Monday, February 13, 2017

This Blog Is Moving and Getting a New Name!

After much deliberation, I've decided to rename this blog Annie's Self-Help Toolkit and to move it to its own domain name,

"Self-Help" encompasses other methods besides mindfulness, and is a better way to describe what this site is about. And getting a domain name for it makes it look more professional. I have great hopes for this site, and I love the way it's developing already. I get all excited thinking about the plans I have for future posts and resource pages!

I have transferred all the previous blog posts to this new site, and will be posting there moving forward. This site will still be active, so you can access previous posts on either site. Just make sure you bookmark the new site to continue reading new posts.

See you there!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Meditation Types

My logical mind likes to categorize things, so I tried to find a list of all the types of meditations by category. It wasn't as simple as I thought. Everyone seems to have a different idea on how to classify meditation practices. Here are my notes from this research, which I will add to as I learn more. I'm still very new to this, so if you know of any good resources I could use, please let me know.

Meditation Categories

According to this article on Mental Health Daily, nearly all types of meditations fit in the following three categories:

1. Focused Attention (Concentration)
Focus your attention on one specific thing (object, thought, or breath). When the mind wanders, calmly bring your focus back to the object.

2. Mindfulness (Open Monitoring)
Let your attention flow freely without judgment or attachment. Notice all sensations you’re feeling, but just observe them instead of judging them or reacting positively or negatively.

3. Effortless Transcending (Pure Being, Transcendental)
The goal is to help recognize the true nature of the self by eliminating all thought, becoming aware of deep states of consciousness. It requires no mental effort or concentration.

This article on Spiritual Healing for You lists five categories of meditation techniques:

1. Concentration
Concentration is at the heart of all the types of meditation, but in some techniques, focus is predominantly on building concentration. This can help you overcome distractions within and outside your mind and sustain mental focus.

2. Reflective Meditation (analytical meditation; disciplined thinking)
Choose a question, theme, or topic and focus your analysis or reflection upon it. Train your mind to come back to the topic in question whenever your thoughts wander to other topics.

3. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation lays emphasis on cultivating a highly receptive mindful attention toward any action or objects within your sphere of influence. It helps you learn a simple thing: to pay attention or be "mindful."

4. Heart-Centered Meditation (heart chakra meditation, loving-kindness meditation)
Heart-centered meditation will help you release all your fears and sadness and bathe in the radiance of loving kindness and compassion. Choose a quiet place, set the right posture and focus on the heart area while inhaling and exhaling slowly but smoothly. You can also connect your heart to the heart of a teacher or a compassionate person.

5. Creative Meditation
This form of meditation will enable you to consciously cultivate and strengthen different qualities of your mind, such as appreciation, joy, compassion, patience, empathy, love, gratitude, compassion, humility, fearlessness, and tenderness.

Types of Meditation
The Mental Health Daily article mentioned above also lists the following types of meditation. Please visit my page for a summary of each type and a list of sub-types, or read the whole article for more detailed information.
  1. Guided Meditations
  2. Mantra Meditation 
  3. Metta Meditation (Loving Kindness)
  4. Mindfulness Meditation 
  5. Qigong (Chi-Gong)
  6. Taoist Meditations
  7. Transcendental Meditation (TM)
  8. Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism)
  9. Yoga Meditation
  10. Zen Meditation (Zazen)
I also found this article that lists 108 Meditation Techniques. Too many for me! I'll stick to the ten above.

Let me end with this infographic about meditation, which I found on Woodside Health and Tennis Club's website (click on it to enlarge and access their website).


Question of the Week
What's your favorite type of meditation?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Infographic: How to Meditate

Feel free to use this infographic on your site! No permission needed.

This is about mindfulness meditation, and of course, there are many other ways to meditate, which I will talk about in my next post. But this is how I got into meditation, and I love how simple and accessible it is. It can be done anywhere, any time, for any length of time. I recommend starting small, say, five or ten minutes, then increasing little by little.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rumi: The Guest House

This weekend I watched a movie about Rumi, a Persian poet who lived eight hundred years ago. He is one of the most widely read poet in the U.S. I became fascinated by his story and his work. You can read more about him on this page.

