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mindfulness

126 articles in mindfulness

Celebrating Your Body

Celebrating Your Body

How often do you rejoice your body? How often do you feel absolutely at ease in your skin, at peace in yourself and in harmony with your world? For many the answer is seldom. Instead we tend to us put up with the body rather like some slightly cumbersome baggage we carry with us as we go about. Yet all thought, all feeling, every response to beauty and to horror is mediated through the body. In fact your body is the medium for experiencing everything in life. As any healthy two year old knows, when it is fully alive you are fully alive. This aliveness is something we often have to rediscover. Television, films and advertising are replete with photographs of long legged pencil-thin females who are meant to be paragons of womanhood against whom we measure ourselves. Magazines and newspapers spend a large part of their time giving us advice about diets, clothes, exercise which supposedly will help the bodies of their readers more closely approach whatever shape, size and texture body the general consensus at any moment in time considers ideal. Meanwhile millions of women who, because of the way they are built, their personalities, and their own values (whether or not these values operate consciously or unconsciously) have not a hope in hell of ever looking like that ideal. And they suffer. This suffering goes deep - far beyond the simple (yet often painful) feelings of inadequacy which come with having been built with broad shoulders, big feet or a flat chest when the world you live in tells you you are supposed to be different. (Some of us alas have the misfortune of being blessed with all three). For implicit in the whole way in which the body is presented in almost everything we do and think are two far more crippling assumptions: That the body is separate from the spirit or person and that it is ultimately inferior. These assumptions are anchored deep into the belief systems from the Greco-Roman and Christian traditions in which our society has developed. They have led us to view the body either as something not to be trusted - like a wild animal that needs taming lest it gets out of hand or like a physical object outside ourselves to be watched, studied and manipulated. For most Western women their bodies are things separate from themselves, either to be prodded, criticized, and hidden or narcissistically exposed as a sexual object - something useful in gaining attention or drawing to oneself what one needs (or think she needs). In either case there is a sense of estrangement not only from the body but at a deeper level from ones self. Out of this estrangement comes a sense of powerlessness so that one begins to think that what one needs to be happy, to be complete, to be fulfilled can only be found outside oneself - by accomplishment in the world, or wearing the right clothes, by earning the love of a man or by conforming to some abstract ideal. So long as one is driven by a sense of separateness from ones body whether you succeed or fail in getting what you want from the outside world is irrelevant. For neither success nor failure bring you any closer to living freely with real health and beauty. Rediscovering the aliveness of the child and the innocence of bodily freedom can. It helps heal the wounds of separation and free a woman to live in the fullness of her own being.

