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meditation

Meditation practises range from relaxation response meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, zazen, silent repetition of a word and autogenic training to steady aerobic exercise and even biofeedback. Let's dive in.

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Inhale

Inhale

Like music and meditation, aromatics can be used to alter your consciousness and deepen your awareness. Using environmental fragrances is also a delightful way of lifting your mood and sharpening your mind. A cool whiff of neroli sets your brain racing. Sniffing white rose can nestle you down into the most enjoyable indolence. Immerse yourself in the rich warmth of the ambergris and, even if you are the most timid of creatures, you can begin to feel bold and daring. Tibetan lamas mix an extraordinary combination of herbs and flowers to produce an incense which heightens concentration and centers the mind for meditation. In ancient times, temple prostitutes knew every secret of blending aromatics to create a heady aphrodisiac which was completely irresistible to their worshippers. And astrologers advised their clients which balm to use when a specific planet made particular transits in their chart. The special substances that make all this possible are the plant essences - the light, fine, almost etheric essential oils taken from roots, leaves, barks and flowers of plants in their prime of life. A plant essence plays an important role in the plant's growth to maturity, is forever changing its chemical composition in the plant, and is present in greater quantities in young plants. Many experts in the use of plant essences believe that, in some way that no one has been able to identify, these substances contain much of the life force of the plant, including the basic characteristics of its leaves and flowers that give it a unique character, smell and ability to affect human beings in specific ways. Some plants, such as jasmine and rose, require hundreds of pounds of live flowers to produce even a tiny bottle of the essence. They are very expensive. Other oils, such as cinnamon and basil, are easily extracted and inexpensive. But you should know that the 'synthetic' version of a plant essence (in spite of the fact that its main constituents have been chemically reproduced) does not have the same effect on a person. This is probably because the terpene alcohols, phenols and esters that make up these natural substances have a synergistic quality - they work together to produce an effect greater than the sum of each working on its own. Some natural therapists rely on many plant essences for their restorative and stimulating actions in treatments for skin and hair, as well as for combating cellulite. They are also important constituents in many expensive face creams and lotions. But the way in which aromatic vibrations from essential oils can be used in your environment to alter mood and mind is something quite different from their therapeutic uses, when mixed with carrier oils and spread on the skin in aromatherapy treatments. Oil of geranium, for instance, is a mild diuretic useful in aromatherapy for treating fluid retention, eczema and anxiety. But burn it as incense, or let it diffuse into your environment as a fragrance, and it can make you act with uncharacteristic rashness - an effect quite separate from its therapeutic properties. Aromatherapy is a tool for healing. Aromatics belong to the realm of magic. The best way to discover what its magic can do for you is to experiment with a few of the real essences. Start with six, and then enlarge your repertoire as you get to know the quality and characteristics of each, and as you discover those you particularly like. Because they are natural substances, and highly volatile, they rapidly diffuse into the environment. They just as rapidly disappear or can be replaced by other fragrances. When you choose essences and oils for burning, make absolutely sure that those you buy are natural. The current fascination with aromatherapy has led to the appearance of a myriad of poor quality so-called essential oils, which are nothing of the kind. They are cheap chemical analogues and are currently being sold in chemists, department stores and specialty shops all over. Trying to use them for mind-bending is a grave mistake. They can actually make you feel quite sick, not to mention the unpleasant fact that they tend to infuse into a room and then imbed themselves in the carpets, curtains and furniture with the tenacity of a cheap perfume. Only real essential oils have mind-bending magic. But what a wonderful magic that can be. Cedar heightens creativity Chamomile soothes panic and hysteria Marjoram calms irritability, soothes panic Cinnamon is a natural stimulant Frankincense calms irritability and impatience Neroli is an anti shock aid, and heightens mental functions Basil banishes fear and indecision, and is antidepressant Clary sage clears the head after mental activity Juniper improves concentration, and banishes fear Sage dispels anxiety Lily restores energy Geranium is anti-anxiety Ylang Ylang is aphrodisiac and antidepressant Lavender calms irritability, and soothes impatience Patchouli is an antidote to apathy, and is good against exhaustion Peppermint uplifts the spirit, is good against apathy, and is a mental stimulant Jasmine is an antidote to shyness Sandalwood helps new ways of thinking Rosewood calms an aggressive mind Vanilla heightens nostalgia - especially for childhood USING AROMATICS FOR MINDBENDING * Put 30 to 50 drops of essential oil or oils into a half pint size spray bottle filled with water. (The kind you use to spray plants is ideal.) Use this mixture as a room spray. * Put 8 to 10 drops of essential oils on a small piece of cardboard and place it on a warm radiator. * Put 5-10 drops of an essence on a small plate and put it on top of an aga or wood stove. * Place a few drops of essential oils on a cotton or linen handkerchief and sniff it periodically. (This is a particularly good method if you are in a public place where the air is full of cigarette smoke or the room is stuffy.) * Place 10-15 drops in water which is simmering on a hob. This will humidify the environment as well as scenting it.

