Meditation + Consistency = Power AND Peace!

Over 13 years ago I found myself in a place of constant turmoil. I was in an unhealthy relationship that was causing me so much anxiety and stress I was physically ill. I was also in the midst of my career taking off and building a new home and taking this all on by myself with no support system nearby. It was during this time I found yoga. It changed my life. I remember laying in one of my first Savasana poses (the ending relaxation pose) and the teacher recapping the theme of the class.
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It hit so close to home that tears began flowing down my face. I was shaking with distress laying there amongst my fellow yogis. I knew I needed to completely change my life. Yoga has turned me inward sometimes in such subtle ways I don’t even realize it. I have learned how to be introspective and yoga has also given me the tools to make changes, slowly becoming the best person I can be. Like everything else this is a process and you are always finding more ways to be “closer to the light”.

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The yoga teachers I have been blessed with over the years have been influential in so many ways. They have given me courage and grace I didn’t even know I had. This last year I have been practicing on a weekly basis with Paulette Bodeman. A feisty Italian from Chicago. I have known Paulette for years but this new connection has re-energized my practice and also has me searching for new answers that she may just lead me to. 

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I sat down with Paulette this week to talk about meditation. I have had a practice on and off over years but as Paulette tells me, consistency is key to lasting joy and peace.


What are the fundamental reasons one should meditate?
Meditation builds a strong foundation for one to deal with stress and other life challenges. Like a savings account, you save money for a rainy day. With meditation, you meditate when your life is easy and use the energy reserves when you need them.

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There are also many health benefits. Pioneers in this field like Dr. Dean Ornish and Jon Kabot-Zin have used meditation techniques to support heart and cancer patients through the course of treatment. It has helped them approach their healing journey in a mindful way. Scientifc research now proves that consistent meditation helps to balance the nervous and endocrine systems, reduce the risk of heart attack, and successfully helps veterans struggling with PTSD.

Is there a special place to meditate?

Designating a spot is helpful. It doesn’t have to be a room but maybe a corner. This helps create a healthy habit. Plus, from an energetic point of view it raises the vibration around that space. It then becomes a hub that draws you in. I encourage my students to create a space that’s inviting. Build a space with either beautiful meditation cushion, a comfortable chair, light a candle, display a photo of a loved one. Make it simple, but meaningful to you.

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Is there a time of the day you recommend to meditate for the best results?
Ancient Sages used to meditate upon sunrise and sunset which was the span of a normal day for them in a primitive life style. Now neuroscience is confirming what the sages knew all along, that brainwaves are slower in the morning before you “plug-in” which allows you to access the entry point into meditation with ease. The same before you go to bed. It should be your natural waking and sleeping time.
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Is there a certain amount of time you recommend for meditating?

If you are just beginning a practice be sensible and kind to yourself. Don’t try to spend 30 minutes or an hour. Manage your expectations. Start with 5 minutes and maybe even use a timer to challenge yourself to longer durations. Ideally you want to be consistent by spending some time 3-5 times a week. The duration will grow over time to what you suits you.The goal is to build your foundation.

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If you are not in your designated place and you become anxious what can you do? Pausing and counting your breaths anywhere, anytime can dissipate anxious energy. This too is meditation at its bare minimum. If you build the foundation mentioned above, the breath reaction and response to these moments can be realized quicker. 


What is the correct posture and why is it important?
Sit comfortably with an erect spine and keep the natural curves of the back and neck so the breath can flow freely. If you are in chair, plant your feet flat on the floor in order to feel grounded. Laying down may accomplish this but it is hard to stay awake. If you have trouble sitting, using props such as bolster at the base of your spine to the top of your shoulders is a nice assist. You can even rest your head on the bolster. Do not meditate in your bed. Your body’s natural response is to fall asleep.
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Why is breathing important to meditation?

Breathing is the bridge to your inner and outer worlds. It is also an indicator to how you are feeling. If you pay attention to your breath you can get a pulse on your nervous system. Breath awareness is vital to meditation. The use of pranayama, or specific breath techniques is also important. I start most meditations with a breathing exercise because it acts like a Swifter inside the body and mind, removing the dust and cob webs. Also, the breath is telling the brain it’s time to settle.

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What is a mantra and should it always be part of a meditation?

