user-icon chevron-right minus plus cross google shopping-cart caret-down chevron-down chevron-circle-up menu search youtube facebook twitter rss linkedin2 pinterest

mindfulness

126 articles in mindfulness

It's Time To Touch The Divine

It's Time To Touch The Divine

Silence. Solitude. These words strike fear into our post-modern hearts—especially at Christmas or New Year. We seem to have forgotten the power of escaping for a time into the depths of our inner being, of listening to our breath, of sensing the earth’s heartbeat. There are too many presents to be bought, phone calls to be made, gatherings to attend, children’s noses to wipe. Yet now, as one year ends and another begins, it’s the best time ever to connect with the divine. And where do we discover it? At the very core of each one of us deep within—in silence and in solitude—no matter what kind of noise or chaos may be taking place in the world around us. Solitude has much to teach us. But it takes courage to become a learner again. It asks that we trust enough in life and in ourselves to drop, even for fifteen minutes at a time, all we know (or think we know) and become quietly receptive to whatever arises from within. It also asks that we respond wholeheartedly to whatever we feel, smell, taste, see and touch: The intense blue of a tiny flower which sears our senses. A wild thought that invites us into a new reality like “maybe I’ll take up scuba diving or write a novel.” Good god, where did that come from? The fragrance of Ceylon cinnamon sprinkled on a cup of dark cocoa. All these splendors, all these blessings go unnoticed unless we create enough quiet time for us to experience them. ALL IS ONE 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 any sanctuary. Practiced daily, silence and solitude heal confusion and mend frazzled nerves. Getting “away from it all” to sit on a rock or at a window, to gaze at the sky or to explore the dance of thoughts in your own mind. These things help us come home to ourselves. They allow the wildness of our intrinsic being to converse with our more rational side. To begin, lay aside fifteen minutes each day during which you enter the sanctuary of your own being to sit or walk in silence. Become aware of how silence acts upon you. Are you comfortable with it? Or is it something that you try to avoid? Do you sense that there is a richness here that you may not have experienced for a long time? NEW REALITIES Throughout human history, the center of the universe—the axis mundi—formed the core of safety for tribal cultures. It gave them access to great spiritual power, at this universal hub. They knew they could rely on the axis mundi. This made them feel safe. Now we live in a new reality, one which is continually evolving, reshaping itself, adjusting, creating and destroying as it unfolds. But here lies the greatest revelation of all. Today’s axis mundi is no longer tribal. It has become a much more individual experience—a rich cosmic void which lives at the core of each one of us, as it does in the cosmos itself. Here, in solitude and silence, we can come face to face with the divine. It is from here that we draw on visions, energy and guidance for what we long to create. Here, where the universal and the personal divinity meet and merge as one—a life-changing experience. ENTERING YOUR STILL POINT BRINGS: A sense of safety. Access to the depths of your own unique truth. An experience that enables your own soul can to align itself with the anima mundi—the soul of the cosmos. The realization that the universe can communicate in a purposeful way with you. A connection with the life you want to create for yourself. A chance to explore your dreams and visions. Once we learn to anchor ourselves within this core, deep within the darkness of our unique essential being, a new expanded reality begins to reveal itself. ANCHOR IN THE DIVINE You can read about the axis mundi in the Old Testament story of Jacob’s Ladder. ‘And he dreamed and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed…” and Jacob awakened out of this sleep, and he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”’ (Genesis 28:10-14, 18-19) You will also find this anchoring experience in the ancient Greek description of omphalos—the navel or hub of the world. They describe it as “the divine body out of which creation emerges.” To the Buddhists it is Mount Meru, center of the created universe. This axis mundi—the cosmic void—is recreated again and again in the magnificent sand paintings of Tibetan Lamas. The Hebrews call it the beth-el which means the dwelling place of the divine. For them it was Jerusalem, as it was for the early Christians—at one and the same time, the place where Jesus died on the cross, and where the tree of life stands at the center of the world. The omphalos is always found at the center of a circle into which spiritual power from all directions is poured, and out of which divinely-created forms are brought to birth. You will even find it in the Chinese symbol for yin and yang, and in the magic circle drawn by children on the playground. Kids know you gather power. You are also protected from attack by the opposing team in any game of hide and seek. ENTER THE COSMIC VOID How do you enter the cosmic void and access the power that lies there? Simple. You just create the conditions that can allow it to happen. Step one is practicing the skill of living in the NOW. Start right now with the most mundane daily task you have to perform. Say you are washing dishes. Decide that, for the next ten minutes, you will be fully present with total awareness of what you are doing. There’s no big deal about this. It doesn’t demand any great effort. It is the easiest thing in the world once you decide to have a go. You’re likely to find it’s also a lot of fun. As Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist teacher whose work I admire, says, “You can wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes or you can wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” With every task you carry out—whether it be typing at a keyboard as I am doing right now, combing your hair, opening a door, gazing at a fire—you have the choice of carrying it out mechanically while your mind wanders, or with full attention, which begins to open you to the divine power of the center of your essential being. LIFE IN THE NOW Try addressing whatever you do from a point of view of mindfulness—clear, simple attention without a need to analyze, label or judge anything. Just let yourself be fully present from one moment to the next. When mental rumination, thoughts and feelings arise, take a look at them, then just let them go and bring your attention back to whatever you are doing right here, right now. As you practice remaining fully present, what was once a mundane or boring task can become a source of fascination. This is what is known as “whole body-mind seeing”. When we come to live our lives this way, not only do we forge rich connections with multi-dimensional reality. We move beyond our habitual, limiting ways of thinking, seeing, and being. We begin to touch upon then be fed by the sacred nature of our lives. We live more authentically from our own unique experience of the divine. Try it and see.

