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The Health Benefits of Meditation

In this article, I will share with you the health benefits associated with a daily meditation practice. I’ll also show you how you can incorporate a “sitting” practice into your own workout regimen.
By Michael Ezell

The STRESS of Daily Living

So, Why Meditate? In order to talk in-depth about meditation, we first need to talk about stress. In today’s world, we’re constantly having our attention pulled in different directions by family, work, this commitment, that engagement, the other dance recital or soccer game. And for those of us who’ve added the commitment to live a healthy and fit lifestyle to the mix, the demand only compounds. I mean, it’s not like modern culture is encouraging us to eat right and exercise. We have to Intentionally make wellness a part of our day-to-day lives. All these commitments  weigh upon us over time, often causing us STRESS. Some consider stress to be hands down the #1 killer of mankind today, and experts believe that many of our diseases have their roots firmly planted in it’s deep toxic soil.

What makes stress so dangerous is how our body naturally responds to it.Under intense emotional, physical or psychological pressure, our bodies release a corticosteroidhormone called cortisol. At high levels this hormone causes, high blood pressure and blood sugar, a lowered immune system, hair loss, weight gain, heart disease… shall I continue? The point is simple: Stress bad, very bad!

The good news is stress can be, if not totally removed from our lives, at least managed to the degree that your day can be defined by the good that you’ve experienced in it rather than the things that stressed you out. dealing with stress is a skill that must be learned however. We humans don’t do it naturally. Animals like the zebra don’t go around in the Serengeti with high blood pressure and receding hairlines, because… well for one, they don’t actually havehairlines, but more importantly because their brains only have two responses as it relates to stress: on and off. So, right after a pride of lions has finished running roughshod all over a zebra heard, the zebra can be seen placidly grazing and even playing and mating with each other. We, on the other hand, thanks to the neocortex, or new brain, (that outer layer that sits atop our reptilian brain), have gradations of stress depending on the situation. We can be a little stressed, moderately stressed, very stressed or “SOMEBODY GIVE ME A GUN!!” stressed. As a result, we can go through an entire twenty-four hour period or more in complete nail-biting mode, not because of a lion attack, but because Sarah told us to get lost, or Jimmy took credit for our work on the job.

Enter Meditation

So, what is meditation and how can it help to reduce stress? Simply put,meditation is the act of returning the attention again and again to a singular point of focus. This may seem overly simplistic, particularly when I suggest that it can virtually eliminate the negative stress response, but I assure you, both as a seven year practitioner and based on the empirical evidence, meditation is the real deal!

There have been literally thousands of scientific studies on the various forms of meditation over the past 40 years that have yielded some interesting findings. Meditation is not the same as deep rest or sleep or daydreaming. It has its own physiological marker and is characterized by high levels of mental alertness, coupled with very low levels of physiological arousal… which means your body is at complete rest, while simultaneously your mind is completely alert. It’s important to get out of your mind the idea that you have to “space out”, or go into a trance in order to meditate properly. However, the mind will naturally descend into alpha, theta and sometimes even delta brain states. Alpha is the mental state we’re in when, say reading a book or studying. Theta is the state our brains are in when we’re asleep and Delta is when we’re in that deep, dreamless sleep state.

We also use less oxygen when meditating, in fact, in a whole night’s sleep our oxygen levels never go down as much as they do within 2 minutes of meditation. This causes more blood to flow to our extremities. The point is that Meditation is a physiologically unique state when compared to sleep or waking states and thus carries with it it’s own unique benefits.

Traits Associated With Meditation

Let’s talk a little about meditation and the biomarkers of aging. Studies have found that the contrasting physiological markers of aging between meditators and non meditators are stark. For example, it’s been found that the “real age” (or the actual physiological age of the body) of a meditator is 5 to 12 years younger than that of a non meditator. Other studies have shown improved vision and hearing and lower levels of cancer and heart disease. Also Lowered blood pressure and elevated levels of melatonin characterize the regular practitioner. Essentially, with meditation, you just have less stress and a younger physiology, and really that alone is enough of a reason to begin a daily meditation practice.

How to Meditate

Okay, Okay I can hear you saying, “Enough of the technical speak. How exactly do you meditate?”  So, there are two types of meditation practice for you to choose from:
1. Meditation with form
2. Formless meditation

Meditating with form simply means that you choose an object to focus on during your session. You can use an object, such as a candle or maybe an appealing vase. But the “form” isn’t limited to a physical object. The form can be your breath or an emotion like love or compassion. you can focus your attention on your heart. Even thinking on a loved one is okay. The idea here is to find a point of focus be it physical or conceptual.
Formless meditation is actually the opposite of meditation with form. It’s the dissolution of attention, the cessation of thought. This is the more difficult type of meditation and should be practiced after you’ve gotten comfortable with focusing, because that open mental space that characterizes Formless meditation is in itself a form to focus upon and if you can’t focus onsomething, you’ll be unable to focus on nothing.

