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mindfulness

126 articles in mindfulness

Mantra Magic

Mantra Magic

Herbert Benson, who wrote The Relaxation Response and Maximum Mind, discovered that measurable physical benefits accrue from practicing any form of meditation which depends on the silent repetition of a mantra - a word-sound. This can be done by repeating any word over and over while the eyes are closed and the body is in a quiet state. Meditation using a mantra has a long tradition. Some mantras are said to be sacred words that have particular sound vibrations which transmit particular powers. Each tradition has its own mantras such as Guru Om, Om mani padme hum, La ilaha illa 'lla or, in the Catholic religion, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Whether their magic aspects are true or not, the technique works beautifully to replace the habitual chatter that runs through one's mind, worries about things past and things yet to come. Benson suggests you find a word that is pleasing to you. It could be anything, say, `flower', `peace', or `love'. He likes the word `one' as it is simple and has the connotation of unity about it. Here's how. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes and a comfortable chair that supports your back. Sit down and close your eyes. Give yourself a moment to settle in and you are ready to begin. Simply sit there, feet on the floor and eyes closed, quietly repeating your word over and over to yourself: `one...one...one...' Whenever your mind wanders or you are disturbed by a sound or thought, simply turn your mind gently back to repeating the word again. That is all there is to it. After fifteen to twenty minutes, stop repeating the mantra and get ready to open your eyes. Open your eyes, stretch, and go about your everyday activities. This is a particularly useful technique once you have practiced it a few times because you can do it in so many different places, such as in a waiting room or on a commuter train or bus.

