Friday, December 17, 2010

10 Ways to Gain Weight, Feel Miserable, and Shorten Life

by Aaron Hoopes

1. Stay away from fresh vegetables. Fresh vegetables provide the body with essential vitamins and nutrients that keep the body healthy and are not recommended if you are trying to contract cancer or some other life-threatening disease. Vegetables also provide fiber which helps the digestive system process the food we eat. Avoiding vegetables should help you to experience digestive problems as well as keeping your bodily functions irregular.

2. Eat red meat, lots of it. Red meat is an excellent source of saturated fat and cholesterol which can cause high blood pressure and heart disease. A diet of red meat offers a much better chance of contracting colon cancer or having a heart attack. Be sure to eat the more processed meat from fast food outlets. This meat has been filled with antibiotics and chemicals that will play havoc with your health.

3. Drink diet soda. Don’t be fooled by the word diet in diet soda, this is the go-to drink for gaining weight. Studies have found that drinking diet soda has a direct effect on weight gain. Even better, every can or bottle of soda you drink increases the chances for you to become obese. Don’t be worried if you don’t like the taste of diet soda, they have added special chemicals to addict you to the taste even if it tastes horrible.

4. Stuff yourself. Stuffing is not just for Thanksgiving. Make every meal a gorge fest. You want to cultivate that feeling of heaviness in the belly, making you lethargic and unmotivated for anything. Filling yourself until full and then munching on a little bit more will guarantee bouts of indigestion and other uncomfortable bodily processes.

5. Eat while distracted. Be sure to eat with the television on so you are not aware of how much food you are putting into your mouth. Try to eat on the run if possible. Don’t stop to think about what you are eating, just eat. The practice of eating while driving your car is an excellent example of this type of eating. Another good way to practice this is to eat while talking on the phone or texting. Try to do anything but pay attention to what you are eating. That way you can overeat and be sure you don’t enjoy it.

6. Eat more candy, cakes, and refined sugar. This list would not be complete without sweets. Foods filled with refined sugar are an excellent source of calories and assist in rapid weight gain. The human body cannot tolerate large amounts of refined carbohydrates that come from sugar and you should be able to damage your internal organs with enough sugar. An added benefit from excessive amounts of sugar is irreversible tooth decay.

7. Take a lot of prescription pharmaceuticals. Prescription medications provide an excellent source of chemicals to unbalance your bodily systems and make you feel terrible very quickly. Be sure to mix them together so that the cocktail of chemicals can destabilize the body’s natural ability to heal itself and prevent you from recovering from what ails you. Consult your doctor and insist on a prescription for medications you’ve seen advertised on television or in magazines. If you are lucky the side effects should necessitate needing more medications.

8. Smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol to excess. Cigarettes are a shortcut to unhealthiness, smoke them whenever possible. Be sure to inhale the smoke deep into your lungs and cough as you exhale. In addition to damaging the delicate lung tissue it has the added benefit of burning your esophagus and staining your teeth and fingers. Drinking alcohol to excess is a wonderful method of causing cell damage in the liver. Even better, drinking can impair brain development and help with destroying the cardiovascular system. If you can manage to drink a lot on a daily basis you should be able to ruin your family and social relationships without too much difficulty.

9. Don’t exercise, ever. Exercise is the number one cause of healthy feeling within the body. It increases blood and energy flow through the body and can quickly make you feel much better. Avoid it at all costs. Exercise doesn’t have to be hard physical exertion, even gentle movement such as yoga or tai chi can cause positive feelings. Turn on the television and eat whenever the urge to move comes upon you.

10. Forget to breathe. Breathing brings more oxygen into the body. The oxygen is converted into energy and flows through your body. To stop this from happening, try not to breathe deeply. Short, shallow breaths in the upper chest are best for bringing in a minimum of oxygen. If you are in a stressful situation be sure to hold your breath and tighten up so that you can get the most benefit from the lack of oxygen and tension in your body.

Finally, if you are truly serious about gaining weight, feeling miserable and shortening your life, do not read the book Zen Anti-Diet: Mindful Eating for Health, Vitality and Weight Loss. Everything in this book runs counter to the practices listed here. In addition, be sure to avoid The Art of Zen Yoga as it instills a sense of relaxation, flexibility and overall good health to anyone exposed to it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Remembering Ourselves

