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Can Mindfulness Help You Be Healthier?

happy-smiling-woman-rides-a-bicycle-on-the-country-road-under-blossom-picture-id1131658795 Can Mindfulness Help You Be Healthier?

Raise your hand if you’ve met all your health goals and are in perfect shape. Anybody? Okay, how about those of you who are never self-critical and love the way you look every time you look in the mirror. Any takers?

Let’s get serious for a moment: most people have long since abandoned their New Year’s health goals, and a whopping 79 percent of Americans feel at least occasionally unhappy with how their body looks. Rather than being stifled by unmet goals or struggling with our reflection though, what if there were a gentle and effective way to encourage healthier behaviors? Let’s take a closer look at how mindfulness practice can help us improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.

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Higher Consciousness in Less than a Minute

elderly-hawaii-woman-practicing-yoga-picture-id884298208 Higher Consciousness in Less than a Minute

There are very old, rich traditions of higher consciousness around the world, and diverse as they are, they seem to have one thing in common: Arriving at higher consciousness takes time, perhaps a lifetime. Along with this idea comes other, closely related ones. Higher consciousness is exceptional. It requires intense inner work. Only a select few ever reach the goal.

The overall effect of these ideas is to discourage the average person from even considering that higher consciousness is within reach. For all practical purposes, society sets those apart who have become enlightened, saintly, or spiritually advanced. In an age of faith such figures were revered; today they are more likely to be viewed as beyond normal life, to be admired, shrugged off, or forgotten.

Much of this is a holdover from the merger of religion, spirituality, and consciousness. For centuries there was no separating the three. Most traditional societies developed a priestly class to guard the sanctity—and privileged status—of reaching near to God. But these trappings are now outdated and even work against the truth, which is that higher consciousness is as natural and effortless as consciousness itself. If you are aware, you can become more aware. There is nothing to higher consciousness than this logical conclusion.

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226 Hits

Strategies for Mindful Living

mindfulness-picture-id1025938216 Strategies for Mindful Living
Getting rid of stress is imperative, and we spoke of this in my earlier blog, as to how living consciously in the present moment, we could actually manage to eliminate stress. We call this Mindfulness. 

In simple and lucid words we could say that, any activity that you perform, where you stay fully present, and very well rooted in the "here" and "now" along with a completely non judgemental attitude, can be called Mindfulness. 
 
How to get there and start practicing and living in this state of mindfulness, is of course the crucial answer. As I had mentioned earlier, there are various strategies which we can adapt to this very vital and extreme state of relaxation,  but I am going to concentrate here today on what we will call Mindfulness meditation. 

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163 Hits

Better Living with Mindfulness

betterliving Better Living with Mindfulness
In today's world where everyone and everything is constantly on the run,  it is extremely important that one is mindful of one's own everyday life. 

Stress is normally a two way process.  It is about how stress affects one's physical and mental health,  and how that physical and mental health affects us. 

Since we as individuals are, each one of us, unique in our own lives,  it would be correct to experiment with certain stress relief strategies to arrive at the right one. We must try to find strategies which help to manage stress in a healthy manner,  and keep it at a manageable level. 

Whatever we put into our minds will greatly impact our mental and psychological quotient. This includes doing things that keep your mind sharp. It can be activities like reading books or watching movies or any other activities that could be fuelling the mind. On another level, compassion, healthy inner dialogues and gratitude help mental peace. Many other activities  enhance inner peace.

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Murder in a House of Worship

sad How mindfulness and self-compassion can help you manage fear, sorrow, and rage

Lori Kaye, gunned down on Saturday morning, April 27, 2019, at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California was an acquaintance of mine. She was an observant Jew, so when I heard about the shooting I feared she might have been in her house of worship on the last day of Passover.  

I texted her “sending love” and didn’t receive a reply. I thought she might not be responding because it was still Shabbat until sundown, and I didn’t know whether she followed the custom of not using her electronics on Shabbat. I called and texted Stacy (one of her best friends from childhood) and her husband Jon – our close friends – so they would know that a shooting occurred in case they wanted to reach out to Lori. 

I’ll never forget Jon’s voice on the line, “I think Lori is dead, Stacy and Michelle are on their way up to the hospital.” 

What unfolded is surreal, unthinkable, and unfortunately not unusual on this planet. Our town is still reeling; her funeral was an international event that was live streamed over the internet. Over four thousand people gathered on the sports field at the public high school in Poway for a unity rally against hate the night she was buried. 

