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personal growth

101 articles in personal growth

To Hell With Convention

To Hell With Convention

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are ceaselessly involved in the act of creating the quality of your own life—your looks, values, attitudes, actions, and the nature of your relationships. You do this through image-making—a universal characteristic of the human mind which appears even to precede thinking in the brain. We see, worry, put together ideas, dream, speak, wonder, all through the use of images. We experience a continuous flow of mental pictures, both conscious and unconscious, every moment of our waking lives. In fact, the capacity to visualize—to "image"—is one of the miracles of the human organism, for through it we are able to organize reality, communicate with others, and make sense of the restrictions of time and space around which our lives are organized. And images have tremendous potency. Your own images can be used for your good or they can be used against you. WHAT WE’VE BEEN TAUGHT Each of us comes into the world with a particular set of genes that determine our skin colour, sex, body type and, to a certain extent, our personality and intelligence. But by the time we are four or five, the form of what we were at birth has been altered physically and mentally so that we have become more complex and quite different in the way we respond and function, think and express ourselves. Some of these changes, such as physical growth, come from the same genetic inheritance that gave us our original form. Others, probably by far the largest number, come from what is commonly referred to as behavioural programming—the things we learn spontaneously through day-to-day living, such as motor control and speech, as well as the things we are taught, such as how to communicate with people, dress ourselves, use a pencil, and so forth. In all that we have learned from experience (things like if you touch a hot stove it hurts) and all we have been taught by our parents and other people, there are an enormous number of mental images that greatly affect our ideas and our lives ever after. For instance, from our programming we get a notion of what in our behaviour is considered good and what is called bad. We form innumerable impressions of what we are like and what others are like. And, finally, we come to have "sets" of knowledge about the world. All these things form our belief systems—conglomerates of images, ideas, and assumptions that make it possible for us to function from day to day. Some of these belief systems are individual—they pertain to our inner world alone and are entirely personal. Others we share with the rest of humanity—for instance, together we "agree" that the brown-and-white, rather square-shaped animals with horns that graze in fields and give milk are "cows." We also agree in common with others that if you step in front of a moving bus you will be hurt. Such belief systems are important, for without them we would not be able to live or share our experiences with others. WHAT WE ASSUME IS TRUE Our own individual belief systems are somewhat different in character. They consist of the many unconscious notions and assumptions we hold about what we are and are not and can and cannot do. They influence whether we see life as exiting and challenging or rather as painful and hopeless. And although most people are not aware of it, these belief systems, formed gradually as we grow up, wield enormous power over us. GROWING UP IS NEVER EASY A child who grows up in a family where he or she is treated with respect tends to grow up believing that she is worthy of this respect. When her needs are frequently met, she comes to believe that they are likely to be met in a similar way in the future and, although he is probably completely unaware of this, she actually comes to expect it. Similarly, if someone is brought up in an environment where she is treated with disdain or carelessness or as if she were stupid, then she gradually forms more negative assumptions about herself and they become the "systems" by which she lives her life. The whole creation and formation of our belief systems is a very complex process. It is largely an unconscious one, too, because the amount of sensory information fed into a human brain even in one day is immeasurably rich. We are continually responding to one perception, feeling, word, or sensory experience after another. Our belief systems, formed from these events, are therefore many-layered and extraordinarily elaborate. But they all have one thing in common: power. The images we hold, consciously or unconsciously, about ourselves and our lives are real in the sense that they tend to reaffirm themselves over and over again in our experience. Studies have been done in which a child's IQ, tested at school, is measured against her expectation of herself and her performance in the classroom. Almost invariably, the child whose belief systems include the idea or image of herself as not really very bright does badly in schoolwork regardless of what her IQ shows, and vice versa. In fact, there is also considerable evidence in older children that even IQ measurements soon come to reflect a child's basic intellectual self-esteem—or lack of it. All because of the belief systems she holds about herself. SELF-FULFILLING NOTIONS When it comes to health, relationships with other people, and creative functions, belief systems are particularly important in determining our success or lack of it. If you take the time to sit down and look at a particular area in your life that you consider reasonably successful—say your work, or your relationship with a particular person—you will find that your ideas, feelings, and attitudes about it are generally of a positive nature: pleasing, charming, fun, interesting, and so forth. Similarly, if you look at an area of your life that doesn't work so well or with which you are not satisfied, you will find it is accompanied by negative images or visualizations. Most important of all, these negative images and the belief systems they create will tend, when put to the test in real situations, to bring about exactly the effects you expect. If you feel you are uncreative when you paint a picture, it will turn out to be uninteresting. If you feel like a failure when you try to reach a goal, you will fail. Under even mildly stressful situations you become ill, and so on. And, of course, failures only further strengthen the negative belief systems you already hold. It is a vicious circle—that is, until you are able to become aware of these negative belief systems you are unconsciously carrying around with you, examine them objectively, and then make a decision to change them. So long as they are unconscious, you are in their power and no real act of will is going to change them much. When they become conscious, you can begin working with them, looking at them, examining where they come from and their validity or lack of it, and decide on whether or not they are useful. Then gradually you can become free of them. In a fortnight, we’ll exploring simple practices that make use of the power of creative imagery—the deliberate repeated use of specific mental images— to bring about dazzling positive changes to your health, your life and your core beliefs about who you are and what you love most. See you then...