I'm not personally a big fan of poems, but I've heard about Rumi so many times in mindfulness circles and I've come across many quotes from him that I really like, so I decided to learn more. Here is one of my favorites:

His poems are nothing like I've ever read. One of them called The Guest House really resonates with what I've learned recently. It's about making space for your feelings, whatever they might be. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Jellaludin Rumi
(translation by Coleman Barks)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Product Review: Inner Bonding

I discovered the Inner Bonding method through #JoyTrain on Twitter. After reading a few articles on the website, I decided to sign up for the free seven-day course. I liked it so much that I also took the thirty-day Love Yourself class. This review is about the free course, which is an introduction to the six steps of Inner Bonding.

In a Nutshell
Inner Bonding is a self-healing process that teaches you how to take 100% responsibility for your feelings and how to move into the intent to learn from them instead of resisting or controlling them. It involves dialoguing with your Inner Child (core self) and being in touch with your feelings so that you can nurture yourself during hard times and manage your painful feelings (sadness, grief, heartache, fear in face of a real danger, and so on), which are inevitable while going through life. It also teaches you to dialogue with your wounded self (the system of beliefs you have developed to protect from pain) to find out what you are telling yourself that are making you feel worried, anxious, angry, and so on. The method also teaches you to connect to your Inner Guidance to find out what loving action you can take toward yourself or others, and then evaluate the results of that action.

Masterminds Behind This Method
The Inner Bonding method was co-created by Dr. Erika Chopich and Dr. Margaret Paul. Here is a brief bio from the Inner Bonding website:

Margaret holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, chaplain, consultant and artist. She has appeared on many radio and TV shows, including the Oprah show. She has successfully worked with thousands of individuals, couples and business relationships and taught classes and seminars since 1967. Dr. Paul is the author/co-author of several best-selling books, including Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You?Inner Bonding, Healing Your AlonenessThe Healing Your Aloneness WorkbookDo I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By My Kids?, and Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God? Dr. Paul's books have been distributed around the world and have been translated into eleven languages.

Dr. Chopich holds a Ph.D. in psychology, is a best-selling author, and an ordained Chaplain. She has worked extensively with the homeless population around the country. Erika has a medical background and before practicing as a psychotherapist, she was an administrator for the Los Angeles Free Clinic. In addition to working with individuals, groups, and business mediation, Erika is an accomplished speaker and seminar leader. She has appeared on many radio and TV shows, including the Oprah show. She is co-author of Healing Your Aloneness and the Healing Your Aloneness Workbook, which have been translated into seven languages and are bestsellers in Germany.

Click here to find out more about Dr. Paul and Dr. Chopich.

How It Works
This two-minute video briefly explains the six steps of Inner Bonding.

Here is an overview of each of the six steps, from the Inner Bonding website:

Step 1: Willingness to Feel Pain and Take Responsibility for Your Feelings
In Step 1, you move into the present moment and focus within, tuning into your feelings and emotions. You make the choice to be mindful of all your feelings, including your painful feelings, rather than protect against them with substance and process addictions. You make a conscious decision that you WANT to take responsibility for your feelings, which means that you want responsibility for learning how you are causing your own anxiety, depression, anger, guilt and shame with your own thoughts and actions, and that you want responsibility for learning how to nurture the painful feelings of life - the loneliness, heartbreak and grief that are so challenging. This begins the process of opening you up to receive the positive energy that enlivens and sustains you.

Step 2: Move into the Intent to Learn
In Step 2, you focus in your heart and invite the compassionate presence of your higher self into your heart. Now you're ready to focus on "intent" - your deepest desire, your primary motivation. There are only two possible intents you can have in any given moment: the intent to protect yourself from pain or the intent to learn about loving yourself. When you are in the intent to learn you are a loving Adult. When you are in the intent to protect and avoid, you are operating from your shame-based ego wounded self. This commitment to your intention to learn fully opens you up and allows you to connect with your feelings and your higher self.

