Mindful in the City

A few weeks ago, my yoga instructor and I made a commitment that I was going to start meditating every morning. It worked well on the weekend or days I didn’t do much because I could choose to meditate at whatever time I woke up. However, on the days that I had to get up at 6am for work, I wasn’t too pleased about it.

On the first early morning, without even thinking about it, I skipped the meditation. I got up, got ready, and drove downtown. As I was walking out of the parking garage with my phone and headphones in hand, I paused. I said to myself, “No, I’m not going to use my phone on this twenty minute walk” and began my trek down Michigan Avenue.

I decided to be really mindful instead. I noticed all the beautiful flowers planted along the street, something I never pay close attention to. I know this walk like the back of my hand, but usually I’m listening to music or responding to texts, completely unaware of my surroundings. I noticed a new store that opened that I had never noticed before. I became aware of all the people I passed, and how so many of them were multitasking and on their phones. I paid attention nonjudgmentally to them, rather than comparing myself to each person I passed and telling myself they’re skinnier, taller, blonder, pulling off an outfit I’d never let myself wear. I noticed the pace I was walking. Usually I speed walk everywhere but this time, even when I’m not in a hurry. Today, I slowed down. I didn’t cross streets when there was a break in the traffic for me to run across even though the walk sign was off. I realized how often I body check and look at myself in the window reflections. It’s so habitual for me, I’m not even aware of doing it until I stop and pay attention to it, like I did today.

 

Emily and the skyline

Twenty minutes later when I got to work, I didn’t feel a sense of anxiety or panic or feel tired from walking so fast. I sat down, drank my Starbucks refresher, and started writing about my mindful morning.

Mindfulness and meditation doesn’t have to be seated on a cushion in silence for thirty minutes. It can, and I love doing that too, but you can be mindful anywhere, and that’s often a good place to start. Walk your dog and leave your phone behind, cook dinner mindfully, notice your surroundings next time you take a coffee run.  Take in the world around you because chances are, there are things you’ve never noticed before.

Editor's note:  Emily Rutherford is part of breathe bar's social media team.  She is a student at DePaul University studying journalism and psychology.

Sylvia Maldonado
My Story: How I Started Meditating

Beginning my meditation practice didn’t happen all at once. Around two years ago, I started using meditation to calm my anxiety. I found it hard to sit still for longer than five minutes, and always felt like I was doing it “wrong”. Like many of us, I thought I would close my eyes, my mind would go blank, and I’d feel instant peace. I felt like I was meditating wrong.

As my knowledge around mindfulness grew, I learned that there is no “wrong” way to meditate. Meditation is about noticing what comes up in that moment, and taking a step back from it. Instead of being immersed in that thought, imagine yourself as an outside viewer to it.

It is about doing your best to keep a nonjudgmental stance - to defuse from your thoughts, so that instead of telling yourself, “I’m fat and a horrible person,” you tell yourself, “I’m aware of the thought that I’m fat and a horrible person.” It takes you out of the heat of that thought, and allows you to acknowledge it and let it go, and then you move on. Sometimes thoughts that don't serve us pop back up - they often do -  but again you notice them, and let them go.

Just like any other practice, meditation takes time. It wasn’t until last fall when I went on a four day meditation retreat for a class at DePaul University that I really connected with meditating. Also around this time, I was picking up my yoga practice again, attending classes two to three times a week. This is when I began feeling that “meditation high” - I would come out of a practice and feel washed over with new energy.  I felt refreshed. My mind wasn’t as foggy and my attention wasn’t as scattered.  I felt lighter and happier.  Happiness goes up and I feel better - that is why I meditate.

Here are three types of meditation that helped me the most when getting my practice starting:

  1. Visualizations have helped me learn to meditate, by imagining my thoughts as leaves on a stream or on a cloud. I watch them go by, and then they disappear. It may sound cheesy to do, but it helps you realize your thoughts don’t control you. You are in control, and you can choose to listen to that self-defeating thought and believe it to be true, or let it ride down the stream, out of existence.

  2. My favorite type of meditation is a body scan. I find those to be the easiest way to stay present, as you move through your body from head to toe, connecting with each part. As you work your way through the scan, you feel your body loosening up, and letting go of the tight, rigid grip you’ve come to hold so well.

  3. My favorite mantra is “just this one moment.” When you inhale, you say to yourself “just this one” and on the exhale, “moment.” It helps keep your mind focused by driving it not only to your breathing pattern, but to the words going along with it. And, the mantra itself is all about taking it one moment at a time. And that’s what meditation is all about. Just this one moment.