It’s not necessary to use Mantra, but it can be very helpful to settle oneself. Mantra is sound. OM is a popular mantra. Basically, Mantras are seed sounds, words, sentences that give the brain a job to do. Mantra comes from manas which means the “mind,” and also the “heart.” Tra means to traverse. So, on another level Mantra is a bridge that helps the meditator traverse from the head to heart and back again. It’s a very powerful tool. On yet a deeper level, you the meditator, become the Mantra and the Mantra becomes you.
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What about affirmations?

Affirmations are also used in meditation, you can create an affirmation to support what you’re needing and to help resolve issues, such as, “I am worthy” “I am abundant” “I am love.” Affirmations provide a positive statement the is repeated so when your mind starts to wander you have yet another tool to help guide your thoughts. Repeating an affirmation over and over leads you to what you are looking for.

Paulette has put together a few awesome guided meditations that use affirmations. Check this one out.  

Where does meditation lead you and your mind?
The gap between sound and breath is called Madhya. I consider the Madyha the place where god, or the light lives. This gap is where the bliss of meditation lies. When you slip into the gap you have slipped beyond contemplation, beyond focused awareness, beyond thought.You have slipped into the space of the heart, where divine consciousness resides. You may arise out of that state and say “where was I?” You know you weren’t sleeping, but you’re not quite sure where you traveled to. Yet, a sense of peace, joy and calm remains.

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A classic approach to meditation is to attempt to turn the mind off of all thoughts. The Tantric approach however, is that thoughts are Supreme Consciousness, everything you are thinking is part of the Divine. You then become the observer, monitor and gatekeeper of your thoughts. This allows a natural flow, so the Madhya opens itself up to you without force, but with Love.

How long will it take for your meditation foundation to form?
First you must have the desire to commit to the practice. Next, think of your meditation as relationship. Like all relationships they pulse, ebb and flow, and evolve over time. Plus, you tend to it in order for it to grow and deepen.

Know that there are stages in meditation. The first two include concentration and contemplation.

It’s fun to think of your mind like a puppy that is in need of training – puppies are mischievious, and they also want to please you. The good news is that they are happier when you train them well. Building a foundation is training for you mind. One way in building a practice is listening to guided meditations like the ones found here on my website. Students tell me they are very helpful.

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You may also reflect on a verse of meaningful poetry, focus on a candle flame, or a picture of a loved one. They are all equally valuable and you find what is working for you. The final stage, so to speak, is that easeful slide into the “gap.” But, understand that it’s not always attainable, and really not the goal of meditation. Think of varying techniques as basic practices and a way to build your inner container, your inner core of light. 


One primary aim of meditation is mindfulness. When you become aware of the thoughts that arise, not in judgment, but rather to determine what is valuable, you then develop a deeper sense of self. It’s helpful to recognize whether what your telling yourself is truth, or not. What is so cool about this awareness is we all have the ability to re-direct thoughts. If we find ourselves ruminating over a negative idea, and like a loop it keeps replaying, meditation teaches that we have the ability to change the thought to one that is more uplifting.

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Bhavana is a meditation practice that incorporates all of the above, and also includes journaling. You either write a question down, sit, then jot down what came up during your meditation practice. Or you find a scripture that you want to unpack and you journal the verse down. Sometimes insight and clarity arise days later that was seeds during your meditation.

You can use journaling as feedback for yourself – even random thoughts are revealing. Journaling also helps guide you inward.
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What brought you to yoga?
I was an older mom with a young son who was amazingly precious and precocious. I needed something for myself so I started yoga at a gym. I was never physical and very shy. Yoga helped me feel more grounded and built my confidence. I was raised Catholic and as a result was a natural seeker. I always wanted to serve the Light. I began expanding my practice by taking meditation classes and studying with different teachers. Like I mentioned earlier my practice changed and evolved over time. I had a lot of anxiety raising my child and wanted to be a good mom. I knew I wasn’t always responding in the highest. With the physical practice and meditation I felt like I was becoming a better person. Better probably isn’t the best or most accurate word, but I started to feel less reactive, more insightful, calmer, and I was even able to experience more joy and fun in my life!

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How did you get to this place where you are now?