Walk Your Authentic Path

Walk Your Authentic Path

As women, our roles are traditionally nurturing ones. We tend to put the needs of others—children and partners mostly—before our own. This role is shaped both by society and our genetics. Sadly, though, this position is a limiting one when it comes to expressing our divine spark of individuality. All too often, we begin to neglect our own needs. Then we wonder why our lives are so empty. Fortunately, the time has come to break away from convention and become the free, radiant woman hidden within you. It’s time to walk your authentic path… LOSE THE GUILT Often we feel guilty if we aren’t constantly sacrificing our own desires in order to tend to other people, our homes or jobs. But it’s vitally important that we release this guilt. Remind yourself that you are more than just a mother, wife, housekeeper, or employee. You are first and foremost your own person, and your needs are just as important as everyone else’s. Learning to apply the following ideas and actions to your own life will also enable you to give more abundantly. So if you have others depending on you, all the more reason to stop the self-sacrifice and start responding to your heart’s desires with love and respect. Everyone benefits as a result. LOVE THYSELF The next step on this thrilling journey is to start learning how to nurture yourself. In doing so, you can begin to create the life you really want. Think about all the things you do for others. Then, begin to redirect some of those giving acts towards yourself. For example, you might take your children for regular pleasant outings to the park, the beach, the movies and so on. But how often do you go out, on your own, to pursue leisure activities? These could be active: Going for a run, playing a game of tennis—or relaxing: a massage or an art exhibition. You can even practice self-nurturing at home, as long as you won’t be disturbed. Try a long hot bath with essential oils, or listen to an audio book. The more time you can spend in your own company, the better. This will allow you to more deeply connect with—and learn about—your essential self. DARE TO GET REAL Another key to unlocking your authentic woman is to become brutally honest in your relationships: especially how you relate to all other people. This means learning to stop censoring yourself. Doing so requires a good amount of self-acceptance. It also requires that you allow the expressions of how you feel and what you think to come to the surface. To face someone else just as you are, without trying to behave in the way you think they are expecting, can seem a bit daunting at first. However, the more you practice it, the easier it will become—and the more rewards it will bring you. DIVE INTO BLISS The phrase “follow your bliss” is often bandied around, but what does it really mean? There are limitless answers to this question since it is 100 percent specific to you. What do you love doing most? Swimming, dancing, bird-watching, taxidermy? Perhaps it has been a long time since you were able to do any of things you adore, as you simply “don’t have the time”. Try, with all your might, to make the time on a regular basis. CALL TO ACTION Here are a few simple ways to heighten the bliss experience in your daily life. Enjoy discovering how doing this helps you more deeply to become aware of the desires of your soul and live your life more and more fully from your authentic core. If you don’t already have a journal, start one now. Write down and answer questions such as “What matters most to me?” “What did I love most as a child?” “How can I begin to live what I love most, right now?” Answering these questions over time will be an ongoing process. Just keep listing the things that bring you bliss in your journal. Then, come back to what you’ve written whenever you feel in need of guidance or direction. Delight your senses every day. Indulge in a cup of amazing coffee, a glass of red wine, or a piece of the very best dark chocolate you can find. Moderation is key, along with using the very best quality of everything. Get into the joy of movement: for its own sake, not out of fear or a sense of duty. Do what fulfills you—be it dancing, walking, horse riding. If you haven’t yet found out which physical activity you love, start exploring the multitude of possibilities… Bliss is not a luxury...it’s a necessity when it comes living your truth, creating the life you want, and connecting with the deepest levels of your being...go for it the rewards are endless both for yourself and for what you bring to the lives of those you love.

In The Psychiatrist Chair

In The Psychiatrist Chair

BBC Radio 4 recently contacted me for my permission to re-broadcast an interview I did with Professor Anthony Clare on “In the Psychiatrist’s Chair”. Born in Dublin in 1942, Dr Clare’s broadcasts were fascinating to listen to. He became the voice of psychiatry to millions in the British Isles for more than two decades. His goal with his interviews was always simple: To uncover and reveal the inner life of the famous and successful. I was honored when he asked me if he could do an in-depth interview about me and my life. His questions are candid, probing and sometimes unsettling. You who send me so many wonderful comments on my blogs and weekly newsletters on lesliekenton.com and curaromana.com often ask me to share more of my personal life with you. To know more about me, a great place to start is listening to Anthony’s “Leslie Kenton In the Psychiatrist’s Chair”. I’d love to know from you if you think he got me right. Hope you enjoy it.

