Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Month: June 2010 (Page 2 of 2)

Greening your diet

In 1969, Frances Moore Lappe discovered that half of the U. S. harvested acreage went to livestock feed.  She also learned that it takes 16 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of meat.  Concerned about the earth’s capacity to produce sufficient food for all its inhabitant, this discovery, and the inefficient use of resources it implied, rocked her world.  She went on to write the bestselling Diet for a Small Planet that advocated a plant based diet.  In 1987, John Robbins wrote his alarming exposé of animal factory farming called Diet for a New America.

Fast forward forty years plus and we find ourselves in the grips of global warming against the backdrop of extremely popular high protein diets for weight loss.  Many Americans continue to eat more than twice the amount of protein required in a healthy diet.

All the evidence continues to point to the fact that meat based diets are not sustainable in the long-term and are actually harmful for the planet.  Consider these points:

  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production produces 18% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The production of a single hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive a small car for 20 miles.
  • Producing 2.2 pounds of beef requires almost the same amount of energy it takes to light a 100-watt light bulb for almost 20 days.
  • Run-off from animal feed croplands and animal factory farms including all the animal wastes releases more pollution into our waterways than all other human activities combined.
  • Animal agriculture turns forests and prairies into barren deserts.

The simple truth is this:  reducing your intake of meat or becoming vegan will help to address global warming, air and water pollution, and land degradation.  By taking this step, you will be part of ensuring that there is adequate food supplies for all people on the planet and fewer animals will be harmed.  You will be setting a positive role model of conscious living for your children and their children.

I understand that making a diet change is not necessarily easy, but I hope you will consider the idea if you haven’t already.  Generally, it’s recommended to make diet changes gradually to give your body time to acclimatize.  A handy approach is reducing your intake of the item in question by 1/3rd for a few weeks or a month, then by another 1/3rd for a few weeks or a month, and finally by the last 1/3rd.  If it’s difficult for you to switch entirely to a vegetarian or vegan diet, even cutting your meat intake by 50-75% is a move in a positive direction.

I am currently not a vegetarian myself due to medical reasons.  However, I have cut my intake of animal flesh down to a minimum and never buy it at a supermarket.

As always, the power to make a difference is in our hands.  The cows will thank you.


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Are You A Highly Sensitive Person?

Love yourself!

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” -Aristotle

Do you find yourself highly sensitive to the physical circumstances and/or the people around you?

A few days ago, a small bird smacked into the glass panel of the sliding door in my bedroom.  This happened at another residence about eight months ago.  The first time, I was probably more traumatized than the bird.  The suffering of others has affected me so strongly all my life; it seemed to penetrate far into my being.  In both cases, the bird look stunned and paralyzed, not moving a micro-millimeter, but clearly still alive.

The first time, my husband assured me that the best approach would be to leave the bird alone and let it reorient itself.  It was an hour of pure torment for me.  The bird did indeed recalibrate itself in about an hour’s time and flew off into the wild blue yonder.  Happily, the second bird did the same.  Animals intuitively know how best to cope with trauma.  This is explained exceptionally well in the book, Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences, which elucidates how these same principles apply to the human experience of trauma.

Suffering and overcaring

The second time around, I was naturally concerned about the bird’s suffering, but, interestingly, I didn’t let it get under my skin in the same way.  This is due, in part, simply to knowing from experience that the bird would likely recover and fly off as before.  At the same time, I feel this is also due to a gradual process of inner change that is taking place as I more firmly secure myself through Amygdala Retraining and other means of self exploration and personal development.  Let me be clear that this doesn’t mean becoming indifferent, uncaring, or cold-hearted.   I still feel emphatic to the suffering of others, but I understand more fully than ever before how allowing it to jar me so strongly is neither necessary or useful.

Indeed, overcaring may actually be harmful.

“Is your care producing or reducing stress?”  This is a key question in the Heartmath approach, which also says:  “Excessive care, or overcare related to an issue or situation can create stress and negative emotions, so it is important for your care to be balanced.”

If you are stuck in the habit of perpetual giving, this might be a crucial question to ask:  “Is your care producing or reducing stress?”

Suffering is an inevitable part of life for all of us.  When you know and accept the reality that suffering will occur, it’s not such a shock when it actually does.  With this understanding, you can have more acceptance and clarity when suffering arises. I’ve been fortunate to meet many great spiritual masters in my lifetime.  All of them have been deeply compassionate.  Indeed, their love and compassion have no limit:  the whole purpose of their existence is to relieve the suffering of this world.  But they are not bowled over by suffering.  They don’t go into a state of personal angst if a bird flies into a pane of glass.  They are compassionate warriors—courageous, confident, determined, yet also relaxed, open, and spacious.