Editor's note:  Guest Contributor Emily Rutherford is an undergraduate student at DePaul University studying psychology and journalism.  She joined the breathe bar's social media team in May 2017.  We are lucky to have her!

Our Tips to Celebrate May: National Meditation Month

The following are breathe bar's 10 tips to celebrate National Meditation Month this May:

1. Sign up for a ‘Mindfulness 101’ class.  If you take 4 classes this month, you receive a free on demand session to meditate on-the-go in our compassion corner.

2. Read a book about meditation.

3. Start a meditation group.  breathe bar is happy to host you!  Email us at: info@mybreathebar.com to get started.

4. Gift yourself private meditation instruction.  We offer 1-on-1 classes to customize a meditation plan just for you.

5.  Gift 2 friends a meditation class or book to share the love, and support their practice.  Our Friends & Family membership helps you meditate together.

6. Commit to a regular practice in May – – once a week, twice a week, daily.  Set the intention and then do it.  If you stumble, be gentle with yourself and just pick it up again.  No judgment.

7. Recruit a friend to be your meditation buddy to keep each other accountable and share challenges, successes, and tips.

8. Try a different style – chanting or mantra or sound - or incorporate a new tool, such as crystals.

9. Get outside. Meditate in nature – a park, a beach, a forest, a field.

10. Study the science behind meditation.  The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a great place to start.

Good luck and see you on the cushion!

HOW TO GET OVER THE MEDITATION HUMP

 

Happy Humpday!  Speaking of humps, one of the questions I'm frequently asked is how to get over the meditation hump and start a meditation practice.  As with any new habit, I suggest starting small and building incrementally.  For me, I started with a weekly teacher-led class at a meditation studio in New York back in 2011.  Once I felt like I was in a groove with the weekly classes, I then committed to meditating 3 minutes a days at home, 3-4 days a week.  I meditated on my own, focusing on my breath. If I wanted a guided meditation, I'd cue up an app, or listen to a few minutes of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction).  His voice is very relaxing!  I would sit in my dining room chair when I first got home from work, before I changed out of my work clothes and got into the dinner routine.  Once I had that practice established, I then graduated to 7 minutes a day every day, and grew from there.  Now I start and close my days with a sitting meditation.  A dedicated sitting practice of any length is tremendously beneficial.  Once you're on the cushion, you'll then see the benefits off the cushion, which is what it is all about.  Living a mindful life.


To get over the hump, I suggest the Mindfulness 101 classes (there is a 6-7pm class tonight with Marilyn Joy) and the Meditation of the Day (MOD) classes, as well as the 30-minute Rain Shining Light classes.  Once you sample the teacher-led classes, you will learn which techniques works for you and then develop a home practice.  You can also pop in for an on demand meditation session in our private breathe bar booth - mention this email and it's free. Email us (info@mybreathebar.com) if you have any questions about getting started!  


We have a few events coming up that we are excited to share.  A 4-week series,Breathwork for Stress, with the knowledgable and esteemed GuruNischan Khalsa, is kicking off on Sunday, April 23.  I've taken her Kundalini class since 2013, as well attended her 4-week series, so I know firsthand the power of her teaching.  I'm grateful that she is kicking off our series at breathe bar.  She is amazing, and quite techy.  All participants of the full series receive a video recording of the class, which is a very helpful feature.

We are also hosting a book signing for our friend Rachael O'Meara, sales exec at Google San Francisco by day and author by night.  Her new book, Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break, was published last week.  She'll be serving as our "pause instigator" and reading from her book.  Bring your book and she'll sign it for you!

  
Save the Date:

Rachael O'Meara

Author of Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break

Pause, talk and book signing

Friday, April 28, 2017; 4-6pm

breathe bar, 946 W. Randolph Street, 2nd floor, Chicago, IL  60607

Free for members; $10 for non-members

With gratitude,

Sylvia and your friends at breathe bar

Happy Spring! A Good Time to Start Over

 

As we embark on the new season of Spring, now is a wonderful time for "starting over."  
That was actually the name of a syndicated TV show that I was a producer for back in the day.  It featured a rotating cast of 6 women of different ages & backgrounds living together in a house, working with two life coaches to achieve personal and/or professional goals, i.e.  a 62-year-old grandmother trying to become a stand-up comic, or a young widow trying to find love again.  One of the mantras of the coaches was "reframe" - the idea that a thought - any thought - is perceived through our own prism and perceptions, which we have the ability to change.  We have the power to respond to those thoughts in a curious, non-judgmental way, or in a way that does not serve us (i.e. swirling in imaginary, future-based scenarios).  This ability to notice my thoughts and not always react, but instead respond, by taking a breath and creating space, is one of the many reasons I love meditation and am eager to share it with as many people as possible.  