Addicted To Beauty

Addicted To Beauty

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I am a sucker for beauty. I always have been. It’s no accident that I’ve spent years of my life working with beauty, writing about it, researching it, exploring it in every form. Here’s the news: I have recently become totally addicted to the marvelous new (only a year old) ‘Pinterest’. It’s a unique social network which I stumbled into almost by accident, and I’ve become completely besotted with. So much is this the case that I find myself awakening in the night to look at what is new on the site—and it is truly wonderful. It is also a very far cry from Facebook, Twitter and the rest. I predict that, if you explore it, you too will become trapped in this web of beauty. Pinterest covers everything from ancient artifacts to street fashion, health, and just about everything else that makes up our lives. PINTEREST—WHAT IS IT? How do I begin to describe it? It’s a pinboard-style photo sharing website that lets you create and manage all sorts of theme-based collections of images and events which interest, dazzle and delight you, plus lots more. Once you join Pinterest—and you can only become a member by invitation—you have access to pinboards belonging to other people all over the world. You can re-pin images in your own collections (called your “boards”), or you can “like” the photos that they present. You can save, sort, delete and resort all of your images—these are known as “pins”—enabling you to post all sorts of media content in your boards. Your boards usually follow a theme so that your pins can be easily organized, found and enjoyed by other users. There are all sorts of quick links to Pinterest, as well as “Pin It” buttons to go on the top of your browser—so that whenever you find an image or piece of information that fascinates you, you can press the Pin It button. This will immediately take you to your Pinterest account, and let you put it on one of your boards then and there. I love Pinterest’s mission statement, which is “to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting”. Surprisingly enough, you will find no advertisements on Pinterest, and—though it’s only been around for just over a year—it is the fastest growing social service in the world. FEED YOUR SOUL In the world we live in, with all of its chaos and concerns about economic and political disorder, Pinterest for me—and many others—has become a place where one can nourish one’s soul with whatever fascinates, brings you joy or a sense of spiritual uplifting, or all of the above. I love boards that inspire me. My own Pinterest pages are filled with information about health, the sea, animals, spiritual renewal, healing herbs, ancient cultures, and of course beauty of every kind. The only way to appreciate Pinterest is to take a look at it for yourself and see what you feel. As you’ve probably figured out, I am over the moon about the magnificent life-enhancing beauty that you can find here. I strongly suggest that you check it out. I predict that it will inspire you too. This year, Pinterest won the “best social media app” and the “people’s voice award” for their best-functioning visual design at the Webby awards. It would be impossible for me to sing the praises of Pinterest too highly. Happy pinning!