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1019 Hits

Why is it important to be aware of the breath?

breathing Why is it important to be aware of the breath?

Try these directions for mindfulness of breathing, a basic concentration practice: When you’re ready to meditate, close your eyes and bring your attention to the motion of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Keep your focus at the nostrils, noting the full passage of each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end. Don’t follow the breath into your lungs or out into the air; just watch its flow in and out of the nostrils. If you can, notice the subtle sensations of the breath as it comes and goes. Be aware of each in-breath and out-breath as it passes by the nostrils, just as the doorman watches each person who comes and goes through a door.

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Antidote to Anger? Mindfulness.

woman-writing-dreams-in-diary-picture-id1135542281 Antidote to Anger? Mindfulness.

Everyone struggles with anger at some point in their lives. From lingering frustrations to outright rage, it’s easy to feel helpless when anger strikes and, too often, people end up speaking or behaving in ways they later find regrettable. However, there are tools we can use to lessen our experience of anger and live more peacefully.

In my classes, I teach that below anger there is usually a softer emotion – one that’s more vulnerable – and the anger rises up to protect it. I discovered my own anger while discussing an issue in my life during a recent therapy session, and underneath that anger was fear.

Identifying my anger and looking deeper allowed me to recognize this fear – a primal fear – and it brought me to tears, which was great! I’m not a big crier, and crying is such a wonderful stress reliever – so it felt good to let it out. From there, I was able to consider what I could do next to help myself heal.

There is a Buddhist saying that goes: “We make our own hell by wishing things were different than they are.” There are many things in life that we can’t control, and my anger was over one of these things in my own life. My solution? I decided it was time to renew my gratitude practice.

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299 Hits

The Game of Balance and Liberation

monk The Game of Balance and Liberation

There is a story about an old Zen monk who was dying, who had finished everything and was about to get off the wheel. He was just floating away, free and in his pure Buddha-mind, when a thought passed by of a beautiful deer he had once seen in a field. And he held on to that thought for just a second because of its beauty, and immediately he took birth again as a deer. It’s as subtle as that.

It’s like when we begin to see the work that is to be done, and we go to an ashram or a monastery, or we hang out with satsang. We surround ourselves with a community of beings who think the way we think. And then none of the stuff, the really hairy stuff inside ourselves, comes up. It all gets pushed underground. We can sit in a temple or a cave in India and get so holy, so clear and radiant, the light is pouring out of us. But when we come out of that cave, when we leave that supportive structure that worked with our strengths but seldom confronted us with our weaknesses, our old habit patterns tend to reappear, and we come back into the same old games, the games we were sure we had finished with. Because there were uncooked seeds, seeds that sprout again the minute they are stimulated. We can stay in very holy places, and the seeds sit there dormant and uncooked. But there is fear in such individuals, because they know they’re still vulnerable.

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246 Hits

Three Attitudes that Nourish a Liberating Practice

woman-relaxing-in-a-crowded-street-picture-id143920635 Three Attitudes that Nourish a Liberating Practice

A key spiritual inquiry is, “In this moment, what most serves awakening?” Rather than a particular style of meditation practice, it is our way of relating to our experience – our attitude – that frees our hearts. This talk explores the attitudes that are an expression of our innately open, wakeful and loving awareness, and that carry us to realization. (a favorite from the archives)

Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the center
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace.

Feel relief flood into every
cell. Nothing to do. Nothing
to be but what you are already.
Nothing to receive but what
flows effortlessly from the
mystery into form.

Nothing to run from or run
toward. Just this breath,
Awareness knowing itself as
embodiment. Just this breath,
awareness waking up to truth.

Danna Faulds (2006). Awareness Knowing Itself. In From Root to Bloom: Yoga Poems and Other Writings (p. 17). Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing.

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368 Hits

Be of Help to Others

helpingothers Be of Help to Others

Do not underestimate the impact of a small deed. 

What can I do?

The Practice:
Be of Help to Others.

Why?

I'm doing a series on my personal top five practices (all tied for first place), and have so far named three: meditate (including mindfulness, self-awareness, and, if you like, prayer), take in the good, and bless (including compassion, generosity, and love).

I saw one way to bless on a trip to Haiti, in the efforts of many dedicated people: be helpful. As you probably know, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with roughly 80 percent unemployment. The national government seemed like a tattered sheet in the wind. A public middle and high school I visited was missing half its schoolbooks as well as the funds for the last two grades. Imagine your own child in such a school . . . and that the $30 it takes to buy the books she needs is a month's wages, as out of reach as the moon.