Charisma

Charisma

What gives any woman charisma? The Chanel suit she wears? The car she drives? The way she has been taught to use her body or speaks her words? Not really. For stylish or charming as these things may be they are ultimately externals - things put on from the outside. As such they offer a woman little more than the appearance of charisma. And like pastiche, appearances never deceive a discerning eye. What are the characteristics of real charisma? Where does it come from? How to you get it? And what is living with it all about? Charisma - the real McCoy - has certain characteristics: expansiveness for instance and energy, joy and creativity. It is not only a way of being which calls forth all the powers of a woman - from the pragmatic to the inspirational, the intellectual to the intuitional. It is also a way of relating to yourself, to those you work with and play with - even to the planet itself - through all of these modes. That is why at its core, charisma is both disarmingly simple and immeasurably complex - neither more nor less than living day by day from a full and honest outpouring of your own individuality - the spirit which is unique to you. This unique nature, which each woman has but most are still trying to discover, can be expressed in a myriad of ways from the most simple and playful to the most profound - in the colors you like best for instance, in the way you choose to have your hair cut, the kind of make-up you wear (or prefer not to wear). It is also explicit in the way you think and talk, and in the kind of deep values you embody, the dreams you dream and the things you create whether they be works of art, intellectual or physical feats, or simple day-to-day ways of being. Charisma is also evident in the rhythms and fluctuations of this energy. How different you are for instance on the tennis court, than when you hold a child in your arms, produce a piece of work, get involved in an intellectual discussion, or embrace a lover. Yet in each of these circumstances provided you are true to yourself you will have charisma - the originality of your spirit will shine through. Contacting that unique spirit, coming to respect it and having the courage to live from it is what gaining charisma is all about. Sometimes challenging, frequently exciting, this process can be a lot of fun too. As it takes place the externals - the clothes and make up you wear, the way you move and how you relate to your world cease to be arbitrary, like things you pick up with uncertainty to carry around with you. Instead they seem to unfold and develop beautifully and mysteriously - almost organically - from within as ever more honest and potent expressions of who you are. Whatever forms or shapes your individuality takes, one quality tends to permeate every facet of charisma as it unfolds: aliveness. That is where health comes in. Health is right at the core of charisma. Being healthy is a lot more than not being sick. It means having access to all of your energies from the physical stamina you need on the tennis court through the depths of your sexuality and creativity to an expanding awareness of how your mind works via the complex interface of your body's endocrine and nervous system. Such an awareness which can not only help keep you healthy and free from the ravages of premature aging but, according to advanced research may even give you the ability to alter your external reality by choice. The more fully and honestly your unique nature shows itself, the more charisma you will have. Simple? Nothing could be simpler. Yet in our society in this last decade of the 20th century, it would seem that our every encounter with the world around us - from breathing increasingly polluted air to interacting with a media intent upon selling us things we don't need or don't want at prices we can often ill afford - contrives in one way or another to interfere with the process. That is why another aspect of developing charisma is the process of gaining a strong awareness of ones own values and of finding ways of separating them from those which we are all constantly being sold by the exploitive 20th century urban world in which we live. (This by the way is every bit as important a part of health and beauty as the kind of food you eat for breakfast and the kind of creams you spread on your face.) Health, like charisma, also comes from within. Yet health needs a lot of support from the outside too - in the way you eat, exercise, deal with stress, look after your body and learn to listen to its prompting so that your potential for energy and aliveness can be maximized. For most of us this doesn't happen automatically. We have to learn how to create a high level of aliveness and to become wary of all the things which can impede it. Take toxicity in your body for instance. The build up of waste products in the cells restricts metabolic processes and depletes energy. It can also result in a great variety of unwanted conditions - from cellulite to poor skin, and anxiety and depression to degenerative conditions such as arthritis, obesity and cancer. Yet in an urbanized polluted environment all of our bodies tend to build up more waste than they are able to eliminate efficiently. Such a build up impedes aliveness. So part of developing charisma means sorting out a lifestyle for yourself which encourages continual detoxification. It can also mean learning about specific techniques from daily skin brushing, to special breathing methods, or hydrotherapy tricks which you can call on for periodic spring cleaning. To live with charisma in the fullness of ones being, to live with charisma, each of us needs continually to break down barriers, to bring to consciousness the self-imposed limitations we have been living with and to open oneself to new possibilities whether they come in the form of physical beauty - hair, body, skin, nails and all the rest - or new passions and ideals. It is a funny thing about self-expression. We in the Anglo Saxon world tend to think of it as something rather self-indulgent or self-obsessive. We have been brought up in a culture that affirms the value of altruism and insists that one should forget oneself in constant service and self-sacrifice to others. This is particularly true of women, many of whom spend their whole lives in one way or another denying their own needs and worrying about others or following a career path which society's values (not ones own) have imposed upon them only to wake up at the age of 45 to find that they feel lost, empty, and that life appears without meaning. The truth is that at the heart of serving others, as well as at the core of nurturing life lies charisma - an ability to express the totality of one's being. For only then can you bring to whatever else you are doing the full impact of your aliveness through beauty, intellect, enthusiasm, compassion, creativity, fun and joy. The pathway towards fullness of being often lies through a tremendously exciting exploration of such very personal and supposedly self-indulgent things as the kind of eyeshadow you wear or how best to look after your skin