Meditation by @TaylorLeeWrites

Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”― Louis L’Amour 

I swear that I have the “busiest”, “never quiet” brain in the world.  That’s why I’ve been paying more and more attention to the study of Meditation and Mindfullness. Take a look at some of the evidence below from an article by Alice G. Walton, a Forbes Magazine contributor, and see that there are real concrete benefits to “taking the time out to be still.”

 

Below are 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain: 

  1. Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain 
  2. Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center” 
  3. Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety. 
  4. Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain 
  5. Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention 
  6. Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety 
  7. Meditation Can Help with Addiction 

Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.”  Amit Ray 

Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow.”  ― Catherynne M. Valente,   

 Now that you’ve seen how meditation and mindfulness actually change the brain check out these meditation  “Myth-Busters” by the inimitable Deepak Chopra and decide whether meditating just might be for you! 

7 Myths of Meditation by: Deepak Chopra, M.D. 

Myth #1: Meditation is difficult. 

Truth:  This myth is rooted in the image of meditation as an esoteric practice reserved only for saints, holy men, and spiritual adepts. In reality, when you receive instruction from an experienced, knowledgeable teacher, meditation is easy and fun to learn. 

Myth #2: You have to quiet your mind in order to have a successful meditation practice. 

Truth:  This may be the number one myth about meditation and is the cause of many people giving up in frustration. Meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or trying to empty our mind – both of these approaches only create stress and more noisy internal chatter. We can’t stop or control our thoughts, but we can decide how much attention to give them.  

Myth #3: It takes years of dedicated practice to receive any benefits from meditation. 

Truth:  The benefits of meditation are both immediate and long-term. You can begin to experience benefits the first time you sit down to meditate and in the first few days of daily practice.  

Myth #4: Meditation is escapism. 

Truth:  The real purpose of meditation isn’t to tune out and get away from it all but to tune in and get in touch with your true Self. In meditation you dive below the mind’s churning surface, which tends to be filled with repetitive thoughts about the past and worries about the future, into the still point of pure consciousness. In this state of transcendent awareness, you let go of all the stories you’ve been telling yourself about who you are, what is limiting you, and where you fall short – and you experience the truth that your deepest Self is infinite and unbounded 

Myth #5: I don’t have enough time to meditate. 

Truth:  There are busy, productive executives who have not missed a meditation in twenty-five years, and if you make meditation a priority, you will do it. 

Myth #6: Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice. 

Truth:  Meditation is a practice that takes us beyond the noisy chatter of the mind into a place of stillness and silence. It doesn’t require a specific spiritual belief, and many people of many different religions practice meditation without any conflict with their current religious beliefs.  

Myth #7: I’m supposed to have transcendent experiences in meditation. 

Truth:

Some people are disappointed when they don’t experience visions, see colors, levitate, hear a choir of angels, or glimpse enlightenment when they meditate.  Although we can have a variety of wonderful experiences when we meditate, including feelings of bliss and oneness, these aren’t the purpose of the practice. The real benefits of meditation are what happens in the other hours of the day when we’re going about our daily lives. When we emerge from our meditation session, we carry some of the stillness and silence of our practice with us, allowing us to be more creative, compassionate, centered, and loving to ourselves and everyone we encounter. 

“In the end, just three things matter:
How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go” 
― Jack Kornfield 

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And when you are through meditating and are super mellow, grab Topaz, the third book in my provocative Ladies of the Night series and crank up the excitement. The Ladies are covert agents in a secretive, off the grid security organization.  Highly trained fighters, they’re as gorgeous as they are dangerous to the evil men they’re hired to bring to justice. The only thing these formidable women are NOT is “ladies.”  

Topaz 

FREE Jan 28-Feb. 1 

Maya Taveras, Code Name: Topaz, is a mixed-race Zoe Saldana look-a-like.  As mysterious as her heritage, a hideous incident in Topaz’s troubled past gives her a dangerous  connection to the   international Cartel leader at the top of the DEA’s most wanted list.  Agent Grayson Webb joins Topaz to infiltrate down the formidable organization. Not surprisingly, Webb falls for his partner, the sultry Topaz. A roller-coaster of a ride rife with violence, sexual attraction and unexpected rivalries make this stormy tale a page turner from the first page to the last. 

