Archive for September, 2009

Getting Back to Wellness

September 30, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

The signals our bodies use to tell us we need to cleanse ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally are multifaceted and often mirror symptoms we associate with illness. If we heed these signs, we not only feel better quickly but also stave off poor health before it can start. These quick fixes for common ailments can get you started.

1. Applying pressure to the acupressure point between the thumb and forefinger can release blockages causing pain, tension, and fatigue. You can relieve a headache naturally by squeezing for 20 seconds and releasing for 10 seconds, without letting go, four times.

2. To breathe freely, irrigate your nasal passages with a neti pot and warm salt water. As you clear and soothe the sinuses, congestion associated with allergies or infection will gradually disappear.

3. Apple cider vinegar is a powerful purifying and detoxifying agent. Soaking for 20 minutes in a warm bath infused with two cups of apple cider vinegar pulls toxins from the body and can clear blocked energy.

4. The foods you eat can have a profound impact on your outlook and mood. Eating a small yet satisfying meal rich in complex carbohydrates can lift your spirit and help you let go of feelings of anger, irritability, and depression. 

5. Anxiety and fear dissipate quickly when countered with conscious breathing because concentrating on the breath enables you to refocus your attention inward. You can ground yourself and regain your usual calm by taking a series of deep belly breaths as you visualize your feet growing roots that stretch miles down into the earth.

6. Though tuning out can seem counterproductive, a few minutes spent lost in daydreams or listening to soothing music can help you see your circumstances from a new angle when you feel frustrated.

7. If you feel ill health coming on, brew a wellness elixir. Simmer three sliced lemons, one teaspoon freshly grated ginger, one clove freshly minced garlic, and one quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper in five cups water until the lemons are soft and pale. Strain a portion into a mug and add honey by tablespoons until you can tolerate the taste. Drinking this potent mixture of antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal ingredients three times each day can ensure your symptoms never progress into a full-blown illness.

Some Characteristics of Mind

September 29, 2009

[ Lama Yeshe gave this teaching in Geneva, Switzerland, in September 1983, his last teaching in the West. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush.]

Each human being has a mind and that mind has three divisions: gross, subtle and most subtle. Similarly, we have a body and that too has three divisions: gross, subtle and most subtle.

The gross consciousness comprises the five sensory consciousnesses that we use every day. The subtle consciousness can be things like intuitive ego and intuitive superstition. They’re subtle in the sense that we can’t see or understand them clearly. The gross mind is so busy that it obscures the subtle. When the gross mind is no longer flashing, or functioning, the subtle mind has a chance to arise. And that’s one of the functions of Tibetan Buddhist tantra: to eliminate the gross concepts and make space to allow the subtle mind to function. That’s the business of tantra.

Also, the gross mind has no strength, no power. Even though it understands something, it’s relatively weak. The subtle mind has much more power to penetrate and comprehend.

What meditation does is cut the gross, busy mind and allow the subtle consciousness to function. In that way meditation performs a similar function to that of death. Of course, to do the kind of meditation that leads us through the death process we need strong single-pointed concentration.

As you know, Buddhism explains emptiness [Skt: shunyata], the nature of universal reality. We experience emptiness when elimination of the gross, superficial, conventional mind allows it to manifest. Even people who have never heard of emptiness and have no idea of what it is experience a great emptiness in their mind during the death process when all their busy minds dissolve. The moment your gross, crowded concepts stop you feel some space, an emptiness. There’s nothing you actually empty but because your concepts are so crowded, because your mind is so full, when all that content disappears you have an experience of emptiness.

Sometimes when Buddhist philosophers describe shunyata, “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” it sounds so complicated. And it’s true; Buddhist philosophy is very sophisticated. Ordinary people don’t understand. “How can I possibly understand shunyata? Nagarjuna says, ‘blah, blah, blah’; Chandrakirti says, ‘blah, blah, blah.'” But when we really bring it back down to earth, all we’re saying is, when you cut your crowded superstitions, the experience comes; when you eliminate all your busy concepts, the experience of shunyata arises, as it does in the death process.

At the moment we’re normally far from reality–from the reality of ourselves; from the reality of all that exists–because we’re enveloped by a heavy blanket of superstition. One blanket of superstition; two blankets of superstition; three blankets of superstition…this blanket, that blanket, another blanket…. All these gross blankets, gross minds, completely built up, like Mt. Meru, like Mt. Everest–so heavy that you can’t shake them off.

Now, I don’t know what methods you normally use, but our business this weekend is to look at the Buddhist method of slowly, slowly removing these blankets one by one: meditation. And in order to do that, we have to understand the characteristic nature of our own mind.

