Effortless Mindfulness: A Universal Practice for Everyone

    —
June 25, 2019

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My introduction to the immediate effects of effortless mindfulness in Nepal allowed me to see that I did not need to remain in the East, join a monastery, or practice in a cave to discover the well-being, clarity, and open-hearted awareness that were already within me. I returned to the United States to continue to train with eyes open in the midst of my day-to-day life.

I have no doubt, as I look back now, that it was the natural compassion of open-hearted awareness revealed by effortless mindfulness that propelled me to pursue a second master’s degree in clinical social work. As I felt a deeper connection to everyone, I wanted to train for a life of service to those most in need. I also got sober, went to weekly psychotherapy, continued psychotherapist training, and got married to the love of my life, Paige. At this time, I was also asked to join the Teachers Council of the New York Insight Meditation Center, where I taught deliberate mindfulness practices. I continued to attend teachings and retreats to develop and deepen my practices and studies with a variety of nondual and effortless mindfulness teachers.

Right after graduate school, I went to work in New York City at the Brooklyn Mental Health Clinic. This was an outpatient community center that provided psychotherapy for people who had been psychiatrically hospitalized or were living in a halfway house and attending a psychiatric day-treatment program. It was during breaks or when clients missed sessions that I began exploring and developing the mindful glimpses found in my book, The Way of Effortless Mindfulness, that are versions of the ancient wisdom practices I learned during my travels.

As I gazed out the window into the open sky from my seventeenth-floor office, I began to explore my own mind to see how suffering was created and relieved. I noticed how identification with a thought, feeling, and parts of my personality collapsed my thinking into a narrow perception of both myself and others. I practiced shifting my awareness from a contracted small self to a new way of seeing and being, which was more open-minded and open-hearted. I also noticed how, when I intentionally separated awareness from thinking, I could awaken to an already spacious and interconnected view that was free of a deep kind of suffering.

For example, if I was feeling upset, I would acknowledge my feelings and shift awareness out of the cloud of stormy emotions and then, from this open mind and open heart, return to the emotions with a new view. This brought such relief and joy! It was like emerging from a dark tunnel to a beautiful view, except I was not only seeing the view. It was as if I were viewing from an open, quiet, loving intelligence that was connected to everything. How could this freedom be so close and yet so hidden from most people’s day-to-day experience? How was it that despite all the progress humanity has made in other areas—like medicine, communication, and technology—that shifting into awake awareness was not something that was recognized and taught to everyone?

I approached these explorations of the anatomy of awareness with curiosity and wonder. It was exciting to experiment and reverse-engineer practices from the wisdom traditions I had studied in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. One of the approaches to awakening that I draw from, Sutra Mahamudra, originated in North India. It is a tradition that is like a bridge between the three main traditions of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana (Tibetan). One reason I was drawn to it is that it focuses on practices for everyday people, not just monastics, to awaken in the midst of their daily life. One of my teachers, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, wrote that Sutra Mahamudra “is seen as a profound method because it does not require any of the sophisticated and complex tantric rituals, deity yoga visualization practices, or samayas [vows]. Sutra Mahamudra has a tradition of skillful means that contains profound methods of directly pointing out the selfless and luminous nature of mind.” I began to try to translate ancient practices I had learned from many teachers and texts into accessible, contemporary language and forms. I checked in with teachers such as Traleg Rinpoche to make sure the practices were staying true to the essence of the teachings as I translated them. I also began to notice that if I remained receptive, it was as if awake awareness started showing me the anatomy and principles of awakening. I started calling these contemporary versions of ancient wisdom practices “Brooklyn Mahamudra.”

This is an excerpt from The Way of Effortless Mindfulness: A Revolutionary Guide for Living an Awakened Life by Loch Kelly.

Loch Kelly HeadshotWay of Effortless Loch KellyLoch Kelly, MDiv, LCSW, is a leader in the field of meditation and psychotherapy. He is author of the award-winning Shift into Freedom and founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. Loch is an emerging voice in modernizing meditation, social engagement, and collaborating with neuroscientists. For more, visit lochkelly.org.

