Always Well Within

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

Tag: Working with illness

Captivating me

Every week my breath is taken away by the vast reservoir of inspiration, positivity, goodwill, talent, and knowledge that I encounter during my travels on the worldwide web.

Please enjoy a taste of my favorite posts and new blog discoveries from the past week.  Let me know which ones also captivated you.

My Favorites

  • Suzuki Roshi is a blog of all of the transcripts and audio recordings of talks given by the remarkable Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, brought to us by the San Francisco Zen Center.  This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the words and wisdom of one of the most loved and decidedly greatest Buddhist masters of the twentieth century.
  • Overcoming chronic illness and stress – TimeThief explores the transforming effects of gratitude and mindfulness. She also shares 20 ways for taking care of oneself.  Catch a glimpse of her blog redesign, too. It’s gorgeous!
  • Bad art in the boonies – This is a hoot from the irrepressible Invisible Mikey; don’t miss these captivating photos or the chance to meet Mrs. Invisible.
  • At Kikolani , Kristi shares an infinity of knowledge on the art of blogging, exuding a generosity of spirit the whole time.  If you are an introvert like me, you can also learn a thing or two about breaking the social media ice.  Or how to do it better, if you are already a hot tweeter.
  • Marketing the “You Know What” out of your blog provides perspective on the first year of blogging when both traffic and comments prove elusive.  Don’t get down, get marketing.  Here’s how to do it.
  • Gratitude Connection – Claire asks, “What are you grateful for today?” Drop by and share. Be part of creating a critical mass of gratitude.

On the topic of me

You might also be interested in my all-time most popular post on Reducing Your Oil Use.   BTW, we’re talking petroleum, not saturated fat.

Connect with me on Twitter! I am mastering the slow poke approach to Twitter.  Would love to see you there.  See that little bird in the sidebar?  Do not pass go, you don’t have to go to jail, just click and be transported directly to my Twitter page.

Have a great weekend.  May you be well, happy, and safe.

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Irresistible benefits of meditation

“All man’s difficulties are caused by his inability to sit, quietly, in a room by himself.” -Blaise Pascal

More and more people are beginning to discover the countless benefits of meditation for health, well being, and peace of mind.  It is not an esoteric practice for the few, but highly relevant to functioning effectively in today’s busy, stressful world.

Meditation is the ultimate form of personal development.  By bringing your mind home and allowing it to settle, you are able to see far more clearly well-worn habits of unproductive thinking and observe less than helpful behaviors and thus effect positive change.

A springboard for overcoming self-centeredness, looking inwardly also unleashes the core of our humanity.  And, with purposeful reflection, the mysteries of the universe are penetrated. One’s full potential for lasting happiness is actualized.  At the same time, all fear of death is put to an end as we come face-to-face with the “unending, deathless nature of mind.”

As if this were not enough, meditation also provides countless benefits for your physical health.

Positive life impacts of meditation

Tibetan Buddhist meditation master Sogyal Rinpoche beautifully describes the positive impacts of meditation in these ways.

1. Through bringing the mind home, all the fragmented aspects of yourself dissolve. The constant sense of inner struggle abates and you become friends with yourself.  You feel whole, centered, and at peace.  This settling of an overactive mind, allows you to see yourself clearly without recrimination and thus act wisely on behalf of yourself and others.  Once mind is at rest like this, you may catch a glimpse of the true sky-like nature of mind—a sense of openness and spaciousness beyond description.

2. Pain, negativity, and suffering naturally diffuses so that any harm is removed from within.  Thus, meditation is a practice of profound peace that pacifies emotional turbulence and aggression, and, as such, is the highest form of “inner disarmament.”  Fundamental forgiveness happens—you are able to forgive yourself and others.

3. Through the regular practice of calm abiding, you begin to feel well in yourself, congruent, at ease, confident, and spacious.  There is a new found joy of simply being as you come more and more in touch with your true self.  All the anxieties, irritations, and past provocations no longer seem so overpowering or important.  You are in charge of your mind instead of being constantly swayed by untoward emotions.

4. With all sense of harm and unkindness dissolved, your fundamental “good heart” is revealed. The artificial barriers between yourself and others melt away and a profound sense of connectedness  arises.  You begin to understand that others are the same as you — they have the same hopes and fears, joys and struggles, pain and suffering.  Just as you care for yourself, you begin to care for others as well. This is the awakening of love and compassion.

5. A clear and profound insight into the nature of reality arises.  The world no longer seems so fixed, solid, and permanent.  An awareness of the interdependence and interconnectedness of all beings and all phenomena comes into play.  This is the awakening of wisdom.

All this is accomplished simply through having the courage to sit quietly by yourself.

Neuroscience confirms the benefits of meditation

Recent research studies conducted by neuroscientists on the brains of seasoned meditators have confirmed that meditation is able to alter the function of the brain in positive ways.   This quality of the brain is called neuroplasticity.  Their results show:

  • A high level of activity in the parts of the brain that help to form positive emotions, such as: happiness, enthusiasm, joy, and self-control;
  • A decreased level of activity in the parts of the brain related to negative emotions like depression, self-centeredness, and a lack of happiness or satisfaction;
  • A calming of the section of the brain that acts as a trigger for fear and anger [the amygdala];
  • The ability to reach a state of inner peace even when facing extremely disturbing circumstances;
  • An unusual capacity for empathy and attunement to emotions in other people.

Meditation benefits your physical health

Regular meditation is also highly beneficial for your physical health according to Life Divine.  Indeed, the countless positive effects are almost astonishing.