Sacred Truth Ep. 45: The Zen Of Stress-Free

Sacred Truth Ep. 45: The Zen Of Stress-Free

Cats laze in the sun. The caterpillar dozes on a tomato plant. A bumblebee nestles between two blades of grass. Yet we humans seem to be continually on the run. It’s as though we have become programmed by the media, advertising, and personal growth gurus to do it better and faster, to be more efficient, to keep going no matter what. We have lost the art of stillness. As a result, we miss out on the gifts that come to us when for a time we put aside doing and let ourselves just enjoy being. “What goes up must come down.” It would be great if these words were engraved on the brain of those of us who live busy lives. When stress gets out of hand it wears you down and creates deep fatigue. When stress is prolonged, it can make you feel overwhelmed, undermine your peace of mind, and turn into adrenal exhaustion that undermines your health. Yet, when you learn how to balance with relaxation, what was once stressful can feel like the spice of your life—fun even when life makes heavy demands. You know you’ll be able to meet them and enjoy the process. You and I and every other living thing have two fundamental modes—solar and lunar. Physiologically the solar—stressed—mode is a dynamic outpouring of energy and spirit. Oriental cultures call this mode the yang rhythm. When it’s in control you feel excited, love the thrill of a challenge, and become determined to make things happen. The lunar mode, your yin rhythm, is its exact opposite. When lunar energy predominates, you move into deep relaxation, which restores and rebalances your body and mind. Instead of an outpouring of spirit and energy, you become deeply receptive—literally able to draw energy, strength, and bliss into your body and your life as a cat does lying in front of a winter fire. Few of us are taught how to ease back and forth from dynamic to receptive mode and vice versa. As a result, our bodies are seldom at peace. Our minds are always busy. We can’t let go of those endless internal monologues. Continually mulling over past and the future, we miss out on the joy of moment-to-moment awareness. We eat food but don’t really taste it. We make love then wonder why it is not always as satisfying as we know it could be. We have forgotten how to live in the moment from the core of our being and let life flow through us instead of attempting to “manage” it. In short, we have lost connection with the two rhythms on which lasting health, vitality, and joy depend. Let’s now look at the simplest and most efficient way of reconnecting with both. It’s called Zazen. A powerful technique for reestablishing life-giving balance, zazen is a simple, yet almost infinitely transformative practice. I have taught this simple practice to thousands of people who continue to sing its praises. Practiced for 10 or 15 minutes a day, it silences your endless internal chatter, releases anxiety, and stops the kind of tail chasing like an obsessive dog that gets us nowhere. It gently trains your body and mind to move at will from the dynamic, solar, stressed state into the deeply receptive, restorative lunar one, helping us to become fully present in the eternal NOW like a child, a sage, an artist, a lover. Zazen is all about a new way of breathing. The word Spirit means breath—that is, life force. In Japanese they call it ki, and in Chinese it is called chi. In English we refer to it as energy or power. It is the electrical energy that fuels the living matrix of your body. Practice zazen and you learn how closely your breath is connected with the kinds of thoughts you have and the emotions you feel. As you develop awareness of your breath, entering and leaving your body, and of all the sensations this brings, you come to touch the still point of your being. You start by sitting in a comfortable but straight back posture and silently counting your breath: Inhale... “one,” exhale... “two,” and so on up to ten. Then you begin again back at “one.” The point of the counting has nothing to do with trying to get to ten. This is just a simple tool. If you lose count and your mind begins to wander, notice this, bless your thoughts, whatever they are, then let them go and gently return your concentration to the breath and start again at “one.” Each time you choose consciously to let a thought go and bring yourself back to your breathing, you increase your ability to place your mind where you want it to be. Believe me, this is an incredibly powerful experience. Before long it will help you break free of the limiting thoughts, worries, and obsessions that can rule our lives. Your sense of connection with your innate being grows stronger, as does your capacity to experience bliss, pleasure, and the that you have the right to be who you are without having to conform to other people’s imperatives. Your spiritual power grows, as do your intuitive skills. Creativity, which is closely woven into intuition, blossoms. Ok let’s get started together: • Position Your Body: The way you hold your body—your posture—helps create your state of consciousness. There are many choices. You can sit tailor-fashion on the floor using a small firm pillow or zafu, which raises your bottom slightly off the floor. Sit on the front third of your zafu tipping your body slightly forward. This creates the strongest feeling of stability. You can also use a chair. When sitting on a chair it is also important to use a cushion so you can sit on the front third of the cushion and keep your back away from its back. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. However you choose to sit, your back needs to be straight. Imagine that your head is pressing against the ceiling. Now allow your muscles to soften so the natural curve of the back appears and the abdomen pushes slightly forward so your diaphragm moves freely—rising and falling with each breath. • Position Your Hands: Place your hands in what is known as a cosmic mudra where your active hand (right if you are right handed and left if you are left handed) lies palm up in your lap. Nestle the other hand gently onto the palm of the active hand so that the knuckles overlap and your thumb tips just touch, forming a kind of oval. This connects your body’s right and left energy fields. It acts as a symbol for the unity of the breath, your life, and the Universe. This also helps turn you inward away from the confusion and chaos of daily life. • Grow Quiet: Allow your body to settle into a comfortable posture. Your back is erect but never stiff, your chin is tucked in slightly, and the tip of your tongue rests easily against the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper teeth. • Breathe through your nose. Lower your eyes so you are looking at the ground two or three feet in front of you. After a while you may be surprised to find that although your eyes are open, you are no longer “seeing” what you are looking at, since the focus of your attention will have shifted within. • Discover Your Center: This is the hara—the physical and spiritual center of the body. It is a place of power from which all the martial arts are performed. Located in the pelvis, two-and-a-half to three inches below the navel, it is also the center of gravity in your body. Allowing your focus of attention to rest at the hara creates a sense of balance for body and mind. As you breathe in, imagine your breath going down to the hara and returning from the hara. Of course, on a physical level the breath is really filling the lungs but you need to just imagine this, which helps you with the breathing. • Breathe Easy: Pay attention to your breath without trying to change anything. Be aware of the tactile feelings that come with breathing. Notice the cool air entering your body as you inhale through your nose and what it feels like as it travels down the back of your throat. Feel the warmth of the out-breath as you exhale. When you stay in touch with this tactile sensation of breathing, you are less likely to be distracted by thoughts. • Silently count the Ins and Outs: Inhalation is “one.” Exhalation is “two.” Inhalation is “three” and so on until you get to ten. Then start all over again. The simple agreement you make with yourself is only that when the mind begins to distract you, you notice this and consciously choose to let it go and go back to watching the breath, and begin counting again from one. • Zazen is as simple as this. Practicing it for fifteen minutes once or twice a day—preferably at the beginning of the day and the end of the day—you begin to touch the still point within you again and again. In the process you build up joriki—the power of focus and concentration so that, in time, instead of becoming caught up in the endless mental machinations that draw us away from living our lives fully whatever you are doing, you become able to choose consciously to let go and turn your mind towards whatever you choose. The connection with your innate being strengthens so that your inner world and your day-to-day life gradually come together in harmony. The more you practice the easier it becomes so, at will you are able to move into in and out of highly stressful situations that at one time would have made you frantic. In essence, the mind is meant to be like the still water of a lake at dawn. But when the rains fall or the winds blow, its natural glass-like surface, which is meant to reflect sun and moon, becomes disturbed with eddies and waves which distort your perception of your feelings, your body, and the world around you. As you practice zazen your mind returns to its mirror-like state. Then it is able to reflect the world around you without becoming obstructed or distorted by anything in it. You learn first hand that you do not have to hold on to anything to create the life you long for. You become truly free. This experience of freedom becomes contagious—a blessing not only for ourselves but for others as well. Marianne Williamson describes it well: “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Trying to understand or rationalize the practice of zazen is a waste of time. Like every genuinely transformative practice, it can never be fully understood. Zazen can only be lived.