A way to get started is through the 5-3-1 practice, developed by our friends at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  This is how to start:  Meditate for 5 minutes (setting a designated time to meditate - first thing in the morning, before the day starts - is the best approach for me).  Set a timer.  Sit in a comfortable position, on a cushion or on a chair, with your arms resting on your lap.  Gently focus your attention (that's what meditation is - focused attention) on the in-and-out of your breath, a mantra, or an image (I like visualizing a white light above me, or being enveloped in white light).  If you have thoughts, that's okay.   Gently release them like a balloon floating into the sky and return to your meditation.  Remember, there is no such thing as a "good" meditation or a "bad" meditation.  The point is to dedicate time to your practice, and you'll see the benefits.  It may happen quickly or develop over time.  If you stick with it, I think you'll find your happiness levels and general sense of well-being increases. 

We are so grateful to host the Center's Founder, Richard J. Davidson, at breathe bar on March 30 for a talk over tea & cookies to learn about their latest research.  Davidson popularized the idea that we can learn happiness and compassion as skills, just as we can learn to play a musical instrument, or train in a sport. Happiness, like any skill, requires practice and time but because we know that the brain is built to change in response to mental training, and is capable of a high degree of plasticity, it is possible to train our mind to be happy.  Davidson has been influenced in his work by his friendship with the Dalai Lama. Good stuff!  Members of breathe bar's Founders' Club are invited to attend this intimate gathering with one of the most respected and inspiring leaders in the field of neuroscience, meditation and well-being.  Join us!

OUR BIG NEWS

Our big news:

It is with pride and deep gratitude that we announce that breathe bar will be officially making its debut on March 31st with a 6am sunrise meditation. Our new home is located in the heart of the West Loop at 946 W. Randolph, 2nd floor (above Starbucks), and we cannot wait to be a meditation oasis for those who live and work in Chicago.

A note from Sylvia:

As many of you know, my family has called the West Loop home since my father started Randolph Street food wholesaler La Criolla in 1957. With the opening of breathe bar, I have the privilege of continuing a family legacy of 6 decades of business in the area.  My meditation practice has influenced me in such a positive way, by enabling me to better manage my stress and increase my happiness, that I knew I had to spread the good news about meditation.   I also knew that there was only one place  - Randolph Street in the West Loop, close to the birth of my Papa's dream - to fulfill my dream of building a space to share the impact meditation can have on health and wellness.

As we get closer to our March 31st opening, I want to express my sincere gratitude for all of the support and encouragement you have provided as this journey has progressed. It has meant the world to me and my team and we cannot wait to welcome you at breathe bar.

An Invitation:

SUNRISE MEDITATION
March 31st, 2017
6AM
breathe bar
946 West Randolph Street, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60607
Please RSVP by March 28th to faith@mybreathebar.com

 

Finding Wisdom on the El

 

There is a neon sign near the Chicago Brown Line stop that brightly declares “It Is What It Is.” It stares me in the face as I cross Wells Street and instead of snapping a photo for Instagram (hello, siren song of social media), all I can think when I see this pink light humming its message is that I don’t get it, that I don’t have anything in common with this sign. I have never, ever thought something “is what it is”. Things are bad or good, right or wrong. I find comfort in categories. I assign feelings to experiences as a way to navigate my way through choices, to make sure I am working toward the good and the right and away from the bad and the wrong. To ever face something with a neutral feeling, to declare it is what it is, blows my mind. I spend a lot of time and energy wrangling feelings and outcomes to land on what I have deemed the good, positive side of my emotional life- surely, I would never just settle for it is what it is because what I want it to be is good, happy...perfect.

But here’s the thing: good and bad are not feelings. Neither are right or wrong. They’re judgments. I’ve long believed in the health benefits of meditating and after years of claiming I was going to start (because meditating is falls in the good category, right?), I realized why I never have: judgment.

Mindfulness is thought free from judgment so you can focus your awareness on being present. I can’t be mindful and reap any benefits from meditation because I am so busy judging the thoughts going through my mind, placing them in their respective categories, their nicely packaged homes inside my head. It’s a lot of work and, quite frankly, it is not serving me anymore.

So instead of judgment, I’m choosing presence. I am choosing experience. Instead of "good", I’m exploring joy, pleasure, fulfillment, satisfaction, happiness- real, live feelings. "Bad" might actually be fear, pain, confusion, or grief.  Those feelings are okay.  On my journey to mindfulness, in my quest for meditation to have a place in my daily life, I want to be open to feeling the feelings for what they are so I can actually show up to my practice of mindfulness. I want to be present for the experience that is my life, and I have a feeling that the neon sign by the El is going to continue to serve as an unavoidable, bright reminder.

