Goldie Hawn Promotes the Benefits of Meditation

Goldie Hawn wikimedia commons

Goldie Hawn promotes the benefits of meditation, which is a part of the MindUP™ curriculum. Meditation is integral and foundational to this program, a program which at its core philosophy seeks to transform and help children transform their lives by creating opportunities to develop necessary social and emotional skills.

The MindUP™ consists of fifteen lessons for three developmental levels including Pre-K through second grade; third through fifth grade; and, sixth through eighth grade.

The program is organized into four units, in which mindfulness meditation as a role.  “Let’s Get Focused,” the first unit, features “understanding mindful attention and focusing our awareness.” The second unit, “Paying Attention to Our Senses” includes;Mindful Listening; Mindful Seeing; Mindful Smelling; Mindful Tasting;  Mindful Movement I; Mindful Movement II.” In unit three, “It’s All About Attitude” includes the mindful practice of ‘perspective.’ The last unit is all mindfulness, “Taking Action Mindfully,” including; “Acting with Gratitude; Performing Acts of Kindness; Taking Mindful Action in Our Community.”

It’s easy to see how Goldie Hawn’s vision to bring mindfulness to the classroom has evolved. An article by Ingrid Wickelgren, on the Scientific American blog reviewed Hawn’s address at the Second Annual Aspen Brain Forum speaks directly to the programs evolution. Here’s Ingrid’s take on it…

“Hawn spoke without notes, claiming to be a born communicator, a claim she backed up by her performance. As she talked, it occurred to me that vivaciousness and beauty did not alone propel her to stardom. Unlike most people who wing it, Hawn strung together rhythmic sentences that made sense. If the neuroscience community was going to be delivered an advocate, they could have done a lot worse.

She answered the obvious question first: Why is Goldie Hawn speaking at a brain conference? I already partly knew the answer. Just as any 7-year-old can now do, I had looked it up on the web. Six years ago Hawn established a nonprofit group called The Hawn Foundation “to promote children’s academic success in school and in life through social and emotional learning.” It is based on the notion that kids’ intellects do not exist in isolation from their emotions, their connections to others or the rest of their bodies. The MindUp program, the Foundation’s signature educational initiative, is designed to address these oft-neglected components of learning. It was a perfect fit for the forum, which this year addressed “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning: Implications for Education.” But more on that in a bit.

Hawn’s version was more personal. Decades ago (in 1972 she said), when she became famous, she felt newly anxious and something hard to imagine happened: she lost her signature smile. The change was foreign to Hawn—and not welcome. “When I was 11 years old, I decided that what I wanted to be in life was happy,” she said. “I thought, `All I want to do is hold onto this joy, this tickle I had when I was little.’” Having lost that tickle Hawn went spelunking, in her own psyche. She saw psychologists and began meditating, embarking on a nine-year psychological journey. Such an adventure might make lesser folks crazy or depressed in itself, but Hawn became surprisingly analytical about it. It led, she said, to her first understanding of the brain, “what it can do, how it can change.” She was particularly interested in neuroscience and spirituality, fancying questions such as “What is that God part of the brain?”

Hawn moved to rainy Vancouver, because her son, Wyatt, wanted to play hockey. While watching the rain outside her meditation room sometime in 2002, Hawn’s quest turned outward—in particular, to children. “I was a happy child,” she recalled. “I signed all my 4th grade papers, “Love, Goldie.” But in the wake of 9/11, she perceived U.S. children as being profoundly unhappy. “And I thought why can’t we do something that gets kids to understand their potential? Why don’t we teach our kids about the brain?”

Hawn was no brain expert, but she reasoned that teaching kids about the brain might make them more aware of their own thoughts and emotions. It might help them to develop the ability to think about thinking, or metacognition. That awareness would then give them better control over their own mind—directing their attention more appropriately or calming themselves down—in ways that could improve learning. Hawn seems to give kids lots of credit. I doubt most grownups would be similarly confident that kids could ably control their minds if shown how. Hawn saw this mission as urgent, though. She particularly wanted to prevent stress from shutting down executive function, the self-control of thought, action and emotion that is essential for learning.

So Hawn asked a team of educators, neurologists, psychologists and social scientists to develop a new curriculum built, in part, around lessons about how the brain works. Nowadays teachers in about 65 U.S. schools, nearly 150 in Canada, seven in the UK and one in Venezuela are using MindUp. Some of its young students now weave brain anatomy into casual conversation. One six-year-old girl, Hawn says, explained that it was her aunt’s amygdala that saved her life when the aunt pulled her out of the way of an oncoming car. Another kid reportedly said, “Oh, that lights up my prefrontal cortex, I know how to do this.”

Not all scientists think explicit knowledge of brain anatomy is necessary for prepping kids for study. But it is kind of cool. And why not? “I don’t think kids need to know about the amygdala,” says Adele Diamond, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia. “But kids enjoy learning about the brain. I don’t think it hurts.”

Another component of MindUp, also apparently aimed at metacognition, is meditation. For three minutes, students concentrate on their breathing. The activity not only promotes calm but also sharpens attention. “It is very hard to stay focused on something for three minutes,” Diamond says. “This is training the mind.”

An equally important objective of MindUp is social and emotional development. Kids are taught, for example, that random acts of kindness matter. They know about mirror neurons, Hawn says, and they learn that you become happy when you give to someone else, a lesson in line with the teachings of the Dalai Lama​. Similarly, in “gratitude journals,” children regularly jot down what they are grateful for. I think this is also designed to make them feel good (Hawn invoked dopamine, the brain chemical for reward, in her talk), and to build better relationships. My kids are told to do this at Thanksgiving, and every November I have the passing thought that we really should be counting our blessings more often.

Preliminary data suggest the program works. Kim Schonert-Riechl, an applied developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia and her colleagues tested the effectiveness of MindUp in 75 schools in her area. So far, the program seems to have had “incredibly positive effects,” says Diamond, who helped parse the data. It not only boosted kids’ self-reported feelings of happiness, liking of school, and sense of belonging, but also moderated kids’ cortisol levels, suggesting it lowered stress in the classroom. Perhaps most strikingly, it improved children’s executive function.

Scientists I spoke to about MindUp were enthusiastic about its potential to benefit children, particularly those at risk of being unhappy and failing in school. A lot of it did make scientific sense. After all, meditation exercises of the type used in MindUp can help adults better orient their attention, according to work presented by psychologist Amishi P. Jha of the University of Miami. And stress can shut down the ability to think—so reducing it should do the opposite. Some studies exist on the effects of gratitude as well: expressing your appreciation for a romantic partner, for example, seems to solidify those important bonds. (See “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage,” By Suzann Pileggi, Scientific American Mind, January/February 2010.) MindUp is reportedly gaining the support of teachers as well. “Teachers love it,” Diamond claims. “That’s why it’s spreading.”

