Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

We get lots of questions from our program participants, blog readers, and website chat visitors, and we welcome them! Getting questions helps us fine-tune the topics for our blogs and online content toward what you are interested in hearing and learning about–keep those questions coming.

We’ve put together a list of the most asked questions, along with a brief answer, and links to articles and videos that we’ve posted about the subject. Hope you find it useful!!

Why should I meditate?

Everyone suffers from stress, anxiety, jealousy, and all those other feelings and emotions–every day. When you sit and meditate, you are separating yourself from the constant chatter of the mind, the fuel for those emotions/feelings. This gives you the opportunity to either ignore the emotion or decide how you want to react to it. The longer you practice meditation, the more control you have over your wandering mind.

Why is it so hard to sit still and quiet?

We’ve never been taught to just sit still and be quiet. As a matter of fact, sitting still and being quiet is used as punishment for children! What kind of message is that sending to our youth? When you sit still, your mind gets confused and goes to work: “Why are you sitting still? You’re supposed to be doing something. You’re just wasting  time, you know.” The first few times you sit quietly and practice meditation will be difficult, and your mind will be absolutely annoying. You’ve got to stick with it though, it’s just like anything you do for the first time. It’s difficult because you’ve not done it before, and you really don’t know what you’re doing.  Once you get the hang of it and start seeing results from your efforts, it gets much easier.

How do I get started meditating?

Find a quiet place, sit comfortably (you don’t have to sit on the floor, a chair or couch will do just fine) and close your eyes. Begin by watching your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Your mind will immediately start wandering, but don’t let it take you with it; just keep watching your breath. Fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes at night for the first few days is plenty of time to get acquainted with sitting quietly and watching the breath. After a few days, extend your time to 30 minutes in each sitting. 

Meditation is not complicated. The whole experience of meditation is watching the breath and not allowing the mind to carry you away with random thoughts.

What do you mean by “mindfulness”?

The majority of the time, you’re lost in thought. So much lost in thought, that the next time you come back from a thinking tangent, ask yourself “Where was my body during that process?” You won’t even remember noticing your body throughout your thinking process! It’s sort of like when you’re dreaming at night, except your body is awake. So technically, you could say that you’re dreaming most of the time! Mindfulness is simply being aware of your body and what’s going on in the present moment, and I guarantee you that being mindful is the hardest thing you will ever attempt!

Mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with meditation, and it requires diligent practice as well. If you’re able to be mindful throughout the day, your meditation time is sooo much easier.

What are the benefits of meditation?

Once you have been meditating on a regular, daily basis, you should notice improved sleep, increased awareness of your surroundings, the ability to say, “No” to getting angry or frustrated, and a more tolerant attitude toward others. Continued mindfulness and meditation will result in Self-Realization, or finally figuring out who “You” are.

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The Magic of Meditation

The Magic of Meditation

There are many ways to end up at the doorway to meditation. You might be questioning the religion in which you were brought up, looking to find your own answers. You might be curious about who you are, what you are, and why you are. You could be looking to quiet the disturbance in your mind, or you may be wanting to meet the third part of your entity, your Self.

No matter how you arrived at the doorstep, there are a couple of basic things you need to understand. Meditation is not something outside of yourself; you’ve got the tools required for meditation with you 24/7. You just need to figure out how to use them!

The absolute beginning point of meditation is to recognize that You are made up of three entities: Your body, your mind, and your spirit or Self. We’re all familiar with the body because it’s the physical part of us that we can feel and see. The body is what we use to experience this world. We’re also familiar with the mind since it’s the background noise that’s going constantly. Mind is the seat of emotions, thoughts, feelings, and dreams; all the stuff you can’t see, taste, hear, touch or smell. Then there’s the Self, and that’s what we’re searching for. When you say, “This is my hand, this is my leg, this is my imagination” –  Who is my? Everyone should want to meet their Self, but why is it so difficult to see the real you that’s driving the body and mind?

We have become so attached to our bodies and minds that we think that’s all there is. The Self has become hidden behind all our thoughts and desires so much that we can’t even recognize that there is actually another part of us that’s keeping us alive–it’s that spark of life that we want to meet! Meditation is the means for introducing us to that spark, and when you do finally realize what the spark is, it’s actually a real experience and a life-changing one at that!

