Thursday, August 17, 2017

Remember Who You Are

What do we do in "times of trouble" such as these, when there are protests in the streets of America that include guns, fighting, violence, and even death?  Well...in the words of Mufasa, the great Lion King and father of Simba... "Remember who You are!"

It can be very stressful right now for Americans to turn on their TV sets and see an ongoing--and what seems like never-ending--soap opera of daily drama, playing out on the stage of our political arena, and spilling out into the streets of our great nation.

Never-the-less, it's important to keep your senses about you and "Remember who You are".  You... are an American citizen!

What does this mean?  It means, that each and every one of us must dig deep into our very being and ask ourselves what we are willing to stand up for in this short and limited lifetime.  But more importantly, HOW we stand up, and with what morals and ethics will we do so as American citizens... is the more pressing question.

Perhaps you believe in white supremacy, or maybe you are leaning toward socialism these days.  We all have our various beliefs in this great country that has fought long and hard to afford us all the right to have the views we so choose.  Maybe you are Christian, or maybe you are Atheist, but who you are at the core of your being, will determine whether or not you head into the great streets of this country ready to kill your fellow citizen with guns, or beat your fellow citizen with poles, and bats and pipes, or... if you are the kind of American that has the tolerance to allow others to have their own views as well, in order that yours might also be preserved.

Be proud of your country, but don't forget its foundations.  It was built by all of us--free and slave.  It has a proud and shameful history, a peaceful and violent history, and a polarized history that has lasted to this very day.  And in order to find peace, we must as a nation begin to sort out how to live with these polarizations and the differences that seems to perhaps be a part of nature itself, and therefore will never NOT be a part of us.

Go into the streets as a free American citizen if you feel so compelled--it is your right.  In some cases, I even hope you do.  But "Remember who You are!"  You are an American citizen!  Don't go armed into the streets to harm your fellow citizens.  Have your voice, and hear the voices of others.  But don't insist with the price of death, that you're citizenship, and your voice, be of more importance than the voice and citizenship of your fellow American.

Remember Who You Are!

Thanks to Brett Jordan for the great photo - Lion 
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Walking Meditation

Meditation comes in many forms.   From guided voice meditation, to silent sitting.  There is moving meditation such as Qigong and Tai Chi, and a form of meditation that works well for those who find it too difficult to sit still for any length of time--That is, walking meditation.

Walking meditation is frequently used between rounds of seated meditation in order to help stretch the body and give it a little break before returning to the meditation mat to sit some more.

However, you can use walking meditation in many different ways.  Some find it relaxing and centering to take a break from their busy work day to go to a park and walk the paths, or through the grass, to get a little more focused on the present moment.

Walking meditation can also be used as a way to move the body, yet stay focused on just one thing, such as the sound of the birds as you walk among the trees or just the sound of water if you are walking near a fountain or stream.

You can also practice synchronizing your breath with the walk.  Counting "one" as you breath in while stepping with the left foot, and "two" as you exhale and step with the right.  Or if you want a faster pace, you can count "one" to inhale as you take several steps, and count "two" for the next several steps.  You can also place complete focus and attention on the placement of the foot.  Heel, toe... heel, toe... while working to not allow any thoughts or distractions to draw attention away from this mindful task.

You don't have to force yourself to do a meditation that is not comfortable for you.  Buddha was meditating in a reclined position when he died.  Perhaps you've seen the statue of him lying on his side called the "Reclining Buddha".  Some people who find it difficult to sit up during meditation will practice that way (i.e., lying down), and their task is to not fall asleep, but to stay awake and mindful.

So it's the same with walking meditation.  If you choose a moving meditation rather than a sitting, or still meditation (such as standing meditation), the task is always the same...to train the mind to remain present and completely aware.

Thanks to World Peace Initiative for the great photo

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reducing Anxiety by letting life Unfold

The one thing we can be sure of in life is that things will change.  Nothing stays the same.  Some change is so gradual that we can hardly see it unless we witness some kind of time-lapse evidence such as video or photos that show us "quickly" what we cannot notice when in the middle of the event itself.

Changes that happen more abruptly are harder on we human beings because we spend a large portion of our time living in a delusion in which we convince ourselves that once things are "good", we can somehow keep them that way, or that change will disappear and happiness will remain.

We seem to want the good things to last forever, and the bad things to end as quickly as possible.  So we spend our time striving for things we consider pleasant, and running from things we consider unpleasant.

