3 Tips To Keep Your Yoga On Track This Summer

3 Tips To Keep Your Yoga On Track This Summer

Here are 3 simple ways to keep you from losing yoga this summer.

1. Start a good morning yoga session to keep you stretched out.

Yoga is a great way to keep those muscles loose and moving this summer. We become just a little more active in the summer whether we’re running to the beach, playing in the water, or dancing the night away. Some of us trade our cars for bikes as well.

Having a regular yoga session can keep you stretched out so you can get the most advantage out of your summer activities. It doesn’t need to be long; even a 15-minute morning stretch can help you keep up.

2. Use the Earth and the outdoors as your yoga studio.

How many of us love a nice warm yoga room during winter? I know I do!Take advantage of the summer heat and practice outside and absorb that warmth into your bones. I guarantee the extra heat will help you lengthen while releasing those toxins. You’ll end your practice feeling fresh and anew.

The extra bit of Vitamin D doesn’t hurt either! Grab your favorite sweat-proof sunblock and get your flow on. Yoga with a view anyone?

3. Remember that having a summer yoga practice will make it easier to ease back into a fall routine.

It’s a total bummer when summer ends, although we do also look forward to a new season and getting back on a routine. If you keep up with your practice this summer, it won’t be as difficult to jump back in once the leaves start to fall.

Be kind to your body, as you may take some time off this summer, but don’t lose yoga altogether. Stay up to date with what’s going on in your studios and don’t miss a great new workshop once fall hits!

by Michele Olivieri
Quick Stress Relief

Quick Stress Relief

Ever wish a stress superhero could save you from traffic jams, chaotic meetings, or a toddler’s tantrums? Well, you can be your own stress-busting superhero. Everybody has the power to reduce the impact of stress as it’s happening and stay in control when the pressure builds. Like any skill, learning how to squash stress in the moment takes time, experimentation, and practice, but the payoff is huge. When you know how to quickly relieve stress, you’ll be able to stay smart, productive, and focused—no matter what life throws at you.

What you can do

  1. Find something to look at that makes you feel calm and alert
  2. Sing or hum a tune that energizes you
  3. Run your hands over something soothing
  4. Breathe in a scent that you find invigorating
  5. Sip something that soothes and relaxes you
  6. Stretch or move slowly in a way that both soothes and stimulates you

What is the best way to relieve stress fast?

There are countless techniques for managing stress. Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and exercise are just a few examples of stress-relieving activities that work wonders. But in the heat of the moment—during a high-pressured job interview, for example, or a disagreement with your spouse—you can’t just excuse yourself to meditate or take a long walk. For these situations, you need something more immediate and accessible.

One of the speediest and most reliable ways to stamp out stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. But since everyone is different, you’ll need to do some experimenting to discover what works best for you.

Talking face-to-face: another rapid stress reducer

Social interaction is our body’s most evolved and surefire strategy for regulating the nervous system. Talking face-to-face with a relaxed and caring listener can help you quickly calm down and release tension. Although you can’t always have a pal to lean on in the middle of a stressful situation, maintaining a network of close relationships is important for your mental health. Between quick sensory-based stress relief and good listeners, you’ll have your bases covered.

Tip 1: Recognize when you're stressed

It might seem obvious that you’d know when you’re stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that we’ve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance—when we’re calm yet still alert and focused.

Recognize stress by listening to your body

When you're tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When you're happy, you laugh easily. And when you are stressed, your body lets you know that too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your body’s clues. Here are some tips for recognizing when you’re stressed:

Observe your muscles and insides.

Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your stomach tight, cramped, or aching? Are your hands or jaw clenched?

Observe your breath.

Is your breath shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you "forget" to breathe.

Tip 2: Identify your stress response

Internally, we all respond to the “fight-or-flight” stress response the same: blood pressure rises, the heart pumps faster, and muscles constrict. Our bodies work hard and drain our immune system. Externally, however, people respond to stress in different ways.

The best way to quickly relieve stress often relates to your specific stress response:

Overexcited stress response – If you tend to become angry, agitated, overly emotional, or keyed up under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that quiet you down.

Underexcited stress response – If you tend to become depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that are stimulating and energizing.

The immobilization or “frozen” stress response

Do you freeze when under stress? The immobilization stress response is associated with a past history of trauma. When faced with stressful situations, you may find yourself totally stuck and unable to take action. Your challenge is to break free of your “frozen” state by rebooting your nervous system and reactivating the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” stress response. Physical movement that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, swimming, running, dancing, climbing, or tai chi, can be particularly help. As you move, focus on your body and the sensations you feel in your limbs rather than your thoughts. This mindfulness element can help your nervous system become “unstuck” and move on.

Tip 3: Bring your senses to the rescue

The following exercises can help you identify the sensory experiences that work to quickly relieve stress for you. As you experiment, note how quickly your stress levels drop. And be as precise as possible. What is the specific kind of sound or type of movement that affects you the most? For example, if you’re a music lover, listen to many different artists and types of music until you find the song that instantly lifts and relaxes you.

Explore a variety of sensations so that no matter where you are you’ll always have something you can do to relax yourself.