…Hawn’s program is unique, if for no other reason, because she’s behind it. I couldn’t help admiring this scientific novice for doggedly following up on the instincts she had a decade ago, far-fetched as they might seem, and molding them into something undeniably real and data-driven. Hawn’s determination obviously cuts across disparate fields.”Read original article…

Meditation is a journey into self-awareness and neuroscience is allowing us to explore the landscape of the mind itself. In today’s world our children face so many challenges that have created unprecedented stress which compromise our children’s chance of academic success and wellbeing. Goldie Hawn’s program promotes the benefits of meditation and as she said, “We are going to change education as we know it,” I believe her!

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Meditation can Boost Your Happiness

Meditation can Boost Your Happiness

Meditation can boost your happiness, and happiness is the goal of all goals and the purpose of life. When you are happy you are more likely to make choices that will bring you things you desire like success, good health or wonderful relationships. This is something of the reverse of what many people believe, thinking that if they attain success, health or nurturing relationships, and then they will find happiness.

Knowing that happiness comes first, the question is how to create happiness for no reason. The answer is meditation, but leads to a different question, “how long do I have meditate to experience results?”

Wray Herbert, author of “On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits,” had the same question and the answers he discovered will be surprising to many. So here’s what Wray had to say about what he discovered…

I have been experimenting with mindfulness meditation recently. Originally a Buddhist practice, mindfulness meditation focuses on moment-to-moment awareness, of one’s body and its sensations and one’s immediate surroundings. When thoughts intrude on this aware state — as they always do — you gently let them go as you return to the moment. It’s very calming — and really hard.

It’s hard because the mind does not want to stop churning out thoughts. I’m told that with time and practice, meditation becomes easier, and what’s more that it brings a variety of emotional and health benefits. Those testimonials are why I’m doing this, but I confess the prospect is daunting. Expert Buddhist practitioners log some 10,000 hours of training, and even neophytes should expect to log 70 or more hours of training, over months, before seeing any noticeable benefits.

So imagine how encouraged I was to come across a recent study that seems designed for impatient souls like me. Psychological scientist Christopher Moyer, and a large group of colleagues at the University of Wisconsin — Stout, designed a brain study to see if there might be at least some benefit after a very brief period of meditation training. It’s a small study, and the first of its kind.

The scientists recruited a group of volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 73, all interested but inexperienced at meditation practice. The volunteers completed an emotional inventory before starting the study, and they also closed their eyes and tried to meditate for 18 minutes on their own. All they were told was to focus on their breathing, and if thoughts intruded, to re-focus their attention on their breathing. During this trial, they were hooked up to an EEG, which measured their baseline brain activity.

The participants had volunteered in exchange for training by experienced instructors, and half were immediately enrolled in such training. The others were wait-listed; they received training later on, but served as controls for the brain study. In the actual study, the meditation trainees were offered nine 30-minute sessions over five weeks, each session consisting of a short lesson and 5 to 20 minutes of “sitting.” After the five weeks, all of the volunteers — trainees and controls — repeated the 18-minute meditation trial, again hooked up to the EEG.

The results got my attention. As reported online in the journal Psychological Science, the trainees ended up averaging fewer than seven sessions, and meditated at home just a couple times a week — so they only got about six hours of training and practice in all over the five weeks. That comes to minutes a day, not hours. But even with this very modest commitment of time, the novices showed a significant shift in brain activity from their right to their left frontal hemispheres over the course of the study. Such brain asymmetry is associated with a shift to more positive emotional processing. In short, the promised benefits of meditation may be much more accessible than previously thought.

It’s not clear from these results whether these brain changes are lasting, or if they are limited to actual meditation and its immediate aftermath. I also anticipate that some purists will object to the whole idea that beginners would want to get something for nothing. But really, for newcomers to a practice so unfamiliar, even evidence of a temporary shift away from negative emotions is something to build on, and keep us coming back. Read full post here…

While the jury may still be out on the long term benefits of a short term meditation practice, anyone who moves ahead with a regular practice can certainly expect results.  

Meditation can boost your happiness because as the studies are showing, it alters the brain in many positive ways. Meditation stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and other brain opiates. So just in creating higher levels of these neurotransmitters, meditation is one of the more effective ways of changing the brain’s set point for happiness.

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The Three Stages of the Breath as a Vehicle for Meditation

Three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation

There are three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation, witnessing, relaxing the nervous system and stilling the mind.

In the wisdom tradition of Yoga, the breath is used as a vehicle for self-awareness and as a subtle focus that carries us inward. Following the breath is the means to a deeper connection and concentration of the mind-body, which leads to a sweet sense of peace and tranquility.

Meditation begins as we bring our awareness to the breath, following the rhythmic movements and the natural sensations of the many elements of breathing. This witnessing, which is the first stage of breath awareness is the process of bring awareness to all the physical and mental elements, from awareness of the air movement in and out of our lungs to the slowing of thoughts arising in the mind.

As we settle into awareness there is a shift that begins to take place in our nervous system. There is a close relationship between the breath and our nervous system; if we are frightened or apprehensive our breath is shallow and short, stopping and starting erratically, if however, we breathe slowly and deeply our nervous system relaxes.

Finally as the nervous system relaxes the mind begins to quiet and focus. From this deeper state of focused concentration, meditation becomes possible.

Let’s explore the three elements a bit closer.

Witnessing     

Witnessing is the process of bringing your attention fully to each of the sensations in the mind-body.

Notice the cool feeling as the air rushes up through your nose on the in breath and how it’s warmed as the air is expelled. As you settle in to your awareness, begin to focus on the inhalation, feeling a sense of renewal with each breath in and then renew your focus on the out breath and the release of tension that takes place with it. Allow this process to become a rhythmic pattern, following each breath, one at a time.

Once you have become comfortable with allow your awareness to move into the body, follow the breath into your chest, feel the movement of all the muscles as each expands and contracts as the breath fills your lungs. You will notice a difference in the way and amount different muscle will contract and expand depending on the position you are in, whether sitting erect or lying down, be aware of those differences.

Remember this is a natural process, so let it occur naturally, there is no need to ‘conform’ to a ‘style’ of breathing. If you sit in an upright and erect position you will become aware that there is less expansion of your chest as you breathe and it becomes more of a widening in your rib cage. But, whatever position you choose, let each breath flow into the next, without pause but without forcing or trying to control it, this is because a pause leaves an opening for the mind to become distracted.

Later during meditation you can maintain awareness even if you return your attention to the breath. You become the witness of your own breathing.

The breath is affected by a number of different factors as you move through your day. Each emotion has its own unique form of breathing, whether crying or laughter, the breath changes. Stress also has a deep and pervasive effect, restricting the normal flow of our breath, because of this our health can be adversely affected. However, as we develop an awareness of our breath through practice and because we can control our breathing voluntarily, we can make adjustments that will have a positive effect.   

