A Tale of 2 Monks.......
Two monks were walking along a river when they came upon a crossing point.
At the crossing was a woman in tears. She told them that she was afraid of the water and could not cross. Without a word, or hesitation, the older monk proceeded to carry the woman on his shoulder, crossed the river and let her down on the other side.
The two monks resumed their path while the woman went her own way.
When they returned, the younger monk, obviously agitated, continued shaking his head and muttering under his breath. After a moment the older monk finally asked him what was wrong. The younger monk said, "Brother, we are prohibited from any contact with women, yet you carried that woman across the river on your back. You let her crawl onto you and you held her! " The older monk gave a slight smile and said to his younger companion: "Brother, I left her 2 miles back at the crossing. Yet, you still appear to be carrying her"
This is a very well known Zen parable about letting go. But there are so many things to take away from this simple story. What do you see in that relates to your life and your observations of friends, family.
What’s the secret to feeling calm, focused, and at peace?
Perhaps monks provide a clue. Buddhist monks appear to be peaceful and present all the time. How do they do it?
I will tell you.
For thousands of years, Buddhist philosophy has focused on how to reduce human suffering and keep the mind in the present moment.
Some of the basic principles are true for us and we can adopt them into our modern life.
Adopting some or all of these habits, or trying to part of the time (it's a work in progress) may help keep you present, find more peace, reduce stress and even lead to more happiness in your daily life.
Habit 1 – Stop Chasing "Things"
Did you know that the Buddha was born a prince? Yes, he could have spent his life in a big, beautiful palace where everything is done for him.
But he didn’t.
He abandoned everything when he realized the empty nature of materialism.
2300 years later, Buddhist monks continue to do the same. They keep material possessions to a minimum and only hold what they need to live their life. Usually this will all fit in a small backpack.
They completely declutter their life. This is called Minimalism.
Habit 2 – Do for Others
In many Buddhist circles, monks learn to do things not for themselves, but for the whole world. Happiness is one of the most elusive words to define, yet it is very easy to comprehend. Much has been written about the pursuit of Happiness and what makes people truly happy, and one theme that really seems to apply is "doing for others" Material things do not make you happy. In fact they do the opposite. Every time you acquire something, it pushes the goal a little bit further, so is something you can never attain! This endless pursuit actuality insures long term chronic unhappiness (although there are VERY short bursts of happiness at the moment of acquisition, which usually fade very quickly...leading to to feel how? (post your responses please)
When you can develop a kind of selfless attitude and MAKE time to do something for others, it offers a tremendous sense of satisfaction and well being.
The less you focus on you and your personal problems, you get less emotional about small things and your mind becomes more calm.
This is called inner decluttering: making room for others and dumping selfish habits.
Habit 3 – Meditate
One of the main reasons you become a monk is to have more time to meditate. Most monks wake up early and meditate for 1 to 3 hours and do the same at night. This kind of practice changes the brain. If you’ve read any articles on the benefits of meditation, then you know what I mean.
You don’t have to adopt this kind of rigorous schedule, but what if you worked into your day 15 to 30 minutes of meditation? And one of the BEST things I have read about meditating, and also the most frustrating for beginners is this - Do not worry about emptying your mind. You can't its impossible, or nearly impossible without mountains of practice. Instead, let the thoughts enter, and give them space to exit. They come they go. Just try not to hold them or obsess. Allowing space for your thoughts to come and go IS meditating. So forget what you read about emptying your mind. That is only sort of right and impossible for most to achieve.
Habit 4 – Following the wise
In western modern society, we have an unhealthy relationship with old age. Everything is youth centric. But for Buddhist monks, and in fact many cultures see elder people as having wisdom. They seek elder spiritual guides that can help them on their path.
If you look around, there are always insightful people to learn from. Older people have more experience which means they can offer countless life lessons. Some of best insights on life can be obtained from interviews with people on on near death, when asked what they regret. Read those! Make changes now. We only get one go-around.
Habit 5 – Listen. Without judgment.
See the 2 periods? These are actually 2 different concepts, sort of.
Our brains naturally judge others. You don't have to look any further than social media to see how rampant and out of control this is. But according to Buddhists, the point of communication is to help others and ourselves suffer less.
Criticizing and judging doesn’t help. This ties into Habit 2. Don't make yourself feel better by putting someone down. Make yourself feel better by lifting someone. Try it.
Listening is an ART. So many of us don't listen at all. We are busy pre-planning our answers while we’re listening ! So try to make the main goal to simply take in all that they are saying. (how often do you do this??)
It leads to more mutual respect, understanding and chances for progress in the conversation.
Habit 6 – Change is the only law of the universe
According to Buddhist master Suzuki, a crucial principle we all need to learn is to accept change:
“Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transiency, we suffer.”