Because it is what it is.

Guest contributor Nina Foley is the owner of the Gardner Media Collective, a boutique marketing, branding and public relations agency based in Chicago.  She's an avid runner, yogi, enthusiastic home cook and proud new puppy mom to Franklin.


Editor's note:  We couldn't think of a better way to kick off our Wise Words Wednesday than with a message from our beloved Nina, who finds wisdom on Chicago's El.  She is leading our launch plans as we prepare for our soon-to-be announced Grand Opening. Stay tuned! In the meantime, we're headed back for Round 2 at the wonderful Kit and Ace.  Come meditate with us at their Fulton Market location 9:30-10:30am on Saturday, 3/18.  
RSVP by 3/15:  WestLoop@kitandace.com

A Mindful Approach to Anxiety



Anxiety is an ever-existent presence in my life; a sentient thing that's always humming in the background, threatening to overwhelm me. But if you're brave enough, it can serve as an unexpected tool for self-growth. I've made peace with the fact that anxiety is part of me, deeply woven into the fabric of my being. When it rears its head, these simple actions are what cast out the fear. Keep them in your toolbox.
 
Accept What Is: Anxiety, at its core, is you resisting what is. Things are happening that you wish weren't, or vice versa. Instead of going against the present moment, try leaning into it, no matter how uncomfortable it might be to do so.

Practice Mindfulness: When a wave of nervous energy washes over you, push pause and engage in a mindful activity. (I find that the most powerful way to do this is to get out in nature.) Step away and go for a mindful walk. What do you hear/smell/see/feel? Don't label these things, just observe and feel.  Noticing our thoughts, feelings, and emotions is key to being in the present moment.

Make Space for Uncertainty: Anxiety is really a fear of uncertainty, of not knowing. As humans, we're wired to fear unknown outcomes. In response, we often catastrophize (i.e. assume that the worst possible scenario will play itself out). It can be hard, but try trusting that not knowing is part of the process - and that's okay.

Drop Into Your Body: At the onset of anxious feelings, do a body scan*. Close your eyes and drop into your body. What physical sensations do you feel? Without labeling them, simply allow them to be there.

Allow Yourself to Feel What You Feel Without Judgment: Getting angry with your anxiety is an all-too-common response.("What's wrong with me? Why can't I be normal?) It takes some practice, but being kind to yourself is crucial. If your dearest friend were feeling this way, what would you say to him/her? Keep your self-talk as compassionate as possible.

Make Meditation Part of Your Routine: There's a great Zen saying I love: "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." Such wisdom in these words! Let our meditation series be your entry point.

 Marianne Hayes is a breathe bar guest contributor.  She's a longtime freelance writer with a passion for spiritual growth and inner life.

 

THE 411 ON MBSR

Mindfulness: The ultimate way to cope with stress
 
Mindfulness is a buzzy word these days, one that pops up frequently in the meditation and yoga communities. Mindful living has become the aspiration of many, but what does it actually mean? In its simplest form, it boils down to living a life that's more responsive than reactive. It's about paying attention and allowing things to be as they are, without judgment or resistance.
 
Given its definition, it isn't surprising that mindfulness can be a powerful tool for coping with stress.Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been a pioneer in this space.
 
I just love his definition of stress: "...stress really has to do with wanting things to stay the same when they are inevitably going to change."
 
Accepting the impermanence of all things is crucial, it seems. It was Zinn who popularized the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) movement, which has since become a mainstream treatment protocol for managing unwanted stress. MBSR, as the name implies, uses mindfulness meditation practices to work through the very real stressors of everyday life—illness, pain, work, family life, financial stress...
 
Zinn is definitely onto something. According to Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar meditation can have a profound effect on our brains, specifically in areas related to fear, anxiety, compassion and empathy. Her research also suggests that meditation might even slow down the effects of old age.
 
MBSR and mindful living are built on the idea that there really is no such thing as multitasking, something echoed by a slew of neuroscientists. The mind is designed to focus on one thing at a time; "single-tasking," if you will.
 
Meditation is the ultimate single-tasking activity, often nudging us to pay attention to our breath and really feel our bodies. It requires us to be fully present for the experience. Thoughts are inevitably going to drift in and out of our awareness (we're only human). Meditation doesn't ask us to empty our minds of these thoughts; it asks us to create space for them, then let them go, gently releasing each thought like a balloon floating into the sky.
 