As your practice evolves it will, naturally and organically, become less about controlling your breath and more about being the witness.

Relaxing the Nervous System

Meditation is a process of letting go, especially in the beginning; there is the release of negative energy in the form of stress, negative emotions, worry or regret. These thoughts are released as we slip into the meditative state, arising from their subconscious moorings.

Because the breath can be voluntary it is possible to maintain equilibrium reducing the natural tension between negative thoughts and conscious relaxed breathing. Through awareness and presence (witnessing) when we notice the negative thoughts arising by focusing on and preserving the relaxed breath, we can maintain self-control.

It is while practicing meditation that breath awareness will interrupt the flow of negative energy, keeping it from taking up residency, which in turn calms the nervous system. It’s breath awareness and the associated relaxed nervous system that allows us to create distance between our witnessing self and the causes of our stress.

Meditation – Stilling the Mind

It is in the deeper stages of breath awareness and as our nervous system relaxes that leads us in to the meditative state. This is accomplished as we combine breath awareness with a mantra; a process of watching the breath move in and out through the nose while repeating a mantra or sound.  

When the attention is on the breath, the air moving in and out of the nose, then the focus of our concentration is on a physical sensation. When we add the mantra to the breath, we move our focus from the physical sensation to the mental sound. This practice deepens the anchor of our concentration and focus.

The number one challenge a beginning meditator faces is becoming distracted by thought. Breath awareness works much like a meditation ‘safety net,’ catching us when we inevitably lose our concentration.

As our practice evolves the mental repetition of our mantra will replace breath awareness, allowing it to fade gently into the background. Ultimately, the same process will happen to the mantra, and as it fades the silence that has always been there emerges as we enter the field of unbounded awareness.    

Understanding and practicing the three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation, will allow you to move from meditation as a practice to meditation as an experience.

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Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Finding time with meditation is first about finding time to meditate. The second biggest challenge (the first being thoughts) that a new meditator will face is establishing a regular meditation routine.

I’m aware that every moment offers us the opportunity to be mindful, but this too is a practice. Creating a regular practice routine allows the new meditator time to develop a relationship with their practice and chance to fall in love with meditation. Once this relationship is established then time always is easily found, but until that time, some discipline is required.

The traditional time for the first meditation of the day is the hour or two right after you get up and around sunrise is preferred. This is because your mind and body are rested from deep sleep, and your mind hasn’t moved into full gear with the concerns of the day.

Early morning meditation, where you can set your intentions for a peaceful and enjoyable day, will help bring peace of mind to your activities throughout the day.

In her post, Colleen Morton Busch reveals her morning routine and how it “can help you find time.

 “Morning meditation at the zendo ends around 7 a.m. I have my whole day ahead, and much of the world around me hasn’t had coffee. I love this feeling, this perception of a vast space full of daylight and potential. It’s not just that I’m getting a jump on things — though I admit that’s part of it. It’s more about having an experience of time that isn’t so much an arrow between birth and death as it is all existence unfolding in each moment — if I pay attention.

Time can feel like a burden, an obstacle or a runaway train. Sometimes I push against it, shrug it off, stretch its seams. But time can’t be bossed around. As 13th century Zen ancestor Eihei Dogen pointed out, “Time itself is being, and all being is time.” Discord with time creates discord with life itself.

Meditation corrects this discord by training a practitioner to sit completely inside time, not ahead of it or behind it. The ticking of the clock, the wind-blown loops of the mind, the corridors of breath and flickers of birdsong: The moment contains all of it and is all of it. In meditation, there’s expansion and dropping away, a recalibration of the self’s relationship to the self, and thus, to time. For 40 minutes — the length of the periods where I sit — I am no one. I have no name or responsibilities except to maintain an upright posture, breathe and let go.

Meditation practice centers are time-conscious places. Someone rings the bell when it’s time to sit down for meditation, to get up, work, eat or sleep. Students are supposed to follow the schedule completely, taking off their watches and listening instead for the timekeeper’s cues. Ironically, the tight schedule doesn’t feel tight. Following the schedule frees up energy that would normally go into entertaining preferences and exercising choice. The schedule becomes a strict but empathic teacher, revealing time’s flowing and easy nature when we harmonize with it.

I once heard someone ask my teacher, a student of Suzuki Roshi’s, “Can a Buddha be in a hurry?” He paused briefly, then answered: “Be in time. Not in front of it or behind it.” I’ve experienced meditation periods where I couldn’t rest, when I wanted the bell to ring, signaling the period’s end. And I’ve experienced periods where I felt something like sadness when the bell sounded — I wanted the pleasant state of settled stillness to continue. In both cases, meditation shows me that even if time does not appear to be on my side, it is inside me. And I am inside of it.

Now, when I feel myself push against time or pull it toward me, I stop what I am doing and imagine not the small, strict circles of a watch dial, but the enormous, planetary circling of the earth around the sun.

Anyone can do this.

You don’t have to call it meditation. You don’t have to go somewhere special or sit down on a cushion cross-legged. It doesn’t have to be 5 a.m. At any moment, wherever you are, if you feel like time is a barking dog nipping at your heels, just pause, close your eyes if it helps and breathe.

Let time find you, like an ocean finds a shore, washing up treasures at your feet.” Read full article here…

Colleen Morton Busch has eloquently described her relationship with meditation and her obvious love of meditation. Once you’ve stepped into that place, meditation becomes, not discipline, but a sense of expanding awareness, an experience that creates time.

 Finding time with meditation is letting go of your resistance to time and as the Yoga Vasistha says of time, “The inexorable passage of invisible and intangible time eats up all creatures. Knowing this, the wise keep their attention on the timeless.” Meditation is the path to the timeless.   

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Choosing the Teacher that’s Right for You

Choosing the teacher that’s right for you

Choosing the teacher that’s right for you

Choosing the teacher that’s right for you depends on what it is you want. Is it a meditation teacher or a spiritual master that you want?

A meditation teacher can help you deepen and refine your meditation practice and they can help answer basic questions that arise. If, however, you wish to develop a meditation practice that will help you cultivate a spiritual path then you will need a mentor or a master.

There are many reasons that you might seek out a teacher or a mentor. Maybe you’ve encountered challenges, like dealing with strong emotions of anger, fear or sorrow. Perhaps you simply need some accountability, someone that will help you stay focused on your path.

A spiritual teacher can coach you as you move through the transformational process and they can even help accelerate this process by bring awareness to places where you get stuck.

There are many pitfalls that you can encounter when looking for a teacher, such as idealizing them, expecting them to be perfect, and becoming disillusioned when they don’t live up to that expectation.

