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spirituality

All freedom comes from within. Live free and you feel fully alive. It is like taking a deep, spontaneous breath. It is like laughter. Freedom is also full of surprises. There is a boldness to it.

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Come Join Me In The Sacred

Come Join Me In The Sacred

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

Sacred Creativity

Sacred Creativity

Deep within you lies a font of endless creativity. The most powerful force for freedom and fulfillment in any life, every human being has literally been made in the image of creation. How freely we are able to allow this sacred creativity to pour forth determines how rich our lives can become. It may even decide the future of our planet. This most sacred creative force can provide us with whatever we need to meet the challenges facing us in a world which increasingly appears to be edging towards chaos. And, just in case you think that when the gifts of creativity were being passed out, they bypassed you, think again. Sacred creative power is by no means only available to those who can write a book or paint a picture. It shows itself in how you think and function, in how you relate to others, as well as how we are able tocreate for ourselves the lives we long to live. Why is creativity sacred? Because, set free, it permeates every aspect of your life, lighting it up with wonder and possibility. Discovering and releasing your unique creative power enables you to turn difficulties you face on their head, transforming them into opportunities. YOUR BIRTHRIGHT Few of us come anywhere near to tapping our creative potential. Too often it is burnt out of us by education, or parental and religious training which teaches us to trust outside authority, undermining our abilities to trust in ourselves. It is time to reclaim our creative birthright. When we do, we discover a sense of purpose. Then we can call forth the support of the Universe to fulfill it. Health improves. We come to look upon our life as a great adventure which goes on expanding, year after year, towards greater fulfillment and satisfaction. Let’s now take a short journey through the mysterious labyrinth of sacred creativity. Hopefully it will inspire you to discover some truths about your own creative potential in all its magnificence. Doing so can carry us out of a life of dry responsibility and duty—sometimes tinged with disappointment, addiction and compromise—towards a pathway to authenticity, personal power, and freedom. SACRED CREATIVITY REVEALED Fifty years ago I first became fascinated by the creative process. I spent 4 years writing my first novel, Ludwig: A Spiritual Thriller. In the middle of the night, I would sit for hours on the floor in a corner of my little study listening to every piece of music Beethoven ever wrote, over and over again, always asking the question, “Where was his consciousness when he created this?” During that period I read a dozen books a week. In the beginning, they were biographies of Beethoven. I took a course in harmony and counterpoint since I knew little about either, and I felt I needed to understand more about how music is constructed. Then, for reasons I could not figure out, I found myself immersed in researching shadow governments and what was really going on in the world behind the façade of mainstream media. I kept saying to myself, “Why on earth are you learning about all this stuff when it has nothing to do with Beethoven?” What I did not realize then was just how incredibly complex and multidimensional every human being’s creative processes are nor how they work to expand and inspire our lives and our goals. For, by the time I finished the last page of my novel, every scrap of information I had amassed from my research, including what I had learned about the shadow world of political control and deceit, had all come together in ways I could never have imagined within the book to make it whole. The experience of all this brought new meaning and purpose into my own life. The bottom line is this: Once you decide to commit yourself to what you long to do or be or make in your life, and then follow it through thick and thin, this not only releases creative energies from within; it transforms your life in wonderful ways you could never have imagined. CREATIVITY: LESLIE’S PRINCIPLES Here is a short list of what I’ve discovered about the creativity within each of us: Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative vitality. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from the very core of our being. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity. There is an underlying in-dwelling creative force seated in the body which infuses all of life— including ourselves. When we seek the creative core within allowing its energy to permeate our body, we call forth sacred gifts and bring their transformative power into our lives. Creativity is the Divine’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to the Divine. The refusal to be creative is counter to our true nature and the greatest impediment to a fulfilling life. When we open ourselves to exploring creativity, we open ourselves to the unending support of universal energy. For creativity is always aligned to universal creative power so we can receive its endless gifts. As we open the sacredness of our creativity, many gentle but powerful changes start to take place in us and in those around we love. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity. Cross the threshold into your creative world, and you enter the realm of the imagination—the place in which intention can create reality. In this magical place, most of the day-to-day rules and reassurances that help us feel safe and comfortable fall away to reveal life of a different order—wilder, deeper, more authentic and unpredictable. Here’s how the adventure begins. DOORS OF PERCEPTION Human beings are, first and foremost, creators of their own lives. We do this either consciously or unconsciously. When we create consciously, we envision something close to our soul and then dance with it until out of the union—more like a love affair than anything else—our creations are born. When we create unconsciously, our creations come from a view of life that has been distorted and polluted by conditioning. The secret is to cleanse the doors of perception so that you are able to envision clearly and create what, from the deepest levels of your being, you want in your life. It is the simplest, the most challenging, and the most satisfying thing any human being ever does. What do you want to create? MEET THE DAEMON Take one part vision, mix it with methods for shifting consciousness, and a willingness to meet your Daemon and dance with it. Enter this dance of fire in a state of rapture, sometimes ecstatic and others daunting, but always exciting. In ancient times, the daemon—indispensable to creation—was considered to be a spirit of genius. Like the muse, he or she acted as an interface between you and the divine. Like nature herself, the daemon is neither good nor bad. The Greeks believed each of us was given a daemon at birth as a guardian spirit, useful in connecting earth with heaven. Through your daemon, the transcendent becomes the commonplace. A vision is tempered, honed and shaped. You are asked to fall in love with whatever you want to bring into being. Artistic visions take form. Relationships find new birth. So does everyday life. What do you love enough to want to bring into being? DANCE WITH YOUR DAEMON A willingness to do this, initiates a delicate, all encompassing, erotic process of transformation. It asks that you surrender to the dance, and at the same time maintain awareness of your separateness. This is not a loss of self, it’s a kind of cellular metamorphosis—a remembering through your subtle body who you really are. It touches your bones, your flesh, your muscles and your heart. Out of the depths of this union, destructive energies can be transformed into sheer power for creation. It’s a fascinating process—one to carry you back and forth from the very depths of your soul to the lofty heights of invention. Living it transforms an ordinary existence into a life of passion. WASTE DISPOSAL OK. So each of us comes into this life with the natural capacity to create. Indeed, that is what we are here for and what makes us unique. But our educational system, our parental and religious training—the very hierarchical structures of work and society—too often pollute our consciousness with destructive notions, lack of self-belief and an imprisoning sense of limitation. These things teach us not to be creative, not to listen to our inner voice, not to trust our visions. It is authority we are taught to bow down to. All these false notions distort our natural creative powers and truncate them, leaving us frustrated and often not knowing what is wrong. So we collect more money or lovers, crave more status and long for more holidays—none of which can fulfill the deep longing in every human being to exercise his or her birthright: To create one’s own destiny and realize our deepest dreams. HONOR THE WHISPERS Uncovering and making use of your own creative energies brings a willingness to witness what is happening to you and around you, without passing judgment and without negating whispers from your soul. Each thing you create exists in some form in consciousness before it is ever made—within your own mind to be sure, but also in the collective unconscious. This is what Plato described with his forms, and what Michelangelo knew when he chiseled a hunk of marble to allow the form he insisted was hidden within it to emerge. Creativity demands an abundance of life energy, clarity of mind and emotion, and the stamina to see something you really want to happen right through to the final moment when it does. This energy depends not on age but on aliveness. EMBRACING CHAOS All creativity demands that we enter the realm of chaos. Here the creative intention coupled with a sense of compassion for yourself and for all life, can be used to harnesses chaos and bring to birth what we you dream of creating. Good science (and, these days, little that is called “science” can claim to be valid) has much to teach about the process: Bohm’s explicate implicate order, the quantum leaps of physics, Prigogine’s bifurcation points, open systems, and dissipative structures. These visionaries have themselves made new maps of the mysterious creative process, and can help you make quantum leaps to higher orders of being, greater power, creativity and authenticity. PATH TO WHOLENESS Creativity at the highest order bursts forth from that part of your being in which you are most whole—aware simultaneously on an intellectual, instinctual and physical level. It embraces the presence of the rational thought, but it insists that reason not overstep its boundaries. With active intuition and a feeling of wonder, you enter the passionate creative dance that can become fruitful beyond your wildest dreams. Every time you choose to do this, you gain greater skills in making this fecund state of consciousness a familiar and bounteous part of everyday life. Such is the splendor of the mysterious and sacred power of your own creativity.  

