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mindfulness

126 articles in mindfulness

Enter The Sacred

Enter The Sacred

If you want to enrich your life immeasurably, make friends with the sacred. It is everywhere. You don’t need to travel to Stonehenge or Machu Pichu to discover it. Nor do you need to swallow some consciousness-altering drug. Sacred power continually pours forth from the center of the universe. It is simultaneously here and now, while also everywhere, at any time. Trouble is, most of us have become blinded by the mechanically-oriented worldview that pervades our technologically-driven culture. So we have forgotten how to see it. Rediscovering the sacred is the simplest thing in the world. It happens through a shift of consciousness—a break in time and space, if you like, through which you can experience the sacred realms come into being. Often this takes place spontaneously. It is given by grace. But anyone can also create structures in their life which invite this to happen. Organize 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, too. Think of it as an adventure, a game, a childlike exploration into expanded awareness. A SACRED ADVENTURE My first experience of the sacred as an adult took place 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. Then I found myself in the unenviable position of having to leave him to live in New York. I knew it would be a long time before we met again—if ever. We had one day to spend together in San Francisco before my plane left. 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 never paid much attention to what was around me, except in the vague way we all appreciate being amidst trees, grass and flowers. That morning, the realm of the sacred 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, it felt as though death were sitting on my shoulder. I had no idea why. The love between us had arisen simultaneously a few months before. From the moment we met, both of us had experienced the sense that it was a bond that had always existed and always would. I loved this man with an intensity I had never dreamed possible. I could hardly bear the fire that burned in me when we touched, let alone the surges of power that happened when he held me in his arms. CRACK IN THE COSMOS In the park 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 old friends, you have lived with so long you don’t want to be parted from. None of the 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 blissful and completely terrifying. Space expanded in all directions. A million tiny holes appeared in reality—each emitting light—so that 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 with a strange radiance. Time burst wide open, breaking in great waves over the lawn. I couldn’t tell if this strange experience lasted for a few moments or for hours. My heart swelled to immense proportions. I had no idea what was happening, since I had never experienced anything like this before. It seemed totally crazy—as though, at the same time, I had been wiped out and brought into being in a brand new form. When an experience of the sacred arises spontaneously—often at times of great emotional joy or loss—it is both blissful and awe-filled. In whatever guise it shows itself, the sacred is a far cry from any ‘orchestrated’ experience of pink-flowers-and-soft-music which purveyors of false freedom and all their easy answers offer us. It is an experience full of beauty and terror, fascination and majesty. In the presence of such overwhelming wonder, you find yourself standing before a mystery that is wholly other. I knew nothing about what was happening that morning in Golden Gate Park. Only that an epiphany had occurred that day, and that I wanted to live a lot of my life from this level of being in the future. MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM 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) which we feel in the presence of sacred energy. He characterizes it as a perfect fullness of being, a flowering which dissolves away our conditioned thinking and breaks down all the barriers to being fully present in the moment. Every time we are touched by the sacred, the experience urges each of us to live a little more of our life from the deepest levels of our being. Make room in your life for the sacred, and you can make a quantum leap towards authentic freedom and creative power. Otto characterizes the qualities of the sacred as numinous—from the Latin numen, meaning god. For they are brought about by the sudden revelation of an aspect of divine power within the paraphernalia of our day-to-day lives. Such is the nature of the sacred when it enters our life. One minute, you’re waiting for a bus or standing beneath a tree you have stood under a hundred times before. The next minute, this tree has suddenly become altogether something else. It has been transmuted in some mysterious way into an expanded, luminous reality. Of course, it is still a tree both to you and to everybody else standing there. In fact, nothing in particular may distinguish this particular tree from all the other trees on the street. Yet because, at that moment, it has chosen to reveal itself more fully to you, your immediate experience of it becomes transfigured. It feels as though the tree has revealed its secret nature to you. It has become a repository of all that is awesome—so much so that, often, experiencing the sacred makes it hard just to catch your breath. For a time, it can even make you wonder who you are and what on earth you are doing there. JOY IN THE NUMINOUS Another great philosopher of the sacred is religious philosopher Mircea Eliade. Eliade calls the manifestation of the sacred—during which the numinous realms open to reveal themselves—an hierophany. This is a great word. For it does not imply any religious or philosophical bias that would indicate you need to belong to some in-group to have a right to sacred experience. Hierophanies belong to everyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear. In early civilizations, hierophanies were common occurrences. In the tribal cultures that still remain, they are to this day—in fact, wherever people live with an awareness of the magnificence hidden within the most ordinary of things. To them, rocks are sacred, as is the wind, stars, earth, animals, the changes of the seasons, the sun and the rain, the birth of a child, the death of an elder. Wherever you discover an awareness of the sacred, you will also find rituals for celebrating it—rituals which set the stage for hierophanies to happen more often. WE FEAR THE SACRED Most of the modern world feels profoundly uneasy about such experiences. We are the only known age in history that lives almost entirely in a desacralized culture. Limited worldviews imprison us, forcing us to live an almost totally profane existence. A tree is nothing but a tree. Wind is but movement of air, caused by nothing more than mechanical shifts in currents. As far as rocks are concerned, what could possibly be more mundane? We make fun of “primitive” people and their “quaint” superstitions. We often exploit their land and force the values of our materialistic world on them. What we forget is this: Cultures for whom the sacred appears 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 hierophanies which appear as these things to reveal the essential spirit of each—something vast in its beauty. They know that whenever and wherever the sacred erupts into the mundane world, no matter what form it takes, a deeper, wider, richer dimension of reality is inviting them to dance with its power and celebrate its beauty. EXPAND YOUR REALITY Most of us have to relearn how. Once we do, we find our lives continually renewed, energized, and ecstatic. It is as though a wild blessing has been given – a blessing which nourishes and heals us. In The Sacred and the Profane, Eliade speaks of the basic need we as humans have, ‘to plunge periodically into this sacred and indestructible time…the eternal present.’ It is a need so deeply ingrained in our being that, when we are unable to fulfill it from time to time, we end up living in a nihilistic wasteland. 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 world. Reawakening an awareness of the sacred in your own life and making room for it turns these events into much more than largely mechanical actions. Each can evolve into a ‘sacrament’—the meaning of which is communion with the sacred. Once it does, our capacity for vitality, joy and creativity goes on expanding. FREEDOM’S GATEWAY Welcoming the sacred into your life is the first step in opening a door to authentic freedom. It is not hard. All of us knew how as children. Then our educational system with its emphasis on the rational, the abstract and mass conformity has taught us to forget it. It taught us to be ‘serious’, to ‘work hard’, not to ‘daydream’, not to ‘be silly.’ Luckily, like learning to ride a bicycle, you never really lose the skill. To recover your own lost ability to bring hierophanies into your life, you need only remember what you have temporarily forgotten and begin to play again. Nature is a great carrier of sacred power for us. This is because the energies of nature, in which we have lived as human beings throughout four million years, are our energies. Our bodies and our beings literally communicate through our DNA with those of plants and animals. At a cellular level, our bodies know the familiar taste of herbs and smells of the earth. It’s a knowing built right into our being. When we interact with nature, we align ourselves with her power, coming into harmony with the different directions and the energies she carries, as well as with all the elements—air, fire, water and earth. By making friends with the living world around us, whether this means going out into the fields, by the sea, into the hills, woods or mountains, the sacred opens itself to us. If you are a city dweller, learning to dialogue with any natural object in your environment—a rock, a flower, even the food you eat, opens consciousness to the sacred. The gifts this brings when we do are limitless.