Progressive Relaxation

Progressive Relaxation

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

Affirmations

Affirmations

Every one of us has more potential for health, happiness, self expression, energy and good looks than we ever make use of. Although there are many tools to help you towards self fulfillment - good food, exercise, stress control, beauty techniques, etc. - by far the most important of all is learning to use the power of your mind. you are what you think Because we create our lives from thoughts, it is important that we think constructively. Unfortunately most of us, without being aware of it, limit our possibilities for fulfillment because we continually bombard ourselves with negative thoughts. We all carry on some sort of internal conversation throughout the day. Usually if we tune in and listen, we find that it is full of negative thoughts and self doubts. Most often we are hearing the voices of our parents, or of people in authority telling us that we can't expect to be happy, that we are bound to fail, that life is suffering and that we should face the stark realities. Out of these negative thoughts arise our self-image and our sense of purpose and direction. It is clear to see, with so much criticism and so little sense of possibility, why we never dare dream of better things. The first step in changing your attitude towards yourself and your life is to stand back and listen to the voices in your head objectively and realize just how ill founded they are. Once you detach yourself from the rubbish going on in your head, you can begin on the path to self-fulfillment. love thyself Whether you feel you are too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too selfish, too sensitive etc., in order to change, you must begin by accepting yourself right now for what you are. Try this exercise: Look at yourself in a mirror and repeat the words, "I love and accept myself completely, as I am" in your head over and over. And as you do write down any blocks that seem to keep you from accepting yourself. You may feel stupid or ridiculous or embarrassed, but stick with the exercise and you will find that it begins to ring true. positive affirmations You can learn to program your mind to bring about success and fulfillment in all areas of your life through positive affirmations. An affirmation is a phrase which can be silently thought, spoken aloud, written down or all three. The great thing is that affirmations can be done anytime and anywhere in one form or another. There are a few basic guidelines for contacting the appropriate part of your brain and evoking results. Once you understand them, you can create your own affirmations to help you become all that you can be. present tense The subconscious part of the brain only understands now - the present tense - so it is important to phrase your affirmation in the present tense. If you try the future tense, e.g. "I will be happy." your goal will remain constantly out of your reach. It may take a bit of getting used to to write or speak your dreams in the present tense, but remember that is just a formality. first person The most powerful suggestions are those made in the first person. Remember when you say "I" you are including all of you and so helping to integrate and employ your entire being in your goals. It is always better to make affirmations positive rather than negative. In other words in stead of saying, "I no longer overeat" say "Everything I eat returns me to my ideal weight of...." specific and realistic Set yourself specific goals at first, which are within your capabilities to achieve. Once you have accomplished them you will be encouraged and can set more challenging goals. If you are trying to give up smoking, for instance, begin with the affirmation that you will cut down the amount you smoke by half. Then you can cut by half again until you finally stop altogether. short and simple Keep affirmations as short and direct as possible. A concise brief affirmation will have more impact than a long wordy one. suspend disbelief Try while doing affirmations to cast aside doubts and believe in the possibility of what you are saying. If you keep experiencing negative thoughts, get them down on paper, then get rid of them and reassert your positive affirmation. personally phrased Make sure that you are happy with the wording of your affirmation. For each person, the word choice may need to be slightly different. Feel free to change any of the affirmations we suggest to suit your own requirements. all encompassing Remember that the affirmation can be used to transform any area of your life, from career and self image to your relationships with others. The Bible says: 'Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find.' Know that you have every right to be successful and happy and that your life is yours to create. Here are some favorite affirmations. Find one or two that you particularly like and repeat them to yourself often. My daughter and I both like the written affirmations, because for us they seem to solidify things. Other people prefer to repeat them silently in meditation, or even sing them. If you do write them down keep a special affirmation journal and write in it any thoughts that arise as you write. Also make a note of things that change for you for the better, and be sure to give thanks for what is given to you. We find seven a useful number to work with. Repeat the affirmations in multiples of seven at a time. some affirmations Every day in every way I am getting better and better. I have everything I need to enjoy life here and now. I create my life and it is good. I love and appreciate myself just I am. Each day my life unfolds in beautiful perfection. I enjoy to love and be loved. The more I give to others the more I have to give. My relationship with ....... is getting better and better. It is good and right for me to have everything I want. Everything I eat makes me strong and healthy. I eliminate wastes easily and completely from my system. I have an exciting, rewarding and well paid job. I have plenty of energy and I enjoy work. I communicate freely and easily with others. I have all the time I need to accomplish all I want to do. It's okay for me to enjoy myself and have fun. God's energy within me produces perfect results in everything I do. Everything that happens is working for the good in my life. I can do ........ and nothing can stop me. ....... or something better now comes to me for the total good of all concerned. I give thanks for all that I am blessed with.