Drop in and let go during our next breathe bar pop-up on February 11 at Kit and Ace.  Our rockstar attorney turned mindfulness teacher Judy Craven will lead us in a guided meditation, followed by a granola sampling from our friends at No Denial Foods.  We have a few spots left!  RSVP:  westloop@kitandace.com.  

And our Meditation Mondays at Venue One Chicago are a great way to start the week!  Registration required.

With loving kindness,

Your friends at breathe bar

Sylvia Maldonadobreathe bar
BURSTING WITH GRATITUDE

Bursting with Gratitude

As we all know, embarking on any new endeavor requires a village of support and resources to come to fruition and be successful.  breathe bar is fortunate to have one of the country's best MBA programs, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, in our backyard. Through their strong experiential learning program, we are fortunate to have two amazing students leading some strategic initiatives for us.  Please meet Marco and Dan, who inspired our cool header image.  We're grateful to have their expertise (and their patience as I learn to embrace Excel).  They are socially-conscious, whip-smart and mindful business leaders (by the way, see the latest from Harvard Business Review on the topic).  

We're also overflowing with gratitude for our newest intern, Mariel, a Columbia College Chicago student whose creative juices and graphic design prowess infuse our social media and digital marketing efforts, guided by our fearless leader Raquel.  Mariel's handiwork is throughout this newsletter.  
Welcome, Mariel!  

Speaking of great people, we're hiring a Studio Manager for our West Loop location, launching soon. Details here and referrals appreciated.


Last but not least, tickets are still available for our Saturday special this weekend.  Meditation + yummy Garden of Flavor juice flight + juice giveaway, 8-9:30am at Mariano's West Loop, 40 S. Halsted, Chicago. It's our last class in this series, so come check it out!  Just $5!  Register here.

We look forward to seeing you soon!  Exciting events are in the works for February - we'll be introducing guest meditation teachers for special Valentine's Day and mindfulness-themed classes during our Monday night meditation at Venue One Chicago, and will be popping up at neighboring indie businesses for special events.  As always, you'll be the first to know the latest news.

With gratitude & love,

Sylvia & your friends at breathe bar

Pictures L-R:  Dan, Marco, Muriel (L), Meditation + Juice @ Mariano's West Loop

Sylvia Maldonado
Winter self-care tips

We do much to care for the ones we love. We offer warm embraces, patience, and understanding. We cook nourishing meals, give gifts, and express gratitude.
 
But do we do the same for ourselves?
 
Self-care is one of those things that, if we're not mindful, gets pushed to the wayside. But as photographer Hannah Mayo so beautifully puts it, "It is not selfish to refill your own cup, so that you can pour into others. It’s not just a luxury. It is essential."
 
Such wisdom in these words. I believe that we all have this knowing, that we are at our best—creatively, physically, mentally—when we're taking good care of ourselves. The ancient health system of Ayurveda tells us that the four seasons can greatly inform our self-care routines. With winter in full swing, now is a great time to reexamine the ways in which we care for our own mind, body, and soul.
 
One of my favorite books is Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living. Here, the authors devote a entire section to honoring these seasonal changes. For those who aren't familiar, Ayurveda is based on the idea that all of us are made up of three different mind-body types called doshas, with one typically being more dominant than the others. Individual self-care approaches vary from one dosha to the next, but a few basic guidelines remain. For winter, the authors suggest:
 

  • Favoring warm food and drinks

  • Using a humidifier

  • Getting plenty of exercise

  • Avoiding naps

 
Eating nutritious foods, getting out in the sun, when possible, and regularly moving your body are key to staving off the winter blues. Another crucial ingredient for optimal self-care? Keeping up with a daily meditation practice. (Our weekly meditation series can help you here.) I've come to regard my own routine as the most powerful self-care tool in my arsenal. What's yours?  Share your tips on our Facebook page for a chance to win a copy of Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living.

Marianne Hayes is thrilled to join the breathe bar team as a guest contributor. She's a longtime freelance writer with a passion for spiritual growth and inner life.


Editor's note:  We're excited to announce that our Peace & Love Meditation on Friday, 1/20, raised $150 for Horizons for Youth!  And, you asked, we listened!   Our Monday meditation series (tickets still left for class tonight!) will be extended through February.  Thank you Venue One Chicago, for being generous hosts!  We're pushing back the time to 6pm also to ease the post-work hustle.  Buy tickets online with promo code: bbbogo2017 and bring a friend free.  #meditatetogether #bettertogether

With gratitude & love,

Your friends at breathe bar
Sylvia Maldonado
THE POWER OF COMPASSION

With our political climate being as tense as it is, finding common ground with others—neighbors, friends, family—can prove a challenging task. The election may be behind us, but its polarizing aftermath is still an open wound. So how do we heal and move forward with loving kindness?