First of all, the mind is not a material substance; it has no shape or color. It’s a kind of formless, colorless energy: the energy of thought or consciousness. Therefore its nature is clean clear and it takes the reflection of phenomena inside. Even thoughts you consider to be heavy and negative still have their own essence, their own clarity, in order to perceive reality or reflect projections.

Also, consciousness, or mind, is like space. The essence of space is its own nature, unmixed with pollution or clouds. The nature of clouds, the nature of pollution and the nature of space are different. Even though pollution pervades space.

The reason why I’m mentioning the negative mind is that we humans have a normal tendency to preconceptions such as, “I’m a bad person, my mind is bad, I’m too negative.” We’re always criticizing ourselves in a dualistic way. Buddhism says that that’s wrong. The characteristic nature of space is not pollution; the nature of pollution is not space. Similarly, the nature of the consciousness is not negative. In fact, the Buddha himself said that buddha, or tathagata, nature lies within each of us and the nature of that is pure, clean and clear.

Also, Maitreya explained that if you put a diamond in kaka, its nature remains different from that of kaka and the nature of the kaka remains different from that of the diamond.

It’s important to know this. A clean clear mind exists within us; the fundamental nature of our consciousness is pure. But while our mind has its own essence of clarity, it’s covered by a contaminating heavy blanket of concepts. Nevertheless, its nature is still clean clear; our consciousness is clean clear. Therefore we have to recognize, “My nature, the essence of my consciousness, is not totally negative. The pure, clean clear nature of my mind exists within me right now.”

Actually, our consciousness has two characteristics: relative and absolute. And the nature of the relative is not negative, not superstition.

Christians might say that the human soul is pure, not negative. It is free of ego conflict, craving desire, hatred and jealousy. Similarly, the relative human consciousness can go from whatever level it’s currently at all the way up to enlightenment. That doesn’t mean ego conflict goes all the way to enlightenment; the dissatisfied, emotionally restless mind never goes through the first, second, third and other bhumis to the tenth and then enlightenment. That doesn’t happen.

The essence of the human consciousness or, we can say, the essence of the human soul continuously goes up, up and up. The negative blanket of superstition never goes up. Each time we clear our negativities they just disappear, disappear, disappear….

So, that’s the relative. With respect to the absolute nature of the human consciousness, or soul, it is totally nondual. In the nonduality of the human mind there’s no mixed up confusion or emotional disturbance. No such thing exists; its nature is always clean clear. Therefore we should all understand that the nuclear essence of each of us our consciousness and that consciousness is not mixed with negativity. It has its own nature, both relative and absolute.
Sometimes we liken the mind to the ocean, where ego conflicts are like waves upon the surface. Concepts arise like waves, shake things up a bit and then subside back into the ocean of consciousness. So the consciousness of each of us is clean clear in nature and our craving desire, hatred and ignorance are like waves upon the surface.

That means we have the capacity not to shake our consciousness. We can hold it without shaking. To some extent we’re capable of that. That’s what meditation does.

Negative motivation is also like a wave. It creates all the confusion, dissatisfaction, pain and misery we experience. All that comes from the negative motivation part of our mind. The root of all our human problems is that wrong place within our mind. It’s most worthwhile to investigate this directly for yourself.

Still, we should understand that our own nature is not totally negative, not totally hopeless. We should respect our own nature, our own purity, our own characteristics. If we do, we’ll then begin to respect others. If you interpret yourself as a big hassle, selfish, totally hopeless and negative, you’ll interpret others in the same way. That’s dangerous.

Also, when you meditate, it’s not your sense perception or sense consciousness that’s meditating. Western people sometimes get confused as to this because they’re so used to the sense world being their only reality; out of habit, the Western mentality is that reality is limited to what you can see, touch and so forth. But the sense consciousness is foolish. It does not have the intelligence to discriminate between right and wrong. That’s why as soon as we open our eyes we’re distracted by sense objects and the flashing of dualistic concepts.

To avoid these foolish old habits of the senses I always recommend that you meditate with your eyes naturally closed.

You can see why. Your mind always wants to see beautiful things; it has already decided. Say you’re planning to go to the market. Before you leave home you start visualizing, “Pears are beautiful this time of year. Apples would be good too.” So when you get to the market and see the pears and apples they appear beautiful because of your preconceptions.

Sense perception is like the Swiss population; consciousness is like the Swiss government. The Swiss government decides, “These people are good; those are bad.” The decision is made. The consciousness is like that. Our preconceptions decide ahead of time what objects are good or bad, so when the sense consciousness contacts those objects it sees them as good or bad. That’s why I say that sense perception is foolish–it doesn’t have its own strength and discrimination.