Autogenics

Autogenics

A thorough, comprehensive technique for relaxation and personal transformation, autogenic training - developed in the early 1930s by the German psychiatrist Johannes H Schultz - consists of a series of simple mental exercises designed to turn off the body's `fight or flight' mechanism, and turn on the restorative rhythms and harmonizing associated with profound psychophysical relaxation. Practiced daily, it can bring results comparable to those achieved by serious Eastern meditators. Yet unlike meditation, autogenics has no cultural, religious or cosmological overtones. It demands no special clothing, unusual postures or practices. When you practice autogenics, emotional and spiritual detoxification happens in just the way physical detoxification occurs on Clean Sweep Diet, and once again the whole process is generated from within. freedom from within Johannes Schultz was a student of the clinically orientated neuro-pathologist Oskar Vogt, who at the turn of the century at the Berlin Neurological Institute was deeply involved in research on sleep and hypnosis. Vogt remarked that some of his patients who had been subjected to hypnosis developed the ability to put themselves in and out of a hypnotic state - or rather autohypnotic, since it was self-induced. These people experienced remarkable relief from tension and fatigue and also tended to lose whatever psychosomatic disorders they had been suffering from. Drawing on Vogt's observations, Schultz went on to design techniques that would enable people to induce this deep mental and psychological relaxation at will. Schultz found that when men and women enter the autohypnotic state they experience two specific physical phenomena: the first was a sensation of heaviness in their limbs and torso, and the second a feeling of diffuse warmth throughout the body. This warmth is the result of vasodilation in the peripheral arteries and the sensation of heaviness is caused by deep relaxation in the body's muscles. Schultz reasoned that if he taught people to suggest to themselves that these things were happening to their bodies, they might rapidly and simply be able to experience a state of passive concentration, which in turn would exert a positive influence over the autonomic nervous system, balancing energies of mind and body, helping a person experience a high level of relaxed vitality and freedom from premature degeneration, and gradually clearing away negative thought and behavior patterns that have been interfering with a person making full use of his or her potential. organismic abandon Schultz discovered - as have many since - that in a state of passive concentration, all activities governed by the autonomic nervous system, once believed to be out of man's control, can be influenced by the person himself. This happens not by exercising any conscious act of will but rather by learning to abandon oneself to an ongoing organismic process. This strange paradox of self-induced passivity is central to the way autogenic training works its wonders. It is a skill which Eastern yogis, famous for their ability to resist cold and heat, to change the rate of their heartbeat, levitate and perform many other extraordinary feats, have long practiced. But until the development of biofeedback and autogenic training, and the arrival of Eastern meditation techniques, this passive concentration largely remained a curiosity in the West, where active, logical, linear, verbal thinking has been encouraged to the detriment of practicing our innate ability to simply be. Many experts on the psychological processes of aging believe that it is overemphasis on the use of the conscious will in the West that makes us so prone to premature aging and stress-based illnesses in the first place. get warm and heavy To help his patients induce the autogenic state, Schultz worked with the sensations of heaviness and warmth. Later he added suggestions about regular heartbeat and gentle quiet breathing - two more natural physiological characteristics of relaxation - and then went on to suggestions of warmth in the belly and coolness of the forehead. These six physiologically-orientated directions - heaviness and warmth in the legs and arms, regulation of the heartbeat and breathing, abdominal warmth and cooling of the forehead - form the core of autogenic training. A person learning autogenics goes through each of the six steps, one by one: "My arms and legs are heavy and warm, my heartbeat is calm and regular etc" each time he or she practices. Because of the body and mind's ability with repetition to slip more and more rapidly into the deeply relaxed yet highly aware autogenic state, the formula becomes increasingly shortened until after a few weeks or months of practicing you can virtually induce a state of profound psychophysical relaxation at will. Once you have mastered the exercises, they can be practiced anywhere - even sitting on a bus. balance life energies A key principle on which autogenics is based is that the body will naturally balance its life energies, biochemically and psychologically, when allowed to repeatedly enter a relaxed state. The benefits of being able to do this are virtually endless. Some of them come immediately - such as being able to counteract acute stress and fatigue, refresh yourself and clear your mind. People with high blood pressure who learn autogenics report drops in systolic blood pressure from 11 to 25% and more, as well as 5 to 15% in diastolic pressure. Brain-wave activity also changes so that you get a better balance of right and left hemisphere, leading to improved creativity at work and a sense of being at peace with oneself. Other benefits come more slowly over the weeks and months and years that you practice. Recoveries from bronchial asthma and a whole range of other psychosomatic disorders have been reported, as well as the elimination of self-destructive behavior patterns and habits such as drug taking, compulsive eating and alcoholism. As a result, autogenic training is now given as a standard instruction in Germany and Switzerland. let's begin The basic autogenic exercises are simple. Taking up one of three optional postures - sitting slumped rather like a rag doll on a stool, lounging in an easy chair, or lying on your back with your arms at your side - make sure you are reasonably protected from noise and disturbances and that your clothes are loose and comfortable. It is easiest to learn autogenics lying flat on a floor or on a very firm bed. Once you have got the basic exercise under your belt you can do it just about any time, anywhere, sitting up or even very discretely on a bus on the way to work. If you like, you can record the autogenic exercises that follow on tape very slowly and play it to yourself in the beginning. I generally find, however, that it is better to learn it very simply from the words that are in the box below. go within Lie down on your back in bed or on the floor. Make yourself comfortable with whatever pillows or covers you need to do so. Close your eyes gently. Take a deep slow breath and pause for a moment. Now exhale fully and completely. Let yourself breathe slowly and naturally. Feel your body sinking back into the floor. Now repeat the following phrases to yourself slowly and silently letting yourself savor the sensations of heaviness and warmth as you do. The first phrase is: My left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... my right arm is heavy... my right arm is heavy... my right arm is heavy... Let go of any tension in your arms as you say to yourself: My left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... my left arm is heavy... repeating each suggestion three times. Continue to breathe slowly and naturally, remembering to exhale fully. Say to yourself: Both arms are heavy... both arms are heavy... both arms are heavy. Let go of any tension in your