Immersed In Freedom

Immersed In Freedom

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. Both he and I loved to listen to music—just about any music—at full volume. This my mother could not stand—which made it something even more exciting. While my playmates roamed the hills of Hollywood skinning their knees, I would lie on my belly in the living room, listening to music at full blast. THE MAGIC BEGINS One day, combing through our vast supply of records, I came upon Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” It 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 in front of our huge speakers. Strange, mysterious, often discordant sound flooded my body, opening a secret door to somewhere deep inside me. It was a place I had never been before. I did not even know it existed. I trembled with fear and excitement as the music wound its way into me. 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 into unexplored worlds, too numerous to identify. ONE WITH STILLNESS I have no idea how long this lasted. Before long, even the “boat” carrying me along, and all the images that came with it, had dissolved like sugar in water. Then, in perfect union, the sounds and child-that-had-been-me swirled into a vortex, becoming lost in each other. We shared excitement, fear, longing, fierceness and sadness. Like lovers, we had come together—music and child—in an immediate, passionate, all encompassing union. Eventually I found myself at the centre of this whirlpool. There, even the ecstasy of the movement vanished. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, I tumbled—not into Wonderland, but into that place of unspeakable stillness. Zen practitioners claim this place is available at every moment to each one of us. For me it was an indescribable event—beyond space, beyond time, outside thought. Here I knew, without the slightest possibility of ever being able to describe it, that everything was exactly as it should be. In the words of Zen Master Daisetz Suzuki, it is a place where I would eat when I am hungry, sleep when tired. I knew that “it was fine yesterday and today it is raining.” Or, in the words of Julian of Norwich, that “All things shall be well, and all things shall be well, and all manner of thing 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.” MY USEFUL LIFE 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 good marks, went to work, won prizes, gave birth to four children, wrote books, gave talks and made television programmes. In effect I did what millions of men and women do—became the breadwinner, the carer, the nurturer of others’ lives. And I loved it. Yet through all the years between six and now, my passion for music, painting, books, poetry, architecture and design never left me. Far from it. During most of those years, my longing not only to experience the emptiness that listening to Stravinsky had brought me that day—an epiphany, and the experience of being fully alive for the first time in my life—but also to create things: books, films, relationships, and to explore physical places, inviting me to move beyond thoughts to a place of unity with the rest of the universe. They kept gnawing at my gut. They would not go away, just as the urge to breathe never goes away no matter how long we hold our breath. SIX YEAR OLD WISDOM That day, when I lay on the floor lost in Stravinsky, without realizing it I had decided that what interested me most was the beauty of art—whether it be music, words, film, stories, sculpture, buildings or what-have-you. Why? Certainly not because I had any idea that art was supposed to be valued since it was part of what grown-ups called culture. I knew nothing about either. I could not have cared less. After all, I was a kid who, when I was not entranced by what I was seeing, hearing, feeling or touching, spent the rest of my day learning card tricks, wrestling with my rough Collie, and trying (unsuccessfully) to sell packets of chewing gum my grandfather brought 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 I seemed to have little in common, it had always grabbed hold of me and would not let me go. It demanded of me both a submission and an active participation in the making of it. TIMELESS REALITY What I did not know, and this took me scores of years to come to understand, is that the rabbit hole into which I had accidentally tumbled at six is 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, anywhere in the world, 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 be sampled 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.” ANNIHILATION AND RENEWAL 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 expanding is its potential, such power is both purposeless and egoless. As such, it is often called truly spiritual. Why? I suspect because it is charged with an awareness that spirit is present everywhere. The universe and all that is created is never attached to place or time. In such a state, because the cosmos is present everywhere, we too are present everywhere. We have direct experience of and access to the power that continues to create the universe itself. And, like water flowing through the river, we have full access to that power of creation to use in our own lives, in whatever way we choose. DOORWAY TO BLISS The Sufis call this state fana—the annihilation of your individual selfhood. When we experience fana, our everyday personality becomes transparent, so the larger being that we are shines through. You become fully absorbed in the all-encompassing fascination of the moment—textures, nuances... Cutting edge physicists speak of a holographic universe in which we live but seldom access because we are plagued by endless mental concepts which blind us to reality. They also blind us to the experience of Samadhi—“a non-dualistic state in which the consciousness of the subject becomes one with the experienced object.” This state of selfless absorption and total surrender is characteristic of children when left alone to follow their instincts. Yet it is available to each one of us, regardless of age. Honoring whatever brings us bliss in our own lives opens the door to it.

