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The Awakening Of Society Is Just As Important As The Awakening Of Our Self

Spirituality is a very personal affair regardless of the various pathways or disciplines that one may follow. Yet even though there is an abundance of avenues for spiritual endeavor, there is generally a universal agreement on the principle of unity.

“If reality is unified, then we must also accept that everything is essentially equal.”

There are many ways that one may be introduced to this philosophy. We may have been brought up around it via our family. We might have had a profound revelation in a one-off experience. Some are initiated through ongoing paranormal activity. Others just intuitively feel it. Altered mind states could have been the catalyst. A gradual or instant revolution could have occurred in our mind where synchronicity deposed coincidence. There could have also been an influence by assorted texts and teachings which infer this similar conclusion. For most of us, uncovering the wisdom of unity most likely occurred via a combination of channels.

“Transcending the illusion of disconnection is a personal path.”

Regardless of our beliefs, and the series of events or informational resources that led to our personal awakening, our fundamental understanding is unity. We are each a part of a complex integrated whole, and our external environment is a reflection of our fundamental nature, including what is in harmony with us and what isn’t. So, irrespective of how peaceful we have set up our internal environment, if we truly want to experience peace, we need to transform the outer world – the collective mental and physical landscapes that we inhabit. If we are all truly unified, we have a responsibility as part of this awakening to continually heal and grow our internal and external worlds.

“The personal awakening is synonymous to the collective awakening.”

A Global Metaphysical View

Unity can be used as a universal term to describe the outcomes of various fields of thought. Examples include: Energy; Mind; Consciousness; Holographic universe; Light; Love; Spirit; the Source; the Field; the Akashic Field; the Zero-point Energy Field; Quantum Field of Possibilities; the Collective Unconscious; Undivided Wholeness; Nirvana; One; God etc. If these are all equal to each other in terms of their agreement that a unifying principle exists, then we have arrived at an agreed global metaphysical position which incorporates both our rational and intuitive hemispheres.

“The primary nature of reality is unified.”

Irrespective of what reality is literally made of, whether its essence is of a material or immaterial nature, it’s irrelevant to our goals. As long as we agree that a property of reality is unity, and that unity inherently implies that everything is fundamentally equal, then together we can get on with making this earthly experience fair and peaceful for all.

“Earth’s global culture needs to heal and grow as one.”

That is why an agreed metaphysical view for our global society has significant implications for our future. From both a personal and societal standpoint, as well as a rational and intuitive standpoint, we know to treat everyone and everything uniformly. The way we care for ourselves should be equivalent to the way that we care for others. Our philosophical and practical social systems should also ensure that each person has access to the resources they need to adequately survive and thrive.

“Because we are unified, the suffering of others is a reflection of our own suffering.”

No matter how far we may be personally removed from it, the reality is the majority of our fellow man is distressed from a lack of external and/or internal resources. The former is strongly influenced from an unequal distribution of food, water, shelter, infrastructure, education, medicine and political representation, whilst the latter from a lack of knowledge and skills in emotional regulation and psychological balancing, as well as a poor conceptual capacity to face and overcome the challenges to establishing and maintaining one’s inner peace.

“Suffering is pandemic across the so-called developing and developed nations.”

Translating a Global Metaphysical View Into Practice

When we individually undertake a process of spiritual introspection, we all arrive at the exact same place; unity. Yet when we translate that wisdom into practice, the result is a plethora of personal, philosophical and cultural differences. That is why so many distinct religions exist, especially because the expression of how we should operationalize this perspective is subject to the environmental influences present during its inception and development.

“There are infinite expressions of how to live in unity.”

Now that many people undertake this process outside the context of pre-established models, it is no wonder that there are so many individualized methodologies to spirituality. And there’s nothing wrong with that either; there is no one strict way to live, so as long as it doesn’t conflict with the primary principle of unity and its inherent implications, then it should be encouraged and embraced.

“Regardless of the personal path we choose to take, spirituality is a journey of enlightenment for both the inner and outer realms.”

The Health and Growth of The Self

We are all subject to the suffering of the self and it is our personal role to transcend it. But our health is much more than is usually defined; it’s not just our physical and mental well-being. The reality is we have many layers of our life to take care of including our physical, psychological, emotional, philosophical, sexual, behavioral, creative, social and spiritual vitalities. With this in mind, we should be continually asking ourselves what areas need more attention and what strategies can we implement to heal and grow. We also need to find a true love for ourselves.

“Therapeutic and developmental practices which harmonize all of our life vitalities ensures that we raise our vibration and align ourselves closer to our spiritual path.”

Even though we literally make the free choice on how we think, feel, act and live, we are still strongly influenced by our environment, such as parents, peers, culture, society, government and the age we live in. Therefore, as an adult we are both independent and conditioned agents. But we can transcend our conditioning and align ourselves to the fundamental wisdom and knowledge of the universe. Therefore, the time we become truly free is the time that we take full responsibility of ourselves and ensure that we, not anyone or anything else, are the most influential factor for how we evolve for the rest of our lives. That of course means taking full responsibility for how we think and feel.

“To be truly free, we must empower ourselves to guide our thoughts and emotions.”

It’s the basics. Excuses which blame something or someone for our thoughts and feelings just don’t cut it on the spiritual path. Spiritually, we have experiences for our growth; we are co-creators of our experience. Now this doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for the actions of others which hurt us, the response we provide is incorporated into the overall context of the negative and positive vibrations that they’ve attracted into their life.

“If people act unjust, then justice will inevitably be served.”

The new age mantra that “everything happens for a reason” may be true in the sense that experiences have innate information that we can capitalize on to progress us on our path of enlightenment, but it is equally true that proportional actions need to transpire in response. Just like we should respond to the injustice we serve ourselves, we should also respond to that which surrounds us. The tricky part is determining what that response should be which is why we draw on both our rational and intuitive capacities to guide us.

“Not only should we accept our experiences, but also respond to them accordingly.”

It is true that we make so-called ‘mistakes’ which deliver us to our destiny; however that doesn’t mean we should make that same choice again. We should learn from it. There are innumerable times that we have had an undesirable experience which resulted in our growth, regardless if it was influenced from the actions of ourselves or others. And that’s what we need; to learn, to heal, and to grow. We need to harmonious our energies and become our new, more developed selves in every moment. When we conceive of our experience this way – where our wants are the healthy and unhealthy desires of our ego and our needs are the experiences we require for sustained growth – then we always have something to offer ourselves.

“If we process each experience as an opportunity to learn, regardless of how undesirable that experience is, we always get exactly what we need: growth.”

Every moment is therefore an opportunity to progress our health and well-being. When we treat ourselves and others disappointingly, we should process it in the context of our learning and then make amends. The same applies when somebody treats us poorly; when we are exposed to underdeveloped actions by others, we should embrace it as a part of us, as well as give a calculated response in return. After all, we have accepted that we are fundamentally united. For example, what information and energy can we embrace from it? Is there some action we can do to encourage the health and growth of both the internal and external worlds?

“When we embrace our experience, we must develop a healthy balance between awareness, acceptance and action.”

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Author: Phillip J. Watt

 

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is one of the principal teachings of the Buddha, who described it as the way leading to the cessation of suffering (dukkha) and the achievement of self-awakening. It is used to develop insight into the true nature of phenomena (or reality) and to eradicate greed, hatred, and delusion. The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths.

WISDOM

1- RIGHT VIEW (Samma Ditti)

Right view is placed first because right view is the eye that guides and directs all the other factors. In the practice of the path, we need the vision and understanding supplied by right views, in order to see the way to travel along the path. Then we need the other factors, conduct or practice, in order to bring us to our destination.

