7 Life-Changing Questions

Let's get philosophical.

Take some time today to answer these seven life-changing questions. Then share your answers with three special people in your life. Notice the responses. Notice what you learn about yourself and the world. Ask them if they would complete this exercise too.

To me living a full life is about living lovingly, passionately, kindly and peacefully. It's about enjoying all the miracles great and small. It's being responsible for the energy that I bring and creating a space that's safe and full of love for my family, friends, clients and students. For me, life's about embracing possibility and expanding my mind to new ideas and new ways of seeing, thinking and doing things. I embrace each moment or challenge as an opportunity to practice love and acceptance towards myself and others. For me, It's about being self-aware, really. Aware of my inner voice. And trusting my intuitive self because it always propels me to my best self. And of equal importance for me, I've learned to lower the volume of any self-destructive talk and of course to distance myself when my intuition advises.

I’ve also learned to listen to my body when it's tense or at ease. When I notice my body tensing or my inner dialog racing, I apply the Dena Power of Three Rule - the "Let me take three and get back to you" Rule; take three steps back, three breaths in, and generate three different perspectives (my version, your version, and the birds’ version) in order to detach and find clarity. (Best advice my mom ever gave me: "don't act on impulse, pause...breathe...if you still want the shoes tomorrow they will be there." Thanks, Mom!)

I've learned to be gentle in my thoughts and loving in my efforts which in turn has made me a better friend and lover. Living a balanced life to me is an attitude. I create balance by respecting my need for quiet time and taking it with no apologies, and I include prayer, love, cleanliness, healthy nutrition and fitness every day. Interestingly, the biggest lesson I learned in life happened while I was falling. In those moments, I heard myself coaching me to rise up. I moved myself from fear to love. And from that point on, I knew what true love was, but I had to fall in love first. Namaste

1. If you could describe your character/attributes in under ten words which words would you choose?

2. What is your philosophy of life?

3. What has been your greatest life lesson?

4. If you could go back in time and tell your younger version of you one piece of advice what would it be?

5. What is your approach to life challenges?

6. How do you create balance in your life?

7. What are the five most important things that you incorporate into your daily life?

Learn How to Calm Your Mind and Body

Meditation will change your life.  

It has for me.  I was “type A,” “Ms. Organized,” had to plan everything, clean the entire house daily, beds, laundry, counters and all, and I ran my office with precision. But this can put unnecessary stress on relationships.  I still run a tight ship, and believe me, I've already planned my daughter’s next party even though it's a year away.  The difference is, I'm doing it all with a calm mind and body now.

Meditation is a muscle workout for your soul. And if that's too "out there," (old me would never talk about the soul), if that's too "fluffy" for you, then think of meditation as a word used to describe the art of learning how to go to your happy place within you. That sweet place we all visit from time to time.  That place we lock into, like two lovers who meet and lock in. Where suddenly it feels as though there is no one else but you, deep in love even though you are in a crowded filled room full of people.

Yes, that space.  It exists in you all the time. Lock in to it, and you have discovered the key to life. Learn how with meditation.  It's not a fad. It's not silly. It's not stupid. It's a practice to help you master your mind and body so you aren't constantly being dragged around by your "To Do list."

Believe me, I still have a "To Do list," but it doesn't dictate “me”; I manage “me.” And life is easier. You will feel so relaxed and it will feel as though "time" even listens to you.  

Start practicing with me every Wednesday night. It's so easy to learn and I want to teach you and everyone you know. Why? Because I know it is the answer to much of your struggles, even though you think your life is perfect and you are fine, your life will totally reach an all time high.   

I recently wrote an essay that reviewed some of the latest studies on the benefits of meditation. The research has been done by Harvard, and dozens of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Consciousness, and the list goes on.  Study after study report evidence that meditation not only reduces stress, but changes the brain at a molecular level. That's right folks, you can change your DNA. Goodbye dangerous addictions, goodbye anxiety, goodbye depression. Welcome to 2016 where neuroscience has revealed documented evidence of the neuroplasticity of our brain. Yes, really! You can learn this easily!

