5 Ways That Meditation Is Changing My Life

Zen © by EverJean

I had no expectations from my meditation.I started my practice over 15 years ago after having moved from New Jersey to Virginia. We were living in an old farmhouse on a large farm when I happened to see a presentation by Deepak Chopra on PBS about meditation.I was very curious.When it aired again, I showed it to my husband.  He was intrigued as well.In New Jersey we had started to investigate health for ourselves.  We both worked long hours, traveled for our jobs, and felt tired a lot of the time. Our first health venture was to start juicing.  We sure consumed a lot of vegetable and fruit and it can be expensive!  Then we added vitamins and other supplements.All good as it goes. However I had a hunch that there was more to becoming healthy – that I was missing something. It was the Chopra show on PBS that set me on a different path.

I remember that Deepak Chopra spoke about consciousness in his presentation. Perhaps he validated an experience I had at 18 while walking to a class at Tufts.  I was early morning on a beautiful, sunny fall day. All of a sudden I felt compelled to stop and at that moment I felt the unity of all things. I stood there for quite some time because I found the experience so compelling. I believe that experience was my first taste of the benefits of meditation.

Fifteen years ago as a result of Deepak Chopra’s program, I decided to learn Transcendental Meditation and have been practicing it ever since.  I have to say that I have noticed changes in myself along the way.

Some of the benefits are remarkable, but more often than not they are subtle. These are some of the benefits:

  1. meditation expands you by putting you in touch with the universal field so that you become aware that there is more than you, your thoughts and experiences to be aware of. To some degree, we are all aware of others since we live in a world with lots of other people and creatures. But this is different. Meditation puts you in touch with the universe as a form of awareness and so enables you to see the universe as something intelligent.
  2. meditation enables you to experience the universal field as a home, a place of rest, a benevolence which brings a comfort that that you cannot get from other kinds of security seeking: money, fame, position etc.
  3. meditation aligns you with the universal field and helps you operate in what I call the  “constructive self”- in alignment with the positive intelligence of the universe. It is therefore a source of comfort to know that you are in a positive place vis-a-vis the rest of the living universe.
  4. meditation helps you realize the positive in you is a natural state.  This was especially important to me since I grew up with a lot of negativity. In realizing the positive in yourself, you also realize that you are not unique in that regard so it helps you soften into daily life. This is one of its most important daily benefits. Meditation helps reduce the feeling of vulnerability that drives so much unhelpful behavior which then lets us help others reduce their fear which in turn creates a more peaceful world.
  5. meditation takes you out of the fear which consumes so much of our lives. For that alone I am grateful.

I am immensely grateful for Transcendental Meditation. I would love to have everyone receive this precious gift.  I believe that we all deserve the experience of benevolence that meditation brings.

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Triphala: Super Herb for Super Health

Fruits of Phyllanthus emblica L. © by lalithamba

If I was stranded on a deserted island, I would consider triphala one of the few essentials to have with me.

What is triphala? Triphala is one of the most important herbal preparations in existence.

I have been using it for over a decade. I have not had the conditions that it helps with.  It helps with premature graying of the hair because premature graying and balding occur in my family but fortunately not on my head.  I am happy to give triphala the credit.

It is such a well-rounded source of healing that I use it every day, and it helps me a lot. Triphala offers healing benefits to the entire human system. It is a special herb used extensively in the ancient healing system of Ayurveda which is over 5000 years old.

According to the Ayurveda Encyclopedia, triphala is an herbal mixture of three herbs, amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki. The combination of the three herbs in triphala provides an herbal formula that works as a mild laxative that has the ability to rejuvenate the human system.

These are the specific conditions that each of the herbs can help heal:

Amalaki: it is used for:

  1. anemia
  2. arthritis
  3. asthma
  4. bronchitis
  5. colitis
  6. constipation
  7. diabetes
  8. duodenal and gastric ulcers
  9. eczema
  10. eye disorders
  11. chronic fever
  12. gout
  13. premature graying and balding
  14. heart attack prevention
  15. hepatitis
  16. hemorrhoids
  17. high blood pressure
  18. insomnia
  19. jaundice
  20. mental disorders
  21. menorraghia
  22. osteoporosis
  23. rebuilds blood
  24. bones, cells and tissues
  25. rheumatism
  26. liver and spleen weakness
  27. tuberculaosis
  28. urinary disorders and difficulties
  29. vertigo
  30. vomiting