Right view is placed at the beginning of the path to show that before we can set foot on the actual practice, we need the understanding provided by right view, as our guide, our inner director, to show us where we are starting from, where we are heading, and what are the successive stages to be passed through in practice.

2- RIGHT INTENTION (Samma Sankappa)

The second factor of the path is right intention. “Sankappa” means purpose, intention, resolve, aspiration, motivation. This factor of right intention follows as the natural consequence of right view. Through right view, we gain an understanding of the real nature of existence, and this understanding changes our motivation, our purposes in life, our intentions and inclinations. As a result, our minds become shaped by right intentions as opposed to wrong intentions.

In his analysis of this factor, the Buddha explains that there are three kinds of right intentions:

a) The intention of renunciation

b) The intention of non-aversion or loving kindness.

c) The intention of non-injury or compassion.

These are opposed to the three wrong intentions, the intention of sensuality, the intention of aversion and intention of harmfulness or cruelty.

MORAL DISCIPLINE

3- RIGHT SPEECH (Samma Vacha)

This contains four aspects.

(a)   Abstinence from false speech, that is, from lying – instead making an effort to speak truthfully.

(b)  Abstinence from slanderous speech, statements intended to divide or create enmity between people. Instead the follower of the path should always speak words which promote friendship and harmony between people.

(c)  Abstinence from harsh speech, from speech which is angry and bitter, which cuts into the hearts of others. Instead one’s speech should always be soft, gentle and affectionate.

(d)  Abstinence from idle chatter, from gossip. Instead one should speak words which are meaningful, significant and purposeful.

4- RIGHT ACTION (Samma Kammanta)

This factor is concerned with bodily action and has three aspects.

(a)   Abstinence from destruction of life, that is, abstaining from killing of other living beings, which includes animals and all other sentient beings, to abstain from hunting, fishing etc.

(b)   Abstinence from taking what is not given, that is, from stealing, cheating, exploiting others, gaining wealth by dishonest and illegal ways etc.

(c)   Abstinence from sexual misconduct, that is from illicit types of sexual relations such as adultery, seduction, rape, etc. and for those who are ordained as monks, the observance of celibacy.

5- RIGHT LIVELIHOOD (Samma Ajiva)

The Buddha teaches his disciples to avoid any occupation or job that causes harm and suffering to other living beings or any kind of work that leads to one’s own inner deterioration. Instead the disciple should earn a living in an honest, harmless and peaceful way.

Buddha mentions five specific occupations that one should avoid:

(a) Dealing in flesh, eg. as a butcher.

(b) Dealing in poisons.

(c) Dealing in weapons and arms.

(d) Dealing in slave trade and prostitution.

(e) Dealing in intoxicants or liquors and drugs.

The Buddha also says that his followers should avoid deceitfulness, hypocrisy, high pressure salesmanship, and trickery, or any kind of dishonest way of acquiring means of support.

CONCENTRATION

6- RIGHT EFFORT (Samma Vayama)

The Buddha begins the training of the mind with right effort. He places a special stress on this factor because the practice of the path requires work, energy and exertion. The Buddha is not a saviour: “The Enlightened Ones point out the path, you yourselves must make the effort”. he says further, “the goal” is for the energetic person not for the lazy one.

The four aspects of right effort are as follows:

(a)  The effort to prevent un arisen unwholesome states from arising

At a time when the mind is calm, something may happen which will spark off a defilement. eg. attachment to a pleasant object, aversion to an unpleasant object. By maintaining watchfulness over the senses, we are able to prevent the unarisen defilement from arising. We are able to simply take note of the object without reacting to the object by way of greed or aversion.

(b)   The effort to abandon the arisen unwholesome states

That is to eliminate the defilements that have arisen. When we see that a defilement has arisen we have to apply energy to eliminate it.

This can be done by a variety of methods.

(c)  Develop the undeveloped wholesome states

We have many beautiful, potential qualities stored up in the mind. We have to bring these up to the surface of the mind, eg. loving kindness, compassion etc.

(d)  Strengthen and cultivate the existing wholesome states.

We must avoid falling into complacency and have to make effort to sustain the wholesome states and to develop them to full growth and completion.

A further word of caution has to be added about right effort. The mind is a very delicate instrument and its development requires a precise balancing of the different mental faculties. We need keen mindfulness to recognize what kind of mental state has arisen and a certain degree of wisdom to keep the mind in balance to prevent it from veering to extremes. This is the middle way.

7- RIGHT MINDFULNESS (Samma Sati) – by Mithra Wettimuny

Living in right mindfulness is the bedrock of one’s welfare and the foundation for one’s mental development. It is a great blessing. It is one’sgreatest protection. Human beings generally have a certain level of mindfulness. However, it is somewhat diffused. Therefore, it cannot be rightfully termed right mindfulness. Right mindfulness is not acquired soeasily; but then, good things never comes easy. To develop and acquire right mindfulness, requires great effort and commitment. It requires sacrifice.

Right mindfulness means keeping the mind in the present. This means that when one performs a certain task, one should be mindful and totally aware of that act at the time of performance. For example, when one brushes his/her teeth,he/she should be mindful of this process by paying attention to it and not allow any other thoughts to intrude. When you are eating, eat in silence,mindful of eating. But, if you are engaged in conversation whilst eating,that would be wrong mindfulness. From those two simple examples, you can realize that living in right mindfulness is not such an easy task. if one performs two or three acts simultaneously, it is not a skill but a weakness.Doing one thing at a time is the real skill, the real achievement.

One must resolve to develop right mindfulness. One must diligently train forit by practising simple exercises and gradually progress. In particular, one must direct one’s mindfulness to the internal. Most pay attention to theexternal, but rather you should look inward for your own welfare. This means:

(a) being mindful of body.

(b) being mindful of feeling.

(c) being mindful of mental states.

(d) being mindful of mental contents.

8- RIGHT CONCENTRATION (Samma Samadhi)

Right effort and right mindfulness are directed at the eighth factor of the path, right concentration. This is defined as wholesome one-pointedness of the mind, wholesome unification of the mind. To develop concentration we generally begin with a single object and attempt to fix the mind on this object so that it remains there without wavering. We use right effort to keep the mind focussed on the object, right mindfulness to be aware of the hindrances to concentration, then we use effort to eliminate hindrances and strengthen the aids to concentration. With repeated practice the mind becomes gradually stilled and tranquil.

With further practice we can develop deep states of absorption, called the “JHANAS”.

Stilled mind – The Gateway to wisdom

When the mind is stilled and collected it serves as the means to develop insight. Having developed right concentration, when the mind has become a powerful tool, we direct it to the four foundations of mindfulness, contemplating the body, feeling, states of mind and mental objects.

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8 Things Emotionally Stable People Don’t Do

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions.  I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
―Oscar Wilde

  1. They don’t take other people’s behavior personally.

It’s easy to feel unloved and unwanted when people aren’t able to communicate and connect with you in the way you expect.  And it’s so hard not to internalize that disconnection as a reflection on your worth.  But the truth is, the way other people behave and function is not about you.  Most people are so caught up in their own problems, responsibilities and struggles, that the thought of asking you how you’re doing doesn’t even cross their mind.  They aren’t being mean or uncaring – they’re just busy and a bit self-centered at times.  And that’s OK.  It’s not evidence of some fundamental flaw on your part.  It doesn’t make you unlovable or unworthy.  It just means that some people aren’t very good at looking beyond their own egocentric bubble.  But the fact that you are – that despite the darkness you feel, you have the ability to share your love and light with others – is an incredible strength.