But here is the truth--and you don't have to believe it from me-- look at it for yourself.  Nothing does Not change!  Or said differently, Everything changes.  Everything!

The torture takes place the most when we try to get things we like to remain indefinitely, and when we try to get things we dislike, to be different from what they are.  How many times have you gone back to repeat something fun, only to find yourself disappointed because it "wasn't like last time"?

From the day we are born, until the day we die, change is happening and we suffer the most when we don't want that reality to be true.  Instead, learning to move more gracefully with change can increase  your sense of well-being and reduce your stress and anxiety.

One way to re-frame this never-ending cycle of change that comes with life, is to think of it more as an "unfolding".  When something is unfolding it has a perpetual movement to it.  You can label the movement "good" or "bad", but it's not really necessary.  It's just what is unfolding.  Some of the unfolding is pleasant, and some is unpleasant, but none of these states are permanent.  Be it pleasant or unpleasant, it will change.  It's only a matter of time.

Thanks to Liz West for the great photo - Melting
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Art of Relaxed Hurry

In today's modern world it's kinda hard to take things at the pace that our ancestors once did.  Though they woke and slept with the rising and setting sun and worked long days, they also breathed much cleaner air, ate cleaner food, and could sit for prolonged periods of time without TV, cell phone, internet, or constant stimulation other than the sound of a running stream or the occasional sound of the horses or cows in the fields.

Today, we are constantly on a time schedule.  Be it time to get up, or to be sure we're asleep to get enough rest for the next day.  From getting to work on time, to parental schedules of getting kids to school, or soccer games, or to the dentist.  Even relaxation coaches and Yoga teachers have to be someplace on time, and though they are not infallible to being late, they might just get there in a completely different way than most of us.

Living in a hurried world can take a toll on our health and eventually our mental and emotional well-being, but since this is the modern world after all, it's also not something we are fully ever going to escape.  The reality is that--outside of our need to schedule-in times of rest, vacation and relaxation--we must find ways to cope with a hurried world, and do well to ourselves by approaching our hurry with as much mindfulness and relaxation as possible.

If you think it's not possible to be fully present while rushing through life, take a look at this video of William Polly, a world champion cup stacker.  He shows his skill in slow motion as well, which is so fast that you most likely will still find yourself struggling to keep up with what's happening.  But if you look at the cup-stacker, he's as calm as can be.  Why?  Because he's trained himself "three hours a day" to be fully present.  That's what training in mindfulness is all about.


If your life and schedule are rushed and hurried, mindfulness practice is all the more important.  You will need to be fully present for each of the many things you have packed into your daily schedule.  Paying attention to your thoughts, to the present, to your breath, the colors around you, the feel of the temperature around you, etc.  Noticing what you see, smell, taste, feel in any given situation.  Staying mindful helps your attention no matter what the pace of your life.

Here's a challenge:  Sit in a comfortable position.  Closer your eyes and relax.  Begin to count your breath slowly.  One, as you breathe in.  Two, as you breathe out.  Three as you breathe in, and so on all the way to 10.  And then start over at "One".  Many people will begin to wander into thoughts and get distracted before they ever reach the number ten.  But with practice, you can train your mind to stay present and aware.

It took William "three hours a day" to get present enough to go so fast while stacking cups that when you watch him at full speed, it looks like someone has turned the film speed up to "fast".  For him it's "fun", but as he puts it, "it takes a lot of dedication and training".

Thanks to Hamza Butt for the great photos - "worker running with suitcase"

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Earth Day: Relaxation with Mother Nature

In April the world celebrates environmental awareness with Earth Day.

Mother Earth is the mother of us all.  Having given birth to the multitude of things that cling to her surface and swim the depths of her oceans.

There is a peacefulness in views like this one (image left) in which the blue planet glows with the gentle flow of water that makes up most of her surface.

There are many religions scattered among the people of this great planet and everyone seems to have a belief in what it all means, or doesn't mean.

According to Craig A James, author of The Religion Virus, "the earliest beliefs that can be identified as religious are animistic...".  He states that "Crops and trees, deer and bears, the sun and moon, rainclouds, a spear or axe - all of the things that were important to people - were imagined to have personalities and motivations."

Many of the earliest beliefs among humans somehow connected to this great planet Earth and to Mother Nature herself.  The plants, trees and water were assigned spirits and considered to be alive with the personality of that spirit.  But the world is much different now than it once was and the power of belief, unique to human beings, has become a power that can save or destroy this great planet we inhabit.