What really flipped the switch for me, and ignited a deeper desire to be my most authentic self, was when my son went through a depression after the loss of his best friend in a car accident. In fact this month is the 7th anniversary of his death. This grave loss profoundly impacted all of our lives and seemed to set off a series of tragedies in our lives. Shit totally hit the fan. I had to re-examine how I felt about the world I was living in, and look more closely at my core beliefs. I asked myself some difficult questions like, “Do I really believe in the intrinsic goodness of humanity?” “Do I trust those around me to support me and lend me a helping hand?” “Do I believe that the Light will shine again?” When I said yes to these questions, I dove into my yoga practice with a renewed sense of self-preservation and fortitude. Truly yoga, and I mean the whole of yoga, including all we have discussed here today, literally saved my life.
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You recently started the The Worth System. Tell me more about this?
This system began to flourish when women started to notice something was different about me and how I carried myself. They started reaching out to me not only because they were curious about my successful evolution, but they wondered if I could help them rediscover happiness and joy. They too wanted to evolve, grow and transform. I began interviewing women that went through similar situations and found what was common between us. I found that when conflict and contrast enters our lives, our worth suffers. All of our fears come up. The WORTH System arose out of the ashes to help guide women to re-discover their Intrinsic Worth.

How do women tap into their Intrinsic Worth? WORTH is an acronym for five practical experiential steps that I synthesized from yoga principals to reconnect women back to themselves and their life. It brings purpose back into the fold and encourages women to live authentically. Generally speaking women need to trust and believe in themselves, especially at sginificant periods in life.

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What I’ve learned with working with women, from many ages and stages of life, is that we all have a reoccurring theme that at one time or another can bring us to our knees. Then at these marker places in life these themes often resurface and once again we may feel unworthy, unloved, unseen, or whatever the flavor is. Yet, we can work through it by making subtle and not so subtle shifts. One of my teachers, Douglas Brooks a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Rochester use to say, “Change is not a problem to be solved.” There is something freeing in that statement. Change is actually a fact of life. It’s going to happen and we can either learn how to participate with it, or dig in our heels and bemoan what is. Meditation is key to this process, and to my system, as it helps you work through your “stuff” by allowing time for self-reflection, and understanding the modifications you can make along the way. So change can be an empowering thread that you weave into the fabric of a bolder, richer, more meaningful life.

Sign up here for Paulette’s Soar newsletter and receive four free self-guided meditations.

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
— Stanley Kubrick

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Living with Ulcerative Colitis

When I met my friend Cari almost 7 years ago now she was one of the most active people I knew. Hiking, biking, running, you name it she was doing it. I was a bit envious - I mean where did she find all this energy? 

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We also share the love of dogs. She is my go to when I need to help with mine. I trust her implicitly. 

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Over the last couple years her life has taken a drastic change. She had changes in her personal life that affected her physically. With recent publicity around the colostomy bags I thought her story was one that should be told. Cari was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) an auto-immune disease where the immune system attacks the colon or large intestine. Similar to Chron’s disease, UC can result in the now famous colostomy bags. 

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Cari and I have talked so much about how she is feeling and what’s going to happen next in her never ending string of procedures, prescriptions and office visits. I thought we should put this down somewhere in hopes it may either help or educate people about the disease. 

What were your first symptoms? 

 When I first noticed something was wrong was in January 2010.  The first symptom that I had was that I bled through my rectum every time I went to the bathroom.  At first I didn’t think anything of it because every now and then I might get a little blood in my stool but this was very different  After about three weeks, of continuous rectal bleeding I decided that I should seek help from a specialist.

At the time, bleeding was my only symptom but as time went on I started feeling much worse and other symptoms started like a fever, abdominal pain, urge to move the bowels, bloody diarrhea, mucus in my stool, and joint pain.  The trips to the bathroom started to become more frequent.  I went from going twice a day when I was first diagnosed to 25-30 time a day when I was  really sick.  In addition, I became anemic because of the constant blood loss which also contributes to the constant fatigue that I battle with on a daily basis. 

How long after your personal loss (not sure what you want to disclose here) did these symptoms start to arise? 

 When I was diagnosed, my doctor told me that the actual disease had probably started about 3 – 4 months prior.  The exact cause of the disease is unknown but my doctor said that stress is the biggest trigger.  She had asked me if I had any life changing events/personal losses that had happened to me recently or anything that was causing me additional stress.  About 3 months before I was diagnosed my boyfriend and I broke up after four years.  Even though I knew that ending the relationship was the best move for me, I was devastated emotionally.  In addition, I had gone back to school and was working on my MBA and working a lot of hours at work.  I believe that the combination of the three is what triggered/started my UC. 