The examples listed below are intended to be a jumping-off point. It’s up to you to hone in on them and come up with additional things to try.

(Thanks to helpguide)

by Michele Olivieri
Key Differences Between Yoga and Meditation

Key Differences Between Yoga and Meditation

A lot of people aren’t really clear on the differences between meditation and yoga. We often hear people say “I’m meditating” or “I’m doing yoga.” Sometimes they are intending to suggest the same thing while other times they may be talking about drastically different things.

First, we must understand the two words and where they come from. I’ll start with the word Yoga. Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit word, which basically means “union.” This union means the connection between soul (the individual) and Spirit (God or universe). Yoga is not only the word to describe this state of union but is also the means to attain this state of union.

Patanjali, an ancient sage, is credited with formulating what is known as the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Without getting into too much detail they are as follows: 1. Yama (Do’s) 2. Niyama (Don’ts) 3. Asanas (Positions) 4. Pranayama (Control of breath or Life Force) 5. Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal) 6. Dharana (Concentration) 7. Dhyana (Meditation) and 8. Samadhi (Spiritual Ecstasy).

These are the basics steps of yoga (union) to attain the state of yoga (union). In the truest sense of the word a yogi is one who has permanently attained this lofty state of spiritual union although it can also be true that a yogi is merely one who practices yoga. Some choose to be technical and call these individuals “yogi aspirants.”

Now meditation comes from the word “Dhyana” (the 7th limb of yoga) and is essentially a state of awareness or consciousness. This, in the beginning, is a spiritual state where the practicing yogi has successfully turned his or her attention inward, shutting off the senses and outer distractions and transcends the restless mind. What’s important to note is that meditation is not a verb or an act. It is technically a misnomer to say that you are “meditating.” One cannot truly meditate; they can only do certain things and practice to bring about the state of meditation or dhyana.

The key ingredients to bring about the state of meditation (dhyana) and, ultimately, yoga (union) focuses on a relaxed body, calm mind, proper breathing and control of prana or life force. The practices of yoga are truly designed to help one learn to control this life force. Prana is known as the subtle intelligent energy that sustains all of creation and is most correlated to the breath in man. In fact, it is stated that one cannot willfully achieve meditation (dhyana) or yoga (union) until he or she learns to control this life force. People may sometimes unwillfully achieve a state of meditation or yoga but these are normally believed to be through the grace of God or deep sincere devotion. Yet even these experiences are beyond one’s control.

Through steady practice, discipline, devotion, non-attachment and various spiritual ideals it is said that one may ultimately learn to enter the state of Samadhi willfully. When one is able to accomplish this they became known as enlightened. There are actually a couple different types of samadhi as well. One is Salvikalpa Samadhi which means “with difference” in that one finds spiritual union to the exclusion of the outside world. The other is known as Nirvakalpa Samadhi meaning “without difference” so that one can stay in this highest state of spiritual ecstasy and still interact with the world. When one is able to permanently fix this state of awareness they become known as a Kaivalyam or one who is liberated!

Namaste

(Thanks to Lateef Warnick)

by Michele Olivieri
The Meaning of the Word Buddha

The Meaning of the Word Buddha

The term Buddha means “Awakened”. As he fully comprehended the Four Noble Truths and as he arose from the slumbers of ignorance he is called a Buddha. Since he not only comprehends but also expounds the doctrine and enlightens others, He is called a Samma-Sambuddha — a Fully Enlightened One.

Before His Enlightenment he was a bodhisattva which means one who is aspiring to attain Buddhahood. He was not born a Buddha, but became a Buddha by his own efforts. Every aspirant to Buddhahood passes through the bodhisattva period — a period comprising many lives over a vast period of time. During this period he undergoes intensive spiritual exercises and develops to perfection the qualities of generosity, discipline, renunciation, wisdom, energy, endurance, truthfulness, determination, benevolence and perfect equanimity. In a particular era there arises only one Fully Enlightened Buddha. Just as certain plants and trees can bear only one flower, even so one world-system can bear only one Fully Enlightened Buddha.

“Monks, there is one person whose birth into this world is for the welfare and happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the gain and welfare and happiness of gods and humanity. Who is this one person? It is the Tathāgata, who is a Worthy One, a Fully Enlightened One ~ Anguttara Nikaya”

The Buddha was a unique being. Such a being arises but rarely in this world, and is born out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men. The Buddha is called by many epithets, among them The Great Physician, The Giver of Deathlessness, The Lord of the Dhamma (Doctrine). As the Buddha himself says, “He is the Accomplished One, the Worthy One, the Fully Enlightened One.” The Buddha had no teacher for His Enlightenment. His knowledge of the secrets of all existence was realized by himself through his own intuitive wisdom.

“Hard is it to be born a man; hard is the life of mortals. Hard is it to gain the opportunity of hearing the Sublime Truth, and hard to encounter is the arising of the Buddhas.~ Dhammapada 182”

Who is the Buddha?

One may think that the Buddha was a human. But the Buddha denied this too. Once a Brahmin named Dona, approached the Buddha and questioned him.

“Your Reverence will be a deity?”

“No, indeed, brahmin, a deity am I not,” replied the Buddha.

“Then Your Reverence will be a god?”

