Guided Imagery and Meditation Blog | Health Journeys

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Maggie DeMellier

Maggie DeMellier

Maggie DeMellier has been Health Journeys go-to customer service representative and marketing associate since March 2012. She worked as a surgical technician and pharmacy technician before she earned a BA in Mass Media Communication at The University of Akron. She operates a freelance writing business, specializing in medical ads, news articles, police blotters, features and business writing.  She was a teacher at a career college for six years, and earned a MA in Forensic Psychology in 2010. Maggie is the co-author of Parenting by Law or Grace, published by Synchronisity Press, in 2004.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ” ― Shunryu Suzuki, from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

I had a coffee mug with a slogan that read, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” I bought it on my first trip to a Zen center in California, where I learned the phrase, “There are two words that describe Zen-not always so.” That’s where I also learned that meditation is so simple that it’s difficult. You just sit there. How hard it that? The trick is you just sit there. You don’t think, you don’t worry, you don’t mentally complain how stuffy the room is, you don’t fidget, sleep, daydream, chew gum or think about what the monks are making for lunch.

Watching an infant or animal sleep can be deeply relaxing, even meditative, perhaps because that state of deep somnolence seems so elusive to us. How is it that, as adults, we lose the ability to do something that comes so naturally to us as babies?

Why is it that most adults sleep less than 7 hours a day? The answer to that question is different for each of us. Throughout my adult life, my sleep problems have mainly involved time constraints-too much to do and too little time, so the thing that had to go was sleep. We tend to think of sleep as something that is expendable, like an extra item you leave behind so you can go through the express check-out line at the supermarket.

There is no denying that lack of sleep takes its toll, even for a health-conscious person who does most of the other things right. A few years ago, while working full time as a teacher and freelancing as a writer, I was also a full-time graduate student maintaining a 4.0 average in a forensic psychology course-the ultimate (though a little misguided) over-achiever.

Biological mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt, sister, neighbor, friend--to anyone who provided nurturing, understanding and love when you needed it, whether that person is living or not--this is your chance to say thank you. It’s nice that there is a day set aside for this purpose, just to make sure we don’t forget those who truly matter to us.

When you think about Mother’s Day, what comes to mind? For most of us, it is a special day or memory—the Popsicle-stick creation made by loving five-year old hands, the dandelions or wild flowers a child plucked from the yard and placed in a paper cup, the special occasion when you got to see your loved ones gathered together or the day you got to see the one from whom you had been separated. You might remember the last Mother’s Day you spent with your mother, when you weren’t aware it was the last, or the first Mother’s Day for you, your daughter, daughter-in-law or wife.

Right now, while you are reading this, no matter where you are, you can try one or more of these five techniques:

Breathing: Of course you are breathing, but paying attention to how you are breathing is the key to using your breath to relieve stress. When we are tense, we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Rather than trying to force yourself to take a deep breath, try just relaxing the diaphragm and breathing muscles and feel your lungs fill with air. Let your shoulders drop and your belly rise, and hold the breath for as long as it is comfortable before letting it flow out effortlessly. Take a few of these deep, conscious breaths and feel the tension melt away.

Mindfulness: Though mindfulness is a form of meditation, you don’t need to visit an ashram to learn how to do it. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any time, even while you are working. In fact, practicing mindfulness improves the quality of whatever you are doing, because it involves focusing on the present moment, without allowing your mind to roam and worry about the future or stress over the past. In her response to a question about mindfulness meditation, (please link to Belleruth explained that mindfulness meditation is a way of constantly bringing attention to our internal experience, and focusing on things like the sensation of breathing.

A compilation of sources suggests the most common bad habit is snacking (which people define as mindless over-eating, not to feed hunger but simply a habitual action) followed by the tic-like habits, such as nail-biting, knuckle-cracking, leg-jiggling and gum-snapping.  According to sources like Prevention, WebMD, and Healthy Living Magazine, the most common bad health habits are smoking, substance abuse, over-eating and sitting for long periods (is sitting a habit?-maybe if it’s coupled with number 5, watching too much TV). Of the most common financial bad habits, over-spending (shopping addiction) was clearly the winner. Failure to pay bills (deal with financial issues) on time came in second.

