Meditation, How to Get Started and Advanced Techniques

Deep breathing and being present with Josephine Atluri.

Meditation is proven to help improve physical and mental health. In today’s podcast, Josephine Atluri helps you understand how to use deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness of the present moment to feel well, whether you’re new to meditation, or already experienced.

In This Episode

Josephine’s Background … 00:03:32
Dr. Ruscio’s Morning Meditation Routine … 00:04:37
Create a Daily, Consistent Routine … 00:06:21
Ways to Incorporate Meditation … 00:10:57
Getting Into the Present Moment … 00:16:52
Breathing Exercise: Lengthening the Inhale & Exhale … 00:24:49
Benefits of Deep Breathing … 00:28:33
Meditation App Recommendations … 00:33:16

Meditation, How to Get Started and Advanced Techniques -

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The best way to get the benefits of meditation is to create a daily, consistent meditation routine

  • Simple routines work best.
  • Even 5 minutes is enough time.
  • Meditation as part of your morning routine is often helpful, or bookend your work day with a short meditation.

Benefits of Deep Breathing

  • Calms the mind
  • Creates mindfulness of, and connection with, your body
  • May increase lung capacity and fitness

Sponsored Resources

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Meditation, How to Get Started and Advanced Techniques -
Meditation, How to Get Started and Advanced Techniques -
Meditation, How to Get Started and Advanced Techniques -

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Meditation App Recommendations

➕ Full Podcast Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio radio. Providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up to date on the latest topics, as well as all of our prior episodes, please make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates, visit DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking to your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Hi everyone. Today I spoke with Josephine Atluri about meditation. This is the third episode that we have done on meditation, and she definitely provides some useful tips and apps and techniques to use. I share some of my personal experience with how meditation, in my view, has helped make me a better clinician and a better business owner. Also, one somewhat painful lesson I learned with a certain type of meditation that can be quite stimulating, but also, if you overload on it, even though you feel great during, after almost like caffeine, you can burn yourself out. So definitely an interesting episode where we go from kind of how to get started up through some more advanced techniques with the benefits and troubleshooting of more advanced breath work and meditation techniques. I think this will be a nice episode for, again, those who are considering, or those who are already practicing. Also if you’re finding the podcast to be beneficial, please head over to iTunes and leave us a review. That really helps us to reach more people and to share information and the podcast that we’re trying to get out there. Our goal is to provide a method for people to move their health in a positive direction, without spending a ton of time, money, or getting kind of afraid of food or neurotic about their health. Okay, with that, we’ll go to the call with Josephine on meditation.

DrMR:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Dr. Ruscio radio. Today, I’m here with Josephine and we are going to be discussing meditation and how meditation can help de-stress your psyche, your life, your emotions, your gut. This is definitely something I think is worth having another episode on. I believe this is our third on this topic. One of the reasons why, as we’ve discussed in the podcast before, is that those with IBS have a higher prevalence of anxiety, and it seems that those who are not feeling well, tend to kind of go to the worst case possible scenario when they’re not feeling well. That can be fueled by all the stuff you can read on the internet. Having a way of talking yourself off the proverbial ledge, calming yourself down, finding some stillness and appreciation and some mindfulness is definitely something that we should all be aiming to incorporate into our day to day life. So I’m happy to have Josephine here to kind of elaborate on some techniques. Also, she’s going to give us at least one specific demonstration of a breathwork technique. So Josephine, welcome to the show and thanks for being here.

Josephine Atluri:

Thank you so much for having me, Michael. I’m so excited for our conversation today.

Josephine’s Background

DrMR:

It is a pleasure to have you here. I’m wondering, can you give people, before we jump into all the nitty gritty, a brief of synopsis of you and your background.

JA:

So I am someone who is passionate about helping people overcome adversity to find joy. I do this via my private meditation sessions, as well as my fertility specific workshops and my own podcast called Responding to Life where I chronicle my 13 year journey of creating my modern day family through nontraditional methods of IVF, international adoption and surrogacy to create a family of five. It was through that journey that I picked up so many lessons that are applicable, not just to one’s fertility journey, but also to mediation with mindfulness and to incorporate it into their daily lives.