or make yourself look more beautiful. It is only when the pursuit of beauty becomes a thing apart from the expression of one's individual nature (like the notion so many women have that they will not be acceptable unless they wear designer clothes or paint their faces perfectly in order to be 'acceptable') that it goes all wrong. This is because beauty treated only as an external has sad repercussions for your own sense of self-worth. Like the old mechanistic world view which has blinded us to what we have been doing to our planet, it can imprison you within false images and limitations which make it impossible to live creatively or bring the joy of your own unique energy to those around you. So forget fears of narcissism and self indulgence. Each woman is unique and the charisma which celebrates that uniqueness can not only lift her to new levels of joy and energy and accomplishment but also enrich the lives of all who know her. Perhaps most important of all, through the expression of that uniqueness in her feelings, thoughts and actions, it can enable her to play the unique part she has to play in the future of her society and of the planet itself. Sounds revolutionary? It is. But this last decade of the twentieth century the astounding is becoming commonplace and the impossible a daily occurrence. Who would have thought the Berlin wall would fall? Exercise Let's get down to the nuts and bolts of charisma - the seemingly superficial trimmings such as make up, hairstyle and fashion which can help you explore who you are and feel good about yourself. As you will discover, when you select these trimmings and trappings from core impulses and desires the results are anything but superficial. The first step in developing your own brand of charisma is to get to know and make friends with the many facets of yourself. Each facet is like a character just itching for the chance to play a role in your life. When you encourage your characters to find expression, your reward is not only a great deal of pleasure and fun, but an abundance of core energy. THE CHARISMA DETECTIVE EXERCISE The following steps can reveal clues to characters inside you which carry energy for you. Answer each question as fully as you can in your journal. Also make a note of any feelings (good or bad) that come up as you do the exercise. You might like to work with a friend, one of you asking the questions and noting down the answers while the other allows her fantasies to run free. Whether you work with a friend or on your own, let yourself play at it. Although the issues that arise are important ones, exploring charisma above all means having fun. Choose a Photograph Find a photograph of yourself that you like. (For some this may not be easy, but you can at least find a photo that you prefer to others). Ask yourself why you have chosen this picture. What do you like about the person you see? What qualities does she have? How is the person in the photo the same as, and how is she different from, the person you feel yourself to be now? Scan Your Wardrobe Make a note of any item or items of your wardrobe that you really love - things you feel good in, for example a dress, a pair of shoes. (It could be something from your past or even something that you once borrowed.) Now ask yourself what it is you like about the thing. What qualities does it express? How does it make you feel? What image/character does it suggest? Pick Your Accessories Make a note of accessories, past, present or future, that you particularly like. Include jewellery, scarves, belts, hats, gloves, glasses, the lot. What is it about the accessory that you like? What does it remind you of? What part of you does it express? How About Your Hair? Ask yourself what was your favourite haircut or hairstyle/hair colour ever? Why did you like it? How did it make you feel? What aspect of you did it express? What Is Your Make-Up Look? Ask yourself is there an item of make up that you particularly like? Or more than one? What do you like about the way they make you feel? What part of you do they help to express? WHO ARE YOUR CORE CHARACTERS? By the end of this exercise you should have an idea of the types of images that are inspiring and hold power for you. See if you can group the images under a character or several characters that can serve as reference points for you. For instance, if you are inspired by a pair of bright red shoes because they make you feel bold and daring and suggest the sort of woman who dances on table tops, your character reference point might be "The Flamenco Dancer." Here are a few examples of characters which may help you to find labels for your own: The Romantic The Shaman The Seductress The Amazon The Athlete The Artist The English Rose The Witch The Gypsy The Glitzy Power-Broker The Princess The Anarchist The Nature Spirit The Earth Goddess The Clown The Gamine The Executive The Sophisticated Lady The Country Lady The Medieval Maiden WRITE YOUR CHARACTERS TO LIFE If one or more of your characters is particularly exciting, get to know her by writing her into existence. Describe her as fully as you can. What does she wear? What is her hair like? Her make up? Her nails? How does she move? Where does she go? What does she do? How does she speak? What does she say? What does she like and hate? Although simple, this exercise is powerful and can evoke a lot of different feelings, thoughts and memories. Whatever comes up for you, acknowledge it by writing it down, no matter how insignificant or stupid it may seem. Anything can be a clue to helping your charisma unfold from the core. Commonly women feel a sense of hopelessness and longing. They may have an image of a character who seems to be everything they feel they are not. Then, instead of inspiring them, the image overwhelms them. If this is the case remember that your character carries energy for you because she reflects an important part of you. No matter how far away from the you which you know she may seem, you can begin to live her right now. Obviously if your character is a waif-like wood nymph and you are 3 stone overweight it will take time to adjust this difference. Nevertheless it may be that by rearranging your hair or wearing a colour that the wood nymph would wear you can begin to draw upon her as an inspiration and start to tap into her quality of energy. Let these images inspire, not discourage, you. The best way to deal with a sense of discouragement in the face of anything that seems impossible is to begin by making a tiny step in the direction you want to go. We have learnt over and over that the way to climb a mountain (either physical or metaphorical) is just to put one foot in front of the other. Crack the Codes of Convention In exploring charisma it can be very freeing to break the rules and try something completely new. For instance, if you always wear make up to work, dare one day to go completely bare faced. One of us (Leslie) used to frequently go to work as the health and beauty editor of a magazine with a naked face. She found it immensely freeing to break the rules and discovered it gave her a fresh sense of herself.