Bibhitaki

  1. colds, coughs and bronchitis
  2. chronic diarrhea
  3. dysentery
  4. eye disorders
  5. headache
  6. hemorrhoids
  7. gastro-intestinal diseases
  8. digestive disorders leading to obesity
  9. laryngitis
  10. liver disorders
  11. mucus
  12. nausea
  13. stones including urinary tract stones
  14. vomiting
  15. sore throat and voice problems

Haritaki

  1. anemia
  2. cough
  3. hemorrhoids
  4. diarrhea
  5. gas
  6. fevers
  7. malabsorption of nutrients
  8. urinary diseases
  9. tumors
  10. blood purification
  11. spleen and liver disorders
  12. ulcerated gums
  13. muscular rheumatism
  14. heart
  15. skin conditions including itching
  16. edema
  17. nervous disorders

I consider triphala a natural balancer for the body.  It is gentle and inexpensive and a great preventative.

It is unrealistic to expect that we can prevent all imbalances in the body. Triphala is a great way to help yourself with the damage from stress, toxins in our food, water and air that we cannot control. It can help you feel more secure about your current and future health.

Triphala is one of my great finds in life. It would definitely get my vote on what to take with me on a deserted island.

How Living In The Question Creates Freedom

 

Questions? © by Valerie Everett

There has to be a better answer.

At least that is what I keep telling myself.

For the longest time I have asked myself why there is so much misery in the world and what can be done to change it. Much of our misery seems to revolve around getting and having or not getting and not having. In other words, it is comes from our perception of deprivation.

We have had many answers to deprivation in our human history, but often they fall into one of three categories:

  1. do without and learn to like it
  2. indulge yourself
  3. consume moderately which is a little of everything, no extremes of self denial or self indulgence.

I am not pointing in a spiritual direction with this post. I am raising practical considerations regarding material existence, how to live our lives and how to live with each other.

I have often thought that there is a problem with being focused on answers. Too frequently we reach for them quickly without the process of discovery that can lead to great problem solving. Our answers often take on a life of their own as an approach to life, and so can do us more harm than good.

I don’t think we get off so easy as to have a fixed answer to life challenges for a number of important reasons:

  • Answers adhered to religiously do more harm than good.  They cause us to respond to a situation as a threat to our answer. Blind loyalty to answers reduces cooperation by closing off the intelligence and experience of others.  Whenever I am around someone who operates from their answers, I can feel that I have been shut out which is a very uncomfortable feeling.
  • Answers expect a result.  They have no room for changes of circumstance, people or conditions.  If you were accustomed to living in a tent in the Sahara desert, would you expect that same tent to work equally well in Antarctica?
  • Answers demand a continuity of experience. Have you ever met someone that acted deprived no matter what they had?  That person is demanding a certain experience at all times and acting deprived when it does not happen.

I say, “Ditch the answers!” Answers should be the organic result of asking questions and considering all kinds of information.  They should not be a foregone conclusion. So ditch the answers and let some surprise into your life and you may find that life works better as a result.

Just a hunch.

Is Poverty A Fault?

Great Depression Food Line © by Kevin Burkett

Do you ever feel that it is wrong to be poor?

Do you sometimes feel that to be poor is a mark of failure?

Several days ago I read an article by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed In America, that challenges the common views in the United States about wealth and poverty.

She demonstrates how poverty evolved from being a condition of someone’s life to a cultural idea.  The change in our definition of poverty grew out of a book published the 1960′s and written by Michael Harrington. It was titled:  The Other America.

The book asserts that the poor are different from everyone else and interprets poverty to be a result of a flawed character. In other words

  • it is wrong not to be wealthy
  • it is a fault to live modestly
  • if you are not greedy there is something wrong with you
  • circumstances do not result in poverty; it is an innate condition coming from poor internal controls and profligate habits.

It is interesting that this book was published at the time that many individuals in economic minorities were entering the economic life of the country. Blacks, hispanics and women were moving from dependent roles to full economic citizenship. just as poverty and wealth were being redefined!

The “wealth is good” mindset served a number of purposes:

  1. it made an economic safety net the problem of the individual rather than the community. So any safety net was an act of generosity not a matter of responsibility or good citizenship.
  2. it immediately diminished any individual or groups who were not wealthy.
  3. each individual had to take care of their own safety net, which creates a hoarding mentality.
  4. as our population exploded, supply and demand created rising prices.  In order to take proper care of yourself, you needed more and more success in order to afford the best care – health care etc.
  5. individuals became more attached to careers to survive in this climate which reduced their investments in family and community.
  6. increased attachment to short-term financial concerns reduced loyalty to long-term sustainability concerns  - all in the interest of survival.

