Want to enjoy a long, happy life? Live near trees, say researchers

If you’re anything like me, hiking through a forest, camping in the woods or savoring a natural space is a sure-fire way to boost mood, energy and vitality. The Japanese even have a name for it, Shinrin Yoku — otherwise known as forest bathing. And they have science to back-up the physiological benefits — stress markers like cortisol, pulse rate, blood pressure, parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve activity all improve with spending time in the woods. It’s not only the Japanese who have discovered the perks of spending time among the trees, Western researchers have now established that if you want a healthy brain and more resiliency to stress, living near a forest is one of the best moves you can make.

Healthy Brain Function Linked with Close Proximity to Forests

While forest fires continue to rage in Southern California, casting a smoky pall over the mental and physical health of the local residents, new research from Germany suggests that the benefits of living close to trees far outweigh the dangers.

The study looked at older urban dwellers and found that those who lived in close proximity to wooded landscapes had healthier function in the the amygdala region of the brain — a clustered set of neurons that play an important role in regulating emotions, especially fear and anxiety.

Analyzing data on 341 participants in the Berlin Aging Study II, researchers looked at “three different indicators of brain structural integrity” to gather distinct information on key areas of the brain. “Our results reveal a significant positive association between the coverage of forest and amygdala integrity,” note the team.

Surprisingly, lead research Simone Kuehn of the Max Plank Institute for Human Development in Berlin, reported that there wasn’t any such positive association with urban green spaces like parks or near bodies of water. For this particular investigation, it was only living close to forests that showed a tangible benefit for the healthy functioning of the amygdala and processing emotions.

And yet, previous research has established that living in the vicinity of nature — including urban green spaces, as well as trees and gardens in residential areas — has a profound, far-reaching impact on longevity, levels of aggression, cognitive development and even how kind we are to others.

Trees: Miracle Workers for Well-Being

“It is a known fact that urban trees improve air quality, reduce cooling and heating energy use, and make urban environments aesthetically more preferable. Importantly, several studies have shown that exposure to green spaces can be psychologically and physiologically restorative by promoting mental health, reducing non-accidental mortality, reducing physician assessed-morbidity, reducing income-related health inequality’s effect on morbidity, reducing blood pressure and stress levels, reducing sedentary leisure time, as well as promoting physical activity. In addition, green space may enhance psychological and cardio-vascular benefits of physical activity, as compared with other settings.” ~ Scientific Reports

Interacting with natural environments also improves memory and attention, as well as reducing crime. Moreover, it boosts recovery from surgery — even when it’s just a view through a window.

In this study, researchers wanted to know if it was greenery in general (as in bushes, shrubs and grass) or specifically trees that created such positive effects.

“Our results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report better health perception, after controlling for demographic factors, such as income, age and education.”

The team points out that this increase in health perception equates to the effect of a $10,200 increase in annual household income and the equivalent of being 7 years younger. The researchers add, “Results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report significantly fewer cardio-metabolic conditions” as well.

Similarly, a paper published by the National Institute of Health found that women have a 12 percent lower mortality rate when high levels of vegetation are near their home.

Using data from the Long-Term Nurses’ Health Study, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, analyzed the data of 108,630 women. They found the most significant differences in death rates were from kidney disease (41% lower), respiratory disease (34% lower) and cancer (13% lower). The team believes contributing influences are due to improved mental health and social engagement, along with increased physical activity and reduction in air pollution. Results were adjusted to reflect factors such as age, race, ethnicity, smoking and socioeconomic status.

“It is important to know that trees and plants provide health benefits in our communities, as well as beauty,” said NIEHS director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “The finding of reduced mortality suggests that vegetation may be important to health in a broad range of ways.”

Trees Don’t Just Make Us Healthier, But Happier Too

We all know that rumination is one of the surest ways to stifle joy and contentment. The logic would follow that, if we can stop rumination in its tracks — or at least minimize it — our happiness level will improve.

A case in point is a 2015 study that discovered when 60 participants were randomly assigned to a 50-minute walk in either an urban setting (along a multi-lane road) or in a natural setting (oak woodlands), those who walked in nature experienced lower levels of anxiety and rumination, as well as increased levels of positive emotions and improved performance on memory tasks — compared to the urban walkers.

A subsequent study specifically looked at how walking in nature influences rumination — which has been linked to the onset of depression and anxiety — using fMRI technology to map brain activity. Participants took a 90-minute walk in either a natural or urban setting and had their brains scanned before and after the walk. They were also surveyed on self-reported rumination levels, along with other psychological classifications. Heart rate and pulmonary functions associated with physical exertion levels were taken into account. The results?

“[P]articipants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.” [source]

However we look at it, trees are good news for our health and well-being, which is why, now more than ever, we need to protect natural spaces and cultivate more green areas in urban environments. The Arbor Day Foundation, TreeSisters and web browser Ecosia are a few of the many outstanding organizations who are working hard to plant and maintain trees locally and worldwide.

The tree revolution has begun.