Are you a highly sensitive person?

I’ve been super sensitive as far back as I can recall.  According to Elaine Aron, 15-20% of the population is highly sensitive, possessing an uncommonly sensitive nervous system.  She says that being a highly sensitive person means:

“…you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted.”

Aron defines this not as a flaw but as an asset that you can learn to use.  She says, “If we try to live by the same operating instructions that others use, we develop all kinds of chronic illnesses, as so many of you have learned the hard way. Yet if we overprotect ourselves, our assets go unexpressed, and that can also lead to stress and illness.”

1 in 5 people are highly sensitive – an eye opening statistic!

Sensitized Nervous System

The evidence is mounting that a sensitized nervous system is involved in a wide range of disorders.  Wikipedia explains:

“A third type is central sensitization, where nociceptive neurons in the dorsal horns of the spinal cord become sensitized by peripheral tissue damage or inflammation. This type of sensitization has been suggested as a possible causal mechanism for chronic pain conditions.”

“Sensitization has been implied as a causal or maintaining mechanism in a wide range of apparently unrelated pathologies including substance abuse and dependence, allergies, asthma, and some medically unexplained syndromes such as fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity. Sensitization has also been suggested in relation to psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic anxiety and mood disorders.”

In another view of sensitization, Ashok Gupta and Annie Hopper believe that a small structure in the brain thought to be responsible for triggering the adrenalin response, the amygdala, becomes sensitized in cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Chronic Pain Syndromes, and related disorders.  They respectively offer their own innovative brain retraining programs to assist people in recovering from these disorders based on the science of neuroplasticity.

Reducing overstimulation and retraining the brain

The first step foreword is recognizing that you are indeed a highly sensitive person.  If this is the case, it’s important to take on board that trying to live a highly stimulated, stress filled lifestyle may very well have negative ramifications for you.  From there, you can explore options for reducing over-stimulation. Elaine Aron’s books are one resource for this purpose.

It’s far better to do this early on so you can lead a sane, healthy, and happy life instead of developing chronic illness down the road.  However, if you do develop certain chronic illnesses, Dynamic Neural Retraining and Amygdala Retraining are wonderful programs to help you feel better. There are no magic pills.  You must faithfully apply the techniques offered in these programs on a regular basis to effectively retrain the brain and improve.  You need to change your fundamental way of being.  Loving yourself enough to make the commitment is part of the equation.  This is a huge step, but there’s tremendous support for accomplishing this. Be heartened!  Breakthroughs are happening in the realm of these previously unexplained illnesses.

Are you a highly sensitive person?  What steps do you take to reduce stimulation in your life?

You might also like this related articles:  Retraining the brain for CFS, FMS, MCS, PTSD, & GWS

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Daily health habits

Whether you are healthy and want to stay well or are ill and want to recover, establishing daily health habits is a blueprint for success.  Many health habits can be practiced effectively a few times a week, but others—like drinking pure water—best occur on a daily basis.

Here are some steps to help you get started on establishing your own daily health habits or to fine-tune ones you may already have in place. My own daily routine is also shared to stimulate your own thinking about daily health habits suitable for you.

Preliminary steps to establishing daily health habits

1. Making the time
There’s no way around the fact that daily health habits take time.  A new routine automatically requires letting go of some of your other activities.  Since most of us already feel there’s not enough time or space in our day, this is a very easy place to get stuck.  In fact, many people are never able to get off the ground with a new habit because they are never able to make the time. Sound familiar?

To conquer this obstacle, take some time to consider and then list which activities you are willing to drop for the sake of your health goals.  You need to make a conscious choice or the tendency to put new health ways on hold may continue forever.  Spend a few days observing how your spend your time and which activities are expendable.  Then make a list and, at least, a 30-day commitment, to forgo one or more of these endeavors.  It makes sense to pinpoint ones that are counterproductive to health like watching too much television, surfing the internet endlessly, or working too much overtime.

Please don’t skip this step—it can indeed make the difference between success and failure.

2. Ease of implementation
Which health habit will be easiest for you to implement? Which one will bring you the quickest sense of joy and satisfaction?  Dieting, for example, is not easy for most people.  Start with easier goals, the ones that will make you feel a sense of satisfaction soon. Then move on to the more challenging ones.