Let’s Explode Reality

Let’s Explode Reality

Each one of us is brimming with creative power. Creativity lies at the core of what it is to be fully alive and free, so each of us can express our unique visions as gifts to all life. I believe it’s time to set free our indestructible passion to create from the core of our being. Each of us is being called to do this; not only for our own sake, but for the sake of all beings and the earth itself. I am excited about answering the call. Are you? HOLISTIC POWER Creativity is a mind-body-soul experience. It demands that we have access not only to our intelligence and to the layers of our psyche of which we are consciously aware, but to the whole of our being including what is commonly called the unconscious mind. Most of us have come to ignore the unconscious parts of us, in no small part as a result of Freud’s insistence that they are a repository of repressed desires which need to be codified, pathologized and treated. It is this belief that has propelled tens of millions of men and women into psychotherapy in the past hundred years. As a result, most of us still live with the lion’s share of our potential for creativity and freedom unavailable to us. Meanwhile, beneath the vast ocean of what it is to be fully human, our creative power slumbers, waiting for us to awaken it. PLUMBING THE DEPTHS Then, when the founder of depth psychology, C. G. Jung, came along. Jung announced what every creative artist discovers for himself, that Freud’s “fearful unconscious” is also a realm replete with visions, archetypes, insight and soul—all of these are fuels which feed our creative fires. Once we embrace the depths of our psyche and learn to work with them, we can access the gifts they hold, and live our lives from a foundation of authentic freedom and power. A person’s interior life, insisted Jung, not only merits attention; it calls for dedicated exploration which is exactly what he, himself, did and then recorded in his posthumously published Red Book. Thanks to more than half a century of exploration, Jung came to see the human psyche—both conscious and unconscious—as an inherently spiritual and fluid medium, a magnificent ocean which we humans can fish for enlightenment, creativity, healing and personal transformation. Jung then went on to discover that the dreams, myths and archetypes which reside in our unconscious are highly personal to each of us. Yet we are also connected with what he called the collective unconsciousness, which connects us with archetypal realities that are not only personal but universal. WAKE UP TO RAGING FREEDOM Now this is revolutionary stuff. It speaks of truths few of us even consider, unless we happen to be one of the visionary artists, thinkers or scientists who discover this for themselves in the course of their work. Such men and women are seldom willing to buy into the general consensus of what is taken to be reality. They prefer to strike out on their own, determined to enter uncharted territories and find out for themselves what treasures can be found there to bring back, fuel their work and transform their own lives and the lives of others. Invariably, when someone is courageous enough to question the stuff that the rest of us take to be true, they discover whole new realities. I have a passion to explore the nature and power of creativity from every angle possible in this blog. I hope you will join me in my journey.

We Are One

We Are One

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 SEA OF UNKNOWING 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. AS ABOVE SO BELOW 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 it’s 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 indescribably. 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.