Now that we know what we’re searching for, how does one get there? You can’t just walk up to your Self, tap it on the shoulder and say, “Hi.” It takes a lot of undoing to be able to experience that. The good news is that the body is the perfect vehicle for getting there, and the mind can be trained to keep quiet. I’ll explain:

The Self has no form, no emotions, no thoughts, and no desires. The Self is simply aliveness; it’s what makes your body move, and is the same aliveness found in plants and animals. Since it has no form, the closest you can get to it in your body is to be as still as possible–to the point where you don’t notice your body anymore. At the same time you’re sitting still, you need to corral the barrage of thoughts going on in your mind. If you’ll notice, most of the thoughts that pass through your mind are just sheer nonsense. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to quiet the mind and just be absolutely still in both body and mind? That’s the purpose of meditation: To get to that quiet space so you can truly relax and live!

You don’t need to put it off any longer. You don’t need to dress up, you don’t need any special tools, or a special place to go to. Just sit comfortably, close your eyes, and observe what’s going on in your mind. Don’t get involved with any of the thoughts, and never lose touch with your body. Observing the breath is a great way to keep your mind from carrying you away. It will be difficult at first since you’ve not watched your thoughts before. Keep after it though, you’ve got to be tough; it’s taken you a lifetime to get that many thoughts packed into your mind, so it’s not going to clear out overnight–or even in a week. 

The good news is that after meditating for a month or so, for at least 30 minutes twice a day, you will feel the results! Thoughts will not be as strong, and you will be able to get to a quieter and quieter space in your mind. The longer you meditate the better it gets, and if you keep at it long enough, you will get to experience that magical moment when you meet that part of you that’s making this life on earth a possibility.

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Why meditate?

Why meditate?

I keep sharing snippets of Avi’s upcoming book, but it just can’t be helped! Avi’s talks are so interesting that I know the information will help everyone, so here it is: A piece from “The Mind” chapter of the nameless book. 

“As of now, the mind has become so dominant that it has completely hijacked all of your other senses. Your mind has become your only reality, which means what you think is what you are. That is what your whole life has become. Thinking never allows you to settle into your being, and will never allow you to relax. Thinking is always about either what happened or what’s going to happen. Thinking is not at all concerned about the present moment. 

What you’re seeking in meditation is the present moment. Thinking wants to constantly oscillate between today and tomorrow. It wants to constantly oscillate between the past and the future. In the oscillation, it gathers momentum. The farther the mind goes into the past, it flings itself just as far into the future. The more energy that pulls the mind into the future, the same amount of energy is pulling it back into the past. You’re constantly moving between the past and the future, and that’s the nature of the mind.

A meditator has to observe this process; observe this oscillation of the mind, and not interfere with it, just observe. Slowly the swinging reduces, the momentum reduces, the intensity reduces. Still, the mind keeps swinging between the past and the future, but now it is not going too far. 

Maybe the first day when you sat in meditation your mind was going all over the place. It was going to your childhood, then it was projecting your life twenty years down the lane. It was thinking about the world, everything that is happening, and slowly it started swinging closer and closer to your body and mind, where you are, because you are not giving it thoughts.

You are not fueling the mind with more thoughts. You are allowing it to settle down. In that settling down, there is no more swinging: That’s the whole objective of meditation.”

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The Art of Self-Sufficiency

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

Many years ago I was at a job interview and the interviewer asked the question, “What are your goals?” By that point in my life I was getting weary of the 8-hour-per day grind, listening to employees whining and complaining about everything, and just feeling like I was missing life.

My answer to his question was a very matter-of-factly orated, “I want to be retired from corporate life, living in a cabin on the river, in as self-sufficient a manner as possible by the time I am 35 years old (I was 32 at the time). He laughed, and his response was “Yeah, I read Mother Earth News too.” Is it just me, or does everyone dream of living their own life on their terms?

I got the job, and when I was 36 my late husband and I bought 88 acres on a river in Cumberland County, Tennessee. A year later the place I worked for offered an early retirement incentive for folks who wanted to retire, so I did! We cut and milled trees to build a cabin, purified our own drinking water, had a composting toilet and a small garden, and I played in the woods a couple of years. We needed more income, so I had to go back to work for 14 more years. At least I got a taste of it for the time being.

