What is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning?
Was it a lists of daunting tasks? An anxiety filled situation that hasn't resolved yet? Was it that you want to go back to sleep?
Many spiritual teachings & philosophies highlight the importance of "first thoughts" and teach how you can use your first thoughts to set up your ENTIRE day, let me explain more.
We live in the material world, but we also have a SOUL.
Your soul is your source of LIFE energy, it charges our bodies with the necessary means to stay alive. Think about it, even when you sleep at night our body still works - your heart beats and pumps blood and oxygen through your body all night long. During this time that you are sleeping, it is your soul that reaches up into the spiritual atmosphere above and RECHARGES WITH LIGHT.
Your soul then comes back in the morning with whatever spiritual energy that your body needs to keep on with its routine functioning for our day to day life. This connection between your mind, body & soul is crucial to your daily ability to function in this material world.
As the soul comes back into your body, there is an important window of time when you can receive "first thoughts" as messages from your soul. These soul-whispers happen as you are first waking up, during the time that your body is re-adjusting to your material surroundings and can contain the much needed answers that you have been asking for.
To re-connect with your soul as you wake up in the morning can be a powerful gratitude practice. There are many ways to embrace this as a part of your life, depending on your culture, religious background or community.
Here are some suggestions I have learned (compiled from different spiritual teachings and influenced by my own personal practice of Kabbalah) to get you started:
1. Upon waking, acknowledge first thing that your soul is coming into your body, and thank your soul for giving you this day for opportunities to do your spiritual work.
2. Have a notebook by your bed where you can write down your first thoughts, as they come through entertain the possibility that they may be messages for you from your soul. (You may want to also begin a practice of writing down a question the night before and keeping it by your bed so when you wake up in the morning you can write down any answers to that question you may have received.)
3. Look in the mirror as you scan your body and say out loud "I love you" and "thank you" to each body part. (This is very powerful! Especially great for boosting confidence fast, your body listens to your positivity.)
4. Close your eyes and think about 3 things that you are grateful for and meditate to send light to those places in your life that you have a deep sense of appreciation for.
5. Listen to a guided morning meditation (like the one I created posted below).
These are simply a few ideas to get you started, the power of your soul is 1000s of times stronger than you can possibly imagine, so as you begin to incorporate small steps in the morning to acknowledge your soul's journey and the mind, body, soul connection you have together, the possibilities of positive side effects are endless.
Share in the comments about how they worked for you and other rituals that have worked for you in your morning gratitude meditation routine!
The magic of yoga for kids.
(Originally published in 2018 on www.sfk.org)
The first time I “experienced” Koren Paalman was when I brought my kids to try out her “Kids Yoga” class at the Iyengar Institute, where I practice yoga regularly. Immediately I felt drawn to her presence as she joyfully invited my kids into the yoga studio, to play an irresistible game of Hide and Go Seek! My eldest boys (ages 8 and 6) fell in love with her classes from the start.
Each week I found myself yearning to share with Koren about the positive changes we were experiencing in our family, changes that I directly connected to learnings and discoveries my kids made during her yoga classes.
Below is an excerpt of a conversation I had with Koren that focused on some of the observations/questions I had. Through our talk, I was able to discover many special experiences that have uniquely shaped her life’s work of sharing yoga with the children of our world.
Alison: My children seem to naturally fall asleep easier at night on the days they practice yoga with you, am I dreaming or is that possible?
Koren: Yoga by definition is a practice that quiets the mind. According to the yoga sutras [the ancient texts of yogic philosophy], quieting the mind is the true purpose of yoga. Yet, calming the mind is easier said than done, so we use the body as a vehicle to access the mind. If we can put ourselves into a situation where we are paying attention to what our body is doing, we are connecting our body to our mind, and that is what brings about a state of calmness. It is that state of calmness that helps us unwind and let go at the end of the day.