Kill Death Curses And Live!

Kill Death Curses And Live!

Everybody’s heard of death curses. Literature is laced with accounts of how Aboriginal witch doctors have brought about the death of the young and healthy by cursing them. No sooner do these people learn about the fate which has been cast for them than, inexplicably, they begin to sicken and die. Through complex biological processes, their simple belief in the curse foisted upon starts to bring about their downfall. MODERN-DAY DEATH CURSES In civilized society we look upon such phenomena as anthropological curiosities—products of primitive superstition which can’t touch us in our “enlightened age”. What we don’t know, however, is this: We in the so-called civilized world are, more often than not, living under our own brand of “death curses”—most of which we are not even aware of. They are subtler than those issued by witch doctors, yet every bit as deadly in creating the physical and mental decline that we have been taught to associate with aging. Common charged words and phrases associated with aging like “retirement”, “middle-age”, “It's all downhill after forty”, and “At your age you must start taking things more easily” are widely voiced. They can exert a powerful effect on the process of aging for all of us by creating destructive self-fulfilling expectations of age decline. Then, instead of facing our future full of confidence and excitement about what lies ahead, optimism gets replaced by anxiety as we are warned to “Be careful”, or “Never take chances on a new career at your age.” The list of such frequently proffered “sensible” advice is a long one. Such suggestions often lead us to make changes in the way we live that actually encourage physical decline—like decreasing the amount of exercise we get, or altering our eating habits away from fiber-rich natural foods towards “softer” foods and “convenience foods”. We may even limit the amount of social and intellectual stimulation we have been used to. What’s worse, this kind of advice tends to undermine our self-image and destroy our self-confidence. This in turn interferes with the proper functioning of the immune system, which plays such a central role in protecting the body from aging. An essential ingredient in healthy aging is becoming aware of just how powerfully our emotions, state of mind, and unconscious assumptions influence susceptibility to illness and the rate at which we age. Once this awareness penetrates your consciousness, you can begin to make use of a few powerful techniques that quite automatically banish death curses from your life, and help you live healthy, decade after decade. MIND-BODY CONNECTIONS The notion that your state of mind can influence your health and the rate at which you age was once something that had to be taken on faith. Now it’s been scientifically proven, thanks to a scientific discipline with a tongue-twisting name: psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). PNI has established that the body's immune system, that bulwark of defense, is undeniably affected by your unconscious assumptions, your emotional states and your behavioral patterns. They lead either to a significant resistance to rapid aging on the one hand, or to an increased susceptibility to decrepitude and degenerative diseases on the other. The happier you are, the better you feel about yourself and the more positive are your expectations about the future, the more likely is it that you will age slowly and gracefully, and the less likely you will be to fall prey to illness of whatever sort—from a common cold to a chronic life-threatening disease. LIVE LIKE ZORBA No area of what I call “ageless aging” is more fun to explore than this one. I always think of positive aging as “Zorba the Greek” consciousness. It makes possible the most amazing physical and mental feats by quite ordinary people living ordinary lives. Take the man who is able to work eighteen hours a day, drink whisky by the tumblerful, dance on tables until the early hours of the morning and still live to be 110, thanks to the sheer joy of his passion for living. (I had a grandfather like this whom I absolutely adored!) You also find this positive vision of ageing amongst saints and holy men who carry out their day-to-day activities, from writing letters to peeling potatoes, in a state of bliss—samadhi. Take a look at their superbly unlined faces. Many could as easily be thirty as seventy. Mainstream medicine has long acknowledged that emotional states such as anxiety and depression can make some illnesses worse. These include asthma, diabetes, peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, migraine and cardiovascular problems. But until the advent of PNI, it has paid little attention to examining the power—both positive and negative—of their psychological components, nor has it explored ways and means of improving these conditions by altering a patient's mental state or behavioral patterns. Meanwhile, it still ignores psychological components in the vast majority of other illnesses—from lung disease and cancer to rheumatism and allergic reactions—choosing to treat them instead as nothing other than physiological conditions, little affected by whether the patient experiencing them felt good or bad in himself. Western medicine, bound by the Cartesian notion of a split between mind and matter, fails to consider the people it treats as psychobiological beings, whose feelings, thoughts, expectations and perceptions are intimately bound to their physiology and biochemistry. They never bother to ask the question: Why do some people who smoke forty cigarettes a day for 20 years end up with lung cancer, while others following exactly the same pattern don't? TIME TO TRANSFORM Just as prolonged unmitigated stress, depression and anxiety suppress immune functions, a positive frame of mind frees us from death curses. It brings us a sense that we can cope with whatever comes our way, offers potent protection from illness and age-degeneration. Those of us who succumb to anxiety, depression and a sense of helplessness when life difficulties arise invariably show suppressed immune functions. The Zorba-like people who feel they can deal effectively with whatever comes their way most often have good immune functions, even when faced with major life changes. In a well controlled study of women suffering from breast cancer who underwent mastectomy, British researcher Dr Steven Greer reported that women who react to their diagnosis by denying that they are seriously ill or with a determination to conquer the problem are far more likely five years later to be free of the disease than those who stoically accept a diagnosis while feeling hopeless or helpless. MAKE AGE WORK FOR YOU What can you do, starting right now, to develop your mind as a tool for positive aging? Begin by exploring the benefits of mind/body techniques that alter your mental attitudes and emotional states from negative to positive, therefore encouraging good immune functions and slowing down the rate at which you age. There are many. Some 40 years back, Dr Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School developed a simple meditative technique, called the Relaxation Response. It consists of sitting with your eyes closed for 15 or 20 minutes morning and night and repeating a single word—say “one” or “peace”—over and over again silently. Practiced regularly every day, it not only counters the immune-suppressing tendencies of stress, but even brings about major psychological shifts in belief systems that gradually change a self-defeating sense of helplessness into a free spirit who, like Zorba himself, can dance on tables just for fun. I recently wrote about Benson’s amazing work. You’ll find it here. I’ve even posted a video so you can learn the technique and practice it with me every day if you like. Finally, there is an excellent video by Benson about working with the Relaxation Response and the amazingly positive benefits research shows it to have on those who practice it daily. HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT AGING? Explore how many negative expectations you have unconsciously connected with aging. Then you simply and methodically go about changing them. Start right now: How many of the following notions would you agree with? They have been adapted from a questionnaire designed by gerontologist Erdman Palmore from Duke University Medical Center in the United States. TAKE THIS QUIZ Then check your answers at the end. (Just mark “T” for true or “F” for false.) The majority of old people (past age sixty-five) are senile (i.e. defective memory, disoriented or demented). All five senses tend to decline with age. Most old people have no interest in sex. Lung capacity tends to decline in old age. The majority of old people feel miserable most of the time. The majority of old people are seldom irritated or angry. At least one-tenth of the aged are living in long-stay institutions (i.e. nursing homes, mental hospitals, homes for the aged, etc). Aged drivers have fewer accidents per person than drivers under age sixty-five. Most older workers cannot work as effectively as younger workers. About 80 per cent of the aged are healthy enough to carry out their normal activities. Most old people are set in their ways and are unable to change. The majority of old people are working or would like to have some kind of work to do (including housework and volunteer work). It is almost impossible for most old people to learn new things. The reaction time of most old people tends to be slower than reaction time of younger people. In general, most old people are pretty much alike. The majority of old people are seldom bored. The majority of old people are socially isolated and lonely. Older workers have fewer accidents than younger workers. Older people tend to become more religious as they age. Most medical practitioners tend to give low priority to the aged. NOW CHECK YOUR ANSWERS The even-numbered questions are true. The odd numbered ones are false. How many of your own answers are correct? AGE REBORN Contrary to popular opinion, a mere 2 or 3 per cent of old people are institutionalized because of psychiatric disorders. The vast majority of older people do not have memory defects. Most people over sixty-five continue to be interested in sex, and sexual relations often continue well into the eighties between healthy men and women. Studies made of morale and happiness amongst the elderly show no difference between their enjoyment of life and that of younger people. Meanwhile, people over sixty-five have fewer accidents per person driving than younger drivers do. They also have fewer accidents at work. The majority of old people are not “set in their ways” as we have been taught, although it can take them longer to learn something new than their younger counterparts. Studies show that very few old people suffer from boredom. Neither are they socially isolated or lonely. More than 10 per cent of older people work and two-thirds of those who don't would like to. Finally, older people are seldom irritated or angry. This has been established by three separate studies. VISUALIZE AGE ANEW Becoming conscious of any false assumptions you make about aging is a good first step. The next is to create for yourself a new vision of what it means to have time passing. Make use of creative visualization techniques where, in a state of relaxation, you allow your mind to play on positive images of yourself five, ten, thirty years from now. It is only a matter of letting yourself indulge in positive daydreaming. Or practice a meditation or deep-relaxation technique once a day, and finish off by repeating silently to yourself Coue's formula for personal growth and healing: “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” It is exquisitely simple, yet enormously powerful when practiced daily in a deeply relaxed state so that it is your imagination rather than your will which is brought into play.