The Zen Of Infinite Reality

The Zen Of Infinite Reality

When I was six years old, I had my first love affair. Yes, really. Of course, not until years later did I recognize the experience for what it was. But like every first love, it changed my life forever. My father was a jazz musician, so our house was equipped with the best possible sound equipment. He and I loved to listen to music—just about any music available—at full volume, of course. This, my mother, could not stand—which made it, even more, exciting. While my playmates roamed the hills of Hollywood skinning their knees, I would lie on my belly in our living room, listening to music as loud as I could make it. One day, combing through our vast supply of records, I came upon Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." The name meant nothing to me. But I liked the colors on the cover, so I put it on the record player, turned up the volume and flopped down in front of our huge speakers. Strange, mysterious, discordant sound flooded my body, opening a secret door to somewhere deep inside me—a mysterious inner world I had never entered. I didn't know such a place even existed. I trembled with fear and excitement while Stravinsky's music continued to wind its way through my body. I flushed hot and then cold. My heart raced, then calmed. I lost all sense of place and time as I rode the waves of an imaginal sea of sound into unexplored worlds, too numerous to name. I have no idea how long all this lasted. Eventually, even the "boat" carrying me along on vivid images began to dissolve like sugar in water. In a perfect union, the sounds and the child-that-had-been-me swirled into a vortex and became lost in each other. We shared the excitement, fear, longing, fierceness, and sadness. As lovers, we had come together—music and child—in an immediate, passionate, all-encompassing union. Eventually, I found myself at the center of this whirlpool. Then, even the ecstasy of the movement vanished. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, I tumbled—not into Wonderland, but into an experience of unspeakable stillness. Zen practitioners claim this experience is available at any moment to each one of us. For me, it was an indescribable event—beyond space, beyond time, outside thought. Without the slightest possibility of ever being able to describe it, I knew that everything was as perfect as it was meant to be. In the words of Zen Master Daisetz Suzuki, in this place, I would eat when I am hungry, sleep when tired. I knew that "it was fine yesterday and today it is raining." In the words of Julian of Norwich, I was sure that "All things shall be well, and all things shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." My affair with Stravinsky lasted more than four hours. At least, that's what my mother said. "Don't tell me you are still listening to that awful music." She had to raise her voice to be heard above the sounds. "For God's sake, turn it off. Do something useful." So I did something useful. I went to school, then to university where I learned, at least, some of what you are supposed to learn. I earned praises for top marks, went to work, won prizes, gave birth to four children by four different men, raised them on my own, wrote books, made films, gave talks, led workshops, created products for companies, made television programs and so on and so on. In effect, I did what millions of men and women do—I became the breadwinner, the caretaker, the nurturer of people's lives. Through all the years between six and now, my passion for music, painting, books, poetry, architecture and movies has never left me. Far from it. During all of these years, the epiphany of emptiness that Stravinsky brought to me that day and the sense of absolute stillness has never faded. It has made it possible for me to create so many things as well as to explore new places and ideas. It's invited me to move beyond thought towards a place of unity with the rest of the universe. All this continues gnawing at me. I suspect it will never go away, just as the urge to breathe never goes away, no matter how long we try to hold our breath. What I did not know—and this took me scores of years to find out—is that the rabbit hole into which I had unexpectedly tumbled has for millennia, been, described by every culture and religion in the world in one form or another. Nor had I any idea that, at any moment in time, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, it is available to each of us. To Zen Buddhists, this wordless, timeless space represents ultimate reality: That which can only come through immediate experience. In Suzuki's words, "For the sake of those crucial experiences Zen Buddhism has struck out on its own paths which, through methodical immersion in oneself, lead to one's becoming aware, in the deepest ground of the soul, of the unnameable Groundlessness and Qualitylessness—nay more, to one's becoming one with it." It is a state in which nothing is thought or contrived, longed for or expected. It reaches out in no particular direction, yet it knows itself able to handle the possible as well as the impossible. Concentrated, yet so expanded too, such power is both purposeless and egoless. As such, it can be called truly spiritual. Why? I believe because it is charged with an awareness that spirit is present everywhere. Because the cosmos is present everywhere, we too are present everywhere. We can have direct experience of this, and access the power that continues to create the universe itself. And we have full access to that power of creation to use in our lives, in whatever way we choose. The Sufis call this state fana—the annihilation of your individual selfhood. When you experience fana, your everyday personality becomes transparent, so the larger being that you are shines through. You soon become absorbed in an all-encompassing fascination for the moment. Life is lived in the NOW. Cutting-edge physicists speak of a holographic universe in which we live but seldom access because we are plagued by endless mental concepts that blind us to so-called reality. This blinds us to the experience of Samadhi—"a non-dualistic state in which the consciousness of the subject becomes one with an experience of the object." This selfless absorption and total surrender of Samadhi is characteristic of children when left alone to follow their instincts. It is available to each one of us, regardless of age or condition. Honoring whatever brings you bliss in your life opens the door to it. That day, when I lay on the floor lost in Stravinsky, without recognizing, I became conscious of it what would inspire me most: The beauty of art—whether it be music, words, stories, sculpture, buildings or what-have-you. Why? Certainly not because I had any idea that art was supposed to be valued as part of what grown-ups refer to as culture. I couldn't have cared less. After all, I was a kid who, when not entranced by what I was seeing, hearing, feeling or touching, spent the rest of my day learning card tricks, wrestling with my huge dog Tuffy, and trying—unsuccessfully—to sell packets of chewing gum which my grandfather gave me to neighbors' kids. Nope—I loved the beauty and wonder of art in all its many forms because, unlike the world around me, with which had little in common, it had grabbed hold of me and would never let me go. It demanded of me both a submission as well as active participation in the making of it. I now believe that my first love affair at the age of six became the harbinger for how I have lived my life. At any moment in time, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, fana is available to all of us regardless of age. Honoring whatever brings you bliss opens the door to it for you.

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.