arms. Then say: Both legs are heavy... both legs are heavy... both legs are heavy... As you continue to breathe slowly and naturally, say to yourself: Arms and legs heavy... arms and legs heavy... arms and legs heavy... arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... feel it Feel the warmth flow through to your arms and legs as you say to yourself: Arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... arms and legs warm... Continue to breathe slowly and freely while you repeat silently to yourself: My breathing calm and easy... my breathing calm and easy... my breathing calm and easy... my heartbeat calm and regular... my heartbeat calm and regular... my heartbeat calm and regular... Feel your strong, regular heartbeat as you say the words to yourself. Continue to breathe easily and say to yourself: My solar plexus is warm... my solar plexus is warm... my solar plexus is warm... Feel the muscles in your face relax as you say to yourself: My forehead is cool and clear... my forehead is cool and clear... my forehead is cool and clear... Enjoy the feeling of softness and calm throughout your body and say to yourself: I am at peace... I am at peace... I am at peace... the return When you have finished the exercise you are ready for the return. It will bring you back to normal everyday consciousness: Quickly clench both fists, take a deep breath in, flex both arms up in a stretch, then breathe out slowly and completely, returning your arms with unclenched fists to your sides. Now open your eyes. Lie for a moment with your eyes open and just allow yourself to BE HERE NOW WITH WHATEVER IS, then get up and go about your life. When first learning autogenics, you will need to repeat each suggestion three times and the entire exercise itself needs to be repeated at three different periods each day. The best time is just before you get out of bed, just before you go to sleep, and at some other moment of the day. If there is no way you can lie down during the day you can always do the exercise sitting in a chair. If you are practicing in public such as on a bus or at your desk in an office, draw your fists up to your chest by bending your elbows rather than bringing the whole arm above the head for the return. autogenic triggers Before long you will find that even the simple suggestion "my right arm is heavy" will trigger the psychophysical relaxation process in the whole body. Some people get feelings of heaviness and warmth right away. For others it can take as long as a week or two of practicing three times a day for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. To everybody it comes eventually, and with it comes a profound sense of relaxation. Canceling the training session occurs when you clench your hand into a fist and raise your arm straight above your head, or bend your arm and draw your fist to your shoulders, at the same time taking a deep breath and then stretching. This trains your body to return to normal consciousness right away. Meanwhile your temporary excursion into the realm of deep relaxation keeps working its magic. autogenic training made simple Here is an aid memoir for practice. Repeat each suggestion 3 times: MY LEFT ARM IS HEAVY... MY RIGHT ARM IS HEAVY BOTH ARMS ARE HEAVY... BOTH ARMS ARE WARM... BOTH LEGS ARE HEAVY ARMS AND LEGS HEAVY... ARMS AND LEGS WARM BREATHING IS CALM AND EASY... HEARTBEAT CALM AND REGULAR MY SOLAR PLEXUS IS WARM... MY FOREHEAD IS COOL I AM AT PEACE the return: CLENCH BOTH FISTS TAKE A DEEP BREATH FLEX BOTH ARMS UP IN A STRETCH BREATHE OUT SLOWLY RETURN ARMS UNCLENCH FISTS OPEN YOUR EYES LIE FOR A MOMENT WITH EYES OPEN BE HERE NOW WITH WHATEVER IS. Repeat each suggestion three times, repeat the exercise three times a day. discharge the blocks Although autogenic training brings about a `low-arousal' state similar to yoga and meditation, where parasympathetic activity dominates, it stems from exercises meant specifically to induce simple physical sensations leading to a state of relaxation of a purely physical nature. The benefits which come with practicing it go far beyond the physical: in addition to slowing the heartbeat, reducing blood pressure, regenerating and rejuvenating the body, autogenics triggers changes in the reticular activating system in the brain stem which can result in what are known as `autogenic discharges'. These are a spontaneous way of de-stressing and de-aging the body, eliminating old tensions and wiping away thought patterns that may have been inhibiting the full expression of your being. Autogenic discharges can manifest themselves as temporary twitching of the arms or legs - much like the twitch experienced occasionally on falling into a deep sleep - during the session itself, or increased peristaltic movement - stomach grumbles - or various transient feelings of dizziness or visual or auditory effects. These phenomena are harmless, quick to come and go, yet an important part of throwing out life-accumulated, stressful material stored in the body or psyche. cleansing reactions A few people - I among them - when they first begin autogenic training, go through two or three weeks where a lot of old stress and emotional rubbish gets released through autogenic discharge. Old feelings of discouragement or depression, laughter or anxiety can sometimes rise to the surface. It is important to be aware of this possibility and to be aware of what is happening if it does occur. It is only the psychic side of detox that will help renew, refresh, and rejuvenate you, as old stress you have been carrying about with you rises to the surface to clear permanently. Because of this discharge phenomenon, some psychologists in the English speaking world who teach autogenics like to work on a one-to-one basis with their students in order to help them gain perspective on what is coming up from their consciousness. In Germany and Switzerland this is not considered important. There, autogenic training is taught as a matter of course both to adults and school children with no such psychological back up. The important thing to remember is whatever surfaces is likely to be very old indeed, stuff you've been carrying around for a long time and which you are far better off without. three's the charm Begin your practice of autogenics on day 2 of 10 Day Rejuvenation Plan adding it to Clean Sweep Diet. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes to run through autogenics while you are learning it. Afterwards the exercises can be done much more quickly - eventually in two or three minutes if necessary. Rather like Pavlov's dog, who learned to salivate simply because the bell sounded and the food appeared together so many times, the magic of autogenics depends on your continual repetition of the exercise again and again, day after day. Once the initial period of learning is completed, you can then choose to practice the exercises once or twice a day whenever you like. In the process you will have gained a lifelong skill that is invaluable for de-aging the body and mind. Within 10 days to 2 weeks of practicing autogenics,most people feel a steady and increasing release of creative energy, and a sense that great burdens are being lifted away so that - often for the first time - they begin to feel more free to live their own life by their own values. It is rejuvenation at its very best. the zen of now There are two important aspects to making autogenic training work for you. The first is a real acceptance of your current circumstances or position - knowing that anything that you feel just now, whether it happens to be fear, anxiety, joy, frustration, inadequacy or environmental stress, is OK for the moment. It is only through acceptance of 'what is' now that we open the gateways to change. The second important thing about autogenic training is self-discipline. You need to make time to do the exercises each day and to establish a routine.

