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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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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.

Autogenics

Autogenics

A thorough, comprehensive technique for relaxation and personal transformation, autogenic training - developed in the early 1930s by the German psychiatrist Johannes H Schultz - consists of a series of simple mental exercises designed to turn off the body's `fight or flight' mechanism, and turn on the restorative rhythms and harmonizing associated with profound psychophysical relaxation. Practiced daily, it can bring results comparable to those achieved by serious Eastern meditators. Yet unlike meditation, autogenics has no cultural, religious or cosmological overtones. It demands no special clothing, unusual postures or practices. When you practice autogenics, emotional and spiritual detoxification happens in just the way physical detoxification occurs on Clean Sweep Diet, and once again the whole process is generated from within. freedom from within Johannes Schultz was a student of the clinically orientated neuro-pathologist Oskar Vogt, who at the turn of the century at the Berlin Neurological Institute was deeply involved in research on sleep and hypnosis. Vogt remarked that some of his patients who had been subjected to hypnosis developed the ability to put themselves in and out of a hypnotic state - or rather autohypnotic, since it was self-induced. These people experienced remarkable relief from tension and fatigue and also tended to lose whatever psychosomatic disorders they had been suffering from. Drawing on Vogt's observations, Schultz went on to design techniques that would enable people to induce this deep mental and psychological relaxation at will. Schultz found that when men and women enter the autohypnotic state they experience two specific physical phenomena: the first was a sensation of heaviness in their limbs and torso, and the second a feeling of diffuse warmth throughout the body. This warmth is the result of vasodilation in the peripheral arteries and the sensation of heaviness is caused by deep relaxation in the body's muscles. Schultz reasoned that if he taught people to suggest to themselves that these things were happening to their bodies, they might rapidly and simply be able to experience a state of passive concentration, which in turn would exert a positive influence over the autonomic nervous system, balancing energies of mind and body, helping a person experience a high level of relaxed vitality and freedom from premature degeneration, and gradually clearing away negative thought and behavior patterns that have been interfering with a person making full use of his or her potential. organismic abandon Schultz discovered - as have many since - that in a state of passive concentration, all activities governed by the autonomic nervous system, once believed to be out of man's control, can be influenced by the person himself. This happens not by exercising any conscious act of will but rather by learning to abandon oneself to an ongoing organismic process. This strange paradox of self-induced passivity is central to the way autogenic training works its wonders. It is a skill which Eastern yogis, famous for their ability to resist cold and heat, to change the rate of their heartbeat, levitate and perform many other extraordinary feats, have long practiced. But until the development of biofeedback and autogenic training, and the arrival of Eastern meditation techniques, this passive concentration largely remained a curiosity in the West, where active, logical, linear, verbal thinking has been encouraged to the detriment of practicing our innate ability to simply be. Many experts on the psychological processes of aging believe that it is overemphasis on the use of the conscious will in the West that makes us so prone to premature aging and stress-based illnesses in the first place. get warm and heavy To help his patients induce the autogenic state, Schultz worked with the sensations of heaviness and warmth. Later he added suggestions about regular heartbeat and gentle quiet breathing - two more natural physiological characteristics of relaxation - and then went on to suggestions of warmth in the belly and coolness of the forehead. These six physiologically-orientated directions - heaviness and warmth in the legs and arms, regulation of the heartbeat and breathing, abdominal warmth and cooling of the forehead - form the core of autogenic training. A person learning autogenics goes through each of the six steps, one by one: "My arms and legs are heavy and warm, my heartbeat is calm and regular etc" each time he or she practices. Because of the body and mind's ability with repetition to slip more and more rapidly into the deeply relaxed yet highly aware autogenic state, the formula becomes increasingly shortened until after a few weeks or months of practicing you can virtually induce a state of profound psychophysical relaxation at will. Once you have mastered the exercises, they can be practiced anywhere - even sitting on a bus. balance life energies A key principle on which autogenics is based is that the body will naturally balance its life energies, biochemically and psychologically, when allowed