Stress Release

Stress Release

Somewhere inside you is a center of stillness - a wordless, formless space - the home of your self or your soul: There seeds of creativity are sown which later become your ideas and your accomplishments. There in the silence and the darkness, you can begin to listen to your own `inner voice'. You can come to know the difference between what you really want, feel and think, and what habits, false notions and other people's values have been programmed into you. This space - your center - is a place of safety and security. You can move out of it, as you choose, to meet the outside world, form friendships, love and learn. Yet it is a permanent sanctuary to which you can always return when you feel overburdened, tired, confused or in need of new vitality and direction. The key that opens this particular door for most of us is relaxation. By relaxation I mean learning to move at will into a state of deep stillness in which your usual concerns, your habitual thoughts, and the never-ending activity of your daily life are replaced by alert - yet totally passive - awareness. Dipping into such a state even for a few minutes allows many of the physiological changes normally experienced during sleep to take place while your body and mind are revitalized. But it is different from sleep. For, while your body is passive, your mind is highly alert. passive awareness For some people passive awareness occurs spontaneously - often between sleep and wakefulness. It is during this time that their best ideas come and that they experience a sense of harmony both within themselves and in relation to the rest of the world. Most of us, however, have a fear of letting go, thinking that if we give up control of things we won't be able to think clearly and independently or work well, or that someone is likely to put something over on us. In fact, just the opposite is true. When you are able to enter a state of deep relaxation at will, this frees you from patterns of living and thinking to which you tend to be a slave - although usually an unconscious one. It enables you to think more clearly and simply, and to act more directly when action is called for. Another interesting benefit from the daily practice of deep relaxation is a reduction of negative habits such as drug taking - of both prescription and mind-altering drugs - alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking. Research carried out in the United States involving 2,000 students between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three who had practiced a form of meditation for periods of between a few months to a couple of years, showed that their dependence on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes dropped sharply. In the first six months of doing the practice, the number of smokers reduced by half . By twenty-one months it was down to one-third. And these changes were entirely spontaneous - at no time was any suggestion made that relaxation or meditation would change any of these habits. bridge your inner and outer world Harvard professor and expert in behavioral medicine, Herbert Benson MD, did the first studies into the effects of Transcendental Meditation many years ago. He has since continued to investigate this state of psychophysical relaxation and has shown that each of us has what he calls the `relaxation response' - a natural ability to experience the relaxed state with all its benefits. All we need to tap into it is a method to turn it on. The possibilities are many. They range from meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, zazen, silent repetition of a word, and autogenic training, to steady aerobic exercise and biofeedback. Each can be useful as a tool for silencing everyday thoughts and for temporarily shutting off habitual ways of seeing the world and doing things. Practice one regularly, and you build a powerful and useful bridge between your inner and outer world. All of them are different. Some will work better for you or be more enjoyable than others. That is why it is worthwhile to try a few different techniques until you discover which ones you prefer. Progressive relaxation is a technique based on the work of Edmund Jacobson; this is an excellent way to begin if you have never done any sort of relaxation or meditation technique before, because it gives most people some sense of what relaxation feels like even the first time you try it. As you repeat your technique (it is best done for fifteen minutes at least twice a day), you will find you enter a state of relaxation that is progressively deeper and deeper. Zazen is 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. 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.

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.

Retreat Secrets

Retreat Secrets

I smile when the word “retreat” comes up and people get all “starry eyed” and “new age” about the idea. In my experience, a retreat—an enormously valuable event in one’s life which needs periodically to be repeated—has little to do with sitting beneath jasmine scented trees, communing peacefully with God. I have done many retreats of different lengths and kinds, including one in a Tibetan monastery, in which I spent some six weeks learning more about fleas than I would ever want to know. I believe each retreat is meant to be an experience of profound inner transformation, carried out with both feet planted firmly on the ground. PLUMBING THE DEPTHS Like any experience of real change, it asks that we plumb the depths of our being to come closer to what is real, as well as to access creativity, power, and energy we may never have touched before. In many ways, the process is like that of detoxifying your body by shifting from a low-carbohydrate diet to a way of eating that brings clarity to the mind and strength to the body. Retreats often bring to the surface a lot of the toxic “junk” from emotional damage and wrong thinking that all of us carry on a psychological and mental level, so it can be cleared. This is not always a comfortable process. DISCOVERING YOUR POTENTIALS Like the proverbial iceberg, most of us live with the lion’s share of our potential for freedom, joy, creativity, and power submerged beneath a sea of unknowing. We go about our day-to-day duties and pleasures, conscious only of what comes to us through our five senses. How does it taste and feel? What does it sound like? What do we see in front of our eyes? And most of the time—because of the stress that we live under in our urban lives —we are not even fully aware