The answer, I believe, is with compassion. But, as we all know, demonstrating it can be easier said than done. As we come together to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month, his reverence for nonviolence feels especially relevant.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Compassion is one of the most powerful ways to bring love and light. I had the good fortune of listening to negotiating expert William Ury on a recent episode of NPR's TED Radio Hour. A Senior Fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Project, Ury is also a longtime mediator and negotiation adviser. For him, healing the divide is all about finding what he calls the third side of the conflict.

"What we don't often seeis that there's always a third side, and the third side of the conflict is us; it's the surrounding community, it's the friends, the allies, the family members, the neighbors, and we can play an incredibly constructive role," says Ury.

This third side, it turns out, depends on compassion. If we're capable of listening to what lies beneath opposing positions, we're then able to embrace the other person's concerns and proceed as one.

In other words, it's about taking an empathetic approach instead of a combative one, which can have a profound ripple effect within our communities. Research has already shown us that compassion is very well contagious. What's more, compassion meditation literally changes the brain for the better.

It all starts with you. Drop into an upcoming breathe bar meditation class and give compassion a try.  We're also working on a special peace & love meditation event on Friday, January 20, recognizing Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King Day.  Stay tuned!  We can't wait to spread compassion with you.
Marianne Hayes is thrilled to join the breathe bar team as a guest contributor. She's a longtime freelance writer with a passion for spiritual growth and inner life.

Sylvia Maldonado
Do Good for You!

As we enjoy day 2 of the new year, we have a short and sweet message.
Do something good for you.  
That's it.
Need ideas?
Here are some suggestions.
Want to get started now?  Join us tonight for Monday night meditation at Venue One.  
Register online with promo code:  bbobogo2017 for today's class, or any class this month, and bring a friend free.
How's that for doing good?  
We're sharing one of our favorite poems.  It's our new year's blessing to you!

Breathe, You Are Alive!
Sylvia Maldonadobreathe bar
Setting Your Best New Year's Resolutions - > The Power of Intentions

New Year's resolutions get all the hype this time of year, but we'd argue that now—specifically tomorrow, December 29—is actually the best time to set your intentions for the coming year. Why? Because today marks the last new moon of 2016, making it a particularly ripe moment for manifesting our desires.

An intention is an altogether different animal than a resolution; rather than springing from the ego, it's born from the stillness of our being—a true intention is an echo of the heart itself. The new moon is said to be the most powerful time to set new intentions, especially since this week's also comes right after the winter solstice. Elephant Journal points to the idea that the increased gravitational pull naturally makes us feel both stable and grounded, which, in turn, allows us to dive deeper into our own inner life.

I can't say I disagree. Lately, I've been feeling pulled inward  more than usual, itching to work out the answers to some of my life's bigger questions. Whether the moon is responsible for this inner wrestling or not, the new year feels like as good a time as any to get clear on my desires. (FYI, clarity is perhaps the most important step here—set out an unclear intention, and you can expect muddied results.)

So how do we set intentions that stick? A few months ago, I earmarked this bit of wisdom from Deepak Chopra. You can bet I'll be putting these five steps into action on this evening.

1) Slip into the gap: He's referring to the state of pure consciousness we experience through meditation. Need some help? Our New Year's Eve morning meditation can provide some gentle guidance.

2) Release your intention: Chopra suggests freeing your specific intention in the quiet moments just after mediation. 

3) Remain centered in a state of restful awareness: Tune into what Chopra calls your "higher self" so that you don't fall victim to doubt.

4) Detach from the outcome: Let go of all expectations of how your intention "should" be fulfilled. 

5) Let the universe handle the details: You're no longer in the driver's seat. Be open to however the universe manifests your intention without trying to manage the details.

The final step, of course, is to receive with joy! 


Marianne Hayes is thrilled to join the breathe bar team as a guest contributor. She's a longtime freelance writer with a passion for spiritual growth and inner life.

Sylvia Maldonado
We love our snowflakes!


We are filled with gratitude for you!
 
As the year winds down, our cup is overflowing with love and gratitude for all of the blessings that 2016 has brought.  Good health is at the top of our list, along with new friends at breathe bar and at the Center for Healthy Minds, as well as old friends.  One of breathe bar's dearest amigas is Sylvia Perez of Fox32 Chicago.  (Editor's note:  Sylvia Maldonado, breathe bar's founder, was Sylvia Perez's HealthBeat intern at WLS-TV, ABC 7 Chicago, back in the day; she was a health & wellness girl even back then.)  Sylvia P. invited Sylvia M. on her show this past Sunday, 12/18, to talk meditation.  We're working on getting a link to the segment.  In the meantime, we shared our tips for mindful breathing (below), and cute snowflakes Ava and Abriel watching the show.  Enjoy!