“No indeed, brahmin, a god am I not.”

“Then Your Reverence will be a human being?”

“No indeed, brahmin, a human being am I not.”

“Who, then will Your Reverence be?”

The Buddha replied that He had destroyed Defilements which conditions rebirth as a god or a human being and added:

“As a lotus, fair and lovely, By the water is not soiled, By the world am I not soiled; Therefore, brahmin, am I Buddha!”

The Buddha had discovered the path of liberation from the cycles of continued rebirth in this world. Out of compassion for the world, he shows the path and method whereby he delivered himself from suffering and death and achieved man’s ultimate goal. It is left for man to follow the path.

“Be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge ~ Maha Parinibbana sutta”

These significant words uttered by the Buddha in his last days are very striking and inspiring. They reveal how vital is self-exertion to accomplish one’s ends, and how superficial and futile it is to seek redemption through self-proclaimed saviours, and to crave for illusory happiness in an afterlife through the propitiation of imaginary gods by fruitless prayers and meaningless sacrifices.

The Buddha was a human being. As a man he was born, as a Buddha he lived, and as a Buddha his life came to an end. Though human, he became an extraordinary man owing to his unique characteristics. The Buddha laid stress on this important point, and left no room for any one to fall into the error of thinking that he was an immortal being. This is important as he sets an example for what we too can achieve if we are to put effort in practising his teachings.

The Buddha’s Greatness

Born a man, living as a mortal, by his own exertion he attained the supreme state of perfection called Buddhahood, and without keeping his Enlightenment to himself, he proclaimed to the world the latent possibilities and the invincible power of the human mind. Instead of placing an unseen Almighty God over man, and giving man a subservient position in relation to such a conception of divine power, the Buddha demonstrated how man could attain the highest knowledge and Supreme Enlightenment by his own efforts. He thus raised the worth of man. He taught that man can gain his deliverance from the ills of life and realize the eternal bliss of Nirvana without depending on an external god or mediating priests.

He taught the egocentric, power-seeking world the noble ideal of selfless service. He protested against the evils of caste-system that hampered the progress of mankind and advocated equal opportunities for all. He declared that the gates of deliverance were open to all, in every condition of life, high or low, saint or sinner, who would care to turn a new leaf and aspire to perfection. He raised the status of down-trodden women, and not only brought them to a realization of their importance to society but also founded the first religious order for women. He banned the sacrifice of unfortunate animals and brought them within his compass of loving kindness.

“Driven by fear, men go for refuge to many places — to hills, woods, groves, trees and shrines. Such, indeed, is no safe refuge; such is not the refuge supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one released from all suffering. He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Teaching and his Order, penetrates with transcendental wisdom the Four Noble Truths — suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of suffering. This, indeed, is refuge secure. By seeking such refuge one is released from all sorrow. ~ Dhammapada 188-192”

He did not force his followers to be slaves either to his teachings or to himself, but through teaching the famous Kalama Sutta, granted complete freedom of thought and admonished his followers to accept his words only after subjecting them to a thorough examination.

He comforted the bereaved who had lost loved ones. He ministered to the deserted sick with his hands. He helped the poor and the neglected. He ennobled the lives of criminals and courtesans and accepted them into his order of monks. The rich and the poor, the saint and the criminal, loved him alike. His noble example was a source of inspiration to all. He was the most compassionate and tolerant of teachers.

(Thanks to parami.org)

by Michele Olivieri
10 Reasons Why Buddhism Will Enrich Your Path

10 Reasons Why Buddhism Will Enrich Your Path

The difference is that meditation is the very essence of Buddhism, not just the practice of a rarified elite of mystics. It’s fair to say that Buddhism is the most contemplative of the world’s major religions, which is a reflection of its basic nontheism.

Buddhism is about realization and experience, not institutions or divine authority. This makes it especially suited to those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Here are ten reasons why:

1. There is no Buddhist God.

Different schools of Buddhism have different views about who the Buddha was. Some say he was an ordinary human being who discovered the path to awakening; others say he was already enlightened but followed the path to show us how it’s done. But one thing is certain: he was not a God, deity, or divine being. His faculties were purely human, any of us can follow his path, and our enlightenment will be exactly the same as his. Ultimately, we are no different from him, and vice versa.

Admittedly, there are lots of Buddhist images that look like gods and deities, all kinds of colorful and exotic beings. The Buddhist cosmos is a vast one, containing infinite beings of different minds, bodies, faculties, and realms. Some are more subtle and awakened, and others are grosser and more confused. Yet these are just the endless variations on the reality we experience right now. It may be infinitely vast and profoundly deep, it may be mysterious beyond concept, it may be far different than we think it is, but whatever reality is, this is it. There is nothing and nobody fundamentally different from or outside of it.

2. It’s about your basic goodness.

Buddhism is not about salvation or original sin. It’s not about becoming somebody different or going somewhere else. Because both you and your world are basically good. With all its ups and downs, this world of ours works. It warms us; it feeds us; it offers us color, sound, and touch. We don’t have to struggle against our world. It is neither for us nor against us. It is a simple, vivid world of direct experience we can investigate, care for, enjoy, make love to.