Progressive Relaxation

Progressive Relaxation

A technique based on the work of Edmund Jacobson, this is an excellent way to begin if you have never done any sort of relaxation or meditation technique before, because it gives most people some sense of what relaxation feels like even the first time you try it. As you repeat your technique (it is best done for fifteen minutes at least twice a day), you will find you enter a state of relaxation that is progressively deeper and deeper. The first few times you try the technique, you may find you have trouble picturing all the images as they come, or preventing your mind from wandering. It doesn't matter if you don't `see' anything - some people are more visual in their imagery, others more feeling; both work superbly well - just approach the exercise from your own point of view. become aware When you find your mind wandering (this is a common occurrence because your concentration is not used to focusing so intensely, or because you are experiencing something new to you, which naturally enough causes a little anxiety) ask yourself, `Why is my mind wandering?' Pursue that thought for a couple of minutes, then go back to the exercise and continue to go through it as best you can. All difficulties will iron themselves out automatically after you have practiced the technique long enough - so persevere to overcome any initial difficulties. Find a quiet room, preferably one without too much light, and sit in a comfortable chair that gives support to your back. Place both feet flat on the floor and close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing and just let the air come in and out of your body without doing anything. Take a few deep breaths. Each time you breathe out, slowly repeat the word `relax' silently to yourself. focus Focus on your face, and let yourself feel any tension in your face or eyes, your jaw or tongue. Make a mental picture of tension - you could picture a clenched fist, a knotted rope, or a hard ball of steel - then mentally picture the tension going and everything becoming relaxed, like a limp rubber band. Feel your face and your eyes, your jaw and your tongue becoming relaxed, and as they relax, experience a wave of relaxation spreading through your whole body. (Each step takes about ten seconds.) Tighten up all the muscles in your face and eyes, squeezing them as hard as you can. Then let go and feel the relaxation spread throughout your body again. Now apply the same instruction to other parts of your body, moving slowly downwards from your head to your neck, shoulders, and upper back, arms, hands, chest, mid- and lower back, your abdomen, thighs and calves, ankles, feet and toes, going through each area until every part of your body is relaxed. With each part, picture the tension in it mentally and then picture it going away; each time, tense the muscles in that area and then let them go and feel the relaxation spreading. When you've relaxed every part of your body, sit quietly in this comfortable state for up to five minutes. Now let the muscles in your eyelids become lighter; get ready to open your eyes and come back to an awareness of the room. Open your eyes. Now you are ready to go about whatever you want to do.