Also, sense perception sees only the gross reality. It has no way of understanding totality. Modern science tries to understand things by looking at them with ever more powerful microscopes but they can never penetrate their essence that way. Buddhism knows well that you can never understand emptiness in that way.

So, this afternoon we are going meditate on our own consciousness.

Don’t be afraid. “How can I meditate? I don’t know what my consciousness is. This monk’s telling me to meditate on my consciousness, but my problem is that I don’t know what it is. How can I meditate on it?”

Well, say, for example, you’re in a room where you can’t see the sun directly but you can see its rays coming in through the window. From seeing the rays we understand that the sun exists. Similarly, from experiencing our thoughts and motivations we understand that our consciousness underlies them.

Looking at or simply being aware of your thoughts and motivation is good enough for you to be meditating on your own consciousness. Is that clear? I’ll say it again. One way of meditating on your consciousness is simply to be aware of your mind’s view. When you look at your own mind’s view, when you are aware of your own mind’s view, that’s good enough. I call that meditation on your consciousness.

Another way of doing this is to be aware of the essence of your own thoughts. You know the moment you close your eyes some kind of thought is going to arise–just be aware of its essence. I also call that meditation on your consciousness.

Don’t worry whether your thoughts are good or bad–the essential aspect of both is clear, because both good thought and bad reflect phenomena.

When I say “meditation” I don’t mean that you should squeeze yourself. These days there are a lot of misconceptions about what meditation is, especially in the West. Some people think it means you should squeeze yourself; others think it means [Lama shows and example]. Both are wrong. With one, you’re completely distracted; with the other you’re completely sluggish.

Meditation is actually very simple. When you close your eyes, what happens is that your awareness begins to radiate, like a sensitive radar detector. A good radar detector picks up any kind of signal; it notices, it’s aware. Similarly, when we meditate our mind becomes aware; we become very sensitive or totally awake as to what’s going on. That’s what I call meditation–intensive conscious awareness. But I don’t mean that in the conversational sense: “Blah, blah, blah, oh, there’s a light, there’s something else.” It’s not like that.

However, I’d better explain what I mean by conversation. Let’s say we’re supposed to be meditating. We’re aware of what’s going on around us: a car goes by; there goes a truck…. We’re aware, but then what we should not do is start some kind of conversation about what we’ve noticed: “That must be a very nice truck. Perhaps it’s full of cheese for sale. Maybe it an ice-cream truck.” Conversation. That’s what we should not do. We should be aware but in control and not start some kind of internal dialog.

In meditation you’re learning control and how to eliminate the uncontrolled mind. What is it that makes you uncontrolled? It’s your mind making conversation: “He’s like this; she’s like that. He says this; I don’t like it. She says that; I like it.” All this kind of internal chatter is what I mean by conversation. The mind’s constantly reacting but control not reacting.

Somebody calls you a bad person but you don’t react. You don’t make conversation: “She said I’m bad. That hurt my ego, hurt my ego, hurt my ego, hurt my ego….” That’s reacting; that’s an uncontrolled mind, a mind obsessed.

The way I look at it an obsessed mind has two objects: the beautiful object of craving desire or the repulsive object of aversion. And the mind obsessed with either of these objects cannot move away from it. That means you’re not free, not flexible. You’re always thinking, “This, this, this, this, this….” That’s what obsessed means. And whether it’s an object of hatred or jealousy or craving desire, an obsessed mind is disturbed. Meditation teaches us to avoid the habit of reacting when an object of obsession appears.

Now, you may ask, what really is the benefit of awareness of your own consciousness as opposed to, say, awareness of a flower? Or your girlfriend or boyfriend? There’s benefit in being aware of the nature of your consciousness because, unlike girlfriends, boyfriends and flowers, consciousness itself has no notion of concrete self-existence. Therefore, the beauty of watching, or being aware of, your own consciousness is that it leads to the breakdown of your heavy blanket, superstitious concepts and to the experience of great emptiness.

In order to solve our problems we need some experience. Intellectual “blah, blah” understanding is not enough. To break down concepts we need a way of gaining experience with our own mind. When we’ve had an experience we know we’re really capable of solving our own problems and this encourages us: “I can do anything I want. I can really solve my problems.” From the Buddhist point of view, that’s the start of human liberation.

Normally we’re too intellectual. We’re always saying, “Good, bad, good, bad, good, bad”; all the time. But when we meditate we stop saying “Good, bad, good, bad, good, bad.” The intellectual good-bad thinking gets stopped. Good-bad thinking is dualistic; it splits your mind. Just be aware; just be conscious.

We should be like the sun or the moon. They don’t think, “I’ll make Swiss people warm; I’ll give Swiss people light.” They don’t do anything like that. So that’s how we should be: intensively aware without any intellectual good or bad. That’s very important.