You might think that you need lots of property, lots of knowledge, and lots of money to be self sufficient. Not so. There are many different levels of self sufficiency, and all of them feel good. Of course, a lot of folks start out with growing some of their own food to become more self sufficient. You do need some property to grow the veggies, but a very small (10×10 garden) will produce a surprising amount of vegetables.

Making your own soap and body care products such as shampoo and moisturizer is another way to avoid chemicals in the store bought products, and get the satisfaction of doing it yourself.  Making clothes, doing your own mechanic work, building construction–it all gives one great satisfaction, but there’s another way of being self-sufficient that most of us never even dream of.

The most wonderful aspect of life that I discovered during my self-sufficiency exploration was the spiritual part; the part that no one can see but me. Taking control of that aspect of my life has been the most amazing journey. Most people don’t pay any attention to their innermost being, but it’s as real as the nose on your face. And truthfully, the only way to access it is through self-sufficiency; after all, it is the self.

I discovered that my self is not some pie-in-the-sky abstract theory, but is truly a reality. The way to access your self is through sitting quietly and watching your thoughts. After doing this for some time you will realize that your mind isn’t interested in being with your body because it’s always off on some tangent, and your body isn’t part of your self because it changes all the time and your self doesn’t. The realization that I was a crowd of three was just the beginning.

After sitting quietly on a routine basis for several months, I also noticed that I didn’t get upset over things that used to bother me. My patience with others increased, my desire for entertainment (tv, movies) drastically reduced, I didn’t enjoy drinking alcohol as much, and I found myself reading more books and finding company with like-minded people. Seems like discovering my selfmade me like me a lot better. You’ve probably heard the saying, “How can you expect someone else to like you if you don’t even like yourself?”

It’s time for us to let go of the excessive amount of external stimulation we’ve got going on in this day and age and go inward. If people would just start slowing down, sitting quietly, and introspecting, there’s no limit to how wonderful the world could be. It’s time to become self-sufficient!

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Be careful what you ask for

Be careful what you ask for

Have you ever come to that point in your life where you ask the question, “Seriously, what am I doing with my life?” I asked myself that question during my 30’s, again in my 40’s, and then again in my 50’s.

The answer in my 30’s was to quit a good-paying government job to pursue “the good life” off the grid and in the woods. That lasted about 2 years, I was then back to work. The answer in my 40’s was to leave a 25-year marriage that had turned abusive and start again on my own. In my 50’s I started looking inward, looking for answers to life there.

I made up my mind that I wanted to learn about the inner part of me. I made a list of what I wanted. Yes, it was a “pie-in-the-sky” sort of list, but hey, it was my dream, so I made it large! The list was:

  • The next man I met I wanted to be a spiritual man. I was over “macho” men, men who drank a lot, and I was not interested in rich men. He needed to know how to cook.
  • I wanted to figure out something spectacular to do with the farm before I died. It’s a wonderful place with a creek, pond, a cave, woods, and pasture. Too special to just let it go.
  • I wanted to figure out what makes us humans tick. Get some answers.
  • I wanted to learn how to meditate.

So, these questions led me down a path of crystals, moon watching, ancient wisdom, festivals, folklore, yoga, and meditation. One of my friends invited me to a yoga studio to listen to this spiritual teacher from India (Avi). I heard him talk and was interested, but left the studio with no plans for future interaction since he was just visiting America.

Turns out that Avi decided to stay back in America when his friend returned to India. He said, “My work is in America because we’re stressed and we need meditation.” Lol, is he ever right!

He was staying with several people on a rotational basis and when I found out he was still in America, I invited him to stay here some too, since the upstairs of the house was just cluttered with my crafting habits.

One thing led to another, we collaborated on his mission in America, and voila! Meditation Farm was born. We made the upstairs into a sleeping/work/study/yoga area for Avi, and we’re developing the farm into a meditation retreat where Avi can teach folks how to de-stress and seek within.  Now my retirement days are filled with meeting hall construction, book editing, video filming and transcribing, meditating, and I’ve got a front row seat with an awakened spiritual teacher. How’s that for getting a dream fulfilled?!

The only thing I would have changed is that I was sort of looking for a spiritual man closer to my age. Oh well, I have no time for romance anyway–got lots of work to do!  Be careful what you ask for…….you just might get it!

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Plant, Animal or Human?