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224 Hits

Mindfulness and embracing your own reality

young-woman-trail-runner-open-arms-on-sunrise-seaside-picture-id896690574 Mindfulness and embracing your own reality

Allowing ourselves to wallow in the past or the future is the favorite game of the human mind. This constant yo yo situation is a source of a new level of stress, beyond the existing stress level in your life. There are many ways our mind strategizes in order to manage the stress in our lives, yet at most times stress continues to nag at us.

This is like a warning to take charge of our lives and begin to focus on our lives in a more specific way. The important thing is for us to realize that it is imperative to live in the present moment.

POSITIVE CHANGE

This is only possible if we accept our present condition, understand it, realize its impact on our state of mind and our health, and also our power to be able to change this.


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532 Hits

“Ram Dass, you have only three things to do in this lifetime…”

spring-daisy-flowers-picture-id915614956 “Ram Dass, you have only three things to do in this lifetime…”

I think that every institution has a difficult time staying as the edge of truth for a very long time, because of the pressure of survival. There has got to be enough structure for the game to work, and the structures often find this kind of mentality too high risk for its stability.

It’s too chaotic, and the question of how an institution is able to leave some degree of that free creativity is the secret of whether or not it has a long life, or it just turns into a nice big institution.

What I’ve noticed in most of the institutions I’ve been part of is that for the first few years it’s very exciting, and everybody feels challenged and at that living edge. Then everybody figures out how to socialize the game, how to appear to be changing and not actually changing, and everybody, because they have children and families now, have to get insurance policies… They’ve got to make the thing stable, and that sort of tempers their way of playing with that chaotic edge, and recognizing what is interesting.

You can make that edge your object of study, and it can draw you in altogether in a new way.

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955 Hits

Create Mindfulness with Oracle Cards

morningpractice Create Mindfulness with Oracle Cards

In 1990 I was introduced to a book and author that was to change my life. The book was (and is) called Full Catastrophe Living and Jon Kabat Zinn Ph.D. the founder of MBSR,  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction probably was the single most powerful teacher I had that helped me cope with the back to back deaths of my parents.

I was four years sober and nutty as a fruitcake as I had no real understanding of my empathy overload, or what to do with my constant anxiety, especially because I had begun doing professional work as an intuitive and had no clue as to how I was receiving such intimate information. Looking back I see myself on electricity overload all lit up like a Christmas tree.

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376 Hits

In the Details

IMG_0071-1200x900

“God is in the details,” some wise individual once said. Different people interpret that sentence differently, but for me it means the Divine lives in every seemingly insignificant detail in the world. God does not show up solely for fiery sunsets, mountain panoramas, and sacred ceremonies. God is also in the tiny ant crawling across the picnic table and the voice of a neighbor singing off-key at 6 a.m. God exists beyond judgment and circumstance. God is everywhere.

 

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397 Hits

How to Really Be Yourself

How to Really Be Yourself How to Really Be Yourself

If you think about being yourself, what does that mean? If asked, "Do you like being who you are?" not everyone would say yes--some people dislike themselves. This can be the product of low self-esteem or perhaps a deep sense of guilt. Liking yourself doesn't have to occur all the time, however. There are times when you behave in ways you aren't proud of and say things you wish you could take back. Yet being yourself is more mysterious than like or dislike.


To be yourself, you have to know who you are. "I" isn't simple and in many ways is very elusive. A two-year-old writing on the walls with crayon is being herself, and so is a middle-school bully tormenting a classmate on social media. Running wild, acting on your worst impulses, and flouting all the normal rules are behaviors worth suppressing. But if you are candid about yourself, such impulses exist inside you.


If you take a look at how your mind operates, you'll quickly realize that many agendas compete for your attention. In certain situations you call upon a wide range of emotions that want to be expressed. You act differently at work than at home. Habit, memory, and old conditioning compete over your attention. these agendas have their own claims, and there has to be a decision-maker and overseer who chooses which persona to adopt, which feelings to suppress, which behavior is appropriate at any given moment.

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1860 Hits

What is the difference between knowing and being?

What is the difference between knowing and being? What is the difference between knowing and being?

When you walk down the street you see other beings who are doing things, who are thinking things, who are wearing things, who are older or younger, who have personal lives. You see all the individual differences, but you also see them as packaging which holds that being.