3. Small steps

People often have a burst of enthusiasm at the beginning and then quickly let a new habit fall by the wayside.  To avoid this adverse result, start with small steps.  For example, if you are trying to eliminate a food from your diet, reduce the amount you eat by 1/3rd.  When you are acclimated to the change, reduce the amount by another 1/3rd.  When you are ready, let go of the last 1/3rd.  If you are trying a new exercise routine, start with 10-15 minutes a day and gradually increase your time allotment.  This will also save you from soreness, pain, and unnecessary injuries that can occur when you dive too rapidly into a new exercise regime.

4. Communicate your plan

Communicate your plan to your family and friends and ask for their support.  Carve out the time you need in concert with your family or significant other.

5. Partnering up with a friend

Partnering with a friend is an excellent method for success.  For example, walking everyday for 30 minutes at lunch with a friend is usually more fun than walking alone.  It will also give you the impetus to get moving on days when you feel resistance.

6. Set realistic goals

It’s better to start with just one new health habit and have it firmly in place, rather than starting with a long list, becoming overwhelmed and not accomplishing any of them.  I’ve always liked the SMART formula for goals. SMART is an acronym for goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

7. Be creative

There are many ways to work around the challenges of a busy lifestyle.  For example, taking the stairs at work or parking your car in the far lot and walking are simple ways to increase daily movement and may only take 5 or 10 minutes of extra time.  This may be far easier than committing to an hour-long exercise class.

8. Use the power of visualization

Visualize your future self as you will look and feel after implementing your new daily health habit. Consider creating a “vision board” of the new you using photos and words from magazine articles on health. Use words that energize and inspire you like:  trim, fit, energetic, cheerful, healthy, muscular, strong, and so on.  If weight is a goal, place your ideal weight on the vision board too.  Then place the vision board in a prominent place.  Or write a letter to yourself filled with encouragement and a description of how you will look and feel by implementing the new habit.  Read it every morning or in the evening before going to bed.

The important point is to visualize the new you each and everyday in one way or the other.  A vision board or a letter to yourself can help that process, but neither is required.  A simple visualization is powerful in and of itself.

My daily health habits

To stimulate your thinking, here is a list of my daily health habits for nourishing body, mind, and spirit.   Some have been in place for years.  Others are new this year.

1. Physical activity – One to two hours of any combination of Chi Gong, gardening, and walking.  To avoid prolong sitting, I also aim for 5 minutes of movement in any given hour.

2. Good food – Eating organically grown produce and avoiding packaged and denatured foods, sugar, and alcohol.

3. Meditation – I incorporate regular meditation every morning and evening.  This includes a range of practices, not only sitting meditation.  I also integrate mindfulness and awareness into my daily activity.

4. Positivity – Pruning negativing from my life, practicing positivity, and surrounding myself with positive people.

5. Avoiding environmental chemicals and synthetic fragrance – This is a necessity for me. In my opinion, it is also a wise move for anyone given the dramatic increase in diseases triggered by toxic chemicals affecting both young children (including babies) and adults.

6. Eating mindfully – This habit hasn’t been easy for me to adopt at all.  I tend to rush through meals or allow my mind to churn away in the past or future.  Eating mindfully includes creating a peaceful setting for eating, giving thanks for my food, taking a deep breath before eating and continuing to breath through my meal, putting my fork down between bites, and, very important, chewing thoroughly until the food is liquid.  Chew 30 times if you are well and 50 times if you have digestive problems; this is the standard recommendation.

7. Drinking pure water – We are on a catchment system and hence have a whole house water filtration system.  However, you can find less expensive stand alone ceramic filters for drinking water and bath balls to filter bath water.

8. Managing stress –  Stress isn’t good for any one, but often we don’t see its pervasive health impact until years down the road. I’m currently taking an intensive look at my own stress patterns and learning to dissolve stress reactions when they arise.

9. Winding down before bedtime – Allowing 1-2 hours for stimulation-free, relaxed time before sleep.  This is also a challenging habit for me to create as it is tempting to continue on projects right smack up until bedtime.

It hasn’t been easy for me to establish healthy habits.  It something I’ve had to consciously choose, work at consistently, and recommit to again and again. Am I able to accomplish all the above every day?  Not always, but I don’t fret about it.  I just do the best I can.  Have I fully established all these positive habits?  I can answer a hearty yes for some of them like meditation.  Other ones are still a work in progress. With the help of a clear plan though, I am steadily making headway.