Everything changes, it’s the fundamental law of the universe. Yet, we find it hard to accept it. We identify strongly with our fixed appearance, with our body and our personality. And when it changes, we suffer.
However, Suzuki says we can overcome this by recognizing that the contents of our minds are in perpetual flux. Everything about consciousness comes and goes. Worry exists only in the mind, as a complex orchestration or random neurons firing in specific patterns. Consciousness and reality are really ONLY in your mind and they are in constant change. Realizing this in the heat of the moment can diffuse fear, anxiety, anger, grasping, despair. For example, it’s hard to stay angry when you see anger for what it is.
This is the essence of Zen. That the moment is all that exists.
Habit 7 – Living "The Moment"
As humans it can be tough to simply embrace the present moment. We are able to contemplate the past, and think about the future. Think about it - what is worrying? It is paying the price of the present moment for something that exists only in your brain! When you worry, your brain is wrapped around something that hasn't happened, and may never happen. If it does, deal with it as it is unfolding.
But mindfulness encourages us to return to the present. Practicing mindfulness enables us to get better at redirecting our thoughts back to what we’re actually engaged in.
It takes practice. It takes a willingness to want to improve. Start by reading and practicing these basic habits and notice the change.
It’s all in your head - seriously
Ever try to walk, drive, or multitask right after having a great massage? Most people find tasks that require body/mind coordination difficult in the period that follows a massage. In addition to being relaxed, most people report feeling a “high” or slight euphoric feeling. A massage high.– an extreme sense of well being, relaxation, and pleasure is very often the result of having a good or great massage experience.
So why does massage feel so darn good? What is it about the physical action of touch in massage that triggers these feel good messages in the brain ? The secret lies in the brain.
Douglas Nelson, a neuromuscular therapist and founder of Precision Neuromuscular Therapy Seminars says this about the science behind the mind/massage/body connection:
“For many decades, the prevailing wisdom was that emotions are experienced in the mind and, as a result, those powerful emotions then affect our body. For example, when someone offends us, we have the emotional experience of anger. Shortly thereafter, we experience physical symptoms of anger, such as increased muscle tension, constricted breathing, and an increased heart rate. On the other hand, powerful positive emotions like joy and happiness also have corresponding physical effects. Our emotions and thoughts have physical consequences. As it turns out, however, the new scientific understanding reveals that these mind-body experiences are at least bi-directional, if not completely the other way around. The emerging science is providing some really good evidence that the physical sensation can lead to the emotion, instead of only the emotion manifesting as a physical experience. Your mind is always trying to make sense of what the body experiences. The brain needs a reason for what it experiences; we interpret meaning so we know how to respond appropriately. As an example, let’s imagine you have an increased respiration and pulse rate. Are you excited or are you fearful? When you think about it, the physical experiences of excitement and fear are almost identical. The mind must decide which emotion it is based on the context of the experience. The experience of physical ease is then interpreted by the brain as being a sign of emotional ease. Relaxation of the body is also relaxation of the mind, as evidenced by the fact that the same class of drugs (benzodiazepines) given as muscle relaxants is also used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Furthermore, when you return to work with that emotional framework, it changes what you notice around you as well. Little annoyances don’t seem as disturbing. Since attention is selective, your peaceful and positive emotional state predisposes you to notice lots of little blessings that you previously might have overlooked. This process becomes very self-reinforcing.”
The brain/body connection
In addition to the brain synthesizing experience into physical reactions (and visa-versa), the brain also releases hormones that create physical responses to both stress and relaxation. According to the MAYO clinic, “When you encounter a perceived threat — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.”
Conversely, studies have shown that relaxing situations and activities such as massage stimulate the “feel good” hormones of Oxytocin, while reducing the “stress enhancing” hormone adrenocorticotropin, promoting a feeling of well being, relaxation and pleasure.
Why Interrupting stress hormone cycles is important
According to MAYO clinic, interrupting the body’s stress responses could save your life.
The body’s stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities.
But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. And everyday stressors include commute driving, work related stress, bad diet and lack of exercise.
It is a paradox of modern living that the "fight or flight" stresses of daily life like being eaten by a tiger are gone, yet we are living more stressed than ever due to the abundance of modern replacements of stress triggers, mail, bills, cell phones, email, over scheduling, etc.
Not only are there more stressors, but they are now more often "always on" and were not designed to be!
The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
You feel great leaving your massage therapists studio. You want to keep this feeling for as long as possible, realizing the stresses of life will creep back in soon. How can you reap the most benefit from your massage sessions? Practice these “self care” and the benefits of your last massage will last a little longer:
Don't get right back on your phone
Some of my first time clients, after having the most wonderful massage experience jump off the table and get right back on their phones. I try, nicely, to discourage that activity because it starts to immediately undo the positive effects of the massage. Take time to absorb the experience, notice how you feel, turn on some music, let it soak in....then gradually return to your routine.
