<![CDATA[5 Boroughs Tai Chi - Blog]]>Wed, 09 Mar 2016 04:42:47 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Creating a Regular Practise¬†]]>Sat, 07 Feb 2015 01:37:13 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/creating-a-regular-practiseMeditation has been shown to have many physical and psychological benefits, but how do you start and maintain a regular practise? 

Here are some tips to help you get started. 
  1. Start small. Even five minutes a day can have a profound impact on your wellbeing. Commit to five minutes a day for a week, then build it up to seven minutes for a week, and so on.  
  2. Regular time. Pick a regular time each day, such as when you first wake up, or just before bed. Whatever time you choose, make that your meditation time and don't let yourself compromise! 
  3. Acknowledge the voices. We all have voices in our heads that say things like "I can't," "I'm too busy," "I don't feel like it," and "I'll start tomorrow." Acknowledge them, and practise anyway. With regular practise, we learn to sit with the voices, rather than letting them take over.  
  4. Be kind. If you miss a day, that's ok! Meditation teacher Susan Piver calls it practising a "gentle discipline" - being committed to your practise, but being gentle and kind about it. 
  5. Be Guided. Using guided meditations can help you focus, while teaching you the fundamentals of meditation. It also means you don't need to worry about a timer, as someone else is keeping time for you! 
  6. Sign up. We provide one-on-one meditation instruction in person (in NYC) or via Skype. Having a meditation teacher can help you develop your practise, providing you with instruction and feedback. 
  7. Start today. Start today. Set a timer for five minutes and just do it. 
<![CDATA[Music and Meditation]]>Tue, 27 Jan 2015 01:35:19 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/music-and-meditationMeditation doesn't have to be about sitting cross-legged on the floor in perfect silence. I am a firm believer that as many people there are on earth, there are as many ways to meditate. One of those is meditating with music. 

Hospitals around the world are seeing the value of music therapy, and are implementing programs for patients. Whilst I was an in-patient at Sloan Kettering, I found the music therapy program incredibly helpful. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful music therapist who played the harp. When I was feeling too sick to even lift my head, my therapist would play her harp quietly. It always lifted my mood, and helped me to sleep deeply. 

Medical research has shown that listening to soft, classical music can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, relieve pain, and slow the heart rate. Meditating with music assists in creating a meditative state. It provides an outer point of focus, helping you stay in the present moment. It's also another way of measuring the length of your meditation without having to use an alarm or timer.

Below are some of my favorite pieces to meditate with. When I'm feeling particularly stressed or on days where I don’t “feel like” meditating, these pieces help me focus and meditate anyway. When I first started meditating, music also helped me meditate for longer periods of time. 
Meditation with Music
Select a piece of music. Press play. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. If you choose to lie down, have the intention to remain awake. Gently close your eyes. Breathe in. As you breathe out, allow your jaw and shoulders to soften. As you breathe engage your diaphragm. Gently push it out as you breathe in, and let it soften as you breathe out. Continue to breathe as you listen to the music. Be aware of your mind as it wanders. Notice any thoughts, memories, or feelings that arise. Acknowledge their presence, and return your focus to the music. When the music is complete, give yourself a moment to become aware of the sounds around you. Gently wriggle your fingers and toes. Roll your shoulders back. And gently open your eyes. 

I would love to hear about your experiences meditating with music. Share your thoughts and favorite pieces in the comments! 
<![CDATA[Cancer and Meditation]]>Wed, 10 Dec 2014 01:31:04 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/cancer-and-meditation
Several years ago I did a meditation facilitator's course. In the first term, we learnt and practised a different style of meditation evert week. In the second term, we learnt how to apply those meditations to different situations, teaching children, meditation for stress, meditation for grief, meditation for illness. Much discussion and teaching centered around people with cancer. Although I had close family members who had been diagnosed with cancer, facilitating meditation for cancer patients was not something I felt comfortable with. 

Then in July this year, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. I was told that without treatment, I had a month to live. It was a devastating shock. If you're interested, you can read more about the diagnosis here

I kept asking the doctors, and myself, how does a non-smoking, barely-drinking, vegetarian runner who meditates get cancer? The answer is just plain bad luck. It happens. To people who are old. People who are young. People who are religious. People who are atheists. People who exercise. People who don't. 

We don't really know what causes cancer. There are a ton of factors at play. Genetics. Environment. History of illness. Exposure to radiation or chemicals. Stress. It is almost impossible to pinpoint the exact cause. And as I have learnt, every case is different. Every diagnosis is different. Treatment and outcomes will vary from person to person.

I have been through all the stages of grief, and back again, when it comes to my diagnosis. Denial. This absolutely cannot be happening to me. It's not. I feel fine. Anger. How did this happen? I eat well, exercise, meditate, use organic skin products and do my best to live a healthy lifestyle. Frustration.Why is this happening to me?! Why can't I live a normal life? Depression.There is absolutely no point to anything. Acceptance. I have cancer. 

Studies have shown that meditation is helpful in reducing anxiety, depression, fatigue, and pain. Recent research has shown meditation changes the cellular structure of cancer patients. 

