By Evelyn Gilbert Manziello
isn’t only about enlightenment
the demands we all face everyday, it’s hard to stay balanced.
While I wish I could afford a weekly massage, I can’t. Still,
you don’t have to pop any pills or even spend any money to
relax. There is an ancient technique used by cultures around
the globe for centuries to help prevent and treat illness,
control stress, and feel peaceful: meditation.
meditation is a form of self-healing. It’s becoming a big
field in modern medicine today,” says Wil lard Roth, codirector
of Albany KTC Mediation and Study Center in Niskayuna, who
has practiced Buddhist meditation for 20 years. “Modern medicine
can’t do everything. More people are beginning to realize
this isn’t alternative medicine. It works hand-in-hand with
There are many different forms of meditation. While some schools
teach you to focus on a particular object, others encourage
you to empty your mind altogether, and still others allow
you to recognize thoughts as they pop up and then let them
float away. Most types include sitting still, focusing on
your breath, and quieting the mental chatter in your mind.
wired-in stress response in the body is not so useful when
it’s getting triggered on a daily basis. It wears down the
body,” says Caroline Russell Smith, cofounder of the Saratoga
Stress Reduction Program. “If you’re aware of stressful thoughts
arising, you can respond differently, deepen your breath,
and decrease anxiety. You can respond to life’s challenges
with less reactivity and more clarity.”
While some types of meditation have a spiritual component,
and some form of it can be found in every major religion,
one does not have to believe in a higher power to reap the
benefits, which have been documented scientifically over and
over. More than 1,000 studies have shown that it helps prevent
and treat physical and psychological illnesses. When people
meditate, blood pressure falls, pulse rates fall, and brain
no mystery to meditation. Its effect on the body, mind, and
emotions is physiologically documented,” says Dr. Alicia Recone,
project leader at St. Peter’s Healthcare Services’ Complementary
Therapy Program in Albany. “We’ve taught thousands of people—patients,
families, and nurses—meditation over the last few years. It
helps them manage pain and anxiety. We encourage them to practice
it throughout the day.”
If you want to try meditation, all you need is commitment,
time, and patience. (Though if you want extra guidance, see
our list of local meditation resources.) First decide how
much time you will meditate. Dedicate at least five minutes
to start with and then increase by five-minute intervals when
you feel ready. Some days I don’t practice at all, but when
I do I feel so much better that I try and remind myself of
that when I’m tempted to blow it off.
Next, pick a specific part of each day to practice. I usually
meditate in the morning, right after I get up. This way, other
tasks don’t distract me from doing something good for myself.
Choose a quiet place and turn off all phones. Wear loose-fitting
comfortable clothes and sit on a chair or meditation pillow
with your back straight. I like to light incense or a candle
and focus on the flame. Soothing music is also a helpful accompaniment
for some, while others prefer silence. Try a few different
methods until you find one that resonates with you. Dedicating
just a few minutes to this healthy me-time can make all the
difference in your day.
Gilbert Manziello is a writer and editor based in Kinderhook.
Formerly managing editor of LoCarb Woman and Natural
Glow, and assistant managing editor of Natural Living
Today, she has written for The Village Voice, Marie
Claire, Relix and Vegetarian Times, among
other publications. Evhotstory@aol.com.
Golden Cord Meditation
meditations are based on a specific visualization, like this
On the in breath, picture a warm bright sun above your head
and a golden cord descending from it.
2. On the out breath, feel the cord enter you via your head
and travel downward through your body and out through your
feet, grounding you into the earth.
3. On the in breath, envision the cord burrowing through the
earth and back up into the heavens, returning in full circle
to the nurturing sun.
4. Repeat for at least five minutes while breathing deeply.
Stress Reduction Program is modeled on the Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction Program founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at
the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. www.oneroofsaratoga.com,
Wellness Center offers Serena—The One % Solution,
a meditation tape/CD developed by actress Letitia Splain Dayer,
Dr. Joseph Olejak, and musician Peter Joseph Einhorn. www.delmarwellness.com,
Peter’s Health Care System teaches meditation to patients,
families, and nurses. ww.stpetershealthcare.org, 525-1550.
KTC Meditation and Study Center offers meditation instruction
in the Buddhist tradition. www.kagyu.org, 374-1792.
Ranch has meditation classes in its Lenox, Mass., location.
www.canyonranch.com, (800) 742-9000.