Mindfulness - be in the present moment
Many of these suggestions are another way of talking about mindfulness, and being in the present moment. Use the time both on the massage and immediately thereafter to simply "be" Don't be thinking about what you have to do tomorrow, or in an hour, or what you did yesterday. Just be.....listen to your own body, appreciate the moment you are in.
Continue to relax your mind and body
If at all possible, don’t jump right into your routine. If you have to drive, maybe pu on some relaxing or feel good music. Or, if you can, read a book, take a hot bath, or do something that promotes and extends the body’s relaxation responses and doesn’t trigger counterproductive stress responses.
Book another appointment before you leave
Making massage a routine part of your wellness regimen is one of the best things you can do. One of the easiest ways to do that is to re-book before you leave. And often there is a financial benefit, as many massage therapists offer a discount for clients who re-book before they leave, I do and clients appreciate it.
In summary, the massage high is a real phenomenon. It is a natural biological function. Enjoy it for as long as you can. And to take a line from shampoo bottles "wash, rinse, repeat", I would say "massage, savor, repeat".
Ever heard of mindful living? It’s become quite popular in recent years thanks to countless scientific research studies showing its benefits.
The truth is, mindfulness practice has been around for centuries thanks to spiritual teacher Gautama Buddha, who founded Buddhism.
The basis of mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening in the present moment without judging it or wishing it were different.
While the practice offers many benefits, you need to consistently keep at it to reap the rewards.
Below are 11 simple concepts about mindfulness that you may adopt into your daily life.
1) Your only reality is THIS MOMENT, right here, right now.
This famous quote from Buddha sums up this principle best: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
The past is an illusion. The future hasn’t arrived. The only thing that’s real is what’s happening right now.
2) A negative thought is harmless unless you believe it.
Thoughts come and go all the time. It’s natural. Suffering occurs when we attach ourselves to our thoughts. The reality is, our thoughts don’t really mean anything and they’re not who we are. When you take a step and observe your thoughts from a distance, you realize that if you’re observing them, then they can’t be you. Eckhart Tolle says it best:
“What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am.
Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
3) You will not be punished for your anger, you will punished by it.
We all get angry from time to time, but acting on this anger rarely results in something positive. It’s easy to get angry, but true courage involves doing something productive about it. When you realize that the present moment is all we have, you’ll come to understand that life is too short to spend time being upset and angry.
As Lao Tzu said: “The best fighter is never angry.”
4) Inner peace is knowing how to belong to oneself, without external validation.
Many people are concerned about what other people think of them. But you don’t look to others to find yourself. You are who you are and what others think about you doesn’t make a difference to that. Osho provides some inspirational advice to not care what other people think of you:
“Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself...
Whenever you are self-conscious you are simply showing that you are not conscious of the self at all. You don’t know who you are. If you had known, then there would have been no problem— then you are not seeking opinions. Then you are not worried what others say about you— it is irrelevant!
Your very self-consciousness indicates that you have not come home yet.”
5) Everything is created twice, first in your mind and then in your life.
Our brains are powerful instruments and they create the world around us. And the truth is that you won’t act unless your brain knows what you’re doing. So have your plans and goals in place, and then take action.
“The future depends on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi
6) We ourselves must walk the path.
Life comes with many challenges and adversities for everyone, but the one thing with have control over is how much effort and willpower we put into something. We can’t attach our happiness or success towards outside objects. It all lies within us.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha
7) To strongly believe in something, and not live it, is dishonest.
Don’t bend to what “society” wants you to be. Don’t change who you are so other people will accept you. It’s important to be authentic and follow your heart. Characterize yourself by your actions and you will never be fooled by other people’s words.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss
8) The right path and the easy path are rarely the same path.
You’ll eventually come to realize that struggle is what makes you grow, and it’s always worth it. While every step may be tough, it will lead you to where you want to go. Just because something seems difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact, it’s all the more reason to chase your goals.
“Those who have failed to work toward the truth have missed the purpose of living.” – Buddha
9) If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs.
So many people ask themselves questions like “what am I passionate about?” to find their purpose in life. However, a better question is “what is worth suffering for?” This will help you find what you truly want to do, and your life will be more fulfilling because of it.
Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” – Eckhart Tolle
10) Over-committing is the antithesis of living a peaceful, mindful life.
So many of us have a massive to-do lists filled with tasks that we couldn’t possibly finish in one day. We have to abandon the idea that there is honor in being busy. However, sometimes it can be more rewarding to focus on one task at a time and mindfully be absorbed by it. We also need time to rest and appreciate the beauty of life.
“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.”
– Steve Maraboli
11) When you try to control too much, you enjoy too little.
As human beings, what is it that’s so alluring about control? We desire the certainty and comfort. The irony is that there is actually no such thing as control. We are never in control. Ever. The sooner we grasp this and learn to go with the flow a little more, the easier life will be.
