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personal growth

The way you look and feel, how satisfying your life is depends primarily on you. Unless you are aware of this, unless you have an active sense of participating in and being responsible for your own well-being, you are unlikely to develop the motivation you need. Self-responsibility holds the key.

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Laugh Hard

Laugh Hard

Laughter and humor are much needed in the over-serious world of health and beauty, a world which tends to measure health not as joyous energy and creativity but in terms of cholesterol levels, blood pressure and sedimentation rates. The irony is, that according to the latest research into the mind body relationship, a life which sparkles with laughter is not only good for you because it feels good, it can also help look after the state of your blood pressure, immune system and cholesterol levels. Some researchers believe laughter can help look after the state of your blood pressure, immune system and cholesterol levels far better than high powered medical care and drugs. Drugs, after all, have deeply worrying side effects. The worst of laughter's side effects is joy. When we laugh we shed feelings of judgment, self pity and blame. Our perception shifts and we come to know another level of consciousness. Laughter deepens your breathing, expands blood vessels, heightens circulation bringing more oxygen to your cells, increases the secretion of hormones beneficial to your body, speeds tissue healing and helps stabilize bodily functions. A new philosophy is emerging from studies carried out in France and Canada by philosopher Andre Moreau on the notion that one should seek in all philosophical teachings the keys for releasing innate human tendencies towards humor, laughter and positive energies. It is known as "Jovialiste" which advocates the practice of smiling as a free expression of human vitality and creativity. Meanwhile, hospitals both in the United States and Europe are even prescribing laughter in the form of Jerry Lewis and Marks Brother's films, humorous books and any other simple triggers to put patients into a blissful state of spontaneous giggles. life on the flip side The way that emotions and health are closely related has been investigated for many years. The scientific press is full of papers which show the way that negative emotions such as anger, resentment, fear and despair are major factors in the development of serious illness from cancer to coronary heart disease. Scientists have charted direct pathways between mind and immunity via anatomical connections that link the brain directly to organs such as the spleen and the thymus gland. They have also shown that hormonal secretions induced by emotions and thought patterns create a second pathway between mind and body which is carried on the blood, and there is strong evidence that excess adrenaline from high levels of stress can significantly depress the body's immune system. But until recently most of the focus of mind-body research has been on the negative. Now, thanks to the new fascination with laughter, many scientists are beginning to investigate the biochemical changes brought about by positive emotions and encouraging their use as tools for health and healing. Researchers now find that laughter, relaxation, meditation and hope not only produce beneficial changes such as lowered heart rate and breathing, they can even improve the way your body responds to stress hormones, and bring about a shift in your perception of potentially stressful situations so you can look on them as challenges rather than as insurmountable problems - a vital attitude in preserving and enhancing the health of your mind and body. One of the very best things of all about laughter is that it breaks through the tendency each of us has to take our self and our values too seriously. It breaks down the roles we play and liberates the self locked within. It is our tendency to identify with our own self-created image, fears, beliefs and assumptions that takes us away from the joy which we believe is normal for each of us to feel. Give yourself a chance to laugh, and it will make you feel more alive, healthier and more beautiful. learn to laugh Seek out and spend time with people who make you laugh - often. Look for books that make you laugh, and keep a file of cartoons and magazine articles which you can share with your friends. Learn to be silly sometimes - like a child. Maybe join a drama class where they do improvisation, or make friends with children who still remember how to laugh and play and let them be your teachers.

