Autumn Journey

Autumn Journey

We are all participants in life, this interactive creation. A spiritual being born into this physical world, seen or unseen, acknowledged or not – we’re on the journey of life.

Many of us walk in a way that keeps us from the fullness of our natural heritage and purpose. By living purely within the physical realms of life, we can be unaware and uncaring of the spiritual. How often do we petition and pray for guidance, or listen for that quiet inner voice that we host? How often do we allow ourselves the opportunity to be influenced by this incredible creation, of which we are a part and have a part to play?

What trail does the life we lead leave I wonder… clear or littered? Bright or dark? What have we ‘won’ for humanity? What friendships, loves, opportunities, cruelties, kindnesses, or disappointments scent our ways?

If our path in life had a smell, what would the weight of our fragrance be?

Such reflection is not common in these times of instant gratification, instant news, instant reactivity, but how much more connected to our own selves, our inner being, our life reality, would we be if it was?

Its Autumn and a time that calls me to take a wondering walk in nature, perhaps amongst the falling leaves, thinking, reminiscing, dwelling, as befits this season. In such a quieting time after the active brightness of summer, Autumn holds both a touch of sadness and relief, a change in pace toward the deepening of winter. In this season I find reflection arises naturally, a time to sort, relegate, keep, or let go.

As I grow older the season of my own life seems to be moving into Autumn too, calling for both greater meaning, and greater simplicity. A natural and ongoing sorting process of the years, and a gathering process of squeezed out wisdom.

It’s a time to let go of the ‘offences’ offered by others – rude drivers, bored checkout attendants, ageist slurs, gender insults, unmeant pin pricks and hurts. Offence causes barriers of protection, but these can become a prison which inhibits my existence and relationships. I let them go.

It’s a time to hold on to the good things, the important things of life – and I need reflective time to really understand and see what these are, and that there is family, community, and a world out there, it’s not all about me. I cherish this.

The Autumn process holds within it the Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Wisdom is a jewel to bestow on the path of life for others, if they are awake enough on the journey to see it.

Adieu until next,
AL

Free Will?

Free Will?

The pre-frontal cortex is the area of the brain that is thought to be involved in planning and complex cognitive behaviours and in the expression of personality and appropriate social behaviour.

What separates us from all other sentient species is that the frontal lobe of our brain is the most developed. This is what makes us human and differentiates us from other animal species.

The pre-frontal cortex forms at least 30% of the human brain (compared to 11% in chimpanzees and 7% in dogs) and is the location of the executive functions of the brain.

This is where we exercise forethought, control, judgement, empathy, and learning from experience.

The pre-frontal cortex is the place where free will is located. Where there is a ‘free will’ then please understand that there is also a ‘free won’t’; that is to say that we also have the ability to say ‘no’. The frontal lobe is, in fact, also the place where the ‘free won’t’ is located; that executive inhibitor of response that stops us running amok.

When there are problems here, we see patterns of procrastination. Bad judgement and a lack of learning from experiences are all evident. Some symptoms include a lack of focus, low energy, and a need for a crisis to work properly.
Crisis, or the sense of crisis or conflict, stimulates activity in the brain.

Have you ever worked with people who only seem to thrive when there is a crisis? Dr Amen suggests that the treatment for these problems is:
• Writing down goals for all areas of your life and repeating them daily
• daily exercise
• high protein and low carbohydrate diet (only if this is your area of difficulty); and
• fish oil.

So, if this is where your free will is located, then what is free will?

Free will is the ability to consciously make a choice.

In choosing you are always selecting a future. Your future is not pre-determined. We do not live in a Newtonian mechanical universe.

Free will and quantum physics resonate with each other as we live in a sea of possibility and probability, creating multiple futures, each carrying their different possibilities.

What does this have to do with us and the Law of Attraction?
We know that we can use our pre-frontal cortex in mental rehearsing or visualisation to enhance performance as it is successfully used by coaches and athletes. It is also used by actors and concert pianists. Mental rehearsing helps the mind, or imagination, ‘make it so’.

