Why Meditate?

What are the real life benefits – and where are my sources?

Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

While my personal relationship with meditation will look different than another’s experience with meditation … there are tangible benefits to practising meditation for anyone – including you!

Here’s Why I Meditate

  • to hold space for my own emotion and thought
  • to perform a “temperature check” on the body that carries me through each day
  • to tune in to my inner voice – and perhaps re-assess my self-talk (can I be kinder?)
  • seeking a calmness after focused relaxation and or breathing deeply
  • to practise being present in the moment
  • to fill my own cup, recharge, relish the stillness
  • to rewire the thought patterns that no longer serve me – what stories can I let go of in order to evolve?
Photo by Stephanie Janet Photos

Meditation isn’t the goal to simply “empty the mind”. The mind will forever twirl and wander and react and remember and puzzle solve… that’s normal. That’s what it does. With practise, you can pull more of the mind into calmness. Or have more of the mind follow a guided meditation, or mantra.

Don’t judge your meditation skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice.

Mayo Clinic: Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress

You don’t have to take just my word on the benefits of a meditation practise, let’s see what other reliable resources have to say on the matter.

Total Wellness Health Says:

  • Boosts immunity – the article references a study done that indicates meditation can boost the immune system. “Then, in the ‘80s it was discovered that the immune system is highly intelligent; it became known as “a floating brain” because of the ability of immune cells to participate in the chemical messages sent by the brain throughout the body. This means that your thoughts, moods, sensations, and expectations are transmitted to your immune cells. When you meditate, these messages change in important ways.” – Chopra.com
  • Decreases pain – scientists have linked mindfulness meditation and pain relief – and even if they can’t pinpoint why eactly – health experts reccomend regular meditation in addition to medical treatments for chronic pain
  • Boosts creativity – mindfulness meditation is said to “encourage creative thinking and problem solving”.
  • Lowers blood pressure – “most experts agree that meditation can be a good way to help lower blood pressure in addition to medical treatment, a healthy diet, and exercise.”
  • boosts emotional intelligence – “Mindfulness meditation helps teach us how to be aware of our feelings and emotions and how to process them better.”
  • boosts productivity – “Meditation helps clear our minds and focus on the present moment – which gives you a huge productivity boost.”

Forbes Says:

  • Stress reduction – “Meditation, which focuses on calming the mind and regulating emotion, can help to reduce chronic stress in the body and lower the risk of its side effects”.
  • Anxiety Management – “People with anxiety who regularly practiced meditation over the course of three years saw positive, long-term impacts on their mental health, according to a study in General Hospital Psychiatry[2].”
  • Lowers blood pressure – “Meditation has been noted to potentially provide promising results in decreasing high blood pressure, especially when paired with healthy lifestyle habits like a balanced diet and exercise.”
  • Strengthens immune system health – “Consistent meditation has been shown to reduce the body’s stress response, resulting in less inflammation and decreased risk of conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue and heart disease”.
  • improves memory – “When you practice meditation, your brain is able to produce more gray matter, researchers found in one study. Gray matter is crucial for healthy brain cognition, as it protects the hippocampus, the part of our brain connected to memory.”
  • improves sleep – “Research suggests meditation can improve a person’s ability to sleep and quality of sleep.”

Healthline Says:

  • reduce stress – “Furthermore, research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia”
  • reduce anxiety – “one study found that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation helped reduce anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, along with increasing positive self-statements and improving stress reactivity and coping”.
  • lengthens attention span – “Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention.”
  • may reduce age related memory loss – “Furthermore, a review found preliminary evidence that multiple meditation styles can increase attention, memory, and mental quickness in older volunteers”.
  • improves sleep – “A variety of meditation techniques can help you relax and control runaway thoughts that can interfere with sleep. This can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep quality”.
  • can decrease blood pressure – “Blood pressure decreases not only during meditation but also over time in individuals who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and arteries, helping prevent heart disease.”
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

Leave me a comment below on what is stopping you from trying meditation. Time? Unsure where to start? Something else? I’d love to hear from you!