DrMR:

Great. Well, certainly you have a supporter in me. Meditation is definitely something that I’ve noticed just as one example for the audience.

Dr. Ruscio’s Morning Meditation Routine

DrMR:

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in the past, but for most of my life, I would get up kind of get ready and go through your typical brush your teeth, whatever, and then go right into work. That certainly was while I was a student and it was kind of just hustle, hustle, get stuff done, but I think it probably wasn’t the best thing even for a student. Especially as I got into my professional career, it was more important to not get sucked into the minutia. Of course, sometimes when you’re a student you want to get sucked into just, okay, I have these four subjects I’m studying or these four classes, and I’m just going to study the materials and read the notes and go to the lectures. But as a professional, I’d also assume as a parent, you want to make sure you’re not on the hamster wheel of life, of just pursuing task execution. So my morning routine now is that I wake up and do all those things like brushing your teeth, I make a quick espresso, I go for a quick walk around the block and then I do usually about a 10 minute meditation. That helps me start the day in such a way where I’m not just trying to get things done, but I’ve had that moment of stillness and reflection and mindfulness to help me really zoom out and focus on the things that are truly important and not get pulled into kind of that inertia of doing stuff, doing stuff, doing stuff. So for me, this has been something that really has been helpful. I share my experience so the healthcare providers who might feel like they’re overwhelmed and just don’t have time to meditate, may realize that they are likely the people that need to meditate more maybe than someone who has a wide open schedule. Where do you want to start the conversation on meditation? Obviously there’s a lot of different ways we can interface. Where do you like to begin?

Create a Daily, Consistent Routine

JA:

Well, first I’d like to really commend you on incorporating it into your daily routine. That is actually a great way to do it – make it part of a routine that you’ve already set up for yourself. That helps you to be consistent. Doing it first thing in the morning, along with those other things that you do actually is great, because as you mentioned, it sets an intention for your day and it’s like you’re stepping on the right foot and on the right path towards what you want to achieve for that day and you’ve then put yourself in a proper mindset. That’s the beauty of meditation. This ability to shift your mindset from maybe a state of negativity to just creating that path for what your day supposed to look like.

JA:

Then also just touching upon what you said at the very beginning about people, with issues such as IBS who are more prone to anxiety. Then people who take on so much anxiety and kind of have it all snowball on them. For myself, I had recent experience related to this. I am sensitive to gluten and I accidentally had some gluten and it really did quite a number on me for a whole week, plus the added stress of not knowing what was happening and then the added stress of what’s happening in our world today. It just all sort of added on top of each other. If we have an existing meditation practice that we follow it in situations such as that, it makes it a lot easier for us to whip it out as one of our strategies for dealing with stress. During that time for myself, it definitely helped to curb all of the building stress and anxiety that I was feeling because I wasn’t feeling well in my digestive system. That’s why I’m a big proponent of trying to incorporate at a time when you may be feeling okay. So when you do get in a bind, you’re able to utilize it quickly and without any added stress of trying to add something new that you’ve never done before.

DrMR:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. For people with food reactivity and environmental reactivity, something that’s been really helpful is referring people for limbic retraining, which I’ve described to the patient as meditation on steroids. It’s this robust meditation program that seems to help people not get caught in what you’re describing. I think there’s this internal dialogue of, “Oh my God, there’s some good in that food” but at the same time “Oh my God, that means I’m going to have brain fog” or this or that and it snowballs. Sometimes just the snowballing worry can be more of a distraction or more damaging than the actual thing happening physiologically. So to your point, having these tools that can help calm and dampen that response can legitimately help people.

DrMR:

We’ve seen this in the clinic and I think our audience appreciates my circumspection with things, but clearly for a subset of patients, this dampens the amount of food and environmental reactivity that they have. Just to put some numbers to this, maybe if 100% is you’re an inflamed ball of fire and zero is, you’re totally uninflamed, a certain environmental or food reactivity bout may kick you up to a perceptible 15 or 20%. But then the stress that ensues and snowballs after that may double that to 30, 40, 50%. That is where I think some of these techniques are helpful. I don’t necessarily think they’ll be able to undo everything, but they can keep you from having that kind of worry, snowball, self potentiation, which can lead to someone saying, yes, I’m less reactive. There’s still something there, but there’s not that runaway scenario still present.