Transfigure Your Life - Part 2

Transfigure Your Life - Part 2

The reward of each and every hero’s journey is life-transformation on every level—caterpillar into butterfly, base metal into gold.  Gifts from experiencing this process are legion.  They range from radiant wellbeing, creativity and joy, to becoming free so you can live your life authentically from the core of your being. If you have not yet read “Transfigure Your Life Part One”, I suggest you do this now before reading further... SPIRITUAL SANCTUARY As we move into the second part of every hero’s journey, we enter an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous realm.  Yet it is here, within your own dark inner cave, that you begin to discover your unique life purpose and values. In Arthurian legends, this Innermost Cave is the Chapel Perilous—a dangerous room wherein the Grail is hidden.  As each hero enters his or her dark cave, they need to be prepared for a new reality.  To a woman, this is the place where the mythological Dark Goddess dwells. To a man, the cave is often the arena in which he will need to fight his unique dragon so he can win his treasure. In stories of male heroes, the central image for what is sought is often a gem or a radiant jewel.  For a woman, it is frequently the image of a child—an offspring of her own spiritual rebirth. Instead of having to slay a dragon, a woman often has to remain in this place, enduring what can seem like unendurable silence.  She needs to listen and learn before she unearths her own treasure. Sometimes, as a woman makes her descent into the innermost cave, she tumbles headlong into an experience of the dark night of the soul. Often the hero’s journey a woman makes takes place around the time of menopause. It can be fraught with confusion and grief, or filled with loneliness and anger.  Meanwhile, in this place of bone-chilling darkness within her own being, she may feel turned inside out, naked and exposed.  For all the things she thought she knew about herself and her life no longer apply here. WOMAN’S WAY Far away from comfort and companionship—which she may, at this point, only vaguely remember—silence pervades.  Endless tears without name she may shed.  Occasionally, when a woman enters the innermost cave, she may not even have the strength to get dressed—let alone cook or clean or buy food.  To friends and family, she may seem like a lost creature.  She may forget things. She may dig in her garden or wander in the woods.  Yet all these tasks are wise woman’s work. The route that can eventually lead her out of the underworld and then return her home in a transfigured state is not the same as that of a man.  He often needs to move up, away from himself, to locate his path.  For a woman to find the treasure, she must lay aside any interest in culture or games of the mind and turn within. As she does this, she becomes more and more connected with her body, her sexuality, her dreams, images and desires.  And, as she moves even further into the depths, she begins to reclaim those parts of her that have been lost.  Here, in the ground of her being, she will come face to face with her greatest yet most rewarding challenges.  Here she will confront her fears and touch the pivotal crux of her hero's journey.  Here she tastes “death” by facing her own shadow.  And, when at last it is all over, the Dark Goddess waits ready to bless her and bestow upon her the greatest treasure of all—her body and soul.  But this is not the end of any man or woman’s hero's journey.  These heroes are soon faced with the task of bringing this treasure back home. It’s a job easier said than done. THE ROAD HOME The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy escapes from the castle of the wicked witch. Luke rescues Princess Leia and gets the plans of the Death Star. The Princess throws her frog against the wall and he turns into the beautiful prince.  Yet the game is far from over.  Having survived the ordeal, withstood the pressure, slain the monster and taken possession of the treasure, every hero now has to make his or her way home. Further challenges invariably appear.  Dorothy discovers that the hot air balloon which the Wizard has provided to take her back to Kansas is not the sure form of transport she had hoped.  Toto runs off after a cat.  In trying to bring him back, the balloon takes off without her and we fear she may be trapped forever in the underworld.  Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are pursued by Darth Vader as they make their escape from the Death Star.  Joan Wilder—having defeated the evil men who wanted to kill her and steal the stone—returns to New York, where she faces the arduous task of turning what has happened into her next romantic novel.  It is never an easy task for any hero to pass back and forth between ordinary and non-ordinary reality.  For much energy is spent during the supreme ordeal, and he or she may not have banished their enemy completely. Sometimes, on the road home, the hero experiences a sudden reversal of fortune just when he or she thought that the worst was over.  