Step 3: Dialogue with Your Wounded self and Core Self
With kindness, gentleness and compassion toward yourself, you discover the thoughts/false beliefs from your wounded self that may be causing your shame, fear and pain, and you learn how to release anger and pain in appropriate ways. You uncover false beliefs that were created in the past and have led to the self-abandonment that is causing your current pain and shame. You explore what may be happening with a person or event that is causing the core painful feelings of loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, helplessness, or grief. You explore your core Self - your essence, your inner child, which is your feeling self - and discover what brings you joy. Only when the unconscious false beliefs that have limited you for so long are understood and identified, can they be replaced by new and healthier truths that will nurture and heal you. In Step 3, you ask yourself questions, such as, "What am I trying to control?" "What am I avoiding feeling with my protective, controlling behavior?"

Step 4: Dialogue with Your Higher Guidance
In Step 4, you ask your spiritual guidance (whatever that is for you): "What is the truth about the thoughts/false beliefs I may have uncovered in Step 3?" And, "What is the loving behavior toward my Inner Child in this situation? What is in my highest good? What is kind to myself?" You open and allow the answers to come through you in words, pictures or feelings. The answers may not come immediately, but if you have a sincere desire to learn, they will come. By staying open to learning, you experience that you are never alone. This is where fears fall away and you begin to receive all the love and wisdom you need to take loving action for yourself and with others.

Step 5: Take Loving Action
Step 5 is about telling yourself the truth and taking the loving action based on the information that came through from your guidance in Step 4. You have opened to your pain, moved into learning, started a dialogue with your wounded self and core self, and tapped into your spiritual guidance. In step 5 you take the ‘loving action' that, over time, heals the shame, anxiety and depression that have been the result of your self-abandonment.

Step 6: Evaluate Your Action
Once you take the loving action, you check in to see if your pain, anger and shame are getting healed. If not, you go back through the steps until you discover the truth and actions that bring you peace, joy, and a deep sense of intrinsic worth. Turning this daily practice into a way of life is what will protect you from going back into the behaviors and patterns from the past. Much like attending to - say - a child's feelings, you learn to keep a loving relationship with yourself throughout your life, no matter the challenges that come at you. This loving relationship with yourself and your guidance fills you and empowers you to handle life's challenges with strength and equanimity.

What I appreciate the most from this method is learning the distinction between core-self feelings, which are inevitable as we go through life (such as heartache when someone is not open to connect with you), and wounded-self feelings (such as anxiety from a danger that is not real or immediate), which we create by our own thoughts and beliefs. I was able to list eight feelings I had at the time, then find out what beliefs I had that was causing my wounded-self feelings. With the help of my Inner Guidance (which was always there, but I just didn't know how to access it), I rephrased those old beliefs that were no longer serving me. I was also able to nurture myself, to stay present with my painful feelings instead of ignoring them or trying to control them.

Since taking this course, I feel a lot more at peace and in touch with my feelings. I no longer try to avoid them but instead I am open to learning what message they have for me, knowing that I have access to my Inner Guidance, which I picture as a beautiful bright light, to help me deal with them. When I look at my list of eight feelings from just a few months ago, I can cross out most of them, and replace them with joy, relief, hope, and confidence. And when I go through painful feelings again (which is inevitable on this planet), I will know how to handle them better than I did in the past.

I made picture quotes from Inner Bonding materials I came across (articles, course, videos). They remind me of the important lessons I've learned from this program.

If you have suffered extreme trauma or abuse, it is not recommended that you do this process alone. Dialoguing with your Inner Child can bring back very intense painful feelings and memories, and professional help is needed to be able to deal with this level of pain.

The free class is good in itself, but I gained a lot more by taking the thirty-day Loving Yourself course, which dives deeper in each of the six steps. It was worth every penny. I received an e-mail each day, with in-depth lessons and links to videos or audio files and an action step to do every day to practice what we've learned, access to a forum where participants posted their questions and comments daily and Margaret answered, a weekly conference call where Margaret answered everyone's questions sent ahead of time. I couldn't have learned all that just by taking the free course.

To Learn More
Visit the Inner Bonding website for more information about this free course and other Inner Bonding products, including courses, forum, free articles and videos, books, and live events.

For quick access, here are some useful pages you may want to visit first:
What is Inner Bonding?
Free articles and videos
Free seven-day course

Connect with Margaret Paul on social media:

Monday, January 16, 2017

My Top Three Mindfulness Tools

What Is Mindfulness?
The best mindfulness definition I've found so far is from "Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us."

Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as “Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and
non-judgmentally.” This article on explains it more in depth.

For the purpose of this blog, I refer to mindfulness as anything related to using the power of your mind to achieve better well-being, whether it be reaching your goals, finding more peace or joy in your life, improving your relationships with yourself and others, being more present and satisfied with life in general, and so on. I couldn't find a better word that would encompass all that.

My Top Three Mindfulness Tools
In my search for inner peace, I've discovered great resources that have helped me along my path, most of them free or very affordable, and I want to take the time to review them here on this blog and give my feedback, so other people can see if those tools could also work for them. I put together a list of those resources, which you can access on the Toolbox tab. Here are my top three.

1. Mindfulness Meditation
There are plenty of free guided meditations online if you search for them, but it's really quite simple: just stop what you're doing, take a few deep breaths, and focus on your breathing and on how you feel in your body, letting your thoughts come and go without judging them or focusing on them. That's it! It can be done anywhere, any time, for any length of time. It creates a space between your thoughts and your response, and it allows you to access your Higher Self for answers as opposed to making your decisions based on your own beliefs and your usual response.

If you're new to meditation, I would recommend starting with a group meditation. I personally find it easier to meditate when I'm in a group setting. is an easy way to find group meditations in your area. Just search for "meditation" or search by category under Health & Wellness. Meditation in New Jersey (shown in the picture above) is my favorite so far.

Another great tool I've just recently discovered is the Insight Timer app, which offers a variety of free guided meditations.

2. Inner Bonding
I've only discovered the Inner Bonding process a few months ago, and it has helped me SO much that I will review it on my next post. This method was developed by Dr. Margaret Paul and Dr. Erika Chopich over the past thirty years.

The Inner Bonding process is a self-healing process using the concepts of Inner Child (the core of who you are, your essence), Wounded Self (your system of thoughts and beliefs you developed to protect yourself from pain), Inner Guidance (your wiser self, your spiritual connection to your Source, whatever you choose to call it), Loving Adult (the loving, caring part of you that is connected to your Inner Guidance).

It teaches us that there are only two primary intents: to learn about loving yourself and others or to protect yourself from fear and pain with addictive, controlling behavior. Deciding to learn from our painful feelings instead of protecting ourselves from pain is the first step toward healing.

The Inner Bonding process consists of six steps:
  • Step One: Be willing to feel pain and to take responsibility for your feelings
  • Step Two: Move into the intent to learn
  • Step Three: Dialogue with your wounded self and core self (inner child)
  • Step Four: Dialogue with your Higher Guidance
  • Step Five: Take the loving action learned in Step Four
  • Step Six: Evaluate your action
The Inner Bonding website offers a free seven-day course explaining each of those steps, or you can also download the whole course as a PDF file. Stay tuned for my review of this course on this blog.

3. The Happiness Trap
I read The Happiness Trap, by Dr. Russ Harris, a few years ago, and it totally changed the way I deal with negative thoughts and emotions. I had the habit back then of running a constant rant in my head about a situation that was bothering me, and this method helped me get over that.

The book explains that your thoughts are simply stories you tell yourself: they may or may not be true; they may or may not be useful. Once you recognize your thoughts for what they are (a story), they don't have as much control over you. They are still there, but they don't affect you as much. In my case, they went away completely, which wasn't the goal, but hey, I'll take it!

My favorite trick from this book is to hear your thoughts in a cartoon voice. I couldn't take those thoughts seriously when I heard them in Donald Duck's voice. This is only one of the many easy and simple methods the book offers to deal with negative thoughts and feelings. It also teaches how to make space for the negative emotions instead of judging them or fighting them, and to just let them be.

This book is a great tool if you are constantly distracted by negative thoughts while trying to meditate.

Question of the Week
How does "being present" help you in a time of crisis?

Answer in the comments or just meditate on this question.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Interview with Lou Redmond

I met Lou two months ago at a group meditation he was leading at 4XMG Studio in Nutley, NJ. I was very impressed by his story and skills at leading the meditations, so I decided to interview him and find out more. 