Maitreya Buddha said that written texts and scriptures are like a bridge. In order to cross a river you need a reliable bridge. Once you’ve crossed you can say, “Bye-bye bridge.” If instead you start thinking, “Oh, this bridge is so kind, this bridge is so kind, this bible is so kind, this sutra is so kind,” so attached to the scripture, it doesn’t make sense.

So what I’m saying is that all the intellectual good-bad is, from a certain point of view, OK. It’s good to be able to discriminate between good and bad. It has some value.

But always going “Good, bad, good, bad, good, bad” doesn’t have much value. You need that kind of discriminating wisdom but at a certain point you have to go beyond it, leave it and just be.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

September 29, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

The word “home” has a wide variety of connotations. To some, home is merely a place where basic needs are addressed. To others, home is the foundation from which they draw their strength and tranquility. Still, others view home as a place inexorably linked to family. Yet all these definitions of home imply somewhere we can be ourselves and are totally accepted. There, we feel safe enough to let down our guard, peaceful enough to really relax, and loved enough to want to return day after day. However, these qualities need not be linked to a single space or any space at all. Home is where the heart is and can be the locale you live in, a community you once lived in, or the country where you plan to live someday. Or home can be a feeling you carry inside yourself, wherever you are.

The process of evolution can require you to undergo transformations that uproot you. Moving from place to place can seem to literally divide you from the foundations you have come to depend on. Since your home is so intimately tied to the memories that define you, you may feel that you are losing a vital part of yourself when you leave behind your previous house, city, state, or country. And as it may take some time before you fashion new memories, you may feel homeless even after settling into your new abode. To carry your home with you, you need only become your own foundation. Doing so is merely a matter of staying grounded and centered, and recognizing that the pleasures you enjoyed in one place will still touch your heart in another if you allow them.

Your home can be any space or state of being that fulfills you, provided you are at peace with yourself and your surroundings. A person can feel like home to you, as can seasons and activities. If you feel disconnected from what you once thought of as home, your detachment may be a signal that you are ready to move one. Simply put, you will know you have found your home when both your physical environment and energetic surroundings are in harmony with the individual you are within.

Life

September 26, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Many of us long to find a spiritual teacher or guru. We may feel unsure of how to practice our spirituality without one, or we may long for someone who has attained a higher level of insight to lead the way for us. Some of us have been looking for years to no avail and feel frustrated and even lost. The good news is that the greatest teacher you could ever want is always with you—that is your life.

The people and situations we encounter every day have much to teach us when we are open to receiving their wisdom. Often we don’t recognize our teachers because they may not look or act like our idea of a guru, yet they may embody great wisdom. In addition, some people teach us by showing us what we don’t want to do. All the situations in our lives, from the insignificant to the major, conspire to teach us exactly what we need to be learning at any given time. Patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, letting go—all these are covered in the classroom of the teacher that is your life.

We can help ourselves to remember this perfect teacher each day with a few simple words. Each morning we might find a moment to say, “I acknowledge and honor the teacher that is my life. May I be wise enough to recognize the teachers and lessons that I encounter today, and may I be open to receiving their wisdom.” We might also take some time each day to consider what our lives are trying to teach us at this time. A difficult phase in your relationship with your child may be teaching you to let go. The homeless person you see every day may be showing you the boundaries of your compassion and generosity. A spate of lost items may be asking you to be more present to physical reality. Trust your intuition on the nature of the lesson at hand, work at your own pace, and ask as many questions as you want. Your life has all the answers.

A Macrobiotic Approach to Good Health

September 25, 2009

[ By Delia Quigley. Delia’s credentials include holistic nutritional counselor, natural foods chef, yoga instructor, energy therapist and public speaker.]

So often the meaning of good health is equated with lack of sickness. According to Macrobiotic principles, health encompasses a much broader scope of qualities and is not just about avoiding disease. Spiritual wellness requires that we know our Self on a deeper level of consciousness, mental health is knowing our purpose in life and the joy we bring to living that purpose, physical health is intimately entwined with our relationship to the earth, the way we grow our food, how we honor the environment and treat all life and living creatures.

The modern technologies we created were meant to provide us with more time to relax, be with loved ones, take care of ourselves and reduce stress. Instead, those technologies have only placed more burden on our shoulders. We now need more time to work longer hours to earn less money to grab time to relax for a few minutes each day. It is easy to get out of touch with our body, feeding it quick meals without slowing down and chewing each mouthful. It is not until there is pain, fever or exhaustion do some people see a doctor and receive medical care. But what if there was a way to assess your health by observing certain conditions that would alert you to any changes?