Author: Carolanne Wright – Wake Up World 

www.choki.org

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3 Very Important Concepts That Create Our Current Life Experiences

As we awaken it is important for us to understand that we are working with 3 very important concepts that create our current life circumstances:

* Soul Contracts
* Free Will and Karma
* Subconscious Beliefs and Program

 
Soul Contracts
Soul Contracts are put in place before we incarnate. We go through a process of pre-birth planning where we choose our core soul lessons and things we want to master in a specific lifetime. During this time we also choose our parents, our sexual identity, our ethnicity and all of the major aspects of our lives. Soul contracts are not set in stone and are changing all the time as we use our own free will to evolve or devolve our souls. When we learn and master certain lessons, new contracts are created and old contracts dissolve as we journey through our lives.Free Will and Karma
Through the use of our free will we create karma. Karma is not punishment. Karma is simply off pitched vibrations in our energy fields that occurs when we go against universal laws. Because we have free will, we can choose to go against the advice of our higher self. Unresolved karma is held within the chakra system and it lowers our vibrations. When we decide to face God/dess we will face the SELF and the karmic distortions in our chakra system will rise to the surface for us to balance and transcend. As we heal our karma, our vibrations rise, and our lives become more abundant and harmonious because our connection to our internal guidance system gets stronger as we are able to tap into a heightened flow of spiritual energies from our higher selves. Eventually, when 51% of our karma has been cleared from our chakra systems, our very high vibrational higher selves or christ selves (that reside in a higher vibrating dimension within our energy fields) will be able to safely merge with our physical beings and we will become ONE activating unity consciousness or christ consciousness within ourselves.

 
Subconscious Beliefs and Programing
In addition to soul contracts and free will/karma, our soul also contains subconscious beliefs that create our current life circumstances. When we heal and transcend our negative, fear-filled, egoic, subconscious beliefs – the quality of our life changes as well. Conscious and unconscious beliefs and strong emotions, held over a long period of time, become subconscious programs that run our lives. Many of these subconscious programs come from the past lives of our very own soul, were inherited from our genetic lineage, or we picked up them up in this lifetime from the mass consciousness or from our childhood. The good thing about beliefs is they can be changed.
However, it is the unconscious beliefs that we hold that oftentimes wreak havoc in our lives because we are not even aware that we have them. In order to bring these beliefs to the surface for healing, our higher selves will create certain circumstances with us and other souls for us to SEE ourselves.

If we are open and willing to transcend ourselves, and we allow ourselves to be brutally self-honest about our inner workings, we will be able to transform these unconscious beliefs into something more positive and life affirming for ourselves and those we interact with simply through the process of becoming conscious of them and choosing to believe and behave differently. Affirmations, DNA Theta Healing and many other healing modalities that deal with Belief Work and Subconscious Programs will really help us discover the inner currents within us that continue to attract unwanted circumstances in our lives.

As we master our soul contracts and evolve our personalities out of our negative, egoic, repetitive behavioral patterns – our vibrational frequency rises.

When we use our free will to work with universal laws and we clear our negative karma through the process of soul alchemy (turning our darkness into light) in addition to generating good karma through positive creations, we gain more light and a higher vibrational frequency. Likewise, as we clear negative subconscious beliefs and programs based on fear, duality and separation consciousness our energy fields will shift and change and our energy will rise in vibration and begin to attract to us what we truly desire.

 

Riding Your Flow: 8 Steps for Enhancing Your Creativity and Productivity

Why is that we tend to be more successful at pursuits we are genuinely passionate about? Why does time seem to drag when you are completely bored and uninterested in a task? How come you can easily lose yourself in a task that really piques your interest?

According to positive psychology, doing things that you find genuinely interesting and stimulating can put you into a state Flow, which is defined as an ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.’ During flow, self-awareness and the ego can dissolve, meaning you become completely focused and immersed in the activity for its own sake. Flow has been linked to enhanced performance and creativity across a wide range of activities, such as sports, artistic pursuits, and even in the workplace. Perhaps you can visualize a time when you became so focused and passionate about something that time just dissipated?

What Does Flow Feel Like?

Psychologically, riding a state of flow can feel incredibly pleasing and liberating. As we immerse ourselves in an activity that stimulates our passions, curiosity and interests, we lose track of the world around us and can enter unusual states of creativity and productivity.

According to psychologist Mikhal Csíkszentmihályi’s landmark book Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, the feeling of flow is associated with these ten factors, although not all of them need to be present to experience it. Have you ever experienced some or all of these?

  1. You feel a complete focus of attention
  2. The activity is intrinsically rewarding
  3. You have clear, attainable (although still challenging) goals
  4. You have a feeling of peace and losing yourself
  5. There is an element of timelessness, or, losing track of time during the activity
  6. You receive immediate feedback
  7. You know that the task is doable, and you can strike a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
  8. You feel a sense of personal control over your efforts
  9. You lose track of your physical needs.
  10. You experience an unusually high level of concentration

What Does Flow Look Like in the Brain?

A variety of processes occur simultaneously in the brain when we enter a state of flow. Essentially, these processes are threefold and together they help explain why during flow, the brain is capable of enhanced creativity and productivity: Transitions in brainwaves, deactivation of the prefrontal cortex, and changes in neuro-chemistry.

  • Brain Wave Transitions:

While in a state of flow, our brainwaves transition from the more rapid beta waves of waking consciousness to slower alpha waves, and even to the border of much slower theta waves. Alpha waves are associated with relaxed and effortless alertness, peak performance and creativity, while theta waves are associated with the deeper dream-state consciousness and experienced predominately during REM sleep.

  • Pre-Frontal Cortex Deactivation:

During flow states, the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) becomes deactivated in a process called “transient hypo-frontality.” The PFC is the area of the brain that houses higher-level cognitions, including those that help us to cultivate our ego and sense of self. During a flow state this area becomes deactivated, helping us lose ourselves in the task at hand and silence our criticisms, fears and self-doubts.

  • Neuro-Chemistry:

Flow states also trigger a release of many of the pleasurable and performance- inducing chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins. A 2014 study shows that when are intrinsically curious about an outcome and driven for answers, dopamine is released in the brain, helping to solidify our memories. These findings suggest why flow states are good for promoting learning and memory in addition to creativity.