Meditating Through a 40 Day Kriya

Why I chose meditation as my practise to show up to for 40 days straight, and what’s a kriya anyway?

Photo by the wonderful StephanieJanet photos.

Let’s start with, what is a kriya anyway?

Kriya is a Sanskrit word meaning “effort” or “deed” – commonly translated as “a completed action”. It’s a self discipline exercise really: the showing up to the same practise every day for forty days.

The practise can be different for everyone. Maybe it’s a sun salutation, or specific yoga flow each day. Maybe it’s chanting or repeating a mantra. Maybe it’s quiet meditation.

If you’re really interested in the history of Kriya’s and want more context, there’s a great article out there by Chad Woodford titled “What is Kriya?” He goes into The Yoga Sutras to colour in some of the history and depth behind this ancient practise.

Why I chose a Meditation 40 Day Kriya Practise

I chose this meditation by Yoginimelbourne

I had attempted a 40 Day Sun Salutation – I think I made it to day 23. I had tried with a couple other methods: a meditation, a yoga nidra. I finally made the decision to just sit still for 10 minutes a day.

My yoga teacher, Brett Larkin, makes a great point: to cultivate the opposite. For someone like me, who is seeking a bit of personal evolution, and growth from this exercise – I need to seek out the opposite. For someone who wants to always be doing – this conscious effort to be still, is just the medicine I need.

I also tend to be hard on myself, so setting myself up for a tough go with a challenging yoga flow that I might not be able to show up to on all days of the month… is a recipe for disaster. (as I have learned!)

Anyways, I am nearing a week into the challenge, and it’s been interesting to see how I show up differently each day. The past few days I was tending to cramps, and so my meditation looked like a heating pad and laying in the sunny spot on the bed. My meditation nook has a “sunshine lamp” that I flick on and bask in when I do this in the early morning. What has remained constant – is a feeling of calm after the ten minutes and like I have filled my own cup and can now pour from that.

Follow along with me on my highlight on WLE on Instagram:

Multitasking Meditation

I’m here to argue that you don’t need to be in a perfectly still folded leg seat, to reap the benefits of meditation!

Meditation to me, is simply being present. Tuning in to the breath, or the sounds/smells/sights around you is a moment of meditation. Sure, you can get all fancy with different patterns of breathing or visualizations – but at its core, meditation is observing the waters of the mind.

Photo by Stephanie Janet Photohgraphy

I frequently meditate while multitasking. I love putting on my Balance morning gratitude meditation and listening to that as I shower or brush my teeth. I used to meditate on my bus commute to work in the morning. It did wonders for my anxiety!

Guided meditation is my go-to, but I am seeking silent awareness more and more these days. I find it soothing, especially if feeling low.

Guided Meditation Looks Like |

Usually an audio recording, and found all over Youtube, and on apps and music streaming services. These are a perfect way to ease into meditation. Find a voice you like, there are so many out there, that there is no need to grit your teeth through a voice too airy or fast or slow. Let the voice lead you through breathing, body awareness, visualization, relaxation.

Here are some examples:

  • Simple Habit – they call themselves the meditation app for busy people. Short & sweet.
  • Balance (HERE for Apple app users and HERE for Google app users) – a newer meditation app on the scene, they are offering one year free! I loved their full library selection. (Ofosu has the most calming voice)
  • Insight Timer – a long standing meditation app, but not one that I have gotten into
  • YouTube Guided Meditations – I love The Honest Guys
  • Spotify Meditations (like With Love, Esta -> Listen here!)

Silent Awareness Looks Like |

Tuning into the world around you, this type of meditation requires no equipment. Try cycling through your senses, and pay close attention to how things look, smell, feel, taste, and sound. Try feeling into each part of your body, from top of the head to toes, and seeing if you can release any tension you find along the way.