Ways to Incorporate Meditation

JA:

I love the information that you’re providing. I was so looking forward to this conversation with you, perhaps for my own benefit, just to hear your knowledge and your perspective on all of this. It’s absolutely true about that snowball effect. I felt terrible in the beginning, but then as the days progressed into like a week and a half, I did feel that mounting stress happening because I didn’t know was this purely just a reaction to food or was this something bigger like what’s happening with the pandemic? And you’re right, if you don’t have the tools to help you bring down the stress, then you’ll get caught up into that cycle. You asked how we should begin our conversation. I’d love to just talk about ways that we can incorporate meditation into our life if we’ve perhaps tried it and then it didn’t really work out for us or perhaps we’ve never tried it at all. You know, some ways of incorporating into our lifestyle that make it more feasible and easier for us to do considering how busy all of our our lives are. You gave us the great example of how you, as a busy doctor and you have a family, you incorporate it into your morning routine. I love that. I do my meditation as bookends of my day. So at the beginning of my day, to set myself up on the right path and then at the end of the day to really switch over from my work life, into my family life. It provides a way to really just pause and reset as it requires different frames of minds and different energies, as you go from one part of your life to another part of your life. As a new person, trying to incorporate meditation, just doing it once a day would be great. It doesn’t have to be a really long process and it doesn’t have to be anything grand. You need the meditation pillow and the meditation corner, it can be anywhere you’re at.

JA:

You can be about to work with a patient and you’re in your office and you’re about to go in with them. Just having a few minutes to really clear your mind, to sit in some stillness and some silence so that you can return back to life with a more positive mindset. You can respond to the situations that will come at you in a more mindful way. One way to do this would be to use apps, especially if you’re new. You always need a guiding hand to help you out. I’m a big proponent of that because that is how I started many years ago. That way you don’t flounder and you can always just turn on the app and pick something really quick, and you have someone to help guide you into a quick meditation. After that, you’ll start to see right away the benefits of it and how it really instantly calms you down. That feeling and incorporating it into your routine, it becomes more accessible, becomes easier each time you do it and then gradually you build off of that. So that way it is something that is manageable and isn’t too daunting so that you don’t just stop. Always try to make the steps very achievable and approachable for yourself. You know yourself best. So really set yourself up for success and how you’re going to begin incorporating a meditation practice.

DrMR:

I love the note about using an app that’s guided. One of the things that I hear most in response to meditation, for those who are a bit resistant, is the “I tried it and my mind wanders”. With most good apps, they periodically kind of coach that into the meditation. It’s not to say that if you’re going to do, let’s say a 10 minute meditation, if you have one thought you failed. The practice is to let those thoughts bubble up and then let them kind of fade away and just practice not getting on the hamster wheel of thoughts. It’s probably a reflection of our hamster wheel of task execution all day, where the mind is just so used to going. It’s not used to resting.

Sponsored Resources:

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Getting Into the Present Moment

DrMR:

Also, depending on the technique that you’re using, mindfulness can be really nice to also get you to slow down. With mindfulness, you may just sit there and pay attention to how your body feels and the sounds that you’re hearing. For me, it can be a beautiful landscape of sound just to sit in a room, you know, maybe with the windows open and you can hear a car go by every once in a while and a bird chirp and maybe a kid laugh, or sometimes, where I live there’s a leaf blower. But if you just slow down and take a moment to enjoy just simple sounds, at least for me, it’s gotten me to say, wow, there’s, there’s all this life going on around me. If you just slow down long enough to proverbially smell the roses, you realize that while you may be moving a lot of the time, there’s this whole life around you, that’s going very slow. I think that’s part of what you’re kind of hinting to, which is this ability to slow down, even if it doesn’t feel perfect, even if you feel like the thoughts are bubbling up, it’s just getting your brain more exercised and not always doing stuff. You know, you’re working, you’re emailing, you’re checking your phone, you’re listening to a podcast. You’re worried about whatever. I think it’s a great reminder, especially with the guided meditation apps, because they typically will walk you through a few of those things that I just mentioned.