In The Book of Macrobiotics, The Universal Way of Health and Happiness, founder and author Michio Kushi outlines 7 conditions for optimal health, which I have condensed for your perusal:

1. Lack of Fatigue: Health means we should be able to adapt to whatever the day brings us without feeling overly fatigued. After a long day of work, it is natural to feel tired, but recovery should require a short rest or good nights sleep. We should be physically and mentally alert and prepared to respond to ever changing events with energy and a spirit of adventure.

2. Good Appetite: Appetite here means for food, sex, activity, knowledge, work, experience, health, freedom and happiness. The bigger the appetite, the richer the life. Lack of appetite slows progress and reduces our enjoyment for life. The caution here is moderation, as over-satisfaction reduces appetite and eventually slows down our life activity.

3. Good Sleep: Sleep should be deep and restful. This happens after a day of energetic physical and mental activity. Cloudy or fragmented dreams or nightmares, are all a sign of physical and mental unrest. When the mind and body are healthy, dreams can be interpreted as corresponding to real circumstances and are respected as insight into our lives.

4. Good Memory: Memory is the mother of our judgment. Without memory of what we have experienced, we have no judgment or ability to evaluate life’s changing circumstances. Good memory is essential to a meaningful life.

5. Lack of Anger: Anger shows limitation, lack of patience and an inability to make an effort to understand. In one Asian translation of its written characters anger means an “acute sickness of the liver”. Good health shows a willingness to accept circumstances with a smile, to make friends of an enemy, and resolve difficult moments in peaceful ways.

6. Be Joyous and Alert: Life calls on us to be active and alert to our surroundings and respond to each moment with joy and good humor. A joy filled life inspires those around us and is the natural result of good health.

7. Have Endless Appreciation: We are healthy when we experience appreciation for the order of the universe and for all phenomena manifesting within this universe. We receive life’s bounty with endless gratitude, and we respond by giving with generosity.

Let Go and Let Flow

September 25, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Many people, in heeding the guidance of their souls, find themselves contemplating goals that seem outrageous or unattainable. In the mind’s eye, these individuals stand at the edge of a precipice and look out over the abyss at the fruit of their ambition. Some resist the urge to jump, paralyzed by the gap between their current circumstances and the life of their dreams. Others make a leap of faith into the unknown, unsure of what they will encounter but certain that they will gain more in their attempts than they would bowing to self-protective instincts. This leap can be exceedingly difficult for individuals with control issues because the act of embracing uncertainty requires them to trust that surrender will net them the rewards they seek. Yet when you make a leap of faith, believing without a doubt that you will land safely on the other side, you can accomplish almost anything you set out to do.

There have no doubt been times in your life when you chose to go where the universal flow took you. Yet you may encounter instances in which your objectives require you to step outside of the boundaries of your established comfort zone so that you may freely and actively jettison yourself into a new phase of your life. While you may fear what seems to be the inevitable fall, consider that in all likelihood you will find yourself flying. A successful leap of faith requires your attention, as it is the quiet and often indistinct voice of your inner self that will point you toward your ultimate destination. Understand that the leap across the chasm of ambiguity may challenge you in unforeseen ways but you will make it across if you trust yourself.

If your mind and heart resist, you can dampen this resistance by building a bridge of knowledge. The more you know about the leap you are poised to take, the smaller the gap between “here” and “there” will appear to be. Your courageous leap of faith can lead you into uncharted territory, enabling you to build a new, more adventurous life. Though you may anticipate that fear will be your guide on your journey across the abyss, you will likely discover that exhilaration is your constant companion.

Moving Beyond Appearances

September 24, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

It is our natural inclination to judge people, since it happens without our even thinking about it. We take one look and summarize a whole person—overweight, pretty, stylish, sloppy. This habit comes from the mind’s need to categorize the world in order to be able to function without becoming overwhelmed. When we judge, we are looking for pertinent information, trying to determine whether the person approaching is a threat, an ally, or someone we don’t need to worry about. This way of looking at people makes sense in a dangerous context, but in our daily lives it leads to an overly simplistic reading of the people we meet.

If you have ever judged someone dismissively, only to have them become a dear friend once you got to know them, you know the hazards of the judgment cycle firsthand. An experience like that may have led you to soften your natural tendency to believe your first impressions. We will always notice things about the people we meet, but as we become more conscious of the shortcomings of judgment, we won’t be satisfied with our surface observations. We may notice that someone is driving an expensive car, but we will decide whether to befriend her based on getting to know her over time. We will not rule out a friendship with someone with messy hair, especially if he turns out to have a great sense of humor and a kind heart. Liking or disliking a person is a choice you will naturally make, but it will be after you have gotten to know them.

Next time you notice yourself judging somebody, try to send love, light, or blessings to the person you were judging. Then try to listen to them openly or look them in the eye and learn something about them. If this is not easy for you, remember not to judge yourself either. Trust that with practice, you will successfully disable your habitual patterns. As you do, you will find a whole new dimension of perception opening up to you, allowing you to see beyond the surface and into the essence of the people you meet.

Finding Joy in Life’s Surprises

September 22, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

As we endeavor to find personal fulfillment and realize our individual ideals, we naturally form emotional attachments to those outcomes we hope will come to pass. These expectations can serve as a source of stability, allowing us to draft plans based on our visions of the future, but they can also limit our potential for happiness by blinding us to equally satisfying yet unexpected outcomes. Instead of taking pleasure in the surprising circumstances unfolding around us, we mourn for the anticipation left unfulfilled. When we think of letting go of our expectations, we may find ourselves at the mercy of a small inner voice that admonishes us to strive for specific goals, even if they continually elude us. However, the opposite of expectation is not pessimism. We can retain our optimism and free ourselves from the need to focus on specific probabilities by opening our hearts and minds to a wide variety of possible outcomes.

When we expect a situation, event, or confrontation to unfold in a certain way, it becomes more difficult to enjoy the surprises that have the potential to become profound blessings. Likewise, we may feel that we failed to meet our inner objectives because we were unable to bring about the desired results through our choices and actions. Consider, though, that we are all at the mercy of the universal flow, and our best intentions are often thwarted by fate. As you grow increasingly open to unforeseen outcomes, you will be more apt to look for and recognize the positive elements of your new circumstances. This receptivity to the unexpected can serve you well when you are called upon to compromise with others, your life plans seem to go awry, or the world moves forward in an unanticipated manner by granting you the flexibility to see the positive aspects of almost any outcome.

The further you distance yourself from your expectations, the more exhilarating your life will become. Though a situation in which you find yourself may not correspond to your initial wants, needs, or goals, ask yourself how you can make the most of it and then do your best to adapt. Your life’s journey will likely take many unpredicted and astonishing twists because you are willing to release your expectations.

The Wisdom of Whales

September 18, 2009

[ Adapted from: Why Walk When You Can Fly, by Isha (New World Library, 2008). Isha Judd is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and author. ]

Self-acceptance is inherent in all animals and can be best understood by observing nature. At Puerto Madryn in Argentina, for example, dozens of right whales come to breed in the calm waters surrounding the Valdes Peninsula. It is amazing to get close to such enormous creatures. They are the biggest animals in the world and surely among the most powerful, yet all they do is radiate love. It’s incredible. It’s all you can feel. They are pure peace, pure love, and yet they are so big. They look at you lazily through the shimmering water as if you’re some rare breed of insect, and then down they go again.

The whales come with their babies, and those babies drink two thousand liters of milk a day. So poor Mom spends most of her time nursing. All the baby wants to do is feed – he’d be happy to drink ten thousand liters of milk a day. When she gets tired of feeding him, she rolls over onto her back so he can’t reach her nipples. The baby starts slapping Mom with his tail in an attempt to make her roll over. It’s a relatively powerful thing to have a baby whale slapping you with its tail, but Mom just lies there in perfect peace. She lets him have his little temper tantrum and continues to rest, even when he’s getting annoyed. She doesn’t judge herself; she doesn’t think, I shouldn’t get tired so easily. I’m not giving enough to my children, poor things. Animals never judge themselves. To them everything is perfect.

When the mother has rested, she teaches the baby how to jump out of the water. When Mom jumps, it’s magnificent. It’s poetry in motion. When the baby tries to copy, he’s a disaster! He does big belly flops and isn’t impressive at all. But his mother doesn’t say,”Oh my God, you’re not doing it properly! You’re embarrassing me in front of the other whales! I mustn’t be a very good teacher…” No. She just keeps leaping, and he keeps practicing, until they are in perfect union, perfect synchrony.

Nature doesn’t judge. It’s pure love, pure being, perfectly in the moment because it’s not thinking all the time. Such is the nature of enlightenment.

Spreading Your Light

September 18, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

As the pace and fullness of modern life serve to isolate us from one another, the contact we do share becomes vastly more significant. We unconsciously absorb each other’s energy, adopting the temperament of those with whom we share close quarters, and find ourselves changed after the briefest encounters. Everything we do or say has the potential to affect not only the individuals we live, work, and play with but also those we’ve just met. Though we may never know the impact we have had or the scope of our influence, accepting and understanding that our attitudes and choices will affect others can help us remember to conduct ourselves with grace at all times. When we seek always to be friendly, helpful, and responsive, we effortlessly create an atmosphere around ourselves that is both uplifting and inspiring.