Look Inside

Look Inside

The mind's depths are rarely plumbed in everyday life. In fact scientists estimate that we usually use only a mere 10% of our total mental capacity - an unfortunate loss of potential. By expanding our consciousness and awareness and setting the power of imagination in motion we can learn to draw upon the remaining reserves and use them to create and actualize our goals and dreams. The process is known as creative visualization or conscious dreaming. It is based on the principle that in everything we do a thought or an image always precedes an action. For example, the thought, "I will go and make dinner." or "I am hungry." results in the meal. By using this principle we can program our minds with positive and creative thoughts and images to bring about rewarding results. This is something which we have both worked with for a very long time. That the mind is capable of influencing our lives and the world in which we live is only beginning to be appreciated. At clinics throughout the world doctors are starting to acknowledge the role of creative visualization in the seemingly miraculous 'spontaneous remission' of terminal patients. Patients are being taught to visualize their immune systems sending out white blood cells in armies to destroy malignant cells. Whatever particular image works best for the person is encouraged. They may see their white blood cells as little men in work clothes clearing away a tumor VricBor visualize them as sharks attacking and engulfing the cancerous cells. The specific image is unimportant as long as it is vivid and meaningful to the patient. The medical profession also acknowledges the power of the mind in the use of placebos. A placebo is an inert substance or procedure which is presented to the patient as a powerful therapeutic drug or technique and which often leads to a dramatic recovery from a serious physical illness. An American physician studying women in early stages of pregnancy who were complaining of morning sickness and stomach contractions, offered one woman a 'drug' which he said would soothe her discomfort and alleviate her nausea. Within minutes the woman felt better. In fact, the doctor had actually given her a powerful emetic - a substance designed to induce vomiting in someone who has swallowed a harmful substance. Because the woman had faith in her doctor, this fact overcame her nausea and reversed the effect of the drug. Such are the powers of the mind. Conscious dreaming is a way of beginning to tap the powers of your mind in order to take control over your life and accept responsibility for what comes to you. It is done in a state of deep relaxation in which we are able to let go of the tensions, worries and doubts that normally plague us, and contact our deeper self. You can use conscious dreaming to improve all areas of your life, for instance to give you more confidence and a better self image, to improve your performance at work or in athletics, to intensify your healing abilities, to increase your creativity so that you express your talents with greater ease - to even gain insights into problems that vex you. It works on the principle that your subconscious does not draw a distinction between an actual experience and a vivid mental image so that your dreams can take on the weight of reality and eventually become part of your conscious life. And because thought and intention precede physical reality, when you ask your imagination to alter your expectations, you can actually improve that reality. journey to the center To begin the journey of self discovery and transformation you need to relax deeply. Our favorite relaxation exercise was taught to us by a friend Angela Farmer, a talented and dedicated teacher of yoga. It focuses on the breath to still the mind and body and is called total breath. Here's how: total breath technique: This complete exercise can be difficult to learn at first. We suggest you have someone read it slowly as you do it. Or read it through several times and then memorize the key words. You needn't remember all the images, but you may find one or two stick out in your mind. Begin by lying down on a carpet or blanket on the floor. The firm surface of the floor is better than a bed because it allows your muscles to relax more deeply against it. Make sure you are warm enough - cover yourself with a blanket if necessary. Place a rolled up towel or small blanket or book under your neck and head. (The size will depend upon the curvature of your neck.) Your head should be supported and your chin parallel to the floor. Take the phone off the hook and make sure no one disturbs you. Lying on your back bend your knees up and place your feet hip width apart comfortably near your buttocks. Bend your elbows and rest your - palms on your abdomen. Bring your awareness to the contact of your body with the ground. Notice where you touch the floor. Let yourself give up your entire weight to the floor so that you sink into it. Imagine the earth embracing you from behind. Let the breath flow through your body like water, gently easing away any tension in the joints and muscles. Once you have eased your back muscles on the floor your spine will naturally lengthen out. Help this lengthening by putting your hands gently behind your head and easing your head and neck out. (You may have to readjust your head rest.) Instead of breathing, release your back to create a space and then wait for the breath to enter. This waiting is very important. It eliminates the sense of trying and doing which fills our lives every day. Trust that your breath will enter automatically. You need make no effort to breathe. As the breath enters feel it rippling through the layers of muscles in your back and have the sense of "It breathes me". Bring your awareness to the where your legs attach to your pelvis and try to let go of any holding in your hips and pelvis. Don't try to move your legs, but imagine your knees being pulled gently up and away on a diagonal. Consider the possibility of your legs floating away from your pelvis. Now feel the weight of your pelvis against the floor. Imagine it as a hollow basin and let your belly and inner organs melt back into it. Feel the bony part of the pelvis (the sacrum) spreading out on the floor as the breath comes in. As the breath leaves the whole spine lengthens out and the back relaxes further back into the floor. Work slowly up the spine in this way, taking your awareness to the waist or lumbar area then to the lower, middle and upper chest - all the time checking that it is not you breathing, but you waiting, releasing, watching as the breath enters and leaves your body. Observe as more and more layers of muscles give up their tensions. When the breath enters the back of your rib cage, remember that your ribs are only connected to the spine by cartilage and can expand to the sides to create more space for the breath. Notice any hardness and holding in the front ribs and chest and allow them to soften. The front of the body can sink back and be received by the back of the body. Bring your attention to the shoulders and top chest. For most of us a lot of worry, stress and fear are held here. See if you can gently soften in these areas, allowing the sternum (breast bone) to drop down and melt. Let your shoulders gradually sink down towards the floor. Imagine in the center of your chest going through to the back between your shoulder blades and from this point see if you can allow the shoulders to drift apart. The shoulder blades can slide away from each other on the floor with the inhalation and rest separated on the outbreath. Let go of any tension in your throat and neck and allow your head to float away from the rest of your body. Let your hair flow away from your head. Imagine your eyes as two pebbles dropping backwards into a pool of water. Let the skin of your face become heavy and flow sideways and down towards your ears. Become aware of your body as a whole. Feel the gentle ebbing and flowing of the breath throughout you. Now is the time to begin conscious dreaming. Once you have reached this state of deep relaxation it is time to begin conscious dreaming. Explore a sanctuary within your mind to which you can return each time you do the conscious dreaming. Imagine yourself in a beautiful place. It may be a place from your past or entirely imaginary. Let yourself feel safe and at peace. Now evoke your dream. Picture your ideal self. If you want to lose weight for instance, see yourself slim and happy going about your everyday affairs. Try to see yourself as vividly as possible. Imagine other people you know responding positively to the ideal you. If you want to kick a bad habit such as smoking see yourself in a situation where you would normally smoke, such as after a meal and picture yourself quite happily foregoing the cigarette. If you are sick imagine yourself well again and doing your favorite things. If you have a problem, for example with a relationship that is not going well or you need to make an important decision, quietly ask your inner self for advice. By taking the time to listen to your higher wisdom you'll be surprised at how easily problems are resolved. Successful conscious dreaming comes in both an active and a passive mode. You can create images and ideals for yourself actively or you can take a receptive stance and allow images and thoughts to arise on their own accord. Both are important and can lead to valuable insights. At the end of each conscious dreaming session conclude by saying to yourself, "This or something better now happens to me for the total good of all concerned." This phrase allows the possibility of the higher wisdom to work through your dreams. You can return to the conscious dream images throughout the day. By beginning to contact your inner self in this way you will find that it becomes usefully integrated into (your everyday life. Gradually open your eyes and for a few seconds look around you. Then slowly roll over onto one side and gently get up.

