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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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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.

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

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.

Secret Gifts Of Flowers

Secret Gifts Of Flowers

When the soul of a flower meets the spirit of a human being, prepare for magic. You won’t be disappointed. In our vast universe, all things have consciousness. These days even leading edge physicists tell us so: From rocks to ravens, and rivers to ratchets. Each thing also has a special brand of friendship to share with us and can become our teacher - if only we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. FLOWER HEALING In the Native American tradition the word medicine has nothing to do with pills you take to get rid of a headache. It is the word used to describe anything that draws us deeper into a sense of connection with the divine spirit that radiates from all things around us. In making such connections we gain wisdom, healing, creativity and vision. We also support the blossoming of our own soul. There is no medicine more bounteous in its blessings than flower medicine, and no better way to bring its immense power into your own life than flower meditation. The generosity of a flower, its willingness to teach, bless and guide whoever comes to it with an open heart, is unbounded. The genus and species to which a flower belongs carries ancient mythology, as well as chemical and vibrational energy. Each flower has its own spirit and is capable of bringing wisdom and spiritual healing to those who know how to access it. Each flower can help unify our strengths in its own unique way. VOICES FROM NATURE Throughout history there have been a few who could read the nature of living plants and make use of their strengths. Using intuition and sensitivity, these healers, diviners, poets and mystics simply opened their hearts to a flower, and then listened to what the flower told them. Each time they did this they learned more about each flower’s essential nature – not through words or rational deductions but by attuning their own spirit to commune with the spirit of the flower. They came to know how a flower can be used for healing thanks to spiritual gifts it bestows upon you. Bards told stories about the flowers they came to know in this way. Artists painted pictures. Gradually a rich mythology developed around each one. Take the beautiful blessed thistle. You find it gracing most Renaissance paintings of the Virgin. It is a plant still used to bless a barren woman with fertility. LISTEN TO THE WHISPERS Healers who worked with flower spirits learned to converse with plants and created herbal remedies from them. Others extracted essential oils from rose, lavender and jasmine then used them to make incense for worshipping the Divine and to fashion fine perfumes or to embalm and sanctify their dead. Shamans in the rainforest were taught by the plants themselves what illnesses they could cure and how to use them. They still are for that matter. Multi-national pharmaceutical corporations now send their left-brained chemists off to Peru or Sarawalk in search of new plants from which to derive and patent drugs for profit. “But how do you know this flower cures arthritis?” the drug-researchers ask jungle shamans and healers. “How do we know?” is the reply, “Why, the plants tell us of course!” The pioneering work of Edward Bach – a man who knew well the art of flower communication – has led to the development of this wonderful form of vibrational flower medicine. In common with the great physicians who came before him - Hippocrates, Paracelsus and Hahnemann - Bach understood both that true healing comes from within and that it depends on bringing into balance the spiritual, mental and emotional faculties of a human being. It was the flowers themselves who showed him how they could help bring this about. OPEN YOUR HEART The ability to communicate with a flower does not require that we become mystics or trained intuitives. Far from it. We need only to reclaim abilities we had naturally as a child. Such creative intuitive abilities have often been educated out of us by a system which treats them as inferior to left brained linear thinking – sometimes to such a degree that it prevents us from listening to the whispers of our own soul. For many years I have been involved in the practice and teaching of shamanic skills. Shamanism is the oldest known methodology in the world for expanding consciousness at will. It allows you to tap creativity and vision, intuitive knowing and healing. It brings access to immediate spiritual experience. It also enables you to return at will to ordinary reality, and in complete control, bringing back richness from the numinous realms to benefit your own life and the lives of others. QUANTUM CONSCIOUSNESS I used to believe (most people still do) that the ability to do this is limited to a few very gifted people like Dr Bach, Paracelsus, Beethoven and Mozart, Einstein and other great artists and scientists. I used to think that the rest of us did not have access to visionary realms or to the blessings, healing, creativity and spiritual power that they tapped into. My own shamanic work and the experience of teaching shamanic techniques to others has shown me otherwise. Techniques for expanding consciousness, communing with flowers, with animals, with rocks and guardian angels – with our own inner soul truth are not only simple to learn, they can be used by anyone at any age. Learning flower meditation is a great way to begin. The consciousness matrix is the natural ability which each of us has to access quantum realms of multi-dimensional reality – or you could say to pass through the membrane between the world of everyday reality and the holographic realms which leading edge scientists speak of. These are the realms the mystics associate with spiritual truth and spiritual healing. This matrix is a kind of interface - probably within our very DNA or morphogenic fields - which provides a means of shifting back and forth between different levels of consciousness at will. This ability enabled Einstein to experience riding on a beam of light. And, because he was a mathematician, to return afterwards to ordinary reality and encode his experience in the language of mathematics. The formula he recorded became the General Theory of Relativity which changed the whole course of scientific history and philosophical thought. The matrix made it possible for Blake to write his poetry and etch his pictures, and for Galileo, Copernicus and Newton to gain world-changing scientific insights that eventually expanded our perceptions of reality. ENDLESS CREATIVITY All through human history the consciousness matrix has rewarded those who knew how to make use of it – from plant healers in the Amazon to great artists, writers and musicians - with a direct experience of wisdom, vision, creativity, and often too a luminous sense of freedom. That was then, but the world is changing fast. We are now living in the midst of a revolution in knowledge and vision so vast that nothing like it has ever been experienced by mankind. Science is approaching new thresholds of meaning. As the scientific view of reality moves ever closer to the cosmology of the great mystics – a cosmology often referred to as the perennial philosophy and which crosses all cultural barriers - we now have access to new methods of vibrational healing such as the flower essences. The awareness of all of us is being opened to the possibility of learning about the nature of reality not only by reading or hearing what others have to say but by direct intuitive experience, as mystics, artists and visionaries have always done. Well-tested methods for learning to shift consciousness and expand awareness are now widely available to anyone who wants to use them to dive into the ocean of the vast universe and become immersed in its richness. ACCESS NATURE’S POWER In my Journey to Freedom workshops, among many other ways of expanding consciousness, I encourage people to explore the rich, empowering relationship that can develop between a human being and a flower. When you meditate on a flower, you listen to its whispers and are touched by its deep healing. Speak to it from your heart. The experience can be transforming. A flower can act as a bridge between your ordinary state of consciousness and expanded awareness thanks to its unique beauty, texture, colour and fragrance. Doing this can bring you an awareness of how the world around is filled with consciousness – what mystics and shamans call spirit energies – that bring us energy, strength, friendship when we most need it, as well as comfort, wisdom and support for the sometimes challenging passages each of us has to make again and again in our life. Next week I’ll show you how set your spirit free and tap into infinite creativity through Flower Meditation. It is not only powerful and healing but a lot of fun. See you then.