  1. They don’t get caught up in petty arguments and drama.

Being strong and emotionally stable doesn’t mean you have to stay and fight all the battles and petty arguments that come your way.  It means just the opposite – you don’t have to stay and respond to other people’s rude remarks and unnecessary hostility.  When you encounter someone with a bad attitude, don’t respond by throwing insults back at them.  Keep your dignity and don’t lower yourself to their level.  True strength is being bold enough to walk away from the nonsense with your head held high.

  1. They don’t just react (they respond mindfully).

A reaction is a hot, thoughtless, in-the-moment burst of emotion that’s usually driven by our ego (we’re more likely to react when we’re disconnected from our rational mind).  It might last just a split second before our intuition kicks in and offers some perspective, or it might take over to the point that we act on it.  When we feel angry or flustered after dealing with a situation or person, that’s a sign we’ve reacted rather than responded mindfully.   Responding mindfully will leave you feeling like you handled things with integrity and poise.

  1. They don’t get stuck thinking the world is ending.

Sometimes the darkest times can bring you to the brightest places, your most painful struggles can grant you the greatest growth, and the most heartbreaking losses of relationships can make room for the most wonderful people.  What seems like a curse at the moment can actually be a blessing in disguise, and what seems like the end of the road is actually just the realization that you are meant to travel a different path.  No matter how difficult things seem, there’s always hope.  And no matter how powerless you feel or how horrible things seem, you can’t give up.  You have to keep going.  Even when it’s scary, even when all your strength seems gone, you have to keep picking yourself back up and moving forward, because whatever you’re battling in the moment, it will pass, and you will make it through.  You’ve made it this far, and you’ve felt this way before.  Think about it.  Remember that time awhile back when you thought the world was ending?  It didn’t.  And it isn’t ending this time either.

  1. They don’t tie their present emotions to past negativity.

When we’re in the ‘here and now,’ it’s much easier to cope with emotions and see them as just that: emotions.  If we get caught up obsessing over the past, emotions and situations can take on new (and untrue) meanings as they become attached to stories.  For example, imagine you just got turned down for a new job.  Naturally you’re disappointed.  But if you’re not present with that emotion, and instead try to act like a tough girl or guy by burying it, the mind delves back into your past for all the other times you’ve felt that way.  Now you feel like a failure and you start to carry a feeling of unworthiness into every future job interview.  When we stay present, we’re empowered to start fresh every moment and we can see every situation with a sharpened perspective, which allows us to grow beyond the negative emotions (and outcomes) standing in our way.

  1. They don’t try to escape change.

Sometimes, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel to admit it, there are things in our lives that aren’t meant to stay.  Change may not be what we want, but it’s always exactly what’s happening.  The Earth does not stop spinning.  And sometimes saying goodbye is the hardest thing you will ever have to do.  Or, saying hello will make you more vulnerable and uneasy than you ever thought possible.  Some changes are almost too much to bear.  But most of the time, change is the only thing that will save your life and allow you to dream and grow and succeed and smile again.  Life changes every single moment, and so can you.

  1. They don’t try (or pretend) to be perfect.

Despite what others may tell you, you can disappoint people and still be good enough.  You can fail and still be smart, capable and talented.  You can let people down and still be worthwhile and deserving of love and admiration.  Everyone has disappointed someone they care about at some point.  Everyone messes up, lets people down, and makes mistakes.  Not because we’re all inadequate or inept, but because we’re all imperfect and human.  Expecting anything different is setting yourself up for confusion and disappointment.

  1. They don’t spew hate at themselves.

When you catch yourself drowning in self-hate, you must remind yourself that you were not born feeling this way.  That at some point in the past some person or experience sent you the message that something is wrong with you, and you internalized this lie and accepted it as your truth.  But that lie isn’t yours to carry, and those judgments aren’t about you.  And in the same way that you learned to think negatively of yourself, you can learn to think new, positive and self-loving thoughts.  You can learn to challenge those false beliefs, strip away their power, and reclaim your self-respect.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t transpire overnight.  But it is possible.  And it begins when you decide that there has to be a better way to live, and that you deserve to discover it.

Closing Thoughts

Looking after our emotional wellness helps us get the very most out of life.  When we feel emotionally stable, we feel more centered and connected to our intuition.  We become more productive, better at making decisions, more present, and more fulfilled.

So now that we’ve covered eight big “don’ts,” let’s close with a few rapid-fire “do’s” to improve your emotional stability and wellbeing in general…

Do… understand that the problem is not the problem – the problem is the incredible amount of over-thinking you’re doing with the problem.
Do… realize that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s worth your while.  Do what’s right in life, not what’s easy.
Do… know there’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion.  Life is too short.  Invest in the activities you deeply care about.
Do… admit when you are wrong, and then embrace the fact that you are wiser now than you were before.
Do… say “no” so your yeses have more oomph.
Do… be so busy loving the people who love you that you don’t have time to worry about the few people who don’t like you for no good reason.
Do… focus more on being interested than being interesting.
Do… express gratitude and think about how rich you are – your family and friends are priceless, your time is gold, and your health is true wealth.
Do… realize that if the grass looks greener on the other side, it’s time to stop staring… stop comparing… stop complaining… and start watering the grass you’re standing on.
Do… be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it.
Do… see transitions in life as the perfect opportunity to let go of one situation and embrace something even better coming your way.
Authors: Marc and Angel / Successful Flow

What Science Is Telling Us About The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence

The wonderful and brilliant scientists over at the Institute of HeartMath have done some amazing work in shedding light on some very significant findings regarding the science of the heart.

The Institute of HeartMath is an internationally recognized nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to helping people reduce stress, self-regulate emotions and build energy and resilience for healthy, happy lives. HeartMath tools, technology and training teach people to rely on the intelligence of their hearts in concert with their minds at home, school, work and play.

A large portion of their research has investigated heart and brain interaction. Researchers at the institute have examined how the heart and brain communicate with each other and how that affects our consciousness and the way in which we perceive our world.

Their research has shed light on a number of facts, one for example, is when a person is feeling really positive emotions like gratitude, love, or appreciation, that the heart beats out a very different message. They’ve been able to determine this by the fact that the heart beats out the largest electromagnetic field produced in the body, and they can gather data from it.

“Emotional information is actually coded and modulated into these fields. By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us. We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself.” – Rolin McCratey , Ph.D, Director of Research at the Institute.

This is very important work, as again, it shows how the heart plays an important role far beyond what is commonly known. Did you know that your heart emits electromagnetic fields that change according to your emotions? Did you know that the human heart has a magnetic field that can be measured up to several feet away from the human body?  Did you know that positive emotions create physiological benefits in your body? Did you know that you can boost your immune system by conjuring up positive emotions? Did you know that negative emotions can create a nervous system chaos, and that positive emotions do the complete opposite?  Did you know that the heart has a system of neurons that have both short term and long term memory, and that their signals sent to the brain can affect our emotional experiences? Did you know that in fetal development, the heart forms and starts beating before the brain is developed?  Did you know that a mother’s brainwaves can synchronize to her baby’s heartbeats? Did you know that the heart sends more information to the brain than vice versa?

All of these facts, published researched papers and more can be accessed at heartmath.org

This Is Why It’s Important For The Human Race To Change The Way We Feel Inside

The Institute of HeartMath does a wonderful job in furthering the importance of why it’s critical for many of us to change the way we feel inside. Not much can be accomplished from a place of sadness, angst, sorrow and depression. Our current human experience, the everyday life we all seem to participate in does indeed take its toll on many. A lot of people are feeling that living the lifestyles we do, struggling to pay bills, constantly working and more is not a natural type of existence for the human race. It’s an experience which makes it hard to maintain a “high frequency” or positive state for some. What makes it even more perplexing is the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way, we are capable of so much more.

