Monday, September 17, 2012

Twice the Joy: Half the Stress

Modern neuroscience is beginning to explain how our thoughts make fundamental changes in the brain and in the way we view the world. The lab results and clinical studies don't change anything about mindful practice but the findings do help to motivate the skeptical to meditate.

Cabanas in the Courtyard at Straw Valley

By practicing the distilled essence of mindful meditation, we put ourselves in the path of greater happiness, love and wisdom. And from my perspecive, the greatest benefit of all is a greater sense of self worth and inner confidence.

In our practice of Artful Meditation and Fierce Qigong, we give up worry, sorrow and anger, and begin to experience inner calm, quiet joy and ready compassion. All that is required is an open mind and a willingness to give it a try. The beauty is that we don't even need to try hard--simply practice when you can and the benefits will follow. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but they always arrive in direct correspondence to your practice level.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Change Your Habits: Change Your Life

It is easy to be controlled by habit. Our neural pathways take in far more information than we can analyze and one way the conditioned mind deals with information overload is to look for patterns. Turns out that the mind is so incredibly efficient at finding patterns, that it routinely finds them even when no patterns actually exist.

Patterns become encoded into habits to make it easier to respond to the tsunami of stimuli. The result is that when someone says "food fight," we begin jumping around and waving the hands. Well, it is possible I suppose that it's a different trigger and response for you personally, but you get the idea.

When an intriguing new idea comes along that we would like to try in our lives--it might be that we decide to stop smoking or we might even decide to stop burning--doesn't matter what it is really. The point is that we decide to give it a try but then we run up against habit. The new behavior is not in our repertoire and we find it exceedingly difficult to follow through with our plan.

This idea of habits was discussed recently on Hugh McLeod's blog, which is a location that I strongly recommend. Many good ideas there. You can find it by clicking here:

Hugh's comment perfectly encapsulates the message: "Habits eat good intentions for breakfast." Please remember, all the credit for this comment goes to Hugh, not me.

Habits have both a trigger and a response. A best way to change a habit and make it a useful tool rather than an obstacle is through mindfulness. Why? Because we often aren't even aware of our habits and how they control our lives. Through the art of paying close attention to what is happening in our lives, we shine light on those habits and clearly identify the ones that don't work for us any more--assuming that they once had a good purpose.

When we identify the trigger that leads to the habitual response, we simply replace the old response with the new one. Now when someone says "food fight" we respond with the healthier new behavior.

Over the next few days, we will be discussion specific meditation techniques for retooling those old habits. Watch for the label: Change Your Life.

A Little Insight

Sometimes the conditioned mind works wonderfully for us. After all, its original purpose was to help us survive in a hostile world. Any yet, sometimes it seems to be the problem. The analogy of a wild fire works for me. My mind sometimes keeps reminding me of possibilities that I don't really help me and my serenity, my concentration, and my health--emotional and physical--are burned, charred and ashed. Mindfulness allows us to see that the wild fire is an illusion, even though the burning and suffering is real.

Meditation is the gateway to our comfort zone. It is a process that teaches us to let go of habitual clinging to and desire for the "things" of life that pollute our mind and, in the process, we reconnect with our true self. Our stable, calm, sure self.

We have allowed many of our skills to weaken, we have lost touch with our innate powers, and we have forgotten much of in-born knowledge of how to live happily; all because of dependence on so many external things.

Mindfulness meditation restores our capacity as powerful beings and refills us with stillness, compassion and empathy. In our daily lives we release the sparks of love and blessing that have the power to renew and revitalize the world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meditation in the Courtyard

Life comes hard and fast in the modern world and we need to be centered and ready for whatever comes our way. The martial artists of the Shaolin Temple in China get centered and ready for whatever their kung-fu opponents might do by meditating in the courtyard. Now you too can meditate in the courtyard to become centered and ready for whatever life brings your way.

Sunday mornings: 10 to 11 AM
$7.00 per class

Classes open with an introduction to Qigong, the ancient Chinese healing movement practice, sometimes called Taoist Yoga. The formal period of meditation follows the energizing Qigong. Classes are designed to be suitable for beginners as well as for those with meditation experience.

Come benefit from mindfulness meditation in the beautiful, relaxing setting of Straw Valley. No need to pre-register. Just bring a yoga mat or cushion to sit on. Hope to see you there.