In their article, Joel and Michelle Levey, give their answer to the question, “How can I find a qualified meditation teacher?” Their answers contain wisdom…

“As we travel and teach around the globe, many people ask us, “How can I find a qualified meditation teacher?” The answer is not always an easy one. When we first began our own practice, there were three meditation centers in Seattle and two yoga teachers. Now, there are thousands of yoga and meditation teachers and hundreds of meditation centers! In looking for a spiritual or “mind fitness” teacher, the qualities to look for include compassion, knowledge and insight, morality, sincerity and skill — both in teaching and in their way of living — and a greater realization of their true nature and highest potentials than you have. From your own side, you should have confidence in your teacher and be able to communicate well with him or her. However, don’t set out on a frantic guru hunt! We encourage you to proceed slowly, mindfully, and to be both open-minded and very discerning. It may be a matter of years before you meet the person who can answer your questions and be this special spiritual friend and teacher for you.

Meanwhile, you can begin to practice meditation from what you read and from podcasts or recordings on the web, and seek the advice of any meditators whose qualities you admire. The role of any good teacher is ultimately to help you learn to trust your own intuitive wisdom, your own inner guru or inner guidance system, which will ultimately be your most reliable source of true direction.

Because it’s so important, and fraught with so many potential pitfalls, the subject of finding a teacher deserves a special subset of guidelines of its own. A classic Buddhist teaching on “The Four Reliances” advises the spiritual seeker to:

“First rely on the principle, not on the person. Second, rely on the spirit, not the letter. Third, rely on wisdom, not conditioning. And fourth, rely on complete teaching, not incomplete teaching.”

There are many perils on the path of meditation and spiritual growth. Keep your eyes open and your discerning wisdom keen. There are teachers and traditions that are rare and precious beyond belief. If you are fortunate enough to be able to spend time with them, your life will be truly enriched. And, there are teachers and traditions that quite honestly, we don’t send people to. How do you know if you are pursuing an authentic spiritual path, or have met a good teacher?

Signs to watch for are: ethical and moral integrity; service to others; compassion; respect for discipline; personal accountability of both leaders and community members; faith; embodiment; groundedness; respect; joyfulness; fellowship with, or at least tolerance for, people of different faiths; an inspiring lineage of practitioners whose lives have been enriched; a community of kindred souls that inspires your respect and admiration; love; celebration; humanity; respect for silence as well as questions; an honoring of the mythical and the mystical as well as clear reasoning that welcomes debate; a balance of prayer, contemplation, study, and service in practice.

If you find that you are the type who is easily confused or bewildered by exploring many paths or studying with many teachers, it may be wise to simplify your spiritual pursuits. Research and visit different meditation centers and teachers until you find a path that is spiritually satisfying for you, and then through study, practice, and contemplation, go deeply into the heart of that path.

If you are by nature a weaver and synthesizer, your temperament may better suit you to seek inspiration from study and practice with a diversity of traditions. Seek to find the common heart and core around which they come together, and appreciate how each contributes to deepening your wisdom and love, and to strengthening your faith.

If you are a mature practitioner with a clear sense of your path and tradition, there is little to fear and much to gain through encounters with other traditions. These will likely serve to only clarify and deepen your faith and insight. Keep an open heart, an open mind, and seek for a path that works for you.

Spiritual communities, though potential havens, can also become escapes for the socially challenged. And teachers from other cultures, though masters in their spiritual disciplines, may lack the experience they need within their new culture to give realistic counsel to their students — and sometimes get distracted as they encounter the enticements of the West.

We wholeheartedly encourage you to keep your eyes wide open. Open-minded skepticism will help you to find a healthy balance between over-critical cynicism that may miss the real thing, and gullible naiveté that is easily duped into signing up for misleading or dangerous pursuits.

Over the years, in search of a deeper understanding, our work, travels, and research have lead us to encounter many different spiritual paths. Having also encountered many of the perils of the path — and having worked clinically with some of the casualties — we offer the following list of cautionary guidelines to check out before you “sign up” with a spiritual teacher or group. Though it is possible you may find some of the following warning signs on an authentic path, they are often associated with less trustworthy situations. It is always wise to observe the integrity of people’s behavior carefully, and ask yourself these three essential questions:

• Does what I hear make sense to me?
• Does it conform to the golden rule, empathy, and compassion toward yourself and others?
• What is the intention? Is it to harm or to help? Is it for limited self-interest — or service for the good of the whole and benefit to many for generations to come?

Beware if you encounter any of the following “red flags”:

• Teachers or circles of practitioners who are out of integrity, or who don’t practice what they preach.
• Settings where questions are not welcomed or answered in straightforward ways, or where raising concerns about conduct or ethical violations is frowned upon — especially if you are told you are being “too judgmental” when you do raise honest concerns.
• Anyone who claims that they can give “it” to you, especially for a price.
• If the price of admission excludes people who are truly sincere.
• If you are expected to purchase lots of expensive merchandise or paraphernalia to get on board.
• Slick, extravagant trappings or heavily marketed, empire-building enterprises.
• Discrimination or attempts to turn your heart against others.
• Hidden agendas.
• Fanatical, narrow-minded sects claiming to be “the only true way.”
• A heavily authoritarian, paternalistic, sexist, or militaristic scene.
• Practices that work with intense energy manipulation or heavy breathing practices without having first established a strong foundation in ethics and personal grounding.
• Teachers, paths, or seminars that seem ungrounded, make outrageous claims, use coercion tactics, or hustle you to get others to sign up.

Be especially discerning if you encounter people who seem to display unusual or extraordinary powers. Spiritually naïve people may easily confuse psychic sensitivity with spiritual maturity, deluding themselves and others. Purported channeling and clairvoyance may have little to do with authentic spiritual teachings. Because some teachers misrepresent themselves, claiming spiritual authorizations, realizations, or backgrounds that are downright lies, it’s always good to check references or question their authenticity. If the biography of a spiritual teacher heavily emphasizes their attainments in past lives, (maybe, but who knows?) we suggest that you stay focused on the integrity of the one you can see sitting in front of you.” Read full article…

No matter their style or approach to meditation and spirituality, all good teachers create space for you, allowing you to experience for yourself, the joy and wonder of the transformation which takes place within you.

Choosing the teacher that’s right for you should always, in the end, be made by consulting the guru within.

Always rely on your inner wisdom and guidance, which was the advice of the Buddha.

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

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Meditation Benefits: Bhakti Fest 2011

On September 8, 2011, for four days of Kirtan, Yoga, Meditation, Workshops and Loving Community, many thousands will arrive at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, “to express our love and devotion as one community through an enchanting array of activities.”

