SyntaxError: Parse error The Gift of Meditation
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The Greatest Gift You Can Give Yourself: Meditation
Are you feeling stressed out and stretched to your limit? Give yourself a moment to reconnect and find a deeper sense of inner joy with meditation. Spiritual teachers Ed and Deb Shapiro guide you through a series of meditations that will free your mind and help you become more present in your everyday life.
Ed and Deb Shapiro
Meditation is wonderful, but it is so misunderstood. In this series, we will explore what meditation truly means, the varied ways to practice it and how to apply it to the daily issues you face such as stress, difficulties at work, self-empowerment and self-love, relationships, forgiveness and even anger. If there is an issue about meditation that you would like us to discuss, let us know by commenting below.

For our book Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, we talked to more than 100 respected meditation teachers and practitioners from all walks of life—many you may know—like Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell and the Dalai Lama. We include their stories in the book, so it has numerous voices and experiences that illuminate this journey.

In essence, meditation is simply about calming your chattering monkey-like mind and being aware and present in this moment. It is easier than you think, yet so many people say to us, "I can't possibly meditate; I can't sit still." Or, "My mind is much too busy; I just fall asleep." Most of us are so externalized and caught up in regrets from the past or worries about the future that our abilities to be completely here and now is challenged.

Get started with one of Ed and Deb's meditations

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    Oprah Talks to The Dalai Lama
    The renowned spiritual leader tells why material things can't satisfy the soul, why compassion can, and the startlingly simple secret to having no regrets.
    Oprah and the Dalai Lama
    He calls himself "a simple Buddhist monk"—a man who rises at 4 A.M. and spends hours each day in prayer and meditation. Yet his nonviolent efforts to free his country, Tibet, have made His Holiness the Dalai Lama an international symbol of peace during the past four decades. In the 46 countries the Dalai Lama has been invited to visit, thousands of people have flocked to hear him speak on what he believes is his most meaningful message—that compassion toward others is the surest path to happiness.

    Born Lhamo Thondup in 1935 in the Tibetan village of Taktser, he was first recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama—the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama—at the age of 2. (Several signs led a group of monks, who had been on a two-year search for their next leader, to the toddler.) The boy was taken to a nearby monastery for a year and a half and then moved to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, with his family when he was 4. There, tutors prepared him to one day assume spiritual and political guidance of his country.

    In 1950 the Dalai Lama was forced to take on that role at the age of 15, two years ahead of schedule. In an act of unprovoked aggression, China invaded and overtook Tibet. The Dalai Lama's peaceful attempts to regain his country's autonomy were to no avail. In 1959 tension between the Tibetans and the Chinese became so intense that, on the heels of violent outbreaks he had tried to prevent, the Dalai Lama fled for asylum in nearby India. More than 120,000 Tibetans have since followed. It is there, from the city of Dharamsala, that His Holiness has led the Tibetan people for 42 years.

    It has not been a silent exile. During his early years in India, the Dalai Lama put forth a democratic constitution for a future free Tibet, based on Buddhist principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. In Washington, D.C., at the 1987 Congressional Human Rights Caucus, he proposed a plan calling for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace and for an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into his country. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He has written more than 35 books, including The Art of Happiness (Riverhead Books), which has been a best-seller in the United States since 1998.

    I met with His Holiness during one of his many trips to Washington, D.C., a trip that also included his visit with President Bush at the White House. About a dozen Buddhists in colorful Tibetan attire waited in the hallways of the hotel where the Dalai Lama stayed, hoping for a chance to hear him speak. In our time together, we talked about everything from whether he harbors any regrets to what he considers a good day—and how every person can find the secret to a joyful life.