Flower Meditation Magic

Flower Meditation Magic

It’s not only easy to learn the art of flower meditation, it can be enormously powerful in your life as well as being a lot of fun. If you are lucky enough to have a fresh flower which you want to connect with, gain wisdom, friendship and perhaps healing from, then ask its permission to work with it quietly in your mind. Once you receive this, hold the flower in your hand, or sit nearby if it's growing in the ground, and begin your practice. FEAR NOT Each flower has its special gifts to offer, its beauty to celebrate and its healing to bring. We so fear our anger or grief, sorrow or longing. Instead of trying to turn off or run from any of these emotions try allowing yours—no matter how negative—to pour into a flower. You can use either a flower which is physically present or a good photograph of one. The flower in turn will gradually transmute your present state into wisdom or blessings. It can also become your teacher and your healer. Working and playing with a flower’s special energy will deepen your connections to all of nature and grace your life with unique beauty. For flowers speak the language of love. SIMPLE AND REWARDING Flower meditation is simple. It depends on three things: 1Gently focusing your intention on making a connecting with the flower you have chosen to learn from, gaining healing from it, or celebrating its beauty. Approach the process of communing with a flower with a sense of compassion both for it and – much more challenging for all of us – for yourself. Expanding your awareness and shifting into intuitive realms. This you do simply by taking a couple of gentle breaths and letting yourself enjoy with your senses the beauty of the flower or its image in front of you. EXPANDING CONSCIOUSNESS There is another important part of the flower meditation process. It takes place not during your meditation but afterwards. This entails making a record of what you have experienced. I call this process bridge-building. When you write out your experience of communion with a flower after your flower meditation is completed—whatever that experience has been—you train your ability to expand consciousness at will. You can then return with the gifts from expanded realms in a way that enables you to make practical use of them in your day-to-day life. It is all very well to enter the realms of beauty and spiritual healing and grace, but unless you can both learn to bring back to your everyday world some of the blessings of expanded awareness and make use of them, the spirituality you are connecting with tends to be ungrounded and not as potent as it can be. You will need a notebook—choose one that you especially like and use it for all your flower work. You will also need a pen or pencil, or colours, to record your experience, and either a photograph of the flower you are going to work with or the flower itself. START HERE Lay aside ten or fifteen minutes. Make sure you won’t be disturbed. If you are at home, take the phone off the hook and find a quiet place to sit or lie with your flower or flower photograph. If you are in a garden or outdoors, look for a quiet spot where you will be left alone. Decide what your intention is for your meditation. What do you want from this communion with your flower? The answer to a question? Guidance on some issue in your life? Help with a physical problem? Help in transforming a negative state such as fear or anxiety or loneliness into power and insight? Once you decide what your intention is write it down in your notebook. Now choose a flower that you feel yourself particularly drawn to—or make use of a lovely flower photograph Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to let yourself relax. When you are ready, open your eyes, read your intention three times from your book and begin your meditation. COMMUNION BEGINS Gaze gently—with soft eyes - at the flower or the flower photograph in front of you. This is the kind of gazing you might do at a sunset or the sea. It is a way of seeing that allows what is before you to come quietly into your awareness. Give thanks for its beauty and its spirit and for the unique consciousness and healing energy it carries. Take a moment to allow its beauty and its compassion to enter you and to activate a feeling of compassion for yourself. This is very important for it is the combination of clear intention coupled with compassion both for the flower with whom you are communicating and for yourself that activates the consciousness matrix and enables your awareness to expand. SECRET OF AN OPEN HEART Now, open your heart gently to the spirit of the flower. Feast on its beauty. Ask to be connected with its spirit. Repeat your intention asking silently for help from your flower friend. If you have forgotten it, glance down at your notebook and refresh your memory. Listen with all your senses as well as your intuition, your feelings and your thoughts to what the flower is offering you. Most of all listen with your heart. THE MAGIC OF ALLOWING Be patient. Don’t force anything and don’t try. It is all a matter of allowing, of receiving the gifts that are given. Now you might like to close your eyes for a few moments to let those gifts be received. Pay attention to your experience of time. Has it changed? If so how? How does it feel to have a flower for a friend? Is there anything that you would like to give the flower? You can do so just by asking that this be given in your imagination. When you are ready, in your own time, thank your flower friend for its wisdom and its healing and very gently return to your ordinary state of consciousness. Now begin recording either in words or drawings what you have experienced. TRUST YOURSELF The more you work (or play if you like) with flower meditation, the easier and more fruitful it will become. It is important to remember as you are doing any consciousness-expanding technique like this that there is no wrong way to do it. I can not stress this enough. Because of our upbringing and education, all of us have been taught to think that there is one “right answer” to any question, only one ‘right way’ to do something, only one ‘right result’ from any practice. These beliefs, which have been so deeply ingrained in us, die hard. Yet it is important to let them die and then bury them once and for all. Understand this right from the beginning. Your personal experience of flower meditation is just right for you. HONOR YOUR INSTINCTS Some people will find communicating with a flower as easy as rolling off a log. Others may at first feel a bit foolish or struggle a little with the exercise. It is my experience in working with people in this way, and many other ways of expanding consciousness, that each of us get from any exercise exactly the experience that is most appropriate and useful to us at this particular moment. Flowers have great wisdom. Occasionally you will find that what they are communicating to you is as simple as ‘struggle brings little results’. Sometimes during a flower meditation what the flower teaches us is that it is time to let go of all our struggle. Then next time we can lay it aside and just have fun with the experience—letting the communication take place gently and easily. Record whatever your experience has been of a particular flower meditation in your notebook, then later on you can go back to what you have written. It is exciting to see how rich your relationships with flowers become over time. LEARN ABOUT YOU Flower meditation can help you gain a deeper understanding of the path you are walking on this earth both on a practical and a spiritual level. It can also bring guidance, inspiration, healing and empowerment along the way. In one sense a flower holds a mirror up to your own soul enabling you to become aware of beauty and strength within you which you have perhaps not yet fully manifest. By doing this it can help you to move more gracefully and more fully into your own unique power and freedom. In another sense flowers help us become more aware of qualities that need strengthening in us. They not only reveal such things to us, they also often bring the healing energy to change things for the better. You ask your flower a question that is of genuine concern for you. Then listen for its answer. Working with its medicine can bring you insight into whatever issue you wish to know about and help light your way. REBIRTH AND RENEWAL Here is an example of a meditation I did with the lotus during a period when my life was in a state of great upheaval. Not only did I receive guidance on how to move forward and a wonderful sense of being part of the process of death and rebirth that lies at the centre of nature, I also felt I had made a new friend in the lotus flower itself. The friendship, once created, has stayed with me ever since. Sometimes I remember her beauty and give thanks that such friendship exists for me. This was how she described herself to me: Sacred they call me. Yet never forget that I blossom from rotting waste. Mine is the purity of experience not of innocence. Make a friend of me and you can not only expand your awareness but also learn the art of spiritual balance. I will help you rise from the ashes to a new birth. I am the lotus. LASTING FRIENDSHIP As you get to know these flowers and energies, they become long lasting and wonderful friends. Our friendship with flowers deepens our experience of security and gives us a clearer sense of our own place in nature. Carry their gifts with you, learn their lessons and let the power and the beauty of their balancing spirits take you one step further towards the unfolding of your own soul as you walk the earth this day. However you choose to work or play with the energies of flowers, the blessings of the living plants which they carry will enrich your life. Before long you may begin to wonder if it was you who picked the flower for meditation of if it was the spirit of this particular flower who picked you.