The winter season should be one of reflecting on our lives and remembering what makes us happy, healthy and peaceful. The holidays are often spoken of as a time of giving however, giving should not be something done only in the holiday spirit. Everything we are fortunate to have is a blessing and sharing those gifts with others is the way we give thanks for the miracle of this life we are living. The more we give away, the more we encourage the flow to bring things back to us. You never lose anything. This is the wonder of life.
Reflecting on the wonder of life should be a regular practice especially during the holiday season yet, more often than not, the holidays can stir up quite a lot of issues that lie just below the surface. When we combine this with a general sense of unease that seems to pervade the world at the moment, it breeds difficulty and uncertainty into our daily life. The result is a generous helping of stress and worry which we often don’t have an answer for. There is a tendency to simply try and hold on tight, hoping to make it through unscathed.
Fortunately, just as it feels as if things are unraveling, there is also seems to be something quite amazing taking place in the world. Many people are starting to sense a shift in consciousness as a transformational change begins to take place. No longer are the old patterns working for us and many people are starting to look for answers deeper within themselves. The distractions of the media would have us believe that things are at the brink of collapse, but if you take a moment to center yourself, you quickly realize collapse is relative. Talk a walk in nature and you can observe the life force energy flowing along. The sun rises, the rains fall, the wind blows and the snow accumulates. The hardships we face teach us valuable lessons. They temper our being and prepare us for change.
Embracing change can be a real challenge. Our ability to do it depends a lot on where we live and the holistic practices we engage in. Bringing ourselves into alignment is a long process, but it is one we cannot neglect.

The process has a number of steps:

1. Nourish the Body. We need to learn to breathe effectively to bring in more oxygen and energy. We also must engage in movement practices in order to circulate the energy through the muscles and joints. In addition we should be clearing out the toxins and poisons from our diet.
2. Calm the Mind. We need to bring clarity of thought to our thinking process so that we are able to react and adapt to the challenges we face. A drastic reduction in the distracting noise from the television should be a priority.
3. Open the Heart. We need to begin to use the heart as an organ of perception. By getting in touch with our feelings and the energy fields that surround all living beings, we can start to project a more loving and caring energy out into the world.
4. Honor the Soul. We need to take the journey inwards and confront the dark parts of ourselves and shine a pure light of truth onto them. Only then will we be able to release that which no longer serves us.
5. Embrace the Spirit. We need to embrace the spiritual part of us that is connected to the whole spirit of existence. By engaging in ceremony to honor the sun, moon, wind, trees, animals and elements we can more fully remember our place in the universe.

It would serve all of us this holiday season to try to be a little more forgiving and humble in our thoughts and actions. We always have a choice as to how we react in any given situation. We have all felt the energy change when an angry person walks into a room. Everyone gets a little on edge. Remember…this dynamic works both ways. If we can find a calm center within ourselves, then we give others a reference point to find calmness within their own selves. Let the holiday season be about cultivating peace and harmony in the world. Finding faults in others or laying blame for things elsewhere simply creates friction and unease.
When you drop a pebble into a pool of water the ripples spread out. You determine the ripples you send out to the people around you. Let your pebble be positive and loving. We are only going to find the way forward by turning inwards and getting our own self in order.

Please share any comments you may have.

I wish you much happiness, joy and peace this season.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Foundation of Human Potential

Holistic traditions address all the aspects of ourselves as a complete being: body, mind, heart, soul, spirit. Each of these aspects of our self plays a vital role in making up who we are. Working to bring them all into alignment provides us with a framework to awaken to our full human potential. Holistic arts, by definition, are practices that assist with bringing these together and awakening the potential that lies deep within us all. Each of these aspects makes up part of the whole. However, it is necessary to understand that the body and mind are the foundation of our human potential. Like anything we build, the foundation must be firm and strong in order to support what it holds up. The body and mind must be balanced and aligned in order for us to fully access and entrain with the other aspects of our being, or we will find ourselves wobbling back and forth, unsure of who we are and what we are doing.

The body is our physical form. It is our connection to the physical world and allows us to interact with the world through our senses. Our body is the temple in which the rest of our being resides. The better care we take of the body, the longer it survives and the deeper we are able to explore the other aspects of our self. If we are eating healthy food, regularly moving the joints and muscles, and breathing properly, the body grows strong and resilient, providing us with more energy and the ability to do more. If we eat poorly, don’t exercise and maintain shallow breathing habits, the body will grow weak and fragile, unable to meet our needs. This is basic common sense. Continuing regular practice allows us to remain strong as we grow older. I remember living in Japan, training karate for four hours every day, and frequently meeting older Japanese men who, upon hearing of my training, would immediately launch into a discourse of their prowess in one or another marital art. Invariably these men were out of shape and unhealthy, having stopped training once they finished their university studies and entered the work force. They seemed to think that the fitness level they achieved in their younger days remained with them, even though they did no physical exercise at all in the present. I have found that this is a common mindset. The changes that take place in the body due to poor diet and lack of exercise are gradual. The body has a way of going numb so that we don’t recognize we have gotten out of shape. The longer we go without caring for the body, the harder it is to get back to a state of good health. The truth is that it really doesn’t take that much effort to reverse this process. Daily gentle breathing and movement practice will get the energy flowing through the body. A regular routine can soon make the body your ally, in whatever you seek to do, instead of a limitation.

The same goes for the mind. The mind is our thought process. It is that part of us that carries on the continuous inner dialogue throughout our waking lives. It is also that part of us that analyzes problems and creates solutions to solve them. When the mind is calm and centered, we are able to think clearly and adapt to whatever situation arises. If our thoughts are scattered or we are stressed out about events in our life, then the mind becomes preoccupied and is unable to deal with the problems that arise. Calming the mind is a challenge because the only method for doing it is to sit quietly and allow the thoughts to settle. If the mind is calm and centered, we are able think clearly and reason objectively. However, the modern world is full of distractions that have been designed to capture our attention. We need to cultivate a calm mind in order to navigate the challenges that appear before us. Practicing daily sitting meditation is a simple way to gain a measure of control over hectic thoughts.