Buy your copy of The Way of Effortless Mindfulness at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Loch Kelly

Photo of ()\

Loch Kelly, MDiv, LCSW, is a teacher, consultant, and leader in the field of meditation and psychotherapy who is affiliated with Adyashanti. The founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute, he is an emerging voice in modernizing meditation, social engagement, and collaborating with neuroscientists to study how awareness training can enhance compassion and well-being.


Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Loch Kelly:
The Way of Effortless Mindfulness »
Pointers to Open-Hearted Awareness, Part 1 »
Pointers to Open-Hearted Awareness, Part 2 »

Also By Author

Open-Eye Meditation (And Why You Should Be Doing It)

Open-Eyed Meditation Blog Header Image

It can be helpful to begin with some retraining of the relationship between our eyes, our small mind, and our small self. We can begin to return our eyes to their natural condition and have the information move to awake awareness.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, “vision is the product of a complex system of which the eyes are only one part. The processing of visual information—the receipt of visual stimuli through the eyes, its interpretation by various brain centers, and its translation into visual images—has been estimated to involve as much as 40 percent of the brain.”

When our eyes are darting around or scanning for a specific threat, we are on alert. Sometimes our attempts to focus ourselves by narrowing our eyes and concentrating can keep our brain in a fixed, task-positive mode. Our goal in practicing effortless mindfulness is to be able to shift to another operating system, the end point of which is open-hearted awareness, in which all our senses and systems—including vision—are functioning in their natural state: open, relaxed, clear, and integrated. To do this, we need to learn how to shift our awareness and live with our eyes open.

Here are some helpful hints for sustaining an open gaze while shifting awareness. You don’t necessarily need to experience all of them as I describe them. Use any of the following hints that work for you:

  • Relax your eyes and soften your gaze so that your eyesight is not dominant and all your senses are experienced equally.
  • Instead of looking through a narrow tunnel of vision or in a pinpointed way at one object, see the forest as well as one tree. Put your pointer fingers together up above your head in front of you and then part them to either side, drawing a big circle in front of your body. Let your gaze open to include the entire circular area all at once so that you are seeing in a more open way.
  • Rather than looking at one object, create a diffused view like a soft lens of a camera by looking to the wider scene of what’s in front of you.
  • Extend one hand in front of you with your palm facing you at the distance you would be looking at a friend’s face. Look at your hand and the space around it. Now drop your hand and look at the open space. If your eyes habitually focus on the first object you see, repeat the previous steps until you get a feel for resting your eyes on objectless space.
  • Notice that your eyes do not operate like your hands. You do not go out to see something as your hands go out to pick something up. Your eyes work in a similar way as your ears. Just as your ears are receiving sound, light is reflecting off objects and coming into your eyes. What does it feel like when seeing is receiving?
  • Rest back as the light comes to your eyes and then goes to open-hearted awareness while all your senses are open. Feel like you are equally aware of all your senses rather than focusing on seeing or thinking as primary.
  • Feel like you are receiving light as you soften your eyes while having a wide-open view of the periphery.

This is an excerpt from The Way of Effortless Mindfulness: A Revolutionary Guide for Living an Awakened Life by Loch Kelly.

Loch Kelly HeadshotWay of Effortless Loch KellyLoch Kelly, MDiv, LCSW, is a leader in the field of meditation and psychotherapy. He is author of the award-winning Shift into Freedom and founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. Loch is an emerging voice in modernizing meditation, social engagement, and collaborating with neuroscientists. For more, visit lochkelly.org.

Buy your copy of The Way of Effortless Mindfulness at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Effortless Mindfulness for Pain Relief

Effortless Mindfulness For Pain ReliefWhat Is Pain?