At the same time, we have a large number of people struggling to feed, clothe and shelter themselves. The Earth is being destroyed and our time to turn things around seems to be limited. This hard reality is still present on Earth, despite the number of solutions that have been identified which could alleviate these problems. It can be difficult to maintain a positive state of mind when we see so many things on our planet that need to change, but we cannot change what we would like to change unless we do it from a positive peaceful state.

Despite all of these experiences, many people experiencing them do manage to find inner peace and moments of joy regardless of their experience, which is quite remarkable. It’s all about perspective, seeing the bigger picture and changing the way you look at things.

Happiness is no doubt an inside job, but with a human experience that is not resonating with many it can be hard to maintain. This is evident in a variety of different areas where people are starting to stand up and demand change. More and more people are wanting to change this entire human experience on multiple levels, one where everybody can thrive, one where everybody can feel good, one where nobody has to suffer or feel negative emotions. If one is suffering, we all suffer, that’s the way we feel here at CE and it’s clear that many are resonating with that feeling.

The funny thing about our feelings is that, for the most part it’s a choice. We can change the way we feel just by changing our thoughts. Negative emotions about a person, place or certain experience in our lives or the planet are usually a result of the thoughts we have about them. At the end of the day, in the grander scheme of things it’s just a human experience, and all experiences are serving us proving opportunities for growth.

Bottom line, positive emotions, feelings of love, gratitude, compassion and more have a larger impact than what we could have ever imagined. These are all characteristics of consciousness, and as quantum physics is showing us, consciousness plays some sort of role in the creation of our reality. If this is true, how we feel certainly plays a large part, and with the research coming out at the Institute of HeartMath, it’s clear that feeling good and positive emotions (gratitude, love compassion) play a very important role when it comes to the nature of our reality and could be the fundamental key for global change.

A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual” –   (R. C. Henry, “The Mental Universe”; Nature 436:29, 2005, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University)

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Author: Arjun Walia / Collective Evolution

 

Can Technology Aid Your Meditation Practice?

As the science of contemplation develops, there are many ways to leverage technology in practice. Here are some tools and ideas you may want to consider.

The intersection of technology and meditation can be a difficult crossroad to navigate. Constant connectedness is a facet of modern life that often comes at the expense of our ability to reflect and create mental space, and therefore the use of technology to aid contemplative practice may be counterintuitive and is sometimes controversial.

Soren Gordhamer, founder of Wisdom 2.0, a conference that explores the relationship between contemplative practice, technology, and business, recently told Anderson Cooper in an interview on 60 Minutes, “What people are realizing is that constant connectivity is great for part of the day, but if you do it your entire day you’re more stressed, you can’t sleep, you’re less present with your kids, and they’re hungry for … some kind of contemplative space in [the] day.”

When Vincent Horn, host of the Buddhist Geeks podcast, started meditating, he says his teachers viewed technology and the world of technology as, in some ways, antithetical to the contemplative life. “[In their view] these technologies just distract and fragment you; that’s all their good for.” It was an “act of rebellion” on Horn’s part to begin to explore the ways that Buddhism, science, and technology converge.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama is an advocate for bringing science, technology, and one’s spiritual path together, going so far as to say that Buddhism should change its claims when science can conclusively demonstrate them to be false. Neuroscientists have researched meditation for many decades, starting primarily with Transcendental Meditation in the 1960s and 70s. Since 1987, momentum in the field has increased thanks in part to the Mind and Life conferences, which facilitate collaboration between academic scientists, the Dalai Lama, and other Tibetan monks and scholars to help build bridges between meditation and biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. Out of the basic scientific research into meditation’s effects has naturally emerged a wave of technological applications to help people learn to meditate or enhance their practice.

Some of these products are fairly straightforward adaptations of the time-tested structures for meditation instruction and practice. For example, using videos to teach to people online and message boards for communities to gather and discuss their practices. These are old foundations of practice, now given an extended reach. Other applications however, are more novel and technologically involved. At the institutional level, for example, Judson Brewer and his lab at the University of Massachusetts have developed fMRI and EEG tools to measure brain activity in real-time and provide feedback to help optimize contemplation. Consumer enterprises like Interaxon and HeartMath, offer affordable EEG and heart rate-sensing hardware and software with instructions for using them to improve meditation.

Related: A Simple Guide to the Complex World of Meditation

Outside of commercial and institutional enterprises, amateur technologists and hackers are also active in this space. Mikey Siegel, an engineer and graduate of the MIT Media Lab, and the cofounder of the Transformative Technology Lab at Sofia University, hosts “Consciousness Hacking” Meetups in the San Francisco Bay area and has recently expanded to New York City to organize, develop, and promote the community of techno-yogis.

For consumers, mobile apps are some of the most prevalent and easily accessible meditation products on the market. If you search the Apple App Store, you will find 360 “meditation” apps and 447 for “mindfulness.” Many of them are timers that use sounds and visual elements to represent the how long you have been meditating. Some remind you to weave in mindful moments throughout your day. Others help you start and maintain a committed meditation practice. Here are a few standout programs that you may find useful:

Insight Timer (Free): This app features a variety of high-quality recordings of meditation bells to help you begin and end your practice. It also features guided sessions by many well-known meditation teachers such as Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Eckhart Tolle, and it “gamifies” your progress to encourage continued practice. You can also use the app to connect to other users all around the world.

Mind (Free): This is “just” a meditation timer but its simple design and elegant aesthetic make it a standout in the app marketplace.

Headspace (Free to download, $7.99 per month): Ideal for beginners and casual meditators, this app features meditations of different lengths for health, relationships, and performance, written and recorded by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. The program is free to start, but a subscription allows you to access longer courses and additional techniques.

Omvana (Free to download, $1.99+ per meditation): This app offers thousands of guided meditations for various situations produced by an array of independent experts from diverse backgrounds. Omvana also lets you record your own meditation or relaxation tracks set to background music.

While many applications may offer an entry point for new practitioners, some of the experts we spoke with had doubts about whether technology-aided meditation could ever be as powerful as classical meditation “technologies”. According to Jon Mitchell, managing editor at Burning Man and author of In Real Life: Searching for Connection in High-Tech Times, a new book on mindfulness and technology, the tools available to consumers are still too simplistic to accurately represent and feedback information more useful than that of your own rich sensory experience. He is also concerned with what he calls the “dependency drawback.” Traditional teachings are internalized through texts and personal instruction. When your meditation practice requires an Internet connection, electricity, a digital community, and an iPhone, it’s harder to practice independently. “If your analytics become your mantra, then how can you practice without them?” he asks.

We will find out in time whether technology-aided meditation can overcome these hurdles. It’s clear that there is a great deal of creative energy in the space, and pioneers in the field say that neuroscientific applications for meditation may soon make dramatic leaps in their effectiveness and widespread use.

This is the first of a two-part examination of technology-aided meditation. Check back next month to learn more about its potential risks and benefits.

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How Music Benefits the Brain

Music has played an important part of every human culture, both past and present. People around the world experience universal responses to music. We’re all familiar with how certain pieces of music can change your mood, get you motivated, or help you concentrate. And now, advances in neuroscience enable researchers to quantitatively measure how music affects the brain.

Their discoveries are exciting — and good news for music lovers.

Music is a fantastic brain exercise that activates every known part of the brain. Music can make you smarter, happier and more productive at all stages of life. Let’s take a closer look at some of the latest findings on the many ways both playing and listening to music can enhance your brain.