A Benevolent Bath

A Benevolent Bath

Allow an hour for the whole process of taking a delicious treat of a bath from beginning to end. Make sure you have everything you need - towel, loofa or hemp glove, and another towel to use as a headrest. Add essential oils to the water as the bath is filling, using about ten to fifteen drops total of either a single essence or of a mixture for a large bath. Each essence has a different effect on the mind and body (see below).  When you get into the bath, gently scrub yourself all over with a hemp glove or a loofa. Then just relax and soak for a few minutes, letting the heat penetrate your muscles.  Keep a cool cloth nearby to smooth over your face when needed. Let the essential oils work their wonders while you carry out a relaxing and waste-eliminating self-massage.  Water is the perfect medium for self-massage. The heat (remember not to have your bath too hot and stimulating) of the water works silent wonders, and it supports your body so that you have easy access to feet, legs, arms and torso while still remaining relaxed. When your bath is finished, lie down for ten minutes with an eye mask or a piece of dark fabric across your eyes and keep warm. the massage message Self-massage is nothing more than stroking, kneading, pushing and pressing your skin and muscles. Start with your feet. Grasp one foot between thumb and fingers and press in between the tendons, gently at first, then harder and harder, moving from the toes up towards the ankle. Then, using your fingertips and knuckles, go over the soles of your feet. Wherever you find a sore spot, work harder until you feel the discomfort melt beneath your hand. Now do your heel, grasping it between thumb and fingers and working around the area of the Achilles tendon. This is also a good time to make circles with your foot to loosen the ankle joint. Repeat this with the other foot, and then go on to your legs. Lift each leg in turn and deeply stroke the flesh on the back, from the ankle up to the knee. Then go back to the ankle again and repeat the same motions on the side and front of the calf. Keep working and, as you massage a little deeper with each stroke, you will gradually find that any tautness softens. Now go over your thighs with the same movement, and afterwards knead and squeeze around the knee area wherever there are trouble spots, just as you did on the feet. Now knead each thigh and hip. Then go on to your arms. Knead and squeeze every spot you can reach on your shoulders and neck, looking for sore spots and focusing on the areas between joints and muscles. Pay particular attention to the tops of shoulders, where most of us lock away our tension. Grasp this area in your thumb and fingers and insistently ease away any hardness you find there. Finally, go over your ribs, doing each side with its opposite hand. essence alchemy As part of the benevolent bath, choose essential oils not so much for what they can do for your skin as what they can do to expand your consciousness and lift your spirit. Whatever your mental state may be, it has an enchanting antidote from the world of flowers: Negative State Essential Oil Remedy anger: ylang ylang, rose, chamomile resentment: rose sadness: hyssop, marjoram, sandalwood mental fatigue: basil, peppermint, cypress, patchouli worry: lavender feeling jaded: neroli, melissa, camphor feelings of weakness: chamomile, jasmine, melissa irritability: frankincense, marjoram, lavender, chamomile physical exhaustion: jasmine, rosemary, juniper, patchouli anxiety: sage, juniper, basil, jasmine

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.