Should this take place, he or she is being given a chance to test out those newfound powers by overcoming adversity. There may still be a few shadows lurking—old ideas, old ways of doing things. But the game has changed now.  While within the innermost cave, an alchemical process has been completed.  We are no longer the men or women that we once were.  Now we need to learn new ways of living, and new methods of returning to the surface, because most of the rules we once lived by may no longer apply. DEEP CLEANSING In primitive societies, after a woman had entered the traditional moon lodge for a few days during her menstrual period, or when a man returned from a hunt, they were required to be washed and purified before being allowed back into the community. After all, they too had visited an underworld of non-ordinary reality while away. They had walked in the land of the dead.  Any blood that had stained their hands during this experience, or any soil that remained on their bodies, needed to be washed away.  At the end of a hero’s journey, the newly born offspring is now returning home in its transfigured form. This, too, is a time for spring-cleaning the body and mind, for doing whatever is most comforting and rewarding so the returning hero regenerates him or herself—perhaps by listening to music for hours on end, awakening at dawn to take a long walk, or carrying out some ritual  or meditation to help refocus life while getting used to being home again. Finally, he or she arrives back home with the elixirs, treasures, wisdom and knowledge.  The mysterious world of non-ordinary reality has been entered. Trials have been faced and overcome.  In the process, they have made a deeper connection with their own essential being. Dorothy gets back to Kansas having learned that she is loved and finds that, after all is said and done, "there's no place like home." Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star so peace and order can return to the galaxy.  Joan Wilder writes her book, keeps the faith and gets her Jack, complete with alligator boots and a boat in which she can sail around the world.  Their hero's journey has come full circle.  They have returned to the place from which it started.  Yet for neither is this place as it was before their journey began. For, having brought back home the power and the blessing they earned while in the numinous realms they visited, they have been reborn.  In truth, even the world itself has been renewed. ENDS AND NEW BEGINNINGS A woman who completes her passage into the underworld and returns discovers that, within her darkness, confusion and loneliness, she has discovered a new joy, a new sense of meaning.  She now knows that the world which once seemed fragmented now all fits together.  She has tasted—often for the first time—her own authentic power and freedom.  She knows that she no longer has to live by other people's rules.  Indeed, she is likely to find it is no longer possible for her to do so.  She is no longer ‘seducible' by those who once made her feel inadequate so they could sell her another body, another BMW, another love affair to fill up the emptiness that used to be there.  Having been released from all of this, she has become set free to learn the new art of living as mistress of her own life. And so a hero's tale ends. Yet one big question remains for each man and woman who has chosen to make the journey.  What will they do with the treasure they brought back?  In most of the male myths, there are said to be two choices.  Either he takes his treasure into his castle and lives happily ever after or, like Percival, having found the Grail, he decides to share it with the world, so that the Fisher King's wounding is healed and the land that had become barren and devastated by his wound becomes fertile again. MY OWN EXPERIENCE It is my observation that, having completed her hero’s journey, a woman has no such choice.  By her nature, woman is more connected with the energies of life and the powers of the earth than her male counterpart.  She is therefore more aware of the interrelatedness of all things than most men. Sooner or later, most women heroes have no choice but to share with others the wisdom they bring back.  The female hero has by now incorporated the essence of the Dark Goddess—the most essential, generous, wise and healing of female energy—into her heart.  The mysterious goddess has communed with her wordlessly.  Now she too has become a keeper of the wisdom by which battles are won and lost.  She has  also tasted the power and the joy of transfiguration.  Now, like the Dark Goddess, she often develops a passion to share all this with the world by nurturing her own life as well as the lives of all living things. BOUNDLESS ENTHUSIASM Doing what somebody else wants you to do is living by a slave mentality. It is a perfect way to encourage physical degeneration and lose touch with your own unique truth and creativity. Now, however, you begin to live in freedom.  Whatever you do or say as you learn more and more to trust yourself flows forth with enthusiasm from the core of your being.  Little wonder, since the word entheos means ‘god-filled.”