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Were the doctors able to diagnose right away?

Yes, my doctor was able to diagnose my disease fairly quickly.  Initially, I saw her for the first time to go over the symptoms that I was having at the time which was the rectal bleeding.  At that office visit is when she told me that based on my symptoms she would need to schedule a colonoscopy as soon as possible so she could go in and take a look at my colon.  The colonoscopy was within a few days of the initial office visit. Once the colonoscopy was performed, a follow-up appointment was scheduled for the following week.  The follow up appointment is when I learned that I had UC. 

When my doctor told me that I had UC, she made it sound like it wasn’t that big of a deal.  She said that it would come and go but with some medication is should be manageable or controlled.  It wasn’t until about 10 months later when I was on vacation that I found out just how horrible this disease could be.  I was in Ohio visiting my best friend and my body did a downward spiral.  I was experiencing all of the symptoms that I listed above all at the same time.  My best friend was adamant that I talk with one of her friends whose two sons also had UC.  I learned more in one hour from this lady then I learned from my doctor in the entire 10 months under my doctor’s care.  Needless to say, I was so angry and switched doctors immediately when I got home from vacation.  From that moment on, this disease has been a constant struggle with many, many lows.

How has your active lifestyle changed? 

Ulcerative Colitis has turned my life upside down.  Before I was diagnosed with this disease, I was extremely active.  I played volleyball at least 4 times a week, mountain biked, ran, and hiked all of the time.  I was happiest being outdoors.  For me, one of the worst symptoms of this disease is the urgency to go to the bathroom.  What people don’t understand is that when I am sick or in a flare, I don’t have any control over my bowels.  When I get the urge to go, I have about 30 seconds to get somewhere before I literally explode.  People don’t understand that I just can’t “HOLD IT!” 

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I feel for anyone who has a chronic illness or disease but I really feel like this disease has got to be one of the most embarrassing.   There have been numerous times (too many times to count) where I have been in my car or somewhere where I couldn’t get to the bathroom and have had an accident.  Eventually these accidents, that you have no control over, start to wear on you emotionally.  You start beating yourself up thinking I’m a grown person and I can’t even control myself.  It sucks!!  Because of the constant need to be around a bathroom, I have to pick and choose where I go and what I do. In the end, when I don’t feel good I end up staying home to avoid the bathroom hassle and the embarrassment of the possibility of not making it to one in time.  This darn disease has somewhat made me into a recluse.  Running….I used to love to run, but haven’t ran in years. The constant pounding gets my insides going and I end up having to run directly to a bathroom or find a bush.  So for now my activities usually revolve around mountain biking and hiking because I usually have a better chance of finding a bush to hide behind.  

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Fatigue is also a huge part of this disease.  Every morning I wake up and I feel like I have been run over by a bus and it doesn’t really get better throughout the day.  I used to be able to go and go and my body could keep up.  That certainly isn’t the case now.  If I go for a mountain bike ride or hike in the morning, my afternoons are usually shot as I’ve used up all of my energy for the day.  It’s frustrating that I can’t go like I used to but at the same time I have learned how to just chill and that it’s okay to do that.

You have underwent numerous prescriptions and little to none of them worked.  WTH?

I’ve been on all of the medications.(for the most part) that are known to help put a person in remission from this disease.  The doctors have a pecking order in which they prescribe medications for this disease and each person’s situation determines which medications or combinations of mediations are prescribed.

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The medications that are currently used for UC are broken down into the following categories and are normally prescribed in the order below:

  • Aminosalicylates
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunomodulators
  • Biologic Therapies (Humira, Remicade)

I tried medications in all four of the categories at some point in the last four plus years and found nothing that would even come close to putting me in remission.  In fact, on some occasions I ended feeling worse from the side effects that I was experiencing.  In November 2013, my doctor put me on Humira and I had a really bad reaction to it.  It made me extremely sick and I broke out into hives.  After a couple of months on Humira, I decided to stop taking everything.  Mid-January 2014 I finally went back to my doctor and told him I couldn’t take the pain anymore.  I was so bloated and felt like my insides were going to explode at any moment.  He immediately scheduled me for a CT Scan and started me on Remicade right away.  The Remicade seemed to help my symptoms but I had a really bad reaction to it as well.  My doctor put me on prednisone to counter act the reaction that I was having to Remicade.  I had three Remicade treatments and after the 3rd one there still wasn’t a whole lot of relief and the hives were not going away.  At that time I decided to get another opinion as I felt I had exhausted all of my options and surgery was probably the only option I had left.