to repeatedly enter a relaxed state. The benefits of being able to do this are virtually endless. Some of them come immediately - such as being able to counteract acute stress and fatigue, refresh yourself and clear your mind. People with high blood pressure who learn autogenics report drops in systolic blood pressure from 11 to 25% and more, as well as 5 to 15% in diastolic pressure. Brain-wave activity also changes so that you get a better balance of right and left hemisphere, leading to improved creativity at work and a sense of being at peace with oneself. Other benefits come more slowly over the weeks and months and years that you practice. Recoveries from bronchial asthma and a whole range of other psychosomatic disorders have been reported, as well as the elimination of self-destructive behavior patterns and habits such as drug taking, compulsive eating and alcoholism. As a result, autogenic training is now given as a standard instruction in Germany and Switzerland. let's begin The basic autogenic exercises are simple. Taking up one of three optional postures - sitting slumped rather like a rag doll on a stool, lounging in an easy chair, or lying on your back with your arms at your side - make sure you are reasonably protected from noise and disturbances and that your clothes are loose and comfortable. It is easiest to learn autogenics lying flat on a floor or on a very firm bed. Once you have got the basic exercise under your belt you can do it just about any time, anywhere, sitting up or even very discretely on a bus on the way to work. If you like, you can record the autogenic exercises that follow on tape very slowly and play it to yourself in the beginning. I generally find, however, that it is better to learn it very simply from the words that are in the box below. go within Lie down on your back in bed or on the floor. Make yourself comfortable with whatever pillows or covers you need to do so. Close your eyes gently. Take a deep slow breath and pause for a moment. Now exhale fully and completely. Let yourself breathe slowly and naturally. Feel your body sinking back into the floor. Now repeat the following phrases to yourself slowly and silently letting yourself savor the sensations of heaviness and warmth as you do. The first phrase is: My left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... my right arm is heavy... my right arm is heavy... my right arm is heavy... Let go of any tension in your arms as you say to yourself: My left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... repeating each suggestion three times. Continue to breathe slowly and naturally, remembering to exhale fully. Say to yourself: Both arms are heavy... both arms are heavy... both arms are heavy. Let go of any tension in your arms. Then say: Both legs are heavy... both legs are heavy... both legs are heavy... As you continue to breathe slowly and naturally, say to yourself: Arms and legs heavy... arms and legs heavy... arms and legs heavy... arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... feel it Feel the warmth flow through to your arms and legs as you say to yourself: Arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... Continue to breathe slowly and freely while you repeat silently to yourself: My breathing calm and easy... my breathing calm and easy... my breathing calm and easy... my heartbeat calm and regular... my heartbeat calm and regular... my heartbeat calm and regular... Feel your strong, regular heartbeat as you say the words to yourself. Continue to breathe easily and say to yourself: My solar plexus is warm... my solar plexus is warm... my solar plexus is warm... Feel the muscles in your face relax as you say to yourself: My forehead is cool and clear... my forehead is cool and clear... my forehead is cool and clear... Enjoy the feeling of softness and calm throughout your body and say to yourself: I am at peace... I am at peace... I am at peace... the return When you have finished the exercise you are ready for the return. It will bring you back to normal everyday consciousness: Quickly clench both fists, take a deep breath in, flex both arms up in a stretch, then breathe out slowly and completely, returning your arms with unclenched fists to your sides. Now open your eyes. Lie for a moment with your eyes open and just allow yourself to BE HERE NOW WITH WHATEVER IS, then get up and go about your life. When first learning autogenics, you will need to repeat each suggestion three times and the entire exercise itself needs to be repeated at three different periods each day. The best time is just before you get out of bed, just before you go to sleep, and at some other moment of the day. If there is no way you can lie down during the day you can always do the exercise sitting in a chair. If you are practicing in public such as on a bus or at your desk in an office, draw your fists up to your chest by bending your elbows rather than bringing the whole arm above the head for the return. autogenic triggers Before long you will find that even the simple suggestion "my right arm is heavy" will trigger the psychophysical relaxation process in the whole body. Some people get feelings of heaviness and warmth right away. For others it can take as long as a week or two of practicing three times a day