Why do people meditate?

Group meditating

Meditation can help create a different experience of life

Why isn’t there one simple answer to the question:  “Why do people meditate?”

That’s because there are so many benefits to meditation.  It’s actually near impossible to create a definitive list of all the benefits, because it can affect people’s lives in multiple ways, and there is a ripple effect where one benefit can lead to more benefits.

When I teach beginners to meditate, they want to know why people meditate.  I start by explaining that meditation is fitness for the mind, and when you cultivate the practice, it can change your experience of life, and improve your health.

Simply put:

  • Most people meditate to deal better with life – primarily stress management. This is probably the first benefit that people will notice from having a meditation practice. This unto itself can be life-changing.
  • The multitude of health benefits has been vastly proven in recent years, and continue to be actively researched. The Harvard Business Review is now recommending that health insurers cover wellness and prevention-oriented therapies that are both low-cost and evidence-based, as both yoga and meditation are.  See: “Now and Zen: How mindfulness can change your brain and improve your health”
  • Some people choose to use meditation for spiritual growth.  This can be a beautiful practice to cultivate a connection with something bigger than yourself, whatever your belief system may be.

So when someone asks me ‘Why do people meditate?’, my answer is that people come to meditation for many reasons and it is a personal choice as to why one meditates.  What inevitably happens once someone starts a meditation practice is that they can cite many benefits they are getting, and the initial reason they started meditation is happily accompanied by numerous other benefits.

So if you are thinking of starting a meditation practice, it’s well worth doing so.  It’s life skill that can be life changing.  Ensure you find a good instructor that you trust and can guide you.  There are many wonderful meditation apps to get you started and keep you going, but in my opinion, when you are learning, it is best to find a group with a good instructor.

Wishing you a wonderful day,

~Wendy Quan, of The Calm Monkey.




When change is imposed on you

lotus flower held by buddha

Find your own sense of self through difficult change

I don’t know about you, but I despise the phrase ’embrace change’. To me, it sounds like you’re supposed to give an unwanted change a big hug. While the change may eventually turn out OK or even for the better, while I’m going through it the last thing I want to do is be told to hug the change.

As an organizational change manager, I know all too well how people react and behave through change.  As a cancer survivor, I also know what it’s like to be faced with a serious disease and have your world turned upside down.

As tomorrow is my 6th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis day, I reflect on what it was like to deal with an unwanted change. Summing it up within a ‘change management model’, I offer to you my own experience. Text book explanations show transitions in at least 3 phases which can have many iterations within these phases. Every change is unique, and every person and how they react is unique.

Looking back, here is how my cancer journey went:

First phase:  When the unwanted change hits

Multiple feelings included shock, disbelief, ‘why me?’, tremendous fear, even a bit of numbness where life was happening but I didn’t feel like me. I felt almost like I was an actor in a movie and I had to my part, like the necessity of simple day-to-day things but it felt like I was given someone else’s life.

Second phase:  During the personal transition

After living with the news for awhile, I was able to center myself enough to make decisions, seek as much information as I could, and take charge.  I didn’t want to feel like a victim and became very self-aware of my thoughts, emotions and the intention I set for how I was going to move forward.  Mindfulness and meditation became a reliable friend for me, something I could meet every day and to find some peace. Healing emotionally and physically was my number one project.

Third phase:  Creating a new normal

Learning how to reintegrate into regular working life, focus on maintaining my health, regaining self-confidence and discovering my new identity was a major phase for me.  Again mindfulness and meditation were the cornerstones of my arrival for a new normal.

Yes, I am one of those people who can look back now and say that my diagnosis turned out to be one of the best things that happened in my life.  I have found and am living my purpose, have tremendous respect and gratitude for life itself, and love associating with like-minded people.  I’m grateful I was able to find my inner sense of self which made a world of difference to my experience.

If you are going through a big change right now, I hope this may help you in some little way. When you are in the transition state of a change, it absolutely can be daunting and unsettling, but such is life, and the choice is really ours as to how we show up in such times.

Wishing you love and light, and if you wish to discover meditation, I offer some free guided meditation recordings on www.TheCalmMonkey.com.

~Wendy Quan, of The Calm Monkey.


When it hurts to blame yourself

If ‘loving yourself’ sounds too corny, OK.  Instead, how about easing up on yourself, because you are probably your own worst critic?

When you are trapped in self-judgment, are you even aware that you’re doing that?  A key component of the practice of mindfulness is to first be aware of your thoughts. If you’re not used to doing this, it may seem foreign, but cultivating the practice is so powerful it can change your experience of life for the better.

Self-compassion is being supportive and understanding towards yourself when you are having a hard time, rather than being harshly self-critical.

Using your body’s sensations to connect with the hurt you feel when something bothers you, helps you to first recognize what’s going on inside you, so you can then work on alleviating that hurt.

When something bothers you, you are likely suffering with a fair amount of self-judgment. Even when you are angry with someone else, there will be an element of self-judgment. Examples may be as simple as not getting a text message from friends to invite you to go out with them, or bigger such as the guilt of a failed relationship.  Maybe you feel inadequate, rejected, or just broken. This is a powerful, negative feeling that sits within you, isn’t it?

Try this as a practice of self-compassion:

  1. Holding yourself with compassion

    Self-compassion is needed too.

    Sit quietly, undisturbed.  Center yourself by taking some deep breaths.