Bhakti Fest 2011

Bhakti Fest 2011

This will be an absolutely a cornucopia of the spiritually gifted and the event has been billed as the Spiritual Woodstock. There will be yoga led by Shiva Rea, Saul David Raye, Bryan Kest, Seane Corn and there others as well. Of the many workshops, one will be led by my one of my beloved teachers, Ram Dass.

Krishna Das, will of course, be leading Kirtan, but along with the singing and playing Krishna Das and Radhanath Swami and others will also be leading workshops. Speaking of Kirtan, Deva Premal & Miten, Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer, Donna de Lory, Wah!, MC Yogi, Larisa Stow and Shakti Tribe, The Mayapuris, to name a few will be there adding to the joy.     

Jai Uttal, just back from India, has a new album out, “Bhakti Bazaar,” which is absolutely wonderful with hints of rock, reggae, and classical music. In his blog Jai said about the music, “We took some beats and grooves and simply wandered. No rules, no formulas except following our feelings,” and “Making an album is a journey across mountains and valleys of moods and emotions.” We have certainly been blessed to have been invited along and the treat of hearing it performed live, well, bliss.   

There are so many notables that will be attending Bhakti Fest it’s hard to decide who to write about, because if I were to write about all the wonderful people ths would be a book not a blog post!

If you’re a fan of Krishna Das you’ll be happy to know he’ll be performing and doing a workshop, the Heart of Devotion and this will allow you the opportunity to ask him questions. The workshop will include chanting with musical accompaniment, storytelling, dharma talks, and discussions about life on the spiritual path.

Krishna Das

Krishna Das

 

I would like to note that substantial portion of the profits from Bhakti Fest will go to charities like the Seva Foundation, created by Ram Dass, an organization of “compassionate action.” That is the meaning of “seva,” compassionate action and that is in perfect balance with bhakti, which translates as “devotion.” Together they fulfill the mission of the Seva Foundation, “To be fully human, we must translate our compassion and concern into useful service.”

Damien Rose returns to Bhakti Fest for his third annual performance, those who are unfamiliar with Damien or his performance with the Tibetan healing bowls, are in for a very wonderful surprise. Damien have had a very synchronistic introduction to the Tibetan healing bowls, says he first discovered the Tibetan bowls when he picked up a hitchhiker in Northern California after graduating from law school. After arriving at hitchhiker home, he was invited in, and it was there he saw “a vast array of ancient bowls set up in the living room.” It was from that point on he decided to dedicate is energy to “working with sound vibration as a revealing and healing source of spiritual experience.”

My own experience was, as I said, synchronistic. I too, picked up a hitchhiker in Northern California. It as thirty five years ago, I noticed a man hitchhiking with a baby so I pulled my VW over and offered them a ride. It turned out that he was a somewhat of a local celebrity in the Bay area. Karman Moffitt, then also known as the ‘bell ringer of San Francisco,’ had played, on occasion, with the Grateful Dead and other area band, when they were in town. Karman was also a pointillist and on a trip to Nepal a couple of years earlier had traded some art for a set of Tibetan healing bowls. That was my introduction to the bowls.

And like Damien, the bowls have been a part of my life ever since. A few years ago I was introduced to my master teacher, Suren Shrestha, and began to become immersed in the healing practice. And as a side note if you are interested in the Tibetan healing bowls, Suren’s book “How to Heal with Singing Bowls,” is a chance to learn from a master.  

Here are a few other highlights to look forward to at Bhakti Fest. Philippo Franchini will talk about musical alchemy and how “creation is vibration.” Hoop Girl Christabel Zamor brings her love of hoopdance to Bhakti Fest. Joey Lugassy will enlighten us with the message of “stillness,” and how to release attachments and transform them “with a lighter touch” as “doorways to relevant self-discovery.”

Many of people, I’ve come to know and call friend, from the Chopra center will be attending and participating. Max Simon (assuming all is well with his dad) will make, as he has in the past, an appearance. Paul Heussenstamm, will be leading a mandala workshop. By the way, Paul’s workshops are of the ‘not to be missed’ variety, truly fun and transformative.     

Bhakti Fest is a Spiritual festival not a religious one, though there is a loving acceptance of all faiths. It’s the coming together of a loving community, creating a space as was said to express our love and devotion as one community through an enchanting array of activities.”

I thought I would leave you with a couple of videos of past festivals, so that if you’ve never had the opportunity to attend you can a sense of the ‘vibe’ and if you have, well, for a moment to be there again.   

Bhakti Fest September 2010.mov

Bhakti Fest brings people together from around the world to celebrate life through kirtan. This is an event that you do not want to miss. Next festival September 9-12, 2010, Joshua Tree, California. www.bhaktifest.com

Bhakti Fest 2010 Jai UttaL Groove Ananda

Jai UttaL led Kirtan for 3 hours! It was so crowded I could only get long shots but the sounds and psychedelic lightshow are awesome! My pleasant surprise was Wynn Paris’ band Groove Ananda ~ a sweeet mix of Music my fav being the Gospel type song. M…

Deva Premal and Miten… Whaou! – Bhakti Fest 2010

stunning! the crowd was speechless – Incredible silence for a minutes after that one!

Benefits of Guided Meditation: Kundalini Meditation for Healing

 

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi founder of Sahaja Yoga

The benefits of guided meditation have shown up in a large Australian research study of Sahaja Yoga. Sahaja Yoga is based on Kundalini meditation for healing or wholeness and is a method of meditation “which brings a breakthrough in the evolution of human awareness.” Sahaja Yoga begins with self-realization, which is accomplished by a method devised by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, through which self-realization is achieved spontaneously, helped by the collective growth in human consciousness.

Sahaja Yoga has been around since 1970 when a divine spiritual experience filled Nirmala Srivastava and she discovered the process of en-mass Self-Realization. Shri Mataji has made it her dharma (purpose) in life to awaken the spiritual power (Kundalini) of every human being.

Now, it would, seem that Australian scientists are confirming what practitioners of Sahaja Yoga have known all along, so here in the Sydney Morning Post is an article by Melissa Lahoud explaining the study…

“Meditation triggers change in electrical activity of the brain, improving the mind and body in measurable ways, the latest study on work stress, led by Dr Ramesh Manocha at Sydney University, reveals.

“Within the context of meditation and stress, it’s the largest study in the world … and we’ve applied some rigorous conditions,” Dr Manocha said.

The secret to the success of the study, he said, was the ”mental silence” traditional approach used in Sahaja Yoga.

“What authentic techniques should do is show you how to widen space between thoughts until the space is so large you have no thoughts whatsoever in that moment,” he said.

The clinical trial participants, 178 full-time workers, practised twice daily at home, for 10 to 20 minutes over eight weeks.

The improvements for mood and depression were twice as high for those practising ”mental silence” compared to the ”relaxation” and placebo groups.