JA:

I love that you compared it to exercising your brain because that’s exactly what’s happening. Also your comments about being able to match the speed of life. Perhaps our brain is moving so quickly with so many thoughts coming in and out, but then we can pause being able to witness how life is moving. That’s another benefit of meditation that I like to bring up to my students, as well as people who are entertaining the idea of starting meditation. It is so applicable to when we are outside of a meditation session. So it’s not just being in that moment and then achieving the stillness and silence and then that’s it. It actually transfers over into our daily lives. So when you’re practicing your meditation, you will definitely have thoughts pop in. That’s just how our brain works.

JA:

The idea isn’t to have zero thoughts because that isn’t how it works. It’s to allow the thoughts to come, being able to witness them and then gently sending them on their way and returning back to that stillness, that silence, that meditation. It’s a constant ebb and flow. It’s a constant dance of thoughts coming in and then sending them away and then being silent again. This helps us in our daily lives. As people who are working and people who have families, to really be in that moment with, for example, your child or your patient, then you really need to be there in that momen. To be able to gently acknowledge any impeeding thoughts, but also be able to send it on its way and say in your mind that you will get back to it at an appropriate time. And then be able to return back to the moment you’re in with your child or your patient or whatever it is that you’re doing. That is what happens in meditation. It’s that being able to return back to your point of focus, your object of attention, and then sending the thoughts on it’s way to deal with at an appropriate time. So when we practice meditation, we’re not just achieving calm, which is fantastic, we’re not just de-stressing, but we are also practicing what we can do in our daily lives.

DrMR:

Yeah, it’s a great point. I’d like to make an analogy building upon that for the healthcare providers. Early in my career I knew a gentleman who worked very, very hard and he was a talented clinician. He worked very, very diligently and long hours. One of the things I said to myself is, boy, this gentleman strikes me as someone who’s going to hit a very low ceiling in terms of achievement and success, because he was always in the “you got to get it done” mode. He was good at what he did, but the problem was that he never slowed down enough to think of the big picture. He was more of like a gear in the machine. He never took the time to step outside of the machine and look at his life and figure out how his practice could run more effectively, more efficiently, how we could build better systems, how he could solve the source of problems, rather than just being really quick and dedicated to solving the problems.

DrMR:

So for healthcare providers, I’d offer you this as a way to actually become a better clinician and a better business person. As Ray Dalio would describe it, a business is really a complex machine and you should be able to step outside of the machine and look at it as one who can tinker with gears and the parts to make the machine run more effectively. It was very hard to do that if you’re always in task execution mode. And that has a benefit for you as a clinician, because you become a better clinician which then benefits patients, which is one of the aims that we all share, but also to be a better business owner, because there are some errors and systems that lead to patients having gripes and complaints and difficulties, and those can be fixed. Then you can have fewer complaints and grips and difficulties and have a more pleasurable experience from the business side of being a clinician. So just for any clinicians there who haven’t yet made this a consistent practice, I’m hoping that maybe this analogy will pull you over because for me, it’s really helped me get even better at looking at my practice from almost a top down view so as to solve problems and to build out efficiencies, and it has had a measurable, positive impact in my life. So just a personal anecdote there that hopefully will sway some of the people sitting on the fence of meditation, contemplation.

JA:

Yeah. I love the analogy of a business. Stepping back actually is something that you’re able to do and practice in meditation so that when you go out in life, you are able to look at your business and be more mindful and definitely more focused and clearer about how you’re looking at things, because that’s what you’re doing in the meditation. You are witnessing whatever your object of attention is, whether that’s your breath or your body, perhaps a mantra, or maybe even sounds such as music. You are using that as something that you’re focused on and you’re witnessing and then that ability is able to translate when you go back into work. I think that is definitely a great thing for someone to do who deals with patients and runs their own practice or business. It definitely will benefit you both for yourself and overall.