Pain is a normal part of human life. And pain hurts. Although pain feels like a threat, pain is not attacking us. Pain is designed to help us survive. Pain and pleasure are signals. Pain is a signal that something is out of balance in your emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical life and that something needs attention. It is meant to be unpleasant, for a good reason: to bring our attention to a potentially dangerous situation until the issue is treated. The sharp, unpleasant signal is designed that way to make sure we drop everything else and attend to the situation immediately. When pain continues unabated after our best healthy efforts to tend to it in a physical way, we look for ways of stopping it, reducing it, or escaping it in any way we can.

For example, if you’re walking barefoot, thoroughly engaged in a conversation with a friend, and you step on a piece of wood and get a splinter, the strong unpleasant pain signal is meant to get you to immediately stop all other interests and attend to the wound. If you had a sharp piece of wood in your foot and it didn’t cause pain, you might not bother to take it out, resulting in infection or worse. Once you take care of the immediate problem, or source, the nature of pain is to eventually go away. Pain by itself is not an entity or an enemy that has any motivation of hurting you. It is an important survival mechanism of our body—a communication tool.

By way of our senses, we have contact with experience in and outside of our body that tends to feel either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. We tend to like pleasant sensations, which leads to craving what we like and trying to get more pleasure, and we tend to dislike unpleasant sensations, which leads to rejecting what we don’t like. When that strong craving or rejection happens, there is a contraction of our greater sense of self into a specific identity of “craver” or “rejecter”: we configure our consciousness into a “me” that is a “thinker” or “manager” that has a strategy to get its goals and desires met, and believes that that strategy is real and right. Craving and rejection are a normal part of our physical survival, like craving food when we’re hungry, but they also become our primary source of suffering when they become our identity.

Rather than reacting to the pain, we must treat the underlying condition that is causing pain in order for it to subside. It is important to first check out the cause of the pain in every way possible so as not to ignore, overlook, or deny a potentially dangerous condition. In some types of chronic pain that we know the cause of, like arthritis or sciatica, the nerve signal system is alerting us of an issue, but there’s no splinter to be removed from our back or foot. If we’ve attended to all the medical and alternative diagnoses and treatments, and the pain still persists, we still have the opportunity to learn some approaches using our own consciousness to relate to pain differently. Effortless mindfulness is a wonderful approach that does not in any way attempt to replace or deny diagnosing the cause of pain and working to cure it through any and all means. I am simply sharing this practice as a suggestion of what can be done in conjunction with any medical treatment.

With effortless mindfulness, we can learn to become present with the unpleasant—an important skill that we often avoid learning until we experience inescapable pain. We may already have experienced, through effortless mindfulness, how chattering thoughts recede into background awareness or can be met by open-hearted awareness. The great news is that we can do this with pain signals as well! They can become like thoughts and go into the background of awake awareness. When the pain signals recede to the background or significantly lessen, we no longer have to suffer silently or try to escape the pain through behaviors of shutting down, numbing, addiction, or acting out. By changing how we relate to pain, we can find a doorway to a freedom that allows us to respond to pain from courage and intimacy. We can learn to be present with the unpleasant, remain sensitive without being defensive, and be responsive but not reactive. When the intelligence of awake awareness knows directly that there is no immediate danger, the pain signal can go into the background.

In this video below, join me as I guide you through this practice of using effortless mindfulness to help you be present and work with your pain for lasting relief.

This is an excerpt from The Way of Effortless Mindfulness: A Revolutionary Guide for Living an Awakened Life by Loch Kelly.

Loch Kelly HeadshotWay of Effortless Loch KellyLoch Kelly, MDiv, LCSW, is a leader in the field of meditation and psychotherapy. He is author of the award-winning Shift into Freedom and founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. Loch is an emerging voice in modernizing meditation, social engagement, and collaborating with neuroscientists. For more, visit lochkelly.org.

Buy your copy of The Way of Effortless Mindfulness at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Effortless Mindfulness Pain Relief Pinterest

Effortless Mindfulness: A Universal Practice for Every...

Effortless Mindfulness: A Universal Practice for Everyone Blog Header Image

My introduction to the immediate effects of effortless mindfulness in Nepal allowed me to see that I did not need to remain in the East, join a monastery, or practice in a cave to discover the well-being, clarity, and open-hearted awareness that were already within me. I returned to the United States to continue to train with eyes open in the midst of my day-to-day life.