”We’ve done other published studies where, when you teach people relaxation, they feel better, but there’s no change in disease, but when you teach mental silence approach, they felt twice as better but also saw significant changes in indicators with disease,” Dr Manocha said.

He stressed this was not the case for everyone, but many people had told him their symptoms had improved.

This might be the case for Toni Martelli, 33, who took part in the trial. She believes the benign lump on her throat has shrunk by half since adopting mental silence and an alternative medicine approach.

“I started my own drama school this year and the lump appeared this year – I think it was from stress and feeling overwhelmed,” Miss Martelli said.

She found it hard to empty her mind of thoughts, but said it gets easier with practice.

“You always walk away with something and if you’re going through a stressful time, it’s almost like a different point of view to your problem because you detach yourself,” she said.

A Lifeline poll reveals that stress levels are rising, with 93 per cent of Australians under strain at a rate that could create serious illness. .

Workplace stress costs the economy $15 billion a year. Sydney University runs a non-profit program teaching workers and students meditation during classes over four weeks, with about 10 large companies involved over the past few years.” Click here to visit the original source of this post

All real healing happens when we feel whole, and being whole (or holy) is the same thing as Self Realization, Second Birth, Enlightenment, Liberation, Moksha, or Satori this is why Kundalini meditation is a healing meditation.

We feel whole when we realize that “we are not this body, mind, ego, conditionings, emotions or intellect, but something of an eternal nature which is always residing in our heart in a pure, undisturbed state – the Self or Spirit.”

The Benefit of Downtime through Meditation

The Benefit of Downtime through Meditation

The Benefit of Downtime through Meditation

Meditation is a process of training the brain and the transformation of the body, mind and soul. The benefits of meditation are discovered, not on the cushion, but how they are reflected in all the aspects of your life, in your actions and attitudes. So it is necessary to develop a regular practice and allow yourself the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the practice, even if it’s simply for short periods twice a day.

As you practice, with consistency and sincerity, over the course of time you will begin to notice real changes taking place in you. This is why it’s important to spend time in meditative practice, even if it’s only 20or 30 minutes a day, of course, when possible, more would be better. I especially enjoy the morning meditation, it can give my day a whole new ‘color,’ and in a subtle, yet powerful, way it’s effects permeate all aspects of my day, from my the inner relationship with myself to those around me.

You will notice that, as you continue throughout the day you carry the experience of your formal practice. Because you carry that experience with you into your day you will be able to refer to it and drawn upon it as you move through your daily activities. And when you have a momentary break in the action of your daily hustle and bustle, it will be easy for you to slip back into your meditative experience, because it’s now familiar, and you’ll find you easily maintain its beneficial effects.

Another way to immerse yourself in meditation is to experience a meditation retreat. In his article, “Downtime for the Stone Age Brain,” Michael Taft tells of his experiences and his insights after a nighty-two day silent meditation at a retreat center in rural Massachusetts. This is, however, about more than a ‘what I did at my retreat last summer’ type of literary hug, he explores why it was necessary for meditation to arise in the first place. But, hey, I’ll just let Michael speak…

“Recently, I found a meditation retreat center in rural Massachusetts that cost just 10 dollars a day. That super-affordable price included a room of my own, and delicious, organic hippy food. As I was moving to a new city anyway, I let go of my apartment, put my stuff in storage, and went off to the center for three months. Ninety-two days of silent (absolutely no talking) meditation in a cabin in the woods. There were about thirty other people there, the size of your basic hunter-gatherer tribe in the Paleolithic. Because I have been meditating for decades, I had no trouble sinking into the groove of long sits for many hours a day, every day…”

That experience made me very sensitive to a condition that I call my “brain being full.” It’s a specific feeling that I have taken in enough stimulation, and now need to just go be quiet for a while. Having felt what it’s like to have all the backlog of experiences cleared out of my head, I’m intolerant of letting it build up a backlog again. It feels too good when it’s all clean and clear. Another way of talking about this is to say that the frantic, amped up feeling of too much seeking clears away. When we are seeking all the time, we are intaking new material constantly without ever actually dealing with it.

And that makes sense in terms of evolution and our ancestral environment. Our brains would have been more than adequate to handle the few exciting things that came up, and been perfectly content to sort of idle along the rest of the time. That idle mode feels really, really good, because it is probably the natural waking rest mode of the brain. Not caught in a seeking feedback loop. No stress, no anxiety or cortisol, and no overload of problems problems problems that our information overlords shovel into the gaping maw of our need for novelty. It’s like feeding Cap’n Crunch to kids: they can’t stop eating it, even though it’s not doing them any good.

Stone Age Nights

If you were instantly transported back to the Paleolithic, with all your modern faculties intact, what would be the number one thing you would notice? The beauty of nature, the enormous herds of game and flocks of birds, the fresh air, the lack of noise? Sure, those would be wonderful, but your amazement probably wouldn’t last all that long. I suspect that, if you were to stay back in the Stone Age any length of time longer than, say, a week, you would be slammed in the face by how incredibly boring it was. Boring and painful.

Those would be your main impressions. Imagine a world with no books, movies, television, music on demand, Internet, texting. Imagine a world where you only had the same thirty people to talk to, every day for your whole life. Nature is beautiful, but it is also placid. Bird calls, rustling leaves, and babbling brooks comprise the soundscape, something so boring that we call it ambient white noise. It all looks great, but after a while it all looks the same. If you want to see something different, there are no pictures, no magic of the world wide web. When the sun goes down, you can’t see anything for twelve long hours until it comes up again. Next to a campfire or on the few nights of the bright moon, you can sort of see something, but in general you’re just stuck there, staring into the darkness for hours and hours. Boring…”

Seeking

“…Mammals are wired to look for novelty in the environment, a behavior called “seeking…”

“…Our brains have an insatiable urge for seeking new things, but now we have a limitless source of novelty. We are stuffed beyond the limit with unprocessed, undigested, and unhelpful experiences that we cannot convert to energizing, useful, practical knowledge. We can’t stop pressing the seek button, looking for another little hit of dopamine. We are information junkies, and our brains are full. Like rats in a lab, we could just keep hitting the seek button until we collapse.

But maybe there’s a way out. It’s not to shut off the firehose, although I gave up television 30 years ago, and it’s not a bad idea. Instead, it’s to every so often take a break from new information.

I’m not suggesting that everyone take three months off to look at trees (although it wouldn’t hurt). What I am suggesting is that our brains require some real down time. Down time doesn’t mean watching a movie (which is just a bunch of emotional stimulation, and more novelty seeking) or doing something exciting and fun with friends. Down time means deeply quiet, really simple, totally open time in which you are not working, accomplishing anything, or taking in new information. Down time means staring at trees, or strolling aimlessly in a forest. Hanging out at the beach, or sitting on a mountainside. Even in the city, it’s not that hard to just kick back and watch the sky or relax at home. Let yourself get really bored.”