Most people rarely give thought to the effect they have had or will have on others. When we take a few moments to contemplate how our individual modes of being affect the people we spend time with each day, we come one step closer to seeing ourselves through the eyes of others. By asking ourselves whether those we encounter walk away feeling appreciated, respected, and liked, we can heighten our awareness of the effect we ultimately have. Something as simple as a smile given freely can temporarily brighten a person’s entire world. Our value-driven conduct may inspire others to consider whether their own lives are reflective of their values. A word of advice can help others see life in an entirely new fashion. And small gestures of kindness can even prove to those embittered by the world that goodness still exists. By simply being ourselves, we influence other’s lives in both subtle and life-altering ways.   

To ensure that the effect we have is positive, we must strive to stay true to ourselves while realizing that it is the demeanor we project and not the quality of our wondrous inner landscapes that people see. Thus, as we interact with others, how we behave can be as important as who we are. If we project our passion for life, our warmth, and our tolerance in our facial features, voice, and choice of words, every person who enters our circle of influence will leave our presence feeling at peace with themselves and with us. You never know whose life you are affecting, big or small. Try to remember this as you go out into the world each day.

Making Life Yours

September 17, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

There is no secret recipe for happiness and contentment. The individuals who move through life joyously have not necessarily been blessed with lives of abundance, love, success, and prosperity. Such people have, however, been blessed with the ability to take the circumstances they’ve been handed and make them into something great. Our individual realities are colored by perception—delight and despair come from within rather than without. Situations we regard as fortuitous please us while situations we judge inauspicious cause us no end of grief. Yet if we can look at all we have accomplished without dwelling on our perceived misfortune and make each new circumstance our own, the world as a whole becomes a brighter place. A simple shift in attitude can help us recognize and unearth the hidden potential for personal and outer world fulfillment in every event, every relationship, every duty, and every setback.

The universe is often an unpredictable and chaotic place, and the human tendency is to focus on the negative and assume the positive will care for itself. But life can be no more or no less than what you make of it. If you are working in a job you dislike, you can concentrate on the positive aspects of the position and approach your work with gusto. What can you do with this job that can turn it around so you do love it. When faced with the prospect of undertaking a task you fear, you can view it as an opportunity to discover what you are truly capable of doing. Similarly, unexpected events, when viewed as surprises, can add flavor to your existence. By choosing to love life no matter what crosses your path, you can create an atmosphere of jubilance that is wonderfully infectious. A change in perspective is all it takes to change your world, but you must be willing to adopt an optimistic, hopeful mind-set.

To make a conscious decision to be happy is not enough. You must learn to observe life’s complexities through the eyes of a child seeing everything for the first time. You must furthermore divest yourself of preconceived notions of what is good and what is bad so that you can appreciate the rich insights concealed in each stage of your life’s journey. And you must strive to discover the dual joys of wanting what you have. As you gradually shift your perspective, your existence will be imbued with happiness and contentment that will remain with you forever.

Being Aware of Your Thoughts

September 16, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Few people enjoy the company of individuals whose attitudes are persistently negative. Yet many of us tolerate the critical chatter that can originate within our own minds. Since we are so used to the stream of self-limiting, critical consciousness that winds its way through our thoughts, we are often unaware of the impact these musings have on our lives. It is only when we become aware of the power of such thoughts that we can divest ourselves of them and fill the emptiness they leave with loving, peaceful affirmations. Many people, upon paying careful attention to their thinking patterns, are surprised at the negativity they find there. But when we take notice of involuntary thoughts in a nonjudgmental way, we initiate a healing process that will eventually allow us to replace intimidating and upsetting self-talk with positive, empowering thoughts.

While the occasional downbeat or judgmental thought may have little impact on your contentment, the ongoing negativity that passes unnoticed can have a dampening effect on your mood and your outlook. When you are aware of the tone of your thoughts, however, you can challenge them. Try to be conscious of your feelings, opinions, and judgments for a single day. From sunup to sundown, scrutinize the messages you are feeding into your subconscious mind. Consider your thoughts from the perspective of a detached observer and try not to judge yourself based on the notions that come unbidden into your mind. Simply watch the flow of your consciousness and make a note of the number of times you find yourself focusing on gloomy notions or indulging in self-directed criticism.

As you become increasingly aware of your patterns of thought, whether positive and negative, you will gradually learn to control the character of your stream of consciousness. Endeavor always to remember that the images and ideas that pass through your mind are transient and not a true representation of who you are. In training yourself to be cognizant of your thoughts, you gain the ability to actively modulate your mood. The awareness you cultivate within yourself will eventually enable you to create a foundation of positivity from which you can build a more authentic existence.