Feed On Bliss

Feed On Bliss

The emotional and spiritual transformations that take place on Cura Romana begin as simple, physiological and functional shifts in the body. Essential Spray – coupled with the Food Plan influence the autonomic nervous system via the diencephalon bringing participants greater access to bliss. The program encourages the body to let go of toxic wastes which may have been held in its tissues for some time This decreases the body’s toxic burden. As toxicity diminishes, our living matrix—our body’s fluid, dynamic. continuous webwork of energy, physical substances and light— is enlivened. Our senses are heightened. Cura Romana exerts a calming, centering effect to the body as well, gradually quieting habitual thought patterns so that many internal conflicts and confusions are quelled. INSTINCTUAL POWER Too often, physical illness develops out of unresolved conflicts between our instinctual nature—centered in the diencephalon and primitive parts of the brain, and the intellectual cerebral cortex, with which we are urged to govern our lives. Simeons writes about this at length in his book Man's Presumptuous Brain. He says, and I quote: "An instinct is a very old impulse which is generated in the diencephalon by a combination of hormonal and sensory stimuli. In this process the cortex is involved only to the extent that it censors the raw incoming messages from the senses. An emotion on the other hand, is the conscious or subconscious elaboration of a diencephalic instinct by the cortical processes of memory, association and reasoning. Emotions are thus generated in the cortex out of crude instincts. In primitive man many raw instincts were still consciously acceptable but in urban man this is no longer so. When a raw instinct . . . breaks through all cortical barriers, it is usually interpreted as insanity . . . raw instincts threaten the cortical authority with which man runs his artificial world." Simeons then goes on to describe the cortex as a censor of instinctual expression and action. Once the cortex changes instincts into emotion, it usually censors any expression of that emotion. And, because our culture is built on cortical control and it demeans instinct, illness occurs. As a result of these and other restrictions – both conscious and unconscious – directing our lives, we begin to lose touch with our bodies, our instincts and our bliss, and with our essential self at the core. BLISS FOR FREEDOM Meanwhile, our capacity for bliss, as well as our need to experience it, is inscribed on the primitive brain – almost as deeply as our need for air, water and food. Bliss is the medium through which mind, spirit and emotions weave a tapestry of meaning. Bliss renews. Bliss cleanses. It makes us feel whole, solid, stable and alive. Bliss tells us: 'This is something I want to try', then brings us the courage to go for it. So important is bliss to becoming who we really are and to helping us realize our goals – whatever they may be – that when we deny our need for it, we are forced to look for artificial substitutes. Addictions arise: to food, drugs, alcohol, sex – even ambition. These addictions disempower us, leading us further from the authentic freedom that is our birthright. WAY TO GO The more you become aware of what brings you bliss in your own life and the more you commit yourself to allowing it, the more creative your life becomes and the more support you automatically bring to your overall health and sense of freedom. How do you do this? Begin by keeping a journal which nobody but you sees in which you allow yourself to explore the things in your own life that bring you bliss. Trust what comes to you when you ask yourself “What brings me bliss?” Keep asking the question each day and write down what you get. Then, put your discoveries into action. Commit yourself each week to making time to do three of the things no matter what else is going on in your life. Week by week your capacity for bliss as well as the benefits it brings to you will expand exponentially.

Time For Death And Rebirth

Time For Death And Rebirth

I have always loved Easter. Not because of the gorgeous painted eggs or the magic bunnies delivering them or even the marvelous laughter of children on treasure hunts. I love Easter because it is a time of death and rebirth for all life including each and every one of us. Of course, the death part of these natural cycles is what we fear greatly. Not only is this fear unfounded; it greatly limits our inner growth. It also prevents us from experiencing the most valuable process in life during which we can discover who, at the deepest level of our being, we really are. I invite you, this Easter, to explore the magnificent gifts available to you when you embrace death/rebirth experiences in your own life. UNIVERSAL CYCLES Death/rebirth cycles are fundamental to all living things—plants and trees, animals, our own bodies and minds, even the stars in the heavens. Easter holidays are a celebration of these cycles which Jesus himself is said to have experienced between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The origins of Easter also have even more ancient roots in pagan death/rebirth festivals celebrated long before the Christian era. In Sumerian mythology, the goddess Inanna was hung naked on a stake, killed and resurrected as she ascended from darkness into light. The Easter Bunny, whom we all so love, is a modern day manifestation of another pagan festival of death and rebirth involving Eostre, the great Northern Goddess whose symbol was a rabbit. Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, even the cells of our body undergo a death/rebirth cycle so we can go on living. WHY I LOVE EASTER Easter Season is a fine time to lay aside fears of death and darkness, and give thanks for rebirth and renewal which continues to be offered us. The thing I love most about Easter is it reminds me that if we want to live a life true to our essential nature, each of us must be willing to experience death and rebirth—to leave what is old and no longer useful in our own lives so we can bring light and expanded consciousness into our lives. Of course this can be a challenge for us humans. We so love to cling to what is most familiar even if doing so prevents us from experiencing new realities. PREGNANT DARKNESS The dark realms are transcendent domains about which our materialistic culture remains naïve. Darkness is a place where seeds lie dormant, a realm of incubation, the womb in a woman’s body where a new being is nurtured so that it can be born. In dark spaces what is old and outdated becomes compost to feed tiny seed of new life. When they open, husks fall away, freeing new plants to grow towards the sun. Within our own psyche, a thousand such seeds lie waiting to break open and grow. They urge us to nurture them, to trust them, so they too can come forth. If we are riddled with fear we remain deaf to their call. Of course our greatest fear is invariably the fear of our own death. Yet the death/rebirth cycles I’m speaking are not involved in destroying the physical body. They are nature’s renewal transformations in service of new life. After all, the old, decayed leaves of the forest must die to fertilize its saplings. And whatever we still carry about which no longer serves us must be allowed to die to make way for new ways of being. Death/rebirth initiation shappens to us again and again throughout the whole of our lives. They also happen as the moon dies and is renewed every month. And you can see them in the way a snake sheds a skin when it needs to grow. THE HERO’S JOURNEY Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces talks a lot about coming to terms with the experience of these deaths and the rebirths. They are central to the growth and spiritual development of human beings in every culture of the world he says. Throughout history, tribal societies have created rites of passage to celebrate the death/rebirth cycle at times of important biological change like puberty. Initiates are put through rituals involving non-ordinary states of consciousness during which they can connect with the energies of numinous realms in order to experience the power and the meaning of the process. Such rituals celebrate dying to the old role one has been playing in their society—that of a dependent child—and being born into a new one as a powerful and independent adult. A boy dies. A man is born. From that moment onward, nobody in the tribe treats the initiate as a child anymore. For most of us, the death we fear is not death of the body (although we often think it is). It is the death of outmoded beliefs and ways of living our lives that no longer serve us. And, in order to allow an influx of our deeper soul energies to emerge from the darkness and recreate our life anew, we need to become aware of them and welcome change. It is this experience that Campbell describes so well in his mythological hero’s journey. There death and rebirth represent the membrane or interface in the psyche between the domain of the personal and the vast spiritual realms of the universal. Death becomes a frontier to a new way of being. Once we realize this, the whole death/rebirth process becomes a friend. In truth this is a sacred experience with rewards so great it is not possible to put them into words. By the way, one of the most exhilarating gifts that comes with welcoming any death/rebirth process is an experience of authentic freedom that arises from within us. GATEWAY TO NEW LIFE Our own culture lost touch with death/rebirth transformations. This is why we fear them. Sooner later death/rebirth comes to each of us. It can be triggered by the ending of a love affair, the recognition that one is addicted to alcohol, drugs or work, a dawning awareness that what you have always worked for and what you have achieved no longer holds meaning for you, the loss of a job or reputation, even the unexpected release of intense emotion and the spontaneous entrance into altered states of consciousness which challenges every notion about what is real and what is unreal. We approach any kind of death or crisis with anxiety, embarrassment and denial. Thankfully this is beginning to change. The work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Stephen Levine and Ram Dass— all of whom have written wisely about death—is gradually altering our attitude. So is the in-depth research into near-death experiences where people consistently report the survival of consciousness as well as spontaneous experiences of illumination when the soul separates even temporarily from the body. THRESHOLDS The confrontation with birth and death we experience can introduce us to new realities. It can happen in a literal sense to a woman in the act of giving birth or a man sitting at the bedside of his wife who is dying of cancer. It can also happen in your life when you have to face the abandonment at the end of a marriage or the disruption in your ordinary life that accompanies the loss of a job. For many it comes in a life-threatening situation, for instance in a car crash, when you find yourself standing outside your body looking down on what until then you assumed to be the only reality there was. It can even occur in some kind of spontaneous eruption—often labeled a psychotic break—through which the volatile world of expanded consciousness emerges, full-blown, to shake the very foundations of your life. Such events lead people into the transpersonal realms experienced by mystics, great artists and other visionary beings. They are invitations to new ways of thinking and new ways of experiencing reality not through the mind but through the heart. So much for fearing the magnificent darkness which brings forth life. When I tuned into the nature of the death/rebirth cycles in operation this Easter Season, with all the cosmic energies now bombarding our earth, here are the words that came to me. I’d like to share them with you. I move in velvet silence within forgotten spaces of your being. Fear me not. For when you fear me, you fear your own beauty and your own creative power. In the light all is separate. Within my darkness all is One. Whenever your soul calls, I am here to wrap my silent wings of transformation around you. Enter me in friendship. I will introduce you to the magic of angels and archetypes, deities and your own profound essential being. Look carefully at each of these things, no matter how fearsome its face may feel to you. You will find each and every one is a window to the divine truth unique to you alone. I am the Spirit of the Dark