Your Way to Efficiency
By Rick Marshall
turns a geeky eye on the stuff of everyday existence
was a time, not too long ago, when I considered myself a pretty
organized guy. Sure, everyone who’s ever seen my workspace
is probably mopping up whatever drink shot out their noses
a half-second ago, but there really was a time when I thought
my fragile web of paper lists, pop-up reminders, manila folders
and Post-It notes was a triumph of organizational athleticism.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I’ve learned an ugly
truth: If I really want to get the most out of my life, I’m
going to have to hack it.
make us more productive. Yeah, right,” reads the welcome message
on lifehacker.com, an online clearinghouse of tips, tricks,
software and advice for tweaking the efficiency of your daily
you a piler? You know, someone who has piles of stuff all
around your home and office?” asks a recent entry on the popular
blog. “Do you live, or work, with a piler? If you said yes
and are looking to eliminate piles of paper, books, clothes,
etc. from your home or office, this post’s for you.”
Among the dozens of “lifehacks” currently featured on the
site is an online reminder service that will pester you about
accomplishing goals, a site with tips for “getting the most
out of an old iPod,” a freely available personal budget system
and various computer desktop or Internet browser add-ons aimed
at minimizing the number of different Web sites and programs
you visit throughout the day. There are even a few tips for
increasing the productivity of your sleep.
If you still needed evidence that the geeks shall inherit
the earth, welcome to the world of lifehacking.
term ‘lifehack’ is derived . . . from the [assorted tricks
for organizing data, synchronizing files and one-click automation
of daily tasks] that programmers and other geeks have set
up for themselves to make their lives easier,” reads an entry
from the blog of Minnesota-based Web consultant J. Wynia (www.wynia.org/
wordpress) titled “What is a LifeHack or Lifehacking?”
term surfaced when there was a suggestion to share these and
see if others could benefit from these ‘life hacks’, ” he
And in the infinitely networked, increasingly share-and-share-alike
style of computer geekery, this simple suggestion developed
into a full-blown phenomenon, with the content of these lifehacks
evolving far beyond their initial, digital existence. These
days, the term has been used to describe everything from weight-loss
tips and cell-phone accessories: any physical or computer-oriented
methods for making life easier, “tweaks” in our way of thinking
that can save time, money and stress.
So how effective are lifehacks? Well, it all depends on what
you’re hacking—or, more accurately, your relationship to the
While many of the tips, tools and projects found on lifehacker.com
and a similar site, lifehack.org, stand a good chance of changing—or,
in some cases, integrating themselves into—your daily routine,
no lifehack is universally useful. Generally, you’ll find
that the most useful lifehacks target the repetitive or mundane
tasks you’re required to complete in order to get to the stuff
that requires real brainpower. They’re the tools that help
you skip commercials on your favorite television program or
speed past the automated menu when you’re trying to find out
your credit-card balance. Nevertheless, if you don’t find
yourself engaged in a particular mundane activity on a regular
basis, there’s really not much point in learning to do it
Take, for instance, a recent lifehack I came across. The entry,
titled “Geek to Live: Train others how to use email,” lists
various tips for making your e-mail use more productive and
efficient. One such tip prompts you to change the ambiguous
or unrelated subject lines on e-mail messages that arrive
in your account to something that identifies the content of
co-worker’s subject is ‘hi,’ and inside he inquires about
how your vacation was, and whether or not you can update the
web site link to the archive page on the Smith story,” reads
the lifehacker.com entry. “When you respond, change the subject
line to something more obvious, i.e., ‘Re: Smith story updates
(was: hi)’ so that the rest of the thread is easily identified,
sorted and searched.”
Sure, it seems like a pretty obvious fix, but a quick glance
at my e-mail account reveals one message after another with
subject lines like “quick question” or “tomorrow morning.”
Despite numerous experiences and countless hours sifting through
e-mail for a particular message, I’ve never even considered
making such a change in the initial stages of digital discourse.
Thanks to this little lifehack, however, I’ve seen the error
of my ways.
In contrast, lack of any significant culinary urge might render
some of the lifehacks filed under the “cooking” banner pretty
useless. The same could be said for entries related to other
activities in which I am disinclined to get involved or, in
some cases, for which I actually enjoyed those no-brainer,
secondary steps. (To be honest, I kind of enjoy the annual
brain teaser that tax forms provide.)
All things considered, however, there’s a lot to learn from
the popularity of lifehacking and the Web sites that nurture
the phenomenon. With more than 2 million page views a month,
there’s a good chance that if you’re not checking out lifehacker.com,
the person next to you has already clicked his or her way
to a more efficient existence. And even if you’re not the
competitive type, the lure of more free time (if only to find
more hobbies to fill it) is hard to ignore.
Now if they would just come up with a lifehack that will prevent
me from wasting so much time looking for new lifehacks, I’ll
be all set.