Here are some examples:

  • A walk outside without headphones in
  • Sitting quietly, somewhere comfy, eyes open or closed
  • Soaking in a bathtub
  • Standing outside in a slice of sunshine with your face turned up like a sunflower
  • Laying on your bed, couch or floor and breathing deeply
  • Taking in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations of an experience – fully present

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting meditation while driving, or during a work presentation. 😉 But tasks like dish washing, showering, walking, or travelling via bus/taxi or train.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

What “mindless” task could you meditation through?

Yes, the act of “becoming still” may be lost on some of these multitasking meditations, but the mental activity and the art of habit building is present here too. I have woven meditation into my life more than I would have if I treated the experience as only attainable during a cross legged seat in total silence. In real life, that’s just not a realistic expectation. Awareness of the body and the surroundings, can be tapped into easier and easier with practice!

Happy Meditating!

With Love,

Esta

Where to Start with Meditation

Train the Puppy

I learned early in my years of meditation, that the mind wanders. It’s natural. It wants to problem solve, ruminate, forecast, report the weather. Practising meditation is like training a puppy. Know that the puppy will run around all over the place. It will get distracted. Redirect the puppy with all the love in your heart. The cool thing about humans is we can step into this third person seat, and just witness. That’s the seat of mediation. Witnessing.

It’s Not so Sacred

Meditation doesn’t need to be only in a cross legged position, with incense wafting in the air and a flower behind your ear. Meditation can be taking a few deep belly breaths as you wash dishes. Or taking your headphones out on a walk outside. Meditating can be done listening to a guided meditation or just checking in to all areas of the body. It’s more accessible than any other tool – one can always step into the seat of the witness and just be present.

Tune Out to Tune In

Yes, silent meditation is powerful. But the beginner meditator might want to download a meditation app, or search guided meditation on YouTube or Spotify. In as little as five minutes, you can be guided through a visualization, breathing exercise, or gratitude practise – all of which bring positives into your day immediately!

Thank you for reading this guide on where to get started with meditation. Find me on Instagram @withloveesta for more content on meditation!

Find a Comfortable Seat

When settling in for a meditation, or starting off a yoga class. The yoga teacher may ask you to “find a comfortable seat”. What does that mean? How do you find this comfortable seat?

Picture your pelvis as a three legged stool. You want to balance the weight of your body evenly between the front and back. Your sits bones would be two of the three legs, and your tailbone might be the third leg.

Speaking of sits bones… you may have heard that you should sit on your “sits bones” – or “sitz bones”. What are those exactly?

Ideally, we are sitting directly on top of the sitz bones, with a slight anterior tilt to the pelvis. This means if your pelvis were a bowl, filled to the brim with water, water would spill out the front of the bowl.

Wtih this base set up, it allows for lots of space to grow and expand upwards and allow for our biggest breath.

HOT TIP: sit on the edge of a meditation cushion, or yoga block, or even a fold or two of your yoga mat. The elevation of the hips will allow for a natural shift ofthe pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt.

What do you think? Does this give more context to “finding a comfortable seat”?

How to Save Money in 2022

What you focus on – increases.

I started this habit a couple years ago, and have been refining it ever since. My goal is simple: each month I write down what my account balances are at the beginning and what my balances are at the end. I want to see the amounts grow between the beginning and the end!

The first step is to write down your income for each month. Then, write down the bills. What are the fixed expenses that must be paid monthly? Jot those down, tally them up and reduce your monthly income by the fixed expenses amount.

Now you’re left with discretionary income. Take a moment and think about how you want to pay yourself . Consider yourself a fixed expense too! Here’s where I split off at least half of the discretionary income into seperate saving accounts.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

If you don’t yet have seperate savings accounts for key areas in your life – I highly recommend starting that now! It’s usually quite simple to open more savings accounts with your bank, especially in today’s day and age of online banking. I have a few key areas that I put money aside for each month:

  • Car Account. Putting money aside for car insurance, maintenance and general costs that come with owning a vehicle. I calculate what my non-negotiable expenses will be for the car this year, and aim to put aside at least that amount divided by 12 – et voila!
  • Emergency Fund. I like knowing that I have a decent chunk of money put aside in case of emergencies. A last minute flight (although not these days!) or an unexpected expense, are less stress inducing if there are a few dollars in the rainy day jar! I have had this account wavering at about $1,000 the past years, but I may bump that goal up to $2,500 for 2022.
  • Trip Account. Although we haven’t left home the past couple years, it’s nice to see my savings grow in this account – for when travelling will be the norm once again. This hasn’t been a priority savings account, but I do throw at least $50 in here each month.
  • Treat Account. Life is all about balance. I know myself, and if don’t have a visual on how I am paying myself – I am liable to splurge and spend fivilously. Silly, I know. But getting to know my sepnding habits means that I can outsmart myself… with some planning ahead!

Go ahead and jot down a couple key areas that you want to save for each month. Are you saving up for a house? Kids education? Do you want to buy a Peleton? Think about what you would put your dispensible income towards, given some time to plan for it.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

My final note is on TFSA’s and RRSP’s. These are registered accounts in Canada, and each one offers financial perks. Read more on TFSA’s – Tax Free Savings Accounts – here. Read more about RRSP’s – Registered Retirement Savings Plans – here.

In a nut shell, the tax free savings accout allows you to save money and withdraw without penalty. An RRSP contribution reduces your income by that amount, and puts that money aside for retirement. You will be penalized for withdrawing money from an RRSP account. It is advisable to connect with a financial planner to discuss how you can best leverage these kinds of savings! However, it never hurts to open these acccounts (especially a TFSA) and start saving money. This way, you have a little pile going as you decide what you want to do with this money for future you.

What you focus on – increases. So focus on the money in your life!

Wishing you a prosperous new year.

With love, Esta.

Meditation SOS

Hi, I come to you today with a bit of a racing heart, and I feel like I have been shallowly breathing all day. Maybe you’ve had a day like this, too. So I thought together we could take a few deep breaths, remember that we are all powerful and sometimes that’s scarier than the problem in front of us.
But I find courage in the fact that within me, there is an energy and a power that will rival the energy and the power that is external to me. If that makes sense. What I’m saying is that we are very strong creatures. So let’s, let’s pull on that a little bit.


Let’s relax the shoulders, drop your shoulders away from your ears. Notice if you are slouching or if you’ve locked your jaw or your knees, just take a moment to scan over your body from head to toe and seek this tension.
Where do you feel it? Is it butterflies in your stomach? How do you describe that? Is it a tightness in your throat? Do you feel like maybe you swallowed a bubble? Just notice what it feels like for you, become very curious with these sensations and feel them out fully, just becoming more aware of your body and the signals it gives off for you.
Good. And if you want to close your eyes and take a few easy breaths with me, please feel free to do so, or keep your eyes open. Just a relaxed gaze in front of you.

We’re going to take a few deep breaths. It’s going to be in the style of box breathing, which has historically been very good for calming me down. And maybe it’ll be helpful for you too. So we’re going to breathe in to the count of four hold for four seconds, exhale to the count of four hold for four seconds and repeat.
It makes like a little square in your mind. If you can see it here.

So together, we’ll inhale.
Hold exhale, hold in through the nose. Hold I looked through the mouth, hold in through the nose, out through the mouth.


Now let your breathing return to normal. Thank you for joining me for a little unusual meditation. I think I needed it just as much as you with love Esta.

Grounding Meditation

A grounding meditation 🧘🏻‍♀️ to settle in, find your balance and start from a place of stability.

This meditation can be done standing, seated or lying down. Just make yourself comfortable.

Take a deep breath and as you do, see if you can find any extra length in the spine.

Exhale slowly and fully. Taking a brief pause at the end. Get curious about how and when the next breath comes in. Where do you feel the air move within you?

One of my favourite quotes is to let the air breathe you. See if you can hand over control for a second. Let your lungs fill and empty as they need. Soft and easy.

Bring your awareness to where your body meets the surface beneath you.

Is your weight distributed evenly on this surface? Can you feel fully, the support of the bed, chair or floor beneath you? Holding you up. Steady and sure.

