Pillars of Purpose Series – Stillness

Pillars of Purpose Series – Stillness

The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.

‘Purpose’ is defined as the reason something is done or created, or for which something/someone exists. The ultimate purpose, the purpose for human life itself, has been the subject of enquiry down the millennia. Modern-day individualistic schisms and behaviours put us at distance from the equally commonly held belief that everything and everyone is connected. Within that, most people still adhere to the idea that purpose is attached to the character and call of God, the Creator, and follow a path of enquiry, belief, faith system, or set of principles and values, to hold the boundaries of our lives.

The following are a sample of sayings and directions handed down about the importance of stillness for our well-being.

“Be still and know that I am God’ Psalm 46:10 The Christian Bible.

“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher and founder of philosophical Taoism

“Listen to the silence. The scriptures declare that our fundamental error is wrong identification. It means, so to speak, that we have left the silence and been caught up in the noise”. Hindu Swami Atmaswarupananda

“My heart is tuned to the quietness that the stillness of nature inspires” Sufi philosopher Inayat Khan”

“The soul has been given its own ears to hear things the mind does not understand.” Poet and Islamic Scholar, Rumi.

No matter what the faith system – or lack of it – purpose offers meaning and direction in life and can shape our character and direct our actions as we live.

So how do we achieve the silence and stillness necessary for the revelation and nourishment of that purpose?

First, be still.

Silence is the Mother of the Spirit, a warm place in the heart, a place of clarity and insight. Silence protects us, and prepares us to hear beyond our own noisy selves. The stillness derived from silence opens us to the possibility of having a purpose driven life.  

As silence is the absence of sound, so stillness is the absence of movement. To still the mind is not to be absent from it, but fully present to it. If we are present to mind rather than the thoughts that continually arise and pass away through it, a sense of deep stillness of being can be achieved. A stillness of being that fully encompasses the moment-by-moment experiences of the mind and body, but without being caught up in it.

From the standpoint of mindfulness, this state is recognised as being aware.

For all faiths and beliefs, the nature and practice of a life of purpose can often be revealed by being still and allowing awareness from within and without; hence stillness is a pillar upholding purpose.

How will you find stillness today? How will you find the silence in which to heal and restore your connection to self, to the Creator, and to transcend and transform life itself?


AL
Mindful  meditations and contemplations here …

Magic Mushrooms

Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms, psilocybin or psychedelic mushrooms, have been used in indigenous cultures for religious rituals, healing, and divinatory purposes for millennia.

Psilocybin is an hallucinogenic compound, the term ‘magic mushroom’ was formed when the effect of this mushroom was found to be like that of the recreational drug LSD. Though tested in the field of medicine for the potential benefits of mental health, psilocybin is currently not accepted for medical use, however some parts of America have legalised psilocybin assisted therapy.

But this is not the magic this blog is about!

The magic of our fabulous eating mushrooms is that they are a nutritional powerhouse, jam packed with nutrients and minerals, fat free, cholesterol free – and very low in calories.

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of fungi, so not technically either a plant or a vegetable. They are bursting with B vitamins, have moderate amounts of C, biotin, potassium, copper, selenium, fibre, protein, iron, zinc, and an antioxidant unique to mushrooms. They also contain a fair amount of vitamin D which is not usual in non-animal foods – and many have a high fibre content  that can improve digestive health – maybe that’s why mushrooms are termed the ‘vegetarian meat’.

All eating mushrooms are great sources of antioxidants.

Some mushrooms, such as the Shitake, have immune stimulating properties and are antibacterial and antiviral. Shitake mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes in China for centuries and have one of the highest amounts of natural copper, a mineral that supports healthy blood vessels, bones, and immune support.

The small white or common button mushroom has medicinal properties helping to lower cholesterol and improve gut health. It also has a range of bioactive compounds that benefit of our general health.

Porcini mushrooms come with many health benefits too. These meaty type mushrooms help to improve digestive health and reduce inflamation, and are loaded with iron and anitoxidants. Research on the anti inflamarotry aspect can be found below.*

Mushrooms have also been found to have an inhibiting effect on oestrogen which can lead to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer and Lentinan, a beta-glucan found in shitake mushrooms, has shown to have immune regulating and anti-tumour properties**

Medicinal mushroom is often produced in powders, perhaps the most common one is made from the Reishi mushroom. Reishi is part of a traditional Chinese medicinal herbal remedy taken for a healthy liver and immune function and is known for its calming properties. ***

Eating mushroom is good for your health and well-being.

Dried mushrooms rarely lose their effectiveness, even on the protein side just one ounce of a dried porcini mushroom contains 7 grams of protein. Dried mushrooms are like a condensed super healthy condiment. Use them often and variously, particularly in soups, casseroles and stews.

