Meditation, Italian Style

Nitamo Montecucco, professor of psychosomatics at the University of Milano said at the recent Psychosomatic Convention in  Lucca, on “Consciousness and the Molecules of Emotion” ,  “Positive emotion is a lifestyle that we can obtain through the ancient technique of meditation. “  Meditation affects neurotransmitters and stabilizes our immune system, fights inflammation and in general, gives us a sense of peace. “

Many of you know that I teach meditation for a cardiac study at Yale University. There is growing research that meditation protects the heart, in addition to the other benefits cited by Dr. Montecucco. Most people, however, feel they don’t have the “time” to meditate. I know we all live busy lives, but living more “all’italiana” means slowing down, and of course you can find the time to pause for five minutes to simply be still, and give your emotions and body time to drain the tension and recharge with good energy. You don’t need a whole hour. If you have the time to brush your teeth, you have time to give the gift of serenity and better health to yourself .

Here is how to begin:

  1. Choose a time when there will be no distracters (no phone ringing, no dog barking, no kids knocking on your door,e tc). I like first think in the morning, but one of my students does this during his lunch hour to center himself at work. The beauty of a short meditation is that you can do it often and anywhere.
  2. Sit up with straight spine (not stiff)
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several of these cycles then let your breathing come to normal.
  4. Choose a meditation word (mantra) to mentally pronounce repeatedly. I like a beautiful Italian word, like “bello”, or  “pace” (peace) or “amore” (love) or “mare” (ocean).
  5. Repeat that word in your mind concentrating on the sound, as you breathe normally. If your mind wanders, bring it back to that beautiful Italian word. Let your worries and thoughts just float away as you bring your mind back to your word. Continue for about five minutes or longer if you wish.
  6. Slowly bring your consciousness back to the room. Gently open your eyes. Take a gentle stretch, SMILE, then begin your day.

 

Do this without fail for the next four weeks and notice the difference it can make in your life. Remember, repeated action = habit, and habit become your lifestyle. I want MY lifestyle to consist of happiness and positive emotions, don’t you?

If you love this post, please let me know! Press “like” or share on Twitter , Facebook , Linked in, or via your email.  As always, Thank you for stopping by! Now go relax!

Make YOUR Vacation a Restful One, too!

 

Mark-Zuckerberg-Chan

If you had the possibility of doing anything you want for this year’s vacation, what would you do? Well for Mark Zuckerberg and his new fiancé, Italy was the chosen destination for a honeymoon vacation that would be low key and brimming with understated beauty—from  contrasting landscape, to  antique architecture, to  simple foods that satisfy the senses. For someone wired to fast-paced technological complexity, the tranquil charm of the bel paese offered an unplugged haven for unwinding and sauntering through days of pure charm. What a great way to clear your mind and focus on what really matters!

No matter what you decide to do for your vacation—whether you decide go away or stay at home– remember this: vacation is meant for rest and renewal, not overstimulation and exhaustion. You can have a great vacation in your own back yard, on a hammock reading a book.  Or if you do go away, steer clear of over-the-top theme parks and busy tourist spots.  Gravitate to places where the natural aesthetic beauty will renew your spirit, and drain  your mind of your daily worries. You will find that what is really important in this life, will quickly come back into focus.

Create Your Own “Ortogym” and Get Fit!

Photo Courtesy: Ansa.it

A recent article reported in ansa.it, announced that Italian school children in the campania region–where US scientist Ancel Keys reported on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, as a way to prevent several life-theatening diseases—are part of a program to prevent obesity, which is becomeing a global concern. The children tend a vegetable garden for one hour per day.

I am a long time advocate of the old fashioned Italian garden as a means to achieve serenity and good health. Ecopsychologists know that working with the earth gives us a greater sense of serenity and connectedness. We get a sense of achievement in growing some of our own food, and give our bodies the gift of good nourishment by eating fresh, clean, pesticide-free produce. we save money , too.

But there is another benefit to gardening–staying in shape– and as  usual Italians are leading the way in putting emphasis on preserving the health of their  children using gardening as part of their fitness regimen. Bravi ragazzi!

If you want to make  the joy of gardening become the heart of your fitness regimen too, now is the season–don’t let it slip away as you sit on the couch.  One hour of gardening can burn 300-400 calories. That is not just growing produce, but you can also include mowing the lawn(I prefer an old fashioned non-gas driven mower), trimming hedges, pruning trees, etc. To make sure you don’t overdo it, you can get out and tend garden for 30 minutes at a time,  two or three times a day. What a way to get a return for your efforts!  If you are in an apartment or condo, you can more than likely  garden some of the common grounds , volunteer your services for your local community garden, or even create a pot garden on your balcony that you tend to regularly.

Words of Wisdom For Your Holiday Weekend!

Photo : Courtesy of Caffe Matteotti

Wise words for your holiday weekend: “Learn from the past, Look towards the future, but for this afternoon –REST!

This message may have come from Charles Schulz but was definitely channeled to me through Caffe’ Matteotti, a coffee bar with an edge,  in Forli, Italia.

Every once in a while, a piece of advice or a saying that comes into focus, speaks to me in a timely way.  This weekend as I “heel” my broken ankle, I  log onto my Facebook page and found the message above. Yes, I will definitely rest–as I write for YOU, my dear readers.

When you hear a “message”, in the form of a saying, a phrase from a neighbor, a passage your book opens to, pay heed and see how it applies to you. You would be surprise at how much wisdom comes across into your day. All you need to do  is be open and pay attention to signs.

A wonderful, “dolce fare niente” weekend to all!