Zazen: Power in Simplicity

Zazen: Power in Simplicity

Zazen has been practiced for 2,500 years. It traveled from India, China and Japan to arrive in the West around the middle of the last century. The practice of zazen is neither a means of introspection nor of contemplation. It is a means by which we come to experience the unity with our selves and the Universe. As a technique, it is easy to learn and simple to practice. As with most valuable techniques, what matters is not trying to understand it, for there is nothing in it to be understood. What matters is doing it. As you do it day by day, it transforms your health and your life. A powerful technique for re-establishing life-giving balance at every level, zazen is a simple, yet almost infinitely transformative practice. Zazen deepens our connection with the innate self simply by becoming aware of our breathing. Practice it daily, and it can relieve fear, release anxieties and clear away internal monologues where the mind chases its tail like an obsessive dog, getting nowhere. Zazen also strengthens vitality, and teaches us the art of being present in the eternal NOW. STILL WATERS RUN DEEP In essence, the human 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 the sun and the moon, gets disturbed with eddies and waves, distorting our perception of our bodies, ourselves and the world around us. As we practice zazen, our mind returns to its mirror-like state. Then it can reflect the world around us without becoming obstructed or distorted by anything in it. Gradually we learn that we do not have to hold on to anything to be able to create the life for which we long. We become free. This experience of freedom becomes contagious—a blessing not only for ourselves but for others. Marianne Williamson said it well: ‘As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ The word ‘spirit’ means breath—that is, life force. In Japanese they call it ki, in Chinese 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 the way your breath is connected with the kind of thoughts you have and the emotions you feel. Working with the breath, you inadvertently work with body and mind. For these three are different aspects of a single reality. EXPAND CONSCIOUSNESS As we develop awareness of the breath, as it enters and leaves our body, and of all the sensations this brings, we come to touch the ‘still point’ and gradually develop a natural ability to focus the mind. We start by sitting in a comfortable but straight posture and counting the breath: inhale . . . ‘one’, exhale . . . ‘two’, and so on, up to ten. Then we begin again back at ‘one’. The point of the counting has nothing to do with trying to get to ten—it is just a simple tool for focusing attention. If you lose count and your mind begins to wander, notice this, bless your thoughts, whatever they are, then let them go by gently returning your concentration to the breath and starting 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. It’s an incredibly powerful experience. After a while, you begin to break free of the limiting thoughts, worries and obsessions that rule most people’s lives. Connection with your innate being grows stronger, as does your capacity to experience bliss, pleasure and the sense 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 allied to intuition, blossoms. We lose the sense of isolation which so many have, where we feel alone and alienated from the Universe. Want to try it? Let’s get started. 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 the body slightly forward. This creates the strongest feeling of stability. You can also use a chair. When sitting on a chair it is important also to use a cushion so that 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 that the 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, left if you are left-handed) lies palm up in your lap. Nestle the other hand gently on to 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 also acts as a symbol for the unity of the breath, your life, and the Universe. This also helps turn you inwards 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; the tip of your tongue rests easily against the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper teeth, which keeps you from salivating too much. Breathe through your nose. Lower your eyes so that you are looking at the ground 2 or 3 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. GO TO THE CENTER This is the hara—the physical and spiritual centre of the body. It is a place of power from which all the martial arts are performed. Located in the pelvis, 2½ to 3 inches below the navel, it is also the centre of gravity in the 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, then returning from the hara as you breathe out. Of course, on a physical level the breath is really filling the lungs, but imagining this helps centre you. 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. 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, then go back to watching the breath, and begin counting again from one. Zazen is as simple as that. Practicing it for 15 minutes twice a day—preferably at the beginning of the day and the end of the day—we touch the still point within us again and again. In the process we begin to 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 we are doing, we become able to choose consciously to let go and turn our mind towards whatever we wish. The connection with our innate being strengthens so that our inner world and our day-to-day life come together in harmony. The more you practice, the easier it becomes eventually, at will, to move into your still point even in highly stressful situations that once had you frantic. Practicing zazen day after day brings many other gifts from the Universe as well. The practice of zazen is highly experiential. Trying to understand or rationalize it is a waste of time. Like most transformative practices, it can never be fully understood; it is meant to 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.

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.

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