I must have flowers

I must have flowers

Whatever else happens in my life, I must have flowers. These gifts from Nature nourish the soul. We scatter their petals when we marry. We send bouquets of them to celebrate the birth of a child. We decorate our homes and our places of worship with them. We use flowers to comfort the lonely and the ill. We even honour the end of a person’s life by laying floral wreathes on a grave. Not only do flowers play a central role in the rituals of life, they bless our ordinary daily existence by blossoming in our gardens, waste ground and hedgerows – and gracing our windowsills by protruding gaily from a cracked teapot. Perhaps it is the velvet softness of their petals and their luminous colours that make these affirmations from nature so precious to us. Maybe it is the uplifting energy they carry – an energy you sense lying in a field of poppies or when you go into a florist’s shop. It could be the fragrance of flowers, or the transient nature of their coming and going. I don’t know. Ancient Wreaths Our passion for flowers and the awareness that they carry deep healing and sanctifying energies are both as old as history itself. Not long ago, archaeologists digging in the Cave of Shanidar within the Zagros Mountains of Iran unearthed nine bodies of primitive people and discovered that, at least 60,000 years ago, men and women were carrying out flower rituals similar to those we use today. The archaeologists found soil samples in which clusters of pollen from twenty-eight different species of flower lay in a circle forming a wreath which had been laid to rest with human remains. One of the interesting things about the find was that the flowers these primitive people chose to use as a sacred and healing offering to their dead were not the most beautiful, nor were they the most readily available in that area. The flowers from which these wreathes had been made were chosen from plants that are specifically known for their healing properties - hollyhock, grape hyacinth and horsetail - all of which we still use today for medicinal purposes. Precious Offerings The Ancient Greeks and the Egyptians used aromatic oils and flowers for healing too, as they did for embalming, expanding consciousness and for sanctifying space. The Bible is riddled with words of praise for flowers and what they have to teach us, both about the realms of Spirit and about the ordinary world in which we live most of our lives. It tells us “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Mathew 6:28-29). In Song of Solomon 2:12 “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is at hand…” Soul Healers Not only does humanity have a passion for flowers. Flowers have a passion for us. They love to share with us their beauty, their healing powers – their very life force. “When I touch a flower, I am touching infinity,” said the American botanist George Washington Carver: “Through the flower I talk to the Infinite… a silent force… that still small voice.” American clairvoyant and healer Edgar Cayce celebrated the healing power of flowers again and again. He insisted that flowers bring companionship to those of us who are lonely, that they speak to the “shut in”, and that they bring Divine grace and upliftment to everyone. That is certainly my own experience of flowers. The Time Is Now Despite our longstanding love affair with flowers - despite the way for thousands of years we have used them for healing and to mark life’s passages, never in recorded history have we experienced a greater need for their healing and their blessings than right now. For we who live in the post-modern world often feel ourselves to be alienated, isolated, suspended, caught somewhere between the magnificent technology we have created and a longing to bond with the earth and with our own souls. Flowers can help bridge this gap. I think they do this better than anything else in nature. Flowers delight us, bless us and heal us. They clear the spiritual anorexia so widespread in urban life and help fill up our starving souls. They remind us of our own simple humanity as well as our essentially divine nature: They whisper to us of the splendour in the world around us—a world of which we humans are the guardians. Most important of all our relationship with flowers helps realign our ordinary day-to day lives with the authenticity of our unique soul energies. A big statement to make? Yes, but having worked with flower meditation for many years, having explored the potential flower essences have to build bridges for us between our inner truth and our outer lives I have come to believed with all my being that this is so. How Do Flowers Heal? No-one knows for sure. There are so many of their elements which carry healing potential that it would be hard to list them all: Their colours influence our mind, our energy levels, our clarity of thought. Colourful flowers and the plants they come from often carry health-enhancing nutrients within them - anti-oxidants such as flavinoids, which give plants their wonderful colours and help protect from degeneration, and other phyto-chemicals that help to strengthen immunity, improve circulation or delay ageing. Then there are the more recently discovered vibrational energies which Dr Bach called on when he fashioned flower essences and, of course, essential oil treats and treatments for person and place. Last, but by no means least, is the power of flower meditation. Here is where the soul of a human being meets the soul of a flower to bring healing, friendship and blessings to both. To Each His Own Flowers are as individual in their personalities as they are in their looks and fragrance. Some love the night. They only display their beauty and emit their fragrance once the sun goes down. Like night-owl people, at their best in the wee small hours of the morning, these blossoms have a passionate nature. They often carry exotic names like