Magic Wand 300x300 The Magic Wand In Your HeadIf someone were to hand you a magic wand, and tell you that it had the power to instantly transform your world, you’d use it, right? You’d have to be crazy not to. Well, you do have a magic wand, but it’s shaped more like a cantaloupe than a sparkly long stick. It’s your brain.

Since our interpretation of all experiences in life emerges from the brain, any change in our brain, in turn, changes our reality. Reality, at the most basic level (see blog:  My Reality Is Not Your Reality), is merely your brain’s interpretation of some electrical impulses.  When giving meaning to these signals, our brains add memories, beliefs and attitudes about ourselves, others, and the world influenced by family, religion, school, culture and life experiences. Every spoken word we hear,  every written word we read, every experience we  have, absolutely everything, is always, always the product of our brain’s subjective interpretation of stimuli.

By changing your thinking, you can change your world. It’s that simple. Simple, but not easy.  Through neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to change its’ physical form and function in response to actions, perceptions and even thinking and imagining, whatever you do repeatedly becomes etched into your brain. Any situation, person, or thing can be seen from multiple perspectives. With conscious awareness, (See blog: The Meaning Of Mindfulness) you can choose your thoughts, attitude, and response to the world around you,and, with consistent practice, this pattern becomes physically wired into your brain. Ta da! (See blog: Responding Rather Than Reacting)

Take, for instance, someone in your life who is a royal pain in the ass. I’m sure you can think of one – maybe even a couple. Yes, there’s no disputing that this person may provide plenty of situations inviting grief and aggravation into your life. However, it’s your choice to see them only from that point of view or to back up, broaden the view, and look at them more objectively.  Acknowledge your attached emotions, judgements, and opinions and how they may be coloring your thoughts. Then, try on a new perspective even a conflicting one consider what may be behind their behavior.  This person, while still being a pain, can also be seen as a teacher. Yep. You read that right.  Consider how they may be pushing you to grow and step outside of your comfort zone.

I am used to living by myself. Recently, I not only had my two sons living with me, but also another 19-year-old male. Boy, I thought I was this serene, centered, enlightened being, until then. I found myself getting agitated at insignificant, petty details. I found that I’m really sensitive to the sweaty boy smell in a not so good way. Instead of pointing the finger at them, I had to look at my own reaction, what it might activate in me and what this experience had to teach me. Patience. Tolerance. Compassion.

On a much bigger scale, while I’ve been divorced for around 6 years, my ex-husband finds far too many reasons to continue the conflict. And I thought divorce was supposed to put an end to all the bickering. It just makes it much more expensive because, now, we have to fight through lawyers and can’t just scream directly at each other’s face.

While it has taken me a long time to realize this positive contribution to my life, I can see that he has been and continues to be one of my greatest teachers by pushing me and providing me with countless growth opportunities. Seriously. I have  grown tremendously in strength, courage, and self-confidence with each damn challenge. One day soon, I’m gonna graduate, hopefully!

Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun philosopher, gives the unique advice of going directly into the situations from which you want to instinctively run in her book , The Places That Scare Youbecause herein lies the opportunity for personal growth.

According to Chodron, we always have a choice. We can let the people and circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly angry and afraid, or we can let them soften us to become more compassionate. This wisdom (or magic wand) is always available to us although we tend to block it with habitual reactions and living unconsciously.

So, pick up your magic wand, wave it in the air  and get busy. This doesn’t mean that *POOF* you can make everything just as you want it. It means that *POOF* you can cultivate peace, joy, and acceptance because you can’t control what happens, but you can control how you think about and respond to it.  Magic!

running horse HORSES by Iris ShieldsI have admired and loved horses since I was ten years old. My family did not have enough money to buy a horse, so I used to ride other people’s horses. I also attended a riding school at that time. Every day I dreamt of having my own horse and I could not wait for my dream to come true. Whenever I saw a horse, my heart melted. (more…)

LIFE IS A BALANCING ACT2 150x150 The Ultimate Balancing ActIn Bikram yoga class the other day, the teacher said, during the almost impossible standing head to knee posture, that the pose is not so much about balancing on one leg as it is about finding balance in yourself and your life. This got me to thinking about balance and how absolutely essential it is to everything we do in our lives. I’ve come to believe that it’s the one, single most important, underlying key to happiness and success in almost every area of life.