And if you can’t get enough of sexy ‘Good Guys” check out my gang’s latest collection: 

Unforgettable Courage

Unforgettable Courage: Protection and Loyalty 

My book in the set is 

The Courage to Triumph 

Caught in a hotbed of White Supremacist activists, both Ava and Luke become the targets. Not only do they have to overcome the constant danger, but Luke and Ava must decide if they can give their love a second chance.  

4 Tips to Get Organized in the New Year by @Donna_Fasano

Get OrganizedA brand new year always gives me a hopeful feeling. A chance to get on the right track. To get organized. And to declutter, clear out, rethink, and reorganize—my home, my work space, my mind, my life. It’s good to re-evaluate how and why we do the things we do or keep the things we keep. Whether it’s a full remodel job (I’m planning a DIY storage system for my walk-in closet) or just a small sprucing up of a room, a desk, or an exercise and diet routine, it’s great to start the New Year with a sense of accomplishment. Here are 4 tips to help you get organized in 2022.

Reassess your daily routine

What’s the best time to rise and shine? Which hours of the day are you most productive in your work? Do normal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) eating times work best for you? Or do you tend to eat off-schedule? Are you giving yourself enough down time? How’s your exercise routine going? Are you getting enough sleep? The answers to these questions will help you reassess and reorganize your daily routine.

Keep everything in its place

Stand in the middle of any room in your home and take a look around. If your gaze lands on objects you haven’t used in a while, seriously consider getting rid of them. (You don’t have to throw them away. Donate usable items to thrift stores.) While inspecting the room, do you see items out of place? Decluttering and keeping my things where they belong always, always makes me more productive.

Make lists

I love making a daily list of things I want to get done. Checking off those “things to do” always has me feeling that I’ve spent my time wisely.

Focus on one task at a time

Let’s face it, sometimes we all have to multi-task. But I find that I do a better job if I take a deep, cleansing breath and focus on one task at a time. Focusing my energy means I will get a job done in less time. Plus, when I do one thing at a time, I find the task is completed at a higher standard than it would be if I’m trying to do several things at once.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The first three books in my Ocean City Boardwalk Series feature 3 women who live and work in the seaside town of Ocean City, Maryland. Young widow Sara Carson, serious-minded Heather Phillips, and wild-child Cathy Whitley have been friends since grade school. Follow these enterprising woman as they face hardship, life trials, and tense relationships. Life by the ocean isn’t just fun in the sun—love is waiting on those sandy shores!

These books are available:  Amazon  *  Barnes and Noble  *  Kobo  *  iTunes

The eBook version of Book one is reasonably priced at $1.99 at all stores. All 3 books are available in paperback:  Amazon  *  Barnes and Noble.


Ocean City Boardwalk

Travel with Mona, visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Many trips to Israel and the Middle East had often been canceled or postponed because of political turmoil or instability. When a Canadian friend told us about a group from Montreal organizing a guided tourist visit to the Holy Land in March 2010, my husband and I found it an excellent opportunity to finally travel safely through the region.

We flew from New York to Amman, Jordan, where we met the eighteen people coming from Canada. The next day we boarded our comfortable bus and visited Petra that I described in a previous blog. From there we continued along the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and Israel. The security was very tight with x-ray scanning, questioning and bag searches and passport control.

Monastery of the Temptation
 The sycamore-fig tree or  Zacchaeus tree

We stopped for lunch in Jericho, commonly known as “the oldest city in the world” (8000 BCE) and the world’s lowest city (1200 feet under sea level).” Jericho is a Palestinian city in the West Bank, an important historical, cultural, and political center located northwest of the Dead Sea. It is truly a place where the ancient past comes in contact with the immediate present and where the fragrance of oranges and citrus permeates the air.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Dead Sea shore. The sea water is rich in minerals and salt, and so muddy. The mud is cleaned and sold as an anti-wrinkle facial cream at $90 the small jar. [Yes, I bought a jar. It didn’t erase a single line.]

The Dome of the Rock or Masgad El Aksa. A cabinet within the building houses a hair from the prophet Mohamad’s beard. Another tradition suggests it’s the mountain where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac.
A view of Jerusalem from Mount Olive

Finally we entered Jerusalem in the early night and checked in our hotel that was fully booked for the week. For our bad luck, millions of Christian pilgrims and orthodox Jews had flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, and Passover that all occurred on that same week in the year 2010. The hotel manager had programmed the elevators to stop at each floor in respect for the Jewish patrons who were not allowed to operate the lift. Imagine the slow traffic, going up and down.

