Archive for November, 2009

Understanding Emptiness

November 28, 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. ] 

What is the self-existent I? The self-existent I does not exist; do not think that it does. In this way, we first try to educate you with words: “There is no dualistic I.” We try to push you. “There’s no self-existent I.” We try to push you intellectually. But at the time of death, this understanding is not pushed intellectually; it comes naturally. You lose your self-existent identity naturally.

Some people experience losing their identity in meditation and get scared. That’s good. You should be scared. Tibetan monks want to make you afraid. Westerners don’t like to be scared but we have the skills to make you afraid! Many people have this experience. That’s good.

Why are you afraid? Why are you afraid to lose something? What you’re losing is your self-existent or concrete preconception of yourself. That’s what’s shaken. Your own projection of yourself is what shakes; it’s not your own nonduality that’s shaken. Your own true nature isn’t shaken.

Once Lama Je Tsongkhapa was giving a discourse on emptiness. During the talk one of his close disciples experienced emptiness right at that moment and suddenly grabbed his lapel because he felt he was disappearing. He completely lost himself and was totally shaken by the experience, so grabbed himself to make sure he was still there. That’s how it should be: experiences and realizations should come during a teaching. So, the way to discover your own true nature is to break the fantasy, or preconceived ideas, of yourself.

Perhaps there can be misunderstandings because the English language may have many different ways of interpreting the words “self” and “losing the self.” I’m using the word preconception. That means you fix your reality: “I am this, I am that, I am the other. This is me.” You create a strong preconceived idea of who you are, what you are. That’s what I mean by “self.” That self is non-existent. It’s merely a projection of your own ego.

For example, a man identifies himself as such and such a woman’s husband. In this way he gives himself the flavor of a self-existent husband. When he’s decided that he’s this concrete, self-existent husband, he immediately projects onto his wife that she too is a concrete, self-existent wife. These concrete preconceptions lead to misery. “My existence depends on my wife. If she disappears, so do I.” He identifies himself as a concrete husband and her as a concrete wife, and then his life becomes impossible. Because the truth of the situation is that both he and his wife are impermanent, transitory, changing from day to day. In other words, he overestimates reality.

These days we see a lot of confusion among young people. “Society wants me to be someone: an engineer, a scientist.” They feel they need a profession with which they can identify themselves. Part of them believes it; another part does not. So they’re confused. Nevertheless, they do want some kind of identity so they create their own. They drop out, take drugs and become hippies. That doesn’t mean they don’t have ego. They already have an ego but they want another layer on it with which they can identify. They already have a self-existent I; they want to add an extra flavor to that.

It’s quite easy to experience the self-existent imagination of yourself I’m talking about. It’s not difficult. Right now you can observe and analyze your self-imagined identity. And because you have preconceptions about this self you get into trouble. You always criticize yourself: “I’m not good enough.” If you analyze this way of thinking you will understand how you’re deluded and not in touch with reality. You can understand right now.

Because you hold such a limited projection of yourself, such a limited self-image, this becomes the root of all your other limitations. You have limited love, limited wisdom and limited compassion. You’ve already decided that fundamentally, you’re narrow. So your whole life becomes narrow, your wisdom becomes narrow, your love becomes narrow-all because of your fundamentally narrow projection of yourself.

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Redefining Health

November 28, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Health is not a numerical concept and cannot be defined using statistics. Human beings, however, tend to want to quantify well-being into easily understandable figures. We feel compelled to ascribe numbers to every aspect of wellness, from the qualities of our food to our fitness levels to the physical space we occupy. As a consequence of social pressures, we turn our attention away from health and focus instead on the most contentious of these figures—weight—checking our scales to see how we measure up to our peers and role models. Yet each of us is equipped to gauge our relative healthfulness without any equipment whatsoever. When we have achieved a state of wellness, we feel buoyant and energetic. Some of us are naturally slim, while others will always be curvy. No matter what our weight, we can use the cues we receive from our physical and mental selves to judge how healthy we really are.

When you throw away your scale, you commit to a lifestyle that honors the innate wisdom that comes from within your body and within your mind. It is logical to examine how you feel while considering your health—a strong, fit, and well-nourished individual will seldom feel heavy, bloated, or fatigued. If you have concerns regarding your weight, remind yourself that at its proper weight, your body will feel buoyant and agile. Movement becomes a source of joy. Sitting, standing, walking, and bending are all easy to do because your joints and organs are functioning as they were meant to. When you are physically healthy, your mind will also typically occupy a place of well-being. Mental clarity and an ability to focus are two natural traits of whole-self health. Surprisingly, promoting this type of easy-to-discern wellness within yourself takes no special effort outside of satisfying your hunger with nourishing, wholesome foods and moving your body.

The numbers you see on the scale, while nominally informative, can prevent you from reaching your healthful eating goals by giving you a false indicator of health. You will know when you have achieved true health because every fiber of your being will send you signals of wellness. When you choose to listen to these signals instead of relying on the scale, your definition of well-being will be uniquely adapted to the needs of your body and of your mind.

Leaving a Positive Footprint

November 27, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Physical space acts like a sponge, absorbing the radiant of all who pass through it. And, more likely than not, the spaces we move through each day have seen many people come and go. We have no way of knowing whether the energy footprints left behind by those who preceded us will invigorate us or drain us. Yet we can control the energy footprint we leave behind for others. In blessing each space we enter, we orchestrate a subtle energy shift that affects not only our own experiences in that space but also the experiences of the individuals who will enter the space after us. While we may never see the effects our blessing has had, we can take comfort in the fact that we have provided grace for those that follow after us.

When you bless a room or an entire building, you leave a powerful message of love and light for all those who will come after you. Your blessings thus have myriad effects on the environments through which you pass. Old, stagnant energy is cleared, creating a vacuum into which fresh and invigorating energy can freely flow. The space is thus rendered harmonious and nourishing, and it becomes a hub from which positive feelings are transmitted. Intent is the key component of the blessings you leave in your physical wake. If your intent involves using your own consciousness as a tool for selflessly spreading grace, your blessings will never go awry. Whether you feel more comfortable performing a solo blessing or prefer to call upon your spirit guides for assistance, visualize each space you enter becoming free of toxins, chaos, and negativity as you speak your blessing. Then imagine the resultant emptiness being replaced by pure, healing white light and loving energy. Even a quick mindful thought of love can bless a space.

This type of blessing is cumulative and will grow each time you bestow it. Try blessing every home, business, and office you visit for an entire week and observing the effects of your goodwill. Your affirmative energy footprint will help brighten your day as you contemplate your blessing’s future impact on your siblings in humanity and your environment.

If Only

November 27, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Since most of our experiences are rooted in cause and effect, we naturally want to justify our contentment. We envision grand circumstances, stating that if only we could achieve this goal or obtain that possession, we would finally be in a position to attain happiness. As a result, satisfaction is always just out of reach and the very notion of grabbing hold of it seems like nothing more than a pipe dream. But the truth is that sincere contentment and fulfillment are never wholly the result of external events or situations. Though life’s joyful moments can ignite the spark of contentment within us, that spark is fueled by serenity long established in our souls. When we forget this, it is easy to become stuck in “if only” patterns of thought. If we concentrate on the natural serenity that exists within us, however, we can move forward unimpeded by disappointment.

The circumstances you live through each day have the potential to bring both joy and despair into your life. Relying on the reactions they awaken within you to create an emotional foundation means living on a roller coaster of feeling whose course is determined by chance. Though you may yearn for the object of your desire—be it a new job, financial health, a spouse, or some other symbol of success—you have within you the power to be happy without it. Letting go of your “if only” thinking patterns can be as easy as recognizing that inward emptiness cannot be dispelled with outer world solutions. Try creating a list of your “if only”s. Then literally and figuratively let go of the items on the list by tearing it up or burning it. This simple action can help set in motion the intention to set you free, enabling you to make a fresh and balanced start in the present, unencumbered by regrets and unfulfilled desires.

There will likely be periods in your life in which you find yourself tempted to seek a magic formula for fulfillment that is centered upon a single goal or achievement. But the ingredients that come together to form the seeds of happiness that can sustain your spirit throughout the triumphs and trials of existence come from within rather than from without. When your search for satisfaction is focused on your soul, you will never fail to find the joy you seek.

Eating Close to the Earth

November 24, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

The food we eat is a multidimensional aspect of our lives. Food provides us with the energy that enables us to grow and prosper. Yet it can be, and frequently is, much, much more. Our food can be an experience in and of itself if we allow it to be. The dishes we remember from childhood offer unmatched comfort. The act of preparing meals can be an art form of the highest caliber. And the nourishment we derive from this fare promotes wellness within us. But many of us, distracted by daily affairs, forget that the profound pleasures of eating go beyond simple sustenance. We eat foods that are convenient or we eat unconsciously, snacking on whatever happens to be on hand. To understand the true value of food and the impact it can have on our lives, we should acknowledge and honor it by eating close to the earth.

If you have ever shelled and eaten garden-grown peas or bitten into a sun-warmed apple freshly plucked from its tree, you likely understand that there is a marked difference between these foods and those that are processed and stacked on supermarket shelves. Food recently picked contains more of its original life force and thus has a greater store of energy and nutrients. You can ensure you are eating close to the earth—and enjoying the many benefits of doing so—by shopping at a local farmers market and getting to know the individuals who grow your food. If you make the experience of shopping in this way enjoyable, you will be more apt to reject more convenient canned, packaged, and frozen foods in favor of the real delight you feel while browsing stalls of fresh foods nourished by the same soil you can find in your own backyard. You will soon learn what foods are in season in your area and how to prepare them.

As you savor the vivid flavors of juicy ripe fruits and the hearty crunch of unprocessed vegetables, you can also take pleasure in the fact that, by eating close to the earth, you are supporting farmers in your region, connecting with your local ecosystem, discouraging those who would waste precious fossil fuels by carting produce cross-country, and helping to preserve healthy culinary traditions that have existed for centuries.

Giving Without Expectations

November 21, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Since giving and receiving are so intimately intertwined in our lives, we often expect that we can attract abundance by simply conducting ourselves in an openhanded fashion. Yet we find ourselves wallowing in disappointment when our ample generosity is not met with the expected results. The answer to this quandary lies in the expectations that, in part, initially prompted us to give. Though our intention is likely pure, we can unintentionally mar the beautiful experience of giving by focusing on what we will eventually receive in return. When we let go of the notion that we deserve to receive gifts based on giving gifts, bounty can once again flow freely in and out of our lives.

When the gifts you give are laden down with expectations, they cease to be gifts and become units of exchange that you are, in effect, trading for some reward. Thus, the reciprocal laws of the universe err on the side of the giver who shares for the sake of sharing. You may have seen this simple truth at work in your own experience, perhaps when life’s busyness prevented you from spending too much time contemplating the results your charitable actions would ultimately have on the lives of others. It was likely then that you received the greatest gifts in return for your kindness. If you have trouble divesting yourself of your expectations, you may need to reflect upon the root of your inability to act in the true spirit of giving. Each time you make a gift, whether spiritual or tangible, ask yourself if there is something you hope to receive in return. You may be surprised to discover that you expect to be repaid with an easy life, financial windfalls, or opportunities.

To integrate this most selfless form of generosity into your life, you will have to let go of your need to be in control. Accepting that while like inevitably attracts like, it typically does so on an unobservable timetable. This can help you stop weighing the gifts you give against those you have received. Giving eventually becomes a profound joy that stands alone, separate from any and all conditions, and you will learn to appreciate the flow of reciprocal abundance as a gift in and of itself.

Are You Centered?

November 19, 2009
Are You Centered?
[ Posted in Care2, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004) ]

To be centered is considered desirable. But if there is no person inside your head, if the ego’s sense of I, me, mine is illusory, where’s the center? Paradoxically, the center is everywhere. It is the open space that has no boundaries.

Experience isn’t a place; it’s a focus of attention. You can live there, at the still point around which everything revolves. To be off center is to lose focus, to look away from experience or block it out.

To be centered is like saying “I want to find my home in creation.” You relax into the rhythm of your own life, which sets the stage for meeting yourself at a deeper level. You can’t summon the silent witness, but you can place yourself close to it by refusing to get lost in your own creation.

When I find myself being overshadowed by anything, I can fall back on a few simple steps: I say to myself, “This situation may be shaking me, but I am more than any situation.” I take a deep breath and focus my attention on whatever my body is feeling. I step back and see myself as another person would see me (preferably the person whom I am resisting or reacting to.) I realize that my emotions are not reliable guides to what is permanent and real. They are momentary reactions, and most likely they are born of habit. If I am about to burst out with uncontrollable reactions, I walk away.

As you can see, I don’t try to feel better, to be more positive, to come from love, or to change the state I’m in. If you can observe the mechanism at work without getting wrapped up in it, you will find that you possess a second perspective, one that is always calm, alert, detached, tuned in but not overshadowed. That second place is your center. It isn’t a place at all but a close encounter with the silent witness.

You Never Know Who You’ll Meet

November 19, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Our individual journeys take us into many unexpected situations where we encounter a wide variety of people—some quite like ourselves and some very different. We cannot anticipate these meetings, but we can make the most of them when they take place. When we are courteous as a matter of course and open-minded in our assessment of the individuals whose lives briefly touch our own, we are more apt to stumble upon surprising gems of wisdom that open our eyes to new worlds of possibility. Every person we meet can affect us profoundly, just as every situation we find ourselves in can teach us something new.

To fully embrace this fact, it is essential that we acknowledge that everyone is valuable in their own way and capable of expanding our horizons. Since we never know when we will happen upon those individuals who will unveil truths before us, we should extend to all people the same generous level of kindness, care, compassion, and understanding. When we assume everyone we meet is special and treat them as such, we can develop a strong rapport quickly. By making an effort to adopt a positive attitude toward others at all times, we ensure that our emotions do not blind us to wisdom that may be lurking in difficult or distressing situations. We are accordingly receptive to knowledge that comes to us in the form of examples, advice, and direct teaching.

These brief relationships ultimately have the potential to enrich our lives in a very concrete way. But the wisdom we gain is proportional to the attention we pay to the world around us. The responsibility is on us to maintain a state of awareness that allows us to recognize when we are in the presence of someone consciously or unconsciously in possession of knowledge that will change us significantly. When we are cognizant of the potential for unexpected enlightenment, we make a habit of turning strangers into friends, thus ensuring that we are never without a font of wisdom from which to draw.

15 Toxic Ingredients in Personal Care

November 18, 2009

[ by Melissa Breyer ]

By now we’ve all heard that everything from hair serum to sunscreen can be teeming with troublesome toxins and crazy chemicals, and many concerned consumers already steer clear of products made with parabens, phthalates, and synthetic scents and colors. But there are hundreds of lesser-known ingredients hidden in many favorite products–some with the potential to wreak havoc on the environment and others that have been linked to breast cancer. Without a universal and enforceable natural or organic standard to regulate the beauty industry, even companies claiming to be natural often produce products laced with not-so-clean stuff.

Top 15 ingredients to avoid in personal care and beauty products

1. Synthetic fragrances often contain phthalates (pronounced THAY-lates), synthetic chemicals commonly used to stabilize fragrances and make plastic more pliable. These endocrine disrupters mimic hormones and may alter genital development. Avoid products that list fragrance as an ingredient unless the label states that it’s derived from essentials oils,or look for a phthalate-free label on the packaging.

2. Parabens, ubiquitous in skincare, preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life–but these antimicrobial chemicals also have hormone-disrupting effects.

3. Ureas, formally known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethyl-glycinate, are preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde in very small amounts and are a primary cause of contact dermatitis.

4. 1,4-dioxane, a chemical carcinogen, is created when ingredients are processed with petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. Common ethoxylated compounds include sodium laureth sulfate and polyethylene glycol (often listed as PEG). To avoid it, skip any product with the following ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.

5. Petrochemicals are derived from crude oil. Petroleum-based ingredients such as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin (derived from nonrenewable sources) form a barrier when applied to the skin that does not allow it to breathe and can clog pores.

6. MEA/DEA/TEA are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form harmful nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Used as foaming agents, synthetic stabilizers, and to adjust the pH of cosmetics, they can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin.

7. Sulfates, such as sodium lauryl and sodium laureth, are harsh detergents that give cleansers, soaps, and shampoos their latherability. Often derived from petroleum, sulfates can also come from coconut and other vegetable oils that can be contaminated with pesticides. Sulfates can cause eye irritation and skin rashes.

8. Chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer alternatives.

9. Quats, such as benzalkonium chloride, steardimonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, and cetrimonium chloride, give a positive charge to conditioners in order to prevent static. They are necessary for conditioners, but we have allowed only the mildest quats in our Beauty With a Conscience standard: guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, hydroxypropyltrimonium oligosaccharide, and SugaQuats.

10. Antibacterial compounds, such as triclosan and chlorphenesin, do not break down in the environment and may contribute to bacterial resistance.

11. Synthetic polymers, such as sodium polyacrylate and carbomer, come from petroleum and give viscosity to skincare products. They are highly processed and their manufacture creates toxic by-products.

12. Synthetic colors are made from coal tar. They contain heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number.

13. Chelators, such as disodium EDTA and tetrasodium EDTA, are used in personal care products to remove impurities from low-quality raw materials. They do not readily biode-grade in the environment.

14. Nanos are a new technology with inconclusive but potentially hazardous study results. Research suggests that when tiny nano particles penetrate the skin, they may cause cell damage.

15. Animal testing: A grim history of cruelty to animals lies behind many cosmetic ingredients. But scientists are developing new technologies to test cosmetics before a European Union ban on animal testing begins in March 2009.

Decorating Life

November 18, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

There are few things more thrilling than having a new house or an empty room to decorate. Our imaginations soar as we consider the many possibilities. In the same way, our lives offer us the opportunity to express ourselves within various contexts, to ask ourselves questions about what we want to see as we move through our days and how we want things to flow. Some people do this instinctively, moving through the various environments they inhabit and shifting the energy with their presence. These people have a knack for decorating life. This can be as simple as the way they dress, the way they speak, or the fact that they always bring a bouquet of wildflowers when they come for a visit.

As we move through the world, we make a statement, whether we intend to or not. We shift the energy one way when we enter a room dressed elegantly and simply, and another when we show up in bright, cheerful colors and a floppy hat. One is not better than the other. It is simply a question of the mood we wish to create. What we wear is just one choice we can focus on. The way we speak to people, or touch them, shifts the energy more profoundly than almost anything else. The words we speak and the tone in which we say them are the music we choose to play in the world that is our home. Some of us fill the space with passionate arias, others with healing hymns. Again, one is not better than the other. We are all called to contribute.

Just as we consciously create an environment within our homes, we can consciously choose to decorate life itself with our particular energy. Ideally, in doing so, we express our deeper selves, so that the adornments we add to the world make it more meaningful, more beautiful, and as welcoming as a beloved home.

Making It Happen

November 17, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

There are times in our lives when all the signs seem to be pointing us in a particular direction. Our thoughts and dreams are echoed in the songs and stories we hear and the media we see. Maybe the message we are getting from the universe doesn’t even make sense in the “real” world, but somewhere inside, these urges feel right. Maybe you feel you are being told to move to a new city although your life where you are is just fine. Or maybe you feel the desire to pursue a new direction in your career when it never really interested you before. When we spend time getting in touch with our higher selves, our intuition sends us directives to lead us to become our best and most fulfilled selves. And when we are open and listening, the next step is to take action and go for it.

Once we make the decision to pursue our inner urgings, the universe sets into motion the means for all sorts of details to fall into place. A sense of peace will come over us, because we know that any questions will no longer make us wonder if our dreams are possible, but how to make them happen. Instead of deterring us from our goal, these questions only serve to clarify our focus to move us forward. We need not throw caution to the wind to follow our dream.  The positive shift in our energy affects everything around us. Like a rush of water, it goes ahead to clear debris from our path so that we can go forward. Our new attitude also attracts likeminded people. Sometimes even the most unlikely angels arrive to help us along our way with the information and support we need.

Wherever your dreams are pointing you today, take a step. Take action and manifest your inner urges and soul whisperings.

A Living Dwelling

November 17, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

The homes we occupy are seldom ideal. A space that satisfies our basic needs may nonetheless leave us wanting where location, décor, or style are concerned. Yet every home has the potential to be beautiful. When we fill our homes with love, we transcend worldly factors such as market value and design. Our conscious, loving intentions can literally transform the spaces in which we live, dispelling any lingering unharmonious energy and replacing it with an ethereal beauty that is felt rather than seen. Our homes become spiritual dwellings that feel soulful and alive. Regardless of their outward appearances, they radiate love, making all who enter, including ourselves, feel instantly welcome.

Turning a space into the beautiful outward expression of your inner warmth is as easy as projecting love into it. When your intentions are sincere, you can infuse the walls of your home with your energy, your emotional sensitivity, and your generosity of spirit, turning it into a haven of affection, joy, laughter, and togetherness. It is up to you, whether you want your personal spaces to be peaceful and quiet or lively and inspiring. Begin by cultivating awareness within yourself. This will allow you to see your home as an integral part of your existence rather than somewhere you simply return to at the end of each day. Consider how you relate to each element of your space, and remind yourself that every room in your home can serve a purpose in your life and the lives of your loved ones. Finally, lovingly thank each room for providing for your needs. As you become more mindful of the manner in which your home contributes to your well-being, you will discover that, more and more, you want to love and be loved by it.

Appearance and other superficial qualities can be deceiving. An aesthetically beautiful home can prove unwelcoming. And a home that seems mundane in every characteristic can be as comforting and cozy as a beloved relative or friend. When you nurture and care for your home as if it were a loved one, it will absorb your tender intentions and project a love so touching you will soon come to feel a great affection for it.

Midlife Crisis

November 17, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

In our youth-oriented culture, the process of aging is not honored as it once was.  There have been societies that looked to those who were older for leadership, understanding that their life experiences must have brought some wisdom with them. Our society tends to put more value on looking youthful, so when the time comes that we don’t look, move, or feel the way we once did, this causes a sudden jolt to our perception of ourselves. We can look at this shift as a crisis and fight against change, or we can take the opportunity to transition smoothly to a new phase of life.

We spend our youth learning who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing. As we set and reach our goals, it is easy to identify ourselves by our roles. At some point we may feel very comfortable in the idea that we have a complete understanding of ourselves. This is, inevitably, when things change and we get to see ourselves from a new perspective. Those who have reached their goals may wonder where to go from there, feeling uncomfortable with the new choice of parts to play. Others may have to let go of an identity that was built around a goal that was not reached and decide from what foundation to rebuild. Although it can be challenging to shift into a new expression of self, we may find that we’re better suited for this fresh path of self-discovery and the new perspective it brings.

Whether we find ourselves facing a midlife crisis or any life transition, we can take the time to get in touch with our inner selves. From the unchanging spirit within us, we can accept and embrace the changes that come with the human experience. Examining where we’ve been and what we’ve learned can point in the direction of all that we would like to do now and in the future. When we anchor our identity in our spiritual nature, we understand that physical change does not change who we are, but only offers another perspective from which to experience, understand, and celebrate life.

Belly Laughs

November 17, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

As children, we laugh hundreds of times each day, delighted by the newness of living. When we reach adulthood, however, we tend to not allow ourselves to let go in a good belly laugh. Inviting laughter back into our lives is simply a matter of making the conscious decision to laugh. Though most of us are incited to laugh only when exposed to humor or the unexpected, each of us is capable of laughing at will. A laugh that comes from the belly carries with it the same positive effects whether prompted by a funny joke or consciously willed into existence. When our laughter comes from the core of our being, it permeates every cell in our physical selves, beginning in the center and radiating outward, until we are not merely belly laughing but rather body laughing.

Laughter has been a part of the human mode of expression since before evolution granted us the art of speech. Through it, we connected with allies while demonstrating our connection with people we didn’t know. In the present, laughter allows us to enjoy positive shared experiences with strangers and loved ones alike. Yet solitary laughter carries with it its own slew of benefits. An energetic and enthusiastic bout of whole-body laughter exercises the muscles, the lungs, and the mind in equal measure, leaving us feeling relaxed and content. When we laugh heartily at life’s ridiculousness instead of responding irritably, our focus shifts. Anger, stress, guilt, and sadness no longer wield any influence over us, and we are empowered to make light of what we originally feared. Laughter also opens our hearts, letting love and light in, changing our perspective, and enabling us to fix our attention on what is positive in our lives.

It is easy to laugh when we feel good, but it is when the world appears dim that we most need laughter in our lives. Our laughter then resonates through our hearts, filling the empty spaces with pure, unadulterated joy. We regain our footing in the moment and remember that no sorrow is powerful enough to rob us of our inborn happiness. When we understand that uninhibited laughter is the food of the soul, nourishing us from within, we know instinctively that life is worthwhile.

Not Always Easy

November 17, 2009

[ From DailyOM ]

Some of our goals and dreams come to fruition so easily that it is as if an unseen hand has done much of the work for us. When this happens, we say it must have been meant to be. On the other hand, when dreams and goals require a tremendous amount of effort, we may interpret this to mean that our dream is not meant to be. However, difficulty is not necessarily a sign that our hopes and plans are ill-fated. On the contrary, difficulties and challenges along the path can be important parts of the project’s overall meaning.

When everything goes smoothly, we feel blessed by the universe, as if a fleet of angels is guiding and supporting our every move. When things are rough or ambiguous, we sometimes feel that we have been abandoned. And yet, the truth is that we are blessed in both cases. Our angels and guides are always present. They may choose at times to back off and let us figure something out for ourselves, and this is when things seem difficult. But when things are difficult, we learn and grow in specific ways. There is a unique satisfaction that comes to us when we succeed at something that has been a challenge. Our sense of self-reliance expands, and our ability to endure and keep the faith is stronger for having been tested. We learn that we are capable of confronting and overcoming the obstacles in our path, and this empowers us to dream still bigger dreams, knowing that we will not be daunted by the challenges inherent in birthing them.

When we find ourselves facing difficulties with a particular plan or project, the chances are we know already whether we are meant to continue on or let it go. We simply need to look within ourselves for the answer. When an idea is meant to be, it comes back to us time and time again. Then we know we can go forward, no matter what challenges arise, knowing that it is meant to be.