Relaxation Response Meditation

Relaxation Response Meditation

Harvard professor and expert in cardiology and behavioral medicine, Herbert Benson MD, began the first scientific studies into the effects of meditation almost 40 years ago. Ever since, Benson and his colleagues at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have continued to conduct clinical research and to map the benefits of regularly practicing the relaxation response: In Benson’s own words, "a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.” The relaxation response can enhance brain function, slow age-related changes, stabilize heart beat, alleviate anxiety and dissipate stress. What is even more remarkable is this: When ordinary people with no training of any kind practice the relaxation response once or twice a day, it brings about cognitive restructuring and rapidly alters the expression of their genes. When it comes to rejuvenating, regenerating and healing the body, these findings are nothing short of revolutionary. LIVING STRESS-FREE Herbert Benson first described the relaxation response as the physiological opposite of the stressed fight-or-flight response. Working with his team, he then went on to pioneer the application of mind/body techniques to a wide range of health issues and meditative practices. They charted the measurable physical benefits which accrue from practicing any form of meditation, including those that rely on the silent repetition of a mantra—a word-sound. Meditation using a mantra has a long tradition. Some mantras are considered “sacred words” that hold particular sound vibrations to transmit particular powers. Each spiritual tradition has its own mantras, such as Guru Om, Om mani padme hum, La ilaha illa 'lla or, in the Catholic religion, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Whether their magic aspects are true or not, these techniques work beautifully to replace the habitual chatter that runs through one's mind, worries about things past and things yet to come. BENSON’S QUANTUM LEAP To learn a relaxation response meditative practice (which I have recorded on video so you can do it with me), Benson suggests you choose a word that is pleasing to you. It could be anything, say, “flower”, “peace”, or “love”. He likes the word “one”, as it is simple and has the connotation of unity about it. Here's how to do it: Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes and a comfortable chair that supports your back. Sit down and close your eyes. Give yourself a moment to settle in and you are ready to begin. Simply sit there, feet on the floor and eyes closed, quietly repeating your word over and over to yourself: “one...one...one...” Whenever your mind wanders or you are disturbed by a sound or thought, simply turn your mind gently back to repeating the word again. That is all there is to it. After fifteen to twenty minutes, stop repeating the mantra and get ready to open your eyes. Open your eyes, stretch, and go about your everyday activities. This is a particularly useful technique once you have practiced it a few times because you can do it in so many different places, such as in a waiting room or on a commuter train or bus. Herbert Benson Interview: Enhancing Health Through Mind Body Healing [video type=youtube src=v=KZ7JfC3_Zgc poster=http://d3oy45cyct8ffi.cloudfront.net/health/video/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/02/hgerbert-benson-INTERVIEW.jpg ]