Use fresh mushrooms within one week (max),  and keep any mushrooms not used straight away in a dry paper bag left open in the fridge. Before use, wipe clean with a dry cloth rather than washing them in water as they absorb water and can become slimy. Mushrooms contain 80% + water so are not suitable for freezing.

When cooking, sautéing quickly over high heat, or simmering over low heat, such as in soups, are ideal cooking methods for preserving nutrients.

Fresh mushrooms such as – porcini, lions mane, chanterelle, oyster, button, shitake, enoki, portobello, morel etc – can be used in many recipes – wraps, pasta bakes, stir fry’s, omelettes, salads, pizzas, filled and grilled, plain and fresh, or gently heated in a little butter and served on toast. Yum!

Mushrooms are considered super foods, packed with nutritional goodies to help promote a healthy immune system and boost bone health. Chefs recognise their earthy, savory flavour enhancement as ‘Umami’.

Interestingly truffles are also classified as mushrooms but have signifcant differences, such as growing completely underground and having no stem, having a strong rather than mild flavour, having just a short gowing season, and often being unaffordable! Try them shaved on scrambled eggs for an indulgent breakfast or keep a few eggs in a plastic bag with some truffle in the fridge, the truffle will infuse flavour throught the shells.

Happy and healthy eating.

AL

Caution – be careful picking or accepting mushrooms grown in the ‘wild’, many contain toxins that are unsafe to eat and can cause hallucinations, vomiting, convulsions and potentially, insanity. In addition even edible mushrooms are unsafe if picked near industrial sites or train tracks etc as they may contain toxins or heavy metals. Always obtain mushrooms from a safe source. ‘If in doubt, leave it out’!

Try our Awareness of Senses meditation under Health and Well-Being meditations here

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5095342/

* *Ng, M. L., & Yap, A. T. (2002). Inhibition of human colon carcinoma development by lentinan from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes). The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 8(5), 581-589.

***https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22207209/

 

 

Firm Focus, Soft Gaze

Firm Focus, Soft Gaze

Ways of developing a firm focus, and soft gaze.

In Vipassana meditation, we open ourselves in a wide awareness of senses, with a soft mental gaze that allows us to notice whatever is happening. If something catches our attention, we then turn toward whatever it is – thought, sound, sensation, emotion and, with gentle curiosity, investigate it.

With the soft gaze of vipassana meditation a special vulnerability and openness develops that facilitates insight, acceptance, and compassion.

In a meditation that has a firm focus, for example a specific focus on the breath or sounds, when something else catches our attention, we note/acknowledge it, then allow whatever it is to fall into the background of our attention, allowing our focus to remain firm on the chosen object.

A focused meditation helps develop resilience, fortitude, and builds a form of mental clarity.

Recently speaking to someone in the throes of fear, I wondered which way they would choose to go, softly opening to it, or acknowledging it and gently but firmly letting it go.

Both ways of working with fear, or whatever else arises, are open to us all the time, the trick is to start at the same point, acknowledgement of what is present in you.

In our busy everyday life if something has triggered a negative thinking pattern or emotional reaction, we are operating on autopilot or under the motivations of the amygdala.

But, if we can learn to be aware of when our thinking changes, or our emotions rise, the very act of noticing, of acknowledgement is enough to bring the pre frontal cortex into play allowing the ability to consciously think and choose which direction to go.

There are many books and meditations available to help develop both the clarity of firm focus and the insight of soft gaze, including how to navigate challenging emotions and re wire mental patterns as you begin to uncover your unique triggers and motivations.

Right now is always a good time to start – so why not check out our awareness and working with challenging emotions meditations  in Health and Well-Being.

AL

 

Hope

Hope

Hope can sometimes challenge us – can we, will we, accept hope in times of despair?

How do we manage the unmanageable, that thing, person, or circumstance that gives rise to emotional exhaustion and hopelessness?

To be without hope is to be without optimism, expectation, or desire for the possibility of something more, something better.

There are many conditions and situations that can lead to a sense of hopelessness – mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia, substance addiction, PTSD, a history of abuse, ill-health, the list goes on.

So called normal behaviours, such as negative attitude, reactivity from underlying stress – blaming others, anger, threats – emotional manipulation, acceptance of verbal disparagement or abuse arising from an underlying sense of not being good enough, being challenged by a crisis of relationship, health, or faith, can also all lead to a diminishment of hope.

Often at these times we ask the unanswerable question ‘why? – why is this happening to me?’

The circumstances and challenges of life are often not personal, they are simply a condition of living, of being alive. No one is promised a life of happiness, we all know that in life we will experience times of unhappiness, a time when we, or someone close to us, will become ill, be in a situation, or develop a condition, that makes living testing.