With kids, because they are very physically motivated, it’s really nice for them to come to a yoga class and move their bodies around and explore that mind/body connection. At the end of class, I’ll put it in simple language to guide them towards that awareness, I will ask them: “How do you guys feel right now? Do you feel the same as when you came in?” I don’t say, “Is your mind quiet?” because having a “quiet mind” is not a language kids understand but rather I’m using language the kids can relate to.
Alison: Before I first brought my kids to your class, I was hesitant because I thought it would be taught the same way that adults learn yoga which made me doubt my kids’ ability to be interested. Since they have come to your class, I have observed a difference between yoga for kids versus yoga for adults and I would like to discuss a bit more with you.
Koren: I’ve been teaching youth since 1998 and what I’ve observed about yoga for kids is that people either try to teach like they teach to adults or they dumb it down too much. What’s important is to connect with those kids on that given day because kids are one way one day and another way another day. You have to connect with them on that day and see what they need. You have to have an element of playfulness and give a little to them, too. One of the big things the kids ask for is to play hide and go seek. Is hide and go seek yoga? No. Is it a great icebreaker? Can kids start to get to know each other? Get to know the props and blankets and where everything is? Yes. It’s making it fun, giving them a little of what they want to do. Then saying [to them] once you are done hiding, once you are found, you are on the mat and you are ready to go. So, you also kind of draw the line.
Kids love to be given a little but they also like a line drawn. As a parent, I’m sure you know.
Alison: I see the benefits and would love a yoga practice to be something my kids incorporate into their everyday life, (the same way I do!), and with their busy schedules, I don’t really know how to do that. Do you think that yoga should it be an “after-school activity” or rather incorporated into their day?
Koren: Yoga is most effective is if it’s practiced regularly for a certain amount of time. It’s not like it can be completely incorporated, since it has to be given its own space and time, ideally during the school day for kids. I agree with the need to not have too many add-on activities, but if yoga is effective then that is not the one to cut out. It’s in the practice that the benefits come.
What I found was most effective with the teenagers was having that 40-min practice to check in daily. It was so interesting because after that 40-minute practice you could see the changes. Teachers would come up to me and say, “Mario is so different since he signed up for your yoga class. He used to be in my class and I couldn’t handle him, he was always talking and out of control. Now he comes in after yoga, he sits down, he’s focused and his grades are better.” So, it’s really honoring the benefits of yoga and making time for it in our very busy lives. I know parents are trying to get the kids everything they need and it’s a lot of add-on activities. I think it’s a matter of prioritizing.
As my children evolve their yoga explorations, my conversations with Koren continue. We have also attended her “Family Yoga” sessions which are equally engaging. (To the kids’ delight, my husband took the Family Yoga with them too!)
We all look forward to the day when yoga is in fact taught as a regular class in schools (hopefully on a daily basis!) but until then, I have found some creative fun YouTube yoga for kids videos depicting the characters they love, like Star Wars and Minecraft (Yes, I’m serious! Check out http://www.cosmickids.com) and I have also tried to incorporate fun and mindful body movement into their lives daily (they love https://www.gonoodle.com and could “play” the movement games on the site for hours on end).
Here’s to the MAGIC of Yoga for Kids!
Comment below with any kids yoga magic you have experienced!
Meditation games for kids.
(Originally published in 2017 on www.sfk.org)
I want my kids to love meditation, just like I do.
My heart knows the importance of guiding them to become aware of their secret, magical, True Voice inside yet when I have tried conventional meditation techniques with them, like “close your eyes and focus on your breath” it just hasn’t worked. In truth it becomes a challenging fight, to get them to sit still and meditate.
But I just couldn’t give up!
So I had 2 thoughts:
1. Since scientific research shows us that from the age of 6-12, normal children’s brainwaves naturally accelerate to a state called ALPHA (Alpha is the same state that an adult can achieve through meditation & daydreaming), do we need to actually “get” them to meditate if they are already in alpha?
2. What if I could help them to focus in and use the meditative tools of visualization that I loved, and still had fun with them at the same time? Could I invent “games” that helped them naturally tap into their awareness?
I was eager to try it out and create games to play with them. I brainstormed, thinking about safe spaces for them to play, relax and gently become aware and try out meditative tools. So together we formed “Meditation Games” to share with you.