Brain scans show that imagining an activity and doing it are not that different, which is why this works. This demonstrable fact, which is replicated every day the world over, can be used to your great advantage.

In an interview in the film What the Bleep, Dr. Joe Dispenza illustrates this with a personal example:

‘I wake up in the morning and I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen. Now sometimes, because my mind is examining all the things that I need to get done, it takes me a little bit to settle down and get to the point of where I’m actually intentionally creating my day. But here’s the thing: When I create my day and out of nowhere little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know that they are the process or the result of my creation. And the more I do that, the more I build a neural net in my brain that I accept that that’s possible. [This] gives me the power and the incentive to do it the next day.’’

Situationally, not only is performance enhanced through the process of mentally creating the day, but the subsequent events of the day then have a quantum like predisposition to draw into themselves the necessary ingredients to facilitate the envisaged outcome.

Unfortunately, most people only make partial use of the frontal lobe and so could be said to be operating with a ‘frontal lobe lobotomy’, choosing to respond to situations in a habitual manner and with habitual behaviour. Because what we think we know is always going to be limited, we tend to get stuck in how to change our thinking. In any event we also prefer habitual thinking to the effort of creating our day. We have a vague ‘what will be, will be’ approach that while not making us victims certainly makes us inattentive to our attitudinal address to life.

This may be so because we do not believe how we think about things is going to make much of a difference anyway…… How wrong we are!

 

Guest Blog by Dr Brian Gordon, OAM
Access Visualisation meditations here …

 

 

Balance and Purpose

Balance and Purpose

Many of us feel the need to ‘change the world’ at times. Whether this is from an altruistic base, like helping the disadvantaged, or from the ego by building a business or becoming a famous ‘influencer’, this need can lead to intense ‘outer’ activity and, potentially, change.

This motive of change can be applied to our inner world too.

Change is a powerful agent with all sorts of ramifications and repercussions, some good, some not so. Internally, its common to set up barriers against the change process, especially if the change is large and obvious, such as doubt – ‘will it really make any difference’? or excuses such as – ‘once things have settled down’ appear readily.

Why is this?

It is suggested that most of us are comfortable just where we are. As humans we are wired to survive, to look out for our safety. Change and the unknown future are potentially risky, so no wonder we can become anxious and invent barriers to stop our progress.

Conversely when we are not progressing, we can become bored. To prevent boredom we DO things, when we do things, we distract ourselves and, as a bonus we often achieve things, which is good right? Yes, it’s good to tick off jobs and to achieve, but in all that ‘doing’ its easy to forget about the importance of ‘being’, and, for a lot of people, ‘being’ is simply ‘doing’ nothing, so we are back to boredom. Its a bit of a paradox!

But what if you are present in yourself or meditating?

It may not surprise you that meditation is one of the greatest change agents, and that simply dwelling, contemplating or practising insight meditation can lead to deep and profound change, by your own process, and quite safely.

Change can lose its fearsome reputation if we can bring ourselves to think about it as a natural change of our inner self. When appraoching this we may find some deep psychological barriers to contend with brought about by our own particular circumstances and conditions. However, if we can bring our awareness to that continuing distillation as we meditate, we can often reach acceptance and embrace, with self-compassion, the motivating feeling underneath our inner fears.

With recognition comes release, allowing the natural processes to continue uninterrupted. Balance is restored, we can progress.

Progression as human beings is programed in. We are coded to change through the keyways of natural development, and its easy to see this through the development of a child – the formation and birth, the onset of puberty, adulthood, ageing, and the multiplicity of life and living that attends those stages.

But what about spiritual progression?

Whilst certain characteristics and inclination can be seen, spiritual progression is widely variable and has no such obvious development landmarks.

Whilst a young girl may struggle against the perceived indignity and real frustration of hormonal activity and menstruation, the naturally designed process of growing up will not stop – and that’s as it should be. How much easier for us if we had been spiritually programmed that way!

Instead, many feel an absence, a gap, a space that sits within the human and calls for ‘something more’. The gap of our cognizance, our connection, and our sense of being a part of that ‘something more’ – but somehow separated from it.