Once the body is healthy and the mind is clear, we are more fully able to embrace our heart, soul and spirit. Perhaps it helps to imagine the body and mind as a garden bed. If we care for the body and calm the mind, we create the fertile soil for the seeds of our heart, soul and spirit to grow and develop. By cultivating this rich soil, our heart will open, our soul will be revealed, and our spirit will expand. It all begins with the body and mind.

The true awakening of the human potential within us is like slipping into a groove that was always there. It is as if we were bumping along off kilter until that moment when things suddenly click into position and we start to recognize our place in the universe. We begin to go with the flow, and the flow begins going with us. When such a thing truly happens there is a feeling of completeness that pervades our being. It is a wonderful experience that continues to unfold as we continue generating the energy that fuels our potential. In a world full of distractions and stress this can be a daunting undertaking. It means finding the strength within from which to begin the process. It takes courage and self-awareness in order to travel the path, and there are many roadblocks and detours along the way.

Building a strong foundation of body and mind gives us a place to begin.

Until next time...wishing you much peace.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Harvest Time

September was a big harvest month for us here in Vermont. I've been fully occupied with harvesting the bounty of my garden. We've had a bumper crop of tomatoes. The weather this summer was apparently just exactly what they needed. We had a lot of rain in the spring and then it dried up towards the end of summer. Leaving us with more tomatoes than I've ever had, lots of onions, broccoli, butternut squash and pole beans as well. Going out and picking food for dinner is simply a wonderful experience.

It does make me wonder about the stuff I find in the supermarket. If I pick a head of broccoli and leave it for a day or two is quickly goes yellow. How is it possible that the broccoli in the store stays green for the weeks it takes to get to the supermarket shelves? You don't have to answer that. I is just rather discouraging to have such a contrast with the fresh organic stuff directly from the garden. Chemical preservatives are much easier to ignore if you don't grow your own food....but hard to forget once you've made the connection.

Speaking of Broccoli. For much of the summer I had a running battle with a groundhog who was intent on chomping on my broccoli plants. Of course, I would never do anything to harm him, but it was a little frustrating. Each time they sprouted a stalk he would come along and chew it back. Well, I finally gave in and planted a separate broccoli garden on the other side of the house. The groundhog never found these plants and we had broccoli all summer. Imagine my surprise when I found these huge broccoli heads on the plants the groundhog had been munching on all summer. Apparently his munching caused the plant to grow multiple stalks and gave me a late harvest of wonderful broccoli. Living in harmony with nature is much more plesant than bending her to our will.
Finally, I want to share some of the ways I’ve been dealing with all the tomatoes.

Freezing Tomatoes - Freezing tomatoes couldn't be easier. First you dunk them in boiling water for about 45 seconds. This causes the skin to peel off. Freezing without the skin is recommended. Once the skin is off, I cut the tomatoes into chunks and squeeze most of the seeds out. I've been heir looming seeds, so they are dried and stored for next year. (Let me know if you need directions on how to store tomato seeds) The tomatoes are then put into freezer bags and put in the freezer...too easy!

Salsa - The other simple project for the tomatoes I've been doing has been making salsa. This is also very easy. Cut up 3 quarts of tomatoes and put them in a big pot with about 5 medium onions. I add a couple of chili peppers to give it a mild spice. Next add 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of salt, and 4 tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken it. Cook all of this at a low boil for 45 minutes and then simmer for another 30-40 minutes. When they are ready, pack into pint jars and seal. Boil in a hot water bath for 30 minutes. The finished product is ready for storage. You can bypass the hot water bath, but you will need to eat the salsa within a month or so.

wishing you much peace...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Deal with a Changing World

Change is upon us whether we are ready or not.
This struck home with me yesterday when some official group proudly stated that the recession was over. Pardon me? I had a similar feeling when BP announced the oil volcano was capped and that 75% of the oil had been cleaned up. Yeah...sure. I don't know exactly when the practice of outright lying to the public started but it has certainly become a standard practice these days. The changes taking place on this planet are going to be difficult enough, let's at least stop denying the truth of our predicament.

Perhaps nearly 30 years training in traditional martial arts has skewed my perception somewhat, but leaders lacking in integrity, honor and a genuine respect for the planet are not leaders at all. Is it just me or is there a real feeling like the inmates are running the asylum?

Anyway, there is way too much talk of doom and gloom, and the terrible problems we are facing and not enough clear answers as to what we can do as individuals.

How to deal with the challenges of a changing world is what we need to be focused on. Once we realize that there is no benevolent government or organization out there that is looking out for our best interests, we can start to help ourselves.