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” – Chinese Proverb
excepted from "The Power of Ideas"
Sounds simple right ? Words are easy, actions not so much. Actually when I put this image and words together it actually contains two separate but related ideas - the second one being, "if your mind is happy, you will be happy, where ever you are".
The second thought reminds me of the bucket list people.This point was driven home to me sharply and personally this week as i continue to strive to practice what I preach.
I write sometimes and post to ground me back to where I myself need to be. In a sense I am writing for me but as well for you if anyone is here and chooses to read. These are lessons that I myself need to adhere to, and I find writing helps cement them into my own brain.
The concept is simple - mindfulness, living in the present moment. Giving the person or persons you are with your full attention. Being aware and appreciative of the present surroundings, the sights the smells the temperature of the air - losing track of time; that it is ultimate in mindfulness. It is called flow. It is again an old old concept wrapped in new packaging. The idea of being so fully engaged in a task, be it drawing, or baking , or fixing a motorcycle, that you lose track of time. Have you ever had that experience? Its called flow. It is the sense of being so totally in the moment that you lose all sense of time. It is a wonderful feeling. It comes to me during body work, or when I am drawing, or shooting photography.
But, one need not be engaged in flow, that is the extreme end of the spectrum of being present. This post is simply about giving the place you are in and person or persons you are with your full attention while you are there and to appreciate what you are, where you are - not be thinking about the next thing, or the last thing.
What I try to create during my sessions is an environment that fosters and encourages one to unplug at least for the time they are with me. If only for an hour, nothing else matters, then I have succeeded for you and for me The greater challenge is to expand that into daily life. It takes practice, it takes strength of mind, and discipline. Words - they are easy. They fall onto the page as fast as my fingers can type. Putting into practice that is the challenge.
There is so much I want to write about the mystery and beauty of singing bowls, but I will start here.
I don't recall when I first became acquainted with singing bowls. As a young musician and martial arts practitioner with a curiosity about eastern philosophies and Zen teachings, I always sort of knew of them, but nothing about them.
My interest was re-awakened on may last trip abroad to further my studies in Lomi Lomi massage. A fellow student at the end of one days works,asked me if we could experiment with one of the 2 singing bowls in the studio and try to experiment with the effect of the vibrations on the body. First, I don't think this particular bowl was very good quality, and second I had no real idea what I was doing, but it ignited a spark in my head, to learn more.
That led to me to Rain Gray, a musicologist and I think one of the foremost experts of Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls. What I learned is that each one is unique, a delicate musical instrument that cannot be tuned. I also learned that no two bowls are alike. This was fascinating. You cant just buy any bowl. Rain estimates that for every bowl he approves, he samples or listens to maybe 100.
It turns out that the origins of singing bowls is a bit fuzzy and may have been lost to time. There has been much speculation as to what they were used for. It is said that all bowls today originated from 3 original singing bowls - still said to be in existence and secretly guarded.
From their lofty and magical homeland Tibetan singing bowls have traveled across the Himalayas, through valleys, and along ancient trade routes. Brought back to the west by jet-age travelers, these mysterious objects have aroused interest and curiosity about their origin and traditional usage. Their story, however, has laid hidden like the mysterious Himalayas, obscured by clouds.
Due to the communist Chinese military occupation of Tibet in the 1950's, and the subsequent, almost total, destruction of its monasteries (and 1.2 million Tibetan people, many of them monks and nuns, that perished during and after that time), the esoteric knowledge of the Tibetan singing bowls has all but disappeared. And although it has been more than thirty years since Tibetan singing bowls and their incredible sounds were first introduced to the western world, little has been written about them.
I am not an expert in Buddhism, Mediation, Chakras. There are plenty of people who ascribe mystical properties to the bowls. But what I offer you and describe to you is their effect on me, as a layperson.
First every singing bowl is different, and the quality varies dramatically. My modest collection of singing bowls are of the 17th & 18th century and so I can speak particularly about those. Each bowl is precisely tuned to a note at the rim and within the body of the bowl. These notes correspond to Chakras. The bowl I will present below has a rim tone of D which corresponds to the Sacral Chakra.
The Sacral Chakra is your passion and pleasure centre and it is located in the pelvic area. While the Root Chakra is satisfied with survival, the 2nd chakra seeks pleasure and enjoyment.
The sound is haunting, mesmerizing, calming. When a singing bowl is played, you cannot help but stop and listen. Even my dog, who is very hyper - upon hearing the bowl stops and stares in a trance like state.
I use the bowls often. Sometimes at length, but often briefly - to bring me instantly to a place of calm and peace. My heart rate lowers, by breathing slows and slowly the fainest of smiles washes over my body and makes it way to my lips in the form of the slightest nearly imperceptible up curl.
If you would like to experience this magic, ask me about singing bowls when you book your appointment.