Come Join Me In The Sacred

Come Join Me In The Sacred

The journey of a lifetime begins when you make friends with the sacred. And the sacred is everywhere. You don’t have to travel to Stonehenge or Machu Pichu to find it. Neither do you need to swallow a consciousness-altering drug. Sacred energy continually pours forth from the center of our universe, which according to religious traditions as well as leading edge science is both right here and now yet everywhere, at any time too. The problem is that most of us have become blinded by the mechanically-orientated worldview we inherited. We have forgotten how to experience the sacred. TAKE THE QUANTUM LEAP Rediscovering this is the simplest thing in the world. It happens through a shift of consciousness—a break in time and space through which each of us can witness the sacred realms come into being. Sometimes this takes place spontaneously. It is given by grace. You can also create structures in your life which invite it to happen. Organise the space you live and work in, for instance, to make a place in your life for rituals which honor the radiance of the world around you and within you. Doing this can be a lot of fun. Think of it as adventures, a game, a childlike exploration of new worlds. CRACK IN THE COSMOS Can I share with you my own life-changing call to sacred reality? It happened when I was 18 years old—just finishing my second year at Stanford University. Five months earlier I had fallen in love for the first time with a man three years older than I. I found myself in the unenviable position of having to leave him to go to live in New York. I knew it would be a long time before we met again—maybe never. We had only one day to spend together in San Francisco before my plane left. So we went for a walk in Golden Gate Park. I had been in the park many times before, visiting the Japanese garden or the museum. But I’d paid little attention to what was around me, except in the rather vague way we all “appreciate” being amidst trees, grass and flowers. That morning, the sacred realm cracked wide open for me. As he and I wandered across grass, through trees, knowing that in a few hours we would no longer be together, I felt as though death was sitting at my shoulder. I had no idea why. I loved this man with an intensity I would never have dreamed possible. I could hardly bear the fire that burned in my flesh when he touched me, let alone the surges of power that flooded my body and psyche when he held me in his arms or whispered in my ear. Right from the moment we had met, the love between us had arisen. Both of us sensed that this love between us had somehow always existed and would forever. SPLENDOR IN THE NOW That morning, we crossed a road and stepped up on to the curb. In front of us a group of old men were bowling on the green. They were dressed in the shabby clothes the old sometimes wear—garments which, like long trusted friends, they had lived in for so many years they did not want to be parted from. None of these men paid the least attention to us, absorbed as they were in their game. All at once, the scene before me shifted from that of a pleasant ordinary morning spent in nature—nice trees, green grass, a small knoll behind the old men rising to a copse above—to something at once ecstatic and at the same time terrifying. Space expanded in all directions. A million tiny holes appeared in reality—each emitting light. The air and grass, the pavement we had just crossed, the bodies of the men in their shabby clothes, the clouds above us, and the trees around us, trembled in radiance. Time burst wide open, breaking in great waves over the lawn. My heart seemed to grow to immense proportions. I did not understand what was happening. I knew that I had never experienced any of this before. In some way that seemed totally crazy, I was all—at the same time—being wiped out and brought back into being in a brand new form. LISTEN TO THE WHISPERS When an experience of the sacred arises spontaneously—frequently at times of great emotional joy or loss—it can be both blissful and awe-filled as well as mind-blowing. In whatever guise it shows itself, the sacred is a far cry from some “orchestrated” experience of pink-flowers-and-soft-music that the false purveyors of control with their glib proclamations offer us. It’s an experience full of beauty and terror, fascination and majesty. In the presence of an overwhelming power you find yourself standing before a mystery that is wholly other. I had no understanding about what was happening that morning in Golden Gate Park. The only thing I was sure of was this: I had experienced an epiphany in my life and that I wanted to live more and more in close connection with this new reality. GREAT MYSTERY In 1917, Rudolf Otto published one of the most important books on spirituality ever written, Das Heilige—The Sacred. In it he describes the awe-inspiring mystery—mysterium tremendum he calls it—that we feel in the presence of sacred energy. He characterises it as “a perfect fullness of being, a flowering which dissolves away our conditioned thinking and breaks down all the barriers to our being fully present in the moment.” Every time we are touched by the sacred, it urges us to live a little more from the deepest levels of our own being. Experience of the sacred opens the door to a whole new way of living and perceiving reality. Create time and space in your own life for the sacred and you automatically take the first step towards discovering the truth about who you are at the very core of your being. This is always a magnificent truth. And it is just waiting for you to uncover it. Otto characterises the qualities of the sacred as numinous (from the Latin numen, i.e. god), for they are brought about by the sudden revelation of some aspect of divine power within the paraphernalia of day-to-day living. Such is the nature of the sacred when it appears in your life. One minute you are waiting for a bus, standing under a tree you have stood under a hundred times before. The next, this tree has become suddenly something else as well. It has been transmuted in some mysterious way into a “supernatural reality”. Of course it is still a tree to you and everybody else standing there. In fact, nothing in particular may distinguish this particular tree from all the other trees on the street. Yet because it has, at that moment, chosen to reveal itself to you in its sacred form, your immediate experience of it is transmuted into something wild and free, great and wonderful. It’s as though the tree has opened its secret nature to you and become a repository of all that is awesome. So much is this the case that experiencing the sacred can make it hard to catch your breath. It can even, for a time, make you wonder who you are and what on earth you are doing there. FEAR OF THE SACRED Our modern world feels profoundly uneasy before such experiences. We are the only age in all history to be living in a desacralized culture. Limited worldviews impose themselves on our lives, forcing us to live in an almost totally profane world. Today, a tree is nothing but a tree. The wind is only the movement of air caused by nothing more than mechanical shifts in currents. As far as rocks are concerned, what could possibly be more mundane or less sacred? So we make fun of “primitive” people and their “quaint” superstitions. At the same time we exploit their land and force the deadening mechanistic values of our materialistic world on them. Whats the real truth? Rocks too have consciousness, as does everything in the universe. What we forget is that cultures for whom the sacred speaks to them through ordinary objects know very well that a rock is a rock. They don’t venerate the rock itself, or the wind. They worship the aliveness of all things and the spirit of each—something totally other and infinitely vast in its beauty. They know that whenever and wherever the sacred erupts in our lives, no matter what form it takes, a deeper, wider, richer, dimension of reality is asking us to dance with its power and celebrate its splendor. SAY YES TO THE SACRED Most of us have to relearn how. Once we do, we find ourselves continually renewed, energised, and ecstatic in the presence of sacred energies. It’s as though a wild blessing has been given us—a blessing that both nourishes and heals us. We humans have a profound need to plunge periodically into these sacred and indestructible realms which are the eternal present. It’s a need so deeply ingrained in our very being that when we are unable to fulfil it from time to time we end up living in a nihilistic wasteland. Then our lives become narrow, no matter how many fast cars we buy, how many drugs we take, how many lovers we have. Eating, sex, and getting up in the morning become nothing more than physiological events in a mechanical existence. Reawakening an awareness of the sacred in your life and making room for it turns these things into much more than mundane functions. Each one can evolve into a sacrament—the meaning of which is a communion with the sacred. As it does, our vitality, joy and creativity go on and on expanding. WILL YOU JOIN ME? Sacred truths have long guided my life and work. Each year they become more and more important to me. I’m keen to hear from each one of you about your own thoughts and experiences about and in relation to the sacred. I’d like to if, when and how you have found the sacred permeating your own life. Shall we share with each other beliefs and events that may awaken us to the experience of the mysterium tremendum? Do let me hear from you.