 

For our faithful readers, you know we think the gift of attention is one of the most genuine and heartfelt presents you can give this holiday season.  That being said, sometimes we want to give a token of our affection to our friends and loved ones.  We have put together a list of some of our favorite things for everyone on your list.  Hope this helps you out!

For foodies, you can't go wrong with a gift basket filled with these healthy snacks.  All indie brands + local (Chicago plus Cleveland).

  • Garden of Flavor - yummy juices and cleanses. We're partnering with them to offer a unique wellness experience at Mariano's West Loop soon.  Stay tuned for details!
  • Think Jerky - chef-crafted jerky; a percentage of revenue is donated to the David Lynch Foundation.
  • The Paleo Cookie Company - hands down, our favorite cookies.


For your practical loved ones:

  • Winter gloves & hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Cozy socks
  • Flannel sheets


For the entertainers:

  • No Denial Foods - their pies are made for those with food sensitivities though you would never know it.  Pure decadence.
  • SOCIAL Sparkling Wine - their toasted coconut almond wine transports us to the tropics!  Bonus:  only 88 calories.
  • Zen and Tonic:  When green drinks go boozy, this guide is for you.  


For a laugh:


For the meditators (aspirational, practicing, and everyone in between):

 
Enjoy the holiday season and remember to take time out for you to sit back and breathe.
Resuming on January 2, join us for our latest meditation series in Chicago's West Loop. Use promo code:  bbbogo2017 when you register online and bring a friend free to class! Meditating, especially with a friend, is a great way to kick off the new year.
 
With gratitude,

Your friends at breathe bar

Sylvia Maldonado
The Power of Attention

Energy flows where attention goes.
 
Mindful living comes back to this treasured adage time and time again, and with good reason; it's true. Whether we're settling into our daily yoga practice, brewing our morning cup of coffee, or playing with our children, attention is what revitalizes our experiences, adding a sense of vibrancy and newness to our daily lives. The words of the beloved Irish poet John O'Donohue come to mind:
                        
"May you be present in what you do. / May you never become lost in the bland absences."
 
With the holidays in full swing, it's easy to go on auto-pilot. (Guilty as charged here.) Between last-minute preparations and tying up all the loose ends, keeping our awareness on the present moment can be tricky when the mind would rather wander elsewhere. For me, this manifests as an ever-expanding to-do list that plays on a loop in my head, laying out everything I still need to get done before my kids begin their two-week winter break from school

Then I stop and repeat my new mantra for when my mind runs away with itself: Step away. This gentle reminder nudges my awareness away from "the bland absences" of everyday life and back to the present; the sound of the music playing in my headphones, the feel of my dog's head on my lap.

This time of year, holiday shopping is perhaps the easiest area to lose sight of ourselves. We often get caught up in the frenzied gift-buying. Why? We want to show our friends and family just how much we love them. But reach back into your favorite holiday memories for a moment. Chances are it's not heaps of toys that stand out. Rather, it's laughing with your cousins or helping your grandmother in the kitchen. Simply put, it was the attention you received from those you love.

Attention directed inward is equally important. Meditation is the most effective way to fill your own cup, which, in turn, better equips you to give more fully to others. In that spirit, we invite you to take part in our latest meditation series underway in Chicago's West Loop. It just might re-center your attention for the holiday home stretch.

Marianne Hayes is thrilled to join the breathe bar team as a guest contributor. She's a longtime freelance writer with a passion for spiritual growth and inner life.

Editor's note:  We connected with Marianne after we read this great article of her's about meditation.  It offers some of the best guidance we've seen about starting a meditation practice, and sticking with it, from a perspective that we can all relate to.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, we tracked Marianne down, shared our stories of meditation and wellness, found a kindred spirit, and here we are!  We're grateful to have Marianne as our first guest contributor to breathe bar!


Do you have meditation and wellness stories to share? 
We'd love to connect with you!
Please drop us a line:  info@mybreathebar.com

 
Marianne with her girls and their dog!
Sylvia Maldonado
Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and the beginning of the at-times stressful holiday season, it can sometimes be a challenge to remember our blessings.  During these acrimonious times, when we seem to be surrounded by rancor, it is in those challenging moments that we can take the opportunity to pause, take some deep breaths, and have a gratitude moment.  This gratitude practice doesn't mean that go about our day in a state of oblivion or apathy.  It is about deciding to make a choice to not get sucked into negativity, and rising above.  Focusing on the positive does indeed improve well-being and happiness levels.  Don't take it from us - check out this article from Harvard Medical School.