Eight Steps for Enhancing Your State of Flow

In addition to being a pleasurable and productive experience, riding the flow also has a host of other benefits to well-being including increased self-esteem, self-confidence, life satisfaction and overall happiness. Here are eight steps for enhancing your state of flow:

  1. Do Something that Interests You.

Flow comes most naturally when we are intrinsically motivated, excited and curios about the task. So if you are looking to get creative and productive, choose to focus on a task that you enjoy and already feel passionate about. If this is for work, or you don’t have a choice of the task, try to identify elements of the tasks that excite you. Maybe there are certain parts of project or elements of an assignment that interest you? Pay special attention to those.

  1. Set Clear Goals.

Be specific when you are getting started on a task. What is the goal you are aiming for? Are you trying to finish a painting? Write a new song? Complete a presentation? Or perfect a new yoga pose? This will help to hone your focus and keep you on task. If you try to do too much it could overwhelm you, and if you do too little you might not spend enough time in deep concentration to reach a flow state.

  1. Find A Quiet and Productive Time.

Most people find that an environment of peace and quiet works best for inducing a state of flow, possibly because of how brainwave patterns shift into slower frequencies during flow. When you begin your work, try to cultivate a calm, quiet environment. Also, make sure to identify when you are most productive: For some, this is first thing in the morning, and for others it is afternoon. For me, it is late at night. Identify the right time for you to be creative and block it off to engage in your flow time.

  1. Avoid Interruptions and Distractions.

Interruptions are the nemesis of flow. Every time get distracted, whether it is a roommate speaking to us, our phone beeping, emails coming in, a distracting song, or a messy desk, it can pull us out of flow and quicken our brainwaves to beta state. When you decide it is time to get into flow, turn off the phone, ask your friends, family or roommates not to disturb you, and tidy up your work space before you get started.

  1. Focus as Long as You Can.

Once you are able to sit down during a quiet productive time without distractions, try to stay focused for as long as you can. At first, especially if you are new to the task, you may only be able to focus for five or ten minutes. This is OK: Just keep practicing! As you continue to direct your energies to focusing, you will train your brain to more easily and fluidly drop into the flow state and before long, hours will be passing by like minutes.

  1. Match Your Skills to the Task.

We can best enter flow when we are working on a task that is suited to our skill level. In other words, when we are well prepared for the task at hand, we are more likely to experience flow. Csíkszentmihályi gives the example of a runner experiencing flow during a marathon for which she has trained for several months.

  1. But There is No Harm in Stretching Your Skills Slightly.

Your skills should match the task at hand, but it is also possible to stretch your skills slightly past your comfort zone to maximize flow. A little bit of a challenge can be a great thing. So perhaps you are trying a new yoga move that is extra difficult. Or you are recording a song using new software. As long as the background skills are there, pushing yourself a little bit can be excellent for bringing you into a concentrated, productive state.

  1. Emphasize Process, Not Outcome.

Finally, please remember that the experience of flow is a PROCESS, not an outcome. In other words, working and creating from a place of flow is a life skill that you can strive to master with practice, and this usually does not happen overnight. Just keep trying and do not give up even if you don’t nail it right away. Remember, flow is all abut enjoyment and living in the present moment. If you become to wrapped up in the outcome, then it can take your enjoyment away. Who really cares what the painting looks like, so long as you enjoyed painting it right!? Just keep trying and continue to be open to the creativity flowing through your space.

Author: Dr. Kelly Neff – Wake Up World

www.choki.org

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Do You Wake Up at the Same Time Every Night?

Do you find yourself waking up at the same time every night? Waking up between 3 AM – 5 AM could be an ascension symptom but if you find yourself waking up constantly around the same time each night, it could be because your body is trying to send you a message.
According to the ancient Chinese Medicine Body Clock, energy runs through a different meridian of your body at different times of day.

These meridians are like channels which send energy to different organs in order to promote health and vitality.

When there is a blockage in these channels however, energy cannot pass through causing stagnation or a build up of energy. This can then disturb your sleep and wake you up.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine if you wake up consistently at the same time, it could indicate a sign of weakness in the corresponding meridian or organ.

Here is a list of the organs associated with different times:

Between 9pm-11pm
This is the time when most of us try to fall asleep. If you have a hard time sleeping between this time it could be that your body is too stressed and is subconsciously in fight or flight mode
You may also find that your fearful or anxious thoughts become louder and make you feel either threatened or unsafe in some way.

This is the time of day when energy is also sent to replenish your immune system, so if you are feeling ill you may experience stronger symptoms at this time.

If you find yourself having trouble sleeping at this time, try reciting positive mantras that make you feel safe and protected.

You may also benefit from meditating or adopting a night time ritual to help calm your mind.

Between 11pm-1am 
The meridian that services your gall bladder is activated during these hours.

Blocked energy in this meridian could indicate that you are being too judgmental with yourself or with others.

If you have been disappointed by a loved one you may also feel triggered at this time.

On a physical level, the gall bladder helps the break down of fats so it could also be that you need to adjust your fat intake or eat healthier oils.

In order to relax yourself at this time, try practicing acceptance and forgiveness and being less judgemental towards your self and others.
Between 1 AM – 3 AM
This is one of the more common times to be woken up as this is when the meridian servicing the liver is strongest.

The liver is responsible for so many bodily functions including hormonal balance, digestion and the clearance of toxins and stress. So waking during this time could indicate that one of these areas is stressed or weak.

Blockages in the liver meridian can also indicate anger, anxiety, guilt and rage. In fact, feelings of unresolved anger and resentment could manifest at this time.

If you find this to be true, try to take ownership of the situation and reflect on the truth of how you really feel. It may also help to practice self-loving affirmations and positive self-talk.