  • “It stabilizes the autonomic nervous system.
  • It reduces the heart beat.
  • It reduces the speed of breathing.
  • Blood pressure drops.
  • Cardiovascular effectivity goes up.
  • Breathing effectivity increases.
  • The skin receives more blood.
  • Stomach function and bowel function improve.
  • The endocrine function is heightened.
  • Muscle flexibility increases.
  • The intake of oxygen gets stronger.
  • Mobility and flexibility increase.
  • The hand-eye co-ordination increases.
  • Reaction-speed increases.
  • Body posture is improved.
  • Strength and resistance increase.
  • Stamina increases.
  • There is a heightened energy level and vitality.
  • People’s weight is stabilised at an ordinary level.
  • The ability to sleep increases and the time people need to fall asleep decreases.
  • Pain is weakened.
  • Stability is improved.
  • There is a heightened degree of relaxation.
  • There is a lessened degree of muscle tension.
  • The production of serotenine increases.
  • Menstruation pains are softened.
  • Increases serotonin which influences moods and behavior. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression,       headaches and insomnia.
  • Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
  • Decreases muscle tension (any pain due to tension) and headaches.
  • Helps in post-operative healing.
  • Enhances the immune system.”

On top of all this, meditation is free and can be done anywhere, anytime!

Getting started

Some ideas for getting started:

1. You can learn more about meditation by watching one of the two videos below.

2. Try out this three-minute exercise in non-meditation.

3. Take a look at my favorite books on meditation.

4. See how people are learning to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain, and illness at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society.

With all these astonishing benefits, how can you resist the lure of meditation!

Do you meditate?  What benefits have your experienced from meditation?

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Healing images and guides

TimeThief’s process of considering a new favicon for her blog and her comments on animal totems stimulated my thinking about healing images.  As someone obsessed with the word, the use of visual imagery is not second nature to me.  Nevertheless, I once clipped an image of a polar bear and her two cubs from an environmental calendar.

This image has traveled with me from the States to France, where I posted it on the wall of my bedroom for three years.  I was particularly drawn to the protective quality of this humongous bear, the way she lovingly watched over her two cubs in the space in front of her—one tentative little creature and the other perky and curious.

The polar bear as totem

Although I left the aforementioned image in Europe, the polar bear has clearly not left me.  An image of a polar bear came immediately to mind as I read through TimeThief’s blog post and has lingered since.  Perhaps this white knight has more messages for me?  I was prompted to learn about the significance of the polar bear as a totem. In traditional cultures, animal totems are seen as the source of spiritual guidance. You can learn the lessons they may hold for you by observing their characteristics, habits, and habitats.

The essential meaning and messages of the polar bear are “fearlessness, aggressive, provider, powerful.”

“Polar bears are known for their fearlessness and aggressiveness. Polar bears are good hunters and strong swimmers. Humans are their only predator. Because Polar bears are so high up on the food chain it is understandable why they are so fearless. When polar appears you will want to evaluate your fears by looking at the things that make you reactive or act out. Or, you may need to strengthen areas of personal weakness.  The Polar bear is a good provider for his family, anyone with Polar bear as his totem bears the honorable responsibility to provide for others. It is right for the strongest to care for the weakest. Polar bear totem asks that any aggressive behaviors you display are for defensive purposes and not meant to bully.”

“All the arctic totems are survivalists. Living in a cold climate and harsh environment demands stamina and determination to survive. Arctic totems teach the ability to thrive under the direst of circumstances.”

The polar bear brings additional meanings to my mind:

  • white as a symbol of purity of body, mind, and spirit;
  • the ability to swim through water symbolizing the capacity to move through emotions without getting stuck;
  • a harbinger of the dangers of global warming.

The polar bear with her qualities of fearlessness, power, protection, and knack for survival is without question a strong image for me.  Now that I am aware of all her special qualities, I will consciously embrace this totem as a guide through the next phase of my healing process.

There isn’t a single one of us who is not impacted by global warming, however the plight of the polar bear seems to be sparking the awareness of millions.  The documentary The Great Melt depicts the effect that climate change is already having on the Arctic habitat. The film hones in on the polar bear as one animal who cannot sustain itself over the progressively longer periods of warmer weather that are occurring due to global warming. When the ice melts, polar bears are unable to hunt for daily sustenance. This has always been the case, but it is the unnaturally protracted periods of warmth that are endangering the species. In fifty years time, the polar bear may be extinct. It was heart-wrenching to watch as these giants lumbered along, growing thinner with each passing day of the Arctic summer.

So I also feel a special connection with the polar bear because I too suffer from the impact of environmental toxins and choose to speak out about it to warn others.  Man is the polar bear’s only predator, but in this case we are not shooting them with guns, but killing them through our high level of oil consumption and other misuses of environmental toxins.

The turtle as totem

The turtle is another animal totem that speaks to me.

“The turtle is probably best known for its longevity. The turtle is a nomad who carries his home wherever he goes. The turtle’s shell serves as a protective shield from the elements and its predators. It lives on the beach, between water and land.  The turtle does not stress. Turtle moves slowly, reminding us to slow down. What is the hurry? If turtle appears you may need to start delegating your duties, or let go entirely of some things. You also may need to withdraw from others (retreat to your shell) and recoup your energies.”

As a highly sensitive person, I need to intentionally create a protective field around me, be aware of my stress patterns, function at a comfortable pace and not the frantic one dictated by our society, and withdraw from time-to-time to regroup.

Do you use imagery as part of your healing process?  What images speak to you?

Source:  Animal Totems

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