Zazen: Power in Simplicity

Zazen: Power in Simplicity

Zazen has been practiced for 2,500 years. It traveled from India, China and Japan to arrive in the West around the middle of the last century. The practice of zazen is neither a means of introspection nor of contemplation. It is a means by which we come to experience the unity with our selves and the Universe. As a technique, it is easy to learn and simple to practice. As with most valuable techniques, what matters is not trying to understand it, for there is nothing in it to be understood. What matters is doing it. As you do it day by day, it transforms your health and your life. A powerful technique for re-establishing life-giving balance at every level, zazen is a simple, yet almost infinitely transformative practice. Zazen deepens our connection with the innate self simply by becoming aware of our breathing. Practice it daily, and it can relieve fear, release anxieties and clear away internal monologues where the mind chases its tail like an obsessive dog, getting nowhere. Zazen also strengthens vitality, and teaches us the art of being present in the eternal NOW. STILL WATERS RUN DEEP In essence, the human mind is meant to be like the still water of a lake at dawn. But, when the rains fall or the winds blow, its natural glass-like surface, which is meant to reflect the sun and the moon, gets disturbed with eddies and waves, distorting our perception of our bodies, ourselves and the world around us. As we practice zazen, our mind returns to its mirror-like state. Then it can reflect the world around us without becoming obstructed or distorted by anything in it. Gradually we learn that we do not have to hold on to anything to be able to create the life for which we long. We become free. This experience of freedom becomes contagious—a blessing not only for ourselves but for others. Marianne Williamson said it well: ‘As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ The word ‘spirit’ means breath—that is, life force. In Japanese they call it ki, in Chinese chi. In English we refer to it as energy or power. It is the electrical energy that fuels the living matrix of your body. Practice zazen and you learn how closely the way your breath is connected with the kind of thoughts you have and the emotions you feel. Working with the breath, you inadvertently work with body and mind. For these three are different aspects of a single reality. EXPAND CONSCIOUSNESS As we develop awareness of the breath, as it enters and leaves our body, and of all the sensations this brings, we come to touch the ‘still point’ and gradually develop a natural ability to focus the mind. We start by sitting in a comfortable but straight posture and counting the breath: inhale . . . ‘one’, exhale . . . ‘two’, and so on, up to ten. Then we begin again back at ‘one’. The point of the counting has nothing to do with trying to get to ten—it is just a simple tool for focusing attention. If you lose count and your mind begins to wander, notice this, bless your thoughts, whatever they are, then let them go by gently returning your concentration to the breath and starting again at ‘one’. Each time you choose consciously to let a thought go and bring yourself back to your breathing, you increase your ability to place your mind where you want it to be. It’s an incredibly powerful experience. After a while, you begin to break free of the limiting thoughts, worries and obsessions that rule most people’s lives. Connection with your innate being grows stronger, as does your capacity to experience bliss, pleasure and the sense that you have the right to be who you are without having to conform to other people’s imperatives. Your spiritual power grows, as do your intuitive skills. Creativity, which is closely allied to intuition, blossoms. We lose the sense of isolation which so many have, where we feel alone and alienated from the Universe. Want to try it? Let’s get started. POSITION YOUR BODY The way you hold your body—your posture—helps create your state of consciousness. There are many choices. You can sit tailor-fashion on the floor, using a small firm pillow, or zafu, which raises your bottom slightly off the floor. Sit on the front third of your zafu, tipping the body slightly forward. This creates the strongest feeling of stability. You can also use a chair. When sitting on a chair it is important also to use a cushion so that you can sit on the front third of the cushion and keep your back away from its back. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. However you choose to sit, your back needs to be straight. Imagine that your head is pressing against the ceiling. Now allow your muscles to soften so the natural curve of the back appears and the abdomen pushes slightly forward so that the diaphragm moves freely—rising and falling with each breath. POSITION YOUR HANDS Place your hands in what is known as a cosmic mudra, where your active hand (right if you are right-handed, left if you are left-handed) lies palm up in your lap. Nestle the other hand gently on to the palm of the active hand so that the knuckles overlap and your thumb tips just touch, forming a kind of oval. This connects your body’s right and left energy fields. It also acts as a symbol for the unity of the breath, your life, and the Universe. This also helps turn you inwards away from the confusion and chaos of daily life. GROW QUIET Allow your body to settle into a comfortable posture. Your back is erect but never stiff; your chin is tucked in slightly; the tip of your tongue rests easily against the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper teeth, which keeps you from salivating too much. Breathe through your nose. Lower your eyes so that you are looking at the ground 2 or 3 feet in front of you. After a while you may be surprised to find that, although your eyes are open, you are no longer ‘seeing’ what you are looking at, since the focus of your attention will have shifted within. GO TO THE CENTER This is the hara—the physical and spiritual centre of the body. It is a place of power from which all the martial arts are performed. Located in the pelvis, 2½ to 3 inches below the navel, it is also the centre of gravity in the body. Allowing your focus of attention to rest at the hara creates a sense of balance for body and mind. As you breathe in, imagine your breath going down to the hara, then returning from the hara as you breathe out. Of course, on a physical level the breath is really filling the lungs, but imagining this helps centre you. BREATHE EASY Pay attention to your breath without trying to change anything. Be aware of the tactile feelings that come with breathing. Notice the cool air entering your body as you inhale through your nose and what it feels like as it travels down the back of your throat. Feel the warmth of the out-breath as you exhale. When you stay in touch with this tactile sensation of breathing, you are less likely to be distracted by thoughts. COUNT THE INS AND OUTS Inhalation is ‘one’. Exhalation is ‘two’. Inhalation is ‘three’ and so on until you get to ten. Then start all over again. The simple agreement you make with yourself is only that when the mind begins to distract you, you notice this and consciously choose to let it go, then go back to watching the breath, and begin counting again from one. Zazen is as simple as that. Practicing it for 15 minutes twice a day—preferably at the beginning of the day and the end of the day—we touch the still point within us again and again. In the process we begin to build up joriki—the power of focus and concentration so that, in time, instead of becoming caught up in the endless mental machinations that draw us away from living our lives fully whatever we are doing, we become able to choose consciously to let go and turn our mind towards whatever we wish. The connection with our innate being strengthens so that our inner world and our day-to-day life come together in harmony. The more you practice, the easier it becomes eventually, at will, to move into your still point even in highly stressful situations that once had you frantic. Practicing zazen day after day brings many other gifts from the Universe as well. The practice of zazen is highly experiential. Trying to understand or rationalize it is a waste of time. Like most transformative practices, it can never be fully understood; it is meant to be lived.