I have no doubt, as I look back now, that it was the natural compassion of open-hearted awareness revealed by effortless mindfulness that propelled me to pursue a second master’s degree in clinical social work. As I felt a deeper connection to everyone, I wanted to train for a life of service to those most in need. I also got sober, went to weekly psychotherapy, continued psychotherapist training, and got married to the love of my life, Paige. At this time, I was also asked to join the Teachers Council of the New York Insight Meditation Center, where I taught deliberate mindfulness practices. I continued to attend teachings and retreats to develop and deepen my practices and studies with a variety of nondual and effortless mindfulness teachers.

Right after graduate school, I went to work in New York City at the Brooklyn Mental Health Clinic. This was an outpatient community center that provided psychotherapy for people who had been psychiatrically hospitalized or were living in a halfway house and attending a psychiatric day-treatment program. It was during breaks or when clients missed sessions that I began exploring and developing the mindful glimpses found in my book, The Way of Effortless Mindfulness, that are versions of the ancient wisdom practices I learned during my travels.

As I gazed out the window into the open sky from my seventeenth-floor office, I began to explore my own mind to see how suffering was created and relieved. I noticed how identification with a thought, feeling, and parts of my personality collapsed my thinking into a narrow perception of both myself and others. I practiced shifting my awareness from a contracted small self to a new way of seeing and being, which was more open-minded and open-hearted. I also noticed how, when I intentionally separated awareness from thinking, I could awaken to an already spacious and interconnected view that was free of a deep kind of suffering.

For example, if I was feeling upset, I would acknowledge my feelings and shift awareness out of the cloud of stormy emotions and then, from this open mind and open heart, return to the emotions with a new view. This brought such relief and joy! It was like emerging from a dark tunnel to a beautiful view, except I was not only seeing the view. It was as if I were viewing from an open, quiet, loving intelligence that was connected to everything. How could this freedom be so close and yet so hidden from most people’s day-to-day experience? How was it that despite all the progress humanity has made in other areas—like medicine, communication, and technology—that shifting into awake awareness was not something that was recognized and taught to everyone?

I approached these explorations of the anatomy of awareness with curiosity and wonder. It was exciting to experiment and reverse-engineer practices from the wisdom traditions I had studied in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. One of the approaches to awakening that I draw from, Sutra Mahamudra, originated in North India. It is a tradition that is like a bridge between the three main traditions of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana (Tibetan). One reason I was drawn to it is that it focuses on practices for everyday people, not just monastics, to awaken in the midst of their daily life. One of my teachers, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, wrote that Sutra Mahamudra “is seen as a profound method because it does not require any of the sophisticated and complex tantric rituals, deity yoga visualization practices, or samayas [vows]. Sutra Mahamudra has a tradition of skillful means that contains profound methods of directly pointing out the selfless and luminous nature of mind.” I began to try to translate ancient practices I had learned from many teachers and texts into accessible, contemporary language and forms. I checked in with teachers such as Traleg Rinpoche to make sure the practices were staying true to the essence of the teachings as I translated them. I also began to notice that if I remained receptive, it was as if awake awareness started showing me the anatomy and principles of awakening. I started calling these contemporary versions of ancient wisdom practices “Brooklyn Mahamudra.”

This is an excerpt from The Way of Effortless Mindfulness: A Revolutionary Guide for Living an Awakened Life by Loch Kelly.

Loch Kelly HeadshotWay of Effortless Loch KellyLoch Kelly, MDiv, LCSW, is a leader in the field of meditation and psychotherapy. He is author of the award-winning Shift into Freedom and founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. Loch is an emerging voice in modernizing meditation, social engagement, and collaborating with neuroscientists. For more, visit lochkelly.org.