Time For Reaping

Time For Reaping

At the moment we have about a quarter of a century allotted to us in which to grow to adulthood. The next forty years are generally directed towards accomplishment in the outside world, realizing the goals of adulthood, procreation and raising a family. Then we tend to slide headlong downhill until we die. The character Vitek in Karel Capek's celebrated play The Makropoulos Secret describes the plight of modern man: . . he hasn't had time for gladness, and he hasn't had time to think, and he hasn't had time for anything except a desire for bread. He hasn't done anything. No, not even himself... What else is immortality of the soul but a protest against the shortness of life? A human being is something more than a turtle or a raven; a man needs more time to life. Sixty years - it is not right. It's weakness, it's innocence, and it's animal-like. Within the confines of our three score and ten years and under the pressures of contemporary social values, modern man and modern woman have become quite extraordinarily obsessed with accomplishment. Since for most of us the time for worldly accomplishment is limited to this middle period we push ourselves forward, often at health-breaking and heartbreaking speed. To many of us the concern with fulfilling ourselves in our career, paying the rent, buying the baby a new pair of shoes, during what are supposed to be the best years of our lives, forces us to postpone the pleasures of a time to dream, a time to think and a time to play - in the very highest sense of the word. If we are to find a means of coping with the problems of our society-problems of poor statesmanship, overpopulation, Third World famine, pollution and economic inequities - we desperately need this time to dream. We need this time to recreate our own world and to take our destiny responsibly into our own hands, aside from the demands of adult life. connectedness - a priority Nobel laureate novelist Hermann Hesse wrote about such a time-expanded world in his Glass Bead Game. There, time's limits become the rules of the game of life and each human being is freed to order his existential choices. Such a time-expanded world could help us draw together our learning and re-synthesize our knowledge. It might enable the coming together of disciplines such as mathematics, physics, philosophy, biology, medicine, psychology, anthropology, art, literature, politics, theology and law - in fact the whole gamut of human concerns and disciplines - into a kind of connectedness which is urgently needed in the excessively fragmented postindustrial society that has become our home. Healthy longevity - ageless aging - would make available to us the steadily maturing wisdom of our old people - people whose experience and awareness have not become distorted by ill-functioning minds and rapidly waning energies. Such wisdom is, I believe, exactly what we need to help guide our species into its further evolution. Moreover, such time expansion takes hold of our personal sense of the present and in a very real way draws it into the future. For when we are able to project ourselves into the future, that future becomes not an abstract consideration but of active concern to all of us. The future of the earth is our future. We become responsible for it and we will live to see it as caretakers instead of irresponsible tenants of a rented property. Ageless aging will help us become its owners and like all owners we are far more likely to look after our property. In George Bernard Shaw's preface to Back to Methuselah - the play in which his character Dr Conrad Barnabas promotes an extended lifespan of 300 years - he writes: `Men do not live long enough; they are, for the purposes of high civilization, mere children when they die.' He then goes on to consider some of the creative possibilities of our being able to lengthen life: This possibility came to me when history and experience had convinced me that the social problems raised by millionfold national populations are far beyond the political capacity attainable in three score and ten years of life by slow growing mankind. On all hands as I write the cry is that our statesmen are too old, and that Leagues of Youth must be formed everywhere to save civilization from them. But despairing ancient pioneers tell me that the statesmen are not old enough for their jobs . . . We have no sages old enough and wise enough to make a synthesis of these reactions, and to develop the magnetic awe-inspiring force which must replace the policeman's baton as the instrument of authority. creators of destiny For me this magnetic awe-inspiring force of which he speaks is nothing less than man's potential to become the creator of his destiny on earth. The situation in which we live with all the global dangers to which we are exposed from the possibility of mass nuclear extinction to world economic collapse - are not accidents of nature. We have created them. And no act of God can suddenly remove their potential destructiveness from our future. Only we ourselves have the possibility of doing that. If we are to succeed, we will need to call forth every resource that we have - intelligence, wisdom, strength, courage, and patience, wit, compassion - and work with them. Ageless aging can help us do that. Life extension, the freedom from mental and physical degeneration, is no curious artifact of twentieth-century science. Who cares if, at the age of 85, we are all capable of running a marathon or if we look 30 years younger? Such things matter little on their own. But the high-level health, mental clarity and wellbeing, which are rewards of ageless aging, are of urgent concern to our future as residents of the earth. They form the foundation on which we as human beings can build if we are to make use of our full potential for creativity. In the full use of such creativity lies the future of our children our planet and ourselves. Again in the words of Capek's Vitek: Let's give everyone a three-hundred-year life. It will be the biggest event since the creation of man; it will be the liberating and creating anew of man! God, what man will be able to do in three hundred years! To be a child and pupil for fifty years; fifty years to understand the world and its ways and to see everything there is; and a hundred years to work in; and then a hundred years, when we have understood everything, to live in wisdom, to teach, and to give example. How valuable human life would be if it lasted for three hundred years! There would be no fear, no selfishness. Everything would be wise and dignified. Give people life! Give them full human life! Capek's Vitek An idealistic plea in the midst of the profound disillusionment with man that is so much a part of modern life? A dream? Perhaps. Yet our dreams become the myths by which we live. And right now we urgently need new myths to give our life direction - dreams which, having been tempered by the wisdom of age and experience, are large enough and rich enough to take us forward. Such dreams have power. They also have a remarkable way of becoming reality: All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. T.E. Lawrence