Waking up during this time may also indicate that your body has too much yang energy, so try balancing it with more yin energy by eating cooling foods and connecting with your emotions.

Between 3 AM – 5 AM
This is when the meridian that services the lungs is strongest. Of course, we are always breathing but during these hours the lungs are given a boost of energy and are replenished for the day ahead.

In order to breathe the body has to be relaxed, so waking up during this time could indicate a blockage or inability to go with the flow and relax into the direction that life is taking you.

The lungs also symbolise where we process grief and sadness, so if you have been feeling emotional you may also wake around this time.

In order to ease any emotional feelings at this time, try to release control over events and have more faith and trust in the flow of the Universe. You may also benefit from taking deep, conscious breaths.

Between 5 AM – 7 AM
This is when the meridian that flows into the large intestine is activated and symbolises a need to let go and release control.

The large intestine is responsible for clearing the body of toxic waste from our digestive system, so waking up during this time could indicate a weakness in this area.

You may also wake at this time if you are feeling emotionally blocked or restricted in your life in some way. It may also be a sign that you need to release and let go of guilt or burdening emotions.

If you find yourself waking during this time, you may benefit from practicing mantras that promote letting go, relaxing and trusting in divine timing.  You may also benefit from stretching or cleansing your body.

The Chinese Medicine Body Clock offers a great insight into the messages of your body however, also use your intuition to determine if there may be another message that is trying to be delivered to you.

Author: Tanaaz Chubb – Awakening People

7 Ways to Revitalize Your Passion for Life in Turbulent Times

IN BRIEF: The difference between maintaining your zeal for life and heartbreaking disillusionment during turbulent times ultimately begins with you and where you are placing your focus. Here are seven proactive life responses for the most common reasons why you might feel your passion for life slipping away.

Thanks to social media, you’ve survived the “me” generation. “Me” exploded into “we” and a socially conscious generation was born. What was once considered personal fulfillment has changed for the better.

Undoubtedly, your hopes and dreams are different than they once were. Change is occurring at such speeds, you might not be sure of what to wish for except for a global group hug.

“Despite what the evening news would have you believe, your prospects for a higher quality of life are opening wide as we consciously merge mind, body, and spirit — including science.”

A new science is emerging linking happiness to our well-being. According to the “World Happiness Report 2017,” published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the United States ranks 14th in the world.

The difference between maintaining your zeal for life and heartbreaking disillusionment during turbulent times ultimately begins with you and where you are placing your focus.

What is the common thread of personal well-being, or even the ever-elusive personal fulfillment?

Here are seven proactive life responses for the most common reasons why you might feel your passion for life slipping away.

Celebrate failure. Feeling cynical or defeated, or that your hard work is not paying off? When there is a disappointment in life, seeing everything as an opportunity will keep you invigorated and challenged in a good way. The ability to adapt and learn is vital to living the good life. The path to success is shared with the path of failure. Celebrate every step of the journey.

Make a living or live brilliantly? Making a living becomes complicated when you wish to live like someone else. Materialism and title are fake substitutes for real affluence — the ability to inspire people. Make a list of what you admire and begin to make changes in your life to reflect your values.

Simplify, minimize, and let go of clutter. The economy provides us with the sustenance of life, but when it becomes the goal, you work like a machine mortgaging your life, losing your passion for living. Investigate new markets that allow you greater life flexibility through stewardship rather than ownership.

Rediscover your inner child through exploration of your inner world. Innovation and automation have provided us with more free time than we’ve ever had. Instead of TV, smartphones, information, and shopping, regain a sense of wonder by looking at every day as another opportunity to explore and learn about your inner world. Focus and your natural state of happiness are cultivated through meditation, prayer, and contemplation.

Be a beacon of light despite a chaotic world. Living the good life is being peaceful even when those around you are stirring the pot. When others engage in negativity, don’t get sucked in. Consider ending support of violent media content. Become response-able for you and your corner of the world. Seek common ground with those you come into contact with by supporting needed change.

Reconnect with nature. Do you ever walk your neighbourhood and ask where all the people are? When was the last time you roamed a nature trail? Technology is nice, but it’s not nicer than a sense of community and all the wisdom and health benefits hidden in nature’s vastness. If you’ve forgotten this, stop what you’re doing right now. Come back in 30 minutes and report your findings.

Include service to others in your weekly schedule. Self-love and self-care are certainly important, but keeping a healthy balance between ego and selflessness is the heart of personal fulfillment. In a synergetic world, personal fulfillment and social responsibility are intimately connected. Try volunteering just eight hours a month to discover what you would grumble about at minimum wage. It is a gift — the most exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling gift you could ever give — the gift of you!

Your passion for life can never be taken away from you — unless you take away your focus. Focus is the key to the mastery of life as an ongoing practice.

“Finding balance between economic, social, and environmental objectives is key to personal and community well-being and happiness.”

Let go of the non-essentials.

Keep your focus on your internal compass help you maintain external balance.

Merging mind, body, and spirit, you become joyful, the gratitude flowing just for being alive.

Embrace life from every angle and finally begin to thrive!

Putting your heart into everything you do, your passion for life becoming voracious — this is your brilliant future here, now.

You were made for this. You can do it!

Author: Christine Horner – Collective Evolution

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Why be normal? The radical revolution of being yourself

One of the pivotal quotes that shaped my life growing up was from one of my favorite musical icons, David Bowie: “The worst trick God can play is to make you an artist, but a mediocre one.” Internalizing my version of his message, my motto became through high school and university that I would rather be an A or an F student than a C student.