For many, the task of ‘inner’ or ‘personal development’ becomes a form of spiritual seeking for purpose, or an alternative to it. Personal development can center around specifics, such as our brain patterning and thinking, seeking authenticity; the schooling and balancing of the emotion, or perhaps it sits nearer the core, within the values and practices of a religion or a personal belief system.

Of course, we can shut our purpose life out by simply making the most of just living, cant we? – finding spiritual meaning and purpose takes effort after all! So, cant we just ‘go with the flow’ of the ups and downs, the excesses and depletions of what’s happening in this world? 

Many do, but then sometimes within the occupation of our lives we enter deep times, times of questioning thoughts brought on by meaningful or catastrophic incidents that bring us back to the enormity of what the life we are expending may be about. Times when the the idea of the importance of a more purposeful life may arise, and in response to that ‘something missing’, a deep ‘something more’ is needed …

Perhaps, at these times, we can come to feel and know that, somehow, we are not alone in all this. We are surrounded by the unseen, the unknown, in this incredible creation. We are organic life dwellers, multi-faceted sensers, translators, processors, holders, formed by the mother planet around us but host to something higher, a soul, a spirit and, if we enquire, we may find a belief system and more purposeful way of life to invest in. 

For we are in fact already connected from the inner to the outer, whether we are cognizant of it or not. And, if there is a creation, who/what is the Creator?

A great starter and balance for both the inner and the outer life is being out in nature, we respond to creation in a diverse number of ways, as too the planet and stars. When we are in and with nature we are emotionally, physically and physiologically balanced, and our well-being is increased.

As part of creation our being is also responsive the call of it, the sense that there is ‘more’ to do, more to be. Our emotions, which often stir in the great outdoors, are a vital connector and gateway to the passion and compassion of life.

Being in and with nature can be grounding, and yet uplifting, and it can softly and deeply reconfirm the portent and potent possibility that our life truly is.

So, the next time your being hums to the song of creation and your mind touches the seeking from the depth of the inside to the reach of the outside, know that it’s programmed in, you are the start of your keyway ‘home’, and fulfillment of your own possibility is part of the journey …

With best wishes
AL

See previous Blogs on Change – What is a Paradigm? Adapt or Diminish! and the Pillars of Purpose series here …

 

 

Give to Live!

Give to Live!

GIVE TO LIVE! – the benefits and ways of generosity.

Generosity is good for you.

Generosity and life expectancy are among the six variables scientists look at when making the World Happiness Report, which is released annually by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations.

Giving, or true generosity, can be described as the act of recognising the mutual dignity inherent in all life, and then working to balance the evolving empowerment of life.

Put simply, giving from the heart.

We are biologically ‘wired’ for generosity – in our childhood we are reliant on the giving of others, as we grow older generosity to others is a good way to balance and ‘give back’.

Being generous does more than benefit the receiver, it has a big impact on our well-being and, not surprisingly, studies show that one of the biggest benefactors of ‘giving’ is the person who gives – YOU!

The feel-good effects of giving begin in the brain. The effect is  called “giver’s glow,” its the response being triggered by brain chemistry in the mesolimbic pathway, which recognizes rewarding stimuli.

Philanthropy “doles out several different happiness chemicals,” says Stephen G. Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at New York’s Stony Brook University of Medicine, “including dopamine, endorphins that give people a sense of euphoria and oxytocin, which is associated with tranquillity, serenity or inner peace.” Generosity also lowers the risk of dementia and reduces anxiety and depression. As Post says “If you were somehow able to package this into a compound, you’d be a billionaire overnight”.

As well as making us feel good, giving and being generous can reduce blood pressure and the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol – helping provide that ‘lift’ in mood. And that’s not all – giving can enhance our sense of purpose and increase the givers life span.

That’s right, giving and living longer are connected.

The good news is that we all have something to give, and giving allows us to align our actions with our values.

It doesn’t matter how large or small the gifting is, or the nature of it. What does matter is that we recognise the need to give, and care enough to do so, even if it’s just a smile.