1. Get your body working properly.
A healthy body is of the utmost importance in dealing with change. You need to be able to react and adapt effectively to a variety of situations. Having a body that you can rely on is very valuable. If your body is sick, unfit, hooked on medications or contaminated with chemicals and toxins it difficult to count on it when problems arise. Learning to breathe properly is the first step. Deep relaxed abdominal breathing is the key to getting more oxygen into your system and creating more energy. Moving and stretching the body assists circulation of the energy and keeps muscles toned and flexible. Stop eating fast food and other chemically processed foodstuffs these are only making things worse. A regular detox or fasting program to cleanse the body is recommended.

2. Get your mind calm and clear.
A calm and clear mind is imperative if you need to react to changing situations. A mind that is distracted and cluttered is not able to think quickly and clearly. Unplug the television (and toss it out the window!). It is a waste of time that is much better spent on strengthening your body and calming your mind. Learn to meditate. Meditation quiets the thought process so you can focus on what is truly important. Simply sitting in silence for a few minutes a day is enough to get started. Spend some time out in nature. We all need a connection to the natural world. Listen to the wind blowing through the trees. Immerse yourself in the present moment.

Getting the body healthy and the mind calm is the first step along the path of discovering who you truly are. It is not always easy, but in the long run it will serve you much better than a meat lover’s pizza and Dancing with the Stars.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mindless Workouts

Mindless Workouts are what I define as workouts where there is a disconnection between the body and the mind. They are a side effect of our hectic lifestyles. Mindless Workouts are taken in between classes, business meetings or while the kids are at school and are done with a real sense of urgency. They are done with little or no connection between the physical exercise and what the mind is thinking. Watching television while running on a treadmill is a prime example of a Mindless Workout, there is no awareness of what the body is doing. This type of exercise is driven by an undercurrent of stress in life or the mistaken belief that it is not necessary to pay attention to what we are doing. The result of this type of exercise is the Metabolic Spike. The Metabolic Spike is a situation that takes place when a person undertakes a vigorous exercise program which causes an extreme rise in the metabolism, only to suddenly fall, leaving the individual feeling exhausted and incapable of a speedy recovery. This behavior can be instigated by many different triggers, but stress is usually a main factor, not only the usual everyday stresses of life, but also the additional burden of rushing through a workout. The Metabolic Spike can be quite counterproductive to what the person is actually trying to accomplish. The problem comes after the workout, when the mind reconnects and notices that the body is fatigued. The energy of the body has been used up and needs rest in order to recover. Unfortunately, once the Mindless Workout is finished people have to get back to the “rest of their lives” and there is no time for the body to rest and recover. Instead it is off to the next class, meeting or picking up the kids. Sadly, as a substitute for rest, overeating becomes the only available method of recharging the body. Self control is sabotaged because the mind feels good about the accomplishment at the gym and that is used as justification for eating even more. The following day brings more of the same with excess eating or the next phase, guilt about excess eating which sends them off to the gym for another Mindless Workout. This is a downward spiral.

Practices such as Tai Chi and Zen Yoga are primarily concerned with energy flow through the body. And while these traditions may call this energy by different names this is, in fact, the metabolic process. To have this energy flowing through the body properly requires exercises that gradually increase the burn rate and maintain that state for a longer period of time.

So where do we begin? As with most physical activities, the best place to begin is with breathing. The amount of fat that is burned during exercise depends on the ability of the cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen to the cells. In order for the metabolism to burn fat it is necessary to supply the cells with sufficient oxygen. This is done through the practice of deep breathing exercises in order to get more oxygen into the body and then ensuring that oxygen is sufficiently distributed throughout the physical structure. Think of starting a car on a cold morning. When the engine is first started it can be sluggish because the oil is not circulating. By warming up the car the oil begins to flow through the engine keeping everything lubricated and functioning. Just as in a car, the energy needs to be flowing through the body in order for it to function correctly when we ask it to do something vigorous.

While there are a many different breathing methods, the simplest and most beneficial to this process is basic abdominal breathing. In basic abdominal breathing the abdominal muscles are expanded on the inhalation (pushing the belly out) and contracted on the exhalation (pulling the belly in). This deep, rhythmic breathing brings balance to the bodily systems and allows the metabolism to rise naturally as more energy is created.

Once the body is breathing effectively, it requires movement in order to distribute the energy throughout the body. The most beneficial movements for this are rotations of the joints and shaking the extremities. Shrugging the shoulders, circling the arms, elbows, knees and hips are all excellent exercises as are shaking out the hands and feet. These types of exercise encourage the smooth flow of energy through the meridians of the body. In this way, the metabolic process enables a flow of movement through the body so that fluids and nutrients get to the cells, allowing the systems of the body to work the way they are supposed to, without additional stress. This energy lubricates the joints and assists in releasing toxins from the body. Be aware that is it important to continue the breathing exercises while doing the movements. Unlike Mindless Workouts, the breath is the connection between the mind and body and allows you to truly feel the process.