The “survival of the wealthiest” culture is a culture of stinginess.  It rewards those who pay the least and charge the most.  It is tailor made for a society with a burgeoning population and few safety nets.

When wealth became “normal” for our culture, it was a way of thinking that supported American exceptionalism and the material demands of our economic machine. All societies create a story that supports its intent, and our current society is no different.

As our environment collapses under the weight of our unrealistic identity, we need to start asking some questions.
  • are we only an economy or are we really a culture?
  • is generosity towards our fellow man really more expensive that a destructively consuming society?
  • how can the local community create a resource smart society
  • is snobbery our highest value?  How about health and well-being?

Perhaps the most important question we can ask is how do we create a cultural story that is worthy of our long term attention that honors each individual and the wonderful earth we inhabit?

Are We Kidding Ourselves About Abundance?

Abundance © by bluebirdsandteapots

There has to be a better answer.

At least that is what I keep telling myself.

For the longest time I have asked myself why there is so much misery in the world and what can be done to change it.

We have had many answers in our human history, but often they fall into one of three categories:

  1. do without and learn to like it
  2. indulge yourself
  3. consume moderately which is a little of everything, no extremes of self denial or self indulgence.

I am not pointing in a spiritual direction with this post. I am raising practical considerations regarding material existence and human quality of life.

Why do we need to continually fool ourselves about material existence and abundance? I know I am speaking a heresy when I question current ideas about abundance, however:

  • there are only so many hours in the day; that is a reality.  Pretending that we do not need sleep does not change the number of hours in the day.
  • you can only really focus on one thing at a time.  Multitasking does not change that.  It just makes for sloppier work.
  • increased quantity of anything does not necessarily improve quality of life. A larger quantity of poor quality food just makes you sick.
  • taking more than you need now reduces your ability to take care of yourself in the future because all material existence takes time to replace.

Unfortunately, all of our “conventional” wisdom comes from times when there was an abundance of natural material for us to use and consume. In the past, times of scarcity came from natural causes ex. drought, or an inability to take advantage of natural resources, which capitalism has fixed.

Now we have to deal with our insatiable appetites at a time when there are over 7 billion of us, many of whom have had few material needs met.

Abundance does exist, but it is not fixed, permanent or immutable. We can destroy it. We can also nurture it.  Perhaps that needs to become our new skill.

So how do we nurture abundance in a way that is sustainable and meets the needs of everyone?

Uprooting The Seeds Of Addiction: 5 Ideas And 5 Solutions

addiction © by Alan Cleaver

 

Addiction is often misunderstood as a weakness of the will when in fact it is more complex than that.

Addiction is closely related to stress.  According to Yogi Amrit Desai, founder of Kripalu Yoga, stress and addiction are actually cause and effect as explained in a June, 2010 article in Natural AwakeningsHealing the Root Cause of Addiction with Ayurveda A Natural Cure for Unhealthy Dependence by Linda Sechrist

Yogi Desai states that, “Addictions are antidotes that provide a temporary escape from the stress- producing, conflict-creating reactions you have about what you are doing, where you are going and who you are with. Addiction, which is only an effect, occurs when you continue to use inappropriate external resources to reduce stress and restore a sense of balance, while failing to resolve the cause of the stress hidden in the unconscious.”

Basically then, all addiction comes from a desire to escape some kind of conflict or consequence which raises some important questions:

  • why does anyone need an antidote to a reaction or an escape?
  • how can we live in a way that lets us handle challenges without becoming addicts?

Problems with reactions and the need to escape them come from a conflict we are unable to resolve which means that usually the seeds of addiction are created when we are children. As children we have to survive in the environment into which we are born which can cause trouble when we have to live with compromises to our worth and dignity that we do not want or deserve.

The seeds of addiction can be magnified in a situation of extreme abuse where the child is not only physically and emotionally harmed but also expected to cover up the abuse for the parents. Children will also cover up abuse to avoid abandonment.

If the child must act with affection and gratitude to their abuser, the child’s feelings of shame and hurt intensify. Add the natural sadness of the child and the thwarting of the natural inclination to love that an abuse situation creates, and you have a serious emotional mess!  This mess if it is allowed to exist over a long period of time results in disabling and damaging emotions that can result in extreme damage to an individual’s integrity and ability to self regulate.

Long term abusive situations are the one that cause the most damaging addictions because the individual’s escape of choice has a long time to solidify into a permanent habit.  The addiction actually becomes a way of life and part of the individual’s identity.