    Start reading Oprah's interview with The Dalai Lama

    Note: This interview appeared in the August 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

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      Is Meditation Your Friend or Your Enemy?
      Between balancing work and your personal life, it may seem like you don't have time to try anything new. But spiritual teachers Ed and Deb Shapiro explain why you'll benefit from adding meditation to your must-do list.
      Ed and Deb Shapiro
      Courtesy of Ed and Deb Shapiro
      Did you ever wonder why you resist something that connects you to happiness and peace of mind? Isn't it ironic how often the best things for you can be what you avoid the most? Something like meditation, for instance, can bring you such joy but can appear as unimportant and boring, and you may have little time for it. Yet this is like being addicted to poison while resenting the anecdote!

      Some years ago, we were in Thailand, attending a 10-day, silent meditation retreat. Each day, a cheerful Buddhist monk would come to teach, and he would always ask us: "Are you happier today than you were yesterday?" As he said this, a wide smile would fill his face because he knew we were confronting numerous obstacles to happiness, and not just the ones in our own minds. As beautiful as the coconut grove was, we were living with mosquitoes, centipedes and snakes, sleeping on wooden planks and not eating after midday. How were we expected to find happiness amid such extremes?

      Yet despite his humorous tone, the smiling monk's question was a genuine one. We were on a meditation retreat. If we were not beginning to feel happier as a result, then what was the point of being there? Why meditate if we don't enjoy it?

      Every day, he asked us that same question: "Are you happier today than you were yesterday?" This had the effect of highlighting the extent to which we were preoccupied with our own concerns, doubts and conflicts, and even how difficulties can actually feel more familiar and meaningful than joy. How easy it was to blame physical discomforts for our lack of happiness!

      Why you should make friends with meditation

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        Is Your Mind Like a Drunken Monkey? How Meditation Can Calm Your Mind
        When you're busy juggling your schedule—and everybody else's too—it's difficult to focus on the here and now. Ed and Deb Shapiro have ideas to help you live in the moment through meditation.
        Ed and Deb Shapiro
        Photo: Courtesy of Ed and Deb Shapiro
        Have you ever felt as if your mind was driving you crazy? Does the chatter in your head go on endlessly? Meditation appears to be a simple answer to this: Just calm the mind and pay attention to the present. But why isn't it that easy? "My thoughts are driving me mad! My mind will not be quiet! I can't relax!" Sound familiar?

        The mind is notoriously resistant to being quiet, so as soon as you sit still, it seems to do everything it can to distract you. Habitual thinking kicks in, and within a few minutes, an internal dialog takes over, the body starts to fidget and trivial things that need to be done suddenly appear vitally important. The mind has often been compared to a "drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion." Just as a monkey leaps from tree to tree, so the mind leaps from one drama to another, constantly distracted.

        When you start to meditate, you'll find all of this chaotic activity going on. It seems so noisy that you believe you cannot possibly be still. Actually, it is simply because you are now becoming aware of the noise, whereas before you were so immersed in it, you were unaware that such chatter was so constant.

        In our book Be the Change, professor Robert Thurman writes: "The first step is to try to focus our mind on something, like counting the breath. When we do, we see all these runaway thoughts that race through the mind, like I wonder when my car will be ready, is my parking meter overdue, will I get a ticket, is my girlfriend happy? Our minds are filled with these preoccupations, and we do not even realize it. But we can just let them go and bring the mind back to something we do want to focus on. This is a beginning, calming, waking-up step. But more important is to choose positive thoughts to focus on, such as I want to be more loving to that person who annoys me, I want to be more content, I want to be more friendly, peaceful, happy, and I no longer need to suffer."

        Having a busy mind is very normal. Someone once estimated that in any one 30-minute session of meditation, you may have upward of 300 thoughts. After years of distraction, the mind is not always so ready to be quiet. You cannot suddenly turn your thinking off; that would be like trying to catch the wind. But having a busy mind does not mean you cannot meditate, it just means you are like everyone else. What you can do is make friends with your mind, thereby changing it from being an enemy to your ally.