Musicians Have Better Brains

If you want evidence of how music affects the brain, it makes sense to look at the brains of people who play a lot of music — professional musicians. Brain scans show that their brains are different than the those of the rest of us. Their brains are noticeably more symmetrical. Areas of the brain responsible for motor control, auditory processing, and spatial coordination are larger. They also have a larger corpus callosum, which is the band of nerve fibers that enables the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate with each other.

Change Your Mood with Music

Science has now proven what music lovers already know, that listening to upbeat music can improve your mood. Listening and playing music reduces chronic stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Music can make you feel more hopeful, powerful, and in control of your life. And listening to sad music has its benefits, too. If you are going through a tough time, listening to sad music is cathartic; it can help you get in touch with those emotions to help heal them. If you listen to a lot of music, make sure you have the right listening equipment so that you don’t sacrifice on quality. Look out for the Graham Slee HiFi logo when choosing, to see how you can really improve your listening experience.

Even if you aren’t a professional musician, listening to music can still enhance your work performance. Listening to music at work can make you a happier, more productive employee — especially if it’s music you’ve chosen. Office workers allowed to listen to the kind of music they like complete tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who have no control over their musical choices.

Music Boosts Brain Chemicals

One of the ways music enhances brain function is by stimulating the formation of certain brain chemicals. Listening to music increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is the brain’s “motivation molecule” and an integral part of the pleasure-reward system. It’s the same brain chemical responsible for the “feel good” states obtained from eating chocolate, orgasm, and runner’s high.

Playing music with others or enjoying live music also stimulates the brain hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has been called the “trust molecule” and the “moral molecule” since it helps us bond with and trust others. There’s evidence that the oxytocin bump experienced by music lovers can make them more generous and trustworthy.

Music Helps You Learn

Many schools have cut music programs due loss of funding, and this is widely believed by parents and educators to be a big mistake. Music, whether taught in or outside of school, helps students excel in the following ways:

  • improved language development
  • small increase in IQ
  • improved test scores
  • increased brain connectivity
  • increased spatial intelligence

The last item on this list — spatial intelligence — helps students understand how things go together. This skill is critical in careers like architecture, engineering, math, and computer science.

The Effects of Musical Training on Young Brains

In the 1990s, the effects of music on the brain were popularized by the Mozart effect. This theory purported that listening to music composed by Mozart can make you smarter. Parents had their babies listen to the music of Mozart to give their brains a jump start — often even before they were born.

The accepted theory now is that taking music lessons as a child enhances brain function and structure, but that there’s nothing uniquely beneficial about the music of Mozart. Early music lessons enhance brain plasticity — the brain’s capacity to change and grow. Children with musical training do better in subjects like language, reading, and math and have better fine motor skills than their non-musical classmates. Kids who sing together in a choir report higher satisfaction in all their classes, not just music.

And if kids don’t stick with their music lessons forever, that’s OK. There’s evidence that a little bit of music training goes a long way. Just a half-hour music lesson increases blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain. As little as four years of music lessons were found to improve certain brain functions, even when tested 40 years later! When exposure to music training begins before age seven, the brain enhancement that takes place can last a lifetime.

Most studies on music and the brain have been done on older kids, but it looks like it’s never too young to start. In another study, music lessons of sorts — playing drums and singing nursery rhymes — were given to babies before they could walk or talk. Babies who had music lessons communicated better, smiled more, and showed earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.

Just as it’s never too early to start, it’s also never too late to benefit from music. Playing music and dancing protects seniors against memory loss and cognitive decline when compared to other brain exercises such as playing cards, doing the crossword puzzle, or walking for exercise. It will be interesting to see how popular online brain training programs like Lumosity fare against music in future studies.

How Music Therapy Improves Quality of Life

Anyone can play or listen to music for “recreational purposes only” and still gain brain benefits. But when professional health care help is warranted, you can enlist the aid of a musical therapist. Music therapists are trained to use music therapeutically to address their patients’ physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs.

There are measurable changes in certain neurotransmitters following music therapy. Music therapy has proven useful for treating people with autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, pain management, emotional trauma, and a variety of mental disorders including depression. Potential benefits from working with a music therapist include improved mood, concentration, and motivation, and decreased anxiety, anger, stress, and frustration.

The Amazing Way Music Therapy Helps Alzheimer’s Patients

One of the most remarkable successes of music therapy is the impact it has on the lives of Alzheimer’s patients. Advanced Alzheimer’s patients lose their ability to have interactive conversations with others and eventually stop speaking completely. But music therapy has been very successful at getting through to patients where nothing else has.

When hearing familiar music, patients often visibly “light up” and sing along. It seems that musical memories far outlast other kinds of memories. Caretakers and family members report that for most patients, music therapy is the best part of the day.

Music therapy does more than help patients remember. It helps alleviate depression, anxiety, and agitation while improving brain function and overall quality of life. To learn more about how music therapy is changing lives of the elderly and infirmed, I highly recommend the documentary Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory. Winner of the 2014 Audience Choice Award at the Sundance Film Festival, this movie chronicles the astonishing experiences of nursing home patients whose brains have been reawakened by listening to the music of their youth.

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Author: Deane Alban / Wake Up World

 