Living by that belief, I developed two distinct personality traits. Either I would edit myself to please people with niceties, or I would plow through life with a fiery feistiness. Both extremes were fueled by a drive for what I understood to be “perfection”. The tension that lay between these two, and the fervour I put into trying to be “perfectly A” or “perfectly F”, eventually consumed my health and wellbeing.

By the end of high school and into my first year of university, I was exhausted and stressed because I was not being authentically myself. Though it took me completing university and facing the rest of my life to figure it out, I eventually realized that I had allowed other people’s voices, wishes and dreams to unconsciously run my life. My feistily polite drive for “perfection” was based on the fear that if I were myself, I would not be loved.

I share this because I believe this fear is not unique to me, but is surprisingly common. Sometimes in early childhood, and sometimes as residue from past lifetimes, we form the idea that we must be a certain way in order to receive the love we need to feel safe in the world. In many cases, we may not be aware that we have developed this belief. We only know that when we consider making a change, we may feel anxiety and resistance without knowing why.

In the process of trying to come to terms with which inner voices were mine and which were not, I discovered that my extreme personality traits were like healthy qualities on steroids. Through various illnesses and harsh life lessons, I learned to dial down the intensity of my attachment to an idea of perfection. I redirected the root energy that was driving it into more life-affirming expressions. I discovered that within my drive were many strong qualities, such as immense creativity, powerful zeal and an ability to harness raw momentum out of almost any situation. These qualities became my allies.

Drawing upon this, I learned to honour my inner voice rather than cater to the voice of others. I am fond of the late self-help author Debbie Ford’s shadow work approach. It helps transform lives, not by trying to get rid of “bad” qualities, but by finding the hidden teachings in all.

Learning to be true to myself has meant letting go of a lot of excess. I have had to look at releasing a tendency to become entangled in what others think. I needed to look at my defensiveness, learning to soften a general, ongoing feeling of being judged or attacked. I have had to watch the death of my niceties and my feisties so that I could find the courage to go within and fiercely honour my own unique rhythm and voice.

As I began to live a more soul-directed life, I realized that doing so was not really the norm. Looking back at the construct I had started to leave behind, I saw that though on the surface it seemed that society supported excellence, the pull to live in the status quo was stronger in the collective consciousness. It seemed most people were satisfied with fitting in and being “normal”.

Why Be Normal??

Midway through university, I started to wear a pin on my coat that asked the question: “Why be normal?” I meant it as a provocative and sincere question as to what normality really meant to the world at large and to anyone who noticed me wearing it.

What I came to realize is that there is nothing wrong with being an A, B, C, D or F student, if that is who you truly are. We each are unique expressions of a divine force and it is our job to discover what that is and express it in our life. The problem is, most of us go through life on autopilot, as though we are asleep, wondering why life feels like a bad dream, tending to react to our unconscious thoughts and desires rather than learning to live fully and authentically.

When you begin to wake up, you start to see what the mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn calls “the full catastrophe” of our lives. You learn to see the depth of your reactivity, the ways you give your power away to people and things because you perceive the source of love and happiness to be outside yourself. Deeper still, you learn to touch and be present for the silent voices like “I can’t” or “I am not loved” or “I am unworthy” that unconsciously influence your thoughts and actions.

When you come upon these old, hidden places within us, be willing to pause and befriend them, rather than run from them in an attempt to deny any pain you may feel. By welcoming your fullest self, you access your power. You learn to see that your dreams are feasible, and that you have all you need to realize them. You understand that your main obstacle has been yourself (no one else) and the antagonistic way you have seen the world.

I began to find my own response to the question “why be normal?” as I followed an impulse, a powerful yet quiet force that lay waiting behind my conscious thoughts. It was within me and made no logical sense. But did that matter? I felt alive. I felt open. I felt connected. And in so doing, I was a better, more inspired and loving person.

In learning to find our unique rhythms, we need to try things out. I went through a phase of sporting short, electric purple hair with fluorescent blue eyebrows. My regular dress was multi-coloured body paint hidden mysteriously under a wardrobe of solid black. Only after a phase of leopard skin, tutus and combat boots, followed by a love affair with haute couture, did I reveal my joy of full colour. That was when I got rid of everything black.

When I was living in New York City, I went through a phase where everywhere I went, I carried a rubber goldfish in the palm of my hand, that I called “Fishy”. There was no sense in it. It was my own whimsical performance-art piece. The jelly-like goldfish was my friend, so it went where I went. People got used to it and accepted it. It was funny. It made people pause, do a double take and laugh. I loved that pause. I loved the space it gave because it allowed for more authentic connections as we stepped out of “normal”.

A friend of mine from New York, Kelly Cutrone, published a book a few years ago called Normal Gets You Nowhere that shares her own brand of self-love. She believes normalcy inhibits the unique gifts everyone can offer the world and doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. I agree with Kelly that when we are true to who we are, it’s easier to be honest, it’s easier to be compassionate, and the world is a much better place.

Fierce Courage and Compassion

Being true to who you are is an ongoing process as you meet each moment of your life. It is not a final destination point but a ripening as you get to know yourself more fully. To be yourself requires a fierce courage because there is social momentum to “normalcy”, staying asleep and not awakening your true nature. In effect, there is no “normal”. There is either asleep or awake, to varying degrees.

When you honour your true nature, you shed light for others to do the same. But not everyone is ready or interested in such honesty. Connecting to your inner fierceness keeps you honest, instinctual, and in alignment with nature. Tapping into courage helps you move towards greater expansion. Developing compassion helps you understand the tendency to want to remain asleep. Because that tendency exists within us all, you can see yourself in others. However, in this moment, you choose to awaken.