How Desire Becomes Reality

How Desire Becomes Reality

In my last post, we looked at unconscious image-making which prevents us from experiencing authentic freedom and undermines our sense of self. Now let’s flip destructive image making-on its head. It’s time to learn the art of conscious image-making It can improve health, heighten self esteem, and even forge the person whom you long to become in the future. All you need is a simple notebook in which to record your intentions, goals and experience plus 15 to 20 minutes a day to practice the art. This can be a lot of fun. POWERS OF THE MIND Creative imagery is the deliberate, repeated use of specific mental images, while in a deeply relaxed state or meditative state, to bring about change for the better. Just how creative imagery works has never been fully defined. It does, however, appear that the images one chooses to focus on when repeatedly held in the mind are able to affect one's body, emotions, and mind through the autonomic nervous system. Some of the process, at least, is explainable in biological and energetic terms. When a thought or image is kept in the mind of someone in a state of deep relaxation, his or her brain shows neuronal activity in both right and left hemispheres. Nerve fibres leading from the cerebral hemisphere through the hypothalamus can directly affect the autonomic nervous system and the pituitary gland as well as the adrenal cortex. Everyone has had experience of this image-making to some extent in day-to-day life. For instance, if you keep a frightening image in your mind's eye—say of a ghost, a fantastic monster, or a situation you want at all costs to avoid—your body will respond via the autonomic nervous system with a racing heartbeat, perspiration, dryness in the mouth, or gooseflesh. How strong your reactions are to the fearful thought depends entirely on how clear the image is. Similarly, when you hold a clear, relaxing image of perhaps a spring meadow or a person you love, your body responds with relaxed muscles, lowered heartbeat and blood pressure, and generally pleasant and passive bodily sensations. Researchers have found that through this mind-body connection we can exercise a great deal of control over our bodies and our behaviour simply by choosing images to focus on and using them regularly. In fact, this kind of deliberate visualization is the technique behind the ability yogis demonstrate in raising and lowering their bodily temperature or heartbeat at will, going for long periods of time without food, and performing extrasensory tasks. TRUST THE GAME Although the mechanism of creative imagery is highly complex, putting it to use is simple. For just as it is unnecessary for you to know how the nervous system, in conjunction with the brain and muscles, makes it possible for you to pick up an apple and take a bite out of it in order to perform the action, so it is not necessary to understand biological theories about creative imagery in order to practice it to your benefit. The imaging mechanism of your brain works automatically; all you have to do is provide it with images that are useful to you and let it do its job. Nor do you have to worry about whether or not you believe in creative imagery or whether or not you can do it well enough for it to work for you. If there is a goal that you want to achieve, you need simply to visualize it—again and again, at least twice a day; the rest is automatic, so long as your goal is something you consciously consider to be feasible. It would be absurd, for instance, to lie down for ten minutes each morning and afternoon and visualize yourself as an eagle. You might improve your imagination no end, you might also develop a great empathy for eagles, but it unlikely that you would develop wings or a beak. Nor need you worry about success or failure. As Maxwell Maltz says in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, "You must learn to trust your creative mechanism to do its work and not `jam it' by becoming too concerned or too anxious as to whether it will work or not, or by attempting to force it too much by conscious effort. You must let it work, rather than make it work. This trust is necessary because your creative mechanism operates below the level of consciousness." The only real "trust" needed for it to work is that which makes it possible for you to spend time repeatedly practising creative imagery. You do this by letting yourself go into a state of deep relaxation or meditation and then repeating your chosen image again and again over a sufficient length of time for it to take hold in your unconscious and begin producing results. You certainly don't have to trust it in the sense of believing in it for it to work. It will work whether you believe it or not. Just be consistent in using the technique regularly. PREPARE THE WAY Begin by learning to just let go. Creative imagery is an inner state of mind. To visualize effectively you need to put yourself into a calm, relaxed state in which mental images flow easily. Generally the more relaxed you are, the more successful your visualizations will be. This kind of relaxation is something that is learned gradually by practice. Even if you feel in the beginning that you are hardly relaxed at all, you will get benefits from your imaging and this will become progressively more true as you repeatedly practice visualization. Begin by lying down, or sitting in a comfortable chair, with your back well supported. Use a simple practice such as zazen or gentle, quiet deep breathing to let go of daily concerns and enter your private world. When you feel yourself quietly calm resting in your own inner space, there are several things you can do: In this space, you can examine in a new light any question that has been bothering you. You have access to the deeper layers of your mind where many answers can be found, provided you are willing to ask the questions simply and then just wait in stillness for the answer to come. This place is also where you can become aware of your belief systems and bring them to consciousness so that you can examine them in a detached, objective way and see whether they are working for you or not. You can then decide what you want to keep and what your want to leave behind. It is a place where you can learn to listen to the sound of your inner voice. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. This inner voice can guide you to where you are going next and tell you what you are about. It is a place where you can come to know yourself for who you really are, quite apart from roles and habitual assumptions you have always had about yourself. Most important of all in bringing about change, you can use this inner space to practise creative imagery. Go through your relaxation technique until you enter your inner space. Now you are ready to begin visualizing. You can do this in two ways: verbally, by simply repeating over and over a few words that describe the image, or visually, by simply seeing yourself as already having become what you want to be. For some, who at first experience difficulty in visualizing, the verbal method works better; for others, the visual method is more successful. Try them both and see which you prefer. Later on, after you are familiar with the use of creative imagery, you will probably want to use both. FOCUS YOUR DESIRE Let's say you pick as your goal the desire "I want to have more energy." Using the verbal method, turn the wish into a positive statement. It becomes "Every day I am more and more energetic and well." It is important that your goal be phrased in this way. It has to be in the present tense—not "One day I will be better" or "I hope that I will be more energetic," but Every day I am more and more energetic and well. It is happening now. Your subconscious mind, which holds the power to bring about change, does not function in terms of time and space as your conscious mind does. It understands only the simplest and most direct instructions, and when they are given it works as if they had already occurred or are occurring now. The words you have chosen become your image. You put them to work by simply repeating the words over and over again silently to yourself while you are in the deeply relaxed state in your inner space. It is the constant replaying of the message day after day twice a day that works best, not how long you do it each time you relax. One convenient way of doing it is to repeat the directions ten times in each session, moving one of your fingers with each repetition until you have been through all ten. Then you simply say to yourself the same, "I am now going to come out of my inner space...(by counting backwards from three, etc.) and open your eyes. The best time for most women to practice creative visualization is in bed at night just before they fall asleep, and then again in the morning just before they get up. But really you can do it anytime—whenever you can find ten minutes to yourself in the middle of the day, or in the middle of the night if you awaken, or during meditation. The important thing is to do it regularly twice a day every day. You needn't worry about doing it wrong, either. Because, in truth, there is no wrong way, and every supposed wrong in the way you are doing the technique will gradually put itself right with practice. WATCH IT HAPPEN If you prefer, you can use a visual way instead, or you can use a combination of both. Picking the same goal, I want to have more energy, go through your relaxation technique. When you are at the inner space, instead of repeating words let your mind play with the image of your goal as if it had actually come about already, almost like a daydream. In other words, see yourself moving through your day, relating to people, doing your work, playing games, all the while full of vitality and bounce. Watch yourself in your imagination and enjoy the ease with which you do things that once seemed difficult or tiring. Notice the glow of your skin, how well you look; see the vivacity in the way you speak and move. Watch yourself and enjoy it. The more of it you let yourself imagine and the more you enjoy your imaginings, the stronger will be the images you are creating and the more quickly they will become reality. But as with the verbal instructions, always keep your images in the present as if they are actually happening now and not as if they might happen in the future or are something you would like to see happen. You may find at some point that something or someone is interfering with your image. For instance, you might find that as you watch yourself moving about energetically through the day in your mind's eye, another figure appears—say an old woman—who speaks to you. Perhaps she says something like, "You silly girl, if you don't slow down you know you will exhaust yourself or make yourself ill." Or, "Why are you pretending to be full of energy when you know that you are really tired?" and so on. Pause for a moment and take a look at the figure. Who is she? Your mother? A friend who tends to be negative about everything you try? The voice of a belief system from inside you which, without your being aware of it, has been telling you for years that you are tired? Answer the figure back. Tell her quietly but firmly in your mind, "No, you are wrong. I am well and I have lots of energy. I also know how to use it wisely. I will rest and look after myself when I need to, I will eat well, I will enjoy what I do. I will be happy with my vitality." Then go on with your visualization. Unexpected intrusions like this while you are visualizing are often very useful, for they help make you aware of belief systems and notions that may have been unconsciously impeding your progress towards a goal. Then, when you have practised your visualization for, say, five or ten minutes, tell yourself you are going to count backwards from three and open your eyes. A FEW TRICKS TO HELP In the beginning, when you are just starting to explore the power of creative imagery, it is a good idea to pick only one goal at a time and work on it for several weeks or months until it is being progressively realized before taking on another thing you would like to change. The technique of keeping a journal is very useful in recording your progress, but even more important is keeping a record of insights and experiences you come upon while practising the deep relaxation and visualisation techniques. The information and insights they turn up for everyone are invariably rich. Many times something you record today which seems not particularly useful now will have a message of immediate importance to you three months from now. Finally, there is one very simple goal that I find particularly useful because it covers all areas of one's life and you can use it over and over again, year after year, with benefit. It is, "Every day I am more and more myself. My life grows richer and richer." “Practice makes perfect,” the saying goes. It most certainly does but never treat your practice as a chore. Let it be fun. When you do everything happens faster and with greater ease.