People who suffer from addictions deserve compassion.  Highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable in abusive situations because they take in all the energies around them like a sponge and they heal slowly.

So how how can you heal addiction? Here are some ideas:

  1. embrace the idea of a long term healing journey because it means that you need to travel from a place of not knowing yourself to learning who you are.
  2. embrace the idea that it is not your fault that you have an addiction.  You did not create the situation; you do, however, have to engage in healing.
  3. embrace the idea that your self image was formed when you were a child and so it is out-of-date the way a Model T automobile is today.  Many people struggle with the idea that they are incompetent or bad because their adult caretakers had unrealistic expectations of them and taught them that they were defective. It is not a fault for a child to be a child. Just because a Model T doesn’t have GPS doesn’t mean it is a “bad” car.
  4. embrace the fact that as a human being you are not perfect, do not know it all and never will and no one else is any better.  Let yourself off the perfectionism hook.
  5. Think of your healing journey as similar to building a house.  Your first job is to lay a foundation.  That foundation has to include physical self care, healing time, and attention to the voice of the inner self seeking your attention.

There are several ways to heal the emotional pain of abuse:

  1. meditation helps you to detach and helps with inner healing.
  2. journaling helps get emotional pain out of your body onto paper, so it becomes a form of release and is a great daily practice.
  3. energy healing methods like EFT and reiki are superb for releasing emotional pain and creating a feeling of inner well-being.
  4. find a healing group of your choice, preferably one which practices compassionate healing.  That means respecting your experience and pain while encouraging the healing journey.  You heal faster if you have help.
  5. If your abuse was severe, it can benefit you to have a therapist’s help to develop a renewed capacity for trust and positive relationship skills.

Many people are afraid of the healing journey because they are afraid of experiencing emotional pain and sadness.  There is no question that healing can involve pain.  It is similar to the pain of an illness or to the pain experienced after surgery.

Often people suffering from addiction were unable to process their feelings when they were children because it was too dangerous to do so.  Unfortunately, these feeling become trapped in the body, so one of the primary jobs of healing is to let the feelings arise and release them.  Each time you do you receive a gift.

When I do emotional healing, I learn something about myself or others that enables me to forgive and appreciate myself.  I have strict rules about safe healing, however, and do my absolute best to be non-harming in my healing.  That is why meditation, journaling and energy healing practices are so helpful.  They help you heal in a constructive way.

One of the bravest actions a person can take is to decide to heal themselves and get the support they need for their healing journey.  It is a journey from self contempt to self respect, self harm to self care, and self hate to self love.  It is a rewarding journey.

Happiness Is A Skill

Happiness © by Antonia Foy

Happiness is a skill and it seems that animals know better than humans what it is. Strange, isn’t it?

I think we may have the location of happiness in the wrong place. I think we have located it in our heads and that is why most people are not happy.

Happiness depends on the way we define it. Often it seems to be more of a social event than a personal one. It’s as if we are all living in a world designed like an arena, and we are trying to duke it out, beating each other at something.  Happiness is not about keeping score. Given that we are all part of one universal energy, there is no score to keep.

The only way to have happiness is to let go of comparisons, score keeping and competition. The easiest way to do so is to think of yourself as part of the larger evolution of the human race.

So what skills do you need to be happy?

  • Drop the scorecard; your life is not a product or a trophy.  With all due respect to the idea of living your best life, which is a good idea, what that means may not be materialistic.
  • It’s best if you can be you not someone else. Your unique gifts and energy that you bring to the table are enough.  It’s enough to do you best and be happy with that.
  • Engage with each moment on its terms.  To do so eliminates the use of force and demands, and lets life flower.  Life is not meant to be a cage we construct.
  • Practice letting go all of the time.  It is the only path to your freedom and creativity which are boundless.
  • Look for the good everywhere and you may find more than you realize. Wag your tail a lot.
  • Learn meditate and/or other energy healing techniques to make it easier to find your inner happiness.

Learn the difference between surrender and submission.  They are very different energies.

  • Submission is present in negative generalizations and fixed ideas about how life “should” be and everyone and everything in it. It is a defensive energy. Submission means that other people define you – usually though some roles or societal expectations that have nothing to do with your gifts or potential. Submission has the energy of giving up in advance. It is a distrusting and stingy energy.
  • Surrender has the energy of engagement and openness.  It is the combination of wonder, humility, presence and compassion.  It is a quality of being with – others and the universe rather than against. Therefore, it has be feeling of going with the flow. Surrender has a generous quality because it sees generosity. Surrender offers us a natural path to trust and self trust.