I look forward to seeing you all Wednesday night at 8PM

800 Kenilworth Drive, Suite 828
Towson, MD 21204

How To Meditate

Am I meditating right? What is meditation? 

Meditation is a highly focused and relaxed state of concentration where we can access more of our brain, increase our perspective, and access information beyond the limits of our active mind.   The benefits of meditation have been empirically researched and proven to enhance memory, increase physical healing, treat/cure addiction, depression, anxiety, increase creativity, and the list goes on. 

There are three major forms of meditative practice, and some overlap. Explore them all and notice which one speaks to you. For me, breath-work is most effective and easy to learn. I also enjoy studying the Yamas and Niyamas, Kabbalah or Reiki.  

Below is a brief description of the types of meditation:

Concentration: focusing on an object (candle, picture), sound or word (mantra, music), breath-work (counting, even nostril breath, alternate nostril), movement (yoga asana, walking), or prayer (metta prayer and serenity prayer);  

Mindfulness: a nonjudgmental/noncritical observation of thoughts, feelings or any physical sensations that arise; 

Contemplation/spiritual/energetic: turning to higher source of wisdom (wise self, a power greater than self, your creator, source) for inspiration, answers and guidance, by stating the thought or question or setting the intention;

Gift yourself 15 minutes of meditation. We are all busy and we all have the same excuses: "I don't have time," "I don't know how," or "I have too much to do." Simplify your life to add 15 minutes of this ancient practice to your day. Follow these tips for meditating and you'll be on your way to bliss. 

1.      Begin your meditation with PMR. With any meditation practice, I highly suggest you include a Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) exercise to relax and settle the active body. (Read any of my meditations on my website and soon to be published book for an easy PMR script). 

2.      Join or attend a guided meditation group in your community. It is best to work with a guide to learn how and ask questions. (We offer a community meditation group each week led by various teachers in the community. Come join us!)

3.      Meditation can be done seated on a cushion, a chair, laying down or standing. You can lean on a wall or stack cushions under your legs. Some teachers encourage a straight spine. As you strengthen your meditation practice,  you can explore the difference with a straight spine or a cross legged pose. 

4.      Eyes can be closed, slightly closed, or open depending on the type of meditation. Visualization may be best with eyes closed, while a meditation with music or nature may be best with eyes open. 

5.      Set aside the same time each day to meditate. Start with 5 minutes and gradually increase your time. Set a timer to keep focused. There are apps that you can download like "Insight timer" and many others. (Mornings are a wonderful time to meditate and sets the intention for your day!)

6.      Empty your bladder and turn off electronic distractions. 

7.      Consider adding incense and essential oils as a wonderful way to enhance your meditation practice. 

I hope you found this article helpful. Eventually you'll start to notice the benefits of your meditation. It takes time so be patient with yourself. 

All are invited to join our weekly guided meditation group on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. at 800 Kenilworth Drive, Suite 828, Towson, MD 21204. 443-803-3848

We'd love to hear from you: 

Please share your comments or questions,  or share your meditation mantras, prayers with our community. 

Shanti shanti shanti. 

Meditation: I Breathe in Safety. I Let Go of All Judgements.

Today's meditation and intention. I am safe. 

Begin by settling into a quiet space. You may sit crossed-legged or in some other comfortable seated pose. Your spine is long. Connect with your breath. Follow the inhale to the space between the inhale and exhale, then stay focused all the way to the end of the exhale. Let's take a few more focused breaths, in and out.  Close your eyes slightly and continue to focus on the breath.

You can create limitless options by shifting from fear to safety. Thoughts of doubt, shame, guilt, and criticism, limit us and deny us access to so many relationships and opportunities.  You can interrupt this pattern of fear before it destroys you and your relationships. Regardless of whether your fears are justified, you can shift into safety and open the doors to loving relationships and possibility. 