Our first “game” started with the running water of their bath, as we turned it on, for a few precious moments we closed our eyes and tried to focus our attention on the sounds, and how they made us feel. After a long silence my son who is 8, announced that he heard waterfalls and began to describe why waterfalls were created so all the animals living in the forests could “survive and stuff”. Then, my 6 year old began to rhythmically sing the beautiful sounds he heard that his bath water was sharing with him. And me, well I slowly watched those cleansing waters pour from the faucet but all I could hear was my children.
It was as if through the sounds of their bath running, I heard their shining souls sharing and connecting.
Next, I brought in the second game, it was time to turn the lights off and…. Light a candle!
I stood up and flipped the switch off. As the room went dark I stumbled a bit, we shared a giggle, and I struck a small match, which magically lit up a slim, white candle and I asked my children to describe the colors they saw.
As I listened and learned, their conversation sounded something like this:
“I see blue. Blue!”
“I see a little bit of pink!”
“Yea, me too, at the bottom, of the bottom.”
“I see a little bit of yellow.”
“There is obviously yellow, and there is a great amount of white if you look closely”
“Like a flashing light, it’s like one of those things that is green and spinning around and around it’s green.”
“I’m trying to blow it out”
“It’s going like this, but it’s actually going like this, like a police siren”
“I see colors too, do you Mom?”
As I write this, remembering back to experience the scene, I relive my excitement to hear them, to hold onto every word they shared, to listen to them. I discovered through them all that I desired to learn about how to experience meditation with kids, and how to share this experience with others who are interested to slowly try to incorporate this priceless gift into their families as well.
Looking back I am realizing that as I was playing the “meditation games” with them, I was invited into their sacred world and for a few priceless minutes, I got lost there.
Share you meditation games experiences in the comments..
The gift of slowing down.
(Originally published on www.sfk.org in 2018.)
The “Meditating Mind” is a clear, calm, quiet mind.
It’s a sacred space that can be carved out inside a person’s being to help them tune out life’s outside distractions and focus inward toward the voice of their soul.
As this meditative process of slowing down occurs, a phenomenon takes place, for inside the “Meditating Mind” develops the ability of the meditator to pick up on light-filled messages around them: the unseen details of their everyday life.
These important details exist all the time, and yet, because everything in our lives moves so fast, these sparks of light can pass us by, vanishing as quickly as they arrived.
It is said that in each second, each of us is surrounded by 2 million pieces of information!
That’s A LOT of sparks of light that our universe has to share.
Taking time to breathe.
To be present.
To honor ourselves.
What would your life look like if you were to slow down? Try it for a few minutes, right now.
As I write this I’ll try it myself for a few minutes:
First I soften my eyes, I listen around me and hear a birds slow, quiet “chirp ….. chirp …… pause ….. chirp…..” outside my bedroom window. I find myself longing to hear more chirping but it’s so faint it has disappeared. It’s early morning. My eldest son breathes heavily as he sleeps next to me. My blankets are fluffy and so are my pillows. I notice the colors of my bedding: they are the same luscious cream tones as the smooth writing paper in my journal and I’m hypnotized noticing how the hue is exactly the same as it melds into one. My husband’s alarm rings. Twice it sounds. He rolls over and turns it off as I hear the buzzing, I feel I’m surrounded in the presence of all my familiar early morning sounds. I look ahead and try to listen even harder into this moment, asking myself, what else is in it? I see my beautifully messy closet that holds so much of my life. And at this point my eldest sits up and stretches, his eyes open for a split second and then he goes back to sleep again. This time his tender arm spreads wide and decides to elegantly flop across my chest and I close my eyes to enjoy the warmth of his gentle touch, trying to remember how he ended up in our bed in the first place. I hear my youngest softly cough from his bedroom down the hall and I’m wondering if he’s coughing as if to say to the world “I’m awake…” I open my eyes, resisting the urge to stop writing and check if he’s really awake as I’m realizing that my fingers are aching from the intense grip on my pen. At the same time I look at my pen and long for a different one. I’m happy this pen has served me, and I look at it and realize it’s okay but find myself thinking that it’s just too basic and simple and I actually want a fancier pen. Now I recognize that this is a new desire, one that I’ve never had before, and I’m happy to have had these few minutes to slow down. At the same time, I realize my thoughts have started to become much faster than I can write. And I see now my real desire is not a new pen, but rather to release my tight hold, to slow down once again, and as I do I can hear the birds slow and melodic chirps and again I relax….