Lou is a public speaker and motivator. He leads group meditations and also offers guided meditations on YouTube and on Insight Timer. 

He recently wrote a book about his story, which will be available in February.

What was your life like before you came across meditation/mindfulness?
My life before meditation was unfocused at best. I lacked a real sense of purpose. I was not aware of my actions and the results that were following. My “why” was unclear and clouded.

Before meditation I thought the purpose in life was to “Have Fun.” I found my excitement on the weekends through partying which involved a lot of drugs and alcohol. That started to take a toll on my body and emotional well-being.
What was the turning point for you that made you decide to seek other ways of handling things?
I hit my “rock bottom” as far as drug use went. It wasn’t really a one-off occurrence, rather week after week of building myself back up during the work week only to see it come crashing down as the weekend came. Many sleepless nights I would lie awake with these depressing hangovers. I finally hit a point where I understood what it was doing to my body and decided it was time for a new way of being. 

What approaches have you tried before developing your own?
I’ve tried many different meditation approaches including mindfulness, breath work, and visualization, just to name a few. I’ve also done some work with NLP (Neural Linguistic Programing) which, like meditation, brings you to a deeper place within yourself.   

Explain what your approach is about.
What resonated with me most was visualization and journey meditation. I believe whatever the mind can imagine can make its way to physical reality. By visualizing through meditation and taking yourself on a journey of your life, you charge the cells in your body and give more energy to what you envision.

  1. Get in your favorite meditation space and start enlivening your body with your breath.
  2. Bring to mind a future you. This future you has accomplished all your wildest dreams. Take notice what this person looks like.
  3. Now let your mind run wild with what those dreams are. How do they look in your mind’s eye?
  4. How does your body feel when seeing this? Work to cultivate the feeling of what it would be like to attain your wildest dreams.
  5. Breathe into this feeling! Breathe deeper, own this fantasy world you created and truly believe that you have all your dreams accomplished NOW.
  6. When you can bring the feeling into your current state of being of how you want your future self to be, your mind thinks it’s reality and will work to bring that into your life.
How did you develop your approach?
My approach is still evolving, which is exactly what life and meditation are about. I like to experiment with new things and most of all, have fun with what I’m doing. We’re not meant to be the same. Everything around us is changing and evolving. If we’re not on that path, then we are falling behind.

You should always be trying new things and questioning the habits and routines you find yourself in. That’s what growth and transformation are all about.

How did you actually discover meditation? How was your first time like?
I tried meditation simply because I saw that successful people around me were doing it. It didn’t take off for me for a couple of months. I believe meditation is like and instrument. We’re not going to be good at first. We have to learn to play by showing up and practicing. Then we’ll begin to feel the flow and the sweet sounds it can bring.

What is your favorite thing about meditation?
I love that it’s always with us. We can always take thirty seconds to close our eyes and breathe, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. The breath is the best tool humans have been given. I have a vision that one day we are all living our lives in full meditation. J

How can people learn more about you or contact you?
My website, has more about who I am and what my purpose around meditation is. There you can find motivational videos as well as free guided meditations. You can also contact me through there. If you’re on Instagram or Twitter follow me @louspeakstruth.


Thank you, Lou, for taking the time to do this interview!

Social Media
Facebook: lou.redmond.1
Twitter: @louspeakstruth
Instagram: @louspeakstruth

Guided Meditations
Meetup Group (in Nutley, NJ): Meditation in New Jersey
Insight Timer: InsightTimer,com/Louredmond (download the free app to listen to them on any device)
Lou's upcoming book, Find Your Truth, will be published in February. I pre-ordered mine on Lou's IndieGoGo campaign. His goal was reached and the deadline has passed since then (yay!), bu you can still pre-order his book on that site, or contact Lou directly using his contact form to pre-order your copy.

Back Cover:
From a drug-fueled existence to quitting my 9-5 to pursue my dream, Find Your Truth is the story of how I drastically transformed my life from a passion for partying to a passion for living with purpose, love, and meaning. I share the steps I took to change my life - steps which you can take to find a deeper connection to yourself and your greater purpose.

This four-minute video explains more about his book and his story.