We also all know that no matter how much we pay attention and look after ourselves, our hair, skin, clothes, and try our best to eat a healthy diet and exercise, we are still all going to depart this life, and lose it.

So how to think about this sense of hopelessness that can arise from living life. It begins in the mind. Our brains run on cycles or patterns of thoughts, as do our emotions and the associated behaviours we enact at these times. Without something to change or break the cycle, it will continue through to its end. Without options to intercept, giving the possibility of something else to take place, we are doomed to continuously repeat the cycle that can lead to hopelessness or despair.

In these times it’s important to recognise that your perception is not necessarily the reality.

Your thoughts can be distorted and inaccurate. Becoming more aware of your thoughts rather than engaging in the usual cycle, can help you identify the patterns, and with practice, the mental and emotional triggers that start the cycle off.

Here are some other things to try if you are feeling a lack of hope:

• Challenge your inner belief, and argue the opposite
• Instead of asking yourself ‘why?’ ask ‘what?’ – what can I do?
• Problem solve your situation, either to change how you feel about it or to solve it
• Develop and plan – then take the first step on it
• Talk to a trusted person or a therapist
• Consider faith.

Faith is a wonderful antidote to hopelessness.

The benefits of religion to mental health are known and are consistent across age, race, gender, nationality, and socioeconomic status. Human beings through the ages have constantly sought things to deify. There is a great comfort in knowing that everything is not just up to you, you don’t have to, nor can you, control life, that when you are fearful or call for help someone is there – you are not alone.

Spirituality and faith are a mystery, a mystery imbued with hope.

Movement is also a practical and potent way to help free up the feeling of being ‘stuck’ that can lead to hopelessness. Taking up the practice of Tai Chi or Yoga can help free up fixed mental structures/patterns. By creating more fluidity in your space, an openess of mind can occur more easily. 

The Ability Life website exists to offer encouragement toward a deeper inquiry into the mystery of life and to nourish well-being. Thanks to neuroscience, eudaimonic well-being has been proved to have a positive and healing effect on human genomes. Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of eudaimonic well-being as ‘central to reasoning, happiness and a rich fulfilling life’, and ‘a start point for thinking about the nature and purpose of human life, its virtue and its ultimate fulfilment’. It is our hope you will find our blogs, contemplations, and mindful meditations beneficial to yours.

AL

Note: This information is a helpful guide only and not as a replacement for seeking professional advice and assistance.

The Intactness Within

The Intactness Within

 How strange life can be,
It’s not always as it seems,
What seems so right 
What seems so wrong.

Go out, go out they say,
But pause just a little,
Before you go,
Maybe first there are things to know.

What we seek, it looks for us,
Hoping too, that in our search, we stop
It’s only ourselves we seek,
No more and yet no less.

It’s in the eyes this presence bright
Who would seek to subdue that light?
In oneself or others too,
That colour, it’s God’s own hue.

 

This little poem came together with a life of its own having met an old friend on a walk, a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time but knew had been unwell over recent years with a neurological condition.

His speech and walking were quite badly impaired but what struck me most were his eyes first and then the look on his face.

You see, he was all there, but more so than I had ever seen, more intent, stronger, more alive.

The thing is, he doesn’t have a neurological condition, his body does. The inner life of him is intact and even strengthened.

We cant always choose what happens to us, but we can choose who we are in dealing with it.

Guest Blogger Tim, UK

 

See our well-being meditations  to enhance insight. AL

My Way

My Way

I often wonder why I love science fiction and science fantasy so much.

My friends read all the latest books that win prizes and are much vaulted. I do try and read them but too many of them are dry, depressing, and boring.

‘What about space?’ I think, ‘what about dragons?’

I am in an ordinary life, it is pretty mundane in the main, with pockets of excitement, warm family times, and outings with friends. But these books allow my spirit to soar, ideas to develop, lift me to see the impossible for our lives today. It gives me both hope for the future and a taste of the possible other worlds, which generates optimism in me and makes the move towards growth and openness in myself.

What can beat the satisfaction of a good read? Whatever the genre? Some would say its escapism, but for me I think it’s both a coping mechanism to the stresses of everyday life and a soaring of the imagination that adds a richness to oneself. A reminder that we are not alone in the universe, that anything is possible.

If we dismiss the imagination we are in danger of dismissing possibility, and closing off so much. Imagination opens us to new things, to growth, development and  improvement.

We all  have our ways into this. Meditation is another way of mine, offering peace, knowledge and gentle motivation in the sitting and dwelling, as well as bounteous undertsandings, insights and knowings.

Add all this to my favourite genre of books and I am ready to fly!

Being open to books, to meditation, to difference, helps me be more tolerant, able to see the bigger picture of life, believe in God and see the wonder of the universe.

What is your way?

Chris UK,  Guest Blogger

Access relaxations, visulalisations and meditations