Movement is followed by stretching. Deep and long stretching of the body delivers oxygen to the musculature. Rather than build muscle, this practice tones the muscles while lengthening and strengthening the fibrous tissue. There are stretches for every part of the body, and as with movement, it is vital to continue breathing into each stretch. That is the connection between body and mind and will assist maintaining a balanced metabolism. By beginning any exercise routine with breathing, movement and stretching the metabolism is raised off the baseline in a gradual manner and is able to be maintained at the higher rate for a longer period of time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Accepting Yourself

Seeing our body in realistic terms is, unquestionably, a difficult step in the journey to love ourself. The world we live in bombards us with images of the perfect body. Television, movies, the print media and the internet continually shape our perceptions of what is considered the ideal physique. But once we get beyond the hype, we are left with the fact that there is no such thing as an achievable ideal. Everyone on this planet has his or her own unique body, each with its own size, shape, and idiosyncrasies. And no matter how much time, money, and effort we spend trying to change it, it will basically remain in the same general shape all of our lives, at least until scientists figure out a way to genetically modify our DNA, which will be no help to anyone reading this blog. Of course, there are certain behavioral patterns that can alter the body shape to some degree, but for the most part we must come to accept our body as it is before we can begin to move forward. Acceptance is the key to doing this.

Accepting your body as it is at this present moment enables you to start anew on a positive footing and begin to move forward. Without acceptance you will remain stuck, denying the truth of yourself. All the help in the world will do you no good until you are ready to accept yourself. Once you are, however, the stage is set for recognizing the detrimental behaviors you engage in and understanding their impact. The need for change will become evident and all that will be required then is a willingness to make the changes.

Your body is your physical presence in the world. There are almost seven billion bodies on the planet, but each individual one is different from all others. They come in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. While they are generally similar in certain basic ways -- arms, legs, head, torso -- each is also unique. This uniqueness comes from many things but the genetic makeup is the most important. It is the hand that each person is dealt in this game of life. For the most part it is impossible to change its basic outline. Tall people cannot become short. This obvious statement may seem silly, but in reality, it is one of the most difficult ideas to accept and yet one of the most important to understand if you are to get productively in touch with your body. You need to understand that there are parts of you that cannot be changed and then accept them as inevitable and not subject to judgment.

How often do people complain about their physical characteristics? I hate my hair! I wish I were taller! My feet are too big! My hands are so ugly! Brown eyes are boring! On and on we go. Of course all of us have a tendency to bemoan the body we were given while at the same time coveting attributes we don’t have. All the while those around us are doing the same thing. Yes, all too often the person with the curly hair we like so much would give anything to have straight hair. Most people find it difficult to be content with what they have and spend their lives believing that if their body were different, their life would be different. This could be true, but then the whole equation would be different and a new set of circumstances would arise. With a different body we would be a different person and most likely that new person would be just as discontented as the old one.

In order to gain true awareness of the body, the first step is to approve of the body you have right at this moment - not the body you want, not the body you are going to have in six months after you work out, not the body you had last year or ten years ago, but the body you have right now. Oh no, you say, but yes, the body with the belly that pops over the belt buckle or the thighs that rub together, or with the yellow stained teeth and hacking cough, or whatever best describes what is wrong with it in your perception. Regardless of all the faults, real or imagined, it is the only body you have. If you have to live with it, you might as well come to terms with it instead of fighting it. Acceptance of that fact is like opening a door to a new world.

True Seeing: Try this exercise when you are alone with no chance of interruption. Stand naked in front of a full-length mirror and look at yourself. Don't judge yourself, just look. Look at your feet. Slowly move up and look at your legs. Continue to move up and look at your hips and torso. See each part of your body for just what it is. Remember, don’t make any judgments about any part of it. Look at your chest and look at your arms. Look at your neck and your face. Observe carefully without overlooking any part. This is your body. It makes no difference how you looked in the past or how you want to look in the future, this is your body now and that is all that matters. You have no alternative, no healthful alternative at least, to accepting it. Neither does it do any good to lie to yourself if you think there are parts that are unappealing. This is true even, or especially for people with bodies that have been disabled by genetics, disease, or accident. To hide them or convince yourself they don't exist is pointless, there's no one else in the room but you. There is no one to fool. In fact, you are not even to allow yourself to call them unappealing. That is a judgment. The important thing to remember is that all you are doing is looking at your body. You are making no judgments nor allowing opinions to intrude as to whether it is good or bad. True seeing like this can be a very challenging exercise. Don't be afraid. A wonderful door is opening up for you. Step through and learn to accept yourself just as you are.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

From Within: More Thoughts on Creating Reality

So how do we go about creating a different reality if we are not satisfied with the one we are existing in? The only answer is that we must embody the reality we wish to create. Make it real through conscious effort and will. If we are able to embody that which we seek then we can create our reality around us. This may seem like the old problem of which came first the chicken or the egg, however is not actually so. In fact the idea of creating our reality by first living in that reality is more like cultivating an energy field that provides the fertile ground for that reality to come into being.

