.  When we’re anxious, they’re anxious. When we overreact, they learn to do the same. 

I’m not proposing a constant state of calm or lack of emotions.  That would be impossible and, honestly, boring.  It’s good for our children to see how we react in stressful situations.  The goal is to respond to our children with intent.  Meditation gives us the tools to do just that.

Meditation doesn’t make us automatically respond with calm wisdom. It teaches us to recognize our emotions, triggers, and patterns of response.  Our mind wanders and we train ourselves to come back to our breath.

Our kids can push our buttons like no one else.  When emotions start to rise, apply meditation techniques.  Recognize the feelings and come back to your breath.  Take those few moments and adjust your reaction. When pressing the pause button becomes a habit, you can respond with purpose.

Practice makes presence

Checking Facebook or responding to emails during family time is a given.  It’s unrealistic to think it won’t happen. Often, it’s the necessary side effect of a flexible or work-at-home job.

That said, just a few minutes of my undivided attention results in better behavior from my son. He understandably doesn’t like competing with my phone or computer. 

We focus on the present when we meditate — our breath, the weight of our body against the chair, the sounds and smells around us.  Apply that same focus with your child.  Sit across from each other, make eye contact, ask questions.  Everyone says how fast time passes when your children are young.  These mindful moments cheat time just a little and make sure I’m not parenting on autopilot.

Take a time-out

Even though my son is always in my thoughts, that doesn't mean we both don’t need occasional breaks.  Children need timeouts when they are upset or overstimulated.  We need the same thing!

Moms are great at taking care of other people, but often neglect themselves.  Like exercise or nutrition, meditation is about your health and well-being.  It’s the time-out that allows us to reconnect in our relationships, including the one with ourselves.  

Let it go

Our children teach us so many lessons, perhaps more than we teach them.  They can completely immerse themselves in a project without distraction.  They are trigger-free, with no agenda and only genuine observations and reactions.  They also have an amazing resilience and ability to forgive.  You can scold or get angry one minute and the next, their arms are around your neck for a hug.

Learn to forgive yourself the way your child forgives you.  If you over-react or yell, that does not define who you are as a person or as a parent.  Through meditation, you learn to realize that it was just a moment in time.  A few heated exchanges are not what define your relationship with your child.

The most meaningful lesson of my meditation practice has been learning to LET GO.  When you focus in the moment, there is no space to worry about the future or replay the past.  Meditation teaches you to release those anxieties and burdens.  Which will open the door to a more fulfilling experience as a parent.

Claire Mark, Co-founder / Chief Chill Officer / Co-Head of Teacher Training / Meditation Instructor

How has meditation improved your family relationships?  Have you taught your children meditation techniques? We would love to hear more about your experience! Visit Chill to begin or grow your meditation practice in Chicago.