The Power Of Myth

The Power Of Myth

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

My Life In Beauty

My Life In Beauty

I had a beautiful mother. She was a cross between a golden-haired fairy godmother and a Hitchcock blonde. Always impeccably dressed, my mother could walk through a barnyard in a white suit and emerge without a speck. Not me. I am a walking advertisement for what I ate for lunch, since most of it ends up down my shirt. COOL BEAUTY My mother never shared with me her clothes, her jewelry, or her cosmetics. Even to walk through her dressing room and touch them was a crime punishable by banishment. She did share some important advice though: She taught me that beautiful skin matters. To maintain it, she insisted, you need just the right amount of sunlight –half an hour early or late in the day–and no more ever. She was also adamant I needed to eat natural foods and to supplement my diet with some judiciously chosen vitamins and minerals as well. Stay away from sugar and breads and pizzas, she insisted. Never go to bed without cleansing your face first, and nourish your skin to keep it soft and smooth with something really active—be it fresh papaya or an absurdly expensive but irresistible French night cream—to help repair cell damage that occurs during the day. It was she who taught me to fall in love with the ritual of nurturing my skin. At first I balked at the idea. Then, in my mid-twenties, I decided she was right. I began to make a little time each day to look after myself. I came to realize that the time a woman spends at her dressing table (this can be as simple an affair as a cardboard box covered with cloth at which you sit on a cushion) is a time of silence, solitude, and renewal. It is even better than meditation. And it’s a lot more fun. Fifty years later, I still believe this with all my heart. CAUGHT IN THE NET My professional involvement with beauty began when I became Health and Beauty Editor for Harpers & Queen magazine in London. For that matter, I was the first ‘health and beauty editor’ anywhere. Why health and beauty? Because I insisted that these two aspects of a woman’s life are so dependent on each other that they cannot be separated. At Harpers & Queen, I was blessed with a remarkable Editor for my boss: Willie Landels, a man of vision, humor, intelligence and the best possible kind of genuine sophistication. Willie gazed benignly upon my naïve American enthusiasm and my obsession with getting to the bottom of whatever I was investigating and he decided to place his trust in me. We worked together for almost fifteen years. From the very first month, he provided me with the freedom to write whatever I thought was important, and to say whatever I found to be true about it. In the decade and a half I worked with Harpers & Queen, only once did Willie question anything I wanted to write. It was a piece on Outward Bound for women. He thought it was “too downmarket”. Nobody ever changed anything in my copy— except to correct my abysmall [sic] spelling. Nor, after the first few weeks, did anyone attempt to influence or control what I alone decided I wanted to write about. AIN’T NOTHIN’ SO NICE AS FREEDOM Such freedom is a great blessing. It set me free to delve deep into whatever fascinated me—from writing about how Lancôme formulated their first liposome, to exposing the way plutonium, with its radioactive half life of 2,300 years, was being irresponsibly dumped into the Irish Sea from Britain’s nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Cumberland. It still is by the way. (That was kind of scary. After the article appeared my telephones were tapped for more than a year and my London home broken into twice, although nothing was stolen.) TO HELL WITH PRESSURE In the magazine world, a beauty editor (most nowadays hold the far grander title of “Beauty Director”) is continually bombarded by the publisher and advertising director at the magazine to write about products from cosmetic companies who have bought advertising. Harpers & Queen was no exception. Within the first fortnight, I was approached by its Advertising Director, Terry Mansfield—who later became Managing Director and Chairman of the National Magazine Group in Britain. Terry told me that one of the cosmetic giants had just bought an expensive double paged spread to promote some new skin cream. Would I please make sure I wrote glowing words of praise about the product in our next issue, he requested. With puritanical American blood surging through my veins, I was shocked. (More than a wee bit self-righteous as well.) “But Terry,” I whined, “I can’t do that. I can only write about what I believe in. If I wrote that kind of stuff, our readers would never come to trust me. After all, your advertisers wouldn’t want to buy space in a magazine its readers can’t trust. Would they?” I think Terry was so stunned by my naiveté that he didn’t quite know what to say. When Willie, the editor, learned about my response to Terry’s request, he smiled a secret smile. A year later, Harper’s beauty advertising had doubled. Before long, it tripled. Terry never brought up the subject again. Gradually my articles on health and beauty—some of which, I suspect, were too technical for anybody to fathom—attracted a wide audience. An ‘inside joke’ began to circulate. It was said that the reason why Leslie Kenton’s stuff was so widely was that although, few people understood a word of it, nobody wanted to admit to this. So they just kept on buying the magazine while Willie kept on smiling…