The Power Of Myth

The Power Of Myth

While giving a Shamanic Workshop I was reminded of a charming story about a guy who questioned a shaman about the aliveness of trees and plants. “That sounds like a pretty weird idea,” he said to the shaman, “How can you say these things are alive? If rocks and trees are alive then tell me what do the rocks think of the trees?” The shaman paused and looked out across the cliffs at the sea for a few moments, letting the question sink in. Then he turned back and began to speak. “To tell you the truth, I don’t think they worry much about them. After all the rock people know that the tree people are just passing through.” EXPAND YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS It was—and still is —the shamans who worked magic, the shamans who journey into numinous realms and bring back descriptions of reality that the rest of us miss. It was the shamans who returned from their travels to weave a mythology that inspired the tribe, one that made it possible for its members to make sense of their lives and their dreams, their aspirations and their suffering. Later the ‘shamans’ became ‘prophets’, and ‘seers’ but the sacred technology used to work their magic remained the same. As Joseph Campbell says in volume I of his Historical Atlas of World Mythologies, “It has always been the business of the great seer, known in India as ‘rishis,’ in biblical terms as ‘prophets,’ to primitive folk as ‘shamans,’ and in our own day as ‘poets’ and ‘artists’, to perform the work of the first and second functions of a mythology by recognising through the veil of nature, as viewed in the science of their times, the radiance, terrible yet gentle, of the dark, unspeakable light beyond, and through their words and images to reveal the sense of the vast silence that is the ground of us all and of all beings.” WHAT IS MYTHOLOGY In our own time the word ‘myth’ has been corrupted. You read the word in tabloid newspapers or hear it on television used in a totally different way to its real meaning. We hear a spokesman from some government when asked if he can confirm the story that his country will soon be testing a nuclear device respond by insisting, “Nonsense. That is nothing more than a myth perpetrated by our enemies.” The word myth in its true meaning does not mean something false. A myth is a story which has emerged out of encounters in numinous realms of expanded consciousness and which carries the unmistakable fragrance of what is true in the widest sense. It is a tale that resonates at the level of our soul, one which cannot be reduced to meaning by analytical probing, and one which, in the hearing, transports us to a place of knowing within ourselves that is undeniable. A culture’s cohesiveness is constructed around its myths. Our myths form the very foundations of our world views, values and sense of meaning - or the lack of it. If a culture’s mythology does not nourish its people, bring them joy and meaning, then it becomes destructive. Campbell, who was the greatest mythologist of the 20th century – probably of all time - describes the first two functions of mythology: The first is to awaken and maintain in an individual a sense of wonder and participation in the great mystery—mysterium tremendum et fascinans—which sits at the very ground of our being. The second is to create a cosmology for a people replete with mystical import that is directly related to the environment within which a people live so that a people’s lives have a sense of purpose and meaning. From the earliest of times the shaman has been the instrument by which mythologies, cosmologies and religions have been brought into being. This is because he knows how to travel beyond the limited realms of time and space and move at will between ordinary reality and quantum realms. AWAKEN YOUR GIANT The consciousness matrix embedded within us - the means by which such wisdom and healing and power has been accessed since the beginnings of human history remains intact. A gift once given human kind, it has never been revoked. In most of us it sleeps like a great giant beneath the earth just waiting to be called. In some it has already stirred as we explore the powers of healing and self-help through active imagination, meditation, yoga or prayer in our search for truth and beauty, joy and freedom. Now of course we no longer live in tribal cultures. The borders between peoples, between countries and between ritual practices have become blurred, and broken down. In some cases they have been obliterated altogether. Where our ancestors gathered around the fire of an evening to be dazzled by the mythic tales of the shaman and sink into the safety of a shared cosmology that brought meaning, television has become the ‘hearth’ around which we now sit. Our children are raised on the mythology of advertisers. They tell their tales with great skill and persuasion. Yet their stories, instead of nourishing us from numinous realms and empowering our lives, undermine our power and encourage us instead to place it in the hands of the commercial world that would have us believe that the only way we can be free is to consume what they are selling us. RECOVER YOUR POWER Yes we live in different times. Yes we have different challenges. Our concerns are no longer those of locating an animal on the hunt or performing rituals that honour the gods and goddesses asking them to protect our people through winter. Today’s challenges are far greater. How for instance do we move forward as a global community faced with progressive extinction of animals and plant species on a massive scale. How do we live in a world burdened by massive debts? How do we recover our own power and experience our own freedom when the very political and economic systems we have created are structured in a way that makes us feel powerless? And finally how do we come face to face with earthshaking discoveries and dramatic shifts in worldview taking place as a result of findings filtering down from physics, astronomy, biology and consciousness research? These discoveries are not only wiping out our trust in every religious, moral and political philosophy we once clung to, they are quite literally turning our sense of reality upside down while providing us with nothing new in which to trust. LEAP TO AUTONOMY For me the answer is simple. Yet it has only come from over 25 years spent searching, experimenting, learning, yearning, suffering and discovering: It is no longer appropriate for us to rely on outside ‘experts’ whether they be doctors, priests or politicians. We can listen to their words of course. But we can no longer follow them blindly as human beings have so often done in the past, fearful that if we did not behave like good children some misfortune might befall us. It is time we embraced our journey into individual maturity by learning to activate our own consciousness matrix. Doing so enables us to expand our limited three dimensional, five sensory minds into those of the multi-dimensional beings that we are meant to be. It is time we made the leap - each one of us - into our own power and our own freedom, to learn to build powerful bridges between the truth of our own soul and the expression of our personality. It is time we expanded our vision, helped to heal the wounds in ourselves, in others and our planet, that each of us explored the simple yet profound practices once known only by the great artists, scientists, and shamans and use them to become everything that each of us is destined to be. In the process, I believe, we will recover our power, experience our freedom and gain access to healing wisdom and vision of the highest order. Then, and only then will we be prepared together to meet the challenges that face us and take part in the communal process of reshaping our global future. FIND YOUR TRUTH It’s just that so far not many of us have discovered this. Ancient shamanic skills are surfacing in new forms. They are no longer the province of a few gifted people. They belong to us all. So let us pay respects to tribal cultures from the Inuit of the Arctic and Tamang of Nepal to the Sumatran Kubu and Native Americans giving thanks to them for having preserved living shamanic skills. Then let us then turn these skills - which belong not just to tribal groups but to all people – into power for life. We stand poised at a moment of death and rebirth. These are challenging times worldwide, of terrible suffering, corruption and pain. These are also times of personal transformation of the highest level during which we can choose, if we will, to expand our consciousness exponentially, discard self-recrimination and false notions and discover who each of us really is at the deepest level of our being. It is high time we restored the power of mythology in our lives, demystified the realm of shamanism and made use of its marvellous techniques to help us move forward into a new way of living and being. BEGIN HERE How do you start? Try this: Get yourself a notebook and write these questions then record whatever comes to you without stopping to think much. Just let whatever comes flow onto the page: By what mythology have I been living my life? Has it been my own myth or something I’ve learned from others about how I’m supposed to live? If so, what is my own mythology? Do get back to me about what you discover. I am keen to hear from you.

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana®

Fast, Healthy Weight Loss

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana® has proudly supported 19,000+ weight loss journeys over the past 14 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 25th of January 2023 (updated every 12 hours)

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Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 25th of January 2023 (updated every 12 hours)

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