All personality traits exist on a spectrum and aren’t good or bad by themselves.  The unique manifestation of a particular characteristic in specific circumstances and even the intention behind it factor into its appropriateness and value in any situation. Achieving the delicate, elusive, ever shifting balance of just enough, but not too much can mean the difference between happiness and misery.

Selfishness requires finding this tricky equilibrium.  Having had more than enough up close and personal experience with narcissists throughout my life, I always strived to be the farthest from being anything even remotely like this and bent over backwards to not be the least bit selfish.  So much so, that I never got my own needs met.  Not even close. A little selfishness is healthy and absolutely essential to being happy, I’ve found.  Balance.

The Dalai Lama has this to say about selfishness:

It is important that when pursuing our own self-interest we should be “wise selfish” and not “foolish selfish.” Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, shortsighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.

While giving, empathy, and altruism are generally seen as desirable qualities, even these can be taken to unhealthy extremes.  Formerly an expert at this, I was the person every one knew they could turn to for help moving, when they needed someone to watch their kids, when a school party needed organizing or baking or decorating.  You name it.  I did it.  However, I neglected to take care of, give to, and help myself first – or last even.  As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even on my list and gave and gave until there was literally nothing left of and for me.  Empty.  So much so that I tried to commit suicide.

Unconsciously, I used to act in this way because I thought that my giving and doing were like an unspoken insurance policy of sorts.  The more I gave to everyone else, surely, the more people would give back to me.  Right?  Wrong! I ended up attracting “takers” in my life who were more than happy to take and take and keep on taking. Because this was what I was comfortable with, I allowed it in my life.

While I was giving and giving, I got more and more depleted and resentful because I was getting pitifully little in return.  I realize, in retrospect, that I was giving to get.  That’s not really giving.  It’s taking.  This scenario perfectly exemplifies the belief that everyone in your life is a mirror.  The takers were reflecting back to me a part of myself which I didn’t acknowledge.

I’ve learned to say “No,” and to give to myself first.  You have to take care of yourself before you have anything extra to give someone else freely with no strings attached.  My brain injury, sustained as a result of the suicide attempt, actually taught me how to make myself a priority and how to give to myself.  I absolutely had to in order to recover, and I simply didn’t have the energy to do otherwise.

I’ve learned that there is always a compassionate, caring way to respond in every situation which considers what is being asked of me and the manner in which I may feel compelled to give or not, factoring in my own needs and happiness as well the desires and needs of the other party.  I have to be compassionate and caring with myself first and foremost.  My response doesn’t have to be yes or no and is usually something in between.  Finding my own balance in each situation is key.

Balance is about learning to listen to and incorporate the wisdom of both sides of the brain.  A person will benefit greatly from developing and incorporating the left and right brain hemisphere’s influence in their life.  The left brain, which is the home of analytical and logical thinking as well as worry and anxiety, shouldn’t be allowed to dominate and silence the right brain, the home of visual, spatial, creative, and big picture thinking. Letting the left brain rule can result in worry, anxiety, and depression.

The mental chatter of my left brain, my monkey mind as it sometimes called, used to be so self-critical, incessant, and just plain mean.  Through practices such as meditation, mindfulness, thought reframing, yoga, and cognitive behavioral therapy, I’ve increased the power and presence of my right brain and trained the left brain to play nice.  This change has led to much more happiness and peace.  Balance.