Several sources, reported on the most common workplace habits that can sabotage a career. Topping that list is habitual tardiness, fidgeting, noisy eating (this one surprised me but it might also refer to snacking) and the use of “Um or ah” during conversation.

According to the calendar, it’s spring here in the Cuyahoga Valley. On Moe Drive, the daffodils are pushing right through the snow, the robins are nesting on our building, defying the elements, and that makes us smile. That’s what spring has in common with guided imagery. They both make us feel good and they sometimes come through for us, even when things look bleak.

For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s autumn, and we wish you as many lovely, autumn days as we wish everyone in the Northern Hemisphere lovely, spring days. There really will be lovely spring days, and by the time you read this, you might be experiencing one of them. Mother Nature has been anything but predictable this spring.

The great thing about it being spring is that, even though it’s snowing here, people are in a ‘spring’ mood. Like the daffodils and birds, we are not as bothered by the snow as we would be if the calendar didn’t say it was the last full week of March. So, without our knowing exactly how or why, spring makes us feel hopeful and lets us have a sense of the big picture-that nature renews itself and the circle of life goes on.

I came to Health Journeys two years ago, and I continue to be amazed at the number of people who call us to compliment Belleruth and ask us to pass on to her their feedback about the positive effect our audio programs have had on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. It’s heartwarming for us to hear these stories and pass them on to Belleruth, knowing the work we do here each day plays a part in touching peoples’ lives in this way. It’s also helpful, because it provides us with information for other people who ask for ideas about which programs to choose for certain situations.

Most of you are aware of the impact Belleruth has had on the lives of individuals, and you recognize her by her lovely, soothing voice, However, you might not be aware of the tremendous social impact her work has had, and of the contributions she has made to the field of integrative medicine. In researching National Professional Social Workers Month, I learned a lot about the mission of social workers, and how Belleruth’s accomplishments fit so well into this picture.

We, at Health Journeys have had a very good year, thanks to you. For those of you who are new to Health Journeys, here is a brief description of our company, followed by Health Journeys’ Top Ten Titles from 2013, a list of our top selling audio programs.

Health Journeys’ founder and author of more than 60 of the company’s audio programs, Cleveland psychotherapist Belleruth Naparstek, is a guided imagery innovator. Her Health Journeys audio series has sold more than a million copies worldwide.

Health Journeys employs local talent and providers of services, such as graphics and information technology. Our audio programs are recorded at Audio Recording Studios in Northeast Ohio, the same studio where the Cleveland Orchestra is recorded, and they are produced in Ohio or North Carolina.

Telephone calls are answered by well-trained, caring staff members who go above and beyond to make customers happy. Our programs are supported by a seasoned and passionate team who consistently provide outstanding customer service, disseminate invaluable information and produce solid ideas.  Not only are our phones answered by ‘humans’ but our orders are processed promptly and shipped quickly – orders received by 1 PM are usually processed and shipped the same day.

In support of the Great American Smokeout, Nov. 21, and as an incentive to quit, our Stop Smoking audio program is a whopping 25 percent off.

Whether you plan to quit smoking forever or just for the day, The Great American Smokeout, scheduled for the third Thursday of November each year, is a great time to become a non-smoker. Numerous surveys of quitters show that quitting for one day can lead to being smoke-free for a week, a month or forever.

According to the American Cancer Society, the benefits of not smoking begin almost immediately.

Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure drop, and after 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal. One year after quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s risk. Five years after you quit, your risk of mouth, throat, esophageal and bladder cancers, are cut by 50 percent. The risk of cervical cancer is the same as that of a non-smoker. Your stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker in 2-5 years.

When President Barack Obama proclaimed November National Family Caregivers Month at a Whitehouse press conference in 2012, he noted that family caregivers have an immeasurable impact on the lives of the people they care for, their hours are long and their work is hard, and many of them put their own lives on hold to assist loved ones. “I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors,” he concluded.

According to statistics provided by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, more than 65 million Americans provide care for chronically ill, disabled or aged family members, and the average amount of time they spend caring for loved ones is 20 hours per week. Some caregivers spend more than 40 hours per week in their roles and most of them have full-time jobs and other family obligations. They experience a wide range of challenges and physical symptoms that can have a cumulative effect on their health and well-being.