If you want to close your eyes, go ahead and flutter the eyelids closed. Draw your attention in to yourself.

Imagine roots are sprouting from your base, flowing from you to the earth. Have fun imagining these roots play over the surface between you and the planet. Winding down a chair leg or seeping through the mattress to meet the ground. Take a moment to see if you can visualize yourself rooting in.

Let yourself feel heavy. Drawing on that stable energy below. Imagine you can pull energy up from the earth, much like a tree with a rich root system.

Let’s take a few deep breaths here. As I guide you through the inhale and exhale, practice building out this image of yourself grounding in to the earth. Expand your imaginary roots ever deeper.

Together we will inhale – in through the nose.

And exhale – out through the mouth.

We will do that two more times.

inhale – in through the nose.

exhale – out through the mouth.

And last one. Inhale, through the nose.

And exhale. Out the mouth with a sigh.

Let’s take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to yourself for taking this grounding pause. Thank you to the earth, for providing support and assurance.

Bring someone close to your heart into mind now. Someone who helps you, encourages you, cheers you on. Send them a thank you too.

Love is better shared.

Thank you for joining me.

With love,

Esta

Body Scan Meditation

Find a comfortable seat.

Take a big, deep inhale and let it out with a sigh.

Close your eyes and drop the shoulders.

Try to release any thoughts and commentary on the day, as you take this moment to come home to yourself.

Inhale.

Lift your heart space, and settle your tailbone.

Exhale.

Bring your chin down towards your chest.

Inhale.

Bring your chin level to the floor.

Exhale and find a neutral sitting position.

Notice how your jaw feels. If your eyebrows are lifted or furrowed. Or relaxed.

We will do a brief body scan. Just checking in with the incredible vessel that carries you through your day.

How do your feet feel? Are they sore? Tired? Rested? Happy?

Notice your ankles and feel into the muscles of your calf.

How are your legs today? Powerful? Achy? Asking for a stretch? Take a pause and let the whole leg. From hip to heel. Just relax.

While we’re at the hips, see what these points of movement feel like. Can you relax anything around them? Ease back into yourself.

Let’s see where the breath is. No need to change how you’re breathing. Just noticing. Where does it go?

Is your tummy moving with the air? Is the air filling the top of your chest? I sometimes find the air here or at what feels like the base of my throat. When I notice I try to deepen the next breath just a little bit. Then the next breath, a little bit more.

See where your shoulders are today. Are they moving with your inhale and exhale? Are they taut or holding onto the day? How about your arms? Can you relax the wrists and the elbows. Letting the arms just be.

How about your neck? The head and the muscles and wiring running up the back of your neck and down your shoulders. Maybe try moving the head in a circle and feel how that feels along the back of the neck.

Lastly. How is your heart today? Is it light? Heavy? Take a moment to be with yourself and just acknowledge how you are in this moment. You can be totally honest with yourself. Be gentle and know that every day the answer to this question will be different.

With one final inhale – and exhale – together. Thank you for joining me.

With love,

Esta

Easter Baskets

I love making baskets of any kind. Join me for some Easter basket making!

Basket making 🧺

Basket Fillers

I wanted a basket that would be useful after the fact, so I went to my local Dollarstore armed with a list. I knew what the base of the baskets would look like:

  • Re-usable basket
  • Snacks and treats
  • An Easter craft
  • Something useful
  • Something fun

Here’s what I ended up with brainstorming for the baskets:

Snack Fillers

Sesame snaps
Rice Krispies
Mini ginger ale cans
Mini Jar of Easter eggs
Lindt bunny
Bubblegum

Useful & Fun Fillers

Slip on garden shoes
Water bottle
Chalk
Bunny ears
Easter craft
Gardening gloves
Sensory toys
Socks
Bubbles
Books

Adult Easter Basket Fillers

Mini champagne
Orange juice
Plant
Salty snacks
Gum
Gardening gloves
Ginger ale
Books
Grocery list

While I’m not quite finished with the adult baskets, these kiddo ones filled out quite nicely!

Do you have a formula for your Easter baskets too?!