Queen of the Night, Night-Blooming Silene, and Gilliflower. Other flowers, like goatsbeard, poppy and marigold, open their petals at the crack of dawn then close down each evening and drift away into sleep. The sunflower stretches itself boldly towards heaven, while the bright blue borage flower, worshiped by Celtic warriors for its ability to bring courage in battle, bows its tiny head towards the ground. A shy soul with a great power to heal, borage prefers to go unnoticed – despite its heart-rending beauty. I have learned much about the individual personalities and soul nature of flowers not only from meditating on them and using them for healing but also from photographing them. Some, like peony, love the spotlight. Put them in front of a camera and they upstage everything else. Many have very strong likes and dislikes about where you plant them and where you place a bouquet of them in a room. On one table a particular flower becomes recalcitrant. But move it to the top of a bookcase in front of a window and suddenly it surrenders its beauty to the camera the way a woman yields to the touch of her lover. Each flower has unique healing properties and each speaks its own silent language. Learning that language, listening to flower wisdom and opening your heart to a flower’s healing energy can be a joyous and often life-changing experience. Spotlight On Flower Essences Get to know half a dozen of the most useful essences. Choose them depending on where you are in your life now and as you change explore more of these wonderful floral friends. Here is my personal selection with some information about each essence. It can open up a whole new world for you of beauty, healing and joy. Here are a few flower essences you might like Bach Original Flower Essences, Vervain Vervain is essentially a plant of ease. It eases heartache, headache, stomach-ache, concern for the future and bad luck. Dr Bach made a flower essence from vervain to ease stress and tension. Vervain is an essence for those of us who tend to ‘live on our nerves’. These people are likely to take on tasks beyond their strength then force themselves onward through will-power alone. They are the martyrs of this world who will do anything for their cause. Vervain essence is calming. It helps you to slow down long enough to listen to your own needs, and to the opinions of others as well as to let you restore your strength. In all its forms vervain brings relief. Order Bach Original Flower Essences, Vervain from iherb Flower Essence Services, Lotus The lotus is no symbol of abstract perfection never to be achieved. All true lovers of the lotus will tell you that true spirituality grows out of the depths of material form. Step by step it reaches toward the light. The unique power nestled within the lotus’ genetic structure is this: Only this flower among all water plants is born from the muck with such strength of stem that, instead of floating on the water as do others, the power of its life force raises it a foot or more above the pond. Flower essence made from lotus can help when you find yourself knee deep in an endless swamp. Meditating on the lotus flower opens you to a pride-free experience of your soul’s divinity. I find both the essence and the meditation useful in blearing illusions and dissolving spiritual pride. Lotus reminds us that all true spirituality is deeply rooted in imperfection. Order Flower Essence Services, Lotus from iherb Flower Essence Services, Sunflower Sunflower essence helps those on a spiritual path, who tend to forget their bodily needs. It brings grounding and helps us manage times of dramatic change with ease. Its wisdom is a fine example of the Australian aboriginal idea of 'keeping your head in the stars and your feet on the ground'. Sunflower essence also helps strengthen self-esteem. It can improve the way you relate to people in authority by allowing you to maintain your sense of self in the face of someone else’s demands. Order Flower Essence Services, Sunflower from iherb Flower Essence Services, Mallow, Flower Essence The mallow is a flower of the heart. Its flower essence can help you to align the demands of your head with the intuition of the heart – in effect, to hear the whispers of your soul. Mallow is of great help to those who ‘lead from the head’ rather than from the heart and who often feel that life is a struggle although they are not sure why. This essence helps you to integrate your deepest beliefs and desires with your daily thinking and, in doing so, to live out more fully your true nature. Order Flower Essence Services, Mallow, Flower Essence from iherb Bach Original Flower Essences, Honeysuckle Honeysuckle flower essence was a favorite of Dr Bach – father of all flower essences. He prescribed it “to remove from the mind the regrets and sorrows of the past.” It is an essence which can help anyone who is stuck in the past, either through regret or nostalgia. As Dr Bach insisted, the important thing about any experience is that we learn from it, not continue to relive it. Honeysuckle flower essence helps put the events of the past where they belong – behind you – so that you can go forward into the future with the enthusiasm and innocence of the child reborn. Order Bach Original Flower Essences, Honeysuckle from iherb Flower Essence Services Calendula The flower essence of calendula is both warming and calming. It can help speakers, writers, teachers and leaders use words with clarity, compassion and creativity. The flower boasts a benign energy that makes it easier to express yourself and at the same time honor the opinions of others. Marigold can be especially useful for people who find their discussions too often end in arguments. This flower essence brings warmth and patience. It encourages you to listen as well as to make your point and furthers the cause of real communication. Order Flower Essence Services Calendula from iherb