It’s OK to be one human among 7 billion and be good with that.  It is OK to be a good and decent human being and be happy with yourself.  It is OK to enjoy life in simple ways and not feel cheated.  It is OK to be happy to be here without having anything to prove.

Inner Peace For You And Me: A Review Of “Shortcuts To Inner Peace”

 

INNER PEACE © by jopetsy

Do you think inner peace is for people with easier lives, people who are not sensitive like you?

You can’t afford a retreat? Don’t have time to sit for hours in meditation?

Well, I have good news.  Here is a book that makes inner peace accessible for everyone.

I have read the book, Shortcuts To Inner Peace 70 Simple Paths to Everyday Serenity by Ashley Davis Bush which is a recently published book which offers simple exercises to help people find inner peace in everyday life.

What is nice about it is that it is not shortcuts in the way we usually mean them.  These “shortcuts” are very simple exercises to intersperse throughout your day to make the path to inner peace easier.

Ashley Davis Bush is a licensed psychotherapist and grief counselor living in Epping, New Hampshire.  The exercises that she created came from her own life experience of trying to find inner peace and also as an attempt to help people she met in her practice who found it difficult to meditate. Not only does she have a busy practice and large family of five children, but Ms. Bush also suffers from insomnia and panic attacks.

The Shortcuts To Inner Peace book is divided into two main sections:

  1. Your Daily Thread which are serenity exercises designed to be combined with a specific regular daily activity.  Washing hands, having a cup of coffee, taking a shower, or stopping at a red light are just some of the activities around which the book offers opportunities to reduce stress and reclaim our inner wellness. Your Daily Thread includes sections on finding serenity in relationships and sensory experience.
  2. The Peace Portals is the second section of the book that focuses on serenity exercises for four aspects of our being:
    1. physical well being
    2. mental well being
    3. emotional well being
    4. spiritual well being
  3. The book includes appendices that  cross reference the serenity exercises make it easy to locate exercises:
    1. by type: verbal, action and imagination,
    2. by need: mindfulness, developing compassion, improving perspective, improve gratitude,
    3. by situation, extreme stress, anger, anxiety and
    4. by location: home, work and car.

So if you are tired of daily life getting you down get this book and pick one exercise and incorporate it into your day.  Many of the exercises help reframe your perception so picking one where you are having particular difficulty can make you feel a lot better.

I particularly like this approach because it is low on drama but high on results. As a long time practitioner of TM, I know how valuable meditative techniques can be. This book turns everyday events into a meditation. I highly recommend it.

Why Emotional Pain Should be Public Business

Child Crying in the Shadows © by Pink Sherbet Photography

We have so many examples of mishandled pain.  When are we going to address the problem?  When are we going to ask, why is this  occurring and what we can do about it?

News about people shooting each other is so common now that many of us don’t give it a passing thought.  Or if we do it goes like this: …probably couldn’t take it… …sounds like a bad person… …I would never do that…  And so it goes, the rationalizing begins.

When we hear of a young person opening fire at a school killing others, we assume that we are dealing with a “bad” person.  On so many occasions we hear of an individual who had been abused opening fire on others. Too often, abuse and neglect were a part of the relationship between the shooter and the victim(s) until the shooter and the victim change roles.

We expect people to put up with social abuse as if it does not cause pain. Recent research would indicate otherwise. According to the February 24, 2012 article in Medical News Today ” Naomi Eisenberger of the University of Califiornia-Los Angeles, the author of a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science…physical pain and social pain are processed in some of the same regions of the brain.”

This means that the person who is being abused or bullied is feeling physical pain whenever the abuse occurs.  The individual who is rejected repeatedly for being different is experiencing more physical pain with each negative experience.

The human body has the capacity to process experiences and “digest” them. However, when we become overloaded the ability to process and digest experiences can break down.  We all have limits that need to be respected.

For a very long time, social pain has been treated as a problem in the individual.  It has been a way to make social ranking, social rejection and other forms of social abuse unimportant at the institutional level. We are paying a high price for our willful ignorance.

Denying social pain makes survival an individual matter and the well being of an individual also the problem of the individual.  Making people responsible for their well being is not intrinsically bad.  However, when the individual is in an environment where well being is not possible, then they are caught in an untenable situation.

I think we have let our institutions off the hook for too long.  If it is not the job of institutions to create conditions that promote well being, what are they here for? I think it is time we asked ourselves and our institutions that question.