Mantra Magic

Mantra Magic

Herbert Benson, who wrote The Relaxation Response and Maximum Mind, discovered that measurable physical benefits accrue from practicing any form of meditation which depends on the silent repetition of a mantra - a word-sound. This can be done by repeating any word over and over while the eyes are closed and the body is in a quiet state. Meditation using a mantra has a long tradition. Some mantras are said to be sacred words that have particular sound vibrations which transmit particular powers. Each tradition has its own mantras such as Guru Om, Om mani padme hum, La ilaha illa 'lla or, in the Catholic religion, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Whether their magic aspects are true or not, the technique works beautifully to replace the habitual chatter that runs through one's mind, worries about things past and things yet to come. Benson suggests you find a word that is pleasing to you. It could be anything, say, `flower', `peace', or `love'. He likes the word `one' as it is simple and has the connotation of unity about it. Here's how. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes and a comfortable chair that supports your back. Sit down and close your eyes. Give yourself a moment to settle in and you are ready to begin. Simply sit there, feet on the floor and eyes closed, quietly repeating your word over and over to yourself: `one...one...one...' Whenever your mind wanders or you are disturbed by a sound or thought, simply turn your mind gently back to repeating the word again. That is all there is to it. After fifteen to twenty minutes, stop repeating the mantra and get ready to open your eyes. Open your eyes, stretch, and go about your everyday activities. This is a particularly useful technique once you have practiced it a few times because you can do it in so many different places, such as in a waiting room or on a commuter train or bus.

Discipline For Freedom

Discipline For Freedom

We live in an age where discipline is often looked down upon as something which interferes with spontaneity and freedom - something old-fashioned and stifling to life. We tend to rebel against it. But the kind of discipline needed for daily practice of meditation or deep relaxation tends - far from stifling one's ability to be involved in the spontaneous business of life - actually to free it. At first it may take a little effort to get up fifteen or twenty minutes earlier each morning and afternoon to practice a technique, but you will find it is well worth it. The most common excuse is that you don't have time, but the reality is that practicing twice a day for fifteen to twenty minutes will give you time, not take it from you; for you will find that you do everything with greater efficiency and enjoyment, and that far less of your energy is wasted on fruitless activity. Studies show that every minute you spend in a deeply relaxed state yields a fourfold return in the energy you have in your outer life. connect at the core A daily meditation practice gives access to energy resources from deep within through the process of allowing. Regular meditation helps improve your concentration and focus so that you are able to pour all of yourself into whatever activity you undertake. Anyone who has erratic energy ups and downs and mood swings can benefit considerably from meditating for 15-30 minutes a day. The traditional way to meditate is sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. (Raising your bottom a few inches off the ground helps align the spine and is more comfortable.) You may find it helpful to adopt the Buddhist practice of placing the back of the left hand in the palm of the right one, and it is often helpful to meditate in the same place each time.