Keeping the eyes closed, go inward and even deeper into concentration. Relaxing the body and letting go of all tension with each exhale. Begin to recall a time in your life when you felt safe. A time where your inhales and exhales were all that you had, and it was enough. You and your breath were good enough. You were safe. Drop into that moment and experience it with all of your senses. Allow yourself to feel all the details of that moment of feeling safe. Memorize it. Notice your posture, your breathing, the temperature, colors and sounds. Find the space in your body where you feel it the most, and move the color there. Feel it. You are safe. So safe. Just you and the inhale and the exhale. You have all that you need. You are good enough. Safe. 

The mantra is, "I breathe in safety. I let go of all judgements."  When a judgement arises, press into your heels and lick your lips and slowly exhale out. Repeat to yourself, "I am safe." Today, allow yourself to slow down enough to really hear when an old pattern of fear based thinking arises, and switch your thoughts to the memory of safety. Throughout your day, notice what happens by changing each negative thought,  Notice how you see and experience the world differently, and how it produces a different outcome for you. Allow the magic to start happening because deep down, you know that when you stop all the fear based thoughts, you will be free. You are no longer a prisoner and slave to fear. You are safe now. You have the keys to your freedom and control your mind and body once again. You have returned to that moment where it is just you and your breath, and it is enough. You are enough. You are safe. 

With yours eyes still half closed, bring your palms together to your heart center, and enjoy a a few conscious focused deep breaths in and out. Feel the abdomen expand and deflate. Raise your hands to the area between your brows and ask for support and grace from something higher than yourself, from that which provides the next breath.  Express your gratitude and appreciation.   The light in me honors the light in you. Gently lower your chin, bowing inward and welcoming the divine reverence in you. Namaste. Raise your chin and gently open your eyes. Shanti shanti shanti.

May you find clarity and peace throughout your day. 🏼 Namaste

Reactive vs Creative

Be creative rather than reactive. "Re-act" -- doing the same act gets you more of the same results. “Create” -- doing something different and achieving different results.  Reactive – notice that when we use the same letters, but rearrange them, they form the word Creative! 

Addiction is reactive and mindless.  It's based on quick impulsive decisions to avoid discomfort or feel pleasure or check out completely -- literally mindless.  Mindfulness is creative! You become empowered rather than remaining a victim.  Mindfulness is being in the moment as it is, and attending to whatever comes up in you with kindness and love. Mindfulness is a highly conscious appreciative state.  It's where creativity happens and doors open. It's where options appear and your dreams manifest.

You have the capacity to shift out of your default programs and increase opportunity in your life. Opportunities that are always there but you can't see them when you navigate through the lens of your old programming, your old reactions! Too often we react to life's many challenges through the lens of our unconsciously driven old beliefs (old patterns). These old patterns may be filled will blame and criticisms, the need to prove and fix, feelings of self-doubt and unfounded fears, or perhaps they may be true but no longer apply. These beliefs are set in a neural path complete with sound, color, smell, touch and taste.  

The more enriched the neural path - the more dominant it becomes in driving our decisions. That's just the way we are engineered. As these patterns are rehearsed or repeated, they become like background music I.e., "Screw it, just take the drink," or "you are already messed up, so eat the donut," or "she should've listened to me" or "he's an idiot." 

As the patterns are repeated, it feels more real, more true, even though it's often just an over-generalization.  "But it's the truth, she did lie or she did do that," makes it confusing for us but it's still repeating the same patterns of blame. True facts ("he lied or I acted like a an idiot") mistakenly get confused as your spiritual truth ("he's a liar or I'm an idiot"). Feeling justified, we play the blaming game and cycle back into reacting into our old ways.  

