6 Easy Steps: Meditation We Don’t Usually Consider Meditation

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Meditation at the Pool

I’m sitting at a Hotel Club in Antigua, Guatemala meditating. I’m at a pool, but I’m still in my meditation practice. And I have (somewhat annoyingly) stopped my meditation to sit down to write this post. I would rather be meditating but inspiration arrives when it arrives, and it is a welcome guest. No matter what I’m doing or where, I keep the radar on and my compass pointed in its direction. Fortunately, inspiration never runs dry when you are open to it.

I am the proverbial frog waiting for the fly.

Back to the Hotel Club. Cloying in the background is a marimba group playing their lively traditional marimba music, which I have heard for the umpteenth time. Iza and Zai are over watching Casimiro the clown do his thing, for the umpteenth time. I guess it’s what we do. We do things over and over and over again, whatever the circumstances. I could be in a silent forest retreat right now, but I’m not. I’m here, every day, happily, and here is the only place to be. So I practice on and try to keep the little Mona Lisa smile intact.

Enjoy the Distractions

When l think of all the “distractions” and noise here, I think back to the time when I was living at a Zen Buddhist center in Los Angeles, California. Zen Buddhist center, Los Angeles, quite a unique juxtaposition I would say. But while deep into one of the many meditation retreats we participated in and helped conduct throughout the year, there were almost always one or two (sometimes 3) ice cream trucks blasting their carnival music into the street.

* Take 3 deep breaths……now.

Welcome back. As I was saying, ice cream truck music is not the ideal background music for a Zen retreat. Or is it?

The point I am making? We are not always presented with the most ideal circumstances to continue a spiritual practice (whatever practice that may be). That in itself is the perfect spiritual practice.

I mean, right now, I am hammering away on my phone and trying to keep up with the words and ideas flowing through my mind, and in a way this is just a part of the extended practice.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6980″ alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548800593990{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

Meditation 101

Now for the purpose.

  1. Find a moment (even 5 minutes)
  2. Sit in a comfortable position
  3. Listen to the sounds around you
  4. Don’t focus on anyone sound
  5. Breathe with intention, follow your breath
  6. Try to release your mind from all other obligations

You are now meditating and its something you can do anytime, anywhere, for as long as you have available. It offers you a moment to be alone even in a sea of people. It gives you an internal power you can’t get anywhere else.

Want to learn more? Here is a pretty well-written article from Yoga Journal.

The Story Continues…

We are now back home and the kids are sleeping. You parents know the deal: it’s SO sweet when you get those few minutes to decompress, But it’s only 3:30. Do I wake them or let them sleep. If I wake them, back to the beautiful grind of parenthood.

If I don’t wake them I’m F’d because I know they’ll keep me up all night. Yea, nobody wants that so I’ll go with another half hour and hope for the best.

So for the precious moments I have, do I continue my meditation I was so relishing back at the pool? Or, with inspiration still fully intact, do I continue this post. Rache would definitely continue writing so I use her as my guiding work force. And I feel like there is something I need to say, right now, so I am rolling with it and serving it up. Of course with the deepest gratitude for receiving this inspiration to share words and ideas. I feel like other like-minded folks out there in the cyber world are working hard to share their inspiration as well, so I want to give back when I have the chance.

And there you go. One of them awoke. Gotta go![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner css=”.vc_custom_1547575447533{margin-right: 120px !important;margin-left: 120px !important;}”][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

Get Started with Meditation with These Tools

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You can never have enough. These cushions are essential for any meditation practice, especially when you are starting out. They help you to ease into lotus. 

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Want to learn more about my style of meditation? Read up on Rinzai. 

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If you look closely, you can see me on the left when I first started practicing.

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What’s Sesshin?

sesshin (接心, or also 摂心/攝心 literally “touching the heart-mind”) is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery. – From Wikipedia

Most dedicated western practitioners do two sesshins a year for 7 days each in total silence. Each day you meditate in a variety of different ways for roughly 18-hours. Meditation in these cases can be sitting, walking or working. Often, by the 7th day, practitioners feel ‘high’ or ‘light’.

I meditate every morning and have tried to attend at least 1 sesshin a year while our children were small. Now that they are older, I am renewing my 2x annual practice.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575740756{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

Meditation is Apart of My Work

My art is centered around meditation and in my most recent work, you can see the repetition, patterns, and simplicity of form. I typically meditate for 50-minutes and then do a freehand piece in under an hour. Learn more here on my website.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6988″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.kurtisbrand.com/project/manta-cruda/”][vc_empty_space css=”.vc_custom_1547575753142{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575770154{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]My Zen brother Billy White also practices meditation as his work. Check out his sound healing at The Heart is Awake.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Where to Go? What to Do?