Hopefully having read this you are inspired to give giving a go. Here are some inspirations for you:

 Participate in a community cleanup day.
 Become a mentor for a young person.
 Serve meals at a local soup kitchen.
 Help at the local hospital.
 Visit an elderly neighbour.
 Donate items to a homeless shelter.
 Donate clothes and household goods to a thrift store.
 Give to charities or ‘profit for purpose’ groups like Ability life.
 Shop or clean the home of a sick friend.
 Organize a fundraising morning tea for a local charity.
 Put your change in a jar and donate it next month.
 Volunteer some time at your church or community centre.
 Practice random acts of kindness.
 Create a SHAREBOX by your letterbox and invite neighbours to put in their spare produce, used books etc.
 Visit a nursing home – chat or take your dog along if you can.
 Offer to pay someone’s bill next time you’re buying coffee.
 Cook someone a meal.
 Give time or money to a local charity.
 Call family or friends you haven’t spoken with for a while.
 Give a stranger a compliment.
 SMILE at people – anywhere, anytime.

So let’s give to live, give to be healthy, give to be happy – and give abundantly, simply because it’s a good thing to do.

AL
P.S. Read our page on Giving here …

 

 

Mindfulness – focused or unfocused explained

Mindfulness – focused or unfocused explained

Mindfulness is a buzz word these days, the thing to do, but is ‘being in the moment’ doing? It can be.

The practice of mindfulness – the act of purposely paying attention and being aware of the experience of the moment you are living, without judgement – is an active thing in itself; focusing and paying attention takes effort and energy whether you are practising mindfulness in a formal sitting for a focused or guided meditation, or more informally while you’re doing things such as practicing open awareness whilst taking a walk.

Mindfulness has been defined as awareness, but its more than that. Mindfulness has been defined as paying attention, but its more than that. Mindfulness has been described as consciousness, but its more than that too.

Yet mindfulness IS awareness, IS consciousness, and it IS paying attention. But it is also about cultivating a quality of mind, a mental stance that notices, on purpose, and without judgement or attachment. It’s about cultivating a balance of mind that does not favour one thing or reject another. A mind that allows things to arise and pass away without trying to hold on or push away. It’s coming to see things, the experience of the moment, whatever is happening, clearly.

Mindfulness is an ongoing practice, not an end result. The intention is to cultivate awareness, the attention is on the experience of the present moment, and the attitudinal address is curiosity in a non judgemental way, with kindness. Mindfulness is a practice that, when coupled with the practice of Vipassana, the gentle open exploration of whatever arises, can bring about the real rewards of understanding, equanimity, and wisdom.

Benefits

There are many other benefits, particularly health and mental health benefits, that have been confirmed by numerous clinical trials. The results prove the efficacy, particularly in emotional, physical, and psychological wellbeing.

It’s worth mentioning here that the word well-being encapsulates a weave of things including what Aristotle had to say when referencing Eudaimonic well-being (as opposed to hedonistic), is was said to be central to … ’reasoning, happiness, and a rich and fulfilling life; and a start point for thinking about the nature of human life – its virtue and ultimate fulfillment’.

But back to forms of mindfulness, focused and unfocused.

Focused mindfulness, where the breath, mantra or object is the focus of attention.

Focused mindfulness is the best way to learn mindfulness – and it’s easy to learn and practice. Using an object, like sounds or the breath, for the mind to pay attention to helps keep other thoughts and emotions at bay, easing restlessness and steadying the mind.

If the mind wanders off as it tends to do, practising focused mindfulness will help you to recognise this and bring the attention back to the object. This is an active practice of concentration and focus, and it takes energy to do it.

Most focused mindfulness is practiced formally as a sitting or guided sitting meditation such as breath awareness, mindfulness of the senses or metta (loving kindness/compassion) meditation. There is also a focused formal mindful walking practice, more about that later.

If you are time or interest poor and want to try a short focussed practice, you can use any task, and just do it mindfully. My favourites are a ‘mindful mouthful’ or a ‘single sip’. These two activities happen all the time, the mindful mouthful takes longer than the single sip so I have written the practice out below. If you only want the quick single sip exercise, just cut out everything but the mouth and sip.