Free Your Spirit And Live

Free Your Spirit And Live

I have long been fascinated by numinous realms which we humans can enter for power, joy and to discover the nature of our unique essential being and let it guide our lives. For thousands of years, artists, mystics, and shamans have known the secrets of expanding consciousness to access spiritual wisdom, creativity, and bliss. These people—which have belonged to a relatively small group in cultures throughout history—knew how to access realms of wisdom and awareness which all of us can learn to move into and out of at will if we so desire. We can all learn to do this by activating what I call the consciousness matrix. This is the interface encoded within our energy fields, our cells and our DNA, which enables us human beings to tap into vast realms of spiritual power and authentic freedom, then allow these gifts to enrich our lives. Developing the skills to do this brings not just the idea but the actual experience of being ONE with all living things including the universe itself. In fact, the ability to do this is our birthright. Learning how to go about it gives you access to genuine spiritual experience. It also connects you to the unique soul energy within, enabling bridges to be built between the core of your being and your day to day life. Finally, this allows you to access your own unique view of reality. It teaches us how to trust ourselves, and introduces us to the exhilaration that comes with living life from the core of our being. ADVENTURE BEGINS All freedom comes from within. Live free and you feel fully alive. It is like taking a deep, spontaneous breath. It is like laughter. Freedom is also full of surprises. There is a boldness to it. You dare to say what you think and feel, yet are not afraid to listen to the words and hearts of others who think differently. So many of us get caught up in a need to conform to the ideal that has been projected onto us by society, our families, our education, or our religion. We long to be free, but do not know what this really means or how to find real freedom within ourselves. We often look upon power as something external to us, so we don’t learn how to trust our own values and spiritual experiences. We become liberated from having to conform to other people’s rules or the slavery of imprisoning ideologies. It even helps us to transmute the life-draining powers of addiction and crippling influences of unconsciously-held negative feelings and traumas which strangle the fulfillment of our dreams into usable energy. The freer we get, the more self-determining our life becomes, and the more exciting. Gone are the days of out-of-control stress and following the latest fad diet or exercise craze. You begin to sense what is right for you and follow your instinct. When huge challenges do arise, instead of appearing to be crushing forces, you can turn them into worthy opponents. You learn that wrestling with them helps you break through to an even wider experience of liberation. To do this we become not only able to live gracefully as five-sensory beings in a three dimensional world. We learn to move at will into multi-sensory and multi-dimensional reality. Then we can draw on the creative and healing power we find there allowing it to infuse our day to day lives with a clearer sense of direction and meaning. TECHNOLOGIES FOR LIBERATION Developing the skills for tapping into the consciousness matrix could not be more important at this moment in history. As we do, we are able to enjoy the highest levels of creativity, discover our own unique values, and access deep levels of truth within so we come to live our life to the full. Then we become able to work with others in ways that honors all life. In the past thirty years, I have studied, taught and worked with methods for expanding consciousness for healing, creativity, and authentic freedom. My goal has been to create programs which draw on the most ancient methods for accessing realms of expanded consciousness, then to marry them with leading-edge physics, biology, systems theory and the rapidly developing science of consciousness itself. I have been determined to discover technologies for liberation which are simple, well tested, practical and which, once you begin to work with them, can be used like a ladder can be for getting us to the second floor of a building and then be thrown away. I was never interested in creating some new system, or psychology or philosophy. I wanted to make something that would help people discover their own inner truth, spiritual perceptions and pathways as the ultimate authorities