We are basically good as well, confused as we may be. In Buddhism, our true nature has many names, such as buddhanature, ordinary mind, sugatagarbha, Vajradhara, or just plain buddha —  fundamental awakeness. The thing is, we can’t solidify, identify, or conceptualize it in any way. Then it’s just the same old game we’re stuck in now. We do not own this basic goodness. It is not inside of us, it is not outside of us, it is beyond the reach of conventional mind. It is empty of all form, yet everything we experience is its manifestation. It is nothing and the source of everything — how do you wrap your mind around that? All you can do is look directly, relax, and let go.

3. The problem is suffering. The answer is waking up.

Buddhism exists to address one problem: suffering. The Buddha called the truth of suffering “noble,” because recognizing our suffering is the starting place and inspiration of the spiritual path.

His second noble truth was the cause of suffering. In the West, Buddhists call this “ego.” It’s a small word that encompasses pretty much everything that’s wrong with the world. Because according to the Buddha, all suffering, large and small, starts with our false belief in a solid, separate, and continuous “I,” whose survival we devote our lives to.

It feels like we’re hopelessly caught in this bad dream of “me and them” we’ve created, but we can wake up from it. This is the third noble truth, the cessation of suffering. We do this by recognizing our ignorance, the falseness of our belief in this “I.” Finally, the Buddha told us that there is a concrete way we can get there, which basically consists of discipline, effort, meditation, and wisdom. This is the fourth noble truth, the truth of the path.

4. The way to do that is by working with your mind.

So, according to the Buddha, the problem is suffering, the cause is ignorance, the remedy is waking up, and the path is living mindfully, meditating, and cultivating our wisdom. There’s really only one place all that happens: in our minds. The mind is the source of both our suffering and our joy. Meditation — taming the mind — is what gets us from one to the other. Meditation is Buddhism’s basic remedy for the human condition, and its special genius.

The Buddhist path of meditation begins with practices to calm our wild mind. Once the mind is focused enough to look undistractedly into reality, we develop insight into the nature of our experience, which is marked by impermanence, suffering, nonego, and emptiness. We naturally develop compassion for ourselves and all beings who suffer, and our insight allows us to help them skillfully. Finally, we experience ourselves and our world for what they have been since beginningless time, are right now, and always will be — nothing but enlightenment itself, great perfection in every way.

5. No one can do it for you. But you can do it.

In Buddhism, there is no savior. There’s no one who’s going to do it for us, no place we can hide out for safety. We have to face reality squarely, and we have to do it alone. Even when Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, what they’re really taking refuge in is the truth that there’s no refuge. Not seeking protection is the only real protection.

So that’s the bad news — we have to do it alone. The good news is, we can do it. As human beings, we have the resources we need: intelligence, strength, loving hearts, and proven, effective methods. Because of that, we can rouse our confidence and renounce our depression and resentment.

But while no one can do that for us, help and guidance is available. There are teachers — women and men who are further along the path — who offer us instruction and inspiration. They prove to us it can be done. Our fellow practitioners support our path, while never allowing us to use them as crutches. The Buddhist teachings offer us wisdom that goes back 2,600 years to the Buddha himself. We can go right to the source, because the lineage that started with Gautama Buddha is unbroken to this day.

6. There is a spiritual, nonmaterial reality.

Some people describe Buddhism as the rational, “scientific” religion, helping us lead better and more caring lives without contradicting our modern worldview. It is certainly true that many Buddhist practices work very nicely in the modern world, don’t require any exotic beliefs, and bring demonstrable benefit to people’s lives. But that’s only part of the story.

Buddhism definitely asserts there is a reality that is not material. Other religions say that too; the difference is that in Buddhism this spiritual reality is not God. It is mind.

This is something you can investigate for yourself:

Is my mind made of matter or is it something else?

Does my mind have characteristics, like thoughts, feelings, and identity, or is it the space within which these things arise?

Does my mind change constantly or is it continuous? Is it one thing or many?

Where is the boundary of my mind? Is it large or small? Is it inside me looking at the material world outside? Or are my perceptions and my experience of them both mind? (And if so, perhaps it’s the material world we should be questioning the reality of.)

7. But you don’t have to take anything on faith.

There is no received wisdom in Buddhism, nothing we must accept purely on the basis of somebody else’s spiritual authority. The Dalai Lama has said that Buddhism must give up any belief that modern science disproves. The Buddha himself famously said, “Be a lamp unto yourselves,” and told his students they must test everything he said against their own experience. But it is easy to misinterpret this advice. Our modern egos are keen to take advantage of it. While we shouldn’t accept what others say at face value, this doesn’t mean we should just accept what we tell ourselves. We have to test the teachings of Buddhism against our direct life experience, not against our opinions.

And while modern science can prove or disprove old beliefs about astronomy or human physiology, it cannot measure or test the nonmaterial. Buddhism values the rational mind and seeks not to contradict it in its own sphere. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Finally, it is the rare person who can navigate the spiritual path alone. While retaining our self-respect and judgment, we must be willing to accept the guidance, even leadership, of those who are further along the path. In a society that exalts the individual and questions the hierarchy of the teacher-student relationship, it is a challenge to find a middle way between too much self and not enough.