In The Psychiatrist Chair

In The Psychiatrist Chair

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

The Health Process

The Health Process

Within each one of us lies an essence, a core of self, with one and only one intention—that it may be fully expressed while we live on this earth. With each passing year I become more and more aware that illness, lack of energy, a sense of confusion or lack of meaning in someone’s life stems from a basic frustration of the expression of their unique essential being. So often these experiences are calls from the soul. They ask us to become more aware of who we are at the deepest level of our being. They try to awaken us to our unique soul nature. All real healing is a transformation. Energy, power and authentic freedom grow as we engage in the process of connecting with our essence and begin to discover our values and our soul’s purposes and to express them in our lives. To do this we can call on all sorts of tools and techniques, from detoxifying body and mind to herbs and natural treatments to exercises for expanding awareness. Take energy. Being able to live out your energy potential depends on how well you nourish yourself—physically, emotionally and spiritually—day by day. It helps to develop a lifestyle that incorporates pleasurable exercise, good food, restorative sleep and other helpful practices—from hydrotherapy to taking super nutrients—that support vitality. But more than anything else, energy depends on living from your core, not by other people’s rules. It depends on living what you love most in some way, what feeds you most at the deepest levels. Live your soul’s passion and you call on virtually endless energy. For health not only depends on how you eat and what exercise you get and how you deal with stress. All of these things are important. Each of us needs to develop a way of living unique to our needs. But real health doesn’t stop here. For ultimately health is nothing less than the process of unfolding which each one of us goes through to become more fully who we really are. Once you begin to align your life with your own truth, the universe supports you in ways you may never have dreamed possible. Working with people through their own health process, helping them discover whatever is most appropriate to their needs on both a physical and spiritual level and teaching them how to work with these things has always been the most exciting thing in my life. Each of us carries a divine spark of soul which we are here to live out to the full, bringing our own individual brand of spirit into material form as we walk the earth. The beauty of watching this happen those I work with is like walking in a garden and witnessing unique flowers and plants, trees and rocks that I have never seen before. I am forever dazzled by their beauty.

Sacred Truth Ep. 39: Animal Wisdom

Sacred Truth Ep. 39: Animal Wisdom

Watch an animal move. The rhythmic lope of a wolf and the way its body becomes the motion. A horse in a field—tossing its mane, pounding its hooves, running for sheer pleasure. The dolphin as it leaps high in the air above the water, twisting its powerful body then disappears beneath the waves to emerge a minute later in another joyous leap. For many years, I wondered why most of us after childhood no longer experience this kind of rhythmical freedom, joy and vitality. Why, so often do we often feel only half alive? Why have we been tutored to think of our body as separate from ourselves—something to be criticised, judged, or pushed and shoved into shape, rather than celebrating its power and feeling the enthusiasm that comes with the natural movement that is our birthright? For many the primary experience of life is one of deadness. And since nobody can live long in deadness.We start to seek out artificial stimulants—drugs, alcohol, compulsive work or sex—in the hope that these things might, at least, bring back our sense of aliveness. The trouble is, none of the artificial practices work. Where do you find the real guide to joy and freedom? Listen to our animal friends be they domesticated or wild. Your whole life will change for the better. It stunned me when I became aware of this I then decided to see what I could learn from animals in my personal life. The experience of becoming fully awake and alive lies in the body of an animal itself. The same applies to us humans. It has to do with muscle. It's not our mind but our muscle that creates life-energy for us to think, move and feel. The power of the horse, the rhythmical gait of the wolf, the wild playfulness of the dolphin come from strong, fluid muscles. The more fluid the muscles in any living body, the more does it feel fully alive. Animal bodies have two fundamental components. So do we. They consist of lean body mass and fat. Like our own body organs like the heart, liver, spleen and pancreas, as well as their bones and skin must have a good supply of oxygen. They also need top quality nutrients from pesticide-free foods—proteins, fruits and vegetables. Both animals and humans thrive on foods grown in healthy soils. This is essential for us to think, feel, move, and grow so we can stay healthy naturally. The bodies of wild animals, as well as domestic ones—whose owners know enough not to feed their pets on the kibbled pet food junk sold everywhere—remain lean, sleek and beautiful lifelong. This brings power, ease of movement, stamina and beauty. Then they quite naturally express the exuberance essential to their nature that so inspires us when we are in their presence. Too often, we humans treat our bodies as if they were machines. Your body is nothing like a machine. Use a machine, and it wears out. Move your body, which is designed to be active, and you can delight in watching yourself becoming stronger, more fluid and more alive— no matter what your age or condition right now. Here are some more truths animals can share with us: Animals trust their instincts. If something smells bad, they don't question they just get away from it. Animals are in touch with their innate rhythms and the rhythms of the earth. This creates a life-sustaining harmony. Animals are powerful killers when they need to be. They are infinitely soulful as well and open to forming deep bonds both with us humans and with other animals. An animal eats when it's hungry if food is available. When it is not, it fasts. Animals love to play. Animals respect their elders and embrace the social order. Animals are unabashedly honest and loyal. An animal's patience and discipline when stalking or hunting is phenomenal. Animals form deep bonds with other animals even if they don't belong to the same species. A cat with an owl, a cheetah with a dog, a wild polar bear with a husky, a dolphin with a child, a duck with a rabbit. In Buddhist cosmology, there are beings known as "Bodhisattvas." These are believed to be perfected souls who, out of compassion for the struggles of all of us, choose to forsake enlightenment in order to dedicate themselves to helping liberate all beings. It is said that a Bodhisattva can appear in many forms—as a teacher, a helper, a lover—even an animal. According to Mahayana Buddhist teachings, the Buddha himself spent many lifetimes before experiencing his own liberation beneath the Bodhi tree. In many of these lives, he came to earth as an animal with the intention of bringing wisdom, healing and comfort to all beings. The eighth-century Indian saint Shantideva describes every Bodhisattva's intention: For as long as space endures And for as long as living beings remain. Until then may I too abide To dispel the misery of the world. I believe the gifts of a Bodhisattva are beautifully given us through the generosity of our animal friends. I have intimately known three animals that I sense carried the wisdom, healing power and compassion of a Bodhisattva. There was a cat named Carciofo (Artichoke in Italian), Alba, a hundred and forty pounds of pure white Arctic Wolf, whom Aaron and I shared a room with for five nights in Canada, and Tuffy, a gigantic Collie, who went everywhere with me from the time I was six years old. I have learned so very much from them. They showed me how important it is to watch and listen to animals I meet everywhere. I have always been so grateful for their wisdom. Try spending more and more time with animals, be they wild or domestic. Ask them to teach you how to make your own life richer, healthier and more wonderful. Listen in silence to what they show you. You can be quite sure that they won't let you down.