Plant, Animal or Human?

Our lives aren’t so much different from that of animals, or plants for that matter. Think about it: When you pick a plant or pull a leaf off a tree, within a short time it withers, dies, and decomposes. That spark of life has been severed and survival is no longer possible for what has been picked. Similarly, when a person dies, that spark of life is gone so the body withers and returns to the earth.

That spark is the exact same spark for all living creatures; it’s called existence. We’re all swimming in it and don’t even recognize it. As Avi says, “We are like fish swimming in the ocean; we can recognize everything except the water, because we’ve always been in the water.” In this analogy, water is the spark of life.

Subconsciously (I imagine) for ages, people have equated human situations to plants in language. We have been comparing ourselves to the plant kingdom without giving it serious thought, but the sayings have a great foundation. For contemplation, here’s a sampling of horticultural words we use to describe human situations:

When you move from one town to another, it takes a while to “put down new roots”

Once you do put down new roots, you’ll always be a “transplant”

Large companies have “branches” and they “branch out” into new territories

A successful meeting could be considered as “fruitful”

A naughty child is sometimes referred to as “rotten”

Notebooks with separate sheets of paper are called “loose leaf”

When you’re in a situation great for learning, it’s called “fertile ground”

A “leaflet” is a small pamphlet

A “sprout” is a baby or small child

People just starting out in a creative endeavor are referred to as a “budding musician”, or a “budding artist”.

Take the word “ovule”. It’s used in both the plant as well as the animal kingdom–it’s used to represent the very first stages of life in each. Once we start growing, we take different directions, but we both started with ovules!

I think it’s fascinating to look at all the similarities we share with the plant and animal kingdoms. Makes the world feel a little more like home, doesn’t it?

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The Mind Game

The Mind Game

I had a boss years ago who used to say, “If you don’t want to know the answer to the question, then don’t ask the question.” At first I thought that was a stupid saying but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

Let’s say for example that you ask your significant other, “In all your relationships, who have you been the closest to?”. They answer with a matter-of-fact honest answer that it was their high school sweetheart, who left them for someone else.

Nothing else has changed, your significant one still acts the same way toward you, but you just heard them say something that you hadn’t heard before. It changes the way you feel inside, doesn’t it? We get so caught up in constantly “doing things” that we forget that most of what we perceive as reality is in fact the part of life that we can’t see, like happiness, jealousy, sadness, joy, anger, and love.

Dealing with these tidbits of information that are unsettling to us can be a challenge. That’s where having a regular routine of sitting quietly and letting the mind relax helps out. When you sit quietly and just watch your thoughts it’s easier to keep thoughts from upsetting you. After practicing this for some time, you’ll see how your mind goes on its own little tangents, coming up with things you don’t want to think about, nonsensical things, and how you perceive and react to this “inner world” is what you have complete control over. It’s what is known as “the mind game”.

When you wake up in the morning, it’s totally up to you to start each day fresh or pick up baggage from the day, weeks, or even years before. Forcing our minds to take a break from thinking is the secret to controlling what we think, and sitting quietly on a regular basis is the method of forcing our minds to take a break and stop controlling our lives.

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Your Mama was Right!

Your Mama was Right!

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!

Ever look back at all the things our mothers told us when we were growing up? I know I do. Some of it didn’t make any sense at the time, but by revisiting what she said, I can see the relevance to making life better. Let’s look at a few examples:

Make your bed.  Clean up your room. Seriously? “I’m just going to get right back in it tonight, and I’m not even going to be here all day long, so why bother?” Well, look at it this way: When you walk into your space, doesn’t it just feel better when the bed is made up and the room is clean? It actually makes sense because clutter creates chaos and confusion; things get lost which wastes time looking for them, causes undue stress, and it actually takes longer to clean up a big mess than just keeping things picked up along the way.  Not to mention if someone happens to drop by……

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  Man, there are a lot of people on social media who need to revisit these words! Today’s world needs a HUGE dose of “nice”. It’s so easy to just be rude when you’re not face-to-face with someone, so why not just listen to mom–don’t respond at all.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  How true this is! If you want something bad enough, there is a way to do it. It just takes courage and belief in yourself. Get out of your box and live! You are the creator of your reality; you can keep on doing the same thing day after day after day and wish for something different, or…or.. — you can do something different! No one else is going to do something different for you–you are in charge!