Why being near the Ocean Calls to me
We are Ocean, comprised almost entirely of water. We evolved from the ocean, to live on land.
Since ancient times, humans have assigned healing and transformational properties to water. In early Rome, baths were an important part of cultural life, a place where citizens went to find relaxation and to connect with others in a calming setting. In ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal wisdom, and traditional Chinese medicine, the water element is crucial to balancing the body and creating physical harmony. Rivers have long been seen as sacred places, and in a number of different spiritual contexts, water has symbolized rebirth, spiritual cleansing and salvation.
Today, we still turn to water for a sense of calm and clarity. We spend our vacations on the beach or at the lake; get exercise and enjoyment from water sports like surfing, scuba diving, sailing, and swimming; refresh ourselves with long showers and soothing baths, and often build our lives and homes around being near the water.
Our affinity for water is even reflected in the near-universal attraction to the color blue. We're naturally drawn to aquatic hues -- the color blue is overwhelming chosen as the favorite color of people around the world, and marketing research has found that people tend to associate it with qualities like calm, openness, depth and wisdom.
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, believes that we all have a "blue mind" -- as he puts it, "a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment" -- that's triggered when we're in or near water.
"We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what's broken," Nichols writes in Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, published in July. "We have a 'blue mind' -- and it's perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool."
Here, Nichols speaks about how water can heal the mind and body and help you tap into your most calm and creative state of being. Here are six important benefits of finding your "blue mind."
Water gives our brains a rest.
In our everyday lives, we're constantly bombarded with sensory stimuli, whether from our devices, busy homes and offices, or hectic city streets. Our brains need downtime, but they rarely get enough of it.
Being around water gives our brains and our senses a rest from overstimulation.
"The sound around us, from an auditory perspective, is simplified. It's not quiet, but the sound of water is far more simple than the sound of voices or the sound of music or the sound of a city," Nichols tells the Huffington Post. "And the visual input is simplified. When you stand at the edge of water and look out on the horizon, it's visually simplified relative to the room you're sitting in right now, or a city you're walking through, where you're taking in millions of pieces of information every second."
When we're near, on, in or under water, we get a cognitive break because there's simply less information coming in. Our brains don't shut down -- they keep working, but in a different way, according to Nichols. "When you have that simplified, quieter 'blue' space, your brain is better at a different set of processes," he says.
Water can induce a meditative state.
Many of us love to sit near the ocean or a river and gaze out at the water -- often, we can sit for long periods simply observing the gentle movements of the water. Why? Though we may not be conscious of it, the water could be inducing a mildly meditative state of calm focus and gentle awareness.
When we're by the water, our brains are held in a state of mild attentiveness -- what Nichols calls a "soft fascination." In this state, the brain is interested and engaged in the water, taking in sensory input but not distracted by an overload of it, as we might be with the "hard fascination" we experience while watching an action movie or playing a video game.
Being in a mindful state -- in which the brain is relaxed but focused -- benefits the mind and body on a number of different levels. A growing body of research has found myriad benefits associated with mindfulness, including lower stress levels, relief from mild anxiety, pain and depression, improved mental clarity and focus, and better sleep quality.
Water can inspire us to be more compassionate and connected.
While in the restful, contemplative state associated with observing or interacting with water, it's also common to experience feelings of awe, Nichols' research has found. The emotion of awe invokes feelings of a connection to something beyond oneself, a sense of the vastness of nature and an attempt to make sense of the experience.
"That switches you from a 'me' orientation to a 'we' orientation," says Nichols, citing research findings that feelings of awe can increase our capacity for connection and empathy.
It's no coincidence, then, that many of life's most romantic moments take place by the water -- engagements, weddings and honeymoons overwhelmingly occur in waterside locations.
"We hold important ceremonies by water. Both in life and in death, we gather by water when we can," says Nichols. "If we can't gather outside by water, there's often a water component indoors."
The Ocean is unimaginably vast and indifferent
I have been an avid boater for over 30 years and being on the water I have also an immense repsect for the ocean, for it is unimaginably vast and indifferent. Being near the ocean from the comfort of land is one thing - but being at sea with no land in site in any given direction is a uniquely humbling experience. It immediately reminds me f may place in the cosmos...pretty insignificant. Also the ocean has the power to calm and also the power to take life. Without fanfare. It is indifferent, and this also is a lesson. This is zen.
If you live by the sea you probably know these things. If you do not, I encourage you to seek it out, take a trip to the coast, experience these sensations.
with thanks to Caroline Gregoire
Why we are all addicted to Texting, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Escape the Dopamine Loop, create new reward habits
Do you ever feel like you are addicted to email or Twitter or texting? Do you find it impossible to ignore your email if you see that there are messages in your inbox? Do you think that if you could ignore your incoming email or messages you might actually be able to get something done at work? You are right!