When you are naturally who you are, you align your energy with the force of nature, a most potent force. It does not apologize for who it is. It does not sheepishly try to be something else. It does not look for approval. It simply is.

The flower does not question that it is a flower, nor does the lion question its nature. The flower quietly reflects beauty. The lion will tear off your head if you get too close. The flower does not question if it is too beautiful or delicate, nor does the lion struggle with guilt, doubt and self-reproach for the force of its claws. If the lion pretended to be a mouse, the lion would be unhappy. If the flower were crushed by concrete, it could not grow.

We all are works in progress, letting go of excess, reclaiming what we lost, discovering the new and rediscovering the forgotten. Driven by the ego that knows only fear and disconnect, our minds tend to seek control and manipulate reality to suit our core beliefs. In turn, we create complexity in the moment, in which we become entangled. By becoming mentally convoluted, we lose touch with the force of our innate intelligence that arises from deep within through our connection with nature.

If your joy is singing, then sing. If your joy is being a lawyer, then love it. If you want to sit and read a book, then lap it up. If you need to tell someone how you feel, then let that person know. And do it completely, with every ounce of your being. Whatever it is, if you stifle that connection with nature, your connection to who you are, everyone loses. When you honour it, everyone wins.

If there is truth in my desire to be either an A or an F student, it is that neither the drive for niceness nor the drive for feistiness was right for me. Both were a form of pushing or pulling at life, rather than riding the river I am. Each one of us has to find that flow, our own unique expression of the life force that moves within us. Groundbreaking modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham provides an inspiring quote to illustrate this:

“There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. Because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”

We often mistake compassion for sentimentality and love for sweetness. Love to me is fierce, an unbridled force that defies reason. It is the force that says, “I am that I am.” Compassion is an expression of that force through action. It calls us to serve through love for being here, for being part of it all.

When you don’t say what you need or share who you are, you are living in fear and, in effect, wasting your life and everyone else’s time. This life is short. The perils are many. Give yourself the gift of sharpening your inner clarity. See who you are and connect to your unique inner light so that you may shine as a beacon in the world.

Some people may not get it. Some people will. Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel alive, plugged in and real. In tapping into such rooted, vital expansiveness, you send a message to the universe of possibility, of interconnection, saying “yes” to life. You have created a radical revolution – by being exactly who you are.

Today, and every day, I celebrate you.

Until next time, remember:

Love yourself.
Love others.
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.

Namaste,
Parvati

 

Author: Parvati Devi – Wake Up World 

www.choki.org

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What Should I Do? 8 Signs You’re Making the Best Decision

Life is filled with a constant barrage of choices; every moment of every day we make thousands of them – from what to eat for breakfast to when to go to bed. Most of the choices we make are small and have little influence over us, but some of them are not; some are so big that they completely alter the course of our life.

Decisions such as where to go to school, what to study, who to marry, where to live, and what to do for a living shape the quality of life because  they determine whether we live up to our highest potential in a happy, suitable lifestyle, or whether we end up living a dull life of monotony, under-achievement, boredom, or sadness.

Choices like these can be hard to make. So, how do you make big decisions? How do you know which choices will work best for you, and which ones you should avoid? Luckily, we are all equipped with an internal guidance system via the flow of life energy. Here are 8 signs life offers to help you when you are facing a big decision.

Synchronicity Increases
You will notice an increase in synchronicity when you are considering a choice that will uplift your life. You might hear a song on a radio, hear a conversation, see a show on television, or come across information that correlates to your decision.

Pay attention to these and recognize them as the positive signs they are meant to be.

Progress Seems Smooth
The highest choices for you will lift you up and entice you, they won’t make life more difficult and cause you to suffer. When you are heading in the best direction, things will flow smoothly, doors will magically open, and there will be an easy flow to the way everything proceeds. This is not to say you won’t have to work hard, or that everything will be easy and things will fall freely into your lap, but if your decision seems wrought with obstacles, it may not be the choice for you. Instead choose the path that opens effortlessly before you.

Inspiration and Creativity Flows
As creative beings we each feel our best when we can use our talents and gifts to make things that we can share with others. When you are facing a high life choice you will feel more open, vibrant and creatively inspired.  In fact, if this one indication alone is present for you when facing a decision, you can trust that it is the right one for you. Your highest potential will always inspire creativity.

You Feel Calm and Grounded
There is a certain serenity to the flow of life energy when it is open and free. If, when contemplating one of your options, you notice that one makes you feel a bit more calm, grounded and centered, go with it! This is your internal guidance showing you the way. You will guarantee yourself more peace if you do.

Your Energy Increases
Even if you can only feel it a little bit, there is always one choice that stirs your energy more than the others. Consider your choices and follow the one that invigorates, motivates or uplifts you the most. It will be the one that creates a feeling of buoyancy within you, causing you to feel more amped-up and vibrant than usual. Simply put, if your heart feels light, you’ll know it’s right.

You Are Excited or Curious
The best option will feel more exciting, interesting or intriguing to you. Rather than scaring you to the point of dread, it will excite you in the same way you may have felt when you were a child and had the butterflies-in-the-stomach experience before a birthday or happy event. Follow the choice that excites you, peaks your curiosity, or even scares you a little, for this is life telling you to live it.

You Can Imagine Limitless Possibility
Life energy loves expansion. The best choices for you will guide you to push your boundaries beyond your current comfort zone and limitations, in order to lead you to a future of unlimited potential, opportunity and happiness. If the choice you are considering inspires your imagination, showing you new paths you may not have ever considered, it’s a sign you are being lead toward expansion and the realization of a higher purpose.