Quantum Healing Via Consciousness

Quantum Healing Via Consciousness

Harvard professor and expert in cardiology and behavioral medicine, Herbert Benson MD, began the first scientific studies into the effects of meditation almost 40 years ago. Ever since, Benson and his colleagues at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have continued to conduct clinical research and to map the benefits of regularly practicing the relaxation response: In Benson’s own words, "a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.” The relaxation response can enhance brain function, slow age-related changes, stabilize heart beat, alleviate anxiety and dissipate stress. What is even more remarkable is this: When ordinary people with no training of any kind practice the relaxation response once or twice a day, it brings about cognitive restructuring and rapidly alters the expression of their genes. When it comes to rejuvenating, regenerating and healing the body, these findings are nothing short of revolutionary. WHAT IS GENE EXPRESSION? Uninformed people as well as many mainstream scientists believe that our health, biological age and death are written into the genes we inherit at birth. They view genetic inheritance as something akin to a dour clairvoyant prediction of our future—something which we remain powerless to alter. It is true that the genes we inherit may indeed define our “risk” of early aging, degeneration and disease. But whether or not this “risk” becomes fact, so negative events actually happen to us, has far less to do with our genetic inheritance than it does with how we choose to live our lives—in effect, on how our genes are expressed. Gene expression is the scientific term for how well or poorly we manage our genetic inheritance. For instance, how do your own genes express themselves? Do your genes provide you with great vitality? Clarity of mind? Creativity? Freedom from illness? Or are they expressing themselves in negative ways, like creating obesity, sagging skin and spirit, early aging and degeneration? HOW’S YOUR OWN GENE EXPRESSION? You see, there are many possible versions of you tucked within your genes and chromosomes. Which versions become expressed—which potentials become “facts”—depends almost entirely on the way care for and use your body, handle stress, and orient yourself spiritually and creatively. Here’s where the food you eat, the exercise you get, and practicing Benson’s relaxation response really come into their own by helping to prevent degenerative conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, many forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity—even overt signs of skin aging, to mention only a few. And there is even better news: Once signs of degeneration have already appeared, practicing the relaxation response daily can reverse them while rejuvenating mind and body, halting stress damage and setting your spirit free. All you need to tap into it to use a method to turn it on. The possibilities are many. They range from relaxation response meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, zazen, silent repetition of a word and autogenic training to steady aerobic exercise and even biofeedback. Some will work better for you or be more enjoyable than others. It is worthwhile trying a couple of different techniques so you discover which you like best. My own favorite method is “relaxation response meditation.” I am happy to be able to share with you a simple and fun video so you can do the exercise along with me. Click here to watch the video FREEDOM’S DISCIPLINE We live in an age where discipline is looked down on as something which interferes with our spontaneity and freedom. So we tend to rebel against it. But the kind of discipline needed for a daily relaxation response practice—far from stifling your ability to be involved in the spontaneous business of life—actually frees it. At first it may take a little effort to get up fifteen minutes early each morning to practice the technique and (if you can manage the time) take fifteen minutes out of your afternoon or early evening to practice again. You will find it is well worth it. The most common objection most people make is that they don't have time. The reality of the situation is this: Even if you practice this technique once a day for fifteen minutes, it will expand time for you. You’ll find you can do everything with greater efficiency and enjoyment, and far less of your energy is wasted on fruitless activity. Every minute you spend in this deeply relaxed meditative state will bring you a fourfold return in the energy you have to use in the rest of your life. LIVING STRESS-FREE Herbert Benson first described the relaxation response as the physiological opposite of the stressed fight-or-flight response. Working with his team, he then went on to pioneer the application of mind/body techniques to a wide range of health issues and meditative practices. They charted the measurable physical benefits which accrue from practicing any form of meditation, including those that rely on the silent repetition of a mantra—a word-sound. Meditation using a mantra has a long tradition. Some mantras are considered “sacred words” that hold particular sound vibrations to transmit particular powers. Each spiritual tradition has its own mantras, such as Guru Om, Om mani padme hum, La ilaha illa 'lla or, in the Catholic religion, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Whether their magic aspects are true or not, these techniques work beautifully to replace the habitual chatter that runs through one's mind, worries about things past and things yet to come. BENSON’S QUANTUM LEAP To learn a relaxation response meditative practice (which I have recorded on video so you can do it with me), Benson suggests you choose a word that is pleasing to you. It could be anything, say, “flower”, “peace”, or “love”. He likes the word “one”, as it is simple and has the connotation of unity about it. Here's how to do it: Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes and a comfortable chair that supports your back. Sit down and close your eyes. Give yourself a moment to settle in and you are ready to begin. Simply sit there, feet on the floor and eyes closed, quietly repeating your word over and over to yourself: “one...one...one...” Whenever your mind wanders or you are disturbed by a sound or thought, simply turn your mind gently back to repeating the word again. That is all there is to it. After fifteen to twenty minutes, stop repeating the mantra and get ready to open your eyes. Open your eyes, stretch, and go about your everyday activities. This is a particularly useful technique once you have practiced it a few times because you can do it in so many different places, such as in a waiting room or on a commuter train or bus. THE RACE IS ON We live in exciting times—times when the breach between science and spirituality originally ushered in 400 years ago by the Copernican Revolution is rapidly narrowing. We need to make use of the gifts that the closing of this gap brings us. Even if you have neglected yourself over the years—most of us have, by the way—it is never too late to change. Making simple alterations in the way you live can regenerate your health and rejuvenate your body and mind. In my opinion, practicing the relaxation response once or twice a day is a powerful way to begin. Collectively, we are involved in a race against time. It has no precedent in human history. The stakes are high—ultimately the future of our planet. Scientific discoveries about the relationships between mind and body, and about life changes which can alter our genetic expression, are here to be understood and used. Experiential methods of self-exploration, healing and personal transformation emerging from humanistic and transpersonal psychologies offer enormous potential for taking control of our lives and creating the future we want. Making good use of what is already tried and tested can transform the whole way you experience life. Living can become a process of growth and joy, instead of one of degeneration and disillusion. If a sufficient number of us undergo a process of deep physical and spiritual transformation, we may in time reach a critical mass that enables us, working together, to envisage another finer and more just way of living together on the planet. Two things are certain: Now is the time. We are the people. May your own life be blessed.

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