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.

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.

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.

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.

Dare To Be You

Dare To Be You

The core of a human being - that source of virtually boundless creative power, as well as physical and psychic energy - will never be found by dissecting the human body. Nor can it be arrived at by analyzing the human mind. Yet a sense of what I call living from the core or the soul, an experience of living - living truthfully to your own values - is something each of us experiences at certain times in our lives. Although most of us only happen upon this experience accidentally, it can also be cultivated by pursuing actions which we enjoy or which make us feel good about ourselves and our lives. It can happen when we fall in love; when we feel happy because everything seems in harmony around us; or when we feel pleased with ourselves, our children, or some accomplishment. In such moments, everything seems to fit together, or feel right, and life has meaning. Such a sense is central to an experience of living with energy. The techniques for building a high-energy lifestyle with lots of energy are only of lasting value if you value yourself, and live your life on that assumption. tuning into core energy Psychologist Abraham Maslow, who spent his life studying not human pathology, but rather human beings who lived their lives with great energy, creativity and joy - he called them self-actualizers - referred to the special moments in our lives as ‘peak experiences.’ After examining the experiences of thousands of high energy, creative and happy people, he came to the conclusion that these self-actualizers have certain things in common. They tend, for instance, to be the healthiest people in society, mentally and physically. They tend to have a lot of values in common too, such as prizing simplicity, wholeness, effortlessness, truth, honesty, uniqueness, completeness, and perfection - in fact, the same values one might expect mystics to possess. They are, in effect, fully functioning people who tend frequently to have peak experiences - moments of great happiness, rapture, ecstasy - in which life’s conflicts are at least temporarily transcended or resolved. Other psychologists, anthropologists and philosophers have described Maslow’s self-actualizing person too. Carl Rogers - perhaps most appropriately of all - refers to Maslow’s self-actualizer as a ‘fully functioning’ person. Out of their work has emerged a whole new picture of what it is to be human. It has changed our perspective so that we no longer see a human being the way Freud did - as a collection of repressed destructive urges, only barely restrained by learned moral constructs from destroying ourselves and others - but as potentially autonomous human beings. We recognize that the destructive and self-defeating tendencies that we all have are far less the hidden truth of a person than the results of a frustration in the expression of what Maslow called the Self - or soul of life itself. Not only boundless energy, but happiness and freedom from this frustration and from negative thought patterns and the behavior they engender, lie in letting your natural self-actualizing tendencies (which in most of us are still weak or dormant) develop. Until they grow, we all regress into fear and frustration or laziness. Once they become stronger, one’s life becomes an ongoing process of energy release, growth, and unfolding of potential as well as, quite simply, much happier. what are your peak experiences? Take a notebook and, on a clean page, describe a moment or moments in your life where you felt a sense of `living from your core' - a time when everything seemed to work for you, where you felt temporarily fulfilled and good about yourself. If you are not sure you understand the idea, simply describe a moment when you felt particularly happy. Remember the scene as vividly as possible, and use as much detail as you can to recall your impressions. Use this description as a reference point from now on for how good you can feel and how wonderfully life can fit together. As you become more and more self-actualizing and come to live more and more from your soul, peak