The easiest way to explain this is to consider the phrase… To spread peace, you have to be peaceful. How can we bring peace to our lives if we are not practicing a peaceful way of being? It all has to begin inside of you. There is no outside source. It begins within and grows outward. If you want to instill happiness and joy in those around you, you must be happy and joyful. If you seek respect, then you must be respectful. There is no other way to make this happen. It’s called practice. The more you do something the better you get at it. If we practice peace, or happiness, or joy, or respect, eventually those things become a part of us and we begin to radiate it outwards.

Creating our reality is not something that happens overnight. It takes conscious effort and the drive to want something better for ourselves and our world. Selfishness and greed have no place in such a reality.

wishing you much peace

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Creating Reality

A wave is not separate from the ocean. Every wave on the ocean is the whole ocean. Yet as an individual wave it displays its own uniqueness.

In the same manner each of us is an individual, yet we are a part of something much greater. We are part of the whole of creation. Most of us feel our individuality strongly. The idea of a web of life turns that feeling inside out. It is a feeling in which we, as individuals, are connected and a part of everything else there is. In other words, the fundamental reality of the self is not only something inside the skin but it is everything outside the skin as well. We are simply part of the whole of existence as, in the same way, is the ocean wave.

At this moment, in this present reality, we are a playing a particular role but that personality is superficial because the real self is actually all that there is. When we realize that our individuality is superficial, then there is nothing to oppose us in seeking self-realization within the framework of all existence. When there is no opposition, there is nothing to fight against and we can begin to make progress.

It is important to believe that we create our own reality. For good or for bad, the thoughts that you have influence the events that take place in your life. How often do you hear people say “just my luck” or something equally negative when unfortunate circumstances arise? Whether you believe you can do something or whether you believe you can’t, you are absolutely correct. It all begins with your belief.

When you begin to believe in positive things, positive things start to happen. The thoughts that you generate in your mind have a tangible effect on the world around you. When you are sure that your thoughts can change your life, then your life begins to change. You can live in a garden of beautiful flowers or you can live in a garbage dump. The choice is yours and begins with your attitude towards yourself. Happiness creates happiness in the world, just as misery creates more misery. If you make a conscious effort to tap into the energy of the universe and send it in positive directions, you open yourself to positive change and the energy of the universe will be able to flow in that direction. If you cultivate the negative aspects of life, that negative energy will grow in intensity around you.

Too often we set ourselves up for failure. “Oh, I’m terrible at that,” we say before we begin. This is a sure way to make it so. It all begins with your attitude toward the endeavor. This is vitally important. Whether you believe you are good at something or terrible at it, you are absolutely correct. If you were to start off by saying “Oh, I’m pretty good at this,” then your attitude would help rather than hinder your efforts.

Yes, I know it sounds too simplistic. But that is part of the game your mind is playing. When you are unable to control your thoughts, your mind creates your reality for you, and then you have to deal with all sorts of problems. When you consciously decide how you are going to think about something then you are directing the flow of energy in that direction. It may not always turn out exactly how you imagine, but more often than not you will find that you are moving in a positive direction.

wishing you much peace

Thursday, July 8, 2010

You Know, I Don't Know

Have we become a civilization of idiots?

Recently, whenever I’ve started up a conversation with someone on the financial disaster or the Gulf oil volcano, in an attempt to determine if they have any coherent thoughts on these current situations, I usually get a rather wishy-washy, half-hearted response. Quite often this response sounds more like a worn out cheerleader rooting for a losing team. If I dig a little deeper and try to see if they actually have any independent thought other than some verbatim quote from the mainstream media, the inevitable answer is you know, I don’t know.

This ridiculous phrase has become a staple in the American English language. It is as if our brains have become numb and lazy. Television obviously has a lot to do with it, but there is more, this type of speaking has been with us for years. Yet, now it seems to be getting worse. We are barely able to put together a sentence without using I mean, just, like, or you know. Add I don’t know to it and you have a fully inane conversation. We are hardly even aware of the absurdity as we nod in agreement to someone else spewing out the same babble. I mean it’s just like, you know, I don’t know.

This is the same response I get if I ask about the housing crisis, or climate change, or any of the thousand other issues that now seem to face us like an epic tsunami. It seems that we have reached a stage where we are unable to compute the myriad of conflicting data so our brains seize up and we spew out you know, I don’t know. Perhaps we though that Prince Obama, riding his horse of hope to the rescue, was going to save us. That delusion has all but dried up now, and we are faced with a reality we don’t want to look at.

Time to wake up!
Change has arrived at our doorstep and Upheaval may not be far behind. The question we need to be asking ourselves has to do with how we are going to react and adapt to these changes. Are we going to remain distracted by our cute little technological gizmos? Are we going to continue to eat chemically laden, processed food? Are we going to sit back and watch everything unfold in slow motion on our plasma screens?

Or are we going to wake up, unplug and start getting ourselves together, learning sustainable skills, growing our own food, and building communities that can weather the difficulties ahead?
The answer, inevitably, is just like, I mean, you know, I don’t know.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Healing our Inner Self

Healing our inner state of being is done with kindness and compassion. In this process, development of the heart is essential. We must learn to use our heart as an organ of perception and project a heart field that is open and generous. This path is one that leads from self-absorption to caring for others. When we realize that everything worthwhile in life is created as the result of love and concern for others we begin to recognize that everything we do leads to a consciousness evolution of our spiritual nature.