Oh, and as I’ve found more balance in my life, the one-legged yoga postures have gotten easier!

white stone on the sand 200x197 Shobogenzo: Meditation and RealizationShobogenzo -

Dogen Zenji

Dialog on the Way of Commitment

Answer 7:

In Dogen Zenji’s Shobogenzo he addresses the topic of meditation and realization and their relationship to each other in his response to Answer 7: “At the risk of casting pearls before swine, I would advise you that thinking of meditation and realization as two separate things is just wrong. We teach that meditation and realization are identical.”
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matterhorn small A Sacred Mind   KrishnamurtiThe topic of this post is “a sacred mind”. While contemplating Krishnamurti’s thoughts, I ask myself: where is the sense of ‘the sacred’, as K calls it, that I lived in as a child? In my late teens I thought of it as a sense for the magic in everyday life. It is that sense of something unexpected happening just around the next corner and the mystery when looking at a distant snow-covered mountain peak. I felt myself transported up there into the pristine snow and ice landscape just by seeing it. The exotic aroma coming from the next coffee bar (in Italy) conjured up visions and virtual experiences of far away and mysterious places.  This ‘sacred’ is still here, just a bit covered up by the dusty veil of our conditioning. In this chapter Krishnamurti speaks to this.
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child buddha small Peace at Home with the BuddhaBUDDHISM: Peace At Home

This is Buddha’s wisdom  for peace in relationships, spoken by Thich Nhat Hanh:

“The Practice of Looking Deeply: Practicing Impermanence

All of us can understand impermanence with our intellect, but this is not yet true understanding. Our intellect alone will not lead us to freedom. It will not lead us to enlightenment.

When we are solid and we concentrate, we can practice looking deeply. And when we look deeply and see the nature of impermanence, we can then be concentrated on this deep insight. This is how the insight of impermanence becomes part of our being. It becomes our daily experience.

We have to maintain the insight of impermanence in order to be able to see and live impermanence all the time. If we can use impermanence as an object of our meditation, we will nourish the understanding of impermanence in such a way that it will live in us every day. With this practice, impermanence becomes a key that opens the door of reality.
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forgiveness Forgiving is a gift to yourselfWhy do we need to forgive?

Forgiving is a gift we give ourselves, it gives us freedom from negative emotions and power to move on with our lives!

When somebody or something has caused us pain, we can be overwhelmed by anger, frustration and sadness and as time goes by, we can get stuck in a cycle of blame. The more we ruminate about what caused us pain, the more we let our negative emotions control our life, and by doing so, we lessen our quality of life.

To get to the point where we can really forgive and not be hurt anymore, we need to recognize our own power to change our feelings, expectations, and behavior.

Forgiveness is not about who caused the pain or why, forgiveness is about our own self, it is about breaking the negative cycle and regaining power over our life. About becoming stronger, not a victim. (more…)

goodness Goodness   A Chapter in Krishnamurtis BookThis following text of Krishnamurti is another passage from one of my favorite books of his: “This Light In Oneself “. This is Chapter 3, “Living in Goodness”. The first passage  from this book that I posted on my spiritual blog Heartflow2013.wordpress.com was from Chapter 13, “Observing from a Quiet Mind” and subsequently I posted “What is Meditation?” from Chapter 12, “A Sacred Life”.

The selections in the book “This Light in Oneself” present the core of Krishnamurti’s teaching on meditation, taken from discussions with small groups, as well as from public talks to large audiences. His main theme is the essential need to look inward, to know ourselves, in order really to understand our own—and the world’s—conflicts. We are the world, says Krishnamurti, and it is our individual chaos that creates social disorder. He offers timeless insights into the source of true freedom and wisdom.
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Light flashing in Stone small Faith Hope Belief and the Zen Moment

What fears, what thirsting for approval, what hunger for recognition hold me in the grooves of conditioning? I free myself of that and I am a unique expression of the Infinite. Can I feel the call to show myself freely? We are ready to acknowledge ourselves and to be self-evident… All pressure to renege on myself is now unbearable!