Many people come to meditation after a serious illness or life crisis. I feel extremely fortunate that I already had meditation skills up my sleeve when I was diagnosed. Meditating didn't make the cancer go away (modern medicine did that), or make me feel magically positive about the whole experience. But it does help take the edge off. It helps when I'm feeling nauseous. It helps keeps me sane when I'm facing a long recuperation. It helps me to stay in the present moment when I'm agonizing over how did this happen or what happens next? It provides moments of stillness and peace. 

I'm looking forward to sharing meditation with others again in the new year. In the meantime, this is me breathing, moment by moment, without judgement, and breathing again.  
<![CDATA[Meditation Practises]]>Wed, 21 May 2014 00:27:01 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/meditation-practises
There a thousands upon thousands of ways to meditate, and every person's practise is unique, whether it stems from a thousand year old tradition taught in a Buddhist temple, or from a classroom exploring mindfulness. 

My hope is that these videos will offer insight into some of these different meditations, and help you in developing your own practise.  I offer these guided meditations not only as a meditation facilitator, but in the spirit of sharing a meditative space. 

Breath meditations are my personal favorite, because you can do them anywhere, and no one even needs to know you're meditating!

Thanks for sharing your meditation time with me, and I look forward to seeing you again next week! Don't forget, you can now sign up for a personal one-on-one Skype session
<![CDATA[Color Meditation]]>Thu, 15 May 2014 00:24:23 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/color-meditation
Welcome back fellow meditators! Today's meditation is a short meditation combining a colour visualization with a body scan. Although a strange paradox, this is a useful meditation for helping you fall asleep, or if you need a little more focus in your day. 

Like what you see here? Sign up for a personalized Skype session! You'll get a 15 or 30 minute one-on-one meditation session with Luisa, tailored for your needs. To book, go here

Thanks for watching, and see you again next week! 
<![CDATA[Skype Sessions]]>Wed, 14 May 2014 00:20:37 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/skype-sessions
skype logo - blue on white
I first came across Skype lessons in England. A well-known and established flute teacher offered one-on-one online lessons, conducted via Skype, as a means of making lessons accessible to people who couldn't travel to his rural village on a regular basis. 

I was skeptical, but keen to work with the teacher, so I decided to give it a go. The lesson was fantastic, and I got a lot out of the hour. Since that first lesson over two years ago, I have had singing lessons via Skype, conducted interviews, and, most rewardingly, helped out a few friends in crisis with virtual meditation sessions. 

While I will always prefer real life to the virtual, Skype offers us a way to connect, and share our skills, over time zones and across the world. 

For all bookings, or questions, please get in touch here

See you on Skype soon! 
<![CDATA[Meditation for Stress]]>Tue, 06 May 2014 00:22:22 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/meditation-for-stress
If you're human, chances are you have at some point (or many), dealt with stress. Meditation doesn't make stress go away entirely, but it does help take the edge off. Mindfulness can help us to face stressful situations with more calm and clarity. 

In this meditation, learn to check in with your breath and body, and use your breath to help alleviate the physical symptoms of stress. 
<![CDATA[The Sound of Silence ]]>Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:15:04 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/the-sound-of-silence
I stumbled across an old review I had written for Into Great Silence, a wonderful film released around 10 years ago and filmed in the mountain-top monastery Grande Charteuse. There are no added sound effects, no soundtrack, and no commentary. The movie is very much a meditation in itself, and was deeply affective. It was one of the first times I had encountered silence as a spiritual practice, and coincided with my first introductions to mindfulness meditation. 

I often find myself doing two or three things at once, running and listening to music, eating and watching/reading something, checking my iPhone whilst waiting for something to download on my computer. Silent meditation helps me to re-focus and to remember to just sit. 

Try this meditation with your eyes open, and allow yourself to just listenfor five minutes. What does "silence" sound like? How does it affect you? Are you able to continue breathing into the silence and be still? 

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! 
<![CDATA[Body Scan Meditation]]>Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:13:34 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/body-scan-meditation
Body scan meditations can help us to relax, calm our minds, and be more in tune with what's going on in our bodies. By systematically scanning through the body, without judgement (I know, easier said than done! But with practise, we can learn to be less judgemental of ourselves!), we begin to notice where we hold tension, and allow that tension to soften and ease away. 

Try this body scan meditation before going to sleep, or even throughout the day when you're feeling stressed. As you become more practised, you can do quick scans with each meditation. 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences in the comments! 
<![CDATA[Thank U]]>Tue, 15 Apr 2014 00:12:14 GMThttp://www.5boroughstaichi.com/blog/thank-u
In 2008, and again 2013, I walked the Camino de Santiago, a 500mile/780km pilgrimage across northern Spain. In this week's video I talk about how the walk led me to use gratitude as part of my meditation practise.

I forgot to mention in the video that in 2008 I had been (re)listening to Alanis Morissette's Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. The song that I loved the most was "thank u", a rock ballad about Morissette's spiritual journey to India. Needless to say, it had a big influence...

In 2013 I returned to Spain, and re-walked the Camino. In the last town before the Cruz de Ferro, Foncebadon, I walked into an albergue I had visited on the first trip. And what song, of all the songs possible in the world, was playing on the radio? Yep. Alanis Morissette's "thank u". 

Freaky coincidence? Synchronicity? The universe telling me to keep right on  saying thank you? Either way, I'm immensely grateful. 

I hope you enjoy.