Buy your copy of The Way of Effortless Mindfulness at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Effortless Mindfulness: A Universal Practice for Everyone Blog Pinterest

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This Is Your Time to Be Healthy, Fit, and Fine

Sex, health, happiness, and wealth . . . you know you want it all. And there’s no better time than now for having it all and “gettin’ it good!

Without social networking, motorized vehicles, or modern-day technology, many of our ancestors went for what they wanted and got it. One trailblazing “I’ve got this” woman I revere is Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler. As the Civil War raged in 1864, 33-year-old Rebecca Lee became the first Black female physician in the US. She graduated from what is now Boston University School of Medicine. In 1865, with her husband, Arthur Crumpler, she courageously journeyed to Richmond, Virginia, to provide medical care to recently freed slaves that the White doctors would not touch.

Her life in Virginia wasn’t easy. While there, many pharmacists refused to honor her prescriptions, some hospitals denied her admitting privileges, and some—reportedly, even physician colleagues—wisecracked that the “MD” after her name stood not for medical doctor, but for “mule driver.” But Dr. Crumpler persevered!

She remained in Virginia for almost four years then returned to Boston in 1869, established her medical practice, and wrote a book about women’s and children’s health. She blazed a trail upon which many have and do tread.

Hers is just one story of a brave, determined, capable Black woman. Over the centuries, there have been more in numbers untold! In the 1900s, especially during the Civil Rights Movement, Black women were instrumental in the reckoning of a nation. While their husbands got the most notoriety, matriarchs such as Coretta Scott King, Juanita Abernathy, and Lillian Lewis stood along- side their men and played pivotal roles in moving the nation forward to live up to its creed.

And as the first decade of 2000 ended and a new one began, Black women became increasingly on the move, onward and upward, and are now doctors, accountants, judges, pilots, investment managers, nurses, and elected officials as well as wives, mothers, and caregiving daughters. Undoubtedly, many of today’s Black women are carving out lives about which our great-great- grandmothers may have only dared to dream.

Black women’s voices are no longer muted or silenced; instead, they are heard around the world, with sophisticated, strong, and successful style. In 2020, America elected its first Black female vice president, Kamala Harris, at whose 2021 inauguration the words of the first Youth Poet Laureate of the US, Amanda Gorman, rang forth for the world to hear. But there’s more!

In February 2021, Georgia Tech engineering major Breanna Ivey interned at NASA and helped put their rover, Perseverance, on Mars! And as the COVID-19 pandemic stole lives around the globe, vaccine researcher Kizzmekia Corbett, who has a PhD in microbiology and immunology that she earned at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, worked with the National Institutes of Health and was instrumental in bringing safe, effective vaccines to the world.

Indeed, Black Girl Magic is in full force! When we look around, seemingly there’s hardly any- thing Black women can’t do—and do well—in any field, including medicine, the military, politics, education, technology, business, sports, aeronautics, and the arts. What we put our minds to, we can achieve! With an “I’ve got this” approach and determination, it is ours to be had.

But life is not a bed of roses for all Black women. Too often (and still) negative images barrage our psyches, loved ones in our community lose their lives in gun violence, and our health often needs dramatic improvement. Black women still carry the highest incidence of, and the poorest prognosis for, medical conditions that affect practically every organ system in the body. We are more obese and have a shorter life expectancy than other women in the female demographic, and we carry the highest mortality rate for many killer diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, and more.

Despite those findings, the plight of Black women’s health is rarely, if ever, specifically addressed at length in general women’s health books. For that reason I have stepped outside of my medical office, outside of the sacred space of the surgical suite, even outside of my city and state to offer women in America and abroad Black Women’s Wellness: Your “I’ve Got This!” Guide to Health, Sex, and Phenomenal Living. May it be the one-stop source you can reference on your personal quest to achieve total wellness, health, and happiness in every important aspect of your life. I offer this book as a Black female who grew up poor in a single-parent household. I never knew any of my grandparents, had an absentee father (who I later found when I was 49), a mother with some “issues,” no siblings, and many naysayers in my midst. But to achieve my goals to become a physician and a surgeon, I studied to show myself approved. It wasn’t easy, but I got it done.

Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of women of various ethnicities suffer with chronic diseases, some of which can be avoided, or at least, better controlled. I also know the remarkable and re- warding joy of practicing medicine and performing surgery to remove disease, help women with their infertility, or free them from cancer.

As a physician, my question to you is, Are you taking time to take care of your health? In fact, when did you last really think about—and take time for—your health in a comprehensive, serious, deliberate manner?

Jack Kornfield’s Buddha’s Little Instruction Book reminds us that “each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” Kornfield also tells us, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” Whatever your schedule, lifestyle, religious preference, or personal obligation to others, the reality is you won’t be able to do anybody any good if you’re in poor or failing health. As said in the 2021 movie Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, “Take one seed of what you give others and plant it in yourself.”

The words and images within these pages present information that is applicable to the specific medical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs of Black women. However, non- Black women can glean valuable information about their health and standing in this book as well because I also provide comparative data for Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women, as well as some data about our male counterparts. But special attention is given to Black women because the fact is, Black women’s health concerns and challenges are different from those of other women.

In these pages you will find staggering statistics and a less-than-desirable legacy of Black women’s health. But you will also find tools, medical information, and encouragement that can liberate you and Black women everywhere from a similar fate. With knowledge comes power.

Look at all the wonderful things Black women have done and continue to do when they employ their mind and determination in force. Hold on to that because improving one’s physical health is doable—you can do it!— and changing the trajectory of Black women’s health is also doable. It can be done, and it must be done because changing the health of Black women can change the health of the Black fam- ily and that of all future generations. As you review and compare the health statistics across racial lines presented herein, remember one thing: the goal isn’t to be like White or Asian women; the goal is to be healthier Black women. Black Women’s Wellness provides a head-to-toe medical reference, with information that will carry you for years to come. Some of you might read this book cover to cover, as a whole. Others might read chapters that address your, or a loved one’s, current medical concern, circumstance, or curiosity. Or as you flip through the pages, you might see a pie chart or graph that grabs your attention or gives you pause.

In chapter 1, I begin with my “Societal Stress and Black Women’s Health” flowchart that ties together the psychosocial challenges and micro- aggressions that we face as Black women and how those psychosocial stressors can affect our physi- cal well-being.

In part 1, I present timely information about heart disease, diabetes, maternal mortality, cancers, and HIV/AIDS . . . the top five conditions that are robbing Black women of life and longevity.

In part 2, I hone in on our womanly feminine form and function. As with all creation, the hu- man body is a thing of beauty with wonders it performs! No one would be alive today without a woman’s body, for it is through women that all life is formed and born.

Medical conditions can affect all of us—whether we are tall or short; “thick” or thin; heterosexual or homosexual; light-skinned, “olive-complected,” or the color of rich, dark chocolate. You’ll read about your reproductive anatomy and physiol- ogy and the diseases that can affect your female organs, such as fibroid tumors and endometriosis, but also other medical conditions that cause mid- life “female” problems such as a dropped bladder, urinary incontinence, and pelvic pain. You’ll read about vision problems, arthritic conditions, sickle cell disease, multiple sclerosis, and more. And if you are menopausal and utterly confused about hormone replacement therapy, this part can give you guidance.

No book on wellness is fully complete with- out addressing sex. Can I get an amen? Given my personal experience and professional expertise, I wrote the sex, sensuality, and relationships section with a heterosexual approach. But regardless of your sexual preference or identity, in part 3, you’ll read about the health benefits of having sex (with whoever rocks your boat). There’s also sage infor- mation about sexually transmitted diseases and how to identify any residual sexual hang-ups you may have so you can fully enjoy and benefit from the experience that love-making was meant to be.

Maybe your love life has gone from a sizzle to a fizzle, you have trouble achieving orgasm, or you experience pain with intercourse. Or perhaps you’re wondering if male enhancement medica- tions work in women or how you can possibly en- joy sex in a day of rampant sexually transmitted diseases and men “on the down-low.” Fret not; you’ve come to the right place! I give you tips on how to boost your sex life and get or keep the passion going with your sweetie. I also offer you advice on how to address these intimate issues (including sexual dysfunction) with your doctor.