Meditation

Will sitting in a park looking at clouds really be enough to clear all the detritus out of your neurons? My guess, from experience, is that it probably would be, if you could do enough of it. The trouble is that our complicated, busy lives do not afford us enough down time to actually allow the brain the downtime it needs. With all that happens in just one day of modern life, it would take something like a week of hanging out next to a stream to process. Simplicity is not an efficient enough process; it cleans too slowly. We were not designed by evolution to have that much stuff to clear out. Input is greater than the processing available…”

“This is where meditation comes in…. Meditation is a fuzzy word in English. There are many different definitions, and many different techniques, some of which are apparently the opposite of others. For most people, meditation means sitting with your legs crossed and trying not to think. That is actually a very difficult and advanced technique, and not necessarily even the best one. There are certain forms of meditation (such as Zen shinkantaza, Krishanmurti’s choiceness awareness, and various advaita non-techniques) that are essentially just sitting there without doing anything on purpose. This is different than trying not to think, or doing a mantra, or trying to concentrate (although all of these are useful meditation techniques). It is essentially getting out of the way, and allowing the brain eventually to revert to its “natural state.” Although natural is a loaded word, often used to obscure rather than reveal, in this case I think it’s exactly accurate in the sense of the state your brain evolved to be in most of the time. A kind of alert, relaxed openness. Not thinking about anything in particular, but not striving to remove thinking either. Not seeking, in other words.

Meditation is, in a sense, unnatural. It’s very unlikely that HGs in the Paleolithic sat around meditating. They didn’t need to, because everything was much slower, spacious, and gentle. It was low impact on the brain. But with the rise of modern society (and I’m calling India at 500 BCE a modern society, meaning people living in cities), people couldn’t find enough down time to return their minds to a natural state. There was too much novelty, too many new ideas, too much cool stuff to do, talk about, and see. The feedback loop of seeking had too much fuel, and something had to be done. Something that itself was a new technology, an activity that people had not done before, but which would return the brain, and the person, to a relaxed, open state. So we can think of meditation as an unnatural way to return to a natural state. Sort of like weightlifting or special diets–activities which no hunter-gatherer would have engaged in, but which help our bodies return to a more natural state of health and wellbeing…” Click here to visit the original source of this post

I’ve only provided a taste of what Michael has to share and this one of those rare pieces that is well worth spending the time to fully experience.And if you are interested in learning more from Michael you can check out his book, “Ego; the Fall of the Twin Towers and the Rise of an Enlightened Humanity”

Meditation is compatible with, and I believe, a necessary component of an active professional and family life. Meditation provides us the chance to see the events of our lives from a larger perspective while experiencing greater serenity and to move confidently into our future. You will find yourself being less effected by the inevitable setbacks that occur in our life or being carried away by superficial success.

That is the transformative effect of meditation, which happens organically and without effort, as your practice deepens, so that you will find yourself acting more effectively in the world, with a greater sense of personal peace.

“The very best and utmost attainment in this life is to remain still and let God act and speak in thee.”

-Meister Eckhart

The Benefits of Meditation – A Nurse’s Perspective

 

The Benefits of Meditation - A Nurse’s Perspective

The Benefits of Meditation - A Nurse’s Perspective

It seems as though that there’s exponential growth in benefits of meditation, with something new being learned every day. In this next post, a psychiatric nurse tells her story about the benefits of meditation she’s found in her practice.

But before we go there, I thought I would share one benefit of meditation, which as the Dalai Lama put it, will make you a, “wise self-ish” person, and that benefit is lovingkindness.

Lovingkindness isn’t some ethereal practice, but the natural outcome of meditation, which now, has overwhelming scientific verification. The practice of lovingkindness is enlightened self-interest, because when we send love to others then we instantly receive the emotional benefit of experiencing love, courage, joy and hope and the corresponding physiological benefits that flood our bodies as the result of our emotional experiences.

These benefits of this type of meditation have shown up in as little as eight weeks in the form of discernable changes in brain matter which can be measured. However, it’s not about the scientific proof, it’s about the experience you have and the benefits that you feel.

And on that note I’m going to let Jeanne Millsap, the author of the post, tell the psychiatric nurse’s story…

“Christine Daniel, a behavioral health liaison nurse with Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center, said she’s been practicing meditation for a while and feels its calming, refreshing effects immediately.

“I usually get my best meditation times on vacation by the water,” she said. “Afterward, I feel like I’ve had the best sleep in my life.”

Research published in April in the medical journal, Brain Research Bulletin, found that meditation may actually modify alpha rhythm waves in the brain, which help regulate sensory input from the surrounding environment.

Previous research has found other changes in the body during meditative states. Studies even show a long-term health benefit from regular meditation — a reduction in the occurrence of depression for those who have the condition. Areas of the brain associated with learning and anxiety may actually undergo physical changes with daily meditation.

“Past studies show that it (meditation) does decrease anxiety, blood pressure, and stress levels,” Daniel said. “When you’re able to quiet your brain down, you slow down the whole neurochemical thing that’s happening.”

Stress relief

Daniel said that, especially today with all our social media, we are inundated with stimuli, and we don’t allow our bodies and minds to get a respite from it.

“So often, we’re just bombarded with input and stress,” she said, “and our bodies and minds never have that chance to decompress. Anytime you can quiet down and relax, your stress will go down and blood pressure will go down.”

Daniel said she has seen people with headaches and gastrointestinal problems feel better after meditating.

A psychiatrist she knows takes meditation breaks now and then during his practice to regroup during stressful times. She does, too, on occasion and finds it is a way to refresh and return to her life with a better attitude and feeling better.

It’s a great way to quiet the mind, she said.

“Meditation is especially good to help with anxiety or depression disorder,” she said.

Quiet the mind

Daniel emphasized those with serious medical problems should consult a physician, rather than try meditation first, but meditation in conjunction with medications and other therapy can work wonders.

Meditation is different for everyone, but Daniel said one thing all the various techniques have in common is to seek a quiet place within the mind.

“Some people start with prayer,” she said. “Some people have to be in a dark room. Some people can do it in a park. People find their own way to get into that quiet place within themselves.”

To achieve the most with meditation, Daniel advised doing it on a daily basis, even if only for five minutes, and to be consistent with it. It’s going to take some time to learn how to quiet your mind, she said.

To begin, she said, sit in a comfortable position for you. The classic position thought of for transcendental meditation is sitting cross-legged, but Daniel said any position is fine.”

So in the end, here’s another health professional using meditation to benefit her patients. Maybe we should all prescribe a healthy dose of lovingkindness and let that meditation bestow it’s benefits on all the relationships in our lives.