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.”

Confront Yourself

Confront Yourself

To make the most of your potential you have to truly own your body. This means realizing that your entire body, from the roots of your hair to the tips of your toes, is the embodiment of your Self. Sadly most of us dissociate from our body. We imagine ourselves as a mind somewhere in our heads which is responsible for the rest of us from the neck down. This dissociation encourages us to treat our bodies with contempt: we eat the wrong foods, drink too much, and continually drive ourselves beyond the state of fatigue. Then, when we suffer from pains or get sick we wonder foolishly why fate seems to have it in for us. Sound familiar? Rather than treat your body like a machine which seems to break down for no apparent reason, you need to begin listening to what it tells you. Very often, we can prevent illness or heal ourselves by taking the trouble to tune into our bodies. By increasing your awareness and sensitivity throughout your body, you can not only avoid many health and beauty hazards, you can also learn to apply all of yourself to whatever you are doing and so function at a much more efficient level in everything you do. Total involvement can bring with it great joy and a sense of energy. "Lord, Help me to accept the things I cannot change. Give me the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." It is important to begin by accepting your own form. All of us have things which we dislike about our bodies. It may be the size of your bust or your hips/waist/thighs, the shape of your nose or chin, your teeth, hair, etc. We waste far too much time and energy worrying about the parts of ourselves that we dislike, instead of focusing on the positive things and putting our energy into the task at hand. Try the following exercise to put your dislikes into perspective. confront the mirror Stand in front of a full-length mirror naked and use a hand mirror to take a really good look at yourself from all angles. Make a list of all the things you dislike about yourself. Be thorough and write down everything you see which you dislike. Now take a pen and give each item a code. If it is something that cannot be changed, for example your height, mark it with a "I" for impossible. If it is something that would require professional help to fix such as chipped or gappy teeth, bust size, disfiguring scars, etc. mark it with a "P." If it something that you know can be changed such as your haircut, muscle tone, weight, excess body hair etc., mark it with a "C." I - impossible to change P - professional assistance c - possible to change for instance... some sample dislikes might be: BUST TOO SMALL I/P I wouldn't want to go through implantation surgery. Perhaps if I slim a bit I'll lose some weight from my hips and my bust won't look so small by comparison. HIPS TOO BIG C I really would like to do something once and for all about my weight problem so that I can wear more attractive clothes and feel like less of a moose. DOUBLE CHIN C/P A face lift would be too expensive. I'll look into exercises to tone my chin and neck muscles. THIN HAIR - CUT DOESN'T SUIT ME C It's definitely time to change this haircut. I think perhaps I'll try a better hairdresser, even if it is more expensive. Hopefully a good professional will be able to tell me what style would suit me best. DARK CIRCLES UNDER EYES I/C I'm not sure if I can get rid of them. Perhaps a detoxification diet for a few days would help? ONE EAR HIGHER THAN THE OTHER I I think I'm stuck with this one. SPLITTING NAILS C I would really love to have long strong nails. I'll promise myself to manicure them regularly and take some vitamin and mineral supplements to strengthen them. CELLULITE ON THIGHS I/P/C? I'm not sure how to get rid of it, but I can't accept it so I'll do what I can. EXCESS HAIR ON MY THIGHS P For the moment I don't really care, but perhaps I'll get my legs waxed before I go on holiday. First, look at the C's. Decide whether you really care enough about the thing to change it. If you do, underline it, and make a mental decision to take action on it. If you don't care enough to do something about it, then it's not worth worrying about any more, so cross it off your list. Now look at the P's and decide whether they are really a possibility - could you afford the expense of professional help? Is the problem really that important to you? Again, either decide to do something about it and begin by making inquiries, or choose to accept it and cross it off your list. Finally, count the number of "impossible" dislikes you are left with. Take another look at yourself in the mirror and this time, beside the first list, make a second list of all the things you do like about yourself. Go on writing things down until your list of likes is at least as long as your list of impossible dislikes. If you run out of things you like then write down the things about yourself which you don't mind. some sample likes might be: EYES People have told me they're nice HANDS I quite like my hands HAIR I like the natural color of my hair LEGS I suppose my legs aren't too bad, although I could lose some weight from my thighs. Make a decision to begin to appreciate and accentuate your positive features and not dwell on your dislikes. The more you focus on your good points, the less you'll notice or even care about your dislikes.