One way you can help lower your own anxiety about the increasingly, battle-weary clashes in beliefs around the world -- among countries, and inside your own communities, work places, and homes is to take a long look inside your own belief system and ask yourself this:  "Am I doing all I can to help bring peace to this world?"  "Does anything I consider to be my 'belief', 'faith' or 'doctrine' in life harm other people physically, emotionally, mentally, or psychologically?"

This great Mother Earth is suffering from the result of bickering, fighting, and arguing over differences of view among the people of this world, and because we are a part of her very breath, we are suffering as well.  "Earth Day" is and should be "every day" and every breath "you" take, is a breath she takes.  Which means, every moment you sit in meditation, she sits in meditation.  Every time you work to relax your body and mind, you are relaxing a part of her body and mind.  Every gentle thing you do to lower your anxiety, is something you are doing to lower the anxiety of the world.  So consider it a global act to work on your relaxation techniques.  Finding peace inside yourself, is the first step.

Whatever it is you believe, make sure it takes into account the whole of the planet and not just yourself.  Enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer and always act in kindness to her.. your one and only true Mother.

Thanks to Beth Scupham for her great photos - "Earth"
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Friday, March 31, 2017

Relaxing with Essential Oils

Essential oils are "volatile aromatic compounds", which means they are oils that can change states quickly from liquid to gas.  Many people use essential oils in a diffuser with water to disperse the aroma into a room in order to enjoy pleasant scents.

As you can imagine, this is a relaxing form of aroma therapy that has grown in popularity over the years.  It's a great way to relax and can make a wonderful addition to a meditative environment or spa-like room.

You can read more about aroma therapy here in my May 2015 blog entry.

If you are looking to create an environment that is suited for relaxation, using a diffuser to disperse your Essential Oils is a great idea.  But keep in mind, you can also disperse the aroma by many other means:

*Spray bottle
*Cotton ball or tissue
*Heated on the stove
*Used in the bath
*A few drops on your furnace filter
*In your Potpourri warmer
**Be sure to always read instructions carefully so you use the appropriate amounts in any of these
    given methods.

Introducing pleasant fragrances to any room can add to the relaxing environment, and we know that certain scents can trigger both memories and moods.

Thanks to Sulen Lee for the great photo

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Relaxing Balance between Social Gatherings -v- Social Media

Statistics have shown that having friends and an active social life are important common factor in those who live longer and have higher levels of health as they age.

Unfortunately, at the exact same time, our modern world is moving more and more people toward social isolation and loneliness due to the Internet and social media.  But do we really want to be critical of the great modern technology that is simultaneously bringing us all closer together and moving us all apart, at the same time?

It boils down to finding a sense of balance between "reality" and "virtual reality".  Are your truly "with" others if you are only communicating with them on the Internet, but at the same time (in reality) sitting by yourself, night after night, in front of your computer screen, and not really physically interacting with anyone?  Not really.

It's important that we find balance between the two worlds in which we use the human body to move, walk, lift, stand, talk and make sound, and feel the ground beneath us, versus the other world in which we feel only the hard surface of our office chair on our bum as we sit for hours on end clicking with one hand and straining our eyes to see small font.

There are many remedies to solving this imbalance and here are a few of them:

1.  Consider joining a group of people who meet-up on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) to actually be together physically for talk, discussion, board games, dog walking, or any other physical activity such as hiking, walking, boating, etc.  This puts things on your schedule that force you out from behind the computer, so make sure it's not just a group of people gathering around a computer at someone's house!

2.  Look for reasons to meet your friend or friend(s) at the local coffee shop or restaurant for face-to-face talk time.  Agree to not bring your phones, laptops and tablets.  Make it real.

3.  Sign up for local walks that have been prearranged for various charity organizations.  The event will push you to gather sponsors for your event, and get you out among others for some needed exercise and conversation.

4.  Determine how much time you spend on social media and cut it in half.  Use the other half of the time to get up and go socialize with neighbors, friends, coworkers, or family.  Your kids might be shocked you've come out of your cave to spend time with them!

5.  Invite someone over for a cup of coffee or tea.  Don't head for the computer to show them your latest project.  Make sure it's face-to-face time with your guest.

**The main idea is not to stifle your social media completely, but to find more balance between the reality that it is (i.e., sitting alone in front of a electronic screen), and the reality that actually exists out there in the world.

Thanks to Betty Nudler for the great photo