A Basic Practice

It’s important to wear comfortable clothing so that blood can freely flow and to avoid being distracted by discomfort. choose a quiet place in your home. Ideally you should designate this place as your place to practice. If you do, with time, you will automatically begin to enter into a meditative sate as soon as you go to that place. You may want to purchase a meditation mat and cushion (I got mine from and after six years, it’s still in great condition). If not, a comfortable chair is just fine.
Sit erect in your chair so that your back isn’t touching the chair. Resting back on the chair will cause you to go to sleep because your back muscles will not be engaged. rest your hands, palms up or down, on your lap. Sit up straight. Your spine should be erect and head tilted slightly downward. Ensure that the tip of your tongue is on the roof of your mouth, just behind your buckteeth. You may either close your eyes, or leave them open, holding a “soft” gaze upon the floor a couple of feet in front of you. Now make yourself yawn at least three times. Yawning triggers a relax and focusing response in your brain, getting you in the state of meditation. It’s actually one of the best thing you can do for your brain (For more on this, I recommend the book, “How God Changes Your Brain” by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman).
Next, inhale slowly through the nose. As you do, notice how the air cools your nostrils as it passes through your nose and travels down the windpipe. Follow the journey your breath takes down to your stomach. Avoid allowing your chest to expand too much. Instead, you want your belly to rise as you breath in. Imagine that the air is filling your stomach and not your lungs. Mentally count this breath as “one”.
Next, gently release your breath into a full exhale, expelling all of the air. exhale until your diaphragm tightens a bit. count this as “two”. Continue the cycle up to ten breaths and then count back to one.
When you get distracted  (and you will), start over at one. This is meant to develop your concentration muscles. Once you’re able to count from one ten then back one for two cycles without having to stop, your ready to inquire into more advance forms of meditation.
There are numerous meditation courses that are available today, but if you want to teach yourself to go beyond the basics then I highly recommend purchasing a program called the Integral Life Practice Starter Kit, available at

My Technique

I now use a technique that is similar to TM (Transcendental Meditation). This is a very basic, yet extremely powerful method where you simply pick a mantra (a word that feels good to speak repeatedly), it could be Om (pronounced Aum) or “I Am”, or “Peace”,” Calm”, whatever. It just needs to signal your body/mind to relax. While seated, begin to repeat the word aloud for a minute or two. Next, begin to repeat the word more quietly than before. Continue to turn the volume down until you are completely silent, but are “thinking” the word only in repetition. Do this for about 20 minutes once or twice a day and see if you don’t begin to feel an effect within a week!

A Few Tips About Meditating

As a seven year practitioner, I’ve been meditating for about as long as I’ve been working out with Beachbody programs, so I learned a long time ago to incorporate them both into a single practice, both for efficiency and for efficacy. As soon as I complete my P90X+ or One on One routine, I immediately down my recovery drink and head for my meditation mat. Studies have found that working out and meditating together has a cross-developmental effect, which simply means that each practice is enhanced by the other (go to for more info on the cross-developmental effects of meditation and weight training).

Don’t feel as though you have to sit for an hour like some enlightened master. Studies show that the health benefits of a daily meditation practice can be realized in as little as 5 to ten minutes. I sit for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The sitting time isn’t as important as committing to sitting daily. Sitting everyday for five minutes is much better than sitting once a week for 35 minutes. However, if you get off track, don’t feel guilty, just begin again. It’s not a contest, it’s a life long journey.

It’s important not to beat yourself up over losing focus during meditation. In meditation circles these mental distractions are called “the monkey mind” because your thoughts are constantly popping in and out and back into your head, distracting you from your point of focus. When you allow yourself to become frustrated during your sitting practice, you’re actually sabotaging your efforts. What I do as soon as I become aware that I’m ruminating on unwanted, distracting thoughts (and after six years it still happens all the time) is imagine those thoughts as leaves floating on the surface of a stream. I watch them come and then allow them to gently go, then I return my attention back to my heart, or my breath or an emotion, whatever my point of focus is that day.

When outer distractions occur, like your kid coming in your room looking for something, or your spouse starting the vacuum cleaner just outside your door, or the yard guy whacking weeds outside your window (can you tell that I’ve been there?), you don’t have to let it shut down your session. Remember that you can notice a distraction withoutbeing distracted. just patiently wait for the distraction to end and even get excited when they occur because they are wonderful opportunities for you to exercise patience and focus.