This beautiful morning I sit here listening to the lake water lap up against the shore, the fisherman in the wooden kayak is whistling a little song and Iza is quietly breathing as she sleeps. Usually I am up before the sun working or meditating, but today ZZ (our nickname for Iza) is a little bit sick with a cold and she woke up at 5am crying. So we spent some time with her to calm her down and get her back to sleep. Then Rache went back to work and I did some meditation. I will refer to meditation from here on out as Zazen, which is a Zen form of meditation.

So hopefully you are reading our blog posts regularly and will know what I am talking about in the future! Right now, as we go into the last month and a half of our stay here at Casa Paloma in San Marcos, Guatemala, Rache and I are doing our usual race to the finish to try to secure our next place to stay. It’s a drag and we always get stressed out around this time.

First of all, we are trying to find a place to stay here at Lake Atitlan for a year which is not easy. We love it here but want to get to know it better while we decide if we want to make this our home forever. We are pretty sure we do, but moving to another country is a huge step and a lot has to be evaluated.  A big problem is that we are going into the major tourist season here, the dry season, and most of the places are already rented. We are finding some things though and are confident we will secure something soon. Hopefully the owner of this house we are in now will agree to work with us on either buying it or renting it long term. We truly love it here.

Second of all, we are trying to find a relatively affordable apartment in NYC to rent as we have to be back there for a month in October. We have all of our stuff in storage there that we have to go through and Rache and I need to network in the city. We are looking forward to going back but it is really more stress to make it happen than we need right now. Should we bring our nanny? Should we exceed our budget to find a decent place? Should we stay outside of the city and commute in? Too many questions to work out!

Actually we really want to just stay here, stay put. I think we both truly feel like we are done moving around!

But the question always creeps back in; Are we in the right place for us? Should we do some more traveling, to India and China? We both love to travel so much and I could do business in those countries and Rache could go to her annual yoga retreat in India. Somebody smack us!

My Zen teacher in New York always talks about not worrying about where to go and what to do, especially when doing zazen. These two things always seem to pop up in our minds and cause mental strife. The idea is to just make a decision and be happy with it. Why do we have such a hard time doing this?! As I said in a previous post, decisions can drive you crazy! Our situation is kind of unique in that we both can work anywhere as long as we have an internet connection. Of course many people have places of work to go to and dont have the option of moving around. So they just learn to love where they live. Many are happy where they live, no matter where they are, that is the best way to be. But others are not happy being where they are and always wish to be somewhere else or to travel and experience new things. The grass is always greener type thing.

So now, The Brand Fam is right smack in the middle and we are deciding what to do next. Fortunately we know what we want  and that we want to settle down soon. Hopefully things will work out for us here and we will finally find a place to call home, or maybe, at least, home base!

Keep reading to find out… I think things will happen for us soon!

Getting Our Life Back….A Beautiful Morning

After a long year of late sleepless nights we are finally getting our groove back. We knew that we had to get into a really great stress free environment to reestablish our lives. Before Iza, Rache and I were very involved in healthy eating with lots of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, regular meditation and yoga, and daily of exercise.

Over the past year, lets just say we have strayed far from shore. Because Iza doesn’t really like to go to bed before 11pm and usually wakes up one or two times a night our usual 5am wake up has been pushed back. That means it’s hard to get up to meditate and do yoga as the sun rises. And because we are often stressed or over tired, we resort to bad habits like drinking too much or eating crappy food (well, relative to our usual diet). It’s a vicious cycle and I’m sure thats why so many parents start to get those love handles that turn into rolls that turn into….you know what I’m saying.

So the Brand Fam has grown sick of those nasty habits and decided to get their sh@# together! We both woke up at 4 this morning, Rache fed Iza when she woke up and I went and layed down with Iza after her feeding. At 5 Rache went off to do yoga on the roof and I sat in Zazen for a while on the front porch.




Rache Brand-yoga

Afterwards Rache started getting ready for her first commute into Panajachel to work and Iza and I ate a killer breakfast of raw chia seed pudding with coconut milk, lightly fried plantains, and fresh fruit salad. Rache wanted to wait to eat because she heard that the place she was going has excellent breakfast (turned out to be true, see shortly in another post).

Breakfast of raw chia seed with coconut milk pudding, fresh fruit salad, plantains fried in coconut oil, and turmeric and ginger tea.
My view from the meditation bench.
A flower along the creek on the way into town.
A flower along the creek on the way into town.


I think we are finally getting back to the way we love to live.