The culprit is dopamine -- Dopamine was "discovered" in 1958 by Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Ake Hillarp at the National Heart Institute of Sweden. Dopamine is created in various parts of the brain and is critical in all sorts of brain functions, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking and reward.
Pleasure vs. seeking -- Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior. From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps you motivated to move through your world, learn, and survive. It's not just about physical needs such as food, or sex, but also about abstract concepts. Dopamine makes you curious about ideas and fuels your searching for information.
Wanting vs. liking -- The wanting system propels you to action and the liking system makes you feel satisfied and therefore pause your seeking. If your seeking system isn't turned off at least for a little while, then you start to run in an endless loop. The dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system. You tend to seek more than you are satisfied. Evolution again -- seeking is more likely to keep you alive than sitting around in a satisfied stupor.
Dopamine loops -- With the internet, twitter, and texting you now have almost instant gratification of your desire to seek. Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds. Want to look up some information? Just type your request into google. Want to see what your colleagues are up to? Go to Linked In. It's easy to get in a dopamine induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text.
More, more, more -- Interestingly brain scan research shows that the brain has more activity when people are ANTICIPATING a reward than getting one. Research on rats shows that if you destroy dopamine neurons, rats can walk, chew, and swallow, but will starve to death even when food is right next to them. They have lost the anticipation and desire to go get the food. Although wanting and liking are related, research also shows that the dopamine system doesn't have satiety built in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying "more more more", causing you to keep seeking even when you have found the information. How many times have you searched for something on google, found the answer, and yet realize a half hour later that you are still online looking for more information?
The cost to your body and mind -- This constant stimulation of the dopamine system can be exhausting. And the constant switching of attention makes it hard to get anything accomplished. Can you do anything to get out of a dopamine loop? Or prevent getting in one in the first place?
Turn off the cues -- One of the most important things you can do to prevent or stop a dopamine loop, and be more productive is to turn off the cues. Adjust the settings on your cell phone and on your laptop, desktop or tablet so that you don't receive the automatic notifications. Automatic notifications are touted as wonderful features of hardware, software, and apps. But they are actually causing you to be like a rat in a cage. If you want to get work done you need to turn off as many auditory and visual cues as possible. It's the best way to prevent and break the dopamine loops.
Create new Habits -- The dopamine system is especially sensitive to "cues" that a reward is coming. If there is a small, specific cue that signifies that something is going to happen, that sets off our dopamine system. So when there is a sound when a text message or email arrives, or a visual cue, that enhances the addictive effect. One way to extricate yourself from this loop is to create new habits.
Research shows that up to 95 % of your day is based on Habit! Think about it; you wake, make the bed, brush your teeth, eat, drudge to work, come home, etc. etc. Most of daily life occurs on auto pilot! Built in are reward cues...you reach for a cookie, or ice cream, to fee a sense of reward. BUT it is possible that other things, new habits will satisfy that reward center.
According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, the brain can learn to attach the promise of reward to almost anything. If your brain believes that something is going to make you happy, your brain can initiate the craving response. One study from the University of Maryland connects compulsive technology usage to the same parts of your brain as cravings, another from the journal NeuroImage suggests drug cravings are no different from food, shopping, or other cravings. Many researchers claim that anything that is highly rewarding for somebody can elicit strong cravings, because the reward center has "learned" to anticipate the pleasure it brings about. So, anticipated reward is, in a sense, the "common currency" of the brain by which various activities are evaluated.
What do you think? How do you deal with dopamine loops? Are you willing to turn off your cues?
Having just returned from a week in Germany, working on massage, learning, meditating, living at a completely different pace - unplugged, slow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts and reflections.
During and up toward the end of my stay, conversations among the students again and again returned to the following; "I WOULD like it so much to even manage to have some of this stress free time at home - but it is so difficult" . "Or:" I have to finally TRY TO LET GO and allow this feeling of relaxation to LAST. "Or," I MUST do more for me "I MUST!
Robert, our teacher, and Zen Master, in his wonderful German "English" says "Look out how you deal with you. Be careful that you do not set up again under pressure ". The challenge, is not that I must exert myself now to become a better person. I come home and want to change something, I think I might have had the characteristics that thought and behavior patterns with which I have been pressured me, now just trying to let go. All this effort, however, can in turn lead to new fatigue and feeling, not create it the way I liked it!"
The Hawaiians have a very different approach. There is in each of us a built in sense of our own needs! Instead of this feeling of having to constantly put oneself under pressure to perform for the outside; for family, for friends, for work, for others, allow yourself to be more vigilant. Pay more attention to and LISTEN more to your inside. When I do I notice that - my feelings are clear. It's constantly there, that feeling, and it tells me what I need at any given moment. Internal guidance, all you need to do is listen.