        Quiet your mind with this breath awareness meditation

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          Can Meditation Be Sexy?
          Celebrity scandals, low-carb diets and miniskirts are all trends that will probably come and go. Some might even add meditation to that list of "in" things, but Ed and Deb Shapiro explain why meditation is, was and always will be here to stay.
          Women meditating
          Photo: Thinkstock
          From Madonna to Christie Turlington, from Sting to Richard Gere, and from East to West, meditation is what's happening. We use the term "sexy" because meditation is now the "in" thing, with more and more people—both young and old—who are chilling out by doing it. Also, cross-legged yogis and monks can be seen in television and magazine ads selling everything from hot cars to herbal teas.

          You do not have to be a hippie or on a spiritual quest to meditate. We have taught housewives, athletes, musicians and therapists, in yoga centers and town halls, high school gymnasiums, on ski slopes and on television. We were invited to teach meditation in Thailand to corporate CEOs because more businesses are incorporating stress-release and meditation techniques into their lifestyles.

          But if meditation is so available and as well known as it appears to be, why is it not already an integral part of everyone's lives? If health reports are saying how good meditation is for coping with stress, heart conditions and psychological issues, why do we ignore it or find excuses not to do it? Why do you think of something as a waste of time when research tells you it is immensely value?

          Perhaps it's because meditation just doesn't seem that sexy. The mind seeks constant entertainment and much prefers being distracted than facing the endless drama racing around inside it. The idea of sitting still and watching your breath can appear boring, meaningless, even a time-waster, and not at all fun, challenging or creative.

          Yet meditation is all of this and much more. It is about discovering your authenticity and the magic of being alive. It's sexy because it feels great and there is nothing more joyful.

          Meditation is simply about being fully present in this moment, no matter what we are doing. If you are washing the dishes, then let any thoughts and distractions dissolve into the soap bubbles; if you are ironing, then become one with the rhythm of the movement; when you are eating, be aware of every bite, the tastes and textures. In this way, everything can be an awakening experience.

          Connect with the beauty within you

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            How Meditation Can Save Your Relationship
            Everyone gets in arguments—even the Dalai Lama says so! So how do you overcome the times when you just can't take your mate anymore? Find out how meditation can bring you and your partner closer and strengthen your bond.
            Couple meditating
            Photo: Getty Images/Digital Vision/Thinkstock
            Ed comes from the Bronx and is the son of a postal worker; Deb comes from the English countryside and is of distant royal descent. As they say in England, we go together like chalk and cheese, meaning we couldn't be more different if we tried! Yet we have spent just about 24/7 together for the past 24 years. This often amazes us, and there is no doubt our mutual commitment to meditation has held us together; when times were tough, meditation has been our greatest ally. In fact, without it, by now we would probably be on opposite sides of the planet!

            Ideally, we meditate together every day, and any difficulties that may arise simply dissolve into the shared stillness. Then, when we need to, we can discuss such issues more calmly. However, our ability to stay open and loving, our selflessness and needs, are immediately confronted by someone else's needs. Relationship may be an integral part of being alive, but it is also the most vital and challenging teacher you could ever have!

            Shortly after we were married, we went on our honeymoon to India, where we had a private meeting with the Dalai Lama at his residence in the foothills of the Himalayas. As Ed recalls: "After about half an hour talking, I was feeling so moved by this kind, simple and loving man that I just wanted to stay there and learn from him. Finally I said, 'I don't want to leave! I just want to stay here with you!' I thought he would understand and say how wonderful, I recognize your sincerity, but instead he just smiled and replied, 'If we were together all the time, we would quarrel!'"

            So if the Dalai Lama, someone who meditates for many hours every day, can quarrel, then so can we. Inevitably, there are going to be times when differences collide and egos clash or needs are not met; there will be times of discord. We get upset because we want the other person to be different from how he or she is. Perhaps one of the hardest things to accept in a relationship is that you cannot change your partner into the person you want him or her to be; the only thing you can change is your attitude toward the person.

            Find out how meditation can help you get through tough times

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