8. Buddhism offers a wealth of skillful means for different people’s needs.

Buddhism is not a one-path-fits-all religion. It’s highly pragmatic, because it’s about whatever helps reduce suffering.

Beings are infinite. So are their problems and states of mind. Buddhism offers a wealth of skillful means to meet their different needs. If people are not ready for the final truth, but a partial truth will help, that’s no problem — as long as it actually helps. The problem is that things that feel helpful — like going along with our usual tricks — can sometimes make things worse. So the Buddhist teachings are gentle, but they can also be tough. We need to face the ways we cause ourselves and others suffering.

Buddhist meditators have been studying the mind for thousand of years. In that time, they’ve tested and proven many techniques to tame the mind, lessen our suffering, and discover who we are and what is real (and not). There are meditations to calm and focus the mind, contemplations to open the heart, and ways to bring ease and grace to the body. It’s fair to say, as many people have, that Buddhism is the world’s most developed science of mind.

Today, people who want to explore Buddhism have many resources at their disposal. For the first time in history, all the schools and traditions of Buddhism are gathered in one place. There are fine books, excellent teachers (many of them now American), practice centers, communities, and indeed, magazines.

These are all available for you to explore according to your own needs and path. You can practice meditation at home or go to a local center and practice with others. You can read a book, attend classes, or hear a lecture by a Buddhist teacher. Whatever works for you — no pressure.

9. It’s open, progressive, and not institutional.

While Buddhism in its Asian homelands can be conservative, convert Buddhists in the West are generally liberal, both socially and politically. Whether this is an accident of history or a natural reflection of the Buddhist teachings, Buddhist communities embrace diversity and work against sexism and racism.

Identities of all sorts, including gender, nationality, ethnicity, and even religion, are not seen as fixed and ultimately true. Yet they are not denied; differences are acknowledged, celebrated, and enjoyed. Of course, Buddhists are still people and still part of a society, so it’s a work in progress. But they’re trying.

Many Americans have turned away from organized religion because it feels like just another bureaucracy, rigid and self-serving. Buddhism has been described as disorganized religion. There’s no Buddhist pope. (No, the Dalai Lama is not the head of world Buddhism. He’s not even the head of all Tibetan Buddhism, just of one sect.) There is no overarching church, just a loose collection of different schools and communities. As you’ll quickly discover if you go to your local Buddhist center, things may run smoothly (or not), but the atmosphere is likely to be open and relaxed. It probably won’t feel institutional.

10. And it works.

We can’t see or measure subjective experience, so we can’t judge directly the effect Buddhism is having on someone else’s mind and heart. But we can see how they act and treat other people. We can hear what they say about what they’re experiencing inside.

What we find is that Buddhism works. For millennia, Buddhism has been making people more aware, caring, and skillful. All you have to do is meet someone who’s been practicing meditation a lot to know that. In our own time, hundreds of thousands of Americans are reporting that even a modest Buddhist practice has made their life better — they’re calmer, happier, and not as carried away when strong emotions arise. They’re kinder to themselves and others.

But it’s really important not to burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations. Change comes very slowly. You’ll also see that when you meet a Buddhist meditator, even one who’s been at it for a long time. Don’t expect perfection. We’re working with patterns of ignorance, greed, and anger that have developed over a lifetime — if not much longer. Change comes slowly for most of us. But it does come. If you stick with it, that’s guaranteed. Buddhism works.

This is not an attempt to convert anyone to Buddhism. There is no need for that. But those who think of themselves as spiritual but not religious can find a lot in Buddhism to help them on their personal path, however they define it.

When I first encountered Buddhism, what struck me was its absolute integrity. I saw that it was not trying to manipulate me by telling me what I wanted to hear. It always tells the truth. Sometimes that truth is gentle, softening our hearts and bringing tears to our eyes. Sometimes it is tough, forcing us to face our problems and cutting through our comfortable illusions. But always it is skillful. Always it offers us what we need. We are free to take what we wish.

(Thanks to Melvin Mcloed from lionsroar.com)

by Michele Olivieri
5 Ways To Start Your Day Like A Buddhist Monk...

5 Ways To Start Your Day Like A Buddhist Monk...

1. Set your motivation

The first thing the monks do when they wake up is sit up slowly in their bed, cross their legs and spend 10 minutes meditating on their motivation. The traditional buddhist motivation is called “bodhicitta” and it is the wish that all sentient beings be free from suffering. The monks will spend the first part of their day reminding themselves of the vows they have taken to spend every action, word and thought helping other beings.

Setting your motivation like this is very powerful. Instead of jumping out of bed, smashing the alarm and walking out the door the monks settle down and bring compassion and love in to their mind. This sets and awesome tone to the day as it shifts your focus away from how crap you feel to how other people are feeling. It makes you feel more altruistic and as such you can free yourself from the bonds of your comfy bed!

Of course, if you aren’t in to compassion you can set your motivation elsewhere. You might want to spend the first 10 minutes of the day thinking about how you are going to achieve some lofty goal that you have set yourself. Or you might just spend the time clearing your mind and waking up for the day. Whatever you do, setting your motivation at the very outset of the day is extremely powerful.