and then learn to trust themselves. My work with Journey to Freedom and my deep connections with shamanism—which I have studied, worked with and taught for a quarter of a century now, has always been focused on helping myself and others expand our awareness so we can draw on energy from the deepest levels of our being and learn to listen to the whispers of our souls. As we come to do this—slowly but steadily—we discover what real freedom feels like. The membranes of fear or self-condemnation, which surround us, become thinner and thinner so that our real values and desires from the depths of our being can be gradually set free to become the living realities which guide our lives. LISTEN TO THE WHISPERS It is only by listening to what I call the “whispers of your soul” that you learn to explore the consciousness matrix. They will help you discover the magnificence of your own being so you come to experience your oneness with all life. I’d like to share with you a simple, fun and powerful little exercise that I and countless others have used for years. The more frequently you practice it, the clearer do the whispers of your soul become. Practice this simple, pleasant little technique once a day for two weeks and you will sense that a bridge has begun to be built between the deepest levels of your being and your outer life. You discover your own place of silence and natural beauty—a sanctuary into which you can enter and return, no matter where you are or in what circumstances you find yourself. It is here that you can create the space which allows your soul to speak to you from the greatest depths. ENTER YOUR SANCTUARY Turn off your cell phone or take the landline phone off the hook so you won’t be disturbed for the next ten minutes. Sit on a straight-backed chair, or on the floor if you prefer. Take three or four deep breaths through your nose, letting the air escape gently through your mouth on the out breath. Close your eyes. Let your imagination run free. Allow your mind go back to some place in nature which you have seen and especially like. This is a place in ordinary reality, not somewhere from a dream or a story. It may be a place familiar to you, say at the end of your garden. Or it can be somewhere you have visited only once. When you’ve found the place you like, sit for a moment quietly remembering as much about it as you can. Now see what happens when you activate your senses. Just let yourself be right here and right now. What do you see, smell, hear, how does the air feel, how does the earth feel under your body? Do you sense the presence of any supporting energies or helpful beings here with you? If so, listen to what they are offering. Ask your soul to speak to you. These things may surprise you. Now, ask for whatever you think you need in your life right now. Then sit in silence in your wonderful sacred space and without judgment, pay attention to what you sense, hear, and feel. When you are ready, give thanks for whatever friendship or beauty you find around you and say goodbye for the moment to your inner sanctuary, knowing that you can return to it whenever you like. The more often you do, the richer the experience becomes, and the more clearly can you come to hear the whispers. Now, very gently, in your own time, open your eyes and come back into the room. BRIDGES ILLUMINATE This is important if you are to make good use of what you have experienced. Use a notebook to record what you have found— where you went, what you saw, felt, tasted, sensed. Who, if anyone, was there? What happened there? Did you get any answers to your questions? Record both the positive and the negative without judgment. Just let the words flow. Remember, this is not an essay for school. There is no right or wrong way of doing this. I suggest that you practice this exercise for ten or fifteen minutes each day. Then, at the end of two weeks, come back to your notebook and read what you have written. You may discover certain themes that have come up time and again. Sometimes they are things that you would benefit by addressing but have been putting off. Or you may discover something that you have always wanted to do or be but have never dared contemplate acting on. Such are the whispers from your soul. The more you listen to them, the more you will be able to move into the vast consciousness matrix and connect with the oneness of all life with all the possibilities it offers you. The more you connect with the depths of your essential core, discover your own truths and live them, the richer your life will become, no matter what your current circumstances may be.