for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. To everybody it comes eventually, and with it comes a profound sense of relaxation. Canceling the training session occurs when you clench your hand into a fist and raise your arm straight above your head, or bend your arm and draw your fist to your shoulders, at the same time taking a deep breath and then stretching. This trains your body to return to normal consciousness right away. Meanwhile your temporary excursion into the realm of deep relaxation keeps working its magic. autogenic training made simple Here is an aid memoir for practice. Repeat each suggestion 3 times: MY LEFT ARM IS HEAVY... MY RIGHT ARM IS HEAVY BOTH ARMS ARE HEAVY... BOTH ARMS ARE WARM... BOTH LEGS ARE HEAVY ARMS AND LEGS HEAVY... ARMS AND LEGS WARM BREATHING IS CALM AND EASY... HEARTBEAT CALM AND REGULAR MY SOLAR PLEXUS IS WARM... MY FOREHEAD IS COOL I AM AT PEACE the return: CLENCH BOTH FISTS TAKE A DEEP BREATH FLEX BOTH ARMS UP IN A STRETCH BREATHE OUT SLOWLY RETURN ARMS UNCLENCH FISTS OPEN YOUR EYES LIE FOR A MOMENT WITH EYES OPEN BE HERE NOW WITH WHATEVER IS. Repeat each suggestion three times, repeat the exercise three times a day. discharge the blocks Although autogenic training brings about a `low-arousal' state similar to yoga and meditation, where parasympathetic activity dominates, it stems from exercises meant specifically to induce simple physical sensations leading to a state of relaxation of a purely physical nature. The benefits which come with practicing it go far beyond the physical: in addition to slowing the heartbeat, reducing blood pressure, regenerating and rejuvenating the body, autogenics triggers changes in the reticular activating system in the brain stem which can result in what are known as `autogenic discharges'. These are a spontaneous way of de-stressing and de-aging the body, eliminating old tensions and wiping away thought patterns that may have been inhibiting the full expression of your being. Autogenic discharges can manifest themselves as temporary twitching of the arms or legs - much like the twitch experienced occasionally on falling into a deep sleep - during the session itself, or increased peristaltic movement - stomach grumbles - or various transient feelings of dizziness or visual or auditory effects. These phenomena are harmless, quick to come and go, yet an important part of throwing out life-accumulated, stressful material stored in the body or psyche. cleansing reactions A few people - I among them - when they first begin autogenic training, go through two or three weeks where a lot of old stress and emotional rubbish gets released through autogenic discharge. Old feelings of discouragement or depression, laughter or anxiety can sometimes rise to the surface. It is important to be aware of this possibility and to be aware of what is happening if it does occur. It is only the psychic side of detox that will help renew, refresh, and rejuvenate you, as old stress you have been carrying about with you rises to the surface to clear permanently. Because of this discharge phenomenon, some psychologists in the English speaking world who teach autogenics like to work on a one-to-one basis with their students in order to help them gain perspective on what is coming up from their consciousness. In Germany and Switzerland this is not considered important. There, autogenic training is taught as a matter of course both to adults and school children with no such psychological back up. The important thing to remember is whatever surfaces is likely to be very old indeed, stuff you've been carrying around for a long time and which you are far better off without. three's the charm Begin your practice of autogenics on day 2 of 10 Day Rejuvenation Plan adding it to Clean Sweep Diet. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes to run through autogenics while you are learning it. Afterwards the exercises can be done much more quickly - eventually in two or three minutes if necessary. Rather like Pavlov's dog, who learned to salivate simply because the bell sounded and the food appeared together so many times, the magic of autogenics depends on your continual repetition of the exercise again and again, day after day. Once the initial period of learning is completed, you can then choose to practice the exercises once or twice a day whenever you like. In the process you will have gained a lifelong skill that is invaluable for de-aging the body and mind. Within 10 days to 2 weeks of practicing autogenics,most people feel a steady and increasing release of creative energy, and a sense that great burdens are being lifted away so that - often for the first time - they begin to feel more free to live their own life by their own values. It is rejuvenation at its very best. the zen of now There are two important aspects to making autogenic training work for you. The first is a real acceptance of your current circumstances or position - knowing that anything that you feel just now, whether it happens to be fear, anxiety, joy, frustration, inadequacy or environmental stress, is OK for the moment. It is only through acceptance of 'what is' now that we open the gateways to change. The second important thing about autogenic training is self-discipline. You need to make time to do the exercises each day and to establish a routine.