2. Do your most important task first

The next thing that the monks do is their personal meditation practice. This personal practice was given to them by their most important teacher and is streamlined according to their own level of understanding, intelligence and capacity. Of all the study and practice that the monks do it is their personal practice that is the most important. And they always do it first.

Rain or shine, sickness or health, up or down… the monks will do their personal practice the first thing in the morning. This is a very wise thing to do. The monks realize the futility of life and know that if they put the important stuff off they will soon be old and sick and it will be too late. They do their personal practice first in the morning because by doing so they can be assured that they won’t miss it due to other worldy commitments.

We should also put our most important task first in the day. It might be playing with your kids or writing your dream novel. It might be going to the gym to work on your health. Whatever it is we should wake up with enough time to do this thing first so that we don’t get caught up in the activities of life and miss out.

3. Do some exercise

Many of the Tibetan monks will spend the early morning performing “buddhist exercise” called prostrations (pictured above). This is where they place their folded palms at their head, throat and heart to symbolize purifying body, speech and mind and then prostrate themselves flat on the floor. They do this hundreds or thousands of times!

Prostrations are like yoga. They are a great way to cleanse your internal energies, burn calories and help you focus. They do them in the morning because they wake you up and they also make you feel great. As we now know, exercise causes endorphines to be released into the blood and we are left feeling happier and more at peace. Starting the day with some exercise is a fantastic way to put yourself in to a good mood.

4. Drink some tea

If you take a look at the benefits of tea you will see that it really is a good idea to drink a cup or two first thing in the morning. Tea has many antioxidants in it which help your body find disease and infection. It also has caffiene which helps to wake you up and get you focussed. Traditional Tibetan Medicine also tells us that the hot water is a good way to remove some toxins from your body. No wonder the monks drink it!

5. Do your learning

If you are studying or learning a new skill the early morning is the best time to do it. The monks will usually do their personal practice and then have breakfast. After breakfast they will do recitation and memorization as they know that their mind’s are the freshest at the start of the day. This is a very good piece of information for university students and/or people who struggle to retain important information. Try learning it in the morning.

CONCLUSION

If you ever get the chance to spend some time with a group of buddhist monks I would highly recommend you do so. They are so full of love and energy and simply by being around them you will find your own good qualities multiplying and getting stronger. Starting your day in a productive and well-intentioned way is one simple thing that we can do in order to become better people ourselves.

(Thanks to Philipp Brady)

by Michele Olivieri
10 Surprising Secrets No One Told You About Meditation

10 Surprising Secrets No One Told You About Meditation

For thousands of years and across countless cultures, humans around the world have been meditating. Whether you’re new to meditation, or you’ve been practicing it for a while, there are always new and fascinating things to discover about this age-old practice.

To the uninitiated, meditation appears mysterious and downright strange. To the well-practiced however, it’s just a normal part of their daily routine.

So how does meditation really work and how are you supposed to do it?

Read on to discover some surprising secrets about meditation.

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

1. Your Mind Will Quiet Itself

As opposed to actively trying to quiet your mind, when you meditate, your mind will quiet itself — all on its own. Whether you are following your breath or chanting a mantra, you’ll eventually start to just be present, to “just be.” If you try to tame your thoughts, they’ll just multiply instead. When you notice a sunset or you look up at the stars, all of your thoughts seems to disappear as you become more present to the moment. And that is how your mind quiets itself when you meditate, by becoming more present.

2. It Doesn’t Have to Take More than a Few Minutes

There are no hard rules that your meditation session has to take 30 minutes. Who says you can’t be present and meditate when you have a few spare moments to yourself? While a daily formal practice is preferable, you can be present while you’re standing on line or waiting for a friend. You can incorporate meditation into your daily life any way that works for you.

3. It’s as Simple as Observing Your Breathing

While meditation can seem mysterious and obscure to someone who has never tried it before, it actually couldn’t be more simple. In Zen meditation, you simply observe your own breathing. You sit quietly and keep following and watching your breathing, as it goes in and out. In and out. And that’s basically it. Easy, right? However, your mind will wander, you and you’ll have to keep returning your awareness back onto your breathing. Simple, but not easy.

4. Noticing How You React When Your Mind Wanders

For most beginners, when you start meditating you’ll notice that your mind wanders. Before you know it, you’ve been thinking about what to eat for dinner for the last few moments without even realizing it. If you get frustrated when this happens or if you beat yourself up, you’ll create more distress. Instead, it’s important to gently return your awareness back to your anchor (your breath), with the warmest compassion you can give to yourself. This is part of the process of meditation.

5. Anyone Can Meditate

Contrary to popular belief, there are no age restrictions on meditation. Whether you’re 90 years old, or your 5-year-old daughter wants to give it a whirl, go for it! There are very few limitations on who can meditate. There’s no discrimination on your ethnicity or gender. Even if you don’t consider yourself “spiritual,” plenty of people who don’t consider themselves spiritual meditate just for the health benefits alone. Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike can practice it. And if you have ADHD, research suggests that meditation will help you to concentrate and focus more.