And last, in part 4, I round out the call for total wellness with information on relationships, love, beauty, mental health, mindfulness, and financial well-being. I also provide a checklist for you to take stock of your health to identify the specific areas that require your medical attention.

To find happiness in a world of frequent, near-daily rejection, it is important to have inner strength, self-assurance, emotional balance, and reliable friends and family. Part 4 will give you useful tips to achieve inner peace, to keep your brain active and alert, and to avoid toxic people. It will advise you on how to capitalize on your best traits and, if needed, minimize those traits you find less desirable or that impede your personal or professional goals.

Proper diet and physical activity for increasing the secretion of endorphins—the “feel good” body chemicals—will be addressed, and tips for hair and skin care will be presented. Lastly, unique medical “pearls of wisdom” will help you improve your interpersonal relationships. Along the way, I will share a few anecdotes of my life’s journey; perhaps they will encourage you to keep moving forward when you feel you just can’t take another step.

I am excited for you and me. Despite the doom and gloom of the past, it is possible for Black women to achieve medical parity and live the best, healthiest life possible in the 21st century. We need not give up hope, for there have been and will continue to be victories and successes in the lives of women whose skin has been bountifully kissed by the sun. As never before, the 21st century presents a new day and an exciting time in health-care technology, research education, and improved medical outcomes, and no woman—whether Asian, Hispanic, Native American, White, or Black—should be left behind. Not anymore. This can yet be our time to shine, as many of us are living well past the statistical projections of life and death . . . and doing so in healthy, fine, fun, and sexy style!

Total wellness and phenomenal living are aspirations many Black women enjoy and others seek to attain. It can be done; the journey begins with just one step. Black Women’s Wellness may prove to be the long-needed source that can encourage, educate, comfort, and celebrate you, me, and Black women everywhere. With the information in this book, the evergreen list of resources I’ve provided at the end, and an “I’ve got this!” determination, your 21st-century journey to total wellness, physical health, and phenomenal living can begin right now. Let’s get started!

Melody T. McCloud, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist-surgeon, media consultant, public speaker, and author. She lectures nationwide on women’s health, sex, and social issues and has served on an advisory council of the CDC. Affiliated with Emory University Hospital Midtown, Dr. McCloud was honored as one of the 25 most influential doctors in Atlanta and named Physician of the Year by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. She has appeared on CNN, ABC, NBC, Court TV, and in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, Parade, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and more.

Sound Healing & Meditation: How Vocal Toning Can ...

Have you ever sat down to meditate and found it nearly impossible to relax and find the stillness you were hoping for?  There’s a little known sound healing secret that may just help you to overcome the initial restlessness when starting your practice.

The secret can actually be found in the opposite of silence, by using the sound of your voice and vocal toning to ground yourself, calm your nervous system, and clear your mind. 

How Sound Deepens the Silence

Chanting, mantra, and vocal toning have long been practiced in tandem with silent sitting meditation by both ancient and modern yogis and buddhists.  You may have experienced this yourself in a yoga class meditation that starts with three AUM’s.  There are different reasons why various types of voice are incorporated into the practice, but when it comes to preparing for silence, knowing this one concept can make all the difference.  

When we begin a practice by filling our bodies and our meditation environment with sound, whether that be our own voice, the sound of a singing bowl, gong, harmonium, or other instrument, it creates contrast with silence when the sound is gone.  There is a big difference in how we experience silence when the silence is preceded by sound, and once the sound is taken away, the silence can be experienced much more deeply.  

Peace Is A Stable Consistent Vibration

The foundational practice here is to use your own voice to create a stable consistent vibration within your body.  By repeatedly toning a vowel sound such as Eh, Ah, Oh, Uh, or AUM, on the same note, your body and mind will automatically begin to relax and become more calm and focused.  The vagus nerve, which runs through your neck, is right next to your vocal chords, and the effect of the voice on nervous system regulation is well studied.  