Our lives are improved immeasurably by softening our hearts and approaching everything with genuine gratitude. This can be a real challenge in today’s busy world where it often seems like events conspire to knock us off balance on a daily basis. We must persevere if we truly want to reach a better place.

We are never just doing. Wherever we are along the path, it is always a process of becoming something greater.

Perfection of character, the path from self-absorbtion to conscious caring and service to others is a long and bumpy road, but it is the only one that leads to the top of the mountain.

Nourish your Body: breathe - move - relax
Calm your Mind: sit in silence
Open your Heart: smile - give - love
Honor your Soul: heal - nurture - forgive
Expand your Spirit: remember

wishing you much peace...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

First Path - Direction

The First Path refers to a lifestyle and belief system of native tribes, indigenous people and wise sages from ancient times. For these people, walking the First Path was a way of life that linked them to the natural world they lived in. By maintaining a connection to the natural order of things, it was possible to tap into the universal energy and live peacefully and in harmony with everything in creation. I know that may sound a bit exaggerated. Words are not really helpful when explaining this stuff. It seems hardly possible that human beings could live like that anyway, human beings being human beings.
But, is it such an unrealistic goal to strive towards? What were the drawbacks of living a daily routine that was life-affirming and positive? They took what they needed from the Earth and gave back to it in return. They were an integral part of the world they lived in, not lords of all creation. They supported and cared for the world and the world supported and cared for them. By living and working in conscious, responsible and wise ways they existed in harmony with their environment.
We have lost this. In modern times we have severed our connection to the natural world. We have become dependent on technology that we believed would make life easier, happier and more fulfilling. And, while life may indeed have become easier, happiness and fulfillment have proved elusive. Instead of seeing ourselves as integral parts of the natural world – indeed of the universe – we revel in accumulating stuff and lording it over whatever we can subject to our domination. It also seems like the more stuff we have, the more we need, until we become no more than the accumulation of all our stuff. We drive cars that burn our natural resources which we destroy the planet to gather. We watch so much television that we are lucky most of us aren’t brain dead. We use poisonous fertilizers to keep our lawns green, and eat chemically or genetically altered food. We take pills for every problem this lifestyle has created and then take more pills for the problems that the first pills create.
Where does this insanity lead?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walking the First Path

Did you ever have a thought deep in the back of your mind that there just might, possibly be a better way of living than the way that is forced upon us by the hectic, stress-filled technological society in which we live today?
Alan Watts, the renowned Zen scholar, called that thought hintegedanke, which is a German word describing something just at the edge of consciousness. It is a hint of something greater, of some special connection we have with the world around us. For most, that feeling stays in the shadows of the mind as we drink our double lattes, drive our SUVs, and live our lives between the increasingly strident commercials which bombard us day and night.
What might this hintegedanke be trying to tell us?

Might it be offering to show us another way?
Might it be trying to remind us of things we have long forgotten?
Might it be presenting us with a different path to walk?

I believe that we have forgotten some very important knowledge over the past five-thousand years, knowledge we were not supposed to forget. And now we find we are on the verge of collectively destroying ourselves…again.
Millennia ago, in the vague myths of the antediluvian world, the Earth was different. People were different. They lived in harmony with the world around them, connected to it.

Today we have become scattered. Our attention shattered. So many options, too many choices, and the way forward seems more and more obscured. We have strayed from the path. Not everyone, of course, but it is easy to get caught up in the distraction of everything.
Long ago things were different. Long ago people walked a different path. They walked something I call the first path.
Walking the first path is a different way of doing things. It’s not about accumulating stuff. It’s not about money and power. It’s not about conquering the world we live in or dominating the other living beings on this planet. It has nothing to do with anger or hate. It is certainly not about being recreationally spiritual recreation.
No, walking the first path is simply about living, experiencing and caring about this precious life and the once-abundant world that we exist in. I could say that Walking the First Path is a holistic experience for the body, mind and spirit. But, saying that borders on being really tacky, and then people’s eyes start to glaze over. How about this? Walking the First Path is about recognizing, sensing and exchanging energy with the natural world around us.

I have a lot to say on this subject....let me know if you want to hear more...

in peace,
Zin the Wandering Sage

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Season - Wood Element - Liver Detox

As promised this blog is about Springtime and Wood energy which are directly related to the Liver organ in the human body.
By now just about everyone should be enjoying the magical awakening that is taking place. In the cycle of the seasons spring is a wonderful experience of rebirth and expression. It is important to take a moment and immerse yourself in this process. The natural world has so much healing energy, yet we almost seem to avoid it these days...

In Chinese 5 Element theory Spring is associated with the element of Wood. The Wood energy flow is facilitated through the liver. The liver is the yin organ which stores blood and facilitates the flow of blood and energy through the body. The liver is responsible for the strength and flexibility of muscles, ligaments and tendons. The gallbladder is the yang organ that balances the liver and is responsible for storing and excreting bile. Cultivating Wood energy can help with subduing anger and irritability as well as banishing indecisiveness. It also helps with blood flow problems.
The increasing power of Wood provides us with the ability to recognize our higher purpose in life. Connecting to Wood energy brings us into alignment with nature.