Click here to visit the original source of this post

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

When I sit and become quite and still, I open my heart and see the interconnectedness of things, this isn’t mystical, it’s the way love works. How interchangeable the words, love and meditation, are and when they merge the experience becomes powerful and transformative.

Sally Kempton is one of the best meditation teachers in the world and yet as one would hope from someone who has been studding meditation for over forty years, approachable and unpretentious. I’m saying this in the same with the same caveat that the author of this post, Jean Fain, used, that being, my knowledge of this wonderful teacher has been from a distance, through books, Cd’s and large group meditations.

I’m on my second reading of her new book, “Meditation for the Love of It,” and of the hundreds of books that I’ve read on meditation this one is special and one of the best guides to meditation I’ve had the pleasure to immerse myself in.

Even this interview with Jean Fain, hold insights into approaches to meditation, for example when Sally is asked by Jean, about love and meditation and Sally answers, “Love is what makes meditation juicy, enjoyable, deep.”

I think I’ll let Jean take it from here…

It’s easy to like Sally Kempton, a meditation inspiration to “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert. Not because Kempton listens carefully or laughs easily, though I’m partial to anyone who can do either in this crazy-busy world. Certainly, her likability has nothing to do with the fact that Gilbert counts herself as one of Kempton’s followers. If anything, claims to fame only raise expectations, making the subject of such claims harder, not easier to like.

No, what makes the beloved meditation teacher so likable is the same thing that makes Gilbert a best-selling author — her special ability to translate subtle life truths into simple, practical and compassion-enhancing lessons.

To be clear, Gilbert has learned from Kempton as I have — from a distance. We’ve both been inspired by Kempton’s written meditations on meditation, but Gilbert has taken that inspiration further. The truth is a little confusing, but to be precise: The ashram Gilbert described in “Eat Pray Love” was founded by Kempton’s original meditation inspiration, Swami Muktananda.

Me, I’ve yet to give Kempton’s new book, “Meditation for the Love of It,” sufficient time. I’m intrigued by what the dust jacket promises: “Practical secrets to help us turn meditation into an unconditional embrace of the fullness of our experience — on and off the meditation cushion.” No surprise, that promise was not fulfilled on first reading. With more time, I’m hoping fulfillment will come.

If you’re reluctant to take my word for Kempton’s likability, consider taking Gilbert’s: “She [Kempton] is not only one of the best meditation teachers in the world; she is also one of us,” Gilbert writes. “She manages to fearlessly explore the outer reaches of the universe without ever losing the warm voice of your dear friend from just around the block.”

Speaking of books, Kempton and I share the same publisher. Because of that, we got to talking about our shared interests: eating, meditating and loving. Before I share select questions and answers from our recent phone conversation, I must say that while we resonate with that old Beatles’ song, “All You Need Is Love,” and we appreciate a heart-opening meditation and a mouth-watering dessert, we don’t see eye to eye on everything. Rather than simply agreeing to disagree, you’ll see that our unspoken agreement is to the open, honest and playful exchange of ideas.

Q. What drew you to meditation?

A. In my late 20s, I realized I didn’t really know who I was. I was following the path of success in NY, and doing pretty well — writing for magazines, dating, known in my circle for being cool — but there was a pervasive feeling of not being satisfied by any of it. It was literally as though my heart wasn’t in it. Even though I was doing everything I was ‘supposed’ to do in life, I found myself asking: “Is this all there is?”

Q. OK, so you were dissatisfied. But you were following in the footsteps of your dad [the late Newsday columnist Murray Kempton.] Why did you trade journalism for meditation?

A. I didn’t exactly trade journalism for meditation. Once a writer always a writer! My writing simply morphed as my priorities morphed… What changed my trajectory was a spontaneous and very radical awakening of my heart, which arrived out of nowhere and shifted my priorities in an instant. The problem was, I couldn’t hold onto the open-heart space because my mind was so unruly. So I started looking for ways to tame my mind, and meditation seemed to be it.

Q. Your story sounds a lot like Elizabeth Gilbert’s. You both went through, how do you put it, a “moderate life crisis”?

A. Yes, she and I have a lot in common. We’re both social observers — we’re both interested in the way society works, love works, relationships work. We’re both radically independent. We were both operating in a male-dominated publishing world – she wrote for GQ; I wrote for Esquire. And we were both drawn to the same kind of [heart-based] spirituality.

Q. Elizabeth Gilbert says your writings have been “life-saving.” Do you know what she means by that?

A. People often tell me that the book inspires them to want to meditate. This is probably what she meant. In the book, I suggest a path of playfulness and experimentation that helps people get past barriers and deeper into the exquisite spaciousness of their inner world. There’s this enormous treasure house inside of us. Most of us get to the door, catch a glimpse, but can’t go further. There was a time in my practice when I reached this same limit in how deep I could go. By experimenting with different ways of meditating, I learned how to go much deeper. What I share in the book is the approach that let me do that along with a lot of practices, some classical, some fairly original.

Q. You prescribe a variety of love-enhancing meditations in your book. What’s love got to do with it?

A. Love is what makes meditation juicy, enjoyable, deep. When love is lacking, I’ve learned in my many years of teaching, meditation can start to feel dry, dutiful, unconnected to our emotional life, and then eventually we don’t want to do it anymore. But if you kindle love in your meditation, it not only makes your practice juicy, it begins to spill out into your actions and interactions with other people. It starts to change the way you are in the world.

Q. Do you have a favorite love-kindling meditation?

A. My favorite is to let the breath draw your attention to the upper chest, behind the breast bone, right to the physical heart. On the inhalation, feel the breath caressing your heart. On the exhalation, feel the breath softening or expanding the heart. As you do this, a tender, loving energy arises.

Q. Living with an open, loving heart in this sometimes cold, cruel world sounds scary and difficult, if not impossible. But you clearly recommend it. Why?

A. When your heart is open, you have infinitely more power. Many students tell me when they make this practice a part of their life, they’re better able to navigate difficult situations. The can speak from the heart; their words have more impact. It helps them deal with an unruly teenager, an out-of-control manager, a lot of situations in which they’d ordinarily be reactive.

Q. You encourage readers to meditate a daunting one-and-a-half to three hours a day? Seriously?

A. That’s only for people interested in a radical experience of depth in meditation. For everyone else, I recommend starting with 20 minutes day. If it’s hard to sit still, start with five minutes, and add a minute a day.

Q. What’s your daily meditation practice like? Click here to continue by visiting the original source of this post

“Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation, whether you are speaking about Elizabeth Gilberts book or Sally Kempton’s, they are about opening the heart and the expansion of our awareness moving us from self-centeredness to other-centeredness.

This reminds me, Sally has a wonderful CD called the “Awakened Heart,” with two guided meditations, which if you really would like to spend some quality time with one of the most knowledgeable meditation teachers in the world and connecting with your inner presence, I would highly recommend it.