Please share your thoughts on establishing daily health habits.  Which healthy habits do you cherish the most?  How do you overcome obstacles to staying on tract with your newly formed health habits?

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11 Ways to Reduce Your Oil Use

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – the Buddha

Updated 8 August 2010

Chris Guillebeau’s recent article on the huge disparity between rich and poor in Equatorial Guinea triggered a small earthquake in my world.  It’s good to be shaken out of one’s self-centeredness every once in awhile, don’t you think?

Chris points out that people in many African countries “are poor not because they are meant to be poor, they like being poor, or because they’ve done anything wrong.”  Rather, he says they, “…are poor because of a lack of opportunities, and a system of corruption that discourages savings and investment. To put it more simply, a few people have a lot of money, and most people have almost no money.”

As it turns out, it’s all about oil.  Chris tells us, “Countries that have oil or other natural resources, like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, or Sudan, end up with large pockets of the population that are completely left behind. Meanwhile, countries without a lot of natural resources (Botswana is the most frequently cited) tend to do much better in terms of reducing absolute poverty and providing healthcare for their citizens.”

Taking personal responsibility

Now whether you agree with the precise details of Chris’ assessment or not, oil is still an underlying thread along with greed.  I was further struck by a single remark among the 48 responses, which was offered by Terry: “All of us who consume oil are complicit in the oppression of others.”

It can often be a knee-jerk reaction to get mad about corruption and injustice; it’s often harder to see one’s own piece in the puzzle.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important to hold people, corporations, and governments accountable for their actions.  Nevertheless, pumping up one’s own frustration and aggression is not generally an effective solution.  Anger and it’s associated emotions alienate others, and can also be harmful to your own health and wellbeing.

Spurred on by this article, I decided to re-look at my own levels of oil consumption and invite you to do the same.  In the wake of disastrous oil spill in the Gulf you too may be reconsidering the wisdom of an oil-based lifestyle.  Petroleum derived products are all-pervasive in our culture. To help you out, I’ve compiled a short list of ways to reduce oil dependence.

11 ways to reduce oil consumption

Since 71%  of oil goes to transportation—transporting ourselves and the goods and foods we purchase, there’s no question that a radical reduction in driving and travel are required to effectively reduce oil dependence.  The greatest gains will come from reducing our own driving and flying as well as the transportation of the goods that we purchase.

1. Change your vehicle use patterns.  Use your car a lot less or not at all.  Walk, bike, use public transportation. If it’s necessary to use a car, be sure to have a fuel-efficient vehicle or car pool.  Aggregate your trips, so there’s one weekly shopping trip, for example, instead of 4 or 5.  Reconsider and reduce travel by air.

2. Buy products that are produced locally, instead of one’s that require transportation from a distance.  In the same vein, buy vegetables and fruits in season instead of one’s that are imported from another country.

3. Buy used products instead of new ones, which will reduce oil use both in production and transportation.  Craig’s list, garage sales, and classified ads are good resources for used items.  Often, you can find items that are almost brand new.

4. Reduce the use of plastic, a petroleum derived product.  Reusable shopping bags are a great first step, but we can all probably do much more to reduce plastic consumption.  To stimulate your thinking, Beth at Fake Plastic Fish gives you 60 different ways you could decline plastic in your life.  If you gradually work your way through the list over the next 1-2 years, you will make a huge dent in your plastic purchases.  As Beth points out, sadly, “Our oceans are filling up with plastic: plastic that harms wildlife and never biodegrades; plastic that enters the food chain and leaches toxic chemicals.”   I’ve reduced my use of plastic considerably but, looking at Beth’s list, I see there’s much more that I could do.  How about you?

5. Buy natural fiber clothing instead of polyester, nylon, and other forms of synthetic, petroleum derived clothing.  Natural fibers include cotton, hemp, silk, linen, rayon, wool, ramie, and tencel.  Naturally, organic is a better choice, since pesticides are unhealthy and may also contain chemicals sourced from petroleum, although it’s not an affordable option for everyone.  It has also been pointed out that silk and wool are not necessarily the best options since their manufacturing process involves cruelty to animals.

6. Discontinue the use of perfume and scented products. 95% of the chemicals in most perfume are derived from petrochemicals.  Likewise, avoid products that contain synthetic fragrance and scents like personal care products (deodorants, lotions, hair spray, etc.), laundry detergent, dryer sheets, candles, air fresheners, scented cleaning products, and so on.  In addition to reducing your petroleum consumption, fragrance-free living reduces the health risks associated with the use of fragrance.  It is also an act of compassion, helping to create safer environments for people with allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitivity, who are triggered by the chemicals contained in fragrance.