In the morning we boarded our bus and headed to Nazareth where we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and in the lowest floor an ancient house that tradition says is the site of the angelic announcement. Not far from it, we visited the Church of St. Joseph, the site of the Holy Family’s house and St. Joseph’s workshop. Later we had lunch on the Lake of Tiberias, and then drove through the verdant hills of Galilea, where we visited three more churches.

Lunch of fish on the Lake Tiberias known for its rough waves.

We spent the evening on the shore of the Jordan River. Many pilgrims wore a white robe to be baptized or renew their baptism vows in the Jordan River.

Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Tiberias, through which the Jordan River flows.

The next day, we stopped by St. John the Baptist Church, built over the house where he was born. We climbed 154 steps to the Church of the Visitation. Inside the church, 41 plaques, each in a different language, bear the Magnificat.

We visited the Museum of Jerusalem and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, then admired a small model –maquette– of Old Jerusalem, with the Temple, Pilate’s fortress, Herod’ s Castle, and the walls of Jerusalem.

We continued to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

The Church of the Nativity is built above a cave which may have been the place of Jesus’ nativity.
The church was built by Queen Helena in 329, and renovated by the Crusaders. The cave includes two lobes, one with a star marks the place of Jesus’ birth, the other marks the place of the manger.

We passed by the Shepherd’s Field where the sheep and goats used to grate.

Later the hotel offered us a tour of Jerusalem by night, with a stop at Mount Olive. We crossed some villages, stopped by Victoria Hospital and Masada. We saw a temple, built by an American philanthropist on the model of the initial Temple of Solomon. It is said that the Masgad el Aksa, the mosque with the golden dome, was built on the location of the former temple.

On Holy Thursday, we returned to Mount Olive, visited a Jewish cemetery, walked by the Eastern Wall, and the Wailing Wall.

A Jewish crowd
A Christian crowd

We spent Good Friday walking through the Via Dolorosa and visiting old churches, and spent Friday evening and Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre .

Strolling along the narrow lanes of Via Dolorosa
A view of the Church of Holy Sepulcher
from Mount Olive
The Chapel built on top of Christ’s Tomb in the center of the Holy Sepulcher

It would take ten blogs to describe all that we’ve seen and learned during that week spent in Jerusalem and its surroundings. An amazing trip that will remain imprinted in my memory forever.

My latest published books are part of the Love Plans.

SAILING AWAY PLANS ; DATING PLANS ; RESCUE PLANS ;

WEDDING PLANS ; BABY PLANS

Family Christmas

In elementary school, one of our teachers used to ask the class to write a paper about the meaning of Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? This sentence still echoes in my ears after so many years. I had no trouble filling the pages, writing how my grandparents organized Christmas for their family of six children and families. Christmas meant getting together with the many cousins, enjoying a fun time, a delicious dinner, innumerable cookies and desserts. “Christmas is family time,” my grandmother often repeated. Yet she always added to her guest list the friends and neighbors that were on their own on Christmas day.  

And then my grandfather passed. A year later, my mother took over. The Christmas get-together moved to my parents’ house, with my grandmother’s menu and a few new recipes. By then I was married with small children. So were the invited cousins. The reunions continued, with thirty guests attending, all related — my children playing with their relatives, creating life-long bonds of friendship within the family.

When my dad passed, Mom lost the desire and energy to prepare big gatherings. It was my turn to maintain the tradition that came with a lot of work but so much joy for children and parents. For the last thirty years, I’ve been starting the cooking and baking three weeks before Christmas. Even after we retired and moved to Florida, our children and relatives kept visiting for the holidays. This year, I will entertain twenty-five guests on Christmas Eve, relatives and a few lonely friends. My daughter will handle the Christmas Day dinner. The family reunion continues with my grandchildren befriending the cousins’ kids.

Christmas meant family togetherness for church, dinner, and play, when I was a school kid, and it still has the same meaning. My grandmother must be smiling from up there at my grandchildren and her many descendants bonding together.

Yes, the holiday preparations can be exhausting. What do you do after a long day of preparation? Wouldn’t it be nice to lounge in front of a fire or curl onto a couch or even in bed with a sweet romance novel, forget the latest lousy news and escape into a warm Christmas story that would cheer you up and reassure you there is still love in this world?
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Here are a few warm Christmas stories to lift your heart: