Archive for January, 2010

Clearing Your Mind

January 28, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Set aside time each day to unclutter and settle your mind.  Whether through yoga, dance, walking or journaling.

After a full day out in the world, stories, words, images, and songs from any number of sources continue to play in our heads hours after we encounter them. Even as we lie in bed, in the quiet dark, our minds continue noisily processing all the input from our day. This can leave us feeling unsettled and harassed. It also makes it difficult to take in any new information or inspiration. Like a cluttered house that needs to be cleared if it is to have room for movement and new life, our minds need clearing if they are to be open to new information, ideas, and inspiration.

Too often, the activities we choose to help us relax only add to the clutter. Watching television, seeing a movie, reading a book, or talking to a friend all involve taking in more information. In order to really clear our minds, we need a break from mental stimulation. Activities like yoga, dancing, or taking a long walk help to draw our attention to our bodies, slowing our mental activity enough that our minds begin to settle. Deep breathing is an even simpler way to draw attention away from our mental activities. Once we are mentally relaxed, we can begin the process of clearing our minds. Most of us instinctively know what allows our minds to relax and release any unnecessary clutter. It may be meditation or time spent staring at the stars. Whatever it is, these exercises feel like a cool, cleansing bath for the brain and leave our minds feeling clear and open.

Setting aside time to clear our minds once a day creates a ritual that becomes second nature over time. Our minds will begin to settle with less effort the more we practice. Ultimately, the practice of clearing our minds allows us to be increasingly more open so that we can perceive the world as the fresh offering it is, free of yesterday’s mental clutter.

Cauliflower: The Cancer-Fighting Crucifer

January 27, 2010

[ By Chef Cary Neff , Experience Life ]

Cauliflower is often relegated to the veggies-and-dip tray, but this nutritional powerhouse deserves a place of honor at every dinner table. Raw or roasted, steamed or sautéed, it can be incorporated into delicious dishes that please the palate while promoting vibrant health.

Food Basics

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable with a mild, slightly nutty flavor. White cauliflower is the most readily available in grocery stores, but there are also green, orange and purple varieties. Green cauliflower — a cross between cauliflower and broccoli — is slightly sweeter than white cauliflower when raw and tastes more like broccoli when steamed. The orange variety is also slightly sweeter than white cauliflower, and the purple variety has a milder flavor. Purple cauliflower cooks a little faster than its white cousin and turns green when heated. When purchasing, look for firm cauliflower with compact florets. The leaves should be green and crisp.

Nutritional Know-How

Cauliflower contains glucosinolates and thiocyanates — both sulfur-containing phytonutrients — that cleanse the body of damaging free radicals. These phytonutrients encourage the body to ramp up its production of enzymes that aid in detoxification and even kill some tumors and cancer cells. Studies have shown that eating three to five servings of cruciferous vegetables each week can significantly lower the risk of several types of cancer. Researchers believe that, when combined with turmeric, cauliflower may help prevent (or stop the spread of) prostate cancer. Orange cauliflower has slightly higher levels of beta-carotene, and purple cauliflower contains the flavonoid anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant. A 1-cup serving of boiled cauliflower contains a whopping 91.5 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.

Eat Up!

Cauliflower can be eaten raw, and steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, fried, boiled or roasted. You can cook the cauliflower as a whole head or cut into florets.

  • Cauliflower is uncommonly delicious when roasted. Cut one head into small, even florets. Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper and dried red pepper to taste; or toss with olive oil, 1/4-cup soy sauce and a dash of pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking tray and cook at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden around the edges.
  • Chop raw cauliflower into different sizes and add it to salads. Add small florets to your favorite bean salad for extra crunch.
  • To add texture to your next stir-fry dish, cut the whole cauliflower into 1/2-inch slices, break into florets and stir-fry according to your favorite recipe. Flat slices of cauliflower cook quickly and have more surface area for the sauce to cling to.

Kitchen Tricks

  • Fix quick, healthy snacks by preparing cauliflower as soon as you bring it home from the store. Clean and cut into florets, then store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days.
  • To clean, remove the leaves and gently scrape off any brown spots with a knife. Place the cauliflower upside down on a cutting board and carefully cut around and remove the core that keeps the florets intact.
  • Avoid cooking cauliflower in aluminum or iron pots. When chemical compounds in cauliflower come in contact with aluminum, the vegetable will yellow. When they come in contact with iron, cauliflower turns brown or blue-green.

 

Control is no Solution for the Problem of Fear

January 27, 2010

[ Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997). ]

Control is based on a mistake, and that mistake is rooted in separation. To be able to relinquish control the mistake has to be corrected. Learning that the world is safe doesn’t happen overnight.

The world as a whole is far too overwhelming, given all the fear and distrust each of us has inherited. But the love you have for one person is a safe zone and thus a good place to begin. The beloved is like a harbor in which your heart takes refuge.

In an indifferent and hostile universe, there is at least one person who understands, sympathizes, and provides for you. Somehow, miraculously, this one person is enough to cancel out the hostile world.

Every day brings many opportunities to replace controlling with allowing. If you can extend allowing to your beloved, the effect is to release you from attachment – both of you are spiritually served by the same act.

The key stances in letting go of control are all forms of allowing: acceptance, tolerance, nonresistance. Needing to control life, either yours or anyone else’s, is based on spiritual desperation.

Look at your interaction with your beloved and honestly confront any fear-based behavior you are exhibiting. When control is ready to loosen its grip, a definite relaxation takes place. The façade of the demanding, critical partner who is so quick to blame begins to melt. You start to feel love once more, not as an idea but as a sensation in your heart. And at last you find it possible to allow.

When this stage is reached with the beloved, the healing process begins to branch out into other aspects of your life.

Generate Your Own Patterns

January 27, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Though many of the tempers and temperaments that define you are inherited, you control how they manifest in your life.

Heredity plays a role in almost all human development, whether physical, mental, or emotional. We tend to look like our parents and are subject to the same sensitivities they have. We may even be predisposed to certain behaviors or preferences. As we grow older, we become increasingly aware of the traits that exist within us and the clear history of the traits of our mothers and fathers. Our response to this epiphany depends upon whether the inclinations, tendencies, and penchants we inherited from our forebears are acceptable in our eyes. We may honor some of these shared traits while rejecting others. However, there is no law of nature, no ethereal connection between parents and children, that states that the latter must follow in the footsteps of the former. We are each of us free to become whoever we wish to be. 

When we accept that our parents are human beings in possession of both human graces and human failings, we begin to regard them as distinct individuals. And by granting mothers and fathers personhood in our minds, we come to realize that we, too, are autonomous people and in no way destined to become our relations. While we may have involuntarily integrated some of our parents’ mannerisms or habits into our own lives, conscious self-examination will provide us with a means to identify these and work past them if we so desire. We can then unreservedly honor and emulate those aspects of our mothers and fathers that we admire without becoming carbon copies of them. 

Though many of the tempers and temperaments that define you are inherited, you control how they manifest in your life. The patterns you have witnessed unfolding in the lives of your parents need not be a part of your unique destiny. You can learn from the decisions they made and choose not to indulge in the same vices. Their habits need not become yours. But even as you forge your own path, consider that your parents’ influence will continue to shape your life—whether or not you follow in their footsteps. Throughout your entire existence, they have endeavored to provide you with the benefit of their experiences. How you make use of this profound gift is up to you.

Moving as One

January 22, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

If you have ever seen a flock of geese fly overhead, you know how difficult it is to tell who is leading whom. The geese move in swift syncopation as if they are all responding instantaneously to the same cues, tapped into an unseen force that directs and guides their movement as one. It is the same way with wild horses or a herd of buffalo. Yet in all these cases, there is a leader who has established his position through demonstrations of strength, ability, and dominance. The total cohesiveness of these groups is a symbol both of excellent leadership and an excellent ability to follow. It takes both of these qualities for any group or system to work well.

In human communities, it is not always easy to establish who should be leading and who following. There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the fact that our ways of determining leadership are less instinctual and therefore less clear. It is very rare that everyone is in complete agreement as to who should lead. In the big picture, of course, competition is a positive factor, preventing stagnation and entrenchment. However, in smaller groups, when a leader is truly called to the position and her constituency is responsive to her leadership, an enormous amount of work can be accomplished. This tends to work only if the individuals in the group share a powerful, heartfelt common goal. This goal is the unseen force that directs and guides the group so that they can move as one.

A flock of geese winging in unison across the sky can serve to remind us of what we can accomplish when we surrender to the greater good. When any group of people moves as one, there is a leader at the helm who has sacrificed his or her individual ego to the larger vision of the group and followers who have done the same. When the ego is subdued, it is easier to sense the right way to go and correctly choose the leader who can best take us there. Like a flock of geese, we move swiftly and harmoniously toward our shared vision.

Lifting Pain’s Veil

January 21, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

It is natural to feel resentment or anger when life does not unfold as expected. We consciously or unconsciously anticipated one experience, and we grieve for the loss of it when the universe puts something else in our path. Most of the time, we work through these feelings and they pass. Occasionally, our anger and resentment do not fade and are instead transformed into bitterness. Bitter feelings allow us to become perfect victims in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing and choose instead to identify with our pain. Yet as unwholesome as bitterness can be, it is also a natural element of our emotional palette. When we acknowledge that it is okay to feel bitter, we reconnect with our hurt in a constructive way and can begin the process of working through it.

The nature of bitterness is rooted in the fact that the pain we feel provides us with a rationale. We may feel that we deserve to embrace our bitterness to its full extent. And to be bitter is, in essence, to cut ourselves off from all that is positive, hardening our hearts and vowing never to let go of our hurt. But just as bitter feelings can be self-defeating, so too can the release of bitterness be life-affirming in a way that few other emotional experiences are. When we decide that we no longer want to be bitter, we are reborn into a world filled with delight and fulfillment unlike any we knew while in the clutches of bitterness. The veil it cast over our lives is lifted, letting light and warmth touch our souls.

Divesting yourself of bitter feelings can be as simple as truly forgiving and moving on. Even when your bitterness has no concrete object, you can forgive situations too. Healing pain can be challenging but may be easier if you remind yourself that you are the only entity truly affected by your emotional state. In time, you will discover that letting go of your bitterness frees you to initiate the healing process and allows you to once again celebrate the possibility of the more wonderful life you deserve

Choosing Not To Look Away

January 20, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Homeless people in our communities are a fact of life, especially in big cities. Many of us don’t know how to interpret this situation or what we can do to help. We may vacillate between feeling guilty, as if we are personally responsible, and feeling angry, as if it is entirely on their own shoulders. The situation is, of course, far more complex than either scenario. Still, not knowing how to respond, we may fall into the habit of not responding at all. We may look over their heads not making eye contact, or down at the ground as we pass, falling into a habit of ignoring them. Each time we do this, we disconnect ourselves from a large portion of the human family, and it doesn’t feel right.

Most of us know in our hearts that the homeless and the poor are not so very different from us. They may be the victims of poor planning or an unavoidable crisis. Some of them are mentally ill, some are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and some are choosing to be homeless for reasons we may never understand. We can imagine that, given their lives, we would likely have ended up in the same place. This does not mean that we are meant to rescue them, as they are on their own learning path, but it does remind us that we can treat them as equals, because that is what they are. Even if we aren’t able to offer food, shelter, or money, we can offer a blessing as we pass. We can look them in the eye and acknowledge our shared humanness, even if we don’t know just how to help them. This simple act of kindness and silent or spoken blessings can be so helpful to those living on the street.

If you want to help with information, you can learn about the services in your area and share the locations of food banks, shelters, and other resources. Perhaps your family would like to have a plan ahead of time, talking with your children about how as a family you would like to handle these situations.  Whatever you decide to do, you will feel much better when you make a conscious choice not to simply look away.

How can we find security in an uncertain world?

January 19, 2010

[ Posted by Isha Judd in Care.2 ]

In our society, we have learned to look for security in the wrong place: we look for it outside of ourselves. The people and things that surround us will always fail to reassure us; the nagging fear that everything could change in an instant will always be present, until inevitably, things do change. Solid marriages are torn apart by infidelity, 20-year careers are cut short by an unexpected change in company policy. And when the Taliban is destroyed, the next threat will be just around the corner, waiting silently to avenge their death. The outside world has never held promises for safety; a reality that we often prefer to ignore.

In a world of increasing uncertainty, every one of us has the responsibility of making the difference. We can wage war upon nations, but that is not going to change things. Terrorism cannot be stopped by war, just as a fire cannot be put out with more fire. Yet although this may be true, it is useless to blame the politicians, or even war itself. If we cannot find inner peace, how can we expect to create a world that is peaceful and harmonious? Our own minds, full of dissonant chatter and confusion, are the source of our insecurity. Our actions arise from our thoughts, from our feelings. If we are full of fear, how can we hope for a loving world family?

When Bill Clinton asked Nelson Mandela if he felt hatred towards his oppressors, he replied, “I realized that if I kept hating them once I got in that car and got through the gate, I would still be in prison. So, I let it go, because I wanted to be free.”

In the quest for peace, there is something very concrete that we can all do to contribute. In every moment, we can make a choice, the choice to rest in the abiding peace – or love-consciousness – that lies within us right now, and that nobody can take away from us. In the same way that learning to depend on our surroundings has filled us with fear, we can learn to depend on our inner state, and find a security that is always pristine and untouched, that no 9/11 can cast a shadow on, or threat of destruction shake.

Let’s fill our personal lives with peace, honesty and transparency; that will go much further to contributing to world peace than any war.

3 Questions to Improve Your Life

January 19, 2010

[ By Matthew Solan, Experience Life ]

Who among us hasn’t searched for solutions on how to live a happier and healthier life? Little do we realize that in order to discover the answers, we must first learn how to ask the proper questions. Naikan (pronounced NI-KON) is a Japanese word that means “inside looking” or “introspection.” It’s also a structured method of self-questioning and self-reflection that helps stimulate a renewed sense of appreciation and insight about our circumstances.

Yoshimoto Ishin, a devout Buddhist of the Jodo Shinshu sect in Japan, developed Naikan in the 1940s. His strong religious spirit led him to practice mishirabe, an arduous and difficult method of meditation. Wishing to make such introspection available to others, he developed Naikan as a method that could be more widely experienced.

Three Easy Pieces

Naikan is quite simple. The entire practice revolves around three questions that engage strategically with your attention. Similar to logs that make up a raft, each is strong on its own but provides even more support when tied together with the others. The three questions are:

•What have I received from ______?
•What have I given to ______?
•What troubles and difficulties have I caused ______?

What’s special about these questions is that they provide a foundation for reflecting on our relationships with others. Whether it’s a parent, friend, teacher, sibling, work associate, child or partner, focusing on someone else enables you to develop a more holistic, realistic view of your conduct. It helps you appreciate the give-and-take that occurs in daily life.

Let’s take a closer look at each individual question and how they function within the practice as a whole.

What have I received from _______?

This question requires you to look beyond your troubles and perceive the ways you are supported. “People who are very self-focused and self-centered have greater difficulty answering this question because they are typically not paying much attention to what is going on around them,” says Krech, who serves as executive director of the ToDo Institute , an education and retreat center near Middlebury, Vt., that hosts Naikan retreats.

If, for example, you go out for dinner with a friend and you constantly talk about how bad you feel or how terrible your life is, you’re probably not going to notice that someone cooked your dinner, served it, and provided water when your glass was empty. All these actions support you, yet you are oblivious because you are primarily focused on your own inner experiences.

What have I given to ______?

The second question grew out of Yoshimoto Ishin’s business practice. Each month he sent out statements to his customers that indicated what products his company had provided and what payments had been received. Yoshimoto believed it was useful to conduct a similar examination of one’s life in terms of debts and credits. “Question two gets you to check out whether, in fact, the world owes you,” says Krech. You may find that the world owes you because you’ve given more to the world than you have received in a concrete way. Or you may come out exactly even. Perhaps you realize that you owe the world and are in debt to other people and the world itself. Most people relate to the latter and that tends to trigger a sense of gratitude. And guilt.

While gratitude is often viewed as a healthy emotion, guilt tends to be seen as something that should be eliminated. But Krech insists that guilt can be a positive tool for promoting one’s overall well-being. “This kind of guilt is healthy,” he says. “It’s an awareness that you have received a great deal from certain sources and given little in comparison. That spurs you on to want to give something back — often to the planet, the community, and your family.”

What troubles and difficulties have I caused ______?

The third question requires you to look at the impact you have on the world and the people with whom you interact. “It is considered the hardest one because it’s not something we do naturally,” says Krech. To illustrate, he offers this example: Someone cuts you off in traffic and you have to swerve to avoid an accident. For the rest of the day, you tell people about how some jerk almost killed you. However, when the roles are reversed and you cut someone off, you usually just shrug it off. You tell yourself that you weren’t paying attention or mouth “sorry” as you speed by. In other words, you rationalize your action and don’t give a second thought to how you may have affected that person.

“People put so much energy into how much trouble other people have caused them,” says Krech. “And almost no energy into how they impact others. This question makes you turn your attention completely around. That’s not an attractive thing to do — but on a spiritual level it is very profound.”

What a person learns from this question is how to recognize the need to funnel one’s energy toward situations that can be better managed. “If someone lies to me, I can’t keep him or her from lying or require that they tell the truth,” says Krech. “That’s their responsibility. But if I lie to someone else, that’s my responsibility. At a common-sense level it is more important to focus on what you might be able to control and change. It will only cause you suffering to focus on that which you have little or no control over. You can almost define poor mental health in that way.”

Finding Higher ground

People usually approach Naikan for specific reasons. Some seek spiritual sustenance; they may not be religious in a traditional manner, but they believe it’s important to have some kind of foundation that provides an opening to understanding things on a higher plain. Others turn to Naikan for help they are not receiving from standard therapy, such as mental health counseling or addiction treatment.

Naikan is also an ideal way to improve relationships. The practice can inspire couples to do more for each other, or enlighten them about ways they could each offer more to the relationship. On a similar level, Krech has successfully used Naikan in business environments to strengthen team-building among employees.

Perhaps Naikan’s greatest asset is the fact that it doesn’t offer a quick-fix solution. Instead, Naikan asks you to look honestly and sincerely at the reality of how you are living. The next step is yours. “Naikan doesn’t tell you whether to stay in a relationship or get divorced, or change jobs or stay where you are,” says Krech. “However, it will give valuable perspective and information that often helps people find clarity about what they should do.”

Daily Naikan

Gregg Krech encourages those new to Naikan to begin with “Daily Naikan.” It is the simplest method of reflection and requires 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime.

Here’s how it works: Sit in a quiet place, without distraction, and write down the answer to the three questions in relation to the day’s events: What did you receive from others today? What did you give to others today? What troubles and difficulties did you cause others today? It is important to be specific. For example, rather than write that you received food, specify the actual food you ate. Don’t leave items off because they seem trivial or because you receive them every day. Use a single journal to keep your thoughts organized.

Try this daily practice for a week. Once you are comfortable with this format, take it to the next level by choosing someone in particular — a partner, a coworker, a friend — to reflect upon using the three questions. Krech suggests increasing your time to at least 50 minutes, and to focus on a specific period of the relationship. “You don’t want to do it for the entire relationship, because there is too much there to cram into one sitting,” he says. “Instead, you might choose the past three months or just the past month, a week, or even a day — especially if you are going through a troubling time.”

Eventually, you will develop the presence of mind and wisdom to step back from your anger and look at a conflict in the broader context of the entire relationship. “It doesn’t mean you forgive the person or resolve that what he or she did is okay,” says Krech. “Rather, you see a particular incident in the context of everything else that’s happened; in the context of the love and support you’ve received from this person. Naikan reflection has a tremendous ability to help people soften their hearts and melt the anger and aggression that can ignite during fights among people who love each other.”

The Wisdom of Surrender

January 15, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Most of us pride ourselves on our self-sufficiency. We like to be responsible for taking care of ourselves and pulling our own weight in the world. This is why it can be so challenging when we find ourselves in a situation in which we have to rely on someone else. This can happen as the result of an illness or an injury, or even in the case of a positive change, such as the arrival of a newborn. At times like these, it is essential that we let go of our feeling that we should be able to do it all by ourselves and accept the help of others.