10 Psychological Studies That Will Change What You Think About Yourself

Why do we do the things we do? Despite our best attempts to “know thyself,” the truth is that we often know astonishingly little about our own minds, and even less about the way others think. As Charles Dickens once put it, “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
Psychologists have long sought insights into how we perceive the world and what motivates our behavior, and they’ve made enormous strides in lifting that veil of mystery. Aside from providing fodder for stimulating cocktail-party conversations, some of the most famous psychological experiments of the past century reveal universal and often surprising truths about human nature. 
Here are 10 classic psychological studies that may change the way you understand yourself.
We all have some capacity for evil.
Arguably the most famous experiment in the history of psychology, the 1971 Stanford prison study put a microscope on how social situations can affect human behavior. The researchers, led by psychologist Philip Zimbardo, set up a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psych building and selected 24 undergraduates (who had no criminal record and were deemed psychologically healthy) to act as prisoners and guards. Researchers then observed the prisoners (who had to stay in the cells 24 hours a day) and guards (who shared eight-hour shifts) using hidden cameras.
The experiment, which was scheduled to last for two weeks, had to be cut short after just six days due to the guards’ abusive behavior — in some cases they even inflicted psychological torture — and the extreme emotional stress and anxiety exhibited by the prisoners.
“The guards escalated their aggression against the prisoners, stripping them naked, putting bags over their heads, and then finally had them engage in increasingly humiliating sexual activities,” Zimbardo told American Scientist. “After six days I had to end it because it was out of control — I couldn’t really go to sleep at night without worrying what the guards could do to the prisoners.”
We don’t notice what’s right in front of us.
Think you know what’s going on around you? You might not be nearly as aware as you think. In 1998, researchers from Harvard and Kent State University targeted pedestrians on a college campus to determine how much people notice about their immediate environments. In the experiment, an actor came up to a pedestrian and asked for directions. While the pedestrian was giving the directions, two men carrying a large wooden door walked between the actor and the pedestrian, completely blocking their view of each other for several seconds. During that time, the actor was replaced by another actor, one of a different height and build, and with a different outfit, haircut and voice. A full half of the participants didn’t notice the substitution.
The experiment was one of the first to illustrate the phenomenon of “change blindness,” which shows just how selective we are about what we take in from any given visual scene — and it seems that we rely on memory and pattern-recognition significantly more than we might think.
Delaying gratification is hard — but we’re more successful when we do.
A famous Stanford experiment from the late 1960s tested preschool children’s ability to resist the lure of instant gratification — and it yielded some powerful insights about willpower and self-discipline. In the experiment, four-year-olds were put in a room by themselves with a marshmallow on a plate in front of them, and told that they could either eat the treat now, or if they waited until the researcher returned 15 minutes later, they could have two marshmallows.
While most of the children said they’d wait, they often struggled to resist and then gave in, eating the treat before the researcher returned, TIME reports. The children who did manage to hold off for the full 15 minutes generally used avoidance tactics, like turning away or covering their eyes. The implications of the children’s behavior were significant: Those who were able to delay gratification were much less likely to be obese, or to have drug addiction or behavioral problems by the time they were teenagers, and were more successful later in life.
We can experience deeply conflicting moral impulses.
A famous 1961 study by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram tested (rather alarmingly) how how far people would go to obey authority figures when asked to harm others, and the intense internal conflict between personal morals and the obligation to obey authority figures.
Milgram wanted to conduct the experiment to provide insight into how Nazi war criminals could have perpetuated unspeakable acts during the Holocaust. To do so, he tested a pair of participants, one deemed the “teacher” and the other deemed the “learner.” The teacher was instructed to administer electric shocks to the learner (who was supposedly sitting in another room, but in reality was not being shocked) each time they got questions wrong. Milgram instead played recordings which made it sound like the learner was in pain, and if the “teacher” subject expressed a desire to stop, the experimenter prodded him to go on. During the first experiment, 65 percent of participants administered a painful, final 450-volt shock (labeled “XXX”), although many were visibly stressed and uncomfortable about doing so.
While the study has commonly been seen as a warning of blind obedience to authority, Scientific American recently revisited it, arguing that the results were more suggestive of deep moral conflict.
“Human moral nature includes a propensity to be empathetic, kind and good to our fellow kin and group members, plus an inclination to be xenophobic, cruel and evil to tribal others,” journalist Michael Shermer wrote. “The shock experiments reveal not blind obedience but conflicting moral tendencies that lie deep within.”
Recently, some commenters have called Milgram’s methodology into question, and one critic noted that records of the experiment performed at Yale suggested that 60 percent of participants actually disobeyed orders to administer the highest-dosage shock.
We’re easily corrupted by power.
There’s a psychological reason behind the fact that those in power sometimes act towards others with a sense of entitlement and disrespect. A 2003 study published in the journal Psychological Review put students into groups of three to write a short paper together. Two students were instructed to write the paper, while the other was told to evaluate the paper and determine how much each student would be paid. In the middle of their work, a researcher brought in a plate of five cookies. Although generally the last cookie was never eaten, the “boss” almost always ate the fourth cookie — and ate it sloppily, mouth open.
“When researchers give people power in scientific experiments, they are more likely to physically touch others in potentially inappropriate ways, to flirt in more direct fashion, to make risky choices and gambles, to make first offers in negotiations, to speak their mind, and to eat cookies like the Cookie Monster, with crumbs all over their chins and chests,” psychologist Dacher Keltner, one of the study’s leaders, wrote in an article for UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
We seek out loyalty to social groups and are easily drawn to intergroup conflict.
This classic 1950s social psychology experiment shined a light on the possible psychological basis of why social groups and countries find themselves embroiled in conflict with one another — and how they can learn to cooperate again.
Study leader Muzafer Sherif took two groups of 11 boys (all age 11) to Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma for “summer camp.” The groups (named the “Eagles” and the “Rattlers”) spent a week apart, having fun together and bonding, with no knowledge of the existence of the other group. When the two groups finally integrated, the boys started calling each other names, and when they started competing in various games, more conflict ensued and eventually the groups refused to eat together. In the next phase of the research, Sherif designed experiments to try to reconcile the boys by having them enjoy leisure activities together (which was unsuccessful) and then having them solve a problem together, which finally began to ease the conflict.
We only need one thing to be happy.
The 75-year Harvard Grant study –one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies ever conducted — followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates from the classes of 1938-1940 (now well into their 90s) for 75 years, regularly collecting data on various aspects of their lives. The universal conclusion? Love really is all that matters, at least when it comes to determining long-term happiness and life satisfaction.
The study’s longtime director, psychiatrist George Vaillant, told The Huffing ton Post that there are two pillars of happiness: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.” For example, one participant began the study with the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? As Vaillant explains, “He spent his life searching for love.”
We thrive when we have strong self-esteem and social status.
Achieving fame and success isn’t just an ego boost — it could also be a key to longevity, according to the notorious Oscar winners study. Researchers from Toronto’s Sunny brook and Women’s College Health Sciences Center found that Academy Award-winning actors and directors tend to live longer than those who were nominated but lost, with winning actors and actresses outliving their losing peers by nearly four years.
“We are not saying that you will live longer if you win an Academy Award,” Donald Redelmeier, the lead author of the study, told ABC News. “Or that people should go out and take acting courses. Our main conclusion is simply that social factors are important … It suggests that an internal sense of self-esteem is an important aspect to health and health care.”
We constantly try to justify our experiences so that they make sense to us.
Anyone who’s taken a freshman Psych 101 class is familiar with cognitive dissonance, a theory which dictates that human beings have a natural propensity to avoid psychological conflict based on disharmonious or mutually exclusive beliefs. In an often-cited 1959 experiment, psychologist Leon Festinger asked participants to perform a series of dull tasks, like turning pegs in a wooden knob, for an hour. They were then paid either $1 or $20 to tell a “waiting participant” (aka a researcher) that the task was very interesting. Those who were paid $1 to lie rated the tasks as more enjoyable than those who were paid $20. Their conclusion? Those who were paid more felt that they had sufficient justification for having performed the rote task for an hour, but those who were only paid $1 felt the need to justify the time spent (and reduce the level of dissonance between their beliefs and their behavior) by saying that the activity was fun. In other words, we commonly tell ourselves lies to make the world appear a more logical, harmonious place.
 
We buy into stereotypes in a big way.
Stereotyping various groups of people based on social group, ethnicity or class is something nearly all of us do, even if we make an effort not to — and it can lead us to draw unfair and potentially damaging conclusions about entire populations. NYU psychologist John Bargh’s experiments on “automaticity of social behavior” revealed that we often judge people based on unconscious stereotypes — and we can’t help but act on them. We also tend to buy into stereotypes for social groups that we see ourselves being a part of. In one study, Bargh found that a group of participants who were asked to unscramble words related to old age — “Florida,” “helpless” and “wrinkled” — walked significantly slower down the hallway after the experiment than the group who unscrambled words unrelated to age. Bargh repeated the findings in two other comparable studies that enforced stereotypes based on race and politeness.
 
“Stereotypes are categories that have gone too far,” Bargh told Psychology Today. “When we use stereotypes, we take in the gender, the age, the color of the skin of the person before us, and our minds respond with messages that say hostile, stupid, slow, weak. Those qualities aren’t out there in the environment. They don’t reflect reality.”
Source: Huff Post

Creating Your Future – Arise Great Warrior, Arise!

Are you doing what you always wanted to do? Are you doing what you believe in? Do you live the life that was meant for you to live? From where do you seek approval? Are you looking inward?

There are millions of people around the world who eagerly wait the weekend every week, the summer vacation every year, and later on, long before the age of retirement, they fantasize about that good free time during retirement.  If you ask these people how much they like what they are doing for a living, they will typically answer that their work “pays the bills.”

On the other side of the river, there is a different community of people. When you ask them what they will do on the weekend or after they retire, they will simply state that they are already on an eternal weekend and timeless retirement, that their summer vacation and their vocation are both 365 days long every year. These people do not have to prove that what they are saying is true about themselves. Every time you meet them, they radiate joy and truth. They are content. They have time for others, not just outside their work time, but any time. Interestingly enough, all of their bills are paid and in fact, some of these people are financially rich.