Go For Freedom

Go For Freedom

Each human being is utterly unique. Like the seed of a plant which has encoded within its genetic material the potential for everything it can become as a full blown flower, each of us comes into this world carrying a package of as yet unrealized potential for energy, health, creativity and joy. I believe our purpose on the earth is very simple - to bring as much of our unique spark of divinity - our seed power - into full blown power. Our seed power comprises our physical, psychological and spiritual potential. It is what creates our uniqueness. The fullest expression of it leads to the fullest experience of authentic freedom. It is rather like the brushstroke a zen painter uses to represent a single leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular – like no other leaf that has ever existed. Yet within its uniqueness is encompassed universal beauty and life energy of the highest order. So it is with each of us. Within the individual genetic package which is you is nestled your very own brand of seedpower – an essential soul energy that encompasses far greater physical, creative and spiritual potential than you could ever hope to realise in one life time. The more fully this seedpower is allowed to unfold the richer your experience of authentic power and freedom will be. So focused is the energy of spirit within a tiny seed that it opens and reaches towards the light, regardless of what is in its way. Once I pulled up a weed growing in my garden to discover within its roots a marble that had been crushed out of all recognition by the life-force of the growing plant. The wonderful thing about any little seed is that it doesn’t take much for it to develop into the plant it is designed to be: some good rich organic soil, a little rain and a dose of sunlight. For the power and the intelligence that makes growth possible lies not outside of it but within the seed itself. People – you and me, and the woman you saw when you got on the bus this morning - are just like plants. All we need is a good healthy environment which allows our unfolding to take place. painful distortions The problem is that few of us get it. For as we are unfolding - as we are passing through the superbly orchestrated phases of our physical and spiritual development - more often than not our environment does not provide the rich soil, clean water and sunlight we need for full unfolding. More often than not it truncates our development. Then, like a little plant trying to push through depleted soil with too little water and not enough sunlight our growth becomes stunted or twisted. Or like a seedling trying to push through earth with a stone on top of it we develop ‘distortions’. All sorts of things can cause distortions: accidents, illnesses, emotional or physical abuse. Even being raised in a wonderful family if you happen to be a ‘fish’ and the rest of your family are ‘ducks’. Distortions can be physical in nature - a sunken chest or an excess of fat which our bodies create as a cushion against a harsh world around us. They can also be emotional, leaving us with a sense that there is something wrong with us, that we cannot rely on our judgement, that we are unworthy, or incompetent or guilty even though we may have no idea why or how. And they can be spiritual. When we grow up in an environment which lacks an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, when we feel ourselves to be isolated and living in a boxed-in world of the five senses, then we can end up with a nihilistic sense of life. We feel we have nowhere to go, nothing to do and no purpose in remaining alive. powerful values That’s the bad news. The good news is that, because of the enormous capacity of a living organism to heal itself, most of these distortions can be cleared through such practices as detoxifying the body, through meditation, through shamanic work that brings you closer and closer to your soul. Of course, some distortions can’t be cleared. I recently did some shamanic healing for a young man who had spent the first six years of his life trying to stay alive while all around him the Khumer Rouge threw people into open graves and shot them. I am not sure if the distortions that come from such an experience are ever cleared. They may be like genetic defects which remain with us throughout our lives. They may not, too. For I have witnessed many so-called miracles and learned that the universe moves in wonderful and mysterious ways. But what’s exciting about distortions that can’t be corrected is that, once we come face to face with them, they often bring us a deep sense of compassion and help us define the values by which we choose to live our lives. The young man I worked with has become highly skilled in working with abused children in war zones. I myself would never have been concerned with issues of health and freedom had I not had to struggle in my early life with chronic illness, depression, and straight jackets. the real McCoy Authentic freedom brings a sense of ease in being who you are - distortions and all. It is feeling OK about yourself and being able to make use of your creative power to bring your unique visions into form. It is feeling good about what you have created too. Tap into freedom and you release energy. You feel like you are connected to life with your whole being. You are no longer trapped within what Alan Watts used to call ‘a skin-encapsulated ego’. Freedom gives you easier access to some of the submerged iceberg of your being where creative power and joy live.