Just yesterday I was looking at all the New Age views about ‘something great’ about to come around the corner etc. and I was reflecting on how that continues to program everyone onto ‘hope’, ‘faith’ and the identity that is built around ‘becoming a multi-dimensional being’ etc. This focus on something yet to come and on some event yet to happen in order for my destiny to fulfill itself has the tendency to keep us from realizing just how amazing that <being> which is already here, which I already AM, actually is. That is where the exploration of this mystery begins, in my opinion.
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writing Journaling, a Healing PracticeSome time ago, I took a workshop on the healing qualities of journaling, and it made a great impact on me.

I remembered that as a teenager, I had a secret journal where I would write my feelings and thoughts. Later in life, in moments of conflict, I used to write letters to a loved one, mainly to put my thoughts in order and/or to communicate them accurately. And now I use writing as an emotion-release tool. In fact, I had been using writing all along (without realizing its positive effect.)

The fact and the matter is, when we write, we put our thoughts in “raw” format, writing is a direct way to express ourselves, just as other forms of art can be, such as: painting, dancing, playing music, etc. Writing can be revealing of our deepest truths and feelings. (more…)

bhagavan ramana maharshi6 small Ramana and I   Face to Face with the DivineWolter A. Keers was a Dutch teacher and writer who lectured extensively on Yoga and Advaita in Europe in the 1970s and 80s. He met Ramana a couple of months before Ramana’s passing in 1950. This is an excerpt of his account:

“Roda Maclver, a Bombay devotee who had been living near Bhagavan for several years took me to the Ashram and pointed out Bhagavan to me. The mere sight of him made me tremble all over because I had come face to face with the divine. This recognition affected me so much that my body shook involuntarily. As I gazed at Bhagavan, I felt I saw God himself sitting there.

In that early morning meeting I saw a blazing light that had taken a human form. It was more radiant than anything I had ever seen before. When I was very young, I had believed that God was some magnificent being, having a human form that radiated light and goodness. I had long since abandoned this childhood belief, believing it to be a fairy story that was told only to credulous children. Yet now this childhood belief turned out to be true, because here before me was a human form that seemed to be made of light itself. God became manifest before my eyes, announcing his presence to me by radiating a blazing, penetrating light, a light that went right through me like x-rays.”
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meditation i by esee d1e5h92 Non Thinking

Non-thinking is a concept that comes up in a lot of spiritual sects, and is a core of meditation. But a lot of people find this concept difficult to grasp. And that, I feel, is due to a common misconception. People tend to consider non-thinking and not thinking to be the same thing. But as we are all well aware, not thinking at all is impossible. This leads newbie meditation practitioners to hours of frustration sitting on the floor thinking “Why can’t I stop thinking?!”. (more…)

Titanias resolve by Gray Fullbuster Resolve

“Banish uncertainty.
Affirm strength.
Hold resolve.
Expect death.

Make your stand today. On this spot. On this day. Make your actions count; do not falter in your determination to fulfill your destiny. Don’t follow the destiny outlined in some mystical book: Create your own. (more…)

turtle wax real small Present Moment: What to Do At The End Of Your RopeAll of the wonderful spiritual teachings about living in the present moment finally come down to one thing: how do I live? As so often when I am delving more deeply into a certain aspect of Reality – sure enough – I find myself in a situation that gives me a real-time experience of that aspect. The last couple of weeks I have been noticing the repercussions of leaving the present moment in some very vivid ways. I posted my reflections on “Purpose” and how I notice that, in a certain sense, following a purpose tends to pull me out of the present moment. On the other hand, the mantra that came up for me while writing the post “ZEN: How to Recalibrate Myself Back to Zero” has spontaneously arisen in my mind several time over the past week and has proven to be quite effective. The mantra is “I am my own purpose”. This brings me into a frequency of being enough just as I am and that no action or purpose or indeed anything at all is needed to fulfill or complete me.
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