The way of the heart is not limited to leading us to enjoyable and fulfilling work, it is also the way for making every major or minor decision in our lives.

Creating Your Future

You can cross the river from the cloudy, muddy and rocky shore to the shore of sunshine and green pastures. You can make that trip, just as not only famous people have done, but also as simple every-day people have done and are continuing to do every day. If you sense that there is something missing in your life, and you do not look forward to going to work when you wake up in the morning, your chosen vocation very likely does not fulfill your needs. And you can change all that.

First, there are several questions which need to be answered, because the answers will encourage and direct us towards the path we would like to be on. By examining critically the different causes which on a daily basis keep our bodies weak and tired, our minds confused and restless, and our hearts sad and fearful, we will learn how to avoid such a way of living and see the alternative, the green pastures on the opposite shore.

Next, we should examine how and with what materials we will construct our own boat to be able to cross the river. We can gain wisdom by meditating on the words of the wise people of the past. We can see how they also crossed the river, and we can be inspired by their examples.

What are the reasons why some people are so content in life while others are not? Why do some people seem happy when they are very absorbed in their work but lonely and miserable when they are away from their workplace? As for the people who are radiating timeless joy, not just at the work place but also everywhere else, were they born that way or did they become that way? How? What is the way of thinking that causes people to do work which doesn’t use their talents and which does not express their individuality, or their values and ethics? Where does this way of thinking – which enslaves people – come from? Is it possible to adopt a new way of thinking which will enable us to break loose from our enslavement?

Coming to know ourselves in order to create an enjoyable future is not a process that takes days, weeks, months, or a few years. It can take our whole life, but we should always remember that being on the right path and aiming for our distinct identity and distinct role in life is what makes us happy. Enduring and timeless joy is not found only upon reaching selfhood, it is planted and harvested in the process of trying to achieve it. You will have to act in order to place yourself on the right path towards self-realization.

From a Small Seed…

Take as an example a farmer who has just one olive seed in his hand. He looks at it, knowing it is strong and healthy, and he looks around and sees the majesty of nature. With awareness he accepts the fact that the same power that has brought him into existence has also provided the seed and the soil, the sun and the water. That is, the farmer knows himself; he knows who he is and what he has for use at his disposal. How wise that farmer is when he looks at the seed and he sees not only one, but thousands of seeds. That is imagination. Now he must take out the weeds and prepare the ground, and trusting the powers of the universe, he then buries the seed in the soil. Before he sees the grown tree and is rewarded with its precious olive oil, most likely he will often experience some fear and doubt.

How does he know if the weather will help the growth? How does he know if an animal will not eat the seed while it is in the ground? He must simply wait and believe for the best. He has no other choice but to act, and then wait. This time of waiting and wondering while the seed is buried in the ground could be the most frightening experience during the process.

Nevertheless, a farmer who knows himself and trusts other people for help if something goes wrong will enjoy the whole process, not just the olive oil he will obtain. He finds reward in every step he takes, from observing to preparing to gathering. At this point, the farmer has created his future; simply, in this case, he has produced his physical food. Finally, he will truly enjoy the product of his labor — the olives and the olive oil.

The same cycle of observing, preparing, and gathering will again take place the next year with even more joy and less fear. Now he has in his hand not just one seed but many.

It is essential to realize that this is our everyday life. We gather what we plant. If we plant in joy, we will gather it with more joy, and by knowing and trusting ourselves, the powers of the universe, and other people, we continue the cycle of planting and gathering with increasing joy and satisfaction for every new cycle of life-planning.

The Materialization of Fear

It is characteristic of our industrialized societies that it makes us lose our individuality, and so we become only a tiny part in the social machine. It is therefore of great importance that we keep in mind that such a way of living is foreign to human dignity and to our own happiness. By working just to pay our bills, we are missing the meaning of life. Sooner or later, we will have to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves, not for the sake of the machine but for our own sake, and therefore, for the sake of the whole world.

The increase in violence and environmental degradation observed in our days is the materialization of our unfulfilled hearts and unjustified fears. Only happy people, content with themselves and in harmony with others and nature, can lead the world to peace and environmental sustainability. The world needs more happy people. It needs more people who work using their talents, who earn their living by doing what they love, and are passionate about. These people have found their true self, peace, and joy. They are fulfilled and in harmony, knowing who they are and what they do in their life.

Spiritual Poverty

During my teaching experience at several colleges and universities in North America and Europe, I have met hundreds of students and I have heard their stories. The statement “I am working on this degree because of my parents” is so common and illustrates a degree of tragedy — because we should not live the unfulfilled dreams of our parents. Most of us mistakenly choose careers based on status, salary potential, or the pressure we receive from our well-meaning parents. Unfortunately, this is not usually what we are most capable of doing or what is the most fulfilling for us.

My heart goes out to all these young boys and girls who are filled with beautiful dreams and who need encouragement to fulfill them, and to all those people who already have a career but who would also like to make a transition to fulfill their dreams. I wrote these words for you.

Deciding early on the right training for the right vocation for healthy living in the future has now become even more crucial than in the past. There is an apparent trend in many work places for longer work hours, yet more people feel less secure now because many are losing their jobs overnight. But people who have realized their inner strength and unique talents can create or see opportunities for work any time, and stay above the water.

With every passing day, it is becoming more obvious that those who will have job security and peace in the future will not be those who are working for corporations; it will be those who have realized their inborn abilities and not just the skills acquired through education. As computers continue to replace more workers every day and as unemployment rises, people will be forced by the need for survival to do work much different than they were educated and trained to do. Thus it is crucial for people to become more active and decisive in seeking a personally satisfying career.

I myself had felt the urgency and had heard the clear inner voice years ago telling me to change the type of work I was doing, to go from research to teaching. I waited for many years before taking that little step onward, for reasons that each one of us would find very justifiable based on our world’s standards and fears. But our soul is eager to find full expression and to devote itself to serving others by using the gifts and talents that have been bestowed on us. Suppressing that force can lead us not only to inner turmoil and unhappiness, but even to the loss of our health. Not only was my mind in confusion and my mood bad day after day, but also my body was experiencing terrible pain. I was simply miserable all that time, trying to avoid the calling of my heart. I was in spiritual poverty and I was creating spiritual poverty for those around me.

Jumping Into The Unknown

Do we have to reach the bottom before we awaken and realize the meaning of life? It need not be that way. Quitting my role in government nuclear labs and jumping into the unknown transformed my inner life and influenced many of the people around me in a beautiful way. Searching for the truth and speaking it is our first vocation, and without it, we can never fulfill our destiny. Following the inner voice to abandon familiar waters and false security is no less than speaking the truth to the whole world and to ourselves.

The decision to work on what seemed to me as natural as breathing – teaching – was the best decision I could have made for my whole life span on this planet. To revise my career has been the most frightening experience I could ever have imagined; nevertheless, it has also been the most elevating and exciting experience that I could have possibly expected. I know that this is also true for many people who have dared to try the experiment.

The road to happiness is always the road towards the unknown. Our culture today promises security, but we know well that what we need is inner security, which comes only from knowing our true selves and from knowing our magnificent talents, potential, and abilities. The path we need to travel is not reached by receiving security from the work we do at the command of others, but instead, from the work we do at the command of our deepest yearnings for self-expression, by simply doing what we most enjoy. It is the way we can never fail.

Our motto should be, “We work for ourselves in order to serve others” instead of “We work for others in order to serve ourselves.”