Something Clicks
It doesn’t happen with every choice, but once in a while you’ll feel a certainty with a decision, as if something just clicks into place. You won’t have any doubt about what you are choosing because you’ll experience a distinct knowing that this is the best option for you. Recognize this when it happens and you’ll increase the chances of it happening again, making your future life choices much easier to make.

You exist as a being of energy vibrating on it’s own unique spectrum. In every moment you live, you have the option to experience any point on that spectrum you choose. Your highest potential is at the top of the spectrum, where energy vibrates at its maximum frequencies. It is here, at the top, that you meet your highest life purpose. If you can trust life and follow the path of your energy to the pinnacle of your spectrum, you will be lead to a lighter, happier, more fulfilling way of being. Practice following your energy by watching for these signs, and choose your way to your own best life.

Author: Susan L. Magine – Awakening People 

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The Magic of Being in the Here and Now

It has been said that life is experience. It is indeed the only place where life exists. In recognition of this, to really get something out of the experience, it’s necessary to commit one’s self to being in the here and now as opposed to living the effects of the past. If you can distinguish the difference, then you have the keys to personal effectiveness, achievement and happiness.

How do you do this? Let me start with an analogy…

Remember when you were a child, and your earliest walks in the park? You may remember that during those walks everything around you was so clear — the beauty of nature, the unexplored and the great unknown — and how it made you feel so alive and in the here and now. Then, as you grow, the next few times you didn’t feel quite so alive, because you got the idea that you’ve ‘seen those things in the park before.’ Then, as time went on, you felt even less invigorated by the experience than previously, for the same reason as before, and so on. Now, by the time you have reached adulthood, you don’t pay that much attention to the beauty of the surroundings while walking in the park — you’ve seen it all before! This ‘seen it all before’ feeling means you are no longer truly present, or feeling truly ‘alive’ with life in that moment.

However, something can happen that allows you to see things in a different light. It might be that you’re in such a good mood, or it’s a beautiful carefree morning, or for no reason whatsoever, you suddenly find yourself blissfully in the here and now while walking in the park. Notice this when it happens!

Because you’re in this state, you look around and notice things you hadn’t seen before. The shades of green on a grassy verge, the leaf venation on the different trees come right into your attention in the moment, then you distinguish the different birds surrounding you. You hear things that you may not have been aware of before. In other words you realize you had not ‘seen it all before’ because living in the here and now means seeing some of the infinite details in things you hadn’t observed before.

Now we can take this further. It’s not just about seeing things in the park, it’s about being mindful of life in general. When making an ongoing commitment to being in the here and now you have the keys to personal effectiveness. It is an opportunity for achievement because:

1. It allows creative moments to happen: For example, when fully present, you see a project you have on the go in a different light, which allows you to bring something new into existence and into being.

2. It gives rise to realization or insight: Insights or realizations in the moment enable you to go on to achieve things that you would not have been able to do without those realizations or insights.

3. You may recognize something new: You may observe something new that was not distinguished before (attention to detail) by others. By observing something new it could mean seeing things in a ‘new light’, prompting a whole new direction.

4. Creating a clear head without thought or distraction can allow the self to be peaceful, calm and healthy: An example of this is in the benefits of meditation as a commitment to being in the here and now.

5. Just be in the bliss, the beauty, and benefit what life has to offer! 

So, what could you get out of renewing your commitment to yourself to being in the here and now?

Author: Paul A. Philips – Wake Up World

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Are you getting enough vitamin N?

Have you heard of “Nature Deficit Disorder”? Author Richard Louv created the phrase in his book Last Child in the Woods. NDD refers to the disconnect that exists in the modern world between children and nature. It also reflects what many teens, adults, and seniors are experiencing in our busy lives. Many of us are spending too much time in the ever-expanding and enticing online digital world of social media, emails, and YouTube videos. We are losing our connection to ourselves, to nature, and even to other humans (meeting or speaking face to face). Our senses are being dulled from lack of use and our brains are overstimulated and overloaded, resulting in mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Thankfully, there is a solution: A daily dose of Mother Nature can help bring balance back to our busy, stressful lives.

In his new book, Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health & Happiness, Richard Louv refers to the importance of doses of “Vitamin N,” or nature. There has been an explosion of research over the last few years showing the important connection between spending time in green spaces and our mind, body, and soul health. Nature is vital to replenishing our energy, calming our busy minds, and helping us ground and connect again.

Here are some great tips from his book to help ensure we receive our daily dose of Vitamin N.

Book Nature Time: Life is overly busy for most of us. In order to ensure we avoid NDD, we need to book daily nature breaks and activities and stick to it. It can be as simple as playing or eating in the backyard or taking a slow walk in nature, being aware of the flowers, trees, birds, sky, water, rain, sun — no matter what the weather. One can have so much fun in the middle of a storm, so get your gear on and get outside! Whether by yourself or with the company of friends, family, or pets: BREATHE IN the amazing energy of the woods, local creek or river, the forest, mountains, beaches, or gardens, and REFRESH.

Use your Senses: Utilize all your senses and encourage your kids to as well. STOP and smell the flowers, Feel the breeze, taste the rain, touch the trees, walk barefoot and lie on the grass. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and feel the energy: Bring your focus to your foot and how it feels against the grass, and slowly follow that energy throughout your body, feeling all your cells come alive and sparkle with life. Visualize the energy running through your body from the earth and ground yourself. By reconnecting to our Energy Body, we bring ourselves back “down to Earth” instead of being in our racing and busy monkey minds all the time.

Negative Ions in Nature: Natural settings like forests, lakes, streams, and beaches are teeming with plant life and water and thus rich in molecules called negative ions. Although you can’t see or smell them, negative ions are known to boost mood and enhance energy, which can help alleviate depression and anxiety and calm us down.