The immediate effects of meditation, (e.g. feelings of peace and relaxation) are all well and good, but the “golden” effects of a daily sitting practice are realized over the span of time. The most important benefit that I’ve acquired over time was an elevated level of tolerance to things that , five years ago would have sent me reeling. My threshold for BS has dramatically increased. I liken it to a wall of protection. A levee even. Years ago, my wall was pretty low, so that when stress came along like a raging river it would breach my levees, causing me to flip out. Now, my levees are much higher so that I’m emotionally protected against even a Katrina-sized stressor.

I was pretty excited, when encouraged by a couple of coaches to write this article, because my meditation practice is very important to me. It is, like P90X, a practice that I can point to and be able to say without controversy that it changed my life for the better. And I’m confident that it can do the same for you!
~Michael Ezell

Love’s Work Within

Like a warm embrace in December

or twilight sunbeams slanting through cedars,

this divine energetic we call love.

Love courses like crimson streams in pulsating currents

throughout my biology, weaving its way into the depths of me

I can sense it spiraling down into my DNA until it has assailed the roots of me at last;

the seat of my soul.

I am beset by the fruits of my life’s decisions.

In many ways, I have sown bitter crops, yet in this love we share; at the tasting of this fruit,

every choice I have made has become sweet like

honey upon my lips and I know

I will never now be the same again

You’ve Already Won!

Many of us in America have seen it, if not we can at least imagine it: the 405551_339960279357513_128125867207623_1110965_1253398824_nquarterback of a losing Superbowl contest berating himself for the things he might have done differently on the field of play to make the winning difference in the game; or the track star mulling over in her head a critical laps in judgement on the track. What tends to happen over time, however is that Time doles out to all these precious souls a gift. It is called perspective.

The quarterback determines eventually that, “you know what? No, I didn’t win, but I played on a field that almost no one has had the privilege to tread upon.” The track star recalls the adoring fans… and the lights! oh, the lights. or that she, for a time, got to run with the wind.

Beloved, why despair  over your life? Why allow your heart to fill with regret or your mind to rehearse what could have been?

Can you feel the pulse of life within your wrists? No? then be silent and still until you can. Feel the cool air bathing you inwardly over and over again. That is a gift to you my friend. This  existence is success! You being here with me now, partaking of the words that I am privileged to share with you–It’s grander than any Superbowl. More awe-inspiring than the crossing of any finish line.

We, you and I , are the result of a play of consciousness that is beyond genius. It is impossible for finite minds to perceive an infinite Spirit fully. There isn’t a word to adequately house the miracle that is this moment..and that we can take it for granted.. well, that just speaks to the sheer elegance of it all, doesn’t it? Anything that you choose to do in this existence is the proverbial cherry on top of the opulence that is life.

So breathe it in beloved; this precious moment. It will never leave you or fail you. It will always be here waiting for your awareness of it. and in your awareness of it, you get to, as Moses did, catch a glimpse of God.

Going Out of your Mind

Are you out of your mind?
I certainly hope so. The mind is a time machine, jumping from the hurts of the past to worries over the future. These are all ghosts however. Apparitions which have no foothold in reality.
Open the door of your time machine and step out of it by being aware in the NOW. What are you seeing, feeling, tasting? How’s your breathing by the way? Are you breathing easily?
More than likely, this present moment finds you well beloved. Bask in this wellness and have a great weekend!

Personal Manifesto

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A personal Manifesto

1. I am willing to unlearn everything I think I know in exchange for a more expanded view of reality.

2. I release all notions that the world, my life, all circumstances and people in it are anything but perfect.

3. I declare my willingness to wipe the slate of my life clean and to write a new story.

4. I understand that everything that has happened in my experience is for my perfection, never for my annihilation.

5. I cherish and hereby accept my role as caretaker of the sacred temple that is my body.

6. I hereby remove any flecks of cynicism that I hold for people, societies and cultures, understanding that That which we call God and Spirit is in it all.

7. I hereby decide to love completely and independent of whether or not love is reciprocated. I love because of who I am, not because of who others are.

8. I am committed to making radical changes in my life in order to live the life of my dreams… to create a path, not so that others could follow, but so that others would be inspired to forge their own.

9. I commit to the practice of releasing in love, any people, practices or habitual ways of being that are detrimental to my perpetual expansion.

10. I am committed to the daily expression of my true identity as an agent of love; a Warrior of Peace and as a son of the living God.

I offer thanks to the Divine in advance and allow this simple energetic declaration to BE.
And so it is….

Our Deepest Fear

Fear of Silence

Most of us fear the silence and stillness. Mainly because they have the tendency to reveal to us our true and present selves. The prospect of plumbing the depths of our consciousness to shine the light in the dark places of our souls… The places that scare us, sends us trying to find any excuse to busy ourselves with television, our iPods or the countless wormhole of errands we could populate our day with.

The truth is, there is beauty in the darkness. Silence is your friend! When you dare to embrace the quiet and to enter in, the earth will melt, along with all of her distractions and you will see the face…and you will recognize it as your own.