Revelations From An African Sky

Revelations From An African Sky

I once spent the night lying on a platform above an animal watering hole, staring into the vastness of space beholding the great, fathomless mystery of the African sky. Aaron, my youngest son, then three years old, lay curled up next to me like a kitten lost in his dreams. Dazzled by the inconceivable expanse of the sky whose darkness was so overcome with the light from billions of stars that lived in it, I lost myself in timelessness and infinity. That night, I came not to think or to wonder but to know, with absolute certainty in every cell and molecule of my body, that this cosmic world was not something separate from myself, nor I from it. We were, in a way I will never be able to understand rationally, one being. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. Like the proverbial iceberg, most of us live with the lion’s share of our potential for freedom, joy, creativity and authentic power submerged beneath a sea of unknowing. We go about our day-to-day duties and pleasures conscious only of what comes to us through our five senses. How does it taste and feel? What does it sound like? What do we see in front of our eyes? Meanwhile, beneath the vast ocean of consciousness that constitutes what it is to be fully human, our greater selves hibernate, waiting to be awakened. Sometimes—when we fall in love perhaps, or when we are faced with an event of life-shattering proportions like a critical illness or the death of a close friend—a submerged area of our being erupts in magic or horror, and often in surges of passion, energy and beauty. Then, for a time, the mundane quality of everyday life is replaced with a sense of expanded being. Not only do we feel more alive, we wake up to find that familiar things—the tree that stands outside a bedroom window, the cat that greets us when we come home each day, a simple shell we picked up and slipped into our pocket while walking on the beach—have taken on a luminosity which we can’t explain. Other times, without warning while listening to music or walking down a city street, we are suddenly gripped with a sense that the world is far greater than we ever imagined it to be, and a certainty that all we see around us somehow is us. While the experience lasts, everything seems right in the world. Then, like the sun at the point of setting, everything fades beneath the mundane horizon, leaving only the faintest wisp of color to remind us that we once stood in its glory, felt its rays on our bodies and knew that being at one with the universe brings a sense of meaning to our own life and to the lives of others that is simply indescribable. The greatest desire I have is to live my life conscious of the oneness to which we all belong. After all, the magnificence of that African sky not only stretches out to infinity above us, it lies within us, calling to us—asking us to discover that it is who we are.