The Sacred Feminine

The Sacred Feminine

It is not easy to live in our 21st century world full of suffering and confusion for many. The challenges we now face worldwide have come about from the long-term rejection and degradation of the Sacred Feminine. The Sacred Feminine is the mysterious source of all life, the wellspring of all creation, and we have forgotten this. Its creative power exists in men as much as it does in women. The Sacred Feminine carries great wisdom, sensitivity, and a tender love for all life. It respects the need for suffering and vulnerability, for deaths and rebirths. It asks that we embrace life and preserve it. In all its wildness, the Sacred Feminine brings to us the ability to unify body and soul, spirituality and politics, the human and the divine. Yet most of us have lost touch with the Sacred Feminine. It’s time to regain it, and there is no better place to begin than to move into the world of women and see what we find there. A WOMAN’S LIFE So great are the demands on women now—many of them self-imposed—that we are often in danger of losing track of our own soul and of burning ourselves out. There is no place for the old female rituals in our lives. In other cultures—among the Native Americans, for instance—women would leave the tribe for a few days each month to enter the soul realms and experience the Moon Lodge during menstruation. There, in the presence of other women, they gave themselves permission to enter altered states of consciousness, to restore their energies, and to express the wildness of their own creativity—a creativity which, at the dark moon time of menstruation, has nothing to do with nurturing or relating to men or to children. We in the Western world have no such opportunity. Instead, many women, unaware of the value of venturing into the soul realms where dreams, instincts and wild energies abound as a way of reconnecting with personal meaning, choose to “control” their moods and cycles by taking hormones—not only to avoid unwanted pregnancies but even to regulate events so that a business meeting doesn't come up in the middle of a menstrual period, when they might not be as rational or socially acceptable as at other times. Then, sooner or later, every woman gets moonstruck. When it happens, the ordinary world in which she has been living is rent asunder. She is being initiated into the wild and wonderful mysteries of the Sacred Feminine. Menopause has arrived. A LOST WOMAN "Isn't it wonderful?" the editor of the woman's page of a national newspaper said to me one day, "Science has finally conquered women's biology.” “What are you talking about?" I replied. "Oh, you know," she went on, "It's great. We don't have to menstruate anymore and we don't have to have babies thanks to the Pill. We don't even have to go through menopause or get old now that we have HRT. At last, women are set free from their biology. I'd like you to write a piece on it." It took me a few seconds to recover from the shock of hearing an intelligent woman voice an opinion so far away from my own sense of what the nature of the Sacred Female is about. I knew there was no point in even discussing the issue. I said that the idea didn't grab me and walked out of the office literally stunned by how carelessly this poor frazzled and confused woman could dismiss a million years of inherited female creativity, wisdom and blood. She had done it with the wave of a hand and the swallow of a pill. Then, almost as an obituary, she had proposed a 750 word article on modern women's new-found “freedom”. At the door I turned to look at her. There sat a haggard 35-year-old who looked 50, hunched over her computer smoking cigarettes. Three years later someone told me she had just had her womb removed. SUFFERINGS OF THE WASTELAND The editor's sense of freedom, like much of the so-called “freedom” we hear about, is certainly of a very limited kind. Since all freedom is won at a price, I cannot help wondering how high a price we are paying and if it is real freedom at all—or is it a new form of slavery dressed up for make-believe? I know too many dynamic, successful women who appear to have everything. Yet, when you sit down with them alone—away from the glitter of their busy lives—they describe feeling out of sync with themselves. A sense of sterility and stagnation permeates their lives, and they carry a feeling of emptiness and even of betrayal, yet from what and by whom they rarely know. Many have aimed for the top and arrived. So now what? Where is the next challenge, the next battle to be won, the next social occasion? Like the editor, they tend to pack their days with duties and appointments, always uneasy that if they stop for a moment they might let somebody down or their lives might fall apart. PERILS OF LOGIC Just as our mothers and their mothers before them embraced the expectations of their culture that fulfillment would come through being a good wife, a good mother or good servant, women now have taken on another cultural stereotype. We have learned to do things logically. We have largely bought into a male stereotype based on the attainment of academic, financial or artistic success. We have thrown ourselves headlong into the male world, and many of us have “made it” within that world's terms. Yet in the wake of our success, we often find ourselves pursued by a confusing sense of barrenness and despair that further achievement in the world, new love affairs or the prospect of a facelift can do nothing to cure. It is at this point that many women, myself included, first hear the call to adventure. It comes as