Cosmic Support

September 15, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

The path that speeds us toward our dreams can be a challenging and complex one, so it’s easy to get bogged down in confusion and insecurities. We often hesitate at the start of that path, questioning our purpose or our capabilities. Yet we should be moving forward joyously, eager to discover what destiny has in store for us. The universe has plans for us that eclipse anything we have dreamed of thus far. Though we must work diligently to fulfill our potential and to accomplish our individual missions, the universe is aware of both the quests we chose before birth and the goals we have formulated in adulthood. If we accept that it us watching over us and believe that it will facilitate our eventual success, the universe will provide us with the assistance and opportunities that enable us to make significant progress on our journeys of ambition.   

Nothing happens without a purpose. Whether we attract success or repel it depends on our willingness to stay open to a wide range of possibilities and to embrace concepts like synchronicity. The universe is always ready to care for our needs, but we must not write off its loving attention as mere circumstance or chance. Likewise, we must endeavor to ensure that our egos do not become a barrier that prevents us from recognizing that even perceived mistakes and strife can be profound lessons that smooth the progress of personal evolution. When we understand that we only need to enthusiastically try our best to realize our objectives, the universe will take care of the details, propelling us forward in its unstoppable current. We may not always immediately understand the significance of certain experiences, but our trust will help us choose wisely at each crossroads.

The universe wants to see you accomplish your goals. No matter how long you’ve dallied or hesitated, it will always be there to put its plan for you in motion at the first sign of your faith. You can make the most of this aid by acquiescing to it rather than fighting it—nurture your dreams but do not attempt to micromanage every detail along the way. The universe will provide you with guidance and, if you heed that guidance, you will find your formerly stressful quest for success will become a journey of great joy.

Open and Listening

September 12, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

For  better or worse, much of the world we experience is dominated and controlled by human beings. We spend our days in houses, cars, and buildings, and inside these structures, we are in control. We assert our wills and manipulate our environment. Within the context of the human world, this is natural. However, we often carry this attitude with us into the world of nature. We forget as we enter the forest, or sit on the edge of a pond, that we are moving into another realm, one that asks us to drop our baggage and surrender to a different sense of order and meaning.

When we move from our everyday world into the world of nature, we may not even notice at first. We might continue talking loudly into our cell phone or to a friend that is with us. We might walk quickly as if we are on a busy city street, our eyes downcast, our thoughts hectic and hurried. In the best case, if we are sensitive to our environment, we will soon notice that it has changed. We may hear ducks calling, or wind moving through the leaves on a tree. If we notice the shift, we will naturally shift as well. If we don’t, we may get all the way through a beautiful park without having lowered our voices. Next time you find yourself in the presence of wildlife—even if it’s just a duck pond in the midst of urban hustle—try to move into a receptive state of openness and listening, no matter how much or how little time you have. Allow yourself to be captivated and calmed by the energy of the wildlife that covers this earth. Teaching our children to be respectful of nature and  to stop and observe is a gift they can always cherish.

We preserve pockets of nature in our urban centers and large expanses of nature in our national parks because of the magic we feel in its presence. It reminds us of our smallness and calls us back to a deeper, quieter part of ourselves. When we honor nature by being respectful in its presence, we honor the mystery and wild beauty of our origin.

The Energy of Cities

September 10, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

The cities we reside in have souls. Our cities consume, create, evolve, and breathe much in the same way Mother Nature does. Each city is unique, defined not only by the individuals who call it home but also by the energy it exudes. Some cities are suffused by an aura of unshakable calm while others seem continually frenetic, even during the early morning hours. Many inspire creativity within us or arouse our curiosity. A city’s energy is dependent on many factors, including the geography, the people, the industry, and the culture. Residing in a city full of warehouses and factories feels very different than one living in one populated by artists and museums. Some cities elevate the soul while others seem to squash it, and fate may lead us to either.

If the urban center you presently call home feels oppressive or robs you of your vitality, consider relocating to a locale that is more nurturing. You may find that leaving your city is an impossibility, however, if circumstances in your life compel you to remain or the universe has plans for you that involve your staying put. To cope with the stress of working and playing in an environment you have an aversion to, first ask yourself how the city you live in makes you feel. Then take steps to cleanse your home, your work spaces, and your life of the energy that is dragging you down. Try smudging your personal and professional spaces with sage or sweetgrass to dispel negativity. Keeping a quartz crystal on or near your person can ensure that there is always positive, loving energy nearby that you can draw from when you feel affected by your city. And you can do your part to promote widespread good energy by sending love and white light from your heart out into the city each morning and night.

As you become increasingly aware of the way your city makes you feel, you can refine your cleansing efforts to meet your individual needs. If you seek out others who feel driven to purify your city’s energy flow, your combined efforts can become a larger movement that promotes healing and goodwill. You may find that, after a time, you are gradually drawn to those aspects of your locale that energize you, helping you come back into balance.