All this from slowing down for about 5 minutes!
What will you see when you slow down? What will you experience during just a few quiet minutes that often passes you by?
You can start to incorporate this short and powerful exercise, this “open-eyed meditation” into your life for even just a few moments of presence, for it’s these moments when you can slow down to discover the sparks of light, as they weave together and form your life.
What is your gift of slowing down look like? Share in the comments.
(Originally published in December of 2017 on WWW.SFK.ORG)
I find myself mesmerized by the children of our world. Mesmerized by the light that shines from their precious souls, by who they are now, and by who they will become.
I believe that our children have joined us to heal our world.
The kids of today (or should we say the adults of tomorrow!) are full of magic and creativity. For most of their younger years they naturally function at a delicate meditative state. Children are like sponges: they are open and attuned and absorb EVERYTHING that crosses their path.
Our job is simple: to unlock for them a door to their very own “spiritual world”. To provide for them a safe, sacred, protective space where they can thrive.
There exists in our universe a “spiritual world,” a place where time space, & motion simply pause and meld into one fulfilling moment of infinite and limitless possibility (sounds like bliss, right?!). This “infinite reality” is the state of a “meditating mind” that an adult person can tap into, with practice, during meditation.
The “meditating mind” is the natural state of being of our children. It is a pure and precious state that can connect to and access the powerful wisdom of inner light, of inner soul, of “true voice”.
And our children have it all the time. It’s simply our opportunity to guide them to affirm that state.
Affirmative Meditation (bringing positive, sharing thoughts into the “meditating mind”) creates a space to be at your best, to be like the light, thriving in that pure state where all that you receive is for the sake of passing on to others.
I’ve worked at Affirmative Meditation with my kids at all ages. Most recently I chanted “I am Love, I am Peace” to my 2 year old at random times during the day, and to my enjoyment he chanted it right back to me.
It amuses me how I’m surprised every time he repeats it back; it’s as if I forget how our children mirror EVERYTHING we do! And then the motivating truth hits me and once again I’m mesmerized thinking, “they will mirror our beautiful, heartfelt actions as well.”
This little light, this flame, it’s inside us all. By pinpointing this flame in ourselves and in our children we can nourish it and nurture it. We can allow it to shine, share, grow, and light up the darkness.
Look at your kids, look at the children today, look at our future. Open up to the possibility that these children have come with everything needed to help heal our world. Together, let’s learn how to be the keys they need to unlock their future.
Close your eyes for a moment and open up to your soul. Try to remember back to a time when you were very young, to a moment in your childhood, to a very special and very long time ago when you knew the presence of the light existed inside you. Begin to have a conversation with this light inside you! Ask the light in you for the “affirmative meditation” that it needs. Listen. Pay attention to any feelings you have, any phrases or words you hear. Any images that you see.
When you have received an affirmation from your soul, acknowledge that and begin to repeat it to yourself.
When you feel ready open your eyes.
Write down whatever you experienced and share in the comments.
Whether you are dreaming about sharing your meditations with the world or simply interested in my personal process, these are my top 3 tips from behind the scenes.
With over 10 years of experience as a meditation teacher under my belt, in the Spring of 2016 I published my first online meditation "A Kabbalistic Heart Opening Meditation" online using the Insight Timer Meditation App. Since then, I have organically grown a following on the Insight Timer App of over 10,000 users. The experience with this process has been INVALUABLE - so much infact that I plan to write future blogs filled with Insight Timer content creation tips.