The first step is accepting the situation fully as it is. Too often we make things worse either by trying to do more than we should or by lapsing into feelings of uselessness. In both cases we run the risk of actually prolonging our dependency. In addition, we miss a valuable opportunity to practice acceptance and humility. The ego resists what is, so when we move into acceptance we move into the deeper realm of the soul. In needing others and allowing them to help us, we experience the full realization that we are not on our own in the world. While this may bring up feelings of vulnerability, a deep feeling of gratitude may also emerge as we open to the experience of being helped. This realization can enable us to be wiser in our service of others when we are called upon to help.

It takes wisdom and strength to surrender to our own helplessness and to accept that we, just like every other human being, have limitations. The gifts of surrender are numerous. We discover humility, gratitude, and a deepening understanding of the human experience that enables us to be that much more compassionate and surrendered in the world.

One of a Kind

January 14, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Many of us have had an experience in which we felt like the lone black sheep in a vast sea of white sheep. For some of us, however, this sense of not belonging runs more deeply and spans a period of many years. It is possible to feel like the black sheep in families and peer groups that are supportive, as well as in those that are not. Even if we receive no overt criticism regarding our values, there will likely be times when it seems that relatives and friends are humoring us or waiting for us to grow out of a phase. Sometimes we may even think we have been adopted because we are so different from our family members. These feelings are not a sign that we have failed in some way to connect with others. Rather, they should be perceived as the natural result of our willingness to articulate our individuality.

Many black sheep respond to the separateness they feel by pulling back from the very people to whom they might otherwise feel closest and embracing a different group with whom they enjoy a greater degree of commonality. But if you feel that your very nature has set you apart from your peers and relatives, consider that you chose long ago to be raised by a specific family and to come together with specific people so that you could have certain experiences that would contribute to your ongoing evolution. You may be much more sensitive than the people around you or more artistic, aware, spiritual, or imaginative. The disparate temperament of your values and those of your family or peers need not be a catalyst for interpersonal conflict. If you can move beyond comparisons and accept these differences, you will come to appreciate the significant role your upbringing and socialization have played in your life’s unique journey.

In time, most black sheep learn to embrace their differences and be thankful for those aspects of their individuality that set them apart from others. We cannot expect that our peers and relatives will suddenly choose to embrace our values and offer us the precise form of support we need. But we can acknowledge the importance of these individuals by devoting a portion of our energy to keeping these relationships healthy while continuing to define our own identities apart from them.

Beauty Day

January 13, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Sometimes we go through whole days without really tuning in to the beauty of nature that surrounds us. We have a habit of seeing it without really taking it in, yet once we begin to notice it we treat ourselves to an exquisite realm of subtle, complex scents, miraculous forms, and ethereal light. The natural world enriches our entire being through the vehicles of our senses. When we are low, nature lifts our spirits. When we are tired, it rejuvenates us—if we pause long enough to drink from its beauty. If you have fallen out of the practice of taking time to observe the light as it filters through the leaves of a tree, or the concentric rings a raindrop makes as it plops into a puddle, you can retune yourself by dedicating a day to noticing the beauty in nature.

On this day, one possibility is to rise early enough to see the sunrise. Watching the sky change colors and the world emerge from darkness is an experience that will influence the whole rest of your day in ways that words cannot describe. Or simply observe the quality of the morning light as it infuses the world with its particular pale golden beauty. You may let the light play on your own hand, remembering that you are also part of the natural world. Let your intuition guide you to the elements of nature that call to you throughout the day, such as the sound of the wind as it shakes and sways a tree or the feeling of snowflakes landing on your warm eyelids and cheeks.

After you devote one day to opening your eyes more fully to the beauty of nature, you may want to make this part of your daily routine. Each day drink from the beauty all around you, and allow it to rejuvenate your entire being. All you have to do is pause, for just one minute, and really take it in, remembering to thank Mother Nature for her beauty.

Finding Time for You

January 12, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Within each of there is a well of energy that must be regularly replenished. When we act as if this well is bottomless, scheduling a long list of activities that fit like puzzle pieces into every minute of every day, it becomes depleted and we feel exhausted, disconnected, and weak. Refilling this well is a matter of finding time to focus on, nurture, and care for ourselves, or “you time.” Most of us are, at different times throughout the day, a spouse, a friend, a relative, an employee, a parent, or a volunteer, which means that down time, however relaxing in nature, is not necessarily “you time.” Though some people will inevitably look upon “you time” as being selfish, it is actually the polar opposite of selfishness. We can only excel where our outer world affairs are concerned when our own spiritual, physical, and intellectual needs are fulfilled.   