Mindful Mouthful / Single Sip exercise

First taking a breath – and if you can it’s good to keep a tiny piece of attention on the breath throughout this exercise – then pause to note to yourself that you are doing this practice.

To begin, be aware of the movement of the head and eyes in assessing where the cup of liquid is. Note the tension in the shoulder and arm as you begin the movement to reach out to the glass, then as the hand lifts let your focus settle on the movement of all the muscles.

Feel the stretch of the fingers to the glass. Note the contraction of the muscles as they grasp it, note the temperature of it, and the weight as your muscles contract and move to lift it.

Notice how the mouth prepares to receive the liquid, the relaxing of the jaw, the repositioning of the lips and mouth. Follow the continuing flex and movement of muscle in the arm and hand, the re-positioning of the head to receive the liquid, the feel of the glass and then the liquid on the lips as you take it in.

The inbreath sip, the temperature and taste, the tongue and jaw movement to swallow, the throat contraction and release, the mouth re opening, jaws dropping to release the glass. The sensations in the throat and stomach having received the sip.

The wrist tipping back, flexing, straightening the arm, the head turning and tilting while the arm and hand moves to replace the glass from where it came. The release of the fingers on the glass, the relaxing of the muscle tension in the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers, the repositioning of the head. Next note the intention to end the exercise, noticing any sensations, thoughts, or feelings about having done so.

This exercise can take moments or minutes, its up to you, each time.

Unfocused mindfulness, or ‘open’ mindfulness, is where we notice whatever it is that comes to our attention.

Unfocused mindfulness is to open the mind, it is a non directive meditation to allow a mental spaciousness and ease that can encompass whatever happens in and around you, without getting caught up in it.

A teacher once explained to me that he felt it as a gentle wise and caring person sitting on a bench in a playground, aware of the children and dogs playing, aware of the sights and sounds, the smells, noticing thoughts, reactions and emotions appearing and passing through as different aspects of sights and sounds happened, but rather than getting caught up in them, not responding to urges to be anything, do anything or go anywhere, just content to just be here, open and gently curious, fully aware and present.

Informal movement

Sometimes I practice both focused and unfocused meditation at the same time, particularly during movement practices or bush walks. Put simply I pay attention to my breath and muscles then hold them in semi awareness whilst practising ‘open senses’ awareness of whatever is happening in the creation around me.

For those who prefer a more overall practice here are some guidelines.

Before you begin take scan of how your body feels and make a point of noting it. Is your body feeling light, heavy, limber, stiff? Note your emotional and mental condition, is your emotion balanced or a bit wobbly? Your mind clear or cloudy? if you can, name what state is present in you (well, happy, upset, anxious).

When you’ve finished the scan let everything you’ve come to go, let it float away.

Informal Movement meditation

Now bring your attention to the whole body. As you do your warm up exercises, get an overall sense of how the movement feels then try and match your breath to your movements – not too slow, not too quick, just allow your body movement and your breath to synchronise naturally.

When you begin to move bring your toes and foot muscles into awareness, then the legs, knees, and lastly thighs. Notice the balance and movement, the rhythm and pace and the flow of the muscles as you move.

Next bring in your hips to awareness, noting the different tensions and balances in the lower body as the ground changes.

Next bring in upper body, noticing the arms, chest and the breath, allowing the breath and bodily movements to synchronise, finding the ease of rhythm.

Then open awareness out, allowing all the senses to flow in.
Noticing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch … letting it all arrive and pass, come and go and flow. Inviting an awareness of the whole body in action and in harmony.

At the end of the exercise, stop and take time to scan the body again. Noting the changes in the body, emotion, the mind, and mental state.

For those who prefer to undertake the formal walking meditation, an introduction to the formal walking practice can be found on the website under the heading ‘In the Workplace’ and called ‘Walk the Block” from the link below.

Be active. Be well.
AL

Access meditations … here …