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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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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.

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.

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.

Walk Through New Worlds

Walk Through New Worlds

Who would have thought that taking the right kind of walk can not only clear stress, and energize mind and body but even bring you face to face with satori? Satori brings a sense of living in the fullness of your being, moment by moment. So often, we think we need to make decisions about what we are going to do in the next hour, the next day, the next year. We worry about how to discipline our bodies, get the work done and pay the bills, as well as a thousand other things.You can find yourself walking in new ways, with different rhythms. Aches and pains diminish. You sense a new relationships developing—to yourself, your surroundings and the world as a whole. I am passionate about taking two quite different kinds of walks which I’m keen to share with you because they have brought me much pleasure as well as so many other benefits. They are, each in their own way a lot of fun to. FREE FLOW Once a day, regardless of the weather outside, and whenever it suits you, go out walking for the sheer pleasure of doing it. It can be fun to walk in sunshine, but just as wonderful to walk in rain—unhurried and unburdened by the need to ‘look good’. Look around, smell the air, notice the way your body has begun to move. The next step is likely to sound weird, but try it: When you see a tree, say silently to yourself, ‘Tree.’ When you see a flower—‘Flower.’ This simple naming practice helps you become aware of where you are in space and time. And it does this in a wonderful, spontaneous, improvizing way. As you walk, life takes on an unexpected, exciting feel. Meanwhile, futile internal monologues begin to fade away. One of my favorite books was written by a musician named Stephen Nachmanovitch. It is called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. It’s a superb book. If you are interested in creativity on any level—and I don’t mean just being an artist, but any and all kinds of creativity—I highly recommend it. In a chapter called ‘Inspiration and Time Flow’, Nachmanovitch describes this first way of walking I want to pass on to you. (Of course, you are probably unlikely to be walking down a street in a foreign city as he describes, but much of what he writes about this way of walking is relevant no matter where you are.) It reminds us all that it is not impossible to live our lives moment to moment, fully present with real awareness and joy. Here is what Nachmanovitch writes: A walk, following your intuitive promptings down the streets of a foreign city, holds rewards far beyond a planned tour of the tried and tested. Such a walk is totally different from random drifting. Leaving your eyes and ears wide open, you allow your likes and dislikes, your conscious and unconscious desires and irritations, your irrational hunches to guide you whenever there is a choice of turning right or left. You cut a path through a city that’s yours alone. This brings you face to face with surprises that are destined for you alone. You might discover conversations and friendships, meetings with remarkable people. When you travel in this way, when you walk in this way, you are free. There are no ‘have tos’ and ‘shoulds’. You are structured at first only by the date of the plane departure. As the pattern of people and places unfolds, the trip, like an improvised piece of music, reveals its own inner structure and rhythm. Thus do you set the stage for fateful encounters. I’ve got to add here that some of the most important ‘fateful encounters’ he speaks of are likely to be brand new encounters with yourself, in ways you may never have dreamed of. INSTANT ENERGY IS YOURS This is the second of my favorite walks. It’s a way not only of relieving stress, but of energizing yourself, learning to be present in the moment and, like Nachmanovitch’s walk, releasing your mind from the habitual chatter that prevents our feeling fully alive. I learned this technique from a Belleruth Naparstek’s “Meditations to Relieve Stress” audio. Here’s how it goes: Choose a place where you will be able to walk without meeting a lot of people, so you allow yourself to connect with your surroundings the way a child might. You don’t have to smile or relate to anyone. Instead, you will be drawing in energy from your surroundings. What will amaze you is just how much vitality you can absorb from your environment when you are not wasting your own energy with meaningless social contact. So, just for 10 to 15 minutes, let yourself retreat inwards and see what amazing things happen. GETTING EARTHED Begin your walk by shaking out your body a little. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Take a deep breath and let it out with no effort. Now look around you, at the sky, the earth, the trees, grass, rocks or flowers—whatever you find around you. Take another slow, even breath deep down into your abdomen. Now, aware of your breath going steadily in and out, start walking at a comfortable pace, opening all your senses to your environment as if it were part of you. Let yourself enjoy the light, the mist, the colors, the rocks and sand; whatever is there. Let yourself become aware of the way things move in light and shade, so you are in effect feeding on the richness of your surroundings. Let your body move easily and gently, so it feels as though it is dancing with your surroundings. Allow yourself to experience everything you see and feel, smell and touch, as though you are doing it for the first time, with the curious mind of a child. Feel the air on your skin, smell the fragrance around you in all its layers and textures as you walk. Continue to be aware of the ground beneath your feet, and how your breath going in and out feels. Notice how well the earth supports you. Enjoy the feel of your body in motion. See how heightened your senses become to the colors and the fragrances. Notice how clear your vision has become. This simple focus, this increased awareness of the sound of your own feet on the ground, the feel of your breath, the movement of your legs and torso will become more acute, more intense, more nourishing and more satisfying. LIKE MAGIC Colors become more and more intense, richer, clearer. You can find your senses opening as you become ever more aware of everything around you. You may even sense that you are immersed in a wonderful new ocean of reality. That the trees and the rocks, the air you breathe, and the sky have become part of you and you of them. Indulge yourself. Smell the air, feel the ground, immerse yourself in the sea of life and generosity in which you find yourself. Now, simply draw the energy of the earth into you. Let it fill you up. Breathe in the beauty of the sky. Take in every sight and sound, deep into your heart, as you become aware that you are attuned to everything around you. This energy is available to you whenever you want it. All it depends on is your own willingness to connect with the sea of life of which you are a part. Whenever you do, the whole world feeds you, belongs to you, nourishes you at every level. Continue to walk as long as you like, easily and blissfully, aware of your feet on the ground, your breath moving in and out, and the part you play in this wonderful sea of reality which belongs to you, and you to it. BACK TO SOURCE Both of these walking techniques are wonderful. Don’t just read about them—print up these descriptions and carry them with you. Then have a go. See what happens to you. Even better, take a look at where I learned about them. Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book is the best book on creativity I have ever read. I have read it at least 12 times. (As a present for Aaron who loves listening to audio books, I even made a recording of most of the chapters and gave it to him.) When it comes to Belleruth Naparstek’s work, her recordings are unparalleled in the world for their transformative power. You can purchase the one below on CD. Better still, just download it and put it on an MP3 player so you can begin using it today. You can find them below: Free Play - Stephen Nachmanovitch’s Improvisation In Life And Art - Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book is the best book on creativity I have ever read. I have read it at least 12 times. To find out more click on the links below. Order Free Play - Stephen Nachmanovitch’s from Amazon MEDITATIONS TO RELIEVE STRESS imagery for mastering anxiety; guided imagery to pump up feelings of love, safety and protection; a soothing, walking meditation for the fidgeters among us who can’t sit still; and affirmations for use anytime. (72 min.) Order Meditations To Relieve Stress at iTunes Order Meditations To Relieve Stress at Amazon