6. You Can Meditate In Any Position

When you picture someone meditating, you usually imagine them in the lotus position, sitting cross-legged on the floor. But you can actually meditate in any position. The lotus position is usually recommended because it helps you stay focused. But you can also meditate while sitting in a chair, laying down, or even standing! Whatever body position you choose, you should feel comfortable and relaxed.

7. You Can Be Present Anywhere, Anytime

While I’m not suggesting that you try to meditate in the middle of a rock concert or while your 2-year-old is throwing a tantrum, you can be present anywhere, anytime. There is a very beautiful walking meditation in Zen, where you stay mindful of each step as you walk. No matter where you are, you can be mindful and aware of how you’re feeling and what you’re hearing and seeing. You can even meditate on a train or at your desk. Give it a shot.

8. Observe The Feeling Within Your Body

As Eckhart Tolle writes extensively about, being present is natural and actually easy when you bring your attention to what it feels like inside of your body. Even if you don’t feel anything remarkable going on inside of you, when you bring your attention to the “aliveness” and sensations you feel within your legs, arms, and torso, you’ll become more present, and your mental chatter will begin to quiet down. This is how your dog lives his life — present to his body.

9. You’ve Always Known How to Be Present, You Just Had to Re-Learn

Have you ever noticed the look in a baby’s eyes when they’re looking into your eyes? There’s no worry or regret, no disappointment or judgement. Babies are present in a way that seems very appealing to adults. They’re not absorbed in their own thoughts like adults are. You’ve probably had this experience of “no thinking” right when you’re about to fall asleep or after waking up. It can be argued that being present is our natural state.

10. There is No “One Right Way” To Do It

There are countless schools and techniques for meditation. According to an ancient Hindu text, the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, there are 112 ways to meditate! In some traditions, you focus on the breath, while in others you focus on a mantra. There is Zen, Transcendental Meditation, Vipassana meditation, mantra meditation, and so on. You can experiment with different meditation techniques or even create your own.

(Thanks to huffingtonpost)

by Michele Olivieri
The Powers Of An Incense Burner

The Powers Of An Incense Burner

This is NOT just an air freshener...

Most people who never have use incense burner, often think of it simply as an air freshener or an odor eater and are unaware of the many benefits it has to the mind and body. Even many regular incense users who use it regularly may not fully appreciate all its physical and psychological benefits.

Below are outlines of why just about every religion and culture since the beginning of time has used incense for its spiritual powers, why tribal healers and physicians throughout history have used incense for its healing powers, why monks have used incense for thousands of years for its concentration powers, why artists use incense to inspire creativity, and why couples use incense to heighten sexual experiences.

Watch this video below and feel the peace rush through every inch of your body
 

Get Your Very Own Incense Burner Here

1) Enhancing Concentration & Focus

Whether it is during study or at work, the use of specific incenses enables clear thinking and helps in developing a state of complete awareness. Monks recognized this benefit of incense long ago and use it during their meditation to clear the air as well as their thoughts. Jewelry makers and other workers who require intense concentration also often use incense to help them focus and to switch back and forth between working under the microscope and working away from it.

2) Stimulating Creativity

Similar to an enjoyable song or beautiful scenery can inspire the imagination, a pleasing aroma can get the creative energy flowing. The many botanical scents of incense can transport one’s mind away to a tropical island, a rainforest, a mountainous range, or any other earthly heaven. The scents of incense can put one in a dream like state where the imagination is set free to roam.

3) Increasing Motivation

Incense has long been used by religious and spiritual leaders to purify the air and the soul. Certain incense smoke has antibacterial, fungicidal, and insecticidal properties and, therefore, really does purify the air. It is said that the incense increases positive energy and drives away negative energy. The pure air is like health food for the brain and the body, resulting in an increased motivation and energy level.

4) Boosting Confidence

With increased focus, creativity, and motivation naturally comes increased confidence. When your body is relaxed and your brain is firing on all cylinders, you’re at your best, and when you’re at your best, you’re at your most confident. Burning incense before a big date, a big test, or a big presentation can really increase your confidence and, therefore, your chances of success.

5) Heightening Sexual Desire

Everyone knows that pheromones are nature’s aphrodisiac, which is why they are used in perfumes to attract the opposite sex. Similarly, by indulging the sense of smell, incense acts as a powerful aphrodisiac. The scents created by certain incenses stimulate sexual appetite and increase sexual attraction. Additionally, we’ve already covered that incense can boost confidence and enhance focus, and nothing attracts the opposite sex more than confidence and focus. Therefore, even if one were to use incense by himself and then meet up with his partner elsewhere, his increased confidence and focus will naturally turn his partner on. If a couple uses incense together, the smells will kick in the pheromone effect and they most likely will have a hard time keeping their hands off each other.

6) Preventing Infections

Many types of incense have antibacterial properties and can be used as a disinfectant to kill germs in the environment. In a recent Chinese study, incense was used to sterilize a hospital ward and was found to be just as effective as more standard means of sterilization such as using steam. By keeping your environment sterile, you can prevent infections and disease. Because many herbs, such as Myrrh, also act as antiseptics, gathering the smoke from certain types of incense and rubbing it over a wound may actually help the wound heal faster since the smoke can kill germs on the wound.