After you finish reading these lines, what will you do about the calling of your heart? Will you postpone the day of your freedom? You are not alone. Ask the advice of a wise friend; it is the easiest and most inexpensive way. Or read another book on this subject. Perhaps, visit a counselor and pay attention to his/her advice. Attend a lecture or a workshop where an inspiring speaker could provide the spark you need to take the step. Usually speakers on this subject are people who have done just that in their own lives. At an early age, they may have stood up strong before family, friends and society to choose their own destiny, to do what they enjoy most, or maybe later in their life, they took the leap of faith to change careers and do what they really love. Allow them to transfer their flame to your heart so you can also take the leap of faith you need to take.

Just as a car needs to have gas in order to keep moving, you may need a good counselor, a good book, and a good friend to stand by you, inform you, and encourage you. But for a car to start moving, it needs a spark; even with the tank full of gas, it will not move without it. As important as the gas is, so is the spark. A great inspiring lecture or seminar will take you emotionally to higher places, but soon you will feel hopeless and flat again. That is why you must patiently and constantly strive for the change in your life.

Arise Great Warrior, Arise!

People without career satisfaction can hardly be in peace. It has been said that the grand total of peace in the world is the total sum of the peace of its people. For thousands of years, many cultures have used the olive branch as a symbol of peace and goodwill.

Wars will continue to take place, machines will keep breaking down, things will keep getting lost, and many people will keep becoming more fearful of the future. But butterflies will still keep moving from flower to flower, and the fragrance of basil and orange blossoms will still give inspiration to anyone of us who want to live with joy. Only happy people can lead the world to peace.

During your lifetime on this planet, you are like a warrior in a battle against all kinds of cultural barriers and spiritual wounds, which prevent you from reaching selfhood. Fear no more, for endless joy is your final end. You must “fight the good fight” in your lifetime in order for your inside to come into harmony with your outside. Therefore arise, great warrior, arise!

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Author: Andreas Toupadakis / Wake Up World

10 Choices That Lead to a Happy, Fulfilling Life

“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.” – Aeschylus
I asked myself one question: “Do I want this year to look like the last one?”
The answer was an immediate and very solid no. I frantically began to analyze what I was doing with my life to get this reaction. I was unhappy, romantically, professionally, and socially.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff; don’t sweat the big stuff.

I learned this after I had my wallet, passport, and camera stolen. Every day you will be faced with challenges that are both in and out of your control. Either way, there’s no sense in worrying about them.
If the situation is uncontrollable, whatever is going to happen, will. If you can control it, then take a deep breath and face it with a calm mind to make the process much easier. Worrying gets you nowhere. Hakuna Matata.

2. Do something every day that pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Order and routine give us a sense of security. It feels nice to have familiarity, but it’s also hard to grow into the person you’re meant to be without pushing your limits and trying new things.
At one point, everything is new to us. The more experiences you expose yourself to, the higher probability you’ll find one your passionate about.

3. Live fully in each moment.

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not promised. The only certain thing we have in life is right now, this very moment.
This is an important lesson I’ve learned when meditating with the monks throughout Thailand. They teach the significance of remaining mindful and the importance of acknowledging our senses.
By smelling, tasting, feeling, seeing, and hearing everything in our surroundings, we’re able to stay in the present, resulting in insight, a crucial stepping stone on the path to happiness. Life is incredibly beautiful when you slow down enough to enjoy it. Live in the moment, live for right now. This very moment is life.

4. Give gratitude any chance you can, and lots of it.

I really learned about gratitude when traveling through Indonesia. When once I would have complained about a bad Wi-Fi connection, I saw people just grateful for clean drinking water. It really puts things into perspective.
Take the time to remember how lucky you are. Even if it doesn’t feel this way, it could always be worse. Share love and gratitude every chance you can, and you’re left with an overwhelming feeling of abundance and happiness.

5. Remember, life is what’s happening while you’re busy on your cell phone.

Dining solo, I was left to master the art of people watching. What I observed was this: the happiest, loudest, and liveliest tables were those with cellphones tucked away. They were making memories and sharing stories and experiencing what life is all about.
They ate more slowly and stayed longer because there wasn’t anywhere they’d rather be. On the contrary, those with eyes glued to bright screens were quiet and quick to eat with emotionless expressions.
Next time you’re out, try leaving your phone in the car to thoroughly enjoy your company. If you can’t imagine a meal without technology, at least take a few moments to observe the difference between people on their phones and those who aren’t, and ask yourself, who’s table would you rather be sitting at?

6. Listen to your gut.

I’ve never been so in tune with myself as when I was on the road with no travel companion to interrupt my thoughts. There have been countless times when I’ve gotten myself out of sticky situations (or avoided them altogether) by listening to my “gut feeling” as a reliable and trustworthy source.
Silence the mind and listen to the body. Our gut is widely acknowledged as our second brain. If it feels wrong and you can’t exactly pinpoint why, it’s your intuition in physical form telling you it probably is. Listen to what it has to say.

7. Look for similarities.

Same same. In Bangkok, I probably heard this phrase nine thousand times, which inevitably led me to ponder its significance.
No matter where you go in the world, as different as we appear, we are much more similar to one another. We all have human emotions. Sadness and excitement are genetically programmed in us, and we all have the same end goal of happiness.
A smile and laughter are universal. When you meet someone new, look for similarities and it will form an intimate bond. You’ll begin to feel compassion and a connection to them. A feeling of connection gives you a sense of home no matter where you are.

8. Let go of the fear of not being accepted and let your true self come out.

Living abroad alone, I really embraced my inner weirdo. I laid out all the things I was hesitant to say and do before because I assumed no one would “get” me. The results? Confidence and self-respect.
You owe it to yourself to celebrate your uniqueness and be the truest version of you. Those who are meant to stick around will love you even more for it. Besides, weird people bring a lot to the table. Just saying.

9. Make time to reflect on relationships and make changes.

Being on a twelve-hour time difference and half a world away makes communication to home difficult, and perfect for relationship reflection. I really began to analyze the quality of my relationships, asking, “Do they feed my soul? Do we really have that much in common?”
Life is too short to spend time with anyone who exhausts you. Be selective with where your energy goes. For those who you decide to keep in your life, it’s important you show them how much they mean to you. Love and respect leads to quality relationships, which are the only ones worth having.

10. Know that no matter how far you travel in search of happiness, it can only be found in one place.

A monk at the Wat Mahathat in Bangkok said something I will never forget. “Why are you here in Thailand? To find happiness? You won’t find it here. I can’t give it to you. You can travel the world to find it, but there is only one place it can be found. It is found within.”
I had left home and traveled across the world to find happiness, but I never felt it until I became fully connected with myself.
Somewhere along the way I lost sight of the important things by forgetting my relationships, ignoring my gut, and worrying too much about the past and the future. None of these things served me.
True and lasting peace is found within. When you learn to be appreciative for what you have, embrace the present moment, and love fully, this is happiness. 

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Mentally Strong People: 13 Things They Avoid

For all the time people spend concerned about physical strength and health, when it comes down to it, mental strength can mean even more.

Particularly for entrepreneurs, numerous articles talk about critical characteristics of mental strength—tenacity, “grit”, optimism, and an unfailing ability as Forbes contributor David Williams says, to “fail up.”

However, we can also define mental strength by identifying the things mentally strong individuals don’t do. Over the weekend, I was impressed by this list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker,  that she shared in LifeHack. It impressed me enough I’d also like to share her list here along with my thoughts on how each of these items is particularly applicable to entrepreneurs.

1. Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

3. Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear”, if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

11.Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? With thanks to Amy Morin, I would like to reinforce my own abilities further in each of these areas today. How about you?

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Source: www.forbes.com

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