This is a 1931 body and it’s decaying at a certain rate. It’s inevitable. I mean, I may prolong it or slow it down, but it’s inevitable. The personality of this being has a lot of residual little neuroses hanging around in it. It’s also charming, it’s delightful, it’s warm, it’s intelligent, it’s a personality, and those are my vehicles for being here on Earth.


It’s like a space suit, when you see those guys on the moon, and they’re encased in these suits. Those suits allow them to be in that particular element, and so we are in an element which requires that we be sheathed in a body and a personality.


Notice what I’m doing. I’m suggesting that we are not an identity with our personalities or our bodies, we are something more than that, and the predicament we face in recognizing this part of ourselves is that it isn’t ‘see-able’ with our eyes, isn’t ‘tasteable’ with our tongues… isn’t recognizable by any of our external senses.


So do we take this whole part of ourselves and assume it isn’t real?

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625 Hits

Trusting Who We Are (audio)

tara-brach-trusting-who-we-are

The sign of spiritual freedom is a deep trust in our essential nature, and in the light of awareness that lives through all beings.  This talk explores the conditioning that entraps us in a trance of separation and believing in a limited self.  We then explore the evolutionary shift in identity that is possible as we deepen our attention and presence to the life that is here, and the loving awareness that is the source of existence.

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Living Kindness

IMG_3309-1200x900
We learn kindness and patience step by step, sometimes in the receiving, sometimes in the giving. And sometimes, even more powerfully, in the shadow experience: through thoughtlessness or impatience, our own or someone else’s. Hurt by hurt, mistake by mistake, we walk forward into the swirl of human emotion and interrelationship. We learn about pain by being hurt as well as by hurting another. Someone else’s anger or offhand remark can cut to the quick. But to see pain in a loved one’s eyes from our own unthinking or harsh words is to know the other side of pain. It can break your heart, but in the breaking is the opening­—to compassion, to kindness.

When I look back honestly on my own life, I see moments that have taught me, painfully, to be more compassionate and aware. In the years before my mother’s death, she began to have challenges with both her eyesight (cataracts) and memory. I felt tremendous responsibility and fear around making sure she was okay. Once, after a doctor’s appointment, I was asking her questions about what had transpired (What did he say? Did you ask him about ____?). She couldn’t think fast enough to answer me and finally burst into tears. Abruptly I realized I had to slow down and just listen patiently instead of question her. I could see the pain in her eyes at not being able to answer me quickly. It stopped me in my tracks, and I hugged her. What did the answers matter when my mother’s ease of mind was at stake?

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1219 Hits

Meditation and Short Talk: Basic Elements of a Mindfulness Meditation Sitting (audio)

tara-brach-mindfulness-meditation

This short talk and guided meditation offers an overview of what many people find is a natural unfolding within a meditation sitting. It includes the process of arriving in an embodied presence, learning how to come back from thoughts, and then opening the attention mindfully to the changing flow of experience. The meditation provides generous space between prompts for practice.

This is a recording from the morning instructions and sit at the 2017 IMCW New Year retreat.

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786 Hits

Find Your Ground

Rick-Hanson-Find-Your-Ground Find Your Ground

What can you do when you're shaken?

The Practice:
Find your ground.

Why?

I've been to New Zealand, and really respect and like it. There's a Maori term - turangawaewae (link is external), "a place to stand" - that I've come back to many times.

I'm sure I don't know the full meaning of the word in its cultural context. But at a basic level, it's clear that we all need a place to stand. A physical place to be sure - hearth and home, land and sea, a bed to curl up in - but also psychological or spiritual places, such as feeling loved, a calm clear center inside, knowledge of the facts, compassion and ethics, and realistic plans.

This is our ground, the place we rest in and move out from . . . even under the best of circumstances. And when you're shaken by events at any scale - from changes in your health to changes in your country or world (here's a recent post you may find relevant: Take Heart (link is external)) - then it's especially important to find and hold your ground.


How?

Start with the body, and the feeling of being here. The sensations of breathing . . . heart beating . . . going on living . . . feet on the floor, back against a chair. Whatever is true now can never be taken from you.

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448 Hits

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Panache Desai - Break Free, Break Loose, and Live Wild!
Dr. Sue Morter- The Energy Codes®: Awaken Your Spirit, Heal Your Body and Live Your Best Life
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Guy Finley - Relationship Magic: Love’s Infinite Journey
Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith - The Boldness of Becoming
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