  2. Think about the situation that is bothering you.
  3. Identify what is happening in your body when you are feeling this hurt, this self-judgment, this self-blame.  If you’re not used to doing this, be patient.  Do you feel something in your chest, your back or your abdomen?  What sensations do you feel?  These are the areas that you would generally feel the discomfort, tightness or whatever you are feeling, even if it is hard to describe.
  4. Know that this is your hurt, and you are likely judging and blaming yourself in some way.  Be with it for a minute.  Allow yourself to feel it.
  5. Now it’s time to practice self-compassion.  Place your hands on that area.  Say this to yourself, directing it to the area of hurt “I care about this suffering”.  This will sound strange at first, but allow yourself to do this.  Tell the hurt that you care about it and that you see it.  Let it be noticed.
  6. Repeat gently, either silently or aloud, “I care about this suffering”, and then add more words like this:  “May I be free from suffering” and/or “May I be at peace.”
  7. After a few minutes, you may notice that the hurt subsides, and in its place a warmth will spread through that area.  This will provide a softening and opening of the area.

Doing this practice likely won’t completely rid the hurt, but it can soften the experience. The hurt may continue but not with such unrelenting cruelty.

So be kind to yourself, and try this practice.

If you would like to read deeper into this subject, I would recommend an excellent book called ‘Radical Acceptance‘ by Tara Brach.

~Wendy Quan, of The Calm Monkey



How to find your spiritual path

Spiritual path

Find your spiritual path and purpose by learning to sit in silence. It develops your intuition and awareness.

If you live your life in a state of constant busy-ness, life is flying by without much meaning and you figure there must be more to life, I write this post for you.

Allow me to turn the clock back about 15 years ago, and explain that’s exactly where I was in my life.  Life was just busy and although I was doing fine, I did not feel passion for life like I envied in some people I observed.  Now that I’m able to look back to 15 years ago and clearly reflect on what I was feeling, here are the kinds of thoughts I had:

How could I find my path?  Is it a spiritual path I am seeking?  How would I even go about finding a spiritual path? How can I find things I’m passionate about and feel more alive?

For me, I was interested in finding a spiritual path, not necessarily a religious path, but to feel purposeful and connected to something bigger than myself.

I think this subject would be best served by writing a book, any maybe one day I will do that, but for now I offer the benefit of hindsight to you in this short post.

I’m deeply curious about all sorts of spiritual practices, and expect to be a constant life-long learner in this regard.  It doesn’t mean I will believe or follow all these practices, but it’s good to be open, curious and non-judgmental.  The reason I make this point is this:

Given all the various practices I have explored over the past 15 years, the underlying foundation to creating my path in life has been my meditation practice.

The benefits of meditation are many, but in the context of this discussion, meditation allows you to find stillness and to observe your thoughts.  As you cultivate the practice of observing your mind without judgment, you develop the ability to identify less with your thoughts and recognize them as just thoughts.  As such, your intuition develops, and you become more conscious.  You become more able to experience your life differently – even with the same busy-ness in your life, you don’t feel as busy or stressed, instead, you feel more aware and conscious of your life.

With this development of new way of being, you start to find a path that feels fulfilling and right.  You start to feel your spiritual path.  Now, you may or may not feel like calling it a spiritual path, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you awaken to life, and live life with more intention.  This all leads to a happier life.

(With the above few paragraphs, I just felt that I wrote a summary of the last 15 years of my life in this one post.  Wow.)

path through forestEspecially since 2011, my path has become increasingly clear.  A snapshot of who I am now is reflected in my website: www.TheCalmMonkey.com.

The 2 books that I read early in my journey that helped open my eyes are:

I am deeply grateful for all the experiences I have had, and am excited about my life today.

Wishing all of you peace, love and light in your journey.

~Wendy Quan of The Calm Monkey.

Workplace Mindfulness conference called “The Wild West”

I was the ‘new kid on the scene’ at a groundbreaking conference called ‘Mindfulness & Well-Being at Work’, hosted by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

A well-known, well respected leader in the mindfulness industry, James Gimian, publisher of Mindful Magazine, made this memorable remark:  “Folks, this is the Wild West!  We are pioneering the way in bringing mindfulness meditation to workplaces.”  This really rings true to me, as I started doing this 5 years ago and had to forge my own path, despite challenges along the way.

Imagine being among like-minded people who have the common goal of expanding compassion and creating better lives in this world through mindfulness meditation in the workplace – the gratitude I have for this experience is immense.

Let me attempt to encapsulate this for you:

Day 1 – Impressive Speakers

In front a sold-out theater of 550 people, an impressive line-up of speakers shared their insights and data about:

  • Why mindfulness at work?
  • Addressing obstacles
  • Success stories of positive impact
  • How to get started right away – this was when I spoke about tips for becoming a successful workplace meditation facilitator. I also discussed how I incorporate change management into my meditation program to increase change resiliency personally and organizationally.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 2 – Break-out sessions

I taught 70 people how to become successful workplace meditation facilitators.  Again, I was fortunate to be among a wonderful group of people, from many different organizations such as Google, Cisco, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle, Aetna, PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric), and many universities and health organizations.

My Train-the-Facilitator program teaches how to get support to start meditation sessions at work, grow its success and be self-sustaining at little to no cost.

The goal: To prepare Facilitators with a toolkit of coordination logistics, best practices, sample communications, meditation scripts and professional guided meditation recordings, so they can easily begin and sustain an ongoing program.

Speaking and teaching at this conference was a precious event in my life.  With much gratitude for the team at the Greater Good Science Center for organizing this conference, we all benefited greatly for ourselves and all the people we will help over time.


~Wendy Quan at www.TheCalmMonkey.com