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.

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.

Relaxation Response Meditation

Relaxation Response Meditation

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. 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. Herbert Benson Interview: Enhancing Health Through Mind Body Healing [video type=youtube src=v=KZ7JfC3_Zgc poster=http://d3oy45cyct8ffi.cloudfront.net/health/video/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/02/hgerbert-benson-INTERVIEW.jpg ]

zazen

zazen

One of the simplest ways of meditating, this technique involves nothing more than just being aware of your breathing. But don't be deceived by its simplicity. It is a potent tool for stilling the mind and regenerating the body. And concentrating your awareness on the breath is not as easy as it sounds. You need to find yourself a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. You can sit cross-legged on the floor with a small cushion underneath you, or you can sit in a chair if you prefer, but your back should be straight. This straight-back position is a requirement for many meditation techniques, since it creates a physical equilibrium which makes calm mental focus possible. Let your hands rest quietly in your lap. count your breaths Close your eyes. Take several long, slow breaths, breathing from your abdomen so it swells out with each in-breath and sinks in again when you breathe out. Now rock your body from side to side and then around in large, gentle circles from your hips to the top of your head. Rock in increasingly smaller circles until you gradually come to rest in the center. Now breathe in and out through your nose quietly without doing anything to your breathing - that is, don't try to breathe deeper or slower or faster, just breathe normally. With each out-breath count silently to yourself. So it goes: in-breath, out-breath `one'...in-breath, out-breath `two'... and so on up to ten, counting only on the out-breath. When you get to ten, go back and begin again at one. If you lose count halfway, it doesn't matter. Go back and start the count at one again. Counting isn't the point. It is a way of focusing your mind on your breath. After fifteen minutes - sneak a look at your wristwatch if you must - stop. Sit still for a moment, then open your eyes and slowly begin to go about your everyday activities again. If you are like most people, the first few times you do the exercise you will find you lose count often and you are frequently distracted by thoughts or noises. It makes no difference. It works just as well anyway. Each time some random thought distracts you, simply turn your mind gently back again to counting the breaths. Distractions don't change the effectiveness of the meditation. The exercise, like most techniques, is best done twice a day, morning and evening. A beginner will usually notice positive results by the end of a week, but they become increasingly apparent the longer you go on doing it. Some Buddhist monks do this exercise for two or three years before beginning any other form of meditation. beyond relaxation Once you are familiar with the practice of deep relaxation or meditation and with all the benefits it can bring you, you might be interested to go on to investigate other, more complex forms of meditation. There are many, for meditation is not a word that is easy to define. It takes in such different practices. Some forms such as zazen or vispassana (sometimes called insight meditation) demand complete immobility. You sit watching the rise and fall of your abdomen as you breathe, and whenever your mind wanders you gently turn it back to this observation. This simply concentrated attention, which can be likened to the `continuum of awareness' in Gestalt theory, is capable of bringing up many repressed feelings and thoughts that have been stifling your full expression and of liberating them. The Siddha Yoga of Muktananda and the chaotic meditation of Rajneesh, where the body is let go to move as it will, are examples of this sort. They often involve spontaneous changes in muscle tension and relaxation and in breathing, and they demand a sense of surrender to the physical body for the release of the mental, emotional and bodily tensions. These kinds of meditation can be particularly good for someone with a tendency to be physically rigid. Then there are the visualization meditations such as those used in Tibetan Buddhism in which you focus your mind on a particular image, fine-tuning it to the specific beneficial energies or influences this symbol carries (the creative imagery techniques in the next section are also an example of this kind of meditation). They have been used recently to cure serious illness and also in the sports world to improve athletic performance. Another form of meditation is that of "mindfulness," where you go about your daily activities simply being aware of each thing that you do, as in Gurdjieff's "self-remembering," shikantaza or mahamudra. These are just a few of the possibilities worth investigating if you want to go further. Each has something worthwhile to offer, and the mere act of learning a new method and the set of ideas and attitudes that go with it can be an exciting experience as well as tremendously beneficial.

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.

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.