When I'm hungry, I eat something. I do not eat too much or too little. I don't overeat, for when I do, I don't feel good. Have you ever been out at a restaurant or in the company of others at a gathering and felt pressure to order or eat more than you feel that you want to? Why? When I'm thirsty, I drink a little. When I am cold, I put on a sweater. Its quite easy actually. And the same is true also in the needs for movement, for peace and for relaxation. I try, and as well you should to to organize my time so that I can follow my needs.
The same actually applies to this recent trip. I took a week away from work, from family, from the pressures and stresses of life. I was away from my cellphone, away from my email. One way to look at it would be "selfish". How can you spend that money for a plane ticket, or how can you go when there is so much work to do. But I realize that I will never have the extra money for the ticket and there will never be a time when there is no work to do, so I just go. And it is that simple. If I wait for outside conditions to be perfect, I will likely be waiting forever.
You are the center of the universe, your universe, ( As I am the center of mine), your events, your breathing, sentient experience, no matter where you are going. Your body, your awareness, each experience, whether you are at work, at a party or alone, unfolds uniquely for YOU. And only you
are responsible for your mood by listening in every moment to that guide inside. Instead of what we usually do which is to be constantly put under pressure to persuade others to think better of you.
It is not about being selfish, it is about taking care of yourself so that you can be a better person, to yourself and for others.
fe"The question for me as I return to "real life, is how easily the good feelings I have when away are erased. The plane lands, the messages on my phone come rolling in, the "while you were away" emergencies...the feeling of panic comes flooding back, and I find myself longing for that solitude again.
"Oh, now the stress starts again and the difficult thing is to keep the relaxation mood now, but I have to try! "Nonsense! If you try to keep something, then it slips out. Try not to even bother. Trying takes much effort. Instead simply allow yourself, to exercise your feeling during the daily working life.
The people around us have their reasons why they think, speak and act as they do so. And often also feel they are under pressure because they fail to feel inside. Then they can not help but try to pass the pressure on us. Therein lies the key for you then: if you realize this, then you should be clear. People may have expectations and wishes for you - but you need not take part. That is their universe unfolding - and intersecting with yours. Don't let them annoy you, don't take it personally. You come to decide what you accept and what you will not. Clarity. Soon, you will notice less and less "compromises", i.e. doing things that you do not really want to do. And THIS is a really great way to learn to relax in the here and now!
When is a NO really a YES ?
So a "NO", saying no to others, is really a "YES" - you are saying YES to yourself. You will see that others will respect this more and more. Its not about being selfish. If you are hungry and you reach for something to eat, is that selfish? You know what you need.....just listen and act accordingly.
This is not an invitation to be a boor - and a selfish lout. This is not saying that you must get everyone to do what you want. Its not about other people, its about becoming attuned to and nurturing your own needs. Tending your own garden. Inso doing you will become a better friend, lover, partner, parent, child, caregiver.
Would you like to be loved? To be accepted the way you are? Here is where you start, with you. because loving you means you accept and expect others to accept you as you are.
On the subject of "Try" -
"I have to change myself, I try to change, but it doesnt last, or its too hard." - again effort! And then you think, "I've tried it, yes, but I have just not made it" - so again you have found here a reason to give up. But honestly, we also do not need to try anything! And why is that?
Replace the word "try" with "practice".
I When I say I practice it, I allow for mistakes. So today, If I find myself back again, under pressure, then I become aware, forgive myself, and keep going. Of course, I want to follow my needs, but I do not always succeed, and that's ok....its a progression, and a balance. But more and more, I try to make sure that I take my own needs into consideration, in ways that really feel good tor me. Listen to that inner voice - make small changes. Practice. Balance.
Do you want to change?
Do you maybe want to become happy, wise, peaceful, or simply – a better person?
When you look deeply into your desire for change, you may find something uncomfortable at the bottom – a lack of self-love and self-acceptance.
In ancient teachings reaching right back to the time of the Buddha, we can find ways to cultivate loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.
First the good news:
Each one of us has the capacity for boundless love and kindness.
That’s why it can’t be given or acquired.
I's like water. Water can’t become any wetter, because being wet is not something apart from water.
In the same way, love and kindness are not attributes that we can add to our being. Our true self is loving and kind at its core - its just how you choose to use or not use it.
Zen Master John Tarrant says :
If you are busy thinking you should be kind, you might miss the reality that kindness is already present In you.
“Ok then,” – you might want to ask – “if that’s the case, why am I often grumpy and struggle to feel kindness in my heart?”
The answer is simple: our capacity for boundless love and kindness is buried deep within. So deep, that we sometimes can’t feel it at all. It’s as if the heart goes numb.
There is a way to uncover the natural radiance of your heart.
It won’t happen all at once, though.
Think of the process like a bud opening. At first it’s closed and you can’t even see what it will become. Then – little by little – the bud begins to unfurl and finally the flower appears in all its beauty.
You can’t hurry up the process. You can’t bend the petals of a bud outwards in order to make it flower sooner. Well, maybe you can, but the bud will be ruined.