of our senses. Meanwhile, beneath the vast ocean of consciousness that constitutes what it is to be fully human, our greater selves hibernate, waiting to be awakened. It is this awakening that a retreat can help bring about. For like exceptional events in our lives which break through comfort zones—when we fall in love perhaps, or when we’re faced with an event of life-shattering proportions like a critical illness or the death of a close friend—a retreat in silence and solitude can cause submerged areas of our being to erupt in magic, in surges of passion, in vitality, in anxiety, in stunning beauty. EXPANDED AWARENESS For a time, the mundane quality of everyday life is replaced with a sense of expanded being. We not only feel more alive; we wake up to find that familiar things—the tree that stands outside the bedroom window, the cat that greets us when we come home each day, the simple shell we picked up and slipped into our pocket while walking on the beach—has taken on a luminosity we cannot explain. On retreat sometimes, without warning, while listening to music or walking down a street, we can be hit with a feeling that the world is far greater than we ever imagined it to be, or a sense that all we see around us somehow is us. We are all part of the same stuff. While the experience lasts, everything seems right in the world. Then, as our retreat ends, like the sun at the point of setting, it can all fade beneath the mundane horizon—leaving only the faintest wisp of colour to remind us that we once stood in glory, felt the rays of the sun upon our bodies, and knew that sense of being at one with the universe which gives every struggle meaning. A retreat, whether or not it is simply 2 hours set aside a week for you to do something that you absolutely love doing so that you are following your passion; whether you go into a monastery or a retreat centre for a long weekend; or into the wilderness on a vision quest, helps connect us with what is real, and remind us of who we really are. In the silence, when we are removed from the day-to-day structures of our lives which both support us and imprison us, we can begin to plunge the depths of our being and make a better connection with our inner visions, longings, passions, and creative power. DETOX FOR THE SOUL One of the most important gifts of a retreat is to help make us aware that the life we are living may not be entirely our own, or that it is not as authentic as we would like it to be, or that we are not getting as much out of our lives as we feel we should be. Such discoveries are never easy. Yet they often herald exciting changes for the better and help clear away much of the toxic “junk” we have been carrying. The process of reclaiming power and rebalancing energy, by walking away for a time from the ordinary structures of your life, is very much like the process of detoxifying the body. When you stop putting convenience foods into your body and begin eating in a way that supports life-long health, something remarkable happens. Not only do our physical distortions rise to the surface; you might experience fatigue, perhaps a headache as a result of giving up coffee, a deep cleansing of the body. In many ways a retreat acts as a detox for the soul. On a spiritual level, the distortions that we have picked up in our lives also tend to rise to the surface to be cleared away. We may find ourselves temporarily riddled with depression or a sense of meaninglessness, fear, the feeling that the life we are living in no way satisfies our inner need. WRITE IT DOWN On any retreat, it is essential to keep a journal of what you are thinking and how you are feeling, both physically and spiritually. We often forget that mind and body are one, not two separate entities. Nothing brings this truth more to consciousness than the process of retreating from our day-to-day life. For when you let go of the structures of your life for a time, the ideas, feelings, memories, and concerns that have been floating beneath the surface rise up into awareness. This is where it is important not to identify with them, but rather to just remark that they are there, record them, and learn to look at them objectively knowing that the fact they have risen to the surface means that they are probably ready to be got rid of, often leaving us lighter and freer than ever before. LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE Simultaneously, probably because the psyche is so rich and complex and when you are on retreat you hear the whispers of your soul better than any other time, we tend to get tiny messages from the soul. We often get a sense of things that we want to do or be, learn, or try. Some of these things may be insignificant, while others seem to be very large indeed. Record these “whispers” in a journal, right alongside any negative or confusing feelings which surface. At the end of a retreat, you can then go back to these whispers which you have recorded. Make a decision to act upon one or two of the things you want, whether they be apparently insignificant things such as I want to change the way my hair is cut, or large issues such as I want to go back to university and learn new skills. DISCOVER YOUR PASSIONS A retreat can help us come in touch with passions of the soul. Passion, I believe, holds the key to everything, and more than anything else, the stressful demanding lives that we live, where we are living mostly by other people’s rules (being the good employee, the good mother, the good wife etc.) tend to make us deaf to the whispers of our soul. A retreat can awaken again our ability to hear these passions. A NEW LIFE BEGINS The real trick to making retreats work for you comes after the retreat is over. It’s at that point, when you look back into your journal and find out what it is, and are reminded of the things that you most want. These are not just things that you think might be possible, but what you really want in your life. Decide to bring into being only one or two of the things that you want most to do. This is how we ground our spiritual insights in our day-to-day lives and then gradually, bit by bit, day by day, we not only find that the “distortions” we have carried so long have lessened, loosening their hold on us. With each action we take, following one or two or more of what one hears from within, it becomes easier and easier to connect with our soul’s whispers and therefore easier and easier to live an infinitely rewarding, authentic life. And, as often as not, all this can begin with a simple intention to retreat.