Sacred Truth Ep. 45: The Zen Of Stress-Free

Sacred Truth Ep. 45: The Zen Of Stress-Free

Cats laze in the sun. The caterpillar dozes on a tomato plant. A bumblebee nestles between two blades of grass. Yet we humans seem to be continually on the run. It’s as though we have become programmed by the media, advertising, and personal growth gurus to do it better and faster, to be more efficient, to keep going no matter what. We have lost the art of stillness. As a result, we miss out on the gifts that come to us when for a time we put aside doing and let ourselves just enjoy being. “What goes up must come down.” It would be great if these words were engraved on the brain of those of us who live busy lives. When stress gets out of hand it wears you down and creates deep fatigue. When stress is prolonged, it can make you feel overwhelmed, undermine your peace of mind, and turn into adrenal exhaustion that undermines your health. Yet, when you learn how to balance with relaxation, what was once stressful can feel like the spice of your life—fun even when life makes heavy demands. You know you’ll be able to meet them and enjoy the process. You and I and every other living thing have two fundamental modes—solar and lunar. Physiologically the solar—stressed—mode is a dynamic outpouring of energy and spirit. Oriental cultures call this mode the yang rhythm. When it’s in control you feel excited, love the thrill of a challenge, and become determined to make things happen. The lunar mode, your yin rhythm, is its exact opposite. When lunar energy predominates, you move into deep relaxation, which restores and rebalances your body and mind. Instead of an outpouring of spirit and energy, you become deeply receptive—literally able to draw energy, strength, and bliss into your body and your life as a cat does lying in front of a winter fire. Few of us are taught how to ease back and forth from dynamic to receptive mode and vice versa. As a result, our bodies are seldom at peace. Our minds are always busy. We can’t let go of those endless internal monologues. Continually mulling over past and the future, we miss out on the joy of moment-to-moment awareness. We eat food but don’t really taste it. We make love then wonder why it is not always as satisfying as we know it could be. We have forgotten how to live in the moment from the core of our being and let life flow through us instead of attempting to “manage” it. In short, we have lost connection with the two rhythms on which lasting health, vitality, and joy depend. Let’s now look at the simplest and most efficient way of reconnecting with both. It’s called Zazen. A powerful technique for reestablishing life-giving balance, zazen is a simple, yet almost infinitely transformative practice. I have taught this simple practice to thousands of people who continue to sing its praises. Practiced for 10 or 15 minutes a day, it silences your endless internal chatter, releases anxiety, and stops the kind of tail chasing like an obsessive dog that gets us nowhere. It gently trains your body and mind to move at will from the dynamic, solar, stressed state into the deeply receptive, restorative lunar one, helping us to become fully present in the eternal NOW like a child, a sage, an artist, a lover. Zazen is all about a new way of breathing. The word Spirit means breath—that is, life force. In Japanese they call it ki, and in Chinese it is called chi. In English we refer to it as energy or power. It is the electrical energy that fuels the living matrix of your body. Practice zazen and you learn how closely your breath is connected with the kinds of thoughts you have and the emotions you feel. As you develop awareness of your breath, entering and leaving your body, and of all the sensations this brings, you come to touch the still point of your being. You start by sitting in a comfortable but straight back posture and silently counting your breath: Inhale... “one,” exhale... “two,” and so on up to ten. Then you begin again back at “one.” The point of the counting has nothing to do with trying to get to ten. This is just a simple tool. If you lose count and your mind begins to wander, notice this, bless your thoughts, whatever they are, then let them go and gently return your concentration to the breath and start again at “one.” Each time you choose consciously to let a thought go and bring yourself back to your breathing, you increase your ability to place your mind where you want it to be. Believe me, this is an incredibly powerful experience. Before long it will help you break free of the limiting thoughts, worries, and obsessions that can rule our lives. Your sense of connection with your innate being grows stronger, as does your capacity to experience bliss, pleasure, and the that you have the right to be who you are without having to conform to other people’s imperatives. Your spiritual power grows, as do your intuitive skills. Creativity, which is closely woven into intuition, blossoms. Ok let’s get started together: • Position Your Body: The way you hold your body—your posture—helps create your state of consciousness. There are many choices. You can sit tailor-fashion on the floor using a small firm pillow or zafu, which raises your bottom slightly off the floor. Sit on the front third of your zafu tipping your body slightly forward. This creates the strongest feeling of stability. You can also use a chair. When sitting on a chair it is also important to use a cushion so you can sit on the front third of the cushion and keep your back away from its back. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. However you choose to sit, your back needs to be straight. Imagine that your head is pressing against the ceiling. Now allow your muscles to soften so the natural curve of the back appears and the abdomen pushes slightly forward so your diaphragm moves freely—rising and falling with each breath. • Position Your Hands: Place your hands in what is known as a cosmic mudra where your active hand (right if you are right handed and left if you are left handed) lies palm up in your lap. Nestle the other hand gently onto the palm of the active hand so that the knuckles overlap and your thumb tips just touch, forming a kind of oval. This connects your body’s right and left energy fields. It acts as a symbol for the unity of the breath, your life, and the Universe. This also helps turn you inward away from the confusion and chaos of daily life. • Grow Quiet: Allow your body to settle into a comfortable posture. Your back is erect but never stiff, your chin is tucked in slightly, and the tip of your tongue rests easily against the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper teeth. • Breathe through your nose. Lower your eyes so you are looking at the ground two or three feet in front of you. After a while you may be surprised to find that although your eyes are open, you are no longer “seeing” what you are looking at, since the focus of your attention will have shifted within. • Discover Your Center: This is the hara—the physical and spiritual center of the body. It is a place of power from which all the martial arts are performed. Located in the pelvis, two-and-a-half to three inches below the navel, it is also the center of gravity in your body. Allowing your focus of attention to rest at the hara creates a sense of balance for body and mind. As you breathe in, imagine your breath going down to the hara and returning from the hara. Of course, on a physical level the breath is really filling the lungs but you need to just imagine this, which helps you with the breathing. • Breathe Easy: Pay attention to your breath without trying to change anything. Be aware of the tactile feelings that come with breathing. Notice the cool air entering your body as you inhale through your nose and what it feels like as it travels down the back of your throat. Feel the warmth of the out-breath as you exhale. When you stay in touch with this tactile sensation of breathing, you are less likely to be distracted by thoughts. • Silently count the Ins and Outs: Inhalation is “one.” Exhalation is “two.” Inhalation is “three” and so on until you get to ten. Then start all over again. The simple agreement you make with yourself is only that when the mind begins to distract you, you notice this and consciously choose to let it go and go back to watching the breath, and begin counting again from one. • Zazen is as simple as this. Practicing it for fifteen minutes once or twice a day—preferably at the beginning of the day and the end of the day—you begin to touch the still point within you again and again. In the process you build up joriki—the power of focus and concentration so that, in time, instead of becoming caught up in the endless mental machinations that draw us away from living our lives fully whatever you are doing, you become able to choose consciously to let go and turn your mind towards whatever you choose. The connection with your innate being strengthens so that your inner world and your day-to-day life gradually come together in harmony. The more you practice the easier it becomes so, at will you are able to move into in and out of highly stressful situations that at one time would have made you frantic. In essence, the mind is meant to be like the still water of a lake at dawn. But when the rains fall or the winds blow, its natural glass-like surface, which is meant to reflect sun and moon, becomes disturbed with eddies and waves which distort your perception of your feelings, your body, and the world around you. As you practice zazen your mind returns to its mirror-like state. Then it is able to reflect the world around you without becoming obstructed or distorted by anything in it. You learn first hand that you do not have to hold on to anything to create the life you long for. You become truly free. This experience of freedom becomes contagious—a blessing not only for ourselves but for others as well. Marianne Williamson describes it well: “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Trying to understand or rationalize the practice of zazen is a waste of time. Like every genuinely transformative practice, it can never be fully understood. Zazen can only be lived.

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana®

Fast, Healthy Weight Loss

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana® has proudly supported 18,000+ weight loss journeys over the past 13 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 18th of September 2021 (updated every 12 hours)

-0.71 lb
for women
-1.05 lb
for men
-0.71 lb
for women
-1.05 lb
for men

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 18th of September 2021 (updated every 12 hours)

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