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In addition to the medications above, I also tried the holistic approach.  I went to a Naturopath and an acupuncturist.  I learned valuable things from both but again neither were able to put me in remission.  They were both able to help relieve some of my symptoms but I was/am looking for remission.  The downfall of a naturopath and acupuncturist is that they aren’t covered by insurance and very expensive. I love my acupuncturist, and if I had the money I would go to him all of the time.  He really does give me relief not only for my UC but for other aches and pains as well. 

You recently underwent a Mayo Clinic study and you finally felt results. What’s next? 

In March 2014, I was referred to Dr. Jonathon Leighton at the Mayo Clinic.  I initially went to Dr. Leighton to talk about what I thought was the next step for me which was surgery.  Dr. Leighton told me that surgery was an option but there was a study for a new medication that was strictly for people with Ulcerative Colitis that he would like to get me into. He said that this study would be perfect for me since my body didn’t respond well or at all to any of the other medications. 

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At first I was very hesitant because my track record with medication was not good, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to waste any more time to see if the medication would work and was finished trying to figure it out.  I just wanted to feel better, and I was pretty set on having the surgery.  To make a long story short, Dr. Leighton scheduled me with a surgeon so that I could pick his brain, and in the meantime was getting me enrolled in the study.  After the first dosing, I felt a huge amount of relief within 3 days.  It was crazy.  Dr. Leighton kept telling me at my follow-up and dosing days that it could just be the “Placebo Effect.”  I told him that I was sure I got the study drug because I had improved so much.  I am now done with the blind study and have moved into the open label study for the same medication.  Open label just simply means that everyone will get the actual drug and no one will get a placebo.  I’ve had a total of 5 dosings and feel the best that I have felt in four plus years.  The open label study will last for 24 months and I will get the drug for the first 18 months.  After the 18 months I will have to go off the drug because it isn’t approved by FDA.  We will see what happens but right now I am feeling really good.

 You considered surgery - is that still on the table? 

Surgery will always be on the table.  I have done a ton of research on the surgery and the possibility of living with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life.  I never want to feel like I did back in November, December and January again.  Those were the worst three months of my life.  If for some reason this medication stops helping me, then surgery will be there.  Everyone always asks me if it scares me that I might have a colostomy bag for the rest of my life.  To be honest it does scare me but nothing scares me more than reliving November 2013 – January 2014.  I would rather have my colon removed and live with a colostomy bag then to be sidelined in pain and not be able to get out of the house and be me.  I told Dr. Leighton when I started this journey with him that this disease has robbed me of four plus years and I wanted my life back.  Right now I have my life back because of the study medication but surgery is always going to be an option for me.  

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I am sending my friend all the positive energy I can muster. Everyone has struggles but we need to remember we are all connected. We are here to support one another in any way I can. This blog post was one way I found to support my friend by letting her tell her story. xo.

The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can’t be organized or regulated. It isn’t true that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.” — Ram Dass

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Half moon with a bind?!🌛🌓🌜couldn’t stick this pose the first, second, third, or twentieth time I tried it. Guess that’s why they call it a practice, eh?😏 #goodwitchyoga #ardhachandrasana

Alican Silverstone interviews world-renowned yogini Sharon Gannon

Sharon is world-renowned yogini, creator of the Jivamukti Yoga method, an author, vegan, and animal rights activist (among many other things!!) Her cookbook Simple Recipes for Joy hits shelves today!

What is your food philosophy?

Sharon: Live simply; make compassionate choices when it comes to food. The best way to uplift your own life is to do all you can to uplift the lives of others. If we ourselves want to be free and happy then by enslaving and harming animals we will not be able to achieve our goal. What we do to others will come back to us. You can’t expect to be happy by causing unhappiness to others. When we have a choice it is always best to choose kindness. Veganism is simply the kinder choice.

RG @lorigoldstein: Thank u @orlandopita for posting this brilliant statement of #merylstreep .. It’s everything that happens when u have lived that honest life and always looking to seek true joy. Of course Meryl can say it flawlessly 🎯 #kula