experiences become more frequent. Create New Visions of You and Your Life Now start to dream of what it will be like for you to have all the energy you ever need. Begin to play with a number of clear mental pictures of yourself fit, well and looking great. But don't just consider the physical changes you would like to make. Get to know the person you aim to be, and see yourself in this image. Record what you see, hope for, want to bring into being in your notebook and refer to it often when you feel unsure of your goals and direction. Here are some of the characteristics of high energy self-actualizing to use as inspiration: An exceptional ability to cope with change and to learn from it. Most people have trouble with change. It is unsettling and frightening. It needn't be. It all depends on how you look at it. We all face fear of changes, but the more you come to live from your core - to manifest your soul energy - the more you will tend to view change not as threatening, but as a challenge to learn from and grow from, whether any particular change at face value appears to be `good' or `bad'. And as far as failure is concerned, instead of being a source of fear, it can be viewed as something that shows us how to deal with a similar situation in the future. After all, human beings do fail sometimes. No great worry about saying ‘No’. Not aggression, but assertiveness, plays a central role in creating energy. It implies a strong sense of your individual right to your values and opinions, and a tendency to respect the rights of other people as well. You need to be able to say no to a food or drink you don't really want, a request from a lover or spouse, a demand from a child or a colleague. The best way to develop healthy assertiveness is simply to practice it. It feels a bit strange at first, but the more you do the easier it becomes. Paradoxically, only when you are positively assertive can you discover what real unselfishness is, because then what you give is what you choose to give, not what you feel obliged to give. A well-conditioned body. This not only brings you energy, it also helps you cope with stress better, look better and younger, and strengthens your sense of self-reliance. It also shifts hormonal balance and brain chemistry, making you highly resistant to depression and anxiety, and highly prone to feeling good about yourself and your life. Top-level fitness leads to a freedom to achieve excellence in other non-physical areas of your life as well. It increases stamina, strength and flexibility - not only physically, but emotionally as well. A marked absence of common minor ailments and troubles. Most people believe that the Monday morning `blues' or the aches and pains in joints after forty are a normal part of living. But they take up little space when you have an abundance of energy. `Normal' means moving with ease, and feeling pretty good about things day after day - sometimes feeling very good indeed - not because something stupendous has just happened, but because when you are really fit and well that is the normal way to feel. Laughter comes easily. An ability to laugh at the absurd (including yourself when appropriate) and a sense of fun are perhaps the most important of all the high-energy characteristics. Joy is health-giving. Paradoxically, often the most delightful sense of humor parallels a strong sense of purpose in a person - another high-energy characteristic. Integrity. The more you become a self-actualizer, the more you set your own standards and live up to them. Your values become a source of strength and energy for you. You don't have to compromise them to achieve some temporary advantage. You can feel the truth, be who you really are, and make your life work. Hard to believe? It’s time to.

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.

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana®

Fast, Healthy Weight Loss

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana® has proudly supported 13,000+ 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 12th of April 2021 (updated every 12 hours)

-0.53 lb
for women
-1.30 lb
for men
-0.53 lb
for women
-1.30 lb
for men

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 12th of April 2021 (updated every 12 hours)

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