The story begins with a student of mine from The Kabbalah Centre who was regularly joining my meditation classes and at the same time using the Insight Timer App to meditate on her own at home. This was how we discovered that ANY meditation teachers, spiritual teachers, and musicians can self publish on Insight Timer, and gain access to their online spiritual community of 10 million users!
My student was uber excited about Insight Timer and volunteered to help publish my meditations on the app. She did all the initial submissions and within a few days, my meditations were live and thousands and thousands of users from all around the world were listening, reviewing, sharing and enjoying them!
My meditations published on Insight Timer are recordings from live classes I teach and now they are available for millions of people to access.
Since we began with Insight Timer in the Spring of 2016, we have since live streamed via The Kabbalah Centre Live Learning to tens of thousands participants for online meditations & healing circle experiences as well as hundreds of personal guided 1-1 online meditation sessions.
These 3 Secrets below come from my experience coupled with massive research of countless meditation apps and online meditation platforms.
Here you go...
#1 Just Do It!
Whether its filming meditation sessions for YouTube, scripting / recording a meditation course for Insight Timer, live streaming meditations on Facebook, launching a course on Udemy, or applying to become a Simple Habit meditation expert - my mantra has been to simply JUST DO IT! There may be a good deal of resistance that pops up- feelings of fear, incompetency, insecurity, unworthiness - I can vouch for it. I still find myself time and time again wrestling against unseen forces telling me all these things and more! My best advice to overcome the voice of your inner "opponent," ask for help.
Find a supportive friend, mentor, guide, partner, husband basically anyone who cares deeply for you and your passion for sharing your inner light!
During my process of sharing my meditations with the world, I consistently ask for support from my mentors, husband, colleagues as well as my open minded community at The Kabbalah Centre urging me forward and reminding me every step of the way to JUST DO IT! And then reminding me that once I did it to KEEP MOVING FORWARD! Which leads me to my next secret...
#2 Reviews, Reviews, Reviews.
One of the greatest challenges I come across daily as a meditation expert are reviews.
I wish I had been advised of the thousands of reviews I received within the first few hours of publishing my very first meditation being launched on Insight Timer. Some people adored me, some people hated me (really, they wrote that!), some people were moved to tears while others couldn't stand the sound of my voice or the music or the live background sound of my recordings. It is quite probable that anything imaginable in the meditation review world, I have experienced.
My advice, don't get inflated and overjoyed from "good" reviews and don't be afraid of "bad" reviews.
The art of answering reviews is a science. Look at your reviews with an unbiased mind and try to "feel" the energy transmission they are sending over to you from the Universe. Read your reviews over, feeling your reviewers energy as you ask the universe for guidance as you craft your answers, I have repeatedly been able to use reviews as "teachable" moments, filling in the question marks that listeners have about healing, kabbalah, forgiveness, love, heart opening, you name it!
Be open as you read your reviews, see and feel if there are any repetitive comments you are receiving that can help you improve your craft. After repeatedly getting told about certain music sounding like "elevator music" I switched up the background music and re-published one of my meditations and likewise, after many "complaints" about background noise during my live meditations, I scripted them and re-recorded them in the studio. It took only a few hours and the result was outstanding and I understood the true value of the messages coming in, via my audience, opinions about the length of time, volume of the background music, tone of my voice, confusing words, and adored content were actually priceless gems, pushing me forward to improve the style & quality of my meditations for all my followers and future followers to come.
#3. QUALITY IS EVERYTHING.
FACT: When a person closes their eyes to meditate their senses are heightened. What does that have to do with quality? Everything.
After receiving and reading through thousands of reviews, it became clear that many meditators become SUPER sensitive to the slightest change / disturbance / stutter in the recordings they are listening to. As soon as I realized this I vowed to make QUALITY my tippy top of priorities.
My quality checklist includes:
-studio recordings are always done in sound booths with zero background noise or disturbances.
-live recordings must begin with a lengthy sound check to perfect the balance of the microphone.
-Microphones are always handheld (on a mic stand) and always with a pop filter screen attached. (I don't use head set mics for recording)
-editing post recording includes detailed "cleaning up" of even the tiniest of background sounds.