Recognizing the importance of “you time” is far easier than finding a place for it in an active, multifaceted lifestyle, however. Even if you find a spot for it in your agenda, you may be dismayed to discover that your thoughts continuously stray into worldly territory. To make the most of “you time,” give yourself enough time on either side of the block of time you plan to spend on yourself to ensure that you do not feel rushed. Consider how you would like to pass the time, forgetting for the moment your obligations and embracing the notion of renewal. You may discover that you are energized by creative pursuits, guided meditation, relaxing activities during which your mind can wander, or modes of expression such as writing.

Even if you have achieved a functioning work-life balance, you may still be neglecting the most important part of that equation: you. “You time” prepares you for the next round of daily life, whether you are poised to immerse yourself in a professional project or chores around the home. It also affords you a unique opportunity to learn about yourself, your needs, and your tolerances in a concrete way. As unimportant as “you time” can sometimes seem, it truly is crucial to your wellbeing because it ensures that you are never left without the energy to give of yourself.

Transforming Anger to Light

January 9, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

As humans, we all have anger, sometimes more than others. A healthy way of purging our anger from our bodies is to give it to Mother Earth. We can imagine ourselves being grounded as the electrical energy passes from us into Mother Earth below. We can see that energy go straight to the earth’s core where it becomes part of the continuous growth process of our planet and is transformed from negative to positive, from dark to light. When we choose to give our anger to the earth, we trust our connection with the natural world we live in and the great universe that fuels it all. Mother Earth will lovingly transform your anger into light so no need to feel guilty about unloading to her.

We can make this offering of our energy from any location, whether many stories up or on a ship at sea. We know the earth is below us, supporting us and sustaining us. If we have the opportunity to physically connect to the earth by going outdoors and touching unpaved ground, we may find it easier to connect to nature’s energy flow. It may also be easier to receive the flow of positive, calming, healing energy that comes to fill our bodies when we have emptied ourselves of our anger. To begin, sit and breathe deeply, ask Mother Earth to accept your anger, and imagine it coming down your spine out of your tailbone, and into the earth’s deep core. To finish, be sure to honor and thank the earth for her loving service.

When we work with our anger this way, we acknowledge that like everything else it is merely energy that can be used positively or negatively. During our grounding meditation, we may be given direction to channel this energy for its best use. We may find that the earth can help us cleanse misplaced energy to use for its rightful purpose. When we do this with gratitude, we know that we are not misusing the earth for our own selfish purposes. Instead we are connecting ourselves with the energy of our homeland, and when we do this we nurture the earth as it nourishes us.

Understanding Oneness

January 8, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Sometimes we look at the actions of others and find it difficult to understand what motivates them. But we are all doing the best we can with the information we currently have. We have all been taught how to see the world from the examples of those around us and by our experiences. Keeping this in mind, we can accept the choices made by others while seeking ways to increase the world’s level of consciousness as a whole.

Our different levels of consciousness are like the developmental stages of children, whose understanding varies according to their age and experience. For example, the behavior of a two-year-old who doesn’t want to share can be understood as a phase of his social education, whereas a 16-year-old who behaves in the same manner would be thought to be acting childish. It is important to remember that we are each on our own unique path. We may have chosen certain lessons or made an agreement to play certain roles in the unfolding of the world’s understanding before we incarnated in this lifetime. So our job is not to judge others but to shift the balance of understanding in the world by increasing our own.

Every thought we have and action we take becomes part of the collective energy of the planet. When we use our energy to bring light into the world, it combines with the light brought by others to dispel the darkness. Though we live in a world of duality, which helps us to experience the material plane, we don’t need to experience extremes to understand them. We can share our experiences and understanding with others not from a place of condescension but of connection. When the entire family of humanity understands that each of our thoughts, choices, and actions affect us all, we will share an incredible level of consciousness—one that puts our oneness above all else and helps us evolve into higher expressions of our spiritual selves. Remember the next time you witness an action of another that they are of the same earth as you but simply on a different conscious level at this point in their life. Find compassion, bless them, and move along your day in grace.