Celebrating Ecstasy

Celebrating Ecstasy

Frequently discussed yet little understood in the context of our post industrial society is the value of ecstasy and the power of the erotic. For power it is of an order that is both frightening and tremendously creative. It is no accident that in all of the Eastern religions it is the erotic which symbolizes man's pathway to realizing the Divine. In our capacity to experience ecstasy at the deepest levels may lie both the key to our survival and to our ability to create. Recent studies of the human brain and its interfaces with the body have for the first time in history begun to chart biologically what takes place when one allows oneself to enter fully into an erotic state. The results of this research are not only helping us see just how important this can be to health and wholeness, they are also making us conscious of just how far away the so called sexual revolution has taken us from our being able to experience our own ecstasy. For the mechanistic approach to sexuality with which we have lived for the past thirty years, with all its sex-manuals and all its advice on 'how-to-do-it-better', instead of leading us towards a state in which we are more able to plunge into the irrational, oceanic, all-trusting state which every ecstatic encounter demands, has taught us to intellectualize sexuality making it into something which too often we do and watch ourselves doing, something which we learn about, something which we try to control. Yet right at the core of the truly ecstatic experience is a fundamental demand that we give up all control so that we are able for a time to allow ourselves to dissolve our boundaries and merge into a celebration of the body, of life itself and in doing so to experience our own wholeness. Each man and woman in reality has not one brain but two: The rational brain or the neocortex which like an immensely complicated computer enables us to make conscious choices and to collect, store and interpret the data we receive from our sensory organs and the subcortical nervous system or the primitive brain . This primitive brain is sometimes referred to as the 'reptilian structures' because from an evolutionary point of view it is the oldest part of the brain and also because, unlike the conscious mind, it can never be disassociated from our basic adaptive systems - the hormonal system and the immune system on which our survival depend. Your emotions and your instincts are bonded to the activity of your primitive brain which through the hypothalamus communicates via nerve cells with the rest of the body and via hormones regulates the activity of all the other endocrine glands with the aid of complex feedback mechanisms. When you experience joy the hormonal balance is not the same as when you grieve or when we engage in intellectual thought. This complex feedback network between mind and body, mediated through the primitive brain might be called our primitive adaptive system. On the quality of its responses and how well it is balanced with the actions of the neocortex depends how healthy we are physically, mentally and emotionally. But being human in the so-called civilized world is not always easy. The neocortex or rational brain in our society has become highly developed. It is this development which gives us the capacity to make rational decisions, to examine reality and to consciously manipulate the outside world to our advantage. In a truly healthy person the balance between the two brains is good. However the rational brain has the ability to inhibit the primitive brain. And in the modern world this neocordical inhibition of the primitive brain (on which our experience of joy and our hormonal and immune strength depends) has been carried to extremes. So much is this the case that we have undermined our ability to experience ecstasy, diminished our capacity for joy and lost our trust in the knowingness of our instincts. Take the experience of childbirth for instance. Instead of being able during the birth process simply to give over our bodies to the event and trust that at the right time the appropriate hormone will be secreted to dilate the cervix, bring the child into the world, lead us instinctively to nurture it at the breast, we tend to try exerting conscious control through our reason. In doing so we inhibit the primitive adaptive processes for we no longer trust them. We shift hormones in inappropriate ways and loose touch with the ecstatic experience of surrender to the body as well as with all the joy this can bring. In short we bring into play the rational brain at an inappropriate time and we suffer for it. (So incidentally does the baby.) We experience ourselves as separate from what is happening to our body, and we feel pain. It is not our highly developed rational brain that is the problem but the inappropriateness of allowing it to come into play in such circumstances which results in a sense of separation and our anguish. For human instincts, which need to be trusted and allowed freedom to be if we are to come to live in real health and wholeness, are fragile things. They are easily repressed and inhibited, constantly changed and controlled by the power of the neocortex - so much so that in most of us these inhibitions have become so unconscious and so habitual that we are not even aware of them have no possibility of choice. We have quite simply forgotten how to let go and trust to our body so we deny the power of human instincts. Then, instead of working with us they tend to work against us. Each woman is a great deal more than her rational mind. To be whole, to be truly healthy, to live the power of her own individual beauty she needs a highly developed emotional and instinctive life as well as a strong rationality. Each woman needs to be able to trust her body and, at appropriate times, such as in childbirth or lovemaking, to be able to abandon herself to it fully. Then the highly developed neocortex which is responsible for the development of culture and rational achievement instead of working against ones energy by inappropriate inhibition serves to channel her instinctive and the emotional life in tremendously exciting and creative ways. Then she is able to experience joy in simply being the way a child does - a joy and a radiance which does not depend upon what she does or what she has or on how clever she is or on how admired she is but simply on being. How does one rediscover this kind of trust in the body and in ones instincts? The answer is not simple. It involves experiment, listening, adjustment and it usually comes slowly, in fits and starts, through learning to trust and through becoming aware when instinctive responses begin to take place and simply allowing them to happen - particularly in the realm of ones sexuality - a realm in which the primitive brain, if it is allowed, probably comes into its own more easily than in any other. For the erotic - the ecstatic - has a power far beyond the experience of pleasure it brings. Ancient philosophical and religious traditions teach that the font of sexual power, known as the kundalini, lies coiled like a sleeping serpent at the base of the spine. When it becomes aroused this powerful procreative energy, the most powerful energy known to human life, begins to uncoil and to rise up the body activating its energy centers or chakras one by one. There are said to be seven chakras - locusts where the life energy which controls all biological processes, interfaces with the physical body. Each chakra appears to control particular endocrine glands and each is said to manifest a different quality of this powerful instinctive energy which makes human development possible. For instance the first or base chakra which lies near the base of the spine deals with survival while the next chakra, located in the pelvis looks after specific procreative energies. The chakra at the solar plexus is said to be involved with the will, the heart chakra with compassion, the throat with ones higher creative energies and so forth. The seventh chakra at the crown of the head is known as the thousand petal lotus. It is believed to be responsible for man's spiritual development at the highest level. When strongly activated it is believed to emit a radiance which you find depicted in every religious tradition in the form of the halo painted around the head of saints, the Christ, the Buddha and all the rest. The kundalini or life force is not something which can be aroused or activated through any rational effort of the conscious mind. For its energies, being sexual in the very deepest sense of the word (a sense which encompasses self-expression and creativity in every way from giving birth, to art, to the Dionysian celebration of the erotic in sexual intercourse,) are irrational in nature and belong to the realm of the primitive brain. As such they defy definition and elude any who would classify, categorize or try to control them. Since we belong to a civilization which has placed great premium on classification and control and which therefore has sought to conveniently ignore or dismiss as nonexistent any part of experience which does not fit into the rational and controllable, we often feel particularly unsettled whenever the force of these profound life energies surface. They can make us decidedly uncomfortable. For if we follow them we risk dissolving the boundaries of self and we fear a loss of the very control which the overdeveloped rational mind so loves. Yet the irony is that it is this very loss of control that we often most long for. For without an ability to live the instinctive as well as the rational we can never experience wholeness. Even more important, without it, the full creativity of our humanness being can never be realized. For it is the inhibition of this ability to experience the ecstatic and to trust in it that brings in its wake the sense of powerlessness and meaninglessness so widespread in our society. As black American writer Audre Lorde says in her book Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic As Power (The Crossing Press, Freedom, CA), 'The Erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling...As women we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge... It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. But the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough.' Exploring the realms of ecstasy, the truly erotic in ones life, is a long way from experimenting with all the mechanistic sexual stuff you will find in the popular press that tells you how to get more pleasure sex by doing this or that to your partner. Sadly the sexual revolution instead of freeing us to explore ecstasy and helping us learn how to surrender ourselves to the realm of instinct thereby bringing a healthy balance between our two brains, has tended even to relegate sexuality to the realm of the neocortex. When this happens, the ecstatic becomes the pornographic and the powers of creativity are wasted. For health and wholeness we must somehow find a marriage between instinct and reason. It is a union which like any marriage takes time to develop and grow, but a union which in terms of your health and beauty and your wholeness can bear infinite fruit.