Go outside and play. Wow, how we all need this today! Put your “homeland security tracking device” (aka cell phone) away and take a hike. The fresh air and nature will do wonders for your mood and the movement will get your blood moving (as mama used to say).

Sit down and be quiet. These are probably the most important words our mothers could have told us, but of course they weren’t meant in the way that they should have been delivered. We all are way too busy nowadays and we really don’t take time out for quietness. Our minds are constantly working and really, it’s exhausting! A few minutes of just sitting quietly every day works wonders for our moods and attitudes, and well, everything for that matter.

Mamas are special people. Listen to them and love them while they’re around, and when they are gone, remember all the special times and learn from the bits of wisdom they passed along.

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Don’t Worry About what you Can’t Control

Don’t Worry About what you Can’t Control

why not just live in the present moment and enjoy life as it comes?

I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this remembers where they were and what they were doing when 911 happened.  I had just walked into a conference room at work to attend an all-day “Stress Management” class with about 20 other colleagues. The guy sitting next to me asked if I had heard what happened…

Stress Management.  What an appropriate topic for the day! Turns out that the guy teaching the class was retired military and had worked at the Pentagon for 20+ years, so he was particularly distracted by the entire event.  We didn’t have smart phones then, nor even television in the room so we had to go to our cars to listen to the radio at breaks to keep up with what was happening. 

He did an amazing job with the class, but the one take-away I’ve never forgotten was “Don’t worry about things you have no control over”.  That is so true!  Hard to accomplish, but true. 

What is worry, anyway? It’s such an important word that it’s used as a verb and a noun. As a verb it means  to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” As a noun, the definition is “A state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.” Worry is simply allowing the mind to have its own way concerning a particular event or train of thoughts.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you’re depressed you’re living in the past, and if you’re stressed you’re living in the future.” Think about that saying, and you’ll realize how true it is. We have no control over the past because it’s already happened. We can definitely learn from it, but don’t relive it or dwell on it. We can shape our future, but the future can’t happen until it’s in the present moment, so why not just live in the present moment and enjoy life as it comes? When you think about it, if we’re “in the moment” then it is impossible for us to worry, period.

As Avi teaches, the most effective way to step away from worry is to be in the present moment. To get into the moment, sit quiet, breath slowly, and watch your breath. Your body is always in the present moment, so just focusing on your body or a part of your body will keep your mind from wandering everywhere. Every time your mind starts to go to a worrisome thought, bring your focus back to the breath or your body. It’s a continuous battle, but being mindful and living in the present moment is without a doubt the ultimate weapon to combat worry.

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Meditation is like a Diet for your Mind

Meditation is like a Diet for your Mind

When I meet people here and there and the conversation always turns to meditation (usually prompted by “what have you been doing lately?”), I’m often asked questions like “What is meditation? What do you do while you’re sitting? What do you think about while you’re meditating?” 

It’s kind of hard to explain meditation, because we’ve not been exposed to such inward spiritual things in our society, and most of the time “being quiet” is imposed as a sort of punishment.

The best way I can think of to explain it is by using the term “Self Control”. We’ve heard that term all our lives. What does it mean? Well, it means to resist temptations of the body, like eating too many chocolate cookies, drinking too much alcohol, or mental self control, by not doing things we know aren’t right such as spreading malicious gossip or perpetuating negative thought processes when they arise.

So, there IS something other than our minds and our bodies–it’s our SELF. It’s the force that is directing our minds and bodies when we have “self” control. The only way we can have self control is to be in the present moment. There’s no way to control your sugar cravings tomorrow or yesterday–it’s only good for right now. Think about it, and it really makes a lot of sense.

Meditation is simply a diet for your mind. You sit still for a while and don’t think about anything. Yep, nothing-nada-zilch. If (when) your mind starts off on a thought spree, reel it back it, just like you’d slam the fridge door shut right before you grab the ice cream.

As in dieting, it takes time to see the effects of meditation. You don’t lose weight right after eating a healthy meal, but if you keep eating healthy over a period of time, you’ll definitely see the results in the mirror. You won’t feel results after one meditation, but if you persist, just like in dieting, you will experience results like less stress, more creativity, and just an overall happier outlook on life.Come on people, it’s time to put our minds on a diet!

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