The Sound Of Silence

The Sound Of Silence

Silence. Solitude. These words strike fear into the post-modern heart. We forget the power of escaping for a time into sanctuary, of listening to our breath, the sound of the wind in the trees, or the heartbeat of the earth. There are too many phone calls to be made, meetings to attend, children’s noses to wipe, newspapers to read. Yet solitude has much to teach us. NEW WORLDS AWAIT It takes courage to become a learner again. It asks that you trust enough in life to drop for a time all you know (or think you know) and retreat for a day, a week, even only half an hour just to be—quietly receptive to whatever arises from within or around you: the intense blue of a tiny flower which sears your senses burning away every concern for daily life; a wild thought—and where did that come from? The fragrance of cinnamon sprinkled on a bowl of homemade yogurt. Such things go unnoticed unless we spend enough time alone to experience them. The word “alone” was once treated as two words: all one. To be all one meant to be wholly oneself—all of one piece. This is the great gift of sanctuary. Practiced daily, silence and solitude heal confusion and mend the frazzled nerves that riddle modern life. Getting away from it all to sit on a rock or at a window and gaze at the sky, or look into the dance of our own mind, helps you come home to yourself. It allows the magnificent wildness of your intrinsic being to converse with your rational side. HEAR THE CALL FROM WITHIN Take a dozen steps into the solemn silence of a rainforest or simply of your own body. As you enter this mysterious twilight, you are immersed in past and future. You become part of a primeval world where all life feeds upon itself in a perfect balance of dark accord. You can watch as the whole history of creation is being played out before you, around you, beneath you and you feel part of it. Here, the profusion of plants, insects, fungi, and the bacteria they contain is wild power in its most concentrated form. Our rainforests are the main repository of the earth's gene pool. They are a source of almost infinitely rich morphic fields which have evolved over billions of years. They are also the most important natural resource we have. Wild virgin land carries a spiritual power which makes not only the human soul but the soul of plants and animals, rocks and mountains sing. Rainforests offer the living organisms of our planet a high degree of primordial life energy necessary for the perpetuation of their life. So it is within your own body. You not only live in the universe. You are the universe—the rainforest, the stars and the moon, the seas and the rocks and the sky. They are not only outside of you; they are within each one of us. This is a secret which few have as yet discovered. For we humans have, literally for eons, been trained to think of ourselves as less than what in truth we are—holders of immense creativity and compassion—able to do whatever we long to do at the deepest levels of our being. DISCOVERY BEGINS HERE I am asking you to put aside ten minutes of every day in which you enter the sanctuary of your own being to sit or walk in silence. Let yourself to become aware of how silence acts upon you. Is this something you are comfortable with, or something you try to avoid? Can you sense that there is a richness here that you have not yet tapped? The magnificence and the wonder of the rainforest lies not only in its beauty, but in the ordered splendor of its wildness. It is a wildness which you can palpably feel as you walk beneath its dark canopy of life. Making my way amidst the tangled vines which drip with moisture in this living sea of a thousand shades of green has always filled me with wonder, and made me realize just how far we have moved away from experiencing our own wildness in our urbanized, self-centered, mechanistic 21st century world. It makes me conscious of how desperately we need to reconnect with the creativity, power and wildness in ourselves, learn to trust it and live our lives from our own unique individual truths. INTENTION AND REALIZATION Energy always follows your intention. In shamanic practices most often we use a drum or a rattle to expand consciousness. I love the sound of the drum and the rattle yet I often journey into expanded realms by way of silence alone. I love simply focusing my intention, on whatever purpose I have chosen to follow, then allowing it to unfold, without having to rely on anything external. I believe it’s important that each of us develops this skill—otherwise we can end up like Dumbo when his friend the mouse gave him a feather to hold in his trunk as a talisman to make him believe that he could fly. The little floppy-eared elephant was under the mistaken belief that it was the feather that held the power to fly, when truly it lay within himself. The feather was only a reminder of this. And it was only when he accidentally dropped it that he discovered the truth. This is what you too will be discovering as you journey into the sacred silence. It takes a little practice, but the practice itself is fascinating, and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. It is all a question of living in the moment and allowing yourself to become aware of what is happening within and around you. HERE’S HOW Sit or lie comfortably, watching your breath go in and out of your body. Become aware of the way your breath moves. Is it cooler as you feel it come in through your nose? Warmer when it is exhaled? Now become conscious of your body. Allow any muscle tension simply to sink into the floor beneath you so that you feel deeply connected with the earth. Whenever you are ready, state your intention for your journey into expanded awareness. It might be to restore your energy, to discover more about the nature of reality, to awaken your creative power, connect with the world of nature, or any other desire you have just now. · You do all this silently. Now gently repeat your intention again and again, until you begin to sense a shift away from your thinking mind into your feeling heart. This can take you to a place of absolute stillness. Let yourself to go deep, deep, deeper within. Allow yourself to follow all the way back through time. Let yourself experience your connectedness with the wild evolutionary power that burst forth at the birth of the universe, if you will. This power is your power. You are the universe, just as the universe is you. What does it feel like? Exciting? Wonderful? Crazy? Wild? It is all these things as you are. Then, when you are ready, let yourself come back into ordinary reality, and record what you have experienced. When recording your journey into the sound of silence, put pen to paper and simply write about your experience, whatever it has been, for at least 15 minutes. Let the words flow without ever picking up the pen from the paper. This practice creates a flow that allows you not to edit what has arisen from the deepest layers of your being. When you are ready, give thanks to the universe for what it is, and to yourself for being everything you are. The more you practice this little exercise, the more you can come to know the truth of your own being and the richer your life can become. Do share with me your own experience entering the sound of silence practice if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you about it.

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