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.

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.

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.

Mind Magic

Mind Magic

Do you believe in magic? Despite what you might have heard, it’s real, and it resides within you: Specifically, within your mind. This is because your thoughts and emotions can directly alter your reality—in accordance with your desires—in measurable ways. You probably aren’t yet aware of the astounding power that your mind can have when used to full effect. But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself how experimenting with a couple of simple practices can enable you to unleash its hidden ability, and literally change your world as a result. MIND OVER MATTER Looking back in history, science has always been considered ‘magic’ before it is fully understood and explained. The ways in which mind can affect matter are not yet completely explained by science, lending a supernatural association to this field. Certainly when you begin to harness mind power and observe it shaping your life, you’ll be convinced of its magical prowess! But there is also a solid and growing foundation of scientific evidence in its support. Physics, for example, has established that a change in one molecule can bring about an alteration to another—faster than the speed of light—even if they’re thousands of miles apart. Other scientific studies have proven that clear intention can, when coupled with a state of expanded awareness, have all sorts of physical repercussions: From increasing oxygen levels in cells to inhibiting cancer growth. PRAYER POWER One of the most effective ways to harness the power of intention and put it to work in your own life is through Affirmative Prayer. This technique involves verbally affirming your desired outcome—as if it already exists. It is incredibly powerful, and can be done either by yourself or in a group if you prefer. HERE’S HOW Recognition. To begin, open your heart and mind to the presence of the universal being all around us—or God, nature, spirits, or whatever you prefer. You might say, “I acknowledge Spirit as the birds chirping, the breath that fills my lungs…” or “I know that Spirit is everywhere in everything…there is no place that Spirit is not.” Unity. Honor and affirm your oneness with God, the Universe, or whatever entity you recognized in step one. “I am one with the presence of the Universe. That which the universe is, I am.” Realization. This is where you affirm the existence of whatever it is you desire to manifest, as if it has already happened. If you are praying for healing you might say “My body, mind and spirit are perfectly aligned and whole. I experience radiant health on all levels.” Thanksgiving. Give thanks to whatever in your life brings you gratitude. This will have the effect of ‘sprinkling water’ on the seeds of prayer you have planted. “I am grateful for my home and my friends… I give thanks for this opportunity to remember my wellbeing through prayer.” Release. Surrender your prayer to the universe in full belief that it will be handled. ‘I release my prayer freely and fully into universal law knowing that it is done. Amen.’ UNLEASH ENERGIES Energy changes always precede physical changes. This is one of the ways in which acupuncture works on human and animals as it allows a change in energy to take place within the organism. When we are carrying about a lot of latent energy—especially negative energies in the form of anger, grief, unfulfilled lust and so on—which cannot find a release, this interferes with our daily functioning. Often, it also stops us from achieving our goals. The good news is that, with a little mind-power, you can actually make this energy work to your advantage. When emotional or bodily energy is isolated and focused, it becomes a dynamically transmittable force. What this means is that, when coupled with clear intention, this bioelectrical discharge enters the atmosphere and can be used for whatever purpose you choose. Alternatively, you might simply want to rid yourself of a stifling emotional force that is holding you back from reaching your full potential. This is a worthy cause in itself. A ritualistic energy release is a wonderful way of spiritually detoxing your being, while turning negative energies into forces for good. HERE’S HOW Firstly, you’ll want to set up an appropriate ‘chamber’ where you will be comfortable and undisturbed. Use whatever props will help you intensify your emotional experience—a written letter or perhaps a photo or effigy of the person you are trying to help. Music is a wonderful evocative tool, possibly the best. Cleanse your chamber and open the ceremony using any combination of bell-ringing, incense-burning, and spoken word. Next, clearly announce your intention in as many or as few words as you wish, as long as it’s clear. Describe what you wish to achieve and why. Call upon the help of whatever spirits or supernatural entities (if any) you believe in. Continue to focus on whatever is making you angry, sad, etc. LET LOOSE When you feel that your emotions are profoundly heightened, release them. You might do this through an unsuppressed flow of tears, the violent destruction of an inanimate object, even orgasm if your goals are romantically-oriented (or you are trying to discharge excessive lust). Once all of your emotional and physical energy has been expended, close the ceremony, perhaps with a single sentence and the tolling of a bell. As with affirmative prayer, be confident in the knowledge that the universe will respond. Don’t worry about feeling stupid while going through this process. You will find that how you feel afterwards will justify the trouble you have taken. Not only will you feel like a fresh person: You will begin to see changes in your chosen areas of life—wherever you have directed the energy. You will discover how, using your own mind, you can create real-life magic … and you’ll never look back. TRY IT YOURSELF To discover the power of affirmative prayer for yourself, try this interactive prayer audio: www.theheartpod.com/pray-now.html. You can use it to pray for health, abundance, a relationship – or any subject dear to your heart. If you enjoy the process, you might like to start your own prayer group. You’ll find instructions on how to do that here: www.theheartpod.com/group-prayer.html.

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.

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