7. Use soy based inks instead of the standard petroleum-based ones.

8. Forgo wall-to-wall carpeting, which is typically loaded with synthetic fibers, not to mention the backing.

9. Regular crayons are a petroleum derived product.  Beeswax crayons have been suggested as an alternative, but it’s been pointed out by vegans that these are an animal derived product.  Any suggestions?

10. Use alternatives to petroleum-based building and remodeling materials.

11. Turn down the heat.

Ubiquitous petroleum

In case you have any doubts about the degree to which petroleum has entered every nook and cranny of your life, take a look at the following list  of “things that get their start from oil and natural gas.”  This list is from the 2 page pamphlet called “There’s a lot of life in oil and natural gas,” which you can download as a PDF file from the American Petroleum Institute’s website.

  • “Aircraft
  • Antihistamines
  • Antiseptics
  • Aspirin
  • Baloons
  • Bandages
  • Blenders
  • Cameras
  • Candies
  • Carpet
  • CD’s
  • Cellphones
  • Clothing
  • Computers
  • Containers
  • Crayons
  • Dentures
  • Deodorant
  • Diapers
  • Digital Clocks
  • Dinnerware
  • DVD’s
  • Dyes
  • Eyeglasses
  • Frames
  • Fertilizers
  • Food Preservatives
  • Food
  • Storage Bags
  • Footballs
  • Foul Weather Gear
  • Furniture
  • Garbage Bags
  • Glue
  • Golf Balls
  • Hair Dryers
  • Hang Gliders
  • Heart Valve Replacements
  • House Paint
  • Infant Seats
  • Ink
  • Insecticides
  • Life Jackets
  • Lipstick
  • Luggage
  • Medical Equipment
  • Nylon Rope
  • Pacemakers
  • Pantyhose
  • Patio Screens
  • Perfumes
  • Photographic Film
  • Photographs
  • Piano Keys
  • Roller Blades
  • Roofing
  • Safety Glass
  • Shampoo
  • Shaving Cream
  • Shower Curtains
  • Slippers
  • Soft Contact Lenses
  • Strollers
  • Sunglasses
  • Surfboards
  • Surgical Equipment
  • Syringes
  • Telephones
  • Tents
  • Toothpaste
  • Toys
  • Umbrellas
  • Vitamin Capsules
  • and a whole lot more.”

The very nature of life is interdependence.  Any step you take—large or small—toward reducing your personal consumption of oil is a positive step for the people of Equatorial Guinea and for the entire world.  It will also help to avert future oil spills.

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra



Non-meditation – part 2

Train spotting

Were you able to try the exercise in non-meditation suggested in the last post?  How was it for you?  Guess what—that is meditation!

If you happened to miss the exercise entirely, but are wondering what all this “non meditation” stuff is about, just go back and read the previous post.  Then give the exercise a try for yourself.

Here is what Mingyur Rinpoche tells us about the “big secret” of what meditation really is:

“So let me confide in you a big secret. Whatever you experience when you simply rest your attention on whatever is going on in your mind at any given moment is meditation. Simply resting in this way is the experience of natural mind.

The only difference between meditation and the ordinary, everyday process of thinking, feeling and sensations is the application of the simple, bare awareness that occurs when you allow your mind to rest simply as it is—without chasing after thoughts or becoming distracted by feelings and sensations.”

The practice of meditation may be far easier than you ever imagined, but due to its very simplicity it may elude you.  You might be looking for a big bang, a phenomenal experience, or a state of bliss or peace, but true meditation is not any particular state of mind.  It’s not a static destination or a goal, but rather simply resting in pure awareness.

Mingyur Rinpoche goes on to say:

“Like most people, I brought so much judgment to my experience. I believed that thoughts of anger, anxiety, fear, and so on that came and went throughout the day were bad or counterproductive—or at the very least inconsistent with natural peace! The teaching of the Buddha—and the lesson inherent in this exercise in non-meditation—is that if we allow ourselves to relax and take a mental step back, we can begin to recognize that all these different thoughts are simply coming and going within the context of unlimited mind, which, like space, remains fundamentally unperturbed by whatever occurs within it.”