-I listen to every raw meditation file and gives the edits I want to the editor, then once I receive the edited file I meticulously listen to the full meditation (not just the edited parts) and every time i ask for an edit I listen once again to the FULL file to make sure nothing changed in the entire file.
-once the meditation is published, I listen once again to make sure its a perfect recording and I also re-check the publishers details like length and description to make sure everything is accurate.
-make sure the music / voice balance is gentle to the listeners ear.
-if you need to write your own meditation descriptions, get support if you need. Because I am not a copy writer and I also don't have a marketing background I discuss most of my titles and descriptions with a colleague who is a writer & a marketing expert. I find it so helpful to be able to verbally express to her the main points I want to get across so she can create the professional copy I need.
Perfecting the QUALITY of your meditation recordings is key to caring about your listeners experience from the get-go.
This is one post that I could truly go on and on and on about so I will just stop here before I get to carried away - my hope is that you will read this and be motivated, not discouraged!
Any tips you would love to share about getting started, reviews or quality? Leave a comment below.
I often get asked how I began to meditate. Looking back over 20 years now, it has been quite the journey. Whether you are a seasoned meditator, a meditation instructor or new to meditation, it is my hope that my writings can help you to open up to the healing I experience and "see" when I close my eyes.
For most of my teenage years, I was on a health quest, I remember my mother and I trekking from doctor to doctor, trying to find answers that could bring balance to my body, specifically my reproductive system. I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovaries, my main symptom was that my cycle never came. It was devastating for me and very sad for my family.
At the age of 14, medical professionals declared that all sorts of side effects would happen to me, the highlights included: obesity, acne, and the most painful being there was a probable chance I would not be able to have children, ever.
Our quest took place over a decade in the 90's and it included conventional doctors who decided inducing my cycle was the way to go (which resulted in intense mood swings and rapid weight gain) as well as visits to out of state specialists and multiple holistic, homeopathic, ayurvedic, naturopath doctors and years upon years of numerous alternative treatments.
The bottomline - nothing was helping on a deep level to heal my body.
Fast forward to the summer of 2000, I was 22 years old and I had just graduated from University of Miami's School of Music with a degree in Vocal Performance and had made a powerful decision to dedicate my life to spreading the wisdom of Kabbalah which I had begun to study in 1998. My new chapter started with a spiritual trip to visit the holy ancient sites of the Kabbalists in Israel with a group of students organized by The Kabbalah Centre. The night before I left for overseas, I asked my Spiritual Mentor, Karen Berg, The Founder of The Kabbalah Centre for consul regarding my polycystic ovaries diagnosis.
Karen was so simple about it - she asked me if I was planning to have children soon, I answered that I would love to in the future although at the moment I didn't even have a boyfriend! Karen suggested I "visualize white light through my body with no blockages, only light."
And I did.
Every day on the trip to Israel, I would practice visualizing white light through my body. I loved how it felt to close my eyes and imagine white light through my body and I even meditated in the healing ritual baths throughout Israel as per Karen's suggestion as well.
And guess what...
On the last day of our trip, after the last ritual bath, my cycle came naturally for the first time ever in my life and since then, I have my a cycle each month, naturally.
My beginning with meditation was to simply visualize white light through my body, and this simple practice healed my body.
Fast forward now to 2019, my doctors don't see any signs of polycystic ovaries, I am a mother who has conceived and birthed 4 children naturally, and I share the power of healing music & meditations with the world everyday in the hopes that others will learn tools to know in the miraculous power of their mind / body / soul connection.
What I have since discovered on my journey as a Kabbalah Instructor and Meditation Guide is that we all need healing. Whether it be on the physical, spiritual, emotional or soul level, we all need healing.
Our world needs healing and I am passionate about spreading a deeper message about how individuals can learn to access healing light, just as I did in 2000 when Karen Berg guided me to experience that meditation can go beyond the benefit of temporary "relaxation" or "stress relief".
Have you experienced the healing power of meditation? Would you like to try? Share your experiences and questions in the comments.