Author: Sharmini Gana – Collective Evolution

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10 Ayurvedic Tips for Avoiding Sickness

The traditional Hindu system of medicine known as Ayurveda has been used for millennia to diagnose, treat, and maintain human health. Meaning “life knowledge” in Sanskrit, it is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a fine balance between mind, body, and spirit — essentially what we have come to know as the mind-body connection today.

In Western culture, we tend to compartmentalize our aliments, treating mind, body, and spirit as separate and disconnected elements rather than interlinked parts of a whole, connected organism. Ayurveda recognizes that all these systems of the body are interconnected and it is important to keep each one functioning optimally for our best health.

Here are 10 simple Ayurvedic practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to stay healthy and live a long life.

1. Drink a Full Glass of Warm Lemon Water in the Morning

Popularized in recent years, this practice has its origins in Ayurveda. The benefits from this simple task are many, and your body will definitely thank you for doing it each day. It is a great way to fire up your digestive system in preparation for the day and to flush out unwanted toxins. Lemon water also cleanses the liver and will give you a boost of vitamins and minerals to help start your day on the right foot and boost your immune system.

2. Eat Moderately and Don’t Drink Too Much While Eating

Eat until you are no longer hungry and you feel full, but not like you are about to burst. Try to avoid drinking any liquids half an hour before mealtime and for about an hour and a half after. Drinking too much liquid while eating dilutes stomach acid, making it more difficult to digest your food. If you must drink while eating, try to keep liquids to 250 ml or less, and make sure they are warm, not cold.

3. Allow 4-5 Hours Between Meals

Give your digestive system time to fully digest your last meal before adding more to it. You should also space out the amount of calories you consume throughout the day so your body has adequate energy to function optimally all day long. Digestion is hard work, after all. Try to avoid snacking, if possible.

4. Give Yourself an Abyanga Oil Massage Weekly

It’s safe to say that most people love a good massage!. But why save this special treat for when you have the time to visit a masseuse and can afford to pay them for one? You can give yourself a massage whenever you want and you definitely should, because it is tremendously beneficial to your health and well-being.

The effects of Abyanga are said to be similar to those received when one is saturated with love, so just like the experience of being loved, Abyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth. Abyanga restores the balances of the doshas — your unique blend of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics — and is said to enhance longevity.

Simply massage your body from toe to head with a good oil like coconut oil (or without oil) at least once a week to experience the benefits of this practice.

5. Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is believed to not only help detoxify the body, but whiten teeth and freshen breath as well. There have been several studies that confirmed the effectiveness of this practice for reducing plaque, gingivitis, gum decay and more.  From personal experience, I can say it definitely helped to whiten my teeth; I noticed a difference after the first try. Oil pulling involves swishing sesame or coconut oil in your mouth and pulling between teeth for 20 minutes, then spitting out before brushing.

Some reported benefits of oil pulling include: relief from migraines, reduced allergies and inflammation from arthritis, improved sleep, energy, and vision, elimination of eczema or acne, heavy metal detoxification, and healthier gums and teeth.

6. Tongue Scraping

Not only does this practice eliminate foul smelling morning breath, but it can rid the body of some unwanted bacteria as well. In Ayurvedic terms, this practice is a way or removing Ama from your physiology. Ama refers to any accumulation or toxic residue in the mind or body. Tongue scraping can also enhance your taste reception, which can in turn reduce cravings for excess sugar and salt. This practice is also believed to aid the overall digestive process.

Scrape your tongue with a copper tongue scraper daily first thing in the morning to remove unwanted toxins. Do this even before drinking your morning lemon water.

7. Exercise

This one should be obvious by now. We all know that it is important to exercise, but knowing it and actually doing it are two different things! Make it a habit to move daily. This can be as simple as stretching and/or going for a walk every day, or as intense as you’d like to make it. Either way, you’ll feel better physically and psychologically, and chances are, you’ll sleep better, too.

8. Avoid Cold Beverages

Even though nothing is as satisfying as an ice cold glass of water on a hot summer day, you should try to avoid them, especially close to or during meal time. Drinking cold water hinders digestion, it will solidify any fats or oils you have ingested and make them much more difficult to digest. and can actually cause dehydration. Rather than using its energy to digest your food, your body must waste energy trying to regulate the temperature of the water to match it to your internal temperature, which can lead to water loss. Drinking cold water after a meal, on the other hand, can create excess mucus in the body, which can decrease immune function.

It may take a bit of time to get used to, but consider drinking room temperature water and other beverages. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and I can definitely say I prefer it this way!

9. Eat in Peace

When you sit down for meals, focus your full attention on the food in front of you — that means no computer, cell phone, or television to distract you. Simply put, distracted eating leads to overeating. However, sitting down to eat with friends or family, while not always an option, is ideal because it makes you fully present to the experience and generally leads to slower eating. Studies have also shown that people tend to eat more sugary, salty, and fatty foods while sitting in front of the television.

Eat mindfully: chew your food slowly and thoroughly, put down your fork between bites, and really think about the sensation of eating each piece of food. Stop just before you feel full, to allow your brain to catch up to your stomach.

10. Follow a Routine

Follow a daily routine. Incorporate any of the aforementioned practices into something you do every day, and recognize that self-care is an essential part of physical and emotional health. It may be difficult at first to establish these new routines, but once they become habit, you will begin to look forward to these moments in your day.

The more of these you can do the better, but only do what feels right and good for you.

Have you already been practicing any of these daily rituals? How have they benefitted you? Please share in the comments section below.

Much Love

Author: Alanna Ketler – Collective Evolution
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