Rites Of Passage

Rites Of Passage

Like the moon's waxing and waning, or the snake which sheds its skin to be born anew, woman is a cycling creature. Both the fecundity of the moon and the snake's bondage to the changes of life through time are endemic to her nature. They are, in fact, so much a part of our make up that seldom do we stop to think about them. Yet both depend upon the almost infinitely complex multiple interactions of hormones within our bodies. In short, hormones matter a lot. An awareness of the profound influence they exert on a woman's health and emotions - even her view of reality - is crucial. So complicated are the interactions between hormones in the human body, many are still not understood by science. spiritual interface So complex are the hormonal events within the female body, and so central is their relationship to how we think and feel, that it would be no exaggeration to say the female endocrine system is an interface between body and spirit. Even our hopes and dreams are echoed in surges of hormones and in their shifting patterns - much as chords and rhythms develop into the themes and movements of a symphony. Changes in hormonal balance from day to day - even from moment to moment - can not only alter the way you feel emotionally; they can even affect your view of reality. Whether you see life as a challenge to be met, or a source of constant misery and disappointment, can also be reflected in hormone shifts. This is why hormonal imbalances create such emotional and spiritual agonies in women, such as those associated with PMS or menopausal symptoms. The psychic and spiritual aspects of a woman's hormonal interactions are all too often forgotten living within the confines of the mechanistic thinking that rules our society. Instead of recognizing the changes in mood and personality as natural to any cycling creature, we tend to think we should always be the same - always rational, reliable, reasonable and steady. Meanwhile, synthetic hormones - drugs with potentially devastating side-effects - continue to be doled out to us from puberty onwards, with no respect for a woman's cycling nature, and little concern for the long term consequences these chemicals can have on our health and emotions. There is, I believe, far too little awareness of the way in which the use of one or two artificial hormones year after year may not only undermine our long term health, but can also affect a woman's ability to fulfill her potentials for wholeness and may even impede her spiritual development. i excite The word hormone comes from the a Greek word, hormao, which means "I excite", and this is exactly what hormones do. They are messenger chemicals, made in minute quantities in the brain or in special endocrine glands such as the thyroid, adrenals, pancreas and ovaries - sometimes even in fat cells - and then carried by the blood stream to distant parts of the body where they control, activate and direct the ever-changing systems and organ functions, urges and feelings which are you. Your body is continually creating new hormones out of amino acids, peptides and cholesterol in the presence of certain vitamins and minerals - all in response to its specific needs. Hormones are also continually being destroyed - that is, metabolized and removed from your system - as your need for one or another of them changes. All this happens in much the same way a theme or cadence in a piece of music gives way to the next. So rapidly can hormonal shifts take place, and so closely interwoven is the endocrine system with your thoughts, feelings and external events, that measurements of oestrogen or progesterone levels can differ drastically when taken only an hour apart. Hormones perform many tasks. Some help produce or store energy; some trigger growth, or balance blood sugar; some affect your water balance; others your metabolic rate. Still others regulate respiration, cell metabolism or neural activity. Classified by their chemical structure, hormones can be either polypeptides or proteins, phenol derivatives or steroids. The steroid hormones - from the oestrogens and progesterone to DHEA, cortisol, aldosterone and others - that are nature's servants for regulating sex and reproduction, as well as for balancing brain chemistry and helping the body handle stress without succumbing to illness. Although they are only produced in small doses, steroids pack a big wallop. Each is highly specific in its actions. Each hormone will only excite the particular cells it is designed to affect. How this happens is one of nature's most clever tricks. A molecule of a certain hormone - take progesterone or DHEA - has a unique shape. It will be ignored by all receptor molecules - key-holes on the cells - as it travels through your body, until it is at last recognized by the particular receptor molecule with which it is meant to connect. Into this receptor site in cells, and into it alone, the hormone molecule fits perfectly - just the way a key does in its lock. So powerful are a hormone's actions that your body only needs to make minute quantities of each as they are required. For instance, at any moment there may be as little as one molecule of a particular hormone to every fifty thousand million other molecules in your bloodstream. The body's production of hormones, and the way in which the relationship between them is continuously adjusted, relies on complex interactions involving your pituitary (a tiny gland at the base of your brain) and your hypothalamus, often called the master gland, as well as other glands such as the adrenals. In addition to producing sex related hormones such as the oestrogens, the adrenals manufacture other important steroids including cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol's main function is looking after blood sugar levels on which energy depends, while aldosterone oversees potassium and magnesium excretion as well as sodium retention, and influences both blood pressure and fluid retention. It is how you live during the menstrual years - the way you eat, how you use your body, and the decisions you make about what medications you take or don't take - that the stage is set for a trouble-free life, and when the time arrives, for a natural menopause.

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