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.

It's Time To Touch The Divine

It's Time To Touch The Divine

Silence. Solitude. These words strike fear into our post-modern hearts—especially at Christmas or New Year. We seem to have forgotten the power of escaping for a time into the depths of our inner being, of listening to our breath, of sensing the earth’s heartbeat. There are too many presents to be bought, phone calls to be made, gatherings to attend, children’s noses to wipe. Yet now, as one year ends and another begins, it’s the best time ever to connect with the divine. And where do we discover it? At the very core of each one of us deep within—in silence and in solitude—no matter what kind of noise or chaos may be taking place in the world around us. Solitude has much to teach us. But it takes courage to become a learner again. It asks that we trust enough in life and in ourselves to drop, even for fifteen minutes at a time, all we know (or think we know) and become quietly receptive to whatever arises from within. It also asks that we respond wholeheartedly to whatever we feel, smell, taste, see and touch: The intense blue of a tiny flower which sears our senses. A wild thought that invites us into a new reality like “maybe I’ll take up scuba diving or write a novel.” Good god, where did that come from? The fragrance of Ceylon cinnamon sprinkled on a cup of dark cocoa. All these splendors, all these blessings go unnoticed unless we create enough quiet time for us to experience them. ALL IS ONE The word ‘alone’ was once treated as two words: all one. To be all one meant to be wholly oneself—all of one piece. This is the great gift of any sanctuary. Practiced daily, silence and solitude heal confusion and mend frazzled nerves. Getting “away from it all” to sit on a rock or at a window, to gaze at the sky or to explore the dance of thoughts in your own mind. These things help us come home to ourselves. They allow the wildness of our intrinsic being to converse with our more rational side. To begin, lay aside fifteen minutes each day during which you enter the sanctuary of your own being to sit or walk in silence. Become aware of how silence acts upon you. Are you comfortable with it? Or is it something that you try to avoid? Do you sense that there is a richness here that you may not have experienced for a long time? NEW REALITIES Throughout human history, the center of the universe—the axis mundi—formed the core of safety for tribal cultures. It gave them access to great spiritual power, at this universal hub. They knew they could rely on the axis mundi. This made them feel safe. Now we live in a new reality, one which is continually evolving, reshaping itself, adjusting, creating and destroying as it unfolds. But here lies the greatest revelation of all. Today’s axis mundi is no longer tribal. It has become a much more individual experience—a rich cosmic void which lives at the core of each one of us, as it does in the cosmos itself. Here, in solitude and silence, we can come face to face with the divine. It is from here that we draw on visions, energy and guidance for what we long to create. Here, where the universal and the personal divinity meet and merge as one—a life-changing experience. ENTERING YOUR STILL POINT BRINGS: A sense of safety. Access to the depths of your own unique truth. An experience that enables your own soul can to align itself with the anima mundi—the soul of the cosmos. The realization that the universe can communicate in a purposeful way with you. A connection with the life you want to create for yourself. A chance to explore your dreams and visions. Once we learn to anchor ourselves within this core, deep within the darkness of our unique essential being, a new expanded reality begins to reveal itself. ANCHOR IN THE DIVINE You can read about the axis mundi in the Old Testament story of Jacob’s Ladder. ‘And he dreamed and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed…” and Jacob awakened out of this sleep, and he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”’ (Genesis 28:10-14, 18-19) You will also find this anchoring experience in the ancient Greek description of omphalos—the navel or hub of the world. They describe it as “the divine body out of which creation emerges.” To the Buddhists it is Mount Meru, center of the created universe. This axis mundi—the cosmic void—is recreated again and again in the magnificent sand paintings of Tibetan Lamas. The Hebrews call it the beth-el which means the dwelling place of the divine. For them it was Jerusalem, as it was for the early Christians—at one and the same time, the place where Jesus died on the cross, and where the tree of life stands at the center of the world. The omphalos is always found at the center of a circle into which spiritual power from all directions is poured, and out of which divinely-created forms are brought to birth. You will even find it in the Chinese symbol for yin and yang, and in the magic circle drawn by children on the playground. Kids know you gather power. You are also protected from attack by the opposing team in any game of hide and seek. ENTER THE COSMIC VOID How do you enter the cosmic void and access the power that lies there? Simple. You just create the conditions that can allow it to happen. Step one is practicing the skill of living in the NOW. Start right now with the most mundane daily task you have to perform. Say you are washing dishes. Decide that, for the next ten minutes, you will be fully present with total awareness of what you are doing. There’s no big deal about this. It doesn’t demand any great effort. It is the easiest thing in the world once you decide to have a go. You’re likely to find it’s also a lot of fun. As Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist teacher whose work I admire, says, “You can wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes or you can wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” With every task you carry out—whether it be typing at a keyboard as I am doing right now, combing your hair, opening a door, gazing at a fire—you have the choice of carrying it out mechanically while your mind wanders, or with full attention, which begins to open you to the divine power of the center of your essential being. LIFE IN THE NOW Try addressing whatever you do from a point of view of mindfulness—clear, simple attention without a need to analyze, label or judge anything. Just let yourself be fully present from one moment to the next. When mental rumination, thoughts and feelings arise, take a look at them, then just let them go and bring your attention back to whatever you are doing right here, right now. As you practice remaining fully present, what was once a mundane or boring task can become a source of fascination. This is what is known as “whole body-mind seeing”. When we come to live our lives this way, not only do we forge rich connections with multi-dimensional reality. We move beyond our habitual, limiting ways of thinking, seeing, and being. We begin to touch upon then be fed by the sacred nature of our lives. We live more authentically from our own unique experience of the divine. Try it and see.

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

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

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

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