Can YOU feel deeply – or is your heart numb? It can happen to all of us that our heart goes numb. At such times, even if we know that we love others, or that we love life – we can’t quite feel it. It’s like looking out over a landscape on a misty day. You can sense the outlines, but clarity is missing.
Children can show us what it’s like for the heart to be awake. Children have innocence. They lack self consciousness. They just feel. And express. On impulse.
Why does the heart go numb?
Numbness of the heart is a natural protection from pain. Every time we have a painful experience, we tend to grow a protective layer around our heart. The awful thing is that this protective layer doesn’t just shield us from pain, it numbs all emotions.
There is a way we try to rationalize our numb heart. Maybe we think, “I’m a realist, not a romantic”, or “I don’t like all that lovey-dovey stuff,” or, “I’d rather not get hurt.” Or we respond to others or ourselves in a sarcastic, cutting or snide way. These are all signs of a numb heart.
How can the heart awaken? There is a natural way of awakening the heart that we all know about. It’s falling in love. Ask any one who is freshly in love, and they will rave about how wonderful the person they love is. And how beautiful the world is. How bright the colors are, and how unique and wonderful every human being is.
But there is a problem … the euphoria doesn’t last.
Luckily, there is another way of awakening the heart. A way that lasts. And that is through loving-kindness practice.
What loving-kindness does is to ease away the protective layers around the heart. The practice of loving-kindness (or Metta) allows love to transform us.
What holds us back from the transformation of love is fear. The English psychoanalyst John McMurray spoke of people being either ‘fear-determined’ or ‘love-determined’:
There are two…emotional attitudes through which human life can be radically determined. They are love and fear. The fear-determined have no sun in themselves and go about putting out the sun in other people. Whereas the love-determined have life in them, abundant life. They are the people who are really alive, of whom it can be said that they possess eternal life as a well within them perpetually springing.
Is your life determined by love or by fear?
As John McMurray says, “the fear-determined … go about putting out the sun in other people.”
What does he mean by, “Putting out the sun in other people”?
It’s when we focus on other people’s faults and weaknesses. It’s when we put others down, when we use snide or sarcastic comments in order to put out their light.
If you are ruled by fear, you not only go about putting out the light of others, you also extinguish your own light.
Here are the thoughts that put out your own sun:
“No use trying!”, “I’m hopeless at that!”, “I’ll never learn!”, “This is too difficult!”
Each time you play these negative tapes, you extinguish your light, and negate your potential. And when you look at others and their perceived talent and success, you may feel envy – which is really a wish to extinguish the light of others.
How can we move from fear towards love?
The key is intimacy We move from fear towards love when we start to connect deeply with ourselves.
What does that mean?
It means being present to our experience of the moment. Whether we experience joy, or anguish, or restlessness, or fear, or anger – if we shine the soft light of awareness on our experience, we are no longer separate from ourselves.
What is the natural state of the heart?
Imagine that you release your heart from all the protective layers. What do you find at the core?
What you find is that the heart is joyful, radiant, and boundless. Our natural way of being is a state of intimate connection with all beings.
Maybe you feel worlds away from such an experience?
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we are all on a path. All that counts is that everything we do moves us closer to our aspirations. On the spiritual path there is no fast or slow. There are no big or small steps. All you need to do is to practice loving-kindness – and little by little, your radiant heart will shine through.
How to uncover the radiant heart within.
You can uncover the radiant heart by practicing loving-kindness, or metta meditation. This meditation was taught by the Buddha as an antidote to fear. It’s the practice of cherishing the goodness in us, as well as in others. Thich Nhat Hanh translates the term loving-kindness or metta as “the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness.”
The most important point here is that you need to start with yourself. You need to offer yourself loving-kindness. It’s the foundation of loving-kindness practice.
The magic of loving-kindness is that as you go deeper into the practice, you find that this ‘I’, this self – is without boundary.
The self includes mountains, rivers, wasps, hedgehogs, the warmth of the summer sun, the sharp winter wind, those close, and those far away. This ‘I’, this self, contains the whole universe.
As you breathe in – cherish yourself
As you breathe out – cherish all beings
You can either practice this during seated meditation, or you can pull out this meditation at odd moments during the day.
Here is a story that shows how to cherish something or someone completely. It’s from Maurice Sendak, the author the magical children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are.
Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it.
I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.”
Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.”
That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
- Maurice Sendak
See. Love. Eat.
This little boy knew how to cherish completely.
Loving-kindness practice is simple. But it can transform the way you experience life.
As your heart’s capacity for love and kindness grows, you’ll find a great fullness of being, discover a warm kinship with all beings, and reveal the radiant heart within.
So you have a choice. Do you want to be the person that puts the sun out in other people, or the person that puts a smile on their face?
with thanks to Mary Jacsch
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.