Their tips to cultivate gratitude include:

  • Write a thank you note.
  • Thank someone mentally.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Count your blessings.
  • Pray.
  • Meditate.

We challenge you to pick one, try it daily for a week, and notice any change in your happiness levels.  In the meantime, as an expression of our gratitude to you, for all of your love and support, we're offering a free meditation class on December 5, to kick-off our breathe bar 8-week meditation series at Venue One.  Reserve your spot today.  We can't wait to see you!

May you have a joyful and peaceful Thanksgiving.

With gratitude and love,

Your friends at breathe bar

Kelsey Kreiling
Go, Cubs, Go!! THE CHAMPIONS!

The City of Chicago is still on Cloud 9 from the Cubs' dramatic win last Wednesday.  After the parade on Friday, this weekend has seen the Cubs celebrating at Disney World and with Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live.  While many factors contributed to the team's success, we'd like to give a special shout out to Darnell McDonald, a former professional athlete who is the mental skills coordinator for the Chicago Cubs. 


In this video, McDonald explains how the Cubs' manager, Joe Maddon, a meditator himself, recruited him to work with the inner game of the Cubs players, through teaching yoga and meditation.  McDonald explains that meditation is about being present, in the moment, even when you're driving.  Notice your body.  Are your shoulders tense?  Relax them.  He gives practical, no-nonsense advice that really demystifies the practice.  Want to get started?  Try our free 5-minute Introduction to Meditation at mybreathebar.com.

Whether you're new to meditation, or if you have an established practice, come join us at our ScentMed seriesNovember 8 - great stress release on Election Day -  and November 15.  Use promo code:  cubs for 50% off.  In the meantime, you can find us on Facebook for our latest news.  Do you have any meditation stories & tips to share?  We're all ears.  Contact us at info@mybreathebar.com.

Kelsey Kreiling
Go, Cubs, Go!!

We have baseball on the brain.  Learning the backstories of the players (we loved hearing about the friendship of the Cubs' Javier Baez and the Indians' Francisco Lindor, dating back to their childhood days in Puerto Rico) has reignited our interest in the MLB.  As we enjoy the World Series, it may not seem like professional sports and meditation are a natural fit.  However, many professional athletes and coaches, from Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, have been vocal about their use of meditation techniques to hone their inner game. 

One of the common elements they share is George Mumford (pictured below), who teaches mindfulness.  He's the author of The Mindful Athlete:  Secrets to Pure Performance.  In the book, which applies to athletes and non-athletes alike, he suggests asking yourself a challenging question each day.  For example:  Where do I hold my stress in my body?

Mumford says that as you learn to practice listening deeply to yourself and your body, you can listen better to others.  Listening without judgement nor interruption is one of the best gifts we can give each other.

Whether you're new to meditation and want to start "feeling your breath" or if you have an established practice, come join us at our ScentMed series, starting November 1.  We'll be creating personalized essential oil blends, made by you based on your needs (i.e., energy, calm, focus, etc.) that can enhance your meditation practice.  We hope to see you!  In the meantime, you can find us on Facebook for our latest news.

Kelsey Kreiling
Thank you!

A big thank you to everyone who attended our breathe bar pop-ups and enjoyed meditation on our breathe bar players (featuring our very own guided meditations about mindfulness, focus, gratitude, body awareness and kindness, in English and in Spanish).  At our pop-ups, we were blessed to partner with some of the best practitioners and local brands in meditation and wellness:  Kathmandu YogiNo Denial FoodsSkinny Souping, Rich Krzyzanowki (acro massage guru), Lisa Gniady (gong healer extraordinaire), and doTERRA Oils.  We'll be sure to keep you updated on future pop up-dates and times.  Want some breathe bar love? Click here to request a breathe bar pop-up at your workplace or wellness event.

To support group meditation and explore the topics that matter to us most, we're launching breathe bar circles next week at cozy and cool spaces around the city.  Details here for the August 10 circle around food facilitated by Sarah Baker of Balanced BabeAugust 11 features mindfulness expert Marilyn Joy at Logan Square's awesome Owen + Alchemy for a double whammy of meditation + juice goodness.  Space is limited for both events so please reserve a cushion in advance.

Since we're all about spreading compassion to make the world a better place, we'll be sharing tips to support your meditation practice and enhance your well-being. 

Kelsey Kreiling