Vocal toning and humming increases nitric oxide, which can reduce blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and slow brain wave speeds from high functioning beta to slower meditative states of alpha, theta, delta.  You can even literally sing yourself to sleep (I know because I’ve done this myself by accident while toning!)

Singing IS Breathwork – Breathing IS Sound Healing  

Sound healing is not just about audible frequencies, but also about rhythms and the frequency of rhythms within the body.  The breath is one of the most fundamental rhythms we can access for reducing stress and restoring peace within the body.  

It is well known that extending an exhale longer than the length of the inhale will slow down the heart rate and calm the nervous system.  When we’re singing, toning, humming, and extending the length of that sound, we are essentially extending the length of the exhale to be longer than the inhale.  

This is why singing IS breathwork taken to the next level with the sound of your voice.  While it may seem a bit awkward at first, your body LOVES the sound of your own voice, and you can nourish your body in profound ways using the gift of this internal instrument.

How to Practice Vocal Toning Before Meditation

Go ahead and get into your meditative position, whether sitting or laying down.  For best results, I recommend at least 3-5 minutes of toning or humming to really give yourself time to get lost in the sound.  

  1. Using your voice, find a note that feels comfortable in the moment.  This will likely be a lower note in your normal speaking range, or maybe even slightly lower than your normal speaking voice.  It should be a note that doesn’t create any strain or tension in your voice, and can allow you to relax while maintaining the pitch.  
  2. Find a vowel sound that feels good to you.  For the most grounding and calming effect use Ah, Oh, Uh, or a combination of all three such as AUM (Ah, Oh, Um).  For more “clearing effect” EE, and Eh sounds can be effective for releasing stuck and negative thoughts or emotions.  Humming with the mouth closed is also a very effective method that can be thought of as singing down into your own body by keeping the sound inside rather than projecting it out.  
  3. At the beginning of each cycle of toning, take a long deep breath through the nose to receive as much breath as you can, and then begin to let the sound emerge from your voice in a slow and controlled manner.  Try to extend the length of your sound by releasing only enough breath to create the sound.  You may find that after a few rounds of toning you are able to take in more breath and extend your sound for longer periods of time.  
  4. If you feel any self-consciousness, awkwardness, embarrassment coming up, this is totally normal, even for experienced singers!  Let it be an opportunity for letting go of any self-judgment and try to stick with the practice.  You will find that these feelings will soon go away and will be replaced with feelings of peace and even the experience of timelessness.
  5. See if you can feel the subtle vibrations traveling through your body.  You will likely find that you can feel the sound traveling all the way to your toes, fingers, the hair on your head, various parts of your skin.  Just notice where the sound is traveling.
  6. To take things even deeper, bring in the emotions/intentions of gratitude or love and visualize those positive feelings riding on the sound waves from your voice to every cell of your body, filling yourself with beautiful vibrations.  
  7. Practice for 3-5 minutes or however long feels most comfortable to you, and when you are ready, let your final sounds dissipate into silence.  Continue to breathe normally and take notice of how much deeper the silence now feels.  You may continue your silent meditation practice from there for however long you desire.

Finding Your Homenote and Balancing Energy with the Voice

If you’re enjoying the use of your voice for stress relief and for starting your meditation practice, there are ways to get even more intentional with the voice.  We have the amazing ability to clear energetic blockages, restore balance to energetic deficiencies, and return to a state of peace using our own voices.  You can learn more on my website 1:11 Sound Healing.  

Nicholas Penn

Nicholas Penn, 1:11 Sound Healing

Nicholas Penn is a life-long musician, producer, and sound therapist with a certification in Sound Healing through Globe Sound Healing Institute.  Nicholas is passionate about educating and empowering individuals to access the gift of their own voice to restore peace and improve wellness for themselves and loved ones.  He is also a producer for Sounds True and leads strategy and content creation for the Sounds True YouTube channel and Eckhart Tolle Spotify Channel.  Learn more at 111soundhealing.com   

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