a powerful challenge to leave the ordinary world in which we have lived decades of our lives and set out in search of answers: Why did this happen? What was wrong? What secrets have we forgotten, and what connections had we lost, in our obsession with doing things and our tendency to opt for chemical control of our body's cycles? And what are we missing out on? BACK TO SOURCE How could we, as women, continue to buy into values and ways of living which not only didn’t serve the coming to fruition of our own talents and our capacities for joy, but were inexorably destroying the earth? Where had all our real freedom gone, and our power—not power in the masculine sense of power over, but in the feminine sense of power to? I delved deep into the past in search of archaeological findings and archetypal connections that might give clues to just what as women we had lost, and how any of these lost treasures might be rediscovered. This led me into the realm of myth and ritual. I discovered that the two worlds—the world of science, with all its shifting biochemistry and rising and falling hormones, and the world of myth, peopled with archetypes, symbols, goddesses and rituals—not only met, they are blended within a woman's body and psyche. And where they meet is a cauldron of blood. SACRED BLOOD According to written records, since the beginning of human history, the power of creation was believed to reside in the holy blood that pours forth from a woman's body. It ebbs and flows with the waxing and waning of the moon. Blood has always been credited with magical power and with containing the essence of a person's soul—"one's lifeblood". Medieval physicians believed that a woman's menstrual blood could cure leprosy and act as an aphrodisiac. For centuries, both male and female rituals for receiving the gifts of the Sacred Feminine involved ingesting menstrual blood: It was mixed with red wine and taken as an alchemical drink. Ancient Egyptians, Celts, Persians and Taoists in China all held similar beliefs about menstrual blood, and carried out similar rituals. In Ancient Greece during planting festivals, women mixed their menstrual blood with corn seeds, then spread them upon the earth for fertility. In the 17th century, when William Harvey wrote his famous scientific treatise on circulation, he referred to the flow of blood through the body as the coursing of spiritual power. Even our word “blessing” is derived from the Old English bloedsed, which means bleeding. HARMLESS AND FREE Menstrual blood and the blood of childbirth are the only kinds of blood given freely—that is shed without wounding. Not only metaphorically but speaking strictly from a scientific point of view, human life cannot be created without the blood in a woman's womb. So profoundly did an awareness of the power of a woman's blood touch the lives of primitive people that native words for menstruation carry connotations of spirit, divinity and magic—of the supernatural and of the sacred. Ancient Hindus taught that all life is created out of the congealing of Great Mother's menstrual substance, which had been worked and thickened to form curds or clots from which the crust of solid matter emerges. Their goddess of creation, Kali-Ma, “invited the gods to bathe in the bloody flow of her womb and to drink of it; and the gods, in holy communion, drank of the fountain of life and bathed in it, and rose blessed to the heavens.” INSTINCTUAL SEXUALITY The sexuality of the genuinely free woman is the sexuality of sheer instinct—the wildness of the Sacred Feminine set free. It is she that calls a woman into the secret places of the woods and provokes her to dance naked in wild abandon. Hers is a sexuality to be used in any way she chooses—in union with another; as power to heal the earth and all its creatures in need of healing; or alone to generate the alchemical meeting of male and female within her own body. She will be what she is, she will have what she wants. She is neither passive nor submissive, and her sexuality also has nothing whatever to do with bringing physical children into being. The Sacred Feminine’s eroticism is sheer ecstasy, lived for its own sake, and sheer creativity. She creates in an uninhibited, animated, fiery way, which emanates from the soul of a woman or a man. Such sexuality is the fuel for all creative powers in the world. It carries with it the energy of regeneration and of healing for the world. It is the kundalini power—the rejuvenating cosmic illumination, the power of the serpent, the sacred fire which heals. LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS As the Sacred Feminine gains entrance into the body and psyche of a woman or a man, it illuminates one dark corner of his or her psyche after another, lifting away all that is old and dead and without meaning, the way kundalini energy rises up within a body to illuminate each of the chakras. Their power becomes the power to leave behind what is dead and useless to make way both for personal rebirth and renewal to the natural world. It is the indomitable creative power that lies sleeping in the consciousness of both men and women. Perhaps more urgently than ever before, the Sacred Feminine now calls to us to remember who we really are, and all the creative blessings we have, which the world around us needs so very much. Never in human history has it been more urgent that we listen and respond, for our own sake and for the benefit of all beings and all living things on the earth.

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana®

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