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Breathing Exercise: Lengthening the Inhale & Exhale

JA:

One thing that I did want to try out as maybe a way for people to see the benefits of it is to do a breathing technique today. The breathing technique is a great way to just shift your mind from that state of stress, that fight or flight state and into that rest and digest state. We tap into it simply just by slowing down our breath and making them deeper. One of my favorites to do is just to see how long you can make your breath, your inhale and your exhale. If we start just by taking both of our hands, place one on your belly, one on your chest. As you inhale, just allow yourself to make your inhale as long as you possibly can. If you want to count it out, you can. That will help guide you as you move along and just witness how that breath is filling up first your belly, and then moving up into your chest and just witness how that breath is expanding within you. And then when you feel like you can’t take in any more air, try just one more sip of air. Then just as slowly as you’re inhaling, slowly exhale. And in this moment, just witness how your body is compressing down. So your chest, your abdomen, they are slowly going in. Then as you inhale again this time, see if you can make it just a little bit longer than that very first inhale. Again, witnessing how your abdomen and your chest are beginning to fill up and expand. And again, just try and take one more sip if you feel like you’re, you’ve reached your end points. And then as you exhale, just slowly witness how that breath is coming out of your body, witness how you feel like you’re almost melting into the earth beneath you. Then you can continue this process for as many cycles as you need, at your own pace. What’s great about doing a breathing technique such as what we just did right now is that you can definitely do it as you’re doing your meditation, but you can also do it when you are at work. When you are at home with your family, any time that you’re feeling triggered by any sort of stress.

JA:

That moment of stress that you find yourself in, doing a breathing technique, just a few cycles to help you move from that state of stress that you now find yourself in, and then move into a calmer state so that when you return back into that moment, when you’ve felt like you have calmed yourself down enough, using your breath, then you can return back into that situation feeling more mindful you can respond versus reacting emotionally, and how you’ve been conditioned to react. You can see things in a clearer light because you have slowed down, you know, how your body is reacting and you’ve slowed down how you will begin to perceive things and you’ll have a better result in in your interaction then with whatever is happening in that moment.

Benefits of Deep Breathing

DrMR:

I think such a simple way is just breathing deeply and slowly. A way to calm yourself down and slow yourself down and find a moment of peace or relaxation. It really can be as easy as that. And then the benefits also of respiration are so important. We’ve discussed with some dentists and orthodontists on the podcast, how important breathing is. Making sure that you’re not always doing these kind of short, shallow breaths. It is no surprise that stress seems to kind of push you into that phase of breathing so that there’s not just the psychological benefit, but there’s also a physiological benefit to breathing as such. I would be inclined to think that by breathing in really deeply, as you were describing, kind of taking the additional step, you may even help expand your lung capacity and therefore, potentially your athletic capacity. This is something I recently heard on Joe Rogan’s podcast, where he does a technique where he breathes as deeply as he can, and the only exhales, maybe 15 or 20%. Then he breathes in as deeply as he can again. And he kind of breathes into that expanded range of his lungs in an attempt to try to expand his lung capacity, essentially increasing his athletic capacity. So there may even be a tie in here for performance outside of just relaxation.

JA:

Oh, absolutely. You know, our breath is such a under utilized tool that we all have at our disposal. There are so many benefits of it. Like you just mentioned athletically. As I talked about in terms of stress and then as you mentioned about increasing breathing capacity. There are so many different ways to manipulate your breath and to do different breathing techniques. Things such as counting our breath and how we hold it to various cycles. There are just so many that you can try and see which one works best for you. We all have different things that we respond to better. That’s the beauty, especially these days, with meditation. There are just so many options at our fingertips that we can try. Based on our mood, we can really find something that works for us. For example, one day you might need a little bit more help feeling motivated. Maybe, you’re feeling very down in the dumps and you just need something to empower you. Well, there’s so many meditations that can do that. Then perhaps if you’re having trouble sleeping again, there are so many meditations that are geared towards helping you decompress at night and transition into a good night’s rest. So, you know, I encourage everyone to see what’s out there, what’s available and to try out and see which ones are best suited for you.

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Meditation App Recommendations

DrMR:

Do you have any apps that you like in particular. I’m not sure if there’s something in your offering that you want to point to, but tell us a little bit more about what you’re offering, what some good apps are, just so the people who are trying to get started, or maybe someone who’s a little bit advanced, but they’re looking for a change up now, what resources are there at their disposal?