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Don’t forget to tune in or stream in live every Monday morning as I host “The Art of Living Well” on 88.7 or www.whnu.net . Great ideas on reaching your full potential, including an Italian self-help segment on each show. Become one of my listeners and feel the uplift!

If you MUST wear sneakers :-)

Courtesy: Giorgio Armani

 

Giorgio Armani is beaming over being chosen to design the Olympic sportswear collection for Italy’s athletes. You bet, they will be looking stylish, as is the bella figura way. These won’t be ordinary lycra duds and aerodynamic sneakers–the clothing will be a combination of purpose, comfort,  and artistry. What a great way to dress no matter what you wear or where you wear it.

White and midnight blue will be the bel paese’s competitive colors. No caricatures of the Italian flag’s red, white, and green. The lesson? Take a chance. You dont’ have to be an Olympian athlete to look sleek while you exercise. Nor do you have to have a fat wallet to dress well.  All you have to do is be open to experimenting with new styles, new colors, and new designs. Wear a hat if you ‘ve never worn one before. create some mystery around your style, and you will also create some personal allure.

 

“Campanilismo”, or How Italians Build Community

In Italy, the concept of “campanilismo” comes from the word “campanile”, or church bell. The concept refers to people’s devotion to their community, or to their neighborhood, or town. Community consists of closely knit lives of people who feel a sense of love and belonging in the place where they feel at home.

Last night I had the honor of giving the keynote address to over 100 people at UNICO’s annual scholarship dinner in Waterbury, CT. UNICO is an Italian American organization of professionals who give service and whose only mission is to help others. Frank Travisano, their president is also a tireless defender of our ethnicity’s good name.

As the former Research Director for the Italian American Defense Association (AIDA) I spent a lot of time focusing on pushing back on the typical and widely diffused negative stereotyping of Italian Americans and Italians so prevalent in the media. With equal passion, however, I love to talk to people about the positive aspects of their Italian cultural heritage  and how they can connect or reconnect to those traditions as a source of building personal strength an character.

I spoke to  UNICO’s young scholars and their proud families about the humanist psychology theory of Abraham Maslow, who developed a concept about all human beings need in order to fully tap into their potential and become all they can be. Then I told my eager listeners how they could achieve their full potential by  tapping into the wisdom of their own Italian heritage.

Maslow stressed the importance of community and social needs. That is having a sense of love and belonging.  As I sat among the UNICAN’s of Waterbury it was exhilarating to part of an evening that exemplified this goal.  At the gathering  were  people of all walks of life, united by the same passion for their heritage and by their passion for doing good. Everyone accepting, no matter what their views were, everyone feeling a sense of belonging and brother/sisterhood, in a place (Bella Vista / Ponte) where the food was as exquisite as the sense of community connection.

You may be in the routine of going to work, coming home, eating supper, watching tv and going to bed.  We can all identify with a similiar kind of rut. But if you feel that something is missing in your life, chances are, it may be that sense of community. It is up to YOU to give yourself the gift of love and belonging. Build an atmosphere of community, where people share common goals, where people keep an eye out for each other’s safety, where people gather together to share ideas, laughter, and good food. You can build community in your neighborhood,  or by  joining an extant community built around your  interests–your place of worship, your after-work softball team, or an association like UNICO or wherever YOUR passion lies.

We are almost into summer. The weather is right.  Get out and interact with others and give yourself the gift of COMMUNITY!

How to Add Just a Touch of ” la moda italiana”

Courtesy: Fendi

All right I’ll admit it: For me, there is nothing quite like a D & G square leopard with sensual red border, or maybe an oblong silver and cream stripped silk Fendi. I’m referring, of course, to the Italian woman’s most indispensable accessory—the foulard–neck scarf. Whether knotted loosely over the shoulder, double-looped at the base of the throat, or threaded chicly under the collar like a man’s necktie—it’s all-good. The Italian allure has nothing to do with an obsession about losing an extra five pounds— instead it is about looking your best NOW—and that would include , if you can, a signature stilista neck scarf. Without the proper accessories, the rest of what we wear is simply…well, unremarkable.Social poise, self-dignity—yes they are both important, but you know how I feel about the importance of dressing and adorning your body in a way that signals to the world that you love YOU. That vibe is what will draw others to you, too.

When  I was growing up, I would delight in the personality transformation  that seemed  to come over my mother the moment she  drew the airy printed fabric of her foulard (scarf) from her  fine lingerie drawer, all perfumed by a special Violetta di Parma sachet, and floating through her fingers, as if wanting to frame her graceful neck on its own.  Even if under the weather that day, the colors of her foulard would brighten up her face, her spirits,  and put a little bit of a dance into her step. Ladies, trust me on this one: the neck scarf is a little bit of magic that can lift your mood better than a hot fudge sundae.

And for you guys who long for a bit of Italian soave for yourself, you might go for the  black pinstripe Armani two-button wool suit coat over a crisp open collared white dress shirt. Just add jeans and loafers (toss the shiny white sneakers aside, please) and you’ll never quite be the same. The Japanese apparently certainly caught on. A previous article in the International Herald Tribune, reported that Italian designer suits have produced a whole new gait among Japanese men, who now saunter confidently into clubs alla Belpaese, hands thrust in  pockets, head held high, hair combed back.

See what even a little bit  a bit of Italian fashion can do for you?

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Thank you for stopping by my blog!  I hope to inspire and motivate my readers with perspectives on  the sweetness of Italy, and in addition to that, just some great self-help tips that you can apply to your everyday life. We are on this journey together and here to share our special gifts and talents with the world. Feel free to write to me with any questions or comments: raeleenmautner@gmail.com