Care for your Liver
After a cold winter it is always beneficial to take care of your liver.
1 - Drink water 1st thing in the morning - this supports the liver's natural detoxification process
2 - Eat more green vegetables - green is the color associated with the liver and provides chlorophyll, a substance plants use to trap the energy of the sun.
3 - avoid refined sugar
4 - eat more sour tasting foods to enhance bile flow
5 - reduce alcohol, nicotine and caffeine consumption to ease the pressure on the liver.
6 - schedule time for self-care. Get a massage, take a hot bath, come to a vermont retreat!
7 - Breathe, move and relax....
Practice Zen Yoga! -

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vernal Equinox - 2010

Saturday March 20 is the Vernal Equinox.

In many traditions the Vernal Equinox is the beginning of the Awakening Time. It is a time of emergence from the long dark hibernation of winter when everything comes back to life and awakens. The Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of spring, a balance point of time when energy starts to rise just as the sap begins to flow upwards into the branches of the tree.

This is a very powerful time of year, a time of exhilaration.

In Chinese 5 Element philosophy, springtime is associated with the element of Wood. Wood represents growth. It is the element of expansion. Wood is the lifeforce that exists within all things. In the body, the sacred point of Wood is the lower dan tien, a point approximately three finger widths below the navel. By practicing deep breathing into this point we can access the energy of the Wood and connect with the inexhaustible source within our being.

The color of Wood energy is green. Wood energy provides confidence and the ability to persevere in times of difficulty. It enhances physical strength and stamina. Balanced Wood energy is rooted and decisive. Unbalanced Wood energy brings anger and confusion.

The Wood energy flow is facilitated through the Liver. In my next post I will discuss ways we can increase the vitality of the Liver.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Year of the White Tiger

February 14, 2010 marks the beginning of the year of the White Tiger.
The Tiger is the third sign in the Chinese Zodiac cycle. In 5 Element Theory this year corresponds to the element Metal. The color for Metal is white, hence the year of the White Tiger.
Tigers are physically powerful, independent and brave animals. But the Tiger also has the potential to become ferocious and cruel. The year of the Tiger is traditionally associated with massive changes and social upheaval. 2010 will not be a quiet or peaceful year. We are very likely to experience erratic circumstances that we will need to adapt to quickly.
It may be quite a challenging to navigate the many difficulties predicted for the year ahead. It will be important to take advantage of all circumstances we find ourselves in. Cultivating mindful awareness of life around us is key. We can no longer afford to be distracted by the irrelevant. Erratic circumstances provide opportunity for both growth and disaster. Stay alert, grounded and centered.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Season – Water Element

Winter Season – Water Element

It is right about now that people begin to get a little tired of winter. The holiday season is well and truly over and now we are waiting for those first signs of spring to start appearing.

In the cycle of the seasons winter is the time of retraction. It is a time to withdraw into oneself, keep warm and harbor your energy. In Chinese 5 Element theory winter is associated with the Water element. It is a time to adapt to the situations we are confronted with by cultivating the willpower. Unbalanced Water element can intensify feelings of fear and depression. Water corresponds to the kidneys within the body. The kidneys are responsible for gathering, storing and dispensing water throughout the body. The kidneys are where the pre-birth qi is stored. In order to keep this qi vital and strong we must take care of our kidneys during the winter. Daily gentle circular massage of the kidney area (lower back on either side of the spine) helps keeps them strong. Excessive indulgence in alcohol, sex, and unhealthy food can drain qi. In winter this behavior can be especially damaging.

Think of the kidneys as the ocean of the human body. Within the body all the essences and fluids of the body's various pathways pour into the kidney. While oceans may appear vast and inexhaustible, their seemingly unlimited supply can be drained. After the kidney has assembled the essential fluids of the body's vessels it disperses them throughout the body lubricating the five organ network and nourishing all of the body's pathways. Without a proper flow this process doesn't work effectively.

Winter is a time of hibernation, stockpiling energy and conserving vital qi. Embracing this concept allows us to prepare for the springtime as the cycle continues.

Until next time....wishing you much peace,
Zin the Wandering Sage

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Maintaining Energy

In the middle of the winter it is often the case that our energy reserves can get quite depleted. The ending of the holiday season can sometimes leave a vague feeling of emptiness, while 2010 brings with it some uncertainty in regard to what sort of changes we might be facing as we move forward.

Keeping our energy levels up is always a good idea, and now it is even more important. The simplest way to do this is to become more aware of our breathing habits. Just taking a deeper breath whenever we can remember brings more oxygen into the body. This oxygen becomes energy as is enters the blood stream. Deeper breathing gathers energy reserves in the body and helps us deal with difficulties when they arise.

Returning to the breath whenever we are dealing with the challenges of life allows us to center ourselves and focus our attention within.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...