JA:

Well, you can definitely go onto my website www.jatluri.com and on there, I have several free meditation videos that you can follow. I also do a free meditation for the month of August. I’m doing it every Wednesday at 1:30 PM, PST live on Zoom. It’s just 15 minutes. So you can squeeze it into your day. I also recommended recently in Prevention magazine, several meditation apps that I like. I started off with Headspace, which is great because I also use it with my kids. Then there are other ones that are fertility specific because I do private fertility meditations and corporate meditations, but also just general meditations. There’s another one called Expectful that is specifically geared towards people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant or who are parents. And there are a whole gamut of other ones. If you go on my website, the link is on there where you’ll see my suggestions for other apps. Like I mentioned, you can book a private session with me online and we do it via Zoom. That’s a great way, especially if you have something very specific that you want to cover, then you and I can discuss that and I tailor it exactly to what you need in that moment. If you’re going through something like a fertility journey, I also make recordings that you can then take with you when you have a big milestone and you can play it and it will support you and strengthen you and empower you in whatever it is that you are about to do that requiresthat extra boost of encouragement. There are so many options out there, but definitely check out my website and you’ll see all the free as well as articles that will give you further tips on how to meditate and different ways to do it.

DrMR:

That’s really novel that you’re offering a sort of “meditation coaching” because there are many techniques and I’ve experimented with a number of them. I’ve even kind of burnt myself out on the Wim Hof breathing. Wim Hof has this kind of a breathing bubble where you hyperventilate essentially breathe in as big and as quick as you can, breathe it out as big and as quick as you can. I’m sure you know this, but just for audience. You do that 30 times, fully exhale and hold your breath for as long as you can. This can be quite intense. My ears would be ringing. I would almost feel like I blacked out. I would get up from that and I would be like 200 milligrams of caffeine revved up, but this is why I think having someone’s advice like yours would have been helpful. After a week and a half of that, I crashed and I wasn’t sleeping well. I was getting tired at the end of the day. I think I was just not appreciating that this was a stressor that needed to be loaded appropriately. So as not to overwhelm the system and also it took me a long time to even come across that. So for someone who maybe is trying to dial this in, a little bit of professional guidance can go a long way to getting you to where you want to be more effectively. So yeah, I think that’s a great resource here for people to have. Is there anything else that you want to leave people with?

JA:

Kudos to you for trying that because they are really powerful. I, myself, can only do those once a month because you’re right. You walk out of those breathing meditations feeling really exhausted. I mean, very jazzed up, it does cleanse you a lot, but also very exhausting. But yes, you know, a little bit of coaching absolutely does go a long way, especially if you are trying it out for the first time or definitely need something specific. I guess that’s what I’d love to just leave your listeners with is that when you do begin to try out meditation, be as gentle with yourself as possible. Oftentimes, just in general with life, we can be very harsh on ourselves and have very many expectations of how something should be. With meditation, I just invite you to allow the experience to just be, to not judge how many ever thoughts happen and how you deal with them to just give yourself the opportunity to try just a couple of minutes each day and over time, you know, you’ll progress, but you need to allow yourself that time to practice. It’s just like with anything else, just allow yourself to practice and take that moment for what it is. Before, you know it, you’ll have incorporated another strategies in your life that you can turn to whenever you need to deal with the stressors of life.

DrMR:

I think that’s great advice. I just want to reiterate for people how this is something that’s really benefited me and I will probably never go a long stretch without meditation. You have to just do it for maybe a few weeks to really formthe habit and realize and feel how much of a positive impact that can have in your life. But then once you do, similar to the way I feel about exercise, there will never be a stretch beyond maybe a few days here or a week there, if there’s stuff going on where I don’t exercise consistently, I feel the same way about meditation. I just feel like it would almost be like eating healthy food where, I’m sure most of us wouldn’t go too long on a unhealthy food binge because it just wouldn’t feel right. This is the same way I feel about meditation. I guess it’s like nutrition for your mind, so to speak. So I’m definitely a big supporter of this.

DrMR:

I hope people who are looking for some help consider reaching out to Josephine. I want to thank you again for the work that you’re doing and for taking some time to share your wisdom with us today.

JA:

Thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure talking about meditation with you. I love hearing people explain how they have incorporated meditation successfully into their lives.

DrMR:

Yeah, well, great. I’m glad we could have a successful dialogue today. It was a pleasure on this side also

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