Mistakenly, you think you are creating change because "you are right" or you label someone or yourself, "see I'm just bad at sports, or I'm an addict and I’m going to mess up," and then we do. We do exactly what our preprogrammed patterns would do on that track, and react by reaching for a beer or a donut (moments of pleasure), but really we are are simply doing more of the same pattern, perhaps even worsening it. 

Living within that reactive pattern gets exhausting and often requires a ton of repairing and apologizing. It can get so tiring that it drives progressively worse sabotaging behaviors like drugs to get relief.  You can learn to shift out of your old patterns and decide to create, to be a part of the world that causes light. 

Every time that guilt, shame and criticism, or blame arrises, you can stop the old reaction (of calling yourself a bad name, or drinking alcohol or using drugs or reaching for the donuts etc.), and instead respond by saying "not my story anymore, I'm a creator of my own moment, I'm not an effect anymore, not doing that, old story, changing this story today, right now I'm doing this different," or some version of that and then really start a new pattern. 

Turn yourself into a Creator rather than Reactor. Decide to go through life as the cause not as the effect, no matter how justified. Be the one who brings the love and light. Make your new sequence so bright and so loud with love that it's rippling effect not only changes you but everyone around you.  It's quite possible that the changes you make will profoundly shape the lives of future generations. Create ripples that your great, great, great, grand children will feel and their smiles will shine so bright it will generate enough love to remove all suffering. 

Close your eyes and breathe in deeply. Exhale and feel the light and love in you expand inside you and all around you. Take a few more deep conscious breaths. Notice the length of the inhale, the space between the inhale and exhale, then slowly extend the exhale a second longer. Relax the body by sending the breath and a vision of light from the top of your head all the way down to your toes, smoothing out all the tension, the knots and darkness in your body. Feel the light and go deeper into relaxation. 

Now picture two circles, one of white light and the other black. Notice the circle of darkness and hear and see the old patterns of blame and criticism, so reactive, feel the tightness and discomfort in your body. That's one way of being, but it's so limiting. 

Press into your heals and lick your lips, take a deep breath in, and on the exhale, float into the circle of white light. Feel the difference, release the tension in your body, hear the new sound of "new story, starting over, I'm the creator!" Surround yourself with this new energy where it doesn't matter who believes you, or who's right, or who started and who's ending it. 

The only thing that matters is the awareness that you can create an entirely different outcome. Like right now. Like all the time. Fill your body with that warm loving light and memorize it. Commit to practicing your meditation and mindful practice daily. 

Gently bring your awareness back to your body, wiggle your finger and toes, lick your lips, deepen your breath, shrug your shoulders to your ears and let them drop, and gently bring your eyes to open.

Enjoy your week my sweet new friends. The light in me sees and believes in the light in each and everyone of you. 

Shanti shanti shanti

Dena Leibowitz, LCDAC, is the Founder and Executive Director of “Center for Mental Health” and ZenLife Yoga Boutique & Juice Bar in Towson, MD. 

Wednesday Evening Meditation

After years of extensive formal education in psychology I opened up an alcohol/ drug rehab in 1998. I loved my clients and colleagues and wanted to dismantle the concept of the "war" on drugs and the politics in the rehab business. I started studying mindfulness, meditation,yoga, hypnosis, neurolinguistic programming (NLP), which led eventually to Reiki more recently.

I began referring to psychotherapy as "self-study." I shifted my view from "rehabilitation" to "wellness". Through my own self study I felt liberated and the path became very clear how to approach "wellness" in our culture. I started integrating what I was doing for me into my sessions with all my clients and they loved it too. So I knew I was on the right path and wanted to reach more people and share this healing way.

As I continue my pursuit in self study, I also invite meditation leaders and fellow yogis and friends to join me every Wednesday to share their wisdom too. Each week we will have different teachers come to guide us and share their healing words of wisdom. I look forward seeing you all. Peace and love Namaste

Wednesdays @ 8pm

ZenLife Yoga Boutique & Juice Bar
800 Kenilworth Drive Suite 828
Towson, Maryland 21204