Stress? What Stress?

Stress? What Stress?

What goes up must come down. These words should be engraved on everyone’s brain, particularly those of us who live full and busy lives. We worry about stress, wonder why we don’t do anything about it, and wish it would go away. Seldom do we even stop to ask what it is. If stress gets out of hand it can wear you down, ruin your looks and destroy your peace of mind. Yet stress is the spice of life, the exhilaration of challenge and excitement, the ‘high’ of living with heavy demands. The big secret about stress is that it is not what appears to be causing it that does the damage. It’s how you respond to it that does that. Change your attitude to stress and you can make it work for you rather than against you. In short, chill out. Stress is hard to pin down: fatigue, overwork, loss of blood, physical injury, grief and joy can all produce stress, but none of them accurately describes what it is. The word stress comes from the language of engineering meaning ‘any force which causes an object to change’. Austrian-Canadian scientist, Hans Selye, first coined the word stress in relation to humans back in the 1930s. In human terms it refers to your body’s response to physical, chemical, emotional or spiritual forces that ask you to adapt to them. Selye discovered a typical physical reaction to stress which he called the General Adaptation Syndrome. Its function is to keep your body in a steady state, known as homeostasis. Every stressor you come into contact with threatens to destroy this steady state. The General Adaptation Syndrome has three states: alarm, where the body becomes alert; resistance, where all systems go in order to meet the challenge and protect you from harm; and exhaustion, which happens if stress lasts for too long and the body’s weakest systems begin to break down causing illness, chronic fatigue, even death. you are unique Everyone responds differently to stress. This depends to some degree on your conditioning, and on the amount of adaptive energy you were born with. This is why some people seem to breeze through stressful situations while others quickly reach exhaustion. Selye believed that once adaptive energy is used up, nothing can be done to restore it. We now know that this is not altogether true, but adaptive energy is certainly precious. This makes it imperative to examine carefully how yours is being used and if it is being burnt up unnecessarily. It also makes it important to remember that what goes up must come down. For making stress work for you means being able to switch off at will. This is something that most of us have to learn to do. Learn to move easily between stress and relaxation, and you will begin to experience your life as a satisfying and enriching challenge like the ebb and flow of the tides. Then you will never again have to worry about getting stuck in a high-stress condition which saps your energy, distorts your view of the world, and can lead to premature aging and chronic illness. Humans are natural seekers of challenge. Primitive man faced the daily challenge of survival – when in danger, the body reacted instantaneously to provide the energy needed to fight or flee, then relaxed again when the danger passed. We may no longer need to worry about meeting a saber-toothed tiger, but we still react to stress with the same physical responses – raised blood pressure and breathing, a rush of adrenaline throughout the body. The trouble is that modern life, with its noise, quick pace, social pressures, environmental poisons, and our tendency to sedentary, mental work, presents many of us with almost constant threat situations. This is particularly true in the business world where someone, instead of moving rhythmically in and out stressful situations, remains in the danger state for long periods, with all the internal physical conditions that accompany it. balance it The automatic, or involuntary, functions of your body are governed by the autonomic nervous system. It looks after the changes in the rate at which your heart beats. It regulates your blood pressure by altering the size of veins and arteries. It stimulates the flow of digestive juices and brings on muscular contractions in the digestive system to deal with the foods you take in. It makes you sweat when you are hot and is responsible for the physical changes in your body that come with sexual arousal. This autonomic system has two opposing branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic branch is concerned with energy expenditure - particularly the energy involved with stress and meeting challenges. It spurs the heart to beat faster, makes you breathe hard, encourages you to sweat, raises your blood pressure, and sends blood to the muscles to get you ready for action. The other branch of the autonomic nervous system - the parasympathetic - is concerned with rest and regeneration rather than action. The parasympathetic branch slows your heartbeat, reduces the flow of air to your lungs, stimulates the digestive system, and helps relax your muscles. When you are in a state of stress, the sympathetic nervous system comes into play. The parasympathetic branch is dominant when you are relaxed. A good balance between the two is the key to making stress work for you. Balance makes it possible for you to go out into the world to do, to make, to create, to fight, and to express yourself, as well as to retire into yourself for regeneration, rest, recuperation, enjoyment, and the space to discover new ideas and plant the seeds of future actions. make stress work for you The secret is getting the right balance between stress and relaxation, between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. Unfortunately, few of us get it right by accident - we have to learn. Take a look at the kind of stress you think you are under, eliminate unnecessary stressors, and discover new ways of working with stress. Second, begin to support your body physically with food, exercise and natural stress relievers to enable you to face stress with ease. Finally, learn to relax fully so that you can find the right balance between stress and relaxation and keep it. Not only will this help your body stay in balance and increase your level of overall vitality, it can bring you a sense of control over your life that is hard to come by any other way.

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana®

Fast, Healthy Weight Loss

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana® has proudly supported 12,000+ weight loss journeys over the past 11 years. With an overall average daily weight loss of 0.5 - 0.6 lb for women and 0.8 - 1.0 lb for men.

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 17th of November 2019 (updated every 12 hours)

-0.66 lb
for women
-1.28 lb
for men
-0.66 lb
for women
-1.28 lb
for men

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 17th of November 2019 (updated every 12 hours)

sign up for our newsletter

download our free book healthy & lean for life