7) Relieving Headaches

Our sense of smell is a direct path to the brain and certain odors trigger an immediate response via the Limbic System. Particular aromas stimulate the brain to produce essential chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, which cause feelings of happiness, relaxation and contentment. For headache relief, certain incense aromas can help open the nasal passages, while others can lower blood pressure.

8) Fighting Depression

A study from an international team of scientists has discovered how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain that alleviate anxiety or depression. Incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, was administered to mice and found to stimulate TRPV3, a protein which helps reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. The compound significantly affected brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs.

9) Reducing Anxiety & Tension

The calming effects of incense are well known by Monks and spiritual leaders. Certain incense aromas work to slow down the heart rate and soothe nerves. These calming effects help to relieve built up tension in the muscles, enabling incense to also be used as a muscle relaxer. 

10) Aids Insomnia

As a result of the calming effects of incense, incense can also be used to induce sleep. The sedative properties of incense make it a great natural treatment to aid insomnia. This list is not quite thorough from the complete effects of incense that can have on the body and mind. There is a wide variety of plants and different parts of the plant used in incense, and each of these plants contains many different chemicals and compounds that effect the body. Inhaling these compounds is just another way of introducing them into the body, not much different than putting them into a pill form and ingesting them. The only difference is that inhaling them via incense has been done for thousands of years and is 100% natural, safe, and non-addicting. Therefore, incense should be considered as an effective remedy in treating such ailments as headaches and depression before resorting to prescription drugs. Because of all the benefits to the mind and body, it is wise to use incense on a regular basis to maintain health and happiness.

Get Your Own Healing Incense Burner TODAY 

(Thanks to taodewan.com)

 

by Michele Olivieri
Learn The Powers Of The Opalite Stone!

Learn The Powers Of The Opalite Stone!

Is Opalite A Powerful Stone?

Yes! Opalite is a stone of inspiration which enhances imagination and creativity. It can bring inspiration to projects and to life and Spirit. Its own spirit is at times like that of a child spontaneously playing, dashing color where ever it  pleases. Carrying this imaginative spontaneity into the realm of your life can bring strong creative energy.

 Check Out Our Opalite Necklace Here! 

 

Opalite has a larger proportion of water in it than most stones and is considered a water stone. This can help ease the effort of handling change in life. Like water rolls over and past rocks and roots in its way, the energy of opal can help continue on your path regardless of obstacles. During times of transformation, this is an invaluable energy to work with and hold close to your heart.

Opalite is a stone for love. It helps kindle passionate love into a stagnant heart chakra and bring renewal. This can take the form of fiery sensual love or gentler unconditional love and any shade of love in between. Opalite is also said to bring fidelity to love.

Mentally, opalite is said to enhance memory. It is also used to decrease confusion.

This is a great stone to have in your presence everyday, helping promote positive energy.
by Michele Olivieri
7 Yoga Poses To Balance Your Chakras

7 Yoga Poses To Balance Your Chakras

When a chakra, or wheel of energy, is stuck it may be helpful to release the prana (energy) through movement. Yoga postures are a great way to release stale or stuck energy from the body because they invite fresh, vital energy back in through poses and the breath.

I've selected my favorite asanas, which correspond to each of the seven main chakras.

Yoga poses that can help to balance your chakras aren't limited to the ones above. In fact, some of the chakras have many postures to help activate or balance the energy center. Please feel free to share your favorites!

 

1st Chakra (Muladhara)

 Virabhadrasana I, or Warrior I, is a great pose for the first chakra. It connects you to the earth, giving you a strong foundation in the feet. With the root chakra located at the base of the spine in the pelvis, the hips get a nice stretch in this pose, releasing stale energy.

 

2nd Chakra (Svadhisthana)

Baddha Konasana, or Bound Angle Pose, is appropriate to balance the second chakra. This hip opener once again brings attention to the pelvic region, where this chakra sits closely to Muladhara. Stretching the groin area helps to release tension in the seat of Svadishtana.

 

3rd Chakra (Manipura)

 

Navasana, or Boat Pose, helps to stimulate the third chakra. Located at the solar plexus, this posture activates the fire of Manipura and connects us to our center.

 

4th Chakra (Anahata)

  

Ustrasana, or Camel Pose, opens up our heart center. We often protect our hearts and close them off to vulnerability, which may limit our experiences. When we expose our hearts we can invite more love and give more love out, thus balancing Anahata.

 

5th Chakra (Vishudha)

  

Matsyasna, or Fish Pose, releases our throat chakra. Stretching out our throats permits us to freely express ourselves through our unique voices.

 

6th Chakra (Ajna)

 

Child's Pose connects the third eye to the floor, stimulating our center of intuition. By physically activating and bringing awareness to Ajna, we may be able to access our great inner wisdom.

You can also stack your fist under your third eye for more stimulation.

 

7th Chakra (Sahasrara)

 

 

Sirsasana, or Headstand, activates our crown chakra by placing pressure on the tops of our heads. The seventh chakra is the gateway to universal consciousness, and when stimulated we bring attention to this area and can connect to our higher self.

--

(Thanks to mindbodygreen)

by Michele Olivieri