In meditation, you are alert not asleep, you are cognizant of what passes through your mind, but you allow the thoughts and emotions to pass through without grasping onto or following after them.   At the same time, you recognize the true nature of mind, which is like space, is not affected by them at all.  You don’t suppress thoughts and emotions, nor do you indulge in them.  One analogy Mingyur Rinpoche sometimes uses is the example of trains passing by in a train station.  Trains come and go, they stop for a moment, and move on, but they don’t fundamentally alter the nature of space around them.

Due to the sheer simplicity of it, simply resting the mind may be easily misunderstand or confused with the ordinary, thinking mind. Indeed, Mingyur Rinpoche is speaking here of the highest form of meditation.  Therefore, I highly recommend that you read Mingyur Rinpoche’s book, The Joy of Living, Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness.  There you can read much more about natural mind and benefit from his step-by-step instructions on how to mediate as well as his explanation of different methods of meditation.

With his understanding of and appreciation for modern science, Mingyur Rinpoche’s writing offers a unique perspective on the interconnections between science and Buddhism as well as clarity on where the two diverge.  Mingyur Rinpoche was a research participant in the studies done by neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imagining and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin on the effects of meditation on the brains of long-term meditators.  Their research indicates that regular training in meditation can enhance activity in the areas of the brain associated with happiness and compassion.

Source:  The Joy of Living, Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness (p. 56- 57)

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Resting the Mind: A 3-Minute Exercise in Non-Meditation

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

“You’re not the limited, anxious person you think you are.  Any trained Buddhist teacher can tell you with all the conviction of personal experience that really, you’re the very heart of compassion, completely aware, and fully capable of achieving the greatest good, not only for yourself, but for everyone and everything you can imagine.” Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

You can replace the word “anxious” for any troubling emotion that personally plagues you like anger, depression, frustration, low self-esteem and so forth.  Your true nature is naturally peaceful, it is never touched by these difficult emotions.  It is like a wide open sky, not the thoughts and emotions that pass through it.  You are not the emotions; they are just temporary phenomena.

So how do you come to know your true nature, which is currently obscured by an unending stream of dualistic thinking and emotional uprisings?

Meditation is the key

Meditation is the key to both calming and settling the mind as well as seeing it’s true essence.  However, in the West, there is so much misunderstanding about what meditation truly is and often the assumption that it’s only meant for people who want to live their life sheltered away from the rest of the world.

In the Tibetan language, one of the words used for meditation is “gom,” which means getting used to or becoming familiar with.  Meditation is simply the process of becoming familiar with your own true nature.

Mingyur Rinpoche tells us:

“According to the Buddha, the basic nature of mind can be directly experienced simply by allowing the mind to rest simply as it is.”

How do you accomplish this?  Here’s a three-minute exercise from Mingyur Rinpoche to give you a feel for what resting the mind is like.

An exercise in non-meditation

“This is not a meditation exercise. In fact, it’s an exercise in ‘non-meditation’ — a very old Buddhist practice that, as my father explained it, takes the pressure off thinking you have to achieve a goal or experience some sort of special state. In non-meditation, we just watch whatever happens without interfering. We are merely interested observers of a kind of introspective experiment, with no investment in how the experiment turns out.

Of course, when I first learned this, I was a pretty goal oriented child. I wanted something wonderful to happen every time I sat down to meditate. So it took me a while to get the hang of just resting, just looking, and letting go of the results.

First, assume a position in which your spine is straight, and your body is relaxed. Once your body is positioned comfortably, allow your mind to simply rest for three minutes or so. Just let your mind go, as though you’ve just finished a long and difficult task.

Whatever happens, whether thoughts or emotions occur, whether you notice some physical discomfort, whether you’re aware of sounds or smells around you, or you mind is a total blank, don’t worry.  Anything that happens—or doesn’t happen—is simply part of the experience of allowing your mind to rest.

So now, just rest in the awareness of whatever is passing through your mind…

Just rest …

Just rest …

When the three minutes are up, ask yourself. How was that experience? Don’t judge it; don’t try to explain it. Just review what happened and how you felt.. You might have experienced a brief taste of peace or openness. That’s good. Or you might have been aware of a million different thoughts, feelings and sensations. That’s also good. Why? Because either way, as long as you have maintained at least a bare awareness of what you were thinking or feeling, you’ve had a direct experience of your mind just performing its natural functions.”

I invite you to take three minutes to try out this exercise.

In my next post, I will include the excerpts in which Mingyur Rinpoche confides the big secret of what meditation actually is and describes the difference between meditation and the ordinary thinking mind.  Stay tuned for the big secret.

Resting the Mind – Part 2

Source:  The Joy of Living, Unlocking the Secret & Science of Happiness by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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